Blog Systems

Art of the Squeal

First there was African Swine Fever (ASF). It reached China: Aporkalypse Now. Squealing pigs slaughtered and dumped into mass graves. Pork rolls become scarce on Chines tables. The Chinese government creates incentive programs to close the sudden protein gap. Businesses grow up around raising rats, lizards, snakes, etc., for food. Then, in a Wuhan market something goes wrong.

But wait. Let’s rewind to the point where there was another option rather than increased wild animal protein for China. It was American pork. Donald Trump could have cut a pork trade deal. The American pork industry could have exported literally tons of pork to China. The shortfall gets bridged. Pork rolls, etc., stay on the menu. No need to eat rats. The Wuhan market scenario never plays out. No COVID!

There’s only one thing wrong with that scenario. The win had to be for Donald Trump. So the artist of the deal played hard nose. He stiffed American agriculture, including the American pork industry, true, but he also got to stiff China. Big win for Donald Trump’s ego. COVID-19 for humanity.

“When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” Chinese saying quoted by Alan Watts.

Blog Trump

Bob’s Tired

This morning my old buddy Bob (pseudonym) called me. First time in months. We shared some great memories. Bob has fantastic recall, especially for high school days.

Then, a comment led to politics. Bob really didn’t like some gender stuff he’d seen on TV. Made it clear he’d been a long time Republican. Primed for a verbal duel, asked if I voted for Hillary. That seemed irrelevant to me. I returned to the present. Told Bob I understood his concern.

Bob seems to feel Donald Trump will make such disturbing stuff on TV go away. He says President Trump has done many great things. Bob will send me a list of 20 great things. (Another evangelical friend said he’d send me his Trump top 20. Is that a thing? Like maybe the wellspring of faith in Trump?).

I began to drill down. Bob said, “I really felt good at the start of our call. I just feel tired now.” End of call.

It was when I started talking First Amendment Rights I could sense Bob getting tired. I wanted to know if he thought it would be better for government to limit speech which offends us or to have a system which would allow people to say things we found offensive, even do things which went against our belief system. All that got no further than Bob’s parting claim of “lots of good things, at least 20.”

To my evangelical brothers and sisters younger than I, please consider some facts which may not be as present to you as they are to me. Hitler brought us a number of good things: Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, BMW, and indirectly the Ford and General Motors companies we have come to know, even the precursors of interstate highways. Henry Ford had a portrait of Hitler in his office (for a while). Ford and GM factories located in Germany built some 86% of Nazi war machine vehicles. World War II spurred amazing industrial development and scientific research. Yes, some things that looked pretty good came from Hitler.

Maybe doing “good things” is not the ultimate measure of value for a society. The foundation of my faith is freedom. First, the most amazing thing about God is the gift of free will to me. That’s truly theologically unsettling. It’s been a subject of debate, warfare and torture over the centuries. But that’s where I stand.

As to politics, I believe God gave us a marvelous system of government which, even though flawed as all human ventures seem to be, has given me the freedom to believe what I wish and even voice it, for now.

The US was built in large part on the desire for free choice and the resulting efforts of people fleeing from state imposed religion. Freedom of religion means I can choose to be believer, agnostic, atheist or totally oblivious to such matters. I love that system. In this sense, maybe I’m a troublesome minority among evangelicals who just know we need to go back to our Christian roots and are counting on Donald Trump to take us there.

My recollection of readings about the ramp up to World War II, was that many religious leaders saw Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain as leaders who would really get some good things done. I guess they did. But then, it seems things went kind of sideways: Guernica, Blitzkrieg, concentration camps, etc.

I heard one evangelical leader who seems to have broken ranks with Trump believers refer to a Faustian deal: Give Trump support. Church leaders get access to power.

That didn’t work too well in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain or most anywhere else for those who were just bargaining for “good things,” for “peace in our time.” There is some saying about the Devil will have his due.

Ho, hum, you say. Like Bob, you grow tired of my babble. But are you really sure, my evangelical friends, that your heavily armed vigilante colleagues will play nice. It seems some have such itchy trigger fingers they use protestors for target practice.

I’ll hope to share more with you on these points in some upcoming posts, in particular “Blue Eyed Nazi” or something like that.

Meanwhile, let’s close with a poem brought to mind earlier today by my good evangelical friend Dr. D, down south. It’s from the late German Christian theologian Martin Niemöller.

First they came

When they came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Blog Trump

Noble Deeds?

Reports are a high percentage of US evangelicals favor Donald Trump. I’m totally out of step. Clearly, I need some help. I reach out for insight.

My questions are around the word “noble” in the following passage:

The Book of Isaiah the Prophet, Chapter 32: Verse 8, NIV 1984

The noble man makes noble plans

    And by noble deeds he stands.

Have you been able to observe consistent nobility in the words and deeds of President Donald Trump?

One big reason this matters to me is I have kids. Would you want to have a daughter or son who behaved like Donald Trump? The question is not rhetorical. I’d really like to know.

I’d also like to know if you think Donald Trump would make a good spouse? Son-in-law? Brother-in-law? Parent? Is their any family role in which you would like to have a connection to Donald Trump?

Would you like to have Donald Trump as a boss, employee, customer or supplier?

Would you have liked to be in the same class at elementary school with Donald Trump? I think some family member reported he was quite a school-yard bully. But maybe you have other sources. If so, please share. Otherwise, I draw on some words of wisdom from my grandmother:

As the twig is bent so grows the tree.


Kid Coders: The Incident on Ledbetter Drive

I was in the dining room. It was a dark place with dark furniture, but I loved it. Aunt Frene and Uncle Red had a stone house on Ledbetter Drive. I loved to go there. They had rules. I didn’t mind. I just loved visiting that strange world of theirs, so different from my own. The furniture was different, the smells, the music on the phonograph. They had Phil Harris records. The Preacher and the Bear was my favorite. A visit was always an adventure to a new dimension.

Maybe I was four or five when the incident occurred. A lady entered the dining room. She was tall, stately, slim, dressed in clothes like some ladies wore to church. She asked me my name. “Allen” I replied. Her face was friendly but serious. “Ohhh! Allen!” she said. “That is a noble name. That is like the name of a prince. You are princely and noble” That is a line of code that abides. Even today, I know I am princely and noble. The important lady said so. She believed it. So do I, still.

We all lay down enduring code each time we interact with a child. Do you want a better world? Hone your kid coder skills. Even the briefest line of code can transform lives and societies. Intentionally or not, we code kids. This is the way of our species.


Let Us Be Still

This poem seems most appropriate on this New Year’s Eve 2016, at least for a friend or two who speak German and perchance for some unknown visitor wer Deutsch spricht. Surprisingly, I could find this poem nowhere online among the many works of Maria Dutli-Rutishauser. So I copied it from an Italian poetry quarterly : Voci Nuove: Quaderni de Poesia Contemporanea, No. 64, April 1967. Why do I have this little book? I have a poem published therein, but in English, not German. Also, vorwärts auf Deutsch! Oh, this poem is most relevant if you happen to be camping.

von Maria Dutli-Rutishauser

Lasst uns stille werden
da das Jahr vergeht.
Wir sind wie der Nebel
der im Tale weht.
Flüchtig ist der Tage
kurzer Sonnenschein.
Über eine Weile
wird es Winter sein.
Wie ein Schleier senkt sich
Wehmut auf die Welt.
Lasst uns stille werden –
warm sind Herd und Zelt.



Wisdom Day 11 December 2016: Skin-Deep Stuff

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
    is a beautiful face on an empty head. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 11, Verse 22, The Message,

Which brings to mind:

 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (The Good News of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 6, New International Version,

Have you ever shared some intimate, personal thoughts with an attractive face, only to suffer humiliation and a sense of betrayal when your words are fired back at you in an argument, possibly publicly? I have. Noooo fun.

Is physical beauty a guaranty of any virtue at all? Are there just plain ugly personalities that take any virtue or beauty of character as an affront that merits retaliation?

Is there some face, some attire you find attractive, exceptionally attractive? Is it possible to chart what’s behind the face and the threads from a safe distance, to get a sense of the true dimensions of the persona before getting within grappling range of demons, either in business or in bed? Fighting demons? It’s like wrestling pigs: Everyone gets filthy, but pigs enjoy it.



Urgent: Stop Suicide

Thank you, Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink and Echo Charles . You just gifted me the most urgent podcast message I have ever heard: Jocko Podcast Episode #50.

For the love of God, share Jocko Podcast Episode #50 NOW. And if God is not among your loved ones, for the love of them, share it NOW! This is a message every teenager should hear NOW, every Veteran should hear NOW, every college student should hear NOW. Every ________ should hear NOW. Fill in the blank. Share, share, share, NOW! Why?

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas some years back, my cousin Tyler killed himself, all alone. He had reached out to me and to my sons, just asking what we were doing over the holidays. We sensed he was fishing for an invitation, but we were busy.

We never heard from Tyler again. Instead my aunt called. She could not handle it. I flew out to California and cleaned up what Tyler left behind. He never saw the New Year. And every New Year, I try to forget it could have been different. But I can’t because it could have been.

You don’t need to carry a burden like this the rest of your life. SHARE Jocko Podcast #50 NOW. Listen for the quiet desperation that may lie behind the polite question or phone call of a friend or relative, and SHARE Jocko Podcast #50. Share yourself, your ear, your heart, your time. A false positive carries little risk, but a false negative can mean a death to be borne forever. You can make a difference you may never know you made until in due time you yourself pass over.


Wisdom Day 22 November 2016: The Way?

Point your kids in the right direction—
    when they’re old they won’t be lost. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verse 6, The Message,

I just heard something astounding. I came across it while listening to the Tim Ferriss Show #201. It was the part where Tim shares an interview with Sam Harris about meditation. The astounding part for me is that Sam Harris expresses the wish that his young daughter experience psychedelics early enough in life to gain expanded insight. Later in the interview, Dr. Harris shares with Tim that the psychedelic experience can be either marvelous or like unto the most extreme form of mental illness one might ever observe. He indicates that even if one does have a bad trip, there is a chance that one will recover and at least experience compassion for those who suffer from mental illness. A chance?

I know Sam Harris is published and in many ways much, much more successful than I. In fact, compared to Sam Harris, I am in the media world a cipher, a nobody. Still, I dare to espouse a totally opposite opinion.

My Sophie is five years old, soon to be six as I write this post. Would I gamble Sophie’s emotional future on some probability that she might not have a bad psychedelic trip? This does indeed sound like some worldly wisdom beyond my kin. But that dissuades me not:

18-20 Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It’s written in Scripture,

He exposes the chicanery of the chic.
The Master sees through the smoke screens
    of the know-it-alls. (Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Corinth, Chapter 3, Verses 18-20, The Message,

So I am out of date with the times. I’ll settle to be God’s fool as Sam Harris is the wise man of the age. I know that raised in the Spirit and by the grace of the God whose existence Sam Harris denies, Sophie can know compassion and great joy. So I will invest in discipline and jiu-jitsu for Sophie. I surely will not gamble her life on the luck of the trip.

And as for Sam Harris? It comes to mind that even Voltaire recognized the value of having a Christian tailor. And then at the end of his life, this great atheist called for a priest to administer the last sacraments. It ain’t over until it’s over.

Between Sam Harris’s bet on psychedelics for his daughter and Pascal’s wager, I go for the latter or better yet, I prefer knowing The God Who is There. The high when you reach that knowing is costly but free, filling the present and lasting forever.

The crux of the matter? Don’t get mad. Don’t just get even. Get ahead and above. Get high on the high that lasts forever. And bring the kids along for the ride. A really good trip.


Wisdom Day 21 November 2016: Holiday Word Watch

Watch your words and hold your tongue;
    you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 21, Verse 23, The Message,

Facing the run up to the holidays, I think of times in family and work gatherings where certain of my words would have better gone unspoken. So I’ll try to listen lots more than I talk over the next few weeks. I’d like to generate no futile dust-ups between now and the New Year, and thereafter, of course.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . . (The Epistle of James, Chapter 1, Verse 19, New International Version,

Wishing  you quick ears, a slow tongue, and a slow fuse as you head toward the festivities. And the clear head of sobriety:

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 20, Verse 1, New International Version,


Wisdom Day 20 November 2016: Get Thrashed

A good thrashing purges evil;
    punishment goes deep within us. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 20, Verse 30, The Message,

This passage jumped out at me this morning! When I first started listening to the Jocko Podcast, the BJJ talk struck me as a bit of a side show, sometimes a counterpoint to extremely heavy content.  Little by little, I became convinced that my 5-year old Sophie and I needed to sign up at Jocko’s Victory MMA Gym. Since then, some time and travel issues have interferred with our regular participation, but in the beginning I could see that striking, grappling, and BJJ were having a profound impact on Sophie: on her art, her attitude, her energy, and her plans for the day and the future. Now it dawns on me that Sophie and I need to get thrashed regularly on those mats. I can not think of a better purge for evil for us both. How often do we need to  be purged? Probably daily for me:

 . . . human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. (The Book of Genesis, Chapter 6, Verse 5, The Message,

And for Sophie?

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
    but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verse 15, New International Version,

Child Support Services would likely take a dim view of driving out the folly with a rod. But the mats? Another thing all together. And I would not need to be the thrasher! All around win!

Conclusion? Lot’s of Jocko’s wisdom likely comes directly from the mats. A mind purged of evil has room for wisdom and discipline.

Discipline = Freedom