Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Good Guys/Bad Guys

Sadly, much of our decision making is based on reducing complex issues into good guys/bad guys scenarios. We like to think that we gather information, weigh arguments and make rational choices, but it really boils down to what we think good guys or bad guys would do.

This is explicit in statements like NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s assertion that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Not only has this belief been disproved time and again in active shooter situations, but a very large proportion of gun deaths are due to accident or suicide. Are those good guys or bad guys?

Similarly, Alabama voters cling so strongly to their belief that Democrats are bad guys that they’re willing to accept a known child molester as a comparatively “good” guy.

In other words, we suck at making decisions. No matter how complex the issues, we are incapable of thinking of anything more nuanced than a Star Wars movie.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Meaning of Life

At some point or other, many people ponder the meaning of life … you know, why do we live? Why do we die? Why are some people more or less fortunate than others? Why do men have nipples?

Many of us spend a good deal of time considering such questions. It’s a very engaging way to pass an afternoon when there’s nothing on TV. In fact, philosophers have been contemplating these issues for thousands of years, and much has been written about them, though I have yet to hear of anything that qualifies as The Answer.

Meaning, of course, is a pretty tough nut in itself. What is the meaning of meaning? Isn’t meaning different to all people? If we were somehow to figure out the meaning of life, how would we know it? Would heavenly hosts descend, trumpets blaring and bright lights shining, belting out a chorus of “Ah-ha!” Or would it be a more quiet moment, perhaps just ourselves thinking “Oh!”

Back in the 1970’s, a book called Watership Down, by Richard Adams, told the story of a group of rabbits whose home is threatened, and who go off in search of a new, safer place to settle, led by Fiver and Hazel. They have many adventures, and at one point, take up with a friendly warren of rabbits at the invitation of Cowslip.

Cowslip’s warren all appear well-fed and healthy. Moreover, they have an extraordinary (for rabbits, I suppose) talent for the arts. Their poetry and songs are more passionate and moving than those of the Fiver’s and Hazel’s group. They even create mosaics with stones pressed into the walls of their chambers.

It turns out that Cowslip’s warren is protected by a farmer, who provides them plenty of food and protection against predators. However, the farmer himself occasionally uses snares to catch the rabbits for meat and skins. Despite their apparent comfort, the rabbits live in constant peril and fear.

And that is the source of their art. Their very mortality, and the uncertainty of life, is the inspiration. In fact, death is the meaning of life.

Death itself became necessary early in the evolution of life on earth. Simple one-celled organisms reproduced by cell division, so each offspring cell had the original genetics, and the same actual material as the original cell. But for more complex organisms to exist, and to be able to adapt to changing environments, it was necessary for sexual reproduction, with distinct parent and child organisms, to develop. This allowed genetic hybrids, so simpler life forms could spawn more complex ones.

It also meant that parent cells would eventually die, leaving room and resources for future generations. And this, itself, is the beauty, the tragedy, the irony and the meaning of life.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Gift of Prophecy

The gift of prophecy is the power to see when and how you will die. It is a fearsome and terrible gift, as it robs us of our most precious possession ... delusion.

Without delusions, we are not successful. We are not talented or brilliant or beautiful. Worse, we are all the same ... mere organisms crawling on an overcrowded planet, trying to claim a little hill or space for ourselves.

Without delusions, we are just our bare selves. It's an idea almost too frightening to live with. So we build cities and cars and phones and whole lives to prove to ourselves that we are real ... that we matter. There are over seven billion of us, each trying to matter.

But there is a way to survive and to live gloriously in the world without illusions. We can recognize that we are all the same, that we face the same struggles against the same impossible odds. That although we all die somehow sometime, we can be not mere humans, but humanity.

We can love.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Change of Address

Just a quick bit of business ... the URL of this blog is changing. The new URL is:


At some point, the URL www.techcurmudgeon.com my go away, but this one should continue to work.

Please update your bookmarks and links.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Next Step

Early in human history, people developed beliefs and values based on what they could directly observe. Some of the things we now scoff at (well, some of us, anyway) seemed stunningly obvious. Obviously the world was flat. We were at the center of things, with everything rotating around us. Any inconsistencies or mysteries could be explained by adding some new gods to the pantheon.

Slowly, over thousands of years, we evolved from paganism to monotheism and eventually, to science. we still based our beliefs on what we observed, but the range of what we could observe, from the microscopic to the astronomic, was greatly expanded by new tools … lenses, magnification, amplification, and eventually even recording and photography.

Now, however, people are engulfed from infancy in a torrent of information that washes over us, filling all our perceptual orafices with colors and sound, some of which form intelligible concepts. But these concepts reach us unfiltered and unedited. We have no basis for selecting reasonable or valid ideas from pure drivel. We simply pick and choose whatever appeals.

And this appears to be the next phase of evolution. We moved from the age of mythology to the age of enlightenment, and now to the age of … what? … uncritical stupidity?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

John le Carré's Latest Blockbuster

Soon to be a major motion picture!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Happy Friday (the 13th)!

For most of my life, I guess I’ve been pretty optimistic. I came of age in the late 1960’s, witnessing the power of protest and action to effect change. The U.S. withdrew from the Vietnam War and brought down a corrupt president, the Peace Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency were formed, and discriminatory barriers against blacks, women, and the LGBTQ community began, slowly, to erode.

The moon landing was a spectacular demonstration of the power of science and technology to address some of our most pressing problems in such diverse areas as medicine, agriculture and, of course, communications.

Most important, though, was the fact that humankind seemed ready to embrace these changes. People seemed to welcome and adopt new ideas about justice and equality, about the roles of technology and science, about peace and global cooperation, and about the planet as a finite resource that demanded respect. Even Disney cloyingly reminded us “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” and “It’s A Small World After All.”

Now, alas, that’s all turned to shit. In less than a year, since the election of Donald Trump, Americans in particular, but much of Europe as well, seem all too willing to turn back the clock, reverse progress in social justice, and turn our backs on science and education itself. We are taking one giant leap backwards into a new Dark Age.

And then there’s the whole cancer thing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Simple Truth

It's simple.

Republicans see the world as they would like it to be. Everyone who works hard gets rich, or at least comfortable. And everyone fits in if they deserve it.

Democrats see the world as it actually is. We are all human. Some are economically disadvantaged, despite hard work. Some get sick. Some have nuanced sexual identities. Some develop addictions. Some choose to serve others rather than just themselves.

Deal with it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Who Am I?

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be Superman. I mean, what could be better than that? Even the Fortress of Solitude seemed very appealing to my naive imagination.

But it would have required moving to another planet with less gravity and a different colored sun, and that seemed impractical. Batman, being an ordinary man, was much more within reach, but I learned that he had a gym in the Bat Cave and worked out a lot.

A little later, I wanted to be the Beatles. Anyone one of them would do, but I think John was the preferred choice. I spent hours strumming on badminton rackets and drumming on overturned wastebaskets to prepare for this.

At about the same time, I wanted to be James Bond. I guess I was a confirmed Anglophile. Why not both? I could be a secret agent who is also an international rock star. That was the perfect cover.

Of course, back then, I thought the idea of supervillains bent on destroying the world was just fiction.

After that, the ambitions became more mundane: astronaut, genius, groundbreaking psychologist. (Somehow, sports star never made it onto my list.)

I started to realize that it’s not who you are, but what you do that counts. (Boy, was I dumb!) Then I didn’t want to be someone else. I just wanted to be like them. I wanted to write like James Joyce (though I had never finished one of his books.) I wanted to be a multimillionaire cartoonist like Charles Schulz. (I had read all of his books.) I wanted to be a great actor, like Laurence Olivier or Dustin Hoffman. And I wanted to be a great artist, like Picasso but less weird.

By the end of high school, I got into the whole universe thing and wanted to be a physicist. Once I got to college, though, I saw that the theater people were having much better parties than the physics people. Plus, there are way more famous actors than physicists.

After college, I moved back in with my parents, which convinced me it was time to get a job of some kind. At the time, it was very easy for a theater major with a tiny bit of computer programming to get a job as a software developer. (Still is, I think.) So, that was that.

Software development was great fun at first. I got to type things that would make tapes spin and stuff appear on the screen. But after a while, I realized I was writing the same things over and over again. Stuff I had done in Fortran now had to be written in Pascal. Or C. Or C++. Or Java. Or PostScript. Or JavaScript. Luckily, I was only 40 years from retirement.

But now, a little more than 4 years into the cancer journey (the currently vogue term for this nightmare), I realize there was only one thing that mattered. Despite all those aspirations, there was only one thing that I had to do. When I assess my life, there is only one question I have to answer.

Did I give enough love?

Sorry. It’s the drugs talking.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

In the Age of Stupid ...

America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses

Western Governor’s University



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Why I Hate Writing

I used to think writing sounded like a pretty good job. What’s not to like? You sit around in your garret, or on a balcony overlooking Waikiki Beach, or wherever and jot down whatever pops into your head, while the money just keeps piling up in your bank account. (Writers generally start out in a garret and upgrade to the Waikiki balcony at a later time.)

But now I have a more mature, nuanced view: Writing sucks!

First, there are two kinds of writing: fiction and non-fiction. Fiction is about telling engaging stories, with relatable characters, and then selling the movie rights. It all sounds good until you sit down to try to do it. There are plenty of stories around, so you don’t even have to make one up. It’s considered acceptable to re-tell existing stories, even well-known ones. Shakespeare did this, and he’s the greatest writer who ever lived. If you’re desperate, you can use something that actually happened to you (if anything ever happened to you, which is unlikely if you’re holed up in that garret all the time.)

The problem is that you have to drag it out. You can’t just say “Pinocchio’s nose grew when he lied, so he learned not to lie and became a real boy instead of a politician.” There! End of story! Why drag it out for pages and pages, with all kinds of other characters … a fox and a cat and a mean old circus owner. Really? Seems like Collodi went to a great deal of trouble for something that could be said in one sentence.

And then there’s the problem of characters. You can’t just use your mom or your brother or your best friend because they’ll never speak to you again (which might be a good thing if you’re easily distracted from writing.) In general, it’s a good idea not to piss off your friends and family. Who else is going to read your stuff?

So let’s say you come up with some characters. Again, you have to drag it out. You can’t just say “Tom Sawyer, a brash young man, and Huckleberry Finn, his independent-minded friend, had a naive love of adventure which led them into many scrapes.” Instead, you have to describe all the things they said and did, and let the readers figure out what kinds of characters they are. What a pain!

Non-fiction is easier in that sense. You just write about what you know. But know is the operative word here. You have to know something. You could, of course, just make stuff up, but then it has a tendency to become fiction. Or politics.

Luckily, however, you don’t have to know much to be a non-fiction writer. Take a look at the books that are out there and you’ll see what I mean. Donald Trump has a few books out, and nobody’s more ignorant than that.

I guess the best thing is just to write a memoir. You just describe stuff that happened to you (when you weren’t in your garret.) The only problem with this is … nobody cares.

And of course everyone's familiar with the dreaded syndrome known as writer’s

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Civilization 101

If there’s one thing that distinguishes human life from that of other animals, it’s civilization … the development of ideas and cultures that change over time. The word civilization originally meant city-dwellers, since that was the mechanism by which ideas intermingled and spread. There are a few basic principles which seem to emerge in the context of civilization.
  1. The gradual increase in perspective, from family to tribe to city state, nation state and, eventually, the whole world. We have more or less steadily acknowledged, if not embraced, the idea that our globe is covered with people of different backgrounds, different adaptations to their environments, etc.
  2. The gradual increase in our understanding of how our world works, including how planets and other bodies move in space, how the earth itself changes, how different organisms, including people, live and survive, and what forces act on us and the world. This understanding has helped us treat diseases, improve food production, and even better comprehend our own behavior.
  3. The growth of self-government … the idea that policies should not simply be dictated by all-powerful rulers, but that the population in general should be able to influence and sway the actions of society.
If humanity faced extermination at the hands of some alien foe, these things would the best justification for our continued existence … our best accomplishments. Sure, it’s taken us millions of years and we’re still not very good at it, but at least we can spot these broad trends amid the chaos of human activity.

And if you don’t see the value of these accomplishments, if you don’t agree that equality, science and democracy are our most worthwhile endeavors … then you’ve flunked Civilization 101.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


It’s true that many of the U.S.’s Founding Fathers were slave owners, or at least condoned this horrible practice. Many other historical figures were oppressors and killers of Native Americans, or later exploiters of Chinese-American laborers, or captors of Japanese-Americans, and so on. If you take a ruthless examination of history, almost no one comes out looking good.

The fact is that people are selfish, bigoted, intolerant and exploitative. That’s human nature.

The whole concept of heroes is fundamentally flawed. People are not heroic.

But we do value certain ideals, such as bravery, wisdom, justice, liberty, etc. And to the extent that various people exemplify these ideals, it’s not a bad idea to honor them. George Washington is honored not for being a slave owner, but for leadership on the battlefield and in government. Thomas Jefferson is recognized as a great statesman, and as one who definitively articulated some fundamental ideals that shape our country.

By the same token, there are those whose historical significance is the embodiment of ideas we now find reprehensible: slavery, oppression, insurrection and brutality. Commemorating these individuals makes a negative statement about our current values, and about our attitudes towards their victims.

In one of those weird metaphysical ironies, we can celebrate virtues and values that we don’t actually live up to. And doing so gives us something to strive for, and to enshrine in law to help defend these ideals against our human weakness.

So we must pick and choose carefully which values and heroes to celebrate. These are our strongest statement of who we are.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where I've Been

I’m sure some of you have noticed that there have been very few posts on this blog for a while. One of you? Anyone?

Well, whether anyone’s noticed or not, I thought I’d offer some explanation.

The fact is that I’ve been dealing with some serious health issues, and I thought I’d describe how that affects my blogging. I’m not doing this for sympathy or to tweak anyone’s guilt or anything. I just have not seen a lot of discussion about what day-to-day life is like for a full-time cancer patient, so I thought I’d give you my perspective.

By full-time, I mean I’ve retired from my paying career largely because the physical stress of the cancer itself, not to mention the various treatments I’ve gone through, make it impossible for me to be productive in a regular job. Moreover, this cancer thing can be a bit of a distraction, not just due to the need to keep showing up for tests, appointments and treatments. It’s also something that occupies my thoughts a good part of the time.

In that sense, the main effect of cancer is suspense. It’s like watching the most gripping mystery movie you’ve ever seen, except it never ends. At least, not so far. And not for a good long time, I hope. But the suspense never lets up. It’s like having a slow motion bullet follow you around. It keeps getting closer and closer, but you never know when, or if, it will hit. One thing’s for sure though … it’s got your name on it.

Apart from the constant suspense, the cancer and treatment can result in mood swings … elation when a new treatment is available, depression when a treatment fails. This is a wild ride. So far, I’ve been through surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, more hormone therapy, even more hormone therapy, a clinical trial of a new drug (super-duper hormone therapy … I think we can finally say that’s not a promising avenue), immunotherapy and chemotherapy. None of these has halted or even slowed the progression of the cancer for more than a few months, and even that was only in the early stages.

Now I’m facing another clinical trial, so I’m very hopeful. But that’s been true before. Each new round of treatment starts with great promise and, so far, ends with discouragement. Of course, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.

Any remaining time and energy are spent doing online research. Google and I are now BFFs. I want to know every doctor and hospital, every drug or treatment or side effect, all the biochemical processes are involved. It's like trying to get a Ph.D. in Oncology.

Physically, the primary symptom is fatigue. The cancer itself causes fatigue, and every course of therapy is even more fatiguing. Some days, even sitting in an easy chair is too exhausting.

Often there are other symptoms, including pain caused by the cancer itself, and various unpleasant side effects from the various drugs. I’ve been lucky in not having experienced much of either of those yet. I haven’t needed any pain management beyond an occasional ibuprofin. Knock wood.

Of course, every cancer and every patient is different. Some are effectively treated fairly quickly, and are then able to go for years without recurrence. Others are much more aggressive and painful than mine.

If a slowdown in writing blog posts is the worst outcome, I shall count myself extremely lucky.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Age of Wonder, Part II

The most visible signs of the Space Age, the Information Age, the Age of Aquarius and the Age of Other Cool Things Too Numerous To Mention were progress!

Human civilization was moving forward. In the aftermath of World War II, organizations and programs like the United Nations, UNICEF, Care, the Peace Corps and others were all working to bring the diverse people of the world together. As Disney’s dolls from the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair sickeningly but unmistakably harangued, “It’s a small world after all.”

Meanwhile, medical breakthroughs were being shared with the world, with global attempts to defeat malaria, cholera, diphtheria and other scourges.

The Space Age helped raise the awareness of science and technology, but government celebration of the arts also helped promote education in music, literature, visual and performing arts.

All this amounted to an Age of Optimism. World War II was behind us, and it seemed we had the power and the will to make the world a better place.

But somehow during the 1970’s, that will eroded. It was replaced by the conservative view that we’re here to look out for ourselves, and other people are simply not our problem. Maybe our disastrous experience in Vietnam convinced us just to mind our own business.

And since, we’ve been back and forth, ping-ponging between the competing visions: “America the bountiful” versus “America, land of the me and home of the craven.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Age of Wonder

I was born at the dawn of the Space Age.

It was also the dawn of the Information Age, the Age of Aquarius, and the Age of Other Cool Things Too Numerous To Mention. That last category includes Peace, Love and Music (later, Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll).

This period, the second half of the 20th century and the first smidgen of the 21st, brought many social changes and technological innovations. We can now carry TV sets in our pockets, and we have even more ways to waste time with them. There are new, even more boring kinds of lettuce. We have remote control voting machines. And we can now talk to our appliances, eliminating the onerous task of pushing buttons.

We eat health food out of single-serving plastic containers. We drive around in hybrid cars that reduce the CO2 emissions of going across the street. And we can share our most intimate secrets and deeply held beliefs with Mark Zuckerberg and hundreds of people we don’t know through the charm of social networks, the next best thing to being there.

We are now much more accepting of lifestyles and cultures that differ from our own, as long as they don’t appear in public. We have new gender categories undreamt of by our forebears. We have hate crimes in addition to crimes of niceness.

Truly we are living in an Age of Wonder.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Apologies to Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in the dump.
From scientific warnings dire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it’s up to Donald Trump
I think he’d be stupid enough
To leave us heading for the dump
Where climate stuff
Is a rat’s rump.


Pundits have talked about “Trumpism” as if there were some actual coherent thinking behind the President’s plans and priorities. From what we can infer from Trump’s words and actions, Trumpism consists of the following:
  1. Ally with anyone who says nice things about Trump.
  2. Get taxpayer support for any property with the Trump name on it.
  3. Promote close relatives of Trump.
  4. Attack any media outlets or individuals critical of Trump.
  5. Spread the word via the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.
  6. Promote the Trump brand and any Trump family businesses.
  7. Disregard world leaders who are not Trump.
  8. Make the world safe for Trump.
  9. Despite the constant negative press covfefe because … Trump.
  10. If there’s any time left, undo anything done by Obama.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Players

For those of you who can’t tell the players without a scorecard, we’ve prepared this handy list of Trump’s cabinet members and their mission statements.

Department Secretary Slogan
State Rex Tillerson Make oil great again.
Treasury Steve Mnuchin Make Wall St. great again.
Defense James Mattis Make America strong again.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Fill America’s jails again.
Interior Ryan Zinke Make America for sale again.
Agriculture Sonny Perdue Make my family rich again.
Commerce Wilbur Ross Make me rich again.
Labor R. Alexander Costa Make Americans overwork again.
Health Tom Price Make America sick again.
Housing Ben Carson Huh?
Transportation Elaine Chao Make America walk again.
Energy Rick Perry Make fossil fuels great again.
Education Betsy DeVos Make America stupid again.
Veterans David Shulkin Benefit veterans again. Really.
Homeland Security John Kelly Make America white again.
CIA Mike Pompeo Make America secret again.
UN Nikki Haley Make America look great again.
EPA Scott Pruit Make America filthy again.
Small Business Linda McMahon Make America wrestle again.
OMB Mick Mulvaney Make America small again.

And, of course, Trump himself: Make America great again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Net Futility

Technologists are making a lot of noise about net neutrality right now. The basic idea is that network providers should not be allowed to slow down traffic from sites they don’t like (i.e., sites that don’t pay them enough)

The fact is, the Internet is already dead. Or at least, the Web is. Most sites are so heavily laden with ads, videos, audio and other crap that it takes forever to get to the desired content. Pages take minutes to load, and during that time, portions of the page appear and disappear and scroll up and down in a manner guaranteed to frustrate anyone trying to read them.

A huge portion of all Internet traffic is Facebook, or pages that people have shared on Facebook. Sharing in this case means you mislead your friends into clicking the links to sites filled with ads, animations, auto-play noise, and listicles. A listicle is one of those pages that requires you to keep clicking Next to get through the content, while loading more and more ads, until you finally discover these were not the pages you were looking for anyway.

Forget net neutrality. Sites are slowing themselves down. You want faster Web pages? Leave out the freaking ads!

The other hot topic now is network security. People are talking about encrypting their data to prevent prying eyes from seeing which porn they’ve been searching, and using a virtual private networks (VPN) to hide which Web sites they’re visiting, though these sites already know what you’re looking at anyway.

And everyone is talking about covering your camera with a piece of tape, so no one can turn it on remotely to spy on you. Of course, that only protects you if you like to stand in front of your computer holding up a sign with all your private information on it. What you really want to block is the microphones in your computer.

Monday, May 15, 2017


One of the dire problems facing our society is stress. We find stress just in going about our lives … getting to work, doing the work, getting home … even trying to have fun is stressful.

And, of course, all this stress is not healthy. Doctors tell us we have to eliminate stress from our lives, that it causes or aggravates other medical problems.

The tests show that you have cancer. Try to relax.
This stress is so prevalent that people now take classes in how to relax. One of the more popular techniques is mindfulness, which is another way of saying “pay attention, for chrissake.”

Seriously, the central idea of mindfulness is just being aware of what’s going on around you … the sights, sounds, smells, etc. No less a newspaper than the mighty New York Times has a regular column on mindfulness that actually tells you what to notice in different situations: Feel the water as it hits your body … When you exit the shower, dry yourself.

Where would we be without the mainstream media?

Here’s a simple step-by-step procedure that could greatly benefit most of us as individuals, and society as a whole:

  1. Put down the goddamned phone.
There. You immediately start to notice things. Hmmm. Smell that coffee. Hear all those birds. Who knew there were so many birds around here? Wow! Look at those people pointing and yelling. Hey! See that bus coming this way!

Now don’t you feel better already?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Apologies in Advance

I want to apologize to generations X, Y, and Z, millennials, and to all future generations, for leaving the world in so much worse shape than when we inherited it. I’m sorry.

My generation had high hopes at one point. We were going to end war, protect the environment, and maybe even add some compassion to the Capitalist system that was growing increasingly indifferent to human needs. We really had good intentions.

But we got busy. We had to finish school. Then we had to move out of our parents’ houses, and that meant finding a job of some kind. Then, unexpectedly, that turned into a thing of itself. Jobs turned into careers. Income turned into assets. And somehow, we started to want some of that comfort that we used to put down the previous generation for.

We still wanted peace and a wholesome environment and all that, but now we thought maybe we could earn enough to give money to these good causes. Better yet, maybe we could invest in good causes, so we’d make money off other peoples’ good deed doing. Nothing wrong with that, right?

But somehow, it all got screwed up. Somehow all these good deed doers we were investing in didn’t manage to save the world as we intended. Sure, they made progress. They learned about and studied global warming, but they didn’t manage to convince everybody. They developed new technologies for education, and even new cures for diseases, but those are never-ending jobs. They even championed policies and politicians who backed all the right stuff, but we see where that led.

So, I guess the bottom line is, on behalf of my generation, I’m sorry.

Friday, April 21, 2017

King Donald the Last

Most of the objections to and outrage at the Trump administration can be understood in light of the concept of America, a concept that Trump and his people reject.

Briefly, the U.S. Constitution embodies a set of ideas about what kind of country the founders envisioned. Largely in reaction to Europe’s history of monarchies, and to England’s King George III in particular, the U.S. was to be, as Lincoln later described it, a country “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The Declaration of Independence actually lists the reasons early colonists threw off the rule of England, and they all had to do with inalienable human rights, government by “consent of the governed,” and the right of the people to choose a government that will see to their “Safety and Happiness.”

This whole American concept, that government serves the people and not the other way around, was a radical departure from the thousands of years of human history that preceded it. The whole world sat up and took notice. This, above all, is what made America great.

But the Trump crew completely reject this concept. They are secretive, self-serving, and utterly inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Trump regards himself as an absolute monarch … utterly infallible and above the law. He acknowledges no obligations to his supporters, his colleagues in government, the Constitution or tradition. He is King Donald.

Many Republicans want to turn back the clock to a time before FDR. Trump wants it back to before George Washington.

Fortunately, many Americans still remember and cherish the American concept. Many still long for real liberty and justice, and not mere words in an incoherent speech. This is why so many people have been chanting at their representatives, “You work for us!” And many government officials, perhaps even some Republicans, actually comprehend their duty to the people and the law.

May the reign of King Donald be as short as it has been disastrous.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


(To the tune of "DO-RE-MI")

(Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Lord of the Things

Three branches of government with each other vie.
Seven articles of Constitution, which rarely get read.
Nine supreme justices on the Court so high.
One orange lord (who’s a closet red)
In the land of D.C., where politicians lie.

One ass to rule them all, One ass to screw them.
And those whom he fooled deserve what’s coming to them,
In the land of D.C., where politicians lie.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Going Backwards

Executive orders protecting our borders
Are really not likely to work
As it’s known through the land
That the pen’s in the hand
Of an orange-faced wispy-haired jerk

Another big goal, to revitalize coal,
Will go bust with its dust and pollution.
Energy companies can already foresee
There are cleaner and better solutions.

Republicans don’t serve the public and
They are beholden to the one percent.
This constituency donates generously
To their campaigns the millions they’ve spent.

They rob from the poor so the rich can have more
Leaving nothing for food, schools or health.
So let’s not pretend they have any agenda
But redistribution of wealth.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Revenant

Like many of you, I’ve been in shock … complete shock … over the 2016 election results. Seriously! Who could have imagined this outcome? That Arizona would vote to raise the minimum wage!

Some of the other results were pretty surprising too. But now it’s time to move on. We’ll just have to make a few minor adjustments. Specifically,

  1. Health insurance will now be awarded by lottery. The lucky winner will be entitled to full treatment for any and all health-related problems (up to a lifetime maximum of $482.37.)
  2. The Department of Defense will now be referred to as “The People.”
  3. Climate change will be given top priority in determining the President’s weekend travel plans.
  4. Former President Barack Obama will now be known as Double-O Forty-Four.
  5. The orders of magnitude 104 and 105 will be eliminated. Any number larger than 9,999 will be considered “a million.”
  6. Cell phones, music players and other mobile devices will be powered by coal.
  7. Only people wishing to enter the United States from countries containing the letter “R” will be permitted to eat shellfish.
  8. The Departments of Defense, Education, the EPA, State, Health and Human Services, Interior and Transportation will be combined into a single department, to be known as DEEPSHIT. This department will then be eliminated.
  9. There will be a wall around the red states, and Nordstrom’s will pay for it.
  10. The city of Washington, D.C. will be renamed Козырь.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

We Interrupt This Blog ...

I’m not a particularly open person. Most of my social media use consists of posting what I hope are cynical, witty (some would say wise ass) remarks. And even for those, I often hide behind the pseudonym Tech Curmudgeon.

But I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I have this strange urge to come clean. Please disregard the following.

For nearly 4 years, I’ve been dealing with prostate cancer. After going through surgery, radiation therapy, and various hormone therapy drugs, I’m entering a new phase. The next treatments, sipuleucel-T, radium-223 and chemotherapy, will be less gentle but, I hope, more effective.

I’m not mentioning this to get sympathy. I’m not asking for any kind of help. I’m not even looking to promote the cause of cancer research and care (though it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to consider.)

I’m really just feeling … and this is going to sound corny as hell … that life is beautiful. I don’t mean in a treacly, Hallmark-card kind of way. I mean really fucking beautiful, in a dramatic way. It’s as if the very fragility of life itself, and the complete uncertainty we all must live with, are what make life meaningful. Maybe that’s existential … the meaninglessness of life is what gives it meaning.

Not everything, of course. Hatred and bigotry win no pageants. And illness is not high on my list right now.

But I’m frequently moved to tears, literally, by movies, shows and events that show people caring about each other, helping each other, behaving not just humanly, but humanely. Of course, some of that is the hormone therapy drugs, but not all of it.

Anyway, my apologies. I’ll try to go back to being cynical and, hopefully, witty now.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Situation

Let me see if I’ve got this straight ...

Thirty thousand people die each year from gun violence, but we can’t regulate guns, because the NRA believes absolutely anyone should be able to buy a gun at any time.

Forty thousand people die on roads and highways each year, but we have to be able to check our email and text messages at all times.

Climate change is destroying our planet, melting the polar ice caps, glaciers, etc., but we can’t limit CO2 emissions because fossil fuel industries might suffer, and we want to drive bigger SUVs.

Immigrants bring fresh perspectives, leading to new ideas as well as cultural expansiveness, but we can’t admit immigrants because a few completely unrelated people committed violent acts.

Thousands of people suffer and die each year from treatable conditions because of inadequate access to health care, but we can’t provide for them because millionaires and billionaires might have to kick in a few bucks in taxes.

The President of the United States is mentally unbalanced, but the only people who can do anything about it, his political party, won’t do anything because it would be embarrassing.

That about right?

Friday, March 3, 2017

This is FNN!

Good evening, and welcome to FNN. Our top story tonight ...

After sifting through reams of data collected over several decades, scientists at several government agencies have concluded that the natural environment may be hazardous. The scientists cite evidence that millions of people died before the period when humankind spent most of its time indoors. They stress that the current emphasis placed on preserving wildlife and the natural environment may be misguided.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Failure of Imagination

In 1967, Astronaut Frank Borman blamed the Apollo 1 fire that killed three of his fellow astronauts on “failure of imagination” ... the inability of the engineers on the project to anticipate the conditions that led to that fire, and to take steps to prevent it.

After the terror attacks of 9/11/2001, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States concluded our biggest vulnerability was failure of imagination. We simply couldn’t conceive of anything as far from normal behavior as the plan to hijack planes and fly them into buildings, so there were no defenses.

This is the same weakness that stymies us now in the face of the Trump regime. Although safeguards such as the electoral college and, much later, the 25th Amendment were intended to protect against a complete lunatic occupying the White House, these were only theoretical measures. No one imagined anyone as off-the-rails as Trump and his appointees, so these measures have never been tested and re-enforced. In fact, it would take acts of enormous political will for enough electors to defy their states elections to block an obvious demagogue like Trump, and it would take even more brazenness to trigger the 25th Amendment’s removal from office mechanism. 

According to Wikipedia, failure of imagination has also been cited in such disasters as the Titanic’s sinking and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

Clearly, in complex and risky situations, imagination is a far more valuable asset than is usually assumed.

Support arts education.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let Them Have It

Sometimes I think Trump opponents should drop the resistance. Just stop. Let them have it. Let Trump and the GOP have it. They already own the entire government and, by extension, the country.

When 2018 and 2020 come around, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame. They won’t be able to point the finger at protesters, or obstructionist legislators, or even the media.

If we let them have it, they’ll surely tank themselves.

But then I think … when the GOP sells off mineral and land rights to government land, we’ll never get that back.

When we build pipelines through precious land, we’ll never get that back.

When mining companies dump waste into rivers and streams, we’re not getting those back.

When we lose out on hopeful immigrants who look to the U.S. as a haven of liberty, we’ll never get them back.

When we unleash bigotry and hatred, thus losing our decency as a people, we’ll never get that back.

When we antagonize some of our most trusted allies, we’re never … well, we might get them back, but we’ll have to grovel.

And when the U.S. becomes a laughing stock around the world, completely losing its leadership position and its role as the foremost example of democracy at work … that’s never coming back.

But most of all, while social safety net programs might be reinstated in saner times, the people who, through no fault of their own, depend on these for healthcare and sustenance, may be lost forever.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Taking Back Democracy

Regardless of party allegiance, most people agree that politicians, frankly, suck. They spend most of their time worrying about getting elected and re-elected, and most of the rest worrying about their political parties. They spend more time fund-raising than anything else, and, once elected, they immediately set to work trying to secure their power through gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement and other means. As Shakespeare’s Macbeth famously said on attaining the crown, “To be thus is nothing. But to be safely thus,” his rationale for the series of murders and misdeeds that follows.

The Constitution is very clear about the roles of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the President and the Supreme Court. But there’s not a word, not a whisper, about political parties. Yet a glance at the news anytime in the last century or more suggests that it’s all about parties … that the job of the parties is to beat the opposition, and try to reshape the laws to ensure their continued dominance. This is also true at the state level.

So how to we make government serve the people instead of themselves?


Most policy decisions should be made by direct voting, instead of leaving it up to elected representatives. Because as democratic as our elections are (not very!), there’s a huge disconnect between what politicians want and what voters actually want.

Politicians are like cable TV packages. You can’t pick and choose which policies, or which channels, you get. If you love to watch HBO, you’re going to have to get thirty or forty sports channel with it. If you want the smaller government candidate, you’re going to have to take abortion bans, unrestricted gun sales and a decimated environment with it.

Also, because politicians are so concerned about just getting and keeping control, they flip flop on issues as easily as the wind changes direction. It’s well known that political strategists like Karl Rove seize on wedge issues to incite voters who might not otherwise case about an election, just to help bolster one party.

Now a lot of people are going to object that having a referendum for every issue is too inefficient. How can we handle that many elections?

Of course, that’s based on the two century old model in our Constitution. In the 21st century, there’s really no reason elections can’t be done efficiently on massive scale. In fact, that should be the first order of business. We need to ensure that people who are entitled to vote can vote, and that people who aren’t can’t.

And because a referendum is about one issue, the campaigns will be trying to inform/pursuade voters about that issue. No distractions. No debates about the size of each candidate’s hands or other body parts. No bluster. (There will still be plenty of bullshit, but at least it will be focussed bullshit.)

Politicians should be like engineers … they figure out how to implement the specifications, but the specifications come from the customer … you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The National Ditty

Irving Berlin’s timeless God Bless America sounds like a plea for divine favor, but the British national anthem, God Save the Queen, practically begs for help. Given the current political climate, we thought it might be appropriate to ratchet up the desperation of our own national ditty. So, we present …

God Save America

God save America.
We’ve plainly failed.
Our new leader
Is a tweeter
Who’s insane like a train that’s derailed.
With the terror, global crises,
And the economic slump,
God save America
From Donald Trump.