Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In 1942 Congress changed the flag code because our salute looked just a little too Nazi-like

Schoolchildren using the Bellamy salute prior to 1942.

    There was a time when Americans saluted the flag with their right arms stretched out. The stiff-arm salute was known as the “Bellamy Salute,” as it was created by the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy.
Francis Bellamy
    Bellamy, an extreme socialist, wrote the pledge in the 1890s with the idea that it would encourage patriotism for schoolchildren to recite it every day. The Bellamy salute was intended to be non-militaristic. In the photo above, the schoolchildren have their palms facing upward. When properly executed, the palm should vertical. I’ve seen a number of photos and videos of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge with their palms facing downward, identical to the Nazi salute.
    It was this similarity to the Nazi salute that caused Congress to modify the Flag Code in 1942 to change the salute to the flag to the hand being held over the heart. I’ve seen several photos, probably taken right after the change, that show children with their hands over their hearts in a “salute” position rather than flat over the heart as practiced today.
    It is unfortunate that almost any politician who waves at a large crowd is at some point going to give a wave or salute that looks similar to a Nazi salute. Extreme bodybuilders have trouble fully straightening their arms, and perhaps politicians should make a point to wear an elbow brace to keep their right arm from extending all the way out lest their opponents use the opportunity to portray them as a Nazi.
Edward Bellamy
    My father mentioned to me years ago a book by Francis Bellamy’s brother, Edward, called Looking Backward 2000-1887 (free on Kindle). It’s a Utopian, Rip-Van-Winkle-style novel that he was assigned in college by his favorite professor, Jim Silver, in which a man wakes up to find an America vastly changed from the dog-eat-dog capitalism of 1887. Both Bellamys were quasi-Communists, but the book nevertheless has some amazingly spot-on predictions and interesting observations.
    For example, the book describes a type of credit card, and a shopping system where all goods could be reviewed and delivered overnight by pneumatic tube (in fact, I think such a system was used by the French postal system in Paris); sort of like today’s Internet shopping. Radio had not been invented at the time the book was written, but Bellamy envisioned a wired (cable!) system that would allow people to listen to 25 stations, including some of the finest concerts, in their homes.
    In Year 2000 Boston umbrellas have become obsolete. Our Rip-Van-Winkle protagonist, Julian West, is surprised to discover that the streets have covers that are extended when it rains, thus eliminating the need for an umbrella. His modern-era companion, Edith Leete, expressed a bit of skepticism as to whether streets were ever full of people holding individual umbrellas. I found the passage interesting, certainly reflective of Bellamy’s ideology, and thus share a few paragraphs (emphasis added):

    . . . I was much surprised when at the dinner hour the ladies appeared prepared to go out, but without either rubbers or umbrellas.
    The mystery was explained when we found ourselves on the street, for a continuous waterproof covering had been let down so as to inclose the sidewalk and turn it into a well lighted and perfectly dry corridor, which was filled with a stream of ladies and gentlemen dressed for dinner. At the comers the entire open space was similarly roofed in. Edith Leete, with whom I walked, seemed much interested in learning what appeared to be entirely new to her, that in the stormy weather the streets of the Boston of my day had been impassable, except to persons protected by umbrellas, boots, and heavy clothing. “Were sidewalk coverings not used at all?” she asked. They were used, I explained, but in a scattered and utterly unsystematic way, being private enterprises. She said to me that at the present time all the streets were provided against inclement weather in the manner I saw, the apparatus being rolled out of the way when it was unnecessary. She intimated that it would be considered an extraordinary imbecility to permit the weather to have any effect on the social movements of the people.
    Dr. Leete, who was walking ahead, overhearing something of our talk, turned to say that the difference between the age of individualism and that of concert was well characterized by the fact that, in the nineteenth century, when it rained, the people of Boston put up three hundred thousand umbrellas over as many heads, and in the twentieth century they put up one umbrella over all the heads.
    As we walked on, Edith said, “The private umbrella is father's favorite figure to illustrate the old way when everybody lived for himself and his family. There is a nineteenth century painting at the Art Gallery representing a crowd of people in the rain, each one holding his umbrella over himself and his wife, and giving his neighbors the drippings, which he claims must have been meant by the artist as a satire on his times.” 
    Bellamy’s Utopia relies on a high degree of statist force, although this is subtly indicated in the novel. And the author is convinced that one of society’s major economic problems is too little centralized control over the economy. He believes everything would work better without the pesky free market and the silly duplication of goods and services it produces. Incredibly dumb, but people didn’t know that in 1887.
    Despite its silly economics, Looking Backward is an interesting and insightful book and I suggest it to anyone. As for Bellamy salute? Probably better to skip it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Spinbrush "Deluxe" was a superior product, but it disappeared from the market

These are better than regular Spinbrushes, but you can't find them!
     I remember when they came out with the “Spinbrush” toothbrush. For $6 I thought it was the greatest thing ever. And then one day I spied the “Spinbrush Deluxe” for about $14 and decided to try it. It was one of the best toothbrushes I’ve ever used. I talked my father, who hated to spend money, into buying one, and he said it was the best toothbrush he ever had.
    Instead of having one spinning head the Deluxe Spinbrush has seven small spinning heads. It left my teeth feeling twice as clean as a plain old Spinbrush. I loved it.
    Spinbrushes have had a rather convoluted marketing cycle. They came on the market as an independent product. Then Proctor & Gamble bought the company, with the purchase price to be established by future sales. Bad idea, since sales were astronomical, costing the company a fortune. P&G later sold the company to Arm & Hammer at a loss in order to satisfy EU anti-trust regulators. That’s why the brand has changed so many times.
    Because Spinbrushes were so cheap I tended to be quite careless with them. If a Spinbrush got lost or left somewhere I simply bought another one. To my dismay, I found a couple of years ago that the Spinbrush Deluxe had disappeared from the shelves at Wal-Mart. I don’t know why, but they are no longer there. It’s been a real disappointment.
    The other day I was cleaning out a box and found an almost-new Spinbrush Deluxe. Oh Happy Day! That’s when I decided to do a little Google research and learn about why the branding on the Spinbrush had changed so much, thus my ability to share the story above.
    I also did some shopping on Amazon and found that replacement heads for the Spinbrush Deluxe are readily available, so I’m buying some. It’s now called the “Spinbrush Sonic Truly Radiant.” The toothbrushes are also sold on Amazon, for a whopping $50!
    I wasn’t about to pay $50 for a backup toothbrush, so I checked prices on eBay and found them for $15, or a buck more than what I used to pay at Wal-Mart. I bought several and they arrived today. I gave one to each of the children to take to college.
    If you want one of these, you better head to eBay while the getting is good!

    Addendum: Well, I ordered another dozen Spin Brushes from eBay and they were exactly what I wanted. The only problem was they arrived as a "gift" from Amazon. I returned to Amazon to search once again without luck, until I added the phrase "12 pack." Up jumped a package of 12 of these beauties for $130.72. Now that Amazon charges tax I think the total would come to roughly $140, or $11.65 each. I paid $173 on eBay, so somebody made a quick $30 at my expense.
    Given how hard these toothbrushes are to find, it's probably worthwhile to go ahead and buy a dozen and give one to every member of the family while saving the rest for future travel, etc. My son loves his so much that he demanded to know why I didn't care about his dental hygiene before now!

   Here's the link to the Amazon 12-pack:

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump right again: transexuals have no place in military, or anywhere else for that matter

    President Trump was right once again, this time by announcing a ban of transexuals in the military. Money that ought to go towards defending our country shouldn’t be spent on sex-change operations for people who are confused about their gender.
    There is an unfortunate tendency to conflate the gay rights movement with the transgender movement. One can be fully or partially supportive of gay rights while being totally opposed to the abomination known as the transgender movement.
    Most young transgendered people are in fact male homosexuals who seek to change their gender to make themselves attractive to other males. It effect transgendered people are homophobes who are unwilling to engage in a same sex-relationship with the objects of their desires. Those who accept and endorse the transgender movement society endorse homophobia.
    These people think changing their gender is going to bring about some type of eternal bliss. The problem comes when they transition – overwhelmingly from male to female – and find themselves completely unwanted in the mating game. Someone who truly appears to be a woman is not going to attract a gay male. That same "woman" is not going to attract a heterosexual male either when she admits that she is toting a penis rather than a vagina. So these so-called women now attract no one; if they had remained male they could have engaged in a gay relationship.
Nobody will sleep with them! Why?
    Stories of the frustrations of transgendered “former” males are legion; just Google it. And they are very loud about declaring that heterosexual males have a duty to sleep with them. Well, no; just no! Many of these people look like absolute freaks. Sometimes massive amounts of money and skillful surgery can do wonders, but many people end up being “females” with male body parts, and that is the prize nobody wants. This is truly confusing to ultra-leftists, as revealed by the sad but comical Vice column, "Why Can't My Famous Gender Nonconforming Friends Get Laid?"
   It’s truly insanity on a national scale when we allow teen-age boys to declare themselves to be female and immediately start competing in sports against girls who haven’t had the benefit of massive amounts of muscle- and bone-building testosterone for several years. It’s insanity when we decide that men have the right to just wake up and declare themselves a woman and start using the women’s rest room. Such rules make it absolutely impossible to enforce laws against voyeurism, since any person arrested can simply declare themselves “transgendered.”
    The language these people use is a study in weirdness. They speak of cis-ness and binary and non-binary and believe there are 62 genders. Real human beings don’t know what a “cis” is and don’t want to know. These people are ill.
    There are people who “identify” as amputees and try to do whatever they can to lose a limb. Some people “identify” as being blind, and I’ve read of at least one poor soul who poured lye in her eyes to make her body fit her perceived reality. We should pity these people, but we shouldn’t aid and abet them. If an adult engages with sex with children, should he be able to claim as a valid defense the fact that he “identifies” as a child? No! He’s factually adult, just as each of us is factually a male or a female (save for rare medical cases of ambiguous gender).
    All of this sickness just needs to stop. As a society we should have a public policy of encouraging people to make the most of the bodies they have. This should include condemnation of the homophobia that is fueling the transgender movement.
    Insofar as the military is concerned, it's not unreasonable to expect recruits to decide whether they are a man or a woman before enlisting. Recruits should pay for any gender shenanigans out of their own pockets before enlisting instead of endangering our national defense and depleting our national treasury by demanding expensive sex-change operations on the public dime. It's not too much to ask. It really isn't.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To see Russia on the cheap and easy, take the St. Peter Line ferry from Helsinki

    Getting a Russian visa is one of those things that makes most Americans just not go. A single-entry visa costs $123 and involves the cost and hassle of getting an official letter of invitation. A multiple-entry visa costs $303 and lasts for three years. Both require a lot of patience or the use of a visa processing agency.
    One exception to Russia’s strict visa rules is for visitors who arrive by ship, who get 72 hours visa-free. So those not wanting to spend a lot of money and effort on a visa can just buy a cruise! Except that’s not a very economical option, either. And cruise lines hold their passengers hostage to only taking official ship tours – nothing is worse. I like to see places on my own, not surrounded with a bus load of other people.
    We decided to try the one cheap option to visit St. Petersburg, which is to take a ferry operated by St. Peter Line. Our round-trip from Helsinki to St. Petersburg on the “Princess Anastasia” cost a total of 380 euros for the four of us and included a very small four-person cabin each way. Travel time was about 18 hours each way, but we spent quite a while in port in St. Petersburg on each end, turning that into about 24 hours, as the ferry holds you on board to make sure no one violates the 72-hour rule. The Russian visa-free rules require the purchase of an official “tour,” an obligation we satisfied by purchasing a 25-euro bus ride from the ship to and from the center of town.

    I’m not sure what image a “ferry” conjures in the typical traveler’s mind, but at one time the thought wasn’t too appealing. The fact is, however, that there are some pretty nice ferries out there. Think of the “Princess Anastasia” as a bottom-of-the-line cruise ship, with decent restaurants, bars, a show or two, and even kids' entertainment. Our stateroom was incredibly small, but since it was for such a short trip we survived. One travel tip: Pack everyone’s toiletries and a change of clothes in a separate bag so there will be no need to access each suitcase; there isn’t room to open them all up at once. There are, by the way, larger and more luxurious staterooms, but we were traveling on a budget.
    It's always easy to bust a budget. The ferry has some budget dining options as well as a couple of nice restaurants. We ended up eating at the nicer places, thus running up our tab, although I should note that dinner at one of the "nicer" restaurants with a couple of glasses of wine cost $85; so the food wasn't unreasonably priced. I think a beer or drink cost about $4.50, which is less than on the typical cruise ship.
    We had absolutely no problem navigating St. Petersburg on our own. We rented a very nice and large two-bedroom apartment through Booking.com for about $450 for three nights. A data sim card for my mifi hotspot cost four dollars for five gigabytes (I kid you not!). Food and drink were reasonable and Uber rides cost about $1.50 each. Everyone loves America and our president.
    For our return journey we de-boarded the ferry at Tallin instead of Helsinki; this cost an extra 10 euros each and allowed us to sleep until 11 a.m. Tallin is worth a visit, too, but I’ll leave to another day or another blogger.
    The best way to book is on the St. Peter Line site. The company does sell “cruises,” which I don’t recommend. Instead, book a ferry trip with a return three days after arrival. You are allowed exactly 72 hours in Russia without a visa, so don’t be late on your return.

The bars were like those on a cruise ship

Almost a kid's club!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Delbert Hosemann's poke in Donald Trump's eye may prove costly in next election

    Love him or hate him, but Donald Trump has rearranged the political order of both parties. The old politics simply aren’t going to work any more.
    Trump has appointed an Election Integrity Commission to investigate the rampant voter fraud that has been taking place in virtually every state and national election for years. How could any honest person complain? Obviously those with a vested interest in promoting voter fraud don’t want to cooperate.
    Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann responded to the Election Commission’s request for information by telling them to “Go jump in the Gulf.” There was a time when a response like this to a federal demand would earn a Mississippi politician an easy ride in the next election. I think Hosemann is going to learn that the rules have changed. Most Mississippians support Donald Trump and want to put an end to voter fraud.
    It’s important to note that all of the information requested by the commission is public record or information the government already has. For example, the federal government already has our social security numbers – there’s no need for the state to withhold these.
    Whether intentionally or not, Hosemann has thrown his support behind those who want to rig our nations elections. In 2014 Hosemann did everything he could to prevent a proper investigation of the Thad Cochran-Chris McDaniel senate race, which was a giant fraud-fest. The bottom line is that by both word and deed Delbert Hosemann supports voter fraud.
    Hosemann will find out soon enough that Donald Trump has more support in Mississippi than he does. My hope is that his political career is over.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Our $99 trans-Atlantic fare saved us money, but the costs are much higher than they might seem

    The family and I recently journeyed to Europe on one of those ultra-cheapo fares that Norwegian Airlines is now offering from Stewart, New York, to various locales in Europe. If we had been willing to pack really light, sit in middle seats, and carry our own sandwich on board we could have made the trip from Stewart to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough) for $99. We wanted to check bags, sit together, and eat something, so we ended up paying $193.50 each for our flight over the pond.
    For our roughly $95 extra we each got to check a bag, which was certainly worth $40, a surprisingly good meal, which was worth $25, and the ability not to all sit in center seats next to strangers, which was worth $500,000.
    I thought it might be interesting to analyze how much money we actually saved by going through a great deal of effort to journey to New York to get a cheapo fare. Fares out of Memphis to Europe are rarely less than $1,500 round-trip, so I think that’s a good benchmark.
    We’re flying home on TAP Portugal (a very comfortable airline with reasonably wide seats), Barcelona-Newark at a cost of $236.77 each, plus an additional $30 each for seat assignments, for a total of $266.77. So our open-jaw from New York to Europe cost $460.27 each. Add to that the $20 cost of the shuttle bus to the Stewart, New York, airport, and the cost rises to $480.27.
    We now run into a bit of a problem. Our flight took us to Edinburgh, which was in no way on our sightseeing itinerary. Do we count travel time from Edinburgh as part of the trip? I’m not going to, because we enjoyed our stay and were able to visit with one of Jinny’s high school roommates. However, the flight to Helsinki, which was our ultimate destination, cost us $200 each, which really smarted.
    Our costs aren’t over. We had to get to New York. As it worked out, we started our trip immediately after daughter Lucy’s college orientation, and so it was practical (and much cheaper) to fly out of New Orleans, which we could do for 10,000 Delta Skymiles each way, or 80,000 Skymiles. Since Skymiles are said to be worth 1.2 cents each, that’s roughly $960, or $240 each. Oh, and the parking was roughly $240.
    So where are we now? $480.27 for the round-trip, plus $240 for the Skymiles, plus $60 for parking. Add to that $35 each for hotel points for a hotel in New York, plus about $20 each for taxi fare, and our round-trip fare to Europe comes out to about $835. As I said before, one would be hard pressed to find a comparable fare from Memphis for less than $1,500 or perhaps even $2,000, but $835 is a lot more than the low-sounding $99 over and $249 back that I started out with.
    After all is said and done I think we got the cheapest fare possible booking about three months out. But there are frequently round-trip fares from Chicago to Europe in the $600-700 range, and it might be a better deal for a family to simply drive to Chicago and grab one of these – if they are available, of course.
    There’s not really a moral to this story, save that when booking cheap fares in far-flung cities one should be careful to add up all the ancillary costs involved in accessing the fares. In our case we saved money, but one should be careful lest these low fare deals turn out to be a fool’s bargain.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

With a photo snap the world's great paintings can become unique art for your home

This painting is in the British Museum and is pretty unusual.
    If you would like to have original prints and artwork for your home at a really cheap price, you might be interested in my recent experiment, which I think worked out great.
    While visiting the British Museum a few months ago I snapped a photo of a large painting drawn on the occasion of the coronation of Ethiopian Emporor Haile Selassie in 1930. I was planning to try to make a copy of the painting, so I made a point of trying to get a straight and level shot.
    Museums are full of really neat paintings, and while the museums might try to claim reproduction rights to these, the fact is that the museums have no rights at all if the paintings are out of copyright -- the older paintings are in the public domain. In the case of the Ethiopian painting, there was no copyright law in Ethiopia at the time it was created, but even so, under current Ethiopian law any copyright would have expired after 50 years as it is an anonymous work.
    A few weeks ago I got around to doing some photo editing. I decided to have the painting reprinted on a 16x20 canvas from Wal-Mart, as the cost was only $30. That meant I had to chop off the two side panels, which showed various animals living peacefully ever after, keeping just the main section. I had never used the “skew” function of Photoshop, but this is important, as it will help make your painting into a perfect “square” or “rectangle,” essentially removing any distance distortion that was created from your camera angle.
    After a bit of tinkering, I put the print on a Wal-Mart canvas. I actually had to “undersize” the print by about five percent, leaving a white border all the way around it, as this ended up being cut off; if you don't do this, you will lose part of your picture. With luck and a bit of trial and error, I was able to get the little rope border on the painting to appear on the side of the canvas, at the very edge of the frame, which I think looks neat.
Rope border worked perfectly
    I made this painting for my son, Ash, to put in his dorm room. Daughter Lucy has demanded one of her own. I am going to experiment with some other companies that do canvas prints, and perhaps go ahead and pay up to get a larger version that will include the chopped off side panels.
    In addition to creating unique art for personal use, I would think one could make a little extra money by finding neat paintings and later reproducing them on canvas. Some people call this cultural appropriation, which is a great thing to do because it makes liberals mad, so have fun with art!

The final product, perfect for home or dorm room