Saturday, May 28, 2016

Toward The Light

Humor and inspiration published weekly (or whenever the editor feels like it) Fare: $ Priceless

Books by the editor: Life of the Eagle

The Short Happy Life of Davey Monroe


author unknown

(Editor’s note: This essay was written about 15

years ago. We haven’t changed.)

You may have missed this in the rush of other

news, but there was a report that someone in

Pakistan had actually published an offer of a reward

to anyone who killed an American—any American.

In response, an Australian dentist wrote the

following to let everyone know what an American

is so they would know when they found one.

“An American is English, or French, or Italian,

Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, or Greek.

An American may also be Canadian, Mexican,

African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian,

Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An

American may also be a Cherokee, Osage,

Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache or one of the many other

tribes known as native Americans.

“An American is Christian, or he could be

Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are

more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The

only difference is that in America, they are free to

worship as each of them chooses. An American is

also free to believe in no religion. For that, he will

answer only to God, not to the government, or to

armed thugs claiming to speak for the government

and for God.

“An American is from the most prosperous land

in the history of the world. The root of that

prosperity can be found in the Declaration of

Independence, which recognizes the God-given

right of each man and woman to the pursuit of


“An American is generous. Americans have

helped out just about every other nation in the

world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was

overrun by the Soviet army years ago, America

came with arms and supplies to enable the people

to win back their country. As of the morning of

September 11, 2001, America had given more than

any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

“Americans welcome the best—the best

products, the best books, the best music, the best

food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the

Richard L. Evans, 704 Country Club Court, Morehead City, NC 28557 © copyright 2016 R.L. Evans all rights reserved

“The national symbol of America, The Statue of

Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the

wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the

homeless, tempest-tossed. These, in fact, are the

people who built America. Some of them were

working in the Twin Towers the morning of

September 11, earning a better life for their families.

I’ve been told that the World Trade Center victims

were from at least thirty other countries, cultures

and first languages—including those that aided and

abetted the terrorists.

“So you can try to kill an American if you must.

Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and

Mao, and every blood thirsty tyrant in the history

of the world. But in doing so, you would be just

killing yourself, because Americans are not a

particular people from a particular place. They are

the embodiment of the human spirit and freedom.

Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is

an American.”

Birthdays this week: Hank Williams, Jr. (67),

Stevie Nicks (68), Gladys Knight (72), Henry

Kissinger (93), Louis Gossett, Jr. (80), Carol Baker

(85), Rudy Giuliani (72), Lisa Kudrow (53),

Wynonna Judd (52), Clint Eastwood (86), Brooke

Shields (51), Colin Ferrell (40), Pat Boone (82),

Morgan Freeman (79) and Clint Walker (89).

(Editor’s note: Warning! You might want to stop

reading here.)

Two vultures boarded a plane, each carrying two

dead raccoons. The attendant said to them, “Sorry,

boys but only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Two boll weevils grew up in the South. One went

to Hollywood and became a star. The other stayed

behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to

much. He became known as the lesser of two weevils.

Two Eskimos were sitting in a kayak and got

very cold (what else?), They decided to build a fire

in the boat to keep warm. The fire soon burned the

boat to the waterline. Thus proving you can’t have

your kayak and heat it, too.

(Editor’s note: Had enough? I tried to warn you.

Maybe you’ll pay attention next time.)

Toward the Light is published and distributed without charge by the Editor:

Richard Evans, editor and publisher of Toward the Light, has given me permission to include his recent issue here.  You can see it in the PDF original format on this web page:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Location in wealth, no, money

We don't pick our date and time of birth.  We almost never pick our date and time of death. So, locating ourselves in time, probably the main variable of our lives, is rather cut and dried.  But our money is a somewhat different question.  You can start to feel the difficulties if I report my wealth or my money in Italian lire or Russian rubles.  Google reports that one US dollar is currently worth 1709.66 lire or 65.88 rubles.  So, which is better 1 or 1709 or 66.  Rather a silly question but the answer tends to depend on whether you are in Kansas City or Fiorenza or Leningrad.

Which is better: a Chevy, a Lamborghini or a Buick?  Depends on what you want, where you live, how you feel.  You might have preferred a Chevy at 17 years of age but none of the above today.

It is not easy to situate yourself in money.  Compared to your cousin, you have more income but you don't own a boat.  Compared to your grandfather, you have nearly no acreage but he did. Compared to the Italian priest in a Tuscan monastery, you have quite a wardrobe but he doesn't want more clothes.  Mathematically, your income is quite a lot more than Ivan's but he is well-off by the standards of his family and friends and neighborhood.

When it comes to money (not wealth, a bigger and trickier category), people often talk of winning the lottery.  If you win $100, what will you do with the money?  How about $10,000? Sometimes, people talk of getting a windfall and I like to ask them if they need money.  They usually pause a moment and then say they don't. Most people most of the time don't really know how much they actually have right now.

It is likely that your life would have been different if your family's annual income was monthly instead.  In the same way, if a month's income had to last a full year, things would have probably been different.  These numerical considerations are one thing but there is often an emotional side to money. Should I have worked harder?  Should I have gone into a different line of work?  Maybe I am ashamed of what I failed to accomplish. Maybe I am quite proud of all that I have earned and saved.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Situating in time

Take the year in which you were born.  Subtract 100.  The answer might be 1850 or so.  What was the country like 100 years before you were born? Keep going.  Your birth year plus 100 = maybe 2050.  You could be alive then.  People might be depending on you for wisdom, judgment and memories.  How about 200 years, to 2150?  You will be around physically then but quite dissipated.  Your molecules will be scattered all over the place.  Some people are worried that humans will be polluted to death by then or wiped out by drought, war or famine.

As you get older and more and more people around you are younger than you are, it becomes clear that your memories go back to times earlier than many others experienced.  It doesn't take long for you to realize the same applies to you.  Many days elapsed before you came along.  What happened in those times?  People came from Asia and Europe and settled parts of North America.  They could never get a good cellphone signal.  Way before that, people left Africa to span out to Asia and Europe.  How far back can we throw our minds?  How about 4,543,000,000 years?  

If we place our thoughts that far back, we pre-date not only good cellphone service but writing, language, cooking and air conditioning.  We might not want to set our time machine back so far that we are on the planet without an atmosphere or with too many raging volcanoes. 

It seems murkier to take our minds into the future.  When you were 10 or 15 years old, did you have any idea that your life would be like it has?  Are you living where you expected to?

Maybe you know that in 1899, the head of the US patent office recommended closing the office down on the grounds that everything that could be invented had been.  My wife says she doesn't hear that sort of comment much any more.  I think maybe we are more aware that the internet of things (IOT), genetics, and many other areas are just beginning to blossom. 

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Estates, Goodwilll and Changing fashions

Some of our relatives and friends have died.  That can be sad but in most cases, there was some warning and little shock that older people die.  But there is the matter of what's left over.  A will helps decide who gets the back forty acres but there is more.  Quite a bit more. Clothes, albums of this and that, tools, maybe some live pets.  Many of the people who have experienced facing the attic, the garage, the upper levels of the garage, the basement, etc. try to take a strong stance of being prepared.  Who wants to have the relatives face a big lot of stuff at such a time?  Why not be proactive and strip down now?

Not a bad idea at all but the trouble is we keep on living.  A new gadget gets invented and it holds all our backscratchers so nicely!  In a month or two or so, we are ready to put it aside.  We put aside. Not there!  In the basement.  You know, right beside Grandma's platinum doilies, the ones we are saving for when they come back in style.  I keep them in the pie safe. Yes, I emptied all those culottes and spats out last year so there is room in there now.

It is hard to stay current.  Something old is now treasured but I gave it away.  This is still hot right now but it is fading in popularity even now.  

As more people live to greater age, longer spans of time are covered by their lifetimes.  Meanwhile, marketing and keeping up with the Jones, the de Jongs, the Janosonvanichs and the Tjings moves us all through fashions and fads even faster.  So, we have more stuff to store, to hold on to, just in case.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why are you all bloody?

I read a good poem by Ronald Wallace and I wanted to read more.  So, I went to the library and of course, it is silly to go there without looking at the new books on display.  I quickly found four I wanted to look at more completely.  I did and I found they weren't for me.

One of the books is by a well-known crime, whodunit and police writer.  That book starts out with a couple of criminals driving out into the country with a body to dispose of.  We find out as they open the trunk of the car to complete their job that the victim is alive.  When the trunk is opened, the man jumps out and runs off.  The criminals vow to find him, track him down and complete their assignment.  I decided I don't want to be party to their work.  I am not intrigued.  I think they should re-write the tale by switching to helping out in a soup kitchen for the poor and visiting the hospitalized and lonely.

Not long ago, I read that "it is not a story until something bad happens".  I think our primate, maybe even more basic, animal nature gets aroused and engaged by dramatic tension: will the boy get the girl?  Will the searchers find the missing child?  Will the new product sell?  If too many tales are peaches and cream, butter and biscuits, lovey-dovey, we lose interest.  If it is all going to turn out the way we want, we don't need to worry. We don't even need to care, to pay attention.

It gets a little tiring, though, to put aside all the stories that go for the necessary tension by depicting horror, torture, ruthless cruelty.  There are plenty of those and if we just lower our standards and cozy up to a good beating, a couple of gruesome murders and sadistic episodes, we have something to watch or read, something to fear, to raise worries and actual disgust.  It can be a drag to look through books, series of books, possible tv viewing and movies in search of something well-crafted, appropriately tense and dramatic while skipping blood and gore attempts to be engaging.

The older I get, the more stories I have read or watched.  It gets more difficult for me to care, or worry, or hope.  I read plenty of non-fiction that is quite engaging, such as Franz de Waal's "Are We Smart Enough to Figure Out How Smart Animals Are?"  So, I am too experienced, too familiar with brass knuckles and bloody blades to be very interested in whether Detective Smith is aware of who is also in the room.  The last story that seemed actually worth reading without the aid of blood and screams was "The Revolving Door of Life" by Alexander McCall Smith.  Before that, "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend."  There is good, modern, sensitive fiction worth reading that does not include breaking bones.  

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Monday, May 23, 2016

I can't keep up

As I get more friends and followers on this blog, I have trouble keeping up.  As more people respond to comments, I can't keep up.  In spring, it is inviting weather and it is dumb to waste it. But if I go for a bike ride in the luscious breeze, I will get further behind.  I want to examine how my life is going and how it feels but I am too busy living.  I can't keep up!

Friends pour good ideas and great books into my head.  I can't keep up.  Every week goes by faster than the last one.  I get writings from Pew and Brookings.  I try to get through Time each week but I am behind.  

Writers improve.  Marketers send still more attractive deals in more effective language and press more of my buttons.  I can't keep up!

I guess if I turn off my router and put all the mail directly into the recycling, it would help. If I don't fill the tank and limit myself to walking, I could save money but the shock might be upsetting.  Maybe I will turn the router down instead of completely off.  I may even have to redefine "keeping up" or use my sister's new mantra "It doesn't matter".

Some of the TED talks might distract you while you sympathize with my problem. I did put the latest email from TED talk on my blog, here

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fwd: This scientist can hack your dreams

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: This week on <>
Date: Sun, May 22, 2016 at 9:25 AM
Subject: This scientist can hack your dreams

"...a canvas that flickers to life when we fall asleep" Open in your browser
This week on
May 22, 2016

Moran Cerf: This scientist can hack your dreams

18:00 minutes · Filmed Feb 2016 · Posted May 2016 · TED2016

What if we could peek inside our brains and see our dreams -- or even shape them? Studying memory-specific brain cells, neuroscientist (and ex-hacker) Moran Cerf found that our sleeping brains retain some of the content we encounter when we're awake and that our dreams can influence our waking actions. Where could this lead us? "Neuroscientists are now giving us a new tool to control our dreams," Cerf says, "a new canvas that flickers to life when we fall asleep."

Playlist of the week

How music affects us

Music is a fundamental aspect of humanity -- so exactly how does it impact us? These talks offer a look at our fascinating relationship with the music we make. Watch »

8 TED Talks • Total run time 2:34:53

More TED Talks

Anyone who has lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer knows the devastating speed with which it can affect an otherwise healthy person. TED Fellow and biomedical entrepreneur Laura Indolfi is developing a revolutionary way to treat this complex and lethal disease: a drug delivery device that acts as a cage at the site of a tumor, preventing it from spreading and delivering medicine only where it's needed. "We are hoping that one day we can make pancreatic cancer a curable disease," she says. Watch »

Sebastian Junger has seen war up close, and he knows the impact that battlefield trauma has on soldiers. But he suggests there's another major cause of pain for veterans when they come home: the experience of leaving the tribal closeness of the military and returning to an alienating and bitterly divided modern society. "Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we can save the vets," Junger says. "I think the real question is if we can save ourselves." (This talk comes from the PBS special TED Talks: War & Peace, which premieres Monday, May 30.) Watch »

Everyone has an opinion about how to legislate sex work (whether to legalize it, ban it or even tax it) ... but what do workers themselves think would work best? Activist Toni Mac explains four legal models that are being used around the world, and shows us the model that she believes will work best to keep sex workers safe and offer greater self-determination. "If you care about gender equality or poverty or migration or public health, then sex worker rights matter to you," she says. "Make space for us in your movements." (Adult themes) Watch »

In the US, the press has a right to publish secret information the public needs to know, protected by the First Amendment. But government surveillance has made it ever more dangerous for whistleblowers, the source of virtually every important story about national security since 9/11, to share information. In this concise, informative talk, Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder and TED Fellow Trevor Timm traces the recent history of government action against individuals who expose crime and injustice, and advocates for technology that can help them do it safely and anonymously. Watch »


Education: The surprisingly good things that kids are learning from video games »
Kids don't love "educational video games" -- but what can they learn from the games they really love, like Minecraft, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft?

Quote of the Week


Charles Darwin said, 'I sometimes think that general and popular treatises are almost as important for the progress of science as original work.' In fact, Origin of Species was written for a general and popular audience, and was widely read when it first appeared. Darwin knew what we seem to have forgotten, that science is not only for scientists."

Laura Snyder
The philosophical breakfast club
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