Odds and Ends

A Few Things Caught My Eye in Recent Days. Yours, too, I Bet


The Spirit of Andy

Those of a certain age will remember, fondly for the most part, the role of Andy Rooney for many years on the CBS News show 60 Minutes. Andy was the self-designated Curmudgeon at Large. He offered information and commentary on a remarkably wide-ranging set of topics. Today’s blog is not too curmudgeonly but in the spirit of Andy, here are a few interesting things that have popped up for our consideration.

The January 6 Investigation

So far, so good. The committee make up is solid, the sense of mission seems real, the staff (as far as I know them) look capable. Many of us predicted the Republicans would look increasingly bad, for all the wrong reasons, in turning on this necessary work. So far, this seems true.

The opening day’s statements, especially by the Chair, both Republican members, and others were worthy of the moment. The testimony of the serving police officers on Day 1 was powerful in every sense of the word. Fox will come to regret trying to trash these people who risked it all to save the Capitol and its sometime unworthy occupants. Thinking of the Republican party as pro law enforcement is now a naked joke. They just like some law enforcement, the type that reinforces their biases.

I hope many of us follow this committee regularly and look for the videos when we miss the live sessions. The next real benchmark will be the subpoenas. At least 1, perhaps 2 of the people the Republican leader tried to put on the panel are likely to be called for sworn testimony. McCarthy himself may be called (and certainly should be). Let’s see if the committee uses its full power and how it will counter Republican efforts to tie up subpoenas in the courts for months on end. Time to bring it home, folks.

The Olympics in General 

I remain convinced it was a mistake to hold the Olympics now, in Japan. No need to rehash the earlier blog; just note the  process of locations and decision making is broken.

On the other hand, it is hard not to admire and cheer for the young people who are trying so hard to do what they do.  It’s actually refreshing to talk about them and their stories, rather than the damn medal count or their countries. The emphasis on gold has been so pervasive for so long that I suspect bronze medal winners often feel like failures. What nonsense. To even make the Olympics puts one in very rare and exceptional company. I celebrate them all.

The new emphasis on uniforms (really? In the 21st Century? The old guard has already lost this one) has almost been comical, yet important.

Simone Beales Specifically

The mental health issue is much more complex, and I admit I am still trying to sort some of it out. Like many armchair athletes, I first was inclined to think this was just a matter of focus and toughing it out. I was, of course, seriously wrong. This is a much bigger thing and the discussion, now being led by present and former athletes may turn out to be the most important thing to come out of these games.

Not long after she dropped out, Simone Biles said she was suffering from the “twisties.” Gymnasts knew exactly what she meant. This is a condition in which the athlete lose the sense of time and space, where they are in the air and in a maneuver. It’s not just concentration – something in the mind/body link disconnects. Competing in this condition is sure failure, and can be crippling, even deadly. I had no idea.

A very short personal link to understanding all this. Years ago, on a night combat mission in terrible conditions, I got a ferocious case of vertigo. Had it not been for my alert copilot, I almost surely would have crashed the helicopter. It took me about three days to get my head/coordination link back to fully confident flying. I think Simone Biles is going through something similar; I get it now. Let’s hope she does not loose the endorsement fortunes that were to come her way. If we get the discussions right, that too will work out. And she will help us talk about something too long kept in the dark. Mental health is always a tenuous thing with teens and young adults anyway. Let’s take it on.

The Never-Ending Hunt for Magic Batteries

Few topics in technology are so evasive, as in “the solution is just around the corner,” as that of the perfect batteries needed to finally usher out the age of petroleum. Batteries have gotten remarkably better, but they are still limited, expensive, environmentally tough to produce, and often dangerous. But hope springs eternal!

The latest potential good news is from a company, one with serious qualifications and big-name investors, that says it expects to have perfected an iron-oxygen battery for production by 2023. We will see but imagine a line of batteries made from two of the most abundant elements on earth that can run for days or weeks, not hours, and produce electricity at costs as low as $20/kw.  Fingers crossed. Read all about it here; its fascinating: https://techxplore.com/news/2021-07-energy-iron-air-hour-storage-battery.html

 Coming Attractions

Depending on your personal proclivities, you either hate or love the Coming Attractions film clips shown before the movie in theaters. I am in the latter camp – love to get a taste of what is around the next curve. In that spirit, allow me to give you some hints/titles for upcoming blog posts. I hope they touch your curiosity bone.

  • A Four-Part series on Socio-Economic Systems. How the US Can Get It Right (That should be easy, right???)
  • An Easy Way to Lose the Critical Race Theory/Institutional Racism Debate
  • Running the Trifecta: Minimum Wage, Health Care, Competitiveness
  • Biden & Team in the Second Half of the First Year. What’s the Score? What’s Next?

That will get us into the Dog Days of Summer, and no doubt other things will pop up in between some of these. In any case, we certainly have some interesting things to talk about, don’t we?

Stay cool, America.

            Bill Clontz

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