Putin on Russian Exceptionalism

An essay by Leon Aron in Wall Street Journal: “Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional: Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home” makes thought-provoking reading. If we don’t understand how others think, we can hardly hope to deal with them effectively.

On one thing I agree with Putin, Russia is a unique civilization, apart from Europe. So are we, Britain, Canada and lots of others. Russia, like Britain, is figuratively as well as literally on a pole of Europe, sharing some aspects, differing in others. Treating Russia like another France is a mistake.

Still, resurgent nationalism, such as Putin seems to be fanning in Russia, may threaten to world peace. Especially when neighbors with delusions of grandeur bump.

I’m Watching You


Dean Hoffmeyer

A mother peregrine falcon keeps a close eye on fish and game personnel measuring and banding her chicks in downtown Richmond, VA.


Details in May 31st Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch.


Quick … Build a Heathkit!

A group of space enthusiasts have made contact with a satellite launched in 1978.


One of the hurdles to communicating with the thirty-plus year old satellite is finding electronics which can talk that slow … sort of.

Sounds like the set up for a cheesy science fiction thriller.

(You do know what Heathkits are, don’t you? My first computer was a Heathkit H-89, which I built myself.)

Three cheers for the amateurs!

Firing Doesn’t Fix VA Fiasco

Eric Shinseki’s resignation/firing doesn’t fix the Veterans Administration’s problems.

A friend in Colorado Springs was an Army Ranger exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. (If we tell you where he was operating, we have to kill you.) Agent Orange was a unique health issue. He can’t go to a regular doctor (even if he could afford to). Many veterans’ health issues are similarly unique and complex. He has suffered all the reported appointment problems, added to the logistical issue of the “local” VA hospital being fifty miles away in Denver.

A systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity,” as Shinseki admitted, isn’t cured by firing two people.

If we aren’t caring for the people who put their lives on the line to protect and defend us–local police, fire and EMTs as well as the military services–all our talk about integrity and responsibility is just that–talk.

Lest We Forget …

Memorial Day was celebrated for many years on May 30th, not the last Monday in May (to create a three-day weekend). That’s no great matter as supposedly the 30th of May was chosen to remember the fallen of the Civil War because no significant battle occurred on that day. Not that many other battles weren’t fought on May 30th.

I, however, have reason to remember the 30th. As I explained before, I followed my grandfather, Rev. John Hodge, around the Easton, Kansas cemetery setting flags in front of the stones of veterans.

May 30th was John Hodge’s birthday. He would have been 112 years old today. (It seems so unlikely that I knew, as a vibrant, living person, someone who would have been over a hundred years old.) He died in 1976.

kiss2May 30th is also significant because on that day in 1969–forty four years ago–Treva Parsons became my wife.

So, I’m flying the flag today.

Robert Genn (1936-2014)

Robert Genn died this week. Many never heard of him, but he visited a circle of artists twice each week by an email letter. His postings were both encouragement and instruction, leavened with a fair measure of philosophy.

His daughter Sarah plans to continue–has already started to continue the art letters.

“We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there.” Robert Genn

Farewell, Robert



After All These Years, Still Reading

The Pew Research Center is publishing several sets of research on America’s reading habits, including the impact of ebooks. It is a chart geek’s paradise.

One section caught my eye: The General Reading Habits of Americans.

I especially noted the chart on how many books we read:

The offset between the mean and median numbers of books is caused by all those folks who read a hundred or more books a year.

You do remember the difference between mean, median and mode, don’t you? Time for a statistics review? Don’t feel bad, obviously the folks who write the evening news and political ads don’t know how to tell the truth with numbers either. Mark Twain said, “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.'”

So far as the skewed curve of books read per year, we know who we are, don’t we?

A chart elsewhere in the article indicates we’re reading more books than in the past.

Happy reading.

Book Review: “Lights in the Deep” by Brad R. Torgersen (Fiver Stars)

Book Review: Lights in the Deep by Brad R. Torgersen

(Five of five stars)

“What I think fiction … ought to do, more than anything else [,is]: Illuminate the way, shine a spiritual beacon, tell us that there is a bright point in the darkness, a light to guide the way, when all other paths are cast in shadow. If our stories can’t do that for us … what’s the point?”

In his essay “On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction” author Brad R. Torgersen notes that modern science fiction has become a nihilistic exercise in pessimism (my terminology) while fantasy has retained the buoyant optimism of the last century. A notable except is the science fiction of Torgersen himself.

This anthology of the break out stories of a fresh new voice of hard science fiction is proof that Continue reading

Amazon said to play hardball in book contract talks with publishing house Hachette – The Washington Post

The shakeout–or is it shack down?–in the book publishing and distribution industry continues.

When monopolies win, sooner or later the customer (that would be us readers) loses.

Misty Midwest Mossiness



What makes the dispute between Amazon and Hachette different is that Amazon’s tactics have no obvious consumer benefit, a key antitrust consideration.

The group “deplores any attempt by any party that would seek to injure and punish innocent authors — and their innocent readers — in order to pursue its position in a business dispute. We believe that such actions are analogous to hostage-taking to extort concessions, and are just as indefensible.” — Gail Hochman, president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives

What kind of entity in a competitive market would willfully drive customers into the arms of its competitors unless it believes it doesn’t really have any competitors? Can you imagine Best Buy refusing to deliver for a period of weeks what’s available from its competitors? But Amazon behaves as though they’re the only game in town. And increasingly they are. It’s a head-scratcher why anyone with…

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