The Coming Big Bang

The universe began with the Big Bang billions of years ago, and now astronomers say we’ll be dealing with another big bang — in about four billion years or so.

The coming big bang will occur when our galaxy, the Milky Way, collides with and merges into Andromeda, a neighboring galaxy.  The two galaxies are being pulled together by their mutual gravities, and in fact are rushing toward each other at the breathtaking speed of 250,000 miles per hour.  At such astronomical (pun intended) speeds, it’s hard to believe that all Earth-dwellers aren’t experiencing a touch of cosmic motion sickness.

Of course, galaxies are mostly empty space, so whoever is left on Earth when the galactic convergence occurs isn’t likely to see suns and planets smashing into each other.  But the night sky will look different.  Orion and Taurus and Ursa Major will have lots of company.

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Drip, Drip, Drip

Any public relations professional worth her salt will tell you: when you are dealing with an unfavorable news story — one that you know is going to have a negative impact — the best approach is to get ahead of the story, get all of the information out, and at least avoid the possibility that the story becomes a running, multi-day issue.  Lance the boil, drain the pus, and move on.

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign must not employ a public relations person.  If it does, she isn’t very good at her job — because the story of Warren’s alleged Cherokee ancestry has become a never-ending story in Warren’s campaign for election to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.  Every day, seemingly, there is some new revelation that puts Warren on the defensive, interferes with her intended “message,” and distracts from the issues she thinks are important.

On Wednesday, for example, Warren acknowledged for the first time that two law schools that identified her as Native American did so because she identified herself as such, based on her understanding of “family lore.”  Her admission is just the latest in a series of statements about the issue — some of which arguably are inconsistent — that have just encouraged the press to dig ever deeper into the history of Warren’s employment, whether she identified herself as Native American, and whether there is any proof of actual Cherokee ancestry in her family tree.

I don’t think a candidate’s race, or self-reported minority status, has anything to do with fitness to serve as a U.S. Senator.  On the other hand, I think a candidate’s truthfulness, credibility, and ability to deal with a crisis are relevant — and Warren seems to be falling short in all of those categories.  The Native American story has  dominated the headlines for a month now, and for that Warren has only herself to blame.  Her statements and partial disclosures have a whiff of embarrassed shiftiness about them that have made a minor issue into a major one and, at the same time, made her look evasive and inept.  Although her race shouldn’t affect a voter’s decision about her, her apparent inability to give a satisfactory explanation of her actions reasonably could.

What’s In A Name?

Robert is, candidly, a somewhat clumsy name.  It doesn’t exactly flow trippingly off the tongue.  Starting with the rolling “r,” then flipping to the explosive “b,” then ending with that hard “t” — it’s just filled with too many discordant sounds.

“Robert” didn’t even sound good when actors on last season’s Game of Thrones talked to or about King Robert Baratheon.  You know your name isn’t a thing of beauty if, even when it is spoken by actors with British accents, it still sounds like a word for a failed engine part.

Fortunately, no one but the IRS and my bank refer to me as “Robert.”  But what nickname to choose?  For the first 12 years of my life, everyone called me Bobby.  I liked Bobby, but as I hit the teenage years I realized almost no one used the diminutive form of nickname anymore.  Now the only adult males I know who go by “Bobby” hail from south of the Mason-Dixon line, boast about SEC football dominance, comfortably wear white loafers without socks, and drink bourbon in the evenings.  The name fits them, but not me.

“Rob” never really worked, and “Robby” even less so.  It’s not just because “Rob” is a word for an act of theft, either.  Mostly, “Rob” seems prissy and highfalutin, a sort of halfway attempt to hang on to the old English roots of Robert.

That leaves Bob.  I settled on Bob more than 40 years ago, and I still like it.  It’s rarely mispronounced and almost never misspelled.  It’s short and solid and simple.  I think it suits me.  After all, as we swim through the sea of life, everybody needs to bob now and then.

Time For Our Memorial Tournament Rain

It’s been hot and dry in Columbus recently — but all that is about to change.

Tomorrow the Memorial Tournament begins at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.  It’s a terrific tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus on a fabulous golf course.  As any Columbus resident also knows, however, it also means we are guaranteed to have rain.

It’s pretty amazing, really.  It’s rained so frequently for the Memorial that the New York Times has written about the weird coincidence — not once, but twice.  They’ve moved the date of the tournament, and the rain followed the Memorial to its new place on the calendar.  It’s rained so often that some people contend that the rain is the curse of Chief Leatherlips (from his name, apparently not a ladies’ man) because the course purportedly was built on a sacred Wyandot burial ground.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to spread the grass seed, plant the flowers, batten down the hatches, and prepare for the inevitable downpour.  The Memorial Tournament is here!

Enslaved By Fear Of Jinxes — Revisited

Last week, flush with success and heedless of the risk, I wrote an insufficiently veiled post about a certain team’s success and my fear of jinxes.

The Fates don’t appreciate such temerity.  They become infuriated when puny mortals rise up and stick a thumb in their eye.  They know when the time has come for a beat down and aren’t shy about relentlessly punishing those who don’t quite know their place.  The only surprise is that, having been a sports fan for many decades now, I would need to relearn that lesson, painfully, yet again.

Since I’ve written my little piece, the team in question has lost five out of six, been pulverized by divisional foes, and fallen out of first place.

Don’t believe in jinxes?  I’m just askin’.

The Worst Previews In The World

Last night Kish and I were watching TV and saw the preview for the next Adam Sandler movie, That’s My Boy.  The preview made the movie look like the worst movie in the world — which is about par for the course for Adam Sandler movie previews.  They’re uniformly awful, and when the latest Adam Sandler movie is released each year, we Americans are just expected to stolidly endure them.

For years Americans cackled at the French for inexplicably admiring, and indeed finding deeper significance in, the “genius” of Jerry Lewis movies.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the French chuckle at the fact that Americans have a seemingly endless appetite for low-brow Adam Sandler drivel.  The movies keep getting made, so somebody must go watch them.  The question is:  who?  You wouldn’t think there would be a sufficient audience of pathetic, friendless, unmarried 40-year-old guys who appreciate the subtle humor of a pie in the face, but apparently there are.

Watching the That’s My Boy preview, I found myself imagining how Adam Sandler movies come to be.  Picture a man running away from you, down a long hallway.  He bursts through the door of an office, and a Hollywood type wearing a Hawaiian shirt and about a pound of gold neck chains looks up.

Running man:  “Boss, we’re ready to move forward on the next Adam Sandler project!  The writers and I have come up with an entirely novel way for a man to unexpectedly get hit in the crotch!”

Producer:  “That’s great, Jenkins — but that only puts us halfway there.  Now you need to think of an excuse for Sandler to wear a stupid wig.”

In fairness to Sandler, I haven’t been to see one of his movies since the Happy Gilmore era.  For all I know, the movies are richly rewarding, profoundly moving viewing experiences.  However, I take the previews at face value, and consider them to be fair warning.  If I went to see That’s My Boy and it was even close to as dreadful as the preview suggests, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

The Cannibalistic Horror Of “Bath Salts”

Usually horrific stories are about an atrocity in a faraway land and circumstances that don’t have much resonance with our daily lives.  Occasionally, however, such a story strikes closer to home — and thereby becomes even more chilling.

The recent gruesome cannibalistic attack in Miami is one such story.  What could possibly cause two men to be naked on a bridge, with one man literally eating the other’s face (including nose and eyeballs), growling animal-like to police, and finally having to be shot multiple times because he was unresponsive to commands to stop?

The apparent answer is:  drugs.  Specifically, a new kind of LSD called “bath salts” that acts as a stimulant and leaves users in a state of complete delirium.  Police and ER doctors in Miami have seen the effects of the drug, which can dramatically increase body temperature and leave its victims extremely aggressive, with a kind of temporary super-human strength and an urge to use their jaws as weapons.

Some libertarians argue that we shouldn’t regulate drug use, because it is a victimless crime.  The awful nature of “bath salts” and their effect on people belie that argument — at least, as it relates to this particular drug.  It is beyond me why anyone would develop a drug that has such terrible effects, of obvious danger to both the user and to the people around him, and it is even more unimaginable that anyone would sell such a drug on the street.  I suppose it’s too much to expect drug producers and pushers to act with any kind of responsibility, but anyone involved in the “bath salts” drug trade should be punished, harshly, for injecting such an awful, hazardous substance into our society.