Wednesday, April 22, 2020

4/22/20: Book Review: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell is a preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher in the field of mythology, and he has had a profound influence on millions of thinkers the world over. To him, mythology is the “song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” He often refers to it as poetry. With Bill Moyers, one of America’s most prominent journalists, they created a thoughtful and engaging television interview that was transcribed into this book, The Power of Myth. This interview touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to Buddha to John Lennon to Star Wars, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit. 

The Editor’s Note to this 1988 book states, “This conversation between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell took place in 1985 and 1986 at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and later at the Museum of natural History in New York. Many of us … were struck by the rich abundance of material captured during the twenty-four hours of filming---much of which had to be cut in making the six-hour PBS series. The idea for a book arose from the desire to make this material available not only to viewers of the series but also to those who have long appreciated Campbell through reading his books.”

The Power of Myth is a glittering explanation of the literary world of the spirit, and the poetry (myth stores) that describe how we deal with the spiritual in our day to day existence. I was not only fascinated by this work, I forced myself to ready it slowly, only a dozen or so pages per day, so that I could more fully absorb and meditate on all the knowledge that passed between these two wonderful thinkers. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

4/10/20: Martin Luther and the Reformation

I’ve been reading Durant’s Story of Civilization V1, The Reformation. It seems there were two key figures that launched the Reformation in Germany, Luther and Erasmus. Although I admire Erasmus much more than Luther, in philosophy and approach, I must admit I found the following summation of Luther both enlightening and a beautiful piece of writing. 

Those years were among the most momentous in history, and Luther had been their strident and dominant voice. His faults were many. He lacked appreciation of the historic role that the Church had played in civilizing northern Europe, lacked understanding of mankind’s hunger for symbolic and consolatory myths, lacked the charity to deal justly with his Catholic or Protestant foes. He freed his followers from an infallible pope, but subjected them to an infallible book; and it has been easier to change the popes than the book. He retained the most cruel and incredible dogmas of medieval religion, while allowing almost all its beauty to be stamped out in its legends and its art, and bequeathed to Germany a Christianity no truer than the old one, far less joyous and comforting, only more honest in its teaching and personnel. He became almost as intolerant as the Inquisition, but his words were harsher than his deeds. He was guilty of the most vituperative writing in the history of literature. He taught Germany the theological hatred that incarnadined its soil until a hundred years after his death. 

And yet his faults were his success. He was a man of war because the situation seemed to demand war, because the problems he attacked had for centuries resisted all the methods of peace. His whole life was a battle—against the sense of guilt, against the Devil, the Pope, the Emperor, Zwingli, even against the friends who would have compromised his revolt into a gentlemanly protest politely heard and carefully forgotten. What could a milder man have done against such handicaps and powers? No man of philosophic breadth, no scientific mind restricting belief to the evidence, no genial nature making generous allowances for the enemy, would have flung down so world-shaking a challenge, or would have marched so resolutely, as if in blinders, to his goal. If his predestinarian theology was as repugnant to reason and human kindness as any myth or miracle in the medieval faith, it was by this passionate irrationality that it moved the hearts of men. It is hope and terror that make men pray, not the evidence of things seen. 

It remains that with the blows of his rude fist he smashed the cake of custom, the shell of authority, that had blocked the movement of the European mind. If we judge greatness by influence—which is the least subjective test that we can use—we may rank Luther with Copernicus, Voltaire, and Darwin as the most powerful personalities in the modern world. More has been written about him than about any other modern man except Shakespeare and Napoleon. His influence on philosophy was tardy and indirect; it moved the fideism of Kant, the nationalism of Fichte, the voluntarism of Schopenhauer, the Hegelian surrender of the soul to the state. His influence on German literature and speech was as decisive and pervasive as that of the King James Bible on language and letters in England. No other German is so frequently or so fondly quoted. Along with Carlstadt and others, he affected the moral life and institutions of Western man by breaking away from clerical celibacy, and pouring into secular life the energies that had been diverted to monastic asceticism, idleness, or piety. His influence lessened as it spread; it was immense in Scandinavia, transitory in France, superseded by Calvin’s in Scotland, England, and America. But in German it was supreme; no other thinker or writer cut so deep a mark in German history, and his countrymen loved him no less because he was the most German German of them all. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Thoughts from The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

“The only mythology that is valid today is the mythology of the planet—and we don’t have such a mythology. The closest thing I know to a planetary mythology is Buddhism, which sees all beings as Buddha beings. The only problem is to come to the recognition of that. There is nothing to do.  The task is only to know what is, and then to act in relation to the brotherhood of all of these beings.”

The USA was the first nation to be founded on the basis of reason, by eighteenth-century deists who believed in a God but not the bible. They did not believe in a Fall. They did not think the mind of man was cut off from God. The mind of man, cleansed of secondary and merely temporal concerns, beholds with the radiance of a cleansed mirror a reflection of the rational mind of God. Reason puts you in touch with God. Consequently, for these men, there is no special revelation anywhere, and none is needed, because the mind of man cleared of its fallibilities is sufficiently capable of the knowledge of God. All people in the world are thus capable because all people in the world are capable of reason. And because all men are capable of reason, everybody’s mind is capable of true knowledge, you don’t have to have a special authority, or a special revelation telling you that this is the way things should be.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

3/21/20: Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From by Steve Johnson

This book is a gem of knowledge, starting with the fascinating observations and insights of Charles Darwin and moving through the history of great idea men to today’s Nano technology thinkers. Johnson gives solid, practical insight into where and how human ideas evolve, and advice on the best ways to foster those ideas. 

I found the first half of the book ten times more interesting than the last half, but it still is a worthwhile read cover to cover. One of the most interesting ideas for me, called negative quarter-power scaling, came in the first pages:

Scientists and animal lovers had long observed that as life gets bigger, it slows down. Flies live for hours or days; elephants live for half-centuries. The hearts of birds and small mammals pump blood much faster than those of giraffes and blue whales. But the relationship between size and speed didn’t seem to be a linear one. A horse might be five hundred times heavier than a rabbit, yet its pulse certainly wasn’t five hundred times slower that the rabbit’s. After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called “negative quarter-power scaling.” If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami. 

Physicists were used to discovering beautiful equations like this lurking in the phenomena they studied, but mathematical elegance was a rarity in the comparatively messy world of biology. But the more species Kleiber and his peers analyzed, the clearer the equation became: metabolism scales to mass to the negative quarter power. The math is simple enough: you take the square root of 1,000, which is (approximately) 31, and then take the square root of 31, which is (again, approximately) 5.5. This means that a cow, which is roughly a thousand times heavier than a woodchuck, will, on average, live 5.5 times longer, and have a heart rate that is 5.5 times slower than the woodchuck’s. As the science writer George Johnson once observed, one lovely consequence of Kleiber’s law is that the number of heartbeats per lifetime tends to be stable from species to species. Bigger animals just take longer to use up their quota.

Over the ensuing decades, Kleiber’s law was extended down to the microscopic scale of bacteria and cell metabolism; even plants were found to obey negative quarter-power scaling in their patterns of growth.  Wherever life appeared, whenever an organism had to figure out a way to consume and distribute energy through a body, negative quarter-power scaling governed the patterns of its development.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lockdown, Week Three

We are into our third week of the Corona-virus lock down. I’m depressed that the stock market has fallen so far down, or course, but I’ve been loving the peace and quiet. No screaming school children down the block. No screaming renters. No crowds on the streets or at the park. I miss going out to restaurants. And the city has closed the public tennis courts so Herman and I can no longer hit the ball. But I love spending time in the backyard reading without having to listen to loud renters over the fence. If this goes on all summer, I won’t be disappointed. The new government stimulus package has bumped up the stock market, so I’m feeling better than I have in weeks.

Still, it’s heartbreaking to see what’s unfolding across the world. So many deaths, and the heroes risking their lives to help others in need. And, of course, that boob in the White House making it all about him. 

One thing I don’t miss is hooking up with friends. Not sure why, but I’ve been perfectly happy being with just Herman and Trek. I guess my friends don’t have that big an impact on my life, which seems sad. But then, I’ve always been a rather solitary soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

3/21/20: Book Review: The End of Billy Knight by Ty Jacob

A tale that explores the relationship between a gay hustler and an aging drag queen, set in the world of 80s porn stars. This is not erotica, but a weak attempt at literary fiction. The characters are tired stereotypes, and because of that they fail to be convincing. The plot is a string of gay clichés, one after another. 

The one positive thing I can say is that author has done a great deal of research into both the 80’s LA porn industry, as well as what it takes to be a drag queen. That said, I was not only disappointed in the story, but doubly so because this same author wrote another book, non-fiction using his real name, titled: An Olive Grove at the Edge of the World, which I loved. After reading his non-fiction story, I built up my expectations very high, and then was disheartened. All the freshness and humor I found in Olive Grove was sorely missing in Billy Knight. The only reason I finished the story was because it was selected by my book club, and I needed to read it all in order to properly discuss the book at the next meeting. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3/17/20: Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the fascinating story of the determined brothers who overcame a lack of education (neither attended college) and lack of money, taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright's Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard, thus creating  The Age of Flight. How did they do it? And why? David McCullough tells the extraordinary story of the two brothers who changed the world. 

Sons of an itinerant preacher and a mother who died young, Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up on a small side street in Dayton, Ohio, in a house that lacked indoor plumbing and electricity but was filled with books and a love of learning. The brothers ran a bicycle shop that allowed them to earn enough money to pursue their mission in life: flight. In the 1890s flying was beginning to advance beyond the glider stage, but there were major technical challenges the Wrights were determined to solve. They traveled to North Carolina's remote Outer Banks to test their plane because there they found three indispensable conditions: constant winds, soft surfaces for landings, and privacy. 

Flying proved dangerous; the Wrights risked their lives every time they flew in the years that followed. Orville nearly died in a crash in 1908 but was nursed back to health by his sister, Katharine - an unsung and important part of the brothers' success and of McCullough's book. Despite their achievement the Wrights could not convince the US government to take an interest in their plane until after they demonstrated its success in France, where the government instantly understood the importance of their achievement. Now, in this revelatory book, historian David McCullough draws on nearly 1,000 letters of family correspondence plus diaries, notebooks, and family scrapbooks in the Library of Congress to tell the full story of the Wright brothers and their heroic achievement.

Wilbur and Orville were two of the key architects who molded our modern civilization. I found their story fascinating, and also marveled at their quiet, unpretentious natures. The book not only describes their momentous achievements, but also describes in detail their lives, habits, personalities. David McCullough is a master at presenting history as a fresh and exciting experience. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

3/11/20: Mining For More Creative Options

Yesterday I completed an exercise in creativity where I forced myself to come up with five different ways to present my next scene in my manuscript. Normally I have a gut feel for how to create a scene, and I just go with my gut. But after watching a documentary on expanding creativity, I decided to try one of the exercises they highlighted.

I recorded my first, gut-feel idea for my next scene, but then I sat there with pen and paper until I had thought up four more different version of how that scene could play out to achieve the desired results to the plot. It took me a few hours of considering different options and how they would affect the story, but I managed to come up with five choices that would work. 

As it turns out, I liked option three and option five much better than my original, gut-feel solution. But then I realized I could combine elements from both options three and five to create a sixth option that I think is marvelous. Not only did come up with a much better solution, but I have fun doing it. In fact, I kind of amazed myself. 

Needless to say, I very much liked this exercise, and will incorporate it into each new scene I write going forward. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

2/21/20: Book Review: Blowout by Rachel Maddow

Big Oil and Gas versus democracy - winner take all

With her trademark humor, Maddow guides us on a journey from Oklahoma to Moscow to the White House, revealing the greed, corruption, and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing conclusions about how and why the Russian government hacked the 2016 US election. She deftly shows how Russia's rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia's decay into its rivals, its neighbors, the West's most important alliances, and the United States. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, "like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can't really blame the lion. It's in her nature."
Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on Earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world's most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, "Democracy either wins this one or disappears."

A fascinating book, one that every American should read cover to cover.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2/18/20: First Swim of the Year

Yesterday I swam laps in the pool for the first time this year. The air temperature climbed to over 80 degrees and the water temperature topped 75, which made for a bracing swim but a truly lovely experience. I only did ten or fifteen laps before I became uncomfortably cold, but it felt wonderful to be exercising muscles that have been mostly dormant since the beginning of November. 

I’m hoping to do more laps today, and I’m looking forward to the time when the pool temperature tops 80 degrees so I can stay in much longer, long enough to do my aqua-exercises which take 1 to 1 ½ hours. I do love being active, as much as I love this time in my life when I have the time and resources to enjoy simple things like swimming, tennis, and writing. 

I have no pictures of me in the pool, but one of my favorite pictures of Herman is this one.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

2/16/20: Book Review – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happened to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Conde Nast—rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our deepest regrets. 

This is the second Amor Towles book I’ve read (the first being A Gentleman In Moscow) and I have loved them both. Rules of Civility, Towles’s first published novel, has a wonderful voice that carries the reader along a time in history between world wars when the country was getting back on its feet and hopes and prospects were flying high. Interesting characters, interesting times, wonderful juxtaposition between rich and middleclass. This is a great beach read, not too heavy, not at all violent, but delightfully clever, and ultimately satisfying.  

Sunday, February 9, 2020

2/09/20: Jackson Pollock

Many, many years ago when I first saw some of Jackson Pollock’s canvases, I didn’t know what to think. It didn’t really seem like art, yet it had an energy that I found compelling. Now that I’ve seen more of his work, and matured in view of art, I think Pollock’s work is some of the most interesting and beautiful art I’ve seen. Pure genius. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

1/31/20: Book Review: My Life by Bill Clinton

This memoir took me back into the fascinating, struggling, highs and lows of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political careers in the 80’s and 90’s. It spans the era Bill Clinton became the longest serving governor of Arkansas, and went on to be president of the United States, twice. It was an interesting and enjoying romp down memory lane, and it also exposed so many details of the politics of the time which I was utterly clueless. Bill Clinton is one of the few national leaders I admired while in office, and I still admire the work he does with his foundation. So for me it was a joy to find out more about him, which in no way diminished my admiration of him. 

I was amazed to find that rightwing conservatives hated Clinton every bit as much as we liberals hate Trump. Living in California, I didn’t really see that detestation, which I find so interesting because I feel Clinton did more to help middle/lower class conservatives and any Republican president. 

The book is over 950 pages, and I feel he could have cut out 300 pages and it would have been a better read. On the other hand, there are many areas I wish he would have spent more time, like the Middle East peace talks, the Ken Starr witch hunt, and the budget debates. All in all, a satisfying read from a man who did so much to shape our current culture. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

1/30/20: Completed 2019 Journal

For the past two months I’ve been updating my last-year’s journal with notes and pictures I recorded on my month-long Bhutan/India excursion. I’m amazed it took so much effort, almost twice as long as it took to live it. Now it’s done. My 2019 journal is closed. When I breeze through the 700+ pages I can hardly appreciate what a jampacked year it was for Herman and I. It’s no wonder I’m feeling exhausted most of the time. Yet, I’m very grateful and proud that at the age of sixty-seven, we are able to keep such an active schedule. For two retired folks, we seem to be on the run most of the time. When we are home in Palm Springs—resting from our last adventure—we are planning our next undertaking. Case in point: we’ve been home two months—with Dec. being our busiest month due to holiday obligations—we already have the blueprint of our next trip on paper. It will take us to four European countries—Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal, and back to Spain—and cover a two-month timeframe starting in early May. That gives us three months to nail down the details, make reservations, and prepare for another expedition. As tired as I’m feeling, my mouth is watering over this next trip. 

 I’m a bit disappointed that we are not walking a Camino this year. Herman and I both love long distance treks. But Herman’s knees are giving him pain and we are not prepared to do another Camino until we get his body checked out. I think we are both afraid his knees will put an end to our cross-country trekking. Time will tell.

So now that my 2019 journal is complete I have time on my hands to start another writing project. But I don’t feel motivated to get involved with another fiction story just yet. I’m only interested in writing my daily 2020 journal entries. I have three stories in mind to write. I’m sure I will return to fiction writing soon, but for now I’m enjoying the break from storytelling. When the time comes to tackle my next story, I’ll know. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

1/13/20: Cooking Day

Spent this morning cooking my Minestrone soup and my Junkyard Dog chili for a dinner party that Herman has arranged for this evening. I enjoyed making the soup and chili, and they are really good, based on how good they were last week at a similar dinner party. But an issue arose in the kitchen. Herman is incapable of getting the hell out of my way and letting me do it myself. He tried to take charge, as if I’m his employee. This, needless to say, didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to do it myself, and I wanted him out of my way. He, of course, got offended whenever I told him, “I’ll do that!” and I would take over. 

It’s a matter of conflicting goals. My goal is to prepare the soups/chilies myself, and eventually become an excellent chef as regards to soups and simmered foods. Herman’s goal is for us to do it as a joint project, with him in charge. Part of me feels I’m being selfish, but I feel that’s okay. I don’t walk into his kitchen and start altering his dishes when he’s cooking. I let him cook his dishes the way he sees fit. I only asked the same in return. If that makes me selfish then I’ll be selfish. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

1/09/20: Book Review: Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Liveright, (Feb 12, 2019)
Pages 352

In its heyday, South Bend, Indiana had been one of the industrial revolution’s brightest achievements, a factory town that produced everything from cars to watches. But then like much of the Midwestern rust belt, it fell into hard times, lost almost all its industry, and the young people were escaping to larger cities for better opportunities. The leadership Pete Buttigieg displayed as mayor of South Bend, steered the people of South Bend to rebuild their city into a thriving community. 

In my view, the biggest thing to turn the tide on LGBT issues wasn’t theological or political evolution. It was the discovery that many people whom we already know turn out to be part of this category. The biggest obstacle wasn’t religion, or hatred. It was the simple fact that so many people believed, wrongly, that they didn’t even know anyone who was gay. At my high school in the late 1990s, I didn’t know of a single gay student. 

It is easier to be cruel, or unfair, to people in groups and in the abstract; harder to do so toward a specific person in your midst, especially if you know them already. Gays have the benefit of being a minority  whose membership is not necessarily obvious when you meet one (or love one.) Common decency can kick in before there is time for prejudice to intervene. Of course, humans can be cruel to people we know, too, but not as often—and we’re rarely as proud of it. 

In the struggle for equality, we do well to remember that all people want to be known as decent, respectful, and kind. If our first response toward anyone who struggles to get onto the right side of history is to denounce him as a bigot, we will force him into a defensive crouch—or into the arms of the extreme right. When a conservative socialite of a certain age would stop me on the street with a mischievous look, pat my arm, and say conspiratorially, “I met your friend the other day, and he is fabulous,” it was not the time for a lecture on the distinction between a partner and a “friend.” She is on her way to acceptance, and she feels good about her way of getting there; it feels better to grow on your own terms than to be painted into a corner.

In this entertaining and insightful book, Buttigieg lays out a blueprint of modern political ideas for transforming and revitalizing our communities. I enjoyed learning about his insights, and how he approached problem solving. And against this backdrop of how Buttigieg renovated the city he grew up in, was the even more enjoyable personal story of how Pete Buttigieg grew into the man who is now altering the landscape of the American political scene by becoming the first openly gay man to run for the highest elected office in the country. 

This well-written, insightful book is a mosaic of growth and hope, both for South Bend and for Buttigieg. Pete delves into his childhood growing up in a decaying industrial town, his attempt to escape that town and the promise that brought him back. He describes his experiences being a Harvard and Rhodes Scholar, Mckinsey alumni, and a talented musician. He tells of his military service, gives a frank and interesting account of coming out at age thirty-three, and also about finding love. 

I found this a fascinating read. I didn’t find him as “presidential” as Barak Obama or Bill Clinton, but I did see a very intelligent, capable, and positive role model who transcends the “gay” stereotype. What comes shining through is his integrity and altruism.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1/08/20: Back On Track

Today feels like the first day back to a regular schedule since the holidays jumped into high gear over a month ago. Since that time in early December we have marched through countless dinner parties and cocktail parties, several given by Herman and I, entertained long-term guests, performed countless chores to tie up loose ends from last year and kickoff this year, and worked constantly to complete our purge of unneeded stuff in our home. It has been a hectic and productive month, and I’m grateful to get back to my normal writing routine. 

Now the parties are over (ending last night with a dinner party for ten where I cooked my minestrone soup and also my new Junkyard Dog Chile recipe), the guests have flown back home, and the purge has turned into a remarkable success, also finishing yesterday when we gave away our canoe to Kevin and Phillip. I used to love slicing through the water in that canoe, but we have not used it in five or six years. We have moved beyond that time in our lives where we camped in tents beside a lake to spend our days fishing. As much as I loved those experiences, I’m not sorry to see them go. I only hope Kevin and Phillip get as much joy out of that boat as we did. 

We also gave away three more paintings to our dinner guests last night. We didn’t purge everything we could have, but we did manage to give away much more than I thought we could or would—clothes, furniture, carpets, a dozen paintings and prints, eight boxes of books, camping gear, and the canoe. We scrounged through every closet, cabinet, and drawer to give away everything we didn’t need moving forward. It is amazing how much stuff had been sitting there unused for years. Now it’s all in good hands. 

So now that I’m back to a normal schedule with no interruptions, I feel it’s time to get back to writing. I’ve missed my routine terribly. I see a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m joyful that I’m once again plowing into it. 

Insight of the Day: I feel most happy when I’m writing.

Friday, January 3, 2020

1/03/20: Losing the War on Terror

At the beginning of this new decade, I’ve been looking back at the last two decades that have been dominated by terrorism, and the political fallout from that terrorism.  It’s on the tv news daily, it’s in the movies, it has seeped into our hearts. I see America winning on the battlefield, but the terrorists are winning the war. 

They have changed us, changed the way we think, the way we live each day. Terrorists have created such fear in our guts that it has dominated everything we do. That fear has given birth to hate, and that hate has driven our society to rip away people’s rights, rip children from their families, dump children into cages, and place a hateful, lying, egotist at the lead office governing our country. Not since the war/race riots of the 1960s have I seen such division in our nation. 

All the social declines we’ve witnessed in the past decades stem from this fear that terrorism nurtured in our hearts. Now I see a country of cowards—people willing to make others suffer so they can feel safe, so they can keep their big cars and flat-screen TVs and iPhones. And what I see sickens me. People suffering needlessly sickens me, literally.

When one child suffers I suffer, even when it is not my child. When one family goes hungry, you and I are poorer, even if we are not all related by blood. We must move beyond this fear. We must make healing our sisters and brothers and neighbors our first priority. And by doing so, we will lift up our entire country in brotherhood. We must fight terrorism by increasing our compassion for each other. It is the only way to win the war on terror. The only way to defeat our enemy. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year’s celebration dinner

Tonight, we are hosting our annual surf and turf dinner party with Ben Wong, Jim and Rob, and Donny and Mark. Looking forward to catching up will all of them and ringing in the New Year with old friends. 

Our New Year’s celebration dinner was a lovely affair, with plenty of delicious food, moderate wine drinking, and interesting and fun conversation. There were eight of us, and we started at 6:30pm and the party didn’t break up until 12:30am. I was in bed sleeping it off by 1am. We are again thankful that our good friend and travel companion Ben Wong flew down to add to the cheer. We love having him spend time with us
 Herman sets a festive table.
 Not shown here is the stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom appetizer’s Ben made and the Minestrone soup I made.
 Herman pouring the first glass of bubbly. 
 Ben with Trek
Herman and I with Trek
A last gasp of 2019, and we bring cheer into the new decade. Farewell 2019, I’m grateful for all the love and excitement you gave us.