Tuesday feels like a Monday

I’ve spent hours the last couple of days trying to unravel the mystery of “what happened to the thousands of dollars I spent on airfare to/from South America in 2021 and then cancelled?”. Faulty memory, crummy airline accounting systems, a few records on my old laptop’s hard drive and not on this one, and the complication of having used a travel agent for half the travel are all roadblocks. So far I’ve accounted for half the funds, and the other half I should unearth today. Moral of the story…try not to cancel a big, complex trip. Thanks, COVID.

In the previous post I featured my absolute favorite Cult song, Then Came the Last Days of May. Pure genius, that one, from the lyrics to the soaring guitar. I can listen to it over and over. Turns out I’ve done that, for 50 years!

I’m reading yet another of Peter Cawdron’s First Contact series. Cawdron has written 20 (!) books with variations on humanity’s first contact with alien life, and they’re quite good. He has an easy-to-read writing style and a superb imagination. Right now I’m reading Deja Vu, and I’m captivated. What a story. The dude has some amazing work ethic – he’s published at least 30 books in the last 11 years. I need his secret.

Why are college tuition costs so out of control? Here’s a surprisingly simple explanation. Talk about unintended consequences…

Then Came the Last Days of May

Blue Öyster Cult, 1972

Parched land, no desert sand
The sun is just a dot
And a little bit of water goes a long way ’cause it’s hot it’s hot
Three good buddies were laughin’ and smokin’
In the back of a rented Ford
They couldn’t know they weren’t going far

Each one with the money in his pocket
To go out and buy himself a brand new car
But they all held the money they had
Money they hoped would take them very far

Sky’s bright, the traffic light
Now and then a truck
And they hadn’t seen a cop around all day what luck
They brought everything they needed
Bags and scales to weigh the stuff
The driver said, “The border’s just over the bluff”

Wasn’t until the car suddenly stopped
In the middle of a cold and barren plain
And the other guy turned and spilled
Three boys blood did they know a trap had been laid?

They’re OK the last days of May
But I’ll be breathin’ dry air
I’m a-leaving soon
The others are already there all there
Wouldn’t be interested in coming along
Instead of staying here?
Its said the West is nice this time of year
That’s what they say

More guns

On Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to dig further into our ever-growing body count due to US gun culture. Those victims deserve remembrance.

Our tragic national misunderstanding of the 2nd Amendment goes way back. From Digby:

“The Second Amendment has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” said Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger in January 1990.

The Burger quote continues, “The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

The NRA’s “twisted interpretation” has warped the court majority, twisted people’s minds, and maimed and killed uncounted thousands. We are all less secure as a byproduct.

When you think about it for a minute, it’s so clear. The Constitution’s authors wanted a check on the Federal government’s power, and decided that state militias would be that check. “Well-regulated militias”, in fact. Teenage depressed malcontents with military-grade weapons are NOT a “well-regulated militia”.

And how in the world did the Supreme Court with its “originalists” get hijacked by the NRA into their perverse interpretation of The Second? It’s clear as day, that phrase “well-regulated militia”. How can they continue to ignore it?

We need a national movement, an awakening, to reverse the cultural brainwashing we’ve been subjected to. It’s not about taking away ALL the guns. If you’re a gun lover, sure, you can likely own and fire a gun – just join your state’s “well regulated militia”. And get some training. And get evaluated. And be subject to regulation.

We’ve fallen so far down the “everyone has a right to own a gun, lots of guns, and carry them all the time” rabbit hole that it will be very hard to find our way back. But we managed to break the national cigarette smoking habit – there are still smokers, it’s still legal, but we changed the culture and the norms. So it can be done. Maybe the next generation will have the willpower and the vision to tackle gun culture successfully. (I’m not just kicking the can down the road, but I have to be practical about the amount of runway my generation has remaining. We Boomers are on our way out, leaving this awful legacy for our children.)

Guns

TX Governor Greg Abbott tells NRA in taped message that there’s no point in having any new gun laws. “Thousands of laws on the books … have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts.” Let’s test this with an analogy: “Laws against guns drunk driving don’t work. The only thing that stops a active shooter drunk driver is more good people with guns willing to drive drunk.”

Gun ownership and deaths is the one place where America is truly exceptional. We have more guns than people (?!?!?!?) and 5-10 times as many gun deaths as other “civilized” countries.

UPDATE: I read this today, written by a westerner in Cowboy State Daily (!), and I love the idea. Regulate Our Militia, And Regulate Them Well.

That’s the right answer!

Saturday morning

I wrote a rather direct letter to the Board members of one of my companies today, with lots of (hopefully) constructive criticism about how we conduct ourselves in meetings. We’ve started to talk over each other a lot, interrupting each other, and generally acting without a lot of respect and decorum. Not my idea of a thoughtful Board. We’ll see how my criticism is handled by the others – I’m as guilty as any of them, and I tried to be clear about that. But I don’t like being in the midst of unruly debates when I’m trying to get something done.

And I don’t know if this is more prevalent now than years ago, but I find that I express myself so much better in writing than I do in real-time verbal jousts. In writing I’m focused, and the constant editing of words happens at just the right speed. In person, verbally, I blurt things out before I’ve had time to really consider if that’s what I want to say. Particularly if there are multiple people in the conversation. My attention shifts from person to person, point to point, and I never seem to land on the “right thing” to say at the right time. With writing, I’m in control of the conversation. Guess it isn’t so hard to understand after all.

Here’s an audiophile nightmare. Imagine you bought a cheap-ish tube amp, hoping to experience the mellow, warm sound of tube amplification. Then you discovered that what you’re really driving your speakers with is a Rube Goldberg design that doesn’t use tubes for amplification at all, and there’s a cheap solid-state amp buried inside the case. Yikes!

From the Neils Bohr Institute, stars are heavier than we thought. And I thought they were pretty damned heavy…

Closer to home, Jessamine seems to be doing fine post-broken arm. It’s great to see him happy.

Bombs

Second day back in Socal. Great weather here, timezone / jet lag almost gone, and more COVID outbreaks among the family. Cases all around K and me, but so far it hasn’t touched us that we know of.

The big news this week was grandson Jesse falling off the couch and breaking his arm the day after we left. It was a bad break, and for a while it looked like he’d need surgery to repair. So far, they’ve just set it with no surgery. Poor little guy, his outgoing personality and climbing ability exceeds his sense of what is safe in this gravity well. We were all pretty beat up about it while he was at the hospital, but he seems to be OK, albeit with a big cast on his arm. Little boys will be little boys; it happens.

I need to add one more foodie note to the Louisville trip. We visited Mesh for dinner, and I’ll give it a good but not great. Good atmosphere, great company (Chris and Marci), and good-enough food. We’ll try it again sometime. In retrospect, the unlikely food star of our trip were the Pepperoni Bombs from Parlour. Those are now on my must-have list every time I’m in town.

Madness

if you are like-minded, please share this post on your social media accounts. We need to get the word out.

Yesterday’s tragedy in Texas causes us to ask, once again, how did we get here? Historian heather Cox Richardson has the surprising answer, in today’s Letters From An American essay. All it took was one evil NRA leader in 1975 (Wayne LaPierre?), one actor-turned-politician (Ronald Reagan) in 1980, and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the NRA post-1975 to change the country’s culture and “norms”. So if we see how we got here, can’t we see a way back?

In 2022, money influences politics, law, and culture. Perhaps it always has, but it’s more overt these days. I would join and contribute to an organization that had some or all of these goals:

  • Require training, registration, and certification for gun ownership.
  • Make penalties for illegal ownership harsh.
  • Rescind the idiotic “open carry” laws of many states.
  • Pass and enforce Red Flag laws in every state.
  • Educate parents and teenagers on the dangers of gun culture and what they can do about it. Create a voting bloc that can offset the gun lobby.
  • Form an actual militia, with training and service, for those who want to own and use a gun.
  • Require some kind of public service and/or civil education for 18-year-olds, particularly males. The most dangerous person in the world is an emotionally immature, lonely or angry 18-year-old young man with no purpose and no guidance. Over and over, these are the shooters.
  • Halt the sale of guns at ALL retail outlets except for tightly regulated and licensed outlets. Why should Walmart or Cabela’s be selling guns to Americans?

It took a generation for the Second Amendment to be perverted into the madness it is today (sadly, it was my generation). It will likely take an entire generation or two to find our way back. But we should start now.

Moving Day

It’s Moving Day, in which we leave the Kentucky home and return to the Socal home. I’m sad to leave.

After 80 miles on the e-bikes, I learned a lesson the hard way. Don’t try to dismount a bike on the downhill side of a slope. Gravity and angular momentum can cause an unfortunate collision between self and pavement. And pavement always wins.

It seems the Southern Baptist Convention has a sex abuse problem similar to that of the Catholic church. Can’t say I’m happy about that, but I’m not surprised. I grew up in that smug, repressed, ignorant, pastor as infallible gatekeeper culture. Being spiritual is a good thing. Being part of an “organized” religion with rules and gatekeepers, not so much.

Anecdotally, it seems COVID is on the rise. In each of my circles – family, friends, co-workers – I know one or more people who have very recently tested positive. Moral of the story – get vaccinated.

Cousin Donnie, MD, told me about another weird outbreak here in Louisville. It seems he’s treated three ER patients this spring for wounds incurred during bird attacks. Hawks, buzzards, etc. He’s never seen it before, and now there are three in a short period. Hitchcock chuckles from the grave.

From The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we find that modern industrial farming has a dinosaur problem. Unsurprising. I’m no fan of chemical-heavy industrial-scale farming, and here’s yet another reason it’s the wrong approach. I’d like to see millions of small-medium-scale farms instead of hundreds of Farmensteins.

This could be big news. The first human trials of an engineered virus that attacks cancer are under way. Sure would be nice if the grandsons grew up in a world that wasn’t afraid of cancer.

Random notes, Sunday morning

This is a movie I’m excited to see: Three Thousand Years of Longing.

The Aventon e-bikes continue to deliver fun and exercise. We’ve been out on them every day, in hot weather in which we would normally just avoid being outside. Getting out of the house and moving has to be good for us. A morning spent biking around Anchorage, gawking at the giant estates, was great fun. As was the IPA and elk chili afterward at The Anchor Bar.

There are a lot of reports lately that Vladimir Putin is ill, very ill. I can’t say I’m broken up about that. Perhaps the Ukraine war will have a sudden surprise ending.

And I watched a bit of the PGA Championship this weekend. Great players, a tremendously hard course, and the walking wounded Tiger Woods. He looks world-class fit, but the pain when he walks and swings is so evident – his right leg isn’t up to the task. It’s hard to watch. He definitely has will power, but no amount of will power will allow him to play through the kind of pain he seems to be experiencing. It’s a tough end to a legendary career and a weird, tragic life story.

Just announced, Kentucky plays UCLA this winter in the CBS Classic on December 17. Hope springs eternal.

In investing, sometimes you win big and sometimes you lose big. Why do people think that past performance guarantees future performance? Cathie Wood and Ark Innovation ETF are learning that lesson right now. And Warren Buffet is still the king.

Latest additions to this week’s foodie list: The Anchor Bar, Chik n Mi, Barn8, Ciao, and CostCo. Yes, Costco – their deli spinach salad with all the fixings is really, really good.

Nightmares

This is a nightmare, something out of a Kafka story. I’ve seen this shunning dynamic in action lately, and it’s ugly. There’s no empathy, no room for thoughtful discussion of one’s actions, no sympathy and no forgiveness. Once accused, the unfortunate person (99% men) can lose everything.

Of course there are sexual predators in the workplace, and they should be dealt with decisively once revealed. But that wasn’t the case with David Sabbatini – he was just a guy who had a consensual relationship with someone else in the company. How many people in America have met their mate in the workplace – I would guess millions. But no more, if the workplace Puritans have their way. In Sabbatini’s government-funded and university-driven culture, accusation=truth, there is no due process, and once accused, you’re done.

And in other crummy news, this sure didn’t take long. Oklahoma just passed a ban on abortions effective at the moment of conception. Next it’ll be effective on the first kiss or the first lustful thought, I suppose. So now a fertilized egg has more rights than an adult woman. And for extra fun, OK has adopted Texas’ plan to deputize the population and offer bounties for anyone turning in those who participate or assist, in any way, in a woman getting an abortion. That should make for some interesting neighborhood pot lucks.

Beautiful Thursday

Another day, another 13 e-bike miles, this time down at Broad Run Park. Beautiful bike trails and a beautiful spot. And speaking of beautiful, here’s a flower garden front yard on Frankfort. This lady’s yard is bright and cheery all year.

And our little house, above the title.