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Yesterday I received a slip from the U.S. Postal Service at my door. It indicated they had tried to deliver a registered package. I didn’t expect any registered mail, so I was curious.

I went to the post office, stood in line, and eventually got this package:

Odd. I didn’t order anything from Mumbai, India. I don’t know anyone at the American School Of Bombay. And especially not anything that would require registered mail.

Then I checked the back:

This didn’t help either. The description said it was a Vector. It was checked as a gift. And the postage to mail it was Rs 131. When I looked that up it was 131 Indian rupees. A rupee is about $0.015. So mailing the package cost him about $1.96.

I didn’t want to open this. All I could think of was anthrax or a bomb or something else nefarious. I had just moved to this address. Who would even know what it was. And particularly Scott Amitron in Mumbai. I decided to let this sit there unopened until I figured it out.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my Amazon account:

Sure enough, the last time I was on Amazon it showed me a razor handle. Like men are wont to do, I am stuck with the type of razor and blades that I used 30 years ago. I won’t upgrade to the fancy razors of today, with five blades and twenty-dollar handles. I just like my old Atra Plus double blades that have worked for me for decades, even though the blades are hard to find and my one remaining handle is getting pretty rusty and sketchy. So when I saw this replacement handle, I clicked on it and ordered it for $4.90, free shipping.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody in Mumbai in India would then fulfil my order and send me a razor blade using registered mail and pay 131 rupees, packaging and handling not included.

I could have gone to the local drug store and bought a razor and spent a lot less time than I did waiting in line at the post office to sign for a registered package from India.

Oh, the mysterious ways of Amazon and global commerce.

I can’t wait to try my brand new Mumbai razor tomorrow morning.

Here we are, cashing in one of our Activity wedding presents from our friend Sheryl, aided by a compatriot friend and prop man, John. It was a mystery gift. She had us reserve the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 2017 over three months ago and we did not know what to expect.

The instructions for us were: Trisha to show up wearing a long dress, and I should wear all black.

When we arrived at the AMC 20-plex in Mission Valley, she said we were going to start the Adventure by watching a movie.

As we turned into the theater door I saw the marquee say The Princess Bride. I gave a blank look, and Trisha gave a blank look, and Sheryl broke out into a joyful exclamation: “You’re Princes Bride Virgins!”

And so we were. We had no idea what this was all about.

Beers in hand, we found our seats, only to sit down next to a guy in the dark who said those seats were taken. It was our friend John, the prop accomplice.

This was the 30th anniversary showing of the movie, complete with an interview with Rob Reiner before the movie and an epilogue afterwards.

Directed by Rob Reiner, The Princess Bride is an enchanting, romantic, modern fairy tale, as corny as it gets. It’s the story of a princes named Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her farm boy lover and gallant hero Westley (Cary Elwes), where the dominant theme is True Love, the villains are mean and treacherous, and the good guys very smart and courageous.

The cast, of course, is amazing. There is Robin Wright, who broke through to stardom as Buttercup, went on to play Jenny in Forrest Gump, and today is Claire Underwood in House of Cards. Of course, I knew none of this when I watched Buttercup. I just figured it out in my research for this review.

Then there is Inigo Montoya with the notorious line “you killed my father, prepare to die!” who was played by Mandy Patinkin, whom I know as Saul Berenson in Homeland. There is also Vizzini, played by Wallace Shawn, whom people still heckle today by asking him to say “inconceivable!”

To round things out, the movie is presented by a frame story, where a grandfather, played by Peter Falk, reads to his sick grandson in bed, played by Fred Savage of the Wonder Years.

Finally, every fairy tale must have a giant, and Andre the Giant serves quite well for that.

Rob Reiner created a cult classic with The Princess Bride.

Forty years ago I remember going to see the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show a few times, and I was always amazed how people would dress up to go to a movie, bring rice to throw in the theater during the wedding scene, and recite the lines as they occurred.

Yet here I was, dressed all in black, with a mask and a black bandana on my head sporting skull and crossbones, watching The Princess Bride. During the famous chocolate candy scene John doled out yummy chocolate balls. When the six-fingered scene came up, he held up his right hand and showed six fingers. The two ladies wore tiaras; after all, they were the princesses. When the rodents of unusual size attacked, John threw a large plastic rat at us. When we walked out of the theater we asked somebody to take our picture and she said: “As you wish…”

And that is how we spent Sunday afternoon.

Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Clinton just came out with her own book, titled What Happened. After reading Shattered I decided I don’t need to read Hillary’s book.

Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes are political writers who had deep access to all levels of the Clinton campaign. Through their insight, they have reconstructed the spirit of the campaign from before it actually began, through election night.

The insight is “shattering.” The campaign was never streamlined. Terrible infighting at the top levels caused the strategy to lack cohesiveness and resulted in a poorly defined message. Hillary never quite clarified why the people should elect her, other than she was, well, Hillary Clinton. Power struggles, lack of direction from the top, and poor use of funding based on analytics that was terribly flawed were the main causes of the eventual defeat.

The campaign didn’t know how close Trump was. Bill Clinton waved off the Virginia governor from coming to New York for the victory celebration immediately after Florida, one of the first states, was called for Trump.

Bill Clinton knew then.

I have always said that Trump did not win the election. Clinton lost it.

After reading Shattered, I am more convinced than ever that this was the case. The Democratic Party elevated an entitled, ego-driven politician, with a muddled message, with terrible baggage, who made very poor decisions along with way, and pegged her against the greatest wild card in American history, Donald Trump. The Democratic Party lost, Hillary will never be president, and the country is being damaged and looted by a self-serving populist con man.

Shattered is a hard book to read. If you are really into politics, if you want to work in a campaign, if that’s your career, this is a good book to internalize. It shows how politics works. I am more interested in the cliff notes, so from time to time the reading was too detailed and dry.

But  then, if you’re going to read one book about “what happened,” this is the book you should read.

 

“The country, we took it over in 20 trillion you know the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion. Right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months. In terms of value. So you can say in one sense, we are really increasing values and may be in a sense, we are reducing debt. We are very honored by it and very, very happy by what’s happening in Wall Street.”

Donald Trump in Hannity Interview

The self-proclaimed king of debt argues that since the stock market rose by $5 trillion, that somehow offsets the national debt.

The stock market enriches corporations and investors. The national debt is carried by the people. You can reduce debt by spending less, or raising taxes, neither of which Trump is suggesting. He is pounding on Obama for increasing the debt, yet his proposed tax cuts are bound to skyrocket the debt.

That’s just not how it works, Mr. President. Trying to dumb America down some more?

And Hannity, thanks for the “tough” question. Definitely dumbing down America.

 

Here is what Mike Pence posted today:

I left today’s Colts game because President Donald J. Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.

Image may contain: 9 people, people standing, crowd and stadium

According to a staffer, Pence had planned on leaving the game early all along. It turns out he had diverted his west coast swing just to attend the game and leave early. Trump admits he told Pence to do just that. The whole thing, including the picture above, was a publicity stunt.

So much for our government, the reality show.

Now my take on this NFL protest and all the fuss about it:

I agree, we should rally around our country and unify it. That starts with leadership. Our leaders should show us how it is done. We’re getting the opposite of such leadership with this administration.

When an NFL player kneels for the National Anthem, he is openly showing his protest and making a statement — free speech.

I do not believe for a minute that those players actually “disrespect the flag or the anthem.” The flag and the anthem are symbols of our nation, just like kneeling is a symbol of protest. The players are protesting exactly BECAUSE they feel there is something wrong with the unity in our nation. Trump and Pence have it backwards.

And then, let me rant about disrespecting the flag. This is disrespecting the flag:

  • Wearing a flag bikini
  • Wearing any flag clothing
  • Wrapping yourself in the flag at any public event
  • Flying the flag on a pickup truck next to the Confederate Flag
  • Using the flag as a costume of any type
  • Flying the Confederate Flag

The showmen running our country are using cheap propaganda techniques to distract us from their self-enrichment schemes by vilifying sports figures and appealing to our sense of patriotism using twisted messages and outright lies.

That, my friends, is the disgrace here.

I ask our so-called leaders to show us what it means to respect our country, its laws, its citizens, their rights, and the country’s symbols.

 

 

 

Picture Credit – reddit – link to access

We have been conditioned to think of the Titanic as a – well – titanic ship. Here is a scaled view showing the Titanic in front of a modern cruise ship.

“Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you…”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

Those are two of the most memorable phrases from presidential speeches, and they have entered into the very fabric of our nation’s history.

President Obama was an excellent orator, and I believe that was one of the major contributors to his meteoric rise. Critics spent years ridiculing him for reading from a teleprompter. I don’t agree. I have personally given many a speech in my life, never with a teleprompter, and never with a deck of cards or sheet of paper. I know a bit about what it takes to give a powerful speech, and I know that Obama is one of the outstanding orators of our time. Yes, he needs a teleprompter because there are not enough hours in the day for him to memorize all these speeches. But it was always obvious to me that he knew what he was talking out. When Obama spoke, he spoke from within, and the teleprompter was there to make sure he didn’t miss his points. It never felt like Obama was reading.

President Trump, in contrast, is a completely inadequate speaker. He did not get elected for his oratorical skills. Trump cannot even form a coherent sentence on his own, let alone speak. He spouts trite soundbites, and he repeats them for effect. When Trump speaks from the teleprompter, he sounds wooden, like he is reading his material.

Trump is so bad, that the media praise him when he simply reads, in his wooden, stilted way, a speech without going off script. He is so transparent that we know immediately when he is off script, since he sprinkles in Trumpisms like “believe me” or “that I can tell you” which no speech writer would ever insert. Trump does not speak any better than an average fifth-grader even when he reads.

The bar of presidential speeches is now so low that we praise the president when he reads a statement and stays on track, like he did in response to the Las Vegas shooting. In the future, our textbook examples of presidential speeches will highlight:

“Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you…”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

“That I can tell you….”

One of my friends (JCV) inserted a little slip of paper into the gift envelope with this inscription:

illi non minus ac tibi
pectore uritur intimo
flamma, sed penite magis.

Catullus, Wedding Song

I must admit, my Latin was nowhere near up to the task. But here is a translation:

A flame burns no less ardently in his innermost heart than in yours, but secretly, even more so.

Here is Tom Price, the authority on reckless spending, who has just shown us how, given enough backing by a corrupt administration, spending other people’s money on your own comfort is easy.

And Trump started throwing him under the bus, since Price is not really part of the billionaire’s club he likes to hang out with. Price is rich, but not quite rich enough to own his own jet. So Trump didn’t “like the optics.”

I paid over $30,000 in federal taxes last year. Just enough for one of Price’s day trips to have lunch with his son in Oklahoma.

Are we about done with the notion that someone who has spent his life ripping other people off and getting very rich doing it understands how the common people live?

Seriously, are we still convinced that this gang of corrupt con men are in it for the good of the American people?

It’s all about them. In a few years we’ll read the tell-all books and shudder. We have been conned big time.

 

 

The King and His People

Interesting. The president actually calls federal government relief workers “my people.” If I were a government employee, I would be so deeply insulted. It’s not like I was working for the Trump organization. He thinks the government is “his” now. What does he think he is, king?

New Words – Take Two

Some time ago I listed a number of new words brought into the common vocabulary directly or indirectly by our highly educated and articulate president. Now I am pleased to add a new one:

Dotard – a person in a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness

This was the word the Korean dictator used to describe the U.S. president in a recent exchange of barbs. I always considered my own English vocabulary fairly large, but I must admit that I didn’t know the word dotard until a Korean brought it to my attention. I am adding it to my list of new words.

  • Dotard
  • Gaslighting
  • Narcissism
  • Bigly
  • Emoluments
  • Terrific
  • Nepotism
  • Alternative Facts
  • Breitbart
  • Deplorable

There are people who praise Trump.

Even now.

I don’t get it.

These people are serious.

North Korea has a population of 25,337,000 million people. Of those, 25,336,999 are hardworking, malnourished, completely impoverished and constantly living if fear. Many are political prisoners. One is a dictator.

When the president of the United States says that he thinks we should completely destroy North Korea, what does he mean? Kill 25,336,999 innocent people who have suffered from lack and abuse all their lives?

Could somebody define what “completely destroy North Korea” means?

Last Sunday Trisha and I got married. Our guests were close family and friends. The instructions for gifts were “the four As:”

  • Art
  • Alcohol
  • Adventure
  • Activity

Soon they turned into five As, when some friends asked us about our favorite charity they could donate to on our behalf. So officially, it was now the five As:

  • Art
  • Alcohol
  • Adventure
  • Activity
  • Africa

For Art: We both love art. Our house is full of original art I made, and people have given us, to the point where there are dozens of unframed paintings stacked in storage. Art, and anything related to art, is always an exciting gift for us.

For Alcohol: We are not drinkers at all. Trisha loves her wine, and she’ll go to a local winery for a tasting, but I suspect more for the social adventure with a friend than for the wine itself. As my daughter pointed out in her wedding speech, “Dad used to drink one beer a year…” and it made it sound like it’s a lot more now. But not really. I have a rule that I can have one drink a day. I do enjoy some exotic stuff, like Cognac, or Absinthe. One friend asked in advance if coffee fit under alcohol, and I said Yes!

For Adventure: We like to do things out of the ordinary. We recently took a ride around San Diego in a biplane. Your get the idea.

For Activity: Take us out to dinner, get us to eat something, do something, or learn something.

For Africa: Send money to Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia. Trisha recently was in Botswana and connected with many good people who work for the conservation of endangered wildlife.

I must say that the five As ( Art-Alcohol-Adventure-Activity-Africa ) was a resounding success. But one fried (JW) took it over the top and I could not help feature his gift here:

He said that since the gift had to start with A, it was a pretty easy choice:

  • Absinthe
  • Applejack
  • Aquavit
  • Arak Sannine
  • Armagnac
  • Amontillado

…where the latter came with the book by Edgar Allan Poe, the Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales, where the inscription by JW pointed us to page 162, where the story The Cask of Amontillado started.

Try to even find a place where they sell all these exotic examples of fire water!

Now I have a lifetime to spend, one glass a day, working my way through the As.

Then come the Bs.

Oh, married life!

 

Revenger is a science fiction space opera that you can’t take too seriously.

There are swaggering captains on ships with sails, raucous crews of misfits who chase treasures. The world is full of islands with treasures, and if a captain has the right maps, or secret information, he can sail to those islands and get the loot. But there are others that will be on his tail and try to take the prize from him. And there are pirates, who board ships, kill everyone and steal the goods. And that is the story. It could have taken place in the Caribbean in the 1600s, but this story takes place millions, or possibly billions of years in the future.

The Congregation is a swarm of “worlds” circling the Old Sun. Worlds are little planetoids, just a few leagues across. It’s not clear what a league is, but I am guessing it’s around a mile. Inside of the planetoids are “swallowers” which I assume to be miniature black holes that generate just enough gravity for the surfaces to be around one gee. There are also spindle worlds, tube worlds and various other exotic ones. Out of 50 million objects in the Congregation, there are about 20,000 inhabited worlds.

And there are “baubles” which are uninhabited worlds with treasure hidden on them, by whom is not clear. And there are space ships driven by ion drives near objects and light sails in open space. The ion drives are like the outboard motors on our sail ships.

Adrana and Fura Ness are two young girls who run away from home and their overbearing father, sign on with a ship, and very soon realize they are in way over their heads. And so the swashbuckling adventure starts.

I realized pretty soon that this is not a science fiction novel, but a pirate novel, masquerading as a science fiction novel. But I did enjoy it sufficiently to keep reading.

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