Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, April 13, 2018



The most disturbing news story of the week is not what you think! No, it's not an inflammatory Trump Tweet. Nor is it another NBA player found cheating on his pregnant wife. It has nothing to do with Facebook. Nope, this week's truly terrifying item comes from a beach Spain. A dead Sperm whale washed ashore. While this happens all the time, this time things were different. See, the enormous mammal did not die from natural causes. It died from the 40 pounds of plastic found in his stomach.

Sadly, dead sea creatures washing ashore with bellies full of colorful plastic is becoming commonplace worldwide. The largest problem is the Pacific Plastic Patch. While it sounds pretty, it is truly the opposite. Simply put, it is an enormous section of the North Pacific where waste collects. Why does this happen? Well, ocean currents are circular. So this means the center (gyre) of a current's massive circle receives little movement. Over the last fifty years, floating debris has accumulated. Hence, the name Garbage Patch.

However, the patch in the North Pacific Ocean has grown so large, it received a special moniker: It's the GREAT Pacific Garbage Patch. Ten years ago, National Geographic reported the GPGP had grown in size and was now about the size of Texas. Recently, a study using new satellite technology measured it at 617,000 square miles. That's a little larger than Alaska! Stay tuned, because it shows no signs of slowing down. Soon its size will be compared to nations instead of US States.

There's lots of fishing nets and waste from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, but most of the trash in the garbage patch is plastic. The difference between plastic and this other waste is simple. Other debris will eventually deteriorate, but indestructible plastic is stuck in the ocean forever. Well...actually, scientists speculate that plastic will eventually disintegrate in 500 years. So we'll just have to wait until the year 2518 to know for sure! It's clear: The real problem with the GPGP is delicious, brightly colored micro-plastics which whales just love to eat.

Humankind's love affair with plastic was understandable at first. It was first introduced to the US market in the 1950's. The amazing, wondrous material is stronger than paper and lighter than tin. Soon, plastic containers began replacing tin cans. Plastic bags began replacing paper bags. Nowadays plastic is omnipresent. But this dead whale clearly shows this love affair has gone awry. The DUNER BLOG is not green-washing: The people of earth really need to reconsider the long-term effects of plastic before the garbage patch reaches our beaches!

Thursday, April 5, 2018



Surprise! The toughest guy in the world isn't a GUY! Nope, it's 23 year-old Rapali Meshram. She lives on the edge of jungle in the Indian state of Maharashtra. One night, she heard her favorite goat scream in pain. She rushed outside to discover a massive tiger, crouched and ready to pounce. Did she run back inside and lock the door? Not the world's toughest guy! Instead, she grabbed a stick and tried to protect her goat. Details of the fight are sketchy, but we know that her mom dragged her back inside. Before heading to hospital, she took a selfie.

While this story of misplaced bravery makes for fun copy, the truth is Rapali is one of the lucky ones. Since 2014, one person a day in India dies from a tiger or elephant attack. Do the math: That's 1,144 people getting mauled or trampled to death in the last three years. Most deaths happen in a similar manner: A rancher or farmer attempting to protect their property. While it may seem extreme, remember: The goat, cattle or fruit tree is the person's lifeline, so it truly is a "life or death" matter.

The larger problem involves the simple fact that the nation of India isn't big enough anymore. As everyone knows, India's population is enormous and keeps expanding. It's at 1.3 billion and has grown by 3 by the time you reach the end of this blog. Also, tiger populations are rising. Since conservation efforts began in the 1970's, the number of wild tigers has doubled. The one statistic that isn't changing is India's size. It's holding steady at 1,266,219 square miles. So the government's plan to keep cramming more and more people and animals together is not working out.

The current problem began forty years ago, when the Indian government implemented the conservation act. Large swaths of sought-after lands were parceled off for nature reserves. At the time, there was enough land for every man and beast. Nowadays, new human settlements are seen as economic development, even if they are on the edge of a nature reserve. Belinda Wright of a Wildlife Protection Society agrees. "The shrinking of good quality habitats is an absolutely critical concern for the future of India's iconic animals."

Back to Rapali. Yesterday, she and her mother were discharged from hospital. They were told not to fight any more wild beasts. Sadly, things didn't go well for the goat, who did not recover from the attack. The tiger remains at large. The lesson here is that modern India is not the Kipling novel The Jungle Book. Humans and tigers cannot talk to each other and work things out. Yet this seems to be the government's approach to the problem. Let's face it: If India doesn't get serious about drawing, keeping and enforcing urban limit lines, conflict between will continue. How many more goats must die?

Saturday, March 31, 2018



It's shaping up to be a most busy year for North Korea's reclusive tyrant KIM JONG UN. On April 27th, he is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In. It will take place in the oddly named 'Freedom House' in the Demilitarized Zone. Later in the year, there are plans to meet with quixotic US President Donald Trump. To prepare for these auspicious summits, Kim Jong headed to Beijing to meet his only ally in the world, Chinese President-for-life Xi. Since this is the hermit dictator's first international trip since assuming power in 2011, the visit to China is indeed historic.

But...speaking of historic...you should see how Kim Jong travels: In a 70-year old Pullman-style railway car. It's pulled by an iron beast of a locomotive painted dark green with bold yellow stripes. Why does he do this? Well, it's not known if the current North Korean dictator is afraid of flying. But his father and grandfather certainly were. Hence, they traveled in a specifically designed, heavily-armored, bullet-proof Super Train. It's hard to find details of this railway wonder, but here's what we've pieced together.

We do know the train's route. After departing Pyongyang, it meanders through the mountains. Next, it stops at Dandong, a remote border city on the Yalu River. It then chugs through two dozen closed stations in Manchuria before reaching the Main Train Station in Beijing. Satellites tell us there are 21 total cars, as the Dear Leader needs lots of protection and pampering. This means the train is extremely heavy, so its average speed is just 37 MPH (60 KPH). So the 685-mile journey takes about 19 hours to complete.

Details about the interior of the mystery train are harder to come by. Photos show a dated, but lavish, furniture in plush conference rooms. Flat screen TVs and maps of Korea adorn the walls. Our only first-hand descriptions of the inside of the train come from Konstantin Pulikovshy, a former Russian diplomat. In a NY Times interview, he recalled a visit to Moscow by Kim Jong Il in 2001. Live lobsters and cases of Bordeaux wines were served. "It was possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine," he noted. Unverified reports tell of a crew of gorgeous, scantily-clad female conductors. Think of it is as a Playboy Mansion on rails.

While it's fun to poke a KIM JONG UN's many idiosyncrasies, we here at the DUNER BLOG are happy he is at least using his mystery train. This means the man is going places and talking to people. Aside from war, this is the only method that will work to solve the many problems he creates. Let's face it: He controls twenty-five million people who are brainwashed. Most live close to poverty but actually think they are the envy of the world. A mind is a terrible thing to waste!

Saturday, March 24, 2018



At the DUNER BLOG headquarters, we often listen to the All-Eighties radio station. When Prince's Purple Rain played the other day, a staff member asked: "Why is purple always associated with royalty and religion?" Well...when you ask a historical question like this at this office, be prepared for a very long-winded response. So let's get started!

We can thank Hercules for discovering the color purple. Well...actually, it was Hercules' dog. The two were strolling along the beach when the pooch chewed on a sea-snail. Afterward, his drool was a new color. It was quite a discovery. Aside from flowers, one particular sea mollusk is the only naturally occurring purple item on earth. To make it worse, Murex (scientific name: Bolinus Brandaris) is found only along the Mediterranean coastline of the modern-day nation of Lebanon. This meant that only a small amount of purple dye was available.

The color purple's popularity in ancient times can therefore be seen as a clear case of 'Supply and Demand.' Given this rarity, purple clothing was only used by the wealthy and powerful. Adding to the rarity, obtaining this purple dye was quite labor-intensive. First, you crack the shell and remove the snail. Then find a tiny gland and extract a white mucous. Once exposed to six hours of sunlight, it will turn into purple. As expected, it takes hundreds of snails to make an ounce or two of the gelatinous substance. Homer states that purple dye is "worth its weight in gold"

Throughout antiquity, the Phoenician city of Tyre was the center of the Murex production. Pliny the
Elder describes the massive semi-circular vats on the edge of the port. Next to these stood mountains of discarded shells. It follows that controlling this coveted trade was essential for every emperor. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Justinian...all wore Tyrian purple robes. In medieval times, when popes replaced kings, purple remained in demand. But perhaps the most obsessed monarch was Queen Elizabeth I. She passed the Sumptuary Laws, which forbade anyone but the Royal Family from wearing purple!

Suddenly, everything changed in the year 1856. That's when an 18-year-old chemist tried to synthesize an anti-Malaria drug called quinine. William Henry Perkin instead invented a simple chemical purple dye. It was refined and mass produced and the British chemist died a multi-millionaire. Rightfully so. His wondrous gift to the world meant that rich and poor alike could finally wear purple clothes. Even an oddly-named musician from Minneapolis can don an oversized crushed-velvet PURPLE overcoat. Rock on!

Saturday, March 17, 2018



It's mid-March and in America that can only mean one thing: SPRING BREAK! For our readers outside the USA: Originally for the Easter holiday, American universities usually give students a whole week off classes. While some students use the free time for intense extra studying sessions, many others instead head south to warm beaches for intense party sessions. According to this year's AAA survey, here are the five most popular Spring Break destinations:

#5. Cancun. Although Mexican resorts have been hit by a crime wave recently, there is one demographic who does not care: Spring Breakers! Not normally the 'news-reading' type, college kids come for the white-sand beaches and the turquoise Caribbean waters. NOT! The main appeal of Cancun is the 18+ drinking age. This solves the biggest problem underage college kids face. As expected, a high level of tequila poppers leads to a high ranking on the party scale for this destination.

#4. Punta Cana. The Dominican Republic also boasts an 18+ drinking age. It also has pristine tropical beaches. But most importantly, the island is closer to the East Coast. The secret is out and tourists are coming in droves to the Eastern tip of Hispaniola. Built in 1984, the international airport has since expanded and is now the busiest in the Caribbean region. It's serviced by major US carriers like Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines. Punta Cana succeeds as a laid-back alternative to the "Girls Gone Wild' vibe of Cancun.

#3. Honolulu. Oahu boasts high visitor numbers year round, but March is their top month. Waikiki
was built for fun and continues to deliver the goods Spring Breakers demand. They need tropical beaches and tropical drinks. Look for this destination to rise in next year's rankings when Southwest Airlines will be allowed into the oligarchical lock on Hawaii flights.

#2. Ft. Lauderdale. Everything changed for this small town in 1960. That's when Connie Francis filmed the movie 'Where the Boys Are' on the main beach. This small act instantly created the whole concept of the Spring Break beach party. For the next two decades, the city was besieged by college kids every March. It became unmanageable, and in 1980 the city council passed strict laws. Next, the city successfully re-branded themselves with high-end additions like the Ritz Carlton. Rich kids still count and likely are responsible for the high ranking.

#1. Orlando. The only entry not located on a beach tops the list. That's because a high number of Spring Breakers aren't in college. Nope, they're in High School and the top destination for family vacations is resort-packed Orlando. Sure, a couple of fraternity brothers will be chanting "Chug! Chug!" at the local Hooter's...but Disney World is the real reason Orlando is this year's top Spring Break destination.

Friday, March 9, 2018



Yesterday was a huge day for Star Wars fans. Luke Skywalker finally got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. What a ceremony! Surrounded by Imperial Storm-Troopers, Mark Hamil beamed with joy outside the El Captain Theatre. Even Han Solo was there! For those of you wondering why it took forty years for this to happen, we here at the DUNER BLOG have answers about this unique, but complicated, landmark.

Who oversees the Walk of Fame? This difficult job is in the hand of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. While officially in the city limits of Los Angeles, the special neighborhood has its own form of ceremonial self-government. It also has its own mayor...although since Johnny Grant passed six years ago, the position has been vacant. To get a star, you must be nominated by your studio. About twenty nominations get approved each year. Disney, the new owner of the Star Wars franchise, decided it was time to give the nod to Luke.

Where is the Walk of Fame? Duh! Hollywood Boulevard holds most of the 2,600 stars. They take up both sides of the thoroughfare for a 1.3 mile stretch. That's 15 blocks of celebs! In addition, Vine Street has three blocks of star-studded sidewalks. The stars are spaced exactly six feet apart. But there is one star that is NOT on the ground: Muhammad Ali. It would be disrespectful to have the prophet's name stepped upon, so Johnny Grant arranged to have his star placed on the wall of the Dolby Theatre instead.

How did it all start? Our story begins in the 1950's. Hollywood councilman Harry Sugarman was constantly asked by tourists: "Where are the stars? Why can't we see them?" As the legend goes, Harry and buddy E.M. Stewart had lunch to discuss the problem. They drew stars on cocktail napkins and wrote famous names in the middle. At first, they hung them on the wall, like they do at Sardi's in NYC. Over time, the idea evolved into a the Walk of Fame. Eight were unveiled in 1958, but the event generated little fanfare. In fact, it was buried on page 23 of the L.A. Times.

Who pays for the Walk? As expected, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce receives no taxpayer
money. So here's how it works: After the announcement, the star and their sponsor are responsible for a one-time-only $40,000 fee. This goes to the installation, maintenance and repairs of the terrazzo and bronze masterpiece on the ground. If the star is imaginary, like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny or Shrek, the studio pays the entire amount.

Finally, if you decide the visit the Walk of Fame, here are a couple tips: Plan ahead and locate where your favorite stars are ahead of time. Most people haven't heard of 95% of the "celebs" who have achieved the honor. Also, be prepared for crowds. Ten million people make the pilgrimage annually!

Friday, March 2, 2018



One of the most exciting happenings in professional sports is the EXPANSION TEAM. This occurs when the league decides to enlarge the number of clubs. The event is rare: Since 2000, there have been only seven new teams in the four pro leagues in the USA. Here's how it works: Cities compete against each other, trying to the impress the commissioner. They must show that they have a cosmopolitan city, a rabid fan base and a NEW stadium. Next, the owner comes up with a team name, colors and mascot. It all comes together on Opening Day, when a new franchise is inaugurated into Pro Sports forever.

Sadly, the next chapter in the expansion team's story isn't as exciting: Losing. See, it's hard to suddenly invent a winning club. To build a new team, the league holds an 'expansion draft.' While it sounds impressive...in actuality...it's just choosing between mediocre players donated from the other teams. Next, coaches must create 'instant chemistry' among the squad. The results aren't stellar. Expansion teams since 1960 average a 22% winning percentage. Ugh!

Then along came the Las Vegas Golden Knights! The hockey club in shattering expectations and changing attitudes toward expansion teams in general. Fact: No first-year club has ever finished with a winning record. (The 1961 L.A. Angels came the closest at 49%.) However, with an astounding record of 41-17-5, the Knights are mathematically assured to break this curse. They sit atop the difficult Pacific Division and boast the best Goal Differential in the Western Division.

How did the Golden Knights get so good so quickly? First, they hired a brilliant General Manager. George McPhee zeroed in on talented, but unheralded players. William Karlsson was average in Columbus last year, but has netted a team-best 34 goals this season. Tiny Jonathan Marchessault is only 5'9", so other clubs passed on him. But he's notched a whopping 63 points so far! Next, there's the "Home Field Advantage.' The glittering, modern T-Mobile Arena has sold out all 17,500 seats every home game. Finally, there's something called 'Beginner's Luck!'

All in all, the Vegas Knights are the 'feel-good' sports story of the year. However, it didn't start wonderfully. Opening Day was on October 10th, a mere nine days after the mass shooting on the Strip. It's hard to be happy when 58 folks were recently slaughtered a couple blocks away. So, before the puck dropped, fans honored the fallen and First Responders with a somber 20-minute ceremony. They went on to beat Arizona 5-2. For a city whose economy in based on entertainment, the Vegas Knights are a clear reminder of the good side of humanity. We here at the DUNER BLOG predict they will take home the Stanley Cup in a couple of months!