Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Urban Legend

When we were kids, we used to scare ourselves silly at Halloween telling stories of murder and mayhem. Over time, we heard the same stories over and over again but embellished in different ways and always with the urgent warning that "this is the way it really happened and it wasn't far from here either." The thing is, I was a naive kid and believed what I was told. Heck, maybe those old stories had a bit of truth to them.

This first story I heard is now a famous urban legend, maybe THE most famous urban legend of all. Here's how it goes:

A teenage couple were parked at the local Lover's Lane, listening to the car radio and making out when the music was interrupted by a special news bulletin. An insane mass murderer with a missing right hand had just escaped from the local asylum and was on the loose. The public was cautioned to remain inside and lock their doors.

The girl became frightened and asked her boyfriend to take her home. He scoffed at the idea and told her that everything was all right and continued with his lovemaking. The mood was broken. however, and the young lady, already afraid, thought she heard something outside the car. The windows were fogged and they looked out as best they could, but saw nothing in the darkness. This time, she pulled away and insisted they leave. She refused to be swayed by his argument and, although he was irritated, he drove her home.

When they arrived at her house, the boy walked around to her side of the car to let her out, only to find a hook dangling from the door handle.

I still get the willies when I hear that story. Here's a the second version:

As in the first story, two teenagers are totally involved with each other at a secluded wooded area near a lonesome highway. An announcement from the radio alerts them to the fact that a mad killer has escaped from a nearby mental institute.

The girl insists that they leave and the miffed boyfriend finally agrees, but first deciding to relieve himself outside. She doesn't want to be left alone and tells him so. He tells her to lock the doors and stay in the car, that he'll be right back.

But, of course, he doesn't come right back. She waits five, ten, fifteen minutes. When he still doesn't return, she decides to drive the car home but discovers that the keys aren't in the ignition. He must have taken them. That's when she begins to hear scraping sounds on the roof of the car. Afraid for her life, she huddles in the back seat. After a long and awful night sitting in the car, she is wakened by a knocking on the car window. It's a policeman. She rolls down the window and tells him how grateful she is to see him. He is distracted and tells her to open the door. Follow me, he says, and don't look back. But, after leaving the car, she does look back and sees that her boyfriend is hanging upside down from a tree above the car and the scraping sound came from his fingernails brushing against the rooftop.

Now, those two are the earliest Halloween stories I can recall. Even now, as I relate them to you, I feel compelled to get up and check the locks. Maybe you should too. But whatever you do, don't go outside until it's light.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Time Is It?

Great net clock here. Well, maybe not great, but I like it.


It's the day before Halloween, my late mother's birthday, and I'm watching the rain from my study window. An imagined blackbird sits atop a bust of Pallas just out of view. I'm in the mood.

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
- Thomas Edison

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why War?

I love me some Wikipedia. Here's what Wiki says about war: War is an organized and often prolonged armed conflict that is carried out by states or non-state actors. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, social disruption, and economic destruction. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention.

So, it's safe to say that politicians, along with the cooperation of bankers, are the ones who enable war to occur. Keep in mind that the word 'politicians' can be interchanged with 'leaders'.

Some people view warfare as an inescapable and integral aspect of human nature while others argue that it is only inevitable under certain socio-cultural or ecological circumstances. It is not linked to any single type of political organization or society. Rather, war is a universal phenomenon whose form and scope is defined by the society that wages it.

The deadliest war in history, in terms of the cumulative number of deaths since, was the Second World War, with 60–85 million deaths. Let that number sink in for a moment. Proportionally speaking, the most destructive war in modern history was the War of the Triple Alliance, 1864 to 1870 which took the lives of over 60% of Paraguay's population -- that's 390,000 souls.

Have you noticed that our modern wars are held in backwards countries with unstable governments and broken economies? Think Afghanistan, Somalia. By having wars in these kind of places the major power players can insert puppet governments and develop natural or human resources thus ultimately stabilizing the region and guaranteeing a cooperative international business partner.

Of course, this nation-building strategy is good for corporations and arms dealers and bankers. These guys end up making a ton of money from the human toll. It's blood money but it spends just like the money earned by toiling at a nine to five job. And, don't forget that war helps to finance research and development for discoveries that have military and civilian applications (penicillin, nylon, advanced metallurgy, etc.). These bankers and arms dealers and politicians and industrialists would have you believe that good things come out of war.

There are a number of reasons why there are wars. The Marxists say that most of the time it's about resources and wealth. Haves and have-nots. But, that's not the only factor. Religious and political ideology plays a role as well. Look at the division between leftists and conservatives in the US, for example. You think groups of these people aren't ready to go to war with each other? It just takes a bit of propaganda to tip the balance. That's what our leaders do when they're ready to wage war -- they manipulate people's perceptions to the point where the population believes there is no choice but to wage war, to take lives, and destroy institutions.

Have we, as a civilized world (Ha!), reached the point where we can avoid war? Not bloody likely. Not as long as a handful of politicians, bankers, and mega-rich control freaks believe they have a duty to control world populations and manage natural resources.

De-population as a concept is gaining ground. It has raised its scary head in places such as healthcare insurance, abortion rights, and yes, even banking (Banking? Yes, consider the true cause of the current Syrian civil war.).

People will disagree. That is a fact not likely to change. Ever. So, thinking that someday we'll all just be able to get along is completely naive. Remember as well that there will always be people easily persuaded to commit crimes against others in the name of patriotism or security, or even in exchange for a paycheck.

Common people, that's you and I, are controlled by what our leaders want us to believe. Their propaganda is powerful and reaches everywhere, into our churches, our schools, our jobs, and into our homes. Resisting the mass hypnosis is extremely difficult.

As long as such powerful social and political control is held over the masses, war will continue.

As you have probably heard, there is no such thing as a just war, since such mass murder and destruction can only be justified based on the self-interest of our own people.

I would suggest that we should never intervene in another country's problems -- not in Darfur, not in Rwanda, not in Kosovo -- and if we find ourselves being drawn into a martial encounter, we should not engage with agents of the provocateur. Rather, terminate those behind the conflict, those who are manipulating the masses, those who hold the political and financial strings, because it is they, not the soldiers and fighters, who ultimately cause the carnage and profit from the loss of souls.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Mensch: "person of strength and honor," 1909, from Yiddish, from Ger., lit. "man, person."

The term "mensch" literally means a "person" or "man," but it represents a moral ideal for all people, men and women alike. It means being sensitive to other people's needs and seeking out ways to help them. It is acquired by living close to family and extending one's sense of obligation beyond the family to the broader community. In the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe where the term arose, to call someone a mensch was the highest compliment that could be given.

"Any beast can cry over the misfortunes of its own child. It takes a mensch to weep for others' children."

Useless Machine

Thank you for wasting time with me.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Free-Floating Planets

Here's the stuff of hard sci-fi: Ten planets the size of Jupiter have been found which do not appear to orbit any star.

Dr Mario Perez, exoplanet program scientist at NASA's headquarters in Washington DC says, "Although free-floating planets have been predicted, they finally have been detected, holding major implications for planetary formation and evolution models."

The results of the investigation were published in the science journal Nature, and state that more than 500 such planets have been identified since 1995.

The search looked for objects between 10 and 500 astronomical units (AU) from a star. The AU is a standard measurement comprising the span between Earth and the Sun, nearly 150 million kilometres.

Jupiter is just over five AU from the Sun, while Neptune, the outermost recognised planet, is 30. The theory of planetary foundation says that planets are agglomerations of dust and gas and bound to stars, locked in orbit until the star runs out of fuel.

However, the new study suggests these distant planets threw off their gravitational bindings at an early phase. "They may have formed in proto-planetary disks, and subsequently scattered into unbound or very distant orbits."

Two teams combined to write the study and used gravitational microlensing in order to analyse tens of millions of Milky Way stars over a two year period. With this technique, a foreground star passes in front of a distant, background star. Light from the background star is magnified, carrying a telltale "light curve" that can be filtered from the foreground star.

Other papers on this subject have suggested that free-floating planets could also be formed from cold gases and dust and not require the nuclear furnace of a star to coelesce into a solitary body. (Free-Floating Planets May Be Born Free, Science Daily, Aug. 20, 2013).

Friday, October 25, 2013

On The Bike With Light Drizzle

Come Play A Game

I'm not much on pop culture. I suppose I was when I was a teenager but as you grow older you come to realize the things that are important, the things that last, have little to do with day-to-day fashion. The same goes in the world of literature. There are a ton of books out there and thousands more every day. They rest on shelves at Barnes and Noble and are attractive by their covers and their reputation. Most go unnoticed but a few are cleverly marketed and earn their authors a pretty penny before receding onto the past hits list. And then there are the wondrous few that stand alone as true works of art. Those are the ones we call literature. They contain ideas that resonate with people over time and cause people to think and sometimes even to force change.

Below is a list of the first lines of six American novels -- famous American novels. The six are listed without authorship although the year they were published is supplied. If you, my beloved readers, can name title and author two out of the six, I'll send you a digital copy of any one of my books. If you can name three, I'll send two books. Four gets you three. Five gets you four, and all six gets you five (which could be the entire Harry Irons series.). You'll have to list your answers in the comments section or email me. After the correct answers are revealed, the opportunity is over (or else I'll be giving books away for years).

Okay, good luck, and if you need a hint, drop a comment and let me know. Well, okay, here's a hint to start you off: three of the books are considered science fiction.

1. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. – (1951)

2. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. – (1984)

3. All this happened, more or less. – (1969)

4. It was a pleasure to burn. – (1953)

5. It was love at first sight. – (1961)

6. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. – (1895)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The medical term for ice cream headaches is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Ouch.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Did You Say?

Now there's no excuse for not learning an ancient language.
Go here.

Don't Give Up

Who Owns the U.S. National Debt?

When we start talking economics, you start seeing eyes glossing over and rolling back, but the thing is, our country is headed on a collission course with reality stemming from our insane government's fiscal policies. Of course, those fiscal policies are related to the perpetuation of war and poverty and all the dirty propaganda we're fed on a daily basis. But, you see, all that stuff is why talking about economics is so important. Unlike the talking heads on radio and TV, the numbers don't lie.

I'll try to make this as painless as possible, so here we go. First, a little throught provocation: did you know it would take 170 billion $100-bills to pay off the U.S. debt? I didn't either until I stumbled across it.

So, when we hear about the US national debt, what the heck are we talking about? Who owns the U.S. National Debt? Well, the U.S. debt is more than $17 trillion. If the truth were to be known, it's probably much higher, but let's not quibble. Most news headlines focus on how much the U.S. owes China. In fact, China is the largest foreign owner of U.S. debt. However, the biggest single owner of national debt is our own Social Security Trust Fund, aka your retirement money.

You see, the U.S. Treasury manages the U.S. debt (among other things) through its Bureau of the Public Debt. The Bureau has broken out the debt into two main categories: Intragovernmental Holdings ($4.8 trillion) and Debt Held by the Public ($11.9 trillion).

Intragovernmental Holdings - Just under one-third of the Federal debt is owed to about 230 other Federal agencies. How does this happen? Some agencies, like the Social Security Trust Fund, take in more revenue from taxes than they need. Rather than stick this cash into a savings account, these agencies buy U.S. Treasuries with it.

This action effectively transfers excess cash to the general fund, where it can be spent. Of course, one day they will redeem their Treasury notes for cash. The Federal government will either need to raise taxes, or issue more debt, to give the agencies the cash they will need.

And which agencies own the most Treasuries? Social Security, by a long shot. Here's the detailed breakdown:

1. Social Security (Social Security Trust Fund and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund) - $2.764 trillion
2. Office of Personnel Management (Federal Employees Retirement, Life Insurance, Hospital Insurance Trust Funds, Postal Service Retiree Contributions) - $826.8 billion
3. Military Retirement Fund - $419.5 billion.
4. Uniformed Services Retiree Health Care Fund - $189 billion.
5. Dept. of Health and Human Services (Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund) - $260 billion
6. Department of Energy - $54.8 billion.
7. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - $33 billion
8. Department of Labor (Unemployment Trust Fund) - $30 billion
9. Department of the Treasury (Exchange Stabilization Fund) - $26 billion
10. Other Programs and Funds - $260 billion. (Source: Treasury Bulletin, Monthly Treasury Statement, Table 6. Schedule D-Investments of Federal Government Accounts in Federal Securities, August 30, 2013)

Now, for the debt held by the public - Foreign governments and investors hold about half of the nation's public debt. A little over one-fifth is held by other governmental entities, like the Federal Reserve and state and local governments. Fifteen percent is held by mutual funds, private pension funds, savings bonds or individual Treasury notes. The rest is held by businesses, like banks, and insurance companies and a mish-mash of trusts, businesses and investors. Here's the breakout:

1. Foreign - $5.724 trillion
2. Federal Reserve - $1.794 trillion
3. State and Local Government, including their pension funds - $703.5 billion
4. Mutual Funds - $946.4 billion
5. Private Pension Funds - $457.7 billion
6. Banks - $341.4 billion
7. Insurance Companies - $263.3 billion
8. U.S. Savings Bonds - $181.7 billion
9. Other (individuals, government-sponsored enterprises, brokers and dealers, bank personal trusts and estates, corporate and non-corporate businesses, and other investors) - $1.497 trillion. (Sources: Federal Reserve, Factors Affecting Reserve Balance, March 28, 2013; Treasury Bulletin, Ownership of Federal Securities, Table OFS-2, as of March 2013)

This debt is not only Treasury bills, notes, and bonds but also TIPS, Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.

As you can see, if you add up debt held by Social Security, and all the retirement and pension funds, nearly half of the U.S. Treasury debt is held in trust for people's retirements. If the U.S. default on its debt, foreign investors would be angry, but the greatest harm would befall the average U.S. citizen. That's you and me, sweetheart.

Why Does the Federal Reserve Own Treasury Debt? Good question. I'm glad you asked. As the nation's central bank, the Federal Reserve is in charge of the country's credit, so it really doesn't have a financial reason to own Treasury notes. So why did it double its holdings between 2007 and 2013? Well, that's when it began its program of Quantitative Easing (QE). It stimulated the economy in order to escape the grasp of the 2009 recession by purchasing more Treasury notes. This stoked demand for Treasuries and kept interest rates low.

The Fed's been criticized for simply monetizing the debt. The Fed purchases Treasuries from its member banks by using credit created out of thin air. This has the same effect as printing money. It keeps interest rates low by avoiding the high-interest rate penalty the Federal government would usually incur for excessive debt.

However, as the economy returns to normal (what's normal anymore?), the Fed announced it will taper its $85 billion-a-month purchases of Treasuries sometime in the fall of 2013. As a result, interest rates on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose from a 200-year low of 1.442% in June 2012, to around 2.9% in the summer of 2013.

As mentioned above somewhere, the breakout of foreign-held debt shows that China is the largest holder, at $1.276 trillion (as of June 2013). Japan comes in second at $1.108 trillion. The Caribbean Banking Centers have also increased their holdings in recent years, and are now third, holding $291 billion. The Bureau of International Settlements has stated that the Caribbean centers, Luxembourg (at $151 billion) and Belgium ($176 billion) are probably fronts for oil-exporting countries and hedge funds that don't want to reveal their positions. Oh, they are tricky.

The oil exporting countries have increased their holdings, and edging up to become #4 at $256 billion. Brazil is the fifth largest holder, at $254 billion. The next largest holders are Taiwan, Switzerland, Russia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, holding between $124-$186 billion each. (Source: Foreign Holding of U.S. Treasury Securities, August 15, 2013; U.S. Treasury report ”Petrodollars and Global Imbalances”, February 2006)

China has increased its holding, from $1.147 trillion in the last year alone. Despite what you may hear, they are not too concerned that the U.S. will default on its debt. China wants to keep the value of the dollar high. This makes its own currency, the yuan, relatively cheaper by comparison. That helps China's exports to the U.S. seem more affordable, which helps its economy grow. That's why, despite China's occasional threats to sell its holdings, it's happy to be America's biggest banker, and largest foreign owner of U.S. debt.

I know this stuff gets thick and hard to understand, but as one of the millions of US taxpayers who are footing the bill, it behooves you to understand how we are being fleeced by our own leaders.

If this information frightens you and you're looking for a way out, I have the solution and will share it. No charge. As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And So It Goes

Did You Know...

In 2001, Beaver College changed its name to Arcadia in part because anti-porn filters blocked access to the school's website.

Make My Day

My stool 2nd from right.
I had an invitation last evening -- uncommon for a loner like me -- so I packed up and journeyed to the local watering hole where I made my way through smoke and the sound of striking pool balls to the bar where I sat and ordered my favorite beverage. The clientele was friendly enough, native Texans all, so I felt comfortable as a semi-stranger. My companion greeted me nervously I thought, but I tend to put folks on edge until I stroke their feathers. And so I stroked and was rewarded by being introduced to the locals as a famous writer which, of course, embarrassed me to no end.

The evening passed quickly with my drinking partner glued to her smartphone and surrounded by ladies who appraised me critically with sidelong glances. Before I knew it, my partner was gone, without a hello-good-bye-how-do-you-do and I was once again stranded and inebriated with nothing to show but a bar bill.

Uno mas, por favor.
A young dude flopped beside me and we exchanged drunken pleasantries about our lives until that too suddenly turned acerbic and nasty when said dude accused me of lying about my veteran's status and history. I tried to tell him he was mistaken but his rhetoric rose and was greeted with my fighter's temperment and naturally I was ready to throw down in order to uphold my honor. Fortunately (for him), when he slapped his VA card on the bar top, I raised him with my own VA card and a military challenge coin at which point he felt compelled to rush out to his vehicle to fetch his own challenge coins. By then, I didn't give a damn about his service time -- he was the one who had called me a liar and I had proven to him not only was he incorrect but he acted the ass to boot. I was inches from breaking his face but in the clarity of morning light, I know I would have been handcuffed and hauled off by the local storm troopers for kicking the ass of a favored son whose only problem was having a big mouth, a quick temper, and nothing to back it up.

Still, the worst part of the entire experience was my female friend's sudden disappearance. Under any other circumstance, I would judge that I had fallen short as a date, as a man, even as a human being, and so indeed that hollow feeling came to call only to be replaced by the anger of being branded a liar. Good times.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Graft and Corruption

You know what corruption is, right? It is when someone turns away from doing the correct thing and it is usually done for personal gain, monetary or otherwise. The term is commonly used to describe the misuse of a position of trust, usually in reference to political corruption. That is, the illegitimate use of government powers by officials either for their personal purposes or to gain more political power.

Practically all governments are steeped in corruption. Local, state, and federal. To believe otherwise is naive. The corruption takes many forms like bribery (influence the recipient by offering money or gifts), patronage (favoring supporters by granting financial aid or favors) and graft (offering money). All forms of corruption are illegal and punishable under the law; however, we're talking about the people who administer the law, so in effect, they hide behind their own authority and use the power invested in their office to protect themselves.

Graft and corruption is shared by like-minded individuals and is driven by a love for money and power. It is because of money and power that many politicians make politics a family business. Think of the Bush's, or the Clintons, or the Kennedys.

Anything that is illegal becomes a source of corruption for government officials. Take drug trafficking. Most everywhere, the distribution and sale of illegal drugs is banned but there are many public officials who are prepared to accept money in exchange for favors to drug trafficars, in order to allow underground trading. The money involved is huge and remember, it is untraceable. Quite a temptation. It is rumored and somewhat documented that most of the modern day political powers that be are hooked into one drug cartel or another. The profits from the corrupt exchange fuel elections and continue the round of pay-offs at every government level.

In most places, before a government job opening is advertised to the public, the job is already offered to someone on the inside, someone who can be trusted not to expose the corruption. That way, everything is kept within "the family". Government officials, including law enforcement, will take bribes from anyone rich enough to offer money. And do, eligible candidates desiring to run for office are often neglected while the recruitment of non-deserving candidates is rampant.

The outcome of political corruption is obvious -- it is tyranny and rule by gang, a kleptocracy. Short-sighted do-gooders claim the only way to prevent graft and corruption is through constant and regular vigilance, using surprise auditing and inspections. Yet, when the corruption has reached the levels where it is in every level of government and the innocent are out-numbered by the corrupt and powerful, even the enforcers, the auditors and inspectors, can no longer be trusted. So, what's the solution? Nothing short of a complete system breakdown. And what does that mean? Use your imagination.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Be A Crook by Larken Rose

Albert Sidney Johnston

I went to junior high school a long time ago at Albert Sidney Johnston Junior High in Houston, Texas. In those days, junior high included grades 7, 8, and 9. I was young for a seventh grader, only eleven when school started, so I probably got pushed around a little more than my share. All the same, I loved being a Greyhound -- that was the school mascot. Our motto was "Safety, Respect, Responsibility" and the school colors were purple and grey. I still have a purple and grey school patch in the form of a racing greyhound. The school song went like this:

"Albert, O Sidney Johnston,
We will be loyal to thee for ay.
Holding high our banner, the royal purple and the gray.
Onward we are marching to win new victories for you.
Hail the school we love forever!
We pledge our hands and hearts anew."

I had a lot of school spirit and ran on the track team and entered some swim meets if I recall correctly. I didn't play football until high school but I was probably on the small side anyway -- being one of the youngest kids in my class. The two guys who bullied me without mercy were Rusty Thompson and Max Robbins. I've tried to look up Rusty over the years in order to tell him what a tool he was, but I was never able to find him. I figure he's either been in prison the entire time or executed by the Houston PD. I found Max on the internet and have been tempted to just show up at his house and challenge him to a game of what's-up, but something tells me his life cratered anyway. Why do I want to add to his miseries?

On the other hand, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if both those guys turned out to be cops.

Anybody else out there live through episodes of bullying? I'll bet Albert Sidney Johnston was never bullied. I didn't know who he was when I was going to school there (What can I say? I was a clueless kid.) but I found out later he was a famous soldier. Here's his bio:

JOHNSTON, ALBERT SIDNEY (1803–1862). Albert Sidney Johnston, Confederate general, son of John and Abigail (Harris) Johnston, was born at Washington, Kentucky, on February 2, 1803. He attended Transylvania University before he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in June 1826. He served at Sackett's Harbor, New York, in 1826, with the Sixth Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in 1827, and as regimental adjutant in the Black Hawk War. On January 20, 1829, he married Henrietta Preston. Because of his wife's illness, he resigned his commission on April 22, 1834, and farmed near St. Louis in 1835. She died on August 12, 1835. In 1836 Johnston moved to Texas and enlisted as a private in the Texas Army. On August 5, 1836, he was appointed adjutant general by Thomas Jefferson Rusk and on January 31, 1837, he became senior brigadier general in command of the army to replace Felix Huston. A duel with Huston resulted; Johnston was wounded and could not immediately take the command. On December 22, 1838, he was appointed secretary of war for the Republic of Texas by President Mirabeau B. Lamar, and in December 1839 he led an expedition against the Cherokee Indians in East Texas. On March 1, 1840, Johnston returned to Kentucky, where, on October 3, 1843, he married Eliza Griffin, a cousin of his first wife. They returned to Texas to settle at China Grove Plantation in Brazoria County.

During the Mexican War he was colonel of the First Texas Rifle Volunteers and served with W. O. Butler as inspector general at Monterrey, Mexico. On December 2, 1849, Johnston became paymaster in the United States Army and was assigned to the Texas frontier. He went with William S. Harney to the Great Plains in 1855, and on April 2, 1856, he was appointed colonel of the Second Cavalry. In 1858 Johnston received command of a Utah expedition to escort a new territorial governor and three judges to Salt Lake City and to establish a military presence, due to Morman resistance of federal authority. He set up Camp Scott near the ruins of Fort Bridger in the fall of 1858, and later selected a site southwest of Salt Lake City for a permanent camp—Camp Floyd which was dedicated in November of 1859. Johnston remained in charge of Camp Floyd until 1860 when he was sent to the Pacific Department and stationed at San Francisco. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, he resigned his commission in the United States Army, refused the federal government's offer of a command, and returned overland to Texas.

In Austin 1861 Jefferson Davis appointed Johnston a general in the Confederate Army and in September assigned him command of the Western Department. Johnston issued a call for men and formed and drilled an army, but it lacked men and organization, had a huge area to defend, and could not control the rivers that were vital to military success in the region. In February 1862, following Federal victories on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, he moved his line of defense to the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, and later to Corinth, Mississippi. On April 6, 1862, he was killed while leading his forces at the battle of Shiloh. He was temporarily buried at New Orleans. By special appropriation, the Texas Legislature, in January 1867, had his remains transferred to Austin for burial in the State Cemetery. In 1905 a stone monument executed by noted sculptor Elisabet Ney was erected at the site.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.

Now, if you're anything like me, you're probably saying whoa, wait a minute, that could be a lot of people. Why, that could even be me! Well, read on and decide if you fit the bill because you know what? A lot of people do. However, this condition only affects one percent of the population. So, read through the article and, at the end, appraise yourself.

First formulated in 1968, it was historically called megalomania, and is also described as severe egocentrism.

The use of the term "narcissism" to describe excessive vanity and self-centeredness predates by many years the modern medical classification of narcissistic personality disorder. The condition was named after a mythological Greek youth named Narcissus who became infatuated with his own reflection in a lake. He did not realize at first that it was his own reflection, but when he did, he died from grief after falling in love with someone that did not exist outside of himself. This is not the only version of the myth, but it is one of the more popular ones.

The term "narcissistic personality structure" was introduced by Kernberg in 1967 and "narcissistic personality disorder" first proposed by Heinz Kohut in 1968.

Those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are characterized by unwarranted feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy. These qualities are usually defenses against a deep feeling of inferiority and of being unloved.

Symptoms of this disorder include the following:

1. Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments.
2. Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others.
3. Envies others and believes others envy him/her.
4. Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence.
5. Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others.
6. Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior.
7. Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic.

Per the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, which is in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:

1. Believing that you're better than others.
2. Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness.
3. Exaggerating your achievements or talents.
4. Expecting constant praise and admiration.
5. Believing that you're special and acting accordingly.
6. Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings.
7. Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans.
8. Taking advantage of others.
9. Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior.
10. Being jealous of others.
11. Believing that others are jealous of you.
12. Trouble keeping healthy relationships.
13. Setting unrealistic goals.
14. Being easily hurt and rejected.
15. Having a fragile self-esteem.
16. Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional.

In addition to these symptoms, the person may display arrogance, show superiority, and seek power. The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can be similar to the traits of individuals with strong self-esteem and confidence; differentiation occurs when the underlying psychological structures of these traits are considered pathological. Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others, when in reality they have a fragile self-esteem, cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth. It is this tendency that is characteristic of narcissism as opposed to other psychological conditions affecting level of self-worth.

In children, inflated self-views and grandiose feelings, which are characteristics of narcissism, are part of the normal self-development. Children typically cannot understand the difference between their actual and their ideal self, which causes an unrealistic perception of the self. After about age 8, views of the self, both positive and negative, begin to develop based on comparisons of peers, and become more realistic. Two factors that cause self-view to remain unrealistic are dysfunctional interactions with parents that can be either excessive attention or a lack thereof. The child will either compensate for lack of attention or act in terms of unrealistic self-perception.

The Childhood Narcissism Scale (CNS) measurements concluded that narcissistic children seek to impress others and gain admiration but do not have any interest in creating sincere friendships. Pathological lies and interpersonal exploitation are hallmarks of narcissism. CNS researchers have measured that childhood narcissism has become more prevalent in Western society; any types of activities that focus on overly praising the individual can raise narcissistic levels. More research is needed to find the reasons that promote or protect against narcissism.

Here are some well-known narcissists:

Saddam Hussein
Joseph Stalin
Adolf Hitler
Kim Jong Il
Pol Pot
Benito Mussolini
Ted Bundy

All but Ted Bundy were political leaders. Makes me wonder if Bundy would have been successful in politics. Politicians and mass murderers. They're almost interchangeable, eh? Now, can you think of anyone else?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Heroes and Villains

The Arkansas School for the Deaf's nickname is the Leopards. The Deaf Leopards.

While we're on the topic of pop music, did you know Barry Manilow did not write his hit "I Write the Songs"? He did, however, write State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbor" jingle as well as "I am stuck on Band-Aids, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me."

"I Write the Songs" was written by Bruce Johnston in 1975. Manilow's version reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1976 after spending two weeks atop the Billboard adult contemporary chart in December 1975. It won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year and was nominated for Record of the Year in 1977.

The original version was recorded by The Captain & Tennille, who worked with Bruce Johnston in the early 1970s with The Beach Boys. It appears on their 1975 album, Love Will Keep Us Together. Conversely, the first release of "I Write the Songs" as a single was by then teen-idol David Cassidy from his 1975 solo album The Higher They Climb, which, incidentally, was also produced by Bruce Johnston. Cassidy's version reached #11 on the UK Singles Chart in August of that year.

Johnston, has stated that, for him, the "I" in the song is "God" and that songs come from the spirit of creativity in all of us. He also has said that the song is not about his Beach Boys bandmate Brian Wilson.

And that brings me to this marvelous rendition of "Heroes and Villains" featuring the amazing Brian Wilson himself. Enjoy, and remember that at one time or another you'll have been either a hero or a villain to someone.