Friday, April 30, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 2

      In my last blog I explored the first of seven categories, each representing a distortion of reality; every joke fits into one of the categories. Today I take a look at the second category: distortion of body parts.
      Not surprisingly, most locker room humor finds a home in this category. In fact, any joke fitting this category is almost by definition risqué, if not actually lewd.
      However, I have managed to find a couple of rather long examples that avoid “potty mouth” language and sexual situations, although because of the delicate nature of the settings, I suggest you consider them rated TVMA14-D. Enjoy.
******
      One day John decides to invite Mark on a trip on his private jet. While on this luxury airplane Mark asks where the toilet is. John shows him and says to him "Inside there are 3 buttons; whatever you do don't press the third one."
      Mark proceeds to the toilet and does his business. While sitting on the toilet he presses the first button. Suddenly his privates are cleaned thoroughly. He enjoys this and presses the second button. Dryers appear and dry his privates. He is intrigued to find out what button 3 does, so he pushes it.
      The next thing Mark sees is John staring at him . . . "What happened?" Mark asks shakily.
      "Well you pressed the third button and now you are in the hospital."
      "Why do my privates hurt so bad?" Mark asked anxiously.
      John replies "Well you activated the automatic tampon remover."
      (Jokes Galore)
******
      Superior Health Insurance
      ATTN: Claims Review
     1423 W. 90th St.
      New York, NY 05016
      Dear Sir:

      This letter is in response to your recent letter requesting a more detailed explanation concerning my recent internment at Methodist Hospital. Specifically, you asked for an expansion in reference to Block 21(a)(3) of the claim form (reason for hospital visit). On the original form, I put "Stupidity". I realize now that this answer was somewhat vague and so I will attempt to more fully explain the circumstances leading up to my hospitalization.
      I had needed to use the restroom and had just finished a quick bite to eat at the local burger joint. I entered the bathroom, took care of my business, and just prior to the moment in which I had planned to raise my trousers, the locked case that prevents theft of the toilet paper in such places came undone and, feeling it striking my knee, unthinkingly, I immediately, and with unnecessary force, returned the lid back to its normal position.
      Unfortunately, as I did this I also turned and certain parts of my body, which were still exposed, were trapped between the device's lid and its main body. Feeling such intense and immediate pain caused me to jump back. It quickly came to my attention that, when one's privates are firmly attached to an immovable object, it is not a good idea to jump in the opposite direction.
      Upon recovering some of my senses, I attempted to reopen the lid. However, my slamming of it had been sufficient to allow the locking mechanism to engage. I then proceeded to get a hold on my pants and subsequently removed my keys from them. I intended to try to force the lock of the device open with one of my keys; thus extracting myself.
      Unfortunately, when I attempted this, my key broke in the lock. Embarrassment of someone seeing me in this unique position became a minor concern, and I began to call for help in as much of a calm and rational manner as I could. An employee from the restaurant quickly arrived and decided that this was a problem requiring the attention of the store manager.
      Betty, the manager, came quickly. She attempted to unlock the device with her keys. Since I had broken my key off in the device, she could not get her key in. Seeing no other solution, she called the EMS (as indicated on your form in block 21(b)(1)).
      After approximately 15 minutes, the EMS arrived, along with two police officers, a fire-rescue squad, and the channel 4 ''On-the-Spot'' news team. The guys from the fire department quickly took charge as this was obviously a rescue operation. The senior member of the team discovered that the device was attached with bolts to the cement wall that could only be reached once the device was unlocked. (His discovery was by means of tearing apart the device located in the stall next to the one that I was in. (Since the value of the property destroyed in his examination was less than $50 (my deductible) I did not include it in my claim.) His partner, who seemed like an intelligent fellow at the time, came up with the idea of cutting the device from the wall with the propane torch that was in the rescue truck.
      The fireman went to his truck, retrieved the torch, and commenced to attempt to cut the device from the wall. Had I been in a state to think of such things, I might have realized that in cutting the device from the wall several things would also inevitably happen. First, the air inside of the device would quickly heat up, causing items inside the device to suffer the same effects that are normally achieved by placing things in an oven. Second, the metal in the device is a good conductor of heat causing items that are in contact with the device to react as if thrown into a hot skillet. And, third, molten metal would shower the inside of the device as the torch cut through.
      The one bright note of the propane torch was that it did manage to cut, in the brief time that I allowed them to use it, a hole big enough for a small pry bar to be placed inside of the device. The EMS team then loaded me, along with the device, into the waiting ambulance as stated on your form.
      Due the small area of your block 21(a)(3), I was unable to give a full explanation of these events, and thus used the word which I thought best described my actions that led to my hospitalization.
      Sincerely, (name withheld)
      (Jokes Galore)
******
      As always, I ask my readers to click on the “Comments” button below, and add any thoughts, additions or jokes they may have to the list. The category for tomorrow is distortion of spelling.
******
      On August 29, 2005, Katrina, a category 3 hurricane, left 80% of the city of New Orleans under water. Over 1,800 people were killed, and the property damage amounted to an estimated $81.2B.
      As of this writing, June 2008, many sections of the city and surrounding area still lie in ruins. Many former residents have opted not to return. The combination of high winds, heavy rains, weakened levees, low-lying streets, etc. transformed an active, vibrant city into a scene of chaos and desolation.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Thursday, April 29, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 1

      The first category of jokes is a distortion of truth, in other words, a lie. Here is a clear example:
Ram and Sham were talking together:
RAM: Do you drink?
SHAM: No,no at all.
RAM: Do you smoke?
SHAM: No,not at all.
RAM: Do you do anything which is not socially acceptable?
SHAM: Yes, I just tell lies.
(Jokes Galore)
******
      Although their I.Q. range is pretty much the same as that of the population as a whole, certain sets of people, e.g., blondes, Pollocks, Irish, Jews and other ethnic groups have been singled out for special ridicule. Supposedly the gullibility of these folks makes them easy targets for the lie, therefore many of the jokes at the expense of these groups fall into this category. Hence the following:
A commercial airplane is in flight to Chicago, when a blonde woman sitting in economy gets up and moves to an open seat in the first class section. A flight attendant watches her do this, and politely informs the woman that she must return to her seat in the economy class because that's the type of ticket she paid for.
      The blonde woman replies, "I'm blonde, I'm beautiful, I'm going to Chicago and I'm staying right here."
      After repeated attempts and no success convincing the woman to return to economy, the flight attendant goes into the cockpit and informs the pilot and co-pilot that there's a blonde bimbo sitting in first class who refuses to go back to her proper seat.
      The co-pilot goes back to the woman and explains why she needs to move, but once again the woman replies by saying, "I'm blonde, I'm beautiful, I'm going to Chicago and I'm staying right here."
      The co-pilot returns to the cockpit and suggests that perhaps they should have the arrival gate call the police and have the woman arrested when they land. The pilot says, "You say she's blonde? I'll handle this. I'm married to a blonde. I speak blonde."
      He kneels down next to the woman and whispers quietly in her ear, and she says, "Oh, I'm sorry," then quickly moves back to her seat in economy class.
      The flight attendant and co-pilot are amazed and ask him what he said to get her to move back to economy without causing any fuss.
      "I told her first class isn't going to Chicago."
******
      As I mentioned yesterday, I ask my readers to click each day on the “Comments” link below, and record any thoughts or additions they may have to the list.
      The category for tomorrow is distortion of the human body. By definition jokes in this category tend to be rather graphic, so beware – don’t say I didn’t warn you.
******
      We often do not realize that the past creates the present which in turn creates the future. Using the entities available at timet-1, the creative process transforms and transcends them to create the entities at timet, which transform into the entities at timet+1, timet+2, . . . ,timet+n.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Introduction

      The statement “There are only seven jokes – all the rest are variations,” has been around for a long time, but no one ever seems to know what the original seven are. I think I have found the solution to the mystery.
      The answer is to be found in an article published in the New York Times on May 2, 1909. Entitled “New Jokes? There Are No New Jokes, There Is Only One Joke,” it goes on to say that all jokes are a distortion, and lists seven categories of distortion. Supposedly every joke will fit into one of the categories. I believe that repetition changed the seven categories into the seven jokes.
      Each of my next seven blogs will be devoted to exploring one of the categories. In addition, I shall attempt to give an example or two of jokes which I think fit the category.
      You must realize that this article appeared over one hundred years ago, so most of the jokes appearing therein are so out-of-date that modern readers wouldn’t even understand them. For example, one has to do with women’s suffrage, and was probably very funny at the time, but today it falls flat with a loud thud! So to spare my readers, I will attempt to find jokes that are more up-to-date than 100 or so years old.
      In addition, I ask my readers to click each day on the “Comments” link below, and record any thoughts, or additions they may have to the list.
      To give you a head start, the categories are distortions of: truth, the human body, spelling, pronunciation, construction (topsy-turvy language), idea, and double entendre.
******
      An independent reviewing service, Rebecca’s Reads, has reviewed my book, “The Spirit Runs Through It.” You can read it on the right side panel. The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let's Have A Fair Property Tax

      A recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has created a windfall for most retirement communities in the state. Prior to the ruling, retirement communities were exempt from real estate taxes on property used for assisted living and nursing care facilities. Property devoted to independent living facilities was subject to such taxes. The court decided that the exemption was to be applied at the institutional level – not parcel by parcel. Thus if a retirement community was deemed to be a (C)ontinuing (C)are (R)etirement (C)ommunity, all of its property should be exempt from real estate taxes. The exemption is not automatic – CCRCs must apply for it.
      Naturally retirement communities all over the state began filing for exemption. In the Lancaster area, one such community made headlines when it won approval to pay the taxing authorities an annual $400,000 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) instead of the $900,000 it had been paying.
      Understandably such a drop in revenue is devastating to county governments and school districts, and the slack will need to be taken up by increases to other taxpayers and reduced services to everyone. The local authorities decided not to go to court because of the expense of fighting a case they could not win.
      There is no requirement that non-taxable entities negotiate a PILOT, although realizing that they do need water, fire protection, schools, etc., most if not all non-taxable organizations do make such arrangements. Even the federal government makes PILOTs, although President Bush did attempt unsuccessfully to cut them to 25% of the taxes which would otherwise have been paid to local governments.
      I live in a retirement community, and as a resident, I would think it remiss of the organization not to investigate a tax reduction.
      That said, I think there is an ethical problem in doing so. I do not think it is fair for any entity to be excused from taxes which ordinary citizens are required to pay. In my opinion, if normal property owners are required to pay taxes on their property, then every square inch of property in the district should be taxed except property owned by the taxing authority!. No exemptions! Period!
      That means that every retirement community, hospital, church, synagogue, each and every eleemosynary organization whatsoever would be required to stand on its own two feet.
      Think of the boon to the ordinary taxpayer. Revenues would go up, taxes would go down, and organizations which presently do not have to compete for space would be on a par with everyone else.
      Now I am not stupid enough to think that this will ever happen. But then, my grandparents never imagined social security, and neither did I think that we would ever have a national healthcare plan. Strange things happen.
******
      Because his friends always raved about his homemade ice cream, John decided to start selling it. After conducting an exhaustive market survey, and meeting with a business consultant, he drew up a realistic business plan. Impressed with the plan, his bank agreed to lend him the money for the necessary equipment. He leased a small shop in an area of heavy foot traffic, and after three months, sales and profits were doing even better than he had anticipated.
      Then a war broke out in South America, and in one week the price of sugar doubled. In addition, a surge in the world wide demand for oil sent diesel fuel prices skyrocketing; as a result, higher transportation costs increased the price for milk and eggs by 30% in one month.
      John tried increasing his prices to cover the higher costs, but the fuel shortage was hurting everyone, and ice cream was one of the first luxuries that people gave up. Six months after the grand opening, John was forced to close his dream store.
      All the conditions for a successful business appeared to be in place for John’s ice cream store, but any entity operates in a universe of competing activities . . . The creative process driving John’s business was overwhelmed by creative processes in the larger universe.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Book of Genesis Illustrated

      Recently I acquired The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb, an illustrator whose work is quickly recognizable through the style of his drawings. According to Wikipedia, “The book includes annotations explaining his reactions to the stories. It is reported on NPR in October 2009, that it was a four-year effort and does not rewrite any part of the text. Much research was done by Mr. Crumb in the earlier language versions of the text to support the interpretations. It contains all fifty chapters of Genesis and comes with a warning on its cover: ‘Adult Supervision Recommended for Minors.’”
      It is interesting to observe most people’s first reaction when I mention the book: “How does he depict Adam and Eve?”
      Well, they look a lot like the rest of us, and of course they are dressed in whatever attire the Bible calls for. In the beginning they are wearing nothing, and yes, they are anatomically correct. They appear to be healthier than we are, perhaps because of their outdoor lifestyle. It is also possible that they followed a more nutritious diet than we do.
      The Bible doesn’t record whether they were carnivores or herbivores, although there is documentation that they did eat fruit on occasion. (Would that make them fruitivores?) We also know that their sons got involved in both farming and animal husbandry.
      The next question is usually something like, “How is the phrase ‘He knew his wife’ illustrated?” Well, there are some cuddly pictures, although nothing pornographic, but they are a bit more graphic than a wave of the hand or a nod of the head.
      With these two topics out of the way, most people seem to be satisfied.
      But the most graphic pictures, at least to me, are the ones of corpses floating in the flood, and the citizens writhing in the flames during the destruction of Sodom. I wonder about people who think that the sinful parts of the book are about nudity and sex, and shrug off the blood and gore and mass destruction.
      Contrary to the warning on the cover, I think it might be a good idea for kids to view the illustrations whenever they study the old testament – words alone cannot convey the full horror. The Book of Genesis Illustrated is proof that “One picture is worth a thousand words.”
******
      Genesis proclaims that man was created, not from nothing, but from the dust of the ground. Man was not a supernatural being; he was, and still is, an integral part of nature. But what an exciting part! Because of its ability to store concepts, his brain holds the potential for memory, insight, emotions, imagination; entities that had never before existed. For the first time in history the Spirit could look out and see what it had done. It could combine what it saw with the hidden cranial potentials and create all sorts of new things. Because of the power of the Spirit working through his brain, man received dominion over the earth. Creativity took a quantum leap forward. And as Genesis says, mankind was driven from the Garden of Eden. His ability to speak and to classify separated him from non-speaking nature, but not from the Spirit.
      The Wisdom of Genesis – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Value Added Tax

      It’s not often that I agree with George Will, but his column in Monday’s paper was an exception. It was headed, “If VAT, ditch the income tax.” So what is the VAT (Value Added Tax)?
      VAT is a form of sales tax – but the tax is collected as value is added through production instead of on the end product. The result is the same. Here is an example:*

      Suppose the end product is an agricultural product, and the VAT is 10%.

1) The farmer sells it to the packer for .50 per pound plus 10%, or .55. He remits the .05 to the government. He must show the VAT (.05) as a separate amount to his customer.

2) The packer sells it to the wholesaler for .90 per pound plus 10%, or .99. He remits the .09 minus the .05 paid previously, (net .04) to the government. His gross profit is .99 - .04 - .55 = .40, which is the same as if he had bought it for .50 and sold it for .90. He must show the cumulative VAT (.09) as a separate amount to his customer.

3) The wholesaler sells it to the retailer for 1.20 per pound plus 10%, or 1.32. He remits the .12 minus the .09 paid previously, (net .03) to the government. His gross profit is 1.32 - .03 - .99 = .30, which is the same as if he had bought it for .90 and sold it for 1.20. He must show the cumulative VAT (.12) as a separate amount to his customer.

4) The retailer sells it to the end user for 1.50 per pound plus 10%, or 1.65. He remits the .15 minus the .12 paid previously, (net .03) to the government. His gross profit is 1.65 - .03 – 1.32 = .30, which is the same as if he had bought it for 1.20 and sold it for 1.50.
      The total VAT paid was .15 (.05+.04+.03+.03 = .15), the same amount as a 10% sales tax (10% x 1.50), but the government has collected the VAT at each step along the way. To the end user it appears no different from a sales tax.
      The VAT system sounds complicated, but as long as it applies to all products, it is not nearly as complicated as the income tax system. Because every member in the supply chain pays tax at the same rate, enforcement is simplified. One of the difficulties of enforcing a sales tax is the status, taxable or nontaxable, of the participants. When rates vary between products or income groups or whatever other exceptions may be carved out, the VAT enforcement becomes somewhat more complex.
      Critics contend that the VAT falls unfairly on the poor because it represents a larger portion of their income than it does for the well-to-do. But so does a sales tax. And as for passing it on, under the income tax system all taxes paid by suppliers, manufacturers, etc. are also passed along in the increased price of the product.
      I don’t believe we should fix something that is not broken, but the income tax system, spelled out in 39,000+ pages of code, is definitely broken. So as long as exceptions and exemptions are not allowed, the VAT should be on the table for discussion. But I agree with Mr. Will, discuss it as a replacement for the income tax, not as an addition to it. How likely is that?

*I am ignoring possible distortions of supply and demand in order to simplify this example.
******
      Shortly after a sperm penetrates an ovum, their nuclear materials fuse to form the required chromosomes of a somatic cell. The fertilized ovum has become a zygote. Depending upon the particular species, the first of billions of cell divisions occurs a few hours later, and within days a fetus is formed. Gathering all nutritional requirements from the host-mother, the fetus develops until the climactic moment of birth.
      There is no satisfactory reason why a sperm should penetrate an ovum, or why a fertilized ovum should metamorphose into a zygote, or why a zygote should start dividing, or why nutritional elements should not remain in the mother’s blood stream, or why any of this should occur. It just does. Again some invisible creative activity drives the transformation.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It

The book is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Polling The Electorate

      Much to no one’s surprise, a front page story yesterday proclaimed “No Faith In Government.” The latest Pew Research Poll shows that Americans’ faith in government at all levels is at its lowest point in the last half-century. The March poll indicated that only 22% of Americans trust the Federal Government, compared to lows of 29% during the administrations of Jimmie Carter and Bill Clinton. Only 12% of Republicans trust the government, and although their party is presently in office, only 33% of Democrats trust the government.
      52% think the political system is just fine; it’s the politicians, particularly members of Congress, who are receiving most of the blame for the poor numbers.
      People’s reasons for their feelings vary; when questioned, one tea party member said, “Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don’t follow through.” But this is not new – politicians have been lying ever since the beginning of the republic.
      A majority of voters say the government has grown too big. Although many want a smaller government, 50% say that present services should be maintained.
      Several events seem to be contributing to the current voter dissatisfaction:
1) The recent plunge in satisfaction started during the financial crisis in 2008; voters felt that the government had not handled it well.

2) The usual dissatisfaction of the party not in office has been whipped to new frenzies by conservative talk-radio hosts.

3) The poll showed that Independents at this time have moved further to the right than they have in the past.

4) Bit the biggest factor has been widespread anger over the actions or inactions of members of Congress.
      Normally elections occurring in the middle of a presidential election favor the party not in power. Because of the strong emotions at this time, things look even more grim than usual for the Democrats.
      But things are not always as they appear. Although many disgruntled members of the tea party are Republicans, not all the aims of the movement coincide with those of the Republican party; as a result, it is possible that there may be a defection in the Republican party’s ranks. If they vote against the incumbents, or don’t vote at all, all bets on the outcome of the election are off.
      I predict that the Republican party will gain some strength in the forthcoming election, but not as much as they are hoping for.
      Time will tell. As someone, perhaps Yogi Berra, said, “Predicting is hard, especially about the future.”
******
      Without the introduction of seeds, all the nutrients, sunshine, water, etc., would remain dormant forever. And . . . without the nutrients the seeds would just remain seeds forever.
      This begs the question: why should there be an interaction? Why do not seeds just remain seeds, nitrogen just remains nitrogen . . . water just remains water, etc.? What invisible creative action causes these apparently unrelated entities to transcend and transform themselves into producing something that is more than just the sum of its parts: a brand new plant? Some invisible creative activity must be at work.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here
      Also available on Kindle

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail

      President Obama has announced a change in NASA’s mission; he has decided that the agency should bypass the moon, and concentrate instead on developing the necessary equipment for deep space exploration of the solar system.
      He has also decided to rely on private contractors to handle near-earth orbit functions – for example, ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. In this way, NASA can concentrate and what it does best, the application of science to space technology, and beaucoup jobs will hopefully be created in the private sector.
      Not surprisingly, opposition to the plan surfaced immediately – Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, criticized the decision; on the other hand, “Buzz Aldrin, the second moonwalker, endorsed it. Congress has yet to weigh in on the plan.
      The announcement brings into focus the different styles of planning.
      Under the previous Constellation plan, NASA aimed for the moon as a final destination; beyond that no further exploration was anticipated. I will call that a targeted plan.
      Under the new plan, hardware and software is to be developed for heading into deeper space. No definite final destination has been named; it may be an asteroid, a Martian moon, or Mars itself, depending upon the course of the system as it progresses. Whichever destination is chosen, the equipment will be capable not only of getting there, but also of going on to even further destinations. I will call this an open-ended plan.
      These two types of planning are representative of the way all life planning is done, although the targeted plan is more common. A teenager may have a target of becoming a doctor or an attorney, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The future psychiatrist falls in love, marries and raises a family. A schoolmate of mine was determined to become a mortician; he wound up selling insurance.
      I believe the two styles complement each other. I know it would be hard to sell this to an ambitious parent with a child about to enter college, but a delay might be a good idea. I submit that in this case an open-ended plan should be in place before a targeted plan. In the event the child is undecided about his future calling, time off from schooling is not a bad idea. Better to delay for a year or two than to be locked in to a disliked occupation.
      The parent should ask, “What do I really want for my child?” I would suggest the following might be a reasonable answer, “A happy, competent, productive adult.”
      And how does one go about achieving that? Formal education, of course, as a basis: reading, writing, arithmetic, science, music, art, etc. Informal education should include immersion in normal life situations, with the non-interfering parent standing by to prevent permanent, not necessarily minor, disappointment.
      In the meantime, a relatively short-term targeted plan can be assembled. A doctor? Sure, if the student appears to have an aptitude and requisite personality. A carpenter? Why not? A stevedore? If that’s the extent of the student’s capability. The hard part is to let the student choose without interference by the parent’s ambition. The “stage mother” should be out of the picture.
      In many life situations, targeted planning is the preferred system: choice of college, business planning, systems design, etc. But even in situations such as these, an open-ended Plan B should be at the ready. And the value of having a cradle-to-the-grave open-ended plan should never be underestimated.
      Lennon was right, and I believe Obama was too.
******
      Sometimes we even attribute a visible event to the action of an invisible entity when we know there is no invisible entity present. For example, we say, “It is raining.” Our senses can see, hear and feel rain, but no matter how hard we try, they cannot detect “it.”
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here
      Also available on Kindle

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Supreme Court Nominations

      With the retirement of John Paul Stevens, President Obama has a chance to nominate a second justice to the Supreme Court. It is interesting to see journalists from the right whipping up a feeding frenzy, looking not for the best person, but to defeat whomever the President nominates. I believe if Jesus Christ were Obama’s nominee, the conservatives would try to derail Him.
      This past Wednesday Cal Thomas was pushing the idea that “Liberal presidents invariably nominate liberal judges.” I would think that the converse is also true: Conservative presidents invariably nominate conservative judges.
      But Cal says no, and he points to the nomination of Earl Warren by Eisenhower, Sandra Day O’Conner and Anthony Kennedy by Ronald Reagan, David Souter by George H. W. Bush, and of course Stevens by Gerald Ford.
      I give it to Cal on these, with the exception of Kennedy, who swings both ways, the others turned out to be relatively liberal.
      But they weren’t liberal in the beginning of their tenures - all the above nominees were selected with the understanding that they had impeccable conservative credentials. I would like to think that after they had seen enough of the misery perpetuated by strict conservative ideologies, they began to realize that there is such a thing as equity, a legal term which equates to fairness. As for Kennedy, I think his voting on his view of the law without regards to ideology is a good thing.
      I would like to take Cal’s premise one step further – what are the ideological leanings of the other current justices as compared to the presidents which nominated them?
      Conservative justices and their nominators are Anthony Scalia (Reagan), Clarence Thomas (George H. W. Bush), and John Roberts and Samuel Alito (George Bush) – all nominated by conservative presidents. Surprise, Cal!
      Liberal justices and their nominators are Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer (Clinton), and Sonia Sotomayer (Obama).
      Cal was right. So am I. Presidents invariably nominate judges based upon their own ideology.
      But Cal didn’t give up. His column ends with, “There is always the outside chance an Obama nominee will convert to judicial restraint, but that is as likely to happen as a tax cut from this president.” What about the $173 billion from the 2009 stimulus package, Cal? Does that count?
      Today another conservative voice was heard from: Thomas Sowell proclaimed “Good riddance to Justice Stevens.” Although it doesn’t happen often, I am partially in agreement with Sowell’s comments on the case of Kelo v. City of New London.
      It is Sowell’s conclusion to his column that I find questionable. “Republicans too often appoint judges whose confirmation will not require a big fight with the Democrats. You can always avoid a fight by surrendering.”
      I would ask Sowell. “What about Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito?” It doesn’t sound like surrender to me.
******
      Anticipating the science of ecology by a hundred years, Charles Darwin wrote:
. . . but humble-bees alone visit the common red clover . . . as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence I have very little doubt, that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that ‘more than two thirds of them are destroyed all over England.’ Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, ‘Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.’ Hence it is quite credible that the presence of the feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!
      The number of flowers is dependent upon the availability of instincts and actions of humble-bees, field-mice and cats for use by the creative process.
      Introduction - The Spirit Runs Through It

To read more excerpts from the book, click here.
Also available on Kindle

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inspiration

      Inspiration comes in many forms. Perhaps the best known example is that of James Watson who, along with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) because of a dream Watson had about a series of spiral staircases.
      Although originally trained in physics, Crick began the study of biology after WWII. In 1951 he met James Watson, who shared his interest in discovering how genetic information could be stored in molecular form. It was with this intense background in mind that Crick had his insightful dream.
      Although not inspired by a dream, the following is another example of inspiration:
Sir Isaac Newton had invented the calculus, and had formulated his laws of motion. One day he saw an apple fall from a tree. He wondered why the apple always fell toward the center of the earth; why not fall sideways or upward? He soon realized that if gravity extended as far out from the earth as, say, the moon, it must affect the moon’s orbit. Upon calculating how much of an effect earth’s gravity would have on the moon’s orbit, he came upon the concept that he called “universal gravitation.” Before Newton, probably millions of men had seen apples fall to the ground, but this was the first apple to change the world since one fell in the Garden of Eden.
      Sir Isaac had all the necessary elements in place in his brain: the mathematical procedures, the laws of motion and the years of observation and analysis of natural events. If he had not observed the falling apple, it is likely that he never would have come upon his revolutionary concept. However, when the apple fell, some invisible creative process brought all these elements into play, transcended and transformed them, and a new concept was introduced into the world.
      Both of these examples have two things in common: Both occurred as a result of an unexpected event, and the unexpected events occurred in a mind prepared to receive them.
      A good metaphor for inspiration is the sowing of seeds: it does not matter how well fertilized the soil may be, without the seeds, nothing grows. And if the seeds fall on unprepared soil, again, nothing grows.
      I have been to seminars where some of the attendees took the speaker’s every word to heart, went back to their businesses, and immediately beginning putting the speaker’s recommendations into place. Other attendees apparently were there for the rubber chicken meal, or to get a day away from the office. They could have listened to the world’s most inspiring speaker for a week, and for all practical purposes, not have heard a word.
      Regardless of the form of the trigger, inspiration comes only to those prepared to receive it. And the more prepared one is, the more triggers seem to appear.
******
      Although Jesus used the following parable to illustrate a different point, it is particularly apropos for demonstrating how new living entities are introduced into the universe, and how entities, living and non-living, can interact with each other:
      A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Mark 13, 3-8).
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It
     
      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.
      Also available on Kindle.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Visit To My Old High School

      Tuesday afternoon a friend and I had the rare privilege of being invited back for a tour of my old high school. Actually, it’s my alma mater, but it’s definitely not my old high school.
      In the first place, the name has been changed - we attended Manheim High School – now it’s called Manheim Central High School. Our old building has been practically abandoned, and the new one, now over 50 years old, is located on what was farm land way outside of town when we went there. Actually, only part of the building is over 50 years old – it has been augmented several times since its original construction.
      There were about 300 students back in 1946; now there are well over 1,000.
      Groups that shared a room in the old days: choral, orchestra (which we didn’t even have), drama, etc. now have separate rooms. The weight room for the football team is way bigger than the entire gym and auditorium combined in our old school.
      Each department of education: science, English, social studies, mathematics, etc. has a separate section of the building. Since this was the first visit either of us had made to the “new” building, we were very impressed.
      The reason we were invited back was because of a blog I wrote on March 29, There Is Life Outside Of Football, in which I complained that I never saw anyone from the school winning any prizes at the Lancaster Science Fair. In a later blog on April 3, An Apology To Manheim Central High School, I explained why that was. This visit was a followup so that I could see first hand what was going on.
      We spent quite a bit of time in the Advanced Placement Chemistry room. The kids, seven of them, were using what looked like Tinkertoys to make three-dimensional models of various molecules.
      The teacher, Seth Kensinger, was our guide for the tour, and he spent a lot of time explaining what the kids were doing, what the science program is all about, and answering any questions we had about the science curriculum.
      For the two of us, the experience was an education in itself. If anyone has any doubts as to the quality of the education kids are getting at MCHS, let me assure you it is top rate.
******
      Sir Isaac Newton had invented the calculus, and had formulated his laws of motion. One day he saw an apple fall from a tree. He wondered why the apple always fell toward the center of the earth; why not fall sideways or upward? He soon realized that if gravity extended as far out from the earth as, say, the moon, it must affect the moon’s orbit. Upon calculating how much of an effect earth’s gravity would have on the moon’s orbit, he came upon the concept that he called “universal gravitation.” Before Newton, probably millions of men had seen apples fall to the ground, but this was the first apple to change the world since one fell in the Garden of Eden.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.
      Also available on Kindle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Meteorologists, Climatologists And Climate Change

      A recent poll by researchers at George Mason University indicates that 55% of meteorologists believe in human-induced global warming, 25% don’t believe, and 20% don’t know.
      This parallels a recent CNN poll of the general public – when asked “. . . from what you have heard or read, do you believe increases in the Earth's temperature over the last century are due more to the effects of pollution from human activities, or natural changes in the environment that are not due to human activities?", 50% replied human activities, 46% said natural causes, and 5% were unsure.
      On the other hand, a survey published in 2009 by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, of 3146 Earth Scientists found that more than 97% of specialists on the subject (i.e. "respondents who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change") agree that human activity is "a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures."
      Before going any further, I wish to define a couple of terms:
      Meteorology - the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.
      Data such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind measurements, and humidity occurring over a wide area are important tools for meteorologists. Such data, as measured by thermometers, barometers, anemometers and hygrometers are collected by weather stations, ships and weather buoys, while upper atmosphere measurements are made by radiosondes and aircraft. Wide range radar and satellite observations are also important. All these data are analyzed and summarized by computers. Forecasts by meteorologists are limited to a period of a few weeks.
      Climatology - the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. It is the study of weather events over many, perhaps even thousands, of years. Its data includes the atmospheric boundary layer, circulation patterns, heat transfer (radiative, convective and latent), interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans and land surface (particularly vegetation, land use and topography), and the chemical and physical composition of the atmosphere.
      Various tools used include ice cores, tree rings, and meteorological records covering many years. All of these are combined into statistical or mathematical models for analysis.
      While it is impossible for anyone to say what the exact temperature will be in 2050, most climatologists are as sure it will be warmer than 2010 as they are that August will be warmer than February (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Time will tell.
      Upon comparison of the two branches, it is easy to see why meteorologists’ conclusions concerning climate change are in close agreement with those of the general public – they do not use the same tools, nor do they have the same training as climatologists. The two sciences have no more in common than a railroad engineer has to a designer of bullet or magnetic levitation trains. In other words, your guess is as good as a meteorologist's.

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Walk-in Clinics

      Lancaster General Health is about to open four walk-in clinics in Lancaster County. Three of the clinics, called Wellcare Express, will treat minor problems such as bronchitis, colds, strains and rashes. The fourth, named Urgent Care, will be available for more serious problems: sprains, burns, cuts, etc. The Wellcare Express clinics will be attended by a nurse practitioner and a staff person, while the Urgent Care clinic will have a physician in attendance.
      Although the Urgent Care clinic will be equipped with X-ray and laboratory equipment, the Wellcare Express clinics will not, neither will they draw blood. All will offer shots, health screenings, and school and camp physicals.
      A visit to the clinics will cost $59, payable by insurance, cash or credit card. This covers the cost of being seen – the news release did not specify whether additional charges may apply, although I assume they will. Nothing was mentioned about the patient who cannot come up with the $59; I would hope he would not be turned away, particularly from the Urgent Care clinic.
      Two of the Wellcare Express clinics will be housed in Walmart Supercenters; the third will be located in a Giant Supermarket. The Urgent Care clinic will open in a location formerly occupied by a furniture store. All will be open seven days a week.
      This sounds like a good idea for people who do not have access to their doctors, or who cannot make an appointment at an agreeable time, and this is the market at which LGH is aiming. If your kid has the sniffles or strains a muscle, and your doctor says you can’t get an appointment until 4:00 this afternoon, this is ideal.
      By creating these clinics, LGH further consolidates its grip on health care in the Lancaster County area. I first wrote about this organization on September 22, 2009, regarding their bid to build another money-making not-for-profit facility in West Earl Township. LGH is a not-for-profit organization which reported a net profit of $135.8 million for the year 2007.
      I spoke about LGH’s clinic plan to a doctor, who seemed to think it is generally a good idea, with one reservation. Regarding the clinic located in the supermarket, he said, “Do you want to introduce sickness where you buy your fruit?”
      A good question.
******
      That there are unseen actions behind visible events is a fact familiar to everyone. For example, we see leaves flying about and bushes shaking, and since we know that these events do not happen through the internal efforts of leaves or bushes, we attribute them to the action of the invisible wind.
      Likewise, when we drop an object to the ground, we know that the object did not fall of its own accord; we say it fell because of the invisible “pull of gravity.”
      Introduction – The Spirit runs Through It
     
      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Scientific Method

      In the blog “Dark Science” on April 4th, I wrote about the similarity between the search for “luminiferous aether,” during the 19th century, and “dark matter” during the 21st century. Both of these are good examples of what scientists do.
      Both experiments follow the same pattern. Here is an outline of the general procedure:
1.) A scientist observes an event in his particular area of expertise – an event that has some questionable aspect, such as light waves traveling through empty space without an intervening medium, or the actual mass of the universe exceeds the sum of the observable mass. He postulates some reasonable explanation such as luminiferous aether or dark matter.

2.) He sets up an experiment or observation whereby his postulate can be tested. (Michelson-Morley Experiment or the Large Hadron Collider.)

3.) He runs the experiment and systematically observes the results.

4.) He interprets the results based on his experience and knowledge.

5.) Does his interpretation confirm his original postulate? If yes, he will write a paper describing his experiment and findings, which is reviewed by other knowledgeable scientists in his field. They make the decision whether or not the paper should be published. If the results do not confirm the original postulate, he may return to step one for an adjusted cycle, or he may decide not to pursue this particular direction any further.
      It is important to note that once his paper has been published, scientists the world over immediately go through their own versions of steps 1 through 5 in an attempt to confirm or refute it.
      Science is probably the only endeavor which continually tries to improve itself by disproving its own findings.
*******
      Textbooks tell us that atoms are ridiculously small ― about one tenth of a millionth of a millimeter across. That means that a human hair, one of the narrowest things visible to the eye, is roughly a million atoms across. Put another way, there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans in the world.
      Matter Matters – The Spirit Runs Through It.
      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dark Science

      The theory that light consists of waves was proposed as early as the last half of the 17th century, and was almost universally accepted until the late 19th century. However, the theory did pose a significant problem.
      It was thought that waves always were propagated through some kind of medium. For example, water waves needed water to spread and sound waves needed air. But how could light waves propagate through empty space? How did light from the sun travel through the vacuum of space to arrive on earth?
      So scientists came up with the idea of the “luminiferous aether,” an invisible medium which pervaded space. This idea held sway until 1887, when Albert Michelson and Edward Morley performed their ground-breaking experiment which proved that the luminiferous aether did not exist. Although in some experiments light appeared to be a wave, it did not require a propagating medium.
      In the waning years of the 20th century, mother nature presented a similar conundrum. Based upon the effect of gravity upon matter, cosmologists have calculated the total mass/energy of the universe. However, other observations suggest that visible matter, galaxies, gas, dust, etc., accounts for between 4% and 5% of the total. It is as if you put sugar on the scales for a total of 10 pounds, but when you weigh it by the ounce, you have only eight ounces!
      Shades of the 19th century – scientists are speculating that the difference is due to “dark” matter and energy. It is invisible just as was the luminiferous aether! Imagine 8-1/2 pounds of invisible sugar on your scales!
      Which brings me to the Large Hadron Collider: a huge tunnel 17 miles in circumference and almost 600 feet beneath the border between France and Switzerland. Among other things, scientists hope that this 16 billion dollar experiment will do for dark matter what the Michelson-Morley experiment did in 1887: prove or disprove its existence.
      Invisible luminiferous aether/invisible dark matter. History repeats itself. Stay tuned.
*********
      Similar to the invisible change in individuals, there is a continuous change in the unseen culture which lies beneath each society. New fads, morals, systems, governments, commerce, architecture, etc. come and go. In the early 1700s most colonists believed in the divine right of kings to govern; today’s Americans believe in democracy and individual freedom. In the 21st century medical science is far more popular as a cure for illness than the blood-letting of the 18th century. Some cultures believed that a certain dance would cause rain to fall; others believed that human sacrifice would relieve drought.
      Foreword – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Apology To Manheim Central High School

      In my blog of March 29, There Is Life Outside Of Football, I wrote some disparaging things about the science curriculum at my old high school. Shortly thereafter I received a very polite email from Mr. Seth Kensinger, the AP Chemistry teacher at Manheim Central. Since then I have talked to him on the telephone, and received an education about how things are done outside the blog world.
      I was concerned that no students from Manheim Central entered the Annual North Museum Science and Engineering Fair in Lancaster. He was very familiar with the fair – he had entered it as a student, later served as a judge of the entries, and even had a few students who entered projects. It is his contention that there are some political shenanigans that are not always conducive to the welfare of the entrants.
      He told me, “Instead of the pushing the science fair at MC, we offer team-oriented opportunities such as the Envirothon teams and JETS teams to our science students.”
      According to the web page, “Envirothon is a fun, academic event. It challenges high school students to think critically about the natural world and their role in it. Envirothon combines in-class curriculum and outdoor training helping students to learn more about Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Soil & Land Use, Wildlife, and Current Environmental Issues.”
      The (J)unior (E)ngineering (T)echnical (S)ociety competition challenges teams with science and math exams. The theme for the year 2010 is Water, Water Everywhere, and teams consisting of four to eight students will be challenged to answer technical questions related to the subject. During the past ten years, Manheim Central teams have twice been ranked number one in the state, and have also been ranked twice in the top twenty nationwide.
      I examined a couple of the sample questions, and take my word for it, solving them is nothing one does just to pass the time of day.
      I like the idea of the team approach. The individual scientist working alone in his laboratory is not the way science is done in today’s world.
      So why don’t we hear about these achievements? Apparently since the science fair is sponsored in part by the Lancaster Newspapers, other science competitions get short shift on publicity. That’s part of the politics I spoke of earlier. Too bad - the current culture could use more good science news.
      I owe the students and teachers of Manheim Central a big apology. I offer it with no reservations. Keep up the good work.
**********
      As I thought about it, I soon realized that an even more remarkable transition had occurred that didn’t show in the pictures, and that was the change that had taken place on the inside of the children. Although both boys had grown up in similar surroundings, they have completely different likes, dislikes, loves, hates, prejudices, interests, beliefs and worldviews in general.
      Foreword – The Spirit Runs Through It

To read more excerpts from the book, click here.