Saturday Surprise — Snow Monsters and Jingle Trucks!!!

Hello friends, and welcome to Saturday Surprise.  I had hoped we could travel this week, but it has been frigid here all week, and I have managed to contract a bit of a chest cold, so I’m afraid we’re stuck indoors today.  But … I found some really cool things to show you anyway!

This first one I thought worked well with the theme of this week’s Polar Vortex …


Snow Monsters

High against the slopes of Mount Zaō, in central Japan, the cold, moisture-laden winds from Siberia slams into creating a natural wonder that brings thousands of tourists every winter from all over Japan. The tiny water droplets that the strong wind carries freezes against Mount Zaō’s pine trees and their branches forming icicles. These icicles grow nearly horizontal, owing to the strong winds, over which falling snow settles creating towering, grotesque white figures that the Japanese call “snow monsters” or juhyo.

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A specific combination of strong winds, low temperatures and snowfall on evergreen conifer trees is required for snow monsters to form. Juhyo forms at a few other places in Japan, but Mount Zaō is the most accessible.

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A phenomenon similar to juhyo is observed in Finland at the Riisitunturi National Park. The Finnish call it “tykky”.

Riisitunturi National Park is situated in the southern part of Finnish Lapland near Posio, in Finland. The park covers an area of 77 square kilometers and represents the fell and hill landscapes in Koillismaa, characterized by colourful hanging bogs. Being part of the large taiga forest zone on the northern edge of Eurasian continent, the park is covered, for the most part, with candle-like spruces and thick moss. The air gets relatively more humid as one goes up, and during winter the moisture condensates on the trees, turning them into “tykky” – the Finnish word for the accumulation of hard snow and frost on trees. The mountain tops, although just 400 metres above the sea level, experience low cloud cover and mist, combined with moderate winds, so the ice and snow stick to the trees and a thick layer accumulates during winter, especially during the months when the sun is low in the sky. Most trees cannot bear the immense weight of the snow, and bend over into sharp curls. Some trees break down.tykky-1tykky-2tykky-3tykky-4


Those were all really interesting and unique, but let’s take a look at something that doesn’t involve snow for a few minutes, shall we?

Jingle Trucks

A typical Pakistani truck driver spends more time with his truck than he does with his wife. Which explains why he wants his 10-ton six-wheeler to look like a new bride.

These trucks plying across Pakistan’s national highways and the neighboring country of Afghanistan are distinctively ostentatious. The entire trucks, from top to bottom, are a riot of colors. Lavishly painted panels containing a mosaic of birds, flowers, landscapes, saints, and actresses in hyper-saturated color palette adorn the exterior, while plastic flowers, draped beads, mirrors, ribbons and velvet grace the interior. The cabin is crowned by a custom built wooden prow wrapped in more kitschy artwork, while a string of metal bells dangle from the chassis all round the periphery. When the truck is in motion, these bells clang against each other like a new bride’s ghungroo. This is where the nickname “jingle trucks” come from—coined by US troops deployed in Afghanistan.jingle-1.jpgAnd it isn’t just trucks alone. Passenger buses, water tankers, transport vans, rickshaws, and even vendors’ pushcarts are psychedelically decorated with eye-popping colors. It’s like a rolling folk art, “a national gallery without walls, a free-form, kaleidoscopic exhibition in perpetual motion,” as Richard Covington puts it.

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The tradition of decorating trucks began sometime in the 1920s with the introduction of the long-distance Bedfords—a British-built truck with rounded cab and seven-feet high paneled sides that was to become the country’s most prestigious and dependable truck for more than half a century. Originally trucks were painted with each company’s logo so that illiterate people could recognize who owned the trucks. Gradually, these logos became more fanciful, flamboyant and competitive. By the 1950s, stylized murals and frescoes had begun to replace them. It was only in the 1960s, as the country’s economy boomed, the decorations became increasingly sophisticated to reflect the growing wealth of the drivers and the rise of a new urban class.

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It isn’t unheard of for a driver to spend the equivalent of a year’s worth, or more, of profits on truck decorations. According to a 2005 article, a basic painting and body job costs a minimum of $2500, equivalent to two years of the average truck driver’s salary. Some spend upwards of $10,000 outfitting their rigs.

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Truck painting is also a big business. In Karachi city alone, more than 50,000 people are engaged in this unregulated yet lucrative industry. Family-run workshops comprising of apprentices and highly trained artisans, and small shops selling all manners of outlandish ornaments and accessories crowd around truck yards.

Over the years, however, the business has changed. Now instead of meticulously hand painting each truck, mass produced stickers and adornments are used.

“Truck decoration is not stagnating; it is dead,” laments R M Naeem, an assistant professor at the National College of Arts, Lahore. “This is because truck painters treat their work as a source of livelihood. They do not have the time or the luxury to innovate; they repeat the same old patterns, images and icons over and over again.”

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Well, folks … it is the weekend, and I’m sure you have a million things you want to do.  I have certainly enjoyed spending a bit of the morning with you.  Keep safe and warm, and enjoy your weekend!

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War of the Worlds …

It was 80 years ago today that Orson Welles literally sent the nation into a panic with his hour-long radio broadcast, War of the Worlds.  According to History.com

Orson WellesOrson Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’ 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds for national radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of “The Shadow” in the hit mystery program of the same name. “War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of the havoc it would cause.

The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”

Sunday evening in 1938 was prime-time in the golden age of radio, and millions of Americans had their radios turned on. But most of these Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m. after the comedy sketch ended and a little-known singer went on. By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well underway.

Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the storyline, the announcer took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Putrid dance music played for some time, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.

Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

The Martians mounted walking war machines and fired “heat-ray” weapons at the puny humans gathered around the crash site. They annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and after being attacked by artillery and bombers the Martians released a poisonous gas into the air. Soon “Martian cylinders” landed in Chicago and St. Louis. The radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers and other characters. An announcer reported that widespread panic had broken out in the vicinity of the landing sites, with thousands desperately trying to flee. In fact, that was not far from the truth.

war of the worlds-3Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!”

When news of the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction. There were rumors that the show caused suicides, but none were ever confirmed.

The Federal Communications Commission investigated the program but found no law was broken. Networks did agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future. Orson Welles feared that the controversy generated by “War of the Worlds” would ruin his career. In fact, the publicity helped land him a contract with a Hollywood studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane—a movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.

Today, we don’t have Orson Welles to bring us a scare … instead we have Donald Trump.

Still More Head-Shaking Moments …

say whatA few things crossed my radar this morning … things that either made me say “Say WHAT???” (I seem to say that a lot lately, had you noticed?) or shake my head (or fist).  So, for your head-shaking pleasure, I bring you a few random bits ‘n pieces …


Who to blame … who to blame …

Shortly after I published my post about the ridiculous military parade Trump had scheduled for November 10th at a cost of $92,000 or more, it was announced that the parade has been canceled, or postponed until next year at least.  At the time, no reason was given, but I assumed it had something to do with the cost.  I was fairly certain that Trump would not be a happy camper, and I wondered who he would choose to blame for his own folly.  Wonder no more … the lucky target of Trump’s wrath is none other than the mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel E. Bowser.  Though he didn’t name Ms. Bowser specifically, but referred to “local politicians who run Washington, D.C.”, Ms. Bowser saw the finger pointed directly at her.Trump tweet

Notice how, he is going to make sure the taxpayers pay, after all, by traveling to Paris for no other reason than to prove, once again, his petulance.  And, with the money he doesn’t spend on the parade, he is excitedly going to buy himself more toys in the form of jet fighters. Maturity just oozes from his pores, don’t you think?

muriel bowserMayor Bowser, however, is not taking this lying down!

“Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”

City officials say it was just over a week ago that Bowser received a letter from U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen saying the event would take place “on or about Nov. 10, 2018” and discussing the need for planning and coordination with city agencies.  Rather short notice.  Still, the portion for which the city would bill the Pentagon, $21.6 million, is only about 23% of the total cost – the bulk of the cost is actually attributable to the Pentagon for military equipment, personnel, and related costs.  The idea is still ridiculous and the time and money spent on planning this parade was a waste of our money.


Another favour to the wealthy …

There is a reason … a number of reasons, actually … that publicly-held corporations are required to produce quarterly financial reports.  The reports disclose extensive details about their operations, including profit and revenue, and are used by investors to assess the health and well-being of the company in order to make investment decisions.  But Trump’s buddies in the world of ivory towers have complained to him that they don’t like having to file the quarterly reports and would far prefer to only do the reports twice a year instead of four times.

“In speaking with some of the world’s top business leaders I asked what it is that would make business (jobs) even better in the U.S. “Stop quarterly reporting & go to a six month system,” said one. That would allow greater flexibility & save money. I have asked the SEC to study!”

The idea is unlikely to be popular with either the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) or with shareholders because the quarterly reports provide important insight into a company’s potential trouble spots and force its executives to address shareholders’ concerns.


Take mine … PLEASE!

Trump is foolishly revoking security clearances of any who have offended him in some way.  He is shooting himself in the foot, and putting the nation at risk in doing so, for the knowledge, experience and insight of those whose clearances he is revoking is invaluable and could be crucial one day.  But, that is a whole ‘nother story … nobody ever expected Trump to act reasonably or intelligently.

McRaven

Admiral William H. McRaven

William H. McRaven is a retired Navy admiral and was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.  When McRaven heard that Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, he penned the following open letter:

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

The letter speaks for itself.

Snarky Snippets From A Grump …

Not having slept particularly well for the past several nights and being particularly peeved by everything in the news for the past two days (or is it two years???), I am in an especially foul humour today.  What better time for a few snarky snippets from the mind of a grump, eh?


Score one for Portland, Oregon!

In 2016, the City of Portland, Oregon, passed a city ordinance that would prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure, including storage and distribution terminals for oil and gas.  But business groups, including the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council, Portland Business Alliance and Western States Petroleum Association appealed the ordinance to Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), saying that it was unconstitutional in that it restricted interstate commerce.

LUBA ruled that Portland had violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution in that it restricted interstate commerce, but this past January, a Court of Appeals overturned the LUBA ruling, finding that Portland’s ordinance is not unconstitutional.  The coalition of businesses, seeing dollar signs waving ‘bye-bye’ in their sleep at night, took the issue to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Two days ago, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower court, placing air quality and lives over corporate greed!  What this means is that existing facilities as well as new ones will be subject to size and capacity restrictions.  Some of the corporations affected include energy giants Shell, BP, Kinder Morgan, Chevron, Phillips 66, and NW Natural.

It is a small step in the grand scheme of things, but an important one.  The region is plagued by sea level rise linked to global warming, in addition to other growing environmental hazards exacerbated by climate change.  Let us hope that other cities follow suit and place a higher value on human life than on corporate greed.


Two thumbs-down to Trump’s trickle-down theory …

According to Donald Trump, we are living in “the greatest economy in the HISTORY of America and the best time EVER to look for a job.”  But, as is most always the case when Trump opens his mouth, this is not quite the truth.

First, while it is true that unemployment is low, the nation is experiencing historically low wage growth.   Take a look …wage-chartNow … what happened to that ‘trickle down’ economic theory?  You will remember that the wealthy and big corporations received a Christmas gift last December in the form of significant tax cuts, and you may also remember that Trump said we would all benefit from those tax cuts, as corporations shared their wealth with their workers.  Guess what, folks?  It didn’t happen.

The beneficiaries of that big tax cut decided to keep it for themselves after all.  Surprise!  Instead, these corporations, for the most part, have spent their additional wealth on their top executives and largest shareholders!

A couple of examples:

  • At Walmart, with 2.3 million workers, half made less than $19,177. Late last year, Walmart launched a stock buyback initiative to the tune of $20 billion in order to boost its stock prices, which disproportionately enriches the biggest stockholders in the company.

  • Median pay at McDonald’s is $7,017, in part because McDonald’s directly employs hourly servers at more of its restaurants. Meanwhile, McDonald’s bought back $1.6 billion in stock in the first quarter of 2018 alone.


  • Gap’s very low median pay of $5,375 per year coincided with the company buying back $100 million in stock last quarter.

There are plenty more examples, including most of the restaurant industry, but you get the picture … it ain’t trickling down, folks, it’s trickling up to those who least need it.  Nothing new here, but it proves the lie, once again, of the theory that giving to the rich will ultimately enrich the poor.


Say WHAT???

The ‘man’ who sits in the spot a president should sit in if we had such a critter, is so out of touch with reality that I’m not sure what planet he even hails from!  I’m sure you have all heard by now that Donald Trump believes a photo ID is required in order to purchase food.  So, how in the Sam Heck does he think people who don’t have a photo ID, and there are many such people, buy groceries???  Oh wait … he doesn’t think … he just opens his mouth and spews.

“You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card — you need ID,” said he at rally on Tuesday.

Funny that … I’ve been buying groceries for more than half a century, and have never once been asked to prove that I am who I am at the checkout!

Trump’s disconnect with those “American people” he claims to be ‘fighting for’, seems to be a gap about the size of the Grand Canyon.  In addition to believing that buying food requires ID, he thinks that we spend $12 per year on our health insurance!  If you aren’t growling yet, you should be.  I spend more than $130 per month for Medicare that I paid into all my life!  The average American spends close to $10,000 a year on health care.

Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and has never had to enter a grocery store, sit down and figure how to pay a mortgage payment or worry about the electric bill that is more than he can afford.  He has never had to fret over money or do without a single thing.  Not once in his life has he had to do without medical care so that his kids could have food to eat. He is not fighting for the ‘American people’ … he is fighting to preserve a way of life for himself and his rich friends … a way of life that 99% of this country cannot even imagine.


And so concludes Filosofa’s Snarky Snippets, although there will surely be more to come soon!  Have a great evening, friends!

The Week From Hell

week from hellRarely do I make this blog a personal venue, but this has truly been the Week from Hell, both politically and personally.  Monday, I ran out of insulin because … the United States government in the form of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) decided to detain my insulin shipment at the U.S.-Canadian border … for two weeks!  No explanation was given. Fortunately, my daughter was able to sweet-talk a local pharmacist into giving me an emergency supply, else I wouldn’t be writing this post.  And with assistance from the Canadian pharmacy, my insulin was finally released and arrived yesterday.

Also on Monday, we had to have our eldest cat, Orange, put to sleep.  He lived a long life, just short of 19 years, and I believe he would say a happy one.  He certainly got tons of love, and even his favourite yogurt frequently.  It was sad, but it was the right thing to do.  R.I.P., Orangie.  We miss you.  😿Orange-2Then on Tuesday, my Keurig coffee-maker had a mental breakdown.  I spent hours descaling it with vinegar, ran water through it at least 20 times, fixed myself, finally, a cup of coffee that tasted – just like vinegar!  🤢  Eventually I got all the vinegar rinsed through and it was working quite well.  I stopped short, though, of patting myself on the back, because something about the whole thing was nagging me.

Along came Thursday, and my computer decided to join the coffee pot and have its own mental breakdown.  I was typing along, and suddenly a blue screen popped up …blue screenNothing I tried would halt whatever process it was doing before shutting down.  Naturally, my first thought was a hacker or a virus, and I’m still not sure that isn’t the case, although McAfee has not reported any breeches.  It only took about 30 of my valuable minutes before the thing re-booted, but then my touchpad was activated.  I keep it disabled, for I use a wireless mini mouse (Minnie Mouse?) and in the process of typing, my wrists and hands typically skim the touchpad and throw me off course. So, I had to shut it down again, re-boot, and then all seemed well.  Except the space bar only worked about every 3rd time I hit it.  I sprayed canned air, thinking cat hair or a crumb might be in it, and I also beat it a few times, just for good measure.  And then, around 11:00 last night …blue screenAGAIN!!!  A diagnostics tests shows no problems.  So far today, knock-on-wood, it hasn’t faulted, but I’m just waiting.  And saving my work every 2-3 minutes!

Then this morning … remember I said I had a nagging feeling about the coffee pot?  Sigh.  Instead of the usual 10-ounce cup, I got approximately 2 teaspoons of coffee the first try.  A bit more on the second try, and by the sixth attempt, I was able to get a six-ounce cup.  Of something, though … it has a rather metallic taste.  Still, my body requires caffeine to function, so I’ll grin and bear it until daughter Chris gets home tonight, and then I will be out buying a coffee pot!

And add all of the above to the utter chaos we have seen coming from the White House this week, and I think you can see why I am calling it the Week from Hell.

I think it is time for me to take a day off.  I’m currently not planning any posts for tomorrow (Saturday), and I’m not even certain about Sunday at the moment.  Of course, I could change my mind later, but as of this moment, I will be taking a day off on Saturday.  I hope you all have a terrific weekend and do something fun with your families, as I plan to.  We need to give ourselves some distance from the carnage of the Trump presidency, even if only for a day.  Love ‘n hugs to you all!

Early Morning Thoughts …

As I lay awake this morning, unable to return to sleep after having slept a scant 2 hours, I engaged in my frequent activity of pondering.  Today I will share with you some of the results of that mind-bounce sort of pondering …


Taxation without representation …

We declared our independence from Britian in 1776 for a number of reasons, however the main stated reason was ‘taxation without representation’. The British passed many tax laws that impacted the colonists.  The colonists had no representatives in Parliament to vote on or discuss these laws.  In English government, the people had to have representatives who could vote on taxes that would affect them.  The colonists had no such voice in British government. Long story short, the colonists declared their independence, represented by the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson, fought off the British and ultimately became the nation known as the United States. Today, we are in a very similar situation, though there is the appearance that we are properly represented.  Yes, we go to the polls each November and every other year we vote for men and women to represent us, to be our voice in the U.S. Congress.  But are they?  No, they are not our voice, they are the voice, the ‘yes-men’, actually, of only one group of people, the very wealthy.  Our taxes?  They go to those who already hoard the majority of the wealth in the nation, but number less than 1% of the population.  Our taxes are merely donations to those who least need them.  Look at the example of Scott Pruitt, already a wealthy man, who now heads the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   A very important job, and one that he is not bothering to do, as he is keeping busy trying to absorb as much money as he can into his own coffers.  For the complete story, see Gronda’s comprehensive series:  EPA Head Is One Sick Cheap Corrupt Puppy/ Pity His Poor Wife/ Part I, Part II, Part III  

This is but a single example of how our tax money is going to feed the overfed.  Think about the ‘tax cuts’ of last December.  If you saw any increase in your pay, it was minimal and has since been eaten by rising fuel and food costs, the latter thanks to Trump’s tariffs.  But trust me, people like Pruitt, the Trump family, the DeVos family … they gleefully saw a huge decrease in their quarterly taxes last month, and thus a rise in their profits … as if they needed any more.  And no, folks, it isn’t going to “trickle down” to us.


Free Speech, but for whom?

It’s puzzling to me that nearly 600 women were arrested last week during a peaceful protest against family separation and detention, yet people like Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannopoulos and others who preach hate and incite violence are guarded and their free speech protected.  So … if I am understanding correctly, 600 unarmed women marching in DC from Freedom Plaza to the Department of Justice to Congress, then sitting peacefully in the Senate’s Hart Office Building are a bigger threat than white supremacists and neo-Nazis inciting violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was intentionally murdered and dozens injured by a man driving his car into the crowd – intentionally?  Can anybody explain this one?  I surely cannot.  The 1st Amendment, as I have said numerous times, gives us the right to protest when we feel our government is in the wrong.  If we no longer have the right of peaceful protest, but Nazis have the right to incite violence, what does that say about our nation?  And speaking of abuse of the right to free speech …


Alex Jones rants again …

We haven’t heard a lot from America’s #1 Conspiracy Theorist lately, but he is making up for lost time now.Jones-civil-warSeñor Jones is once again riling the masses, just in time for the nation’s Independence Day celebrations, with his declaration that the democrats are planning to use the July 4th holiday to start a “second Civil War”.  Good grief, what is this man smoking???

I tried to watch the clip from his program, InfoWars, where he expounded on this theory, but frankly after about two minutes, I felt ill, angry, and decided it wasn’t worth putting myself through.  It would, perhaps, be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.  The danger, however, is very real and I will not be surprised to find that tomorrow brings outbreaks of violence in our cities.  If it happens, the blame rests largely on the shoulders of Donald Trump, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the minions who parrot these ridiculous taunts.  There is a saying among the saner of us, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should”.  It is a lesson that many in this nation need to learn.  Without this sort of incitement, we might be able to work through some of our differences, find common ground and stop the madness that has led to the great divide.  But no, we have people whose entire careers revolve around keeping the pot of hatred filled and stirred.


And now you know how I spent the hour between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., before finally uttering an expletive and getting out of bed.  To my U.S. friends, please have a fun holiday, but most of all keep safe.