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Daily Archives: July 12, 2009

Japanese trains are always on time—regardless . . .

A year or so ago, I received an e-mail from the consort of my youngest daughter, the Princess of Wylie, Texas. Her consort is a worthy fellow, an accomplished barrister who serves the public from an office in Plano, Texas. We conferred upon him the title of His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, a term that we kings use when a royal personage marries a person whose rank is too low for them to be granted full royal status. (NOTE: The children of the Princess of Wylie and her Prince Consort are not in the line of succession to the throne).

The Prince Consort’s e-mail consisted of the mandatory greetings, and included a movie clip showing passengers being packed into train cars in China, in much the same manner as sardines being packed into a can, a much over-used but highly appropriate and picturesque description.

I responded to the e-mail as follows:

Thanks for the movie clip—it sure stirred up a host of memories, and led me to a web site which shows many of the places which I, among many exclusively chosen others, was privileged to tour over 7 months in Japan and 15 months in Korea (April 1950 – February 1952). Bear in mind that the people in these pics are commissioned officers—I was part of the Air Force’s UEF (Unwashed Enlisted Force), and our accommodations weren’t nearly as luxurious as theirs.

That scene gives new meaning to the word packed. A few years ago (okay, more than a few years—59 years ago, give or take a few months) I took a few train rides in Japan. Their packing system was about the same as China’s, and the trains left on time—no exceptions—if a passenger happened to be halfway in and halfway out, both halves started moving, so that person had to make a decision—either give up the fight or travel that way. As best as I can remember, most people chose to give up the fight and remain on the platform.

The Japanese had special express trains that had specific destinations, and those trains flashed by every stop on their way to that destination. Nothing would sway the operator—I unwittingly boarded one such train in Fukuoka, a metropolitan city on the southern island of Kyushu, and passed my duty station at Itasuke Air Base about five miles from the city at warp speed—as George Jones says in song, the train was going so fast that the telephone poles “looked like a picket fence.”

I was in the front of the first car, separated from the motorman by plate glass mounted in a securely locked door. I begged, cursed, shook my fist at the motorman and threatened to bring down the full weight and fury of the United States Air Force on him. I was in my summer khaki uniform, so I pointed to my Private First Class stripes (one on each sleeve) and my US collar brass.

Remarkably unimpressed, he smiled and bowed deeply, gave me a friendly wave then ignored me. I ended up so far out in the country that the townspeople where I finally de-trained didn’t recognize my uniform. I actually flapped my wings in an attempt to show them that I was a proud member of the United States Air Force.

And would you believe it? The train finally stopped in a small city  north of the city of Fukuoka—too far for me to walk back, and I waited for an interminable time for a returning train.

The name of that town was USA.

How’s that for coincidence?

The rumor still persists that an existing city was renamed USA so the townspeople could export items stamped Made in USA to other countries, principally to the United States. It’s nothing more than a rumor—the town was named USA long before World War II.

From that time on, I looked very carefully for its destination before I leaped aboard a train in Japan.

 

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32 Czars & counting—we need one more . . .

Our government now has 32 czars, each charged with oversight of a different segment of life in the United States. These positions are filled by people selected by unknown means, but some of whom admittedly know nothing about the segment over which they hold sway.

I suggest that President Obama appoint a Phart Czar. Were I the president, my selection would be a former vice-president—Al Gore.

Al Gore is one of the major causes of global warning. He is consistently, in the words of the bard, “hoist with his own petar.” Some of the bard’s analysts suggest that the phrase is a play on words and refers to the fact that the persons mentioned are lifted aloft by their own flatulence (see explanation below). In Al’s case, he is lifted by his own hot air, primarily generated by his pompous proclamations concerning global warming.

For now, the former vice-president seems to be a necessary evil, about which little can be done—it’s just something we will have to tolerate. Perhaps his appointment to the position of Phart Czar will add a bit of weight to a couple of his lightweight awards—the Oscar awarded by Hollywood and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here I must digress for a moment and offer my thanks for a site that is a great source for writer’s tips—check it out at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/hoist-with-his-own-petard/.

The information that follows was gleaned from that site:

Here is how the expression is used in Hamlet (III, iv, 206-208):

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.

A “petar” was an explosive device. It got its name from the French verb pêter, which means “to break wind.” The Old French noun pet means “fart.” Shakespeare was making one of his earthy puns here.

Another major cause of global warning, other than Al Gore—one that can be addressed and perhaps eliminated, or at least reduced—is the methane gas emitted by animals. This is the vast amount of flatulence produced by livestock, primarily cattle (cows). In 2005 the United State’s livestock population, including cattle, was almost 96 million—this would include horses, mules, sheep, swine and other lesser animals (lesser in size, not necessarily in the amount of methane expelled into the atmosphere). Of all the animals, those in the know tell us that cows are the worst offenders (I don’t know how that was determined, and I’m not sure that I want to know).

Our country needs a Phart Czar, one who can evaluate the situation, determine methods of controlling such emissions, and exercise control over such emissions by implementing those methods. The Czar’s duties would include intensive measurements of emissions collected from various breeds of cattle. It could be that Jerseys (cows, not people) emit more methane than the Holstein breed, for example. Armed with that knowledge, the Phart Czar could concentrate on reducing the Jersey population (cows, not people), or perhaps if deemed necessary, eliminating the breed through attrition (of Jersey cows, not people).

However, I believe that our major problem is not necessarily with the lower order (so-called) of animals. A corollary problem is methane—flatulence—produced by the higher order (so-called) of animals. That order is the human race, and that problem should be addressed immediately.

To my knowledge no effort has been made to measure the contribution to the atmosphere of methane generated by the herds of humans in our country—in concentrating on animal production we may have completely overlooked our own contributions. The estimated population for the United States in 2008 was almost 304 million human pharters, more than triple the number of livestock in the nation.

Who knows? Our collective contributions to global warming may approach, equal or even surpass that of livestock.

This should be the Phart Czar’s immediate concern—to determine the depth of the problem and make recommendations to reduce the output of something which, apparently, is detrimental to our health and to our future.

Who would have thought that such a normal function of our bodies could be harmful? Certainly not I. In fact, there is a little ditty that many of my generation learned at our mother’s knee and frequently recited over the years. It’s one that the U. S. Air Force officer who established the Wellness Clinic at Wilford Hall Hospital used as the opener in all his speeches promoting the program.

It goes like this:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,

The more you eat, the more you phart,

The more you phart, the better you feel,

So let’s eat beans every meal.

This would be the most sensitive part of the Phart Czar’s job:

Any analysis of the problem must—I repeat, must—include race. The amount of flatulence, as well as its olfactory and auditory effects, is in large part influenced by diet. Some foods promote the production of methane—examples are beans, onions, diary products (especially milk) and let’s not forget one of the worst culprits—broccoli. There are those among us who eat far more beans, broccoli, dairy, etc., than do other segments of the population and therefore should be so judged and subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation, and corrective action taken as deemed necessary.

Of course, over time through on-hands management, diligent investigation, development of corrective measures and prompt application of those measures, the Phart Czar may find that other foods and other segments of the population may generate as much, or even more, methane gas. No one, including vegetarians, pescotarians, etc., can be exempted—all must be scrutinized and evaluated.

I also suggest that significant stimulus money be provided to persons and companies involved in the study of enzymes (some of which may reduce unwanted digestive issues). In theory at least, new enzymes could be developed that would significantly reduce or even eliminate flatulence, both in humans and in the so-called lower classes of animals. As we all know, flatulence is involuntary and therefore not the fault of the animal, whether human or otherwise—it’s the bacteria in the animal’s colon—they are the culprits—perhaps under the direction of the Phart Czar, a new strain of bacteria could be developed, one which could continue to make its necessary contributions to life without producing methane gas.

One can only hope and dream.

There is, of course, a downside to the complete elimination of methane emitted by living beings—some of us, and perhaps some of the animals, are not strongly disinclined with the conditions which presently exist.

And finally, this is why we need another czar—a Phart Czar:

According to Al Gore, time is of the essence.

As an aside, I recommend that those who invest in the stock market take a careful look at Beano, a product that is said to counter, or at least reduce, the effect of beans in the production of methane in humans. It may be found that by the simple introduction of Beano into beans and other foods, either in the growth process by injecting Beano into the seeds or in the preparation of beans for retail to the public, both uncooked and cooked—a good place to start would be in the vast numbers of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants—that feature beans in virtually every dish offered to the public. One of the bean side dishes offered with many entrees is an ultra-delicious culinary delight—it’s called re-fried beans, an item that should be considered particularly suspect for its contributions to the cumulative deleterious effect of flatulence discharged into our atmosphere.

The makers of Beano claim that it counteracts the adverse effects of beans on the human digestive system (for some of us but not all), and offer compelling testimonials to its favorable action. I predict that Beano will in the future change the lifestyle of many people, perhaps propelling (so to speak) some into the rarified air of millionaires, provided that investors get in at the bottom (so to speak) and invest in the product. However, I must in the interest of full disclosure reveal that the product does not work for me.

It makes me phart.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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