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Off-Key

By Bob Frederickson

From DMV Buzz to Saved by the Fuzz…

Golly Gee, Protect the Bees!

State Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade has proposed a new Florida specialty license plate highlighting the importance of bees in keeping Florida’s agriculture buzzing along.

In recent years beekeepers have reported a pattern of unexplained bee colony die-offs, leading to concerns in some quarters for the nation’s food supply if the causes are not identified and remedied.

No small thing, this. I do see a specialty plate highlighting bees and all they do for us as being worthy of the DMV’s blessing.

So count me as a yes on the ‘bee’ plate. I might even pry open the wallet and spring for one.

And here’s a suggestion for the ‘tag’ line to run beneath the colorful graphic of a busy bee hard at work in some verdant Florida field:

“To Bee, or not to Bee…”

Or perhaps the slightly less apocalyptic…

“Bee Aware!”

Your Money’s No Good Here…

Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, has announced it will become a ‘cash-free’ zone starting this season.

The reason? Cash, it seems, is just too slow…

Kinda like the pace of the game itself?

Maybe that’s part of the appeal, no?

Harvard Astronomer Finds Religion?

A recent interview with Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, appearing in the New Yorker magazine, was interesting on two fronts. First there was the question posed by the piece’s headline: “Have Aliens Found Us?”

Astronomers like Loeb have been perplexed by the origins of an object that passed through our solar system in October 2017. The object, dubbed ‘Oumaumau,’ the Hawaiian word for messenger, didn’t exhibit the usual characteristics of objects observed traversing our galactic neck of the woods. Most baffling was the object’s ‘peculiar’ acceleration, which led to speculation that it “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization.”

Now that quote wasn’t from Whitley Strieber or some screenwriter for The X-Files; rather it came from the chair of Harvard University’s astronomy department, the aforementioned Loeb, in a paper written with the assistance of Harvard post-doctoral fellow Schmuel Bialy.

That’s fascinating enough, and for those of you similarly interested, you might want to track down the full interview on the New Yorker’s web site. But the second thing that intrigued me about the piece came toward the end in an exchange between the interviewer, Isaac Chotiner, and the altogether serious man of science, Loeb.

Chotiner asked him this:

“Have your religious beliefs, or beliefs about God, changed in any way in the time you have been studying astronomy?

Loeb seemed taken aback.

“I’m not religious,” he replied. “Why do you make that assumption?”

Chotiner: “I didn’t, I was wondering if your thoughts had changed one way or another.”

To which Loeb gave this bifurcated response:

“I am not religious. I am struck by the order we find in the universe, by the regularity, by the existence of laws of nature. That is something I am always in awe of, how the laws of nature we find here on Earth seem to apply all the way out to the edge of the universe. That is quite remarkable. The universe could have been chaotic and very disorganized. But it obeys a set of laws much better than people obey a set of laws here. My work as a scientist is purely based on evidence and rational thinking. That’s all.”

Not religious?

Could have fooled me.

Loeb recognizes fidelity and faithfulness everywhere he looks…except in his own heart.

Wait For it…”

When news broke of a Colorado hiker killing a mountain lion with his bare hands after the cat attacked him on a remote trail recently, I wondered aloud to my wife how long it would take before PETA weighed in on the subject. Well, we now know: it took almost a week to formulate this brief statement:

“This is a tragic story. It had to be terrifying for the man and the mountain lion, ending in the death of the animal that called that land home.” 

Tragic story? Only if you live in a Disney movie…or are a member of PETA.

I saw it as heroic.

Wonder how the press release would have read if the hiker had been the loser here. But what am I thinking?  There wouldn’t have been one.

Cell Phones in Sarasota Elementary Schools?

I was surprised by something I read during the course of the recent Sarasota School Board debate over cell phones in county classrooms. It came in an anecdote from board chairwoman Jane Goodwin in which she recounts a recent visit to a fifth grade classroom where she saw students using their phones at their desks.  

I had no idea kids that young were so equipped, but after a bit of research I found that many kids get their first phones by the age og eight…which made me consider several other trends that I think intersect here: Toy-‘R-Us is out-of Business. Toy makers like American Girl and Mattel are facing hard times.

It appears phones and other video devices have supplanted traditional forms of ‘play.’

This can’t be good…

More reading and I come across a piece by Nellie Bowles in The New York Times that ran under this headline:

“CONSIDER THE SOURCE: In Silicon Valley, Tech-Connected Parents Shield their kids from smartphones.”

Here is the lead paragraph:

“The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it. Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don’t want their children anywhere near them.”

But do as I say, not as I do?

We all know kids learn most fully from what they see the adults around them do, so what kind of an example are tech obsessed parents setting for their offspring?

Some upwardly mobile techie parents – perhaps with that in mind – are even opting for ‘pencil and paper’ private schools where traditional forms of education, sans screens, are the rule.

The whole question makes me see the Apple logo in a new light.

Quote of the Day…

“The urge to save humanity is almost always the false face of the urge to rule it.”

                                                                                                              -H.L. MENKEN

“Decisions, Decisions…”

“Go to jail or jump in the lake, Go to jail or jump in the lake, Go to jail or jump in the lake,”

That’s what it came down to for Richard Garay of Nokomis last month as police attempted to arrest him on outstanding warrants.

He chose the lake. Only problem: Garay couldn’t swim. And so the police had to jump in and rescue him.

When asked why he chose to jump in the lake he gave the obvious answer: “I didn’t want to go to jail.”