Monday, April 17, 2017

Meditations Whilst Stuck In Traffic

Impermanence: This traffic will not last forever.. There was a time when I wasn't in this traffic jam, and there will be a time when I will no longer be in this, and at that later time, it won't seem to matter nearly as much as it seems to matter now.

Stoicism: This is the situation.  Thus, the cars are not moving.  How I react to this situation is my own decision - why increase my suffering and the suffering of others with impatience and anger?

The Origin of Suffering:  This is the world as I'm experiencing it at this moment.  To wish that the world was somehow different is to cling to a false illusion, and clinging to delusion is the origin of suffering.

The Idiot Driving Ahead of Me:  There's at least four car lengths open ahead of him.  Why doesn't he move forward and let all of us behind him advance a few tens of feet?  Grrrrrr!  Beep!

George Carlin: "Did you ever notice while driving that everyone going slower that you is a moron, and everyone driving faster than you is a maniac?"

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Alternate Reality

Meanwhile, for those of you keeping score at home, I'm still spending an inordinate amount of time escaping the depressing reality of the here and now by retreating into a Minecraft fantasy world.

Here's a tour of a recent house I built.  My skill set is still pretty limited and I don't go for all the modifications and add-ons that others apply to their game playing, but I have advanced way beyond the level I was at the last time I posted a game-play video.   

In any event, in the Minecraft world, there is no President Trump, no Republican-led Congress, no I-85 bridge collapse, and no impending world war.   Just zombies, creepers, giant spiders, and ghasts, but those are all pleasant by comparison.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Futility of Philosophy

"Quick!  It's an emergency!  Someone call a philosopher right now!," said no one, ever.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The apocalypse has surely descended upon us, or the Masters playing the video game in which we're trapped are surely in a foul mood.

Highway I-85 collapsed in a fire I passed over late last week, and while the Georgia DOT hopes to have that section of road repaired by June 15, no one is holding their breath expecting the deadline to be met and in the meantime, the northeast quadrant of Atlanta is nearly impassable.  I've telecommuted since last Thursday and only attempted to drive to the office today, but, oh, let me tell you about today.

After severe thunderstorms and tornadoes hit Georgia on Monday, not one, not two, but three fronts passed through the state today, each bringing golfball size hail, thunderstorms, and the occasional tornado.  My iPhone batteries almost ran out from all the flash flood and severe weather alerts I've been getting all day.  The commute, already trying and challenging before the highway collapsed, was all the worse for the traffic-choked detours and side streets, and then nearly brought to a complete halt by the weather and the limited visibility, flooded roads, and work crews occupying lanes during rush hour trying to clear clogged stormwater drains.   

It seems that whatever you believe controls things around here, be it science, be it chance and happenstance, be it the old or the new gods, be it the Destroyer of Dreams and Destructor of Delights, be it two 13-year-olds playing a video game somewhere in New Jersey, whatever, it seems someone has decided to close Atlanta off so no one can escape and then flood us with rain, hail, and thunderbolts just to see what we'd do.

Many of us here are not amused. 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Of Course It Was

News reports are now saying that it was a person smoking crack under the highway that started the fire, that collapsed the underpass, that snarled the rush hour, and that is going to have Atlanta's already challenged traffic totally tied up in knots "for the foreseeable future."

Crackheads - this is why we can't have nice things.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

American Motor Over Smoldered Field

Apocalyptic scene from the evening commute - a pillar of black smoke emerging from beneath an underpass.  Sounds of howling belldogs and screaming sirens in the background, the traffic inches by the fire.  Even with my windows rolled up, I could feel the intense heat from the flames as I drove by.

Home, I went on line to see what was burning.  "Downtown streets closed amid ‘red mercury’ investigation," read the Atlanta Constitution Journal headline.  "A man claiming to have red mercury from Africa walked into the Region 2 location of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission," according to police.  Homeland Security was called, and parts of Peachtree Street, Peachtree Center Avenue, and Courtland Street have been closed.  A hazmat team, bomb squad and fire trucks were seen near the investigation.  Sounds serious, but that's downtown, nowhere near this fire.

Maybe this is it?  "A car caught fire off U.S. 78 in DeKalb County after someone was shot," the next headline reads.   "One person was in critical condition after being shot in a car on U.S. 78 in DeKalb County," an incident confirmed by police to be related to road rage.  Well, this involved a burning car, but that incident was happening over near Stone Mountain, miles from the fire I saw.   

No answers to be found in the AJC, but fortunately for us the website for local television channel WSB has the story. "Massive fire shuts down I-85 N," their headline reads.   Traffic is now being diverted from the stretch of road above - I was apparently lucky enough to have made it past before the highway was shut. No details about what was burning, though, or why, but from the look of the "coverage" (actually, just a collection of tweets) it appears to have been a car fire.

I see a Facebook post report a "major fire disaster at I-85 and Armour Drive."  An entire section of the freeway I was just driving on has collapsed to the ground below.  "There was a great deal of PVC pipe being stored there," the post says, "which will cause enormous air pollution. Stay away if you live here.  This will take months to repair."

Okay, now the AJC has finally picked up the story.  They confirmed that the highway collapsed about a half hour after I had passed it.  The interstate will be closed in both directions "for the foreseeable future," they say.

Rush hour in Atlanta is turning into Armageddon.  News at 11.

Here's Montreal's Silver Mt.Zion Band to help us make sense of it all:

Monday, March 27, 2017

One afternoon back in the late '70s (or was it the very early '80s?), I took a nap on the living room sofa.  While I was asleep, in another room Mary Ellen put on the album After the Heat by Brian Eno and members of the German band Cluster. As the sounds of Side 2 began to intermingle with my sleep, they manifested themselves into lucid dreams. I became aware that I was listening to a record during The Belldog some time around the point where the vocals start - it might have been the sound of a human voice for the first time on an otherwise instrumental album that startled me out of deep sleep.  But it was as if the music was being channeled directly into my subconscious and I laid there a while longer in a state somewhere between sleep and consciousness, drifting along on the stream of music until I finally awoke fully, energized and strangely inspired, and I was forever changed.

Thirty-five years later and for the first time, I'm off to see Hans-Joachim Roedelius, the surviving member of Cluster, who will be performing at downtown Atlanta's Mammal Gallery tonight.  

Regarding the title of the song, Eno wrote, 
"I was walking through Washington Square Park, towards the 'Arc de Triomphe' style monument there. There was a little group of people under the arch, and the full moon stood low on the horizon, visible through the top of the arch. As I got closer I saw what it was that had attracted their attention. A very grubby man of indeterminate age was playing an out-of-tune upright piano on wheels: his touch was that of a plummy night club pianist, but the chords he used were completely strange. Over this sequence of soft discords he sang, again and again, in a trembling voice: "The belldog, where are you?" I have no idea what he meant by the belldog. For me it was (and is) an unidentified mythical character from some unfamiliar mythology...So the vague feeling I have about the belldog is that he is a herald; of what is not clear. Whatever it is, in the song he has either not yet appeared or has gone away..."

Monday, March 20, 2017

I distrust people who take one passage from the Christian Bible and then try and make an argument that the whole rest of the book should be understood through their interpretation of that one passage, so I won't do it.  But I do want to single out the opening lines of the Gospel of John for more discussion, not to try to reinterpret Christian thought but, like the devil himself, to use it for my own purposes.
John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
I understand that the term "Word" was a translation of the Greek logos (Λόγος).  Whatever logos meant to John, to the Greek Stoics before him, logos was the active reason pervading and animating the entirety of the universe. It was usually identified with the divine and Nature, but to the Stoics, logos was the force behind all animate and inanimate matter, and every human possessed a portion of the divine logos.  Whatever might become of a person, nothing or no one could take away that divine spark, that logos, than animated one's existence. 

If we assume that John was familiar with Greek philosophy, particularly Stoic philosophy, then his opening passage takes on new light.  Logos was with God in the beginning and God himself was logos, and as logos now pervades the whole of space, nothing in the universe is separate from anything else in the universe, and both God and man are logos, and the sacred and the profane are both part of one continuum.

John wrote his text some 300 years after Zeno started the Stoic school of philosophy, and sometime between Zeno and John, Buddhism began to embrace the notion that all things were of one nature, which they respectfully referred to as "buddha-nature".  All things not only had buddha-nature, they taught, but all things in the universe, both divine and mortal, were nothing but buddha-nature manifesting itself in the myriad forms found through the cosmos.

There are certainly differences in aspects of Stoicism and Buddhism, and clearly Christianity, even Gnostic Christianity, is different than these two, but all seem to be pointing at an enlightened understanding that all things are cut from the same cloth.  I sometimes think of it as cookie dough - like animal crackers, things can take on several different shapes and forms, but deep down, they're all cookie dough.  Taking a modern, scientific view, we can say that deep down all things are nothing but atoms and looking deeper, atoms are made up of neutrons and protons and electrons, and those are made of, I don't know, quarks or something, and quarks or whatever are composed of strings or string-like matter.  It's turtles all the way down, but through whichever lens we choose, we see that when examined closely enough, the difference between things, the separation between this and that, between self and other, object and observer, begins to break down.  

To avoid confusion with Buddhism or Stoicism or Christian mysticism or quantum physics, I refer to the base material of all matter, the substrate of existence, as potential, italicized to distinguish it from more mundane interpretations of the term.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can Meditation Change Your Appearance?


Nothing in the whole entire universe has any real substance.  Everything consists of potential.

Potential is what I believe the Buddhists meant as buddha-nature, and what the Stoics called logos.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Video footage of spontaneous, anti-Trump demonstration at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Can Meditation Change Your Appearance?

On a related note, for the past few weeks, they've been demoing a building near me at the corner of Peachtree and Collier Road.

As I write tonight, about a third of the building is still standing, and in the open, exposed scar where the building's been torn down one can see pipes and wires hanging out.  Jumbled-up slabs of concrete, flooring and ceiling materials.   The guts of the building spilling out for all to see.

Some may consider the demolition an eye-sore but I find it beautiful.  It shows us the building as it really is, not a polished monument to architecture, but just a big pile of steel and wires and pipes and conduits and tiles, once barely organized and holding it together, but easily reduced to rubble and chaos.  It shows us the building as it really is, but in a way we're not used to seeing it.  The unfamiliar view.

Zen teaches us to see things as they actually are - the thing itself - not perceiving things by the role they play or by the values we imbue them with.  It teaches us to look at the self the same way.  

As I'm coming to understand it, Stoicism encourages the same, unromantic view of things. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Night Video

This is the song that was playing when the gas pump, the heart of the engine, went out in my car. This is the song that broke my car's heart.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

I got to visit my car today.  Last night, after it appeared to die from a broken heart while I was driving home listening to that sad, sad Julien Baker CD, it got towed over to Lexus.  Today, I took an Uber over to the dealer to discuss the repairs and pick up a loaner car while they repair mine.

It turns out the gas pump went out.  Considering the pump is the virtual heart of the engine, pumping gasoline to the cylinders just like the heart pumps blood through the body, it's not much of a stretch to say the car died of a broken heart.

So the adversity was not really as bad as my imagination feared.  Yes, the cost to install a new fuel pump in a Lexus is staggeringly expensive, but not as much as the transmission overhaul that I feared.  I was able to work today comfortably from my own home, a friend offered me a ride but I chose not to be a burden and took Uber to the dealer, and they lent me (free) a brand new Lexus with less than 200 miles on it to drive around in while the parts arrive and they fix mine.  So other than the cost, it's really no big deal. 

I've lived through worse.

Zen teaches that things are only as bad or as good as your mind imagines them to be.  Stoicism holds that you choose whether to suffer or to revel in the circumstances that arise.  The same thing, basically.

But really, I'm fine.  I'll drive the loaner to work tomorrow and show off my "new"car to what I imagine will be my envious co-workers.    

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


I love adversity.

No, that's not really true.  That's bullshit.  No one loves adversity.  Adversity, by its very definition, is exactly what one doesn't want.

However, I can say that I respect adversity and admire it and can appreciate the lessons it teaches us about ourselves.

Case in point: driving home from work today, my car broke down.  Literally just stopped running about a mile from my home and would not go into drive.  Or reverse.  Or anything. Couldn't be driven.  I coasted to the side of the road, then rolled backwards until I wasn't blocking anyone's driveway.

Of course, right at that moment, after a month of drought, a thunderstorm hits as I walked the rest of the way home.   I was soaked to the bone by the time I got home.

I called a wrecker and waited at the car (after another walk back in the rain) for 90 minutes for it to finally show.  He took it away and where once I had a car, I now have a yellow receipt.

I'm safe at home now, but with no car and facing the prospect of an expensive repair, or worse.  I thought I had a busy day planned for tomorrow, and none of my obligations have gone away - I'm just going to have to figure out how to accomplish everything remotely from home (frankly, the least challenging of the hurdles in front of me).  I also have to figure out how to get some groceries and how to get to an ATM (of course, all this happens when I'm low on cash and low on groceries).  But even as I write this, I can think of half a dozen ways to do both - I'm healthy enough to walk several miles and I live in the city where nothing's ever too far away.  I do have to figure out how to get to travel the 10 or 15 miles or so to the dealer that (hopefully) now has my car.  

Now, adversity is teaching me that complaining - like I sorta, kinda was doing above - won't accomplish anything, but I just need to face and solve each problem as it arises. We can't control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it and what we do about it.    

I know I haven't posted much recently, and haven't posted anything meaningful in quite a while, but see what adversity does for us?  It got me blogging again.  But my point is that since the tragic election of last year, I've been taking comfort in the words and writings of the Stoic philosophers, and have been finding more and more that Stoicism is a more practical aid in real day-to-day life then Zen Buddhism ever was.  But the real gift I've discovered is Stoicism as seen from the perspective of Zen, or a Zen-Stoicism cocktail, if you will.  Zen Stoicism, perhaps, or Stoic Buddhism.

If you'll indulge me, I hope to post more about this in the future, but tonight, still drying out from my walks to and from my broke-ass car, I'm going to settle down for a bit with an Old Pal.  

I deserve it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Image result for Henry rollins meme free education

You'd also have a country that wouldn't have elected Donald Trump for President.

Echoing what I said yesterday about a social safety net for coal workers, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote today:
When automation on the farm resulted in the mass migration of Americans from rural to urban areas in the early decades of the 20th century, agricultural states led the way in instituting universal public high school education to prepare for the future. At the dawn of the modern technological age at the end of World War II, the G.I. Bill turned a generation of veterans into college graduates. 
When productivity led to vast profits in America’s auto industry, unions ensured that pay rose accordingly. 
Corporate efforts to keep profits high by keeping pay low were countered by a robust federal minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime. 
Fair taxation of corporations and the wealthy ensured the public a fair share of profits from companies enriched by government investments in science and technology. 
Productivity and pay rose in tandem for decades after World War II, until labor and wage protections began to be eroded. Public education has been given short shrift, unions have been weakened, tax overhauls have benefited the rich and basic labor standards have not been updated. 
As a result, gains from improving technology have been concentrated at the top, damaging the middle class, while politicians blame immigrants and robots for the misery that is due to their own failures. Eroded policies need to be revived, and new ones enacted.
It's  an interesting editorial, and can be read in full here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Yes, Congress was spineless enough to approve Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, despite his radical anti-EPA record and the imminent (tomorrow?), court-ordered release of thousands of emails documenting his communications with the fossil fuel industry.  There may not be anything of substance in them, but wouldn't you want to know before you appoint him?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post today reported that two major coal-fired power plants will be closing prematurely.  Sadly, they are not the two Southern Company plants in Georgia and Alabama, but one in Arizona and two in Ohio.  Despite the rhetoric out of parts of Washington and the prevailing opinion in red states, they are closing not because of over-regulation by the EPA and other parts of the government, but simply because the low cost of natural gas has rendered them unprofitable and obsolete.  Times change, technologies change, and as a result, factories, power plants, and jobs have to change along with them.

Sadly, the closings will result in the loss of hundreds, possibly thousands, of jobs in the vicinity of the plants, many of them at the Arizona plant held by Native Americans.  No reasonable person finds happiness in the loss of people's livelihood due to plant closings, and Native Americans are already facing a staggering number of challenges. But the solution to the employment problem is not suffering the continued operation of old, outdated, and polluting power plants, but by creating and maintaining a viable safety net to care for, provide for, and retrain the displaced workers. Job outsourcing, new technologies, and changes in employment are particular problems in America, largely because there is little to no safety net here for American workers.

There is on longer a large number of jobs associated with the horse-and-buggy industry, but rather than insist that we ignore the automobile and retain outmoded forms of transportation for the sake of the horse-and-buggy workers, we moved on and embraced the car, and the buggy workers eventually learned how to manufacture Jeep Cherokees and Chevy Impalas.

So what do you want to do, America?  Continue to live in the past, embrace outdated technologies, and pollute the air for the sake of some anachronistic jobs,  or train our work force for the challenges of the future?  It's our call, but we can't trust Scott Pruitt to make it for us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, text and closeup

Writing in The Intercept about Scott Pruitt, Trump's nominee to head the EPA, Sharon Lerner notes,
Southern Coal is a division of Southern Power, which has been co-party in four of Pruitt’s 14 suits against the EPA. (A Southern executive, L. Ray Harry, contributed to Pruitt’s 2014 re-election fund.) An EPA investigation of Southern Coal found numerous violations of the Clean Water Act at its mines in Appalachia, which according to EPA records impacted waterways, killing fish and endangering the health of local communities. The EPA’s response, which included instituting preventive measures, data tracking, and training of mine workers, cost some $5 million and eliminated an estimated 5 million pounds of pollution from being released into local waterways.
At over 19 million tons per year, Alabama Power's Plant Miller, a Southern Company power plant located northwest of Birmingham, is the No. 1 emitter of carbon dioxide in the US.  At almost 18 million tons per year, Georgia Power's Plant Sherer, another Southern Company power plant located near Macon, is the No. 2 emitter.  Georgia Power's Plant Bowen near Cartersville (northwest of Atlanta) contributes another 12.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Together, these three plants  alone contribute about 50 million of the US's staggering total of 3 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere (source: EPA).

Instead of working to find innovative solutions to reduce these emissions, the Trump Administration has instead nominated the man who sued the agency 14 times, and who was backed by the very polluters on whom the EPA should be enforcing their standards and limits.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Q: Tell Us, DEVO – What should we make of Betsy DeVos?

Gerald V. Casale of DEVO: Betsy will make sure that the poor remain uninformed and without hope. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


When the notification scrawled across my phone last night that the Trainwreck President had just nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, I initially misread it and thought that it said "Newt Gingrich."  While there are certainly issues with a Gorsuch Court - some of us are old enough to remember his mother, Ann Gorsuch, and her disastrous turn as Reagan's EPA Chief - it was actually a relief to learn that in fact it wasn't Newt who had been nominated.

The scary part is that in these "anything-can-happen" times, it was actually plausible that Newt might have been the nominee.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sally Yates is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia.  Considering this is also the home of Jimmy Carter, Sam Nunn, John Lewis, Kasim Reed, and Andrew Young, not to mention Emory University and Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, people really ought to think twice before writing us off as just another Red State. 

Georgia - at least we're not Mississippi (with apologies to our neighbor in Dixie).

Monday, January 30, 2017

If you're not outraged, you haven't been paying attention.

Where to even start?  The Muslim ban?  The pipelines? The climate change denial and associated gag order and hiring freeze on the EPA? The wall and the stupid 20% tax on American consumers?

Or just the narcissism, the megalomania, and the plutocracy?

As Americans, we deserve better than this. As Earthlings, the planet deserves better.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As we learn more about just exactly what Trump's executive orders from Tuesday actually did or did not do, we now know that he did not in fact approve Keystone XL or Dakota Access as stated here yesterday, he only succeeded in confusing a lot of us on this matter.

According to some clarifying remarks by Duncan Meisel of

  • On Dakota Access, he told the Army Corps of Engineers that the pipeline is in our "national interest" and told them to "consider" revoking the environmental review placed on it by the Obama Administration.
  • On Keystone XL, he invited TransCanada to re-apply and if they do, mandated a final decision on the pipeline within 60 days and waived input from environmental agencies.  However, according to Meisel, if and when they do re-apply, they no longer have valid permits in Nebraska and their permits in South Dakota are being challenged.
  • Trump also placed conditions on approval of both pipelines, like limiting oil exports and determining where the steel comes from, that the oil companies might not choose to accept.
While not exactly reassuring, it's better than an "approval," which he may or may not even have the final authority to do.  But as we're learning, even without approval authority, Trump will still devise ways to wreck the planet and destroy the economy, like with today's proposed 20% tax on all Mexican imports, and possibly all imports

In slightly related news, the photo above is from NASA's new weather satellite, showing what a little science can actually produce when given the chance.  It's been announced that all new scientific research by EPA will have to be reviewed and cleared by political appointees before it can be released to the public, which is ironic given that Trump ran a campaign that routinely blasted "political correctness" but is now mandating that science be politically correct before it can shared with the public.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Improper disposal of chemical wastes in rural Pennsylvania
I spent most of the day yesterday (Tuesday) at a trade conference for environmental restoration technologies, sponsored by the various vendors who provide the tools to clean up pollution and contamination of our planet's soil and groundwater.

It was basically a pretty nerdy affair, full of Power-point presentations on the effectiveness of each individual technology, but the opening speaker was a career (over 30 year) EPA employee, who tried to reassure us that Trump's recent freezing of the agency's grants and contracts, which effectively halts most of his agency's work, was just routine business-as-usual for a new administration.  We've been through this before, he said, adding that each new administration going all the way back to Bill Clinton's first term always halts the agency's work until their newly appointed leadership team is in place, and that soon the situation will revert back to normal and the work will go on as before.

I don't have the data to accept or reject that premise, but I don't feel that the current freeze is as un-menacing as prior stoppages.  First, Trump's nominee for the new EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has previously sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma's Attorney General.  Pruitt has not only used litigation to fight environmental regulations, a 2014 investigation by the NY Times found that energy lobbyists had drafted letters outlining the economic hardship of various environmental rules that Pruitt sent, on state stationery, to the EPA, the Interior Department, the OMB, and even President Obama.  Indeed, the CEO of Continental Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas company, was a co-chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s 2013 re-election campaign.

Yesterday, perhaps even while our EPA speaker was at the podium, Trump was signing an Executive Order expediting approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which had previously been shut down by the Obama Administration.  And according to Bill McKibbon at The New Yorker, a leaked memo which surfaced on Monday indicates that the new Administration's top priorities at EPA would be to stop Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would regulated power plants under the Clean Air Act, to revise the rules that discourage development on wetlands, and to slow down efforts to halt pollution of Chesapeake Bay. So, no, I don't think that once the new leadership team is in place, it will be business-as-usual at the EPA, if by "usual" you mean protecting the environment.  The new "usual" will apparently be protecting the interests of the oil-and-gas lobby, something new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, will undoubtedly help facilitate.

Also, for the record, a State Department report released last month on the Keystone XL pipeline found the project would create only 35 permanent jobs after the one or two years of construction jobs dried up.  “Pipelines do not require much labor to operate in the long term,” as CNBC put it.  So approval of the pipeline isn't for American workers and jobs, it's for the profit margins of oil and gas companies and their CEOs.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Image may contain: crowd, sky and outdoor
Facebook picture by South Downtown (@southdowntown)
Police estimate 60,000 people marched here in Atlanta for social justice and in protest of the Trainwreck Presidency.  My Congressman, John Lewis, was a keynote speaker and is emerging as a leader of the emerging Democratic resistance to the hateful Administration now in Washington. According to U.K's The Guardian:
The protest, in one of America’s largest and most diverse cities took on additional importance after comments Trump directed at one of its most popular lawmakers and public figures last week. After Congressman John Lewis, who represents about 75% of the predominantly black city, questioned Trump’s electoral legitimacy in an interview, Trump fired back, blasting Lewis’ district as “crime-infested” and calling the civil rights legend, whose skull was fractured by Alabama state troopers in Selma in 1965 “all talk ... no action.”
The crowd in Washington, DC was estimated to be in the "hundreds of thousands."  In New York, The Times called Fifth Avenue "a river of pink hats."  In L.A.  the crowd was a quarter mile deep on some streets, even before it started to stretch out and march, and in Chicago, the size of the crowd so quickly outgrew even the most ambitious estimates that subsequent rallies and speeches had to be cancelled.

In nearly every city in the U.S., and in fact in cities all over the world, women, men, people of all colors and orientations, the whole diverse patchwork quilt of humanity, took to the streets in protest and said "This will not stand."  As Bernie Sanders put it today, "President Trump, you have made a big mistake. By trying to divide us up by race, religion, gender and nationality you have actually brought us closer together. Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American, gay or straight, male or female, native born or immigrant we will fight bigotry and create a government based on love and compassion, not hatred and divisiveness."

It's been estimated that in total more than 2.5 million people participated in more than 600 marches worldwide. There was even a protest on a research vessel in Antarctica.

I did not attend this time.  Cowed a little by the rainy weather here in Atlanta and unsure if my gender and race would send the appropriate message, I gave in and instead participated in a business conference call that was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon (one of my cases goes to court Monday morning).

But today was truly historic.  The Trainwreck Presidency is not going to last. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The date 1-20-2021, our next inauguration, is a palindrome (if you ignore the hyphens).  I don't know what that signifies, maybe it means it will be a turning point, but it's got to to auspicious as hell.

Don't know if I can hold my nose for four years but the stink is going to be unbearable.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It Was Hot Out

To the surprise of almost no one, both NASA and NOAA confirmed today that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally, and the second-hottest year in the U.S.  This is the third consecutive year that a new global record has been set, and 16 of the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2001. 

Here in Atlanta, the average annual temperature was 3.28 degrees above average.

Natural phenomena such as El Niño contributed to the global average temperature over the first third of 2016, and January through September (with the exception of June) set the record for those months, but the bulk of the global temperature rise was due to man-made increases in carbon dioxide levels.

The President-elect has called global warming a hoax and a Chinese plot, has vowed to roll back Obama's efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and is filling his administration with climate-change deniers, from proposed EPA chief Scott Pruitt to  former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. 

In a May 2016 op-ed in the National Review, Pruitt wrote. "Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."  While there may be an on-going policy debate over what to do about climate change, there is no virtually no scientific debate about its existence or cause, with the vast majority of climate scientists demonstrating time and time again that global warming is real and human-induced.

Tillerson recently admitted that climate change does exist (duh, have you been outside for the past 15 years?), but claims that the ability to predict the effects of greenhouse gas emissions is “very limited." Climate scientists would take exception at that qualification.

The house is on fire, almost literally, and Trainwreck is denying the existence of flames, saying claims of arson are unfounded, and refuses to call the Fire Department.  This isn't going to end well for anyone.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I have to get this one off my chest, and here's part of my reason for avoiding the so-called consensus reality.  As everyone's heard by now, over the weekend President-elect Trainwreck tweeted that "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

Okay, he just made it personal.  I live in John Lewis' 5th Congressional District and it's not in horrible shape, falling apart, or crime infested.  Like all major cities, there are some challenged areas, but the 5th District includes Midtown and it's glitzy high-rise Miracle Mile, affluent Buckhead, Emory University and Georgia Tech, Hartsfield Airport (or whatever they're calling it nowadays), and much, much more.  Atlanta's biggest problem, to be honest, is people, attracted by the opportunities the city offers, are moving here faster than the housing and transportation infrastructure can accommodate. 

I think it says a lot about the Trainwreck that he sees a black congressman representing an urban district and just assumes that the district must be a ghetto, blighted and impoverished.  That, my friends, is racism, pure and simple.  Donald Trump is a racist, damning himself with his own tweeted words. 

For whatever it's worth, back in 2007, when Trump was looking to add a Trump Tower to the Atlanta skyline, he said "Atlanta is one of those cities that won’t be suffering the real estate foibles.  Atlanta is like New York," which was not only a direct contradiction of his recent characterization of Atlanta, but also hugely incorrect (wrong!), as Atlanta suffered greatly in the real estate crash of the very next year. Also, back in 2007, Atlanta's violent crime rate was about 45 percent higher than it was in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are available).

What's more, it's incredibly poor politics to attack a respected civil rights figure like John Lewis on the weekend before ML King Day.  Looking ahead at the calendar, I would advise Trump not to attack a noted Irish politician on St. Patrick's Day or any Italian-Americans on Columbus Day.  Just some free advice there for the Trainwreck.  Take it or leave it, I'm just putting it out there.

I've been proud to vote for John Lewis as my Congressman multiple times since moving into the 5th District in 2004, even going out to vote for him in years when he's run unopposed and there were no other races on the ballot, just to show him my support.  In addition to being an icon, a living legend, and the hero of a non-fiction (and since the tweets, best-selling) series of graphic novels, the man is still an agitator and provocateur. and exactly the kind of voice we need in DC right now to stand up to the power. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Not Yet Dead

Sorry about the radio silence. No, strike that.  Why do people in the 2010's even say "radio silence" anymore? Isn't that term, well, quaint by now?  I should just say, "sorry about the silence" and leave it at that.

Anyway, sorry for the recent silence, and for those of you keeping score at home, I'm not dead yet and haven't had any recent setbacks leading me closer to that outcome, other than impermanence and the unrelenting march of time and all that.  I've just been on break from this site, first live blogging the entire 2016 college football bowl season on Tumblr, mostly for the amusement of my family, and then after that to regroup, gather my thoughts, and try to find the voice and message appropriate for the strange new times in which we find ourselves here in the Age of Trump.

I've been severely disappointed and outright appalled by the sorry state of our nation's politics, and to a large degree, I've been unplugged, off-line, and reinvigorating my meditation practice.  Part of my response to the appalling results of last year's election was to not entirely eliminate, but certainly drastically reduce, my time and involvement on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Blogger (except for the aforementioned live football blog over on Tumblr).  I'm staying informed, perhaps more informed than ever, with paid subscriptions to real journalism at The Guardian and the NY Times, but I've been trying to escape the on-line echo chamber of partisan chatter and fake news proliferating on the interwebs.  When this reality's turned to shit, why not just create your own, and I've been escaping into the fantasy world of video games and what better game is there for designing and habituating your own reality than Minecraft?

Minecraft's been around for a long while now, but for those of you new and unfamiliar with the game (hi, Mom!), it's a first-person perspective survival game that has no real rules or mission or imposed narrative - you don't have to complete certain achievements to move on to a next level.  Instead, Minecraft simply drops you into a random, computer-generated world and lets you do whatever you want.  To survive in this fantasy environment, you use trees and rocks and other assorted materials to craft your own tools, build your own home, hunt and grow your food, and try to not only just survive, but actually thrive.  And oh yeah, at night, zombies and monsters come out and try to kill you, so you have to plan for that.  But at least there's nothing really scary like a President Trump.

The video above is a tour through my current Minecraft world, the alternate reality I've been inhabiting since the New Year.  There was supposed to be my voice-over narration, but my computer mic is stuck on a very low volume right now for some reason (I'll get that fixed eventually), so instead I'll just have to describe it to you.  As you can see, I "live" in a grassy valley over a wide, gentle stream,  with beechwood and oak forests, and populated, in addition to myself, by horses and sheep and other farm animals (and at night, those zombies and monsters).  But the video opens in the early morning (note the low sun) and everything's safe, and I attempt my best Hollywood-style, 360-degree pan to show you around.

That barn-like structure over on the edge of the valley is my house, and after crossing paths with a couple of non-plussed sheep, I show you around inside.  It's rather small, but contains my bed, a foot locker, a crafting table, an oven for baking and cooking food, a bookcase, and a treasure chest.   As you can see, inside the foot locker are various things I've collected over time, like some left-over building materials, my stocks of wood ("woodstocks"), and some things I've gathered from the Netherworld (more on that later).  Inside the treasure chest are some diamonds and diamond accessories, including a diamond pickaxe (because how can you say you're thriving if you don't have a diamond pickaxe?), emeralds, gold, redstone, lapis lazuli and obsidian.  As you can tell, the mining has been pretty profitable for me.

Outside of the house, I've built a separate, low, stone-walled blacksmith shop between two oak trees where I forge the tools and weapons used for mining and defense.  The blacksmith shop has two furnaces for smelting ores, a chest with lots and lots of coal, iron ore, and other minerals, and a black anvil over in the corner.  That growling sound you hear in the shop is from some zombies trapped in a cave beneath the shop, but that's a story for another time and another day.

After the blacksmith shop, we take a short little jog (like most video games, your character seems to always run wherever it goes - gamers apparently have no patience for a leisurely walk) over the ridge to the vegetable garden on some fertile soil I found near a little pond.  It's hard to survive the game on a vegetarian diet, but I try my best, supplementing my crops with some fish from the river (sharp-eyed readers may have spotted the fishing rod in the foot locker back at the house).  I'll slaughter a pig or a goat when I have to in order to survive, but like in real life, I try to keep my meat consumption to a minimum.  Anyway, while at the garden, just to show you how it's done, I harvest some beets, potatoes, carrots, and wheat - there's lots of wheat because in addition to being able to bake bread with it, I can use wheat to feed and breed the horses and sheep.

But anyway, on with the tour.  After the garden, we go on to the Sun Temple that I built on top of the hill. On the way over, we appear to pick up a new chicken friend who's probably more interested in the seeds that we just harvested than in us, but those kind of little events are part of the charm of the game.  So we go up the hill to the granite-and-sandstone Sun Temple and remember to close the door before the chicken follows us in (no chickens allowed in Temple).  The Temple has a skylight that lets a beam of light come straight down at high noon, and the windows are oriented to catch the sunrise and sunset. Inside the Temple, you can see the Enchanting Table and sacred book, which takes its knowledge, literally, from the texts on the adjacent bookshelves. The Enchanting Table is used to craft spells on the tools and weapons manufactured in the blacksmith shop, and to create more arcane things than mere tools and weapons.

Speaking of the arcane, for the final stop, we leave the Sun Temple and head back down the hill, remembering to first put away the seeds so the chicken doesn't continue to follow us, because we definitely don't want a chicken crossing over to where we're going next.  Very sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed a shimmering purple light behind the house - that's an interdimensional portal I built there that allows entry to the Netherworld. The Netherworld is basically Hell, as you'll see as we step through the Portal, the game takes a moment to adjust itself, and we're delivered to the dark and mysterious Netherworld, full of strange sounds, fire, vertiginous heights, lava flows, and zombie pigmen.  It's very dangerous and not at all pleasant and we don't want to stay there for long (as I said, it's basically Hell), so we go back through the Portal again to the infinitely more pleasant Overworld and back to where the tour started.

Looking at the sun, we can see that it's now mid-afternoon (days pass very quickly in the Minecraft world) and time to wrap up the tour, but that world has been where I've been abiding/retreating, spending my days and nights exploring, crafting, mining, farming, fishing, and generally adventuring. I'll snap back to consensus reality soon, I'm sure, but in the meantime, fighting zombie pigmen with enchanted weapons is a lot more rewarding than on-line reading about the awful, disappointing state of current events.