IC 4601 in Scorpius

I’m working on weaning myself as much as practical from social media. I have previously written how the largest corporations today, primarily all internet related, are dangerously sucking all the oxygen out of the economy. I don’t want to be a part of that travesty if I can help it.

I have been posting my astrophotos on Facebook where I get by far the most response. But I want to lay lower playing that game. I have ad blockers and add-ins that keep me from being tracked, but I want to spend less and less actual time there. I also use DuckDuckGo to search instead of Google, have dropped my Amazon Prime, and the only Apple product I use is an old iPad to stream Spotify. It’s a start.

As part of that start I want to post my astrophotos here instead of Facebook. I may not get as much attention. I hope to be grown up enough to be fine with that.

Here is one of my latest images. You can click on it to go to my astrophoto gallery on this same website to see a larger version and to find brief technical information about how it was acquired.

Backyard observatory deep space object photo

IC 4601 in Scorpius, June and July 2020

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We are serfs

Screenshot_2020-07-15 iShares Core S P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) Stock Price, Quote, History News - Yahoo Finance

This year-to-date stock index performance chart exemplifies a key aspect to the illness in our country. IXIC is the NASDAQ which is primarily influenced by the household name big tech stocks. SPY is the S&P 500. IJR is a small-cap index. Year-to-date the NASDAQ is up 17 percent, the S&P 500 is flat, and small stocks are down 17%. That is a crazy gap.

The big tech stocks in the NASDAQ, like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft are the mega corporations that are wrecking Main Street and its mom and pop retail, that are decimating newspapers and journalism, that are publishing the Russian bots and creating the echo chambers of hate and divide that brings the U.S. to the brink of civil war. It is their massive, mountainous, tectonic market capitalizations that give to the large techs corrupt Citizens United power with assets greater than most countries and our nation’s steering wheel to the oligarchs that own most of their stock.

In my investment management career (ending with the previous century) we talked about performance gaps in basis points. A hundred basis points is one percent. A performance gap of say 80 basis points was notable. No one ever talked about six month gaps of 3,700 basis points. Such a thing never happened. (Today is a good day for small-cap stocks. It was more like 4,000 basis points yesterday.)

If this gap doesn’t close we are all serfs. Ill informed serfs. Chained to our phones, mind numb, and poor. Serfs to un-democratic corporations. Mere zombie consumers to be played.

I post this as a reminder to myself to back off of social media, to buy local, to read print and support my local newspapers. To support Torrey House Press and the power of story to change culture. And vote Democratic like our soul depends on it.

Let Trump shoot himself in the foot?

In general I think of my blog as a place to talk about conservation and dark skies and to showcase my astrophotography. But I want to keep jotting down a few notes for posterity on my thoughts about the pandemic.

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A burial in New Jersey last week. Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Trump and the GOP are pushing re-opening. The case and death curves are now flat to slightly down. With reopening they are not likely to go much lower. A vaccine is a year or more away. There is negligible immunity built up. The disease is out there now more than ever. We are run my a mafia crime family and there have been no preparations for a national plan to test, trace and contain. Yesterday I predicted 250,000 deaths by Election Day on Facebook. I am probably low. That would be at 1,000 deaths per day for the next 180 days added to the current 70,000 dead. We are still seeing nearly twice that daily death rate. Continue reading

In wildness is the preservation . . .

We are sick and Nature is in charge. Is her wildness also our preservation?

It is not quite five in the morning and a rose colored light is starting to fill the room. I’m in Cooke City, Montana in early June 2013 with Torrey House Press publisher Kirsten Johanna Allen in bed beside me and THP author Susan Imhoff Bird asleep in the other room. The cabin is ancient and in poor repair, the bed is lumpy. We are in Yellowstone to start research on Susan’s book Howl, of Woman and Wolf and I am wide awake. I have a question on my mind. What the hell did Thoreau mean, exactly, when he said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world?”

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Cooke City in a June dawn.

Next door to the cabin is a coffee shop that makes its own baked goods. The proprietor opens the door at 5:00 because she is there with her ovens preparing for the day and I know they have internet. I get dressed, grab coat, hat and iPad and head over. There is still snow in the crevices of the craggy peaks surrounding the town, just visible in first light. Wispy clouds are pink and orange. The warm smells of hot coffee and bear claws great me along with the proprietor at the cafe. She’s my age with blonde hair pulled up loosely on top of her head, busy with her baking trays. A steaming cup next to the iPad and I log on, type in my question to the oracle that is Google Search. To connect to that question, in this place, with such comfort and beauty around me and a day of wolf watching ahead is vaguely thrilling. Continue reading

In spite of Trump, the COVID-19 curve is being flattened. And Trump will be re-elected.

Republicans will successfully frame and spin the relatively benign outcome.

Trump, who rarely speaks truth, is right when he says there are a lot of deaths every year from the flu. This season the Center of Disease Control estimates that, as of mid-March, between 29,000 and 59,000 have died due to influenza illnesses. Globally the World Health Organization estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. In comparison, as of April 8, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington forecasts there will be 60,000 deaths caused by (the first wave of ?) the COVID disease in the U.S. In Utah there are 13 deaths so far. Experiencing no more additional deaths than occur in a flu season will be a sort of success compared to how bad it might have been. It will be much worse than necessary, yet Democrats will fail to frame it as such. Continue reading

How Biden could be America’s best prez ever

I am hopeful and confident that Joe Biden can and will win the election this fall. I am gratified he has indicated he will choose a female vice-president. I am concerned, however, at Joe’s age. At almost 64 years old myself, I am not anti-geezer, but Joe will be 82 by a second term and that is getting just too old for the demands of the highest office in the land.

Image result for kamala harris with joe biden

How to gain the first female president.

My wife, Kirsten Johanna Allen, has a great idea that I have not otherwise heard being bantered about. Joe could guide the country through recovery of both our health and wealth for three years and then resign making, say, Kamala Harris president and putting her in place to run in the next election as the incumbent.

In this era of pandemic, with local earthquakes thrown in, the thought almost makes me optimistic. We may just save our democracy yet.

Republicans are Going for Democracy’s Jugular

Trump wants to be the last American president. U.S Attorney General William Barr is paving the way. Republican legislators are all in. For Republicans it is all about power, democracy be damned.

Trump, however, is so unpopular the only way he can win is if Sanders is the Democratic candidate. Sanders is a spoiler, it’s all he has ever been. It is not the time to quibble but to put forward the Democratic candidate most likely to win. If we don’t win now we won’t have a democracy to fight over and improve. The issue is not a progressive agenda but democracy itself. And, thanks to Trump, the opposition to democracy will be fierce.

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Michael Bloomberg with Sierra Club’s Carl Pope

Bloomberg is by far the most organized, capable, uber-financed candidate who can and would win. He will fight fire with fire, gloves off all the way. He is our best hope. As bespeaks his character, if Bloomberg does not win the Democratic Party nomination, he will still use his vast wealth to fight Trump anyway. I like that he is a proven conservationist, but at this point that is only icing on the cake.

And imagine this: a Michael Bloomberg / Stacey Abrams ticket.

I will be searching for how best for we conservation peons to support Michael Bloomberg.

Assets or Asses?

I used to downhill ski frequently. Not like a season pass holder, but 20 times a season or so. I’m in my 60’s now and have not skied for a year. But some of my long time ski buddies came to town, guys I first started skiing with in college, and I told them I would join them on the mountain today. They suggested we meet in the parking lot at Park City resort’s plaza at 7:15 AM and find a place for breakfast. They also needed to rent skis. When I asked why so early they said they were concerned about traffic. I thought, well, they are from California and don’t realize it is not as crowded here in Utah. I suggested I would meet them in the ticket line at 8:45, 15 minutes before the lifts open. Plans made.

Oops.

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Greatest story missed the best part.

The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here?The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why Are We Here? by Lawrence M. Krauss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krauss goes largely into nuclear and particle physics where many of my quantum physics books don’t. He does great history research on the physicists with perspective on how their discoveries and conclusions came about. Krauss simplifies for the lay reader about as much as possible, but it is not simple. There are enough effects named after an alphabet soup of physicists to keep the reader cross-eyed. Another emphasis is quantum physics after 1950 which is more complicated, less inspiring, and often overlooked.

I am interested in consciousness and its undeniable roll in the quantum. Krauss has a scold about ignoring evidence and letting arrogance and belief get in the way of open minded, honest exploration. Then he arrogantly dismisses consciousness exploration as woo best left to the unserious like Deprak Chopra. So, in fact, he completely glosses over the greatest story. Perhaps he is right about, “So Far.” The best is yet to come.

See all of my book reviews here.

Defying Trump II

I remember pondering in my excellent high school civics class whether something like Nazism could happen here. The common wisdom and a pervading sense of pride and patriotism was that it could not. But the Germans I knew all seemed like good people. And smart. I look back those forty plus years and give myself credit. With trepidation I thought, sure, it could probably happen here, too.

Sadly, here we are, our constitutional democracy is crumbling under a relentless assault. Republicans today are failing in a similar manner to how decent Germans failed in the 1930’s.

I wrote on these pages after the 2016 election of my three legged plan to defy Trump.  I set out to:

  1. Publish books with progressive ideas promoting love of the land
  2. Promote and support women in leadership
  3. Build a blue oasis in a red, red state

I am doing pretty well on all three. Torrey House Press is having a record year and is building a terrific staff to keep expanding its impact. I plan on raising a cool $1 million to help them further build capacity. The board, besides me, is all women and so is the staff. And to a small but hopefully useful extent I levered my observatory to help the town of Torrey, Utah become an International Dark Association certified dark sky community.

I want to do more.

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