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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Extra Weight and Extra Costs

According to this (http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2004-11-05-obese-fliers_x.htm?csp=28&RM_Exclude=Juno) , one of the many undesirable results of the growing trend of Americans to be overweight and even obese is that they're costing the airlines plenty of money whenever they catch a flight, by drastically increasing the weight of the planes and therefore dramatically raising fuel costs.

On the face of it, there's not much that can be said about that, especially by someone like me. Nevertheless, as this is such an important topic, I will conspire to find something.

Obviously, while extra-heavy people in large numbers may see many disadvantages in the weight they're carrying, they're not likely to say that they have to reduce in order to save the airlines money. Nor are the airlines going to seriously challenge their customers' weight problems, even if at least one carrier, according to this report, requires really big people to buy a second seat.

I wonder if they see that as an embarrassment or as a badge of honor.

I have always looked with fascination at obesity and baldness, perhaps because I've never been threatened by either. It's my genes. I can't recall any instances of them in my family. They're bugaboos that I tend to lump together even if they're not related, except in the fear and loathing that they invoke. One is plainly a health risk, while the other is purely a vanity matter. Yet, if TV ads are any indication, they are twin demons that routinely terrorize large parts of the populace. I've watched the comings and goings of legions of diets through the years -- my wife, who does not share my genes, is the cause of that -- and, though I'm very squeamish about any scene in which a scapel approaches a person's body, I look at the programs on the Discovery health channel about obese people going through serious operations to shed some mass, and I always devoutly hope that it works.

It's weird how things can flip so totally. In previous eras, fat people were envied, because their weight was a sign that they had access to more food than the average person. Also, especially in the case of a tribe like the Pima Indians, it is thought that fatness was a mechanism for storing body fuel in times of plenty, to be automatically expended in the inevitable times of scarcity, though I can't see how there could have been many instances of fatness in those periods. Biggies would have become just large windfalls for the numerous sleek, slick wild animals who could easily exploit their impaired ability to run.

During the several trips that I took to Japan many years ago, I was struck by the fact that you never saw an obese person -- except of course the sumo wrestlers. Those were the years immediately after the Second World War, and it could have been the lingering results of privation plus their diet. I'm told that that is no longer the case, now that their great prosperity has given them greater incentive to eat too much too often and at the wrong tables, as ours has.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Evolution Vs The Other Thing

Despite the fact that the issue ought to have been firmly settled by now, with creationism set deep in the back of the curio closet where it belongs, there are still regular reports of school boards being pressured here and there to include it in public school curriculums, even to the point of pushing aside the teaching of evolution, if possible.

I wonder what these parents do about the great wealth of all sorts of useful information to be found on the various Discovery Channels?

For that matter, what do they do about dinosaurs? How do they explain to their children how it is that, just a few thousand years after they were created, none of those remarkable beasts are anywhere to be found, except as scattered bones embedded in rock, while fleas, ticks, gnats, rats, and many other of what you would think would be God's less desirable creations are still alive and kicking and all around us by the millions?

Somewhere I have a book that may answer those questions, though I doubt it. It was given to me years ago by a young woman who was one of those Jehovah's Witnesses doing their thing. While I was building my house here in the woods, she dropped by several times in her attempt to draw me into the local Kingdom Hall. She was unsuccessful there, but she almost sold me on the folly of believing in evolution.

I knew perfectly well, however, that her personal being was the sole source of all that persuasiveness.

I never thought to inform her that, ironically, she was in and of herself a most wondrous result of the process of evolution. A creator would have made her far less distracting.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I Lose Big Again

I was hoping that Scott Peterson would be found innocent or at least would draw a less severe verdict. Instead it is first degree. Yet no one knows the degree of S. Peterson's guilt except him, and, by having incessantly called him a liar, people have in effect shut off any point in hearing from him.

I am always in favor of people being found innocent. That's why I am so hopelessly distant from all the wheels that turn the world. After all, what kind of a world would it be if thoroughgoing bleeding hearts like me were in charge? And in fact, what is a person like me even doing in this kind of world? I am clearly a huge aberration, and I know it.

We are taught that an accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty. I came in on Court TV's coverage late, but through the several months that I did listen, I never heard one of them presuming that S. Peterson was innocent. Quite the contrary.

Surely the afternoon people at Court TV are delirious with happiness that, true to their most devout wishes and demands, another person will be delivered into the murderous maw -- the prisons and maybe the execution chambers -- of the American criminal revenge system, there to spend long years in the ugliest and emptiest of lives.

What is accomplished by this so rigorously resolved circumstantial case? I strongly doubt if anyone tiring of a spouse will keep this case in mind. Regretfully, the apparently highly appealing Laci Peterson will not be brought back to life. The fetus prematurely given the name "Connor" will not be brought into the first light of day at all. The Rochas will not regain their child. The Petersons will lose one of theirs.

Well, I guess that, in view of what went mysteriously on during their long deliberations, a number of the jurors, if not all of them, stand to become rich and renowned, as people crawl all over them to hear their story.

But the human species will in no way be upgraded by this experience, nor will the legal system be improved.

I lost big again, and so imperfect is the legal system and so often is it driven by sheer hysteria and dogma instead of by calm reasoning, fairness, and mercy, that I suspect that you have lost, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Good Fortune

My friend down the road, H., the gun enthusiast, sees me as being an unlucky person. He says that it seems to him that I always get it in the neck.

I admit that I have suffered a number of bad setbacks now and then, but there have also been quite a few bright moments.

The most obvious must be that I've managed to stick around this long and do not yet need a motorized chair. Another is that I've always had sense enough to be able to spot an abysmal U.S. President when I see one, like the present person, and the integrity never to have voted for one, which makes me more fortunate in that respect than the majority of my fellow citizens. And there are other things, but the one I want to talk about right now is my fuel supply.

Aside from a few small electric heaters, our only source of heat is a big wood-burning soapstone stove. This means that every year in the Fall I have to expend a lot of my time and effort and the dwindling daylight to go out in the woods for weeks of wood calculations, cutting, splitting, hauling, and stacking.

Many might look on that as dire straits right there, especially because of the risk involved, which only increases with age. This risk is in wielding a chain saw, and along with that all the highly dangerous dynamics of felling trees. That is usually necessary, despite all the dead wood still standing as well as sprawling across the forest floor, and even a small tree can do unacceptable damage. But despite my fears, I still see it all as a stroke of the rarest good fortune.

It means that I am alone in the woods for long periods when I don't have to hear or witness any nonsense except my own, because no one would ever follow me in there to inflict me with it. And those woods are more beautiful than the most celebrated cathedral or any other building. The ground is soft, the birds are singing, the colors are resplendent, the air has that fresh woodsy scent, the temperature is just right, and the shapes of everything are interesting and harmonious.

The aspect of this in which I am perhaps most fortunate of all is that I get a lot of exercise, fresh air, and well-filtered sunlight. And, unlike people walking, jogging, running, and working out on Bowflexes and all those other weird exercise machines, at the end of the day I have something to show for my efforts in addition to the health aspects. I have a big beautiful stack of wood to keep us comfortably warm through another winter, even -- I hope -- if the worst aspects of a "Day After" should suddenly strike.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Jury Melee

I have been following the Scott/Laci Peterson murder trial on TV. I haven't done this willingly. But I happened to subscribe for the first time to Court TV on my satellite dish just when that case was swinging into high gear, and Court TV's commentators throughout its afternoon schedule can't get enough of it. Unfortunately I can.

If memory serves me correctly, one of the two worst of them, James Curtis (the other scoundrel is Nancy Grace), called the murders of Laci Peterson and her as yet unborn child the "Crime of the Century." I don't understand Curtis' thinking there, and I regard it as just one of the numerous times when his mouth runs way ahead of his brain. If a century means the last 100 years regardless of when one turns, then Curtis must never have paid attention when anything approaching the subject of history was in his vicinity. Either of the two World Wars alone furnish ocean liners of crimes that rival and then outdo the Peterson in awfulness and every other respect.

Now, after many weeks of testimony, the Peterson jury itself has been engaged in marathon deliberations for about a week on this almost entirely circumstantial case, and suddenly the events surrounding that jury have taken turns that throw a lot of interesting light on the jury system not only of California but also of the U.S. itself.

This I am enjoying, because, though they try to pretend it's not, I believe that it's bending all those Court TV afternoon heads out of shape, and that's all to the good. To a woman and at least one of the men, they have been vilifying Scott Peterson unmercifully and unendingly for weeks and months, and in effect they have been crying for him to be drawn and quartered. So they hoped for a quick verdict of guilty, so that all their expertise -- and bile -- could have been proven correct. After all, the O.J. Simpson jurors only needed four hours to reach a verdict, albeit -- in their eyes -- the wrong one.

Instead, yesterday, after the Peterson jury had already been at it for several days, Juror No. 8, apparently a prosecution-leaning blue collar type, complained that Juror No. 7 had conducted an independent investigation of her own, a big no-no, and the judge threw No. 7 out and replaced her with Alternate Juror No. 1, and that, by California law, necessitated starting the deliberations all over again!

Then today Juror No. 5, the foreman, was also removed by the judge and replaced as a juror by Alternate Juror No. 2 and as the foreman by Juror No. 6. As of this writing a few hours later, it is not yet known why the judge did this.

No. 5 had been the juror who had drawn the lion's share of the speculations by the ravenous Court TV people, because he had both medical and legal training, and because he had taken copious notes during the trial. Also he himself had replaced a previous juror early in the trial.
The commentators generally took a dim view of having a lawyer on the jury, thinking that he might try to take the other jurors through too detailed a view of the evidence.

On top of all this, it has been known that Juror No. 11 is due for some elective surgery on or about the 15th and would have to be replaced, though it's now possible that, in light of the intervening turmoil, she may choose to wait a little longer for her operation.

So far the afternoon wise guys and girls on Court TV don't seem to know what to make of all this, even though it does give them lots more to speculate about through the day and so "earn" their pay. The consensus so far is that most likely it means the result will be a hung jury.

I hope so, because from where I stand, the prosecution never produced enough evidence, personally, forsensically, or in any other wise that would justify soon killing a man or subjecting him to the slower death of long years in prison.

Monday, November 08, 2004

State IQ's and the Election

I assume that this subject has already been kicked around at great length by the more enlightened weblogs. I have not yet picked up reading around again, enough to have any idea of what everybody has been talking about. This is merely my own take.

A friend sent me a list showing how the average IQ's of the different federal states correlated with the Presidential candidates that polled best there. Here is a site from which this info may have come. (http://chrisevans3d.com/files/iq.htm ) And here is a site that claims the figures are one big hoax. ( http://www.isteve.com/Web_Exclusives_Archive-May2004.htm#38115.6465670139) Nevertheless, considering the stuff that has gone on in all the various states over quite a few generations, the rankings generally seem quite likely to me, and they ought to be a shocker -- but undoubtedly aren't -- to those on the rightward end of the political spectrum, to see that the highest 16 states in average IQ, according to that list, were ALL won by John Kerry!

Apparently, by this accounting, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the top three smartest states in the Union, in that order. No surprises there, except New Jersey.

The three states wallowing at the bottom and therefore solidly for GWBush were, from the lowest up, Mississippi, Utah, and Idaho. No surprises there at all.

The state in which I now live but am not by any means a native of, Virginia, was No.17 and therefore the highest Bush state.

But everybody knows that methods of determining IQ are generally debatable, and besides, from where would they get the data to determine such a thing as a state's average IQ? But there it is, and, as I said, it sounds stone logical to me.

I just wonder why, at 24th, Oregon is so far down the list. With all the political mavericking they've done through the years, along with Minnesota (11th), I would've thought that it would rank a lot higher. Higher anyway than Washington, the state, which is given as 13th. Not, of course, Washington, D.C., the diamond-shaped place (with a chunk bitten out of it) where I was born and raised. It isn't in the list, I guess because it's not considered a state, though of course it is. A solidly democratic place, D.C. ALWAYS goes for the best candidate, and according to the census, it is No. 1 in percentage of college graduates and gave Bush the lowest percentage of votes.

The other surprise for me is, as I suggested, how New Jersey made it into the top three. But I have a lot more to say about that entity later (if I haven't already). Anyway, bully for them!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Wow! And Thanks!

First of all, much thanks to Liz, Tinheart, Steve, and NTodd, for their warm welcomes back on the occasion of my finally posting something, after a silence of over three months. See the comments to my post of yesterday.

Not knowing how these things work, I didn't expect my reappearance to be noticed for at least a week, or till I commented on someone else's weblog, which I haven't done yet.

Everything is taking me some time. For a short while Blogger wouldn't even let me post on my own weblog, because I had forgotten not only my password but also my user name, and I had to send them an email to find out.

I stopped weblogging back in July, two days in fact after my latest birthday, to give myself a rest and also to break the tyranny of posting something every day, a regime that I had managed to follow faithfully ever since starting the weblog. But then the inevitable happened. It got too comfortable not writing something the next day, too, and the day after that, and so forth. And in the meantime other things happened, including the onset of another burning interest, something I had been wanting to do for nearly 25 years and having to do with the still unfinished state of my house, the one pictured in the endbar.

Anyway, I'm glad to see you all still waging the good struggle as vigorously as ever, and undaunted.

(Meanwhile Tinheart, while you may not have been aware of me, I was always well aware of you and your excellent points of view. You, like so many other worthies, first drew attention on Ntodd's site.)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Alack and Alas

Although the election just concluded has clouds hanging over it much like the one four years ago, what with questions of chads, provisional ballots, "spoilage," and the like in the voting in Ohio, along with the fact that evil doings had been anticipated there for a long time, once again far too many Americans voted for the Republican hoodlums.

Taken together, all these victories for the Republicans amount to one huge loss not only for the U.S. but also for the world at large, and it's yet another act committed in the long story of humans' inhumanity to humans.

It's impossible for me to understand how anyone living in the Bush states -- I live in one of them -- can be proud of being an American at this moment.

Oh, well. I can't say that I'm not used to seeing this seemingly inexorable slide of the country closer to the black pit of which Abu Ghraib is the truest symbol. In my lifetime it's happened often, ever since the Eisenhower days.

The U.S. has a huge problem, in harboring so many voters with enough meanness of spirit that they continually tolerate and choose these Repubs. But in the general euphoria of being the "lone superpower," they are completely unaware of this.

Maybe the much smaller stage occupied by the Greek tragedians several millennia ago allowed them to see such a thing more easily and clearly. They made a big point of showing how this malady developes, and they gave it a name -- "overweening pride" or "hubris." It had -- and has -- a high degree of fatality.