Saturday, March 31, 2018

Madeline Fisher dies

My stepmother, Madeline Morgan Bond Fisher, died today at about 4:30 p.m. She was 95. Her daughter and my half-sister, Revan, and Madeline's longtime companion, Bill Samaha, were at her side.

A good woman.

God's belly button

For all the effort the Roman Catholic Church has put into disenfranchising women over the years, still the Michelangelo painting in the Sistine Chapel (I mean, this guy's credible, right?) of God creating Adam stands in sharp disagreement, unless my eyes do me wrong. A real rebuke.

Cheer up, ladies, and notice the fact (as I see the picture) that God has ... wait for it ... a belly button. And there isn't anyone with a belly button who was ever born from anything but a woman.

Who's got the nerve to say that Michelangelo -- or what I imagine was a very attentive circle of clerical critics who kept an eye on his endeavors -- fucked up ... if indeed he or they did fuck up.

And if God has a belly button, the question needs to be asked, "Who's your daddy ... or mommy either?"

I've asked this question before, but it popped into my head again today. Put me down for repetitiveness. Actually, a friend in Mexico pointed it out in the long ago and far away. Whoever asked it, I figure the question is still good for another flogging.

weak times

Beneath a crystalline-blue sky and bright sunshine, times are redolent with fragility today ... though, as usual, a part of me asks pointedly who is feeling fragile here.

Yesterday, my sister (half-sister in fact) told me that my stepmother, 95, was expected to die either yesterday or today. When I asked who had made such a determination -- which reminded me of day-certain predictions about a yet-to-be-born baby -- she said it was based on some sort of hospice 'modeling.' Perhaps such modeling (read best-guess) is calculated to give caregivers some hope: My sister is bearing a lot of weight as her mother declines: So many interests confront my sister and I am of little or no use ... which makes me aware of fragilities. Death would be, in one sense, a relief.

A 10-minute-or-less trip to the convenience store was a positive adventure for me, yesterday. And remaking the bed after washing sheets and T-shirts ... a definite break required. No way would I be anything other than a weight if I attached myself to my stepmother's care-giving retinue... traveled 100 miles, talked, shuffled about. Tiring. So I cannot help my sister, who is my favorite relative ... not to mention that insistent male gene announcing that men are the ones who fix things that need fixing. Fixing is beyond me, though remembering 'fixing' is bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed. Fragile. I hate having to ask others to do what some part of me insists I should be doing ... relieving my sister, holding my stepmother's hand ... whatever.

In another diaphanous veil of fragility, my wife headed for New Jersey today. Her brother is scheduled for heart surgery today and ... well, it's another sign of changing times, time passing, change.

When I step back a little, I realize that my whining is really very small potatoes compared with the fragilities of others who may be displaced or hungry or suffering the loss of hunks of what once was called "family." Or vast physical ailments. Mine is a whining from within a well-heeled arena ... and yet I whine. Each passing day arrives with a smaller and smaller list of things I want to accomplish only to find myself subtracting aspects of the plan as the day advances.

Today I hope to get in a shower that has been displaced over the last few days.

Itch and scratch. Itch and scratch.

Friday, March 30, 2018

who killed Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Martin Luther King, Jr., center, on April 3, 1968
Far from the effluvia of cast-off porn stars and explosive Tweets that evaporate almost as quickly as they are written, The Washington Post offers a look back on the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on who did or didn't pull the trigger. Conspiracies can be made of thin gruel or more substance, but the Post story at least has a whiff of substance and of an earlier time when serious men were involved in serious matters.
In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.
For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.

unrepentant liberal judge

[Judge Stephen] Reinhardt joined another judge in ruling in 2002 that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were unconstitutional.
Then-President George W. Bush called the decision ridiculous, and California’s Democratic governor at the time, Gray Davis, defended the pledge as “one of our most profound human expressions of American patriotism.”
The 9th Circuit later overturned the decision, but not without a dissent from Reinhardt, who maintained that “under God” had an unconstitutional religious purpose....
Reinhardt died of a heart attack during a visit to a dermatologist in Los Angeles....
Glad to have lived in a time he infused.

what's debatable

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The first rule of a North American debate tournament to be held in Vermont this weekend: No men allowed.
Some 150 debaters from 18 schools across the U.S. and Canada will compete in the special tournament, which is designed to be a safe space for women who complain of bias when they debate against men....
The women at UVM recognize the women-only tournament can make them targets of people who feel they are asking for special treatment, but say it’s good to raise awareness of the issue.
When working at Doubleday book publishers, I one night went out to dinner with a British co-worker named Susan, who, in that long ago and faraway time, was determined to become the first woman prime minister of England. This was pre-Margaret-Thatcher. Also Susan was arguably the smartest and most verbally dexterous of all the women I knew. She was often exhaustingly bright.

But Susan was also a good egg... fun, funny and, of course, chock-a-block with rare facts and sweeping opinions she was willing to laugh at. Over dinner, we were getting gently squiffed when she opined, "The trouble with you Americans is that you don't study rhetoric. In England, everybody does. I could sit here right this minute and prove to you that a chocolate milk shake was vanilla and you'd believe it."

"Oh God!" I groaned. "Please don't." If Susan said she could do something, you could take it to the bank she could and I was not in the mood to be a greater fool than I already was. And so we passed on to other, less-sharpened topics. A British accent alone is usually enough to make me fold up like a wet wash cloth. But put that together the a Class A education and I was dead meat ... I mean, really, dead meat.

Women only.
Men only.

I prefer issues only,

parry and thrust

Not very couth, perhaps, but it has a certain Trump-times lilt:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

damn! coffee as carcinogen

Rest assured: If it's yummy, it's bound to be a carcinogen and someone is bound to critique it.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California law requires coffee companies to carry a cancer warning label.
Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said in a proposed decision Wednesday that Starbucks and other coffee companies failed to show the threat from a chemical compound produced in the coffee roasting process was insignificant.
Well, shit! Without coffee, my life would hardly be my life any more. Good thing I'm damn near dead.

cross-lingual communication

I haven't heard the woodpeckers yet, but the birds-who-crap-on-cars (grackles?) are murmuring here and there in these urban skies and so are the Canada geese. The forecast today is for temperatures in the 50's (F) and this morning I sat on the porch for an early-morning smoke and a cup of coffee and left the storm door wide open. Real air, outside air is such a treat after winter's lockdown.

And in a continuation of long ritual, a couple of sparrow-like birds began researching a nesting spot up under the front eave. Thus it has been for years -- same research, same nest, same decisions ... different day.

As I say, the storm door was open to the outside and the sparrow-like companion was bound to research the scene. Which s/he did by flying about a foot into the enclosed porch space, not six feet from where I was sitting. S/he advanced like a less-kool humming bird, hovering as best s/he might, eyeballing the porch surroundings.

And before I could stop myself, the words, as always, were out of my mouth -- strong, but not too loud: "No, no, no, no, no...."

Without a word, s/he broke off hovering a foot inside the porch confines and returned to the outdoors where s/he would be more at home ... create a home. The voice had done it. "No" from my lips was "no" to his/her ear.

"No" meant no from where I sat -- don't get confused and snared by the porch. And "no" meant no from where s/he hovered. Two languages speaking precisely the same language. Cross-lingual communication that was precisely on target.

It reminded me a bit of the sweet scenes in the movie "Ghost Dog" in which the protagonist speaks English and the ice-cream truck operator speaks (with subtitles) French and they are both on the same frequency and, more interestingly, know they are despite the differences in language that neither can understand.

death of an oral historian

Louie Kamookak
Kamookak compared Inuit stories with explorers’ logbooks and journals to develop a working theory of where the ships might be.
He shared these thoughts with Canadian archaeologists, and was eventually vindicated in a spectacular fashion when, using his directions, divers located the HMS Erebus in 2014, and two years later, the Terror.
The 'nobodies' and the scientists ... there is something satisfying in all this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the rogue in the ointment

At 20 mph, winds were not threatening as the Princess Hawaii laid out her nets hundreds of miles from Hawaii last weekend, according to owner Loc Nguyen.

Then the 61-foot vessel was hit by two "rogue" waves and sank. All crew members were recovered .

“It was so big, they’ve never seen that before,” Nguyen said. There was “too much water on the top and it went down....  “I don’t care very much about my boat,” Nguyen said. “I lost money, OK. But if someone was dead or something, I would feel bad all my life.”

In the midst of whatever it is, there are always "rogue" waves, I guess ... appearing against all apparent odds and sinking the ship of intention.

The Boy Scouts encourage their members to "be prepared." I guess the tricky part is always, how can you be prepared when you can't know what to be prepared for?


There is no time for enlightenment.

I guess the best anyone can do is make time for it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

bend in the tracks

At just about the time I was 'supposed' to be in the throes of empty-nester-dom and a sense that at least 50 percent of my lifestyle 'should' be consumed by medical cares, I find the dusts of the past circling my ankles like some willy-willy micro-tornado in outback Australia.

The straight tracks veer this way and that.

My older son reports from Georgia that he has at last plugged himself into a school job helping "challenged" (Down Syndrome among others) kids. It is a job he has done before and he likes and, if it becomes more consistent, could help him steady his financial boat. That boat is a bit tippy given that his track-coaching doesn't pay quite enough and the gym-fill-in gig he has is helpful but not that helpful. It is good news.

My younger son, meanwhile, is down in Connecticut tonight, gearing up for a police exam in Groton tomorrow. He wants to be a cop at the moment. He's a bit edgy, since he's not quite sure what to expect from the exam or the future, but he has his girlfriend with him in Groton ... which girlfriend, it turns out, has had a run-in with her roommate and my younger son wondered today if she could come and live with us (and him) for a while. Both my wife and I said yes and both of us were a bit iffy. There's disruption in having others in the house at this point. Glad to help, on the one hand, and not-so-glad on the other. A wee voice inside would prefer to be taken care of rather than taking-care-of, no matter how mild the demand is.

The length of stay rests in part on how well my son does on the exam. If he passes, he thinks he and his girlfriend can move in together, which they had been planning anyway. But if not ... well, qui sait?

It's all mild stuff, I suppose, but little things are larger at my age and my wife's too.

Ah well, karma will out ... I suppose I can say that and some nitwit will swallow it.

repeal the Second Amendment

John Paul Stevens, a retired associate justice of the United States Supreme Court called, in a New York Times oped piece today (3/27/18), for the repeal of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment forms the foundation of how and why Americans can and do own weapons.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite some dramatic and deleterious flubs (think of the Citizens United case, a decision that has allowed unfettered spending in the political arena), the court is as close as my country is likely to get to a dispassionate arbitrator. I am inclined to listen and research when that court, and its members, speaks. Since revising the Constitution requires "two-thirds of the House and Senate [must] approve of the proposal and send it to the states for a vote. Then, three-fourths of the states must affirm the proposed Amendment"....

OK, Stevens' suggestion has less than a snowball's chance in hell. But what he has done is to name the 900-pound gorilla in the living room. And for that, I for one, am grateful. The National Rifle Association may gloat as Stevens puts his ass on the line but at least Stevens has some balls.

It ain't going to happen, but I'm glad there's a man alive who tried to make it happen.

PS. Blowback on 3/28/18 ... President Donald Trump, of all featherweights, Tweeted:"THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!" While true, using Trump as a defender of the Constitutional faith seems a bit tepid, to say the least. Stevens may be an uncompromising liberal in conservative eyes, but he can and does know how to think. His arguments do not rest entirely on bluster and volume and self-service.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Stormy Daniels for president

Having just watched the better part of her interview on the TV magazine show "60 Minutes," my inclination is to suggest: "Stormy Daniels for President!"

Daniels (real name Stephanie Gregory Clifford) is a pornographic film star who was paid $130,000 by one of Donald Trump's lawyers to keep her mouth shut about a sexual encounter she claims to have had with the now-president. In the interview, she struck me as straight-forward and intelligent. She conceded self-interest where appropriate and told her version of events with what sounded like candor. But even if she were lying through her teeth, still she strikes me as a person with what my father used to call "sand" -- a person of substance.

Which would I rather have: A president who had porn-show credentials and copped to them or a president who was a whore on the hoof? Daniels' hard-scrabble up-bringing in the South brings a credible luster to her utterances. Sure, she's got tits-out-to-here, but I think there is enough beyond that to qualify her in ways Donald Trump could not even imagine. Was she using 60 Minutes as a publicity springboard? I can only imagine she was, but I can also imagine she might admit as much if asked.

And then of course there's the question of how I could ever NOT vote for someone who, during her first political campaign in 2010 against a family-values fellow whose values became linked to a prostitution ring, employed the campaign slogan, "SCREWING PEOPLE HONESTLY."

the purring of box-office religion

A small serendipity: Last night I finished sort-of-reading a book called "The Shack." I had searched around for a pre-sleep soporific and found the book helping to clutter the dining room table. I grabbed it and read it over several nights. (The book, I since found out, was made into a grimly-reviewed movie.)

And today, in a nod to how far behind the times I am, came this:
The faith-based genre is showing Hollywood that age and diversity are not necessarily antithetical to box-office success, and offer starring roles to actors who may no longer be at the top of casting directors’ call-in lists.
“In last year’s hit The Shack, God was played by a black woman, an Asian woman played the Holy Spirit and Jesus was played by an Israeli,” says Peter Chattaway, reviewer for the faith-based film site, Patheos.
The book was a kind of one-note concerto about a man who spends the weekend in the country as he coped with his young daughter's brutal kidnap and murder. His weekend is attended by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and by the man's own revision of his world/religious views. The book was very popular, the cover announced. I had never heard of it. The Christianity platform, while laid on, was not unbearable.

I think religious imagination is inviting in a world full of too much information. Kindness, peace, harmony, healing, dedication, love ... all play well in a fractured, fractious present. I'm not for it or against it. Cozy is nice and every story, no matter how shallow or profound, has its cozies. Cozy in an era of unbridled dyspepsia and uncertainty is a go-to magnet. I fear the fallout from religious cozies, but hell, even when it's not religious, cozy explanations always nourish thorns that make someone bleed.

God is always easier than God, right?

Fantasy (think "Black Panther") is big at the box office these days. Why should religion be shut out?

gun protests

Last month, my younger son returned to the United States after a year's worth of National Guard deployment in Sinai. In one sense, he returned from a culture of guns to a culture of guns.

To my delight and his despair, he had not been stationed in a hot zone -- a place where bullets proved whatever today's muscular point of view asserted. Largely, he was bored stupid and despaired of it. How could his idealistic view of "service" be met without the threat of tragedy, of wounding, of death? What a bummer. Interesting how much of tragedy and idealism are cocooned in lethargy and boredom.

Yesterday (3/24/18), thousands of young people, attended by their sympathetic adults, rallied and wept across the world. Guns were not an acceptable means of addressing dangers supported by those who claimed to find guns unacceptable. It was too horrific -- shooting kids in schools and elsewhere. It had to stop. Massive rallies ... many tears ... heart-felt emotion ... and yet lethargy and boredom lingered serene and assured along the edges of an eruption of something-must-be-done.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chanting “never again,” hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States on Saturday to demand tighter gun laws.
In some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations for decades, protesters called on lawmakers and President Donald Trump to confront the issue. Voter registration activists fanned out in the crowds, signing up thousands of the nation’s newest voters.
At the largest March For Our Lives protest, demonstrators jammed Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue where they listened to speeches from survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
While my son had been away, the U.S. had passed a tax bill that improved the lot of the obscenely wealthy. Arms manufacturers -- Boeing, General Dynamics, drone makers, and other coupon clippers -- got a big boost. Killing brown people abroad was acceptable and even enjoyed a certain cachet in American ghettos. Make America great again ... but shooting kids in schools meant your kids and mine were at risk.

Enough! Sort of. The government could not find a way to advance the cause of peace -- health care, infrastructure, climate, student debt et al. -- so it fell back on the old faithful -- the threats of "terrorism" and war and scaring those who, a moment ago, had been horrified.

How I wish I had a solution. How I wish I could stand above it all and declare some sort of victory over violence as a response to life's hardships. How I wish I could exempt myself from complicity. But I cannot. I am glad my younger son has taken the trouble to get a gun license and, more, a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Why? Because it is my strong feeling that at some point there will be a stand-off between those who have and those who have not. A literal stand-off in which the 'haves' will deploy the police who will (again) act as their proxies. It'll all be legal, but that doesn't mean it will be just or digestible and going unarmed ...

Congress is conveniently out of town as yesterday's rallies disperse. Will these 'representatives' return and respond to thousands of marchers? If they do, what is the payoff? If they don't, what is the payoff? Perhaps the unbridled venality of our representatives is an exact representation of the electorate it represents ... even the most delighted of liberals.  Mona-Lisa fashion, lethargy and boredom offer a small and meaningful smile. The politician-purchasing National Rifle Association and an everything-has-a-price-tag president like Donald Trump suggest that the odds favor a refocusing of objectives and a forgetfulness among even the bereaved.

I wish they wouldn't insist on killing my kids, but, as the old reminder used to go, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

I am too weak to parse and think this issue out with clarity. It is no consolation that I am not alone.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

presumptions in news writing

Niggling and yet seriously...

Consider the difference made by the excision/addition of a single word:
TREBES, France (AP) — The Latest on the extremist attack in southern France (all times local):
1:30 p.m.
France is mourning the death of a courageous (emphasis added) police officer who offered himself up to an Islamic extremist gunman in exchange for a hostage during an attack on a supermarket.
When I was growing up in the news business, the line might have read: "France is mourning the death of a police officer who offered himself up to an Islamic extremist gunman in exchange for a hostage during an attack on a supermarket."

Aggrandizing adjectives were reserved for what came between quotation marks -- eg. Joe Blow said the officer was courageous. In this way, the descriptive is left to the reader, rather than the intrusive and perhaps hectoring writer.

It was important to allow the reader to make judgements. A dead combat soldier, for example, was not prima facie evidence of "heroism." Many may agree with the sentiment, but a news writer was not seeking or presuming or trying to fuel the outlook of the reader. Words are vague and corrupt enough without adding to the stew.

"Lincoln's doctor's dog"

Back in the days when book-publishing was more in vogue, there was a joke in the industry that a winning chemistry for any financially-successful book was contained in the quick-hit formula, "Lincoln's doctor's dog." Lincoln was popular; doctors were popular; and dogs were popular ... ergo....

As a further guarantor of sales, the first sex scene should occur no later than page 34.

In the same way that tourist attractions may be trite but there is a real reason for their popularity, these tongue-in-cheek publishing advisories were both ridiculous and true at the same time. Any author might wish to be wildly popular with his or her chef d'oeuvre and simultaneously believe that catering to someone else's formula breached an unspoken freedom to write any damned thing s/he pleased. Freedom, while threatening as hell, was part and parcel of the artist's palette: "Don't fence me in!"

And yet, and yet....

My mother once said that you couldn't trick readers. They would smell your farts under the covers if you tried to fake something you did not consider true. If Lincoln or doctors or dogs were a true passion or concern, go ahead and write the hell out of it. But if selling books -- which was what the publisher hoped for -- were the goal, steer clear: Not only would the reader not believe you, you, yourself, would be left with nothing but scruffy fart flavors. Or, if the reader did believe you, how sad would that be in the end?

Just noodling this morning, half-wishing Lincoln or doctors or dogs had somehow tolled my bells. If they had, perhaps I would have gotten to go to publicity shindigs I really disliked even when the product was not my own. Rich and famous and well-known and ... what the fuck was I thinking or pipe-dreaming about???!!!

Artists would like others to agree with them, but when those others do, in fact, agree, what, precisely are they agreeing to? Is it the same or different from the glowing orb that beckoned the next word off those dancing fingers? Isn't it like someone saying, "I believe in God," and yet no one is ever quite sure that that agreement with other believers is precisely the same.

Lincoln's doctor's dog ... how some part of me has wished for a winning formula. Applause. And yet if I had actually won, what sort of meal would that have provided? It seems lonely at the top and yet I wonder if "the top" is just another expression of the fact that there is no bottom.

Find your voice and use it. Of course the tricky part is finding it.

Friday, March 23, 2018

rocks to fend off armed intruders

With a massive anti-gun march on Washington planned for tomorrow (3/24/18) as a result of the Feb. 14 attack on a Florida school that left 17 dead, one Pennsylvania school district has planted buckets of rocks in classrooms.
A rural school district in Pennsylvania is arming teachers and students with buckets of rocks as a last resort should an armed intruder burst in, the superintendent said Friday.
Every classroom in the district about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia has a 5-gallon bucket of river stones, said Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel.
The technique and perhaps desperation is tinged with the scents of the Palestinians when they take on Israelis with uniformly dubious results: Knife-wielding Palestinians are routinely shot dead in confrontations that are then announced in the media by righteous and indignant Israelis... as if Palestinians had never heard of more lethal weapons and Israeli security forces lacked training in safely disarming a knife-wielding foe.

Never bring a knife to a gunfight, right? Or a rock to yet another American school shooting???

Dumber than a box of rocks ... or perhaps I should say "bucket?"

The National Rifle Association can be proud of itself and what it contributes to te United States.

documentaries ascendant

I can't help but wonder if the alleged ascendancy of the documentary isn't partly due to the proliferation of "fake news," the agitation-propaganda nature of what used to pass for sober and supported reporting and assessment.
“It feels like the golden age of documentary right now,” says Josh Koury, a professor at Pratt Institute and a documentary filmmaker. “It’s an amazing time to be making documentary stories”...
“We’re having a kind of crisis of logic and a crisis of language where it feels like words don’t mean things anymore and nothing has to make sense,”[filmmaker Sabaah Folayan] said. “People are more thirsty for this content. People are recognizing that they need to know about others and this is the way to do it.”
The commonality of culture ("I don't want to die," for example) has somehow been shredded by individuals and groups with loud voices and little care. There's too much information that ends up transmitting too little information. Those who lean on "Jesus Christ," for example, ignore the great likelihood that he was a brown man, middle-sized in stature, who came from a middle-class environment (spoke three languages) and the unlikelihood that he was some shuffling, head-bowed, humble-pie guy (see Hallmark calendars) without any but a loving agenda. Donald Trump's constituency, the ones who felt left out and left behind, are more numerous than anyone thought. Upscale exceptionalists and TED talkers are more confusing than they are healing. It's time to check in with people who are as confused as I am, as lonelified and insignificant as I. Documentaries give me company where the it-is-what-it-is crowd skirt the issue and dissemble, whatever their intentions.

Lately, I have been party to the thesis of the article linked above -- pausing to watch documentaries about all sorts of topics ... just people. I like feeling a part of something less grand than god or serenity. I don't mind if someone is making a buck on it. I guess I'm a fuck-up but if I have company, being a fuck-up is not all that bad. I will try not to hurt others, it's true, but I've lived long enough to know that those efforts, whatever they may be, are likely to fall short.

Documentaries don't necessarily prove anything but they do seem to swing my vote.

a son with his truck

My younger son had always wanted a truck.

Now he has one.

Got it yesterday.

It's pretty snazzy, guzzles gas and comports with the tattoos he also enjoys.

Everyone gets a truck at one point or another, I imagine.

Strange how things turn out... bringing to mind: "Do not worry that what you pray for is what you MAY get. Worry that what you pray for is what you WILL get."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

ax-throwing in America

There were a number of rituals that came with the summer jobs I had as a teenager. One was seeing how much bullshit you could feed to this summer worker before s/he called you out. It was a rite of passage -- from wet-behind-the-ears newcomer to member-of-the-clan employee.

The one I remember most clearly was in a lumbering camp where one of the full-time workers turned to me idly during a smoke break and asked, "Did I ever tell you about the time I killed a cougar with an ax?" And I replied genially, "Go fuck yourself!" Everyone chuckled and I was in.

Now, somehow associatively, it seems that there is a movement afoot to shoehorn ax-throwing into the rainbow of Olympic sports. Ax-throwing. It seems to have gotten a start in, of all places, Brooklyn and it appeals to me: At least it gets people away from a screen on which the only effort is with the thumbs. Throwing an ax is no small feat. More important, it is an actual-factual feat ... teasing, testing, and utterly useless under ordinary circumstances. But strangely satisfying.
Kick Axe Throwing is the first bar in New York City to pick up on a nationwide trend of ax throwing, a growing sport that some enthusiasts hope will take off the way bowling did in the last century.
“People are like, ‘Sharp objects and beer? What a great idea that is.’ But truthfully, after you have a couple drinks you start to actually throw a little bit better,” said Alexander Stine, an “axepert” at Kick Axe. He honed his own skills growing up in Colorado throwing knives at carnivals and now trains newcomers on proper technique. “It’s about believing in your ability to do something you didn’t think you could do before.”
Aside from anything else, knowing how to throw and ax would allow people to put something interesting on their curricula vitae/resumes under "hobbies."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

selling armed American drones

Kratos Mako drone
Since America is apparently the first-est with the best-est, it may be understandable that rules governing the sale of armed American drones should be loosened. American companies would definitely benefit and Donald Trump promised to "make America great again." Of course such a loosening must have the appearance of caring and law and international circumspection, but you can hear the cha-ching of arms-makers' cash registers ... the great American sales force is about to swing into action.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will soon make it easier to export some types of lethal U.S.-made drones to potentially dozens more allies and partners, according to people familiar with the plan.
Trump is expected to ease rules for such foreign sales under a long-delayed new policy on unmanned military aircraft due to be rolled out as early as this month, the first phase of a broader overhaul of arms export regulations....
Even though Trump will stop short of completely opening up sales of top-of-the-line lethal drones, it will mark a major step toward overcoming a long-standing U.S. taboo against selling armed drones to countries other than a handful of Washington’s most trusted allies. Military drones have changed the face of modern warfare, with U.S. models in greatest demand....
A Trump administration official, responding to a request for comment on the story, said the U.S. government is seeking to “minimize the self-inflicted bureaucratic and administrative hurdles to U.S. competitiveness in the global aerospace markets.”...
The official insisted, however, that any sales of armed drones would be in accordance with U.S. law and require that buyers adhere to international standards.
An increase in drones sales “could put these weapons in the hands of governments that act irresponsibly with their neighbors and against their own populations,” warned Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow with the Arms Control Association, a non-partisan Washington-based organization focused on global weapons proliferation threats. 
Industry sources say other manufacturers are considering expanding their product lines.
The overall loosening of drone export rules would also help producers such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin, two industry sources said.
Make America great again ... toss in "international standards" ... round up the believers and thieves... and


BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union says international donors have raised 456 million euros ($560 million) to build a desalination plant in the Gaza Strip to provide around 2 million people with safe drinking water.
At a pledging conference in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU offered more than 77 million euros, which combined with other donations will meet around 80 percent of the plant's costs.

Monday, March 19, 2018

throw-away culture

Passed along in email this afternoon was this article about cafes/shops popping up to which stuff-owners can take their stuff and have it fixed instead of just thrown away. I hadn't been aware that some companies not only discourage repairs, they prohibit them.

"nobody wants to get their hands dirty"

My father once wrote in a letter from Perros-Guirec, where he had retired after decades of teaching Shakespeare at Smith College, that there was some wonderful satisfaction in rehabbing the space above a garage where he intended to rest his retired head. There was nothing subtle or conniving or implausible about sheet rock. The end of a work day was, well, the end of the work day: He could see his progress, nurse banged fingers, wash plaster dust from beneath his nose, sip a little wine. Getting dirty was honest stuff and he liked it -- a sentiment I agree with. Getting dirty has some kind of clarified blessing in it, however much those willing or forced to do it may wish they could stay clean.

Now, of course, there are improvements that make me wonder if improvements are an improvement.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As a teenager working for his dad’s construction business, Noah Ready-Campbell dreamed that robots could take over the dirty, tedious parts of his job, such as digging and leveling soil for building projects.
Now the former Google engineer is turning that dream into a reality with Built Robotics, a startup that’s developing technology to allow bulldozers, excavators and other construction vehicles to operate themselves....
The rise of construction robots comes as the building industry faces a severe labor shortage.
A recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 70 percent of construction firms are having trouble finding skilled workers.
“To get qualified people to handle a loader or a haul truck or even run a plant, they’re hard to find right now,” said Mike Moy, a mining plant manager at Lehigh Hanson. “Nobody wants to get their hands dirty anymore. They want a nice, clean job in an office.”
Dirt and sweat and muscle have their drawbacks. First there are the clean folks in clean cubicles who almost uniformly seem to know what perfume will humble the stink of sweat but talk more than they walk. Second, muscle doesn't last forever and some security in life is desirable. And there are others.

But still, my father's satisfaction and my concurrence linger on the air. Dirty work is clean work where clean work is too often dirty, fret-filled and galling. I say this as someone who has lived on both sides of the fence. Painting apartments was one of the cleanest jobs I ever had. Book publishing was, by comparison, one well-dressed, gigantic pit problem.

I'm not trying to play the noble-savage card. I'm talking about actual-factual smiles. How or why it works, I haven't got a clue ... just like smiling.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

nagging regrets

It ain't poetry and it ain't wisdom, but I wrote it this morning in partial response to a Buddhist query about feeling persistent regrets and what to do about it ... kinda liked it, flaws 'n' all...
A soft breeze
Removes last year's leaves
From off the path ahead
As I put away the rake.

fake news in Texas

Beyond any ACLU-ish outrage that might arise, there is something grossly unkind about the Texas newspaper editor's decision to excise a son's 31-year relationship to his husband from the obituary of the son's mother. The excision was explained in measured language by the editor, Phillip Hamilton, who doubles as a Baptist preacher:
“It is my religious conviction that a male cannot have a husband. It is also my belief that to publish anything contrary to God’s Word on this issue would be to publish something in the newspaper that is not true.
“The newspaper respects the first amendment rights of those who express such opinions. The newspaper’s decision to edit the obituary is both ethical and lawful. It would be unethical to publish a news item that is known by the editor to be false. Based on the truth found in the Word of God, I could not in good conscience identify Mr Gambill as the husband of Mr Giles.”
Tampering with someone else's life choices may be understandable in one sense, but in a framework that touts itself as loving (Christianity), it is simply narrow and gross and hypocritical. The indecency that one person sees in another person's choices is exceeded only by the indecency of not allowing -- even in death -- the choices that were made.

So much sadness. Relying on the beliefs of others (small town newspaper) as a means of shoring up your own beliefs is, besides being vulgar, apostate from where I sit. Godless.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Dimming of the Day"

As if to soothe a ruffled soul, a friend re-connected me today with an old love ballad that is tops in my increasingly romantic musical memory banks:

my childishness and Donald Trump

Like some childish teenager looking to reshape the world in his or her own image, I woke up this morning imagining that Donald Trump was the commander in chief of the United States. Which he is. And realizing, teen-fashion, that were he to issue an order, I seriously doubt (but don't know) I could follow it. Why? Because viscerally I sense that the man is a coward.

Everyone is a coward about something, but Trump's cowardice is a step too far. What is a coward but a man or woman who is willing to shed without compunction other people's blood? Morally and physically, Trump has "coward" written all over him and cowards are frightening because they seek to excuse themselves rather than at least trying to face their fears. Trump, as a humorous email I recently received said, "is the first person to don a dress on the Titanic."

Waking early, playing the teenager, I think the commander in chief is not a man who deserves to be followed. It's visceral. It is frightening. And angry-making.

Led by a coward.

During the Vietnam police action, there was the possibility of "fragging" an officer who was too free and easy with the lives of his men ... tossing a grenade into his tent, shredding the poseurs. We are all cowards about something, but enough is enough. Everything on the cheap. Everything a "deal." Everyone else's ox is worth goring.

OK, I've had some coffee now and the fires are banked a bit. We have received what we asked for. No doubt we will outlive this mistake as the mistakes before it were outlived. But it is still hard not to wish that someone would water-board this guy.

PS. What an era, when the former director of the CIA, John Brennan, would address the president of the United States in a Twitter message made public: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you.”

So goes this era. In public.

Friday, March 16, 2018

where cash register and moral fiber collide

Colin Kaepernick

As free agency kicked off the start of a new football season, the NFL sent a clear message to anyone paying attention:
Colin Kaepernick, you’re still not wanted.
Probably not ever.
Oh, and while we’re at it, it’s pretty clear the owners have every intention of clamping down on any other players who tries to carry on Kaepernick’s legacy.
Rattled by another big dip in the television ratings and an increasing number of empty seats, the league seems determined to banish peaceful protest from the playing field.
While it’s quite a stretch to say those trends are intimately related — injuries, bad games and poor showings by several of the league’s most popular teams were surely bigger factors in the waning popularity — the guys sitting on what remains an enormous cash cow aren’t taking any chances.
Since Kaepernick is the one who got this whole thing started by having the audacity to silently kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice — the nerve of that guy! — his career could very well be over.
I don't know enough about sports to know how apt this criticism is, but it smells right... and it stinks.

"arma virumque cano..."

Even as students nationwide walked out of school March 14 to show their concern about the 17 students shot to death a month earlier in Florida, a California teacher accidentally loosed a round in his classroom last Tuesday as he was giving instruction about gun safety. Three students were slightly injured.

Perhaps the teacher's instruction came as a reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that teachers in schools should be armed: "If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," Trump was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, a Libertarian/Republican wannabe candidate for the U.S. Senate has suggested that homeless people should be armed with shotguns as a possible means of deterring the violence to which homeless people are often subjected. Pistols would be preferable, said Brian Elison, but a pistol permit requires a fixed domicile -- which homeless people by definition lack -- whereas long guns do not.

While it is not universally true, homeless people are frequently victims of a variety of mental disorders. Should this disqualify them from owning weapons with which to defend themselves? Since the drugs that may have facilitated their slide into homelessness are sometimes a factor, should that be a deal-breaker when it comes to firearms?

Yesterday, I asked my younger son who came back recently from a year's National Guard service in Sinai, whether there were some place we could both fire his newly-acquired Glock. He has been through all the courses it takes in Massachusetts in order to own a pistol and wear it concealed if he wishes. He had wanted a Glock and bought one. I'm not a fan on the one hand and yet another part of me thinks it might be sensible to own weapon given the apparently unarmed Americans (mostly minority) shot to death under dubious circumstances. My son has not yet had the opportunity to shoot his pistol -- that was the basis of my query. His face closed down as he explained the reasons he might and I might not shoot his pistol. He was thoroughly serious about it. The fact that I was his father was secondary.

No doubt the National Rifle Association is pleased that the "right to bear arms" (the reference to a well-order militia was effectively erased by the U.S. Supreme Court) is alive and well and that the NRA money spent on Congressmen and Congresswomen is money well spent. But am I wrong or is all of this a clusterfuck of irrationality coupled with a diminution of the country once called America?

With Virgil, do we all intone, "Arma virumque cano...": "I sing of arms and the man..." without blushing for shame, for sorrow?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

ignorant president wings it....

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has owned up to making things up.
For a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump was by his own admission unprepared — deficient in the fundamentals of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship that he’d been railing about since the campaign.
He insisted to Trudeau that the U.S. was running a trade deficit with Canada, a statement contradicted by U.S. government statistics. He was winging it, he confided to donors at a private Missouri political fundraiser Wednesday night.
“I didn’t even know,” he said. “I had no idea.”
Others might be mortified at being caught short. Not this president.
For Trump the showman, the episode illustrated his skill at improvisation. Still, it was a rare admission that he will say things without knowing if they are true.
Trump’s impulse to replace fact with fiction has defined him as a politician and as a businessman before that.
That's our current president. He seems to think he really is "as cute as a button."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

noodling about writing

When I asked her at some point what she did when "writer's block" struck, my mother, who was a pretty good writer in her time, said that if all else failed, she just killed one of the characters in whatever piece of fiction she was working on.

It wasn't easy for her, but death was a jolt -- a rebooting of a system that had hit a brick wall. Still, to eliminate what had taken time and trouble to create was no small matter. Death and its echo-echo-echoes was a fear both writer and reader could share. A reconnection. With luck, the reader had come to rely on this character the writer had conjured. Death removes hand-holds so the question arises, for both writer and reader, "Where can I hold on now?"

But what if the reader had not come to rely on what my mother had come to rely on? What if, in the simplest of terms, the reader ho-hummed past the event and said, "Ask me if I give a shit."

Somehow, this thought-thread came to mind last night as I opened and read the first few pages of a pre-sleep novel I found lying on the dining room table. I had finished another book and wanted something to read and so I picked up "The Shack." The cover proclaimed the book a "New York Times best seller." The first few pages left me feeling that its point of view and observations were too obvious by half. I had no reason to like or care about the voice I was offered. The observations were those of a bright teenager, perhaps, but there was nothing to make me really give a shit.

Another of my mother's writing dicta came to mind: "Be honest: The reader can smell dishonesty." Oh well, perhaps I was just tired and crabby last night, but this smelled artful/dishonest. Luckily I was also sleepy, so I closed the book and turned out the reading light.

It has been a long time since I read something that made me want to know what happened next. Doesn't the writer have an obligation -- a required honesty -- to try to connect with the reader? I sort of think so. But one of the reasons I write in this blog format is to sidestep that obligation. This is just my form of masturbation -- you will choose yours. The writer who says s/he writes "for myself" is a liar who, given the choice, would rather get laid... or can't quite imagine that anyone else would be interested ... but maybe... maybe ... maybe.

Perhaps yesterday was just not the day. I had watched bits and pieces of a movie called "Jayne Mansfield's Car," a generational series of juxtapositions with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall, two actors I like. The movie was quirky and human and as clear as the cobra venom I can't help but think is alive and well and free-floating in the South. There were currents and cross-currents and the movie felt honest without the literary frou-frou.

OK, so I was probably unfair, but no one comes to the arts with a sense of fucking "fairness." The arts are meant to sweep me off my feet, make me lose my balance, make me twist slowly in some insisting wind. Take me, I'm yours! Make me want to know what happens next. Kill someone I love ... or hate ... either way, s/he will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

snow in New England ... wowsers!

Here, a dread nor'easter is tickling down mere bits of snow where the eastern part of Massachusetts is alleged to be suffering its third debilitating storm in the last couple of weeks. Schools are obediently closed, airlines have canceled flights and, for all I know, supermarket shelves are getting naked-er and naked-er.

It's New England, for crying out loud, but these days the blizzard of information available means that a snow storm is news because it is know-able by comparison to, say, a U.S. president who fired his secretary of state today.

Oh lawsy! lawsy! -- the sky is falling!!!!! If only the president could be less sloppy than the weather.

a "day of silence" in Bali

Not least because they are the oldest kids on the religious block, I have to concede that I have a soft spot in my heart for the Hindus. Hindus have been around the block that other, less-adult religions continue to circle like dogs chasing their tails. Hindus are willing to laugh. They have a lot of bling, just like any other spiritual persuasion, so my skepticisms are not entirely laid to rest, but still, if the Hindus suggest, I am likely to listen, however briefly.

Now the largely-Hindu Bali has gotten the phone companies to agree to shut down media access to mark the "day of silence," a day on which the new year is recognized.
The head of the Bali office of Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications, Nyoman Sujaya, said Tuesday that all phone companies have agreed to shut down the mobile internet for 24 hours during “Nyepi,” a day marking New Year on the predominantly Hindu island.
That means smartphones won’t connect to the internet, shutting off access to social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram and instant messaging apps.
“Let’s rest a day, free from the internet to feel the calm of the mind,” said Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, head of the Indonesian Hinduism Society. “Many Hindu people are addicted to gadgets,” he said. “I hope during Nyepi they can be introspective.”
There are some exceptions -- hospitals, cops, etc. -- but to declare a holiday from electronic addictions is ... well, it makes me feel some sort of cosmic relief. At least someone is trying to reconfigure restless and dissatisfied minds. It's just one day, so the penance is hardly unendurable: Shut up for a while.

I get a sense of the scritchy-scratchies when I think of an institutionalized, blanket ruling, but still the allure of just putting a cork in it for a while ... what a good idea. There may be blowback and stumbling and yes-but's ... and still I like it.

Shut up for a while.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Elon Musk: Is it the punch bowl?

For some reason, I keep wondering if Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, is somehow spiking the punch as he pontificates on a future he seems to have difficulty in proving. How did he ascend to the level of someone-worth-listening to? It's not that I want to gainsay his future-vision, I just wonder. Is it the money he seems to command? Is it the dreams and/or nightmares he coaxes?

Every story I read about his electric car seems to be yet another extension of the deadline on which the Tesla will start rolling reliably and affordably off the production line. Like the Roman Catholic Church, Musk always seems to need more money and more time. And he gets it. Somehow, he gets it. OK.

Now he has proposed a 100-meter rocket to get out there and colonize Mars as a counterpoint to the potential for a world war. Colonize with the BFR (Big Fucking Rocket). Colonization would be a good idea in order to preserve the human race -- seeding the future-clouds, as I get it.

Personally, I agree with him that an unregulated artificial-intelligence world is more dangerous than nukes, but you and I both know that artificial intelligence is irresistible ... though I gather it hasn't yet figured out how to stave off the potential for a nuclear conflagration, assuming anyone wants to buy into that paranoia.

Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway, has accumulated untold wealth with his savvy business mind. He has won the right to be consulted/credited in business matters. But how did Elon Musk get to be a prognosticator? Is it the punch bowl or am I just another doddering mind unable to keep up with the times?

I'm not trying to diss this guy, just trying to understand. On the one hand, perhaps he is a good enunciator of our dreams. On the other hand, Ponzi schemes abound.

mind-bender du jour

Passed along in email today:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hedy Lamarr compared to Nikola Tesla

There can hardly be any more extraordinary story from the Hollywood golden age than that of Hedy Lamarr; a very beautiful star with a moderate acting talent but an untutored brilliance in science and engineering that should by now be getting her compared to Nikola Tesla, or maybe even a neglected female scientist like Rosalind Franklin. Her tragedy was that she was in the wrong business, precisely that business that promotes beauty over brains – the movie business. Alexandra Dean’s excellent and important documentary about her is very instructive – a parable of modern sexual politics and assumptions about science.
I guess you don't have to be ugly to be brilliant ... but maybe it helps a little?

Chinese autocracy for all!

Like liquid mercury on a Formica table top, the blobs coalesce:

There's Donald Trump workin' on it...

Benjamin Netanyahu reveling in it...

And now Xi Jinping is cracking an uncharacteristic smile....

Autocrats of the world, unite! Democracy is too messy, socialism is too 'commie,' so Joseph Stalin gets another bite of the apple.
BEIJING (AP) — Xi Jinping, already China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, received a vastly expanded mandate Sunday as lawmakers abolished presidential term limits that have been in place for more than 35 years and wrote his political philosophy into the country’s constitution.
In one swift vote, the rubber-stamp legislature opened up the possibility of Xi serving as president for life, returning China to the one-man-rule system that prevailed during the era of Mao and the emperors who came before him.
As the mind-muzzlers are wont to exult, "it's all good."

baby-eel fishers in Maine rejoice

ROCKPORT, Maine (AP) — Members of Maine’s baby-eel fishing industry are expecting high prices for the tiny fish this year because of a shortage on the international market, and sushi lovers could end up feeling the pinch.
Maine is the only U.S. state with a significant fishery for baby eels, or elvers. The tiny, translucent eels are sold to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity for use as food. They’re a key piece of the worldwide supply chain for Japanese dishes such as unagi, and some eventually make it back to the U.S.
The eels sold for about $1,300 per pound at the docks last year, about on par with an ounce of gold, and are already one of the most lucrative fisheries in the country on a per-pound basis. Fishermen in Asia are seeing a poor harvest this year, and European eel fisheries are cracking down on poaching, said state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Dresden Republican and consultant to the elver fishery.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Afghanistan, the war the U.S. forgot

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. is bolstering its military presence in Afghanistan, more than 16 years after the war started. Is anyone paying attention?
Consider this: At a Senate hearing this past week on top U.S. security threats, the word "Afghanistan" was spoken exactly four times, each during introductory remarks. In the ensuing two hours of questions for intelligence agency witnesses, no senator asked about Afghanistan, suggesting little interest in a war with nearly 15,000 U.S. troops supporting combat against the Taliban.
I would be willing to bet that each senator has at least one and probably more American-flag lapel pins. They care, after all, about the possibility of losing American and other lives.

They care....


perforce, a birthday

Somewhat sheepishly, I will try to acknowledge one of my Post-it life-footnotes: If you do not acknowledge milestones and markers as they pass, those milestones and markers are likely to come around and bite you on the ass.

And it is with that in mind that I acknowledge my birthday that passed by yesterday. It was attended by several cards from friends who are more attentive than I (that's the sheepish part ... I seldom send cards though I am willing to acknowledge ... assuming I remember) and seem willing to remember. What is it about me that is worth remembering? Sometimes I know, but more often, I don't. I do hope a few kindnesses can outshine the cruelties I fear predominate.

OK -- 78th birthday. Year 79 begins. Friends send cards. Children phone-wish me a happy-birthday-pop. No one asks me what I want for my birthday. At my age, the answer is presumed to be "nothing," but that's not quite true. Right, I don't want a tie or socks or other neutral gadgetry. But if anyone had asked, I would have said promptly: "A cook." I am sick of cooking dinners ... of thinking through the menu, of executing so much as a hamburger. I'd like someone else's imagination to forecast and produce. Late afternoons are a time when I segue into lassitude. I don't like cooking and I don't like interrupting a good bit of lassitude. Lolling is important, imagining takes energy ... yes, a cook with his or her own perspective (skip the fish, add some weird flavors) on something good. Oh well, another time, perhaps.

One of the cards I got came from someone who did not sign it. "Always an admirer" it said in a very precise, mildly-wobbly and minuscule script. And then the PS, "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?" from François Villon. A mystery card whose mystery I cannot solve, however much I might want to ... which is not a lot. At my advanced age, mysteries strike me as important markers that deserve breathing room rather than solutions.

Thanks for what I know.

Thanks for what I don't.

And if I ever receive another cereal-box decoder ring, and if by chance it coughs up the meaning of all things, I'll let you know. The first decoder ring I got was lost in the shuffle of becoming 78.

Friday, March 9, 2018

the bright future for "fake news"

To get a sense of the bright future that awaits "fake news," check out this site passed along in email today.

retiring at 32

Maybe it dovetails neatly with the soon-to-be incursions of artificial intelligence or maybe it's just common sense in a world where common sense seems to wither on the vine or maybe it is one of those sub-rosa paeans to institutionalized sloth, but I kind of enjoyed reading...
Extreme frugality allowed me to retire at 32 – and regain control of my life
Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful life. It enabled her to retire at 32 with her family to a homestead in the Vermont woods
Of course these revisions in life come and go in popularity and the older I get, the lazier I become, but my cowardice does not mean others need to be wimps as well. Opting out of one mind set generally means opting in to another. Maybe one day I will grow up and recognize that what I do is OK as long as it doesn't unduly hurt others.