Saturday, January 14, 2017

Clearly A Loss Of Control

Yesterday I went to my local public library to return two books.  My plan was to enter the building no further than the book return bin and then leave as quickly as possible.  Since I know the way to that bin I had even taken the liberty of placing a blind fold over my eyes to avoid distraction.  Yes, people might have stared but I deemed that a small price to pay for the quick, book less exit.
I'm certain you know the rest of this story without my having to tell it but tell it I shall. 
I heard the return books hit the bottom of the bin.  That sound was more than I could bear.  It echoed not only in my imagination but in my soul.  My spirit turned as dark as I imagined the bottom of that bin to be.  I tore off the blind fold and as always succumbed to the library's siren call.  I entered its sacred space despite the fact that I already had four unread books at home.
Yesterday I returned two and left with another four.  Once home I reverently placed my new literary wonders in the place I reserve for my library books.  I marveled at the card cataloguing labels on the spines of my new additions.
Loving library books is, I imagine, a little like fostering rescued dogs and cats.  You know you have to give them up one day and you know you will feel sad but, wow, what a joy to have them in your home at least for a little while.
There's also a lot of pressure in loving library books.  They must be read before that final renewal period ends.
Dogs, cats, and library books.  All precious and just here for a little while.  But, then, I guess all of us are just here for a little while.
So I shall begin once again reading my library book.  I'm confident I will finish this one and cognizant I will never finish all of the books on my 'to read' list.
Life goes on.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Easy Rawlins Is Back

I just finished reading the book pictured on the left.  I'm a sucker for a good mystery or a good action adventure book but only if I'm grabbed and sucked in no later than the fifth page.  I especially like recurring central characters who live and work in cities I know.  Walter Mosley writes about Los Angeles as do Robert Crais and Jonathan Kellerman.  Raymond Chandler also wrote about Los Angeles.  Lee Child's Jack Reacher wanders the globe but it never takes me five pages to become mesmerized by his writing.  I also like the Mitch Rapp character created by the late Vince Flynn.  George Pelecanos seems to set his stories in Washington DC.  I've only been there twice but after reading a few of his books I feel like I'm beginning to walk the same streets.  Pelecanos has written only two books using the same central character:  The Cut and The Double.  I'm hoping he writes more featuring Spero Lucas but if he doesn't that's okay.  He's written plenty of other books.  A student recommended Valerie Wilson Wesley.  I wasn't grabbed by page five but I finished that book and checked another out of the library.  I'm willing to give her a chance because she bases her stories in New Jersey and I feel like I could benefit from a richer taste of my new home.  I also enjoy Sue Grafton, Nevada Barr, Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs and anyone else who sucks my in by page five.  And, yes, I hide in a closet to read Patricia Cornwell on my Nook because she created, in my opinion, a really great character in Kay Scarpetta.  Don't tell anyone about that last author.  On the other hand, everyone should have a secret vice.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What We Found In Our Front Yard

Our house was built in the early 1800s and contains many surprises.  Here's a pretty amazing surprise.  Near a large tree was what appeared to be a decorative cement slab.  We thought nothing of it until it (the slab) started sinking.  A closer examination revealed two more cement slabs and they were also sinking.  With some help, we pulled up the slabs and here's what we found-a perfectly lined with bricks well.  You can see one of the slab things at the top of the picture.  Look closely on the left side of the well.  See the pipe?  Here's my theory.  Originally this well was the kind into which you lowered a bucket to draw out the water.  Eventually the well was modernized.  A pipe was inserted down to the water and the well was filled up to about six feet below ground level.  Then a hand pump, I'm speculating, was attached to that pipe you see.  Eventually the house was connected to the city water line and the well was no longer needed so it was covered with those three cement slab things.  I found this beyond amazing.  The men who came to fill it up were not so impressed.  Apparently these abandoned wells all over New Jersey and probably all over the Atlantic Seaboard.  Things are pretty old here.  We had to fill it up because, well, the slabs were sinking and we couldn't imagine that falling into an abandoned well would be much fun and leaving it the way it was seemed pretty unsafe.  On the other hand, the well is still there and so are the bricks lining it.  I think it is simply beautiful and it's nice to know that it's still there.

Monday, January 2, 2017

We Contributed To These Causes

For Chanukkah my spouse and I chose to not give gifts for which we had no use but instead to make contributions to causes we felt were important. For 8 nights we exchanged our contributions: We each gave to the Human Rights Campaign. My spouse contributed to Doctors Without Borders, New Israel Fund, Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue, Elijah's Promise, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, the Guardian, and the World Wildlife Fund. I gave to Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, Joyful Heart Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for Purple Stride, the Anti Defamation League, and Lambda Legal.
Not all of our donations were political. W tried to remember local needs also. We rescued a Basset Hound several years ago. My spouse is so far a survivor of pancreatic cancer. Joyful Heart Foundation supports victims of domestic violence. Elijah's Promise distributes coats to people who have none. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is made up of Muslim and Jewish women working together toward understanding and peace. The contribution to the Guardian was intended to support our desperate need for unbiased investigative reporting.  I also intend to support other environmental associations such as Bioneers and Deep Green Resistance.

We intend to carry on this tradition.  It meant a lot to both of us and helped we hope the world.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Off We Go Again

My spouse and I did things a little differently this holiday season.  We finally realized that we own enough crap.  We failed to see the point of rushing into stores and buying shit just to wrap it up and give it each to the other so it could sit unused to eventually wind up either in the trash or in a box designated for donations most of which no one regardless of economic status would want or use.  So this year we made eight donations to causes we felt important.  Each night we exchanged our donation receipts.  It was wonderful and set about a new tradition which we intend to keep.
Just something to think about and maybe even consider.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Break Is Over and So Is 2016

Time to get back in the saddle, on track, back in the grove and all of the other sayings that mean BREAK IS OVER.
I'm reading a lot about all of the terrible things that happened in 2016.  Yeah, some bad stuff happned but so did a lot of wonderful things.
Let's change the bad stuff that we can and learn from it but let's also rejoice in the many, many wonderful things that happened during the past year.  We are alive and that is miracle enough.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Letter to the U.S. Electoral College

Dear Electors,

My name is Thomas D. Walker from Tucson, AZ.

I am 74 years old and grew up very poor, on Arizona cattle ranches. Through education and hard work, I've risen above that with successful careers in journalism and social service. It's a story that many people of our great nation have shared. We have made some incredible strides in improving the lives of Americans, persons around the world and the environment, through our domestic and foreign policies and legal battles.

That all changed in December 2000 when the Electoral College voted to elect George W Bush president over Al Gore who won the popular vote. As we all remember, the policies of the Bush administration ushered in an ideological agenda that resulted in an illegal war that destabilized the middle east, destroyed the country of Iraq, and ramped up the rise of terrorism.

We suffered through the collapse of our economy due to deregulation and the supply side economic policies of the Bush Administration. Millions of Americans lost their economic security through the loss of homes and retirement savings. After eight years of an Obama presidency that was shamefully obstructed by those same right wing ideologues in Congress, we are barely making gains in an economic recovery.

I wonder daily how different the world would be today if the Electoral College had voted for the winner of the popular vote in 2000. But the Electoral College didn't know what lay ahead and could not predict the disasters of a Bush presidency.

Now, 16 years later, we are at another tipping point. However, the stakes are much, much greater this time. In 2000 Al Gore was the winner of the popular vote by 539,000. In 2016, Hillary Clinton is the winner of the popular vote by 2.8-plus million votes. Despite that, the GOP managed to garner more electoral votes for a man, who any rational person can observe, is temperamentally unstable and wholly unqualified to perform the duties of the office of President of the United States of America.

Donald Trump is assembling a cabinet of anti-democratic billionaires, Wall Street insiders, white supremacists, religious-right wing ideologues, science/climate change deniers; many of these people also have no experience in governing.

This cabinet, aided by GOP politicians who are wholly in service of the billionaires and corporations who fund them, is poised to create policies that privatize every aspect of American life while dismantling the civil rights gains of the last 60 years. At the same time, they will reverse environmental protections that will hasten the destruction of many species, accelerate the refugee crisis globally and unleash disease and unknown consequences on the human race, due to accelerated climate change. All of which threaten our national security.

Now, we learn from the CIA that the Russian government intervened in the 2016 election in an effort help Donald Trump win the presidency. Hackers connected to the Russian government provided WikiLeaks with thousands of stolen emails designed to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances. Whether these clandestine efforts had any effect on the election is unknown, but it certainly should cast doubts.

Donald Trump's administration is extremely dangerous internationally and he threatens to, through ignorance, narcissism and poor impulse control, destroy our relationships with our NATO allies and inadvertently destabilize America's relations with many countries that have the potential to create chaos on the world stage.

I base my opinions and predictions on Donald Trump's past and current behaviors. Instead of using the 146 days between the election and inauguration working daily in Washington, preparing to govern, studying daily briefings and overseeing the hiring of 4,000-plus persons (who, by the way, need to be highly vetted and will need security clearances) to run our government under his administration, this man is on a road trip, holding “thank you” rallies, continuing to make promises he cannot keep, engaging in divisive rhetoric, lying, calling foreign leaders willy-nilly without consulting the State Department, attacking and demonizing the free press and tweeting absurd threats to strip Americans' citizenship from them for exercising their first amendment rights.

Who knows what he’ll do today? He is a one man media circus clown.

And I haven't even gone on about his financial secrecy, international and domestic conflicts of interest, which alone disqualify him from the office of President, as he will be violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution on the day he is sworn into office.

So, the Electoral College is at another tipping point. In the spirit of Alexander Hamilton's letter writing campaign in 1800, when he urged the Electoral College to elect Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr due to his opinion that, "...Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr," I, Thomas D. Walker, respectfully and tearfully write this letter to plead with the Electoral College of 2016 to vote for the winner of the popular vote, Hillary Clinton's 48.2% of the popular vote to Mr. Trump's 46.3% of the popular vote.

Please exercise your duty to protect the citizens of the United States of America from a mentally unstable demagogue who views the presidency as a vehicle to promote his brand. Please elect the "less dangerous" and highly qualified, lifelong public servant, Secretary Clinton as the next President of the United States of America. If you cast your votes for Donald Trump, when our country is ripped apart, you will not, in years to come, be able to say, "Well, we could not have predicted this....".

Thank you for your time and consideration, I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process.


Thomas D. Walker