What’s The Problem With Humankind?

There is societal unrest in America, big time: A perceived notion exists that shooting and killing African-Americans is unchecked.

On June 20, 2015, 33-year-old Travis Boys shot and killed a New Orleans Police Officer, Daryle Holloway, when he was transporting Boys to jail. While earlier in the week, Dylann Roof, 21, cooly gunned down nine churchgoers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

President Obama jumped into the fray, announcing better, more stringent gun laws must be enacted; but, really, does that feel-good answer solve the problem of killings?

Executed on October 9, 2002, Aileen Wuornos is widely considered to be America's first female serial killer.

In 1989 and 1990 Aileen Wuornos, a hitchhiking prostitute along Florida’s highways, thumbed rides to turn tricks. Always traveling with a loaded pistol, her sole intent was to rob — then kill her victims. Florida’s state attorney John Tanner, one of the prosecutors at her trial said, “She was a homicidal predator. She was like a spider on the side of the road, waiting for prey — men.” Unfortunately, seven middle-aged men fell into her wicked web before she was stopped.

Also hailing from Florida, Danny Rolling sexually assaulted, decapitated one victim, mutilated, and then strategically posed each of his five victims to intensify the horror for those who found them. They were college students from Gainesville, FL, and these twisted, horrific acts occurred in August, 1990.

On the other side of the world, in March, 1995, Tokyo’s subways sustained five coordinated attacks by members of the religious movement, Aum Shinrikyo. They released Sarin Gas, which killed 12, severely injured 50 and caused temporary vision problems for nearly 1,000 other everyday people.

The Oklahoma City bombing somber memorial: A few walls with 168 empty chairs, created from glass, bronze, and stone, representing every person that died. Erected and placed in the spot where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast killed 168 and injured over 680 others. Their weapon of choice: Nichols purchased forty, 50-pound bags of fertilizer ammonium nitrate. McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, hated the government and reasoned, “You learn how to handle killing in the military. I face the consequences, but you learn to accept it.” He believed his actions were necessary to prevent more lives from being lost at the hands of the U.S. government.

Who can forget the Heaven’s Gate group from California? Led by Marshall Applewhite, he convinced his followers to commit suicide so their souls could board an alien spacecraft which was following Comet Hale-Bopp. On March 26, 1997, all 39 members dressed in identical black shirts, sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike Decades athletic sneakers, and drank a deadly potion. Twenty-one women and 18 men covered themselves with purple sheets awaiting their rendezvous with the great beyond.

Students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris took Columbine High School by storm on April 20, 1999. A fire bomb was detonated to divert firefighters, and propane tanks were converted to bombs and placed in the cafeteria. An arsenal of additional explosive devices, and bombs rigged in cars rounded out their attack. Heavily armed with guns, knives, and an assortment of bombs, they walked the hallways of their Colorado school. Twelve students and one teacher were killed, 21 others were injured. These angry, hate-filled individuals then committed suicide.

How much hate exists in the human mind?

We soon found out. It was on September 11, 2001, when 3,497 people initially died in the Al-Qaeda terrorist attack on our country. Weapon of choice: Our airplanes. Since then, many first responders have succumbed to diseases attributed to being exposed to the toxic environment at Ground Zero, and our country continues to be affected by thousands of American military deaths and injuries sustained throughout the Middle East.

Arrested in 2001, DNA advances were able to link Seattle’s Gary Ridgway to at least 49 murders. The killings took its name from where the first bodies were found in 1987; hence, the Green River Murders.

April, 2002, the fourth homicidal attack at a school in Germany in less than three years occurred. The un-named murderer used a pump-action shotgun and a revolver to shoot and kill 15 adults and two students before killing himself.

In October, 2002, Washington, DC, and the great Commonwealth of Virginia found themselves victims of the Beltway Sniper. Ten people were killed and three were critically injured by John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo. But their inhumanity preceded the Beltway Sniper moniker: In February, 2002, the murderous duo killed seven and injured seven as they traversed through the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Washington.

On October 23, 2002, 40 Chechnen militants claimed allegiance to the Islamist separatist movement in Chechny. They armed themselves with a variety of explosives, and took 850 hostages in Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. The siege, officially led by Movsar Barayev, lasted 2-1/2 days, and culminated in the death of all of the Chechnen attackers and 130 hostages.

Six people were killed in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in July, 2009, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a theater as a crowd gathered for a performance. The second Chechnen bombing that month.

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Brelvik killed eight people in the section of Olso, Norway, where government buildings were, then picked off 69 people at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the island of Utoya. He didn’t like the direction Norway’s society was going.

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes was well-equipped with multiple firearms. He dressed in military attire, threw tear gas grenades and shot aimlessly into a crowded Aurora, CO movie theater. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others. Knowing his apartment would be scoured through by police, he rigged it with explosives, hoping to add to his kill list. Holmes is currently on trial.

December 14, 2012, unveiled Adam Lanza, 20. He killed his mother then proceeded to kill more innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The New York Daily News wrote. “A mass murderer executed his mother with her own gun and then slaughtered 20 helpless kids and a half-dozen staffers in a ghastly killing spree at a Connecticut elementary school.”

December, 2012, also unveiled Christopher Krumm, 25. He stabbed his father’s live-in girlfriend to death at home, then used a high-powered bow and arrow to kill his father at Wyoming’s Casper College.

Two pressure-cooker bombs were concocted by the brothers Tsarnaev: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, to detonate near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed and 264 were injured. Mayhem followed as the brothers’ spree continued in their quest to escape. They killed an MIT policeman, and an MBTA police officer survived even though he suffered severe blood loss.

And, there’s more. The 1970s and ’60s apparently weren’t the decades of love, peace and understanding either.

Throughout the 1970′s abortion doctors and health facilities were selected for bombings, while the Una Bomber, Ted Kaczynski, delivered his brand of murder via the US Postal Service because he opposed modern technology.

The Chicago weirdo who worked birthday parties dressed as a clown, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., killed at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978.

During this time period our country was also exposed to Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women in seven states between 1974 and 1978. He decapitated at least 12, and kept some of the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time as mementos.

Speaking of dismemberment, between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer committed rape, murder and the dismemberment of 17 men and boys. He also ate body organs of some of his victims. He had a personality disorder . . . you think?

And, between 1974 and 1991, Kansas’ Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the BTK monster, was on the loose. He was convicted of killing nine women and one male. His weapons of choice to Blind, Torture and Kill his victims were plastic bags, ropes, a knife, a belt, bare hands, and nylon stockings.

November, 1978, introduced the world to Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple. Jones relocated his temple to Guyana due to increasing scrutiny of his practices. He renamed his paradise, Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, to what is now known infamously as, Jonestown. An astonishing number of willing and unwilling followers — 909 — died by cyanide poisoning and / or gunshots, while an additional five people were gunned down at a nearby airstrip.

Andrei Chikatilo, or Citizen X from the Soviet Union, was also coined the Red Ripper. His reign of terror lasted from 1978 through 1990. Chikatilo confessed to sexual assault, murder and mutilation of 56 women and children.

The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, paralyzed and reduced the city to fear during the 1960s. Thirteen women were selected for sexual assault, rape and ultimately death. His predominant weapon of choice was the victims’ silk stockings . . . hence the murders were coined the “Silk Stocking Murders.”

Eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital were tortured, raped, and murdered on July 14, 1966, because Richard Speck said, “It just wasn’t their night.”

On August 1, 1966, police found a note Charles Joseph Whitman wrote, “However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.” He then stabbed his wife and mother to death, proceeded to the University of Texas at Austin where he killed 14 people, including himself, and wounded 32 others. This gruesome event is known as the Texas Bell Tower Murders.

And today, while bodies of 17 prostitutes popped up sporadically on Long Island’s Gilgo Beach, the Suffolk County police believe they have a serial murderer in their midst.

Throughout the world, Sarin Gas, Citizen X types, IRA, PLO, cults, bombs, beheadings, rapes, and torture attacks take place on a regular basis. Whether personal, religious or political reasoning — as if any reason could apply — bows and arrows, stockings, machetes, bare hands, knives, plastic bags, ropes, bombs, explosives, potions . . . and guns . . . are used to control others through power.

Oh!, I could sadly go on and on citing instances of cruelty, inhumanity and depravity hoisted upon fellow man from the beginning of time. We can never forget the creativity involved in crucifixion, burning at the stake, the guillotine, or gas chambers erected to snuff out millions in the Holocaust camps.

That being said, isn’t it naive to think new gun laws will ever be able to legislate empathy in the human minds of angry, hate-filled, twisted individuals? So, after reading this brief listing of murders with all sorts of weapons, do you think the feel-good remedy of enacting new gun laws will once and for all put an end to killings?

What about passing rope laws, stocking laws, bow and arrow laws, plastic bag laws, poison potion laws, etc? Do you think any of these sickos cared about laws . . . they didn’t care about people — what’s a law?

The fact is, there’s no rhyme, no reason, no pattern, no particular weapon of choice, no particular group, no particular race, no particular religion, and no particular country that owns atrocities.

Sadly, senseless killings will continue because humankind is neither human — or kind.

Deja-vu Redux

(Please read “It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again”, posted June 19, 2014).

On November 7, 2014, we find ourselves on the heels of the midterm results. Nationwide, the electorate rebuked President Obama’s policies and tactics. As a result, you might think a review should take place before upping the ante, but that didn’t seem to occur.

November 7, 2014, President Obama authorizes deployment of 1,500 non-combat advisors to Iraq. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Mission creep seems to have taken hold — regardless of which spokesman goes on the record and rejects that notion. You see, the president has requested $5.6 billion to fight Islamic State militants. The Commander-in-Chief has “authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to deploy up to 1,500 additional troops to Iraq” in non-combat advisory roles. However, this latest number is not to be regarded as the final number. Something tells me we’ll be revisiting our non-combat advisory troop levels in another 5 months.

Lawmakers remain concerned with President Obama’s decision because not too long ago he considered ISIS/ISIL as inconsequential and members of the JV Team.

When his naive description paled to the realities of the situation, the president announced the deployment of 300 advisors on June 19, 2014.

Several beheadings later, the president has slowly come to the conclusion ISIS/ISIL is a gruesome force to be reckoned with; maybe he’s elevated them to All-Star status?

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), House Armed Services Committee chairman said, “I remain concerned that the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL is insufficient. I would urge the president to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how additional funding supports a new direction.”

Deja-vu redux.

Ebola Unplugged

Named after the Ebola River, on July 27, 1976, a cotton factory worker from Nzara, Sudan, was the very first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus; ten days later he was dead.

A little over one month later, on September 1, 1976, a 44-year-old teacher contracted and succumbed to the Ebola virus in Zaire. Yambuku Mission Hospital was closed down after 11 of 17 hospital workers died in four short weeks. The outbreak came to an end by isolating the remaining Ebola victims.

Ebola claimed 431 lives out of 602 reported cases from Sudan and Zaire, and thus began the first Ebola outbreaks in human history. As of October 27, 2014 there have been 10,141 confirmed, probable and suspected cases worldwide with 4,922 deaths.

Spread from person to person by direct contact from infected body fluids, the U.S. State Department has ordered 160,000 Hazmat suits for Ebola. Do they know something we don't?

But, what is Ebola exactly? I found a very good explanation, “Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective” and I’ve summarized the article below:

Ebola is a virus, not a bacteria, meaning it requires a host. It naturally lives in bats which are eaten by those who live in tropical Africa. The virus can be spread from bat to man through a process called Zoonosis: a disease communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions.

The virus can now be spread from person to person by direct contact with body fluids. Once the virus gets into a person’s system, it seemingly lays low for a period of up to 21 days. The virus multiplies, and symptoms akin to flu or malaria ultimately present themselves, masking the deadly disease. Common aches, nausea, sweating, diarrhea quickly gives way to the disease invading the liver and adrenal glands.

Blood clotting is a liver’s major role, but when invaded by Ebola, the liver begins to decompose and is unable to do its job. “Blood may clot and turn to jelly in your veins, stay liquid and bleed profusely, or a combo of both.”

While the liver is faltering, the adrenal glands also begin to falter. Blood pressure begins to drop, IV fluids are administered in order to keep the body’s circulation volume up, but the shallow vascular system is breaking down. Vessel walls begin to leak body fluids and blood; including from the nose, gums, vagina, rectum and eyeballs. Since the adrenals cannot maintain blood pressure, and blood and body fluids ooze from the body, IV fluids continue to be administered in an attempt to try to stave off hypovolemic shock, also known as hemorrhagic shock, “a life-threatening condition that results when you lose more than 20 percent (one-fifth) of your body’s blood or fluid supply.”

If the patient does not improve, a catch-22 is in full bloom. IV fluids are no longer beneficial and excrutiating pain cannot be handled by medication. The liver and kidneys have become part of the system-wide failure ravaging the body . . . the heart races. “Severe fluid loss makes it impossible for the heart to pump sufficient blood to your body” and many organs can fail.

Today, tempers in the United States are flaring — the Ebola Czar, who was going to be the voice of calm and reason, has been deafening quiet, while the CDC and Obama Administration continue to tweak/discard/add confusing protocols. Hospitals are less than prepared, those flying into this country from the “hot zone” can only enter through five airports, and five hospitals have been deemed capable of treating infected patients. The governors from New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Florida have reacted to the ever-changing information and took matters into their own hands to protect their state’s citizens. At this time the governors of those four states have ordered a 21-day imposed quarantine — not voluntary.

Also called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF), “Ebola is a member of the Filoviridae family. There are currently five known strains of the Ebola virus: Zaire, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston. So far, the Zaire strain remains the most deadly (80% death rate) and the Reston the least (0% death rate).

From its original debut in 1976, “the Ebola-Zaire and Ebola-Sudan strains have caused all the major known outbreaks.”

Tea . . . Earl Grey Plunged Into the Drink

Much of the blood running through my veins is comprised of tea, but I’m not even remotely a tea aficionado, or a tea snob. I just love tea, and to my point of not being a tea snob, I happen to use tea bags as a rule – Red Rose, and especially look forward to finding my toy prize inside the 100-count box.

There’s nothing like drinking my perfected cup of hot tea. I don’t have to be sick, have a queasy stomach, or set aside a certain time of the day. I drink multiple cups of tea all of the time, anytime and every day of the week. My one criteria: Tea must be sipped from a real cup; ceramic will do, but I prefer porcelain.

Unfortunately, most establishments don’t offer Red Rose. Oh!, they come to the table with the box filled with fancy teas, and I either choose English Breakfast, or Earl Grey. But, regardless of where I choose to eat, I never will drink my tea from a paper, styrofoam, or glass cup; footed stem or not . . . no matter how much I want that cup of tea, and no matter how trendy the restaurant. And, it’s in those trendy restaurants where I have reminded the waiter to return to the table with my tea in a “real” cup, you know . . . with a saucer and spoon. Can you imagine?

It seems I am one of the shrinking number of tea drinkers, but you’re probably not that surprised; after all diners, food carts, restaurants, coffee shops and cafes abound. And, after all, over 80% of Americans consume an average of 3+ cups of coffee each and every day.

Amateurs – I drink over 10 cups of tea daily. Anyway, with such high numbers of coffee drinkers, I cannot be surprised that Americans prefer java over cuppa.

But . . . I am surprised that 8-out-of-10 Brits consume an average of 2+ cups of coffee each and every day; threatening the standard black tea as their go-to hot beverage.

“Brits have really taken to the coffee shop culture in recent years and many of us find it 
difficult to get through a day without at least one trip to our local coffee shop,” said David Black of Consumer Intelligence.

Thirty-eight percent of British consumers prefer lattes, closely followed by cappucinos. While 18 percent prefer Americanos, 11 percent Espressos, 4 percent Mochaccinos, and 2 percent drink Macchiatos.

The Boston Coffee Party? Sounds clumsy, and doesn’t have the same ring  – it lacks the England-inspired sophisticated call-to-arms urgency.

Java . . . it’s just not my cup of tea.

If Someday Ever Comes

What many people subscribe to is the ability to retire, the desire to retire, to not have to follow someone else’s schedule . . . you know, to have “me” time – and the age when many sign up for that time is 65.

Not too young, not too old, MediCare kicks in, and you take life a little easier, if you will.

You deserve to relax, after all, you did everything you were supposed to do – went to school, entered the workforce with your first of many jobs, learned the business as the years marched on, received promotions in your late 30s or early 40s; and as you approached becoming an official card-carrying senior citizen, the calendar reminded you it was time to make room for the next generation who were clipping at your heels.

The personal and professional circle of life.

Except if you’re a Supreme Court Justice, Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth, or Prince Charles – you know, the lifers who tend to hold onto their jobs for their entire lives, hence the word lifers.

Will Queen Elizabeth ever step down and let her son, Prince Charles, fulfill his Kingly duties?

I wrote a tidbit about the unlikely scenario of the Mad Hatter, er Queen Elizabeth, actually stepping down from the throne and allowing her son – Prince Charles – to put that historic crown on his head:

“Along with the public’s admiration of the Queen’s steadfast respect of public duty, and longevity which runs in her family, it does not appear Queen Elizabeth will be stepping down and transferring her duties to the next in line – her son, Prince Charles” see Sorry Charlie . . . 60 Years and Counting (posted June 4, 2012)

It reminds me of the eerie stepmother’s tactic in Disney’s Cinderella:

Stepmother: Well, I see no reason why you can’t go… if you get all your work done.
Cinderella: Oh, I will. I promise.
Stepmother: And, if you can find something suitable to wear.
Cinderella: I’m sure I can. Oh, thank you, Stepmother.
Drizella: Mother, do you realize what you just said?
Stepmother: Of course. I said, “If.”

I feel sorry for Prince Charles. He spent his entire life being told what he could and could not do, who he could marry, endures the continual, multi-decades process of being primped, prodded, and groomed – all so that he could receive his promotion; while his mother, the Queen, knew all along her if was slightly kinder – “someday.”

Well, Queen Elizabeth must have been listening to Snow White’s heartfelt plea, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” because it appears the Lifer Queen is transferring some of her lesser duties to the King in Waiting.

The Grandpa Prince holds tight onto his dream of being the King of England . . . but his mother still will not allow her eldest primped, prodded, and groomed son his promotion. Yes, the Queen continues to dangle the carrot, tosses him piecemeal a few extra-duty bones, but Prince Charles is 65, the age when most hang up their bootstraps, and subscribe to “me” time.

Clearly the Queen doesn’t seem to want to pass the full baton to her eldest, so will Prince Charles really want the job when someday finally taps him on the shoulder? Would you?

Perhaps the Queen really did heed Snow White’s plea, but she understood the prince as being . . . Prince William.

Made You Blink

You’re in the military, the Navy to be exact. You take your oath seriously, and you’re a crew member of a ship designated as an intelligence security vessel during the height of the Vietnam Conflict.

Because the creeping Communism threat was part of America’s vernacular, consciousness, and good-vs-evil modalities; things obviously were pretty tense. But things were also tense for North Korea since their border was defined by the DMZ zone . . . an armistice which was agreed upon by communist countries China and North Korea with democratically aligned South Korea and the United Nations.

The problem: The armistice was a loosly-based agreement which suffered ongoing, multiple incidents of coup d’etat plots and various territorial penetrations. So, let’s just say North Korea was overly wary, aggressive and cautious.

The commander of the American vessel was Lloyd Bucher. He was instructed to conduct an intelligence gathering mission off the coast of North Korea, and report on the Soviet Union’s naval activities in this hot-bed region.

The Law of the Sea recognizes that 12 miles off of a coastline is deemed as international waters. Commander Bucher did one better, he maintained 13 miles off of the North Korean coastline. Well, the Law of the Sea is all well and good when the country you’re gathering intelligence on recognizes that standard.

What happens when that country claims their territorial water extends to 50 miles? You have the USS Pueblo incident which unfolded on January 23, 1968 – the first time an American naval vessel was captured since the War of 1812.

Duane Hodges was killed, and the remaining 81 crew members were assembled, blindfolded and taken as prisoners. They suffered starvation and torture techniques, which included fake firing squads to compel confessions of espionage.

Photographed and paraded before cameras, the members of Pueblo were being used in North Korea’s ongoing propaganda campaign . . . to a degree. Amidst all of their torture, fear and uncertainty, they held fast.

But North Korea wasn’t the only country who practiced torture on American Naval POWs.

It was early in 1966, during the Vietnam Conflict, when the world found out that sadistic, unspeakable torture deluged American POWs at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors.

Jeremiah Denton, proud American and resilient POW held by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam Conflict. Photo: National Archives, records of the CIA

One remarkable prisoner was paraded out before cameras for propaganda purposes. Jeremiah Denton, who also did a stint at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, was a Naval Aviator POW for 7-1/2 years; four of which was spent in solitary confinement. He and William Tschudy were captured when their jet was shot down during its bombing run over Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam.

As Denton was being questioned before the cameras, he participated in the sham propaganda film . . . to a degree. He managed to subtly sneak out a message by blinking – yes, blinking – in Morse Code . . .
T – O – R – T – U – R – E.

Talk about having control and resilience.

On February 12, 1973, along with numerous other American POWs, both Denton and Tschudy were released as a result of diplomatic negotiations – Operation Homecoming.

Southeast Asia was a Cold War hotspot for our country. Thousands of American lives tragically were lost in those far-away lands. Ruled by despots who tried to extend the communism doctrine and portray our country as a Paper Tiger, the United States had to take serious notice of that region. And it was during those turbulent years in our history when American soldiers captured in Vietnam and North Korea showcased their control, resilience and patriotism.

While it took Vietnam years to ultimately release our POWs, North Korea released the Pueblo prisoners after 11 months as a result of negotiations with a representative of the United Nations, U.S. Army General Gilbert Woodward. In order to free the prisoners, Woodward agreed to sign a North Korean prepared document which included admission of U.S. espionage against North Korea. ” . . . solemnly apologizes for the grave acts of espionage committed by the U.S. ship against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after having intruded into the territorial waters of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and gives firm assurance that no U.S. ships will intrude again.”

Propaganda still abounds: This June, North Korea celebrated "Victory Day" in Pyongyang, North Korea. The only captured Naval vessel since the War of 1812 is the USS Pueblo.

Of course, once the prisoners were out of North Korea’s control, the United States denied any wrong-
doing or infractions took place.

After 40 years, the USS Pueblo has never been returned . . . she remains a POW, and is listed as a commissioned vessel of the U.S. Navy.

They said tomay-toe, we said tomatto. They said potay-toe, we said pottato. But . . . nobody called the whole thing off.

It doesn’t look like North Korea has any intention to blink.

April 1, 2014 Update: Please See Welcome Page for remarkable video of American POW Jeremiah Denton’s during the Vietnam Conflict

Memorial Day Is No Picnic

Soldiers who survived the realities of battle hopelessly watched as trench feet consumed their extremities, while shattered and lifeless trees, symbolic of many soldier’s fate, stoically presented themselves in the wide expanses of impersonal mud fields whose streams of oozing blood led to the web which forever captured its prey for eternity.

Cold weather only accented the fields’ horror, but as warm weather approached, the vast numbers of disturbed poppy seeds lying just beneath the ground began to germinate. That was 100 years ago: World War I, Flanders Field, Belgium. (Please read Michael: The Lady in Red, posted May 25, 2012).

Fallen UK soldiers from World War I are interred in Belgium's Tyne Cot Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery for the Commonwealth's forces in the world – for any war: 11,194 tombstones; of which only 3,587 are named.

Since then, the inscribed names and ranks of fallen soldiers have succumbed to Mother Nature’s toll on the once-pristine lineup of respectful tombstones. So, in order to prepare for the commemoration of the war to end all wars the quiet still of this sacred ground is being disturbed, once again.

Although old soldiers will never die, we will not permit them to fade away – not by time, nor Mother Nature. Dirt, chips or weather-worn, these ivory monuments are being cleaned, repaired, or replaced in order to restore the sharp dignity of the eternal soldier.

Between 2014 and 2018, hundreds of thousands of visitors will safely walk the fields to share their gratitude, and witness the restored rows of sacrifice and solemnity.

Keep your eyes on the . . . ad?

Driving.

You have to be responsible, alert, in the moment.

You cannot drink and drive, be medicated or under the influence, text, talk on your cellphone, put on makeup, apply mascara or lipstick, or be distracted in any way. If applicable, you must wear your corrective lenses, your auto must be in proper working order and road worthy, you have to know the road conditions, be cautious of erratic driving of others, leave enough stopping distance between you and the auto in front of you, adhere to speed limits, etc., etc., . . . in other words, respect the rules of the road.

And, you have to study in order to actually learn the rules of the road, take a written test, and if you pass, receive a Permit. Then you acquire more hands-on driving, and begin to understand the endless possibilities driving can present.

Driving is not an inalienable right, it’s a privilege. And, in order to earn the privilege, you have to learn the do’s and don’ts before you can begin to master the serious business of driving.

In this marketing savvy, albeit sated environment, I have become numb to the number of, and creative outlets for advertising. Not shocked anymore with advertisements in any and all nooks and crannies, receipts, billboards, bus shelters, print ads, back-lit ads, ads in windows, on buildings, on bus roofs, turnstiles, trains, subways, and on, and on.

Keeping your eyes safely on the road is becoming increasingly difficult since ads, video, TV and movie trailers, and breaking news are being displayed on mobile box-trucks.

Until last week.

A seemingly ordinary box-truck passed in front of me with a seemingly ordinary ad on its seemingly ordinary back doors.

I quickly found it wasn’t so ordinary. It seems advertising on trucks is going techno across the globe. No longer are we subjected to static advertisements, you see, this truck was running a dynamic sequence of video advertising spots from multiple advertisers on a video screen where its hum-drum back doors were once located. And, the new technology enables targeted advertising capable of customizing the ad from neighborhood to neighborhood; from fully digital full-motion video, TV-style commercials, breaking news, and clips from movies or sports – it all depends on the advertisers target audience.

It’s cool . . . but, it was also very distracting, even the pedestrians stopped and looked. I guess that’s successful marketing, but maybe not so successful if your driving becomes compromised.

I’m just counting down the clock as I wait for new laws to become enacted because drivers will be distracted as they watch the ad . . . not the road. Oh, and I do see insurance companies licking their chops to increase premiums.

In the meantime, I need a touch up . . . where’s my mascara?

 

See Welcome Page for video of dynamic mobile advertising

A Cold War Curtain Call

May Day in the Soviet Union? It certainly looks that way. No, it's North Korea's show of force – 50 years past prime.

Nostalgia.

Who would have ever thought that growing up during the Cold War would have been looked at . . . dare I say, fondly.

I say that a little tongue-and-cheek because it’s true and not-so true.

Would I want my kids to grow up knowing where Fall-Out Shelters were located, or perform Civil-Defense and Air-Raid Drills as part of the school curriculum, or know there was a stockpile of body bags under the school’s stage? No.

But, looking back – it was at least reassuring to know who your enemy was, what they looked like, what their leaders espoused, the colors of their uniforms, and how much strength their standing army possessed.

The evening news would broadcast the arms race, instill fear in us with their talk about “Red China,” and our presidents would negotiate with Iron Curtain leaders to ease up on the production of nuclear weapons – the Cold-War Iron Curtain Era.

Skirmish upon skirmish, contained war after contained war has been a part of the human condition from the beginning of time. However, the introduction of nuclear weapons has made the art of war even less personal . . . more cold, more remote, more devastating.

We can annihilate entire populations but keep buildings and infrastructure intact thanks to the Neutron Bomb – now that’s cold. Dirty bombs targeting civilian populations make attacks small, portable and plausible – just ask Japan about the Sarin Gas Attack on their subway system. And new-found fanaticism means anything and everything can become a weapon which can cause untold death and destruction – never before seen just 50 years ago.

Social media allows for the seemingly instantaneous ebb and flow of information, and when in the wrong hands this how-to, or logistical information can be used to unleash ruination.

During the Revolutionary War we were successful, in part, due to the Minutemen, groups of people who assembled quickly and practiced guerrilla warfare on enemy soldiers on our soil. During WWII, the French Resistance would plant bombs, hurl molotov cocktails, and derail the railroads against German occupation. And, during the Vietnam Conflict, the Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Koreans who relentlessly practiced their form of regional guerrilla warfare.

So what made these groups so effective? No one knew who they were, they didn’t wear uniforms, they blended with the population, they did and said the “right things” so they wouldn’t bring attention to themselves. They united and took matters into their own hands outside of the structured standing infantry.

Standing armies that used to conjure many sleepless nights are no longer as necessary. Terrorists, homicide/suicide fanatics or those who practice resistance have really made civilized governments restructure their security home and abroad. And a single drone can be dispatched from far away, zoom in on a target and surgically destroy it quickly and impersonally.

War used to have rules, was measurable and honorable; everyone had a stake. But civilian populations were always off limits, only military structures and troops were in the scope. So, why does North Korea believe their show of force is relevant in today’s modern world?

Perhaps it’s because their society is cloistered and 50 years behind the times. Perhaps it’s because their newbie leader is trying to demonstrate his iron fist on his starving nation. Perhaps it’s because they really believe they’re relevant.

A world of technology that enables disenfranchised people to lash out and take down buildings, kill and maim people, and spread their brand of fanaticism is the world we unfortunately find ourselves. Man-made bombs, night lenses, satellites, technology and drones can affect destruction from miles away with the push of a button. No dirty hand-to-hand combat – instead clean, cold, devastating targeted strikes.

I am of the mindset to never underestimate your enemy. History simply bears that out. And, although we have to take notice that North Korea’s hostile stance has darkened the world’s doorsteps, I also know their parade of soldiers and armaments is ala the 1950s and ’60s.

I can only pray that North Korean misfits never master the new technology and create a reason to hate America. It is then that sleepless nights will again appear for me . . . and my kids . . . and their kids.

Margaret Thatcher: A Controversial Figure

She divided a nation . . . no, she saved a nation . . . Wait a minute . . . I don't know, and neither does anyone else. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

On April 8, 2013 Margaret Thatcher died.

There are so many diverse opinions about the Thatcher years, just look at the newspaper headlines, that it would be a grand disservice to render yet another opinion . . . albeit, mine.

Since I’m not an historian, or a person who lived under the Thatcher years, I prefer to bow out and leave glowing reports along with distasteful remarks, rallies and parties to those who “know.”

Factually, not emotionally, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under the Conservative Party. Elected with over 40% of the vote, Thatcher governed over anything but a United peoples. Her mandate was to reverse England’s economic decline, and she took on unions and relished combating views and stances on once-taboo subjects.

Emotionally, I sort of have a sympathetic view. A declining economy, IRA terrorism as a way of life, the early days of AIDS, apartheid, and controversial social issues coupled with global issues were the ingredients Thatcher had to bake Battenberg cake.

Under those circumstances, how could anyone bake the perfect cake? After all, she wasn’t one of the great chefs of Europe, she was merely the “grocer’s daughter.” How sad that her foes preferred to embrace that swarmy description as a way of putting Margaret in her place, as though her foes knew where that place was . . . how pompous, how misguided – how shortsighted . . . that place was 10 Downing Street.

I prefer to describe Margaret Thatcher as a mom, a wife, educated, and a lightning rod . . . you know – a woman. Now those were the ingredients that truly made her foes, and movers and shakers quake.

Everything else was just icing on the perfect cake.

The 4-Cs of Diamond Grading: Did England Just Add a Fifth?

Color, clarity, cut, carat weight, and Cameron, David Cameron, to be exact.

Ahh! the spoils of war. It seems the British Empire was none-too-kind to India regarding the “Mountain of Light” . . . better known as the Koh-i-Noor. You see, India was forced to turn over this jewel to England during their colonial rule.

Historically speaking, whoever owned the Koh-i-Noor Diamond ruled the world.

Coming in at a hefty 105 carats, the Koh-i-Noor is one of the world’s largest diamond, and has changed hands throughout history time and time again . . . until 1850 when it was presented to Queen Victoria.

It was later mounted into Queen Victoria’s crown, and now is part of the British Crown Jewels. This stellar specimen, ensconced in the royal crown, awkwardly represents the unabashed pillaging of England’s colonies. And, when Prince William makes it into the role of King, only female members of the British Royal Family are entitled to wear the crown . . . hello Kate.

Upon Queen Elizabeth II’s state visit to India in 1997, she helped successfully celebrate their 50th year of independence from England. But she was also subjected to demands that the Koh-i-Noor be returned since India maintains the jewel was looted.

Fast forward to Prime Minster Cameron’s  February 21, 2013 official three-day Indian visit to forge greater economic ties – which also included a mea culpa . . . of sorts. In 1919, unarmed Indian protesters were massacred by colonial British troops, a stank which continues to conjure resentment and is growing roots. So, Cameron’s presence was a pretty big deal, describing the massacre as “a deeply shameful event,” but it was noticed he offered no apology.

Okay, I get it, the past is the past. We should acknowledge wrongs, but not necessarily hold a current administration accountable for past misdeeds. It doesn’t matter if I get it, the most important audience Cameron was speaking to was India . . . did they get it? Maybe they could have accepted his non-apology apology, but then Cameron spoke afterward . . . about the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

He explained England does not subscribe to “returnism.” That’s a more refined way of saying possession is nine-tenths of the law.

About 100 years after Queen Victoria was presented with the looted diamond, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) created the standard which is now globally recognized and followed which categorizes and defines diamonds – the 4-Cs.

Someone should tell England there aren’t five.

Higher Power Strikes an Eerie Pose

A sign from above after Pope Benedict XVI announced he will be stepping down

Pope Benedict XVI is going to resign his papal seat on February 28, 2013.

But it looks like the Big Guy upstairs has joined the choir of dissenters, and has struck the Vatican with an awesome bolt of lightning. Creepy, no?

Although there is no hard-fast rule forbidding a pope to resign, there certainly is precedence. The last pope to step down was roughly 600 years ago when religious politics consumed the Vatican. Three competing groups within the church did not agree on who the pope should be; and so, in 1415 an exasperated Pope Gregory XII stepped aside.

His decision was made in order to heal what became known as the Great Western Schism. And, although he stepped down, It wasn’t until 1417 that all Church factions could agree on Martin V as the next pope.

One would think 600 years of precedence should count for something.

I guess not . . . so what does Pope Benedict’s decision to step down as leader of the Church mean to the faithful?

It brings into question Church doctrine, history, culture and “rules” since they apparently can be swept away for expediencies sake. Nobody has ever said following would be easy. Nobody has ever said staying would be easy. What has been said is the leader of the Church is expected to set an example – even when the tough gets going.

Health issues certainly are tough. But, when Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope John Paul II’s successor, nobody conceived of him stepping down from his earthly duties.

It’s that simple.

Personally, I cannot imagine traipsing the world in my 80s, sticking to grueling hour-by-hour schedules, glad-handing, and being relevant. I imagine kicking back and taking it easy . . . after all I would hope I deserve to live my elder years in calm. But, then again, I didn’t agree to become pope, Supreme Court judge, or a dictator. Those who agree to such responsibilities cannot throw in the white towel when the bloom is falling off the flower.

I remember the Vatican expressed a hindsight view after Pope John Paul II’s 26-year reign regarding length of service. Espousing subsequent popes should not be elected at such a young age as Pope John Paul II, their view explained that being in such a powerful leadership position for so long could hamper and weaken the Church.

Well, it looks as though the Vatican should revisit their opinion otherwise we’re in store for revolving popes. With umbrage in the Church being at an all-time high, Pope Benedict’s move doesn’t do much to foster confidence and stability in the organization.

Wait . . . the faithful already lack confidence and stability.

I know, let’s have a Pope Du Jour.

Morsi Promises: Just a Pinkie-Swear?

Please read Life’s Certainties – Death, Taxes and the Middle East (posted July 20, 2012), “Human beings are a resilient species. When dire conditions outweigh personal fears almost anything can be accomplished, but they have to be careful what they wish for because sometimes the change is worse than their current situation.”

In 10th Grade my History Teacher, Mrs. Inserra, gave a test.

One of the True or False questions was, “A Dictator Can be Elected.”

I checked the “False” box.

Upon her review of the test, Mrs. Inserra said the “True” box should have been checked; however, since all of the students checked the “False” box, she saw where confusion might have occurred and discounted the question – with explanation.

After all of this time, I have never forgotten that question, or her answer.

You see, a dictator can be elected – it’s just that the person becomes a dictator after the election. And that brings me to the debacle in Egypt.

In front of thousands on the eve of assuming the presidency, Morsi promised he would treat all Egyptians equally and remain accountable to those who elected him.

Egyptians were disgruntled with the way ex-President Hosni Mubarak ran the country, and they were prouder than proud to vote for their first democratically-elected leader. Mohammed Morsi ran as the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) candidate, a party founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, and won the election on June 24, 2012.

Fast forward – massive demonstrations are taking place across Egypt as a result of Morsi’s unyielding, sweeping grab of power and authority. And although he gave a rousing speech assuring his fellow Egyptian’s that he would be accountable, it seems promises are fleeting and cheap.

Many believe Morsi’s dictatorial edicts render the judiciary powerless, “Suddenly Morsi is issuing laws and becoming the absolute ruler, holding all powers in his hands,” said protester Mona Sadek.

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American writer and lecturer, said the thousands demonstrating in Tahrir Square and elsewhere are protesting to tell President Mohamed Morsi, “we might have elected you president but we did not elect a new dictator.”

Oh, really? It looks as though Mona Eltahawy wasn’t a student in Mrs. Inserra’s class.

Glow-in-the-Dark: A Driver’s Dream Is Close to Reality

Two Dutch design firms are developing a “Smart Highway,” how smart of them.

Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure are on the fast track with glow-in-the-dark paint, dynamic lighting and lanes that can charge electric cars; Oh! my.

Roadways are being tested with glow-in-the-dark paint. Photo courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Glow-in-the-dark paint absorbs energy from the sun and can glow in the dark for up to 10 hours. This relatively quick enhancement to our roads would replace the ordinary paint used to form lanes on most roads. I guess these inventors took a page out of Hasbro’s Lite-Brite©.

But there are many hazards on roadways that drivers cannot see, like black ice. Enter “Dynamic Paint,” a temperature-sensitive paint that reveals hazard icons on the road itself. These warning symbols will appear when the temperature becomes cold enough to prompt the hazard icons.

Temperature-sensitive paint reveals hazard icons on the road itself. Photo courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Remember radiant heat under your flooring? Well, the same concept is being played out for electric cars on roadways. Instead of radiating heat, an “induction priority lane” (sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?) will use underground induction coils to charge electric vehicles as they drive down the lane. This slot-car road prototype is slated to appear sometime in 2013.

Be on the lookout for Interactive lighting which will activate sensors on the road to detect an approaching vehicle. But, we already have reflectors in roads, so what’s the difference? Glad you asked. The brightness of the light can adjust based on how far away a car is from the light, growing brighter as a car approaches and dimmer as a car leaves.

And, let’s not forget to harness the wind as speeding cars whip past you. A “wind light” uses the wind created by a moving vehicle to power pinwheel generators connected to road lights. I think they should call this harnessing of the wind Mariah – you know the song, “. . . they call the wind Mariah.”

My only concerns: Will these cool enhancements cause mesmerizing effects, distract drivers, cause eye strain or fatigue?

We already have flat-running tires, talking cars, heated and lumbar support seats, video screens and noise alerts for backing up purposes, cars that automatically park themselves, GPS navigation and mapping, steering wheels that control the radio and telephone, and cars in the test stages without steering wheels at all – I guess those cars won’t need power steering.

I don’t think it’s going to be fun to drive anymore. All we have to do is plop down in the ergonomically-designed seats and talk, text, nap, who knows? The sky’s the limit.

Wait, no massage when we drive . . . where’s Bond, James  Bond when you need him?

Felix and His Bag of Tricks

In Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” HAL made for some mighty uncomfortable moments.

And, so it went with Austria’s Felix Baumgartner, 43, in Roswell, New Mexico . . . Roswell – how eerie.

A concern for Felix and his crew was fogging in his face mask. But after ongoing trouble-shooting, it was determined that Felix would go forward with the sub-orbital free fall.

Tethered to a helium-filled balloon, his spacecraft floated to the edge of space. The rate of ascension kept ticking upward until the balloon stabilized at 128,100 feet. The slow float took well over two hours as I watched in nail-biting awe waiting for the balloon to ascend no more.

It was then that Baumgartner was able to depressurize the capsule in order to pressurize his protective spacesuit.

I watched the Live Space Free Fall Event on the Discovery News Channel, and it was stomach-turning to say the least. Once all the checks, rogers, and thumbs-up were completed, Felix opened the hatch, moved into position and placed himself on the outer ledge of the spacecraft . . . and simply bent over.

Thus began his historic free fall from over 24 miles above our blue orb.

Felix Baumgartner steps onto the ledge of his spaceship as he prepares for historic, record-breaking free fall from the edge of space.

His free fall lasted four minutes and 20 seconds before his parachute was deployed for the additional 7-minute ride. But, as he plummeted toward Earth, Baumgartner reached the speed of 883.9 mph, Mach 1.24, becoming the first human being to break the sound barrier wearing nothing but a protective suit.

Amazingly, as the shadow of the parachute became one with Baumgartner, Felix deftly took a few steps on terra firma . . . his record-setting leap from space was over.

The prior free-fall record of 102,800 feet was set by Joe Kittinger on August 19, 1960. Kittinger reached Mach 0.9, or 614 mph, wearing only a standard Air Force partially-pressurized suit.

Test pilot, Squadron Commander, and Vice Wing Commander, Colonel Kittinger spent 11 months as a POW in Vietnam’s “Hanoi Hilton.” Reportedly, Sen. John McCain was in the next cell. This remarkable Colonel is in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and is credited with helping NASAs Astronaut Program.

An advisor to Baumgartner, Kittinger said, “Better champions cannot be found than Felix Baumgartner.”

I respectfully disagree, I think there’s two.

Attention Stuffed Animals: You’re In For Colorful Competition

Let’s face it, we all love color – the more vivid and diverse, the more we’re attracted and drawn to the subject . . . remember your first box of Crayola 64 Crayons with the built-in sharpener?

The flower, fashion, cosmetic, automobile and textile industries have always known how color affects the consumer. And, as material and technology advances, colorful goods have been more readily introduced into the marketplace.

We color code our folders and documents as a way to quickly sort, we use highlighter pens to differentiate important information, we use color to define our holidays. Color organizes our traffic signage and defines our emergency, safety and transportation vehicles.

The concept of using color to brand, organize, and distinguish is effective throughout the world. But countries everywhere, including Great Britain, New Zealand, Pakistan, China, Thailand, and the United States have incorporated the use of color on the most unlikely of subjects. They have chosen to make color statements on living creatures including fish, frogs, chicks, dogs, cats, hamsters and horses.

And I don’t mean kids subjecting their trusting pets to dress-up time and tea.

I mean some people dye their animals to increase sales, some to increase breast-cancer awareness, some to distinguish a farmer’s herd to fend off thefts, some just because Fluffy would look soooo cute . . . whatever the reason, animal activists and PETA are up in arms as more and more people choose to dye their animals.

As the craze expands and continues, dogs in China must be happy since they’re no longer slated for the dinner plate. Rather, they’re beginning to be regarded as pets, and the fad in China is to dye dogs to resemble other wild animals.

But, is it okay to dye an animal’s fur since it covers their entire body – not just their heads?

The short answer – there are no results from long-term studies.  Animals susceptible to respiratory difficulties as a result of dyeing are chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils – you know, the little guys.

The bottom line, the animals health should be paramount to cheeky fads. But, if you’re so inclined to create art on a living canvas, be sure non-toxic pet dyes are used. And, because you never know how the animal or skin will react, dye in steps with a watchful eye.

On the other side of the coin, scientists have long practiced dyeing techniques in medicine; researchers in wildlife management have reported that dyeing is used to successfully track birds; and throughout schools, lab students can more quickly grasp difficult explanations.

No matter where you fall in the ongoing debate, it looks like we’ve succeeded making a horse of a different color – literally.

The Olympics: Emphasis on Limp and Ick-y to Lil’ O Me

Where do I start?

I loved the concept of the Olympics. Showcasing unknown or lesser-
known sports to a worldwide audience is – a good thing. Watching athletes compete from all over the world: Small countries, large countries and controversial countries is –
a good thing. Striving to beat a record, fellow athletes or your personal best through state-of-the-art technology, better equipment, training and techniques, also – a good thing.

Okay, so what’s to write about you might ask.

Well . . . the Olympics lost its pizaaz for me – and that’s a remark coming from a lifer.

The degree of difficulty and dedication necessary to compete on this world stage renders these amateur contestants as professional athletes. And, although I know the quality of athletes is such that deductions and technicalities are the only way to cull out the pack, I also know that it offends my consciousness.

I was left speechless (and that’s saying something), when watching the mens swimming from London’s 2012 Summer Olympics. An athlete was disqualified because, when under the water, he didn’t separate his hands before he began his kick – are you kidding?

In diving, synchronized or not, angles, separation of feet, vertical entry into the water, and no splash upon entry were skills that separated the great divers from the not-so-great divers. But, since the level of competition has become so equal, judges have employed super-technical deductions previously not needed. Now, the approach to the dive and the position of feet on the board are additional areas to establish demerits in the quest for the perfect dive.

Then there’s gymnastics – men and women. These supple, agile specimens of humankind are flipping, twisting, balancing and defying gravity with the speed and confidence of super heroes. Yes, I said it, super heroes. Real-life people with strengths, determination and moves that were once heralded in comic books of yesteryear. Yet, tisk tisk; they fail to “stick” the landing, took a step sideways – not forward or backward, oops – another balance check, their routines don’t “flow” with the apparatus, their feet or hands separated.

Judges seemingly roll up their sleeves as they look for areas to deduct points. You see, judges are charged with determining who the best technically-accurate athlete is, and that has come down to super-technical deductions – technically speaking.

I just heard a rumor, and you know what “they” say about rumors. The next group of demerits hoisted upon the athletes will be because their teeth aren’t white enough, they blinked out of order, their pony tails are too tight or their eyes are glazed over . . . wait a second, those are my eyes that are glazed over.

Heaping onto my disgruntlement, we have NBC. I’m not hating on NBC – I’m just disgusted. Somebody has to let them know it’s not a show . . . it’s not their show . . . it’s not sweeps month. It’s not about the up-close-and-personal stories in order to establish the pre-ordained frontrunner, it’s not coining and latching onto a catchy name: The Flying Tomato, Blade Runner, The Flying Squirrel, The Torpedo, it’s not about the close-up face of overwhelmed parents as they watch the competition. So done with that . . . who has the white towel for me to throw?

It’s the Olympics. It’s about “amateur” athletes competing against other amateurs from all over the world to be crowned “the best” in their sport. It’s our chance to see proud, driven athletes from countries, in addition to ours, who are giving their all.

Those are the only close-up faces I want to see . . . because those close-ups capture the pride and heart which lies within each competitor – that’s what the Olympics used to be about.

NBC, do “your” nightly show one hour before prime-time coverage instead of subjecting everybody to retrospectives, film clips and fluff pieces in lieu of the actual sports coverage.

We’re now in the Track and Field portion of NBCs award-winning coverage, and thank goodness for their editors: Viewers need to be “told” ad nauseam that South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius is the double-amputee athlete – I guess we don’t have eyes and have been living under a rock.

As if that’s not bad enough, commentators are reporting that many believe Pistorius has an advantage over the other competitors because of the bounce he gets from his blades.

Rest assured, this arm-chair athlete is sure glad the Gods didn’t bless me with that advantage.

Life’s Certainties – Death, Taxes and the Middle East

Throughout time, despots have managed to be successful. Some for longer periods of time than we would like, but they manage to oppress their citizens for a period of time, nonetheless. Usually, before the despots lose their rule the screws get tighter in a desperate attempt to maintain control in order to stay in power.

Behavior so restricted, generational hatred and fear has seemingly affected the citizens’ DNA making the famed Hatfield-McCoy feud seem tame. What is happening across the Middle East is like a decades-long Hatfield-McCoy grudge with mega doses of steroids. Unlike the Middle East, the Hatfields and McCoys were able to resolve their differences.

Instilling fear of ones neighbors, authority figures and the government, these citizens tend to hunker down and function in lock-step with the spoken, but more important – the unspoken rules. If they just follow the rules, their odds of being the next to experience the horrible wrath from those who domineer them are slim.

1989, Fall of the Berlin Wall

A great deal has been said about social media being the spark plug for the Arab spring and summer uprisings, but we seem to have a short memory. Although modern technology has made the globe a smaller place where information is more readily available, massive regime and government change has always occurred.

A lifetime away from rag-tag mobs hoisting pitchforks and wooden bats, when people have had “it” all fear is thrown to the wind as they band together to effect change. Below is a brief snapshot of pre-social media revolts:

1775 American Revolution
1789 Storming of the Bastille, France
1861 American Civil War
1914 World War I
1917 Russian Revolution (one of many massive revolts in Russia)
1936 Spanish Civil War
1939 World War II
1979 Fall of Idi Amin, Uganda
1989 Solidarity trade-union movement, Lech Walesa, Poland
1989 The Berlin Wall falls, Germany
1989 Fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania
1989 Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre, China
1994 End of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, South Africa
1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, Great Britain and Ireland

Human beings are a resilient species. When dire conditions outweigh personal fears almost anything can be accomplished, but they have to be careful what they wish for because sometimes the change is worse than their current situation.

History is a witness to these facts: Malevolent rulers cannot keep people down . . . at least not forever because people clamor for the right to live in peace and harmony worldwide. Regardless of the future, government change is happening throughout the Middle East today.

When people feel as though they have nothing to gain – they have nothing to lose.

The Power of the Tower

The Eiffel Tower welcomed visitors to the 1889 International Exposition serving as the main archway, but it was quickly considered an eyesore by many Parisians.

As part of the original contest rules for the Exposition, the design of the Tower was such that it had to be built to last 20 years, and then could be easily and quickly demolished by the city of Paris in 1909.

Enter engineer Gustave Eiffel, a specialist in steel structures. His design relied heavily on mathematical calculations, wind resistance, and the construction would utilize puddling – an Industrial Revolution technique of making iron without charcoal.

Built in three levels, Gustave engraved 72 names on the Tower as his homage for their contribution in the building of the steel structure. Their names can be found on the sides of the tower under the first balcony and includes scientists, mathematicians, chemists, engineers, mineralogists, and so on.

In 1885, before the Société des Ingiénieurs Civils, Eiffel explained what the Tower would symbolize, “not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.”

With 1909 fast approaching, the Tower was destined to the scrap heap of history, but 20 years makes a difference in technology. Proving to be a valuable communication tower, the city wisely decided to allow it to remain intact, and by WWI powerful radio transmitters atop the Tower were used to jam German communications.

From the welcoming arms of an archway, to monument celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, to eyesore, to wartime tool; this engineering marvel seems to transform itself into the pulse of the times it finds itself. Today, we are drawn to the
Eiffel Tower as one of the most recognizable man-made landmarks in the world, the beautiful symbol of France.

Gustave Eiffel knew his structure was special. He built a profound monument for the centuries . . . an iconic Tower which proudly welcomes the world to “La Ville-Lumière.”

Greece’s New Democracy

Sliding quicker and further down the slippery slope, Greece found itself at a crossroads.

Would they adopt the stringent austerity measures and budget cuts laid out by the Euro Zone and supported by the New Democracy party, or would they opt for the anti-austerity measures as represented by the Syriza party?

Although New Democracy won with nearly 30% of the vote, they failed to secure a majority. They will have to form a coalition with the second place Syriza party, which captured 27% of the vote. With the two parties so far apart ideologically, it will be difficult to form a cohesive coalition.

Citizens, wary of their futures, are withdrawing euros by the billions from the banks and opening up accounts abroad. While Greece’s economy is teetering on the edge, many believe the country has decades of minimal growth potential coupled with unsustainable debts.

As the maneuvering and deal-making continues, unemployment, distrust and fear among Greeks are the only certainties taking root.

Venus Unplugged

Let’s take a quick trip back to the year 1639:
– The Ming Dynasty is in power
– Charles I is King of England
– Louis XIII is King of France
– Ferdinand III rules the Holy Roman Empire
– Rubens paints his self portrait
– Rembrandt is already a success
– America has its first printing press – and, oh yes . . .

The first recorded observation of the transit of Venus by Englishman Jeremiah Horrocks. Since then the brightest planet, Venus, has crossed the face of the sun six times. This rare celestial show won’t happen again until December 11, 2117.

Astronomers will painstakingly scour over this pass with fervor to gain more information about the Universe we inhabit. Hey Venus, oh Venus, make astronomers’ wish come true.

Sorry Charlie, 60 Years . . . and Counting

In 1952, upon the death of her father, the King, 25-year-old Elizabeth was the next in line of succession. She took reign as the head of state of 16 countries and crowned Queen Elizabeth II. Thus the beginning of the Queen’s roller coaster ride in public opinion and duty as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.

Although the Queen’s duties are of a head of state, no law can be enacted unless signed by the Queen. Today’s monarchy in the UK is constitutional: The government consists of the House of Commons who formulates laws and forwards them on to the House of Lords for passage. If passed, it then must be finalized with the Queen’s signature.

On the upside of public popularity, Queen Elizabeth is only the second monarch in UK history to reign for 60 years (Queen Victoria ruled for 64 years). In 2002, Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, died at the age of 101. Along with the public’s admiration of the Queen’s steadfast respect of public duty, and longevity which runs in her family, it does not appear Queen Elizabeth will be stepping down and transferring her duties to the next in line – her son, Prince Charles.

Lockerbie Terrorist Dies

Infamous Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi died today.

Remarkably, Scottish officials released him from prison on humanitarian grounds believing he had three months to live – he lived three years.

Unfortunately, he was the only person ever convicted of the terrorist attack on Pan Am’s Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Where Was The Lorax?

Nobody was around to speak for this tree – not park officials, not The Lorax. Sadly, they were outsmarted in Vancouver, BC.

An 800-year-old red cedar was targeted by poachers about a year ago. At that time, staffers from Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park found the cedar was 80 percent cut through with a chainsaw. Officials then hired a professional faller to bring it down safely because it posed a significant safety hazard.

Since then, the fallen tree continued to be cut up into smaller pieces and carted off by the poachers. Recently, a large portion was dragged into the parking lot and taken.

Why would anybody methodically kill one of the oldest trees in BC?

Money comes to mind, and evidently money was on the poachers mind, too.

Cedar is valuable for roof shakes . . .
I wonder if those roofs will last 800 years.

France Elects New President, Socialist François Hollande

François Hollande defeats Nicolas Sarkozy as France’s first Socialist president in 17 years.

Sarkozy is the 11th European leader to be voted from office due to the global economic crisis.

While France’s unemployment rate increased from 7.4% in 2008 to 9.5% in 2010, the Sarkozy government enacted aggressive stimulus and investment measures. However, those moves contributed to a deterioration of France’s public finances.

Hollande’s campaign included abandoning austerity, which the citizens clamored for, but investors express fear that Hollande is going to push France deeper into debt.

China-gate: Red Hot Corruption

Chinese businessmen, bankers and officials have looted over $123 billion from 1995-2008.

Offshore bank accounts were set up to mask business transactions. According to China’s Central Bank report, these private companies then received the money transfers.

These highly-charged political findings are rocking China’s power structure. Even though corruption is apparently commonplace, many believe this unfolding scandal will threaten China‘s internal and external economic and political stability.

A “Dragon Whirls” in Japan

A rare tornado zeroed in on the Japanese city of Tsukuba, 37 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Injuries, one death of a 14-year-old boy, destroyed homes and businesses lie in its aftermath.

About 20 tornadoes occur in Japan annually.

The silver lining in this tragedy: The Fukushima nuclear facility was not affected.

Electric Pedal Pushers

Electric bicycles, already in use in Asia, are beginning to make a mark in the States. They are lightweight, pedal-operated and power assisted.

eZip Eco-Drive electric bike, by Currie Technologies, is eco-friendly. With a range of 15-22 miles per charge, and 15 mph top speed, you’ll have no trouble getting around.

 
Panasonic has pedalled their way into the electric bicycle market, and are already commonplace rides in Japan and in some parts of Asia.

 

Birthday Present Goes Horribly Wrong

Lenami Godinez, from British Columbia, Canada, took her first hang-gliding flight.

It was given to her by her boyfriend as a birthday gift, but instead he watched from the ground as she fell to her death.

Pilot William Jon Orders, 50, was arrested on Sunday for obstructing justice along with being accused of swallowing a memory card that may have recorded the event.

If You Live Long Enough

Time has a way of diluting the strength of fears and differences by offering perspectives which were once considered too controversial.

It’s taken 50 years, but Vietnam has gone full circle: From rags to riches – literally.

The obliterated Garment District in New York, has risen from the ashes on the opposite side of the world.

Vietnam is now one of the United States’ fastest growing trade partner; a major exporter of garments and textiles.

Spain Is Falling Off the Cliff

Unemployment in Spain is now at 24.4 percent, and its credit rating will more than likely be lowered.

Spain is just one of the European nations who are in deep financial trouble: Portugal, Italy, France and Ireland are close behind.

Will Europe’s problems cross the pond into the United States?