Friday, June 27, 2014

Short Takes

Droning on in Iraq: Political leaders are looking for someone to replace the current prime minister.

Syria: President Obama requests $500 million for rebels.

SCOTUS: The Court ruled against President Obama’s recess appointments and struck down abortion clinic buffer zones.

Arizona firefighter families sue over deaths.

End of the road for India’s iconic Ambassador automobile.

R.I.P. Howard Baker, 88, former Republican Senator from Tennessee.  Classy guy who couldn’t get nominated in the G.O.P. today.

The Tigers swept the Rangers 6-0 and extend their streak to seven wins.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tickle

I woke up yesterday with a little tickle in the back of my throat that is usually a precursor to a cold.  So I waited all day for it to descend and envelope me, making work miserable.  I resorted to drinking lots of fluids to at least make it tolerable and made a lot of trips across the hall to get rid of the excess.  But it never got beyond the tickle, and a day later, it is where it was… just that little annoyance.  Water helps, and it’s not enough to keep me from getting up and going to work.

That leads me to believe it’s something in the air that is roughing me up; after all, it’s that time of year here in Florida where the trees and stuff start turning their thoughts towards love by spreading their pollen.  A lot of people are bothered by what they call “hay fever,” and we get a lot of that here all year long.  Except that I have heretofore never been bothered by trees having sex… at least not in terms of allergies.  As far as I know, I’m not allergic to anything like that.  Or anything, really.

I wonder, though, as I get older, am I getting more sensitive to stuff like that?  Is it a sign of creeping old fogeyism that I’m now subject to ailments that never bothered me when I was a strong young man?

Or maybe I just need to change the filter in the air conditioning unit.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Appreciation

I want to take this time as I do just about every year to say thank you to the people in my life who have made this a good year in a lot of respects, all things considered.

I made it through with my health and sanity relatively unscathed, and I have my immediate family all in good condition and spirits, and we all got through 2012 with few complaints. At my nephew’s wedding in Indiana in October, I realized again how blessed I am to have both of my parents to guide and inspire me, my brothers and sister to remind me of the oneness of family, and extended family to share joy and sorrow with. At my 21st trip to the William Inge Festival, I renewed friendships with people who had been a part of my life for many years, and in some ways still are. This was a good year for renewal.

I still have a place to work and good people and friends to work with, doing good things for the hundreds of thousands of students and teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and in October I marked ten years there, the longest I’ve held a job at one place in my life. The last couple of years have been tough for all of us with cutbacks in the budget and added responsibilities for all of us. But we made it through in good stead and I’m happy and humbled to be a part of the effort. We have had our own shares of testing times — taking on new duties with less money to do it — but we made it through, and so to all of my colleagues and friends, thanks for everything. See you next week.

This past August marked the eleventh anniversary of my return to Miami. It hardly seems possible, but this is the longest I’ve stayed in one place since I graduated from high school, surpassing the eight years I lived in Colorado. Of course, helping me feel back at home has been the friendship and companionship of Bob and the Old Professor, who are still enjoying their retirements and the joys of volunteer work. Our regular Friday nights out to dinner and the wonderful meals on occasion are a great part of my life, not to mention the joy that Bob and I get out of using the OP as our straight man, so to speak. Never was there a better role model since George Burns or Margaret Dumont. And without Bob, my enthusiasm for cars and great humor would be sorely diminished.

There also the big wide world of the blogosphere out there that provides endless insight as well as maddening inanity. But it’s all a part of the mix. Bark Bark Woof Woof marked nine years back in November. This year was the most prolific (if not insightful) with over 2,00 posts — some of them even worth reading — and a new look and platform thanks to CLW and WordPress. I owe so much to so many people who have linked and promoted this little bit of the blogosphere, especially Rick at SFDB, and those who have included me in their effort: Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, and Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction. I have become a lot better at this largely because of them.

And then, of course, there’s you, dear Reader. Believe it or not, I don’t do this just because I love to write. Well, I do love to write, but it would seem to be a hollow effort if I didn’t think there was someone out there to read it and certainly keep me on my toes. You have made this blog a joy to write, and I am always thinking of you when I sit down here in the early morning to look at the world with dry bemusement and try not to bump into the furniture on my way to the coffee maker.

So here we go into 2013. What’s next?

PS: You can get a t-shirt with that cool picture of Mustang Bobby and Sam at the BBWW Shop. Get yours today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Twinkie Defense

Paul Krugman notes the passing of the Twinkie and the era it represented.

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

As he notes, tax rates were high — some as high as 91% — but people still made a lot of money and lived pretty well (including George Romney and his family).  Labor unions were very strong, and yet companies were still able to make money and crank out the things the consumer wanted, even if it was junk food, cigarettes, and Edsels.

The Twinkie was a harmless snack, all sweetness and light, but it also became symbolic of an era that looked good on the surface but covered up a lot of things we’d rather forget: segregation and paranoia, polio and Senator McCarthy, Sputnik and duck-and-cover.  We couldn’t survive on Twinkies alone; they were little sugar bombs just waiting to go off.  They even formed the basis of the defense of Dan White, the man who assassinated Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in San Francisco in 1978: the junk food made him do it.

It may be just karmic that the demise of the Hostess Brands line of bland and poisonous foods like Ding-Dongs and Wonder Bread come to the end of their current life soon after the end of a presidential campaign that represented a backwards march to the era when the kind of food they sold was what America was all about.  We can be all nostalgic about those days, but as Dr. Krugman notes, “we are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.”

Have some granola.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shiny Object

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of the first compact disc.

It’s been three decades since the first CD went on sale in Japan. The shiny discs came to dominate music industry sales, but their popularity has faded in the digital age they helped unleash. The CD is just the latest musical format to rise and fall in roughly the same 30-year cycle.

Compact discs had been pressed before 1982, but the first CD to officially go on sale was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.

It would be a few years before I got my first CD player.  It was a Christmas gift from my parents in 1985, and I still have it.  I also have my first CD somewhere.

I also have a phonograph and a collection of vinyl albums, a collection of cassettes (I got my first cassette player in 1968), and I even have an 8-track player; it’s built into the radio in the kitchen.  Oh, and the Mustang has a hook-up for an MP3, so I’m ready for anything.

HT to JMG.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tales Of A Ninth Grade Nothing

By now you’ve heard this story:

Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The article by Jason Horowitz in the Washington Post goes on to tell how Mr. Romney made his way through Cranbrook and how all the rituals and expectations at the school shaped him as a young man. I know the story well because I went through it, too. Except I, like a lot of other kids, was on the receiving end of the ritualistic bullying.

I don’t need to go into all the details about what I went through during my freshman — and only — year at the hands of my tormentors at about the same time — 1967 — at St. George’s. It’s not that it’s too painful to recall; I’m saving that for my novel. And it’s not that nearly fifty years later we need to bring it out to hold Mr. Romney responsible for what he did when he was eighteen. Frankly, I think we all did really terrible things when we were that age whether we went to an elite prep school or a public high school. It’s part of growing up. It’s horrible but it’s life.

So why am I even bringing it up? Here’s why:

“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”

Romney’s campaign hastily scheduled the radio interview for the candidate to call in from Omaha, where he is holding a campaign event later Wednesday, to respond to The Post’s report.

Romney said the incident involving cutting the hair of John Lauber, whom some students suspected was gay, occurred “a long time ago.”

“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.” [Emphasis added.]

It’s the “I don’t remember” that resonates. That’s the part that we should look out for. As my brother noted in an e-mail, “either he’s A) lying and hoping we’ll buy it or B) he did this kind of shit so often it got lost in the pile.”

I’ll go with Option B. John Lauber was just one of many in a long line of boys that went through the mill, so perhaps it isn’t any wonder that Mr. Romney does not recall the specific incident. But he certainly recalls the mindset. It was expected of him that he, the scion of upper-class privilege and the heir to the fortune of his family, would be a leader of the ruthless and intolerant in holding up the strict unspoken patriarchy that is endemic in the courts of high school peerage. And that peerage and sense of entitlement is what still speaks from the campaign stump. His statements about enjoying firing people and counting Cadillacs may shock the folks who never went to places like Cranbrook, but those of us who did know it as a matter of course. We’ve heard it all before. It comes with the territory, along with the account at Brook Brothers and the Ford Country Squire.

Here’s the difference, though. About a year ago I was contacted through Facebook by two men whom I knew in high school. Both of them reached out to me to make heartfelt apologies — with no qualifiers — for bullying me and asked forgiveness. One said that what he had done to me all those years ago had stayed with him and he felt he had to make amends. I forgave them; not because of what happened in 1967, but because of what they were doing now by reaching out to me. As opposed to “‘I don’t remember that incident,’ Romney said, laughing.” Nearly fifty years later, Mitt Romney is still the eighteen year old kid laughing about an incident he doesn’t recall, and his non-apology apology is couched in the disqualifying qualifiers of “If I offended, then I apologize.” That tells you a lot about his character. He’s never grown up. He’s still the son of privilege; he’s still the entitled one, and he still thinks the presidency is to be handed over to him as a matter of right. And that’s the most important part of this story.

HT to Judy Blume for a title to paraphrase.

Tales Of A Ninth Grade Nothing

By now you’ve heard this story:

Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The article by Jason Horowitz in the Washington Post goes on to tell how Mr. Romney made his way through Cranbrook and how all the rituals and expectations at the school shaped him as a young man. I know the story well because I went through it, too. Except I, like a lot of other kids, was on the receiving end of the ritualistic bullying.

I don’t need to go into all the details about what I went through during my freshman — and only — year at the hands of my tormentors at about the same time — 1967 — at St. George’s. It’s not that it’s too painful to recall; I’m saving that for my novel. And it’s not that nearly fifty years later we need to bring it out to hold Mr. Romney responsible for what he did when he was eighteen. Frankly, I think we all did really terrible things when we were that age whether we went to an elite prep school or a public high school. It’s part of growing up. It’s horrible but it’s life.

So why am I even bringing it up? Here’s why:

“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”

Romney’s campaign hastily scheduled the radio interview for the candidate to call in from Omaha, where he is holding a campaign event later Wednesday, to respond to The Post’s report.

Romney said the incident involving cutting the hair of John Lauber, whom some students suspected was gay, occurred “a long time ago.”

“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.” [Emphasis added.]

It’s the “I don’t remember” that resonates. That’s the part that we should look out for. As my brother noted in an e-mail, “either he’s A) lying and hoping we’ll buy it or B) he did this kind of shit so often it got lost in the pile.”

I’ll go with Option B. John Lauber was just one of many in a long line of boys that went through the mill, so perhaps it isn’t any wonder that Mr. Romney does not recall the specific incident. But he certainly recalls the mindset. It was expected of him that he, the scion of upper-class privilege and the heir to the fortune of his family, would be a leader of the ruthless and intolerant in holding up the strict unspoken patriarchy that is endemic in the courts of high school peerage. And that peerage and sense of entitlement is what still speaks from the campaign stump. His statements about enjoying firing people and counting Cadillacs may shock the folks who never went to places like Cranbrook, but those of us who did know it as a matter of course. We’ve heard it all before. It comes with the territory, along with the account at Brook Brothers and the Ford Country Squire.

Here’s the difference, though. About a year ago I was contacted through Facebook by two men whom I knew in high school. Both of them reached out to me to make heartfelt apologies — with no qualifiers — for bullying me and asked forgiveness. One said that what he had done to me all those years ago had stayed with him and he felt he had to make amends. I forgave them; not because of what happened in 1967, but because of what they were doing now by reaching out to me. As opposed to “‘I don’t remember that incident,’ Romney said, laughing.” Nearly fifty years later, Mitt Romney is still the eighteen year old kid laughing about an incident he doesn’t recall, and his non-apology apology is couched in the disqualifying qualifiers of “If I offended, then I apologize.” That tells you a lot about his character. He’s never grown up. He’s still the son of privilege; he’s still the entitled one, and he still thinks the presidency is to be handed over to him as a matter of right. And that’s the most important part of this story.

HT to Judy Blume for a title to paraphrase.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Short Takes

Egypt raided the offices of non-governmental agencies, including three from the U.S.

Same Old — North Korea dashes any thoughts of rapprochement with South Korea.

To Boldly Go — China plans to expand their role in the final frontier.

Jamaica’s opposition party has won election in a landslide.

Verizon ticks off the web with news of a new $2 fee for payment.

A Day Ahead — Samoa skips Friday, December 30, align itself with its neighbors on the International Date Line.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Short Takes

The volcano is still erupting in Indonesia.

The drones are back in the skies over Yemen.

Burma
held an election that nobody thought was legit.

In India, President Obama promises “mid-course corrections.”

Hawaii is on the verge of passing same-sex unions.

There was a data breach at the GSA, so if you work there, check your credit cards.

Did you reset your clocks if you were on daylight saving time?

Tropical Update: For its exit, the system known as Tomas turned into a hurricane again as it heads out to sea.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take A Walk, Man

Via TPM:

This is a little like hearing someone died but you’d already figured they’d been dead for a while. Sony has announced it’s ceasing production of the Sony Walkman, the once revolutionary cassette music player that debuted in 1979. There will still be MP3 ‘Walkman’ and the CD version. But for the original, real thing, the cassette player, that’s it, though a Chinese company has licensed the name to sell a similar product in Asia and the Middle East. Sony says they’ve sold over 200 million of the things over 31 years.

See, I told you cassettes were a fad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Long Ago Was 1992?

Two of my former college classmates have kids going to the University of Miami; one is about to graduate, the other is entering as a freshman. In honor of that, Beloit College is out with their annual Mindset List.

Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

[...]

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Some samples:

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

10. Entering college this fall in a country where a quarter of young people under 18 have at least one immigrant parent, they aren’t afraid of immigration…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

Feel old yet?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here To See It

The buzz is that somewhere near five billion people will watch the inauguration of Barack Obama today. Not all of them will be in Washington, obviously (although the police and Secret Service seem to be ready for them), but the whole world will be watching on TV or over the internet; gathered in small homes in the middle of the Kenyan savanna, in public places on Jumbotrons, including in downtown Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center, and over the radio. I’ll be watching from my office, and like all historic events, this will be one of those good times that I will always remember where I was when I witnessed it, like the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969.

I hope that this will be a moment that we all share and remember. Regardless of our political beliefs, whether we voted for Barack Obama or someone else, we know that this is truly an event of history. If you’re old enough to remember past inaugurations that were considered historic, such as FDR’s in March 1933 or John F. Kennedy’s in 1961, you may not have thought — at the time — that they were meaningful; most thought they didn’t really mean that much at the moment except for great speeches of inspiration and bold new programs. But as we’re being told over and over again, nobody can deny that today we take the first step into a larger world.

Five billion people is a lot of people who will witness this day, including some people to whom today means a great deal, including the Little Rock Nine, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the next generation of African Americans to whom the torch is being passed. And there are some who won’t get to see it because they’re not here with us. As Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) noted last night on NBC News with Brian Williams, a lot of people who helped create this moment are no longer alive: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, A. Philip Randolph, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Shirley Chisholm, Medgar Evers, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Viola Liuzzo, and the many people who sacrificed their fortunes or their lives for trying to achieve the self-evident truth promised to them and to us.

And in a way I’m sorry that there are some people who are not around to see this only for the fact that it would teach them that they were so wrong to stand in the way of history; people like the late governors of states in the South like Orval Faubus of Arkansas and George Wallace of Alabama. Both Mr. Faubus and Mr. Wallace later changed their views and expressed regret for their actions, so this would be a time for them to see that the bitterness they engendered has turned to good. Some, however, like Lester Maddox and Jesse Helms, went to their graves without repentance, and today would be a good day to have them here to show them that despite their best efforts, nothing they did could stop this day from coming. In fact, they may have even hastened it by reminding us in stark terms how their racism and intolerance made us resolve to banish it and prove them so wrong.

So I am grateful to be here today to see this, not just for the moment of history, but for knowing how long it has taken us to get here and the responsibility that we now have to make it worth the effort, the sacrifice, and the hope.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back / Looking Forward

It’s time for my annual review of the predictions and prognostications for the coming year.

A year ago I looked ahead to an election year and said:

- A Democrat will be elected president and the Democrats will increase their numbers in the House and Senate. Yeah, that’s an easy one; the trick is, which Democrat and by how many seats? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee (and the Iowa caucuses are three days away), then it will be a close race against whomever the GOP finally lands on and the shitstorm of negative, childish and outrageous campaigning from them will make everyone reel in disgust. If it’s not Hillary Clinton, the shitstorm of negative, childish and outrageous campaigning from them will make everyone reel in disgust. Which means that the GOP will go ballistic on anyone, even if they choose to nominate someone who isn’t a cross-dressing thrice-married adulterer, a sluggish and thuggish good ole boy from Tennessee by way of Law & Order and Curly Sue, a flip-flopping automaton with magic underwear and a rather odd way of packing a station wagon, a war hero who thinks being a maverick is sucking up to the current administration, or a folksy former governor from Arkansas who sells himself as a “Christian leader” and lumps gays in with pedophiles as “aberrant.”

So it’s time to go out on a limb here and predict that it will be President-elect Hillary Clinton when I write this piece a year from today, with a strong majority in the House, ten more Democratic senators, and a whole new cottage industry of right-wing nutsery in full bloom. George W. Bush will retire to Crawford to watch someone else clear his brush. He will grant interviews to fawning sycophants from Newsweek and Time and portray himself as the next LBJ without the charm.

I’d give myself a B on that one; I missed on the Democratic nominee (but then, Barack Obama was still behind in the polls), but I sure got the Republicans’ and the right-wing nutsery’s number.

As for Iraq:

- We won’t be any closer to getting out of Iraq, and at 12:01 on January 21, 2009, it will become the Democrats’ war.

True. And now we can add Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and — as always — the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Surprises: The Economy. The warning signs were out there about the economy a year ago. I certainly knew that the housing bubble had burst because my landlord was on the lam and I had to move out in June. But not being an economist, I didn’t see the rest of the dominoes lined up, and neither, apparently, did John McCain, the Bush administration, and Wall Street.

The silly stuff:

- We will continue our obsession with the trivial. Several more white women will disappear and get coverage on Larry King Live, while no one will notice when it happens to countless other people who aren’t beautiful or packing diapers in the back seat. More and more politicians will be caught with their pants down, literally and figuratively because they are human; the fun stuff is when it happens to people who have made a living demonizing those whose practice they are emulating.

That’s too easy; people are people, and our obsession with fools craving their fifteen minutes will always be with us, be it a plumber from Toledo or a governor from Alaska. The one surprise was that the politician caught with his pants down was John Edwards.

So it’s time to boldly go forward with my predictions, being careful to be general enough to get some right so I can do this post a year from now and call them good.

- President Obama will get a honeymoon for a few months where he will actually get some things done. He knows he has only eighteen months at the most to do his most effective work; by June 2010 Congress will be gearing up for the mid-terms, then before you know it, it will be 2012. So expect a big economic stimulus package like FDR’s New Deal and a middle-class tax cut, and expect a lot of blow-back from the GOP who will scream about socialism and boondoggles. There will be set-backs and issues taken off the front burner, including health care reform, and getting out of Iraq will be harder than we thought. Of course some foreign government will test the new administration — like they’re not already — and we will be surprised at how the new president handles it. The economy will show signs of recovery by September, thanks in part to the stimulus by the government but also from the ingenuity and resilience of the American people.

- In spite of setbacks like Prop 8 and Amendment 2, the march toward equality for the queer community will continue. I think we’ll see the repeal of DADT within the first year of the Obama administration and a continued shift in public attitudes about the treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. There will be bumps, bruises, hurt feelings, and setbacks, but the tide is turning.

- The rest of the world will welcome us back like the prodigal child, and we will reach out to them, recognizing that we have a lot of atonement to do. This will be in part to try to bring peace, but also to help get our economy back on track; you can’t sell things to people when you’re calling them part of the axis of evil. In that vein, the Obama administration will take steps to ease the travel and money restrictions on Cuba, which will infuriate a few loudmouths on Calle Ocho in Little Havana and make farmers and auto parts distributors very happy.

- Jeb Bush will run for the Senate here in Florida and win in 2010. But he will become the Ted Kennedy of the Bush family; the Senate is as far as he will ever go in national politics; the only way he would ever get beyond that is if he changed his name to John Ellis Obama.

- Meanwhile, Florida will still struggle with a lousy economy and the fall-off in the housing and tourist trade. The state legislature will refuse to consider raising taxes and will probably end up taking even more money from education, all the while wondering why test scores are falling. D’oh.

- The Detroit Lions will actually win a football game. And while I make no predictions about how the Tigers will do, they — along with the Yankees — proved that spending a lot of money on star players doesn’t buy you a winning season.

- 2009 marks some interesting anniversaries: the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11′s landing on the moon — where were you? — and the beginning of the Nixon administration and all that came with it, something that still captures our imagination today.

- I wish I could predict what new fads, obsessions, words, and trends will pop up to distract us for the next year or so, but trust me, they will be there, and just as we got tired of hearing about “game changer,” “lipstick on a pig,” “Joe the Plumber,” Twitter, and the rest of the words that should be banished, like “First Dude,” “maverick,” “bailout,” “carbon footprint,” and anything else that came and stayed too long, I hope a year from now we can dump them onto the ash-heap of history.

- Personal predictions. Last year I boldly predicted that I would finish writing Small Town Boys. Wrong; it’s on hiatus while I take care of some other business, including finishing another story. I promise to get back to it this winter. I also predicted that I would do some restoration work on the Pontiac, but that was before my physics experiment with the Mustang in downtown Coral Gables. In a sense, I have restored the Pontiac, but only to keep it running well as my only car. My job has had some interesting twists and turns, and last month came full circle, bringing me back to the same place I was at this time last year but with new responsibilities and an appreciation — on both sides — of finding out that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone (thank you, Joni Mitchell).

My final prediction from last year:

- One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

I’m sticking with that. Happy New Year and best wishes. I hope we’ll all be here to do this again a year from today.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sense Memory

Between 1976 and 1986 I spent my summers as a camp counselor in the Colorado Rockies. Every morning I woke up to the music of KVOD out of Denver, which back then was one of the few remaining commercial classical stations. Every morning they signed on with Rapsodia Romana (op.2) by George Enescu. To this day I can’t hear this music without remembering those cool summer mornings in the mountains and the sunrise lighting up the valley below the camp.


Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life in the Post-R.V. Era

Garrison Keillor reflects on what life will be like when Winnebagos go the way of the covered wagon.

So we will need to amuse ourselves in new ways. I predict that banjo sales will pick up. The screened porch will come back in style. And the art of storytelling will burgeon along with it. Stories are common currency in life but only to people on foot. Nobody ever told a story to a clerk at a drive-up window, but you can walk up to the lady at the check-out counter and make small talk and she might tell you, as a woman told me the other day as she rang up my groceries, that she had gotten a puppy that day to replace the old dog who had to be put down a month ago, and right there was a little exchange of humanity. Her willingness to tell me that made her real to me. People who aren’t real to each other are dangerous to each other. Stories give us the simple empathy that is the basis of the Golden Rule, which is the basis of civilized society.

So when gas passes $5 and heads for $8 and $10, we will learn to sit in dim light with our loved ones and talk about hunting and fishing adventures, about war and romance and times of consummate foolishness when we threw caution to the wind and flung ourselves over the Cliffs of Desire and did not land on the Sharp Rocks of Regret.

Some of my fondest summer memories were just sitting on the back porch watching the lightning bugs dance through the deepening twilight, with nothing but the sounds of the crickets, the cicadas, and Ernie Harwell on the radio calling the Detroit Tigers game.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Reord of Voyager

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1.

Thirty years ago today, the Voyager 1 space probe — a one-ton robotic craft whose long antennas make it look rather like a spider the size of a school bus — was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a mission to reconnoiter Jupiter and Saturn. To succeed, Voyager would have to survive five years in the vacuum of space, where it would encounter cosmic rays, solar flares, the hurtling rocks and sand of the asteroid belt, and Jupiter’s intense radiation bands.

The probe did all that, transmitting back reams of scientific data and memorable color photos: of the sputtering red and yellow volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io; of the shimmering blue ice that shrouds Io’s fellow satellite Europa, beneath which a liquid ocean is suspected to dwell; of Saturn’s myriad rings and the murky mysteries of its orange satellite, Titan, whose hazy atmosphere is thought to approximate that of the early Earth.

Having accomplished its mission, Voyager 1 might have quietly retired. Instead it remains active to this day, faithfully calling home from nearly 10 billion miles away — so great a distance that its radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, take more than 14 hours to reach Earth. From Voyager’s perch, the Sun is just another star, south of Rigel in the constellation Orion, and the Sun’s planets have faded to invisibility.

Like its twin, Voyager 2 — which dallied behind to examine the outer planets Uranus and Neptune and is departing the solar system on another trajectory — Voyager 1 is approaching the edge of the solar system. That limit is defined by a teardrop-shaped bubble called the heliosphere, where the solar wind (particles blown off the Sun’s outer atmosphere) comes to a halt.

If all continues to go well, Voyager should pierce the heliosphere’s outer skin by around 2015. It will then depart into the void of interstellar space, where it is destined to wander among the stars forever.

Mindful of this mind-boggling fact, the astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake persuaded NASA to attach a gold-plated phonograph record to each of the Voyager spacecraft.

Containing photographs, natural sounds of Earth and 90 minutes of music from all over our world, the record was intended to preserve something of human culture beyond what an intelligent extraterrestrial, encountering the craft at some far-distant time and place, might infer from the spacecraft itself.

The information etched into the grooves of the Voyager record is expected to last at least one billion years. That’s a long time: A billion years ago, life on Earth was first venturing forth from the seas.

As for the Golden Record itself, it may be the only thing left of our civilization for anyone else to find. The inscription on it reads, “This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

Right now I’d settle for making it to January 2009.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Has It Really Been Ten Years?

It’s hard to believe that ten years have past since my friend Brian first came to visit me and my ex in Albuquerque. We went for a balloon ride in one of the city’s trademark hot-air balloons, he got his first taste of real New Mexico food, played with Sam, and watched the amazing sunsets over the West Mesa.


Albuquerque sunset

We hung out in the back yard and talked about him moving out there, which he did a couple of years later…only to have me move to Florida a year after that.

But still…an entire decade. That’s hard to believe.

Oh, yeah; something else happened that weekend.