Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Started Teaching

No time for silly blogs. I started teaching - English 202, Writing and Research - and haven't had time for much beyond lesson plans, grading and trying to stay at least 15 seconds ahead of my students. Perhaps I'll catch up at the holidays. Perhaps . . . 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Rosetta Mind Review

If I were to speak about this book - out loud, not in the blog of a metaphor -  I’d say SCIENCE fiction. Emphasis has shifted over the years. I’m not a pure, hard-science loyalist, so I’m not going pop out of my trench and charge at Star Wars fans, waving Claire McCague’s Rosetta Mind as a banner. But, well, if I were going to pick a new book to lob in the cause, this would be the one.

The novel is packed with so much speculative science, from so many different disciplines, that I finished stunned it was written by one person. McCague is Asimov-like in her command of so many different branches of knowledge, combined with an artist’s sense of timing and story. Only she’s a bit funnier than Isaac, which helps when you think the world is going to end.

But don’t let the science pin you in your own trench. McCague has created a cast that includes scientists with different specialties as well as non-scientists. The physicists talk to biologists who talk to doctors as they all need each others' help. The reader benefits from the cross-study conversations. In most cases, when I had a question, someone else inside the book did too. And it was answered.
“Did they stridulate?” Bernie asked.
“That’s a fancy word.” And Bernie goes on to explain it. Not in lecture form. We’re all adults here.

Before you plunge into this one, you’re better off reading McCague’s Rosetta Man. But I would’ve told you that before a sequel ever appeared, looming over the literary field like a Zeppelin, with loudspeakers blaring “Peace to all. The science can be as fun as the fiction. I’ve brought squirrels to prove it.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Rosetta Mind

The Rosetta Mind comes out Aug. 25. I have not read it, so I can't review it, but this is the second from Claire McCague in this series. I loved the first  - The Rosetta Man - so very much. It is a first-contact story that takes the problem of alien communication so seriously it becomes pretty funny. No babble fish or universal translators here. The Rosetta books posit aliens that are, well, alien.  Not the inscrutable kind, the more squirrely variety. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Hire me to tear down your swing set

If you have an old backyard play set with ladders, fort, slide and swings I will disassemble it for you. That way you won’t have to hear the wees and squeals and laughter that comes with every crack of a board or breaking of a beam. For you, no memories of pirate ships, space stations, and shops that sold you rocks claiming to be ice cream. The best kind of ice cream. The kind that never melts. You won't recall a little one swinging higher than safe, sliding faster than wise, trampling mud where you wanted to grow grass and now don’t care. Nope. Hire me. I work cheap. In fact, I’ll work for nothing. I’ll tear down your old swing set for free if you might tear down mine.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

This podcast will make you feel better

It is customary at the gym to pay no attention to the other attendees. We're all in various stages of wellness. Thank goodness. Anyone who by chance, or flouting custom, noticed me today would have thought either 1.) this guy can't handle what he's doing or 2.) he is listening to the audio version of The Notebook. I was listening to a podcast.

Teresa Teuscher at T3fitt got my wife Sarah and our friend Jan to talk about the work they do as World Spine Outreach. They don't like to talk about it. Partly because they are shy, partly because they don't want to be the focus - its about the kids. Mostly, I think now, because the story is very, very moving.

WSO helps children with spine problems, mostly scoliosis. Every year WSO puts together millions of dollars in donations  - medical supplies and time and skill - and uses those resources to make lives better. All of it. No overhead, no salaries. You will not find another charity that passes donations through to those in need with less friction. It's an ongoing miracle. 

Ironically, one of the reasons this operation works so well is the selflessness. Which means Sarah and Jan, the founders, never boast or brag. Almost to a fault. Singer, songwriter, and scoliosis warrior Tina Parol convinced them that a tiny toot of the horn might help WSO help even more people. T3fitt agrees.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Guns, cars, armories, solutions

I like guns. I’m attracted to all things mechanical. I like helicopters, tractors, Roombas, catapults, pianos, and, most of all – the automobile. The coolest and fastest of which I am not allowed to drive. I do not have a racing license and these cars are not street legal. They are not meant for the roads we all share. They are wondrously powerful and therefore reserved for the trained and for competition. Like most car enthusiasts I put up with this. I understand that cool as it would be to drive a single-seat, opened wheeled racecar up and down Elmwood on a Friday night, it’s not exactly safe for anyone, me included. Headlights (at least 22 inches off the ground), some distance between my car and the pavement, an exhaust system that doesn’t blowout windows as I drive by, bumpers, flaps and fenders, etc. I can buy one. I’m allowed to own a racecar; I’m just not allowed to use it unless I go to a closed course.

That was the way with guns.

Whenever I hear people talk about not needing an assault rifle to hunt deer, I shake my head a little bit. No one knows this fact better than your average gun enthusiast. There are varmint guns, hunting guns, home protection weapons . . . and then there’s the assault rifle. It is designed, and people own them to, combat a serious aggressor. Like the government.

This was always this way with guns.

Which is why the Second Amendment of the US Constitution says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Founders had just formed a shaky state, by cutting themselves off from a tyrant. The militia is an important – and now often overlooked – part of that sentence. The early United States militias were like volunteer fire companies. They gathered regularly. Trained and drank beer. They built and maintained community arsenals to store their powder and lead and firearms. Maybe even canon. Which weren’t, you know, street legal. Some things are not supposed to be just out there for anyone, no matter how cool.

During the Civil War, America’s relationship with militias and their munitions magazines changed. The militias became more formal, morphing into National Guard. The arsenals became armories, and for the most part, the doors closed to the club.

We should reopen those doors. If we are going to stick with the current Second Amendment, we should go all in. Local, and I mean local, brigades, with local arsenals. Free and open to anyone who wants to train. Just like volunteer fire companies. We can maintain a defense against any aggressor, foreign or domestic, while also keeping continuous checks on the members.

Sure you can own an assault rifle, but you’ll need to keep it at the armory. Where you can train with it, learn how best to use it, and prepare for whatever kind of threat you fear. But leave it there. Like a closed course and car that isn’t street legal.

It’s a not a loss of liberty, it’s a way to help ensure liberty for everyone.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Billsism’s Cathedral

Consternation over a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills is understandable. In fact, it’s almost mandatory, because most people do not fully understand that the Bills are neither a sports team nor a business. The Bills are a religion.

I’m kind of not joking. Religion is a slippery concept. It does not require a deity. There are a number of nontheistic religions, include Buddhism, which is practiced by about seven percent of the world’s population, making it the fourth most practiced religion in the world. It is not an outlier.

At its most basic, the term religion can be any system of beliefs and practices. Devotion to the Buffalo Bills gets past those markers. Though most people would agree that a religion should reach for the large, the spiritual. Billsism does that too.

Billieve is plastered on billboards and bumper-stickers all over the region (if not all over the world.) We are encouraged to support the team’s actions and goals pretty much on faith. That faith has been tested in saint-like trails over the years. They went 1 and 13 in 1971. They went to four super bowls in a row, 1990-1993, losing all four. Snowstorms, below zero temperatures, traffic, flaming folding tables – through it all, fans are asked to endure, focus and Billieve. And so we watch every game, shaping our lives around game times. We read newspapers. We listen to AM radio. Am, people. We participate in endless discussions of possibilities, hopes and torments. There are Bills-specific phrases, like wide-right. While general football fans understand the denotation, Bills followers have a much more moribund connation: We have lost at the moment of triumph. It ties into one of the many Bills parables and acolytes. Where would you rather be than right here, right now?

The most critical aspect of a religion has, with regard to the stadium conversation, become the most impactful. Like most religions, Billsism defies common logic. People outside the faith cannot be expected to fully comprehend the need for a place of worship. Mesoamerican pyramids ate up unimaginable resources for those civilizations. What kind of people started Notre Dame de Paris in 1163, with no cranes or bulldozers or nail guns? Or nails that weren’t hammered out individually, by hand? Those people were Bills fans . . . the equivalent there of.

Understanding that fact can help us understand why there will never be a consensus on how best to build a new stadium. The Buffalo Bills is a private company, making substantial profits. There is no reason to support that endeavor with public funds. Yep. They should build exactly what they need to better their business goals and keep the government out of it.

Or the Buffalo Bills are an ever-changing pantheon of near deific heroes worthy of a Parthenon. Also yep. Let’s create an architectural miracle that exemplifies our love and devotion, as well as the profound abilities and stature of our community.

Compromising those positions gets you a large bowl surrounded by acers of nothing eighteen miles from the center of this civilization. No retractable roof, with very little utility beyond a dozen or so games a year - three percent of the year - placed conveniently next to the previous, now empty and crumbling billion-dollar bowl. Future archeologists will look back on us and write papers trying to discern why.