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Dreams of Old Dogs

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"The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime." "Free Four" - Pink Floyd (Roger Waters)

Nearly two months ago, we lost our dear girl, Sadie. By dog years, she lived to ripe old age of around 16. Still, it seems she was taken way too soon. Fortunately, she retained her relatively good health until the end, with only arthritis gradually hindering her mobility. In her later months, she slept more and more and I'd love to occasionally see her feet twitching as she dreamed...of what I can only guess. But given her lifelong hobby of chasing squirrels and rabbits, even when her spirit was far more willing than her body, I'm pretty sure she was imagining herself being on the hunt.

Donald Trump's Loose Lips

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The U.S government has always placed a premium on keeping its secrets, and this has extended into its  messaging to civilians as well, though today the emphasis is more on being aware of what we see and hear (If you See Something, Say Something) rather than what we say. But during WWII, wartime posters clearly sent the message that careless blabbing could carry dire consequences.

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Last week's meeting in the Oval Office between Donald Trump and high ranking members of the russian government, in which classified information was allegedly revealed, reminds us that trusting information to someone with "loose lips" could ultimately sink ships and all of us with it.

Theater of War

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Only the dead have seen the end of war.  ~Plato

Administrations, leaders, and civilizations come and go, and through it all, warfare seems to be the one unavoidable constant that afflicts our world. For all our technological advancements, we as a species still just can't seem to all get along.

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This week, with the horrific chemical weapon attacks by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the nuclear missle tests by Noth Korean madman Kim Jong-Un, we're reminded yet again how fragile global stability is.

May cooler heads prevail and a saner world lie ahead. Peace.

Summer's End: Farewell Cicadas & Walnuts

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Fall has definitely arrived to the Chicago area, and with it the end to the summer's familiar ambient buzzing sound coming from the native cicada. This year's brood was the annual cicada, which according to Wkipedia, are also known as the dogday cicada or harvestfly, though I've never heard them called either. I've taken some artistic license and depicted the orange eyed and wing tipped 17 year cicada (aka. the periodical cicada) who, according to the "Chicago Botanic Garden website", aren't expected to emerge until 2024.

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As for the walnuts; our next door neighbor’s grand & glorious walnut tree has branches which extend over our fence, towering far above our driveway. Throughout the later summer months, the sound of squirrels cracking open the hard shells can be head clearly and constantly across the back yard. The falling nuts striking the metal garbage can lids from 20-30 feet act as a warning gong for anyone passing beneath. They're fairly substantial and a direct hit on the head could lead to hospitalization or, at the least, a nasty bump.

Like cicadas emergences, walnut tree production can vary greatly from year to year, and may be on an “alternate bearing” schedule, producing nuts one year and reserving their resources the next. As it happens, this was a very bountiful year for our neighbor’s walnut tree, with a sea of green, nearly lime-sized walnuts dotting the rear part of our driveway. Later, those that remain after the squirrels have had their fill take on the familiar wrinkled, brown look of dried walnut shells. As a bonus, I’ve discovered that disabling the electric eye on the garage door results in a powerful nutcracker.

For more info:

"University of Illinois extension: Cicadas in Illinois"

"Morton Arboretum:Black Walnut Tree"

Texas: land of the conspiracy theory

Note: This post was started before this past weekend's disastrous flooding. So far the count stands at 17 dead and 10 missing. I considered holding off on putting it out there, but ultimately decided while we all sympathize with those affected by the deluge, we can still recognize the peculiar character of the state that will still be there long after the water recedes.

The state of Texas has long has a long reputation for marching to its own paranoid beat. So it makes sense that many of the fringiest and most persistent conspiracy theories trace their roots to the Lone Star State. How fitting is it that the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories originated on a Dallas street more than 50 years ago? The brief 8mm footage of the John F. Kennedy assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder has been dissected and analyzed more than any other film in history, healing and the general consensus of the official forensic experts is that Lee Harvey Oswald was the single assassin acting alone. But thanks in large part to Mark Lane's 1966 book "Rush to Judgment" and Oliver Stone's "JFK", terms like "pristine bullet" and "grassy knoll" have become part of everyone's vocabulary, and a large majority of Americans today believe that there was in fact a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Though who exactly was involved is up for debate.

More recently, radio talk show host, blogger, and Texas native Alex Jones has yet to find a conspiracy too outlandish or offensive to broadcast. Some of his greatest hits include theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were faked and the U.S. government was directly tied to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In a crazy hall-of-mirrors style twist, he himself is the subject of a conspiracy theory now making the rounds which posits that Alex Jones is none other than the alter ego of deceased comedian Bill Hicks (himself a firm believer in the JFK conspiracy theory). It's pretty amusing to watch the video of Alex Jones accusing the "Alex Jones is Bill Hicks" crowd of being conspiracy theory loons.

Since President Obama has been in office, general distrust of the U.S. government has played a huge role in a number of conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to immigration policy. Starting with the general presumption that minorities tend to vote democratic, it wasn't long before right-wing GOP politicians in Texas, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert, promoted the idea that Democrats were busing young illegal immigrants across the border en masse who would eventually be allowed to vote, thus keeping them in power.

The latest conspiracy theory making the rounds in Texas and throughout the southwest involves the military operation code-named Jade Helm 15 (http://www.businessinsider.com/jade-helm-conspiracy-theory-2015-5). It’s a real Special Ops training exercise set to take place this summer. What really makes this theory stand out is the surprising degree of legitimacy it’s being given by people of influence. Walker:Texas Ranger himself, Chuck Norris was recently reported to have said that he has serious questions about Obama’s "scheming". In addition, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has directed the state guard to monitor the operation. Whether he actually believes that the Jade Helm operation is an effort by the U.S. government to impose martial law or is simply pandering to right wing extremists, it's a pretty defensive reaction to a standard military exercise.