Life with the flu

֎ No sooner than mariner mentions the joy of being a united society against Covid-19 than the gun industry rises up saying it is exempt from the virus-associated instructions to stay in, avoid public gatherings and, in some states, close retail businesses.

Who didn’t guess they claim it’s the Second Amendment that protects them?

Further, reports are emerging that the conservative rural US denies the behavior of the dense city liberals and does not enforce the national mandates; rather, the mandates have become a litmus test for whose side one is on. Mariner suggests Donald instigates this attitude. It had occurred to mariner that sooner or later big government intrusion may not be appreciated by minimalists.

As the mariner’s wife suggests, the rural folks aren’t aware of exponential progression (1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128-256 . . . .). That’s how Covid-19 expands.

Shake the dust, folks, shake the dust.[1]

֎ Following is a significant paragraph from The Economist (March 02):

“So Covid-19 could soon be all over poor countries. And their health care systems are in no position to cope. Many cannot deal with infectious diseases they already know, let alone a new and highly contagious one. Health spending per head in Pakistan is one two-hundredth the level in America. Uganda has more government ministers than intensive care beds … the Spanish flu wiped out 6 percent of India’s entire population.”

It’s a big world and a small one. The world has struggled to redefine cultural values around global warming. Covid-19 will be much more invasive much more rapidly and much more deadly than rising seas and changing weather. Mariner iterates the hope for unity not only in the US but around the world.

– – – –

Have news viewers noticed that major newscasts now occur not from a big studio but from the homes of newscasters? Have viewers been distracted by being nosey about what kind of home the announcers have? As the rest of the population begins to learn how to use Skype, Facetime, Zoom and other video conferencing software, one’s friends and business associates may learn about the state of the reader’s kitchen or the noisy, uncontrolled children running around or the unmade bed. “Zip your fly, Dad!”

As the public becomes associated with video conferencing and live streaming, it behooves them to prepare a small space just as a background for socializing from the home. Set the lights so the reader’s face is properly lit; have a nice chair and houseplant visible; if there is a bookcase, reorganize the book titles so that the more erudite titles show (cameras can read book titles); herd the children to soundproof quarters by exceedingly bribing them; have an upscale floor lamp handy and a faux window with a wide angle view of a plush countryside. Of course, one must dress accordingly at least from the waist up.

Ancient Mariner

[1] This is a metaphorical term mariner likes. He invented it in the post ‘Pondering the rest of the year’ posted 03/28/20: “Like a horse rises from the ground and shakes off the dust, the United States must rise and shake off the dust of the twentieth century.”

Restricted to the compound

֎ The ‘shelter in place’ has not affected mariner much. He mostly stays at home anyway. However, the garden season is fast approaching and mariner has begun to start many, well, too many projects for garden improvement; he has added organizing the basement and is adding more shelves in his workshop.

Focusing on the compound increases mariner’s awareness of small things. For example, he and his wife maintain a bird feeder outside the kitchen window. A large variety of birds, rodents, squirrels and rabbits are regular visitors. This draws predators as well. Mariner and his wife have seen a red tailed hawk swoop in to capture a small rodent, a large cat visits regularly and a fox was seen carrying a squirrel carcass.

Mariner’s town has had resident foxes the past few years which has kept the rabbit population low. Five years ago there were rabbits under every bush and rhubarb plant. One year he planted 40 perennials in a border; as they started to grow, they all disappeared in one night. In self-defense mariner now has a 117 gauge bb rifle at hand. Recently, the rabbits don’t visit very often thanks to the predators.

The other irritating creature is Japanese beetles. Mariner has advice for readers: don’t ever use beetle traps because every Japanese beetle in town will swarm to the reader’s garden. Mariner tried it once; he had to replace the little bag that comes with the trap with a 40-gallon trash bag. That bag weighed 23 pounds and mariner still had thousands of beetles in his apple trees, rosebushes, and shrubs.

֎ So much for mariner’s shut-in world. As the ‘shelter in place’ restriction and the accompanying crowd limitations spreads to significant portions of the United States, mariner is fascinated by the way social interaction changed. It’s as if the virus has forced society to do a training drill for how society will change as new concepts of economy emerge, how working from home will be a major aspect of jobs under artificial intelligence, as the retail world finally succumbs to online purchase and delivery and how active group experiences among friends, neighbors and extended families is adapting to Internet communication.

A new Skype-type product, ZOOM, is a fast rising software product. A full harmonic orchestra was able to play classical music together with ZOOM. Check it out with the reader’s search engine.

It is, however, a harrowing time. Pandemics have and will change the path of the future. Given the nation’s political conflicts, it is a good feeling to have everyone united for a common cause.

Ancient Mariner


Pondering the rest of the year

֎ The reason Donald wants to get rid of the shelter in place and the six-foot rule in rural counties is because in the November election delegates to the Electoral College are assigned from election districts representing, more or less, one or more counties. Just to make sure everyone understands how the Electoral College works, mariner quotes Wikipedia:

  • The Electoral College is a body of electors established by the United States Constitution, which forms every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States.
    The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, and an absolute majority of at least 270 electoral votes is required to win the election. According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, each state legislature determines the manner by which its state’s electors are chosen. Each state’s number of electors is equal to the combined total of the state’s membership in the Senate and House of Representatives; currently there are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Additionally, the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961, provides that the District of Columbia is entitled to the number of electors it would have if it were a state, but no more than the least populated state.

Donald’s favorite Electoral College map shows counties he won in red:

Mariner has written about how thin Donald’s 2016 victory was in a handful of states.[1] Now, with the interruption of the Coronavirus, mariner is concerned that the anticipated groundswell of democratic voters will not occur in November. As the democratic turnout lessens, the more likely the Electoral College will come into play. Red states assured, Donald’s campaign managers have their eye on flipping the same four states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Less democratic turnout quickly will bring Florida and Iowa into the mix. In 2016, two western states had delegates that did not support the popular vote in their states; this likely may occur again.

֎ The coronavirus has interrupted not only how large the turnout will be but how the electorate will vote. The virus likely will be around through the summer and certainly won’t be gone by November. State election supervisors may have to change the rules for voting, perhaps to mail-in, email, telephone or whatever. Besides the issues of bureaucracy, imagine 50 separate states dealing with security, timeliness, accuracy and gerrymandering. Further, how the electorate votes can dramatically shift the results. For example, recently Montana had several elections within months. The counties complained about cost since the counties had to pay for the elections. The counties suggested a mail-in. The republicans nixed this idea because if everyone voted in Montana, clearly it would be a blue state.

֎ Sadly, the intellectualism and idealism that dominated the democratic campaign for President has been pushed aside by the virus. Still, the twenty-first century remains an unsettled and undefined future. At this time in history, many large events will unfold whether the US and other nations are prepared or not. Like a horse rises from the ground and shakes off the dust, the United States must rise and shake off the dust of the twentieth century. Elect young, smart and humanistic representatives to the entire Republic.

Ancient Mariner

[1] See ‘It is time to pick’ (Jan 26) and ‘Whoever wins Wisconsin wins the Presidency’ (Feb. 5)

The Twenty-first Century

Has the reader ever tried to walk on a railroad rail? It seems easy enough but it isn’t long before most walkers fall off. Now imagine that the rail isn’t still; it is slithering like a snake slithers through grass. Add to this unstable situation the fact that it is snowing hard along with a stiff wind. Finally, there is no choice but to walk this rail all the way to the reader’s home two miles away.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

There have been terrible life ending moments in Planet Earth’s history. For example, around 439 million years ago, 86% of life on Earth was wiped out in an event called the Ordovician–Silurian Extinction – the first of five global extinctions. The most recent extinction, the Cretaceous-Paleogene brought on the extinction of dinosaurs. A combination of volcanic activity, asteroid impact, and climate change effectively ended 76% of life on earth 65 million years ago. As noted, there have been five such extinctions. Mariner has cited Elizabeth Kolbert’s book ‘The Sixth Extinction’ in earlier posts. Elizabeth claims that this extinction already is occurring.

She likely is correct in her assumptions: The International Union for Conservation of Nature reported more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the past five centuries. Today there are nearly 17,000 threatened with extinction.

Like snow falling on a shifting rail, add the issue of global warming. The Ordovician–Silurian Extinction had a similar situation but in reverse; the Earth grew very cold.

– – – –

What else is new for the twenty-first century? Not much of significance has been added to the world of economics since John Maynard Keynes (floating dollar) and Milton Friedman (free market) contributed early in the last century. In the twenty-first century, the world needs something new; the world economy is beginning to stumble; most economists believe there will be a worldwide recession any time now. Everything from a shifting of population age to the disappearance of earthly resources (Helium, gypsum, indium and rare earth minerals, (the last a vital ingredient in smartphones, hybrid cars, wind turbines, computers, etc.) just to name a few.

Further, it may be theories of territory are the elephant in the room of economics, that is, nations. The speed of the Internet and the power of computers have warped the timeline of economics, often running over small nations, nations without competitive economies and nations with limited natural resources.

Something else affecting world economy is the disappearance of natural conditions like unused land, fresh water and climate control due to abuses with fossil fuels and disregard for the needs of nature (estuaries, breeding grounds, etc.).

– – – –

Hmmm, what else is new for the twenty-first century? Oh yes – artificial intelligence. Can humans handle all this new stuff for the new century: extinctions, failing economy, global warming and do it all with massive changes in culture as well? There’s no choice, home is still two miles away.

Just months ago David Brooks, a political/economic pundit on PBS News Hour, wrote “The Second Mountain” which suggests that the nuclear family is a disadvantaged unit in modern times. Shall everyone revisit polygamy or return to communes? David makes a valid point that nuclear families, especially at lower income levels, do not have enough income to sustain a happy, rewarding life – whether it’s a home, salary, transportation, health or education. A simple insight: how many minimum wage earners take a vacation to a pleasurable place? Could they if there were four or five wage earners in the family?

Multiply the challenge to the nuclear family by taking away 80 percent of the jobs that support these families. This situation alone calls for a new economic theory and it isn’t capitalism, corporatism or free market.

– – – –

How about human privacy? When mariner was a young adult, he spent time at an Atlantic coast city. He learned that the city knew how many visitors were in town by the amount of waste water discharged. In other words, population was counted by how many folks were flushing toilets. At least the city didn’t know specifically that it was mariner using the toilet. Today, they know. If corporations and insurance companies have their way, they will know mariner ate too much bacon today and skipped his walk. His health insurance will cost more and he will have to pay for another automatic delivery of bacon with money he never personally controlled.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

Ancient Mariner





It’s been a few days. Herding humans may be a lot like herding cats. Even in mariner’s household of two, the days are drawn out and have empty spots. It used to be before sheltering that in mariner’s retired family they had two or three trips to visit friends, attend meetings and other gatherings, and shop. This busyness has stopped, of course, leaving just a run to get groceries. What else has stopped is sports – all sports! What fills this empty time?

Communication must go on. Every social media site has had a notable increase in usage. So has porn, gaming, email, telephone, smartphone and picture telephone (Skype, Facetime et al). Siri and Alexa have started to complain that the signal is bad and they have to hang up for a while. Interestingly, television programs haven’t shown an uptick. Late shows and afternoon talk shows are suffering in quality even though they are doing their best with a hopeless situation. Scanning the cable guide, one realizes they have seen everything at least twice – including Roy Rogers and Ozzie and Harriet. What has increased is viewers of live streaming and On Demand options.

That leaves TrumpNews. No matter how lonely or how bored the reader may be, don’t be tempted. Check out PBS, NPR, Newsy, Politico, The Atlantic, Protocol, RealClearPolitics, Axios, Propublica and The Economist. All these websites have an ethic about the difference between gossip, news, fake news and uncontrolled political bias.

The psychology types both online and in print suggest that family members deliberately attempt to make the whole family the focus of daily activity. This is a lost motivation because most of the time parents are working, children are at school, and the smartphone has cleaved relationships into small pieces.

Everyone should put on their ‘pass it forward’ hat to find ways to help with the financial hardship that far too many citizens will suffer from job loss, cut hours and the virus itself. These genuinely are historically terrible times.

Finally, although many months late, Congress has passed a decent fiscal package to see citizens through the economic uncertainty. Congratulations.

Regarding the virus, stay in touch daily with trusted news sources.

By the way, Happy Easter . . .

Ancient Mariner


Religion on the Internet

When Mariner arose this morning, stumbling and half-conscious as usual, He heard his wife singing a hymn. He went to her office to see what was happening. She was live streaming a worship service and singing along with the pastor who had a good voice and was playing a guitar. The hymn’s lyrics were in a box on the side of the screen.

In this age of pandemics, the pastor was sitting on a stool in front of the sanctuary in an empty church. A viewer had all the components of a service that can be performed by one person. During the sermon, while listened to attentively, his wife also was doing her morning exercises.

Faith lives in eclectic times.

Curious about how wide the selection of streaming services was, mariner launched his search engine to discover there were thousands of services from across the rainbow of denominations. If first impressions are meaningful, mariner felt the live streaming options were far better than the television offerings which were either Roman Catholic or salvation by money.

So one must consider, as the pews empty in these days, whether there is a larger count of attendees sans apportionments, budgets and behavioral overhead. Most readers have been aware of faithful elderly who watch, indeed contribute financially, to the TV worship services. Mariner is reminded of a Jerry Lewis movie back in the 1960’s where an elderly woman bought every item that was advertised on the television. Can one achieve faith from a screen?

Mariner knows a family that attended services regularly because they liked the preacher. When the preacher moved on, he continued to be available through live streaming. The family now goes to church in their living room.

This raises a question about doctrine. While commitment to live streaming is commended, how does a viewer apply doctrine?[1] One of the core issues in today’s society is the ‘practice’ of religion – that is, put your body and your money where your mouth is, if mariner may butcher an old idiom. What makes faith important is how it shapes a believer’s behavior among peers and society at large. The old fashioned word is evangelism or mission or works, practices that are disappearing in organized religion and, perhaps, letting the Internet in.

Mariner is pulling out some Elvis gospel for inspiration.

Ancient Mariner

[1] ‘Doctrine’ is a church word that means rules, like the Constitution is for the United States. In the New Testament look for Sermon on the Mount or the many parables defining Christian doctrine.

What would Socrates say?

Mariner recently reported on the corruption of Wells Fargo Bank forcing line level employees to create false customer accounts in order to increase bank profits. Mariner knows he is an eccentric but the word profit is a synonym for selfishness, is an abuse of power, and metaphorically profit is comparable to reusable resources that are thrown away every day rather than make further use of them. Power and profit often are the same coin. To wit:

A Newsy and USA TODAY investigation reveals that former employees of one of America’s fastest-growing dental chains say they saw dentists — under pressure to hit revenue targets — repeatedly suggesting treatments patients didn’t need. Patients complained they were diagnosed with a mouthful of cavities only to later discover nothing was wrong with their teeth. Former employees said they felt uncomfortable with what they witnessed. “I have watched them drilling perfectly healthy teeth multiple times a day every day,” said dental assistant Ashley Hughes. Watch “Open Wide” on or stream it anytime on Roku and Fire TV.

The clearest example of a remedy for the profit disease is set by the Native American Indians (mariner has cited this example on numerous occasions). The notable person in the society was the hunter. What sustained Indian culture for thousands of years was that whatever the hunter brought home did not belong to him; it belonged to the tribe and was distributed accordingly. Not until white man appeared did ideas like profit, wealth and supply and demand become cultural terms. One of mariner’s heroes, Will Rogers, lived by the code of his Native American ancestors.

Everyone deserves to be comfortable in life and to have feelings of fiscal sustainability. However, to possess billions of dollars just to possess them is tantamount to leftover food tossed in the trash rather than redistributing it for re-purposing.

A hackneyed complaint of mariner’s is the pharmaceutical industry. CEOs take home an average of $26 million as an annual salary. Meanwhile, the ‘tribe’ has lives ruined – if not ended – to sustain a corporate profit based on what the marketplace will tolerate. Mariner speculates that no person can make meaningful use of profits beyond what it takes to live quite comfortably; excess profits are an abuse of power and a rejection of tribal responsibility.

When FDR was confronted with the great depression, he changed tax laws to limit income to $33,000 annually[1]. If anyone earned more, that amount was sent to the government as tax due. The principle was that the government needed every dollar it could muster to sustain the nation. In perspective, today virtually every major corporation hides billions of dollars in profit – and the privileged class does as well. These dormant assets are not in use; they are in a cash attic. True, these assets can be used to hoard additional cash through investment and that profit, too, is put in the attic.

It was Socrates who questioned whether wealth was a good thing. He also pondered what was good for the human condition, which he felt was a preeminent concept to understand if humanity was to be happy. Today’s societies, if not at war or destitute, are too busy becoming rich or richer to notice that more and more humans are not happy and cannot sustain themselves financially.

Socrates wasn’t sure about democracy, either. He believed that the ultimate power in life was knowledge – even to the point of denouncing trial by one’s peers. He saw in the democratic method an easy boat to sink because voting was not controlled by knowledge but by the myriad vices of the population.

We need Socrates today. In what direction is wisdom? In what direction is happiness? Donald is a classic antagonist for the US: he can’t read, lead, believe valid truths, or have compassion. Only wealth calls his name.

Beyond Donald, humanity around the planet watches an entire civilization crumble. Is the Coronavirus one of the four horsemen along with artificial intelligence, rampant capitalism and cannibalism of the human soul by big data? What kind of culture will emerge that will bring happiness to humanity? Does today’s world know what is good for the human condition? If it did, could it abide?

Ancient Mariner

[1] $656,644 today.

About that cat

Mathematics has always been a numbing topic to most people. Yet, innately, all people utilize math in their everyday lives. The human brain doesn’t call it math; the brain may concede a visible logic to things, for example, don’t put on your coat before you put on your shirt but usually it isn’t about math, it’s about common sense. So the brain helps out immensely by learning wordless formulas to make sense of everything. Just as spoken language has a structure behind it called grammar, science of every kind depends on a similar grammar but not about words, it’s about physical laws – Nature.

To make things more complex, there are different kinds of math that use different realities to construct mathematical truths. Most everyone suffers through algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and perhaps laws of motion in Physics class. All these categories are in one realm of reality: Newtonian Physics – remember the guy that had an apple fall on his head so he devised a mathematic definition for gravity. Well heck, humans don’t need math to know about gravity – what goes up must come down; the brain has a handle on it.

Then along comes Einstein, AKA Einsteinian physics or the theory of relativity. Einstein said that the Earth moves toward the apple as much as the apple moves toward the Earth. Wait a minute, the brain doesn’t know about the Earth moving. That’s because the movement is relative to the mass of the apple and the mass of the Earth. If one thinks about this situation hard enough and is lucky to fathom Einstein’s version of common sense, the passing of time also is involved. Time must move around mass. As the Earth and the apple move toward each other time is slowed because it must flow around their mass. – but just in a really, really tiny space around each object. Should a person have two sensitive clocks one at the front of the apple and the other at the back showing identical time, surely (hah) one realizes that the time at the front of the apple will be ahead of the time behind the apple when all is said and done. Somewhat associated with this is the phenomenon that if astronauts spend years in space moving at high speeds, when they return they will be much younger than their classmates.

Einstein is a prerequisite before moving on to really weird mathematics about reality. It’s called Quantum Physics. Newton’s reality was about normal stuff like apples and snow. Einstein was more comfortable among very large bodies like stars and planets and time at very high speeds. Quantum physics deals with reality in subatomic space, that is, how electrons, neurons, quasars and other tiny stuff behave. It is also the reason mariner has written all this math stuff.

Because Quantum Physics is so unlike the other very finite mathematics, it takes more than an apple to comprehend Quantum Physics. For example, the line between past events and future events is blurred; in a sense, there is no present. What the past brings to the table, however, will determine any number of outcomes. To help those who haven’t grasped this past-future relationship, a famous metaphor is ‘Schrödinger’s cat’:

Mariner brings to the reader a box. In this box is a cat. Is it alive? Is it dead? A rational reader would say, “How do I know?” That’s because humans are born and bred to reason in finite terms. The correct answer, in Quantum Physics is, “Yes.” Until an event occurs that opens the box, only then will the finite answer be known. This is an example of how the past and future are interdependent without a present.

But now to the title of this post. Mariner has construed another example that may be easier to accept. Imagine the reader is traveling on an interstate. There is a ‘fast’ lane and a ‘slow’ lane. Frequently along the Interstate there are signs that say ‘slower traffic keep right’ (Let’s not open a box full of irritating comments about other drivers). As it turns out, the reader has the only vehicle in sight. Is the vehicle slow and moves to the right lane or is the vehicle fast and moves to the left lane? Logically, the answer is ‘yes.’ There are other factors like speed limit, weather, heavy load on a hill, etc. These variables give insight into the fact that scientists have predicted as many as 16 different futures for a subatomic particle in the same moment.

Thanks for tolerating the pontification.


Mariner watched an episode of “Dirty Money” on Netflix. It turned out to be free of pundit interpretations and approached the Wells Fargo abuses from the point of view of line staff that had worked for Wells Fargo. The wrong doing, which is now in court and has the attention of the House of Representatives, is what Wells Fargo calls ‘cross-selling’, that is, in an honest sales pitch, convincing customers to open more than one account. For example, a customer should have at least two checking accounts, a debit card, a credit card, a retirement savings account, a loan or mortgage and a few more savings accounts. To the stock market and shareholders, all these accounts represented growth so Wells Fargo stock kept rising in value.

At the line level, called personal bankers, it was run like a sweat shop. The bankers had quotas that were unreasonable and even irrational. Eventually, with awareness on the part of management all the way to the CEO, the personal bankers ran out of friends and family members to foist accounts onto and began creating accounts without consulting the customers. Large numbers of customers had many accounts they were not aware of until collection agencies began calling them for not paying account fees.

Needless to say cross-selling, while legal to an extent, is not a good banking practice in any case. The documentary was above average. If Elizabeth Warren watched it, she would need a tranquilizer.

Ancient Mariner


Some Good News

֎ Some Good News from RealClearPolitics –

“Yet the furious resuscitation of Biden’s political fortunes has not only positioned his party more strongly against Trump in the general election, but suddenly scrambled the Senate map. Four Republicans up for reelection are now officially behind their challengers (or their most likely challengers) by four percentage points or more. And Biden’s numbers against an incumbent Trump show he is stronger than Hillary Clinton ever was in 2016 against the insurgent outsider most Americans expected would lose.

“More important than his wins against Sanders have been the underlying numbers behind Biden’s success this past week. In a majority of the primaries, he is winning a broad and deep coalition that threatens Republicans’ ability to hold the Senate and the White House. With black voters, suburban voters, white voters without a college degree, white voters with a college degree, union and non-union, Republicans and independents, Biden’s breadth of support is remarkable.” [A.B. Stoddard]

֎ Some Good News from Politico –

“After holding more than 300 rallies during the 2016 campaign and nearly 100 more since he was elected—after going last month to Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and South Carolina to “troll” Democrats in the runups to the primaries—the president was not in Michigan, Missouri or Mississippi this past week, and he won’t be in Ohio or Illinois or Florida or Arizona ahead of Tuesday’s votes. He has canceled events in Las Vegas, Denver and Milwaukee. And for the first time in a long, long time, Trump has on his typically merry-go-round docket of rallies … nothing.”

Three days from now, millions of voters in Arizona, Illinois, Florida, and Ohio will grasp the same door handles, drag their fingers across the same touch-screen voting machines, and wait in long lines with dozens of other people knowing full well infection with the virus is likely. True, this is not completely good news but the good news is the spirit and dedication of the electorate to fulfill an important job as a democratic citizen. Everyone in the nation knows this is an historic vote that will lift the nation’s tires from the mud or allow the tires to dig deeper in the muck.

Election administrators in the four states have stepped up routines aimed at cleanliness, suggesting early voting, bring one’s own pen, and staffing a continuous effort of wiping down the machinery, handles and furniture. Administrators expect there to be a small drop off in voters but that commitment runs high in the districts.

Ancient Mariner

Tick Tock

֎ From the desk calendars:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift – Albert Einstein

֎ Name these famous people all of whom died on March 14:

֎ Rearrange this list of US Presidents according to ascending dates of term:

Benjamin Harrison

Martin Van Buren

Millard Fillmore

John Tyler

Only 234 days to the Presidential Election . . . . . .

Ancient Mariner