Thursday, July 27, 2017

Let’s have a race.

Seattle to Boston. There’s a nice long highway that goes door to door. 3,099 miles. And at the end of the race: WEALTH! You can define what that means to you. Just know that all you have to do is get to Boston.

I’m going to drive my four-year-old F150, towing my three-ton trailer. It does pretty well on the flat areas, though I can expect to make about 25 mph going up any mountains and I have to be a little careful going down because I have a high center of gravity and don’t want to risk tipping. But I’ve got a full tank of gas, a home on my back, and I’m willing to do what it takes to get to Boston.

You get to drive a nicely broken-in Jag. Just think what that would do on those long flat Montana highways with no speed limit. Just to make sure you don’t run into trouble, though, we’ll put flashing red lights on the Jag so cops know not to stop you and other drivers pull over to give you room. Just to make sure you are leveraging your resources, you can start in Chicago.

Ready. Set. Go.

We have the same highway. The same goal. The same opportunity. Right?

That’s white privilege.

Not you in the Jag. Me in the F150. You’re in a different class entirely. Variously called the 1% or some other rarified nomenclature. You’re what I plan to be when I reach Boston and have WEALTH.
I’m the privileged white guy. I’ve got a good vehicle. I can travel the interstate, even if I’m a little slow at times. I work hard and have money to put gas in the tank. I have my home and I can take it with me wherever opportunity strikes. If I obey the laws, keep my vehicle maintained, and don’t have an accident, I’ll probably make it to Boston eventually. Of course, my idea of WEALTH is probably different than yours. Bigger truck and trailer. Better meals. Single malt scotch. Ten-dollar bottles of wine. Good health, money in the bank, and a vacation to Europe or maybe Australia eventually.

White privilege.

You see, I blew by the family in a twenty-year-old Toyota with engine trouble, 500 miles ago. 1,000 miles back, there’s a dozen fellows pushing bicycles up a mountain road toward the Continental Divide because they can’t take their bikes on the Interstate. They’re on U.S. 20, but that route is only 300 miles longer than the interstate. Except half of them hit some glass a couple miles back and have flat tires. They can’t even look forward to coasting down the other side of the mountain and hope there’s a place to buy new tires when they get to the next town.

They’re better off than the bunch who just made it out of Seattle with their backpacks and then got arrested for hitchhiking on the freeway. Or the company of disabled vets supporting each other in Pioneer Square as they decide if they’ve got enough money for both a sandwich and fare on a crowded bus to the edge of town that will only hold half of them. There are still a few hundred people who are trying to make it from Portland, Dallas, and Los Angeles to Seattle for the start of the race. And there are the thousands who have looked at 3,000 miles of hardship in front of them without the remotest chance they could crawl there and just sat down where they were to say, “Fuck it.”

That’s why I’m the one who represents white privilege. I’m the one out of several thousand behind me who is having a good trip. I’ve got gas, a home, and GPS.

And don’t imagine that because you are in the rarefied atmosphere of your Jag that you are at the top of the heap. There’s a guy in his own private jet who just lapped you once around the world and is landing in Boston a day before you get there. And one guy is circling the globe every ninety minutes in a space capsule, deciding how little of his WEALTH he can give up in Boston to keep everyone else on the road thinking they have a chance.

Just because I’m not the guy in the Jag or the airplane or the satellite doesn’t mean I’m not the privileged one. I’m in the race and whether I actually win or not, I still think I will. I still think that if all these other people would just work a little harder, make better route choices, drive a few more hours each day, or just not be so lazy, that they’d have just as good a chance as I have. Like I have just as good a chance as the you in the Jag.

I am white privilege.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why I’m a Liberal

I was raised a Christian.

In my book, that should be all that’s necessary to be said. The fundamental principles are all there. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Shelter the homeless. Do good to those who would harm you.

Of course, my friends all know that I’m not a Christian. I found ‘faith’ to be a convenient excuse for avoiding responsibility. I found the Bible to be an old book that had some good things in it but banked largely on people’s superstitions and formed the foundation for massive corporations that strip people of their humanity by promising them eternal happiness.

But that didn’t change what makes good people. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Shelter the homeless. Do good to those who would harm you.

While I find the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ to have absolutely nothing to do with the actual actions of people classified in those camps, the Christian principles that I was raised on far more closely align with the so-called left than the right wing.

The coming election is not about who lied or who was a better person or who should go to jail. If we had objective and rational voters, there would be a different slate of candidates running. I will simply weigh every word that issues from the mouths of the candidates and their supporters and their platform against those five principles.

And vote ‘liberal’ in November.
Had company while I was eating breakfast and composing this statement this morning.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rethinking the Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Luke 6:31.

It's Sunday morning, so I've decided to give a little homily. Forgive me, for I know not what I'm doing.

I saw this little clip on Facebook this morning, and that inspired me. What we get from Facebook memes:

I got to thinking what it was like to be on the receiving end of all that. Yes, the rule is for what you should do, but what about the person you do it unto?

I don't want to be treated like you treat yourself!

I don't want your self-loathing. I don't want your self-indulgence, your drugs, your alcohol, your ego. I don't want to be treated the way you want your husband or wife to treat you. I don't want your abuse, your lust, your secret desires.

I want to be treated the way I want to be treated.

Give me your kindness. Give me your respect. Give me your concern for my well-being.

How do you want to be treated? Are you willing to accept my treatment of myself for you? Don't do unto others as you would have them do to you. Do unto others as they would have you do. That is my Golden Rule.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

’Tis a Puzzlement…

Ah, the words of the King of Siam. They still ring loudly in my ears when I contemplate the kinds of things we believe. Also, since a part of my new Dag Hamar novel (yes, I’m working on it!) will be set in Thailand.

And speaking of Dag Hamar and For Mayhem or Madness, one of the key elements is to make a person disappear. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to disappear in the digital age? And specifically, to disappear digitally. For years, we have been teaching our children that “The Internet is Forever!” Don’t post that picture; your grandchildren will see it. Don’t say that online; a potential employer ten years from now will see it and turn you down. Use a fake name on Facebook, Twitter, and Your boss will see your picture at the ballgame on the day you called in sick to work. Danger. Danger! DANGER!

And it’s true. I’m only trying to secure or hide a man’s bank accounts and identity from being destroyed by a malicious hacker. Actually trying to disappear is even harder.

And that’s really where the puzzlement comes in. Over the past month or so, I’ve watched Hilary Clinton’s deletion of 30-33,000 emails from her personal server become a major political football. Here’s Dag Hamar’s computer forensics take on it:

All email has a minimum of two storage locations. The sender and the recipient. Unless a computer user is also a major guru, they don’t even control their own personal server. It might not even be in their own location. The most common method today is to have your own domain and personal address on servers that are located remotely, possibly on a server farm, or even more likely, in the cloud.

But even if you were among those who had a huge storage and processing capacity on private server hardware in your own facility, someone has to manage it. You cannot tell me that Hilary Clinton goes to her basement lair once a week and resets her server, backs up her own files, and updates her own software. No way. In the best possible use of the term, Hilary Clinton is a user. She has a software email program that her network manager installed for her and knows how to send and receive email from her laptop. She might even have a local copy stored on her laptop. She knows how to delete messages from her laptop and that message would also be deleted from her server.

But not from her archives. Personal servers are worthless if they are not regularly backed up. How long does it take to send and receive 33,000 emails? A year? Four years? How many backups of her server were burned to DVD during that time?

Not to mention the fact that any message she sent had a recipient and if it was significant was stored on a server at that end, complete with identifying information about the sender. Similarly, any message she received was stored on the sender’s server, complete with identifying information and backups. Now you would have me believe that Hilary Clinton is such a brilliant hacker that she could reach out across the entire World Wide Web and erase every message she ever sent or received from everyone’s servers and archives?

Furthermore, I simply can’t conceive of the FBI and CIA having computer gurus so inferior to the second rate hackers at Wikileaks that they couldn’t gather in all those messages even after they were deleted from the personal server. We credit Homeland Security with filtering millions of email messages and flagging key words in them on a daily basis to stop terrorism. These people are incapable of tracking down 33,000 email messages to or from a single IP address?

An intelligence worker once told me that the problem with spy fiction was that it didn’t even come close to guessing what was really possible in cyber espionage. Apparently, the media and all of America is similarly incapable of conceiving such an invasion of privacy, even while we are warning our children about posting that photo.

So why haven’t we heard about what was in all those email messages? Why haven’t they been released to the public?

Well, because they are still part of the ‘top secret’ negotiations and information gathering of the State Department. It is much better to let the people believe that the messages are lost and gone forever than to admit that our intelligence services have had them all along. And it is certainly much better than compromising national security by making public all the content of all the messages that were deleted. Might as well just yap our national security secrets from a campaign podium.

Yes, indeed. Why are we upset about the deletion of email from a personal server?

’Tis a Puzzlement.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

12 Lessons I Learned from the Software Industry

1. Back in the old days, (1980s) we had this joke: QUESTION: What's the difference between a software salesman and a used car salesman. ANSWER: A used car salesman knows when he's lying.
LESSON 1: You can believe your own bullshit, but it doesn't make it true.
LESSON 2: No matter what you buy, you're going to get lied to.

2. You can sell a lot of stuff based on differences that don't make a difference. One software company boasted that its product could control kerning (letter spacing) in 1/50,000th an em-space increments (about 0.0000016 inches or 16 ten-millionths of an inch). The competitor in only 1/1000th of an em (about 0.000083 or 83 millionths of an inch). But the highest resolution printers had dots that were 0.00029 inches (29 hundred-thousandths). Both competitors had greater control than could be shown or printed. Still today!
LESSON 3: When differentiating your product, choose a feature that ignites people's passions but doesn't make a difference and can't be proven.
LESSON 4: Buyers have no concept of what is actually important to them.

3. The software industry's first priority is selling software. You always have to sell the next version. A product that is complete and can't be developed any further is obsolete. There can never be a 100% solution or the software company would go out of business. Software companies inherently collude in forcing trickle-down upgrades to products dependent on them.
LESSON 5: There must always be a 'critical' feature or 'discovered' flaw to drive the next version.
LESSON 6: It should always be more costly to change to a competitor than to upgrade.
4. Security sells. Software companies routinely add and sell more secure versions rather than educating users on safe use. The best way to get a customer to change products is to convince them the competition exposes them to greater risk and is not secure.
LESSON 7: A perceived or promoted threat from outside will divert attention from real problems inside.
LESSON 8: People would rather be protected than act responsibly.
5. Software is designed and created by engineers. Engineers know how to write code. Therefore all problems can be solved with more code. Not all code works with other code. The answer to that problem is more code. Engineers almost never understand the industry for which they are writing code. They understand how to write code.
LESSON 9: Solutions create problems.
LESSON 10: Those who create solutions seldom understand the problem.
6. Even if the leader of a software company has never written a line of code in his or her life, all solutions to all problems and concepts for improvement will look like the brainchild of that leader. Engineers will be scrambling behind the scenes to try to make product sense out of what the leader says.
LESSON 11: Sell customers on the vision and you can blame others for failing to fulfill it.
LESSON 12: We have no concept of the path between vision and the future.
This is all stuff I learned from the software industry. It has nothing at all to do with the 2016 Presidential election.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Case Against Gutenberg

Like Brutus at the murder of Julius Caesar, Gutenberg wasn’t the only one to stick a knife in Christianity. But this friend of the Word also got blood on his hands.
In Gutenberg Plaza in Mainz, this statue dominates. However, there is no known likeness of the man that was made during his life, so none of the several statues and busts of him look the same.

I researched the life of Gutenberg and the intricacies of his inventions for close to twenty-five years before I started writing The Gutenberg Rubric. I love printing. I love the elegance of Gutenberg’s movable type and font design. I love the care with which characters were shaped in different versions to make the lines of type come out evenly against the margin. I love the fact that he inked in two colors so that lines of type could be set in red, and that he provided a rubric—a guide to what letters should be placed in the blank spaces by scribes—so hand crafting could be combined with machine work. I like the ‘alchemy’ involved in the formulation of lead type. I like the adaptation of a wine press to provide sufficient pressure to imprint the pages.
My book takes great liberties with the story of Gutenberg, Schoeffer, Fust, Nothing in it particularly contradicts the historical accounts, but the story is not historical. It just looks like it fits. You can get the paperback at
And the Kindle eBook at

In general, as I stood in front of three different copies of the Bible printed by Gutenberg, I was speechless. 560 years ago he invented the process that made books available to everyone. He made literacy a thing to be strived for. He enlightened the world.

His hand held the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This picture of "The Fall of Man" by Lucas Cranach the Elder dates back to 1530. Interesting that he paints the serpent as a woman, isn't it?
Let us consider Adam and Eve. As long as they remained in ignorance, they walked with God. Once they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Etz ha-da'at tov va-ra) they were cast out of Eden and out of the presence of God.

When I began intensively studying the Bible back in the late sixties and early seventies, my mother, a United Methodist minister, warned me that too much study would destroy my faith. She was right. Ultimately it did, though not for many years. And in spite of my study, I do not profess to be a Bible scholar any more than I am truly a print scholar. Far from it. And that is part of the problem. Faith—walking in the presence of God—requires ignorance. In fact, that is its definition. Faith is acting on a belief without proof. When we have proof—true knowledge—we no longer need faith.

Gutenberg took away ignorance/innocence.
Of the 49 copies still remaining in whole or in part of the Gutenberg Bible, this one is in the New York Public Library. CC BY-SA 2.0hide terms  File:Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01.jpg Created: 28 May 2009
Prior to the invention of movable type, books were costly to produce. They were painstakingly copied by scribes, some of whom (if we are informed correctly) did not even know what they were copying, but faithfully reproduced each letter. Even the language of the text was not known by the common people. People, who did not read, took the words of the priest on faith. The priest—a scholar who could read and interpret the Bible—kept the message relevant both to the people and the time. Christianity lived and adapted.
The Cathedral, or Mainz Dom. It is no longer required that people go the church/cathedral to hear the words read in a different language and listen to the priest's interpretation of them. People now hold the knowledge in their hands and partake of the forbidden fruit.
But the printing of some 160-180 copies of the Bible moved the book out of the sanctuary and into the hands of the ignorant/innocent. Literacy spread. Each person could read and interpret the words for him or herself. People no longer had to take the words of the priest on faith. They held in their hands the knowledge of good and evil.

And with that act, the Bible was frozen in time. Each individual became responsible for his or her own interpretation of the Word. It could never change. It could never be anything more than the absolute knowledge of good and evil: original sin. The Bible is proof of whatever we want to believe.

Gutenberg’s hand held the bloody knife that killed faith.
Gutenberg died in 1468, largely unknown. He was buried in the Franciscan church which was later destroyed and the graves lost. The church in this picture is St. Christoph in Mainz which was Gutenberg's home parish. It was also nearly destroyed by Allied bombs in WWII in 1945. While the sanctuary is now 'open air', the chapel under the bell tower is still used a few times a month by various churches. It is just a few blocks from where Gutenberg was interred.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Problem with Pets

Let me start off by saying that I love animals. I like dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and horses. I comprehend the fascination with snakes, ants, geckos, birds, and ferrets. I have nothing at all against animals. Okay?
A friendly cat in the Meteora of Greece. 4/3/2016.

When I started traveling full time back in 2013, one of the first questions I was asked was whether I was taking a dog. I was pretty much appalled. No. No pets.
I carefully explained that having a pet in my traveling circumstances would be unfair to the animal. It would spend hours a day in my truck where I would have to figure out a way to leave it safely when I stopped to eat, get coffee, tour a museum, or visit any of the hundreds of places where pets are not allowed. I would have to leave it behind when I took an airplane, arranging care for the pet. Or not travel. Each country I visit as I go around the world has different rules regarding how long a pet has to stay in isolation before he can join the owner. My trailer is tiny and there is no place for the accoutrements of a pet. (Cage? Litterbox? Dishes? Leashes?)
Prague across the Vltava River. 5/17/2016.

Then there is the problem of disruption. I have been in many campgrounds where pet owners have bragged about how well-behaved and quiet their dogs are and what a pleasure it is to travel with them. Their words have been made into lies as soon as they leave the pet in the trailer to drive someplace it can’t go. I’ve have listened to dogs wail and cry and howl all day long when their owners are absent.
Not fair to the pet and not fair to the traveler. Having a pet puts a restraint on where you can go and how long you can be gone. Even how much you can afford. Pets are costly.

Statue of Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) with her good luck breast rubbed shiny. Over stimulated, I think.  Munich, 5/21/2016.

“But don’t you get lonely?” I’m asked.
Hell, yes! I spend about 90-95% of my time alone and usually lonely. I miss touch and love and the cuddles that pets give without ever asking for more in return than that you care for them.
And that’s the real problem with pets.

Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. One of the most romantic views on earth. This is the castle that Disney artists modeled the Disneyland castle after. Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, 5/22/2016.

I read blogposts, email, and Facebook posts that either personally or conglomerately talk about the importance of their pets. “My pet is a member of my family.” “My pet lives here. You don’t.” “I love my Pug, Pom, Pyrenees, Persian, whatever.” “Happiness is a kitten.” “There is no loyalty like a dog’s.”
I appreciate the sentiment. Pets quickly become as important to their owners as the people in their lives. And often more so. Pets actually become a substitute for people. We will cuddle and pet and groom and feed our pets when we won’t do the same for our spouse or children. Because they don’t demand anything else from us, it is much easier to have a relationship with a pet than with a human. We can complain about anything. They listen. We can push them away. They wait. We can reach out a hand. They are there to be petted.
It is easier to love a dog than a person.

Great-great-...-grandsire Everett. (Everett="Boar Heart"). Now that would be a pet... Munich 2/21/2016.

When our first greyhound died back in 2009, my daughter’s coach talked to her gently. “Parents give us pets so we can learn how to deal with the loss of a loved one.” It was a beautiful sentiment. Our dog was a loved one and we dealt with the loss. But a step from that to being the focus of our love to the exclusion of our loved ones is entirely too easy to make. If I had a dog, I wouldn’t need a person. It is so much tidier than dealing with the emotions and needs of someone who might not always feel the same. Who won’t jump into your lap simply because you sat down. Who won’t sit for hours while you stroke its fur. Who won’t always be standing at the door waiting to go with you wherever you are going. Who doesn’t show joy whenever you walk into the room. Who will always put your needs first.
If I give that kind of affection and care, it will be to a human being who returns it. That’s the problem with pets.
Ja, David. Sie hat einen 'innie'. Lowenbrau Biergarten, Munich, 5/21/2016.