The Tale Spinner

Vol. XXIII, No. 7

February 18, 2017


  • From Heroic Stories, an account of kindness in chaos
  • Barbara Wear forwards a blog about mesquite trees
  • Jackie Stevens and Tom Williamson send this article about work
  • Marilyn Magid sends this short answer to an inconvenient question
  • Tom Telfer performs an act of kindness
  • Tom Williamson forwards an example of beautiful English
  • Sites are suggested by Carol Hansen, Irene Harvalias, Shirley Coutts, Tom Telfer, and Tom Williamson

From HeroicStories comes this story by Donna Whitten of Valparaiso, Indiana:


My family and I were in the Fort Lauderdale airport at the time of the shooting in January, 2017. A lone shooter killed five and injured others in the baggage area of Terminal 2.

Five of my family were in Terminal 1, and one more was in Terminal 2. None of us heard nor saw anything, and only learned of the tragedy on the television around 1:00 p.m. All was quiet, but we were nervous, waiting to see what would happen next.

Around 1:30, the airport announced all services were suspended, and people picked up their phones to make other arrangements. My daughter and I were together, but the others were alone.

Around 2:00 p.m. everything changed. Security personnel came running in, ordering everyone to "Get down!" The noise was deafening: shouts, screaming, stomping feet, and other loud noises. We did as we were told, and dropped to the floor. A few moments later, we were ordered to get out of the building, and everyone rushed to the doors.

My daughter and I were still together. We waited frantically to find the others in our party and to hear from the family member in Terminal 3. We were not all reunited until eight or nine hours later, but within an hour or so, I knew all were safe.

Sirens and emergency vehicles were everywhere, and there were lots of people just standing around. We had with us only whatever we had on our person. Many had nothing: no identification, no phone, nothing. Some had no shoes, as they kicked them off when they ran. Some had minor injuries from the evacuation. Others suffered panic attacks or other health-related issues. Ambulances were treating some on the spot and transporting others.

In all the confusion and terror, I saw many kindnesses. One man gave a woman his socks because she had no shoes. A woman shared a small glass of water with me and others. A security building allowed us to use the restrooms. A young woman shared her phone and limited battery with my son, so he could let us know he was safe.

After about five hours, we were allowed to leave the area, not knowing where we were going. A woman not associated with the evacuation drove her personal vehicle to the chaos and offered rides to tired people making their way to centralized meeting points. Security personnel were patient as they explained over and over to people in which direction they should head.

In the end, we were delayed 2½ days, spent about $1,000 on hotels, clothing, toiletries, Uber rides, food, and a rental car to get some of us to the Orlando airport for flights home. But in the end, we were lucky. We were all fine, and grateful for the many kindnesses we witnessed amidst chaos and terror.

ED. NOTE: To comment on this story, or to get your own free subscription to HeroicStories,  click on

Barbara Wear forwards this piece by Dac Crossly:


It was easy to climb a big mesquite tree. Smaller trees had branches reaching straight up. On big trees the branches took off near the base of the trunk and drooped out level with the ground. A nice place to build a tree-house, or just sit on the limbs.

What Texas boy has not spent a lazy afternoon picking apart the mesquite flowers with their intricate little blossoms? Or pondering the green mesquite beans, or the brown ones, wondering at their bitter taste?

Mesquites are the abundant shrubs of our southwestern desert. Bees visit the blossoms and make honey. The beans in their long pods are food for cattle, wildlife, and humans in distress.

They are also a pest, because they crowd out other plants and are replacing grasslands. Mesquites are deep-rooted, which helps them to survive droughts and makes them difficult to eradicate.

These trees probably co-evolved with the megafauna, the giant sloths and mammoths that fed on the beans. Chewing the seeds scarified them. Juices in the GI tract would kill any parasite. The Ice Age climate was a moist one while it lasted.

Then, warmer and drier climates favored grasses over shrubs. Early explorers in South Texas reported extensive grasslands, at least north of the Rio Grande meanders. Mesquites were there, along the water courses. They’ve since spread over the landscape. Overgrazing? Cattle distributing the beans? A little shift in climate? Mesquites have replaced the grasses in south Texas.

Herbicides, defoliants, giant machines have converted much of south Texas brush country into agricultural fields. I am saddened because the brushlands were part of my childhood. Those thorny thickets still haunt my dreams, along with the horned toads, fence lizards, red ants, spiders and snakes. An early education, lessons not easily learned. What do today's youth find?

I do not believe the mesquite trees have been defeated. Not yet.

Jackie Stevens and Tom Williamson forwarded this cautionary article:


In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went  bankrupt.

What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years, and most people won't see it coming.

Did you think in 1998 that three years later you would never take pictures on film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore's law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a time, before it became way superior and became mainstream in only a few short years.

It will now happen again with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

Uber is just a software tool. They don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel  company in the world, although they don't own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world, 10 years  earlier than expected.

In the US , young lawyers already don't get jobs. Because of IBM's Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future; only specialists will remain.

Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer. It's four times more accurate than human nurses.

Facebook now has pattern-recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans.  In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will  start to be disrupted. You don't want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it. You only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving.

Our kids will never get a driver's licence and will never own a car.

It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in six million miles (10 million km).That will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies will probably go bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are terrified of Tesla.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighbourhood.

Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity.

Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can't last. Technology will take care of that strategy.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter (@  25 cents). We don't have  scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies that will build a  medical device (called the "Tricorder" from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample, and breath samples. It then analyses 54 bio-markers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a  few years everyone on this planet will have access to world-class medical analysis, nearly for free.

3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.

Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large number of spare parts they used to have in the past.

At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home.

In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete six-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed.

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, first ask yourself: "In the future, do I think we will have that?" and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner?

If it doesn't work with your phone, forget the idea. Any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time. This will require a rethink on wealth distribution.

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in third-world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working all day on their fields.

Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish-produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don't need that space anymore.

There are several start-ups that will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labelled as "alternative protein source" (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

There is an app called "moodies" which can already tell which mood you’re in. By 2020, there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it's being displayed when they’re telling the truth and when they’re not!

Marilyn Magid sends this story of


A woman and her 12-year-old son were riding in a taxi in Detroit. It was raining and all the prostitutes were standing under awnings.

"Mom," said the boy, "what are all those women doing?"

"They're waiting for their husbands to get off work," she replied.

The taxi driver turned around and said, "Geez lady, why don't you tell him the truth? They're hookers, boy! They have sex with men for money." 

The little boy's eyes got wide and he said, "Is that true, Mom?"

His mother, glaring hard at the driver, answered, "Yes."

After a few minutes the kid asked, "Mom, if those women have babies, what happens to them?" 

She said, "Most of them become taxi drivers."

Tom Telfer tells of his own


Last week I dropped into Food Basics. The guy ahead of me was buying a dozen eggs and an apple pie. He held out a handful of coins, and the clerk said, "You can have the eggs or the pie, but not both." He took the eggs.

I followed him back into the store. He was looking to see what he could buy with his remaining coins.

I handed him a $20 bill. He froze, his eyes popping. He said, "What is that?"

I said, "It's a $20," and left him with his jaw dropping.

ED. NOTE: You can't buy a lot with a $20 bill anymore, but for some people, it's the difference between eating and not eating. And for those who give, there is the feeling that you have made a difference.

Tom Williamson sends this example of


I  called an old school friend and asked what was he doing.   He replied that he was working on "aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, aluminium, and steel under a constrained  environment."

I was  impressed.

On further inquiring, I learned that he was washing dishes with hot water ... under his wife's  supervision.


Carol Hansen forwards this link to a Snopes' site that claims that the advice given in last week's issue about coughing when you have a heart attack is seldom the right approach. Instead, they recommend that those who think they are having a heart attack should call 911, then take an Aspirin:

Irene Harvalias forwards this link to an updated video of the world's largest miniature model layout, the German Wonderland:

Shirley Coutts sends the URL for a hilarious twist on the seriousness of a symphony orchestra as the Philharmonic Orchestra performs the William Tell overture in London:

Shirley also forwards this link to a video of a special needs girl with an amazing voice leading a choir in a rendition of "Hallelujah:"

Tom Telfer sends the URL for a 1947 video demonstrating women's self defense moves:

Tom also shares the link to a video of awesome animals performing amazing tricks:

Tom Williamson forwards this link to a video illustrating why so many people go south in winter:

In this TED talk, Christina Warinner, an expert on ancient diets, debunks the paleo diet:

Do you need something to take your mind off all the depressing news? Try this site:

Beavers take advantage of a chinook in Alberta to repair their lodge:

This site tells you about the many uses of baking soda which you may not know about:

S-Oil was on a mission to save oil in South Korea's capital, which had some of the highest gas consumption in the world. This video shows how they did it:


"The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent."

- Sam Levenson

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