Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016



It's time for the World Series...the longest-running sports championship in the world. And this years' match-up in particularly intriguing. Both teams have been absent from the Fall Classic for a LONG TIME. It's a combined 176 years since either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians have won a World Series. While other sites and blogs have boring head-to-head predictions, we here at the DUNER BLOG are handicapping the intangibles.

LONGEST WAIT: It's Cleveland's sixth World Series appearance. While that sounds impressive, remember: This is the Indian's 114th season. Ouch! The Tribe did appear somewhat recently in 1997, when they lost to Florida. Prior to that, their last World Series was in 1948, when they bested the Boston Braves. Likewise, the Cubs have been chasing the elusive crown for an eternity. Every Cubs fan knows the year: 1908. That's when they beat the Detroit Tigers. Since then, they have lost eight times, with their last appearance coming in 1945. Advantage: Chicago

TEAM COLORS: The most popular colors for teams in Major League Baseball are Red, White & Blue. Even the one team outside of the USA (the Toronto Blue Jays) wears these colors. So it comes as no surprise that the Cubs and the Indians both don Blue, White and Red. However, Chicago's shade of blue is a bit too much like Powder-Buff Blue for the DUNER BLOG. We prefer the Indian's more distinguished Navy Blue. Advantage: Cleveland.

NICKNAME: Originally called the Lakeshores, they switched in 1903 to the Naps. This was a nod to Napoleon Lajoie, a former 2nd baseman and popular manager. When Nap unceremoniously jumped to the Philadelphia A's for a $10,000 raise, it was clear the nickname had to change. Newspapermen voted on the Indians. They were inspired by Louis Socklexis, the left-fielder who was of the Perobscot Tribe. However, everyone forgets this today and plays the damning 'Racist' card. Meanwhile, in 1903 the Chicago White Stockings re-branded and played it safe by choosing a cuddly Cub. Advantage: Chicago.

TEAM MASCOT: What would Major League Baseball be without a zany mascot? (Who doesn't laugh at the Philadelphia Phanatic?) Things weren't always so silly. Joa, the original Cubs mascot, was an actual bear from the zoo. These days, it's Clark. He's a super-cute, always-smiling bear cub with a cap. In Cleveland, Chief Wahoo rallies the crowds with cries of "Charge!" at Progressive Field. As with other mascots with Native American heritage, Chief Wahoo has been targeted by protesters. These days, he shares the stage with Slider, some kind of over-sized parrot. Advantage: Chicago. NOTE: The three MLB teams without mascots: Angels, Dodgers, Yankees.

Well, by a margin of 3-1 the DUNER BLOG officially endorses the CUBS to win the 2016 World Series. Best of luck to both squads!

Friday, October 21, 2016


Even the pretty Oleander flowers on SR99 are poisonous.
Last week, consumer watchdog group ValuePenguin released an interesting study. They listed the 50 deadliest roads in America. To determine this, they employed a complex system. First, they took three important statistics: Deaths caused by hazardous weather, poor lighting and by drunk drivers. These were added together and divided by the total length of the highway to produce a final rating. Here are the Top Five:
#1. State Route 99 (California). Fatalities per 100 miles: 62. Deadliest city: Fresno.
Dating back to 1910, this popular route is one of the world’s oldest motorways. Originally called US-99, in 1926 it became the first road to connect Mexico and Canada. When the Interstates arrived in the 1950’s, the sleak I-5 took away the LA / SF traffic. The state-funded 99 was shortened and neglected. Today, it connects the hardworking, agriculture capitals of Bakersfield, Fresno and Modesto. It is the darkest freeway in the land and the second-most inebriated. It’s a shame that such a wealthy state lets its backbone languish while Orange County freeways get elevated carpool lanes.
#2. Interstate 45 (Texas). Fatalities per 100 miles: 56. Deadliest city: Houston.
Texas was the last US State to outlaw open containers while operating a motor vehicle. But old habits die hard…as do the folks driving on this road. Last year, 8 people died from a drunk driver every 100 miles on this popular roadway. It connects Dallas to Houston, but the most congested section is the Gulf Freeway, which leads to Galveston. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, many people lived on this freeway, as it became gridlocked with evacuees for three whole days.
#3. Interstate 95 (Florida to Maine). Fatalities per 100 miles: 53. Deadliest city: Jacksonville.
Beginning in Miami, this heavily-traveled route meanders through Georgia and the Carolina's and then serves as a beltway through DC and Baltimore. Next, it becomes the world-famous New Jersey Turnpike, proudly crossing the George Washington Bridge into NYC. After leaving Boston, I-95 terminates at the Maine / New Brunswick border. Most of the fatalities occur on crowded stretches during bad weather. Last year, the 109 fatal accidents during rain and snow were the highest of any road in the USA. NOTE: It also passes through more states (15) than any other interstate.
#4. Interstate 10. (California to Florida). Fatalities per 100 miles: 54. Deadliest city: New Orleans.
Starting at the Santa Monica Pier, this route next skirts the Mexican border in Arizona and New Mexico. One third of its 2,460 miles are within the state of Texas. Finally, it follows the Gulf coastline, ending in Jacksonville. Poor lighting is the main culprit for its high death rate: Long desert stretches on I-10 make it the darkest Interstate in the country. It also dips below sea level in New Orleans...and was flooded for months after Hurricane Katrina.
#5. Interstate 75. (Michigan to Florida). Fatalities per 100 miles: 47.2 Deadliest city: Detroit.
The so-called ‘Spring Break Freeway’ connects cold Michigan with sunny Florida, following a southeasterly route through the Appalachians Mountains. Although most of the route is six lanes…even in rural regions…it still isn’t wide enough. City folk from Cleveland and Cincinnati are thrust into curvy, rain-soaked stretches and don’t respond well. It ranks second in the category of highway deaths caused by inclement weather.

Friday, October 14, 2016


An article in the obscure newspaper The Siberian Times caught the attention of the world this week. It detailed new plans between Japan and Russia. The two nations plan to overhaul the existing lines of famed Trans-Siberian Railway. The goal is to triple current speeds.  However, what really blew our minds are the ambitious  plans to extend service to Japan! This will be accomplished by using a series of bridges and tunnels over the Sea of Oktosh. Wow! Imagine taking a train from London to Tokyo!

Currently, 5,800-mile Trans-Siberian is the longest in the world…both in distance and in travel times. It takes seven days to traverse the world’s largest nation. It costs $800 / $1200 (Second / First Class), which also includes food. Unfortunately, the ride ends in Vladivostok, a dismal city on the Southern tip of Siberia’s frozen Pacific Coast. Yuck! Thankfully, the new route will bypass this industrial port altogether. It will instead head north and cross a 4-mile bridge to Sakhalin Island. After crossing the 600-mile long island, a 26 mile tunnel will link Siberia to Hokkaido.

Wait a second! Aren't Japan and Russia angry at each other? You Bet! In fact, they are still at war. Neither nation ever signed peace agreements with each other after World War II. See, both nations claim sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. In fact, for sixty years, the militaries of both states have postured back and forth, with Air Force jets constantly patrolling the disputed islands.

Why the sudden change of heart? Because...in the year 2016...economic interests trump old political grudges. And both nations can cash in on the new railway line. See, it won’t just be trains traversing the new bridges and tunnels. Russia will also be sending much-needed energy to technology-crazed Japan. In return, crowded Japan will have a vast new playground in Siberia....which is suddenly just a couple of hours away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this story is the timing of the announcement. First, Putin and Japanese PM Abe meeting in December. (Let’s hope this tops their ‘To-do’ list.) Also, this year just so happens to be the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway. And…boy…does it need a face lift. It is sooo old it was actually constructed by the Romanov Czars…not the Soviets. Imagine the possibilities! Ski resorts in Siberia and luxury cruises on Lake Baikal could be coming soon.

Friday, October 7, 2016



Two politicians made history in Bogota this week. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Leaders Rodrigo Londono signed a peace accord, thus ending a Civil War that has dragged on for 46years. Thousands of citizens…all wearing white…chanted “Si a la Paz!” (Yes to Peace). They held hands and sang the National Anthem. Heck, even US Secretary of State John Kerry was there. “A historic day for Colombia,” he proudly proclaimed.

But Kerry needed to take his quote a step further. It’s a historic day for not just Colombia, but the entire Western Hemisphere. See, for the first time in 56 years, one half of the planet is without war. There are currently no armed political conflicts occurring in the Western Hemisphere. To be clear, there are still lots of regions in the Americas that are wrought with conflict. Drug violence reigns in Honduras and Guatemala. Slums in Venezuela and Brazil are ruled by gangs. The USA is plagued by violent racial strife. Yet none of these qualify as political, civil or international war.

Back to the events in Bogota. Hopefully, the agreement ushers in a new era of international harmony. It has happened before. After the end of World War II, a similar period of tranquility prevailed. And it lasted for fourteen years! Our ‘Pax Americana’ ended when Fidel Castro decided to overthrow Cuba’s Bautista Administration. For the next 56 years, conflicts popped up all over. From El Salvador’s internal strife to the far-off Falkland Island conflict, the Western Hemisphere has been marred with war.

However…compared to the angry Eastern Hemisphere…these conflicts are minimal. The other half of the world has been continually at war since 3500 BC! From ancient Roman Legions to the ravenous Mongolian Horde to the horrors of the Nazis, this side of the world just loves to fight. These days, the wars are concentrated in a giant swath. It starts with Nigeria’s Boko Harem, continues through South Sudan, runs into Yemen, Iraq and ends in Afghanistan, the world’s most chaotic nation.

But today, we savor the peace and prosperity that comes with a region without war. A certain US
Presidential candidate will tell you the world is “more dangerous than ever,” but the truth is quite the opposite. Worldwide, war is on the decline. Health standards are rising. Infant mortality is down. The events in Colombia need to be celebrated, not ignored. In fact, President Santos just might win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize…