Got Bitcoin?

by Bob Sparrow

The simple Bitcoin

There was clearly a lack of enthusiasm from our readers on my Earth Day blog (it was our lowest weekly readership statistics since we officially changed the format from ‘Morning News in Verse’ to ‘From a Bird’s Eye View’ back in March 2012!).  On a bar graph, that week’s readership statistics looked like ‘Death Valley’ next to the ‘Mt. Whitney’ of previous blogs.  And while May is, in fact, the month with the most random ‘Days’ in it, National Take a Baby to Lunch Day and National Poem on Your Pillow Day, to name just a couple of the ‘biggies’, it has become abundantly clear to me that our audience is much more sophisticated than recognizing such random days.

So, this week’s blog subject is something much more arcane than those aforementioned meaningless milestones; this week I will attempt to clear up a subject that I’m sure is ‘top of mind’ for most of you . . . Bitcoin. Actually, I’ll be discussing cryptocurrency in general, but Bitcoin is to cryptocurrency what Kleenex is to bathroom tissue – the latter is just easier to flush down the toilet.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin.  But like me, you also probably quickly filed it wherever Deferred Variable Annuities are filed.  But, rest assured, your kid’s kids will use nothing but cryptocurrency, even though they still won’t understand deferred variable annuities.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea!”

Forget about explaining what Bitcoin is, you’ll never really understand that, let’s start with its advantages over today’s currency.  Today the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, so a collapse of the U.S. dollar would create global economic turmoil.  Investors would rush to other currencies (Monopoly money?), interest rates would rise and U.S. import prices would skyrocket, causing significant inflation.  So, the value of the U.S. dollar is significant, not just to us, but to the rest of the world.  Suffice it to say, the rest of the world isn’t too excited about their dependence on our currency.  Is this starting to remind you of the Earth Day blog?  Oh, that’s right, you didn’t read it.

Thus, the Bitcoin was born – by some Japanese financial geniuses, probably after a few carafes of Saki.  In a typical financial transaction today, there is a ‘middle man’ – usually a bank (You’re asking, is he really going to tell us about Bitcoin?!!).  Bitcoins eliminate the middle man and provides a currency that can’t be counterfeited, nor can an account be hacked, and is globally accepted, if in fact it’s accepted!  Let’s say you finally get enough money together to buy that Swiss chalet at the base of Mt. Blanc, that you’ve always wanted.  With Bitcoin, if the seller accepted it, you wouldn’t need a bank, nor would you need to figure out an exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Swiss Francs – you’d just electronically send him some Bitcoin – it may only take two coins!

This is the part that I slept through while writing it, so feel free to skip down.  When you hold Bitcoin, you control it through a private key—a string of randomized numbers and letters that unlocks a virtual vault containing your purchase.  Thus cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are powered by a technology called the blockchain. OK, that’s it!! Blockchain, Schlockchain, just forget it, I’m filing this one right alongside that Earth Day blog

Blockchain theory

OK, one final word before you doze off, just in case you were ready to go and buy some Bitcoin after reading this.  Bitcoin, like azidoazide azide, which as I’m sure you’re aware, is the world’s most explosive chemical, is extremely volatile.  When Bitcoin began in 2009 a coin was worth about $0.009.  Last month a coin was worth $63,503.  In the four months of this year alone, it has ranged from a low of around $8,000 to a high of around $64,000.  As of this writing the value is $49,077, so caveat emptor, which translates to blockchain, schlockchain!

I’ll bet you’re saying to yourself that you wished you’d read that Earth Day blog so as not to have inspired me to write about something even less interesting.  Fear not, next week: Deferred Variable Annuities.  Not!  I’m actually on my first road trip in a year and a half this week, so perhaps my next blog about my travels will be more in my wheelhouse and more interesting . . . or not!

My apologizes, I know that these were several minutes that you’ll never get back!

 

CHEERS TO 80 YEARS!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

This week marks a milestone birthday for my husband – 80!  He’s in pretty good shape – still able to play golf, walk the dog and shout at the TV while watching hockey.  I’ve been thinking about his birthday a lot this month, mostly because he is impossible to shop for since he has very particular taste and, let’s face it, at 80 years old he already has everything he needs.  The other reason I’ve been thinking about his big day is I marvel at the longevity of his family.  As many of our subscribers know, my husband, his parents and his older brother we interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for about four years during WWII.  Suffice it to say that food and medical care were in short supply.  Yet his father lived to 90, his mother to 96 and his brother is still going strong.  You would think that their experience would shorten their lives, but obviously they have some tough genes in the Watson tribe.

Our great, great grandmother who died at age 87 in 1925

My side of the family has also lived long lives. In fact, when I researched our genealogy I discovered that the women on our mother’s side of the ledger have lived way beyond the average lifespan of their time for hundreds of years.  The furthest back I can go is 13th century England, when our 20th great-grandmother, Sybella deLea, lived to be 65! Our dad’s side isn’t so fortunate but even he lived to be 87 and the only gym he ever came into contact with was Jim Beam, so his long life definitely wasn’t attributable to healthy lifestyle habits.  So I got to wondering…why do some people live longer? The answer wasn’t as straightforward as I’d expected.  First, it’s good to know that after a small decline in the mid 2010’s, the average lifespan in the U.S. increased over the past couple of years and is now 78.93.  Eighty years ago the average was 62.81 which, among other things, is why our Social Security system is on the brink of bankruptcy – we’re all living a lot longer.  The increase can be attributed to a number of factors – vaccinations and antibiotics greatly reduced deaths in childhood, workplace safeguards improved work-related injuries and illness, and finally, smoking went out of fashion, almost to the point of extinction today.

Happy men in Sardinia

But since those improvements tended to benefit industrialized populations equally, why are some people and indeed, whole families, living longer than others?  Researchers estimate that about 25% of the variation in lifespan is due to genetics, but which genes, and how they contribute to longevity, is not well understood.  Most of our ability to live to an old age is due to lifestyle habits –  a healthy weight, a good diet and none of the vices (cigarettes, alcohol and drugs).  So, in other words, you may live to a ripe old age but be prepared to be bored as hell.  Scientists are studying a handful of communities in parts of the world where people often live into their nineties and older—Okinawa (Japan), Ikaria (Greece), and Sardinia (Italy). These three regions are similar in that they are relatively isolated from the broader population in their countries, are lower income, have little industrialization, and tend to follow a traditional (non-Western) lifestyle. Unlike other populations of the very old, the centenarians on Sardinia include a significant proportion of men. Researchers are studying whether hormones, sex-specific genes, or other factors may contribute to longer lives among men on the island.  I’m thinking it has more to do with limited exposure to the internet but that’s just my theory.

In a study published by the NIH, scientists in the United States noted that long-lived individuals have little in common with one another in education, income, or profession. What they do share are common healthy lifestyle habits.  Jeez – there is just no getting away from people advising us to diet and exercise.  But here is the great part for those of us who had long-lived ancestors:  these same scientists concluded that if you get to be age 70 without major health issues, and you have a family history of longevity, you are likely to live a very long life.  What I’m taking away from this research is if you get to 80 you can begin to smoke, drink and loaf because you’ve already outlived the averages and deserve that big piece of chocolate cake.  So…happy big birthday to my husband – the odds are he’s going to be around for many more years!

 

Did You Miss Earth Day?

by Bob Sparrow

If you’re not sure, you probably did!  It was two Thursdays ago, April 22nd.  With everything else going on in our world today, don’t beat yourself up if you missed it.  But in an effort to ‘keep you informed’, as we here at From a Bird’s Eye View, are committed to doing, I’ll provide you with a brief history of celebrating the day we honor our planet (hang in there, it will get more interesting . . . maybe!).  Inspired by students in the anti-war movement, former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and others helped to organize the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  It inspired about 20 million Americans to come out and demonstrate against the impacts of industrial development on our environment. OK, brief enough.

If you forgot to celebrate, worry not; you’ve probably already been doing your part by staying home this past year and thus lowering your total carbon emissions. Good for you!

While listening to the Darren Hardy’s ‘Darren Daily’ episode on Earth Day, I learned a few interesting facts about our ‘Mother Earth’ and thought I’d share them with you.

What’s in a name?  How did we get the name ‘Earth’?  While all the other planets are named after Greek or Roman gods, we get our name from both English and German words, ‘ertha’ and erde’ which means ‘ground’.  Pretty sexy, huh?

Flat Earth

Earth flat?  We all know that the earth isn’t flat, right?  Ok, there is the ‘Flat Earth Society’ that believes evidence to the contrary is fabricated by NASA and those ‘Round Earth Conspiracy’ theorists.  But the earth is not round either, it’s oval, like a squished ball – fatter at the equator.

Who’s tallest? That aforementioned ‘squished ball’ visual, begs the question, what is the tallest mountain in the world?  You’re thinking Everest, right?  But, depending on how you measure, there could be two other answers.  Everest is the tallest, 29,033 ft from sea level, but, if you’re looking for the mountain that is furthest from the earth’s center and thus closest to the moon and stars, it would be a mountain in Ecuador, Mt. Chimborazo – it’s right on the earth’s bulging equator.  However, if you’re measuring from the ocean floor instead of sea level, it’s Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, which measures 33,496 feet from the ocean floor to its summit – told you it would get more interesting!

What?! We’re not the Center of the Universe!  When asked who was the first to discover that the sun, not the earth was the center of our solar system, you’d probably respond with the name of that Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, who published his work in 1543.  But you’d be wrong.  Did you say, Aristarchus of Samos, the Greek astronomer and mathematician, for his discovery around 270 B.C.?  Nope, but he was influenced by the first to proffer the idea that the earth was not the center of the universe, Philolaus, another Greek philosopher who lived around 400 B.C. and was the first credited with originating heliocentrism, the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Universe – much less the center of our solar system.

Mt. Chimborazo

How old is earth? The earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old – don’t ask me who was counting or when earth’s birthday is, but just to put our existence on this planet in perspective, let’s assume that the 4.54 billion years was converted to a 24-hour day.  Homo sapiens (that’s us) would have been on the earth for . . . wait for it . . . 4 seconds!

How fast are we going?  The earth is hurling through space at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour as we travel around the sun.  It is also spinning at a rate of 1,040 miles per hour.  Dizzy yet?  Thanks to a thing called gravity, we don’t fly off into space.

Land & Sea One-third of the earth is desert – the largest desert?  Nope, it’s Antarctica, it gets only about 2 inches of precipitation per year.  Seventy percent of the earth is made up of water, but only 3% of that is fresh water.

Got a light?  Lightning strikes on earth about 100 times . . . per second!  That’s about 8,600,000 per day

Earth’s largest desert – Antarctica

Free Fall: If a large hole was drilled through the center of the earth, it would take about 46 minutes to free fall from one end to the other.  You’d need a pretty good ‘fire-suit’ as temperature in the middle of the earth is about the same temperature as the sun’s surface – 10,000 degrees.

Who Owns the Most Real Estate on Earth?  Not Bezos, not Musk, not Zuckerberg, Not Buffett (Warren or Jimmy), not Gates, not some Saudi prince, but . . . Queen Elizabeth – she is the ‘legal’ owner of 1/6 of the earth’s land surface.

Happy belated Earth Day!  Yeah, we’re too late for this year’s gala celebration of Earth Day, but you’ll be ready to wow them next year!

 

 

WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Those of us who have lived in Arizona for any length of time have noticed a recent trend – there are a LOT of people moving here.  Usually we have an uptick in population from January through April, as “snowbirds” leave the wintry climes of Chicago and Minneapolis to soak up a little sunshine.  In addition to the weather, we offer exotic car auctions, the Phoenix Open golf tournament, Arabian horse shows and Spring Training games.  So, we’re used to snarled traffic and impossible restaurant reservations during those months.  But this year?  Holy smokes…the traffic congestion started last summer and has only gotten worse.  Trips to the grocery store that used to take 10 minutes now take 15, and once we’re in the store, the line at the bakery now snakes all the way back to the vegetable section, which somehow seems just plain wrong.  In our small community we’ve seen firsthand the effect of the influx.  In the first quarter of 2020 we had 9 home sales; this year we had 9 closings just in the month of January, and 38 total for the quarter.

COVID, of course, accounts for much of the movement into Arizona.  First, many of the recent transplants stated that the lockdown caused them to re-assess their priorities and retire earlier than planned.  Second, once people were able to work from home, they concluded that their home could be anywhere, so why live in an expensive, high-tax state?  According to the University of Arizona’s Eller School of Business, more than 60% of the immigrants to Arizona are coming from California, followed closely by Washington and Illinois.  Notice a trend?  Third, our job market is booming, with many Fortune 500 companies relocating here due to our lower tax rates and abundant workforce. As a consequence of the population boom, housing prices in Arizona have already increased 8% in 2021.  Each Sunday the Arizona Republic newspaper publishes the top five homes sales, based on price.  Up until this year, the most expensive home was usually $2-3 million, with the other four somewhere between $1-1.5 million.  Now, the top five are all $4-5 million.  If you buy a million dollar home you are apparently living somewhere near the poverty line.

The downside of all this, other than the traffic, is that it’s become harder for people to buy entry-level homes and next to impossible to find a rental home.  Affordable apartments are also hard to come by now.  Young couples are moving farther and farther away from metro Phoenix, or moving out of state, in order to afford the lifestyle they assumed they would have in Arizona.  And the housing market is not the only commodity benefiting from recent transplants –  expensive cars are selling like hotcakes.  Someone asked me recently if there had been a fire sale on Bentley’s, because they are now ubiquitous.  One of the luxury car dealers noted that people moving from California can sell their home there, buy a bigger one here, and still have plenty left over for a $200,000 car.

So in an effort to slow the population growth, here is my countervailing list for anyone thinking of moving here:

  • Rattlesnakes – they are everywhere and will spring out at you with little notice.  You will go on walks as if you were traipsing through a minefield.
  • Javelina – perhaps the ugliest animal on Earth, they will not only charge you, they will eat every beautiful bloom on your (expensive) cacti.
  • Coyotes – no, not the hockey team, the real thing.  They are sneaky and plan their attacks in groups.  If you have a small dog you will never be able to let them outside alone again.  Owls also fit into this category.  A neighbor just had their Yorkie picked up by an owl and whisked away.
  • Heat – this is the big one.  Don’t believe it when people say it’s a dry heat.  So is my microwave, but you don’t see me living in it.  In 2020, we had 144 days over 100 degrees.  ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR!  Believe me, it can take the starch right out of you…and anything you’re wearing.

I’m waiting with anticipation to see what the “move out” rate is come summer.  My guess is that a lot of people who found our warm weather so charming in January will head back to wherever they came from by July.  Hopefully by August I’ll be able to wait in line for cake without having to stare at the broccoli.

A Gathering of Rare Sparrows

by Bob Sparrow

As Suzanne’s blog last week exemplified, we typically try to comment on things that have broad appeal to our audience – the Masters, Covid, March Madness, St. Patty’s Day, etc.  But with this ugly ‘House Arrest’ still hanging on, we’re left to fend for ourselves at home as best we can.  And ‘best we can’ at our house last week was defined as having Brother Jack and wife, Sharon in from the Central Coast and Sister Suzanne and husband Al in from Arizona, as well as some of our kids and grandkids gathering at our house for . . . well, just for fun and just because we can!

It goes without saying that there was a wee bit of imbibing going on over the last few days, which is to say that I not only had difficulty trying to create an interesting blog, much less coordinating my lest-than-nimble fingers to put word to document.  But I had the wherewithal to take some photos over the weekend, so as any good birdwatcher would do, I’m posting my best photos of these ‘rare birds in action’.

The Mexican Hooded Sparrow

The Irish Imbibing Sparrows

The Shark Fin Watson Sparrow

 

 

 

Young Sparrows leaving nest

 

 

 

The Toasting Camouflage Sparrow

The Parrothead Soaring Sparrow Sisters

The Mush-Beaked Sparrow

 

 

The Rust-Throated Warbling Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If what they say is true, that a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve just provided you with an 8,000-word thesis.  Hope you enjoyed.  I did . . . I think!

 

 

 

 

 

A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

There was some talk a couple of weeks ago about moving The Masters golf tournament out of Georgia.  For those of us familiar with the game and the course, we could only shake our heads at such tomfoolery.  You can’t move The Masters from Augusta, The Masters is Augusta.  Sure, you could move the tournament to Poughkeepsie, but then it would have to be the Pepsi Cola Poughkeepsie Open, or some such thing.  What the “move The Masters” people didn’t understand is that the tournament played at Augusta National each spring is, as Jim Nance dubbed it, “a tradition unlike any other”.  It would be like taking the Boston Marathon out of Boston or the Kentucky Derby out of Churchill Downs.  Sure, you may have an event, but it would lack the prestige and history that we’ve come to love.

I was rooting for Jordan Spieth to win The Masters this year.  I love a good comeback story and from all accounts, he is a really good guy.  Unlike Bryson DeChambeau who, by those same accounts, is a real jerk on and off the course.   Unfortunately Jordan didn’t win, but he had a good showing, and kept it exciting to the end.

No matter who wins, The Masters holds a special place in the heart of every golfer.  It’s all about tradition, and it’s defined by a set of odd rules and customs that just don’t exist outside of Augusta National.  Here are just a few:

  • Food prices are ridiculously cheap.  A cup of coffee, for example, is $1.50.  Starbucks could learn something from those folks at Augusta National.
  • Cows at Augusta!

    During WWII, when manpower was short and the course was closed for the duration, they set 200 cattle loose on the grounds in hopes that they would “trim” the grass by eating it.  The plan was that once the cows were fattened, the club would sell them for a tidy profit, since meat was being rationed.  However, the cows, not realizing where they were, continued to devour azalea and camellia bushes at an alarming rate. Finally, they were sold and, instead of a profit, a loss of $5,000 was recorded in the Augusta business ledger.

  • Caddies must wear white jumpsuits, which make them look like a parking attendant from the 1950’s.
  • TV commentators are required to call the spectators “patrons”.  Man, that is some high class crowd.  Makes me think of frequenting a posh salon or uber-expensive tasting room.  But there must be some truth to it because it is the one tournament where you don’t hear some yahoo screaming, “You ‘da man!” after every tee shot.  Augusta National also forbids patrons from wearing their caps backwards.  In other words, it is the polar opposite of the Phoenix Open.
  • Another tradition is that cell phones are banned.  Instead, there are banks of payphones for “patrons” to use, which means there are very long lines of people waiting to use one.  The millennials must gaze at these “antiques” and wonder how their grandparents posted selfies with them.
  • You can be arrested for selling tickets to The Masters.  A few years ago 24 people were arrested for doing just that.  One must understand, that to be a patron you don’t buy a ticket, you apply for a ticket.
  • In another move that is sure to irritate somebody somewhere, the bunkers at Augusta aren’t filled with sand, they are actually composed of waste product from the mining of aluminum.  The byproduct of the waste is a really white quartz, which sure looks like sand but is much more expensive.
  • Hamilton Tailoring Co. of Cincinnati is the exclusive maker of the green jacket, awarded to every winner.  But don’t even think about trying to order one for yourself… Hamilton Tailoring does not accept orders from the general public.  Even the Master’s winners are forbidden to take the green jacket from Augusta, except for the first year after their win.  Sergio Garcia was so thrilled with his win that he wore his green jacket during his wedding reception.

And finally, not to crush your illusions, but there are no birds allowed at Augusta National.  No one knows quite how they manage to keep the birds out.  Personally, I have visions of Tom Skerrett in “Steel Magnolias”.  In any event, the chirping birds you hear on the telecast is a “sweetener” from the sound people at CBS.

All of this makes for a very special tournament, one I hope to see in person one day.  That is, if I can live up to being a “patron”.

 

A Laughing Matter

by Bob Sparrow

                                      “When you lose your power to laugh, you lose your power to think straight.”                                                                                                                                                                Inherit the Wind

I am not an immunologist or a doctor of any kind, I’m not a health worker of any kind either, and have really done nothing to help get us through this pandemic, except get my shots, which was mostly helping me.  So, I felt worthless in terms of my contribution to society, until I read Karine Bengualid’s article on Copyhackers about the power of laughter during the pandemic; I quote:

‘Humor offers certain emotional and mental benefits, such as establishing relationships, relieving anxiety, releasing anger in a socially acceptable way, decreasing depression and loneliness and increasing self-esteem, as well as physical benefits like increasing pain tolerance, improving respiration and breathing and exercising facial, abdominal and chest muscles, leading to reduced muscle tension.  Humor can undo physical effects of negative emotions like fear, anger or sadness’.

So, as my contribution to this whole ‘thing’ going on, I’m sharing what I think are humorous quotes and cartoons about the pandemic as well as some observations about life today.

  • A teardrop tattoo means you killed someone in prison, a toilet paper tattoo means you killed someone at Costco

 

  • Q: Did you get your two shots?                                                                                 A: Yes                                                                                                                                               Q:  Pfizer or Moderna?                                                                                                        A:  Whiskey & Tequila

Half of us . . .

  • Half of us are going to come out the pandemic as amazing cooks, the other half with a drinking problem. There is no in between
  • Half of us are going to use this time to focus on improving ourselves through meditation and getting into great shape, and half of us will have more ice cream after we finish the pizza and beer
  • Half of our recycling bins will return to normal use and half will still be overflowing with empty wine bottles
  • Regarding our bathroom habits, half will get back to normal and half will continue to horde toilet paper
  • Regarding our morning routine, half will get up, shower and go to work and half will wear a nice jacket and matching underwear to work
  • Half will go back to drinking Corona beer and half will never drink that beverage that caused this awful pandemic

Feeling better yet?

  • My husband purchased a world map and then gave me a dart and said, “Throw this and wherever it lands—that’s where I’m taking you when this pandemic ends.” Turns out, we’re spending two weeks behind the fridge.
  • After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this year I discovered that wasn’t the reason.
  • Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well.
  • Being quarantined with a talkative child is like having an insane parrot glued to your shoulder
  • I finished Netflix today
  • Day 121 at home and the dog is looking at me like, “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”
  • 30 days hath September, April, June, and November, all the rest have 31, except for March which was infinite.

I’m putting a drink in every room in my house and calling it a pub crawl

Abort, abort abort! Re-route to 1999 when all we had to worry about was cheesy boy bands!

You know things are different when you work at a bank and two guys with masks come in, but they’re just robbing the place

Hope you got a few chuckles; it’s OK if you didn’t, I’m still going to feel like I contributed something to getting through the pandemic!

 

 

LUCKY LOUIS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

These days it’s easy to believe the worst in people.  Every time I turn on the TV there is some new horror.   I’ve lamented previously that the “neighborhood” feel that I grew up is a thing of the past.  But last week my faith was restored – mightily – by a lost dog.  Jennifer and Joe Veres took their dog, Louis, to the groomer.  A pretty ordinary errand, except that the groomer let Louis loose while taking him out for a potty break.  Louis is a small poodle-mix who was on a leash, so it makes one wonder just how attentive the groomer was watching over her charge.  A runaway dog is bad enough, but this grooming shop sits at one of the busiest intersections in Scottsdale.  The city estimates that 38,700 vehicles per day drive that road.  Louis was lost around 4 p.m., a very busy time of day.  The grooming shop closes at 5 p.m., but once Jennifer arrived there she told the owner she was going to stay all night if necessary in case Louis found his way back.  The owner said he had to go home to feed his animals, but would return to unlock the restroom for her and check on the progress of the search.  He never did.

Jennifer immediately took to Nextdoor, an app that is normally used by people to find a plumber or throw shade on a restaurant.  But Jennifer knew that it can also be a useful tool to broadcast information about a lost dog.  Just that week, another dog had been found through Nextdoor, and that gave her reason to hope.  Once she posted about Louis on Nextdoor, including his cute picture,  the community stepped up.  Literally HUNDREDS of people saw Jennifer’s story and came out to help.  Families got in their cars to traverse the area, bicyclists checked all the trails, and businesses pitched in as well.  The Off Road Jeep Adventures company is in the same shopping center as the groomer and they looked out for Jennifer as she waited.  Not only that, they sent their vehicles out with their high-powered headlights to aid in the search.  The valets and patrons at two nearby restaurants heard about Louis and began searching, as did Jennifer’s workmates.  Later that day a woman reported seeing Louis on the grounds of a nearby church, but when she tried to catch him, he was frightened and scampered away.  After that, the church allowed Jennifer and Joe to place clothing and food on their premises in an effort to lure Louis to the scent of his owners and a good meal.

As nightfall came, the search for Louis became more frantic.  The Sonoran desert can be a dangerous place, filled with rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats and very sharp cacti.  It’s not a great place for anyone at night, much less a poor, defenseless dog with a leash trailing behind him.  Jennifer took the advice of several people on Nextdoor and called on HARTT (Humane Animal Rescue and Trapping Team).  HARTT is a volunteer-based nonprofit here is Arizona that helps in capturing lost family pets, and homeless dogs and cats who are severely injured.  It’s a very specialized service, staffed with volunteers to understand the behavior of scared pets.  HARTT relies on volunteers to immediately begin searching when a lost pet is reported.  In Louis’ case, they worked tirelessly to find him, and to instruct everyone looking for him what and what not to do in case they spotted him.  According to HARTT, most lost animals do not stray more than a mile from where they were lost, so the fact that Louis had been spotted at the church meant he might still be nearby.

Jennifer, Joe and hundreds of others stayed out all Thursday night looking for Louis, with no luck.  Just as with lost people, time is not a friend.  Friday was a very hot day so it became more distressing that Louis had no ready access to water.  As the sun set on Friday night and darkness descended, a determined band of neighbors, the Jeep Adventures guys, and HARTT volunteers did not let up the search.  The Veres’ neighbor brought their dog, and Louis’ best friend, Teddy, to help find him.  And that did the trick!  At 8 pm on Friday night, 28 hours after Louis went missing, they spotted him near a playground next to the church.  Teddy’s scent must have let Louis know that he was near “safe” people because they were able to keep Louis there until Jennifer and Joe arrived.  Once Louis heard and smelled Joe he came out from under the brush and ran into Joe’s arms.  The guys from the Jeep company filmed the happy reunion.  As you night expect, everyone cried tears of joy.  I’m sorry that I can’t load the video here, because to hear Joe exclaim, “Buddy, there’s my best friend and buddy” as Louis jumped into his arms, is beyond heartwarming.

Louis’ body and paws were covered in cacti stickers so the Veres took him immediately to the local emergency vet, where he had to be sedated while they removed all of them.  It was truly a miracle that he had survived all.  For the record, the groomer did volunteer to pay the emergency vet bill.  It was the least they could do, so they did the least.  As of last week Louis is still a little traumatized and does not want to be left alone.  Luckily, Jennifer works for a great company.  They not only helped look for Louis but agreed that he could come in to work with her so she is always in his sight.  Jennifer and Joe have finally caught up on sleep and as for me, I am making HARTT Arizona my designated charity on my Amazon Smile Prime purchases.  I hope to God that Dash the Wonder Dog never goes missing, but if he does I now know exactly who to call.

So, the next time you think the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, think of the story of Louis.   People are really good.  Your neighbors are really good.  We all want to help each other out.  Remember that.

The ‘Madness’ Continues

by Bob Sparrow

2020 Headline

We thought we knew what ‘March Madness’ was until last March when suddenly restaurants, schools, bars, churches, gyms, salons, etc., etc., etc., were suddenly closed for the better part of a year – now that’s MADNESS!

Last year’s ‘other’ March Madness, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, was cancelled due to a new thing called the Coronavirus Pandemic.  This year, in our effort to return to ‘normalcy’, the tournament is back, albeit with a few restrictions around Covid and woke correctness:

  • All players must wear a mask and a shield while playing
  • Coaches over 55 cannot attend the game in person, so must coach from home via Zoom
  • While on the court player must socially distance, making sure they get no closer than six feet from anyone
  • The ball must be sanitized following each team’s possession
  • During the game, all players must be able to show proof of a hook shot, a jump shot and a Pfizer shot
  • Cheering is not allowed, as it could show favoritism to one player over another
  • There will ultimately be no winner and more importantly, no losers – all players will get a trophy

OK, perhaps I’ve stretched the truth a bit, but there are some real restrictions:

  1. To prevent excessive travel, all games will be played in the Indianapolis area
  2. Capacity of games will be limited to 25% of arena capacity
  3. If a team can’t play due to Covid, it will be treated like a loss and that team will be elimination

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden

Most know that the ‘Final Four’ is the last team standing from each division – they play for the championship.  However, the ‘First Four’ is made up of eight teams that are on the ‘bubble’ of getting into the tournament; they play the week before the tournament starts (which was last week) and the four winners advance to round out the 64-team field.

The classic match up in last week’s ‘First Four’ game was UCLA vs. Michigan State.  These two schools have historically been perennial basketball powers and would typically be in the Final Four, not the First Four.  UCLA has made 49 appearances in this tournament, made it to the Final Four 18 times, won the tournament 11 times and was undefeated for the year four times.  Michigan State has made 33 appearances in the tournament, made the Final Four ten times and won the championship twice.

UCLA won last Friday’s ‘First Four’ game in overtime and thus receives an invitation to ‘The Dance’.  Aside from the overtime game, the other three First Four games were decided by 1, 1 and 8 points – this is going to be one great tournament!  Michigan State will be joining  a couple of other basketball powerhouses, Duke and Kentucky, on the sidelines this year.  The last time those two teams were NOT in the tournament, Gerald Ford was president – that was 1976!   A “does-history-repeat-itself” aside: As many of you will recall, Gerald Ford’s assent to the presidency is unprecedented. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to charges of extortion, bribery and conspiracy, President Nixon appointed Ford, who was then the House Minority Leader, to be vice president.  Then, less than a year later, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resigned, making Ford president.  Does the absence of these teams from this tournament mean we’re going to see some unprecedented movement at the top of our government? Or have we already see it?

But enough about those who didn’t get voted in.  One of the favorites in this year’s tournament is the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, a school with an enrollment of around 7,000 undergraduates in Spokane, Washington.  They are the only undefeated team in the tournament, as well as being a #1 seed along with Baylor, Michigan and Illinois (who got beat in the first round last week!)  This small university in the northwest has been to the tournament 22 times and, in fact, played in the championship game in 2017, when they lost to North Carolina.

Even if you think you don’t like to watch basketball, I would bet that if you start watching this tournament, you’ll find yourself hooked and rooting for, or against various teams – you’ll end up having a ‘favorite’ that you’d like to see playing for the championship on Monday, April 5th.   After this Monday’s games, we’ll be in the ‘Sweet 16’Pac-12 fan are loving the tournament so far, all five teams made it through the first round, including both UCLA and USC.

I think you’ll find the tournament a nice break from the latest Netflix series or another one of those ‘fake’ reality program – this ‘show’ is truly unscripted reality!

‘TIS A FINE WEEK

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Surely, ’tis the best week of the year, is it not?  St. Patrick’s Day is not until Wednesday but some of us have begun celebrating early.  I am personally contributing to the festivities by drinking a pint of Guinness every day. Guinness is the mother’s milk of Ireland, and for good reason.  Three years ago I had the good fortune of spending time in the Emerald Isle with four of my girlfriends.  On the first day of the trip I ate something that didn’t agree with me.  Our driver suggested that I “take a Guinness”, extolling it’s virtues as a cure-all for most any ailment.  I gulped it down and, sure enough, I began to feel better.  He went on to explain that when he was growing up, doctors were scarce – and unaffordable – so Irish mothers gave their children a nip of Guinness whenever they were sick, as it was believed to be chocked full of vitamins and minerals.  Sort of the Irish version of Children’s  One-A-Day.

Once back home I began to research the miracle of Guinness.  Was it really a health food?  Should I be drinking more?  Turns out that back in the 1920s, when the “Guinness is Good for You” slogan was introduced, the claim was based on market research that found people felt good after they drank a pint of the dark and foamy stout.  Okay, but substitute “stout” for almost any form of alcohol and you’d probably have the same result.  Soon after the slogan gained popularity the flimsy claim was bolstered by the discovery that Guinness contains iron. A ha!  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Even pregnant women were advised to have an occasional pint. Of course, it would take something like a dozen pints a day for a woman to get her recommended daily allowance of iron, in which point the alcohol and calories would cause more harm than good.

But in 2003 researchers at the University of Wisconsin found a truly redeeming feature of the beloved Guinness.  Turns out that stout beer like Guinness (as opposed to lager and other light beer) is high in the antioxidant compounds called flavonoids—similar to those found in red wine, tea and chocolate—that can reduce the risk of heart attack from blood clotting.   The researchers carried out laboratory tests on dogs with clogged arteries, comparing the effects of Guinness and Heineken. Only those dogs fed Guinness had reduced clotting.  Wow – red wine, chocolate, dogs and Guinness.  The gods have come together to link all of my favorite things together into one healthy bundle!  I should live to be 100.

My brother and I share a love for Ireland, even though our DNA results show our Irish heritage to be somewhat limited.  I am 12% Irish and he is 8%, which doesn’t seem fair because he has frequented a lot more Irish pubs than I have.  In fact, he has a unique ability to find an Irish pub everywhere he travels.  When he hiked Machu Picchu,  he fortified himself beforehand at Paddy’s Irish Pub in Cusco, Peru, which holds the distinction of being the highest elevation pub on the planet at over 11,156 feet.  I recently watched the Amazon Prime Video movie “The Irish Pub” and it became clear why we cling to our small but powerful Irish ancestry.  The documentary highlighted pubs all over Ireland, interviewing the owners and customers.  Charming doesn’t begin to describe it.  Yes, some of the pubs were dark and possibly had not been cleaned since 1947.  But the owners and customers alike took great pride in their establishments and their welcoming of strangers.   Anyone who has visited Ireland can attest to that – the Irish seem to be universally good-natured and friendly.  The film made it clear that the local pub provides a gathering place for people to chat and get to know one another and many customers remarked that they would rather do that than watch television.

I think what we can conclude from all this is that America would be a far better – and healthier – place if we all gathered down at the local pub for a good conversation and a pint of Guinness.  Throw in a dog by the fire and that’s about as close to Heaven as one can get.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and…Slainte!!