Then and Now

From when he was five years old, mariner still has a few memories. The war was still on. He remembers city blackouts and fearing a bomber was coming until he could discern it was just the train at the end of the block. He remembers his mother having him stand on the bed so she could dress him special for the first day of kindergarten.

He remembers being given the chore of washing the breakfast dishes. This was accomplished with two pans of water on the kitchen table, one soap, one rinse. Once in a while he was given a scrub board to wash a few clothes in the basement washtub.

He remembers eating fried liver with onions, SPAM and bread and gravy for dinner. Mariner also had a sense of ‘everybody was the same.’ Everyone took public transit; everyone walked to the nearest retail center; each weekend was a party in the basement for friends, family and servicemen. There was a consciously accepted sense of ‘we’re in this together’.

Mariner remembers racing down the stairs barely awake to retrieve the two thick Sunday papers from which he scarfed a library of comics. He remembers utilizing patterns in the living room rug to play with his toys while his grandmother listened to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio.

Everyone took public transit because gasoline was rationed to a maximum of three gallons per week (cars in those days were lucky to get twelve miles to the gallon).

James Fahy, an author of the period, wrote, “Nothing unites humans like a common enemy”.

Alas, jumping to the 21st century, Pogo Possum, the great comics philosopher was right when he said:

Is it any wonder that oldsters just can’t seem to grasp contemporary values? Mariner’s grandchildren play with imitative smartphones and laptops instead of listening to the radio. Having one truth in the war years was easy albeit critical – the enemy was Germany. In this century, truth is ill-defined if it can be defined at all. Who tells us truth – Musk? Tucker Carlson? Zuckerberg? Bernie Sanders? Marjorie Taylor Green? Science? Evangelical preachers? The Proud Boys? Google?

What Kitchenaide is to mixing, social media is to common truth.

An oldster who grew up learning the virtues of dishpans, scrub boards, walking to a real store and SPAM does not understand how the world works today or conversely, why it doesn’t work.

By principle, this makes old people Luddites and of no value to problem solving in this alien world of the 21st century.

Vote old people out and young people in. Elect millennials and Zs.

Pogo knew.

Ancient Mariner

These are the times . . .

֎ Illinois law bans schools from fining students. So local police are doing it for them, issuing thousands of tickets a year for truancy, vaping, fights and other misconduct. Children are then thrown into a legal system designed for adults. Read article at:

֎ “The 79-year old Biden worked closely with former Sens. HARRY REID, BOB DOLE, and JOHN WARNER, former Secretary of State COLIN POWELL and Vice President WALTER MONDALE, whose memorial he will speak at on Sunday in Minnesota. He spoke Wednesday at the ceremony for former Secretary of State MADELEINE ALBRIGHT.”

Most of Joe’s elected friends are dead, many retired. Bless Joe for trying; mariner thinks Joe’s job is a lot harder for Joe because the good ol’ boy Congress hasn’t existed for a long time. The nation needs term limits based on age!

֎ Mariner couldn’t have written the article below better. There may be hope yet for the return of Christ’s message. You must read this accounting!

Ancient Mariner

If you’re past 50, pay attention

As regular readers know, mariner has been an advocate of maintaining strength in the quadriceps, the leg muscles that lift us every day. The primary enemy is the chair. One must, must, must, must do a few reps of squats every day to maintain a confident balance and dexterity with their limbs. The exercise also extends a lifestyle that is physically competent if even to getting in and out of a car.

See the link for an example.

Just as important, if not more so, is to walk at least a mile every day. The older the reader is, the more important this exercise is. Mariner often has referenced a part of the brain that doesn’t wake up until the body is in a continued pace. One must walk at one’s best sustainable gait. The brain exercises all the critical components including lungs, heart, circulation and caloric consumption. Drink some water before the reader leaves for the walk.

Ancient Mariner


A new definition for Musk Ox

Yes, the subject is Elon Musk. The article below from Axios is an important read. His ascendancy and power remind mariner of the Edwardian Age in England when money and wealth controlled government, society and the economy. Today, Musk also will control truth.

“What Musk and others portray as a battle over ‘free speech’ is a proxy fight over who is entitled to attention,” says Renée DiResta, of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Musk is the most obvious of a class of oligarchs that is growing wealthier without taxes, without national commitment and with the ability to buy out any government policy of their disliking.

The government of the last century no longer works for the common citizen. Will there be a destructive collapse sometime in the near future? Is democracy doomed as the world’s resources shrink and wealth rises in power? Does the US want to be a Putin Russia run by a dozen oligarchs?

Ancient Mariner


Fleeting thoughts

Everyone has those moments when a totally irrelevant thought jumps into consciousness for no reason and just as quickly disappears. However that thought leaves a minor unresolved puzzle for a few lingering moments. Mariner has collected a few of his moments to share with the reader.

֎ In the 1860s Republicans dominated the Federal scene and proposed things like the transatlantic railroad, an expansion of government power into the westward expansion, developed the state university system, wrote civil rights laws that the democrats opposed and established a national currency. The democrats, on the other hand, were the conservatives and rejected the expansion of government. By the 1930s with the election of FDR, the parties clearly had swapped their philosophies.

The thought that popped into mariner’s mind from nowhere: Is this the beginning of another swap? No answer to that of course, but the mind lingers for a moment.

֎ The nature of cryptocoin investment is very similar to transactions in the stock market except everyone can own the same object or situation. Money is not the only vehicle that earns profit; art, inventions, international liaisons all are things or events that will bring profit or loss to ‘owners’ of that object.  Thousands of crypto investors own various emoji and caricatures. Crypto profit grows when the demand for owning something grows. If mariner owned a potato along with ten thousand others, there would be profit in the fact that more and more people wanted to own a potato – especially if potatoes become rare.

Yes, crypto remains an odd marketplace but BIG money is entering the crypto market. For some reason, the thought occurred to mariner that this wasn’t capitalism but communism – where everyone owns a piece of the economy. This isn’t true; of course it will take a huge effort to even nudge capitalism in the United States. Still, what if this were another big switch in economic theory? No answer to that, of course, but the mind lingers for a moment.

֎ The conflict between church and state always has interested mariner.  The poor Christian movement has suffered abuses from the get go as fodder for lions, denial of reality in defense of doctrine, a socialist movement in England and a reason to rape and rob two new continents. Today the Christian doctrine isn’t practiced much. Instead the pews are filled with political activists and spiritual escapists. The strength of the Beatitudes and two Great Commandments remain but have little influence in actual practice.

Today, as attendance dwindles, as the need for Christ’s creed is lost in the noise, what if the next generation suddenly found the church to be a vehicle for healing, stabilizing and restoring an ethical foundation for the nation. The thought occurred to mariner that salvation of a nation in the absence of functional government would be a theocracy and would profoundly change the abrasiveness of contemporary capitalism, populism, plutocracy and oligarchy. No answer to that, of course, but the mind lingers for a moment.

֎ There has been no discussion yet about the physical world. What will happen to society when the Earth switches polarity? It has happened before and will happen again.

Ancient Mariner

Fitting in

Every one of us likes to think we have a romantic side. Being romantic is a soft, rewarding experience; we feel we are making the world a more cohesive and friendly place. Anyone with a serious hobby has a notion that they are somehow contributing to the harmony of the universe.

Take gardening. It is easy to feel harmony with Mother Nature; perhaps to feel what a parent’s feeling is for their children. One feels particularly proud of what the gardens contribute to the world of living things.

“What are you talking about?” Mother Nature asks. “If you want romance go see a movie. It’s a dog eat dog out here in the ecosystem.” It is true. The only value is the ability to procreate, to sustain the species. Each and every entity surviving in nature for eons has been honing its survival qualities and its unique leverage against other species to maintain survival in the ecosystem.

Grackles are no exception. Grackles are those medium-sized black birds with long tails and iridescent heads. It turns out grackles have mastered plant thievery in several ways. Most notably they are classic marauders of young seedlings, soft, premature seeds and fruit. They travel in classic packs, performing raids on gardens and trees in large numbers. Direct and peripheral damage is irrelevant as they search for vulnerable plant life.

Mariner has had to set aside his romantic side. Last evening he planted 50 onion settings (virtually no bulb with a leaf about 3 inches high).

This morning when mariner went out to the garden, all fifty settings had pulled from the ground – even though the grackles seemed not to like onions and left the onions sprawled across the garden box.

Nowhere in any garden handbook does it say cover the bed with wire protection. Mariner replanted the onions and laid hardware wire across the box.

He hustled four rabbits out of the yard this morning, too. Intellectually, mariner understands that every successful species has its own ethic about survival. It’s just that humans think they can master Mother Nature’s little rules for survival. This misconception is why suddenly we have climate change on our hands.

Mariner is going to a movie tonight.

Ancient Mariner

Another world on this world

Mariner is judgmental about most things happening in the world today but every once in a while he discovers a different world. This time it is the Ashaninka indigenous people living in the Amazon River wilderness where the Amazon crosses the Peru/Brazil border. They are the subject of an article in Scientific American Magazine/May 2022.

Aside from their lifestyle, which is in true balance with their rain forest habitat, they have mastered keeping the modern world away by shrewd dealings with government agencies, logging companies and drug entrepreneurs who illegally would clear the forest to grow coca, yet at the same time the Ashaninka have preserved simple religious practices, have a simple government comprised of a dozen elders and a stable economy that sustains their natural environment. The strength of their culture was demonstrated when twenty members laid down in a road that loggers were illegally attempting to build, finally forcing the loggers to retreat.

The Ashaninka negotiated the land in 1992 as a protected reserve for indigenous people. The land had been logged and was not a balanced ecology. Since then the tribe has restored the natural forest, encouraged indigenous animal life including two threatened species, the jaguar and the woolly monkey.

Alas, the Ashaninka live in Nirvana. One thousand members survive in an area of 335 square miles (214,800 acres) and 247 miles from the nearest and tiny town of Pucallpa. As a planet, seven billion people share 37 billion acres, about 5 acres per person compared to each tribe member having 214 acres.

These indigenous people live contemporary lives; they believe that all of the elements in their natural realm are family members – including stars, Sun, vegetation and animals; they maintain a guarded relationship with governments and charitable institutions; they keep a wary eye on the capitalist corporations that want to take their family away.

The culture is maintained by a handful of shamans whose job is to interpret the value of existential events.

Our human wisdom has brought us so much. Humans have landed on the moon, invented nuclear weapons, have periodic wars. Fortunately, humans are moving to metaland where acres need only be a few million electrons.

Ancient Mariner



Mariner tries not to complain too much but the AI world makes it hard not to complain. Not only will Alexi eavesdrop, it will be able to advise callers about your mood. Alexi could say to a sales person, “No, don’t try to call him today; he’s in a pissy mood.” Here’s a paragraph from Protocol, a systems newsletter:

“sales and customer service software companies including Uniphone and Sybill are building products that use AI in an attempt to help humans understand and to respond to human emotion. Virtual meeting powerhouse Zoom also plans to provide similar features in the future.”

As a young child living in Baltimore, Maryland, mariner remembers getting his family’s first telephone. It was the dial-with-your-finger type. The number was BElmont 647. It sat on a wooden end table that mariner still uses to hold his printer. Mariner lived in Iowa during the sixties; he experienced the phenomenon of speaking to a human telephone operator to make a call. As if it were an omen of the future, there were party lines then – while you may call one person, six or seven could be listening.

Does the reader remember during the seventies that Bell Telephone offered a videophone that flopped because no one wanted to use it?

Thanks to Bluetooth technology, we no longer have to hold a phone in our hands. We can talk to our car instead or have a cigarette butt hanging out of an ear. But it hasn’t stopped here. Already on the market are eyeglasses with an embedded internet screen. By tracking a person’s eye movement, the glasses will allow one to play all those games on the smartphone. Fortunately, automobiles will drive themselves – something has to keep track of reality.

Now . . . is the reader ready to live in metaland? Mariner wonders whether telephones will come along.

– – – –

Thanks to the readers who responded to the puzzle challenge. All the respondents had it right: 27 bananas. Thanks, too, for advising mariner about the meaning of Niels Bohr’s statement on profundity.

Maybe mariner will be able to buy a few acres and a pony when he must move to Metaland.

Ancient Mariner


Is it the Tower of Babel all over again?

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel -because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

– – – –

Mariner wishes sincerely that everyone would subscribe to the Atlantic magazine. It publishes articles that look at reality in a plain, nonpolitical way. Mariner cannot share adequately a real world metaphor in the May edition but the reader will get more from reading the article themselves at

The gods of social media have brought down the tower called ‘United States of America’ – a land for which “nothing would be impossible”. We must, in some way, perhaps through small, hands-on, face-to-face behavior begin again to build one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Ancient Mariner


Mariner’s three alter egos, Guru, Amos and Chicken Little, are apprehensive. It seems the entire world is a pot of stew about to boil out of the pot making a huge mess. Perhaps it is similar to a hot air balloon slowly leaking air until the acceleration of gravity pulls faster and faster toward the ground. Perhaps it is more like a circus tent free of grounding stakes and the wind is growing stronger.

The rules that have governed mankind since the Luddites objected to new weaving technology in 1779 are unraveling as a new dimension of automation brings stress to the planet. It is a universal stress not limited to one circumstance like weaving or one nation like England, it is international, it is cultural, and it is personal. All the while the planet is tinkering with a new habitat for life.

Well into his eighties, mariner admits to being a Luddite. His reality began crumbling with the assassinations captured in the song ‘Abraham, Martin and John’. A poignant memory for mariner’s generation, the lyrics are below:


Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people

But it seems the good die young

But I just looked around and he’s gone


Has anybody here seen my old friend John?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people

But it seems the good die young

But I just looked around and he’s gone


Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people

But it seems the good die young

But I just looked around and he’s gone


Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?

Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?

And we’ll be free

Someday soon, it’s gonna be

One day


Has anybody seen my old friend Bobby?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

I thought I saw him walkin’

Up over the hill

With Abraham, Martin and John


Consequently, today the race war of 1860 has never ended. The Camelot vision collapsed in the 1960s because of the unpopular Vietnam War and a growing conservative swing in local government. Also today, economic theory is engaged in a war, the philosophy of individual freedom in a democratic society is crumbling and international politics is collapsing.

So this post is about none of that. It’s about puzzles. There are two: the first is an exercise in arithmetic; the second, taken from a Zen calendar, is a true puzzle.

  1. There was a shipwreck at sea and Buck, Lance and Jack were washed ashore on a small island. Upon reaching shore they promptly fell asleep from exhaustion. A short time later, Buck awoke and saw that a box of bananas had been washed ashore. Buck ate one third of the bananas and went back to sleep. Lance soon awoke and upon seeing the box of bananas ate one third of what was left and then fell asleep. Jack woke next and assumed that the other two hadn’t eaten any bananas, so he ate one third of what remained. When Jack had finished, there were eight bananas left. How many bananas were in the box originally? [answer in next post]
  2. A quote from Niels Bohr: “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” Is this plausible? Is it logical? Is this how conspiracy theory works? [Send mariner an answer, he doesn’t have one]


Ancient Mariner