A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than three quarters of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:
markmarv2004@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ROSETTA, PHILAE, AND ME

Today I watched a live video feed from an aero-space control center in Darmstadt, Germany where scientists and engineers pored over computer screens as data arrived  that finally confirmed that Philae, the probe sent to land on a comet hundreds of millions of miles from earth, had hit its target and attached itself to its surface.

The control  room was initially electric with anticipation and then, when success was verified, the place was rocked by spontaneous outpourings of joy/relief/gratitude/amazement from the assembled flight controllers who experienced the successful landing of an experimental craft on the surface of a comet hurtling through space--a project that had begun more than a decade ago. The mothership, Rosetta, has been traveling millions of miles through space to get to this encounter with the comet for 10 years!

For me, this accomplishment puts my current life in perspective. Earlier in the day I had been wondering  how today would go for me--dealing with the issue of an undelivered newspaper, wondering if my cold car would start to take me to an appointment with the dentist to have a crown installed, and the mixed feelings I have about  a workout session this afternoon that may or may not add additional healthy time to my life here on earth. Those were my concerns--really important, right?  They seemed so at the time.

But then, as I viewed the events as they took place in the command center in Germany (thinking unintentionally and briefly about Germany's negative impact on much of the 20th century), I was overpowered by what I consider the incredible combination of education, expertise, dedication to a goal, focus, knowledge, self-discipline, technological advances, priority-setting (individually and collectively), financial outlay, etc. required to pull off a mission of this magnitude and complexity.  I was also overwhelmed by the amount of cooperation required and sustained for years among nations who, at other times, have been at each other's throats, killing and conquering and destroying people, culture, and the land itself.

But what I felt most  and choose to remember was the pure elation and joy; I  shared both the smiling faces and ebullient feelings with those engineers and scientists who left their computer displays to cry, smile, cheer, high-five, jump up and down, hug each other, and act excited like grown up kids. Their feelings were palpable for me, uplifting, tear-evoking, exciting, fulfilling, and they made me glad to be a member of the human race for the first time in longer than I care to remember.

And yes, the newspaper will be replaced, the crown will be cemented in place, and I'll dutifully walk my 5000 steps--getting nowhere--and certainly not covering anything close to the hundreds of millions of miles traversed by Rosetta during the past decade.

Friday, September 26, 2014

WHERE AM I? LOST EXCEPT TO ME.

I find this more than a little disquieting--I mean, after all, I am really important to me, at least, because I am all I really have and know. Ponder this today, fellow humans.

  1. You are a tiny speck of nothingness

    This is perhaps the most surprising map of all. Think about yourself for a moment. You’re a pretty big deal, right? The things that happen to you feel very consequential, don’t they? And for you, and your family, and your friends, they are. But this is a map of our corner of the universe. It’s called Laniakea and it’s got more than 100,000 galaxies and stretches more than 500 million light years across. You can’t even see earth in it, much less your city, much less your house. "It’s hard to wrap one’s head around how enormous this is," writes Brad Plumer. "Each of those points of light is an individual galaxy. Each galaxy contains millions, billlions, or even trillions of stars. Oh, and this all is just our little local corner of an even broader universe. There are many other galaxy superclusters out there." You can see more in this videofrom Nature. It kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

GETTING AHEAD IN AMERICA? NOT ME!

Today I saw this chart in THE WEEK on the internet. Many economic forecasters have been describing and alerting us to this phenomenon for years, but to see it displayed graphically makes me heartsick--not only for me, but for the remainder of the 90% represented by the blue bars below. Of that 90%, I am pretty comfortable comparatively--I have a roof over my head, regular meals, can get medical attention when I need it, and can afford basic cable. There are many many Americans who are not so fortunate and can't afford the basics of food and housing.

My own situation, however, is not entirely stable--as the stock market grows and corporate profits hit record levels, the tide is actually going out rather than raising all ships in the harbor. My economic stasis or decline is exacerbated by my inability as a 78 year old retiree (on a basically fixed income) to increase my income or asset base in any meaningful or legal way. My dentist doesn't understand or care about this (fees go up markedly each visit), neither does my land lord (rent for the next 12 months will rise 10%), nor my super market, nor Walgreens (purveyor of prescription drugs), nor Humana (prescription insurance), nor the folks at Exxon Mobil. My cost of living just continues to go up faster than my income--with no change in my lifestyle, material possessions, security, or peace of mind.

Unequal distribution of income in America, with a minority accruing spendable income of unspeakable amounts and at outrageous rates, is rapidly creating a situation (or already has)where the only recourse will be for the 90% to take to the streets and forcibly redistribute the wealth. There may be no alternative because history tells us that we cannot count on our wealthy brethren  to self- police or self-regulate. Big money right now virtually controls the electoral process, so the democratic option of changing the system by voting is rapidly fading from sight.  Greed and "living fat" are simply too much fun and too easy to justify in a country where everything is for sale and material values, for most folks,  have long ago replaced anything remotely resembling ethical considerations with a spiritual or altruistic/idealistic foundation and focus. When you're really enjoying yourself, it's very hard to see, really see, the suffering around you.

I don't think that the Founders had this sort of outcome in mind when they established our Nation. 

The question that remains is: what shape or form will the "correction" will eventually take, and how long will  it be before people decide that the system is so badly broken that they have no choice but to act to fix it on their own?


  •  
How the rich devoured the American economy, in one chart
In America, a rising economic tide lifts all boats, right? Not anymore. Pavlina Tcherneva, an economist at Bard College, plotted the distribution of income growth between the bottom 90 percent and the top 10 percent during economic expansions in the United States. The red bars are the richest 10 percent of people, the blue bars are everyone else:
Now, this is only economic expansions, which explains the wonky interval choices at the bottom — 1974 is missing, for example, because that whole year was taken up by recession. Those recessions would also probably claw back some of the rich's income gains, since they get a lot of income from financial assets which crash in price during recessions (see p. 8 here).
But the trend here is undeniable. Economic expansions are supposed to be when the American economy distributes the fruits of growth to everyone. And that used to be true! But slowly and steadily the rich have gained on everyone else. They advance almost regardless of which party is in control of government — Reagan speeds it up, while Clinton slows it down, but not by very much.
Most staggering of all, during our current economic expansion, the bottom 90 percent is suffering declining incomes. Not only is the rising tide not lifting everyone equally, it's actually submerging nine out of ten people.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

LATEST PET PEEVES: A COLLECTION

Unmuffled 2 cycle engines on lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf and dust blowers. Especially bad at nap time.

Prolonged horn blowing when a simple beep will do.

Heavy perfumed scent--man or woman, strong enough to leave an olfactory residue on your skin and clothing after a hug or in closed spaces, e.g., elevators, where the odor can linger for hours.

Thumping high volume bass speakers  in cars--especially at night and/or at stoplights.

Loud music (usually rap) played at high volume with car windows down.

Doctor instructs: "No food or drink for 12 hours" and then first thing next day :"Give me a urine sample."

People speaking loudly, walking around gesturing on cell phones in public places. Same for stalls in public restrooms (usually without the walking).

People who amble around stores talking animatedly with a mostly invisible over-the-ear mike and receiver--and come up next to you, look at you while talking, and you think they are talking to you and start to answer when you realize the embarrassing truth.

Loud television programs, with corporate or institutional advertising, played in an emergency room, doctor's office, or place where you can't escape the noise or while you're trying to escape by reading.

Receptionists in the waiting room of a medical office who, in a loud voice, call patients with a "canned" message to remind them of an appointment the next day--while patients are sitting there worried about their own issues and test results.  These calls with a repetitive message are usually made in an "announcer's" voice," and delivered a sufficiently high volume that everyone in the waiting room hers who is being called and the nature of their complaint--so much for HIPPA guarantees.

People who stop and block pedestrian  traffic in a store's aisle, checkout line, or return line in order to use their phone or iPod for personal business.

People who block a cashier line while they scramble to take out a purse and hunt for money or coupons or count change. Usually these people have not bothered to hunt for or touch their purse until the cashier says "That'll be $52.80, please, and then the search begins.  What a shock! These people always seem a little surprised when they have to find their money even though they have been in lines like this hundreds of times in the past.

Clamshell packaging that is devised to prevent shoplifting by using large, ultra strength NASA quality plastic packages to protect little things.

You're walking along in a parking lot thinking about what to cook for dinner or the balance in your bank account when someone, far away across the lot, that you cannot see, activates the car's door lock--right next to you--no one else around-- causing the horn to blow unexpectedly. Heart arresting.

Accidentally rolling your mouse over an internet popup that presents you with no obvious way to exit.

Particularly unbearable are popups that come on line and shock your sensibilities with volume turned up unbearably loud. This is especially offensive when the ad precedes and is is totally irrelevant to (and demeans) the topic you're searching for--looking for Palestine/Israel Conflict and get Depends, Fiber Gummies or Ram Tough.

Foil covers that are adhered to cups of yogurt, applesauce and pudding, etc.with super glue. Tears repeatedly in strips when penetrated with a blade or fingernail.

Tabs too small to pinch that must be used to open a food or medical product.  Same with sealed medication bottles topped with industrial strength foil adhered with Super Glue. These difficulties are multiplied by age, time of night, and arthritic fingers.

Tabs that tear just as you begin to use them--an especially egregious problem with sardine tins and the like. The tabs are gone, how do I get inside?

Newspapers with vertical half page ads that cover part of the first page, including headlines, so you can't read the news without unfolding the whole  paper to remove half-page;  and/or newspapers containing small or slick/glossy inserts that fall out when you pick up the paper by the fold.

"Sealed for your Safety"--all containers. I saw following article about Tylenol bottles. Here's where it all began.

Why Tylenol Bottles Are Hard To Open

Thirty years ago this weekend, seven people died from ingesting Tylenol that had been poisoned. Since then, Johnson & Johnson has overhauled its packaging.
EnlargeiStockphoto.com
Thirty years ago this weekend, seven people died from ingesting Tylenol that had been poisoned. Since then, Johnson & Johnson has overhauled its packaging.
text size A A A
September 29, 2012 fromWBEZ
Opening a new package of Tylenol can take some effort. There's the cardboard packaging, plus the push-and-twist top and the safety seal.
It used to be a matter of just popping off a cap. Thirty years ago, seven people died in Chicago suburbs after taking poisoned Tylenol. Pharmacies pulled Tylenol off the shelf in a panic and the nation was in shock.
Richard Keyworth was a firefighter in the area and one of the first investigators in the Tylenol murders case. He says investigators quickly realized the poison was hidden in bottles of Tylenol, but no one knew how it got there or how many people were at risk.
"There was a feeling of helplessness, and Tylenol was the medication for everything," he says. "If you can't trust that, what can you trust?"
Investigators said the poison was likely slipped into bottles after they were already on store shelves. Johnson & Johnson then recalled about $100 million worth of Tylenol.
No one was ever charged with the crime. The FBI has reopened the cold case and investigators are using new technology to search for DNA evidence.
Mark Mandell was finishing up pharmacy school in Chicago when the Tylenol murder story broke in 1982. He says for a while, people were scared to take just about any medication.
"You really had to try to reassure people, but how confident were you as an individual? Because no one knew. It was unknown who the attacker was, what the motive was, and ... it was out there," he says.
The deaths spurred new regulations on over-the-counter drug packaging. The FDA and Congress quickly passed a federal anti-tampering law.
Mandell says there shouldn't be any confusion now about how to handle a product with a broken seal.
"It's sort of in your face. You know, if anything appears wrong, don't use it," he says.
Over time, Tylenol bounced back to its status as a household name. O.C. Ferrell, a marketing ethics professor at the University of New Mexico, says the way Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol case is still considered textbook crisis management.
"If you're a really good company, like they were in making this recall, you've got to say, 'If we don't protect the brand name and our integrity of our reputation, then nothing will matter in the long run,' " he says.
Now, for many Tylenol users, perhaps the biggest thing they worry about is getting the bottle open.
Here, thy this wonderful website:http://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahjewell/things-that-will-irritate-you-more-than-they-should?bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgp
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Americandy: Sweet Land Of Liberty

Americandy: Sweet Land Of Liberty
Melisa Goh/NPR
We're taking a cross-country tour of candies from around the U.S., sampling hometown sweets that deliver a nostalgic sugar rush.