Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Hawaiian Hurricane


Princeville, Hawaii, August 24, 2018

It is very early morning here in Princeville, on the North shore of Kauai. Usually this is just the right time to watch a spectacular sunrise from our deck - the sky filled with pink colored clouds peacefully drifting by, the ocean the color of emeralds and the waves gently tossing themselves over the black lava rock.

But today the sky is grey and so is the ocean. Hans is still asleep. He has come down with the flu as soon as we arrived and has not stopped coughing and sneezing since then. I don’t want to wake him, so with my first cup of Kona coffee in hand, I check the local news on my laptop, wondering what happened to the promised sunrise.

The local weather channel shows a visual of a monstrous hurricane approaching the Hawaiian islands, with wind speeds approaching 135 miles per hour. Nah, it cannot be that bad if it only moves at 5 miles per hour. A person can walk faster than that. It will probably veer away and find another spot in the Pacific to do what hurricanes do. Read more...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ata Lives On


It was an intense three days when our whole family got together to spread my mother Ata's ashes. Before she died, she told us that she would like her ashes to be spread where Jack London had lived, in upper Sonoma County in California.

This was not an easy request since my mother was cremated in Holland, which means that her ashes had to travel 6,000 miles. At first, there was talk of compromise - wouldn’t it be more practical to find a nice secluded beach in North Holland, near the assisted living where she had spent the last 20 years of her life?

But as usual, one of the Dutch angels that I previously wrote about, came to the rescue. She spread her large angel wings and together with her husband, she flew across the atlantic to bring the ashes and help honor Ata’s last wish.

You might argue that the place where someone’s ashes are spread is of no consequence. After all, the person is no longer around, it’s just a heap of dust, so what does it matter where it ends up. Read more...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

To Cut or not to Cut: the Circumcision Debate


Thank God I am not a man, especially a Jewish man. And thank God I wasn’t born in the United States as a man, or I would have joined the millions who have undergone a medical procedure that irreversibly alters the body for the rest of one’s life, without personal consent. It’s called circumcision.

A few days ago a friend told me about a researcher at Harvard University who was fired as a result of a show he performed called Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story. It is a gripping, 2 hour long explosion of anger by a young American male who went under the knife as an infant. Eric Clopper is Jewish, but that doesn’t mean much in a country where as recently as 2010, 77% of baby boys were routinely circumcised as part of the delivery process.

Since then I haven’t done much else with my time than learn about circumcision and what it really is. What is it’s history? Why is it so prevalent in America and not in Europe?

I have to admit that I now know more about male genitalia than I do about my own equipment, so at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I will share with you what I have learnt.

The word ‘circumcision’ comes from the Latin circumcisus, past participle of circumcidere "to cut round, to cut off". What exactly gets cut off, you may ask, when circumcising an infant in America in 2018? Read more...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Nobel Prize:The Great Intellectual Flight from the Old World to the New

The Nobel Prize has existed for 117 years. In that time, a total of 916 prizes have been awarded to individuals and organizations, with some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once. (See: Nobel Prize).

In this article I  examine the national, ethnic and gender  composition of the laureates. I examine TRENDS over time,  and I show how the allocation of  Nobel awards  reflects the history and the evolution of the world over the past 117 years. (See: Nobel Laureates).

This article is not an exercise in nationalism or chauvinism. To the contrary, you’ll see that there is probably no more international population on the planet than the  body of Nobel laureates. But to demonstrate this, it is necessary to identify each laureate’s background. This is the first objective of this article. A second, and related, objective is to demonstrate the changing composition of this population and to show that the trends over time   reflect the world’s geopolitical  and cultural evolution.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Turkeys and Squirrels and Bunnies, Oh My!


If you think that life in the suburbs is boring, think again. It is full of surprises, especially if you have a backyard where creatures small and big make their home. Whether you like it or not, you become a witness to all the exciting, cruel and beautiful drama that nature has to offer.

Every late afternoon, two female turkeys come by for their supper. They are large animals, with iridescent feathers, the color of bronze and copper. Their heads are small, reddish brown and their wattle is modest, unlike the tom turkeys’ incredibly elaborate appendage, turning blue, red or white, depending on their emotional state. My two females come all the way up to the French doors, waiting while they groom themselves. They wait for me to step out and spread bird seeds on the grass. Now they are impatient, following me around the yard until I have emptied the container. I sit down on the bench and watch them eat, a few feet away from me.

Suddenly, their small heads jerk up. They run to the edge of the yard, making a strange clucking sound. I don’t know why. But then I hear faint high-pitched squeaking come from the next yard. I recognize it as a turkey chick’s call for his mother. I know this, because every morning we have another female turkey come into the yard with seven little baby chicks in tow.

Why is it calling? Where is its mother? We stand there, the two turkeys, and I, peering through the trees, trying to figure out why and from where the chick is calling. Read more...

Monday, July 2, 2018

Abortion: A Sad State of Affairs


The majority of countries in the world do not allow abortions on demand. Only 32% have laws that permit abortion if the woman wants it. The United States is one of the 63 countries where this is legal.

The majority of countries in the world do not allow abortions on socio/economic grounds. They force women to bear children that they cannot support or that for some other socio/economic reason they do not want.

Half of all countries do not allow abortions in case of rape or incest.

A little under half of all world countries do not allow abortions when it endangers the mental or physical health of the woman. It is only when the woman’s life is in danger that abortion is legal in 96% of world countries. Still, some countries don’t even allow it in those cases.

Approximately 25% of the world's population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, which either completely ban abortion, or allow it only to save the mother's life. That means that hundreds of millions of women on earth are denied control over their own bodies.

This category of countries includes most countries in Latin America and the Middle East, approximately half of the countries of Africa, seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and two countries (Malta and Ireland) in Europe. Read more...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to Make America Great (Again)

Here are three competing political and economic agendas. (1) Liberal, (2) Radical Socialist and (3) Conservative:


1. The economy: The problem:

The federal government is on a trajectory towards bankruptcy. Sooner or later, Social Security and Medicare will become insolvent.

Each year, the share of the federal budget that is spent on financing the debt grows. Obama  managed to reduce the government’s annual deficit to around $400 billion, but the new Republican tax cut for the rich is predicted to cause this to rise to $1 trillion. In addition, interest rates have been at an unprecedented low for years, and they are bound to rise soon. Gradually, financing the debt will crowd out other expenditures - health and human services, unemployment, infrastructure, housing and transportation, science and education, food and agriculture, energy and the environment, veterans and even the military.

The Trump administration is already proposing to cut food stamps. Stingy as our safety net and assistance to the needy are compared to other advanced social democracies, they will be reduced even further, as our government goes broke.

The solution:

A. Full retirement age for social security should be raised. Life expectancy has risen, so this makes sense. Raising the age at which dozens of millions of Americans begin to collect benefits will save the government BILLIONS. Read more...