A fascinating look at school lunches in Japan.

Here is a little bit of mind-blowing reading. Modern cosmology has a way of distracting me from mundane local matters like
the long-term viability of the Terran fossil fuel industry, or that eventual outcome of the ideological feud between Sunni and Shia Muslims.


Observable_universe_logarithmic_illustration (1) Artist’s logarithmic scale conception of the observable universe with the Solar System at the center, inner and outer planets, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, Alpha Centauri, Perseus Arm, Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda galaxy, nearby galaxies, Cosmic Web, Cosmic microwave radiation and Big Bang’s invisible plasma on the edge. By Pablo Carlos Budassi

The other day, I was reading a post by Ethan Siegel on his excellent blog, Starts With a Bang, about whether it makes sense to consider the universe to be a giant brain.  (The short answer is no, but read his post for the details.)  Something he mentioned in the post caught my attention.

But these individual large groups will accelerate away from one another thanks to dark energy, and so will never have the opportunity to encounter one another or communicate with one another for very long. For example, if we were to send out signals today…

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In preparation for a gourmet dinner for 10 that we’ll be hosting next month, serving duck l’orange, we decided for a test run today. We went to Ranch 99, a famous Asian supermarket in town and bought a duck.


Whoa, those Asians like their birds intact.

What to do with the feet and head?


Trim them off, and voilà, a duck becomes a chicken!


Now we can safely proceed and make chicken l’orange, uh, duck l’orange.

This past week, Trump got more press than ever before because the did NOT participate in the last GOP debate. I was staying at a hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts the night of the debates, and  I turned on the TV to watch. Here are my main take-aways:

  1. No Trump – I enjoyed not having Trump there. His inane and inappropriate, and decidedly un-presidential comments never added to the topic before, and not having him there simply gave more time to the other candidates.
  2. Trump Coverage – there seemed to be more post, during and after media coverage for Trump and about Trump than the debate itself. The media should stop giving this buffoon free advertising.
  3. Same Old – Same Old – there was nothing new I found in the debate. Everything the candidates said here they said before in the other debates. I could have created a collage of the candidates’ responses from previous clips myself.  Not an original statement to be found.
  4. Obama is Bad – They kept talking about Obama like they are running against him, rather than against each other. The majority of the “statements” and “facts” about the Obama presidency and its results were purely wrong, or at least misleading. Some call it lies.
  5. Advertisements – These are not debates, they are infomercials of the candidates. They didn’t talk about any issues and debate facts. Kasich has done everything before on Ohio, and that’s why he’ll do it again. Christie is the only “executive” on the stage, and he has ruled New Jersey the way the country should be ruled. Everyone wants to eliminate ISIS, and nobody has a shred of detail on how they are going to accomplish that. This is not debating, this is blustering.
  6. Boring – I literally got bored about half-way through, and nodded off. Nothing new!

I would be embarrassed for our country if any one of the people on that stage were my president. And I would be embarrassed and seriously worried for our country if the person not on the stage were to become president.

320 million people in our country, and those are our choices?

Every year when we get a delivery of telephone books I get angry, since I pick them up at the door and toss them straight into the recycle bin. What a colossal waste! They are printed and then distributed by hand to households. How expensive that must be. But nobody seems to use them anymore. It’s been at least 20 years that I actually opened up a telephone book. But I get them every year.

This year was even worse. The book must have been delivered at our gate on Saturday afternoon. Then it rained overnight. Today, I picked up a soggy phone book and before I tossed it into the recycle bin which is a few feet from our gate, I decided to take a picture:

Telephone Book

I got frustrated about this and checked online. Most of the links are about “recycling” phone books. What the heck? Why recycle. Why not just print stop printing them, and producing them on demand when somebody actually asks for one? Who is paying for this? I am sure we consumers are, somehow.

Here is a site with Opt-Out information. I am registering myself right now.

Definition of: Revenant

— one that returns after death or a long absence


Watching The Revenant was exhausting. 2 hours and 36 minutes long, it didn’t let go. Not for a minute.

It took me into the icy winter of Montana. Inspired by true events that happened to the legendary explorer Hugh Glass in 1823 in Montana and South Dakota, the movie tells a story of betrayal and redemption. Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a member of a hunting and trapping party in the wild west. After they are raided by hostile Indians and decimated, Glass gets surprised and attacked by a female grizzly who is protecting her cubs. Glass was mauled so badly that his friends did not expect him to survive. Three men, including Glass’ half Indian son, stay behind with him until he dies, while the rest of the party moves on. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the most experienced frontiersman, decides to abandon Glass. Against unimaginable odds, Glass survives, and starts his journey of 200 miles through the winter wilderness of Montana, alone, without weapons, only able to crawl, his body covered with festering wounds, driven by sheer willpower and relentless pursuit of redemption.

I have hiked mountains in Montana with a bear can in my pack in case I encountered a grizzly. After watching the grizzly attack in The Revenant, I know just how utterly helpless a modern human would be if attacked by a grizzly. The speed, size and ferocity of an angry bear is unmatched by any other predator in the world. A hardened frontiersman like Glass with a rifle in hand pointed at the bear could do nothing to protect himself. My puny bear spray can in my pack would be totally useless. Oh my, will I ever again have the courage to hike in the great north?

The bear attack in this movie alone is worth watching. Mind you, it’s very challenging and difficult, but it’s the most realistic and graphic animal attack I have ever seen in a movie. It’s so realistic, I felt I was there, I was groaning, gasping, and – I admit – I looked away a few times.

The scenery of the mountains in Montana (actually filmed in Canada and then in Southern Argentina, when they ran out of winter in the north) was breathtaking. As a lover of the outdoors, I enjoyed watching the winter wilderness. This is a movie for “winter people.” The movie constantly shoves the cold and unforgiving brutality of nature into our faces.

It also brings out the battles between the American and French trappers and the various Indian bands. Why did the Indians go after the whites so ferociously? Why did the whites kill, maim, and rape the Indians. Why did one side cheat and steal from the other? The Revenant gives an unadulterated look into a grim and violent period of American history, not so far in the past at all.

Leonardo DiCaprio did the job of his lifetime here. This will get him his Oscar. He not only carries the movie, DiCaprio is the movie. From the first minute, to the last, he overpowers us with the sheer pain, wildness, and ferocious will of the character he plays. It does not seem like he acts. We are watching Hugh Glass, being crushed by his environment, over, and over, and over again – only to stand up and rise next. DiCaprio takes us into the wilderness with him, and into the soul of a frontiersman and trapper, and the father of an Indian child, and the husband of an Indian woman.

The Revenant is not a movie. It’s an experience. And it is hard work to watch.

Rating - Four Stars


To a Russian soldier the Austrians, as well as all non-Russian speakers, were all “Germans.” The word German (Немецкий – pron. nimietzki) in Russian means a “dumb man” — one who cannot speak so that we can understand him.

— translation note by Aylmer Maude in Tolstoy’s War and Peace

War and Peace takes place in Europe in 1805 through 1810. Much has changed in the years since then in Europe. But it makes me think of what so many Americans, xenophobic as we often are, think of foreigners that don’t speak “our language.” The bigotry of people who view those who speak other languages as “dumb” and inferior goes back through the centuries, the times when imperial Russia was a superpower during the Napoleonic wars, and of course far back into the distant reaches of history to the ancient Egyptians.

It reminds me of the quote often attributed to Miriam Ferguson, the first governor of Texas:

“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.”

In my book purging efforts, I came across a book of poetry titled From the Berkeley Hills by George P. Elliott. My friend Michael T. gave it to me on Christmas Eve 1976 at 11:00pm, as he signed the book inside the cover.

From the Berkeley Hills

He gave me the book when the author was still alive. We were both boys only, just out of high school. That day, when he gave me that book, was likely the last time I ever saw him.

Yet, the friendships we form at that age last forever, and the books we sign for each other stay with us, until one day when we’re gone, our children pick them off dusty shelves, open the covers and wonder who “Michael” might have been. Then they might open up to page 46 and find:

At Midnight

My hemisphere puts on
Duncely dark again.
And what was it to me
What the world wore
So long as I had a girl
With a bed to her naked back?
So long: not long enough.

For recently myself
Have donned like a dunce hat
Doubt of the monstrous works
Twirling toward day. I,
Who could fall those mortal nights
Ignorantly into sleep,
This mortal night cannot.


So what are the Republicans complaining about Obama being the executive order president? Obama has the least executive orders since Grover Cleveland’s first administration (1885 – 1889)
Executive Orders by President


Whenever the Republican candidates trumpet on stage that the EPA is the first agency they want to abolish, it has the most adverse effect on me.

Just watch what happened in Flint, Michigan. The city decided to save money and use water from the Flint river, rather than Lake Huron, for the city’s water source about two years ago. The Flint river is so corrosive that it rusted and corroded the lead pipes that distribute the water. With the corrosion, lead levels 20 times the safe amount were in the city water. Eventually, a local pediatrician figured it out. Then came the cover-up by the city, before that finally crumbled, and now the news comes out.

But back to the EPA. We have the EPA to hold people and businesses accountable. Without the EPA, factories would be free to dump poison into the rivers and into the air. Without the EPA, industry would be free to rape the land and its people. And don’t tell me that industry would volunteer to “be good.”

Just read up and see what kinds of pollution we had before the EPA (before 1970). The country was polluted. But then again, just go to Mexico, or India, or Brazil, or China – to see real pollution. Then come back and tell me you want to abolish the EPA.

It’s strange how the same people that keep harping about the legacy we leave for our children are also those that wouldn’t mind pumping more CO2 into the air, allow pollution into the rivers, and open up national parks for logging and mining.

I honestly cannot understand that thinking.

Glenn Frey of The Eagles passed away today at the age of 67. Here is one of his later compositions. The lyrics are listed below. I have had The Eagles as companions since my youth. Spent a lifetime with them. He’ll be missed.

“It’s Your World Now” Written by Glenn Frey and Jack Tempchin From the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden album

A perfect day, the sun is sinkin’ low

As evening falls, the gentle breezes blow

The time we shared went by so fast

Just like a dream, we knew it couldn’t last

But I’d do it all again

If I could, somehow

But I must be leavin’ soon

It’s your world now

It’s your world now

My race is run

I’m moving on

Like the setting sun

No sad goodbyes

No tears allowed

You’ll be alright

It’s your world now

Even when we are apart

You’ll always be in my heart

When dark clouds appear in the sky

Remember true love never dies

But first a kiss, one glass of wine

Just one more dance while there’s still time

My one last wish: someday, you’ll see

How hard I tried and how much you meant to me

It’s your world now

Use well your time

Be part of something good

Leave something good behind

The curtain falls

I take my bow

That’s how it’s meant to be

It’s your world now

It’s your world now

It’s your world now

A year and a half ago I researched the conflict of Sunni vs. Shia Muslims. They started hating and fighting each other more than 1300 years ago, and they are still at it today. Within the last century, the United States came along and started thinking that because there is oil under those countries, we could rearrange their belief system and government structures to make them more suitable to the way we like to do business. The Sunni and Shia conflict will go on for another 1000 years, no matter how much we think we want to meddle. The only question is: How many of our children do we send in there to die for one Ali or the other?

Norbert Haupt

When the original Islamic prophet Muhammad died in the year 632, there was a dispute over the succession.

The early leaders of the Muslim nation were called Khalifat Rasul Allah, the political successors to the messenger of God. Some academics transliterate the term as Khalīfah.

Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wife Aisha, was Muhammad’s rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leaders endorsed by the Quran is the consensus of the Muslim community.

Shias believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next caliph, making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad’s successors. Ali was married to Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter from his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.

The dispute intensified greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Hussein ibn Ali and…

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I find it funny how the conservative media ridiculed Obama for how he handled the Iran crisis a few days ago.

The facts appear as this: Two U.S. Navy speed boats, with a total of ten crew members, drifted one mile into Iranian waters, getting within 11 miles of the coast. When the Iranian coast guard approached, the tried to run away, but one of the boats’ engine gave them trouble and they were caught.

To make matters worse, several rescue helicopters from a U.S. aircraft carrier also entered Iranian waters, presumably to help out the boats.

I do not condone the way the Iranians arrested the U.S. sailors and video taped them and broadcast them to the world.

However, imagine for a minute what would happen if two Iranian military speed boats came within 11 miles of Florida. Would the American military go after them?

It seems to me that this was an unfortunate mistake, probably on both sides, and our leadership reacted in a measured manner. The men were free by the next morning. No shots were fired. That was not necessary.

But that’s not what our media portrays. They described this as if the sky were falling.

Donald Trump talks about  the Iranian nuclear agreement as “the worst deal ever.” He keeps talking about the $150 billion the Iranians are getting back as it that were taxpayer money paid to Iran. In reality, the $150 billion are Iranian assets in the United States that were frozen many years ago, that are now being returned.

Meanwhile, the only reactor in Iran that was capable of producing weapons grade nuclear material has been shut down and filled with concrete, as the agreement requires.

Seems to me all is going very well with Iran and the progress is in the best interest of Iran and the United States.


Ben Carson

I used to think that brain surgeons were brilliant. We have the expression in English: “It’s not brain surgery,” akin to “it’s not rocket science.”

After watching Ben Carson in the debates in the last few months, my opinion of brain surgeons has dropped significantly.

Would I want Ben Carson doing surgery in my brain? Honestly – No!

Then there is Donald Trump. Would I want to do a real estate deal with that man? Not if my life depended on it. I would not buy a used car from Trump. He can talk big when he talks about other people’s money and other people’s kids (sending them off to fight wars). But he has filed bankruptcy four times. He calls it “he has used the system.”

I have never filed bankruptcy, I have always paid all my bills, even when the investment property I bought before 2007 dropped to 33 percent of its value. It’s still upside down, I am still holding on to it, meeting my obligations.

But then, of course, Trump is a billionaire, and I am not. He’s good with other people’s money.

Do I trust these people?

Take a wild guess. It’s not brain surgery.

I just watched the GOP debate and Bush said that if anybody believes the country is better off now than it was in 2008, when Obama took office, they must be crazy (I am paraphrasing since I didn’t record it exactly).

Really? Does he have amnesia?

At the end of 2007, the economy was in free fall. We were worried about complete economic collapse. His brother had to bail out the banks. Remember, we keep blaming Obama on the bailout and the stimulus, while both were initiated by George W. Bush.

The country was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Under Obama, the country has created 14.1 million jobs over the last 70 months.

The unemployment rate was at 10%. Now it’s 5%, which is better than what Romney promised he would achieve over four years.

We had over 180,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now there are less than 14,000 there.


In 2008, we created less than 26,000 Megawatts from wind and solar power. Now it’s about 96,000 Megawatts.

The Dow was below 7,000 when Bush left office. It’s now at 16,379 (even though it’s suffered a bit in the last few weeks).

I can keep going with number of people with health insurance, the recovery of the American automobile industry, and on and on.

Under Bush, more than 3,000 Americans died from terror attacks. Under Obama, well, there were 14 in San Bernardino, 4 in Benghazi, we can’t count Paris, since that was another country, and I am sure there were a few others that I am not thinking about.

But yes, there were many more mass shootings in the country under Obama than they were under Bush. The country is really going to hell.

That’s what Jeb Bush must have been referring to.


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