A Sundry Assortment: Winter Olympics 2018

Before I start on my sundry assortment of 2018 Winter Olympic observations, I must say that after Mueller’s indictment of Russians meddling in the 2016 election,  I tripped across the comment “It is still possible Mueller could still indict Americans for knowingly helping Russia.” ¹ (Hat Tip: WTFJHT)

And I thought: All 63,985,134 of them? Mueller might be taking names …

Bwahahaha! Okay. Enough. On to a couple itty-bitty Olympic-size observations.


Men’s Figure Skating

I happen to be liking Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir commentary. Not at first and every now and then, sure, I’d still like them to shut up. But as Mr. Viva & I watch an entire skating event, as the precision of performance on the ice goes up, their rate of commentary goes down. And when I listen to them yammer, they do know of what they speak. They have occupied Olympic ice.

Which brings me to presence. For many men,”sports” do not depend on having a “presence.” And let’s face it, the best figure skaters exude a dynamic presence on the ice. Figure skating is not about facing down an opponent or other team and overcoming by scoring more points or beating them up.

And this is why many men don’t see the sport in Men’s Figure Skating competitions. No one is tackled. No harm. No foul. There is music. There is choreography. There are not uniforms.  Individuals wear “outfits.”

No sport.

This explains a lot.

Speaking of Presence

Johnny Weir has presence in spades. He is a joy and a delight!

And I love that his hair last night in profile — swept up and back and very black — reminded me of my great-aunt Amy. And she was beautiful.

Thank you, Mr. Weir.

Pink Floyd takes the ice.

Thrown into the mix of classical music during the final skate of the Men’s Ice Skating championship last night was a skate to a Pink Floyd medley including Shine on You Crazy Diamond and Money.

And then Mr. Viva & I reflected. Pink Floyd’s song Money was released in 1973 or forty-five (45) years ago.

It a classic.

Now it’s like, classical …

Extreme Sports

Back in the day, more than 45 years ago, in black and white, I watched skiers go off the end of the ski jump and watched the official tape measurers measure the length of the jump.  And catching air and sailing, ski tips to the nose while in flight, landing with maximum distance. I was mesmerized.

I haven’t been followed the addition of new extreme winter sports to the Olympics. And so, I watch drop-jawed gobsmacked the half-pipe snowboarding and aerial freestyle skiing or whatever it’s called, events. (“The US Stunk at Winter Olympics Until Extreme Sports Came Along”)

Hurl yourself down a ski jump, flip a couple times in the air, land backward and ski to the next jump which is taken backward, perform a couple more flips, land. This is extreme. Also, the face plants into snow and ice on some spills are painful just to watch. I’m relieved when the athlete gets up and waves their arms and … they’re ready to go again? What!?

And I wonder what sports get added after Extreme Winter Sports? Extreme Winter Sports on Steroids? No, steroids are banned. Extreme Winter Sports Plus? Extreme Men’s Figure Skating? Extreme <insert event that’s not yet extreme here>?

Or maybe the Olympic Committee could consider adding age categories.  Give the ‘olds’ some medals. Extremely Old Winter Sports.  Aging out is not an option.

I mean, we can sing along to Pink Floyd.


¹ ¹Strohm, Chris. Mueller Still Investigating Possible Collusion, Source Says” Bloomberg. 16 February 2018 2:32 PM CST. Web. 17 February 2018.

Scientific Notation: A trillion.

When I was in third grade, The Weekly Reader reported that the national debt per person was about the same as the cost of a new car.  I remember thinking, ‘I can’t pay for a new car! I can’t even drive a car.’ My future was doomed even as I knew that car would be red. Since third grade, the national debt has gone up and come down but the trend of late is definitely up. Cleanly and clearly driving in the red.

The current GOP tax bill is projected to add about $1.5 trillion (USD) to the national debt. Not to be outdone, Prescedense OTUS proposed a $4.4 trillion (USD) budget which, net of income, would throw many more trillion on the national debt. (And the words ‘Trump budget’ sound like an oxymoron.)


A trillion is a 1 followed by 12 zeroes (000000000000).  Reading the word ‘trillion‘ doesn’t have the same impact as seeing the number 1,000,000,000,000.  Represented in scientific notation, a trillion looks like 1×10¹² and ten raised to the twelve (10¹²) looks big … because it is BIG!

I propose that numbers like the US national debt and the budget be spelled out using scientific notation. Scientific notation emphasizes that the number is not of human scale. It is not in your lifetime.  I did the math. It would take 396.372399797 lifetimes lasting 80 years each to count to one trillion. No time for food or any other comfort. Each second counts. For 80 years.  And 400 lifetimes. Whoa!


Although writing $1,500,000,000,000 adds more ink and more space by including all the numbers, writing $1.5 x 10¹² adds gravitas and looks all sciencey and interesting. It looks other-worldly. As a number, it is as hard to wrap my head around the space of a trillion as it was to imagine paying for and driving a red car in third grade.

The space of a trillion.  The space of all those zeroes. The zeroes of space, the last frontier. By means of illustration, this picture was taken from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Due to sentence construction, the article seems to imply that the Hubble Space Telescope is a trillion miles from earth. It is not. But the photograph itself is of a spiral galaxy about a trillion miles from the earth. And to our point, the article contains this very valid observation:

Looking at this stunning image forces one to ask: what mysteries and life forms exist there?

And so I would suggest that space and applying scientific notation to the national debt gives us pause to wonder where we are headed with all this debt and what mysteries miseries will exist for our children and their children and what form will life take in the future? Let’s face it, the current administration and circus in Washington don’t give much credence to science, scientists, the scientific method, or much consideration to future generations, or shoot, us even.

So, for all we owe ourselves, I think we owe it to ourselves to apply scientific notation to the national debt.  Here we go:

$20.632X10¹² (US Debt Clock.org: snapshot taken 2018.02.16, 12:30 PM)

Hmmm.  I’m incredulous. Stunned. Representing the national debt in scientific notation underscores that most of us don’t understand macroeconomics and economic theory.

It’s like, science, dude.


In closing, as we consider gun control shoot our ‘thoughts and prayers‘ for the victims of AR-15 weapons of mass destruction into the void, let’s add a ‘thoughts and prayers’ chaser for the national debt. Afterall, the nearest black hole is only about 27,000 light-years away or 158,722×10¹² miles. Or 69,913,020 lifetimes of 80 years.

Ugh.

Boiling up some frogs.

On the black-and-white vacuum-tube TV of my youth, Hee Haw¹ was for lazy Saturday afternoons.  In answer to the question “Hey Grandpa, what’s for supper?”, I’d watch Grandpa Jones rattle off menus in horror and sick fascination.

A sample Grandpa Jones Hee Haw menu:

“Here’s what’s on the menu tonight: Turtle stew with onions and crackers, wild greens, stewed auger holes and bread puddin’. “


I enjoy reading science fiction. I don’t make time to read the genre often enough but as I tripped into a Twitter thread by a sci-fi writer, I thought of Grandpa Jones and boiling frogs. According to biology or urban legend or Wikipedia, if frogs are placed in a pan of tepid water and then the heat is turned up, the frogs won’t realize they’re exothermically stranded until the water boils and it’s too late.

We are frogs in water in a pan.

Viva Q. Public finds it nearly impossible to assess the wreckage the Trump cluster sh*tshow administration delivers continuously to our democracy and its strained institutions. What is the temperature difference between a tepid democracy struggling along and a full-blown boil of a dystopian dictatorship or an authoritarian state or a <insert non-democratic form of government here> government?

Just how hot is that water?

This is the full Twitter thread that itemizes some observable changes in public discourse in the transition from a democracy to a dictatorship. From sci-fi writer G. Willow Wilson, (my bold):

 G.(@GWillowWilson) “It’s a mistake to think a dictatorship feels intrinsically different on a day-to-day basis than a democracy does. I’ve lived in one dictatorship and visited several others–there are still movies and work and school and shopping and memes and holidays.

“The difference is the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared “illegal.” Certain books vanish from the libraries.

“The press picks a side. The military picks a side. The judiciary picks a side. This part should already feel familiar.

The genius of a true, functioning dictatorship is the way it carefully titrates justice. Once in awhile it will allow a sound judicial decision or critical op-ed to bubble up. Rational discourse is never entirely absent. There is plausible deniability.

“People still have rights, in theory. The right to vote, to serve on a jury, etc. The difference is that they begin to fear exercising those rights. Voting in an election will get your name put on “a list.”

“So if you’re waiting for the grand moment when the scales tip and we are no longer a functioning democracy, you needn’t bother. It’ll be much more subtle than that. It’ll be more of the president ignoring laws passed by congress. It’ll be more demonizing of the press.

“Until one day we wake up and discover the regime has decided to postpone the 2020 elections until its lawyers are finished investigating something or other. Or until it can ‘ensure’ that the voting process is ‘fair.’

“A sizable proportion of the citizenry will support the postponement. Yes, absolutely, we must postpone elections. The opposition is corrupt! Our leader is just trying to protect us! A dictator is never without supporters.

“And hey, if we pull ourselves back from the brink and the midterms go ahead and the 2020 election is free and transparent and on time, you are cordially invited to point at me and laugh. Honestly. No one will be happier to be wrong than me. Fave this thread. I will laugh with you

“Since people are panicking prematurely in my mentions: I’m not suggesting that this chain of events WILL happen. I’m saying that if we were to slide into authoritarianism, this is how it would look. Bc many USians seem to think autocracy looks like something off the Syfy channel.

“(I actually think we are done a massive disservice by most western dystopian fiction for this reason. It lies about the way real dystopias actually look and feel.)

30 Jan 2018 12:09 PM. Tweet.

Boom! There it is. “Bc many USians seems to think autocracy looks like something off the Syfy channel.”

Meanwhile, the water comes to a boil.


¹ Hee Haw. Oh, my. Today I cringe at this reference. I can, however, sing the chorus to “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me.” Really.

The screen between us.

Given to reflection today, I think back on the days of my youth when personal wireless communication devices were a chimerical badge on a Star Trek uniform. And to show you pictures, I found this wonderful to-get-lost-in history of cell phone technology development: 1938 to 2010.

The pictures are a story! Batteries the size of backpacks, Maxwell Smart shoe-size phones, a communication range of a few miles, flip phones; a walk down memory lane with Blackberries, Palm Pilots, and Smartphones, oh no! Just look at all the memory contained in our pockets and our connectivity. We can reach out to our screens and touch almost anyone and everyone anywhere.

Mesmerized as we are by all this sci-fi techno-magic development, that is not the point to consider.

Today, if we see a stranger in anything which looks like distress, we assume they have at their disposal a cell phone and a connection to a lifeline. They can phone a friend. They do not need us. And nine-one-one (‘911’) is always a last resort. We need not pay much attention or take action. Strangers we remain.

We can all carry on about our day connected, just not connected here, to each other in any way other than for observation.

Contrast this to the telecommunication of my youth. One needed pocket change, a dime or a quarter, to use a pay phone in a booth or on a wall. Or you needed access to someone who had a phone plugged into a wall to call and talk to your lifeline — a friend, a parent, a relative.

And texting? Pssht. Texting was not even on my imagination’s radar as anything I’d ever want or need.

And so I wonder at what is subtracted from our public discourse by the assumption that everyone is teleconnected¹ to their lifeline? How much chillier is a society to real and present danger as a result of the desirability and the ability to disconnect from each other, from strangers, from events in real-time? I mean, let’s face it, it is comfortable for me to be out and about and not have to look out for … you.

And then on the flip side of the teledisconnection¹ coin,  I marvel and wonder at the happenings we chose to record with all our pocket memory! Funny videos, tragedies puny and large, misbehaviors, law-enforcement, law-breakers, forbidden sneakily recorded events  … oh, it’s a long list.

And we humans love to watch. We love to watch each other. Just not so much without the benefit of a screen …

Between you and me.


¹ Word mash-up: teleconnected (verb)

telecommunications (tele): “communication over a distance by cable, telegraph, telephone, or broadcasting.”

connected (connected): “bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.”

And so I can’t believe that no one has put these two words together, and prove me wrong, but, teleconnected: connected by telecommunication devices.  

Example: The Prescedense is teleconnected to Twitter through a personal hand-held device.

² Word mash-up: teledisconnection (verb)

telecommunications (tele): “communication over a distance by cable, telegraph, telephone, or broadcasting.”

disconnection (disconnection): “the act of detaching one thing from another.”

Teledisconnection: detached from telecommunications.

Example: Teledisconnection of the Prescedense from his Twitter account could restore some normalcy to the communications expected from the office of POTUS.