November rambling #2: The Road to Unfreedom

‘Make the Gospel great again’

Dunn lumber signNATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT (it ain’t good)

Lies, damn lies and post-truth

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Authoritarianism and the Weekly Sift – From Russia to Ukraine to Brexit to Trump: The Road to Unfreedom

Kenyans Say Chinese Investment Brings Racism and Discrimination

How the Generals Are Routing the Policy Wonks at the Pentagon

With Statement Equal Parts ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Imbecilic,’ He Smears Khashoggi and Vows to Back Murderous Saudis

Billboard featuring DJT, ‘Make the Gospel great again,’ Bible verse is taken down in Missouri

The Difference Between ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Nationalism’

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Won’t Invite a Comedian Next Year

The Nancy Pelosi Problem – the most effec­tive congressional leader of modern times—and, not coinciden­tally, the most vilified

Hazing, humiliation, terror: Women who work in federal prisons are harassed by both inmates and guards; those who complain are ‘blackballed’

Ken Screven: Breaking Stereotypes | Out in Albany

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Already Breaking the Rules

West Virginia Democrat announces 2020 presidential bid

Walter Ayres: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a pastoral letter against racism – Open Wide Your Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love

Stephen Colbert On How He Returned To Catholicism After Being An Atheist

Coffin Clubs New Zealand

For Young Adults, Cohabitation Is Up, Marriage Is Down

Forgotten your keys again? It’s not as bad as you think; it could be good for your brain

Color Meaning, Symbolism, And Psychology: What Do Different Colors Mean

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Is Incomplete — There’s a Final, Forgotten Stage

The intraocular option


Noun. alexiteric (plural alexiterics) (medicine) A preservative against infectious diseases. A preservative against the effects of poison. (HT, Dan)

Bill Gates is obsessed with redesigning the world’s toilets

Dustbury turns 65 and thinks he’s Sinatra

SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg has died at age 57 of ALS

Tributes to the late magician Ricky Jay

RIP William Goldman the Oscar-winning screenwriter who penned classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and The Princess Bride

Greg Burgas: Some more olde-tymey movies I’ve had the chance to watch or re-watch recently

Kelly Sedinger: Prologue to his forthcoming supernatural thriller, The Chilling Killing Wind

CGC 9.2 Overstreet #1 Hits $9K at Heritage

Cookie Monster Week: The proper way to eat a cookie and Gets therapy and How to make an apple pie

Subway Break Dancers, Clad in Armor, Go Medieval at the Met Museum

Internet Wading: Numbers, words, food, and art

Oven Rack Placement for the Best Baking Results

Now I Know: Why Do Leaves Fall from Trees? and Why Did the Chickens Cross Under the Highway? and How to Become Half a Prince and 1-916-CALL-TURK

Arthur does a meme I tagged him on


Coverville 1239: The Joni Mitchell Cover Story III

Roy Clark: I Never Picked Cotton and 12th Street Rag and Yesterday When I Was Young and Malagueña from The Odd Couple

Roman Carnival overture – Berlioz

YOU MAKE MY DREAMS Aubrey Logan feat. LaVance Colley – Hall & Oates

How Eric Idle wrote Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

StrengthsFinder: What’s right with someone

“You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information – words, facts, books, and quotations – or you might collect tangible objects.”

StrengthsFinderMy friend Sarah, who I’ve known for over 20 years, is extraordinarily bright and accomplished – lucky me. She’s really taken by something called the StrengthsFinder tool, which she was reminded of when she bumped into someone who was instrumental in creating it recently.

StrengthsFinder was developed by Gallup – you know, the polling people. It shows the characteristics that focus on “what’s right with someone; not what’s wrong” with that person. She admits being “obsessed” with the tool and implements it in her work.

Take a look at the 34 strengths described in this link. What are your strengths? Hers are relator, activator, ideation, futuristic, and focus. I’ve been trying to ascertain mine.

I’m NOT, as described here, Achiever, Adaptability, Arranger, Command, Competition, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Focus, Futuristic, Maximizer, Self-Assurance, or Strategic.

There are elements of these that these that might apply: Analytical, Belief, Communication, Connectedness, Context, Empathy, Individualization, Learner, Positivity, Responsibility, Restorative, Significance, Woo

I’ve settled, so far, on these:

Activator – “Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you.” (Fear of boredom deciding “process”.)

Consistency – “You are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so you do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person’s favor.”

Harmony – “When others strike out in a direction, you will willingly, in the service of harmony, modify your own objectives to merge with theirs (as long as their basic values do not clash with yours).” (If I want Italian food, and you really want Chinese, we can do Chinese; I don’t care that much.)

Ideation – “You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection.” (Oh this is DEFINITELY me.)

Includer – “You hate the sight of someone on the outside looking in. You want to draw them in so that they can feel the warmth of the group.” (I look for those people at church or at parties who seem to be ignored.)

Input – “You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information – words, facts, books, and quotations – or you might collect tangible objects… Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.” (This is SO Me.)

Intellection – “You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the ‘muscles’ of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions… You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound.” (Geez, that IS me, too.)

Relator – “You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people – in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends – but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy.”

One can buy some of these StrengthsFinder workshop materials for $50.

Inherited money, entitled scions

“These are the key figures who bankrolled the think tanks, financed the extreme free-market university programs, and funded the tea party shock troops that moved the Republican Party so far to the right.”

inherited wealthIn the Arthur Schenck mode of finding blog posts started but never completed, I came across an interesting article. Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Rule of Pampered Princelings by Naomi Klein appeared in the October 10, 2018 issue of something called The Intercept, reporting on a New York Times story.

It goes into how DJT was not a self-made businessman, as he markets himself. “According to the Times… ‘Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.’ Moreover, ‘much of it was never repaid.'”

I would think that this is information that has been widely disseminated. Yet I still find people almost every week who buy into the lie, who tell me we need him because he was a successful businessman. “Not only was he spending his father’s money, he blew much of it on disastrous deal after disastrous deal, only to be bailed out by his father’s millions time and time again.

“What makes the Times’ revelations more important is that they are a rare window into an even larger story about the growing political and economic role of inherited money in the United States — the culmination of decades in which a handful of sons and daughters of bequeathed wealth waged a fierce and relentless battle of ideas against the very concept of equality and majority rule, all based on the same corrupting belief in their own inherent superiority.”

And THAT was why I recommend you read the whole article. “He never would have gotten where he is without the ideological scaffolding carefully put in place by other scions of dynastic families…

“These are the key figures who bankrolled the think tanks, financed the extreme free-market university programs, and funded the tea party shock troops that moved the Republican Party so far to the right that Trump could stomp in and grab it.”

Yes, this includes the Koch brothers, but also Betsy DeVos, “who has devoted her life to dismantling public education”; Rupert Murdoch, “who inherited a chain of newspapers from his father”; and Rebekah Mercer, who has bankrolled Breitbart News.

U is for United States Postal Service

The price of a first-class Forever stamp is going up from 50 cents to 55 cents on January 27, 2019.

United States Postal ServiceFor fun, I was reading the Fiscal Year 2018 Integrated Financial Plan for the United States Postal Service. Because of all sorts of reasons, the Postal Services is currently operating in the red.

One of those factors is the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush. “Up until 2006, the USPS funded [pension] obligations on a pay-as-you-go-basis… But the PAEA required the Postal Service to calculate all of its likely pension costs over the next 75 years, and then sock away enough money between 2007 and 2016 to cover most of them.”

In any case, the United States Postal Service announced changes for starting January 27, 2019. “The new prices will include a 5-cent increase in the price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp, from 50 cents to 55 cents. The single-piece additional ounce price will be reduced to 15 cents [from 21 cents], so a 2-ounce stamped letter, such as a typical wedding invitation, will cost less to mail, decreasing from 71 cents to 70 cents.”

One of the recent innovations of the USPS is Informed Delivery. “Digitally preview your mail and manage your packages scheduled to arrive soon! Informed Delivery allows you to view greyscale images of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces and track packages in one convenient location.” I check it every day by email, except Sunday, and it works pretty well.

Arthur, that guy who was born in the US, but is now a New Zealand expat, notes that Kiwi postal delivery changed from six days a week to only three. A flyer he received read, “As New Zealanders do more online, they’re sending fewer letters and more emails. Today our Posties deliver half the number of letters they used to.”

He thinks the US will eventually follow that model. I’m not so sure. I get a lot of mail, still, especially before local elections.

For ABC Wednesday

The Lydster: the Vietnamese restaurant

Theory #1: she did not want her parents to have a good time!

Just before Christmas 2017, our library director took his library staff out to lunch. It’s been a tradition that it’d be some non-standard fate, and this time we settled on Van’s Vietnamese restaurant, on Central Avenue in Albany.

It was fine, and the servings were generous. I got two more lunches out of the leftovers. But the decor was non-distinct.

But I recall the PREVIOUS time I was at Van’s, more than a decade ago. It was located on Madison Avenue. It was going to be the first time my wife and I were going to actually go out to dinner at a nice, sit-down restaurant. It had a nifty tile floor, as I recall.

Of course, we had to take the Daughter in that carry seat that fits into the back seat of the car. All the way to the restaurant, she was fine. Happy, even.

However, within five minutes of being seated, she began to cry. No, that’s not precisely correct. She began to WAIL. The screaming bouncing off the floor made the sound even worse.

None of the usual tricks – the binky to suck on, singing to her, holding her -worked. After about five minutes, not wanting to torture the other diners, the waitstaff, or ourselves any further, we departed, leaving a small tip for the two partially-drunk glasses of water.

We put her in the car, went to some drive-through place for some burgers and went home. The Daughter was fine, happy even. So what happened?

Theory #1: she did not want her parents to have a good time! Theory #2: there was something about the smell of the food that disagreed with her. Or maybe it was just the sound of people walking on that floor that bothered her ears.

Emotionally, I’d been leaning towards Theory #1, but years of hindsight suggests the second theory is more plausible.

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