Tanka for 7 April 2015

Pounding wind, rain, hail --
April can't make up its mind.
Sparkling in the trees:
After the rain, bright sunlight.
A scent of thyme from the path.


Not that I care

Author Terry (Diskworld) Pratchett is dead.  (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015.)

Given his strong and persistently outspoken opinion in favor of euthanasia (they call it "right to die") -- did Sir Terry off himself? Whether he did or not -- is the unquestioning silence of the press further evidence of pro-euthanasia bias? 

Pratchett:  atheist, egotist . . .  suicide? Doesn't sound like a very creative end for a guy who would have wanted to be known as creative. May the God in whom he did not believe have mercy on his soul.


Desert Storm - The Ground War

On this day, 24 February, in 1991, I was working at the machine shop.  The radio news broke in over the "Classic Rock" music we listened to.  (Believe me, those songs were nowhere near as "classic" then as they are now -- ahem, oldies station!, ahem -- about as "classic" as a fuzzy half-pint of cottage cheese forgotten in the back of the refrigerator.) The news report gave sketchy information about major ground action launched from Kuwait into Iraq. 

I remember my stomach being in knots.  Was this going to be "another Vietnam" -- i.e., "quagmire" -- as the media hoped insisted?  Or would it be another Grenada? 

The armed pacification of Iraq was stopped short by Sec. Def. Colin Powell with the okay of President George H. W. Bush.  But then of course we had to go back (March 2003 under President George W. Bush) and dig Saddam Hussein  out of his hole (December 2003).  One thing led to another, until the petulant man-child light-bringer psychopathic malignant narcissist  President Barack Obama pulled out the remaining U.S. troops, even in the absence of a status of forces agreement with the free government of Iraq (December 2011).

And then came "insurgency" and ISIS. 

So the 1991 invasion turned out not to be a quagmire nor a Grenada.  But it is looking like it is turning into another Vietnam after all.  Having won the military conflict, having established and seen the beginnings of a free republic, the Democrats have once again sold out a victory purchased with priceless blood.  In Vietnam: Communism, the killing fields, slavery and misery.  In Iraq: Islamo-Socialism, the killing fields, slavery and misery. 

I HOPE that is not the final conclusion. 


Is it too soon to do any looking back?

Maybe so.  And, too much nostalgia is toxic. 


I am still glad I finally got up the nerve to follow my heart instead of what I was told should be the "smart" thing to do. 

You may think that heart over head would be pretty darn difficult for somebody as logical and steel-trap-minded as I used to be.  Well, you would think that if you had known me back then.

But this is True Love we're talking about here.  Do you think this happens every day? 

I was in a second floor room at Berkeley High School one Saturday in the spring of 1979, taking the Graduate Records Exam.  In case, you know, I wanted more school after the baccalaureate.  Dust slowly swirled in slanting beams of sunlight through the unshaded upper panes of windows ten feet high (it is a very old building).  It was the logical reasoning or verbal acuity or mental ass-headedness section of the test, if I recall correctly, and suddenly -- I didn't care any more.  About the test.  About the future.  About my great potential.  I knew with great clarity that I gave neither a rat nor any portion of a rat's anatomy.  So I threw it all away for love.

There was also the final experiment of the spiritual retreat at the Trappist monastery in Vina.  "What do you want of me, oh Lord?  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!"  Imagine my surprise when an audible (to me) answer came back.  MARRY HER.  "Um, bad connection here, Lord -- it sounded like you said..."  GO BACK AND MARRY HER! 

So that's what I did. 

Came face to face with the fact that I don't have an ambitious bone in my body, and accepted that.  Heard the voice from the top of the mountain -- which in my case was an apricot orchard in the upper Sacramento Valley -- and did what it said.  Disappointed one set of parents (mine) and thrilled another (hers -- I think).  Mine got over it.  Don't know about hers.  It was all a long time ago.  But it was True Love. The dumbest stuff seemed like the hardest stuff at the time.  Like, telling my parents.  (They hadn't heard the voice, after all.) Seems strange, now more than a third of a century having passed, thinking about it.  It was all a long time ago.  But. It. Was. True. Love.

And it still is.  (Cue birds and flowers!)

Funny thing about The Princess Bride -- Westley tells Buttercup about two things.  One is True Love:  "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while;" and, "This is true love – you think this happens every day?"  The other is about life in general:  "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."  So far, I think Westley was right on both counts.

There is pain.  But the True Love part changes the Pain part.  I have the pain of aging, the pain of Dealing With The Details of Daily Life (often, as amplified by multiple layers of Government Intrusion), the pain of not being able to do much about the pain suffered by those I love.  But at least it's not the pain of remorse, the pain of having your dreams haunted by the Ancient Booer: "Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up!" 

"So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo!"


Android Through-the-Looking-Glass Reader App

I got the Kindle reader app for my Samsung Galaxy 4 tablet.  Because I have that with me at work. 

Cons:  Harder to turn the page with your left hand. Battery goes down faster than Kindle Keyboard e-reader. If there's a built-in dictionary I haven't figured out how to use it. Harder to mark passages.  And so on.

Pros:  Well, it's there, so I can pick up that hard slog through Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiment  during lunch and make some progress. 

Or can I???

The Android Kindle reader app has this little thing that tells you how much longer it is going to take to finish the book.  If you open the reader and then pay more attention to your salad than the book, you actually go into negative reading progress.  The more often I chip away at a few pages of 18th century philosophy, the farther away (in time) the app thinks I am from the end.  Over the last few sessions, I've seen my finish estimate go from 4 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours 40 minutes.  I feel like Alice in the Looking Glass world.

As Adam Smith would say, how frequently soever one makes application to endeavor to accomplish that to which all good will and firmness of purpose has set the effort toward the end in mind, never the less does the final attainment of the long sought after goal seem to vanish like morning mist. 


My 2014 Year in Books

War and Peace - - Leo Tolstoy (NOT Recommended!!!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - - J. K. Rowling

The Conquest of Canaan - - Booth Tarkington
Penrod - - Booth Tarkington
Gentleman Takes a Chance - - Sarah Hoyt "Shifter" novel
Witchfinder - - Sarah Hoyt "Magical Empires" novel
Step to the Stars - - Lester del Rey
Dragonhunters - - Sabrina Chase "Guardians Compact" novel
Darkness Ascendant: Book Two of the Catmage Chronicles - - Meryl Yourish
New Treasure Seekers - - Edith Nesbit
The Light Princess - - George MacDonald
Sunk at Sea - - R. M. Ballantyne
Under the Waves: Diving in Deep Waters - - R. M. Ballantyne
Captains Courageous - - Rudyard Kipling
Sea Warfare - - Rudyard Kipling
The Sword of Shannara - - Terry Brooks
Fledgling - - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Stardogs - - Dave Freer (NOT recommended!!!)
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - - Jerome K. Jerome

Spe Salvi ["Saved in Hope"] - - Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est ["God is Love"] - - Pope Benedict XVI

My Guide to RPG Storytelling - - Aron Christensen
On Fairy Stories, and Leaf by Niggle - - J. R. R. Tolkien

Born to Run - - Christopher McDougall
The Cruelest Miles [history of the sled dog teams taking diphtheria antitoxin to Nome] - - Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury
The Weight of Poor: a Strategy to End Poverty - - Cloward and Piven
No More Wacos - - David B. Kopel and Paul H. Blackman

- - -
And. . . currently part way through The Theory of Moral Sentiments - - Adam Smith


Bill of Rights Day - December 15

Bill of Rights Day - December 15

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

These first ten amendments to the United States Constitution formally recognize our innate freedoms.  We have rights because we are human beings.  Rights are not things that are bestowed by a government.

Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Government can neither impose a state religion upon you nor punish you for exercising the religion of your choice. You may express your opinions, write and publish what you wish, gather peacefully with others, and formally ask government to correct injustices.
Amendment II - A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Individuals ("the people") have the right to own and use weapons without interference from the government.
Amendment III - No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The government cannot force you to house its agents.
Amendment IV - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
You may not be arrested or "detained" arbitrarily. No agency of government may inspect or seize your property or possessions without first obtaining a warrant. To obtain a warrant, they must show specific cause for the search or seizure and swear under oath that they are telling the truth about these reasons. Furthermore, the warrant itself must state specifically and in detail the place, things, or people it covers. Warrants that are too general or vague are not valid; searches or seizures that exceed the terms of the warrant are not valid.
Amendment V - No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
No one outside the military may be tried for a serious crime without first being indicted by a grand jury (of citizens). Once found not guilty, a person may not be tried again for the same deed. You can’t be forced to be a witness or provide evidence against yourself in a criminal case. You can’t be sent to prison or have your assets seized without due process. The government can’t take your property without paying market value for it.
Amendment VI - In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Trials cannot be unreasonably postponed or held in secret. In any criminal case against you, you have a right to public trial by a jury of unbiased citizens (thus ensuring that the state can’t use a "party-line" judge to railroad you). The trial must be held in the state or region where the crime was committed. You cannot be held without charges. You cannot be held on charges that are kept secret from you. You have a right to know who is making accusations against you and to confront those witnesses in court. You have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify in your favor and a right to the services of an attorney.
Amendment VII - In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The right to trial by jury extends to civil, as well as criminal, cases. Once a jury has made its decision, no court can overturn or otherwise change that decision except via accepted legal processes (for instance, granting of a new trial when an appeals court determines that your rights were violated in the original proceeding).
Amendment VIII - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Bail, fines, and punishments must all fit the crime and punishments must not be designed for cruelty.
Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
You have more rights than are specifically listed in the Bill of Rights.
Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The U.S. federal government has only those specific powers granted to it by the Constitution. All other powers belong either to the states or to individuals.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, taken together, mean that the federal government has only the authority granted to it, while the people are presumed to have any right or power not specifically forbidden to them. The Bill of Rights as a whole is dedicated to describing certain key rights of the people that the government is categorically forbidden to remove, abridge, or infringe. The Bill of Rights clearly places the people in charge of their own lives, and the government within strict limits - the very opposite of the situation we have allowed to develop today.

[from  Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership ]