Friday, October 18, 2019

Fiction Friday, Oct. 18, 2019: Ann Patchett

The Dutch House: A Novel by [Patchett, Ann]

I haven't read her latest book yet, but I will, as soon as I have some more time and some more money (and the price for the hardback gets lower or the paperback gets released)....

But here's something that really tickled me, from one of the reviews of the book, which is titled "The Dutch House":

"Ann Patchett Explains Why She Had to Totally Rewrite Her New Novel The Dutch House and Her Problem With Villains":

The Time Magazine interviewer asked if Ms. Patchett had any problems writing from the point of view of a young man, to which Patchett replied:
Danny was a very easy character for me to write because, oddly enough, I have known many men who are smart and charming and funny and interesting, who have no understanding of the fact that their whole life is built on the shoulders of the women who carry them around.
There! Doesn't that just make you want to read this book? And possibly every other book this woman has written?  Because haven't you known this man Danny yourself, and many others like him?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Some Weird Words for This Week: Convict Slang

According to Atlas Obscura, Australia's first published dictionary was dedicated to "convict slang." Directly from the article: 

A group of convicts "bush'd" in Tasmania.
A group of convicts "bush'd" in Tasmania. ENGRAVING BY DANVIN AND MONNIN, 1837 / GETTY IMAGES
Nineteenth-century Australia was a flash paradise teeming with accused outlaws, former outlaws, and people who knew outlaws—so it follows that officials, policemen, and others would want to be familiar with the argot all around them. According to a paper by A.L. Beier, a scholar of cant and retired historian from Illinois State University, 75 percent of New South Wales’s population in 1819 (when the dictionary was published) was “either current or former convicts or their descendants. By 1828, the proportion had risen to 87 percent, and while it declined thereafter because of free immigration, it still stood at 59 percent in 1851.” And that was just New South Wales, the region of the Australian mainland that includes Sydney and Newcastle. 
Population data for the island of Tasmania, meanwhile, distinguished between recent arrivals and the Aboriginal people who had lived there for millennia (and tended to stay away from colonial settlements). In 1822, Beier writes, 58 percent of Tasmania’s non-Aboriginal population had criminal convictions. Vaux himself had been transported to Australia on three different occasions, and served some of his time in the Hyde Park Barracks.
James Hardy Vaux’s Vocabulary of the Flash Language, typically regarded as the very first dictionary produced in Australia, translated into plain English some 700 slang terms regularly used by people engaged in illegal activity. Vaux translated this “flash” language while himself imprisoned at Newcastle, in southeastern Australia. He even dedicated the book to his supervising commandant
According to Meyer, cant is a “sociolect”—a variety of a language spoken by a particular social class—rather than a dialect tied to a specific region or location. One of Vaux’s terms, in fact, is “family,” a title he gave to all “who get their living upon the cross,” or through illegal activity. These examples illustrate the fear that authorities and the non-flash speaking public had of flash or cant—that it not only facilitated crime, but also inspired it. The policies of some Australian prisons, says Barnard, addressed this fear by condemning the incarcerated to total silence. (That carceral method wasn’t pioneered in Australia, he adds; it had previously been practiced in Philadelphia.) 
At the same time, that perception may be part of what gave cant or flash such currency among those who spoke it. Beier cites people who complained at the time that cant “played a role in fostering solidarity among convicts,” and who noted that incarcerated laborers “‘have a strong esprit de corps, which is kept up by their speaking a language so full of cant expressions as to become a separate dialect.’” It was, in its way, an instrument of resistance—an expression of identity and self-determination among those who had lost their freedom, often for little or no offense, and been forced across the world.

Monday, October 14, 2019

More Castle Photos

From Craigmillar Castle

(Trying to imagine what it would have been like, living here!)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mark Zuckerberg: Yep, Trump's My Man!

View image on Twitter

In case this is hard to read, here's the text of Elizabeth Warren's message about Trump's new fanboy,Mark Zuckerberg:

You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’ Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform ― and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters. 
If Trump tries to lie in a TV ad, most networks will refuse to air it. But Facebook just cashes Trump’s checks. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. Now, they’re deliberately allowing a candidate to intentionally lie to the American people. It’s time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable.
Here's the thing: Zuckerberg really did have a special private meeting with the non-elected so-called tantrum-throwing baby-president a couple of weeks ago, and he emerged from that meeting saying Facebook doesn't have to check for lies in political ads. If you or I were to post an untrue statement on Facebook, it would be removed immediately. But Trump can lie all he wants---and that will be just fine with Zuckerberg, who's afraid of what will happen to his billions of dollars when Elizabeth Warren becomes the legitimately elected president.

The Mandate of Heaven?

Are you kidding me? Pat Robertson thinks Donald Trump has the "mandate of heaven"? And thinks that he might "lose" it because of letting our Kurdish allies be killed? Oh, I'm sure he's going to fry in hell for a long time because of that.

But the idea that he EVER had any "mandate of heaven" is so preposterous that I want to cry. And if he did, didn't he lose it when he bragged about sexually assaulting women? And when he paid off a porn star and a stripper? When he betrayed our country to the Russians in order to get elected in 2016? When he openly courted more corrupt actions from foreign governments to help him in the 2020 election? When he cheated contractors and tenants out of their hard-earned money to line his own pockets? When he declined to blame the Saudis for murdering and mutilating a U.S. resident? I could go on, but life is too short....

I just have to ask what makes Pat Robertson think such an evil man EVER had any "mandate of heaven." Oh, and by the way, who gave Pat Robertson the right to say who might have such a mandate.

Tell you what, no one in heaven would EVER have granted any such mandate to such a corrupt individual. And the fact that Mr. Robertson thinks they would have, that he has ever thought any good of Trump, shows just how spiritually corrupt Robertson is, too.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Fiction Friday, Oct. 11, 2019: One Word Kill

Here's another disappointing novel: "One Word Kill," by Mark Lawrence.

Like the book I reviewed last week,  "The Space Between Time," it starts with a promising idea and interesting characters, and ends up being a screed about atheism as the only explanation for the existence of our universe and all our lives on Earth.

So, why am I even reviewing it here? Here's why, Dear Readers: I wish I had never bought this book, and the other one; and I want to protect other people from getting either one of them. They are a waste of your time to read and a waste of your money to buy. I got both of them because of positive reviews, and now I wonder why anyone could have written positively about them.

Except this, which I grant: The three lead characters are appealing and there's lots of action. That's it. The action is, like most stories involving time travel, not quite believable---because, hello, it's not at all believable, even for the "YA" sci-fi audience.  The hero's future self comes back to get the hero to kill someone else, knowing that he (the future self) will also be killed, and therein lies the plot mistakes. Not just plot twists, but unbelievable plot mistakes.

And, as in that story, the plot "twist" that's supposed to make it all work out---that there's no god, there's just a multitude of universes---doesn't work.

So, a time-travel story does not prove that there's no god, and nor does the idea of string theory, multiple universes, and so on. We can't just make ourselves into gods, determining our own future by murdering some bad guys, getting the girl (did I mention the hero gets the girl?---because his future self comes back and helps him?) or whatever, just because we are in a certain string of time.
One Word Kill (Impossible Times Book 1) by [Lawrence, Mark]
Again, though, as with that other book, until I got to the last quarter of the book, I was buying into the story. There's a sequel and maybe another sequel, I don't know. But don't buy the book. Here's a picture of the cover of the book, so you'll know what it looks like.

I promise to review something next time that I can write something positive about!

Great Expression for This Week: Transactional Courage

I heard this phrase this morning on MSNBC, used to describe the behavior of a member of the U.S. Congress who, having announced that he won't run for re-election in 2020, has erased part of the yellow stripe from his spine by saying he is disgusted by Trump's behavior toward our Kurdish allies in northern Syria.

Yes, transactional courage: Also demonstrated by former senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who didn't speak up hard enough against Trump until he decided to quit the Senate.

I'm just hoping that there is ONE---well, more than one would be great---but all I'm really hoping for is ONE---Republican senator who will stand up to Trump without having to resign from politics first. Senator Romney, will it be you? Please, let it be you!

And I heard on the news this morning that Trump's group of idiots have announced "sanctions" on Turkey. As if that will change any of the bombing and artillery fire that the Turks have already started. In fact, I heard, on that same program, that the Turks are laughing, while the Kurds are fleeing.

Meanwhile, here's some real courage, ongoing, from a former Fox News on-air talent, Shepard Smith: resigning, finally, after being one of only a very few voices that spoke against that non-news-network's nonsense.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is going to give a sworn deposition before Congress today---unlike the rats on Trump's sinking ship who have decided to go down with him.

Marie Yovanovitch (Wash. Post)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

MOSAIC Expedition

Byron Blomquist climbs on a ridge of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean beyond Utqiaġvik, Alaska, on April 10, 2019. Blomquist was among a group gathered to prepare for the coming year-long MOSAiC expedition that will collect data on Arctic climate and ecosystems. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
Does this one sound great, or what! I wish I could join these intrepid explorers, who have just decided on the ice floe in the Siberian Arctic where they will spend the winter.

It's not like the Mars Society expeditions to the Arctic and other Mars-like environments. It's even more than that. From the Post article:

The multination, $134 million Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) is the first major modern research project to drift across the North Pole. A rotating cast of some 300 scientists is slated to live and work aboard the Polarstern this year; by documenting an entire year of change in the north, they hope to improve models of how Arctic melting will affect weather in the rest of the world. 
Organizers spent months combing through satellite imagery and historic records, weeks conducting helicopter survey flights and days crisscrossing ice on snow machines and sleds before making their selection of a floe this week. 
The process was made more difficult after a summer of record warmth; by September, there were very few ice floes thick enough to support the expedition.
Best of luck to these researchers! And I hope I'll be able to learn more about their experiments and discoveries.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Weird Word of the Week:Swanger

According to a "Women's Health" magazine I picked up in a doctor's office last week, this is "anger caused by sweat." I don't think it's a real word, but they quote Bernard Golden, PhD, author of "Overcoming Destructive Anger."

They write, "If you're the type to get annoyed by unwanted dampness, your heart rate can speed up, releasaing stress hormones that cause you to perspire even more."

Whether you're "swangry" or just sweating too much for whatever reason, they suggest you can practice deep breathing (just like my yoga instructor used to say: count to four on inhalations and to six on exhalations), or "tickle your arm to give yourself goose bumps."

They say it works. But then I think this is the magazine where I read once that because oxygen speeds up chemical reactions, you should breathe deeply when you're exercising. I guess they were thinking of rust?

Anyway, so now I know I can be swangry, as well as hangry, a word I learned from Girls Camp last year.

Once I Was A Beehive
(This movie perfectly encapsulates the Girls Camp experience!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Betrayal: How a U.S. Presidential Candidate Asked for Foreign Assistance

Yep, it is happening now, as we all know, just from watching the nightly news--and, guess what! It happened back in 1968! Remember the Democratic Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968?

No? You weren't born yet?

Oh, right. So that means you also don't remember how everyone in the country was going after LBJ (that's Lyndon B. Johnson, the then-president of the U.S.), for being a war-monger and not ending the "conflict" in Vietnam. Boy, do I remember that! I will never forget that summer and the election that followed.

But here's something I didn't remember---didn't even know about until last night---about LBJ and Vietnam and, guess who, Tricky Dick, Richard Nixon, who was running against LBJ:

Nixon committed treason. He betrayed our country and all the values we (claim to) hold dear. He got a Chinese woman, Anna Chennault, to go to the South Vietnamese government to persuade them not to go to the peace talks. LBJ had expended tremendous effort to get the North Vietnamese to come to the table, and the South Vietnamese were about to agree. But this woman talked privately to Pres. Thieu and persuaded him to back out at the very last minute.

And all this happened just days before the 1968 election. And Rachel Maddow put together an hour-long documentary showing the whole process, in detail, so we now know about it.

Johnson had the evidence of Nixon's treachery ON TAPE. He could prove to the nation that Nixon was a traitor. And he had the info hidden in a safe place, where it couldn't come out for 50 years---2018. But his advisers said it would be too disruptive to the country to reveal the facts at that time. So Johnson sat on the info. The result: Nixon, the traitor, was elected president, and he went on to be one of the worst presidents in our history. Plus, he betrayed us again.

(Why no photo of the traitor here, Aunt Louise? Oh, Dear Readers, you already know the answer to that question!)

You should watch this show! It came out in Nov. 2018 (yep, 50 years after the 1968 election), but I didn't know about it until this week, and watched it last night. Here's where you can watch it, right now, or at your leisure.

What can we learn from this story? Oh, bunches! I can think of at least a dozen, right off the top of my head. But life is short and time is shorter, so I'm not even going to start. Except for this one item: We have to FIGHT to protect our democracy. He have to FIGHT RIGHT NOW to protect our democracy.

Peace, out. === Aunt Louise

Dear Senator Romney, Part 2

Good for you, Mitt Romney! The non-elected corrupt loser clown who sits in the White House now regards you as enough of an enemy that he is hate-tweeting about you. And, what is better news than that is that other people (other than me) are starting to see that you may be the one Republican in the Senate who can make a difference in the vote on impeachment.

(See this article: "All Right, Mitt Romney, It Might Be Up to You to Stand Up to Donald Trump and Help Save America!"

Keep up the good work! I mean, please, help us all!

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday Memoir: "Finding My Voice," by Valerie Jarrett

Thanks, Laura, for sending me this book! It is a great read and --- this is saying a lot --- better than most of the memoirs I've read lately.

Valerie Jarrett was one of Pres. Barack Obama's closest and most influential advisers, and you know how she got there?

By hard work, more hard work, and taking every opportunity that was given to her to move forward.

Note the subtitle of the book: "My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward." So, this  book isn't just some kind of tell-all about how great it was to work in the White House and travel all over the world, hobnob with important and powerful people, sit at the side of the President and his wife, and so on. Not at all. It's about working long hours in various unrewarding (and financially not all that rewarding, either) jobs in Chicago. It's about having a husband who didn't know how to be a husband. And it's about raising a daughter on her own.

It's also about how she was raised, which was why she assumed, until faced with the sad truth, that her  marriage to a nice, smart, personable guy would turn out great, like her parents' marriage.

Valerie Jarrett's parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, a huge family, in fact, really believed that maxim that Hillary Clinton summarized as "It takes a village...." They stuck together and helped each other and took over the disciplining of each others' children as needed. And they gave her advice that helped her make her way in the world and up in the world.

The book goes through the awful events and finally the realization that HWSNBN was going to be elected; and the way Pres. Obama consoled and advised his staff the next day.

After HWSNBN was elected but before he was  that she "started pushing the president to indulge [her] fantasy of a third term." But he replied, gently:
"'Valerie, we cut the unemployment rate in half; twenty million people have health care, many for the first time; any couple can marry; we brought Osama bin Laden to justice and a hundred fifty thousand troops home from two ward. We have an agreement to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. There hasn't been a major terrorist attack on our shores. We restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and we led the effort for the historic Paris climate accord signed by two hundred countries around the world. There are two additional extraordinary women serving on the Supreme Court. Our country is not perfect, but it is more just and fair for those who have historically been left behind. I'm alive. My family is alive. You're alive. Yes, there's more work to do, but there always is. We did our best....It's time for us to go.'"
There's so much more in this book that I would love to quote directly and talk about without quotes. But life is short and it's past my bedtime as I write what I'll do instead of writing it all is recommend to all my Dear Readers that they read this book. If you need a copy, let me know, and I'll send on the copy that Laura sent to me. (You won't mind, will you, Laura? I'm sure you won't!)

(Dear Readers, there's a problem in the paragraph before the quote from Pres. Obama. I can't fix it now but I promise I will, asap. Gonna post this now, then get to bed. Sweet dreams to all, and wishes for us all to keep working to get our country back again from the corrupt usurper who is trying to undo all that Pres. Obama did.)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

More About Castles: Sand Castles

This is so hilarious! I'm always looking for creative gifts for my grandchildren, but I'm passing on this one, especially after reading this buyer's comment: 

"I thought this was the set with an actual plastic case you can close to contain your sand and play in. It is not. It is a cardboard box with a bag of sand and mini sand castle tools. My daughter is enjoying it and I can put the sand in a baggy so it will work but I wish at the very least the box didn't have slits in the bottom where the sand can come through."

Saturday, October 5, 2019

General Conference, Oct. 5, 2019

Mormon NewsroomI've had the most spiritual 5-1/2 hours today, watching General Conference on TV. (We did go book- and grocery-shopping and play a few minutes of tennis in between sessions, because, why not?)

Every talk I heard had a message that I needed to hear. I'm going to be reading and re-reading these talks in coming weeks and I guess  months---until the next conference, next April.

The great final announcement of the third session today was that eight new temples will be built. I am looking forward to the time when we will have a temple near us. (And by that I mean one that we don't have to fight through traffic on the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River to reach!) (We figure that if/when the states of Washington and Oregon ever get around to building a new I-5 bridge, which they have just been given another 10 years to plan, we will just start driving east across Washington to go to the temple, unless by then we have one in Vancouver.) From the church's web page:
“As the Church grows, more temples will be built so that more families can have access to that greatest of all blessings, that of eternal life,” said President Nelson, who was the final speaker of the session. “We regard a temple as the most sacred structure in the Church. Whenever plans are announced to construct a new temple, it becomes an important part of our history.”
So I'm REALLY looking forward to tomorrow's sessions!

Later: I just found  summaries of the talks from the women's session this afternoon, including the new Young Women theme.
I am a BELOVED DAUGHTER of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny.  
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.  
I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.  
As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.
I feel blessed beyond the words I have to express myself to be living in this time, with the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the organized Church of Jesus Christ, with temple blessings and being able to serve in His kingdom!  All I can do is sing Hallelujah...and then keep trying to do my part in kingdom.

What does a conductor do, anyway?

Remember that adorable little girl standing in back of a choir practice, "conducting"?

One of my fond memories of growing up was watching my dad as he "conducted" music he was listening to on a tape or CD. And now, this interesting article from the Washington Post: "What does a conductor do anyway?"

So, pretty much what this little girl was doing, and what my dad used to do.....

Where I Was Last Week, Part 3

Rosslyn Chapel was beautiful. Check out their official website for better photos than the ones I was able to take. 

It didn't look much like it did in the movie, but we learned some choice details from the talk given by one of the docents. My favorite story was about the master stonemason who got so mad at the apprentice who carved a more beautiful pillar than the master had that he killed him: Later masons carved the image of the master stonemason in a place where he had to observe the beautiful pillar made by his victim. 

The pillar in the center of this photo was carved by the apprentice. You can see part of the not-so-beautiful pillar carved by the jealous master stonemason over to the left. 

From the Rosslyn Chapel website, showing the construction of the chapel.
Outside the chapel was also beautiful. Check out this yew tree:

A very old yew tree on the chapel grounds

As we walked into the nearby village, we saw lots of birds and some insects that Lisa photographed for the project she's working on, where you can take photos of wildlife, upload them to a website where experts identify them, and thus contribute to the world's knowledge of nature. I'm going to write about that in a future post, and maybe install the app on my own phone....

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where I Was Last Week, Part 2

Craigmillar Castle was by far the best place I've visited in a long time, and the best castle I've ever visited in my whole long life.

But we also visited Edinburgh Castle, which is the official castle of Queen Elizabeth II, even though she apparently doesn't spend much time in it when she's visiting Scotland, preferring Balmoral Castle out in the countryside.

Here are my three favorite pics from Edinburgh Castle:

A rare view of part of the castle w/o tourists
 I know, I was one of the tourists swarming the grounds. So I'm not complaining about the pesky tourists, especially since I got one shot of the castle without them/me.

A great portrayal of a Pict, just outside the castle grounds

And a piper, also just outside the castle grounds
Down the street after we left, we found this magnificent specimen, part of some tourist deal that we were lucky to stumble upon just as he was putting away his equipment; and then another one, this piper. Some people were getting selfies with the piper, but very few realized he was playing for tips; Lisa is one of those very few who tossed some money into his hat, and he nodded a thanks to her.

Fiction Friday, Oct. 4, 2019: The Space Between Time

I picked up this book at Blackwell bookstore on Nicolson Street in Edinburgh, along with a book of poetry, a plush highland "coo," and a couple of play scripts. I figured it would make for a good read on the 7-1/2-hour flight from Edinburgh to Washington Dulles Airport.

And I was right. I almost finished the book because it was so well plotted, the characters were so endearing, the plot was so enthralling, and all that stuff. But as I got closer to the end, I started to see the problem: This is really a book about how quantum physics and in particular a certain branch of quantum physics, string theory, is the true explanation for life in general in the universe and for the way people's lives in particular play out.

In other words, as one of the characters comes right out and says:
"It was then that I understood, in a moment of perfect clarity, how dark matter is the point of singularity from which everything started, and not just because my grandfather says so. The great agnostic knew precisely what he was doing, and I bet he wrote his Theorem with a big smile on his face: he was putting forward a theory of universal spirituality, a quasi-religion BUT WITHOUT THE INCONVENIENCE OF GODS" (EMPHASIS ADDED)
The Space Between Time: We are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost by [Laidlaw, Charlie]"...without the inconvenience of gods" --- that, exactly, is what so many contemporary novels are all about.

But here's the thing. These bozos don't even understand the equations that they believe "prove" that there's no need for the inconvenience of gods. They even say that, in the book. (But I'm not going to go to the trouble of finding that idea, which, anyway, is reiterated several times throughout the book.)

So, having chapter headings with mathematical equations that end up equaling the number of each chapter is clever, and it may make the reader think the author is some kind of mathematics and/or quantum-physicist genius. But. No. He's. Not. He's just toying with us, and presenting his "great agnostic" beliefs AS IF THEY CAN BE PROVEN (EMPHASIS ADDED) by equations.


So, if you still want to read this book, Dear Reader, let me know, and I'll send it to you. But unless I hear from you within the next week or so, I'm just going to put it in my recycle bin (not even donate it to the Camas Library).

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dear Senator Romney

Dear Senator Romney,

I don't even live in Utah, and I have never claimed, nor would I ever claim, that you represent people like me (women, Democrats, members of a certain church of which you are also a member).

But as a service to the country, and to the people that you do represent, would you please do the following: Stand up on your own two hind legs and speak up against the travesty that is happening in our country because of Trump!

Here's an article by someone who says it much better than I can, Jennifer Rubin, of the Washington Post:

Dear Sen. Romney,
Refusing to parrot the hear-no-collusion-see-no-collusion attitude of your Republican colleagues responding to the released July 25 transcript puts you in a small group of Republican lawmakers who have not jettisoned all moral authority. You know, as your colleagues do not (or pretend not to know), that it is a fundamental breach of the president’s oath of office to seek foreign collaborators to determine the outcome of the election. 
After Trump publicly acknowledged much of what is in the transcript, we have learned that the White House stashed the transcript in a super-confidential place to avoid detection, is now blocking witnesses from testifying, and has threatened to expose the whistleblower’s identity in contravention of law. He even suggests that person is akin to a foreign spy. You know the grounds for possible impeachment now include soliciting foreign help in an election, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation (as well as violation of the whistleblower statute). You know the president’s conduct is gravely wrong and inimical to the office he holds. 
Moreover, it is apparent that Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are deeply involved in Trump’s plotting. They continue to obstruct the investigation by prohibiting witnesses from testifying and denying their knowledge of events. 
The situation is intolerable in no small part because Trump will continue this conduct until removed. If he continues in office, the results of the 2020 election may therefore be tainted. Moreover, the longer Pompeo and Barr remain in office, the longer the obstruction to the investigation will remain.
The Republican Party seems determined to go down with the sinking ship, taking anyone on the ballot with an "R" next to his or her name down with it. They seem insistent on further dividing the country and perpetrating out-and-out lies. Both because you have not sullied yourself by participating in such conduct and because you are immune to intimidation and threats (you’re not on the ballot for five years and you don’t need this job anyway), you are uniquely situated to do several critical things.
'Troubling': Romney reacts to rough transcript of Trump's Ukraine call
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) explained Sept. 25 why he thinks the rough transcript of President Trump's call with Ukraine's president is problematic. (Reuters)
I suggest that in a speech to the country you do the following:
  • Confirm that Trump’s comments as recorded in the transcript are morally reprehensible and the legitimate basis for impeachment.
  • Reaffirm the unanimous verdict of the intelligence community on Russian meddling and decry Barr and Pompeo’s use of time and taxpayer money to undermine that claim, which amounts taking Putin’s side and discrediting every U.S. intelligence agency and department.
  • Call for Barr and Pompeo to step down, because they are implicated in the very conduct that is now the subject of a serious and legitimate investigation and are intoxicated with conspiracy thinking. Should they remain and continue to interfere with the investigation, the House would appropriately seek impeachment of these two officials.
  • Debunk the screwy conspiracy theories that animate the administration and distort the president’s power of reasoning and performance of his duties.
  • Make clear that Trump under no circumstances should be nominated for four more years. One can only imagine what hellish, authoritarian conduct he would engage in if given a second term.
  • Call on the GOP to reverse its illegal cancellation of presidential primaries in several states, giving qualified candidates (perhaps a governor) the opportunity to throw their hats into the ring.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) likes to say the “times have found us” in reiterating the solemn duty of the House. I would suggest they have found you too. In the absence of rational leadership from the GOP, the task falls to you to redirect your party and Trump’s followers back to reality and help bring this awful chapter in the history of the presidency to a swift conclusion.
Kind regards,
A fellow American
"Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) explained Sept. 25 why he thinks the rough transcript of President Trump's call with Ukraine's president is problematic." (Reuters)

Where I Was Last Week, Part 1

One place was in the Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh. I couldn't climb up all the stairs but had a wonderful time exploring the rooms and the nooks and crannies I could reach (and taking a break to write some poems). And my sweet daughter Lisa took this photo of me.

And she took this photo of Jeff and Dave, who were able to climb all the way up on the ramparts:

I also bought a couple of souvenirs at this castle, including a stuffed plush version of Nessie. Because, you know me, I don't have enough stuffed plush dragons and sea dragons and giant eels in my collection at home.

(See this story about how some British scientists think that the Loch Ness monster may be a giant eel.) (And I happen to think this really could be possible, having seen some pretty darn big eels while diving in the Red Sea.) (But we didn't get to go to Loch Ness on this visit, which is just as well, because I seriously doubt I would have seen any monsters, eels, or much else besides some clouds and a huge gray lake.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Good News!

I've been informed that two of my plays, "Cloning the Colonel" (the non-musical version) and "Everywoman," will be on the program of the 2020 Fertile Ground festival in Portland, Oregon.

Any of my Dear Readers who would like to help me as I continue with the revising and reviewing and producing process, please let me know. I'm going to need all the help I can get, including as much time work-shopping as I can manage with as many people who are willing to take the time to help me as possible!

(Not saying that Qaddafi is my inspiration for my "Colonel," but not saying he's not, either. Check out this slide show from Vanity Fair in 2009.)

(It's hard to choose a favorite from among these brilliant photos, but here's one of mine:)

Qaddafi rises from an ornate chair in the style of a Ruritanian despot to salute a marchpast of Libyas armed forces in...

Why I'm Not Going to Vote for Bernie Sanders

For one thing, he won't be a candidate by the time Nov. 2020 rolls around. See this article? He has had some kind of heart surgery and "will be recovering for the next few days." I mean, good for him, and he would be a billion times better as president than the current non-elected clown in the White House, even if he's in some hospital room recovering sometime during his four-year term. And whoever he might have as a VP would be better than Pence or anyone else the orange-face clown might have, in case the Veep has to take over. Still....

I've already decided I will vote for Elizabeth Warner. She's smarter than any of the others in the race, on either side, and it's absolutely true that if she were a man she would now be the front-runner.

And remember that article I posted about Jimmy Carter? Remember that he said in that article, and I repeat:

“I hope there’s an age limit,” Carter said with a big grin as he sat next to the former first lady.“You know, if I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was president,” he said. “For one thing, you have to be very flexible with your mind. You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them all together in a comprehensive way.”Carter added that presidents “also have to adopt new ideas.”“The things I faced just in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them if I was 80 years old,” he continued. “So 95 is out of the question. I’m having a hard time walking. I think the time has passed for me to be involved actively in politics, much less run for president.” 

Here's the quote from the article about Sanders and his heart emergency: 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) underwent an emergency heart procedure following a campaign event Tuesday evening, his campaign confirmed in a statement.“During a campaign event yesterday evening, Sen. Sanders experienced some chest discomfort,” the campaign said in an emailed statement. “Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted. Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits.”
Oh, and BTW, look at the reactions from the good-hearted folks in the Democratic primary:
Campaign rivals including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were quick to tweet messages of support and encouragement.
Yep, that's who's on our side. Can you even imagine the current occupant of the White House doing anything like that? No, you cannot, nor can I.

English Robin

Robin Redbreast at Greenwich Park, London.jpg
Male robin at Greenwich Park, London
A few years ago, I hosted an English friend, a naturalist and author of several scientific articles and a book about various species of plants and animals in Saudi Arabia, in our home in Virginia. We spent a morning driving to the Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia, while she gave me a running commentary about all the wildlife we saw.

She thought our U.S. rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias were ugly, nothing like their beautiful counterparts in the U.K. She found fault with the elms, oaks, and evergreens; the squirrels, deer, and raccoons---everything, in fact.

And she especially hated the American robin, which she said is an ugly, fat, unlovely-sounding bird which "isn't even really a robin at all. It's a thrush." She added, "If you ever saw a REAL robin, an English robin, you would see how beautiful a REAL robin really is."

So, last week, in Scotland, I saw a few REAL English robins, and they are indeed beautiful. And they are not thrushes, for sure. They are, according to Wikipedia, found throughout Europe; their scientific name is  Erithacus rubecula; and they are the most popular bird in England. They are insectivores, passerines (meaning they perch), and used to be classified as thrushes but are "now considered to be an Old World flycatcher."

They sing beautifully, too --- but they are in no way "better" than the thrush we in America call a robin.

Check out this cute video of a bunch of different species of birds coming for free food. A European robin is the fourth to show up.

I guess I would call this robin not an insectivore but an omnivore, as it is going after those crackers or seeds or whatever they are...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Happy Birthday to a Real President

Happy Birthday, President Jimmy Carter! You have reached your 95th, and you have only been getting better over the years since you left office. You are an inspiration to all of us (particularly in contrast with other recent presidents). Check out this photo, from today's Washington Post:

"In this 2018 photo, former president Jimmy Carter works with other volunteers during the week-long Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project with Habitat for Humanity."

Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune/AP

President Carter, you remind me of a couple I met last year while making Meals on Wheels deliveries with a friend. This couple was going to be features in a story in our local paper as they had reached their 75th---seventy-fifth---wedding anniversary. Pretty amazing, but here's what struck me, like something you said in this article for the Post, was the wife saying, "Now that I'm 95 years old, I'm feeling so much better than I did five years ago."

This was a great reminder for me that health problems may come and go, but the human spirit must remain strong. I may feel really bad today, what with my knee, my shoulder, and everything in between going haywire, but in five years from now, or less, I know I will feel a lot better. 

And, as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter demonstrate, there is always room for growth and the ability to contribute to making other people's lives better.

Here's a little more from Jimmy Carter, in that WAPO article:

His 2016 message to the younger generation of voters was: “Stay engaged. Stay involved. And be sure to vote.”
Last month, at a Carter Center event, the former president, who voted for Sanders in Georgia’s 2016 Democratic primary, said he is keeping “an open mind” about the 2020 Democratic candidates.
“One of the major factors I will have in my mind is who can beat Trump,” he said.
At that same event, Carter was asked what it would take for him to run for president again. The questioner noted that Grover Cleveland had served two nonconsecutive terms in the late 19th century.
“I hope there’s an age limit,” Carter said with a big grin as he sat next to the former first lady.
“You know, if I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was president,” he said. “For one thing, you have to be very flexible with your mind. You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them all together in a comprehensive way.”
Carter added that presidents “also have to adopt new ideas.”
“The things I faced just in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them if I was 80 years old,” he continued. “So 95 is out of the question. I’m having a hard time walking. I think the time has passed for me to be involved actively in politics, much less run for president.”