An American Polyglot

Here is an American 16-year-old speaking 20 languages in a 15 minute video. I could follow the French (a bit), the German, some of the Dutch, and I was able to tell when he spoke Italian. That is it. I am humbled.

I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me. I join you in prayer now for the recovery of others.

– Nina Pham, American Nurse and Ebola Survivor

So God saved three American healthcare workers from Ebola. I wonder why he chose to let 10,000 deeply religious and hard-praying Africans die?

Is it because we’re not praying for the anonymous Africans since we don’t know them and their names are not all over the news?

Might it be because Americans have lots of money that can buy very expensive medicine that Africans can’t afford?

Full MeasureFull Measure is a novel set in Fallbrook, California. You might ask why this matters? Every novel is set somewhere!

For me, Fallbrook is more significant. I lived in Fallbrook a full third of my life, 18 years in all. My children grew up there from infancy and graduated in Fallbrook High School. I ran for the high school board. I started a business in Fallbrook that was a successful icon on Main Street for many years until we moved it closer to the city. I know hundreds of people there. I know all the streets, many of the businesses and all the outlying areas from my many bicycle rides around town.

The author of Full Measure obviously knows Fallbrook extremely well. The story is about Patrick Norris, a 22-year-old U.S. Marine who has just returned from a 13-month tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. He comes home to a family on the breaking point. His brother Ted, at age 26, is a misfit who cannot find his place in life. His parents, Caroline and Archie, are avocado farmers. Just a week before Patrick came home, a huge wildfire swept through town and all but obliterated their groves, threatening financial ruin just before retirement age. Patrick has no interest in farming and would rather be a fishing boat captain out on the San Diego Bay for tourists. But his father calls on his sense of duty to stay with the family in their hour of need.

Patrick has his own ghosts that haunt him. Nightmares of reliving the deaths of his buddies in the war don’t let go. Flashbacks to exploding IEDs and comrades torn apart jump up at him at the most inconvenient times. Does Patrick have the strength to keep his sanity, back home in idyllic Fallbrook, while the country does not know how to deal with veterans and the town is coming apart at the seams?

Parker places the story smack in the middle of Fallbrook. Many Fallbrook businesses are part of the picture. The CVS drugstore, Major Market, KFC on Mission Road, and the well-known Café des Artistes. There are literally hundreds of references to actual, real Fallbrook locations throughout the story. He describes drives on Mission and Main, down Ammunition and back over down to the High School, past Los Jilgueros nature preserve, left on Stage Coach and then up “Holy Hill” or what I used to call “Church Row.” He does make up some businesses, particularly those that are important to the plot. He also invents a city council and a mayor. Fallbrook does not actually have a mayor and a city council, or at least it did not have any when I still lived there in 2006.

Nevertheless, I have never read a novel before where my mind’s eye literally followed along. The writer didn’t have to explain and “show” me much. When he talked about the trailer park opposite the Post Office on Mission, I knew exactly what he meant. I could see it. He described how the park smelled of KFC, and indeed, I have ridden my bike past there and it does smell like KFC because it’s downwind from the restaurant.

I enjoyed reading Full Measure very much, but I wonder if it was because it’s set in a town I know so well? Would I have kept turning the pages for the merits of the story, if it had been set in some town in New Mexico or Missouri instead? I don’t know.

The plot is well-woven and there are some twists and surprises. The author does a pretty good job with the conundrum our nation finds itself in, sending its young people into overseas wars without convincing them that they are actually protecting the homeland. They come home broken, their friends maimed or dead or crazy, and they can’t find themselves back “home” in Fallbrook and thousands of small towns all over the country. That’s what the author wants to show.

Iris, one of the protagonists explains to Patrick how she came to live in Fallbrook:

I drove around the whole county for two weeks, looking for just the right place to find a rental and a job. And of all the extra cool places in San Diego County, I picked Fallbrook, which is the most like Kenton, Ohio.

– page 159

That quote rang out to me, because some thirty years ago, I did just that: came to San Diego, drove around the whole county for weeks and eventually found Fallbrook as the place to raise a family.

Everyone who lives or lived in Fallbrook must read this book. They will get a kick out of it.

Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 4)

Atlanta Falcons

I only count two planes on the picture. One hop from Atlanta to Baltimore. The next from Baltimore to somewhere in Spain.

Then it says they came back from London directly to Atlanta, but that leg is not shown.

I wonder if the team ever made it to London, and whether they ever came back? Perhaps the Falcons are still circling the beaches on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.


pantyraidI am working my way through the Showtime Series Season 2 of Homeland. I realize that this is fiction, and I should not get worked up about this. But if only half of what is shown is based on some reality, our government is truly misguided.

Then I read about the Homeland Security Agency conducting a Panty Raid, and I realize that is actual reality and news, then it’s confirmed for me. Our government is truly messed up.

The panties, with “Take the Crown” and “KC” across the bottom, were set to be sold in Honig’s Birdies Panties shop Tuesday. But Homeland Security agents visited the Crossroads store and confiscated the few dozen pairs of underwear, printed in Kansas City by Lindquist Press.

“They came in and there were two guys” Honig said. “I asked one of them what size he needed and he showed me a badge and took me outside. They told me they were from Homeland Security and we were violating copyright laws.”

Granted, there was indeed a copyright violation of the Kansas City Royals intellectual property (on panties). I must say, I do not feel safer in my country now after reading this. Do they not have anything better to do?

And now on the good side: As much as I complain about our government, it’s still one of the best in the world. It ensures that I can sit here, sip my Sunday morning coffee and write this offensive insult, and there won’t be any SS troopers knocking on my door in 20 minutes to take me away as an enemy of the state and pull out my fingernails.

This was photographed by Mark Gee in New Zealand in real-time. There was no editing done whatsoever in this video. Make sure you read the description below the YouTube video:

This is my “Full Moon Silhouettes” short, as seen originally on Vimeo. It is a real time video of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. People had gathered up there this night to get the best view possible of the moon rising. I captured the video from 2.1km away on the other side of the city. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to photograph for a long time now, and a lot of planning and failed attempts had taken place. Finally, during moon rise on the 28th January 2013, everything fell into place and I got my footage.

The video is as it came off the memory card and there has been no manipulation whatsoever. Technically it was quite a challenge to get the final result. I shot it on a Canon ID MkIV in video mode with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L and a Canon 2x extender II, giving me the equivalent focal length of 1300mm.

– Mark Gee

And here is a link to his site and how he did it.


When I first saw this I didn’t realize it was in the Southern Hemisphere. I noticed that the moon rose to the left, rather than to the right, and I thought that the video was simply side-reversed. Then I saw that the moon looked different too. I have never been to the Southern Hemisphere, so I never could experience this live.

This experience reminded me of my own painting titled “Supermoon over Swiss Alps” modeled after photograph one of my friends took while in Switzerland, of the rising moon behind a mountain.

Supermoon in Swiss Alps

Updated my Art Site

Art Site

My art site is updated with a full reverse-chronological gallery of all my work worth publishing. The fun continues.

Below is the map of how people responded to the question: “Is global warming a threat to the environment?”

The deeper the red, the more the answer was Yes. The deeper the blue and purple, the more No.

What I take away from that is:

In the cities, in the large metropolitan areas and where most of the universities are, we are leaning to the red, to the Yes. In the coal and oil states we’re in the deep No. And then there is Texas and the South.

Global Warming by Congressional District

Global Warming by Congressional District [click to enlarge]

This link gets you to the actual map, where you can search for your own zip code, and scan for results by county, zip code, congressional district, senatorial district and other filters. You can zoom in and out, and pan the map around.

The most important point I took away from this poll is this: The question was not: “Do you think that global warming is man-made?” Whether it is man-made or not is not part of the question. It was: “Is global warming a threat to the environment?”

It’s pretty hard for me to come up with a scenario where an educated person will say “Well, no, cranking up the Earth’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius is not a problem at all. Let’s go and melt to Antarctic ice sheet and flood Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Go right ahead.”

That would be the essence of saying No as an answer to this question.



There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, most of them millions of light years apart from each other. Our own galaxy is the Milky Way. Of course, we’re living inside of it, so we cannot ever take a picture of it. The picture below is of another galaxy that we think is similar to our own. But that’s close enough for this exercise in visualization. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them. Milky Way 1 The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. That means that the light takes 100,000 years to go from one edge of it to the other.  Our own sun is in a minor spiral arm, called the Orion arm, about 28,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way. That means it’s a little over halfway out from the inside. Milky Way 2 In the picture above I marked a random spot. Let’s just say that’s about 28,000 light years from the center. If you enlarge the picture, you’ll see a little circle at the end of the arrow. That’s approximately the bubble where all the stars we can see with our naked eye on Earth are located. If you go outside right now, every star you see is actually in this little red circle. That’s how far we can see. That’s the “approximately 1,000 light year bubble.” Milky Way 3 About 1930, when radio became popular, we started broadcasting. Our radio waves of Churchill speeches or Hitler diatribes started leaving the earth at that time. Since then, of course, we added Gilligan’s Island and I Love Lucy over the years, bringing us to Family Ties, Seinfeld and finally Breaking Bad. There is a bubble of radio waves that started leaving the Earth around 1930 in all directions. That bubble is now 170 light years in diameter and growing every second. That bubble represents the entire reach of technological humanity into our universe. In the above picture, I tried to put that bubble of 170 light years in perspective, and I found it’s just a tiny little dot. If you zoom in on the picture above and look at the little red dot at the end of the arrow, that’s about how far humanity’s “scream” into the world has reached, at the speed of light. It will take a while before the scream reaches any listeners anywhere – and they’d better not blink, lest they miss us entirely.


The GOP believes that closing the borders would stop Ebola and illegal immigration, they believe that closing abortion clinics will stop abortions, but they refuse to believe that gun regulations will reduce school shootings.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law effectively banning Tesla Motors  from selling its cars in the state. After Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland, Michigan is the fifth state to do so.

I cannot figure out what problem all these laws are trying to solve. I can go into an Apple store and buy an iPad directly from the manufacturer. I can go into my local gallery and buy a painting from the artist. Why can’t I buy a car from the manufacturer, if there’s a store right there?

They are arguing that it is good for consumers by protecting them.

From What? From Tesla?

I see this as protectionist laws. Our lawmakers, obviously “purchased” by the car dealer lobby, are trying to make sure that the middleman get his cut, it’s as simple as that.

If you have to have laws keeping others out of your market, if you have nothing more to offer in your business model that gives consumers some value in the process of “dealing” with you – pun intended, then you truly have a business model that sucks and you’re on your way out.

Check typewriter manufacturers, travel agents, video rental stores, water-bed stores and Kodak.

Fortunately, the free market doesn’t put up with that very long, and it finds a way around that.

Just wait and watch.



This shirt is listed for $4.13. I cannot figure out why anyone would buy – and then wear – this shirt.

Is this just bought by non-English-literate Chinese and Japanese women?


After listening to the first 15 second commercial before the above video gets started, there is an artist or poet, who apparently disdains the technological social network we have created. Ok, he is getting attention, he has an interesting concept song, but I can’t help but say after he is done:


First, he uses YouTube to popularize his message, a device he supposedly disdains. Without the technology he puts in question I would never have heard his song.

Yes, I think it is rude to sit in a restaurant with a date and pick up your smartphone and start responding to emails. Yes, I think it’s terribly dangerous to text while driving. Yes, kids may spend too much in front of screens and not enough time in the woods finding treasures.

But the benefits of the technological advances we have today far outweigh those detriments in value. We now have contact with people we lost years, sometimes decades ago, and who would have been lost to us forever were it not for technology. We have communities we can use to share with others, like thoughts, pictures, notes and concepts, that we didn’t have only ten years ago.

We can now start companies in our spare bedrooms and make a living from our homes like never before. We have more safety, more security, more freedom, more information, and ultimately more time, because we’re not spending so much time on logistics and on running around on errands.

For every poignant point the poet in this video makes, I could make two counterpoints to the opposite effect.

As I see it: humanity in general is much richer and much healthier due to the connectivity technology provides. Now the question is: How does each one of us control that technology, that power, that connectivity, so it really enriches us and minimizes the slavery.


Facebook, the happy place where we post our pictures and where we show off our kids and their accomplishments, where we reconnect with old friends we would never have found again otherwise, has become one of the places where our culture comes together and where we socialize.

Facebook has its own instant message feature, where you can have live chats with friends or groups of friends, several at a time in real-time. We can keep it superficial, or we can have deep and personal conversations.

Let me destroy this idyllic picture of personal warmth and security, this place where you gather with your friends.

Facebook has just written to the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) asking that their agents stop impersonating people.

Yes, DEA agents have created fake account, taking on the names of innocent people, entering their circle of friends and conversing with them. They have even posted pictures of the children of the people they are impersonating in an effort to appear authentic.

This article gives more information. The victim in this case was a woman who was indeed convicted on drug charges and served time some years ago. So the DEA thinks they might “harvest” her circle of friends for more victims, basically cyber-stalking them. This is indeed the wolf in sheep’s clothes in our midst, and they actually think this practice is right and legal.

Beware of your “friends” online, as they might not be what they appear to be.


The Conversation

One of my readers from Australia recommended that I promote The Conversation, an online journal dedicated to academic rigor and journalistic flair, that apparently started in Australia, spread to the U.K. and launched a pilot in the U.S. this month. Thanks for the heads-up, R.C.

Click on the link above to check it out.


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