Monday, July 31, 2023


On the West

 Even though I am from the Midwest, not the East, CraigA's poem really rang true to me:

The West: Skies, vistas,
and mountains unimagined by
an east coast bred boy.
Desiree has such clear eyes:
Land of enchantment.
Tan adobe towns against
A crystal blue sky.

And Christine is right, as well (I've seen the Grand Canyon from a plane, too):

Western vistas seen
Only from a plane window
The Canyon was Grand.

Sunday, July 30, 2023


Sunday Reflection: No royalty for me, thanks


Those of you who have been following along here for a while know that if there is one thing I absolutely can't stand, it's royalty. The adoration of the British royals-- a bunch of bumbling half-wits who are only known because of who their parents were-- baffles me, as does the idea of royalty in the modern age at all. Thank goodness I live in a republic!
The inanity of it is only part of why it bugs me so much. The other is that royalty, at some point, is rooted in the idea that some people are just better that others, regardless of what they have done or accomplished; at its worst, the idea of royalty rests on the bizarre thought that they were chosen by God. That violates my religious principles as well as common sense, as I believe that the light of God is in all of us, and no one is born "better" than others.
 Sometimes people will tell me "Well, the royals don't have any real power anymore." Maybe. But then why have them at all? 

Saturday, July 29, 2023


What DeSantis was really saying...


Friday, July 28, 2023


Haiku Friday: The West


For Americans, the West of our country holds a special place. After all, there are movies we refer to as "Westerns" as a genre, but no one ever referred to a movie as an "Eastern." Whether it is the shores of California, the mountains of Colorado or the soaring pines of the Pacific Northwest, there is something that has captured the imagination of most of us at one time or another. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
My Grandparent's house
On the shores of Lake Whatcom
Magic abounded.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, July 27, 2023


PMT: What the pandemic left us


It's kind of odd, the amnesia we have about the pandemic. People rarely mention it, even though it hit us only a few years ago and was (hopefully) a once-in-a-generation event. Yet, it continues to shape our society in some important ways:
1)  The life of kids was severely disrupted as the usual non-family anchors of childhood-- school, church, play groups, sports, clubs-- were all shut down or severely altered. We still see serious lags in educational attainment (with troubling racial disparities), and the prevalence right now of juvenile crime is, I suspect, deeply related to these disruptions.
2) Downtown areas around the country are decimated by the shift to work-at-home necessitated by the pandemic. Empty office buildings lead to other key businesses failing, and we are losing the physical center of our communities.
3) People don't trust public health experts, and that could be catastrophic when the next public health crisis hits-- and it will. 
4) I get the sense that we are not close to being back to the way we were in terms of seeing and being around one another, which is the essence of a society.
Some of these issues have to have political responses, yet I rarely see them discussed in political debates. Sure, people rehash their views on responses to the pandemic, but that doesn't address the problems we have right now because of the Covid crisis, and that is a serious failing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Public Schools, Public Obligation


I went to public schools for the first 17 years of my education: k-12 in a big suburban system, then four years at a state college. It was a great education, and the kind that has allowed a lot of people to succeed in our country. It's an idea-- public education-- that is really under attack right now. Here are some of the biggest challenges:
-- First, there is a movement to divert public education funding to private schools and especially religiously-affiliated schools, on top of the existing diversion in many places to charter schools. The under-funded public schools left behind will (and do) struggle.
-- Second, in Florida, Texas, Arkansas and other states there have been successful efforts to limit what can be taught, especially about race and related issues. This is going to cut public schools off from the material that might be essential in the communities they serve.
-- Finally,  public schools are constantly facing funding pressures beyond the money diverted to charter and private schools. It's shocking that teachers earn less than nearly every other profession requiring a college education, given their importance to the future.
Some places-- such as the suburb where I grew up and the one where I live now-- have a fairly reliable commitment to public education,  That is not consistent across cities, though, and unfortunately the will or means are often lacking in those places where the need is greatest. It should matter to all of us that this change, because the failure of public schools will be bad for us all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


The Late Bronze Age Collapse


Sometimes while researching something I will come across something else completely that dominates my thinking for days. Lately, that tangential thing has been the simultaneous collapse of several bronze age civilizations in the 12th Century BC-- over 3,000 years ago. It affected a wide swath of cultures from Europe through the Middle East and into Asia, as economies collapsed and some cities were destroyed, including parts of Greek and Egyptian society. While there is wide historical consensus that something bad happened, there is wide debate about what caused it. 
Here are some of the major theories: 
-- A new military technology might have been developed for which there were few defenses, making warfare much more deadly. This might have been the development of iron weapons or new tactics such as massed infantry.
-- There might have been an environmental shock that sharply limited resources. For example, a volcanic eruption in Iceland might have created a worldwide winter, or a drought or pandemic swept across diverse communities.
-- There might have been a migration to the Mediterranean region by people from outside, bringing disease or other challenges.
It's odd that we know so little about it-- and I wonder how susceptible we are to such an event now.

Monday, July 24, 2023


Megan Willome


You can probably already tell by her poems, but frequent Haiku Friday participant Megan Willome os an actual, you know, poet. She's really just one of two poets I know, and I hope you will check out her other work.
Which, fortunately, is easy to find! She has her own blog, Poetry for Life, which is part of her website (which is the best personal web site I have ever seen-- lots going on there!).  You can also check out her books, which includes The Joy of Poetry, where I make a brief appearance in the section on bad poetry (really! But it's ok-- read the book and you will see why). 
She also writes often at Tweetspeak, where she opines on things like Calvin and Hobbes (so of course I'm hooked).  
It's a big interesting world, especially if you know people like Megan!

Sunday, July 23, 2023


God & Neighbor


I get fed up pretty quickly with people who pluck a line from anywhere in the Bible, utterly out of context, and act like that line is the heart of the faith. 
The truth is that Jesus did tell us what was most important. He was asked which of the rules were most important, and his response was to give two principles: Love your God and love your neighbor. (There was a follow-up question, "who is my neighbor?" and that is where the Good Samaritan parable is told, with the message that those who are hurt or despised are our neighbor).
There are some things that can draw from both commandments. For example, we can be inspired to protect the environment because it is God's creation, or because we want to save it for our neighbors. Other things (prayer, feeding the hungry) lean towards one or the other.
For many of us, one or the other comes more easily. I am inclined towards the imperative to love my neighbor, and have to consciously consider what I am doing to love God. I'm not big on public prayer or "praise music," but private prayer and constant discernment of the divine are what draw me closer to God in love.

Saturday, July 22, 2023


The Silly Olympics


Friday, July 21, 2023


Haiku Friday: Concerts in the summer


There have been some great concerts this summer in Minneapolis-- and last night, it was Beyonce at the University of Minnesota football stadium (I did not go to that one, but know a lot of people who did!). 
Let's haiku about summer concerts, recent or not. Here, I will go first:
Ramones in August
A hot night in DC, yeah
Two hours of fury.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, July 20, 2023


PMT: The third-party quandary


 I just came across a truly scary statistic: The Quinnipiac poll that shows that 47% of Americans would consider voting for a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

What's scary about that isn't so much that it is true (it might be, but polling this early is famously inaccurate), but that people-- and, especially, potential candidates-- will think that it is true. If any number might push Joe Manchin and his "No Labels" cronies into the mix, it will be that number. 

And once that happens, all bets are off. So many people dislike both Trump and Biden that a half-decent moderate candidate who isn't a conspiracy theorist or convicted sex offender will draw votes.  And once that happens, the math gets murky. Or not-- most pundits think a good third-party candidate will pull votes from Biden, not Trump. 

My question is... in this environment, is America ready for Grar the Giant Panda?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


MORE Indictments


It's looking like Donald Trump is about to pick up his third indictment, which will focus on his attempts to drum up false election certifications around the country as part of his press to remain in power that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. (It feels surreal to even write that-- an attack on the Capitol fomented by a sitting president who wanted to remain in power after losing and election). 
This one will probably go to the District Court in Washington, his third unique venue. That matters, too, since it means that the various charges can't easily be traded off in a deal. Prosecutors basically have three unique shots at him... and maybe four, if Georgia charges him in state court. 
Not that it will hurt his chances in the Republican primary. And no, I can't explain that one-- maybe IPLawGuy (who is much more politically savvy than I am) can take a crack at it...

Tuesday, July 18, 2023


Halfway through summer


These sweet days of summer are so fleeting. I love the light in the evening this time of year, the way that rain comes suddenly, then is gone, the unexpected things that happen and then depart in a whisp.
It's not even my favorite season-- that's autumn-- but still the summer needs to be savored. 
Because I have been on the academic calendar almost my entire life, I have this sense that summer is the end of the year, right before things start up anew. I love the rhythm of that, the way that one follows the other. 
But, damn, I'm glad I don't live in Texas! That heat is brutal.

Monday, July 17, 2023


A haiku of excellence!

 We only netted one haiku last week, by Jill Scoggins, but it was excellent:

As a child, I roamed
woods with no fear. Now, the trees
are dark and threat’ning.

Exactly when did
I grow scared? Were forests safe
then but fright’ning now?

Living life robs you,
takes away fearlessness. Woods
are still woods. I changed.

Sunday, July 16, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Certainty?

 I understand agnostics, and I think everyone of us has been on the agnostic spectrum at one point or another. A lot of the really smart people I know are agnostic, and their argument can be a good one: after all, if there is a God who was all-knowing and beyond our understanding, would we know it? y

The people I don't get are the Atheists, who believe there is no God. That certainty is pretty much the same as what bugs them most about Christians (or at least what they imagine Christians to be).  Just like the worst arguments by Christians, Atheists like Richard Dawkins has the fictional God he doesn't believe in by an entity that is not as smart as, well, Richard Dawkins. 

To put it another way, Atheists and those Christians I find toxic have something important in common-- a certainty about God's existence that almost always involves a real or imagined God who is something less than beyond our comprehension. 

I believe there is a God, and that it is not me. My beliefs about the existence of God are rooted in that unknowability-- and all that goes with it, including, sometimes, doubt.


The Original Killers

 It turns out that The Killers got their name from this New Order video:

In turn, you can see some similarities between that video and this classic by the (later/real) Killers:

Friday, July 14, 2023


Haiku Friday: Woods and Fields

If you aren't outside in the summer, you aren't doing it right! And a lot of the most interesting things are in the woods and fields. So let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
Were you a runner?
If so, all of these fields are
A cross-country course.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun.

Thursday, July 13, 2023


Political Non-Mayhem Thursday


So often when we think of "news" we mean bad news. That means we bury a lot of the good stuff. 
If you surf the headlines and skip over weather stuff, it's actually pretty good right now in the US. Consider:
-- Inflation is down, and it looks like a recession will be avoided. Gas prices have moderated. 
-- Crime is down, too, overall and in most big cities.
-- We came out of the pandemic in not-so-bad shape, given the severity of that shock to our financial and social systems.
-- Our leadership at the moment seems pretty stable. You may not like it-- but there aren't bad things happening.
-- And it is summer!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


On the trail


Yesterday, like many days when the weather is good, I rode my bike into work (in fact, on the path pictured above, through Arden Park). Minneapolis has a pretty good bike infrastructure, and I can go much of the way on dedicated bike paths or multi-use paths.
It's pretty common here-- especially around the lakes-- to find separate paths for pedestrians and bikes, running parallel. It's the one form of segregation I support! The bike paths, too, are often one-way around the lakes. It's a great feature of the community-- and in part a product of the fact that nearly all the land around lakes in parkland rather than houses, thanks to wise planning in the 1800's. 
There are dangers, though: earbuds. Increasingly, on the multi-use paths, people are oblivious to their surroundings as they walk and listen to a podcast or music. It means they don't hear those of us on bikes approach, even when we call out "on your left."
Worse is the situation where someone with earbuds is walking on the dedicated bike lane. I mean... c'mon, there is a walking path 7 feet away!
I understand the desire to listen to something... but the sounds of the water and the wind and even the city can be pretty worthwhile, too.  Am I right, CraigA?

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


Water and Heat


If you go to a library with old newspapers-- something I love to do-- it's hard not to realize that crazy weather, even dangerous weather, is nothing new. There have always been a blizzard here, a hurricane there, drought in one place and floods in another. 
What's new, according to scientists, is the pace of these events as they happen more often. Right now we have crazy heat in the southwest and crazy floods in Vermont (pictured above, without a flood). 
The costs of dealing with these weather events, driven by climate change, are going to soon become even more significant. Will that be the turning point away from some of our most destructive habits?

Monday, July 10, 2023


On Summer...

 This haiku was anonymous, but it SURE sounds like someone from Texas-- oh, wait... it's the Medievalist!:

Sunlight falls like lead,
Heat surrounds me heavily,
Merciless July.
Desiree is all in on the outdoors:

Escape the AC
into the summer air — warm,
fragrant, full of joy.
Christine is dreaming of... winter?:
Mid summer arrives
With its suffocating heat
Dreaming of winter.

And Jill Scoggins (like me) loves fireflies:
First one, then some more.
Flashes in the twilight air.
Fireflies do their dance.

While someone out there shares my passion:

Tornado, Blizzard:
Soft serve vanilla swirled
with favorite treat.

Sunday, July 09, 2023


Sunday Reflection: The heart of summer


This has been an extraordinarily hot summer for the world as a whole, as a heat dome prepares to clamp down over the Southwest and make it even worse. It Texas, it sounds like it has been grueling, with temperatures over 100 for weeks at a time in many places.
I live in Minnesota, though, where the high has been in the 70's recently. We love summer, of course, because we don't get much of it! I've never been to a place where people spend so much time outdoors in this time of the year, but it's overwhelming. Yesterday I went on a long bike ride and was happy to see people out everywhere: planting things, walking, biking, grilling out. 
We appreciate most what we have the least of. 
I've often thought about Jesus and the apostles. They had a lot of many things: attention, fellowship, a sense of purpose. They probably didn't have a lot of some other things, of course: stability, for one thing. Perhaps that is why they seemed to relish those quiet moments so much, the ones that seem so human and normal. Our last sight of them, of course, is their sharing breakfast by the sea. 
Enjoy what we have right now! 

Saturday, July 08, 2023



 I've written before about my friend Jason Hernandez. Here's what happened to him this week:

Friday, July 07, 2023


Haiku Friday: Sweet Days of Summer


Wow-- summer is flying by! So let's take a minute to appreciate it-- the good, the bad, the surprising. Here, I will go first:
February morning
I think about days like this
Flowers stretch to sun.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, July 06, 2023


PMT: DeSantis's challenge


Ron DeSantis really wants to be president-- it seems like he has lived his life to construct a biography leading to that, intentionally. And yet he seems unable to dent the support Republicans show Donald Trump.
Floridians generally seem to really like him-- they have elected him governor twice, after all. I'm not sure why, really, but they do.
He's in a quandary.  If he attacks Donald Trump too directly, he alienates those who support him now. If he doesn't, he can't seem to make a mark on Trump. As Nichola Nehamas put it in the NY Times, DeSantis "has not shown that he is a natural campaigner, has failed to take off in the polls, and his carefully choreographed public events have offered few headline-generating moments."
Some have suggested-- and this may be the truth-- that DeSantis is hoping that something incapacitates Trump, leaving him as the heir who kind of stayed loyal but still ran against him (or something like that).
It might be his best bet.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023




The Washington Post had an intriguing article about a new book of photos taken by Paul Cartney in 1964, documenting the Beatles arrival in the US. It includes the picture about, of George Harrison receiving a drink in Miami.
I love a coherent set of old pictures. And here's the thing-- old pictures were at one time new pictures. So take some photos. Document this era. Share them with others. There is always room for more beauty in the world. 


Tuesday, July 04, 2023


Liberty on the 4th


Happy Independence Day!
It's a weird and wonderful holiday, isn't it? I sometimes get a little twisted around about what we say and how we act.
I mean... this is a holiday rooted in freedom from the oppressive British monarchy, yet Americans so often seem absolutely in thrall to the British monarchy no matter how stupid and insignificant they become. Most recently, King Charles was coronated or whatever, having really accomplished less than nothing in his life-- he is mostly known for a failed marriage. He is King because of who his parents were. That's it, full stop. Yet there were people around here acting like it mattered for some reason.
 And yet, we really do have a lot to actually celebrate. Actual independence, for one-- the USA has (with the assistance of two enormous ocean borders) remained free from the sway of foreign powers. When we mess up, we do it ourselves-- and when we accomplish great things, it is usually our own victories, too. 
That's something-- something that really matters. 

Monday, July 03, 2023


Bursting from the earth...

 I asked for poems about what's growing, and you all delivered!

Thanks for this one, Mom:
Seeds for tomatoes
were planted late, but I see
five blossoms. Hooray!

And this poet seems justifiably aggrieved (plus, "snarled" is the perfect word):
Growing, thriving. When --
"Sunflowers?! Ha! In your dreams!"
Snarled the squirrel.
Desiree knows a thing or two about plants (but shouldn't live in MN):
Okra demands warm
ground and so do I. We both
thrive in the summer. 
As does Christine (and this is one of my favorite poems you have written):
Bee balm standing tall
Hummingbirds dart amongst the
Pollen laden blooms.
And Jill Scoggins (who's teaching me about new plants): 

First summer in new
house. Catawba, loosestrife, mock
orange blooms surprised me.

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