Find Your Dinosaur

With the Smithsonian closing its famed dinosaur exhibit this month what’s a budding paleontologist to do?

Joe Bruns

Joe Bruns

Our own Joe Bruns, a frequent Trail Mix contributor, comes to the rescue in The Washington Post, where he offers a thorough guide to alternatives for dinosaur fans until the renovated Smithsonian exhibit reopens in 2019. With such a long wait, Bruns features ideas from Baltimore’s forty-foot T. rex to a prehistoric snake fossil in Delaware and in Philadelphia a green-screen display that allows children to walk among the dinosaurs.
Many children develop an interest in dinosaurs between the ages of 5 and 7. They’re becoming aware of, and interested in, the natural world around them, and the idea of big, lumbering beasts roaming the world and creating havoc — well, what’s not to like? Even better, they really existed, unlike the monsters from the fairy tales.” — Joe Bruns, Washington Post (4/18)

dino_and_flintstones__90538Congrats to our pal Joe!
 
Read his full Washington Post article here
 
Joe’s Trail Mix writings

Any dinosaurs in your community (including humans)? Tell us about it in Comments.

Spring has Sprung

As I was pumping water out of my basement this week, I was thinking, “Spring is FINALLY here.”   We had a lot of snow this year in northern Maine, and the “Spring Melt” was delayed by unusually cold weather.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

The date of the beginning of Spring: In the USA, we define it as the Spring Equinox (about March 20th, but the ancient Celts in Europe thought that spring began half-way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice (about June 21st). So, according to Celtic sensibility, Spring doesn’t start until about May 10). Other cultures use different dates for the beginning of Spring.

The meaning of the word “Spring.”  This refers to the idea that “new life springs forth.” Trees bud, flowers bloom, germination occurs, seeds are spread, and most species of animals give birth. Why now? Because the young organisms need to time to grow to be as large and strong as possible to survive winter.

Fertility rites and/or human sacrifice.   Many cultures around the world, especially in temperate zones where the differences in the seasons are more pronounced, have festivals to honor the arrival of spring. Some of these cultures focus their celebrations on either symbolic or actual …. SEX. In ancient European rural peasant cultures, spring was one of those rare times when unmarried young people got a “free pass” to fool around, for a day or two.   For centuries, this has provided poets, novelists, playwrights, composers, and film makers with ample material guaranteed to improve their sales. For audiences who wanted a bit of violence mixed in with their sex, some cultures (like the Celts) also practiced the sacrifice of animals or humans. Yes, spring has been a thematic goldmine for artists.

Here are a couple of my favorite “Spring” videos…

The Courtship of the Centaurs scene From Disney’s ”Fantasia.” This is as sexy as Disney gets.

The trailer for the 1973 version of “The Wicker Man,” a film about a remote island off the coast of Britain where the local inhabitants have renounced Christianity and have reverted to the ancient Celtic religion. Plot: a policeman arrives to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and becomes convinced that she is being held in captivity prior to becoming the victim of a human sacrifice.

*****

Finally, I ask my fellow Trailmixers, what does Spring mean to you?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

President Rand Paul’s First-Term Agenda

Let us assume that: (1) Rand Paul is elected President in 2016; and (2) Republicans gain control of the Senate and retain control of the House. This is not an unreasonable scenario.  It should also be clear that Republicans already control the Supreme Court by a 5-4 majority, so nothing would impede radical changes in U.S. government policy.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

Here is what we could expect within the first four years of a Rand Paul Presidency…

(1)  Reduced Taxes.   If there is one thing you can say about Rand Paul, it is that he believes tax cuts are good, and the bigger the better.  Expect huge tax cuts within the first 100 days.  This will of course create a much bigger budget deficit so next we would see…

(2) Reduced Government Spending.  Rand Paul and the GOP will try to “balance the budget,” which will probably be impossible, but they will try, by cutting every program they don’t like (see below).

(3) Privatization of Medicare and elimination of Medicaid.  The poor will be simply cut off: the GOP’s healthcare policy for them will be “get thee to an emergency room.”   The elderly will be given “vouchers” that will cover only a part of the cost of their medical care.   Over time, the percentage covered by the government will shrink.

(3) Privatization of Social Security.  Young people will be encouraged (but not required to) set up Individual retirement accounts to which they, but not their employers, will contribute.  For people over 50 and those already retired, the traditional Social Security System will continue to operate, but benefits will steadily be cut, over time, by removing the automatic annual cost of living increases.

rand_paul7-620x412(4) Repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.   There is no racism in society today (except liberal bias against whites) so this legislation is not needed.

(5) Repeal of the 1935 Labor Relations Act. While unions will still be (theoretically) legal, any actions that they take (strikes, picketing, organizing campaigns) will be illegal, as was the case before 1935.

(6) Repeal of the Environmental Protection Act.  “Regulations,” President Paul will explain to us, don’t work and add just add cost to businesses which raises prices to the consumer.   Also, global warming is a myth and the health hazards of air and water pollution are greatly exaggerated by “environmentalist nuts.”

(7) Repeal of the Federal Minimum Wage.  According to President Paul’s economic advisors, getting rid of the minimum wage will create millions of new jobs.  (And pigs will fly!)

(8) Military Isolationism.  George Bush and the neocons had a vision: use military power to establish an American Empire.  They went into Iraq to: (a) get the oil; and (b) build a number of huge military bases that could then exert more direct control over the Middle East (and its oil).  I don’t think Rand Paul has any interest in continuing this policy, for the simple reason that it didn’t work.   But then the oil companies don’t really need Middle-East oil any more.  They are too busy exploiting Canadian tar sands and “fracking” for natural gas in every corner of the USA.

*****

Those are the items I would expect to see in President Rand Paul’s first term agenda.

I’m sure you can think of others.

Now, let’s discuss how these policies, if enacted, would transform American society.

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Long Ago and Very Fresh

Spring 1971 found me a senior in college.  North and South Vietnam, body counts (American and North Vietnamese), Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Guam and SEATO nations were prime front page and six pm news content.  Earth Day was about to arrive amidst the student protests that were world-wide.  And, Tricky Dick was the most popular president, if you voted in 1968.

Blue Bronc

Blue Bronc

Popular television shows in the dorm were the Tonight Show, Laugh In and Columbo, part of the NBC Mystery Movie.  McMillian and Wife and McCloud alternated with the rumpled overcoat for the popular series.  We laughed a lot at how the television networks tried to portray students and student hangers-on and drugs.  Clothes were exploding in color and patterns.  The “hippie” movement was continuing on, but also changing as the first hippies were growing up.  Marijuana was very popular as were other drugs by those considered ‘middle-class.

Gasoline was $0.36.9 per gallon, less during gas wars.  There was a lot of oil flowing from the Middle East. VW advertised the 1971 Beetle having a 60 horse power engine and flow through ventilation, both desired by the Beetle driving enthusiasts of the day.  However, big Detroit Iron was going strong, powerful European imports were doing very well, and cars from Japan were showing good sales, leaving VW with declining sales.

The “peace talks” to end the Vietnam conflict were on going.  The draft lottery was continuing to fuel alcoholic binges by those with low numbers.  The man who would be retiring in 2011 as the last draftee of Vietnam, not the last draftee shipped to VN, to retire was about one year from his induction (in 1972).  The Vietnam War was extended into Laos with the Battle of Ban Dong.  I was still a few months from marriage and seventeen months until my own induction into the military.

draft-lotteryWhile watching the streaming videos of television programs from 1971 and listening to the top one hundred top hits of 1971, I am returned to the last few months living in the insulated province that is university.  However, I am also hit with the memories of the “draft parties”, which we held for those who received the infamous letter “The President of the United States Greetings: you are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States. . .”  That letter is ingrained in the brains of many men, and a few women, as it is the standard method of presenting your first order.

Today, I think of the troops sitting in Afghanistan and wondering how many of them could be shot and not have to be there for the “who will be the last man killed” lottery.  I think of those who will be providing the cover as they sit in the last truck or helicopter to leave.  Will they have a firefight on the way out?  Will the armored vehicle have to contend with IED’s?  Will the Taliban attempt to kill them?   And finally, will they be in the position I was in during the wind down and end of the Vietnam War – going back in?  The men in charge in the 1970’s, lately called the Bush neo-con’s, in the Pentagon, were putting together plans to go back into Vietnam.  I was going to be a part of that idiocy.

With the media focused on an aircraft that appears to have been hijacked by a crew member and then flown into oblivion rather than what is happening around the rest of the world, we are lacking for real news/information.  Checking in with television and newspapers around the world helps overcome the change of American news to American entertainment.  It helps if you can read other languages, but most have an English language edition.  And, IE and Firefox offer translation of webpages.  Those can be very funny though.  Give me my BBC Iplayer to catch up on the news.

Today, it is raining and I am watching a lot of video while thinking back forty-three years to a time that was a lot more tense and strained than today.  The Soviet Union was a threat to the world, and Europe especially.  A time when we had hundreds of thousands of troops in country.  The war was still four years from ending.  I think of a promise I hope to see fulfilled: To remove our men and women from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

– Blue Bronc is a Trail Mix Contributor

  • Taliban Attack Election Panel Headquarters Before Afghan Voting
    (New York Times)
  • Hamid Karzai’s tangled legacy: inept failure or anti-Taliban hero?
    (The Guardian)
  • US Army boss: Afghan pullout talk may encourage Taliban
    (BBC)

What’s in Your Google?

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

Top ten Google News Searches
by Registered Republicans

* Kenya
* Stand Your Ground
* Bengazzi(sic)
* Adult diapers
* Black Helicopters
* Gold Standard
* Viagra
* Concealed Carry
* Gay Marriage
* Hand Basket + Hell

Top Ten Google News Searches
by Registered Democrats

* Hillary Clinton
* Bill Clinton + Current Girlfriend
* Ukraine
* Fallout shelters
* Global Warming
* Middle Class + Decline
* Best Low-priced Colleges
* Teen Pregnancy
* Migraine
* Hand Basket + Hell

Add yours in Comments

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Intelligent Crowd Sourcing: A Trail Mix Experiment

Over the years, Trail Mix has attracted a diverse following of knowledgeable, smart, and articulate people who follow current affairs closely and know the difference between opinion and fact.

Joe Bruns

Joe Bruns

After discussing it with Craig, I’d like to try an experiment using the collective wisdom of the ‘crowd,’ in this case, our fellow Trail Mixers.

This is how it will work. I will pose a question or premise and briefly expand on it and give some jumping off points.

What we would like Trail Mixers to do is to offer in response points that either support or refute the premise. The one caveat is that we would like the comments to be fact or data based. Or, if it is opinion, support it with some data or fact. To that end, please provide a source (hyperlinked if possible).

At the end, we will have a richly sourced comment section around a central question. If I can make sense of it, I will write a summary article that incorporates the responses, and, of course, credits the contributors.

Okay, so we’ve never tried this before and it may turn out to be a big flop, but I’m guessing that Trail Mixers will respond with some great material, as well as some interesting commentary on whether the premise holds up.

So here it goes.

cheatersPremise: Americans have become a nation of liars, cheaters and crooks.

Ever since the days of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, there has been argument over the nature of the American Character. Hardworking, self-reliant, inventive, generous, and entrepreneurial all come to mind.

But what if our character has, or has taken on, a darker side. Not a day goes by that we don’t read stories of people in a position of trust violating that trust. Not a day goes by that there isn’t some new revelation of scandal or fraud where people are engaged in cheating, or outright stealing from their fellow Americans. People, students, athletes, government officials, who are expected to follow certain basic rules of integrity are constantly breaking or ignoring those rules. Even people who consider themselves religious are often seen as practicing a cafeteria style of orthodoxy.

Here are some specific examples:

  • A Katrina-Rita fraud ring was discovered in Alabama. They recruited more than 100 individuals to file false FEMA claims. They also arranged for a local check-cashing service to knowingly cash the fraudulently obtained checks.
  • A woman was indicted in Louisiana for allegedly filing a false claim resulting from the BP oil spill. Cam T. Hang was charged with mail fraud for claiming $42,000 in business losses for a business that suffered no actual loss. In a separate case, two individuals were charged after filing a claim supported with forged pay stubs to document lost income.
  • Tax cheats (30 – 40% of filers) cost the U. S. Treasury at least $250 billion a year.
  • Last May, federal authorities arrested 107 health care providers – doctors and nurses – with cheating Medicare out of $452 million.
  • Students, teachers, athletes, investment bankers, lawyers, politicians and their funders, procurement officers, private contractors…reports abound of their cheating, lying and stealing.

If we Americans examine our national behavior, are we a nation of liars, cheaters and crooks?

– Joe Bruns is a Trail Mix Contributor

Craig is a guest on Howard Kurtz “Media Buzz
Sunday 3/16 at 11am/5pm ET (Fox News)

An Egg Cup Full

Blue Bronc

Blue Bronc

This morning, for the first time in well over fifty years, I ate my morning egg the proper way, soft boiled with it sitting in an egg cup.  I purchased the egg cups a few days ago at a reduced price shop, an impulse purchase which I almost never make, while waiting for a register lane to open.  Egg cups had been on my mind for a month or so, inhabiting my unconscious area after watching a rerun of Doc Martin.  Now my brain is looking for proper egg spoons and shell cutters.

When I was first able to master the delicate task of breaking the egg shell and peeling it off so I could enjoy the creamy delight of a soft boiled egg, a change was forced upon the conservatives, religious and political. What happened last night in the Arizona governor’s office is reverberating across our country.  Although in a couple of states the vibrations hit earlier than the veto announcement because the states’ various committees had already shelved the latest Koch bros attempt to make LGBT people less human than white males.

women-voteA citizenry standing up and fighting against discrimination is powerful, powerful enough to shove the discrimination into a deep well.  It has happened before, women and the vote is a good example; women could not vote for their own right to vote, men had to do this vote (I have met several conservative Republicans who would like to reverse that vote).

Voting Rights Setback in Ohio

On the same day the governor said she would not allow additional state supported discrimination against LGBT people, in a different state the Republicans in power decided to force state supported discrimination upon another people, by restricting the ability and opportunity to vote.  A people who have resisted comparisons to the LGBT desire for equality, the African-American, the black communities, the people of color communities or whatever label you wish, for ease, a description straight to the Constitution may help, the not white male peoples.

Ohio Early Voting Will No Longer Take Place
On Sundays, Weekday Evenings “– HuffPo

Ohio works to strip the not white male population of that state of their voting rights.  Not only Ohio, but many other states with Republicans in control are working to pass the Koch bros legislation of hate and discrimination.  2014 will be a test of wills.  The average American who may or may not vote in a non-presidential year vs the anti-American (yes I consider those who want to destroy America by returning our country to 1849, anti-American).

Harry Reid calls Koch brothers ‘un-American’” — Los Angeles Times

By reading this I know you are not of those demographic categories.  You are committed to a better America because you are politically involved, some of us to a larger degree but of not greater significance as we all vote, and know who and what we are voting for.  It is up to us to find the best candidates and vote for the best leaders.  We are the ones who can get our relatives and friends to vote too.  Uninformed voters will ask for our recommendations.  We have a chance to say “vote for equality and America.”

– Blue Bronc is a Trail Mix Contributor

Events I’d like to see added to the Winter Olympics

Watching the Winter Olympics, I realized that there are several exciting events which could be added, based on my experiences as a kid growing up in the 1950s, who lived next to a public golf course, which was  used by all the neighborhood kids for winter sports.  

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

By the way, in the 1950s, most parents did NOT supervise kids at play, but stayed home to read the paper or watch TV.   Even the smallest kids were “supervised” (if you could call it that)  by older kids.   Kids at play in the 1950s was always a Darwinian Experiment.

4 person Toboggan: Teacup to Snow Fence
Four kids would pack onto Mickey Boyd’s toboggan and start their run down the curiously parabolic-shaped “Teacup Hill.” The run ended at the bottom of the hill where you hit a bump, became airborne, and crashed into the wooden snow fence next to the parking lot.  Points were awarded for height, cumulative distance over which the bodies were strewn, and amount of damage to the fence.   This was a co-ed event: girls could compete as long as they promised not to cry or “tell anyone.”

sledSuicide Downhill
This event took place on the infamous “Suicide Hill,” so named because of Tommy O’Sullivan.  According to legend, sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, Tommy had been so seriously injured on his run down this hill that he had to be …”put into a home.”   Those who were brave enough tipped their Flexible Flyer sleds over the lip of the hill and, if you were still actually on your sled at the bottom, you won.  Few were ever able to do this as the hill was about a 70 degree slope, covered with dozens of bumps the size of refrigerators.  (I still have a small scar on the back of my head that was inflicted by the runner of my own sled.)  This was a boys-only event as, quite frankly, girls have more common sense.

Coaster: Long Hill to Big Sand Trap
In this (co-ed) event contestants sat on one of those round aluminum coasters, over which you had NO directional control.  You started at the top of Long Hill, which was high but had a gentle slope insuring long runs.   The goal of this event was to carefully target your run so that you ended by flying over the edge and into the Big Sand Trap at the bottom of the hill.  The Big Sand Trap was about 60 feet long, 20 feet wide and … 8 feet deep.  There was, however, a considerable amount of snow at the bottom which cushioned the impact.  It was not easy to hit the sand trap; it usually required multiple runs before you succeeded.

Coaster: Telephone Pole Hill to Small Sand Trap
In this event, contestants on coasters started at the top of Telephone Pole Hill, which was a low hill with a gentle slope.   The Small Sand Trap at the bottom of the hill was about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and only about 3 feet deep, with plenty of snow.  HOWEVER, there was a telephone pole insidiously placed near the bottom, right in front of the sand trap.   In scoring this co-ed event, it was important to realize that girls were trying to avoid the pole, and boys were trying to hit it.

Those are my suggestions.
Do other Trail Mixers have ideas about events they would like to add to the Winter Olympics?

Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Financial Scams Targeting the Middle Class

The increasingly conservative economic system that the upper class has been able to get BOTH political parties to construct for the last 3o years is designed to slowly but inexorably transfer most wealth from the middle class to the upper class.   Almost everything Congress does these days advances this agenda.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

The high income sources that created the middle class are rapidly disappearing.  Wages for existing middle class jobs are either frozen or declining, while prices of goods and services steadily increase.  Most of the “new jobs” being created are “low wage, no benefits.”  But the middle class, especially its middle-aged and elderly members, still have substantial assets: real estate, retirement accounts, bank balances, etc.

The problem: How can the upper class get its hands on that wealth, too?

The answer can be seen on your TV, every day.  There are numerous financial scams but I would like to focus on just two that really annoy me.

fred-thompson-home-NEW(1) The Reverse Mortgage Scam (targeting the elderly).  You’ve probably seen good old boy Fred Thompson talking folksy patter on TV about what a “great deal” reverse mortgages are for the elderly.  They are not.  Over time, reverse mortgages pay the property owner only a fraction of the value of the house; most of the asset value ends up in the hands of the lender, draining your estate so that you have nothing to leave your heirs.  The smart thing to do if elderly home-owners need income, is to sell the house, then rent an apartment, and invest the excess cash.  Yes, I know old people get attached to their homes, but that is exactly the emotional hook that allows this scam to work.

start-your-own-business(2) The Entrepreneurship Scam (targeting the middle-aged).  Have you lost your (high wage, high benefits) job and discovered that those kinds of jobs don’t really exist anymore?  Can’t deal with the blow to your ego that accepting a low wage, no benefit job entails?  Unemployment insurance income running out? No problem.  Start your own business!   You’ll quickly discover that a whole industry exists to help you to do this (for a fee).  There are many different TV ads selling variations of this idea.  In its most basic form, a consultant will write a business plan that you can take to a friendly bank loan officer.  All you have to do is present collateral in the form of a retirement account, or a home mortgage balance.   Bankers really don’t care if the business fails as long as they can get their hands on your assets when it does.  Most people who have never owned a small business are totally clueless about what is needed to succeed.  They usually start trendy upscale retail businesses that target the (shrinking) middle class.  They offer very nice products, very nice services, but not enough customers show up, and within a short time the business fails, taking their life savings, and their sense of self-worth with it.   Now, they are not just unemployed, they are broke, and any chance of a decent retirement is gone, also.

What is ironic is that these two scams work best with people who consider themselves to be conservative, people who truly believe in the value of free market capitalism. 

They believe in hard work and taking personal responsibility.  The idea that the surrounding business community looks at them as lions look at antelope never enters their minds.

These are just two financial scams designed to transfer wealth from the middle class to the upper class.

I ask Trail Mixers, can you point to any others?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

High School Confessions

In defending himself against allegations that he knew about the traffic problems in Fort Lee, New Jersey, while they were happening, Governor Chris Christie’s staff released a memo that contained the following charges against David Wildstein, Christie’s accuser.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

“As a 16-year-old kid, he sued over a local school board election. He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.”

This got me thinking about my own transgressions in high school, and also that most people had probably done things in school they were not proud of, things that they still feel guilty about.

Thus, I would like to offer all Trailmixers a chance to unburden themselves through confession, which is the first step in therapeutic healing, or receiving God’s grace, or getting a reduced sentence from the district attorney, whatever it is you are seeking.

confessionI’ll start the ball rolling by confessing that, in high school in the late 1960s, I was on the editorial staff of an unauthorized “underground” student newspaper.   We (mimeograph) published it in the basement of the local Congregational church.  The newspaper featured articles critical of the Vietnam war, the school administration, members of the school board, and also poetry, short stories, and, I am sad to say, numerous items with pornographic content, anonymously written by me.  I was number one on the assistant’s principal’s “most wanted list.”   I was never caught, and I remain at large today.

So, I ask my fellow Trailmixers to confess, what “high crimes and misdemeanors” did you commit in  high school?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor