John Glenn; Greg Lake


'Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn died Thursday at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Glenn, who served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio, was one of NASA's original seven Mercury astronauts. His flight on Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, showed the world that America was a serious contender in the space race with the Soviet Union. It also made Glenn an instant hero.

His mission of almost nine days on the space shuttle orbiter Discovery, launched Oct. 29, 1998, when he was 77, made him the oldest human to venture into space. On Discovery he participated in a series of tests on the aging process. The aging population was one focus of his work as a U.S. senator.

Glenn was described as "humble, funny, and generous" by Trevor Brown, dean of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, in a statement joined by the Glenn family. "Even after leaving public life, he loved to meet with citizens, school children in particular. He thrilled to music and had a weakness for chocolate."'

And, in a single year, we lost two-thirds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.


'Greg Lake, who fronted both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died aged 69.

One of the founding fathers of progressive rock, the British musician is known for songs including In the Court of the Crimson King and his solo hit I Believe in Father Christmas.

He died on Wednesday after "a long and stubborn battle with cancer", said his manager.

The news comes nine months after Lake's band-mate Keith Emerson died. ...'

Probably all of us who are rock music fans have our favorite "rock stars", but I can think of very few singers from the rock era who I can say had a really magnificent voice. Jim Morrison was one; Greg Lake was another.

'Lucky Man' was ELP's first commercial success; it's said Greg Lake wrote the words at age 12.

I've often thought that it would make a great Country & Western song: there are guns, horses, women ... and the guy dies in the end. Like all of us.

RIP Greg Lake.


Thursday night: Clearing out from Shadowdale, a birthday card, etc.

I took today through next Monday off from work to complete the move. The Bridgetown movers came this morning to take the bulk of my stuff - about 96 banker boxes of books (mostly) and personal papers, plus a few folding bookshelves - to my storage cube. I called the storage place ahead of time so they'd be ready for the movers. The truck showed up and the crew of three men got the job done in about an hour and a quarter - very efficient, professional, and courteous.

I popped in at my new place at the Admiral for a couple of hours to get stuff organized. By 12 noon, the few flakes of snow we'd seen in the morning had turned into a steady snowfall, and it was looking like time to get back to Shadowdale.

So I've been alternately taking it easy and sorting through the remaining stuff here at my suddenly near-bare, soon-to-be-former home.

Just now, I made the perilous, icy walk to the mailbox to mail a birthday card to The Next Generation. He turns 21 next week; I sent him a check for a little something and told him to treat himself to a beer.

And with that, I think I've earned my own beer for the night.

Michael Totten on PRC and Taiwan

My friend Michael J. Totten has a new piece on Red China and the Republic of China:


'I’d love to see the United States recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation as long as the Pacific Rim doesn’t blow up. For one thing, Taiwan is a sovereign nation whether or not Beijing and Washington say so. It has its own democratically elected government and its own institutions. It makes its own domestic, foreign and trade policies with zero input from the Chinese Communist Party. Its citizens have their own passports with "Republic of China" written across the top. Recognizing these facts is just an acknowledgement of reality. Ari Fleischer might not have been allowed to refer to the government of Taiwan, but those of us who don’t work for the government are free to recognize, talk about and write about reality. ...

... We all have to deal with the world as it is, but sacrificing Taiwan to the wolves is outrageous. Taiwan had a “permanent” seat on the United Nations Security Council until Richard Nixon, neverminding tens of millions of corpses, gave it to Mao Zedong. Nixon told Taiwan that the US was engaging instead with the mainland Chinese “not because we love them. But because they’re there.” Fine. It may have been necessary, but it was a nasty business. A bully got its way for four decades not because it is right but because it is bigger. Professional diplomats may have to bite their tongues but the rest of us don’t.'

Read the whole thing at the link.

Tuesday morning: Work, moving, the continuing saga.

This Thursday morning, the movers will come to my apartment at Shadowdale and extricate the collected books and accumulated detritus of 35 years of adult life, and cart the stuff to a storage cube in downtown Portland - a few blocks from my new (old) place at the Admiral. It'll be a blessed relief to have all that stuff out of my field of vision.

My final move-out date from Shadowdale is next Monday; I'm taking Thursday thru Monday off to complete this seemingly insurmountable task.


Monday Morning Linkage: Thomas Friedman, and more Thomas Friedman!

Matt Taibbi reviews Thomas Friedman.
'We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76 percent of the world's taxi drivers, for predicting "the next six months will be critical" on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, "the Friedman unit"), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic "rule of holes": "When you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels."

Friedman's great anti-gift is his ability to use many words when only a few are necessary. He became famous as a newspaper columnist for taking simple one-sentence observations like, "Wow, everyone has a cell phone these days," and blowing them out into furious 850-word trash-fires of mismatched imagery and circular argument. ...'

More here:
'I think it was about five months ago that Press editor Alex Zaitchik whispered to me in the office hallway that Thomas Friedman had a new book coming out. All he knew about it was the title, but that was enough; he approached me with the chilled demeanor of a British spy who has just discovered that Hitler was secretly buying up the world's manganese supply. Who knew what it meant but one had to assume the worst. "It's going to be called The Flattening," he whispered. Then he stood there, eyebrows raised, staring at me, waiting to see the effect of the news when it landed. I said nothing. It turned out Alex had bad information; the book that ultimately came out would be called The World Is Flat. It didn't matter. Either version suggested the same horrifying possibility. Thomas Friedman in possession of 500 pages of ruminations on the metaphorical theme of flatness would be a very dangerous thing indeed. It would be like letting a chimpanzee loose in the NORAD control room; even the best-case scenario is an image that could keep you awake well into your 50s. So I tried not to think about it. But when I heard the book was actually coming out, I started to worry. Among other things, I knew I would be asked to write the review. ...'

A Song You'll Sing

You know how you can hear a song 100 times and not really pay attention, and then on the 101st time it suddenly grabs you? That's this song for me right now. The name of the band (Devek) means glue, and I'm glued to this tune.

I'll try to work up a translation of the lyrics later.


Irregular Animal Words

It's interesting how widespread among languages it is to have completely different names for, for example: (1) the male and female of a species; (2) the young and mature; (3) wild and domesticated (or eaten as food); and (4) names for a group of an animal (terms of venery).

Behind the Fake News

I'm not a regular follower of NPR, but here's a piece of great reporting (uh, assuming it's not invented!) about the man behind the fake news. As some of us have suspected, the motivations are a mix of ideological and monetary.

"The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction," Coler says. ...

When I first got into political blogging in the early 2000s, I became interested in the question of "Why do we believe what we believe, and how do we know it's true?" As it happened, from watching my traffic stats I saw I was getting a lot of hits on my blog from people asking 'how can you determine a source's biases' or very similarly worded questions. I decided to capitalize on my search hits, and wrote a post titled How can you determine a source's biases? in which I examined the mental process I go through, and tried to list some of the things I look at. These factors included

· internal consistency (details of the narrative agree with each other)
· external consistency (details of the narrative agree with information previously verified)
· insider details (information available only to an authentic source)
· dialog and dissent (narrative welcomes questions and challenges; fosters better understanding among divergent opinions)
· awareness of objections (narrative recognizes legitimate counter-arguments and seeks to refute them)
· nuance (recognition that a proposition may hold true in general and still admit of exceptions)
· the human voice (an intangible quality that may include a distinctive personality, awareness of ambivalence, self-analysis and self-criticism)

You can read the whole thing here. It's not a comprehensive or systematic approach, but it's my attempt to analyze some of the things I think about.

Thursday night: Thanksgiving at the shul, with Qwirkle.

Came back to my soon-to-be former apartment at Shadowdale to get some packing and cleaning done.

I live alone and I didn't have any Thanksgiving plans, so I attended a Thanksgiving dinner at the Sephardic congregation down the road. (It's one of two synagogues in my neighborhood around Shadowdale that I've attended regularly - the other is the Chabad across the street.) There were a total of five of us: the Rabbi, Len, his cousin Larry, Michael H., and me. Len, who is a bit eccentric, corraled Larry and me into a game of Qwirkle with him, which neither of us had played previously. Despite being in a somewhat sour mood (and having gone to the event with an attitude of "I'll go to this stupid thing because I don't have anything better to do") I had a good time, and came in a respectable 2nd after Len, who was, after all, the resident Qwirkle master.

We ate (kosher turkey, stuffing with chicken liver, and sweet potatoes), and Michael and the Rabbi talked sports while Len and Larry reminisced. I ducked out early, pleading fatigue, plus I need to get my place ready for TNG's visit tomorrow.

And with that, I'm going to get ready to turn in early. Happy Thanksgiving!

Satuday night: Various and sundry.

My co-worker's sister had a baby last week. She's been bringing in pictures of her new nephew - I'm a sucker for baby pictures, I always want to make funny faces at the photo.

I have wearied of catching up on 'Game of Thrones' and am busy catching up on 'My Little Pony'.

Looking forward to an actual family Thanksgiving weekend this year.
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