Reductio ad absurdum

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I contributed to the problem I’m writing about. When I was looking for a PhD thesis topic, I needed something that would demonstrate that I knew how to do scientific research. I also needed something simple enough for my simple mind to handle. And, I needed something nobody had done before. That makes me like every other PhD student, I know, but there’s more!

My supporting field was called “Industrial Relations.” (Why make it simple like “HR” or “Training for Industry?” huh? At that time nobody had ever examined existing applications to determine patterns of turnover (when people quit before you wish they would) based upon what they filled in when they applied. It’s common now. I’m sorry. But I did do it first. Check out Identification of Factors Predicting Staying Behavior Among Employees in a Traditionally High-Turnover Environment. That’s my book, and I have to stick to it. Or own up to it, maybe.

See, it worked! Really, really well! At the point in my dissertation where many candidates are explaining how the results failed to produce just what they predicted, I got to crow (with all due modesty) that I got a p-value of less than 1 in 10,000. In plain English, the odds that my results were because of random chance were less than ten-thousand to one. Worse than the odds of getting a natural royal flush when playing video poker. Damned unlikely.

And I was not the only one thinking like that, I just got it published first. Now everybody is on the statistical analysis bandwagon, and it sucks. Take credit scores. Based upon probability, which is calculated using historical data (looking through past credit-involved activity) you can come up with factors that predict someone’s likelihood of repaying you. And it works! Or maybe it would if it were used correctly.

Ten years ago people who maybe should be in jail today were giving out loans to people whose credit records pointed to almost certain default. The main criterion for getting a loan was the ability to sign the line.

That was bad. But a lot of people had decent enough chances of repaying the loan, assuming they didn’t get laid off because of the default of all those deadbeats who had loans anyway, which resulted in a crash in real estate values, which resulted in a nice little recession.  And those defaults cascaded into other defaults until even those who really were upstanding debtors were forced into bankruptcy or worse.

So, okay, you say, maybe we need to enforce those credit scores more strictly. Maybe. Or maybe we should go back to getting to know somebody before lending them money. I know that’s radical, but at one point a letter of reference from a previous credit carried some weight. You can’t even get those now, because everything is numericalized and analyzed, and a letter of reference doesn’t fit the paradigm. (Pronounced like twenty cents.)

I’m sorry I contributed to the credit score snafu. The people in charge of calculating those scores are better at butt covering than statistical analysis, don’t need to explain themselves, and brook no exceptions for life events like births, deaths, medical emergencies or your house burning down. If I promise never to do it again, can we just forget the whole thing?

 

RETIREMENT

Thinking of investing in Las Vegas real estate? Contact Steve at 702-379-6267, or check out Paradise Palms Real Estate and Retiring to Vegas on Facebook!

No, not the usual kind. I am forced by advancing age (apparently) to retire from running. Which is too bad, ’cause I really like to run. Ah, well, now the desert tortoise and the one legged man with a bad ankle have a clear field ahead of them. And I gain an extra pair of sneaks!

(I have plantar fasciitis which will not quit.)

Baseball!

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It’s finally back! My favorite sport, even though I was never very good at it. Baseball. And it’s opening day! The Cubs are hosting, and this year, well this year, they’re gonna win, right? Damn skippy!

Click here for a taste of the optimism of the day.

I never fully appreciated the game until I read the series of Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman. I knew that there was psychology involved, but I didn’t realize just how vital being smart was to playing. To quote George Carlin, “Baseball is different . . .” He’s right, and for all the reasons he mentions.

Football is a stylized representation of war. Not putting it down, mind you, but that’s the truth. I think football is typical of something we as a society have to work out. It seems to me to contribute to situations like cops shooting unarmed civilians, home invasions, accidental deaths by pistol, and general societal unpleasantness. That is, we feel that we need to be at war. That the proper goal of society is always to beat the other guys. Even in Congress, don’t you know?

And Football, at least the NFL, is entirely communistic. Think about the revenue sharing that NFL teams must sign up for. No matter how poorly or well you do, your reward at the end will be more or less the same. That makes for a level playing field, a fair war if you will, but it truly is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That’s not a joke, folks, that’s the way it is. But baseball is much less so; it’s mainly pure capitalism. The New York Yankees paid out enough cash to ensure that they were the World Series Champions for fully one-quarter of the twentieth century. You can’t do that in football; heaven forfend someone buy talent so blatantly. Baseball developed in America, and it’s a peculiarly American game. Football is everywhere; we just have a particularly odd iteration of it. There is no other game like baseball, no other game like it at all. Cricket? Are you kidding?

In baseball, everybody pulls for the team to win. But the actual contest is one-on-one, mano-a-mano almost. When the batter steps into the box he’s trying to figure out just what the pitcher is going to throw at him. And you have to figure it out, because nobody can react quickly enough to hit a 90 mph fastball. You watch the release and decide in that instant if, and how, to swing. The pitcher, of course, is trying his damndest to fool the hitter, and often the pitcher does. Once I understood that this interaction, repeated at least fifty-one times during the game, was the true heart of baseball, I realized that a pitchers’ duel is the most sublime baseball game imaginable. Sure, a home run is fun; and sliding and running and tossing out and all are a hoot, but the real contest is right there at home plate. Frequently, it comes down to the first one of the two, pitcher or hitter, to make a mistake loses. That is, the hitter is out, or the pitcher sees his era dip a tad. And, as Carlin says in his bit, sometimes a hitter will hit a long, high fly ball that even I could catch, in order to let a teammate advance a base or two, maybe even score. It’s called a sacrifice fly. Or he may sacrifice with a bunt. Either way, he takes one for the team, and it doesn’t cause any brain damage when he does.

And sometimes the hitter scores a real coup. Last year I attended a game at Busch Stadium, where I took this picture. This is one of the best photographs I ever took, and I’m sort of proud of it.

A pitch at Busch Stadium, May 17, 2014    Photo by Steve Fey
A pitch at Busch Stadium, May 17, 2014 Photo by Steve Fey

During the game the Cardinal’s best hitter came up. The visiting Braves were ahead slightly, but this guy obviously worried them. Especially when he started popping up fouls. About as high as the lights, and a lot of them. He was swinging for the fences, and the defense accordingly moved back, and back, and back. There was a runner on first, but the first baseman joined the general retreat, but the runner did not try to steal. I knew the batter was up to something, but apparently the entire Atlanta defense missed it, and they were a good team last year. Finally, he laid down a little dribbling bunt down the first base line, probably intending it to be a sacrifice, but the catcher was so surprised that he was a tad late starting for the rolling ball, and damned if the batter didn’t make it safe to first. Both he and the runner now on third scored on the next play. The people who only like fly balls and slides into second missed the whole show, poor things.

Another example of how baseball is different was the last game of the 2014 World Series. It was the bottom of the last inning, unless Kansas City could score. And they got a runner on third, with two outs. But, even in that dire situation, they could have won. Not just theoretically, but in fact, if the Giants had made one teensy mistake more (they had made a few already.) It was over, as Yogi Berra would say, when it was over, and not a moment before. Want one more amazing example of how baseball is different? Watch this!

Now, that’s America! No matter how down you are, you can still come back and win it all! It doesn’t take a war, it just takes brains, skill, and a bit of luck. Baseball causes many fewer traumatic injuries than football. You can let your kids play it almost without worry. It’s a game that depends on knowledge, cunning, planning, fast thinking, and skill. You know, the things that made America great!

And today at 5pm? The Cubs are back!

A Reminder

Nothing heavy here, just a reminder of how this site works. Joining is the same as subscribing, so that’s great if you do that. Anyone can comment, but I have to approve your first comment. That is due to the vast number of phishing comments I receive. If you make a legitimate comment and it doesn’t appear for a while, contact me and I’ll either restore it, approve it, or ask you to make it again, depending upon how long since I marked it as Spam. That’s my ultimate punishment: SPAM!

And, don’t say anything about anyone here that you wouldn’t say to that person in their own living room, right to their face. That rule will keep you out of trouble. If you do post something gratuitously offensive, either it will never appear, or it will disappear.

Thus endeth the rules.

Anger and Suffering

I came across the book Anger by Thich Hahn while reading a list of fifty influential books. I can see why it appeals to a lot of people, but it has, for me, a fatal flaw. Actually, it’s not the book that’s flawed, it’s Buddha. I say Buddha because unlike with some other popular religions, Buddha did at least write the book himself. And Buddha’s first principle is simple: to live is to suffer. That’s the first principle of Buddhism. Okay.

So, the key to being less angry is to suffer less, saith the author. Fair enough. And the key to suffering less is to be mindful. Fair enough. I’m willing to believe that by practicing mindfulness in all things, and taking care not to absorb anger and negativity, one can suffer less, and therefore be angry less often. All fair enough.

But, the thing that gets me is, if To Live is To Suffer, then isn’t trying to lower your suffering trying to live less? And if you’re living less, aren’t you also enjoying less, since suffering has a counterpart in the pure joy of living, which is also an important thing to experience, at least it is for me. So, what Buddha is teaching is a way to live less. That might be okay if there were any actual evidence that we live over and over and over, but I’m afraid that empirically there isn’t a shred of evidence for that idea. Which leaves me, a man less of faith and more of empirical evidence, with only one life to live. With only one life to live, it is extremely important that we be nice to each other, respect each other, and tolerate each other’s foibles, because not to do those things simply creates misery, and Buddha and I agree completely that misery begets misery, because, after all, misery famously loves company.

But, reduce my suffering through mindfulness? Nah, I think I’ll take the suffering, and the unbounded joy. It’s a nice package, and I don’t want to mess with it.

Dale E Basye

Heck, Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E Basye

This is the first in an occasional series of posts about somebody besides me. Surely, it gets tedious reading about my travels, political gripes, and opinions on stupid movies, right? Okay, here’s a short review of somebody who never gets boring. At least not in anything of his that I’ve read.

Let me tell you the setup for the book pictured here. Marlo and Milton Fauster, two middle-school kids (Marlo is older) are killed when a giant marshmallow bear explodes at the local mall. They end up in Heck, even though Milton shouldn’t have. Heck is a lot like Middle School, only it may make even less sense. The Principal is one Bea (Elsa) Bubb, there are demons with pitchsporks, and many of the teachers were once famous. When they were alive, that is. Richard Nixon, for example. These books, like all great literature, are subversive. There are  nine circles of Heck (naturally.) In the book Fibble, which is the fourth circle, Bayse reams a new one for marketing, advertising, PR, and other famous societal BS. I mean, you let kids read this stuff and they might even learn how to think!!! The horrors!

You can read a WordPress blog dedicated to the series. Honest, just click right here. Not good enough? Find the official Heck Web Site right here. Mr. Basye (don’t strain yourself trying to pronounce it ’cause it’s simple) tends not to share a heck of a lot about his own life, but that’s okay; if that’s what he wants, I’m not going to out him in any way here. But he writes a heck of a good story. In one case, set in a fictional part of Las Vegas, he has himself watch Mrs. Fitzgerald walk across a lawn as he sees a green light on the end of a dock. The day will come, and soon, when some high school kid who had to read The Great Gatsby will say, “Hey, this guy stole a bunch of stuff from Dale E. Basye!” Just you watch.

To close, I’m going to take a big chance and post a portrait of the author that I stole from Random House. (If they want me to take it down, they have only to ask. But I am doing free publicity here!)

78009_basye_dale_e

 

Italia?

 

Fontana Quattro Fiume/Four Rivers Fountain on Piazza Navona.
Fontana Quattro Fiume/Four Rivers Fountain on Piazza Navona. Photo by Steve Fey

I put the question mark in the title of this post because I haven’t seen Italy. I’ve seen a few bits of the country, but if I go back, it won’t be to hang out in Rome, because I’ve done that (love the pizza) but rather to see other stuff. The Amalfi coast, Milano, Venizia, and more of the rest of the country. Italy is a beautiful country, based on what I’ve seen so far. And it’s the place where geniuses like Leonardo DaVinci plied their trade. You have to love any place that could generate so much genius. Heck, even the Romans were excellent engineers, as you can tell by noting that some of their constructions are still in daily use. Yes, they have needed repairs over the centuries, but they still fulfil their intended function. The aqueduct that brings water to the Trevi and other fountains, for example. Or the Pantheon, which was a great temple to all of the gods, and has served as a cathedral for the past sixteen hundred years. It’s a few meters down to the original ground level, but that only adds to the charm. The building sits in it’s own sort of pit, as it were. And today the sexiest cars on the planet are designed and produced in Italy. They are in fact impractically attractive, but those who can afford to collect quarter-million dollar automobiles love them. And of course there are those little Fiats that are everywhere around Las Vegas if not he whole country. Sort of an Italian version of the German Smart Car, only it sells better. In America, that is. In Rome we saw a lot more Smart Cars than Fiats, so that’s something to consider when thinking about Europeans, I guess.

Parking in Rome looks easy on the surface. You just find a spot where you won’t get run over by a truck (lorry, my Brit friends) and walk away. In truth, the problem is severe, because Italians are starting to fall in love with Automobiles almost the way Americans did in the mid-twentieth century. Sure, they’re not Buick Electras, but if they were, only two people per block could have a car. Traffic into and out of the city during weekday rush hours is intense, and slow, and enough to make me move to the city or get a job in the ‘burbs. But that’s me. A lot of people prefer to do it another way and commute. In Europe, the well off portions of a city are frequently right smack in the center, and the poorer folk often are confined to suburbs. That seems odd to an American, but it’s happening here, too. “Gentrification” is decried near and far, but the richer folk insist on moving in, forcing the poorer folk further out. So it goes.

Italian Food? Photo by Tami Cowden
Italian Food? Photo by Tami Cowden

Food in Italy was interesting for me. For one thing I bought a coke for Tami at a McDonalds in Termini, which is just Latin for terminals (Italian is the most like Latin of any extant language.) But even more, the Italian food was excellent. Top notch. Absolutely fine. And not one iota better than good Italian food in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s because of all the Italian-Americans who moved here in the fifties and sixties (for infamous reasons in some cases) but the Italian food in Las Vegas is absolutely authentic. And you don’t even have to go to some expensive joint on the strip, because there are neighborhood Italian restaurants just like the ones in Rome. Honestly, there are. That’s a little disappointing, because I was expecting something so wonderful that I’d probably die of gustatory ecstasy right on the spot, but what I got was good Italian food. But our best meal in Italy was, and I kid you not, in a Irish Pub not far from Piazza Venezia, where they serve the best damned Irish stew I’ve ever eaten. See, that was special. All that pasta and ragu, well, it’s damn good, but not special, if you get my drift. If you go to Rome, check out the Irish Pub. It’s called “Scholar’s Lounge,” and it’s at Via del Plebiscito, 101, 00186 Roma, Italia. And, for my money, when you order wine, you should just go with the house red, which tends to be better than name brand stuff. (At Scholar’s of course I drank Guinness.)

Tuscan Countryside
Tuscan Countryside Photo by Tami Cowden

If you’ve ever wondered what Tuscany looks like, this photo should give you a good idea. Plain fact is, it’s gorgeous. It was the Kingdom of Etrusca when the Romans first got organized, or arrived, or whatever, and the first Romans were Etruscan subjects, but that changed, and the Etruscans became Roman citizens. Much later the barbarians moved in and took over, but they didn’t change the place much. Beautiful mountains and lush valleys where grow some of the finest olives and wine grapes known. The capitol of Tuscany is Fiorenze, or Florence in English, a beautiful city I lately posted about. You should go sometime; it’s got some really cool stuff!

One trouble with most foreign countries is that the people there are pretty insistent about speaking their native language. In Spain they prefer Spanish, in France they like French, in Mexico they go for, uh, Spanish, and the Italians, well, they like to speak Italian. I actually know some Spanish, so Italian isn’t totally incomprehensible. I used Duolingo to bone up on Italian before the trip, which worked to an extent as a few times I was actually able to ask simple questions (and understand simple answers) when somebody didn’t know any English. Of course, I had some trouble because the two languages are, as a clerk said, “cose,” which means “a lot alike.” In Spanish, “I drink” is “bebo.” I’ve known that for years. In Italian, it’s “bevo,” which is actually more or less Latin. So close as to be confusing. Italian is also obviously related to French, as in “fromage,” French for cheese, and “fromaggio,” Italian for cheese, but then in Spanish it’s “Queso.” The Spanish word is actually close to the Latin word, Italian and French not so much. I had to look that up. “Fromaggio” is from a word meaning “formed.” The Romans originally ate soft cheese, now with us as “queso,” which you might recognize from the word casein, which is milk solids. When cheese is hardened, it is “formed,” so they started calling it “formed cheese” and then just “formed,” or “fromaggio.” (Fromage to the French.) Okay, I like words too much. Sorry. In fact, outside of Rome, it is good to know a bit of Italian. In Rome, heck, store names are in English, some signage is in English, and they depend so heavily on tourists that most Romans speak passable English.

In conclusion, yeah, you ought to go. Especially if you’re someone who wonders why we have Spanish on commercial answering machines, you ought to go to Italy and consider how they accommodate you. It’s just good business: speak what your customers speak. And way beyond that, Rome is a fascinating place for a history buff; those streets were laid down 2500 years ago, and they’re still in use! And the food is great (maybe your town isn’t blessed with great Italian food like mine.) The countryside is beautiful, and the people are really nice. And in the words of John Prine, there are “Lots of pretty Italian chicks.” Well, maybe that last feature is just for guys. For gals, the Italian boys are pretty handsome, too!

Firenza (Florence)

Up the Arno from Ponte Veccio. How many renaissance painters used this background?  This photo is by Steve Fey
Up the Arno from Ponte Veccio. How many renaissance painters used this background? This photo is by Steve Fey

Apparently the view from Ponte Veccio (that’s “old bridge” in Italian) was irresistible to renaissance painters. Even though it was my first time in Italy, let alone Florence, the scene was familiar. Click the photo to see it full sized and you may see what I mean. If you ever took an art appreciation class you’ve seen bits of that scene, maybe the entire thing, before. Florence was where the (in)famous Medicis hung their hats. It attracted every artist who ever wanted to be an artist, apparently. And no wonder, because it is a beautiful town. Here’s a view from Piazzele di Michelangelo, which is “Michelangelo’s Plazas” in English.

Florence from Piazzele di Michelangelo   Photo by Steve Fey
Florence from Piazzele di Michelangelo Photo by Steve Fey

I made up a panorama from this place but it came out distorted. Sometimes the software works, sometimes it doesn’t. This single from from it shows the city’s cathedral (you have to have a cathedral in Italy or the other towns laugh at you.) Florence is the capitol of Tuscany, so when we ordered food, the menu was headed “Tuscan Foods,” only in Italian. This was Florence, and by gum there actually was at least a bit of spinach in everything we ate except the ice cream. Here is a picture that Tami took of her lunch:

That's a big helping of spinach. This was, after all, Florence    Photo by Tami Cowden
That’s a big helping of spinach. This was, after all, Florence Photo by Tami Cowden

That chicken dish was excellent, too, but of course the spinach was just something that she had to order. It was, sad to say, merely spinach, but then spinach is both good and good for you, right, Popeye?

 

The Medicis built themselves a palace (a word that derives from “palatine,” the hill where the high and mighty of ancient Rome built their immodest homes.) The palace went through a few different owners, but is now open as a museum. It is called “Palazzo Pitti” and is not far from the Ponte Veccio. It was I think the best museum we saw in Italy, yes, better than the Vatican, but then I’m not Catholic; maybe if one is, the Vatican seems better. I said above that there is a lot of Roman art in Florence, primarily because the Medicis gathered so much of it for themselves. Here, for instance, is an original statue of Caesar Agustus nee Octavian:

Statue of Caesar Augustus  Photo by Steve Fey
Statue of Caesar Augustus Photo by Steve Fey

Octavian was one of Julius Caesar’s adopted sons; another one helped assassinate his adoptive dad. Brutus, you card you! There must be some statues of Augustus in Rome, but I don’t remember seeing any as nice as this one.  It is arguable that the Medicis saved this statue from being burnt into quicklime to make plaster, and that’s the truth. The Medicis collected a lot of very nice things, and made their large palace (even for a palace, it’s roomy) as nice as they possibly could. Here is a view out a window of their formal gardens:

The Medici's Formal Gardens   Photo by Steve Fey
The Medici’s Formal Gardens Photo by Steve Fey

We left Florence a bit before five in the afternoon. There was a French woman on the train who kept looking at us. (She spoke French into her cell phone at least) but she wasn’t dangerous. We got back to Termini Roma with a couple of hours to kill before the next commuter train back to our hotel, so we found a truly excellent place to have dinner. Which I will tell you all about in my next, and final, post about out trip to Italy.

Later, dude. I mean, arrivederci!

Il Vaticano

In St. Peter's Square, Vatican City   Photo by Steve Fey
In St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City Photo by Steve Fey

This picture was taken on the last day of January, 2015. That is, indeed a Christmas tree, and there’s a scene of the nativity with a lot of characters in it near the obelisk as well. The obelisk was dragged here from Egypt by an early emperor, maybe Claudius, I don’t remember. But I do remember clearly that the Vatican is an excellent place to see a huge collection of ancient Roman sculpture. The paint has all worn off (Romans liked to paint their statues to look realistic) but the statuary remains. And there are a few famous pieces of renaissance art as well, like that “Pieta” I first saw in New York City in 1965, and the ceiling in one of the Vatican’s many chapels. What’s that name again? It was named for a pope named Sistis, or something like that. Anyway, we took a day to visit the Vatican, which is surrounded by Rome, and this is my report on the experience.

The Vatican is free to visit, but there’s a fee for the Vatican Museums, which are actually worth the price of admission. Although maybe not worth this:

The Line to Pass Vatican Security.  Photo by Steve Fey
The Line to Pass Vatican Security. Photo by Steve Fey

We did not stand in that line, which was about two city blocks long. Instead we bought a $12 tour from a vendor just outside that included an audio guide to St. Peters. We already had an afternoon tour booked, but we’d thought we could just sail on in to the basilica, not realizing that even in winter, the lines are horrendous. But we did get into St. Peter’s basilica, which is the largest church in the world, or so they say. I believe it, though, because the place is huge. And, not far inside the door, I once again saw this:

"Pieta" by Michelangelo  Photo by Steve Fey
“Pieta” by Michelangelo Photo by Steve Fey

Not long after I saw this for the first time, at the Vatican pavilion of the New York World’s Fair of 1965, some whack job attacked it with a hammer shouting “You’re not my mother!” Uh, no, she’s made of stone; it’s a sculpture; you aren’t Jesus. This is the incident that our guide that afternoon referred to as happening a “long long time ago.” It was in 1965, which I guess does qualify. Her name was Angela and she did an excellent job, by the way. The piece has been completely restored, and it is impossible to tell where it was damaged. Nice job, whoever did that.

Here’s a big draw inside the basilica. It is the Pope’s private altar. It is away, way in the back, and located above, they say, St. Peter’s grave. It is possible at times at least to visit St. Peter and pay one’s respects, but the entire area was roped off when we were there.

Papal Altar in St. Peter's  Photo by Steve Fey
Papal Altar in St. Peter’s Photo by Steve Fey

If you click on the small image and look at it full sized, you’ll get a better idea of the scale.

Here’s another view of St. Peter’s, taken just outside the basilica. In the background you can see a part of the security line, which ends just around the corner to the left in the photo.

Next to St. Peter's Basilica  Photo by Steve Fey
Next to St. Peter’s Basilica Photo by Steve Fey

I have to say that there are a lot of monuments to death, suffering, and destruction inside St. Peter’s, which got me a tad depressed after a while. After a great lunch just outside the Vatican, we joined a tour of the Vatican Museums (we could have gone back to St. Peter’s too.)

As I said above, there are a lot of Roman pieces in the Vatican Museums. Like, for instance, this bronze god. Notice that somebody fig leafed him at some point.

A Bronzed God that is Not George Hamilton. (I think it's Hermes.) Photo by Steve Fey
A Bronzed God that is Not George Hamilton. (I think it’s Hermes.) Photo by Steve Fey

In classical times nobody thought anything about being naked, which started to change when Constantine converted the empire to Christianity, because, after all, it was knowing that they were naked that got Adam and Eve into trouble, right? Anyway, at some point people started thinking that some fig leaves were in order, so many of the statues from the classical and renaissance periods have been modestified, as it were. Not all, but a lot. Kind of reminds me of when somebody covered the statues in the US Capitol, and doesn’t make a lick more sense to me, either.

Be that as it may, here is a view out of the Vatican, looking toward (Angela said) Trastevere. Trastevere is a trendy old neighborhood that we never did visit, but this is a nice view of an old section of modern Rome. Those streets have been there for millennia.

Plebian Rome from the Vatican  Photo by Steve Fey
Plebian Rome from the Vatican Photo by Steve Fey

We didn’t get pictures of it, but the Vatican Museums includes a long hallway with a great optical illusion on the ceiling, which looks three dimensional but isn’t. The only way I could tell was that the shadows didn’t match the light source. Those renaissance guys were pretty talented, that’s for sure. None more than Michelangelo, whose famous ceiling we got to see live, but for which no picture emerged worth publishing. It consists of a series of panels with moulding between them, which is not what I expected. But you can certainly tell his superior talent as the works by other artists on the wall are almost invisible in the presence of his frescoes. One thing I had never noticed is that in his most famous panel, the Creation of Man, God and Man are on the same level. You rebel, you, Michelangelo!

I leave you with this view of the obelisk with St. Peter’s basilica behind it. Ciao!

Photo by Tami Cowden
Photo by Tami Cowden

 

Jokes? I Got a Million of ‘Em!

Well, not really a million, but a lot.

That is, if “a lot” means what I’m posting below.

I’m taking a class in stand-up comedy, which is more difficult than you’d imagine. As a part of that class, I have to write jokes (will wonders never cease, huh?) So, what follows is a list of the original (to me — so far as I know I made them up) jokes I’ve come up with so far. Laugh your asses off! I dare you!

 

 

I got a letter in the mail addressed to my neighbor today and stole a $100 check out of it.

He was okay with that because he said he was really enjoying my tax refund.

 

My cousin got a ticket the other day. Used his turn signal.

 

Isn’t it great to finally finish up at the DMV? After three hours stuck there you’re cleared to go out and drive ten miles per hour stuck behind a semi.

 

The way some people carry on, you’d think a cold in the head was the worst thing that could ever happen to them.

But it’s snot.

 

We keep a basset hound that’s so enthusiastic that she’ll jump right up on you. It’s bad manners, but you can’t really blame her, because her mother was a real bitch.

 

They keep changing the food pyramid, and I can never remember everything that’s in it.

Outside of grease, salt, and sugar I mean.

 

There are worse things than getting old.

Trouble is that I’m too old to remember what they are.

 

Went to Fry’s today to pick up one of those knockoff phones made in China, and discovered you can actually eat lunch there.

‘Course, I was hungry again an hour later.

 

There’s a new restaurant in town that serves food exactly like my mother used to make.

The health department is shutting them down tomorrow.

 

You know that feeling you get when all the lights turn green and you just fly across town?

Yeah, me neither.

 

And, here are the ones I wrote just today:

 

 

If comedy doesn’t work out I know I can be a photographer’s model. Everybody loved me at my session the other day.

Well, at least the photographer complimented my posing.

Okay, the guy taking the mug shots thanked me for my cooperation.

 

I like to run. I’ve completed four marathons. Last one was just yesterday morning.

Okay, it was closer to a half marathon.

Actually, it was just to the bathroom, and I barely made it.

 

Don’t you love living in Las Vegas? You get to hang out with all the stars!

Or at least you can run into them at the grocery store.

Okay, it’s easy to steal the souvenir napkins!

 

There are a lot of stories of bravery in Las Vegas. People rescuing people from burning buildings; overcoming personal tragedy; crossing Boulder Highway on foot.

 

I also write funny songs. I’ve got one about to hit the top ten.

It will as soon as I release it.

Right after I finish writing it.

 

In school I was always that kid who got As on everything.

Well, sure, I got a few lower grades.

Like when I flunked algebra, but outside of those . . .