Archive for October, 2017


One of the more interesting things I am observing since retirement is the seasons and what they do to the way we display ourselves. When I was working, my attire changed from season to season, but my activities stayed the same. In the Fall I changed my clothes from Summer School casual to slightly heaver suits. As the leaves changed and fell to the ground, I had to rake the yard and as time went on, I added a topcoat for work and other similar activities. Thanksgiving brought temperatures that often required an overcoat. By Christmas we were definitely into heavier clothes full time and preparations for snow brought out different shoes and clothes that would accommodate wet and wrinkling were dug out. March generally led to putting the winter “woolies” in the closet and going back medium weight clothes. Summer, when teaching, light weight pants, jackets, short sleeve shirts (provided arms were kept covered) were acceptable. However, ties were still socially required.

All of these seasonal changes were simply something to be accepted. Well, that has changed. For one thing the weather in the winter seems warmer. However, that does not explain some of the changes I see. Hats are gone, ties are going as are suits for many men. I have also noticed that socks are optional. Shaved heads and collar length hair, while seen, are rare.

So what. Well, the so what I am getting at here is that social mores have far less influence on human behavior than they did through most of my life. Dress no longer describes social and economic position as it did when I was younger.

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Astronomy has given us another scientific blast. The collision of two collapsed stars (planets?) 130 million years ago was registered on astronomy instruments here on earth. Astrophysists have gone bananas, as well they should. What they learn from this event will have considerable impact on astronomical science

What they will not consider (for a while) is what does it mean for me, and for all future humanity. We have been evolving for maybe a quarter million years on earth. Despite the daily headlines about great human activities in newspapers and evening tv shows, this event shows what inconsequential pipsqueaks we are in the universe. It also shows that planets probably come and go through destructive processes. Environmental change, climate disruption, ocean acidification, deforestation, and biodiversity loss are examples of the massive changes we are implementing. This should interest human beings as we are destroying the very basic environment that supports earthly life.

But, it won’t. We will watch the ads that promote some of the things that promote atmospheric destruction and purchase and use them. Simply look at our current national government unhinging actions taken as far back as  Richard Nixon that were an effort to stop the degrading process. There is no sign that our current president has the wits to grasp how his actions are promoting this destructive process. After all, it won’t affect him, but it may benefit some of the corporations that support him

Humans have the intellectual capacity to interact with their environment, as this situation demonstrates. However, our self interest drives most people to have little concern beyond what is related to us.

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President Trump: An American Savior?

This is a question posed to me by a friend who shares different political views from mine. My answer is definitely negative. His decision to resume paying coal companies/miners a government subsidy is certainly a departure from his public image. By withdrawing from international organizations he is relieving us from political and economic connections that carry both positive and negative benefits for us. And he is closing programs that benefit poor people. My concern about that comes from living through the Great Depression and World War II.

When I was a child, Roosevelt’s New Deal literally kept people from starving. One way was by making surplus food available to public schools, which then had to find a way to cook and serve it since schools had no cooking facilities (aside from home economics programs also provided by the Feds). I went to school with children who got one meal 5 days a week, many of whom brought a container to take food home.

We acquired our position as THE leader of the non communist world following WW II because no other political entity was capable of doing so. As I have said in other blogs, the GI bill got me, and millions of others, as much and the kind of education we wanted. However, that bill, and its success convinced a substantial number of people that the federal government could (and should) support more programs that would help groups and individuals. (there was more opportunity than food pails)

Since the Depression, then, lots of people and organizations have taken advantage of this beginning to get the Feds to provide programs for their special interest. It may be time to reduce the number of federally funded programs. And, we have to accept that this will be done just as President Trump is: whack here, whack there wherever you can get the votes to support a whack.

My worry about that from living through the Great Depression is that the people who need these programs the most are those at the bottom of the economic pile. Poor health, poor food, limited opportunities have made them prime candidates for federal help. Unfortunately, they do not know how and could not afford the legal direction to compete with corporations and their armies of lawyers in getting at federal money intended for them.

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The President finally decided to drop in briefly on Puerto Rico, which hopefully will result in more assistance for people and organizations (Army, Navy, local government rescue groups) that have been providing the outside help that the islands have been receiving. Unfortunately, he told them how much help they were already getting and things there were not nearly so bad as inTexas and Florida.

All of this media coverage brought to mind the Sept 21,1938 hurricane that swept in through Long Island, through New York City on up through the northeastern states, through to Quebec at an average speed of 70mph. Before it came ashore, weathermen had an argument about its path with all but one predicting it to keep out to sea. Only one was right and he lost out. As a result, people saw no reason to prepare and the damage was massive. In today’s money equivalent, the damage cost was $5.1 billion, and very few people had property insurance.

Approximately 600 people died in its path and 100 others in peripheral places.  Thirty five percent of New England forest was devastated. Approximately two billion trees were downed in New York and New England. Harvard and Yale owned large forests which were demolished; approximately 2.7 board feet lost. Seaside towns and villages had their piers and boats destroyed, in addition to the damage done to the cities and towns themselves,  Through wind and flooding 57,000 homes were destroyed.

There is no mention in my sources about the President visiting. In any event, he would have brought no money.

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