Who's Missing?

The U.S. Postal Service is teaming up with cartoonist Matt Groening to issue a set of stamps with the main characters from The Simpsons. There will be stamps with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. I saw pictures of the stamps and thought, hey, wait a second! Someone important is missing! No Simpsons stamp set is really complete without a Mr. Burns stamp! But is there a Mr. Burns stamp? Nope.

I'm very disappointed.


Swine Flew

Re: Former RINO Senator Specter (now D-PA) changing parties, one of the writers at NRO's The Corner said something to the effect of "I'd heard that he was changing parties, but I was disappointed to learn that he's still a Democrat."

The only thing more odious than a turncoat is a turncoat who tries to paint his actions as motivated by principle. I saw his speech today and was nauseated.


This Little Piggie...

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you know that the latest scary thing to pop out of the news is the new swine flu bug from Mexico. It's scary because even though it's a swine flu virus, it is being passed from human to human. While none of the people infected in the United States have become seriously ill, around 100 people in Mexico (by the latest count I read) have died from respiratory ailments believed to possibly be related to the swine flu. The discrepancy is odd, and troubling.

It's possible that the people who have died in Mexico may have suffered from complications caused by air pollution. Mexico City is among the worst cities in the world as far as air quality goes. I'm not a scientist, and I don't even play one on TV, so I'm not going to speculate beyond that. But so far, we haven't seen any American fatalities yet.

Another troubling fact is that most of the victims so far have been in the prime of life, rather than the very young and the very old, who are normally the main victims of the flu. This follows the same sort of pattern which was seen in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-20, which killed tens of millions right after World War I. That particular virus caused a cytokine storm, where the body's immune system overreacts and attacks the body itself. That's a very, very scary comparison.

The other thing that's scary is that by the time cities and nations become aware that the virus is present and people are sick, it's already too late to avert a pandemic if the disease is virulent enough, because people are infected and contagious before they start to exhibit symptoms. Our magnificent transportation system immediately turns from boon to bane, moving infected people from one city, country or continent to another with ease at the speed of sound. You're going to see more and more cases reported, in more and more places, at an ever-increasing pace. We're just at the beginning of this situation. Don't panic, but stay alert.


Celestial Events

This morning, while driving home from work, I observed the near-conjunction of Venus and the Moon in the eastern sky. The crescent moon was just to the northeast of Venus, which was intensely bright. Not something that you see every day. I tried to get a picture of it when I got home, but my little digital camera made the picture come out grainy. Not a keeper.

Today is Earth Day, which started on this date in 1970. Of course, for me, it's more important because it's also my birthday. Another year older, another year closer to getting AARPed. Don't worry, it will happen to you, too. Your day will come just as surely as mine will, but today is not that day.

Thought for the day: Don't look back, because the guy with the scythe may be gaining on you.


Wrong Place, Wrong Time

As the details of the tragic crash continued to emerge, one thing became very clear: Nick Adenhart and his friends had the terrible misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They weren't doing anything wrong, just driving through an intersection with the green light, and then a drunk driver blows through the red light at 50-60 mile per hour and broadsides their car.

How unlucky do you have to be to have something like that happen? Very, very unlucky. You have to be in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. I don't know how fast Courtney Stewart, the driver of the Mitsubishi that Adenhart was riding in, was going, but for an intersection like that, probably about 45 miles per hour. That's 66 feet per second. Had they gone through the intersection one second earlier, the minivan would have screamed through behind them. Had they gone through a second later, the minivan would have roared in front of them, causing nothing worse than panic braking and a blaring horn. Even a fraction of a section could have made a big difference, since it only takes about a third of a second for a car to make it across a lane of the road. But in this case, the minivan broadsided the passenger side of the car.

And so, for those who they left behind, the what ifs start: The postgame interviewer might wonder, "What would have happened if I'd asked him just one more question?" What if he'd taken a slightly longer or shorter shower after the game? What might have happened if any of the four friends had been delayed by even so much as a minute? What if the driver had been a little faster (or a little slower) coming off the last light? When the margin of life and death is fractions of a second, they all count. The tragedy is not knowing in advance when it would be a good time to keep a friend talking with you just a little longer before they head out.

I know what this is like. When my brother Karl and his girlfriend Monika were down here visiting three years ago, they got in a car wreck on US 41 the night before they were to fly back to New York. I'd been with them that afternoon, and I'd suggested that we could go to the dog track in Bonita Springs. They decided to go to the beach instead. Their injuries were comparatively minor given that the car was totaled (Karl had a broken collarbone and Monika had a broken foot), but they were still very traumatic to them. And I wondered for a long time afterward how things might have been different if I'd persisted a bit more with the dog track idea. I'm sure that there are a lot of people who knew Nick Adenhart and his friends who are wondering what they might have done differently that could have avoided their doomed night out.


When It's Your Time...

Yesterday, I was watching the news and they showed footage from Italy, where a 98-year-old woman had been pulled alive from the earthquake-caused rubble of her home. She seemed to be in very good condition, considering the circumstances. Obviously it wasn't her time to go yet.

This morning, there was breaking news from California: 22-year-old Nick Adenhart, a rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, was one of three people killed early this morning in a hit-and-run crash in Fullerton. He pitched last night for the Angels and threw six shutout innings in the best start of his young career. And today, he's dead in a senseless tragedy. It shouldn't have been his time to go, but unfortunately, it was.

This sort of tragedy happens all the time, of course, all over the country. Most of the victims aren't high-profile professional athletes, though. The families of the lesser-known victims suffer just as much. The other two people who died in that crash aren't just footnotes, and their families and friends also are in shock and pain.

Whether it's a young pitcher in a car wreck or an actress dying from a skiing injury, it just seems horribly unfair when people die before their time. It makes us feel sad, even though we don't even know them. And it reminds us that nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. You're odds are pretty good, of course, but sometimes shit happens. So hug your family and friends and let you know how you feel about them. Carpe diem.


"Are You Ever Going To Forgive Us?"

This has to be one of the most eerily timely commercials ever made:

It's "The Deficit Trials, 2017 A.D." which was directed by Ridley Scott and made for W. R. Grace in 1986. Watch it, and then realize that this was made 23 years ago to dramatize the future problems caused by a $2 trillion deficit. Nowadays, in Barack Obama's America, that's chump change. By 2017, we may have a deficit of ten times that much. Our kids may not even be able to afford rags.


Gee, Thanks, Kim Jong Il!

You might have seen something in the news over the weekend about the rogue nation of North Korea launching a ballistic missile. The North Koreans claimed that they were just launching a communications satellite, but it was obvious to the rest of the world that they were testing a possible delivery system for nuclear weapons. This rocket launch took place as President Barack Obama was talking up the idea of a "nuclear-free world," a world in which every nuclear power in the world would voluntarily give up their weapons of mass destruction. The American response to the North Korean launch (and that of other nations concerned about the renegade Stalinist dictatorship) was to appeal to the United Nations to DO SOMETHING! Alas, the United Nations was unable to come to any agreement about making some kind of strongly worded statement to condemn the North Koreans' action.

So here's a big thank you to North Korean dictator-for-life Kim Jong Il. In one fell swoop, he showed that Obama's fantasy about a nuclear-free world is hopelessly naive as long as there are people like Kim Jong Il (or the Iranian mullahs, etc.) in it, and he also showed once again how utterly useless the United Nations is. In the real world, when the lion and the lamb lie down together, it only provides an easy meal for the lion. And in the real world, an America without a strong nuclear deterrent is a potential victim for something a thousand times worse than 9/11 was. As long as there are evil leaders in this world, we must maintain the capacity to rain catastrophic destruction on them should they or their minions attack us.


Isn't It Odd?

I was watching the news coverage of the rioting going on in London ahead of the G20 meetings, and one thing struck me as being exceedingly strange: The crowd of anarchists, who are chanting slogans like "abolish money," seem to have a lot of very nice cameras, which they are holding over their heads to take pictures of the scene in front of them. I wonder what they would use to buy cameras (and other things) if they abolished money?

No Foolin'

Well, it's April Fool's Day, when it's customary to come up with some sort of wacky blog redesign or a post that varies 180 degrees from what you actually believe, just to put people on. I could do some paean about Big Brother's visit to Airstrip One, and parrot the lines from the Ministry of Truth about how things are going so swimmingly here in Oceania. But you know, I'm just not feeling it.

So I'll give you an interesting link instead. I found this the other day rather serendipitously:

Map Your Name

It's a site that allows you to enter family or given names, and then shows you maps for the United States, Europe and Australia broken down by the frequency with which the name occurs in the population. My family name is most common in Delaware (!), followed by areas in the South. This is not surprising, since beginning in the 1700s, my ancestors moved from Virginia to North Carolina, then to Georgia, Alabama and Texas. It would not be surprising at all if some of the people in those states were my distant relatives. The British map showed that the highest frequency for my name was in Dorchester, followed by other areas along the south and southeast coast.

The European map is particularly cool, since it is broken down into much smaller regions than the U.S. map, which only goes down to the state level.