Sunday Rambling

For those keeping score, there was less snow (and more ice) than initially forecast, and now the temperatures, as predicted, are plummeting. Hopefully we’ll have clear enough skies tonight for the eclipse. Assuming we can stay awake. Most astronomical events lately have been ruined by the weather – hoping for a break tonight.

Something today reminded me of this quote by Albert Camus – it’s a useful thing to keep in mind, I think, on days like this when the dissonance outside is in conflict with the noise inside my head:

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Very true.

I had a topic for today that I find I’m not quite in the proper frame of mind for – but I’ll get to it in a more comprehensive post later. As a start though, I’ll just make a couple of observations:

  1. President Trump’s “offer” yesterday was not one. He offered temporary concessions for a permanent, unpopular and unnecessary, expense. And when accused of offering amnesty by the more xenophobic segment of his base, he tweeted the alarming idea that “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else”.  (yes, I’m on Twitter, too, sometimes). I keep wondering why my more conservative friends are not catching on to the fact that the border area’s congressional representatives – even the GOP one – are opposed to the wall. Many other things are needed & would make more sense. Nor are they recognizing that the Southern Border Sheriff’s & the Arizona state Sheriff’s organizations have issued statements opposing a wall in favor of technology, manpower, and infrastructure improvements. But obviously they know not of which they speak – or as a couple of people I know have said – “they’re delusional”. Gotta wonder who’s been drinking the kool-aid in this case (no, just kidding, I know, and it isn’t me).
  2. Our southern border is not being overrun by immigrants. And if it were, a multi-year infrastructure project would not normally be considered the solution to a “crisis”.
  3. Our immigration laws are confusing, and need reform, so it is not surprising that so few people understand them, but even within the “rule of law” that some are so fond of referencing, things are not always that clear. But being driven by the fear-mongering, and refusing to listen to other voices, is a conscious choice, and a poor one at that. We, as nation, are better than that. We have to be.

And, at the risk of continuing to traumatize those easily triggered Trump supporters in my life, I just want to point out that it was ludicrous for Vice-President Pence to use Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a reference point for President Trump’s “offer” on the wall. Seriously? Equating Trump and King? Even Mike Pence can’t believe that.

And on that note, to my family and friends in the northeastern US – stay warm.



A cold & snowy weekend on the way

Oh joy…

Apparently a major storm is headed for us  tomorrow – well… we’re as ready as we can be. We even have plans for pizza & brownie making tomorrow night during what should be the worst of it. I have a surfeit of volunteer work to catch up on (the problem with volunteering to do something that has real deadlines). So staying in is better for me anyway, but it’s our daughter’s final couple of days before retuning to college and she’ll be stuck at home with us. Very cold weather is coming in behind the storm – now I remember why the southwestern US is our destination once the house is sold. Soon, soon.

Our potential buyers should have a couple of offers on their house shortly (so we hear). We’ve remediated the radon, but needed to have a bit more done – hopefully this test will be better than the last. Our buried oil tank comes out next week (assuming a large amount of snow doesn’t cause a delay).  The picture above of the familiar snowy view was taken this time last year – with disturbingly similar weather.  If I have to have snow, at least I have a good vantage point for pictures. But I’d much rather have desert sunsets than snow.

Around this time last year, I shared this quote from Ted Koppel that I’d found – given the ongoing state of incivility in our national discourse, I figured I’d share it again:

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.”
— Ted Koppel

Words to live by, I think.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Nothing at All

Repost from January 16, 2018

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”   — Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Weirdly enough, today, January 16th, is National Nothing Day – a holiday specifically designed to take a break from observing/celebrating anything & everything. I do appreciate irony. Apparently, the day has been ‘celebrated’ since 1973 – and somehow I did not know it. According to the web, it was initially proposed by Harold Pullman Coffin, a columnist, in 1972, and is sponsored by the Coffin National Nothing Foundation. Of course, I also think it is useful to periodically remind ourselves that, while we may know a bit more than nothing, we certainly do not know everything. So I guess I’ve found my own way to observe nothing.

Image of the vast nothingness of space courtesy of NASA.

Tuesday’s Quotes – January 15, 2019: Happy Birthday, Reverend King

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Martin Luther King, Jr  –  Atlanta, GA 1967

The world is a troubled place, still, and the US still seems to be suffering an abundance of misplaced anger and unnecessary fear. So, in honor of today’s anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr, I’m just going to share some of my favorite quotes.

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”

“Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Image from the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Washington, DC



Sunday and Benjamin Franklin

Left this post too late today – busy weekend capped off by our annual post-holiday Christmas celebration with my brother and sister-in-law today. A very good day, but now it’s late and I’m pretty much out of time. But no worries, when all else fails turn to Ben Franklin for advice. And since the 17th marks the 313th anniversary of Franklin’s 1706 birth in Boston, it seemed worthwhile to unearth some of his best advice.

Benjamin Franklin, certainly the most famous Founding Father never to be President of the US, ran away and moved to Philadelphia, the city with which he is most closely associated, at 17. It is impossible to adequately describe Franklin in the limited time I have, but in addition to serving as minister to Sweden and France, he was the first US postmaster general, he was an inventor, a writer, a printer, diplomat, activist, philosopher, etc. There was truly very little that Franklin had not done. Courtesy primarily of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, which was written under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, he provided us with many adages that survive to this day – such as the very true “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead”.

But my personal favorite is not among the simple one-liners, it is found in the Art of Virtue:

“We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.” — Benjamin Franklin

Choose wisely.

Image from



Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Alexander Hamilton in 1757. Hamilton, who died after being shot – by then Vice-President, Aaron Burr – in a duel in 1804, was the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Love or hate the financial system he devised for the fledgling nation, it was an impressive accomplishment – and he succeeded in accomplishing a great deal in a relatively short period of time.

A prolific writer, Hamilton was the author of the majority of the Federalist Papers – the documents published to win popular support for the US Constitution, and the hybrid form of government that it described. Neither a true democracy, nor a true republic, our government was structured as both a democracy and a republic with three co-equal branches. Something that still seems to be misunderstood nearly 230 years after it was formally put into effect.

In the quote below, Hamilton lays out the purpose of the Judicial. James Madison (whose birthday is in March) described the three equal branches in Federalist #47, and expounded on the need for the separation of powers of the three branches to act as checks and balances in Federalist #51*

“But it is not with a view to infractions of the Constitution only, that the independence of the judges may be an essential safeguard against the effects of occasional ill humors in the society. These sometimes extend no farther than to the injury of the private rights of particular classes of citizens, by unjust and partial laws. Here also the firmness of the judicial magistracy is of vast importance in mitigating the severity and confining the operation of such laws. It not only serves to moderate the immediate mischiefs of those which may have been passed, but it operates as a check upon the legislative body in passing them; who, perceiving that obstacles to the success of iniquitous intention are to be expected from the scruples of the courts, are in a manner compelled, by the very motives of the injustice they meditate, to qualify their attempts. This is a circumstance calculated to have more influence upon the character of our governments, than but few may be aware of.”

— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #78 (1788)

* Authorship of Federalist #51 is uncertain, credit is normally given to Madison, but the author may have been Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton image from