Posted in Big Numbers

Do You Really Know What a Billion Looks Like?

Unless you live under a rock you’ve no doubt heard of the work the U.S. government is doing to stop the bleeding in the financial system. The number most bandied about is seven hundred billion which everyone knows is a large number. But do we really understand how very large that number is? It seems it starts sounding like 200 billion or 800 billion or 500 billion. All those zeros kind of run together in one’s mind. A few weeks back I wrote a piece about having everything and nothing in which I mentioned the odds of winning the lottery. Those odds pretty much approached zero which is a really small number. That’s not hard to conceptualize. You have some money, it gets syphoned off by greedy executives running some company, you have zero dollars. Simple. Hey, Bernie Ebbers, prison going ok for you? No? Good! But what about the…

Posted in Family

Who Knew? A Tale of Irony and Coincidence

I didn’t know him at all, but from what I have heard, life for Joseph John Janson was not all that kind to him.  Before he was married. Before he had two sons. Before he tragically slipped and fell in a bathtub, drowning at the age of 57, and before life had thrown its curve balls, he was just a young man of 22 years, living his life when he took to the open road. I grew up in an old Victorian house on the Main Line of Eastern Pennsylvania. It was the “wrong side of the tracks” but it was still a nice big house with lots of cool places to hide. A few years ago, I was rummaging around in the third floor storage room and I happened upon three old black journals. They were the kind that were flimsy and bound with thin, black leather. About the…

Posted in Big Numbers Humanity

Having Everything and Having Nothing

We were passing through Vail the other day on the way to a camping trip and stopped off at a 7-Eleven to stretch our legs and see what the big 7 had to offer (not much). On a whim, while purchasing a few comics for the boys, I threw two dollars on the counter and said “two, quick picks.” This is a silly but entertaining thing I do maybe once every 2 years. Part teaching opportunity, part mental exercise, the purchase of a lottery ticket always sparks conversations that evolve in interesting ways. This year, with the hurricane in Texas, I was able to think in two realms. Having a lot and having nothing. Having a Lot Being able to buy anything you want is always — or at least most times — the fantasy of those purchasing lottery tickets. I would venture to say most people aren’t walking away…

Posted in Essays

A Victim of the Murderous Mob

“Dear Father, I don’t know that the sun will ever rise and set for me again, but I trust in God and his mercy. At eight o’clock, I sit in court. The mob have me under guard. There is no cowardice in me, Father. I am worthy of you in this respect. I am, in this one respect, like Him who died for all: I die, if die I must, for law, order, and principle; and too, I stand alone.” My family and I, one Saturday when we were looking for something different to do, decided to head to the cemetery on Wolfensberger Road. It seemed a peculiar thing to me, the whole burial ritual being a bit of a mystery, but my boys had heard about people doing rubbings of epitaphs on markers and having just acquired sketch pads, they wanted to give it a try. So it was…