Category Archives: Personal

It’s my birthday, so… more baseball pictures!

Baseball

I want to thank all those dozens of folks for wishing me joy of my birthday on Facebook.

I like the picture one of my cousins posted to mark the occasion. That’s it below at left. That’s me with my grandfather, Gerald Harvey Warthen, when I was about 4.22195386_482392475480410_9175248831617986939_n

This shot is meaningful to me because my grandfather was a serious baseball player. As a young man in Kensington, Md., that’s what he was all about. He had a job with the Postal Service at one point, just so he could pitch for their baseball team. He was offered a contract by (I think) the Senators’ organization, but ended up working in his father’s construction business instead.

But his legend endured in Kensington. My Dad grew up there being known as “Whitey” Warthen’s kid. That was his baseball name — like Ford and Herzog.

I did not, I regret to say, get to grow up with my grandfather, as he died of lung cancer within a year of the photo being taken.

Above, you see him as a young man with one of the teams he played for. He’s squatting at the right of the photo, with a steely gaze that says to me, “Enough of this stuff! Let’s play ball!”

Looking much less intimidating, you see me below with the only organized team I ever played on, the MacDill AFB senior Little League team. I guess I was about 14. I’m on the left end of the back row, standing next to the white-shirted coach. The only thing I seem to have in common with my grandfather here is that I, too, look like I’m ready to have the picture-taking over with. Or maybe it’s just that I’d removed my glasses for the picture, and couldn’t see anything.

I hadn’t played organized ball before that because we moved almost every summer. This was late to start, and while I’d been a good hitter in sandlots (where the idea was usually to put the ball across the plate and put it in play), I had a terrible time adjusting to people trying to throw the ball past me. I tended to swing late.

So it is that I’m particularly proud of my one highlight of that undistinguished year: I broke up a no-hitter in the fifth inning (of seven). This redheaded pitcher on the opposite nine was just overpowering everybody, but I got an opposite-field (still swinging late) line drive off him for a single. So they took him out of the game. That’s it — my one story of baseball glory.

Needless to say, no Major League team ever offered me a contract…

MacDill senior little league team

My platelets went to Puerto Rico — BEFORE the hurricane

ontheway

Well, this is kind of cool to know. I received this via email over the weekend:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 9/12/2017 was sent to Hospital Municipal De Cayey in Cayey, PR and Hospital Menonita de Caguas in Caguas, PR to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

That was actually several days before the hurricane. So, while I’m glad to have helped Puerto Rico, I guess my timing was a little off.

Here’s hoping that they sent my most recent donation, on Sept. 25, to Dominica. They really need help there…

Baseball wasn’t there for me this season, in case you’re wondering what’s wrong with America

Will the Tribe be calling the shots in this post-season?

Will the Tribe be calling the shots in this post-season?

Yesterday, I saw by my MLB iPad app that it was the last day of the regular season, and that all the last games would be starting about 3 p.m.

So a little after 3, I decided to click around on the few TV channels I get via our HD antenna (I don’t see a whole lot of point in cable these days), with particular attention to those that might offer live sports — the CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox affiliates.

And I found… two football games, a golf tournament and something else that I don’t recall at the moment. No baseball. Again.

I’d had the exact same experience every other time I’d gotten that vague “I’d like to see a ballgame” feeling over the course of this season. As much as I dislike football, I think the thing that hurt was that there was usually one golf tournament showing. I at least understand why people might watch football, especially on an HD screen (to quote Joni Mitchell, “You want stimulation, nothing more; that’s what I think”). Golf, not so much. I mean, my parents like to watch golf, but they subscribe to all those cable sports channels, so why can’t golf be on one of those, so that on a given weekend afternoon, there can be one old-school broadcast channel showing us the national pasttime?

You’ll say, I could have watched baseball if I’d tried — say, if I’d shelled out $100 a month for all those cable channels. My reply is, I don’t want to watch anything that much.

And if you think I’m going to try to watch any sport, you’re misunderstanding my relationship with baseball. I’m not a fan, in the sense of following a team or being able to name the current players or anything (I used to know the Braves’ lineup, but the last one I could pick out of a lineup was probably Chipper Jones).

It’s like a zen thing with me. I like to stumble across baseball, not seek it out. I love the idea of baseball, which is why I love a sappy movie about it like “The Natural” or “Major League,” or a book like Halberstam’s The Summer of ’49.

I always have lot of things to do on weekends — family activities (which abound when you have five kids and five grandkids), yard work, adding ancestors to the family tree, digitizing family photos for posterity. But on most weekends there’s a point at which I’ve got a break in the schedule and don’t feel like staring at a screen or anything, when it would be nice to sit in front of something relaxing, something I can snooze in front of it I want to, but that will reward me with something satisfying to see during my wakeful periods.

Also… I just like knowing baseball is there for me, even if I don’t watch it. It’s reassuring, like knowing there’s a fire department. No, that’s not it. It’s more like having a friend that you neglect but you always know will be there for you. Like that.

And it saddens me that baseball wasn’t there for me even once this whole season.

I know TV will give me more opportunities during the post-season, and I’ll probably pick a team to care about and follow its ups and downs until October is behind us. Probably Cleveland this time.

But I’m still kind of down that all through the regular season, baseball wasn’t there for me…

I’m still staying in step — at least 10,000 a day

IMG_2698Sorry to bother y’all with this, but I just do it to keep pressure on myself so I don’t backslide.

At right you see the evidence, from my phone app, proving that I’m continuing to walk (or do the elliptical) at least 10,000 steps a day.

You may note that the record ends on Monday, but that’s because on Tuesday I took my fortnightly day off. I’ve decided to rest on the days after I give platelets, which I do every two weeks. I tend to drag for a day or so after doing that, and need the rest.

I’m still doing 35 minutes in the morning on the elliptical to get a head start (that gives me about 4,300 steps right there). Over the weekend, I think I’m going to move up to 40-minute workouts.

I’ll keep reporting in periodically….

‘Eden is broken:’ Help Dominica!

To update you:

A couple of days ago, the Peace Corps evacuated all personnel from Dominica, including my youngest daughter. She rode on a fishing boat, boarded at the only functioning wharf, to St. Lucia, four hours away. We were finally able to speak to her — via Facetime — late Thursday night. Right after we spoke, she posted this on Facebook:

Just got to St. Lucia. I’m fine. Please keep Dominica in your thoughts. The country is completely devastated. I don’t even want to explain the apocalyptic catastrophe we witnessed today on the way out. It is utterly heartbreaking. I can only rest knowing that the strength of the Dominican people will prevail.

The Peace Corps will spend the next 45 days assessing whether to send personnel back in.

That’s great for us, because it means my daughter will be coming home this week. But she and others are terribly worried about their friends left behind — whom they can’t contact. As I understand it, they were evacuated in large part because the places where they stayed were destroyed, as well as the places where they worked, such as schools and other public facilities. My daughter didn’t get the chance even to see the village where she lives — she was evacuated straight from the hotel in Roseau where the PC folks had sheltered during the storm. But she’s heard that 95 percent of roofs in her community were destroyed.

In other words, Dominica is for the moment in dire need of different kinds of help than what the Peace Corps folks were there to provide. Right now, they need food, water, tarps to replace roofs, electrical power, basic communications. Everything is down.

For a powerful evocation of the situation, see the speech above that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit delivered at the United Nations on Saturday. The video is above. Here are excerpts:

I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change….

Mr. President warmer air and sea temperatures have permanently altered the climate between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Heat is the fuel that takes ordinary storms – storms we could normally master in our sleep – and supercharges them into a devastating force.

In the past we would prepare for one heavy storm a year.

Now, thousands of storms form on a breeze in the mid-Atlantic and line up to pound us with maximum force and fury.

Before this century no other generation had seen more than one category 5 hurricane in their lifetime.

In this century, this has happened twice…and notably it has happened in the space of just two weeks.

And may I add Mr. President, that we are only mid-way into this year’s hurricane season….

We as a country and as a region did not start this war against nature! We did not provoke it! The war has come to us!!…

While the big countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action….and we need it NOW!!

We in the Caribbean do not produce greenhouse gases or sulphate aerosols. We do not pollute or overfish our oceans. We have made no contribution to global warming that can move the needle.

But yet, we are among the main victims…on the frontline!

I repeat – we are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others!

Actions that endanger our very existence…and all for the enrichment of a few elsewhere.

Mr. President,

We dug graves today in Dominica!

We buried loved ones yesterday and I am sure that as I return home tomorrow, we shall discover additional fatalities, as a consequence of this encounter.

Our homes are flattened!
Our buildings roofless!

Our water pipes smashed…and road infrastructure destroyed!

Our hospital is without power!…and schools have disappeared beneath the rubble.

Our crops are uprooted.

Where there was green there is now only dust and dirt!

The desolation is beyond imagination.
Mr. President, fellow leaders – The stars have fallen…..!

Eden is broken!!…

The time has come for the international community to make a stand and to decide; whether it will be shoulder to shoulder with those suffering the ravages of climate change worldwide; Whether we can mitigate the consequences of unprecedented increases in sea temperatures and levels; whether to help us rebuild sustainable livelihoods; or whether the international community will merely show some pity now, and then flee….; relieved to know that this time it was not you….

Today we need all the things required in a natural disaster that has affected an entire nation.

We need water, food and emergency shelter.

We need roads, bridges and new infrastructure.

But we also need capabilities of delivery….

I call upon those with substantial military capacities to lend us the rescue and rebuilding equipment that may be standing idle waiting for a war; Let Dominica today be that war. ….because currently, our landscape reflects a zone of war.

The United States has already committed some of its military resources to helping. This release was sent out by U.S. Southern Command on Friday:

MIAMI — U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) directed the U.S. Navy amphibious ship USS Wasp to the Leeward Islands, where it will support U.S. State Department assistance to U.S. citizens in Dominica, as well as U.S. foreign disaster assistance requested by Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The ship’s arrival will expand the mission of Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI), which deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico Sept. 9 to support U.S. relief operations in St. Martin. To date, the task force has purified more than 22,000 gallons and distributed more than 7,000 gallons of water, delivered nine water purification systems, as well as high-capacity forklifts and vehicles to help the Dutch and French governments offload and distribute aid to the island’s residents.

USS Wasp arrived off the coast of Dominica today with two embarked SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, bringing the total military helicopters flying missions for the task force to 10.

The task force is scheduled to begin its support to USAID-led assistance to the government of Dominica over the next 24 hours.

The airlift and transport capabilities of amphibious ships make them uniquely suited to support the delivery and distribution of much-needed relief supplies, as well as transport humanitarian assistance personnel in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster….

Beyond that, I’m concerned at the moment about whether our country is adequately responding. The release says Wasp is there to support “USAID-led assistance to the government of Dominica.” But elsewhere, I read that USAID has so far allocated only $100,000 to the effort, according to Dominica News Online:

Working through the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Government of the United States committed USD$100,000 to provide immediate humanitarian assistance, and will be working closely with the Dominica Red Cross to address the most critical needs. According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), 100 percent  of the country was affected by Maria’s Category 4 fury, with approximately 56,890 persons impacted….

One hopes that’s just the beginning of what we do — funding needs assessment before sending the real help. The Brits — Dominica was once a British colony — had needs-assessment people on the ground last week, and now they’ve pledged £5 million. Which is more like it.

In the meantime, if you’d like to do something personally to help, here are a couple of small ways you can:

  • Tarps for Dominica — Reports indicate that most homes on the island have lost part or all of their roofs. This is an effort to provide the most basic shelter for the moment by raising funds through Gofundme for 1,000 tarps.
  • Caribbean Strong — To quote from Facebook, “Carib Brewery will donate $5 for every post shared using the hashtag #BeCaribbeanStrong! We are starting with $500,000.00 and our goal is to raise $1,000,000.000 from September 21st to October 31st. Lookout for our digital thermometer to know when we have reached the $1M pledge! Share with our hashtag today to contribute toward relief efforts!”

I’ll share more as I know more…

Screengrab from video by The Evening Standard of London.

Screengrab from video by The Evening Standard of London.

Dominica is still incommunicado

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At the very bottom of The New York Times story about Puerto Rico being without power is this paragraph:

Maria had battered the island nation of Dominica a day earlier. Prime Minister Skerrit described the damage as “mind-boggling” and wrote on Facebook that he had to be rescued after winds ripped the roof off his official residence. But little information has emerged since then, with the storm having taken out phone and power lines on the island.

And that’s the way things still stand. My wife has had two conversations with stateside Peace Corps officials. In the first, they said all PC personnel are safe and accounted for.

That’s it. We haven’t spoken with our daughter or been able to communicate in writing. Which we’re anxious to be able to do.

And there have been virtually no news reports. I’ve grabbed the images above and below from the Facebook page of WIC News, “Your home for Caribbean and global news you can trust.” I hope they don’t mind my using them.

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My mind and heart are focused on Dominica tonight

205325_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

This morning, I knew that Hurricane Maria was headed toward Dominica, the tiny Caribbean island where my daughter lives in sight of the sea.

But I was reading that it was a Category 1, and I knew that my daughter would be with the other Peace Corps personnel in a hotel in the city of Roseau — a place U.S. officials considered safe.

I’d heard that by the time the storm reached Puerto Rico it might be a Category 4, and I took that to mean AFTER Dominica. And I had exchanged Facebook messages with my daughter, and she seemed unworried. This was the third time this month the Peace Corps people had gathered at that hotel ahead of a storm, and to her, it seems to have become something of a routine.

So I was shocked when I got come and learned that it was bearing down on Dominica as a Category 4.

And I realized my mistake: American news is tailored to American audiences. And too few Americans are familiar with the Caribbean, beyond a vague notion that Puerto Rico is there. So when that report said it would be a Category 4 when it reached Puerto Rico, it was assuming I didn’t care about Dominica.

But I do. A lot.

Now, American news media have caught on to the existence of the island, and are reporting such things as ”

“‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Maria heading for Dominica, Puerto Rico”

It’s supposed to hit at about 9 p.m. We’re trying to stay in touch with my daughter, but how long will they have wi-fi? If they lose that, and phone service, we’ll just have to wait. Like this is the 19th century or something.

Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind and in my heart tonight. Prayers will be appreciated.

A Dominica scene.

A Dominica scene.

Hey, Doug! I’m doing ten thousand steps a day, too!

The view from my elliptical trainer, in my home office (yeah, that's "The West Wing" on the tube).

The view from my elliptical trainer, in my home office (yeah, that’s “The West Wing” on the tube).

Like so many, this particular mania started with an iPhone app.

Or maybe I can blame Doug Ross. After all, he had been bragging to me about his 10,000 steps  a day — which sounded extreme to me — just a day before this happened.

Or maybe it was the app.

Anyway, I was having lunch with some folks from ADCO, and a couple of the women were wearing Fitbits, or something like that. To make conversation, I asked if they had apps on their phones that tracked their data. Then a little light went off in my head. I remembered that awhile back I had started to use this Health app that I think came with my phone — I went in and entered some basic stats and such — but then had lost interest and forgotten about it.

Curious, I called it up, and to my surprise saw that it had been counting every step I took, every day, for two years!

I also saw that, thanks in part to my morning workouts on the elliptical trainer, I was frequently doing six or seven thousand steps a day without knowing it. And I’d exceeded 10,000 a couple of days when I was at the beach earlier this summer.

So the next day (Aug. 31), I started actually trying — I added some time to the morning elliptical workout (I’m up to 35 minutes now), and started taking a walk around the neighborhood with my wife in the evening. And if that’s not enough (it usually is), a very few more minutes on the elliptical does the trick.stats

And bingo! I’m not just doing 10,000 a day, sometimes I go over 12,000 without meaning to.

(Oh, and I hope it won’t offend Doug and Bud too much, but I do take a day of rest once a week. Usually, it will probably be Sunday. But this week, as you can see from the stats at right, it was Wednesday. That’s because I gave two units of platelets Tuesday evening at the Red Cross — I went for a long walk downtown on Tuesday at lunchtime to get in my full 10,000 without the evening walk — and that always takes something out of me more than just platelets. I need the next day to recover my energy.)

Also, yesterday morning my weight was down to 172.2 — better than it’s been in… a while. (When I started the morning workouts a couple of months back, I was usually well over 180, sometimes more than 185.)

And I feel pretty good about it. And it’s weird how motivating it is to watch those steps mount up on the app. Silly, but it works. I let nothing stop me, so far. Last night, my wife didn’t feel like walking, so I did another 35 minutes on the elliptical — 70 minutes for the day — bringing my total to 11,730. I’m a machine!

Anyway, I’m telling you all this in order to put pressure on myself to keep going. Sorry to use you that way, but it’s for my health, you see…

My home office, where the elliptical magic happens.

My home office, where the elliptical magic happens.

Random images I shot and sort of like…

I Tweeted this out with the words, "Warm light of the setting sun falls on the heart of downtown Columbia -- seen from @CapCityClubCola."

I Tweeted this out with the words, “Warm light of the setting sun falls on the heart of downtown Columbia — seen from @CapCityClubCola.”

First, I’m not claiming these images I shot yesterday are great. I did not set out to take great images. I did not set out to shoot any images. It’s just that, when you have an iPhone, you shoot things like these as you go along. I do, anyway.

I took this still life on the bar at the Cap City Club, a moment before the shot above.

I took this still life on the bar at the Cap City Club, a moment before the shot above.

I’d like them better if they were of higher resolution. I wish I could have shot them with a high-end SLR, a digital version of the Nikon 8008s that sits in a drawer in my bedroom, and has for years, because it uses film. But I don’t have one of those.

But that doesn’t bother me much, because you don’t get trivial, serendipitous photos if you wait until you’re lugging a camera around. A virtue of this (relatively) new world of photography is that you’re always ready to shoot, limited only by the length of time it takes to whip out your phone (not long for me, since I’m one of those geeks who keeps it in a holster on his belt).

Anyway, they’re not much, but I thought I’d share…

This was a disappointment. The sight of workers backed by the big, blue sky was way better IRL.

This was a disappointment. The sight of workers backed by the big, blue sky was way more striking IRL.

Breathing a sigh of relief over Hurricane Irma

175630_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

That headline may seem jarring, given that our governor has just pre-emptively declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a storm that may or may not make landfall in South Carolina days from now.

We are, it seems, at “OpCon4.”

But last night, the Category 5 hurricane passed north of the island of Dominica, where my daughter lives and works for the Peace Corps.

She and other Peace Corps personnel went through several days of uncertain waiting to find out whether they’d be evacuated to another island. Then, with the path reducing the threat to Dominica to tropical-storm level, they were simply gathered together in a hotel and stayed on the island.

The weather is fine now, she reports, but Peace Corps officials are having them stay where they are another night, until it’s certain that roads are clear.

Quite right, too. I’m all for caution.

As for the threat to SC, well, I’m concerned, of course. And the effects could be terrible, as we saw last week in Texas. But we live on a biggish landmass, and at the moment I’m less worried than I was the last couple of days…

Spot of good news: My neighborhood isn’t going to be demolished for a hyperspace bypass

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

So Donald Trump is still president, North Korea just fired a missile over Japan, and Harvey is still ripping up and flooding the Gulf Coast.

So, lots of bad news.

But at least there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to build a bypass to unsnarl “Malfunction Junction” that would have caused up to 236 West Columbia homes to be razed.

State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he received a letter about the change from the department Tuesday morning.

“This is a tremendous victory for us,” he said. “And this was a community effort.”

The bypass was one of several options being considered by the DOT to alleviate congestion at the junction of I-20, I-26 and I-126. It would have diverted traffic away from the intersection, but the bypass also would have cut through several West Columbia neighborhoods including Quail Hollow and River’s Edge….

I live in Quail Hollow. And while the abandoned route might not have technically gone through my living room, it would have run behind the houses directly across the street from me, and would have blocked me from the only way out of my neighborhood other than swimming across the Saluda River.

It would have been the worst deal possible: My property value would have been destroyed, and I wouldn’t have gotten paid for it because they didn’t necessarily have to buy my house. And my peaceful, semi-sylvan neighborhood — deer sometimes wander onto our lot — would have become utter, roaring chaos, with an interstate directly in front of the house, less than 100 feet away (as near as I could tell from the wholly inadequate maps provided by DOT).

As you’ll recall, I learned about this plan on the last day of public comments last fall, after having received ZERO notification from the state that my neighborhood was potentially to be sacrificed to fix Malfunction Junction, a problem that has never bothered me even though it’s only about a mile from my house.

We found ourselves in a situation that was almost, but not quite, entirely like the one Arthur Dent faced in the first chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Did I ever tell you about the public meeting DOT finally held for my neighbors and me after we DID find out about it on that last day of public comment? Official after official claimed that we should have known sooner — after all, the plans 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.” More or less.

Finally, this one woman stood up and faced the truth, and admitted that yeah, they had screwed up big-time by not actually notifying us. Which was nice. I guess she had drawn the short straw on being the “good cop.”

Anyway, I want to thank my Senator, Nikki Setzler, and my representative, Micah Caskey (although Micah says modestly that it was really Nikki) for standing up and raising hell about the deal. I think it probably helped even though the DOT people claimed at the public meeting that resistance would be useless, that political considerations would play no role, that the decision would be made by federal officials entirely on the basis of objective data.

Then arose up a new king who knew not Joseph….

So who's this Joseph when he's at home?

‘So who’s this Joseph when he’s at home?’

Remember the other day when I quoted, twice (once in a comment, later in a post) the opening of an article from Foreign Affairs? It started out explaining the postwar collective security consensus (which, sadly, has to be explained to people these days), and ended with this transition:

Then arose up a new king who knew not Joseph….

… which I thought was an awesome line, because that’s exactly where we are, isn’t it? We have a king who knows not anything. Not history, not policy, not diplomacy, not the basics of governing, not the Constitution, not the rule of law. One who is surprised to learn of Frederick Douglass. A man who, for all I know, may not even know enough about Scripture to get the Joseph reference.

Anyway…

Yesterday, I happened to attend Mass at a local Episcopal Church — one that I visit from time to time. I always enjoy the services there for several reasons. One is that I can hear what’s going on. Whether the homily is in Spanish or English, the acoustics make it hard for me to follow the homily at my church, St. Peter’s. (It was hard before I lost hearing in one ear to Ménière’s; it’s next to impossible now.)

I also really like that they use the old liturgy — or what I think of as the old liturgy, which was really post-Vatican II liturgy, but I became Catholic long after Vatican II. Anyway, the Episcopalians are still using the one I like, in which we say “and also with you,” instead of “and with your spirit,” and in which the Creed starts with “We believe” instead of “I believe.”

So that’s nice. But that’s not why I’m writing about this. I’m writing about this because the first reading at this service was the one that starts like this:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites….

Yeah, that line again.

Which was quite a coincidence, I thought.

But I didn’t realize how much of a coincidence it was until this morning.

I was thinking about it, and decided to go back and read it, so I went to the U.S. Conference Conference of Catholic Bishops site to check out yesterday’s first reading.

But it was a different reading. It was this one, from Isaiah.

Huh. So, if I had not just happened to attend a church other than my own, I would not have heard that reading, and would not have been struck by the coincidence.

How about that?

It appears that God wants me to pay more attention to that line.

So I’m pondering it this morning…

Or… did He want me to have occasion to go back and read the Catholic reading, which I otherwise would have missed? It, too, seems freighted with timely meaning:

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

So… did Shebna not know Joseph, either?

Apparently, I should read further, and reflect…

The PEOPLE are demanding that I run for office! Sort of…

Based on the website, these young persons are a better fit for the group...

Based on the website, these young persons are a better fit for the group…

You know how politicians are always claiming that? Well, in my case it’s true!

Sort of.

I got this completely unsolicited email in my actual IN box today:

Brad, here’s something thing we know after Trump’s rally in Arizona last night: You are smarter, kinder, and more empathetic than our president. And all of those qualities would make you a great candidate for office.

I want you to run. I’m asking you to consider it — and at least sign up to learn more about it. Or if you’re sure that now isn’t the right time, ask a friend. Ask ten friends.

If Donald Trump, a man whose grasp on our current situation seems tenuous at best and monstrous at worst, can be president, then you can run for a local office.

Are you in? Good. Go to runforsomething.net/run-for-office and sign up right now.

Amanda

Amanda Litman
Co-Founder
Run for Something

Thank you, Amanda — whom I have never met or worked with previously…

… but this isn’t exactly a cri de cœur from “the people” themselves. It’s an organization that exists to urge people to run. But not people like me. They want “progressive” people, which mean, you know… not me.

Also, they want people under 35. Apparently, Amanda saw a picture of me and made a perfectly understandable mistake.

But I appreciate the thought. Or I would, if I believe a decision to contact me had been made by an actual person, rather than a flawed algorithm…

Here’s what I mean by my essential Tory sensibility

I expect respect for fundamental institutions, such as the rule of law.

I expect respect for fundamental institutions, such as the rule of law.

I’m a conservative guy, on a fundamental level. I sometimes refer to my “Tory sensibility,” and I may be using the words incorrectly, not being a Brit, but at least I know what I mean. And in response to a comment by Doug back here, I tried to explain to others what I mean. And it got long enough that I decided it should be a separate post, because, you know, why waste all that typing?

When I say “conservative,” I mean it in a conservative sense, a traditional sense. No, I’m not trying to claim intellectual descent from Edmund Burke, because frankly I’ve never read Burke. In fact, the whole Burke thing confuses me: How could he be the father of conservatism, and be a Whig?

No, I’m more self-taught in this regard. And, quite frankly, even though I tend to pride myself on thinking things through rationally, this is a gut thing. (That’s what liberals think all conservatism is, don’t they — viscera over mind?) And in fact, it may not be self-taught as much as it relates to things I learned when I was so young I don’t remember learning them, things as basic as how you ought to treat other people (short version: with respect) and such.

And this gut thing of mine causes me to feel disgust at so many who insist that they are “conservative,” when they are institution-destroying radicals. I tried getting at this in early 2008, in a column headlined “Give me that old-time conservatism.” (That link was to The State‘s version, which I was pleased and surprised to find still up. Here’s the blog version, which includes links.)

What returns me to the subject was that call from Jack Van Loan last night, and some of the comments from my blog friends. Doug wrote:

There are more and more players this season who are sitting for the anthem. Marshawn Lynch is probably the most visible right now. To me, it’s a relatively harmless (and probably useless) way for a person to express his displeasure with the events of the day. The best course would be to ignore them if you disagree rather than try to vilify them….

I responded more or less as follows…

It’s outrageous. It’s completely uncivilized behavior. I don’t care what your issue is, you don’t do something that amounts to a general “F___ You!” to the entire nation over that one issue. (OK, I did something inconsistent with my own sensibilities there — chalk it up to my strong feelings on the issue, and my wish to engage the interest of moderns.)

(To elaborate on that point, Doug responded facetiously to my reply by saying “I must have missed Rosa Parks’ pamphlet: ‘Top Ten Reasons I Should Sit In The Front of the Bus’.” Which offered me a perfect opportunity to explain further: What Rosa Parks did was moderate, measured, proportional and to the point. She’d had enough of being disrespected, so she didn’t move. What the football player did was as different from that as night from the day. He flipped off the whole country in order to make an unrelated point. And if you think it is relevant and proportional to the point — if you think the whole country is rotten (which is what disrespecting the flag says) because on rare occasions (proportionally) a cop engages in violence that may or may not be based in his own personal racial attitudes — then you’re not thinking clearly. It’s a matter of focus, a matter of specificity, a matter of clarity.)

This is where my essential, bedrock conservatism comes into play. Real conservatism, not the nihilistic garbage that so many loudly proclaim these days.

I don’t ask much from people in the way of acting civilized. I just expect them not to go out of their way to do things that amount to a slap in the face to their fellow citizens, things that flip off our essential institutions.

I don’t ask you to go to my church. But I expect some respect toward that fundamental institution, toward all such fundamental institutions. If I were an atheist, I’d be a devout one. When someone said a prayer in my presence, I’d respectfully bow my head and be silent until they were done. Because to do otherwise would be disrespectful to the person and his beliefs. It’s like when I was in Thailand, and this lady who had hosted and fed us for two days in her home invited us to kneel beside her at the little Buddhist altar in her home to pray for our safety on the rest of our journey (or so my daughter explained, this being all in Thai), I gladly knelt and bowed my head. If I’d known the Thai for “amen,” I’d have thrown one in. When in Rome.

I feel the same way about other institutions of our civilization (and whatever civilization I’m visiting) — the government, our courts, public schools, the Constitution, the Rule of Law, the military, the national anthem, the flag, and yes, motherhood, the girl next door and apple pie (even though I am allergic to apple pie, so that it benefits me on no way). And I expect a modicum of respect for these things from my fellow citizens. They don’t have to exert themselves; they just need to not go out of their way to insult these things.

And when they do, forgive me if I don’t pay attention to the issue they’re trying to dramatize. If you want to advocate an issue, use your words — don’t use unfocused gestures of insult toward the whole society. That is childish, and I would add, barbaric — senselessly destructive. And I’m not going to hear you.

Use your words.

And yes, motherhood and apple pie and the Girl Next Door (Frank Capra version). Welcome home, George Bailey!

And yes, motherhood and apple pie and the Girl Next Door (Frank Capra version here). Welcome home, George Bailey!

Is it safe to use my prescription specs with my eclipse glasses?

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Stupid Internet! Nobody had this problem the last time we had a total solar eclipse.

We have been drowning in information, much of it useless, about today’s celestial event. We’ve had no end of warnings, all of which should be unnecessary, since anyone who’s spent five minutes on this planet should know not to stare at the sun. But we are a curious species, both in the sense of “strange” and “interested in novelties,” so we need the warnings.

And a lot of those warnings involve not looking at the phenomenon through lenses. You know, “Don’t look at the eclipse through a telescope,” etc.

So… what about my glasses? Can I look through them, with my special eclipse glasses over or under them?

Reasonable inference tells me that it’s safe. After all, there have been SO many warnings about unsafe practices, and anyone with any sense knows that people who need their prescription spectacles to see anything won’t be able to see the eclipse without them. So, you know, telling those millions of people it’s unsafe to do so, if it is, would be one of your very first important safety tips to share.

Still, reasonable surmise doesn’t seem enough where my eyesight is concerned. So I’d like a definite affirmative from an authoritative source: Yes, it’s OK to use your eclipse glasses with your regular glasses.

And surely someone out there has answered that question.

The trouble is, it’s a tricky question to ask clearly on a search engine. You end up repeating “glasses” in a confusing way. I tried being technical and saying, “Is it safe to wear prescription eyeglasses with eclipse glasses?”

But however I search, I only find one web page that seems to answer the question directly. (The second result Google offers in response to that query says, “No, You Can’t Use 3D Movie Glasses As Eclipse Glasses – Here’s Why,” a response so idiotic that it makes me want to slap somebody upside the head.)

But there is that one page, the first result, with the headline “Can I wear eclipse glasses over my regular eyeglasses …

Yes! Just what I need!

But every time I try to call it up, I get the above error message.

So… can anyone help me out her in the couple of hours we have left? Preferably, by giving me a link to an authoritative source?

If so, it will be appreciated…

Remembering the night Nixon resigned

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Yeah, I’m a day late with this, but it was some hours-old Tweets I saw this morning that got me to thinking about it:

Then, later in the day, I wondered if I could see that front page again, and sure enough, Google delivered — although a small, low-res image. See the page above. (See how much wider newspaper pages were then?)

It was at the very start of my journalism career, when I was still in school. I worked nights at the long-extinct job of copy boy, although in deference to feminist sensibilities it was by that time called “copy clerk.” Basically, I was an errand boy, learning the business. And at that point in time — the waning days of hot type — the function was essential. In a time when everything was physical instead of digital, everything — news stories, pictures, proofs (and the coffee and meals that everyone in the newsroom had the power to send us for) — had to be carried to each stage of the process by hand. And it was a great way to learn the business. I knew some things that senior editors didn’t know about where things were and how they worked together (mostly, where to get the coffee).

And there were obstacles, and workarounds, that would confound anyone who started in the business just a little later. For instance, if you want to make a two-word headline stretch all the way across the page today, you just click and drag and it’s done. But back then a headline wasn’t ones and zeroes; it was a physical thing, set in heavy metal by a machine that could only make it so big. I think the biggest possible was either 72 points (an inch high) or 96.

So here’s what we did: The managing editor wrote “Nixon Resigns” on a scrap of paper and sent me to the composing room (on the next floor up) to get it set into type as big as we could. Then, we took a high-contrast proof (on slick paper instead of the usual cheap newsprint) of that metal-type hed and shot a picture of it on one of the cameras used to make press plates, which used page-sized negative film. Then we blew that image up to full-page width, and made a proof of that, which I then ran back downstairs to the M.E., so he could see how his headline would look.

This was not something you did every day. We were doing it that night because this was history. The editor was being creative.

When I brought the finished product to him, the M.E. looked upon his headline and pronounced it good.

By the way, here was the scene in the newsroom when Nixon was addressing the nation: A bunch of us crowded around the TV over the M.E.’s desk, and watched and listened. I forget the name of our Washington correspondent. Let’s say it was Clark Kent. Someone in the group wondered aloud where Clark was at that moment. Our gruff metro editor, Angus McEachran, snorted, “Watching it on TV, just like us!” There was some laughter.

Those who want to paint the newspaper business as already a fossil, left behind by TV, might point to that 1974 scene as proof.

But here’s the thing: When the show was over, all these people had to jump into action. I’d be running back and forth to the wire machines with the copy out of Washington. Editors would be editing that copy and putting it onto pages. Reporters would be calling Tennessee pols for reactions, and maybe even doing some man-on-the-street.

And the next morning, people would have a huge, in-depth package of stories about what had happened, explaining every detail and what it meant.

So what? you think. But you’re not thinking hard enough. That morning, that would be the ONLY source of reporting and commentary available to that reader. Maybe they saw the speech the night before, but that was over. There was no 24/7 TV coverage, babbling on endlessly. (And no DVR or even VHS so you could have recorded it and watched again. You saw it when you saw it, and that was it.) There was no Web, no social media. Other newspapers were not available to anyone unless they came in the mail a day or two later. The only source they had that morning for all the details and perspective on this historic event was their local newspaper. Other sources — weekly magazines that came in the mail and such — would be available later. But the newspaper was it on that morning, the one source of information about this huge thing that had happened.

So we had an important role to play for our readers, and I felt important playing the bit part I did. I got some extra copies of that headline proof and took them home. I got together with my soon-to-be wife and some friends and showed these proofs off. I felt like a big shot…

Managing Editor Bill Sorrels, at the desk where he was sitting when I brought him the headline proof.

Managing Editor Bill Sorrels, at the desk where he was sitting when I brought him the headline proof.

Red Cross says I’m tapped out; y’all need to step up and give

They showed me the numbers, and it just added up to too much plasma...

They showed me the numbers — two pages like this — and it just added up to too much plasma…

Well, it finally happened: The Red Cross says I’ve given them too many platelets, and I need to take some time off.

And you know what that means: It means some of y’all need to step up and give, because the need is still there. In fact, over the weekend I received this message in an email reminding me of my appointment today, and telling me how badly it was needed:

emergency

Yeah, they say that a lot, but here in SC, we’re generally in a shortage situation. I used to think that was a Midlands problem, but it seems wider than that. For instance, the two units I gave June 19 (that was two donations ago) went to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach and Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg. Just think of me as the Scarecrow, and this is the Tin Man’s cue to say “Well, that’s you all over!

You can give platelets again after six days; they come back that fast. But I’ve generally been giving every two weeks. Last month, to keep them from calling me so often, I decided to go to a standing appointment — every other Monday afternoon.

And today was that Monday, but when I showed up, and started going through the usual series of questions that precede the donation, the young lady saw something on her computer screen that made her jump up, excuse herself and run for help. A moment later, someone came in and said that was it for me: I’d given too much in the past year, and I wouldn’t be able to give again until after Aug. 2. Which nixes my appointment on the 31st as well.

It’s not the platelets, though — as I said, they come back pretty quickly. It seems that over time they’ve taken too much plasma from me for my weight — 12,000 ccs. And I won’t be starting over in August, either — it’s cumulative, so this is likely to happen again if I keep giving at the same rate.

This respite will be a relief to my family and friends, who are always asking why I, personally, have to give so often. This is always my cue to go into my Gary Cooper routine and explain, “I’ve got to; that’s the whole thing.” I’m just that kinda guy, ya know. Man of action. Few words.

(Don’t look at me like that. For too many years, I was too scared to do this. Having overcome that fear, I’m going to milk this for all it’s worth.)

But now I’m out of action. And the need is still there. So it’s time for you to be the hero.

You just gotta.

Here’s where to sign up.

That's the thing: You just gotta...

That’s the thing: You just gotta…

The WSJ’s pricing pushes me over to the NYT

WSJ front 2

When I was in college, one of my journalism professors told me that The Wall Street Journal was perhaps the best-written paper in the country. I didn’t discover how right he was until decades later.

As editorial page editor, I had print subscriptions to the Journal and The New York Times, plus The Economist, Foreign Affairs, The Post and Courier, The Greenville News, The Charlotte Observer and so forth. And I’d try to at least skim the Journal and the Times (as about the only person on the board who wrote about national and international issues, I felt the need to keep up).

But I really got into the Journal when The State made a deal to distribute that paper along our circulation routes. As part of that deal, we got a certain number of comp copies, so I arranged to have one delivered free to my house, brought by the same carrier who delivered The State. I wanted to get the Times at home, too, but the guy who contracts with them in this area refuses to deliver on my side of the river, or so I hear (Samuel Tenenbaum, who also lives in Lexington County, drives to the Publix in Lexington each morning to get his copy.)

I really got hooked on it. This was during the years that Murdoch was turning it into a national-international reporting powerhouse as well as just a financial paper. Every day I looked forward to the three pages of opinion, and on the weekends there was the wonderful Review section, always a feast for the mind.

The Journal wasn’t just a boon to me; my wife took the old copies with her when she tutored a Somali Bantu boy whose family our church was sponsoring, to help him with his English.

But after I got laid off, I had to make a decision whether to keep getting it and paying for it myself. And somehow, I managed to scrape along and keep doing it until sometime late last year, when my subscription ran out and they were not giving me a good-enough deal to keep it going.

To give some perspective: For the last two or three years, I’ve been subscribing to The Washington Post for $29 a year. Online only, but that’s fine — not only do they not circulate here, but I read all my papers on the iPad now. By contrast, I’ve been offered “deals” by WSJ for as much as $400-plus a year.

I chalk that up to the Journal continuing to be a paper that people pay for through their work expenses — or, if they pay for it themselves, they can afford it. I can’t.

To be fair, they kept offering me “professional courtesy” rates, usually about $99 for six months. And I’d think about it and shake my head — $99 for a year, maybe (which I think they offered me in years past). But not six months. Not when I’m getting the Post for $29 a year, and at a time when Jeff Bezos has been investing in the newsroom, and the paper’s political coverage is at least as good as it has ever been. Meanwhile, the WSJ has ditched the Arena section I use to enjoy on Fridays.

It was easy to pass up on these offers at first because, for some reason, the Journal was still letting me read the paper on my iPad app. Since that’s the way I prefer to read it anyway, no problem. But eventually — several weeks ago — they got wise and cut me off there, too.

So, I started reading The Guardian in the mornings in place of the Journal. It’s free, although they keep asking me to be nice and pay. But they don’t do it the right way. I think The Guardian‘s a great read, but they pitch it as though I’d want to support their editorial view, and I can’t go there.

Then, last week, The New York Times came at me with a proposition I couldn’t refuse — I could get the whole paper online for $7.50 a month — or $12.20 a month if I wanted the crossword, and one additional subscription for a friend. Why was this a good deal? Well, I was already subscribing to the NYT crossword iPad app, and was paying $6.99 a month for that alone. (Which I thought was really exorbitant, since I get The New Yorker on my iPad for only $5.99 a month, but hey, I enjoy the crosswords — at least, I do on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

So basically, I’d still get my crosswords, and then get the rest of the paper for only $5.51 — or $66.12 a year. With the offer expiring on Sunday, I pulled the trigger Saturday night.

Now, some of you will say — you won’t pay for The Guardian because of its editorial position, but you switch from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times — the national icons of the right and left, respectively — as though they were interchangeable?

Yep. Because they’re both great, well-written and -edited papers that bring me the world, and offer me something I enjoy reading on every page. Including the editorial pages. I probably disagree with both papers’ editorial boards about equally. But the opinions, especially the op-eds, are lively and though-provoking. And I’m not one of these people who has to agree with a view to enjoy reading it — in fact, I don’t understand such people.

Anyway, it had gotten to where my favorite columnist in the WSJ was Bret Stephens — and he just moved over to the NYT. As I start reading the paper daily, I expect my favorites will be the ones who skew right — Stephens, David Brooks, Ross Douthat — even as my favorites in the WSJ were more to the left, on the rare days when such was to be had.

Anyway, y’all will likely see me citing stories in the Times as much as I used to from the Journal. (Y’all had probably long ago noticed that I point you to the Post a lot.) I’m sure y’all will give me a heads-up if you think I’m getting reprogrammed…

nyt

Anybody else almost have a wreck here?

park and taylor

For 30 years now, I’ve been pulling out of the St. Peter’s Catholic Church parking lot, turning right onto Park, then left onto Taylor to head home. I also frequently make the same move at the same intersection heading home from work during the week.

As you are no doubt aware, the part of Taylor to the left of Park (heading west) is one-way — four, later widening to five, lanes all heading down toward the river.

To the right (the east) of Park, Taylor is two-way. If you look at my crude graphic above, you’ll see there’s a concrete divider going off to the right, but none to the left.

For 30 years, I’ve had no trouble. Heading north on Park, I pull up to the intersection and stop, look carefully to my right to make sure no one’s coming and trying to change lanes suddenly leftward where it becomes one-way, and then turning left into the closest lane, the way you’re supposed to do.

And I’ll confess that, having done this perhaps thousands of times without incident — and being reluctant to turn away from the direction I expect other cars to come from — I’d gotten to where I’d start rolling out slowly out into Taylor even as my head was turning in that direction. And for 30 years, this bad habit did not cause any problems.

Until a couple of weeks ago. And then, twice in one week, I had to stomp on the brakes to avoid a head-on collision with a car coming up the hill, the wrong way, in my lane!

Twice in one week! The first time I saw as an anomaly, the second time I’m starting to look upon as a trend. (Once more, Jerry Ratts would say, and we can give it to Lifestyles — if we’re still alive.)

Needless to say, I look very carefully to the left now before letting my vehicle start to roll. I’m a little obsessive about it, now. But one near-collision didn’t fully teach me that, and the second time, the other guy and I had to hit our brakes so hard that smoke came from the other car’s tires.

It scared the bejeebers out of both of us, and he started yelling at me, and I started yelling at him, and then… I shut up, and slowly rolled forward so that our windows were next to each other, rolled down my window — being careful to seem non-threatening — and told him, “This is one-way.”

He started to protest, gesturing toward the concrete median dividing the road behind me, and I said, “Yes, that’s right — it’s two-way behind me. But from here on down to the river, it’s one-way. Really.” He seemed to believe me — at least he didn’t yell any more — and we both went on our ways.

If I’d had more presence of mind, I would have asked him where he was coming from, so I could figure out where the system had failed. Is there a missing one-way sign that had always been there before?

I don’t know. But I’m wondering whether any of y’all have encountered this heart-stopping phenomenon on that stretch of Taylor.

If so, maybe we need to lobby the city to do something…

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I’m stuck here, but my platelets are at the beach!

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I enjoy getting these little notes from the Red Cross, letting me know where my platelets have gone:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 5/22/2017 was sent to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, SC to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

Sincerely,

Mary O'Neill, M.D.
Mary O’Neill, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Red Cross

I give about every two weeks. (Unlike with whole blood, you can give platelets every six days, but I like to give myself an extra week to recover.) My last donation was Monday. So I’ll give again around the 19th.

Any time y’all would like to help out, jump on in. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

You might want to ease into it. It would be awesome if you were up for giving platelets right away, but I’ll admit that’s pretty hard-core, and I had to work up to it. It can take almost three hours, from the time you walk into the donation center until the time you walk out. Giving whole blood is much easier, and much faster — and you can’t give again for eight weeks, so it’s less demanding that way, too.

After you do that a few times, you might be ready to step it up. But I know in my case, I had to get desensitized to the process before I was ready for platelets. I had to get over my tendency to get faint at the very idea of the needle going in…