Tuesday, May 17, 2022

God’s in his Heaven; all’s right with the world

It's still only May but summer is arriving early as we speak. The weather this week has been magnificent with clear blue skies, occasional fluffy white clouds floating lazily along, and warm afternoons in the 80s. I pulled the seat and back cushions for the patio chairs out of the garage and set them up without even being asked/told to. I retrieved the collapsible umbrella for the patio table from its spot next to the 8-ft. ladder and set it up as well. Mrs. RWP and I have enjoyed coffee and cookies in the pleasant surroundings more than once while songbirds in the trees filled the air with their music.

It's easy to believe that no war is occurring in the Ukraine, no starvation in third-world countries, no mass shootings in Buffalo grocery stores, no deaths from Covid-19, no forest fires in California. Our afternoon reverie is other-worldly. We count our blessings, which this month include two grandchildren graduating from university summa cum laude. The only things missing are streets of gold, gates of pearl, walls of jasper. We are bathed in peace and happiness.

The feeling is short-lived as a police or ambulance siren wails in the distance and we are returned to reality with a jolt. The world is once again a place filled with sorrow and pain, violence and subterfuge, deceit, disease, disaster, and death. We gather up our cups and go back into the house.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. Somebody famous said that nearly half a millenium ago and it is still true. Life, such as it is, goes on. Babies are born, pets die, lunar eclipses occur. It never stops.

Robert Browning probably said it best: A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for?

Friday, May 13, 2022

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, Florida edition

Let's get the most important stuff out of the way first. On Jeopardy! last night, in a category called Aunties, not a single one of the contestants buzzed in to say "Who is Auntie Mame?" even though the clue mentioned Patrick Dennis and Rosalind Russell, nor did anyone buzz in to say "Who is Aunt Polly?" even though the clue mentioned Tom and Becky and a whitewashed fence. As the Vulcan character Mr. Spock portrayed by Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek often said, "Fascinating."

Okay, that's over with.

Today is Friday the 13th, not that it matters, and in two more days there will be a total lunar eclipse visible in the Western Hemisphere, a "super blood moon" as it is being referred to in the media because it will occur at the moon's perigee in its orbit, a mere 225,000 miles from the surface of the earth. The moon will appear to be 7% larger than at other times, not that that matters either. I thought you would want to know.

Moving right along....

When our family lived in Florida back in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, the first number on an automobile license plate represented the county's rank in population among Florida's 67 counties. Every Floridian worth his or her salt knew that 1 was Dade County (Miami), 2 was Duval County (Jacksonville), 3 was Hillsborough County (Tampa), 4 was Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), 5 was Leon County (Tallahassee), 6 was Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), 7 was Orange County (Orlando), 8 was Volusia County (Daytona Beach), 9 was Escambia County (Pensacola), and 10 was Broward County (Fort Lauderdale). After that, everything was a blur/no one could possibly care/it didn't matter about the other 57 counties.

The cost of a license plate (that is, the tax assessed) was based on the weight of the vehicle, which was reflected in the tag number by a letter of the alphabet after the county ranking number. D meant a small, economy car; no suffix meant a heavier car; W meant an even heavier car; and WW meant the heaviest car of all. An E didn't indicate weight but meant that the car was leased or rented. G meant something too, as I recall, but I forget what, which may be something of a first for my readers. I'm pulling your leg (British, joking).

Florida changed its automobile license plate scheme many years ago and today an entirely different system is in place. The most recent census in 2020 shows that Florida's population has shifted dramatically from when we lived there. For example, in 1960 Florida had 4.9 million people and was ranked 10th among the 50 states. Today Florida has 21.9 million people and is ranked 3rd among the 50 states.

Today the most populous counties in Florida bear little resemblance to the old license-plate system:

1. Dade (Miami) - 2.70 million (rank unchanged)
2. Broward (Fort Lauderdale) - 1.94 million (up from 10th place)
3. Palm Beach West Palm Beach) - 1.48 million ( up from 6th place)
4. Hillsborough (Tampa) - 1.45 million (down from 3rd place)
5. Orange (Orlando) - 1.37 million (up from 7th place)
6. Pinellas (St. Petersburg) - 970,000 (down from 4th place)
7. Duval (Jacksonville) - 948,000 (down from 2nd place)
8. Lee (Cape Coral-Fort Myers) - 756,000
9. Polk (Lakeland) - 705,000
10. Brevard (Cocoa-Titusville-Melbourne) - 594,000

Volusia (Daytona Beach), Leon (Tallahassee), and Escambia (Pensacola) have dropped out of the top ten altogether.

Demographic minutiae like today's post are interesting to me. I hope they don't bore you to tears.

I challenge you to do similar research on your own area of interest and report it on your own blog.

Because somewhere, someone will care.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Thoughts from the 19th century

Phoebe Cary (1824-1871) grew up near Cincinnatti, Ohio, and became a poet. She often gave public readings of her works in New York City that were attended by such notables as P.T. Barnum, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (so says Wikipedia). In 1852, when she was 28 years old, Phoebe wrote a poem she called "Nearer Home" that has been published in many hymnals under the title "One Sweetly Solemn Thought":

One Sweetly Solemn Thought
by Phoebe Cary (1852)

One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o’er and o’er;
Nearer my home today am I
Than e’er I’ve been before.

Nearer my Father’s house,
Where many mansions be;
Nearer today, the great white throne,
Nearer the crystal sea.

Nearer the bound of life
Where burdens are laid down;
Nearer to leave the heavy cross,
Nearer to gain the crown.

But lying dark between,
Winding down through the night,
Is the deep and unknown stream
To be crossed ere we reach the light.

Father, perfect my trust!
Strengthen my pow’r of faith!
Nor let me stand, at last, alone
Upon the shore of death.

Be Thee near when my feet
Are slipping o’er the brink;
For it may be I’m nearer home,
Nearer now than I think.

By subtracting the year of the poem's composition (1852) from the year of the poet's death (1871) we determine that Phoebe Cary lived for 19 more years after she wrote this poem. I am now 81, and if I live 19 more years I shall be 100 years old. The likelihood of my surviving that long, though certainly possible, is remote. In my own case, therefore, it is probably true that "it may be I'm nearer home, nearer now than I think."

People don't sing this sort of hymn much any more.

They probably ought to.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Today is…

...VE Day! Does anyone under the age of 60 even know what that means? Hint: In a few months it shall also be VJ Day!

Thise who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat history.

Friday, May 6, 2022

The best laid schemes [plans] o' Mice and Men

...Gang aft agley [oft go awry] according to the Scottish poet Robert Burns in his poem "To a Mouse", which he subtitled On Turning her up in her Nest, with a Plough, November 1785.

Mrs. RWP and I were planning to drive over to Alabama to see our grandson graduate from university today, but a bad weather forecast complete with lightning strikes and high winds put an end to that. We cancelled our plans last night. And now today, in real life, not as scary meteorologists on television predicted, the weather isn't bad at all. I hate it when that happens.

We had envisioned a "day trip", three hours driving over, three or four hours there, a meal with the family, and three hours driving back, with our doggie in her crate at home the entire time wondering what had happened to us. At my age such a day can be tiring and stressful, so that part would be avoided, at least. Still, we couldn't help being extremely disappointed..

At the last minute, however, our daughter learned this morning that the graduation ceremony would be live-streamed on both YouTube and the university's Facebook page. We were able to watch the entire thing from start to finish on our flat-screen TV with better than front-row seats (can you say "tele-photo lens"?), so all's well that ends well. Modern technology is truly remarkable.

A blogger named Rachel put up a new post yesterday with the title "I think therefore I am" which is an English translation of what Rene Descartes actually said, first in French way back in 1637 (Je pense, donc je suis) and later in Latin (Cogito, ergo sum).

Progess being vastly over-rated, things have become so confusing in the world of late that perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "I think I am, therefore I might possibly be" or even "I don't know what to think, and when I am gone there will be few who even knew I ever was".

On that happy note, I end this post with the reminder that bloggers may come and bloggers may go, but blogging will go on forever, or at least until the technology is replaced by something newer.

Remember, the abacus, the gramophone, and the stereopticon were all marvels in their time.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Cinco de Mayo has rolled around once again

...and according to this article in Wikipedia it is observed "by Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and people of non-Mexican heritage", which is another way of saying "everybody". So if you do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, or worse yet, are not even aware of Cinco de Mayo, you are definitely the odd man (or woman) out. Wikipedia also tells us that this particular holiday was popularized (British, popularised) in the United States in the 1980s by manufacturers of beer, wine, and tequila, and that more beer is sold every year on May 5th than during the Super Bowl. Judging from the celebratory noises emanating from Mexican restaurants everywhere on this day, I can certainly believe it.

Well, enough about that except to say that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day, which occurs in September and celebrates Mexico's independence from Spain. No, dear heart, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the defeat of the French Army in 1862 by a much smaller Mexican army at the First Battle of Puebla, although France turned around later and gained the upper hand at the Second Battle of Puebla, which led to the installation of Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico by none other than Napoleon III. As I said, enough of that.

But you really should read every last word of that Wikipedia article as well as enjoy the colorful (British, colourful) pictures of dancers in Mexican costume.

Moving right along, yesterday I was walking through our local Kroger supermarket pushing the squeakiest, noisiest grocery cart I have ever pushed (I was intent on completing my grocery shopping and too lazy to turn around and get another grocery cart). Suddenly, in the frozen food aisle, I had a mental picture of scenes from the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie starring Julie Andrews in which the villainess, Beatrice Lillie, gets rid of bodies by concealing them in an ordinary-looking but very squeaky laundry cart. I completed my Kroger experience with a smile on my face and no small bit of consternation in my cerebral cortex. I even mentioned the scene from the movie to an older couple in the dog food aisle.

There is no point to my telling you this except that it happened and I thought you might enjoy hearing about it.

Sometimes I talk to people in grocery stores. For instance, I was behind a woman in the checkout line (different day) whose cart was piled high and overflowing with what must have been five or six hundred dollars worth of purchases, and I could not resist. "I hope you buy groceries just once a month," I said, and the woman replied, "My son is coming home from school for a visit," to which I responded, "And like a good mother you wanted to have one of everything he liked" but I could see it was more than that. For instance, she had a 12-pack of Coca Cola, a 12-pack of Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and a 12-pack of some third kind of soft drink in her cart, along with what looked to be hundreds of boxes of this and that just to be on the safe side. I surmised that either her son's visit was not going to be a short one or she was throwing a welcome-home party for the entire neighborhood and personal friends from far and near, or perhaps her son was bringing home half the school with him. I said nothing. I know when to be quiet.

Speaking of Mexico, our little half-Chihuahua, half-Jack Russell terrier, who sleeps on our bed at night, came and curled up under my left arm when I awoke this morning. I suppose since I received my every-two-months intra-vitreous shots in my eyes yesterday for the macular degeneration that was diagnosed five years ago, one of the first thoughts I had upon awaking was "If my eyesight fails completely, how will the bills get paid online? How will we get food? and so forth because Mrs. RWP no longer has a drivers license (British, licence). One of those 'God-voice' moments happened and my worries were interrupted internally by this thought, "Why can't you be more like your little dog? She relies on you completely for food and shelter. When she goes outdoors, you are always there right by her side and she is happy and safe on her leash because she trusts you and knows you love her. Try to do that with Me. Take no thought for the morrow."

So I'm ending this post with a familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 6. Jesus is speaking:

25 "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

That's good advice for every day. Even Cinco de Mayo. Now go back and click on the link to that article.

If you prefer beautiful music to articles from Wikipedia, here's the Mississippi College Choir singing "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" by isaac Watts (4:42) .

Here are the lyrics:

1. My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

2. When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

3. The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

As the world turns

Two of my grandchildren are graduating from university this month, one in Alabama this Friday and one here in Georgia next Friday. Both are going on immediately to graduate school to obtain masters degrees before they attempt to go out into the cold cruel world where their beloved grandpa lives and contribute to society at large.

The grandchild in Alabama popped the question to his longtime girlfriend a couple of weeks ago and she
responded in the affirmative said "Yes!" -- so now a third wedding among the grandchildren is in the offing, probably late this year or early next year. She is getting a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, so if he gets a boo-boo on his finger while playing French horn she will have a band-aid at the ready. At least, that's how I see it.

Rumor (British, rumour) has it this morning, thanks to a leaked first draft of a majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito in February -- isn't that convenient? -- that the Supreme Court will overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and the Planned Parrenthood v. Casey decision of 1992 sometime between now and the end of the current session of the Court in June. Some are rejoicing and some are weeping and wailing, and I suspect the noise is just beginning. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is already opining that this decision will insure the re-election of Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, to the U.S. Senate and the election of Stacey Abrams , a Democrat, to the Governor's chair here in Georgia. Time, as they say, will tell.

While we have been sitting here minding our own business, reapportionment, which occurs every ten years following the national census, has moved us from Georgia's 11th Congressional District, where we have been represented by one Barry Loudermilk for the past several years, to Georgia's 6th Congressional District, where there are currently 9 or 10 or 11 (but who's counting?) candidates vying for the seat because the current occupant, Lucy McBath, decided to run in the 7th District instead against Carolyn Bordeaux, also a Democrat, because reapportionment drew a lot of conservative voters into the 6th District and Ms. McBath, who is actually from Tennessee, was likely to be unable to keep her seat (my goodness, what a long sentence. It reminds me of an old quote, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter"). I understand that this sort of thing happens all the time in countries with a parliamentary system (I'm looking at you, United Kingdom) but it is a rare thing in the good old U. S of A.

I realize (British, realise) that most of you couldn't care less (Texan, could care less) about our political shenanigans and the brouhaha they generate, so I will quietly change the subject.

But first, one last look at the Congressmen who have represented us in Washington since we moved to Georgia in 1975. They are a varied lot. Since we lived in Marietta in Cobb County we were in the 7th district and were represented by Dr. Larry McDonald, a urologist and ultra-conservative politician who is remembered chiefly for two things: becoming chairman of the John Birch Society and being killed in 1983 when the Korean Air Lines flight on which he was a passenger was shot down when it wandered over Soviet air space. Later we had Buddy Darden, former District Attorney of Cobb County; Dr. Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician at Kennestone Hospital; and, after reapportionment put us into Georgia's 6th District, Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995 and whose third wife, Calista, was appointed ambassador to the Vatican by President Donald Trump. After Newt we got Johnny Isakson, son of the founder of Northside Realty, who later became a Senator for many years. He died in 2019. We moved to Cherokee County in 2003.

I don't know why I remember stuff like this, I just do.

Last night on Jeopardy!, no one, not even Halifax's-own-by-way-of-Toronto-20-game-champion Mattea Roach, buzzed in to say, "Who is Alger Hiss?"

It's a pity.

The world keeps turning despite our best efforts.

<b>God’s in his Heaven; all’s right with the world</b>

It's still only May but summer is arriving early as we speak. The weather this week has been magnificent with clear blue skies, occasi...