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Alex Baer

Ancient History, Hot off the Presses

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Anything that happened yesterday is still news, while last month's headlines get sifted into the heap of modern-day discards.  If you want to reflect on the America of the 1940s -- or even the 1980s -- then you're obviously an archeologist on a mission.

Unless you're summarizing the most recent yak-fest -- the so-called presidential debates.  You remember:  The ones marketed by hucksters like cage matches from two new species only just now discovered in wildest Borneo.

You know:  The Distracted Professor versus the Gish Galloper Extraordinaire!

One way to reframe the lingering, post-event aftertaste:  You were watching a hot-air duel that could really have been broadcast skips on the chilled atmosphere from just after World War Two, colliding with torrid blasts from the Reagan era, when the hot air really got superheated and shoved around.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 16:53 Read more...

Anybody Got a Golden Crowbar?

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There's nothing like a new survey on religion in America to boost hope on the one hand, then turn right around and immediately crush it in another.

For example, the number of people who express no affiliation with religion is now at its highest point, at almost 20%, or one in five Americans.  That figure's up 8% in just the last five years.

Before you head off to your coven or place of crystal meditation to celebrate the increase in those suddenly swooning to their senses, you should also know that 68% of the unaffiliated say they still believe in God.

Such is the history of the species:  Two sluggish, uncertain slumps forward, and one dazed, aimless bit of meandering back.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 18:19 Read more...

The Craziness of Keeping Sane

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If you've not noticed in this enchanting election cycle -- now heading into its eternal, unending, 19th year -- reality as we once knew it has dived into a hole somewhere, hiding out, on hiatus, with a shakily-lettered sign hung out that reads, "Go Away!"

While grim political candidates and their even-grimmer supporters are taking major psychotic breaks from reality, facts, and the truth, I'm content taking much smaller time-outs from this bat-guano-crazed world.

After the fever-dreams and sensory hallucinations of a long dizzy-dance with the flu, after all, it's good to be back on solid ground with the regular, everyday crazy stuff again.

Like pondering the world's most expensive shoe, a high-heeled number encrusted with more than a half million dollars of white diamonds stuck to it.  Sure.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 October 2012 18:07 Read more...

Blue Honey and Blown Money

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Since when do bees make honey in various shades of blue and green?

Beekeepers in northeastern France were posing that most reasonable question lately, until they suspected their bees were eating the sugary waste from M&Ms -- those brightly colored, candy-shelled chocolates.

A biogas plant in Alsace is thought to be the culprit.  It deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory.  Combine a harsh winter with a rainy summer, and the bees have had less time than usual for foraging, forcing beekeepers to set out sugar syrup for the bees.

The bees instead made a beeline for the waste chocolate shop.  A spokesperson for the British Beekeeper's Association said, "Bees are clever enough to know where the best sources of sugar are, if they are no others available."

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 18:07 Read more...

Casual Snapshots of Life on Two Planets

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Just when you think you've got the hang of things, the solar system or universe will show you something you've never seen before.

Case in point:  What are those little black things on Mars -- where do they come from each spring, and where do they go when winter approaches?

Now, I know I've been running a fever -- it's early-voting-and-flu season here -- and been having trouble with gravity thanks to inner-ear plumbing, but black, spidery things on Mars?

Apparently so, and they've been showing up for their meager sunbathing rites for about a decade that we know about, at least.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 October 2012 21:01 Read more...

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