Category Archives: Essay

NGC 7822 in Cepheus – Old Men and the Sky

Cepheus is looking bad in the depiction Stellarium uses in their Western constellation art. The picture shows an old man sitting around in his bathrobe. It could be me in this pandemic if I had more hair. I would be offended if I were him. That depiction is way too close to the truth, too exposing, not nearly romantic enough. It is the women in his life making the big splash. He is just a geezer hanging out in lazy togs for everyone to see, reminding people innocently passing by, if they will listen, that he prefers to be called King. There you are old dad, taking up space in the sky, trying to think somehow you might be important. An old man’s lament.

NGC 7822 is by the king’s knee in the Stellarium constellation art.
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Moral Irony

As a moral statement I have chosen to quit using big social media and big tech. The irony is that my tiny boycott against the bigs costs only me.

I have closed all my social media accounts in part because:

  • they spread disinformation and lies for immense profit,
  • they are purposefully addictive (the above works),
  • they are economically way too big and suppress vital competition,
  • they are politically biased (the right embraces lying and conspiracy much more than the left), and
  • they cause great anxiety.
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The GOP – Liars and Deniers

Utah is turning blue.

Most Republicans, particularly in Utah, have locked themselves inseparably to Trump. I can remember as far back as the 90’s that as a businessman I was disgusted by Trump. He made business people look bad by calling himself one. I have long been a fan of political scientist Fareed Zakaria and completely agreed with him that Trump’s sole qualification for president was that he was a bullshit artist. Now, after suffering as a patriot and American with that conman mobster as president, I believe Trump is the most despicable, immoral person, public or otherwise, that I know of. And Utah Republicans can’t get enough of him. It is costing them.

Contagious thief without a mask. He lies that the Supreme Court rushed appointment is not about politics.

In the Salt Lake Tribune today there is a long article about how many Republicans, particularly in Utah County, refuse to be tested for COVID-19 or to wear a mask. Mike Lee, who inexplicably has finagled his way to the eminent job of U.S. Senator, tested positive to COVID-19 just over a week ago and now is at the rushed hearing to pack the Supreme Court, in person, without a mask. Lee is from Utah County. I don’t know how or why not wearing a mask is allowed by the Republican Senate, particularly for an infected person, but I expect negative consequences for their gross neglect – for Republicans.

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Butterfly wings and change

It is obvious that one butterfly flapping its wings somewhere on the planet is not going to change the weather. Such a thing is the proverbial gnat fart in a hurricane. That is how I feel when it comes to boycotting the big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.  What is my tiny effort going to do against their immense wealth and power?

But their immense wealth and power is the problem. Amazon is choking out America’s bookstores, publishers and retailers. Yes, they make lower prices for consumers but thinkers like writer, attorney and professor at Columbia Law School Tim Wu and Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, know that there is more to the dangers of monopoly power than price. This old investment professional is worried that there are only about half as many public small-cap companies as there were twenty years ago. I am worried that Google and Facebook are almost completely choking out journalism and the democratically critical Fourth Estate. Economy like ecology like democracy requires diversity to thrive and survive. We are starting to recognize that all this free and cheap internet service like Google, Facebook and Amazon offer is actually very expensive and diminishing. 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

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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Proof I’m not living right

Utah is having a long, dry, and warm fall. The region is under a massive atmospheric high pressure which is typical in the Intermountain West in the fall but this one is lasting longer than usual. The big high pressure is the same that makes for down slope winds out of the Sierra Nevada mountains and fans California’s big fires. If those guys would only rake their forests.

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Penance

It has been warm but I knew there was a reason I was procrastinating turning off the sprinklers. Two or three years ago I had to replace the sprinkler system’s stop and waste valve. It is four feet or so underground and is a miserable job. I was a little worried about dirt getting into the access tube. Sure enough, when I finally got to the chore this past Monday there seemed to be too much dirt in the tube and the valve wouldn’t turn. I tried to think of ways to get dirt out of the bottom of a four foot tube but was coming up short. I finally decided I would have to dig and try to clear things out.  Just as narrow a hole as possible.

As I dug I realized my watch had fallen off. Continue reading

Malicious prosecution in San Juan County

I will be posting updates soon.

The No Bull Sheet

Officials in San Juan County are conducting a case of political and malicious criminal prosecution against Mark Franklin and Rose Chilcoat. The case, over a year old now and not yet even in the trial phase, is already a blow against Mark and Rose and a black eye for San Juan County. They saw a nefarious way to seek revenge against Rose, who is a successful, effective conservationist, and they are getting it. Mark and Rose have accumulated over $100,000 in related legal bills defending themselves against trumped up charges for an utterly insignificant event. They suffer the stress of being falsely accused of crimes that could incur substantial fines and decades in prison. It is a travesty that court proceedings have been allowed to grind on to this point. There is, alas, more legal grinding yet to go.

Rose is a hero in conservation circles. 

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Democracy on the brink

It is election day and our democracy teeters on the brink.

We might have already lost it. Republicans appear willing to trash our democracy in order to keep their dwindling, minority rule, grasp on power.

  • Republicans refused to seat a Supreme Court justice for a twice elected and popular president. Then they rammed through an apparent sex abuser because of his credentials as a Republican partisan.
  • Republicans are practicing flagrant voter suppression.
  • The Republican Congress demonstrates an utter dereliction of duty to provide checks and balance to the White House.
  • The White House, unchecked, continually attacks the free press.
  • The rule of law is under attack. Because the FBI is pursuing abundant evidence that the Trump administration conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere with the 2016 election, Republicans are attacking the FBI.
  • The abundant evidence of rampant Trump family tax fraud is being ignored.
  • The military is being sent to the border as an obvious political stunt.
  • One can add to this list.

Considering the trend and how there is no apparent bottom to what the Republicans will do and put up with, I ask myself if we should be prepared for when Trump loses the next election and there is not be a peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of democracy.

Gaslighting our Sacred Public Lands

One of the ugly features of the new Trumpian Republican Party is the tendency to frequently and blatantly lie. Trump, according to fact checkers, averages 6.5 lies a day. To cover up, he twists reality in a way known in psychological circles as gaslighting. It is a practice used by narcissists, wife abusers and dictators alike. Trump says and does things and then denies it. But it is more devious than mere denial. As Frida Ghitis frames it at CNN, he lies then blames others for misunderstanding, disparages their concerns as oversensitivity, claims outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and otherwise twilights the truth. Now Utah’s Republican junior U.S. Senator Mike Lee is giving gaslighting a shot by attempting to make Utah’s much beloved public lands out to be a conspiracy for and of some mystery “elitists.”

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For “elitists” only

In a June 2018 speech to the reactionary right’s Sutherland Institute he called “Honoring the Founders Promise on Federal Lands” (you can see the full speech here) Lee stands on his head and claims that our sacred public lands are for a private elite and in order to liberate the lands for the people they must be privatized.

I kid you not. Continue reading