If you like Dan Brown (as in The Da Vinci Code) you will like this. I only just got on to this book through reading a review on a blog post. I’m glad I did.
This is the first in the Jotham Fletcher series. He is a rector in an Anglican parish in Australia. His research into Simon Magus leads him to deliver a lecture in Rome. (Could not help but recall the Silver Chalice–where Jack Palance portraying Magus, believes he can fly. I saw it as a child).
Like Brown’s Logdon, Pike’s Fletcher gets embroiled in controversial sectarian elements within the Catholic Church. Unlike Logdon, Fletcher faces much more serious danger personally. So, this story is really stronger in that respect. I have never been a Catholic, so I have no preconceived notions, much less actual knowledge, of the possible intrigues within a 2,000 year old faith. Yet, I find it all very intriguing and perhaps potentially possible, (if somewhat implausible) given human nature.
Pike’s book follows the mystery/thriller precepts of plot/suspense progression well and builds to a climax with heightened tension and twists. If you like the genre, you will like this book–it’s well written.
One should always review a book soon after, if not immediately, upon completion. Such has been my spring of brain fog that didn’t happen. After refreshing my recollection, I learned there are TWO books in one Kindle. OK, not really two separate books, but two different stories with all the same cast of characters that E.J. Randolph introduced in the first in this series about Federation Diplomat Kate Stevens.
Somehow I missed this one when it came out and then I learned it won a best eBook award in Arizona/New Mexico. It’s worthy of the award. It’s space opera for the 21st century–updated with hilarious friends and enemies. Vivid imagery of planets, people and more make it eminently readable. The description in the Goodreads summary needs no repeating here–that’s all you need to know. Well, you do need to know there’s no graphic sex or violence, just a well written story with believable but odd characters. Like the crew member who likes to eat meals that combine ingredients that might cause normal folks to upchuck. An AI (that runs the ship) that makes all sorts of interesting observations in discussions with Kate.
You know Kate will survive, but how she does it is still rendered suspensefully.
If only I’d had a New Year’s post ready on December 31st. Ohwell.
Before we get to MY recap and 2020 goals, a few words from our “sponsor”—America’s someday soon former President:
Forget Nasty Nancy and her fake impeachment. There’ll be no Benghazi while I’m Commander-in-Chief. Our great military just killed an evil Iranian general that was plotting against us.
Israel, other allies and other presidents could have taken out Soleimani at any time over the last 20 years. They didn’t want to deal with foreseeable (and unforeseeable) consequences. Trump, the Idiot-in-Chief, could have directed the hit at any time during his first three years in office.
It MUST be just a coincidence that the strike comes now.With the impeachment trial coming soon to Moscow Mitch’s Senate.
Take this as a clue to what more may be in store for America in 2020, during and after the interregnum in the Senate.Be afraid, be very afraid.
BUT—America will survive. Our democracy will Triumph over Trump—whatever he does. So long as we have faith and work together to make it happen.
He WILL be gone sooner or later–by January 20, 2021. Karmic retribution is coming soon to a White House near you.
Trump may have a stroke, a heart attack or some other acute medical incident.
He might resign (unlikely).
He could be removed (unlikely—except, more whistleblowers or more leaks of worse deeds may come out).
Failing all else, he will lose in November.
We just have to keep from the worst from happening. Perhaps including Trump running naked down Pennsylvania Avenue shooting people. William Barr and Trump’s other legal flunky failures says Trump couldn’t be arrested or investigated—much less charged for his offenses.
Back to our regularly scheduled post.
Once again, Happy New Year.
Highlights of happenings—goals met in 2019. Plans forestalled. The past year didn’t surpass 2018.
We’re not defeated, just a little wiser and more determined for 2020—and beyond.
A wonderful four days in Puerto Vallarta began the year the end of February. Another four days in Florida ended the year–a Many Treasures Conference (for Buddhist practitioners aged 65 and up).
The mental and physical fatigue is gone, thanks to cutting back on Allopurinol (maybe I don’t have gout after all) which apparently produced that side effect.
Three friends of 35-40 plus years passed away in 2019. The last one just after our return from Florida. That prompted finally getting to work on that will—and an advance health care directive, durable power of attorney for finances, etc. Complicated, tedious, challenging. But the alternative is chaos for survivors.
So, 2020 will see another annual. It will also see a modified schedule for writing—that won’t include bold pronouncements of when what will be coming. At least not until we are sure when something is really coming.
2020 will also see our longest and most expensive vacation ever. Twenty-five days. We deserve it for our 40th anniversary. That, by the way, also occupied some major planning time last fall, six months ahead.
Go ahead, make some resolutions, goals or determinations for the New Year. Just be flexible. Adapt to unexpected obstacles. Don’t be too ambitious, but don’t give up too easily at the first sign of the natural resistance to forward progress. Stuff happens. Get past it.
1966–ready for college. Lots of English courses. Become a writer. Then I got drafted. Then I went to Vietnam. Then my innocence was lost and my illusions shattered.
College became a quest for a new purpose. Restore America’s integrity amidst the backdrop of Vietnam, Nixon and Watergate. Classes interrupted for antiwar rallies and protests. Leading local Vietnam Vets Against the War.
I still graduated summa cum laude. I still got a JD from Georgetown University Law Center (a top ranked law school, 14th this year but it’s been higher).
Nixon couldn’t distract me–completely. He just annoyed the hell out of me. I cheered when he resigned rather than be impeached.
All those evils turned to good when the quest put me on the path to enlightenment, of course. See the book cover on the right panel. Waiting for Westmoreland,
Trump won’t distract me either–not any more.
He’s way more corrupt than Nixon.Way dumber than Nixon–perhaps the stupidest man ever to be in the White House. The cruelest president. The most incompetent.
Trump hires incompetent people.He has crackerjack lawyers–that is, who may have degrees from boxes of crackerjacks.OK, Jay Sekulow graduated from a law school tied for 138 in this year’s US News and World Report. But consider the arguments that his attorneys make–the ones that judges laugh at and dismiss out of hand.
Hardly ironic, after all his misdeeds, Trump may well be removed from office through his own words–that call to the president of Ukraine.
Trump or one of his cronies came up with “Trump Derangement Syndrome”–ostensibly a malady that his critics suffer from–obsessing over his foul mouth, his ignorance, his misspelled tweets, etc.
More apt than applying the term to critics would describing those GOP defenders who have lost their collective minds. First the “No Collusion” mantra. Now the “No Quid Pro Quo,” when it’s as plain as the orange face on Trump’s head.
Steve Scalise, treated respectfully and sympathetically by Democrats after his being shot and wounded on that Alexandria ballfield, didn’t hesitate to be among crass crazies crashing the deposition today in the impeachment hearing.
That’s nearly as much time as I can waste maligning a man who needs no maligning–every time he speaks or tweets he auto-deprecates himself.
A final thought. My political prognoses have been a bit off lately. Nonetheless, I will hazard a guess (scientific or not) that Trump will not be on the ballot in 2020. Not only that, but the Democrats will take control of the Senate and perhaps gain more in the House. You heard it here.
The words in the graphic sum up the major point of this article—living with the inevitability of death. And doing it successfully! In other words—happily and fearlessly with purpose, despite the certainty of your eventual demise. You can find this quotation–and other encouraging bits of wisdom here.
We all will die someday. How we live our lives will make a difference on what happens thereafter. Heaven, hell, rebirth–your faith and your choice. If nothing else, a life lived well offers an easier death and good memories of you by others.
Here’s a nutshell excerpted from the article:
Death: As Victor Hugo said, “We are all under sentence of death, but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.” Do you give it much thought? Most people don’t–until a serious illness strikes, or they lose a loved one.
Many of the world’s religions and philosophies focus on what happens after you die. They promise a hereafter—an eternal life in heaven—OR rebirth. They don’t let you off the hook entirely. That eternal life comes with a price—living your life according to some precepts or guidelines.
A Buddhist perspective on eternal life: You won’t remember a thing, but you will have do-overs. A new body and mind with the same core entity—karma included. In other words, you start over where you left off, in karmic terms.
Whatever worldview you may have, living with the inevitability of death is a reality. Whether you practice an organized religion or not, there is a point to considering how you live YOUR life. We will explain.
And a remembrance: Recently, a friend of 35 years died, surrounded by friends and loved ones. He lived a full and happy life. He created value. He shared the joy of Buddhism with countless others. He left unafraid of the death that will supply a rest before another rebirth.
As a doctor and professor of neurology, Oliver Sacks knew much of death. He was also an accomplished author. Awakenings, a book about treating of patients awakening from sleep after decades, was made into a movie. When he faced a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Sacks penned an op ed piece in the New York Times February 2015. It says, in part:
I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.
Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.
On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
Ideally, we should live every minute of our lives valuably, as if it were the last moment of our lives. Those who live aimlessly are left with a sense of emptiness at the end of their lives, but those who live all-out, striving right to the end, will die peacefully.
Leonardo da Vinci says, ‘As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, a life well used brings happy death.’
One aware that death could come at any time will live each day to the fullest.
Today, I find much to agree with in the words of Sacks and Ikeda. That didn’t come for several years after my years in Vietnam. My fears of death were short-lived and only episodic in Vietnam. I saw no death while there.What I did see and experience corrupted my youth. Along with Watergate, the war shattered my illusions about America.
To reclaim my virtue and ideals, I began a quest to reform the people or institutions that failed me. I learned much along the way, during my college years—despite the interruption of classes for protests against the war.
Some years later, I realized that reforming myself and not changing others is the means for attaining happiness and for making the world a better place. Yes, Sacks and Ikeda have it right.
So long we have nutshells or synopses early on so you’ll know what to expect. The magazine format, BTW, doesn’t permit the standard read more process.
Here’s what’s in the Annual— jump right in via the links
The Climate Crisis
It’s no longer climate change–it’s now a crisis. That means the change is serious—and getting worse. We need to deal with it NOW. Why? Because of the accelerating change and the trend line. You probably already believe it’s happening. This article will help you inform friends, family and others of the facts–and what needs doing.
The Third Age–Living It and Loving It
Are you retired or will be soon? Are you living your dreams? Enjoying your golden years? Got a plan if you’re not there yet? We have the info you need–money, travel, staying involved, health and more. You don’t have to be rich, you just need ideas. We have some, plus a guide to finding many more.
Perspectives on the Eternity of Life–and a Remembrance
We all will die someday–that’s a certainty. How we live our lives will make a difference on what happens thereafter. Heaven, hell, rebirth–your faith and your choice. If nothing else, a life lived well offers an easier death and good memories of you by others. Read on for perspectives on a different view of eternity.
More Writing Tips–New and Revisited
If you’re a writer–aspiring or otherwise, tips are always welcome. You can never know too much about the art or craft of writing. More tools, more ways to connect with a reader. We get so many, so often, it’s hard to keep up with them. Bookmark these. Then try them when you have the time.
Images from Here and There–Landscape and More
A photo gallery from our own home–outdoors. Southwestern New Mexico may be arid but it’s not a desert. Lots of beautiful flowers bloom here–even if they are atop cacti. The rocks are pretty in the West as well. So too further north. We love it here but we’re going more places in the Third Age.
Works in Progress–Coming from Eagle Peak Press
We have an ambitious schedule for the next several years. Lots of books coming–short story collections, Sci-fi, mysteries and more. Read all about it in this compilation of works in progress. PLUS read excerpts or samples of the new short story collection coming for the 2019 holidays. The stories range from flash fiction to traditional.
ALMOSTeveryone knows it–even a substantial percentage of those who deny it.
In honor of today’s Global Climate Strike, here’s a brief excerpt from the Climate Crisis article in the first ever Eagle Peak Annual. (it was a quarterly for 17 issues)
Click the link above for the entire very long article.
A recap of what’s happening
Climate vs weather—we’ll explain the difference
A brief history of Earth’s climate and when it started changing
The science (in simple terms)
Why it’s a crisis—not something that can be put off for another day, year, or decade
If humans caused it, humans can fix it
Throughout the article–efforts by various scientific, governmental and non-governmental groups or organizations to deal with the crisis
Links to additional resources at the end
You get the news or experience the weather yourself. Record breaking heat. The hottest temperatures ever recorded worldwide in June and July 2019–August may turn out the same. More severe storms. Deadly tornadoes. Multiple 100- or 500-year floods within a few years. Severe droughts in other areas. India’s sixth largest city, Chennai, is running out of water. Disastrous hurricanes or typhoons. Sunny day flooding in coastal cities like Miami. More and worse wildfires—including the Amazon Rainforest, known as the world’s lungs—which converts carbon dioxide to 20% of the planet’s oxygen.
Our planet is getting hotter—everywhere, on land and sea. The arctic ice sheet is getting smaller. Sometime soon, its disappearance may offer global shipping from one continent to another. Good thing? For some. Not for polar bears, sea life, indigenous people and fishermen.
Glaciers are melting—raising the sea level. Slowly at first, faster as time wears on. In 2005, my wife and I drove along the Columbia Ice Fields Parkway in Alberta Canada. In 1900, the glacier’s edge would have been a short walk from the road. Now it’s over a mile away from the parkway built in the 1940s.
How much hotter is it? The planetary surface has risen an average of 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the 1880s. That’s according to facts on climate change from NASA. Well, that doesn’t sound like much, does it?Except that most of it has been in the last 35 years. That’s long enough to mean climate change—nota change in the weather.
Fake News–“President” Trump’s encounter with an El Paso survivor
Yes, this is fiction. But it could go something like this. Assuming a gunshot victim in the hospital agrees to a visit with the “President.” (Italicized from now on, because he’s not legitimate).
“Hello, Mrs. Garcetti, how are you feeling?” says a smiling Trump.
“That’s Garcia. I’m doing OK, all things considered,” she looks out the window as a tear forms in her eye, then back at the unwanted visitor.
“Well, this is a wonderful hospital. I’m sure they will take good care of you here.”
“Yes, they’re very kind. But I want to ask you something”
“All right, how can I help you?” He smiles broadly and looks at an aide.
“Why do you hate me so much–hate Hispanics so much?” Mrs. Garcia looks directly at the “President,” staring into his face.
“Hate you? Why I don’t hate you or Hispanics.”
“But that young man who shot me, he shouted out vile things about us. He said you were the best thing that ever happened to America. A man who wanted to rid the country of people like us,” she frowned then, nodding her head.
“Oh no, he was mentally ill–a crazy man! Not my responsibility. It’s the fake news that says that!” His face changed from its normal orange to red.
“No, he was angry–full of hate, not crazy. Full of hate just like you. I’ve seen you on TV, the way you talk about us. The things people at your rallies yell–and how you laugh and smile. You are a racist, Mr. Trump. You are a white nationalist. He shot us because it’s your wish–it’s YOUR FAULT!” she raised up in her bed, yelling and pointing at him.
“How DARE you speak to me that way?” He screamed, turning to his aide. “Let’s leave this crazy woman’s room. She must be watching fake news from MSNBC or one of those Democrat channels.”
At that, the “President” was ushered from the room by a flunky and accompanied by his secret service protective detail.
Could it happen like this?Who knows.
What would it take for the WNC to own up to his responsibility?Not likely to happen!
There are still two days left until the 45th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation in the face of certain impeachment. Maybe something will hit the fan and Trump will jump!
The impeachment inquiry could start soon.The House returns next month, having heard lots from their constituents. Now we have the white nationalist situation to add fuel to the impeachment fire!
A very mixed post today. A very long post today. Bear with me as I cover
Progress and obstacles to getting out the Eagle Peak Annual
Trump and the GOP
Creating value from chaos—not being provoked into a responsive rant
Well, the Eagle Peak Annual is moving along—ponderously slowly. More obstacles arise when one is striving to accomplish a thing of value. So it goes for one who lives the life of a Bodhisattva—dedicated to leading others to enlightenment.
I had my annual Medicare wellness visit on Tuesday. Tests were all great. HDL cholesterol is outstanding and LDL is low. Perhaps it’s something untested or a medication that could/should be stopped or its dosage reduced. As it is, I sometimes (over the past two years) have as much as three or four good writing hours a day. Other days I may have an hour or less.
Non-creative tasks or chores are possible. Walking the dog, sweeping and vacuuming. Even financial entries on Quicken or the spreadsheet—a mental subroutine, as it were. I have prevailed upon my primary care physician, who is now aligned with me to solve the problem. He and I will be victorious! I have too many books to write before I die.
Meanwhile, Donald “Biff” Trump and the KK-GOP conspire to cause a reactionary rant. That won’t help. It just feeds into the mindset of them and us.
Send her back his supporters yell at his North Carolina rally. He, them and the GOP persist in an effort to destroy America. I can’t abide that.
So, instead of working on the Annual, I must now work on yet another response to all them.
That, after returning from the vet to get my dog an antibiotic shot and some pills for a gastrointestinal ailment.
Obstacles! One cannot allow them to defeat progress.
Yes, I AM calling out the GOP. They are reincarnations of the Know Nothing Party members from the 1850s. They are reincarnations of the enablers of Adolph Hitler—who promoted his rise to power as an expedient. Hitler had ten times as much charisma as Trump. Watch Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will–which G. Gordon Liddy showed at the Nixon White House as leader of the Plumbers.
Laws were passed giving Hitler autocratic power. Would the GOP do that for Trump?Probably, if they had a chance–but they don’t, NOW.
In the run-up to his reelection campaign for 1972, Richard Nixon came up with the Southern Strategy. Very conservative Southern Democrats became Republicans. Nixon won reelection in a landslide—then he was impeached.
Trump is worse, of course than Nixon—as far as criminal offenses go. He’s also not nearly as smart as Nixon.
Nixon was an anti-Semite. Trump is fine with Jews. He hates Muslims (except rich, nation-leading ones like MBS who might spend money at Mar-a-Lago or his golf courses, etc.), Mexicans, people from s-hole countries and other non-whites.
During the Vietnam War era, the bumper sticker for the right was America, “love it or leave it.” The response among antiwar people during Vietnam, was “change it or lose it.”
The Vietnam experience, Nixon and Watergate ineluctably led me to Buddhism. From the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin and the SGI, I learned that to change the world, I must change myself. Read the book, Waiting for Westmoreland—you’ll understand.
Trump recently invoked the memories of love it leave it. In his warped mind, he equates criticism of his policies as hatred of America. He, of course, is NOT America. He doesn’t care about America–he cares about money and adulation from fans.His values are not those of American democracy. His policies are racist, misogynistic, sexist, etc.
Pundits or analysts offer an armchair diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder for Trump. Yes, but that’s not the whole story. How about the Dark Triad?
The Dark Triad personality is one that combines narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. A Psychology Today article from 2013 says the Dark Triad is:
“Defined as a set of traits that include the tendency to seek admiration and special treatment (otherwise known as narcissism), to be callous and insensitive (psychopathy) and to manipulate others (Machiavellianism) . . .”
They also note that: “Researchers are finding that the Dark Triad underlies a host of undesirable behaviors including aggressiveness, sexual opportunism, and impulsivity.”
Wow, sounds like him, doesn’t it? Check out the 12-question test in the article to confirm the diagnosis. But does anyone really need to identify Trump’s problems?
The real problem is that his behavior and actions are not only condoned but endorsed by the Republicans. A party that destroyed the hope that the election of Barack Obama engendered. A party that is OK with the rollback of regulations that would protect America from dirty air, dirty water and a sooner devolution into economic chaos (see the deficit increase their tax cut wrought) even as they deny the Climate Crisis.
So, are more rants needed? Hell no! More protest marches? Hell no! More sit-ins at Congressional offices? I marched in countless protests to end the Vietnam War. Nixon and his supporters were unmoved.
What does work?Voting?
Democrats took over the House by 40 seats. That’s not enough.
What then? The Senate and the White House? That’s not enough either.
No, the ill-fated strategy of the Vietnam War was winning the hearts and minds of the people.The Vietnamese people. America didn’t succeed at that. For good reason.
This time, it’s the hearts and minds of Americans that need winning.The Americans who are misguided and deluded by the Dark Triad Trump and the Neo-Nazi/KKK/Know Nothing-Republican Party. Those who believe that immigrants, non-whites and of other than Judeo-Christian beliefs are the problem.
We must create value—not simply respond to insults in kind. Which it may read like what I am doing descriptively about Trump and the GOP.
If we hold hate in OUR hearts and minds, we cannot change America. We will lose it.
In Buddhism, we understand that our karma—the results of our words and deeds creates effects we would as soon not endure. We have the President we have through some horrible collective karma as Americans. A very large, very hard pill to swallow. You may well not believe that.
Buddhism is not a turn the other cheek religion. It’s OK to send bad people to jail. It’s OK to impeach presidents or to vote them out of office. It’s not OK to physically attack them. We can argue with them–show them and tell them the error of their ways.
So, we begin by changing ourselves and by so doing, changing them. It’s not enough to blame or hate them. They are human, if mistaken and misguided. I can hope and imagine that the GOP as it is now known will fail as a party or be reconstituted with more principled and morally correct members. But that’s not MY job.
We must create value in the workplace, on the highway, in the neighborhood, at home and in school. Sit with the other. Talk with the other. Aid and give comfort to the other. Don’t just castigate those whom we hold responsible for the ills of America–despite the distinct possibility our assessment is correct.
It’s that venerable holiday when Americans have picnics, parades and fireworks. Often times when people go away to the beach, the mountains or other places.
It’s supposed to be in recognition of that day in 1776 that patriots declared their independence from the British Empire and its monarch, King George. Most people don’t give that a great deal of thought, one suspects.
Ironically, today one is reminded of those allegedly tyrannical times by the Tyrant Trump. An aspiring autocrat more concerned with increasing his own and his family’s wealth. A man who disregards the checks and balances established the Founding Fathers, aided by Banana Republicans.
Since the end of World War II, America has been the dominant military and economic power throughout the world. Trump, in his profound ignorance and self-delusions of greatness, has nearly succeeded in destroying America’s reputation and leadership.
Admittedly, America has had its low points. Slavery. The Civil War and Reconstruction. Vietnam. The training and support of Latin American military forces of despots. Racism. Income inequality. The intervention of the CIA in the affairs of other countries. Corrupt politicians of every party, every era—and from local officials to the White House.
Nonetheless, America has been a shining city on the hill. Better than many other countries–though not as great as it once was. Trump’s slogan is an oxymoron–Make America Great Again. By his actions and ideals, he will return it to an abysmal past.
Trump is an aberration. One that can and must be corrected. Just as true patriots declared their independence those many years ago, we must do so again. Not by taking up arms but by removing the worst President in American history. Impeachment must begin NOW. Failing conviction, he must not be restored to the White House. Then he must be prosecuted, convicted, sentenced and imprisoned.
Today, in his unmitigated gall, Trump dares make the celebration of America’s independence all about him. Worse, he does so by offering remarks at one of America’s best Presidents—Lincoln. One could expect that leader of the Republican Party to turn over in his grave at the offenses of Trump and the lack of any morality, decency or honor among the current so-called Republicans.
Happy Fourth of July—celebrate it by urging your elected officials to do the right thing: remove the abomination occupying the White House illegitimately with aid of Vladimir Putin. America CAN be great again–greater than ever before, once the criminally insane man in the White House is gone and Americans come to their senses.