21 November 2020
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The Days of Arbitrary Numbers

Someday Soon My Chance From Dying of Covid Will Jump 3x OVERNIGHT!

It must be true. I saw it on the internet. And I'm not making this up, either. This is from the CDC.GOV web site. How much more authoritative do you want?

What will cause this horrendous change in my odds? I'll be suffering my 75th birthday, that's what. Normally a cause for joyous celebration*, I shall now have to dread that fateful day. (I don't actually do dread any better than I do suspense.) Besides, CDC.GOV or not, the heading is nonsense. I mention this because of The Pandemic, where governments everywhere are putting people in bins based on their age, which is for convenience rather than rigor.

This arbitrary (and ridiculous) demarcation actually works to my advantage. It is widely expected that a vaccine will be available around my accession to the Mid-Septuagenarian Club, since they are planning to prioritize we elderlies by age blocks, not by any truly objective criterion.

Thinking about this potentially life-and-death distinction caused me to reminisce about other occasions of age-arbitrariness.

The Draft

It was in living memory when the government could demand that young men "serve" in the armed forces. They still call it service, but now it is voluntary. Service is a benign word representing a lottery ticket that you would be sent to fight the communist menace in Viet Nam. The communist menace, by the way, possessed weapons that could kill those who won the lottery, and, to the approximate extent of 50,000 United States soldiers, did. One had to register for this service at age 18, and generally became immune at age 26. They didn't consult me as to why 18 or 26, but I do remember very well my 26th birthday!

Voting and Drinking

I'm sure someone believes that one gains sufficient wisdom for each of these activities no earlier than age 18 and no later than 21. Crossing the unmarked border between states often makes the difference. For whatever reason, once you have obtained this wisdom, it can not be revoked by superannuation. Mystery!

My Favorites!

Airline pilots had to retire at age 60 until President Bush decided that they would still be safe at age 65, and with a stroke of a pen made it thus. Alas, anyone who had reached age 60 before that ukase lost up to five years of a lucrative career.

And then, of course, there's the Zip Line attraction in Puerto Rico. I just happened to be 68 when we went there as tourists and signed up. A good thing, too, because the age limit to zip line was 69. Regardless of physical condition or other possibly objective criteria, one couldn't zoom over the jungle after their 69th birthday.

Happy Next Year

I've been issuing this adjuration to all and one since 2020 has been such a terrible experience for so many and I wish


I had something positive to predict, Here in Sedona it's been


What? Who are you and why are you interrupting my blog?

I AM RICHARD OF THE FUTURE! You're starting to babble, and I'm here from 2021 to give you an update so you don't have to continue! It's all good—you still don't do suspense well next year.

You, that is to say, I, managed to get vaccinated in January, and so did Karen despite her slightly deficient age thanks to Arizona's (possibly accidental) common sense. You'll have to wait to hear the details. Meanwhile, move along. It's 2021 here, you made it to 75**, the pandemic is much improved, and everybody knows how silly and arbitrary these artificial numerical boundaries are. If you want to zip line in Puerto Rico in the future, just lie to the operator, OK?

* For having beat the System, at least until then, of course

** That's a quarter of a century older than Phil Ochs was high.

Richard Factor


"Strange Sights and Crimson Nights"




"Oshkosh" is the aviation world's synonym for the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual "fly-in." It's traditionally the biggest general aviation event of the year, and in our Argus days we would exhibit there. I always requested a T-shirt. This one, from 1993, had a likeness of the Cessna 172 on the front.

I used to own a 172 until I moved out west. The 172 is better for short distance travel. As airplanes go, it's relatively slow and has a modest fuel capacity and therefore short range. I could reminisce about my now-sold airplane. Fortunately, I've given myself a small enough space here that I won't be able to.

Perhaps some day...

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