I Can Dream—Can’t I?   (2016Jul31)

Sunday, July 31, 2016                                              3:06 PM

It’s very damp and cloudy today—but not as hot, so I shouldn’t grouse. I am so glad that there’s only a hundred days or so until the election—I’m tired of being tortured by the media—no reasonable person at this point could take Trump seriously as a candidate, or even as a man—he is seriously dangerous to our mental health, never mind our country. I love Hillary—but go ahead and hate her if you must—just don’t vote for the GOP’s psychotic demagogue, please (even they don’t like him).

That’s where I am with this election—no more finely reasoned arguments, no more he said-she said—the question has been answered many times in many ways and I’m done. Trump can issue as many more lies and as much more bombast as he likes—I’m not listening anymore.

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So, let’s get back to ourselves. Forget the candidates. What would I like to see happen? That’s my new question. I’d like to see us build and renovate and repair. I’d like to see us hire and train and start new businesses and invest in new things, new ideas. I’d like to see us get serious about cryptography, hacking, firewalls, malware, and all the other threats of modern business and warfare—maybe a whole new branch of our military devoted to cyber-defense, with enough funding to tempt the top mathematicians and coders to civil service.

I’d like to see better training and oversight of the police—especially in trouble zones where police brutality against minorities is endemic. I’d like to see pot legalized, and other addictions treated as illnesses, not as crimes—and I’d like to see our prison system shrink down to where it is no longer a profit-center. In fact, it would be nice if our prisons could become actual rehabilitation centers that prepare inmates for re-entry into legit public life, preferably with voting rights and a chance at employment.

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I’d like to see free public health care and free tuition to local and state colleges. I’d like to see the rich have to pay more taxes—or any taxes, come to that—same with corporations. I’d like to see a full bench on the Supreme Court. I’d like to see legislators get elected who will pass laws—any laws—and it would be nice if they didn’t shut down the effing government, too—as long as I’m wishing.

I’d like to see a lot of changes in the world. But change is hard—if it wasn’t hard to change, I’ve have abs instead of a pot-belly. But I can dream, can’t I?

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I’d like to see community shops that are partially social settings—places that offer internet, coffee or other beverages, newspapers, maybe hot food—places where you don’t have to buy anything to hang out there—perhaps a sort of partially public-funded ‘town square’ for the twenty-first century. Maybe there could be a bunch of low-cost housing nearby, and bus stops or subway stations. Imagine a mini-mall that’s more about community than commerce.

What choice do we have? All commerce is happening online mostly now—and, absent Pokemon Go, everybody is sitting at home. We have to find new social interactivities or we’ll all end up in closets with VR headsets our only window on reality.

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And there’s something else the 21st century needs—we have to face the fact that working for a living, in an age of automation, robotics, and partial AIs, is an outmoded concept. We have to start thinking in more socialist ways—we have to accept that everybody deserves a decent life, and an occupation—even when all the old work is being done at the push of a button, and is owned by a handful of autocrats. I’ve talked about this before—it’s just common sense, with a teaspoon of extrapolation.

‘Earning one’s way’ in life is an old tradition—it won’t be easy to work out how we all live in a world where we don’t have to work—where we can’t work—and it’ll be even harder to convince the super wealthy that they don’t own the Earth or the Human Race. But I can dream, can’t I?


From yesterday:


Original Content   (2016Jul30)

Friday, July 29, 2016                                                7:45 PM

Okay, enough politics—what do I know, anyway—other people are already saying anything I have to say—people who get paid for it. I’ve been so swept up by the spirit of the Democratic National Convention—it was thrilling. But patriotism is something only idle people have a lot of time for—most people have stuff to do. So—time to stop obsessing over the TV and C-SPAN, and go back to reading books and watching movies and talking about myself. I know I’m not interesting, but I am interesting to me—and I like to write—or I should say type—I actually hate to write. If I had to do this with a pen and paper—I wouldn’t bother. But in an age of digital records, there is no saving of effort or of paper—there’s just ‘original content’.

Original Content means something you wrote yourself—without reference to Star Wars or Orange Is The New Black—something no other reasonable person would want to sue you for stealing. Be warned—if you do write something profitable, unreasonable people will come out of the ‘word-work’ to lay claim to it. But most writing has little value—so as long as you know you wrote it, you shouldn’t worry. If you’re serious about money—apply for a copyright. It’s easy—it doesn’t cost much (if you really expect to make money)—and it’s the first thing any serious professional writer does.

Original Content also applies to photos, artwork, music, and especially video. If you generate original content, which then generates a lot of clicks—you’re supposed to get paid for that. But mostly that stuff is generated in-house, so it’s not like you can just shop stuff around—although that might be a possibility, I suppose—but you’d have to go meet people. You can’t do business online—not all business, and especially closing a deal. When the Internet was young, sharing stuff was a big deal—now everyone wants to make a buck online—it’s no easier than most office jobs, unless you get a lucky break.

But I’m retired. I generate writing, artwork, and music and I just post it online. I don’t want someone else to use it without my permission—but I have no plans for a cyber-empire. I just want to be a part of it. I can’t do what young people do—posting photos of my junk, making dates on the dating app (damn, what is it? I wanna say ‘Rascal’ or ‘Heartify’…), or multi-player gaming—which I assume is tough on ‘grandpas’ like myself, especially if your hands shake. Most of the new online stuff is ‘young people only’—they don’t say that, but old people who try to fit in ‘with the kids’ are just as creepy online as they are in person. So I do ‘grandpa’ stuff and I post it. I post my piano-playing on YouTube. I post my essays on WordPress. I keep in touch with friends and relations on Facebook. I posted my old drawings on Pinterest, but I rarely have cause to add anything new.

I don’t expect a lot of people to listen to or read my stuff—some nice people do, who know me and don’t mind sleep-inducing stuff. I’m basically just putting my work out there for my own satisfaction—I like to do it. I used to have a spark of ambition—not much of one—I used to think maybe I’d become a great artist. Then I thought maybe I’d become a teacher. Eventually, I decided I just wanted to live a life without a specific goal—that’s a bad approach, but I was lucky. I ended up with a loving family, surviving a fatal disease, and cancer, and becoming an actual grandpa—oh, and I eat regular. I can’t complain.

Sometimes, after I had done a good drawing, I’d Xerox it—and the Xerox copy would look more professional than the original. There’s something of that in my postings—they just seem more substantial for being online for the world to see. I’ve actually had people tell me not to post stuff—you can’t post online without encountering trolls—but I pay them no attention. It’s like they used to say, “If you don’t like what’s on TV, change the channel.” That’s even more true of YouTube posts—if you don’t like my piano-playing, don’t watch it. I usually listen to classical music, myself—I usually only watch my own stuff once through, to check that it uploaded okay. Or I listen to it on CD, when the radio isn’t playing anything I like. It’s my fallback music.

So, Claire is flying to CA soon to meet our new granddaughter—Spencer and I will have to rough it on our own for two weeks—I hope we survive. Jessy and Seneca and Seneca are doing great. My mom had her 85th birthday today, down in Hilton Head, SC. I saw party pics on Facebook and wished I could have been there, instead of just calling to wish her a happy one.

I’ve gotten calls from Kevin Bouricius lately—he’s up in Massachusetts, trying to quit smoking. There’s a book of his oil paintings for sale online—it’s expensive, but the paintings are incredible. (http://www.blurb.com/b/4506248-paintings) He also has actual paintings, if anyone wants to go up there and buy one.

I’ll have to call Pete to set up our August jam—we usually try to post once a month, and I feel like I didn’t do too well this month, what with starting on anti-depressants at too high a dosage—I’ve halved it and I feel like I’m fully conscious again—although it was a great relief to be brain dead for a few weeks.

I was thinking, since Claire and I have our 36th anniversary coming at the end of August, about how our tradition used to be that Claire took the kids to Cape Cod or somewhere, and I’d stay home and work—we spent our anniversary in different states for years. I know it’s a weird tradition—but we’re slightly weird people. Well, the kids are grown, I don’t work, and Claire does—so that tradition has lapsed in more recent years—but if Claire stays with Jessy long enough, maybe the old tradition will come back one more time. I love the weird traditions, the ones that our just our own, the best.


I’ve been letting my muttonchops grow out lately—I look like I guy who shouldn’t have muttonchops but grew them anyway. Hey, you get bored when there’s so little to do. I shaved all the hair around my ears yesterday—I look like an idiot—and the muttonchops only make it stupider. But I stay indoors all day, so nobody sees it—just like my weird clothes. It’s kind of funny when I do go somewhere in public—people look at me sideways, but what’s the use of being sixty if I’m going to care how I look?

I have no new videos. Here’s a reprise of some recent ones:




Time Is A River   (2016Jul29)


Friday, July 29, 2016                                                3:15 PM

Hillary Clinton’s opponents try to characterize President Obama’s administration as a failure—pointing to exported jobs, employment woes, wage woes, and economic inequality, pointing to threats from terrorism at home and abroad. And they hammer away at every questionable action taken by either Obama or Clinton (we’re all sick of hearing about them because there are only a few, out of all the good both have accomplished).


Cherry-picking data is a favorite sport of the GOP. When they talk about Obama’s poor economic stats (which aren’t all that poor) they never mention Obama’s starting point—or rather, the end of eight years under Bush-43. We were in economic hell—there’s no other way to spin it. And the fact that most economic stats are at record highs, eight years later, with unemployment down to nearly reasonable levels (there is still work to do) makes it ludicrous that the GOP could pretend to any understanding of economics—or any ability to fix the problems. They created the problems—but you won’t hear them own up to that. They’ll even complain that Obama’s recovery was ‘too slow’—hey, maybe if you didn’t create the problem, you’d have the right to back-seat-drive the recovery.


The same is true of terrorism. Bush went to war with another country—by mistake—and then screwed the landing. He turned Iraq from a developed country into a chaotic free-for-all—and then doubled-down on military forces instead of addressing the hard work of re-building the country’s infrastructure and brokering between all the different factions a truce that had a shot at lasting long enough to get Iraq back to what it was. Now it is a wasteland, a breeding ground for ISIL—can they blame that on Obama or Hillary? No, but they can criticize the administration’s attempts to deal with the problem. It is childishly self-serving to spill milk and carp at the person wiping it up.


Our history did not begin at Obama’s inauguration. The GOP earned their total shunning in 2008—they had us all in a very bad place—and how they ever wormed their way back in two years later says more about our educational system than it does about their merit as civil servants. And since their majorities in the House and Senate, they have sabotaged the gears of government—just to try and embarrass Obama. Now they want to point to him and say, “He didn’t get anything done.” Well, that’s right—he only got done as much as he could those first two years (AHA and banking regulations and saving the auto industry) and then went on to do as much as a president can do alone, while the Congress jerks off. I’d say half of them are just cynical pols—and the other half are simply cracker bigots. How else do you explain more than half of our 500 legislators deciding that their job is to block anything the president tries to do?


Notice there is no qualifier to that goal—even if they really want something the president wants to pass, they’ll still block it. The proof is in their denial of Supreme Court nominee Garland a Senate hearing, for a year and counting—before he was nominated, the GOP wrote nothing but love letters about him—now they don’t want to know him. Politics can be nauseating.


So, if Obama’s administration has failed in important ways—he hasn’t done it in a vacuum—or rather, he has, though he shouldn’t have had to. The GOP created more than one crisis in this country, then they spent eight years blocking efforts to right the situation, then they spent the last two years working on one thing—trying to destroy Hillary Clinton’s image. From the polls, I have to admit they’ve done a great job—but again, that says more about our educational system than it does about their merit as civil servants.


I don’t know—maybe there’s something in uneducated people that wants to be taken advantage of. Other polls seem to show that no one with a college education will vote for the clown who hijacked the GOP. People who need dramas in their lives will hang on to all the propaganda, resurrecting the zombie lies for the nth time, making out as if there’s a real contest here. I’m sorry—this election was over when Trump said Mexicans were rapists. Even if Hillary Clinton wasn’t a great woman, and wouldn’t make a fantastic President—we’d still have to vote for her, just to keep him away from the big button—yikes.


Come Listen Young People Wherever You Roam   (2016Jul28)

Thursday, July 28, 2016                                           5:28 PM

My heart is full—I’ve been binge-watching the Philadelphia convention all week—the straight CSPAN feed (I want to make up my own mind—both about what’s worth watching and what I think about what I see and hear). Next week, I can go watch PBS, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, & FOX to see what the ‘buzz’ is. So far, it’s been like singing the national anthem—which I love to do—I love what’s best about our country. That doesn’t mean I ignore our problems. It certainly doesn’t mean I don’t worry. Neither does it mean that I believe everything I hear (from either side) nor was I born yesterday.


I’ve been a studious guy my whole life—I’ve studied world history, American history, and I follow politics. I’m sixty, which doesn’t make me an expert, but it does mean that I’ve lived through the same period of recent history as either candidate. I know what it was like for African-Americans in politics in the 1960s—and for a woman in politics in the 1970s—or rather, I remember what it was like for them—young people don’t know. If you had talked about a black president or a woman president back in those days, people would have laughed in your face. And if a gay person came out, he (or she) would have been dragged into a back alley and beat to death by an angry mob. No one can laugh at the first ‘if’ any more. Gays are still subject to violence—but the attackers don’t get a pat on the back anymore—they get charged with a crime.


People too young to have lived through those decades can be excused for not feeling Hillary Clinton—she’s just an old politician to them, with plenty of bad press. But they should recognize that Secretary Clinton has been getting bad press since before she graduated from law school—she has been a target of conservatives since she first appeared on the public stage, going undercover down south to prove that private schools maintained ‘hush-hush’ segregation, in violation of federal funding provisions.


People too young to know of Bill Clinton’s presidency can be excused for wondering what’s up with his cheating, their marriage, and therefore, her sincerity. Bill Clinton was a very young president when he got a blow-job from Monica Lewinski, an adoring, worshipful intern—then got in trouble when he swore he ‘didn’t have sexual relations with that woman’. He meant he hadn’t had intercourse, but others insisted that fellatio is a sex act and that he had lied. Now, Bill was a very popular president, very capable—and the GOP had to destroy him—they tried to impeach him, but couldn’t quite get him out of office. The whole country talked about blow-jobs for two years—it was stupid. Hillary stood by Bill, publicly, both as a believer before-hand, and as a wronged wife after the truth was publicized.


Now, people say that their marriage is a sham—as if no other marriage had bad problems and recovered. We’re coming up on our thirty-fifth anniversary next month and I can tell you—no marriage is without its ups and downs—long marriages are not a convenience, they are proof of character. But the press, comics, and her opponents, like to dredge this stuff up decades after the Clintons, I’m sure, have put it behind them.20160727XD_HillaryClinton_06

Benghazi was Ambassador Stevens’ valiant choice, but her opponents insist on labelling it Hillary’s mistake. Her email server mistake did no demonstrable damage to national security or personal privacy—and she was not the only government official to do this—she was just the only one being stalked by her long-time haters. And let’s say that I have too high an opinion of her—that she has serious flaws. Look at her record, look at her achievements—recognize that the kind of work she does makes enemies in powerful places—recognize that she has been a target since before most of you were born.


If Hillary Clinton is an imperfect person, she has somehow managed, in spite of that, to do good for millions, to get healthcare for children, to broker a brief but important peace in the Mid-East, to get compensation for New York City, its police and its first-responders in the health crisis that was the aftermath of 9/11 rescue efforts. And much more—watch the convention for the full bio on CSPAN.org—it’s pretty damned impressive—and we should all be impressed. This is the lady who should be ‘locked-up’?! Yeah, by a dictator, maybe….


People say they don’t trust Hillary—I wonder who convinced them to think that way? People say Hillary makes mistakes—their list of complaints is mighty short for a decades-long career—maybe they had to look extra hard, maybe they had to inflate some things out of proportion—for instance, who the hell hasn’t had trouble with their email?


I trust Hillary because I have followed her career since she became First Lady—and I’ve learned about her life before that. There is a reason everyone in Washington assumed she’d be president two years ago—it wasn’t because she was an ‘insider’—it was because all of Washington knew her to be one of the brightest stars in American politics that anyone, on either side of the aisle, had ever seen. They won’t admit it now, during campaign season—but they’re still thinking it.


Anyway, I gotta go—don’t wanna miss her speech tonight…

Here’s a little something I played today—this convention is really lifting my spirits:



Belated History   (2016Jul27)


Wednesday, July 27, 2016                                                12:50 AM

Yesterday’s nomination of Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic party’s presidential candidate and, with a little luck, the first woman president, was a major historic event—undercut only by the fact that it took us two hundred years and 44 male presidents to get here. The UK’s first woman leader is already a quaint bit of nostalgia—and many other democracies have been graced by women leaders—and we’re just getting around to it.


That’s the trouble with America—we’ve done so much—yet there is even more still left to be done. Michael Moore recently made an entire movie about good ideas that originated in America, were adopted by other countries (who benefitted greatly) yet failed to catch on, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. And every time a progressive puts forth a good idea for making America a better place there’s a stubborn autocrat who finds a reason to block progress. Democracy is slow, grinding work—especially when it’s swimming upstream against the Citizen’s United ruling that opened the lobbyists’ coffers.


We saw an old lady at the convention who was a little girl in 1920, when the nineteenth amendment gave women voting rights, and lived to vote for the lady who we hope to be our nation’s first Madam President. Barack Obama’s presidency has given the empowerment of dreams to millions of African-American children—Hillary Clinton is in line to do the same for half our nation’s citizens, and every little girl in America. The GOP wants to minimize this aspect of Hillary’s candidacy, but our President is first and foremost a symbol to the world—and it’s about time we broke the gender wall. Everyone calls it a ceiling, but that’s just to emphasize the unfairness of holding women down—it’s really a wall and we need to break through.


I was also pleased to see so many details of Hillary Clinton’s long and selfless service to the people of America—state after state credited her with making a positive difference in their lives. The truth about her civil service only makes the GOP smear campaign, over the decades, that much more reprehensible. And after tonight’s endorsements from her friends, her constituents, her colleagues, and her husband, the idea that the GOP nominee can stand up to any comparison is ludicrous.


As president, one is expected to interact with Congress—that’s 100 Senators and 435 Representatives—over five hundred legislators—it helps if you’ve been to law school. As president, one is expected to make decisions about things happening around the globe, things happening in science, education, health, farming, industry, energy—and business. Knowing about business is great—but knowing a lot about a lot of things, knowing a lot of people, knowing how government works—these are all important, too. The presidency is a tough job for a qualified person—for a newbie trainee, it would be a tragic farce.


I was always a problem student—I grasped concepts at once, and got very restless waiting for the rest of the class to catch up—my notebooks had more doodles than notes. Nobody appreciates the egghead who screws up the bell curve. But trust me—I’ve already solved this little multiple-choice problem and I am more than restless—I’m scared to death that the rest of the class might not catch up by November.


Yes Mindy, There Is A Hillary   (2016Jul24)

Sunday, July 24, 2016                                              3:42 PM

I agree with you, Min—choosing Pence for a VP pick was lucky for Pence, since his anti-gay and anti-abortion legislative efforts have angered his Indiana constituency—not to mention his resistance to a free-needle program to stop the spread of AIDs in his state—and it was unlikely that he could win re-election as Governor. On the other side, Hillary has chosen Tim Kaine, whom The New Yorker’s Adam Borowitz jokingly said, “exhibits none of the outward characteristics of a sociopath or clinical narcissist”—meaning he’s never had a scandal or an investigation or a fraud charge, so how can we take him seriously as a politician?


He is a lot like Joe Biden—when you go to smear him, you realize there’s no mud on the ground. A seemingly decent person who works hard as an honest politician—it’s confusing, I know.

I also agree with you about the legislature—both the house and senate GOP swore they would block anything and everything Obama tried to do—just so they could call him a ‘do-nothing’ president. But the Democrats did manage to regulate the banks and pass healthcare reform before the GOP slipped back into Congress—so when the AP did a fact-check on all the doom and gloom of Trump’s acceptance speech last week, they found that he lied about most of it—the economy is better, employment is better, crime is down, Iran can’t manufacture nuclear weapons, we have our first global climate-change accords, relations with our neighbor Cuba are being normalized (with Congress blocking the dropping of the fifty-year-old embargo, of course) and Obama has appointed a fantastic Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, who has just set a record for the longest an appointee has ever had to wait for a Senate hearing (almost a year now—and counting).


And let’s not forget that the origin of our financial woes came from the GOP’s spendthrift war-mongering and lax banking oversight—they left Obama with quite a hole to dig the country out of—but he did it, and has us back to better than before the bank crashes. So ‘just more of Obama’s policies’ sounds pretty good to most people—just think what a Democratic president could do with a working legislature.


To get that, we need more than just Hillary Clinton for president—we need some more Democrats in both houses of Congress. Both Clinton’s and Kaine’s Senate records show that they worked well across the aisle—so even if we don’t take the House or Senate, they still have a shot at some real governing, unless the GOP’s thinly-veiled racism simply transforms into thinly-veiled misogyny. Their acceptance of the orange Mussolini makes me feel that nothing is beyond them any more. They supposedly did some re-thinking after Obama won his second term—maybe when Trump gets his ass kicked, they’ll do some thinking worthy of the name.

Book Report: “The Jennifer Project” by Larry Enright   (2016Jul24)

Sunday, July 24, 2016                                              2:59 PM

(NOTE: This review was previously posted to amazon.com)


I’m sad to have just read the last page of “The Jennifer Project” by Larry Enright—check that box on the good-read checklist. This is a light-hearted romp—the dated nerd vernacular of the hero is almost embarrassingly comforting, like listening to your old stoner uncle. Jennifer herself shows some nerdy wit—and super-intelligence that acts more like magic than tech. Still, there is enough tech-speak and buzz-word scientifical-ness to help the willing suspension. Thrilling concepts are explored as if they wouldn’t need a book-shelf’s worth of ground-breaking new physics to implement—something I truly enjoy in my science fiction.

Terribly fast-paced—I read this book the same way I eat potato chips when I get the munchies—it must do without any tremendous amount of depth. The characters are what one would expect them to be—and we know little about them beyond their actions in advancing the story. The story’s ending might be too obvious to the experienced fan, but with the rush of words, one reaches the end before it becomes irritating. As with the better science-fiction, if you’re paying too much attention to the people and not enough to the ideas, you’re missing all the fun.

Larry Enright is a consummate speculator on future possibilities—and he knows how to entertain his readers. He’s sort of a cross between Harry Harrison and Michael Crichton. I will be reading as many more books like this as he cares to write—don’t miss out.

Pinocchio   (2016Jul22)

Friday, July 22, 2016                                                9:08 PM

The popularity contest that is a presidential election doesn’t treat intellectuals very well. People such as Al Gore get tagged as ‘college-boys’ with lots of smarts but no experience or heart. And I find it ironic that we have, in Donald Trump, the real threat that such fear supposes—he is an incredibly clever man—but he has no experience and no heart. These top-tier wheeler-dealers of our financial stratosphere are well-known to pride themselves on their heartlessness. And business tycoons like Trump have a very narrow, very one-sided view of what government is and what it does. Business owners rarely get to own billions-of-dollars-worth of assets by virtue of their tender humanitarianism or their sense of civic duty.


That he is manipulative is proven by the fact that he has taken a woman whose life is indeed one of tender humanitarianism and a sense of civic duty—a public servant virtually all her adult life—an educated, experienced, competent lady and a doting grandmother—and reduced her to a satanic conspiracy of lies and greed. Not too long ago, Trump claimed he had sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to dig into President Obama’s birth records and expose him as the foreign-born Muslim intruder the GOP wished he was. This was after the election—when President Obama was already serving his term. This was after President Obama had already released his birth certificate. Trump actually claimed that his investigators were finding ‘incredible things’.


But a few years have gone by, at least one or two—since he splooged that particular bit of narcissism—so let’s forget that he tried to smear the President just to get attention from the media. Let’s ignore the fact that he has yet to show any interest in the day after the coming finale—I mean election. Let’s just take his word that Hillary Clinton, without leaving any evidence, has spent her whole life trying to destroy America. We’re much better off with the world’s worst boss, I figure. He’s so entertaining—why shouldn’t I listen to him?

But that is a question. Everyone who has ever worked for Hillary Clinton just goes on and on about what a sweet, thoughtful boss she is, how smart and caring. We don’t hear a lot from Trump’s underlings (I assume he thinks of them that way) and there’s a good reason for that. NDAs. NDAs are non-disclosure agreements—they are legal papers some people make you sign before you can work for them. Trump can sue anyone who tells the world what it’s like to work for the guy. Not that he wouldn’t sue just about anyone—he has a long list of former litigants. And that’s another question—we’ve had lots of lawyers who became president—but we’ve never had a litigious businessman—I wonder which countries Trump would sue first? I wonder if I could bring myself to sue someone for telling the truth about me? Hmm.


Here’s how I see it—Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly be the Machiavellian super-villain her detractors paint her as—and that’s not to deny her imperfections. She simply doesn’t have any of the symptoms of a person who only cares for herself—she’s not nearly as comfortable huckstering herself to the public as Trump is (or her husband was)—she’s too sincere for that. And the fact that she has it in her to be sincere—too sincere perhaps to be comfortable tap-dancing in the public eye—disqualifies her completely from being anything near as bad as her detractors would like to believe.


Trump however reminds me of nothing so much as the barker who inveigles Pinocchio into joining the after-party at the carnival. The American public is the Pinocchio in this scenario, you understand—and we’ll all wake up with asses-ears, being loaded into a truck like cattle. At today’s rally in Tampa, Hillary told the crowd, “I never thought I’d say this—but Ted Cruz was right.” She was referring to Cruz being booed at the RNC convention for saying “Vote your conscience.” I don’t care for Cruz, but right is right—we could all probably use a Jiminy Cricket right about now.

Arrival   (2016Jul20)

Thursday, July 21, 2016                                           4:03 PM

Jessy spent two days in the hospital having her daughter, Seneca Duffy Burr—we didn’t get nervous until yesterday afternoon, when she stopped calling to go into delivery, and we didn’t hear back until 8:30, when we got to be the first to see our new grand-daughter via Facetime, straight from the delivery room, before they even weighed her (8 lbs., 4 ozs.) Jessy looked very tired, with good reason, Seneca looked relieved, and baby Seneca looked like a sleepy angel. I have never seen Claire so joyful—and I couldn’t stop grinning either. We went from worry over our baby to having a new baby (okay, so we’re just the grandparents—she’s still ours).

We’re still walking around on clouds today. There are no words. But here’s a thousand words worth:




and here’s a couple of re-posts of the ‘before’ Jessy:




Unconventional   (2016Jul19)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016                                             5:59 PM

There’s something very ‘high-school’ about this Republican convention in Cleveland. In a way, Trump’s entire race has had the childish aspect of someone who can’t be tried as an adult—and knows it. And this freedom isn’t due to his own youth, but to the uncritical thinking of his supporters, and of RNC boosters generally. Just before the convention began, Trump excused his running mate, Pence, for his vote on the Iraq War, with rationalizing that belied his claim that Hillary Clinton’s vote on the same was criminal incompetence. He can’t see his own random snap-judgments as anything but strength of personality—the childish clinging to one’s preconceptions regardless of any evidence of alternate interpretations. Stubbornness is a strength—but it helps if you’re right to begin with.

The convention itself incites us to compare it to one of Mickey and Judy’s attempts to ‘put on a show in the old barn’. But that would insult the memory of those fine performers—what the RNC is putting on in Cleveland is closer to the Little Rascals’ put-on-a-show episode—or a high school dance. Queen disclaimed any authorization for Trump’s use of “We Are the Champions” in a complaint-tweet—and Stephen Colbert remarked on the oddity of Trump choosing the song of a bi-sexual foreigner.

Melania ‘borrowed’ some of her more personal remarks from Michelle Obama’s speech of eight years earlier—but they were, in her defense, excellent phraseology. And it’s nice to hear Republicans applauding Michelle’s thinking, even if they were tricked into it.

The most high-school aspect of this unconventional convention, though, is the level of discourse. Various speakers laud the goodness of Trump—where we who have witnessed earlier conventions are used to hearing about important geopolitics, economic policies, social justice concerns, et. al. When the speakers run out of adjectives in praise of Trump, they damn Hillary Clinton as if the woman were in the dockets at Salem, lo these centuries past.

The feistier ones will take the occasional poke at Obama, too—but it’s hard to hack through both his positive stats and his immense approval rating to find cause for blame and shame. I heard Scott Baio actually question Obama’s Christianity, pointing out that he had a foreign-sounding name—“Does that sound Christian to you?” he asked. Oh-Em-Gee, Chochi—that was last election—and absurd, if you remember that one of the first things they tried to tag Obama with was his lifelong relation with his ‘activist’ Christian minister.

Giuliani shouted out that we had to “protect our police”. Several officers have been killed by madmen in recent days—but Giuliani’s tone left me wondering if he wanted to protect them from armed madmen—or from criticism of their tendency to shoot unarmed minorities. I think our police forces will survive the criticism. The unarmed madmen—well, they’ve been to schools and movie theaters and nightclubs from coast-to-coast—police are just their latest fixation. Black Lives Matter has not been arming anyone, so far as I know—that’s all on the NRA and the second amendment.

I could never understand the Conservative agenda—but the fact that significant numbers of the far right are Stop-Trump-ers indicates that this is not a left vs. right election. This is something else—something that defies description—and sometimes beggars belief. I imagine it’s similar to what people felt in other countries, when they saw their countrymen falling for a demagogue’s over-heated rhetoric and quailed at the thought of the destruction to come. But, in this convention, we are seeing a consensus—an alliance of bullies backing the head bully. High school bullies are bad enough, in situ—make one the President of the United States and –watch out!

Summer Daze (2016Jul16)

Saturday, July 16, 2016                                            4:38 PM

Summer is supposed to be hot and lazy, but I’m finding this summer kinda nerve-wracking. Our geopolitics are simmering dangerously close to a full boil—at this point it would be easier to list the countries that are stable and enjoying business-as-usual, if indeed there are any, rather than compile the list of trouble-spots and terror attacks. On the domestic front, we seem to be having a presidential race that is more a referendum on fact-based democracy than a choice of parties. The gun violence has hit record highs without anyone having a clue as to how to stop it. Violence of every kind piles atop itself, barely a day going by without a new atrocity in the news—it’s actually pushed our obsessive election polling off the top-stories-list these past few days.

I saw a Medium post this morning—a tongue-in-cheek essay listing the many horrors of the last six months, claiming that ‘due to extreme disapproval ratings the rest of 2016 has been cancelled’. I applaud this blogger—she or he has succeeded in finding anything funny to say about the first half of this year. I wish I could. The only positive message sensible folks like President Obama or Secretary Clinton can offer lately is ‘things aren’t as bad as they seem’, and ‘we all have to work together’. I can’t disagree—my life, compared to the average American, is just a bowl of cherries—and I’m far better off than the usual unemployed sixty-year-old.

And I would far rather welcome refugees from war-torn countries, and make allowances for long-term undocumented workers, especially those whose children were born here. Those who face these ideas with fear and anger are forgetting that none of us are native, except Native Americans—and they are overlooking that the net effect of all immigrations is always a plus for America. We have never failed to integrate and welcome any group into our nation before (well, eventually, of course) and I don’t see why we should start now. This nonsense about building walls, deporting masses of people, and banning religions—it’s not just un-American, it’s stupid. It’s a mistake we’ve never made before, so some people can’t envision just how horribly such ideas would work out in practice. With one exception—we’re still pretty embarrassed about the Japanese-American camps at the start of WWII. That failure of our national nerve still pinches—and it gives us a good idea of what extreme nationalism can do to the spirit of this country.

Our national spirit is a fragile thing—like many valuable treasures it can easily be misplaced or damaged. It can also be warped to the purposes of a charlatan—jingoism masquerading as patriotism, capitalist greed masquerading as national security, discrimination masquerading as religiosity, and other tap-dancing by power-seeking narcissists. Practicality is often used as an excuse to stifle our national spirit—we can’t afford it; it’s too dangerous; it threatens our children; it abridges our faith—but in the end, more of us are willing to trust in our spirit, our humanity, which is how we’ve gotten to our present level of social justice, work-in-progress though it may be.

Other nations marvel at our freedom of speech and of the press—they don’t really believe that such freedom can exist. Other nations marvel at our gender equality—women’s rights are severely curtailed in many nominally ‘developed’ countries. Even in Europe, many of their foreign nationals aren’t nearly as integrated into the fabric of their communities—they exist in separate enclaves that exaggerate the separation of cultures rather than combine them into a whole. America has its failings—don’t get me wrong. The persistence of racial division is undeniable and women are not yet fully equal in pay rates and other stats. The power of the wealthy is undermining our governance, our culture, and the economic divide is ever widening. And guns—boy, do we have a problem with guns.

For Americans, guns are the good guys. The colonists used guns to defend against the ‘savages’ and the many four-legged predators of the New World. The revolutionaries used guns to win our liberty as a nation—and one of their first new rules was ‘everyone can have a gun’. Guns made up both sides of the Civil War, and afterward, guns went west and made it wild—until other guns came and tamed the Wild West. Then we used guns to win the War with Spain, the First World War, and the Second World War. America wouldn’t be America without guns—and lots of’em.

Curiously, at present, we virtually ignore our armed military, those who are facing action in at least four other countries—and focus on gun misuse by Americans against Americans. Mental health seems to be a major factor—but I sometimes wonder whether the crazed gunman isn’t at least partly a product of a crazed community. The whole country is kinda gun-crazy—the mass murderers are getting their ideas from somewhere—and they’re getting their arms from somewhere too. I wish I had a solution to offer, but I’m as stumped as everyone else. I’m just on the lookout for those ‘better angels of our nature’ that have seen us through tough times before.

It’s looking like a long, hot summer. Here’s some music to help cool off:


A Fool Can Ask   (2016Jul13)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016                                                9:44 PM

They say a fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer. As a political strategy, this seems to be working for Trump. David McCollough and Ken Burns have started a Facebook page “Historians on Donald Trump” , a forum where various historians can discuss Trump’s divergence from American Values and American History. In yesterday’s New York Times, McCollough explained, “I’ve always said, ‘My specialty is dead politicians.’ In that way, I could sidestep the question without getting myself involved. But this time around, I don’t feel that way any more.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has also thrown the traditional reticence of Supreme Court members to the winds to lambast the presumptive GOP nominee in no uncertain terms.

Much was made on today’s news of whether or not Notorious RBG behaved improperly or not—and I can see where that might seem the most sensational angle to take. But I can’t help thinking that there’s a larger question here. What would make people, whose careers virtually require silence on such current politics, feel required to speak out and warn people?

George Will, longtime conservative columnist and lifelong champion of Republicans, has quit the GOP over Trump’s candidacy saying, “This is not my party.” Many GOP figureheads will not be attending the convention, leaving the Trump campaign scrambling for speakers to fill the three days’ ‘festivities’. Elected Republican legislators run from reporters who might ask them to explain Trump’s daily statements. The “Anti-Trump” movement is still viral within the party, even though everyone agrees it has little chance of blocking his nomination.

Even foreign governments are getting nervous at the thought of a Trump presidency. In a way, Trump is like Climate Change. Anyone with expertise will warn you against it—the Democrats fear it, and the rest of the globe fears it—only the GOP finds either phenomenon acceptable. I think Hillary’s campaign can run attack ads simply by airing 1930s newsreel footage of Il Duce—Trump’s role model, in both manner and ideology.

Why his apparent success? Well, people are unhappy—that much is crystal clear. Plus, Donald Trump isn’t really running for President of The United States—he’s running for Most Popular. When people sincerely run for President, they usually lay some groundwork in law and politics. Trump has hired lawyers and thrown parties for politicians—maybe he thinks that’ll do. But basically Trump’s message has been, “I can be mean.” His implication is that he’ll be mean for us, but I think he’ll just continue to be a mean person, a bully—and most bullies are cowards, with little interest in the common welfare.

But I think what maddens the educated, knowledgeable people, like historians, columnists, and Supreme Court justices, is the tremendous gulf between Trump’s ears when it comes to America and what American government is really about. Trump, being without experience in anything but deals and sales, doesn’t have the breadth of vision to encompass the enormity of the task he’s asking for. He’s not just too ignorant to do the job—he’s too ignorant to know what the job really is. He may win the popularity contest in November, but his presidency would make Brex-regret seem like a mild hangover, compared to a suicidal impulse. After centuries of glorious liberty, Trump is poised to make American democracy eat its own entrails.

Huzzah!   (2016Jul12)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016                                             7:40 PM

Don Pietro del Cianflone has returned from summer hiatus—sing laude and strike the tambor! Here, we have the Buds-Up Semi-Ensemble wreaking havoc with the laws of both rhythm and harmony in a spectacular display of bongo-osity and piano-tivity. If you spot this duo—notify the musical authorities at once. If you hear something—you’ve heard too much!



The rest of this is just me—nothing to see here, just move it along…






That’s that, for now. A big thanks to Peter Cianflone for the jam session!


Icarus   (2016Jul06)


Wednesday, July 06, 2016                                                3:14 PM

I’ve been watching the PBS series “The Greeks”—fascinating stuff, and it ties together the ancient history of Greeks with their present-day, and ours. In last night’s segment they touched upon the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, father and son. Daedalus was a legendary scientist and engineer, forced by King Minos (so the legend goes) to design and build the great maze which imprisoned the Minotaur and the monster’s victims—a group of young people sent annually from the other islands of King Minos’s reign, to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in tribute to the king.

Daedalus didn’t care for his bloodthirsty, despotic boss—neither was he too pleased with being a captive employee—Minos had forbidden him to leave. So Daedalus invented marvelous wings made of wax and feathers, etc. He intended for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape the evil king by flying away to another island. He warned his son, before take-off, that the wings would get wet and fall apart if he flew too low, too close to the sea—and melt and collapse if he flew too high, too close to the sun.

Icarus’s flight is a popular tale—he ignores his father’s advice and is drawn towards the Sun, flying too high. His wings melt and his father, Daedalus’, joy at successfully reaching a free island—is dashed by his grief at watching his son plunge into the sea and die. Everyone has seen a picture or painting of this iconic scene—in my art-study days, I even drew or painted a few myself.

PBS’s “The Greeks” makes a connection between the fall of Golden Age Greece and Icarus—they, like most, take from this myth the lesson of Hubris—an overweening pride. I can’t argue with their interpretation of Ancient Greece’s fall—they got rich off the backs of their over-taxed protectorates—transforming the powerful unity of democracy into an elite that abused their power. They did indeed forget what it was that made them great to begin with. And one of their over-taxed satellites was Sparta—you know you’ve gotten too big for your britches when you go and make Sparta mad.

But Icarus I see quite differently. To me, the story of Icarus is the story of wisdom, learning, and maturity creating sophisticated mechanisms that can’t be trusted in the hands of the young and foolish. Daedalus invents a machine—a machine that, according to legend, he was able to use as it was meant to be used. But in sharing it with his son, he put a power that required responsibility into the hands of the irresponsible. It is, in a way, the story of modern man.

No genius ever invented the next big thing and thought to himself or herself, ‘what will the dumbest kid in the world do with this?’ No, they just invent new things, find new powers—and present them to the human race as a whole. But our technology does eventually end up in the hands of the dumbest among us—with predictable results. To me the story of Icarus teaches us that a wise man can invent more than a foolish man can be trusted with.

A Chat With An Old Friend   (2016Jul06)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016                                                10:29 AM

It was convenient for Hillary that no charges would be filed—but it was equally convenient for the FBI director to cast aspersions on her without the need to prove them in a court of law. He says there’s no evidence that she was spied on, but that she MAY have been spied on. He says that out of 30,000 emails, about one hundred held classified info—but only eight held info that was classified at the time of the email—plus, he doesn’t give us anything regarding how HE decided this stuff was classified. Basically, Director Comey said ‘no harm, no foul’ out of one side of his mouth and ‘shame, shame’ out the other. It seemed a little partisan to me.

If you look at the email-server findings and the Benghazi findings, they both condemn the State Department. One wonders if it isn’t a little too easy to have someone be the head, the Secretary of State, and then, once he or she is done, lay a bunch of incompetence and malfeasance at their feet. An under-funded beltway bureaucracy, two centuries old, that gets a new boss appointed every few years—there’s your real bad guy.

Bill, the big dog, was less than circumspect in visiting aboard Loretta Lynch’s jet in AZ—but it sounds a little forced when people howl with laughter at the thought that these two could talk for thirty minutes about personal stuff. Really? You can’t blow a half-hour bullshitting with a friend? Has Bill done anything but, since he left office? Trump-eters who hail this as a sign that our ‘entire government is rotten to the core’ are being just a little bit hysterical. Nothing new there.

As always, the GOP witch-hunters who failed yet again to make a legal case against their nemesis have found ways to tag little PR addendums onto the statements clearing her. Politics is a rough game and no two ways about it.

Logos and the Summer Reading List   (2016Jul05)

Tuesday, July 05, 2016                                             1:03 PM

Kindle Purchases as of July 5, 2016:

Title    Author

Super Extra Grande                                                         Yoss

Infomocracy: A Novel                                                    Malka Older

Mechanical Failure (Epic Failure Book 1)                 Joe Zieja

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files)                                   Amie Kaufman

Porgy                                                                                 Dubose Heyward

Shakespeare’s Sonnets                                                     William Shakespeare

Wandering Stars                                                              Sholem Aleichem

The Noise of Time: A novel                                           Julian Barnes

Into Everywhere                                                              Paul McAuley

Something Coming Through                                         Paul McAuley

Little Machines                                                                Paul McAuley

Insistence of Vision: Stories                                          David Brin

The Technician (A Novel of Polity)                             Neal Asher

Dark Intelligence (Transformations)                           Neal Asher

Not Alone                                                                          Craig A. Falconer

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories                     Ken Liu

Ruined (TCG Edition)                                                     Lynn Nottage

As Good as New: A Tor.Com Original                        Charlie Jane Anders

Six Months, Three Days: A Tor.Com Original           Charlie Jane Anders

The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model                Charlie Jane Anders

Hello World                                                                     Peter Cawdron

This Long Vigil (A Short Story)                                     Rhett C Bruno

Saturn Run                                                                        John Sandford

Against a Dark Background                                           Iain M. Banks

Excession                                                                           Iain M. Banks

The State of the Art                                                          Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons (A Culture Novel Book 3)                Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games (A Culture Novel Book 2)       Iain M. Banks

Been There, Run That                                                     Koplovitz

Apex: Nexus Trilogy Book 3 (Nexus Arc)                   Ramez Naam

The Artificial Kid                                                            Bruce Sterling

Seeds of a New Birth (Kindred Series Book 1)           Orrin Jason Bradford

The End of All Things (Old Man’s War Book 6)       John Scalzi

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past)      Cixin Liu

Among Others (Hugo Award -Best Novel) Jo Walton

101 Great American Poems(Dover Thrift Eds)         Am.Poetry&Lit Project

Armada: A novel                                                              Ernest Cline

The Golden Transcendence (Golden Age Book 3)    John C. Wright

The Phoenix Exultant: (Golden Age, Book 2)            John C. Wright

The Golden Age                                                               John C. Wright

Idempotency                                                                    Joshua Wright

To Stand or Fall: The End of All Things #4                John Scalzi

Can Long Endure: The End of All Things #3              John Scalzi

This Hollow Union: The End of All Things #2          John Scalzi

The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things #1        John Scalzi

Mysterium                                                                        Robert Charles Wilson

A Bridge of Years                                                             Robert Charles Wilson

Pandora’s Brain                                                                Calum Chace

Schild’s Ladder                                                                 Greg Egan

The Girl With All the Gifts                                            M. R. Carey

The Turing Exception (Singularity Series Book 4)    William Hertling

The Last Firewall (Singularity Series Book 3)            William Hertling

A.I. Apocalypse (Singularity Series Book 2)              William Hertling

Avogadro Corp: TS.. (Singularity Series Book 1)       William Hertling

Nexus (The Nexus Trilogy Book 1)                              Ramez Naam

Crux (The Nexus Trilogy Book 2)                                 Ramez Naam

Cards of Grief                                                                   Jane Yolen

The Alien Chronicles (The Future Chronicles)          Hugh Howey

The Essence of Aptitude (CorpusChronicles Bk1)    Esha Bajaj

The Defeatist                                                                     Sophie Bowns

The Fold: A Novel                                                           Peter Clines

(R)evolution (Phoenix Horizon Book 1)                    PJ Manney

Curse 5.0 (Short Stories by Liu Cixin Book 7)            Cixin Liu

The Water Knife                                                              Paolo Bacigalupi

Taking Care of Gods (Short Stories Book 10)             Cixin Liu

The Wandering Earth (Short Stories Book 2)            Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem(Remem.of Earth’sPast)   Cixin Liu

Seveneves: A Novel                                                         Neal Stephenson

Vessel                                                                                 Andrew J. Morgan

H2O                                                                                    Irving Belateche

The book of the courtier                                                Baldassarre Castiglione

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Complete      da Vinci

Godless Nerdistry: Or How to be a Bag of Chem      Dale DeBakcsy

Consider Phlebas (A Culture Novel Book 1)              Iain M. Banks

Fear the Sky (The Fear Saga Book 1)                            Stephen Moss

The Lost Starship (Lost Starship Series Book 1)         Vaughn Heppner

Stars & Empire 2: 10 More Galactic Tales                 Jay Allan

Stars & Empire: 10 Galactic Tales                                Jay Allan

Fluency (Confluence Book 1)                                        Jennifer Foehner Wells

The Road to Hope                                                           Crissi Langwell

Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy, Book 3)       Ken Follett

Robogenesis: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)     Daniel H. Wilson

A Burnable Book: A Novel                                            Bruce Holsinger

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo series)    Hugh Howey

Wool: The Graphic Novel #1 (Silo Saga)                    Hugh Howey

YES                                                                                     Leonard Chance

The Fault in Our Stars                                                     John Green

The Divergent Series Complete Collection: D,I,A     Veronica Roth

The Nostalgist: A Tor.Com Original                            Daniel H. Wilson

Electric Blues (Arty Book 1)                                         Shaun O. McCoy

Ride of the Late Rain (Vergassy Chronicles Bk 1)    James Young

The Pattern Ship (The Pattern Universe Book 1)      Tobias Roote

After Shock: (Lucy Guardino FBI Thrillers Bk 4)     CJ Lyons

The Forgotten Land                                                         Keith McArdle

The First                                                                            Kipjo Ewers

The Princess and the Goblin (Illustrated)   George MacDonald

The Water Babies [with Biographical Intro]             Charles Kingsley

The Shriver Rpt:A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back    Maria Shriver

Wicked Sci-Fi Pulp -From1954 The Real Stuff Ill   Philip K. Dick

10 Lost Vintage Sci-Fi Short-Story Masterpieces      Chet Dembeck

Linked List of over 350 Free SciFi Classics                Morris Rosenthal

Distraction                                                                        Bruce Sterling

Vege Press-Cooker-50 Recipes for Busy People      Maria Holmes

The Seventh Science Fiction MEGAPACK Robert Silverberg

The First Science Fiction MEGAPACK                       Robert Silverberg

The Second Science Fiction Megapack                       Robert Silverberg

The Third Science Fiction MEGAPACK                     Fritz Leiber

The Fourth Science Fiction MEGAPACK                   Isaac Asimov

The Fifth Science Fiction MEGAPACK                      Gardner Dozois

The Sixth Science Fiction MEGAPACK                      Johnston McCulley

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 8 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 7 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 6 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 5 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 4 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 3 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 2 (civitas)     Various

Weird Science Fiction Tales: 101 Vol. 1 (civitas)     Various

The Edmond Hamilton MEGAPACK 16 Tales         Edmond Hamilton

The H. Beam Piper Megapack: 33 Stories                 H. Beam Piper

The Works of Alan E. Nourse  [Illustrated]               Alan E. Nourse

Over the last two and a half years I have read some books—not as many as I would have back in my ‘bookworm prime’, but I still enjoy reading better than almost anything else. The above list is not exact—in the sense that I have not read every book—or every word in every book—just most of them. (Let he who reads every book he buys cast the first stone.) Also, a few of these listed are just Kindle duplicates of books I read long ago, and subsequently re-read as e-books. But by and large my reading list for the past coupla years is fairly represented above.

I could not tell you what most of these books are about. I read them and forget them, as far as details go—if I retain the main concepts and story arcs, I figure I’m doing well. My memory does not work well—I often have trouble, during a big book, keeping things straight as I read—remembering stuff afterwards is a bonus for me. I can re-read a book and get a few chapters in before the sense of familiarity starts to come to me—I’m often disappointed to do that, because the more I read, the more I remember, until I give it up and go looking for a new book. Memory is weird stuff—especially when it’s as dysfunctional as mine.

You’ll notice I mostly read Sci-Fi books. Science Fiction isn’t exactly educational in the strictest sense of the word—that word ‘Fiction’ tells you why. But Sci-Fi does have the advantage of letting science-educated people play with the concepts they were taught—and there is great value in that.

Real math and science are very complex, they’re taught in school (often by uninspired teachers to unwilling students) and they tend to be thought of as rote data. But the sciences are a living thing, growing and changing with every day—and Science Fiction provides a safe space for playing with scientific concepts and ideas, clarifying their meanings and highlighting their possibilities. It can be a thrilling peek at the future or a dire warning to the present—but my favorite aspect of Science Fiction is that it can conjure fantasies about what the human race can become.

And Science Fiction has a strange habit of deciding, every once in a while, to become Fact. It is not so strange that speculation on the future can become prediction—even fortune-tellers get it right sometimes, and Sci-Fi writers have the extra advantage of not talking in general terms, but of extrapolating aspects of real science into stories about where that science might lead. Star Trek once speculated on the idea of hand-held communicators and, lo and behold, we now have I-phones (an actual improvement, since I-phones can do much more than allow conversations between two people). Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a story about a geo-synchronous satellite used for communications—and thus his name appears on the first patent for a communications satellite. I could go on—the historic connection between science and Science Fiction is long and full of anecdotes.

Science Fiction can also lead to greater interest in Science. Among the print books left off the above list are some biographies. Recently, I have read “Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel” (2006) by Rebecca Goldstein and “Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist” (1997) by Albert E. Moyer (which I’m still reading). I’ve also recently read “Henry James: A Life” (1985) by Leon Edel and “Beethoven: The Man Revealed” (2014) by John Suchet. I’ve read James, but truthfully I was intrigued to read his biography when I read, in Henry’s bio, that he was a tutor of the young Henry James in 19th-century Albany, NY. The Beethoven bio was a gift from friends who knew I liked classical music and reading.

So I do have other interests—Sci-Fi is simply my favorite genre. Biographies are great, too—but, being works of intense research, it gets tricky finding someone who can dig up the info and also write well. Biographies can be fun—some historical figures have whole bookshelves of biography written about them—I’ve read three different biographies of Einstein, for example, and learned as much from their differences as I did from their explicit writing.

Sarah Vowell, Barbara Tuchman, Jared Diamond, and Laura Hillenbrand are some of my favorite writers of general history. I’ve also read some lackluster histories by other authors, but I have found that, with biography and historical non-fiction, the lack of literary talent can be balanced out by one’s interest in the subject. I have read some terribly boring books, simply because I was fascinated with the subject matter. Plus, they help me appreciate the really good writers.

In the Gospel of John we are told “the Word was with God and the Word was God”, the word ‘Word’ having been translated from the ancient greek ‘Logos’, which means  “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason”—later becoming a philosophical term meaning ” a principle of order and knowledge”. Thus Logos has always held a fascination for modern writers and thinkers. The interface between words and meaning is a slippery one. Semiotics become complex. But the struggle between what we mean and what we say (or write) goes on—words may be amorphous, but they’re the best tools we have. And so, this summer, go and get your words on.

Happy Fourth   (2016Jul04)

Monday, July 04, 2016                                             2:33 PM

I like the idea of a public hearing—it could even be a new cable-TV channel—regular folks get up and say what they’re going through and what they would like to see the government do about it. Each statement could be followed by the names of the speaker’s town officials, their state officials, (with contact information so that people could call or write in) and the relevant legislation and programs that already apply, and a list of legislation that has been proposed but not passed. There could also be additional segments about legislation that was passed solely on the impetus of lobbyists—why they passed it, what the corporations get out of it, and how it deteriorates the public good.

That governor who recently got his corruption conviction overturned by the supreme court—he may not have done anything technically illegal, but with segments on our new show that link politicians to major campaign contributors, we could get rid of these jokers the old-fashioned way—by getting the word out, so they don’t get re-elected.

Of course, the same old problems apply—who would run such a TV channel and whose pocket would they be in? It would have to be very strictly administered to avoid the possibility of it being co-opted by a single group. And the financial needs of a TV channel would make it nearly impossible to avoid the same kinds of malfeasance that politics itself suffers from. Still, I like the idea.

Charles M. Blow wrote an editorial in today’s New York Times called “Giving Clinton Her Due” and I thought, ‘well, finally, some journalism about all the great stuff that Hillary Clinton has done over the decades’. But I was disappointed—the article was all about how well her campaign has done over the last month, compared to Trump. I just can’t fathom how people can pretend there is a comparison to be made between one of our most notable statespersons of the last four decades—and someone who hasn’t done squat, ever. Am I crazy or is this not the stupidest thing in the world today?

Even if Trump were sane, sensible, and thoughtful—wouldn’t it still be true that a complete novice, a green newbie like him, is a poor chose for ‘king of the world’? Add in the fact that he’s a narcissistic, psychotic imbecile and I have real trouble understanding how anyone can say his name, in conjunction with the election for Leader of the Free World, without laughing out loud. I can understand the talking heads—they get paid to say ridiculous things with a straight face—but regular folks? I just don’t get it.

And don’t tell me Hillary is a liar—who the hell isn’t a liar? Name another president who never stretched the truth—it’s practically a job skill in that regard. And the question isn’t just who is lying—it’s also who are they lying to? In the case of Trump, it’s a lifelong record of lying to everyone, for money. In Hillary’s case, when she misspeaks it’s usually in defense against the lies being spread by her enemies—she’s not lying to us, not the way Trump is. She’s just being a politician. And besides, let he or she who is without lying cast the first stone.

So get out there and set off some ‘works, everybody—happy Fourth of July!



Be The Government   (2016Jul03)

Sunday, July 03, 2016                                              5:46 PM

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Well, this is embarrassing—I wrote my Fourth of July post yesterday and now I want to write something else—but it’s still the day before Independence Day, so what am I supposed to do, pretend it’s not happening and just write about random stuff? Yeah, that’s the plan. So much for topicality.

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Oh, it’s funny—and kind of exhilarating—when you look back at stuff that pissed you off and had you all off your game and under the weather for days—and you realize that your memory isn’t good enough to really remember what all that was about, so who cares anymore. If I can’t interface with the Internet without somebody getting in my face, then I just play Snood for a while and the whole thing’s forgotten—I’d like to take the credit, but honestly, it gets forgotten whether I like it or not.

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Sometimes time moves too fast (usually) and sometimes time moves too slow (that’s the worst so I’m glad it’s the rarer of the two). Sometimes time seems to stand still—but if you wait awhile, you’ll need to go to the bathroom eventually. For me time has always been a little too elastic—my musical friends are always trying to encourage me to use a metronome—but that really just makes it worse—I get confused about the time between the clicks. So I made a deal with myself long ago—that even though music is primarily about rhythm, it was okay for me to do everything without a good rhythm, anyway—we’ll just call it an overabundance of rhubato, that’s all. It’s not that I don’t want to be rhythmic, it’s just that I can’t—time won’t let me, as they say.


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I mean, I can feel an anger inside me—but through a combination of not remembering and not wanting to go there, I really have no idea why. Lots of things make me angry—I have an itchy trigger finger and a short fuse. Must be the Irish in me. Back in the day you could pick one thing to be angry about—the War, or Nixon, or Nuclear weapons, or the Ecology. But now there are just too many things going on, both good and bad—not getting angry is becoming an important skill, because the media will latch onto to that and make you watch TV all day or surf around the Internet until your eyes bleed.

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Yes, there are problems out there—it’s time we stopped getting scared about it, or angry about it, and started getting serious about leadership instead. We are about to have an election in which a miserable, dangerous candidate has a shot just because people are so angry and so uncomfortable—and so poor. And that’s on our establishment, no question about it. They’ve been lying down on the job—doing everything but their job. It’s time we elected new people—but not the worst person in the world, just because he sees an opening.

We need to elect local officials who are not wealthy or corrupt, who have public service in mind. Then we need to do that with our state officials, then our congresspersons. Only when we have regained control of our political infrastructure can we do anything about the big dogs—the governors, the senators, vice-president, and president. Those things are just shiny objects for us to jump up and reach for while all the real work gets done behind our backs.

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A vote won’t do it. People have to start going to town meetings, state party meetings, I don’t even know what kinds of meetings—that’s the sad part. The NRA’s zombie army all have the itinerary—surely the rest of us can start to realize that the crazies need to be beaten back at every river ford and mountain pass, that the lobbyists need to face down protestors outside their offices and in the halls of government. The reason we have such bad government now is because we have taken it for granted—but it needs work, just like your house or your yard—and they are overdue for a lawnmowing.

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We don’t get paid to participate in our government, local, state or whatever—we may not even get what we want, personally, by participating. But if we think of it as an appliance that works when you push the button, then we get a government that has no brain, no heart. Only when large numbers of regular people show up will our government ever resemble our desires, or even our needs. We don’t need smaller government or bigger government—we need to be the government.

The Revolting Day   (2016Jul02)

Saturday, July 02, 2016                                            12:22 PM

Considering the time of year, I guess we can’t really criticize the UK for Brexit—there were a lot of naysayers back on that first Independence Day. In fact, we rarely talk about the Tories—early Americans who took exception to the colonists’ decision to flip George III the bird. Back in the day, their lives weren’t worth a plugged nickel—especially once the Revolutionary War really got started. It must have been strange to move so far while standing still—one day they are patriots—good citizens of His Majesty—and the next day, traitors—dirty turncoats who sided with the lousy Redcoats.


We can never tell how history will paint our portraits. Benedict Arnold, a much maligned figure in our history, was one of our greatest military officers—a fierce fighter and brilliant tactician—he found the Continental Congress of his day just as useless and frustrating as we do ours today. He saw them being negligent and inept, more concerned with their own well-being than with the fate of the young country. The rebels were suing the French government for military aid and financial backing—and Arnold felt that we were better off sticking with the British, bad as they were, than turning our country over to the French. So he turned spy—but with the best intentions. History, however, was definitely not on his side.


And ever since, we have had historical figures who, at first blush, were labelled traitors, troublemakers, and insurgents—anyone who tried to see things from the Native Americans’ point of view, anyone who condemned slavery, anyone who worked towards votes for women—were all roundly booed, sometimes until long after the injustices were irreversible. There are even people today, over two hundred years later, whose parents have raised them still to belittle Native Americans, African Americans, and women of any type. More recently, the late Muhammad Ali was branded a traitor for refusing the draft, as were many anti-war protestors. Good isn’t ‘good’ until it wins the PR war and gets the imprimatur of history. It is not so much that history is written by the winners as that history is written by the winning.


Like religion—source of humanity’s greatest comfort and engine of its worst atrocities—America has a wonderful, idealistic side which we use to block out the memory of all the horrendous reality that we’ve chalked up since we first gave out those poxy blankets, long before we decided to write declarations about human rights. We like to get on our high horse about the great American Experiment—but the nation that invented Public Education celebrates its big day by having the ill-educated go out and blow off their extremities with explosives—if they survived the car trip to the picnic area, that is.


It’s lucky I’m gonna be a grandpa soon—here I am grumbling about firecrackers on Fourth of July Weekend—what kind of American am I, anyway? I still approve of barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs—even though I can’t decide which has more carcinogens—lighter fluid or maple wood chips. And I still like the flag—even though I can’t fly ours because a tree branch grew across the flagpole and the powerlines are too close (I think it’s a really old flag pole, so it would probably fall down with a flag on it anyway).

Plus, I’m retired—holidays suck once you’re retired—what good’s a day off if you don’t have any days on? The biggest change for me during holidays is the theme that Turner Classic Movies uses to mark the occasion in their day’s programming.