There's no mystical energy field controls my destiny.

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A human being whose life is nurtured in an advantage which has accrued from the disadvantage of other human beings, and who prefers that this should remain as it is, is a human being by definition only, having much more in common with the bedbug, the tapeworm, the cancer, and the scavengers of the deep sea. James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Happy birthday to Sir W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan. There are no words to convey the joy we had cleaning the house on the weekends while dancing and singing The Pirates of Penzance with mom. She had a beautiful singing voice and knew the entire script for Angela Lansbury and Linda Ronstadt. (I played Frederic, the Pirate King, and the Major General, of course.)

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Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.
Theodore Roosevelt

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Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
Margaret Thatcher

Negative Space

This poem is beautiful.

My dad taught me to pack: lay out everything. Put back half. Roll things
that roll. Wrinkle-prone things on top of cotton things. Then pants, waist-
to-hem. Nooks and crannies for socks. Belts around the sides like snakes.
Plastic over that. Add shoes. Wear heavy stuff on the plane.
We started when I was little. I’d roll up socks. Then he’d pretend to put me
in the suitcase, and we’d laugh. Some guys bond with their dads shooting
hoops or talking about Chevrolets. We did it over luggage.
By the time I was twelve, if he was busy, I’d pack for him. Mom tried
but didn’t have the knack. He’d get somewhere, open his suitcase and text
me—”Perfect.” That one word from him meant a lot.
The funeral was terrible—him laid out in that big carton and me crying
and thinking, Look at all that wasted space.
Ron Koertge

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Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning. Winning is great, but it isn’t funny.
Charles Schulz

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“Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

nikhedonia, noun: The pleasure and satisfaction derived from the anticipation of success. A harmless indulgence, and a prudent one, too, since success comes only to some but nikhedonia is freely available to all.

“Off to golf so early, darling? Hadn’t you better have your little nikhedonia session first? You know how badly you play when your gummata are troubling you.”

from The Superior Person’s Book of Words, by Peter Bowler

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I have been in a great quandary over trusts. I do not know what attitude to take. I do not intend to play a demagogue, but on the other hand, I do intend to see that the rich man is held to the same accountability as the poor man. And when the rich man is rich enough to buy unscrupulous advice from very able lawyers, this is not always easy.
Theodore Roosevelt
in an August 15, 1899 letter to a friend

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A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.
Guy de Maupassant, (b) Aug. 5, 1850

All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints

enduranceIt’s been a little more than half a year since a six-foot heron flew out of the marshes and scared the wits out of me, causing me to jump laterally and twist the hell out of my right knee. It swelled up like a balloon and I learned what a Baker’s Cyst is. The doc also said I sprained — but didn’t tear — my MCL and my ACL and that I should wait a few months before running again. I switched to working out at a morning bootcamp gym for the late Spring and early Summer, but last week finally decided it was time to lace up my Nike running shoes and hit the pavement.

Work found me in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks and I took the opportunity to knock off just shy of five miles on San Vicente Boulevard between Brentwood and Santa Monica, one of the most beautiful routes in America. Then this morning I pulled myself out of bed, still jet-lagged, and ran a full five miles. I’d like to do the Star Wars half-marathon at Walt Disney World come January, so we’ll see if these legs can get back in the rhythm of running regularly again soon.
Continue reading …

How to Make a Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway’s Favorite Aperitif

On Books

The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry;
The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy;
The books that people talk about we never can recall;
And the books that people give us, oh, they’re the worst of all.
Carolyn Wells (June 18, 1862 – March 26, 1942)

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Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?”
I dream things that never were and say, “Why not?”
Robert F. Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968)
via George Bernard Shaw

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Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
Alexander Pope (May 21, 1688 – May 30, 1744)

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Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
Horace Mann

#FailureFactories

FloridaIn just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county’s black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.

First they abandoned integration, leaving the schools overwhelmingly poor and black.

Then they broke promises of more money and resources.

Every year, they turn out a staggering number of children who don’t know the basics.

Eight in 10 fail reading, according to state standardized test scores. Nine in 10 fail math.

All of the schools operate within six square miles in one of Florida’s most affluent counties.

All of them were much better off a decade ago.

Failure Factories

If you eat food, you are being lied to every day.

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In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

Works Progress Administration

WPAIt was on this day in 1935 that Congress approved funding for President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, known as the WPA, a program designed to put unemployed Americans back to work. The WPA was run by Roosevelt’s right-hand man, Harry Hopkins, a former social worker and public health administrator. Hopkins was a firm believer in the benefits of good work, even though employment was more expensive for the government than giving direct handouts. He said, “Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit; give him a job and pay him an assured wage, and you save both the body and the spirit.” A worker’s average salary was $41.57 per month. By the time the WPA was dissolved in 1943, it had employed more than 8.5 million people, working on 1.4 million projects.

The WPA’s main focus was on public works, especially infrastructure projects. The WPA was funded for eight years, and during that time workers built or repaired 650,000 miles of roads, 124,00 bridges, 8,000 parks, 39,000 schools, and 85,000 other public buildings. They also worked on airports, dams, sidewalks, swimming pools, sewers, utility plants, and playgrounds. They served more than a billion school lunches, operated 1,500 nursery schools, and sewed half a billion garments.

Most of the WPA workers were men — more than 85 percent. In an attempt to distribute jobs as broadly as possible, only the “head of household” of each family was allowed to work for the WPA. Of the women who were employed, many worked in sewing rooms, producing millions of clothes, diapers, quilts, toys, and other items, which were distributed to public institutions or needy families (sometimes right back to the women themselves). The women tried to make the items fashionable and unique so that the people who wore them wouldn’t be marked as welfare recipients.

Another branch of the WPA was its arts programs, collectively known as “Federal One,” which included the Federal Writers’ Project and the Federal Theater Project. At first, Harry Hopkins was criticized for including artists — some people argued that they never had steady jobs to begin with, so shouldn’t be considered unemployed. Hopkins responded: “Hell! They’ve got to eat just like other people.” Of more than 8 million people who worked for the WPA, only 40,000 were employed by Federal One, but the list included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Saul Bellow, Kenneth Rexroth, Arthur Miller, and Orson Welles.

Artists working for the Federal Art Project collectively created more than 18,000 sculptures and 100,000 paintings and murals. The “easel artists” — who worked in offices or studios, as opposed to mural artists — were required to clock in at 8 a.m. and back out at 4 p.m. if they wanted to receive their day’s pay. Jackson Pollock sometimes showed up in his pajamas in order to make the morning cutoff. But besides the strict hours, the “easel artists” were given a lot of leeway — they were unsupervised, and they were allowed to choose their subjects and styles, unlike the mural painters, who were usually instructed to paint American motifs. Mark Rothko was asked to submit an oil painting every four to six weeks, which would be given to a public building.

The flagship project for the Federal Writers’ Project was a series of state-by-state guidebooks, but writers also collected folklore, indexed newspapers, recorded slave narratives and other oral histories, and wrote essays about great American literature. John Steinbeck wrote of the WPA guidebook series: “It was compiled during the Depression by the best writers in America, who were, if that is possible, more depressed than any other group while maintaining their inalienable instinct for eating.” W.H. Auden wrote: “The Arts Project of WPA was, perhaps, one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever attempted by any state.”

from The Writer’s Almanac, with Garrison Keillor