Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hidden Knowledge

Knowledge is hidden around us. All you need do is scratch the surface to learn something cool.

For example, most people know that Persian rugs don't come from Persia -- since "Persia" doesn't exist any more. Persia is an old name for what is now Iran. Sellers believe consumers are less likely to buy rugs from "Iran" than fanciful Persia.

Shopping for cinnamon I just learned there are many countries that produce the spice: e.g., China, Vietnam, et al. Highest quality cinnamon is labeled "Ceylon cinnamon". Again, this identification is fictitious and designed purely for marketing. There is no country named Ceylon today. So where did the name come from?

The republic of Sri Lanka was formed in 1972. Before then, from 1948 to 1972 the place was called Ceylon. Premium cinnamon sold today as "Ceylon cinnamon" is actually from Sri Lanka. Sellers count on you reacting more positively to "Ceylon" than the true country of origin.

Similarly, cinnamon from Vietnam is now marketed as "Saigon cinnamon" to steer away from the name of a country we famously fought a war against.  "Saigon", a former city in Vietnam, is no longer called that: its real name since 1976 is "Ho Chi Minh City". Can you guess why sellers didn't choose that for their product?  :)

Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Special Night

 Fun night for the Devils!

In addition to winning a close game (6-3) the team played outdoors in 28-degree weather. A crowd of 70,000 fans endured the cold to watch this rare event. The Devils designed special jerseys just for this game; they have a retro-style. Fans have been snapping them up. 

There was a jovial mood at the whole event. Devils players arrived dressed like characters from "The Sopranos" (FILA track-suits; white tank-top shirts; gaudy jewelry). Flyers players arrived dressed like Rocky (grey sweats and taped hands). The players' families got to skate on the ice. The night was magical all around.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

An Unexpected Feeling

I have a problem and I don't know how to handle it.

I'm having occasional bouts of euphoria. Moments of extreme elation. Happiness beyond measure. This presents a problem: I'm not familiar with the feeling. Despair, yes; happiness, no.

I spent four decades toiling in the trench of legal combat. I wrestled daily with crippling anxiety. I worried every day about how bad things might get. The reality is they never got very bad but that didn't stop me from worrying about the prospect. I plugged away and plugged away at tedious tasks. A close friend remarked that I possess "an insanely high tolerance for misery and drudgery." Well, I do and it served me in a long career of high-stakes litigation.

Last year, of course, my life really did go south. I lost so much vision that most activities are now beyond me. Not just motorcycling but things as basic as walking in public. I'm safe outside only away from crowds and cars. I take long walks now mostly to prove to myself that I can.

So where's the euphoria coming from? Realization that although my eyesight is very bad, it could be worse. There are days when my vision sucks more than usual. I experience periods of total blindness and physical pain. When, triggered by these experiences, I contemplate being fully blind permanently I become grateful -- ecstatic even -- for the little vision that remains. I can usually see well enough to prepare food, make coffee, clean the kitchen and pay bills. I can see well enough to function in normal life. I can read and write and ponder deep questions. Sure I bump into things but bruises heal. I'm also able to watch the parade of human stupidity pass by on its march to the abyss.

If the ability to do these things disappears I'll be truly crushed. To the depth of my soul crushed. But it hasn't, at least not yet. I'm not confident I'll retain this level of vision for the rest of my life and, given my good health otherwise, that may be a long time. But if this eyesight continues for another decade or two I will be able to accomplish what I hope for -- to find new adventures, immerse myself in challenges, and emerge with a rewarding sense of achievement.

Damn, life contains surprises. Becoming happy is not what I expected at this point.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Hockey -- Outdoors!

Big game tomorrow night -- the Devils are playing outdoors. OUTDOORS!

It's a special game against hated rival Philly Flyers. The game is in a NJ football stadium with an ice rink temporarily installed on the playing field. The NHL does this once a year to build interest. I tried to get tickets but "ya gotta know a guy." Hey, it's Jersey. The Sopranos was not just a TV show. 🙂 

The game is on ABC at 8pm (EST). The Devils and Flyers are locked in mortal battle for the last playoff spot: they'll be lots of action. The Devils are fast and have finesse; the Flyers (known forever as the "Broad Street Bullies") play a "physical" game: i.e., they check hard and start fights. The Devils don't normally fight but, when called for, summon a monster named Brendan Smith who last month put two Chicago players on the Injured Reserve list in one game. (He broke the jaw of Chicago's star-rookie with a clean check and then, in a fist-fight over that, broke another player's finger. Hockey is tough.)

Playing outdoors is a return to hockey's roots and, like the Superbowl, an event. Players bring their families and celebrate the sport. One year the temperature was too warm and the outdoor ice started melting; they stopped the game and resumed after dark. Devils star Tyler Toffoli is the only  player in the NHL to score a hat-trick in an outdoor game. (A hat-trick is shooting three goals in one game. A "Gordie Howe hat-trick" is getting one goal, one assist and one fist-fight in a game. Gordie Howe was a character. He came out of retirement to play with his sons; he was an old man then but still had brio.) 

Turn your TV onto Channel 7 tomorrow night and watch the action!

Monday, February 12, 2024


Whee!! Bitcoin hit $50,000/coin today. 

And it's going to keep soaring due to multiple factors: e.g., last month's ETF approvals; an upcoming "halving" (change in reward for mining). For reference, I bought Bitcoin in 2014 for $600/coin.


I like learning new words. My most frequent source is The New Yorker, a magazine with captivating prose. Reading articles there expands my vocabulary with no special effort.

Usually you encounter words you've seen many times before but just never bothered to look up. Like "plaintive" (sad) or "sinuous" (curvy). Occasionally, as in the current issue, you confront a mysterious word you've never heard of. Like "noumenal" (existing independent of perception). 

Researching the meaning of "noumenal" forces you to dip a toe in the pond of philosophy, something that intimidates many. Braving that cold water is worth the effort, however, because you gain more than a simple word. You watch brilliant minds wrestle with big questions like the nature of reality, the "hard problem of consciousness" and the purpose of our existence. 

Funny where words can lead us.

Friday, February 9, 2024


Exactly sixty years ago today (Feb. 9, 1964) I watched the Beatles appear live on the Ed Sullivan TV show. My family, along with 73 million other Americans, were fascinated by "the British invasion" which quickly led to "Beatlemania."

I was six years old at the time, just able to understand this event. It's my second childhood memory after the John F. Kennedy assassination the previous Fall. (I didn't comprehend that tragedy, wondering only why adults were crying.) The Beatles' appearance was exuberantly joyful and widely seen as the seminal moment in American culture it later became. This event marked the beginning of "the Sixties."

One of the few benefits of growing old is living through history. What big events do you remember?