Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?

Two major hurricanes in as many weeks with a third one looming out there.  What a catastrophic end to summer.  Fortunately, the third one, hurricane Jose, looks to be staying out to sea and not wrecking any havoc on land.  Hopefully, it's not to soon to lighten the somber mood summer left us with.

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jury reform may have a sympathetic ear in a genuine statesman

A few weeks ago, I met with Delegate Adams to talk about my ideas for jury reform.  For everyone who has been following my saga of jury reform for the last two years or so, yes, meeting with Delegate Adams is a big deal. 

I admit, I'm remiss on knowing who all of my elected officials are.  It's a good day for me if I remember my boss's name and can put that name to the right face.  Apparently Delegate Adams won the 2014 midterm elections since he assumed his current role in Jan 2015.  I vote in every election so most likely I voted for him because I didn't know anything about any of the candidates running that year and party line voting is what I usually do when I know nothing of the candidates on the ballot.

Not a drunk redneck, but still
a native Eastern Shore man

Now that I know who he is, please allow me to introduce him.

Delegate Adams is a born and raised Eastern Shore man.  That might explain why sitting down and talking with him in a Dunkin Donuts was so natural and easy.  He came in jeans and a nice shirt, nothing fancy.  Heck, if I weren't on my lunch break from work, I'd have no problem suggesting we go to the local bar and shoot some pool while we talked.

He was a half hour late.  Now he could've made lame excuses or blamed his assistant for not entering the appointment correctly in his calendar, but he did none of that.  When he walked in the Dunkin Donuts, he shook my hand, introduced himself, sat down, and apologized for being late.  He pulled out his phone and showed the appointment as being entered correctly and apologized again saying that he usually meets people at the Dunkin Donuts on Nanticoke Road and he didn't read the appointment carefully to realize he was supposed to be on Tilghman Road.

Wow.  A politician who dresses like I do and accepts blame instead of passing the buck or making excuses.  Immediately, I felt like this was a man I could relate to.

He liked some of my ideas I had written and told me some probably wouldn't fly.  He obviously read my ideas because he talked about specific points I had made.  Then he asked me what I thought about increasing the per diem pay of fifteen dollars to like fifty, sixty, maybe seventy per day.   

"Would that help?" he asked.

Turns out, last year, as a freshman, he proposed raising the per diem pay for jurors.  From his testimony before the House, he proposed the bill in response to what his constituents told him.  You can view his testimony here.  (If the video does not start with the introduction of Delegate Adams, simply move the cursor to the 3:11:00 mark.)

Did he say constituents?  Whoa, that's me and you!

Ok, I got a little ahead of myself here.  When Delegate Adams talked about his proposal to raise the per diem, I heard it as a good start, but a lot more needs to be done.  My problem, of course, is that a nine to five employee is getting paid the per diem plus the day's pay from his or her company - and if the company isn't paying for the jury service, the employee always has a personal day available to take so that the week's paycheck isn't taking a hit.

Our farmers, watermen, business owners, and independent contractors (1099 employees) lose a whole day's pay.  The per diem pay offsets the loss, but the bottom line is their civic duty costs them a lot more than it costs most nine to five employees.  In some cases, maybe a very few, the civic duty could cost them their contract.  One's civic duty shouldn't cost more than anyone else's. 

As we talked about this contention of who's shouldering the bigger financial liability to honor one's call to civic duty, I offhandedly made the comment to the effect of, "You know how the government...."

Delegate Adams let me finish my sentence and then said something I haven't heard a politician say in many decades, at least not sincerely like Delegate Adams said it. 

"I'm not the government.  I'm your voice and everyone else's voice."

And I believed him.  The whole time I was talking, it didn't escape my notice he was taking copious notes.  One doesn't take notes unless one plans on referring to them later.  I could almost see him doing exactly what I would do.  Take the notes home, arrange them and jot some more notes down, and always be thinking what was said and how it ties in with what everyone else has said.

At the end of our meeting, which lasted almost half an hour, Delegate Adams asked me what I would want to see happen.  Again, a very pointed question that showed he was listening and wanted to serve me.  Over the last couple of decades, I have become accustomed to politicians (and government employees in general) telling me what I'm supposed to think and do.  His question threw me for a loop.  I realized in that instant I was talking to someone who knew his job description and exactly what that job description - public servant - meant.

I answered his question very simply.  If all I saw happen was real talk out of Annapolis about reforming the jury selection process, I'd be happy.  If we start accommodating the farmers, watermen, and the self employed now, accommodations for a radically different workforce of the future as machines take over more and more jobs will be much easier to make.

Remember how many times I have asked where all our real statesmen/women have gone?  I think I found one in Delegate Adams. 

But you know what he needs?  Your voice.

Let him know of your experience with the jury selection process and what you think could have made the whole process of carrying out your civic duty easier.  Somehow, I think he wants to hear from you.

Jury reform isn't high on your list of legislative goals?  What's wrong with you!

No, seriously, not a big deal.  But it is a big deal we have a born and raised Eastern Shore man who listens and he probably wants to hear from you.  Make him earn his paycheck and tell him what's on your mind even if it's not about jury duty.

Christopher T. Adams
Republican, District 37B, Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, & Wicomico Counties

    House Office Building, Room 323
    6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
    (410) 841-3343, (301) 858-3343
    1-800-492-7122, ext. 3343 (toll free)
    fax: (410) 841-3299, (301) 858-3299

TL;DR folks:
I met with our delegate, Christopher Adams, and talked about my ideas for jury reform.  What you need to know - your delegate is a born and raised Eastern Shore man who wants you to tell him what you want.  So tell him at the above contact information.  Tell him anything on your mind and if jury duty is one of those things, cool.

For your listening pleasure

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Maybe Union soldiers aren't welcomed in Talbot County

Dear Esteemed Members of the Talbot County Council,

I wrote you last week regarding any efforts by any group in Talbot to erect a Union monument next to the Talbot Boys.  As of this writing, I have not received a reply from you nor have I been able to find any evidence of a Union monument project under way.

I truly believe Talbot County residents stand on the cusp of setting a powerful example of reconciliation the nation could follow.  Talbot citizens can show that regardless of one's feelings, emotions, and interpretations of our collective history, as a community, they can come together and ensure the monuments of the most hurtful eras can tell the whole story complete with all the gripping drama, pain, and gross injustices.  All of Talbot's veterans should be honored and the fact the Union soldiers have been neglected is a gross injustice.

There are two things I need to know from you.

  1. Are you aware of any group in the planning or fundraising stage to erect a Union memorial?  If so, I'd like to volunteer my time and/or money.  I don't have much of either, but I'm sure every little bit would help.
  2. If there are no plans in the works, what does a know-nothing guy like me with a dollar in his pocket need to do to get the ball rolling?
I envision a day in the near future where citizens of all walks of life will gather for the unveiling of the Union monument and share tears of joy and sorrow over that dark, but necessary, era of our history.  The story needs to be told and shared, not shoved off to some obscure museum or cemetery. 

And, honestly, even with the addition of a Union memorial, only one other thing would be missing to tell the whole story - a monument to the unnamed slaves who were instrumental in building the success of Talbot County since its founding.  Perhaps that monument should come after the Union monument is built although I believe it would be great if both monuments could be unveiled at the same time.

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Why did the NAACP let the Yankees die?

A little more than two years ago, the county next to me became a battle ground in the Great Confederate Purge of 2015.  Last year, in the final battle, the County Commissioners of Talbot ruled the Confederate monument known as the Talbot Boys would remain on the court house grounds.

They also provided that a space would be reserved for the other side of the story.  A monument honoring the Talbot citizens who fought for the Union that would be similar in size to the existing Talbot Boys monument could be erected to tell the full story of Talbot's involvement in the Civil War.  The monument, however, would need to be erected by private citizens who raised the money and who enlisted the artist to sculpt the monument.  Like the county did for Talbot Boys a hundred years ago, the county was not going to foot the bill for a new memorial honoring Yankee veterans.

A little more than a year after the Council's final decision, the forces wanting to tear down the monument has made no apparent effort to build a Yankee monument.  The forces that opposed the tearing down of the Talbot Boys has made no apparent effort to build a Yankee monument.

I'm tired of waiting for these so-called movers and shakers of our community to do something, so I wrote the Talbot County Commissioners to see if there's anything a drunk redneck with a dollar in his pocket can do.  Some might think community building and healing old wounds is accomplished through demolition and forgetting, but I think it's accomplished by building and never forgetting.

Below is the letter I sent to the Talbot County Commissioners tonight, and so, yes, this will be another ongoing story.

Dear Esteemed Members of the Talbot County Commission:

First, let me thank you for your wise decision a bit over a year ago to leave the Talbot Boys statue standing.  I had written you in support of leaving the statue on more than one occasion.  Thank you for listening, not only to me, but everyone, and making a wise decision.

After your final decision, you had left open the opportunity to erect a monument similar in size to the existing Talbot Boys monument to honor the many Talbot young men who served on the Union side of the Civil War.  I have patiently been monitoring the Save Our Statue and the NAACP of Talbot groups that were most vocal in their push for or against the monument in hopes one of them would take the Commission up on their open allowance for the dedication of an equal monument for the Yankee soldiers.  As of this writing, I fail to see any indication of an effort to raise money for a monument in honor of the Yankee veterans by either group nor anyone else.

This oversight of Talbot County to honor the Yankee veterans for over a hundred years is a slap in the face to every veteran past, present, and future.  Since the folks who were incensed at Talbot honoring Confederate soldiers haven't taken you up on the offer to erect a Yankee monument and the folks who fought to honor veterans, even the Confederate ones, haven't taken you up on honoring our Yankee veterans, I reckon someone needs to step up to the plate.

Are you aware of any organization who may at least be in the planning stages for a Yankee monument?  If not, what would I need to do to get the ball rolling?  I'm just one guy working a full time job, leaving me with little time and only a dollar in my pocket, but maybe if there's something I can do to get the movers and shakers of our communities off their butts, we can finally properly honor those forgotten veterans of the Civil War.


[real name edited for privacy]

TL;DR folks:
A Confederate monument was threatened to be torn down.  After hearing all sides a County Council voted to keep it.  They also compromised and allowed for a second, Yankee monument to be built.  The forces wanting to demolish the Confederate one in the name of "healing old wounds and building a community" has moved on to other rage of the day issues rather than build a Yankee monument. 

The whole Talbot Boys saga:
Maybe Union soldiers aren't welcomed in Talbot County
On the road to irrelevancy
NAACP and Mr. Potter fighting to tear down the Vietnam War Memorial
Only time will reveal the true motives of Talbot Boys detractors
Final thoughts on the Talbot Boys

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The art of the con

Arizona, a few decades ago, had legalized "friendly" gambling in public places, including bars.  When the law past, I enjoyed the opportunity to play a few hands of black jack while drinking a beer.  I was also smart enough to leave the table when the "house" - any other bar patron who brought a deck of cards - started winning too much.

One Sunday night I brought my own cards so I could be the house.  I figured the card sharks would be home or in Church or something and I knew the odds are always in favor of the house.  I'm no card shark so I figured I and everyone playing would have fun in an honest game.

The game went fine for about a half an hour.  I was few bucks ahead and having fun.  My friend was probably breaking about even because he said he would leave once he lost ten bucks, but he was still playing.  Two other patrons I didn't know played and appeared to be having a good time.  Then a stranger saddled up to the table.

Nothing about the stranger set out warning signals until after three or four hands.  He offered me his own deck to play with because his deck "shuffled better."  One of the other players encouraged me to accept the deck because I was clumsy with my old deck of sticky cards.  He didn't accuse me of cheating, but the implication was there.  I reluctantly accepted the new deck.

It took me less than ten hands to fold and turn the deal over to the stranger.  I wasn't about to go broke.  As house, I lost hand after hand to the stranger, which, statistically, I knew should not have happened.  He encouraged me to continue, but I walked away. 

He took over the house position.  Half an hour later, he had no players.  He cleaned them all out, including my friend for ten bucks, and the stranger was left standing behind an empty table, albeit a lot richer.

After that night, I never sat at a card table again nor did I ever bring my own deck to play.  Card sharks infiltrated the "friendly gambling" game and destroyed it.  Friendly gambling became a venue to allow people who couldn't get a real honest job a means to support themselves at the expense of those who came to the bar to drink a few beers and have a good time.  Even though I left Arizona twenty-one years ago, as far as I can tell, they still have an "amusement gambling" law on the books.

The above real life example illustrates the art of the con in easy-to-understand terms.

First, you have to have a need for a proposed product or service.  When people go to a bar, not all of them want to dance, play pool, or drink to get drunk.  They do want to socialize.  Amusement gambling offers an alternative to pool playing and dancing and also affords the opportunity to socialize.

Second, you have ideologists who understand how things should be and also believe others understand the ideology in the same terms.  Amusement gambling, to most people, wouldn't mean "get rich quick."  It would mean playing an honest game for fun. 

Third, you have the opportunist who disregards the first two premises and aims to profit from the opportunity in some way regardless of the ideology.  The opportunist sees amusement gambling as a means to turn every beer drinking patron into their personal ATM machine.  Marked cards, sleight of hand, and a partner sitting as a player are tools the opportunist needs to make the ATM machine spew money.

Does the opportunist sound like a politician to you?  It should.  Politicians are opportunists no different than that stranger who saddled up to my card table and then cleaned it out.  Politicians have figured out the right buttons to push so the rest of us spew out the money whether we want to or not.

Healthcare is the latest scam opportunists in DC have invented to steal more money from us. 

First, there's the need for affordable healthcare we all recognize and agree to.  Second, we all understand affordable healthcare means we all should get to see doctors because quality healthcare shouldn't be a luxury given only to those who can afford it.  

Where healthcare reform falls apart is the third point.  Opportunists try to figure out how to pay for their Lamborghini or their one point two million dollar home at the expense of people who simply need some antibiotics, a stitch or two, or less frequently - like once in a lifetime - something more serious like stints or organ transplants. 

Real healthcare reform, as I stated before, needs to start at the top.  Control those costs and we're on our way to affordable healthcare.  Get the pharmaceutical companies out of healthcare (exactly why are they advertising their drugs directly to the consumer anyways?) and we're on the next step to drastically cutting costs.  And mandate every doctor, nurse, and nurse practitioner donate a minimum of ten percent of their work time to caring for those who can't afford their services.

Whoa, why mandate professionals to "donate" their time?  Simple.  They want me to donate my organs when I die so unless they start paying my next of kin for those organs, they need to donate their time to earn them.  Yes, I'm the opportunist taking advantage of the opportunist.  When I know my heart will cost a transplant recipient just shy of a million dollars, I want to know that everyone from my nurse practitioner through my doctor - and possibly surgeons if my health dictated the need of their services - all contributed to the cost of the transplant of the organ I offered them for free.

Politicians - you know, those folks who should be earning minimum wage since they believe that wage is good enough for most of us (but instead are earning almost $200,000 per year because we let them steal that from us) - are trying to come up with a healthcare reform plan to replace Obamacare and are failing.   The failure is being packaged as "It's the Democrats fault!"

Now here's where the interesting twist comes.  For a lot of us, we knew Obamacare was bad policy doomed for failure.  We knew we wouldn't get to keep our own doctor and we knew our premiums would rival our monthly mortgage payments.   Socialized medicine, in some form, may be inevitable, but Obamacare wasn't the right path. 

We were led to believe that Trump had a great plan, just wait and see, a vague promise he offered in the second debates and quite often in campaigns.

What did we "wait and see" for?

Apparently, nothing. 

Republicans had seven years to come up with a better plan. Trump had at least two years to come up with a better plan before he got elected. We called the con men's (and women's, what few are in the GOP) bluff, elected Trump to see the Republican's hand, waited to see the new hand, and seen nothing.

Adding salt to the wound is the recent tweet by GOP leadership. Someone using the GOP's Twitter account tweeted a question asking a couple of Democrat senators as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton where their plan to fix Obamacare was.


There's two ways to take this tweet, and neither bodes well for Republicans nor Trump.

One way to take it is we can believe it was a heartfelt question in hopes of bringing Democrats into the healthcare debate.

Wait a minute. The Democrats had a healthcare plan in place. Everyone called it Obamacare. Yes, it needed tweaking and fixing or - for those like me - needed to be repealed, end of process. No replacement.

The other way to look at the GOP's question is as a snarky tweet and feeble attempt to make Democrats look like obstructionists to creating good public policy.

Wait a minute. That explanation for the GOP's tweet sounds more reasonable. Reading it, you can almost see a spoiled, bratty, rich kid (middle aged or older) - whose sum life experience was never further than ten feet away from the protective whir of Helicopter Mom's blades - truly believing he (or she) has put the liberals in their place with that question.

It never dawned on the middle aged author of that tweet the Democrats not only had solid answers to the question, but answers readily available to anyone with Internet access for at least the last two years. One Democrat, Hillary Clinton, stepped forward and sent the GOP tweeter running back to his Helicopter Mom.


The link in the tweet directed the Twitter user to her campaign page where she outlined how she would tweak Obamacare to make it better and more affordable.

It wasn't repeal, stop, like I wanted to see, but it was a plan.

The con men (and women) of the GOP had stepped up to the table after Obamacare became law and said, "Hey, I got a better deck to deal, just wait and see."

A handful of voters in three key electoral states said, "Hey, I want to play with that deck," and gave the deal to Trump and the GOP.

Twenty-three million players left the table losing all healthcare options. Those still at the table are throwing the equivalent of a second mortgage into the pot to stay in the healthcare game. Paying more for less is the new healthcare landscape for most of us.

Next year, in the midterm elections, we can fool ourselves into believing we can turn the tables. To a degree we might, but doubtful. Until we get a politician who questions why a hospital administrator with no medical degree drives around in a Lamborghini, healthcare costs won't be leashed.

Our children need to prepare themselves for the fact that their biggest and hardest financial obligation to meet in life won't be a thirty-year mortgage. It'll be a lifetime of healthcare premiums, a financial obligation that will disqualify them from ever getting a mortgage or even a loan for a second car.

TL;DR folks:
Healthcare shouldn't be a con game.  We lost when Obama conned us into it.  We're losing as Trump and the GOP stumble along to continue the con game.

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Adams Radio Group kidnapped Crank and killed rock and roll

Yeah, Crank has been kidnapped or something, but let's get to the real news.  Adams Radio Group killed rock and roll.

Face it.  Adams Radio Group is small potatoes in the radio world.  When a company needs to stoop to buying rights to the syndicated program, The Billy Madison Show, a show dedicated to selling tattoos and sex, one can pretty much guess listeners won't hear any groundbreaking programming, cutting edge music, or at least a tidbit of factoids about the songs or groups we've all heard hundreds of times every year for the last forty years.

Leah was our favorite DJ, our meaning the one who always writes to you and the semi-participating-drunk-redneck that's left in our original group of five.  Leah's rock update minutes were a breath of fresh air in otherwise stale and predictable programming.

Stale and predictable?

Yup.  In fact, WZBH has become so predictable, they match the programming of WIYY 98 Rock over in Baltimore that killed rock and roll there long before Adams Radio Group began the slaughter here.  We still love Amelia on that station, but the music is as stale as the music now played on WZBH.  But like Leah had with her rock minutes, Amelia has a noon flashback that adds a bit of depth to the songs and groups we've heard hundreds of times over the last forty years.

Here's a fun game.  If you're in the zone where you can tune both stations (93.5 for WZBH and 97.9 for WIYY), flip between them.  You'll be amazed how many times in an hour the two stations play the same songs, sometimes at the same time.  It's like a radio programmer job pays minimum wage so one person is programming both stations so he or she can afford to put some hotdogs on their kids' dinner plate.

Want to add a new dimension to the game?  Switch to WZBH's sister station, Big Classic Rock 98.5, and hear how many times all three stations play the same songs - and if not the same songs, the same groups singing their songs from the same time period.  That radio programmer is making a killing programming all three stations.  No more hotdogs on the kids' plates.  All beef hotdogs now, baby!

It's been a month since either one of us have listened to WZBH.  The semi-participating-drunk-redneck listens to the oldies, the oldies being '50's and '60's stuff, so he only listens to WZBH if I need to write an article. 

I now drive a route in a vehicle without a radio.  The only time I get to listen to the radio is when my vehicle is in for maintenance and I get to drive the vehicle with a radio.  It's been about three weeks, maybe a bit more since I tuned in.  I listened to Leah, turned the radio off for Drew since I couldn't stand that pervert's persona, and listened a bit to Jason Lee.  How things change in three weeks.  According to WZBH's website, Leah, Drew, and Jason Lee are no longer part of the programming line up. 

Sadly, Billy Madison still is.

I reckon I'll need to drive the vehicle with a radio this week to catch up what's happening at WZBH.  Or I could just be happy with listening to my favorite DJ, Amelia, out of Baltimore the once in a while I get to drive the vehicle with a radio and flip through the stations when I'm out of her zone.

So how did Crank get kidnapped in all of this?

Crank, if you remember, was the morning show host at WZBH for many years.  Always a sidekick, he wasn't cut out to be a star on his own.  Billy Madison, the syndicated show and not the person, replaced Crank. 

Crank lay low for about a year before taking a gig with New Country WXCY in Havre de Grace in that foreign land on the other side of The Bay.  He was there for about a year, give or take a few months, before disappearing.  And disappear he did.

A call to WXCY resulted in nothing other than "He's missed."  Crank's FaceBook page has been eerily quiet.  The page still shows he works for Delmarva Broadcasting Company, owners of WXCY, but he definitely is not there.
Proof Crank is a Dominoes Driver?

After Adam's Radio Group killed rock and roll, they kidnapped Crank.  If I ever could bring myself to stomach a Billy Madison Show, I might find out that the bodacious woman being spanked on air is Crank.  You know, that underworld of BDSM porn can be very shady and seedy, but when one needs to make money, can be very profitable - and a man can scream like a woman, which we suspect Crank would be a perfect screamer.  No more all beef hotdogs on the kids' plates.  A BDSM porn star can afford real beef patties, maybe even with cheese.

Or, as poetic justice would have it, Crank (real name: Andrew Murr) could be your Dominoes Pizza driver.  

TL;DR folks
If you don't live on Delmarva, you might not be interested in knowing how local rock stations killed rock and roll just like most rock stations across the nation have done.  If you don't know who Crank is and you're in Cecil County, order a Dominoes pizza.  He might deliver it to you.

Update - what we do know:
  • Jason Lee, as of June 23, is working at WAMS 94.9 Delmarva's Album Music Source according to his FaceBook page.  Best info available - it's a station in Newark, MD.
  • Leah, according to her LinkedIn page, still works for WZBH.  According to WZBH, Carolina has taken over Leah's time slot.
  • Drew Cage is...well...a sweat drop off some guys testicle and thankfully gone.
  • Crank is still missing - either being tortured at Dominoes or being tortured in Billy Madison's basement.  His last known location was in Havre de Grace, but he hasn't been seen there in about four months.

Latest update - We've found Leah! (04 Jul 17):

Yes, we found Leah way up north in Massachusetts at Lazer 99.3 & 105.1.  Best guess - going north was a move up for Leah, a positive move for a bigger audience and presumably a bigger pay check.  Maybe some day she'll check in and let her fans down here know how she's doing.

For your listening pleasure
Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unanswered questions wrapped in a spider web

Imagine if you had to build this every time
you got hungry and needed to catch a Big Mac
Walking through the woods with my demon detector, this little fella pictured on the right halted my journey.

Ok, you might be thinking, "What the heck is a demon detector and how do you walk it?"

For now, suffice it to say that my demon detector plays a central role in my next article, The demon lurking in your e-cig.  You really wouldn't want me to spoil the upcoming article by explaining what the demon lurking in your e-cig is and what a demon detector does, now would you?  My couple of faithful readers, however, can probably guess what the heck I'm talking about. 

Now, back to the unanswered questions wrapped in a spider web.

The sunlight shone on this web at the perfect angle to highlight all its intricacies.  You might think dew accentuated the sun's effect, but the picture was taken a couple of hours past noon.  The dew, if there were any that morning, had long since dissipated.  What you're looking at is a web and the glue the spider produces to make the web sticky.  The angle of the sun reflected off the web and drops of glue perfectly.

The sight stopped me in my tracks on my journey with my demon detector.  Usually, I trek through the woods crashing through spider webs woven across the path simply because I don't see them until I've walked into them.  At certain times of the year, I have gotten into a habit of carrying a stick that I wave up and down in front of me to clear the path of these unseen traps that are harmless to you and me, but deadly to other insects.

The intricacy of the web caught my attention first.  What engineering degree from what school did the little fella learn how to build this design? 

Ok, I haven't had that many beers, yet.  Obviously, the little fella didn't go to school to learn how to build an insect trap so he could eat dinner.  He just "knows" how to do it.  So first real question - does the web building abilities of spiders imply knowledge has a genetic basis?  If how to build a web is genetic based, what are the genes encoding this knowledge and how did creatures evolve to start encoding knowledge in the first place?

Yeah, I know what you're thinking.  "Who cares?  Spiders just know how to do it because it's instinctual."

Of course it's instinctual.  That's the definition of "genetic knowledge", I reckon.  Every spider of this species spins the same geometric pattern.  Other species of spiders spin other designs.  The orb spider spins webs three feet across with strands that are more tightly wound.  The writing spider puts a jagged scribble in its web.  Funnel spiders build "white tornado" webs.  Each species is genetically wired to build a web almost identical to every other spider in its species, but the genetic wiring is most definitely different among the species.

Not impressed?  Think of the engineering that must be genetically encoded to get the almost identical webs of each species.  The little fella in this picture had to pick a location where he had at least five points to anchor the web.  Those five points had to be spaced within certain parameters to allow for the shape of the final web that we see.  A mathematician could probably calculate that range of the five points in relation to each other and even calculate the number of probable good locations per cubic foot of forest volume for the little fella to build a web.  A biologist could tell us if the spider only uses five points every time he builds a web or uses more (or less) depending on location without losing the design integrity. 

Fortunately, the spider doesn't need to concern itself with bigger questions this web raises like how does that little body produce so much silk and glue?  Why do insects get stuck in the web, but the spider does not?

Ooops, that last question is answered.  The narrator is a bit of a goofy nerd type, probably high on spider venom or something, but he answers why spiders don't get stuck in their own webs in a quick, fun, and entertaining way.

His answer, however, complicates the idea that knowledge is genetic.  Not only does the spider have to know the proper location, points of anchor, and the geometric design of its final product, but it also has to know which strands to make non-sticky, which ones to make sticky, and where to place the glue.  Look at the picture again.  The sun reveals the web isn't smeared in glue all over.  There are carefully placed droplets on the strands and, yes, strands almost bare of glue, particularly at the center where the spider spends most of its time while it waits for dinner to come to it.

If that's too many questions to ponder at this moment, perhaps it's time to take a wine break or something.  Sip a nice glass of Cabernet and think about all the complexity of genes in that tiny spider that allows it to get dinner.  Then ask yourself, "Why does a spider have all that construction and engineering knowledge in its genes, but we have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for four years to learn the same mathematical and engineering principles the spider is born with?"

For your viewing pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks