Monday, May 27, 2019


We recently made our yearly pilgrimage to Yosemite.  For reasons that I can’t explain, my first visit to Yosemite didn’t happen until 2002.  Once there, I was smitten.  The beauty and grandeur of the place is awesome beyond description.  So we’ve returned almost every year since then.

This time it was colder and wetter than usual, but weather was not a show-stopper.  What earthquakes and glaciers and erosion over millions and millions of years had created: towering granite walls thousands of feet high and extraordinary waterfalls cascading down to the valley floor, couldn’t be tarnished by a few raindrops.

We stayed in one of the cottages at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  They call it the Majestic now because of an unresolved name dispute with the former managers, but I’m old school and it will always be the Ahwahnee.  The cottages are behind the main building surrounded by trees and flowers, so it is a combination of comfort and beauty.

The Ahwahnee opened in 1927.  It was constructed from rough-cut granite, steel and timber and designed to fit in perfectly with the natural environment in which it is located.  Of particular interest to me is the Grand Dining Room.  It is a unique space like no other.  Huge without being intimidating, it is 130 feet long, 51 feet wide, with a 34 foot ceiling supported by rock columns that give it a cathedral-type atmosphere.

One day we drove down to the Mariposa Grove, home to hundreds of Giant Sequoias, which has recently been restored to better protect the trees and vegetation and facilitate viewing by visitors.  We were very happy to see that the restoration project was exceedingly well done.

Yosemite’s many waterfalls were at their peak.  We’ve had a lot of rain and snow this year, so the drought is over and the waterfalls are torrential.

A great trip – indeed!

Saturday, May 18, 2019


What occurs to me today:

Things are happening that some of us would say is evidence that we are going backward.  But there is another point of view.  It isn’t that we’re going backward but are starting to go forward again.  For example:

New abortion laws in Alabama and Missouri (and several other states) are draconian.  Draconian if you favor a woman’s right to choose.  But not for the pro-lifers.  For them they are welcome changes and give hope that soon Roe v Wade will be gone.

Encouraging a war with Iran is back on the front burner, thanks to the power that pro-war hawks now have.  For some of us this is a chilling possibility – like going to war with Iraq, except worse.  But not for everyone.  Finally, they think, we are doing what we should have done long ago – getting rid of those Ayatollahs and their revolution.

Too many unwanted immigrants are coming our way.  Slow them down.  Keep them out.  We are losing our whiteness.  We’ve been in charge and need to stay in charge.  Those are the mantras of many.  For them it isn’t so much going back to the way it used to be, because the way it used to be was that our borders were open to those who yearned to breathe free, including the ancestors of the ones who want to close our borders today.  So going forward today is pulling up the ladder our forebears used to get in.

Democracies are going out of favor.  Populists, nativists, authoritarians are on the rise.  The U.S., previously looked to as the great example of a successful democracy, has decided to pull back and stay mute on the sidelines.  America First, and actions to match the rhetoric.  Pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, pull out of the climate change conversation, pull out of arms limitation treaties, pull out of trade cooperation, and more.  Are we going forward or backward?  We are moving forward as we look backwards.

A cynic would say “What do you expect?”  Powerful nations and empires have a limited life span.  None last forever.  After about 250 years our time is up.  It is the nature of the human condition that we should lose our standing.  From that point of view, “What, me worry?” may be the appropriate response.  Maybe.  But I notice that I’m attached to the way it was, so all this moving forward by going backward doesn’t make me happy.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Recently I saw a TV story about how hackers are threatening organizations unless they pay a ransom to protect their computer systems.  It’s a big business – and growing.

Then the other day I received an email from someone saying they had hacked my computer and unless I paid them $1500 they would reveal the contents of my computer on social media and destroy my privacy.

I had already taken steps to provide double layer security for my most important information, and as for the rest of it – go for it I say.  I’m not worried about being embarrassed.

I am told that the email I received is most likely a phishing expedition, a scam meant to scare me into paying someone to stop a threat that doesn’t exist.  I don’t know for sure whether that is true or not.  I do know that it is disconcerting to see firsthand how vulnerable we all are in this cyber-based world.

The alternative is to revert to life as it used to be.  But that isn’t going to happen.  So for now the best we can be is vigilant and take seriously the reality that failsafe security is a fantasy.

Friday, May 03, 2019


I’m told that ‘dilemma’ means a choice between undesirable alternatives.  Take a look around.  We’re inundated with dilemmas: tough issues that defy simple solutions.

As observers, it’s easy to criticize.  I can vent and maybe feel better, but I won’t have changed anything.  It’s like being in the stands when those who can make a difference are on the field playing the game.

So for example:

Afghanistan:  We’ve been fighting a war there for 18 years.  We’re in talks with the Taliban to stop the killing.  But they’re playing a long-term game.  They’ve more than survived.  If anything they’re on the ascendency.  So what will happen if we reach some agreement, which by the way the current Afghan government may or may not support?  Will women’s rights be protected?  Will corruption disappear?  Will the drug trade continue to prosper?  What if the killing doesn’t stop?  And more . . .

A dilemma!

Immigration:  There is no one answer for this one.  Where do we start?  Stop people from entering?  Let them in but give them shelter, food, medical care?  For how long?  What do we do with families and children?  Have a different asylum policy?  What will that look like?  Build a wall?  Add border police?  Attack the problems in Central America, where the source of discontent begins?  What would such an ‘attack’ look like?  And more . . .

A dilemma!

Migration:  A worldwide problem of huge proportions.  Tens of millions of people (soon to be hundreds of millions) are leaving their homes to escape wars, drought and other climate-related issues, economic deprivation and a host of other causes.  Where are they going to go?  Who will let them in?  And if they are let in what will become of them then?  And more . . .

A dilemma!

Terrorism:  It’s not going away.  Quite the contrary, it is on the rise and there is no end in sight.  Maybe a big terrorist attack, involving many people, can be uncovered and stopped.  Maybe.  But the lone terrorist, deranged, hate-filled, on the loose, is unstoppable.  Dangerous people, who back in the day would have kept their impulses to themselves, now have license to act out and express their maniacal schemes.  What can we do about it?  Wring our hands and go online to propound theories about what causes this behavior we deplore?  Toughen the laws?  Protect ourselves?  Good luck.

A dilemma!