Category Archives: Personal

I don’t have the luxury of making a gesture with my vote

I was glad he was going to lose, but wanted to make a statement about Nixon.

I was glad he was going to lose, but wanted to make a statement about Nixon.

In my morning reading today, I ran across two things that impressed me. Both were from Republicans trying to explain just what a nightmare Trump is. Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, had another strong column headlined “My Former Republican Party.” An excerpt:

Foreign policy: In 1947 Harry Truman asked Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to support his efforts to shore up the governments in Greece and Turkey against Soviet aggression. Vandenberg agreed, marking his—and the GOP’s—turn from isolationism to internationalism.

Since then, six Republican presidents have never wavered in their view that a robust system of treaty alliances such as NATO are critical for defending the international liberal order, or that the U.S. should dissuade faraway allies such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia from seeking nuclear weapons, or that states such as Russia should be kept out of regions such as the Middle East.

Where, amid Mr. Trump’s routine denunciations of our allegedly freeloading allies, or Newt Gingrich’s public doubts about defending NATO member Estonia against Russian aggression, or the alt-right’s attacks on “globalism,” or Sean Hannity’s newfound championship of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, is that Republican Party today?…

Then there was the piece from Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post‘s duty conservative, headlined “The Republicans who want to beat Trump by as much as possible.” An excerpt:

Trump and the mind-set of slavish Republicans who follow him deserve repudiation. Some Republicans think the party can be disinfected after the Trump experience and some want to start all over. (“These are generational problems. So maybe over time, over a number of decades, these changes can be made, but the reality is the conservative movement doesn’t have time for that,” said McMullin in defense of the latter approach. “And if the Republican Party can’t make the changes, as wasn’t able to do after 2012, the conservative movement will need a new political vehicle.”)

Either way, McMullin and others who want wholesale change on the right are rooting for Trump’s annihilation and his flacks’ and bully boys’ humiliation. The bigger the margin by which he loses, the more preposterous Trump’s claim that the election is fixed. Indeed, it’s more important for Republicans — if they want to get back their party — to vote against Trump than it is for Democrats. “By taking the leap to Clinton, these Republicans have set an example for all Americans to shed the home-team culture and put country before party,” Stubbs said. Maybe if they can recover some self-respect and devotion to principle by repudiating Trump, they will be prepared to create something superior to replace the GOP.

Absolutely. Republicans who care at all about their party and what it supposedly stands for have far more reason to want to see Trump utterly crushed than Democrats do. If you’re a partisan Democrat, you’re happy for Hillary to just squeak by, giving you more of an excuse to spend the next four years raising money to help you stop those horrid Republicans.

That is, if you’re the blinder sort of partisan Democrat. But whatever your party affiliation or lack thereof, if you understand the situation and care about the country we share, you want to see Trumpism crushed so that it slinks away and is never heard from again.

Which is why I, as a voter who cares, have no choice but to vote for Hillary Clinton. The same goes for you, if you can see it. She’s the only person on the planet who can defeat him, and just squeaking by won’t be enough.

We’ve had some terrific arguments here on the blog about that. And I still run into otherwise reasonable people who think an adequate response to Trump is to vote for neither of them. But that is NOT an adequate response.

Yeah, I understand the concept of using your vote to make a gesture, independent of any consideration of whether the candidate you vote for can win. I’ve done it myself — but only in rare circumstances when I had the luxury to do so. Or thought I did, anyway.

In 1972, my first election, I stood in the booth for awhile, undecided still. But in the end, I decided this: I voted for McGovern. I voted for him purely as a protest. I did it even though I thought he’d be a disaster as president. If the election had been close, if there’d been any chance of my vote deciding the outcome, I’d have voted for Nixon, because I trusted him more to have the judgment and abilities to run the country. But there was NO danger of McGovern winning, and even though I saw Nixon as more competent, I had a big problem with what I was sensing (but did not yet fully know) about Watergate.

So it was a protest vote, pure and simple.

I did the same thing in 1996, although the positions of the parties were reversed (which matters not at all to me, but I realize does to some people). On a personal level, I preferred Dole to Clinton. I thought Dole was the better man. But the abysmal campaign he had run had utterly persuaded me that he would be a disaster as president. He simply lacked the political skills to be effective. Had the election been so close that my vote could conceivably decide it, I’d have voted for Clinton, as the more competent leader between the two. But I had a lot of problems with Clinton by this time, and there was no way my vote would make a difference — South Carolina would go for Dole, and the country would go for Clinton; that was clear by the end. So I expressed my distaste for Clinton by casting my vote for Dole.

Another pure protest, without any intended practical effect.

Silly, really, in both cases. What good is a protest if no one even knows you’re making it? And no one did know (apart from a few intimates), until now. In each case, I was just making a gesture, for my own, private satisfaction. It was childish, in a way — I’m so mad at you I’m going to vote for this guy I don’t even think should win!

In both cases, I thought I had that luxury. This year, I absolutely don’t.

Oh, I could make a private gesture expressing my dissatisfaction with both candidates by, I don’t know, voting for Evan McMullin, or someone else who doesn’t have a chance.

But I can’t. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be president, and it is my duty as a citizen to do whatever I can to affect which way it goes. And whatever else I think or feel about Hillary Clinton (I’m not going to waste time here going through a list of her shortcomings, because they are beside the point in light of Trump), she is a person with the skills, experience and understanding to do the job. Donald Trump absolutely does not possess those qualities, and is a walking, talking negation of what this country stands for.

Yeah, she’s probably going to beat him, but that’s by no means certain. (Remember, as Trump keeps reminding us, Brexit was supposed to lose.) And that’s not enough. Trump must lose badly (or “bigly,” if you prefer), as Ms. Rubin suggests.

So I really don’t have the luxury this time to make a gesture with my vote. It matters too much this time.

How could a guy who ran such an awful campaign run the government?

How could a guy who ran such an awful campaign run the government?

My DNA is being subjected to a really ‘snazzy test’!


Ever since I sent my spit off to Ancestry, I’ve been like a little kid who has sent in his cereal box tops, waiting for my secret decoder ring.

And the time frame involved is reminiscent of the days when I was a little kid — they say it can take 6-8 weeks for delivery!

For their part, Ancestry is making sure I know they haven’t forgotten me, or lost my DNA. I got an email from them today giving me a link to a page letting me track the process. Apparently, they’re working on it now. Surprisingly, this is something that actually takes time. I had figured it would be like when they test my iron level before I give platelets at the Red Cross — zip, and you’re done.

Nope. It’s way more complicated, tracking hundreds of thousands of… what do they call them?… single nucleotide polymorphisms. To put it in technical terms, the lady on this video says my DNA is being subjected to a “pretty complicated and really snazzy test.”

So now I understand.

Anyway, I can hardly wait…

Walk for Life is Saturday!

The champion team of 2013 -- moi, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

The champion team of 2013 — moi, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

And… I fell down on the job this year, and didn’t set up a blog team.

However, if you’d like to come walk with me Saturday, today is the last day to sign up. Come donate to the family team, which is named for my wife, the miraculous breast cancer survivor, for whom I thank God every day.

I hope to see you Saturday, despite my miserable failure as a team captain this year.

Wow, this really snuck up on me…

DOT wants to put an Interstate in front of my house, I have not been notified, and today is the last day to comment


Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — this afternoon.

Actually, that headline pretty much states the case, but I’ll elaborate a bit.

I’m a big Douglas Adams fan. But I’d always thought what he was writing was satire, outlandish situations that couldn’t possibly be true-to-life, which were grossly distorted for comic effect.

For instance, take this passage from the start of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which our loser hero Arthur Dent has just lain in front of a bulldozer that is trying to knock his house down in order to build the bypass he has just learned about:


Funny, huh?

Well, today I learned that Adams wasn’t writing a comic novel. He was writing journalism. Predictive journalism, I suppose you’d call it. He was describing the very situation in which I find myself today.

Today, I forgot to bring in the lunch I had prepared, so I drove home to eat it there. Good thing, too. As I walked in, my wife was on the phone expressing amazement and alarm, and saying things like, “Nobody told ME!!!…”

She was on the phone with my daughter who lives in Shandon, who had discovered, quite incidentally, through a mutual acquaintance’s social media post, that the state of South Carolina had rather specific plans to build an Interstate more or less through our house (as I initially heard it in that moment of shock), and that today was the last day for comments.

And no, no one had told us. No one had walked down our street to knock on doors and tell us (assuming they had the courage) or left little fliers on our doorknobs (assuming they didn’t, which seems the safer bet). No one had sent us anything via snail mail. Or emailed us. Or sent us Facebook messages, or Tweets, or texts, or called on the phone, or left a comment on my blog, or used any of the bewildering array of communication methods available in the Year of Our Lord 2016.

In other words, I’d have been no worse off if the notice had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”

Nor had I seen any news coverage of the plan, which is one of three potential routes the state is considering for addressing the “problem” called Malfunction Junction.

Of course, I must confess, I had seen stories in the paper about that process, and hadn’t read any of them. You know why? Because I wasn’t interested. You know why? Because it had never struck me as a particularly compelling issue. Because why? Because I live less than a mile from the much-cursed interchange, and people have been griping about it ever since I moved back to South Carolina in 1987, and I have yet to fully understand what they are whining about.

I’ve passed through that intersection coming from every direction and going in every direction, at every time of day on every day of the week, and yeah, it gets backed up somewhat during peak drive times. You know what I call that? Living in a city. You know how to deal with it? Adjust your route, or your drive time. Or just live with it. Try this: Go live in the District of Columbia for a month and come back here, and you’ll get down and kiss the pavement at the very knottiest point of the intersection of Interstates 20 and 26. Just kidding. Don’t do that. If you do, people will start whining about you causing traffic to back up, and next thing you know, I’ve got the bulldozers at my door…

Oh, but wait — I do anyway. Almost.

But, upon closer examination, there’s good news: Once I took a careful look at the proposed connector, I saw that it wasn’t exactly, technically, going directly through my living room. No, when I zoom in as much as the website will let me (which isn’t much), it looks like it’s going down the SCE&G right-of-way that runs directly behind the houses across the street from me. That’s a good 50 or even 100 feet from my house. All it would do is cut me off from the only ways out of my subdivision, aside from swimming across the Saluda River.

Whew. And to think I was worried.

But let’s calm down a bit. Let’s get informed. Let’s go read the news coverage we’ve been ignoring, shall we? Such as this story in The State last week, which gets specific:

If the Department of Transportation decides improving existing intersections and widening roads is the way to go, the bulk of the properties affected will be along Broad River and St. Andrews roads. Those two commercial thoroughfares parallel either side of I-26 in the heart of the busy corridor.

Widening Broad River would affect 999 sites, while another 705 would be affected on St. Andrews, according to plans outlined at an update on the massive road project at Seven Oaks School….

Ummmm… I didn’t see anything there, or elsewhere in the story, that in any way indicated that there was something to which I needed pay attention!!!!

Did you? I mean, I live on the opposite side of the river from all of that. And it sounded like they had no intention of disturbing residential areas.

Here’s the map. The crudely drawn yellow star shows you where my house is:


Apparently, there are two alternatives to ripping through my subdivision under consideration. Both are on the other side of the river from me, are cheaper, and would disturb far fewer people that the one cutting through my neighborhood.

Here’s the comparison:


The one called “Directional Interchange” is the one that goes through my neighborhood. The two above it seem to go mostly through some woods. Although… there is slightly greater wetland impact.

So obviously, since we live in a rational universe, I have nothing to worry about, right?

Oh, wait. I just remembered: Donald Trump is a major-party nominee for president of the United States in this universe. And there’s no guarantee he’s going to lose.

OK, I’m worried.

Wait — I just remembered: Today is my last day to comment. OK, here’s my comment:

Don’t do it. Don’t do any of these. Save the money. Or, if you must address this problem, choose one of the options that cost less and cause less disruption.

That, by the way, would be my recommendation if this didn’t come anywhere within 100 miles of my house. It’s sort of my default position.

Oh, and one other thing, which may sound personal, but also fits with my beliefs about sound public policy: Next time, how about giving a guy a heads-up?


Now, could someone please hand me something that says, in large, reassuring letters, DON’T PANIC?

(Below you see the other two routes under consideration.)



Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Today it’s my birthday, and as has become the custom in this decade, scores of people have reached out to wish me joy.

So here I am thanking all of you:

Dawndy Mercer Plank , Jaime Harrison , Michael Kohn , Stanley Dubinsky , Susan Coleman Fedor , Jennifer Sheheen , Gay Lynne Rouse , Meghan Hughes Hickman , Robin Rawl , Randy Page , Debbie Turner , Gary Karr , Nancy Atkinson , Jack Kuenzie , Alice Brooks Youngblood , Angela Crosland , Cheryl Levenbrown , Deb Kohler Woolley , Lori D. Roberts Wiggins , Dave Moniz , Kay Thomas Packett , Kim Fowler , Lora Keenan Prill , Pat Dixon , Julie Leaptrott Ruff , Walter Powell Jr , Judith Wylie , Andy Phelan , Deenie Phelan , Steve Phelan , William Maxwell Gregg , Joseph Azar , Jim McLaurin , Bryan Caskey , George Johnson , Jessica Cross , Lisa Pratt , Kathy Allen , Chris Roberts , Henry Dukes , Thom Fladung , Shannon Staley , Debbie McDaniel , Walter Durst , Jean Chesno , Jack Claypoole , Will Cooper , Cindi Ross Scoppe , Maria Gonda Smoak , Jim DuPlessis , Elliott Edward Powell , Allison Dean Love , Steve Robertson , Karen Blackmon , John Boudreaux , Robert Bowers , Libby Lambert Lewis , Debra-Lynn Hook , Patty Lambert Gursky , Cherie Abee Mabrey , Kathy Duffy Thomas , Carol Plexico , Kenley Young , Peggy Miller Lawrence , K. Wade Smith , Dan Cook , Stephanie Scholler Hinrichs , Shell Suber , Kathy Randall , Howard Hunt , Manuel Gaetan , Chris Burnette , Carlos Primus , Joan Lucius , Deborah Funderburk McDonald , Beth Tally , John Steinberger , Michael Albo , Amy Kuenzie , Jack Balling , Murrell Smith , Richard Chalk , Doug Ross , Frank E Barron III , Allison Wells , Liz Krejci , Bishop Redfern II , Mike Briggs , Walter Caudle , Harold Watson , Sherry Shealy Martschink , Kathryn Braun Fenner , J Ted Creech , Robert Adams , Bill Connor , Ben Werner , Ginny Wolfe , Sybil Gleaton , Howard Hellams , Jason Collins , Nola M Anderson , Mary Dierkes 

… plus any who came in late or which I otherwise missed. (And I left out immediate family members, whom I am thanking in person.)

Thank you,

your most humble, obedient servant, etc., etc….

Let me tell you about my Hillary Clinton dream last night…

This might be the suit she was wearing in the dream. Only more disheveled...

This might be the suit she was wearing in the dream. Only more disheveled…

I haven’t done one of my special “what’s wrong with Brad?” dream-journal posts in years now, so this seems like as good a time as any to dust off the category.

Let me share with you the Hillary Clinton dream I had last night.

It was… typically weird. And confusing…

I was walking down the street in some town that I think was someplace where I used to live and work, perhaps a variation on Jackson, Tennessee. I crossed a street, stepped up and started walking along a sidewalk. The sidewalk was covered, like in a western movie or a situation where there’s living quarters over a shop and the upstairs projects out over the sidewalk.

Anyway, immediately someone is walking my way on the sidewalk, and it’s Hillary Clinton. And she’s not looking good. Her hair is disheveled as though she had just been in a high wind. Her light blue pantsuit is rumpled as though she had slept in it. She looks horribly exhausted, even dazed. She’s staring straight ahead and sort of staggering, and isn’t looking at me.

We’re about to pass each other, and I feel like the civil thing is to say something, but I can’t decide how to address her. I’m not going to say “Hey, Hillary.” I consider, “Hello, Madame Secretary,” but I’m considering, “Sen. Clinton.”

I can’t decide, and she’s right alongside me, so I make myself say something, and it comes out as “Hey… uh…”

She continues staring ahead, but after a second she acknowledges me with a grunt that is if anything less articulate than what I had said. It sounds sort of like “Hmmph!”

So… brilliant interview, right? But I don’t want to chase after her and try to have a real conversation, because it looks like she’s having a bad enough day already. So I continue on, and enter a place that seems to be a sort of restaurant and bar. The proprietress walks up and greets me, and… it’s Hillary Clinton.

Except, for whatever reason, I don’t realize that’s who it is until later. She looks exactly like herself, except she looks younger, fitter, more energetic. Her hair is longer and she has it held back with a band, like in this picture.

This Hillary is, unlike the other, having a good day. She has a prosperous business; things are going well and she’s brimming with confidence. We seem to know each other. We start to chat, and I immediately tell her who I just ran into. And I describe how the Hillary I had run into didn’t look good; she seemed all worn out.

Hillary Two starts to walk away from me to deal with a customer or something, but says to me as she’s leaving, “I’m not at all surprised.”

I say, “What do you mean? Do you say that because of her recent bout with pneumonia?”

The woman looks back and with a sarcastic smirk says “Yeah, right — that’s what I meant,” in a way that communicates she meant something else entirely, and I should know what that was.

I turn and leave, thinking I’ve just picked up on a hell of a good news story — for some reason, the two exchanges seem fraught with meaning — and I’d better head back to the paper and write it. (Along the way, I fret about whether all that was on the record, and I decide it was.) I’m not sure what paper that was, but as I walk into the newsroom and pass the conference room where the editor’s meeting is being held, I see Bobby Hitt is presiding (which would place it at The State between 1988 and 1990). Only I’m not in the meeting, which tells me I’m a writer and not an editor, which is a bit odd. (In my 35-year newspaper career, I was only a reporter for a little over two years, very early on. The rest of the time I was an editor.)

I’m looking for a place to start writing — I need to produce a budget line ASAP (it should have been in before the editors’ meeting, but I know this will be a welcome late addition to the budget) — and all I see near me is manual typewriters of a vintage that places them decades before this picture of the first newsroom I worked in. Like something Ring Lardner would have typed on. I notice, though, that elsewhere there are terminals of the sort we used in the mainframe days of the ’80s and early ’90s, so I head toward one of those, wondering if I can remember my login from way back then. As I do, I pass by a TV that’s playing an old movie about newspapers, and in it a crochety old character actor is saying that computers will be the death of newspapers, just mark his words…

As I go looking for an unoccupied terminal, I run into an editor whom I decide should be briefed on the story. So I start telling it to him, and when I get to the part about the restaurant proprietress, I’m thinking this is someone everybody at the paper knows, but I’m blanking on her name. I’m saying, “You know, that woman who runs that place that I know you know, oh, what’s her name…?”

At that moment, I suddenly realize that she was Hillary Clinton, too. Hits me like a ton of bricks, and stops me cold as I wonder how I could not have realized that. And I’m wondering what this new wrinkle does to my story.

And the dream kind of ends there.

If you can find any meaning in it, congratulations…

OK, WHAT was the point of this reading yesterday?

Following up on Friday’s Faith and Family post…

I frequently have ideas for blog posts during Mass on Sunday, and then I promptly go home and take a nap or something and then get busy with other stuff on Monday and forget about it.

Which I shouldn’t do because, you know, He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.

Jeremiah makes a deal.

Jeremiah makes a deal.

Anyway, yesterday I wasn’t at my own church — it was an Episcopal Church — but the readings are the same as ours, so I assumed the same question would have occurred to me. Unfortunately, the homilist chose the Gospel reading as his text — which was fine, except that the Gospel was a pretty straightforward cautionary tale, the one about the beggar Lazarus and the rich man who die and go to separate places, and didn’t need much explication to my mind.

What I had hoped somebody would explain to me was the first reading, the Old Testament one, which went like this:

No, wait! It wasn’t the same reading! We Catholics had an entirely different one, I find — and one that makes perfect sense to me in the context of the day’s theme (the Gospel readings were the same, and apparently the 2nd Reading, too, although I confess Paul’s letters tend to go in one ear and out the other — too much throat-clearing). You can find it here; it’s from Amos Chapter 6.

Here’s the Episcopal one, the one that confused me:

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of theLord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

That’s from Jeremiah; the Amos reading is offered as an alternative.

Anyway, can someone explain to me why we were reading that Jeremiah passage? Why is it in the lectionary at all? What’s the moral of the story? Where’s the editorial point, to put it in my vernacular? God tells Jeremiah to do a real estate deal, and he does, and then goes into more detail about it than I’d want even if I were a real estate attorney?


Here’s my wild guess as to what the point is: I think it’s sort of, even when you’re in a time of great social upheaval (Nebuchadrezzar bearing down on Jerusalem), you should carry on with life and its dealings. If that’s true, then it’s related to one of my favorite OT passages, also from Jeremiah, on carrying on normal life even while in exile:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. Increase there; do not decrease. 7Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare your own depends.b

(And yeah, I love that one in part because the last bit is way communitarian.) But if that is the point, it’s made really awkwardly and obscurely. Other thoughts?

The Hamlet routine: to press or not to press (charges)

None of these is actually my mailbox; I just needed art to go with this...

None of these is actually my mailbox; I just needed art to go with this…

Monday morning, my wife asked me if I’d done anything with our mailbox at the house — put anything in, taken anything out, whatever. No, I hadn’t. She said she’d come home mid-morning and found it open. And two pieces of mail she had placed in it Sunday afternoon, both containing checks to pay bills, were missing.

So we speculated that maybe the postal worker had come freakishly early or something — J vaguely recalled having seen the mail truck in the neighborhood on Sunday and wondering what it was doing — and made plans to contact the folks to whom the checks were mailed to make sure they arrived.

Then, a couple of hours later, I got a call from our credit union, with whom we have that checking account. Someone we had never heard of had just been in their Irmo office trying to cash a check from us for $680.42.

One of the checks we were mailing was for $130.42. Think about it.

While I can see how someone made that change, I still don’t know how anyone managed to change what was in the TO space. The check was to Lexington County, to pay a vehicle tax, and the name it had been changed to wasn’t even close.

Anyway, the credit union refused to cash it, the person left with the check, and the teller — who remembered us from when she worked in the West Columbia branch — called me.

So since the thieves have my account number and routing number, I ran over to the main office and had the account closed.

That was just the start. We had to change a couple of direct deposits, and some automatic payments — Netflix and the like. There were the two probably-stolen checks, and an earlier payment that hadn’t gone through, so we’d have to get with all those folks and arrange to pay another way.

Yeah, I know. You’re wondering why we were putting checks into our mailbox. A lot of people have asked that the last couple of days, accompanied by “Didn’t you know…?” No, we didn’t. While everyone and his brother is mentioning it now, no one had ever mentioned it to us before — and we’d gone our entire lives without anything being stolen from our mailbox. To our knowledge.

And like most of you, we don’t send out many checks anymore, usually doing electronic transfers. But that doesn’t always work out. Rest assured, if we send out checks henceforth, we’ll follow Moscow Rules — maybe changing vehicles two or three times on the way to an official U.S. gummint mailbox.

Next step, police reports. We live in the county, so I called the sheriff’s office and gave the details over the phone. Separately — since a separate crime was attempted in that jurisdiction — the credit union contacted the Irmo PD.

Which led to a bit of a dilemma for me.

Tuesday morning, the Irmo policeman who’d taken the report called me to ask whether we wanted to press charges. Not that there was a suspect in custody or anything — the police wanted to know whether they would have a case (whether we would testify that we never wrote a check to the person in question, for instance) before devoting resources to it.

I sympathized. The police need to prioritize, I understand. But being asked this question caused me concern on two fronts, having to do with opinions I’ve long held and expressed:

  • I’m all for looking out for crime victims, but I am adamantly opposed to them making decisions about prosecution. You’ll hear people say that “The victim’s family should decide” whether to pursue the death penalty in murder cases, for instance. That’s an outrageous suggestion in my book. We don’t have police and courts to act as agents of personal vengeance for individuals. Our laws against murder and passing bad checks exist because we, as a society, don’t think people should be allowed to kill other people or steal from them — such things are disruptive to civilization. (This is related to my oft-stated opposition to abortion on demand — to me, it’s a violation of the ideal of a nation of laws and not of men to have the one most interested person on the planet have absolute power over life and death.)
  • As y’all know, I don’t think we need to be locking up people who commit nonviolent crimes. Many if not most of the women in prison, from what I’ve heard in the past, are there for trying to pass bad checks. Don’t know if that’s still true, but that’s what I used to hear.

Add to that the fact that aside from being greatly inconvenienced, I had lost nothing, thanks to the smart actions of the teller who refused to cash the check (I told her supervisor she should get a gold star for that). The credit union wasn’t out anything, either — aside from time spent on this.

So I dithered. I asked the officer if I could call him back, and promised to do so by the end of the day.

I polled people about it, and everyone I talked to said of course you want them to prosecute. Still, I did the Hamlet routine — to press or not to press?

I finally decided that I had no choice, for the simple fact that it wasn’t about us, even though it felt like it. Whoever had stolen the checks, and whoever tried to pass the forged one (which could be more than one person), might do it again. For all I know, the person or people in question might do this all the time.

And that needed to be stopped, if possible. It wasn’t about what had or hadn’t been done to us; it was about protecting the rest of society. If we didn’t follow through, additional crimes might occur. If we didn’t proceed, the social contract would fray a bit more.

You know me — once I had it framed in my mind in communitarian terms, I called the officer and asked him to proceed.

If anything else interesting happens, I’ll keep y’all posted…

By the way, what would y’all have done (I mean, besides not putting the checks in the mailbox to start with)?

The way I used to write was positively Warthenesque


I’ve commented on this before, and I find myself wondering whether others experience it.

For my entire writing life, whenever I’ve looked back at something I wrote two or three years earlier, it’s always so much better than what I was writing at the time I looked.

For instance, today I was looking for a good link to go with another post, and somehow ran across this, in which I found a slightly different way to express my oft-expressed frustration with the artificially binary aspect of our politics. The immediate subject was Barack Obama:

Most political commentators, trapped in the extremely limiting notion that the politicians they write and speak about must either be of the left or right, can’t make him out. But he keeps making perfect sense to me. Perhaps I should send a memo out to the MSM letting them know that there’s a third way they can think of a politician (actual, there’s an infinite number of ways, but let’s not blow their little minds; one step at a time). There’s left (as “left” is popularly and imperfectly described) and right (as “right” is popularly and imperfectly described), and then there’s Brad Warthen. As in, “The candidate’s recent statements have been Warthenesque,” or “That was a distinctly Braddish move he made last week.”

It would open up whole new vistas for our national political conversation. Certainly a broader landscape than what we’re used to, with its limited expectations…

Yes! I liked that. And not just because it involved placing yours truly at the center of the political universe. No, it’s not Hemingway and still less Shakespeare (and frankly, now that I’m sharing it with you I’m not enjoying it nearly as much as when I ran across it an hour ago). But it was a nice, breezy, fun little bite that had a flair to it, and it made me smile a bit. Nothing special, just another way of expressing the UnParty idea. Another way of saying that for many of us in this country — I am but one of millions in this regard — the way the media write and talk about politics makes us feel left out. If only our ways of thinking were taken into account…

My staff photo from 1987: Back then I could WRITE...

My staff photo from 1987: Back then I could WRITE…

And I thought, for the millionth time, why don’t I write like that now?

But that’s always the way. I wrote that in 2011, and sometime in 2011 I no doubt looked back at something from 2005, when I first started blogging, and thought That’s the real stuff! Why don’t I have stuff like that now?

And in 2005, I was mooning over the first columns I wrote for The State’s editorial page in 1994 and thinking that was what punditry was all about; what had happened to me?

And in the early ’90s I probably ran across a box of old columns from when I was still at The Jackson Sun ten years earlier and thinking, that’s when I had the real fire…

I can’t wait until the year 2020, when this pooge I’m writing now will look like pure gold…

My Pocahontas connection: Eat your heart out, Elizabeth Warren!

Donald Trump mocks Elizabeth Warren by calling her “Pocahontas.” Not a classy move on his part on a number of levels, although she did sort of ask for it by claiming to be an American Indian when she had no proof that she was.

Nor can I make such a claim. Despite extensive work on my family tree, I’ve found nothing to contradict the finding from a DNA analysis one of my daughters sent off for, which among many other things said we had, alas, zero Native Americans in our genetic background. (She initially doubted the results when they showed extensive Scandinavian involvement, but I’ve since corroborated that in my work on the family tree. Vikings, you see.)

But, while I’m not blood kin, Pocahontas herself — a.k.a. Matoaka, a.k.a. Amonute, a.k.a. Rebecca Rolfe — is now in my family tree! This will no doubt cause Sen. Warren to turn green with envy, and prompt Donald Trump to start calling me “Powhatan” (which would be inaccurate, but do you think that would stop him?). Were he to take note of me, that is, which I hope he doesn’t.


Pocahontas by Simon van de Passe, 1616

To show how I got there, I should probably first share with you how I got back to that era of history. You may not want me to, but I did all this work, so I’m going to share it anyway.

Some time ago, my mother said she had heard we may be related to Richard Pace, who is famous for having warned the settlers of Jamestown of an impending Indian attack.

She was right. In fact, according to the connections I’ve found on various databases on the Web, he was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. Yes, 10 “greats.” That is to say, he was one of the 2,048 10th-great grandfathers that each of us is allotted. It seems extremely unlikely that I’ll ever know them all, since after six years of work my entire tree, including many such non-blood digressions as the one that led to Pocahontas, consists of 1,649 people.

Mom had heard about the possible connection from one of her first cousins, and after he called me showing interest in what I had found, I sent him the following simplified description of how we get back to the hero Richard Pace.

A note about my methods, which would no doubt draw scornful laughter from historians and professional genealogists. I do this for fun, using resources at my fingertips. I don’t establish these connections by rooting through musty archives for physical documents, which would no doubt play Old Harry with my allergies. I Google, and I root around in the many extensive genealogy databases out there — the ones that don’t charge for the privilege (my tree resides on, which allows me to build it for free; I don’t plan to start paying until I run out of easy free connections) — until I find a connection, and then proceed from that. Some of what I find is contradictory, so I hunt further until I’ve resolved the contradiction, at least to my own satisfaction as a restless hunter eager to move on. When I find two birth dates for the same person, I choose the more reasonable one and add “circa.”

The search for Richard Pace was unusual in that I was trying to get to him. Usually, I just find whomever I find, searching backwards in time. Deliberately trying to connect to someone can be problematic — the first time I did it, as noted below, I ignored some glaring discrepancies to get there. I believe I have it on more solid ground now.

In any case, here’s what I sent my first cousin once removed. Note that I start with my great-grandfather (and his grandfather) Charles Lexington Pace, who was an undertaker in Marion, since we’re both well familiar with him:

I’m sorry to take so long to get back to you. Shortly after we spoke, I went to look at the family tree, intending to describe to you our connection to Richard Pace, and I discovered a major error.
We have several ancestors named George Pace. One was born about 1765. My error was that I had put someone down as his father who, going by the dates, could not possibly be his father. That called into question the entire connection to Richard Pace of Jamestown.
So I had to wait until I had some time to meticulously go back and figure out where my mistake was. I still don’t know why it happened, but GOOD NEWS: After some hours of web surfing, I’ve established that we probably still are directly descended from Richard Pace.
I say “probably” because I have no physical documents proving it. All I have is statements on web databases that Person A was the son of Person B, and so forth. Some of this stuff seems shaky, and who knows for sure after all these generations?
But most of these connections make sense. There is only one generation where it seems a little doubtful, but I think that’s because we aren’t sure of their birthdates. I have George Pace (grandfather of the other George Pace) being born in 1702, but his son William being born “about 1716,” when George was only 14. Worse, I have William’s mother — George’s wife, Obedience Strickland Pace — being born “about 1715” — just one year before her son! But I’m assuming that since both dates say “circa” before the dates (which changes to “about” when I enter it), then Obedience was likely born several years earlier, and her son William several years later.
There’s plenty of reason to believe William was born quite a few years later, since his son, the younger George, wasn’t born until 1765. (Maybe. Another source gives a wide range of possible dates for him.)
Anyway, here’s what I have, starting from Papa Pace and going back in time, from son to father to grandfather, etc. If you click on the names, they will take you to web pages where I got some of the information. A lot of these come from the database, but some of the more recent are from other sources:
Charles L. Pace, born 1831
Richard Pace, born about 1793
George Pace, born 1765 — another source says “estimated between 1723 and 1783” (he was originally from Virginia or NC, and was the first to move to SC)
William Pace, about 1716 (a shaky approximation, based on when his parents were born)
Richard Pace II, about 1636
George Pace, about 1609 (born in England — his father apparently brought him to Virginia)
Richard Pace Jr., about 1580
THAT Richard Pace, born around 1580, is the famous one who saved the settlers at Jamestown. Here’s a Wikipedia page about him, which mentions his descendants George and Richard II.
I’ve continued to poke around in what’s available on the Web, and the earliest possible Pace ancestor I’ve found is a man named Peter Pacey, who was probably born in the early 1400s. (My source says “estimated between 1390 and 1450,” which is a pretty wide range, but not all that unusual with this kind of data.)
I hope you enjoy looking over all this material. Let me know if you have anything good to share back with me. It’s always good to have more information…

Oh, as to Richard Pace’s role at Jamestown, here’s his Wikipedia page. His warning to the governor apparently saved Jamestown, but not the settlers in surrounding areas. Many were killed, including some other direct ancestors of ours — the parents of the wife of Richard’s son, George.

This historical marker in Surry County, Virginia, tells some of my ancestor's story.

This historical marker in Surry County, Virginia, tells some of my ancestor’s story.

It was in researching more about that couple who died in the attack — the Rev. Samuel Maycock and his wife, the former Mary Pierce — that I found my way to Pocahontas.

Mary Pierce had a sister named Jane, who was born in 1605 in Heacham, England and died in Virginia in 1635. I don’t always bother with siblings of direct ancestors, but in this case I did, and was rewarded with a fun fact:

Jane Pierce married John Rolfe, with whom you are probably familiar. Jane was his third wife. His first wife was Sarah Hacker. His second, who died in 1617 back in England, was Pocahontas. Thereby making her, as Ancestry succinctly puts it, my “wife of husband of 11th great-aunt.”


Stuff like this is what makes genealogy fun, which is what causes me to spend a ridiculous portion of my weekends doing it.

Speaking of fun…

Now that I’m back in this part of the tree, I’m going to go back a couple of generations and try again to nail down my connection to John Pace, who served as jester to King Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I. Wikipedia says he was “probably a nephew of English diplomat Richard Pace.” That Richard Pace was my 13th-great-grandfather, if my information is accurate. He had a brother named Thomas, but I can’t find any indication that John the Fool was his son.

But while I haven’t been able to prove the connection, which I would love to do, history — that is to say, Francis Bacon — does record a couple of his jokes. The first one doesn’t make sense to my modern ear. Here’s the second:

‘Pace the bitter fool was not suffered to come at the Queen because of his bitter humour. Yet at one time some persuaded the Queen that he should come to her; undertaking for him that he should keep compass. So he was brought to her, and the Queen said: “Come on, Pace; now we shall hear of our faults.” Saith Pace: “I do not use to talk of that that all the town talks of.”’

I’ll pause until you’ve stopped laughing. If Comedy Central had material like this, they wouldn’t be mourning the departure of Jon Stewart so.

He may have been called a “bitter fool,” but I think ol’ Uncle John was a caution. After all, I’ve been accused of much the same failing myself.

A 1628 woodcut supposedly depicting the Indian attack of 1622, from which Jamestown was spared due to intel obtained by my ancestor, Richard Pace.

A 1628 woodcut supposedly depicting the Indian attack of 1622, from which Jamestown was spared due to intel obtained by my ancestor, Richard Pace.

The Old Man and the iPad

Prisma Mosaic

When Burl Burlingame and wife Mary were here last month, we took them with us to check out First Thursday on Main. While we were strolling about in Tapp’s, Burl shot a picture of J and me and processed it through the app Prisma before showing it to us. It was pretty cool.

So tonight, while we were playing a game of Words With Friends across the kitchen table with our iPads — a bit weird, as you wait for your opponent’s move to bounce off a satellite or something and come back down to the table where it originated so you can make your move — J took a picture of me, downloaded Prisma, and chose the “Mosaic” filter.

You see the result above. The really awesome thing about it to me is what it did with our wild kitchen wallpaper — made it look a lot cooler than real life. I’d like to have wallpaper like that.

Anyway, she posted it on Facebook, and Kathryn Fenner responded, “The Old Man and the iPad.”


He was an old man who played alone on a tablet in the Web Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without winning a game.

A man can be destroyed but not defeated. So it is in Palabras Con Amigos.

Give it a rest with the football! It’s BASEBALL SEASON!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they're going to put FOOTBALL in it!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they’re going to put FOOTBALL in it!

On Saturday, I flipped on the old TV in my upstairs home office, the one in front of the recliner I keep there, intending to glide off into a nap while half-watching something…

… and there was football on my TV!

It’s still August, people! I don’t get but a handful of TV stations — just the local broadcast tier — and if there’s going to be sports on one of them in August, it should be baseball! But was there a single MLB game on my limited set of choices? No. More’s the pity, because there are few things more restful on a Saturday afternoon than non-playoff, regular season, workaday baseball.

But wait — there’s the Little League World Series! But no. Those overexcited little kids running around don’t have the right sort of languid, professionals-doing-a-job approach that I prefer when I’m in nap mode.

So I snoozed with the TV off, the way cavemen did in their home offices.

Monday night, I’m in the kitchen and my wife turns on the TV in the next room, and for a second before she changes the channel, I could swear I heard football again! She says I didn’t, and there wasn’t any on the guide, so maybe I’m just getting jumpy. But it sounded like football!

Look, people, I know you’re all going to be going on about football at full volume 24 hours a day after Labor Day, which is bearing down on us, and that’s just one of the miserable facts of life in the season that would otherwise be my favorite time of year. (I’ll see leaves turning and feel a delicious coolness in the air, and someone will say, “Football weather!” and ruin it.) I’ll deal with it, and look forward to the World Series.

But let me have the rest of this week, OK? Stop encroaching on the last week that should be football-free.

And for sure, don’t give me more news like this:

Six local high school football teams will face off this fall at Spirit Communications Park, the $37 million home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team….

Aw, come ON, people! We just got this ballpark! I just went to my first game there last week, and you’re telling me next week there’s going to be football there? Really? You didn’t think there was enough football going on in enough places in September, you had to sully this place, too?

When does it stop? Yeah, I know — February, right? I’ll start counting the days…

What newsrooms used to look like, long, long ago

The sardonic Managing Editor Bill Sorrels presides at his desk in the middle of the newsroom (he had an office somewhere, too). You see Dave Hampton running somewhere in the background. Note the decor.

The sardonic Managing Editor Bill Sorrels presides at his desk in the middle of the newsroom (he had an office somewhere, too). He’s apparently reading one of the proofs I fetched. You see Dave Hampton striding in a blur across the room in the background. Note the go-to-hell decor — the unmatched linoleum, the rivers of proofs tumbling from spikes on the Metro Desk behind the M.E….

Having just wrestled with the new definitions of an old word, “reporter,” here are some images from the very start of my newspaper career, so very long ago. When reporters were reporters.

After I dug out those pictures from 1978 to go with this post, I started poring through some old negatives, thinking yet again about digitizing them (and again overwhelmed at the enormity of the task), when I ran across something I had forgotten existed.

Apparently, I took my camera to the paper one night during those several months I worked at my first newspaper job, back in 1974. I was a “copy clerk” at The Commercial Appeal in the spring and summer of that year, while a student at Memphis State University. That means I was a “copy boy,” with the title adjusted for the political correctness that was coming into fashion at the time (but which for the most part did not touch this newsroom). And indeed, we did briefly have one girl join us boys standing at the rail, ready to jump when someone called “copy.”

wire machines

Copy Clerk David Hampton, later longtime editorial page editor of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, in the wire room.

We were among the last copy boys in the country, since new technology was doing away with the need for someone to run around doing the stuff we did. Which meant reporters no longer had anyone to lord it over.

I just found these three exposures, found on one short strip of 35 mm film in a glassine envelope. I don’t know whether I took more, or where the rest of the roll is.

Anyway, I appeared to be documenting what I did at the paper by taking pictures of my friend and fellow copy clerk David Hampton doing the same tasks I did every night.

You can see Dave hurrying across the newsroom on an errand in the background of the photo at top, which shows one corner of the newsroom from the perspective of the managing editor’s desk. This part of the room is mostly deserted, with a reporter casually conversing with an assistant editor over on the Metro desk. This is 7:15 p.m., shortly after most of the day side people have left. The place would have been bustling about an hour earlier. Dave and I would be running for the next six or seven hours. (I wish I’d gotten a shot of the whole newsroom when it was full of people — but I probably would have been yelled at. That would not have been a novel experience, but I preferred to avoid it.)

In the foreground of the photo is the late Bill Sorrels, the managing editor, with a characteristic smirk on his face. I had him for a reporting class at Memphis State. His “teaching” technique consisted of telling stories from his reporting days, and stopping in mid-story to go around the room asking everyone, “So what did I do next?” and smirking when they got it wrong.

Bill would look over the galley proofs I brought him with that same expression, and then call out embarrassing critical remarks to reporters and editors about the mistakes they had made. (This was the kind of old-school place where grown men were chewed out and ground into the floor in front of everybody by their bosses.) The only actual work I ever remember seeing him do was on Aug. 9, 1974. He called me over and gave me a piece of paper on which he had scrawled, “Nixon Resigns.” He told me to take it to composing (on the next floor) and have it typeset in our biggest headline type (probably about 96 points), then have them shoot a picture of that and blow it up until it went all the way across the front page — then bring it to him to approve before they set it in metal and put it on the page. Probably the most “historic” thing I did in that job.

Above and at right, you see Dave in the wire room checking one of the 10 or 12 machines there that chugged out news from across the world non-stop — back in the days when ordinary people didn’t have access to such via Twitter, etc. We were the nursemaids to those machines, making sure the paper and ribbons never ran out, that they didn’t jam, and that the stories were ripped off the machines and taken to the editors who needed to see them.

Below, Dave is in the “morgue,” in later more polite times known as the “library,” where he’s been sent to fetch something, probably a photo, that someone needs to go with a story they’re working on. Given the size of the envelopes, these are probably mug shots, or maybe metal “cuts” that were already made to run in the paper previously. We saved those, when they were of repeat newsmakers, to save time and metal. They were uniformly 6 ems (picas) in width.

Another world. I never again worked in such an old-school environment. This was the old Commercial Appeal building, torn down decades ago. The long-defunct Memphis Press Scimitar was up on the fifth floor, if I recall correctly. Most news copy was still written, edited and processed in the old way — typed on manual typewriters, the pages strung together with rubber cement, edited with pencil, and set in metal type by noisy linotype machines up in the composing room. Once the type was set for each story, individual proofs would be pulled of each story, before they were placed on the “turtle” that held the full page — which we would run down to the newsroom. There was a lot of running back and forth.

This place was already an anachronism; it would have been completely recognizable to Ben Hecht’s characters in “The Front Page” It was what the makers of “Teacher’s Pet,” which I saw on Netflix the other night, were going for in the newsroom scenes. (Nick Adams played the copy boy in that film, itching for his shot at becoming a reporter. He was excited to get to write some obits one night. For us, the transitional job was to be the copy clerk who did the “agate” — rounding up police blotter, marriages and divorces, property transfers and other routine list-type copy and typing it up to go into the paper. I got to do that once, when another guy was out, and felt I had taken a huge step up.)

But new technology was creeping in. The non-news departments wrote on IBM Selectrics, and their copy was scanned and set in cold type, and pasted up on paper pages. And maybe some of the news copy as well — I see a Selectric behind Sorrels on the Metro desk. And a couple more on the rim of the copy desk at right.

It was also a crude, rough place that was about as non-PC as anyplace you could find in the ’70s. It’s ironic that they called us “copy clerks” instead of “boys,” because there were few other concessions to modern sensibilities. Culturally, every other newsroom I ever worked in was as removed from this one as though a couple of generations had passed. Although it was 1974, this newsroom would have been more at home in the first half of the century. It was… Runyonesque.

In the following decades, I didn’t miss this place, and was happy to work in a more civil environment. But I’m glad to have had this throwback experience; it gives me something to feel nostalgic about when I watch those old movies made before I was born. Yes, I say, it was just like that — those few months at the Commercial Appeal, anyway….

Dave, fetching a "cut" from the morgue.

Dave, fetching a “cut” from the morgue.

‘Survey says…!’ My opinion continues to be in great demand

"Survey says..!"

“Survey says..!”

At the moment, in my Inbox, I have messages asking me to fill out surveys giving feedback about:

  1. The last time I gave platelets at the Red Cross.
  2. A recent lunch at the Capital City Club.
  3. My dealings with the service department at Canon regarding a malfunctioning printer.
  4. My dealings with the AT&T service department regarding a faulty router.
  5. My recent six-month checkup with my internist.

Two of them came in on the 11th, two on Monday and the other today, and I haven’t gotten to any of them.

And while I appreciate that they all care so much about what I think of the service, the cumulative effect is a bit overwhelming. Reminds me of school, when every teacher assumed she or he was the only class giving you homework. They meant well, too.

The one I definitely want to respond to is the Canon one, but not yet — because, unbeknownst to Canon, we’re not done yet.

I have this wonderful ImageClass MF6160 dw printer that I got for Christmas, and it’s given me great service ever since. Until a couple of weeks back, that is.

There are two things about it I particularly love — the multiple-page-document feeder on the top for copying and scanning, which saves a lot of tedious standing there to feed it; and the fact that I can immediately print out anything I see on my iPad or phone from anywhere in the house.

But then I came back from vacation, turned it on, and got an error message and a complete refusal to do anything — copy, scan, print, whatever.

I spent several evenings trying to call Canon before realizing they shut down the phone lines at 8 p.m. (the recording would tell me they were closed, but would NOT tell me what the hours were). So I sent them a long email, with all the particulars, and received a response telling me to call. By 8, of course.

So I called. And the guy who answered was unable to call up my email, so I started from scratch with him. He concluded that I needed to download some new firmware. But my printer had not come with a USB cable, so he said he’d just send me a new printer.

Which is great, right? It came yesterday — earlier than I expected, so great again. But my new AT&T router came the same day, so I installed that first and got all my devices up and working on the home network before dealing with the printer. (Everything went as advertised with the new modem/router, so yay, AT&T! A loyal advertiser on, by the way…)

I finally got it all unpacked, and carefully put all the pieces of orange tape that came on it onto the old printer that I have to ship back to them, and turned it on. No error message! And it copies fine.

But it won’t print or scan because I can’t get it to connect to my devices via wifi. Even though I’ve been through the ritual of making the connection several times, and each time it says it’s connected.

And of course, by this time it was well after 8 p.m.

So tonight I’ll call them, and see if we can get all this straightened out. And after that, I’ll fill out their survey. And I’ll be happy then, because I love my printer, and I just want it back.

And then maybe I’ll get to the other ones as well.

I mean, it’s nice that they care what I think….

Hey, I know! Since they value what I think so much, maybe they’d all like to get together and pay me what I used to get paid at the paper to express what I think! If they’d do that, I’d fill out surveys all day….

John Oliver on the plight of newspapers

I had trouble finding time to watch this, and if we wait until I have time to comment on it, I’ll never get around to posting it. I have actual work to do.

So… I urge y’all to watch it, and comment, and I’ll jump in and join you later.

I’ll just say that the piece is well-done, and accurate. The truest thing Oliver says is when he indicates that no one has figured out a good way to pay for the journalism our society needs going forward (now that print advertising, which used to be like a license to print money, has essentially gone away). In other words, he says a lot of things I’ve said before, in a less entertaining matter. (My Brookings piece, for instance, wasn’t crafted for laughs.)

That’s the truth, and the tragedy. One can make fun of all the media executives who are trying various stupid strategies to keep going, but the indisputable fact is that no one has come up with the right approach yet…

I had a great time hanging with Burl the last few days

Burl and me, with Fort Sumter so far in the background you can't quite make it out.

Burl and me, with Fort Sumter so far in the background you can’t quite make it out.

It was great getting to see my old high school classmate Burl Burlingame — and his wife Mary, also a veteran journalist (and night editor at the Honolulu paper) — the last few days.

The exterior of the Hunley museum/research site is undergoing improvements.

The exterior of the Hunley museum/research site is undergoing improvements.

As you know, he was here for the International Plastic Modelers Society’s 2016 National Convention & Contest, where he was both a presenter and contestant. He gave a great talk Saturday morning about what most people don’t know about Pearl Harbor, from which I learned a lot. After that, I accompanied the Burlingames to Charleston to see the Hunley.

Of course, I couldn’t help telling the guide that “You realize this is the world’s leading authority on Japanese midget subs,” thereby putting pressure on both the guide and Burl. But Burl was up to it, and he was fairly impressed with what the Hunley folks had accomplished. I was, too. I remain amazed that they were able to remove all that concretion from the outside and the inside of the sub without destroying the whole thing.

We capped the weekend by cooking out at my house, where Burl and Mary met a few folks I thought they might like to meet, plus most of the Warthen clan.

A good time was had by all. Or by me, anyway.

From the video: The future founder of the UnParty enjoys an Uncola, in 1971.

From the home movie: The future founder of the UnParty enjoys an Uncola, in 1971.

If you’re not a military brat like Burl and me, you might not realize what a special thing it is for your friends and family to meet one of your high school friends. Before meeting Burl on our way back from Thailand last year, my wife had met exactly one of my high school friends — briefly, in 1975. Burl brings the total to two, out of a class of 600.

Burl and I graduated in 1971 — as part of the festivities Sunday night, I showed some Super 8 movie footage (silent, of course), recently digitized, from our last days of high school. As it happens, my Dad shot some footage of me talking with Burl and another friend or two outside the HIC on graduation day — at a distance, with a feel like surveillance film. Unfortunately, you mostly just see the back of Burl’s head. But there is one split second when Burl leaned toward me to make a point, and you can barely make him out.

Burl in 1971.

Burl in 1971.

One’s youth can be so elusive. It’s tough to recapture.

It’s the only photographic evidence that we knew each other, all those years ago. Burl noted last night it was sort of our version of the Zapruder film. This would be extremely difficult for today’s 17-year-olds to imagine, as they text out pictures, and HD video, of themselves with their friends on an hourly basis, if not more often.

Here’s hoping it’s not another 45 years before we meet again.

Our version of the Zapruder film...

Our version of the Zapruder film…


‘Think light’ if you want to wrestle Shute

Yes, another “Vision Quest” reference.

Blame my elder son this time. He brought the above weigh-in video clip to my attention because he knew it would remind me, as it did him, of the big weigh-in scene in the movie. (Oh, and to you adolescent boys out there — don’t bother watching the above clip; you never get to see anything. For an ultimate fighter, who you might think would be about as bashful as a Viking shieldmaiden, she’s very demure.)

“Think light,” said Kooch (a great secondary character, by the way). And Loudon did.

Speaking of which…

I’m nowhere nearer to being able to wrestle Shute than I was the last time I mentioned it.

But I learned this week that I shouldn’t worry, because my weight, at 180-something, remains way under the national average now:

Americans aren’t growing taller, but their waistlines are growing wider. A new federal report reveals that U.S. men and women weigh about 15 lb. more than they did 20 years ago.

In the report, published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, researchers looked at data from 2011 to 2014. They found that the average man, who’s about 5 ft. 9 in., weighs 195.7 lb., and the average woman, almost 5 ft. 4 lb., weighs 168.5 lb. For men, that’s about 15 lb. more than average in 1988–94; women are now more than 16 lb. heavier. Men and women’s heights were about the same two decades ago….

This is a puzzle, though, because 75 percent of us reporting eating healthy

Here’s what I mean when I say I’m a ‘centrist’

I’m trying to blog smarter by converting long comments into separate posts. Here’s the latest.

In this case, I had — in the interest of using words economically — referred to myself as a “centrist,” as I frequently do. Both Bud and Harry Harris took exception to the reference.

I replied

Dang, dang, dang! I wrote this somewhat involved, extremely insightful comment a little while ago on my iPad, and lost wifi in the middle of saving it. Let me see if I can reconstruct…

Of course I’m a centrist, to the point that the term has meaning (more on that in a second). I’m an adherent of the postwar governing consensus, the area that Clinton and Blair tried to get us back to in the 90s. I disagree with those who would pull us way from it.

That said, “left,” “right” and “center” are fairly silly terms. I really don’t HAVE a comfortable place on the artificial left-right continuum, and trying to place me, or anyone who THINKS about issues rather than buying them off the shelf prepackaged, on that line can present problems. But since I’m not “left” or “right,” “center” is a convenient term to use.

It’s also convenient because I am for CORE values, not those on the fringes. Here’s what I mean by that…

Government is about solving problems together, or at least efficiently providing those basic functions that we have general agreement government should handle. So I’m interested in areas where the parties overlap, not the areas where they pull away from consensus. We need to identify and build upon those areas where we can work together. And if we get good enough at that, maybe we can branch out to some of the tough subjects.

For that reason, I generally don’t like dealing with Culture War stuff, and get upset when it looks like an election is going to be about such things. Bud says, for instance, he assumes I “still advocate” for traditional marriage. I wasn’t aware I HAD been advocating on that subject. At all. He also mentioned Blue Laws. At one point some years back I made a gentle, passing reference to the fact that opposition to blue laws is one of the sillier overinterpretations of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment clause. Having a sensible agreement to have a day without commerce and hustle-bustle is hardly thrusting a particular form of religion on anyone. It’s just a gesture to basic human sanity. And I say that whenever Doug and Bud bring it up, which they do a LOT, because such a sensible suggestion is DEEPLY offensive to their libertarian reflexes. But I can’t recall advocating or campaigning for such. The most I’ve said is that it’s a shame to see such a life-calming custom go away.

Seriously, when I start campaigning for something, everyone can tell. (See: Confederate flag.)

But back to my point — I don’t see it as productive to invest a lot of political capital in those things, because the fights over them drive us apart and make it harder to agree on the things that should be easy.

The problem these days is that the parties and associated interest groups have polarized us so much that the area of consensus has gotten smaller and smaller.

Bud thinks this is a GREAT year. Well, in a couple of ways it is, but not the ways he thinks.

First, among thoughtful, informed participants and observers, there’s a greater willingness to step out from the stupid left-right, Democratic-Republican dichotomy and consider candidates on their merits. Once people do that, you see the Bushes (whom Bud despises so much), Graham, Sasse, Romney, et al., distancing themselves from Trump or opposing him outright. The latest encouraging manifestation of that is Meg Whitman declaring for Hillary, and the formation of a PAC to encourage Republicans to vote for the lesser of two weevils.

Sure, there are still plenty of Republicans out there who think this is a normal, left-v.-right election and anyone who would support anyone but Trump is a liberal Democrat and therefore the enemy. But I prefer to celebrate the people out there who GET IT.

Also, with Trump as their standard-bearer the GOP has so abandoned the flag-and-country ground that the Democrats were able to co-opt it and position themselves as the party of traditional patriotism last week. In other words, the Dems celebrated the things that used to unite us all, rather than just concentrating on differences (the usual Identity Politics and class warfare stuff).

Of course, this deeply offended the centrifugal forces of our politics, who want to see us fly apart. For instance, Gen. Allen’s speech offended both the military-hating portions of the left and the Democrat-hating elements on the right.

But these are positive developments, to a “centrist” like me…


A problem with the new Passport parking system


I’ve enjoyed, for the most part, using the city’s new Passport parking app. I haven’t minded — much — paying that 35-cent-a-session fee for the convenience.

And of course, the most convenient thing about it is that wherever you are, you can extend your parking session — by 15, 30, 45 minutes, an hour or more. No more excusing yourself from a meeting and running a block to plug in more quarters.history

But here’s the thing I don’t like: If you miss the end of your session by so much as a split second, you can’t extend the session. And worse, you can’t start a new one!

And I see absolutely no reason for this. If I were doing it the 20th century way, no one would stop me from going down and plugging another quarter in. So why should this new technology, which has no reason to be, be even less convenient in that regard than the old way?

This problem doesn’t arise if the app works as advertised. It’s supposed to give a two-minute warning before the session runs out — plenty of time to tap in an extension. But in my experience, that warning comes only about half the time.

Here’s what happened to me today, as evidenced by the ticket above and the screenshots at right…

I started a one-hour session on Assembly Street at 9:01 a.m., and went up for my breakfast. (Oh, for the troll out there who always acts SHOCKED at the hour at which I start my day, see what happens to your body clock after decades of working at a morning newspaper. I start my day later than average, and work on later than most in the evening. As I did all those years at the paper.)

Anyway, I had just started reading another item on my iPad (I read three newspapers at breakfast, plus other stuff brought to my attention via social media) when it occurred to me that my session must be almost up. As it happened, I checked precisely at 10:01, and it said my session had just expired. So I immediately tried to start another session — just 15 minutes — to give me enough time to get to my vehicle (and then some).denied

I got the rejection you see at right (click to make it bigger). As I expected. I shrugged, knowing I was already in violation (but a bit peeved that I was being prevented from addressing that), finished reading what I was reading, and headed down to my truck. I got there at 10:12. The ticket on my windshield had been written at 10:06 — five minutes after my good-faith effort to extend my session by 15 minutes.

Yep, I courted that ticket by reading for another few moments before heading down. If I had not, I probably would have arrived at the moment the meter maid was printing out the ticket.

So no foul. Late is late, and them’s the rules of the game.

But isn’t the point of the Passport app to allow people to do what I was more than willing to do — pay more for a few minutes more, just as I would be allowed to do were I standing at the meter with coins or Smart Card in hand? (And remember, I was NOT trying to exceed the meter’s two-hour limit — I would have been 45 minutes short of that.)

This seems a flaw in the system to me. And I see no good reason for it. Do you?

I’ve got no beef with paying this fine — despite the failure of the warning that was supposed to sound and let me know I was nearing the end of my session. But I do think this “lockout” feature, which seems a matter of policy, should be changed.