We Can Do This


When I woke up on Shabbat, I was hesitant to open my eyes fully, dreading the malaise that had been dogging me for days. But I’d already slept in longer than I wanted, and so I pulled myself out of bed and stood up. And I felt, well—almost normal.

After two interminable weeks of feeling so poorly (yes, malaise is the right word but yucky describes it more fully for me), I was so relieved to feel a sense of my former self. It didn’t last long, and throughout the rest of the day, fatigue showed up now and then. Yet I could have breakfast, even a small cup of coffee (!), do my Torah study and reading, have a decent lunch—well it was a very special Sabbath, to say the least.

As I did my meditation that morning, the thought came to me: I can do this. I couldn’t imagine enduring the whole chemotherapy regimen. But I realized that I had probably survived the worst, and there was more “worse” to come. Yet among those days would be good days: days where some of my energy returned, some days when I laughed and cracked jokes, days where I took a walk and breathed in the sunshine, other days when I could truly appreciate G-d’s presence. My friends had tried to reassure me, but I had to know for myself.

The Medical Bell Curve


As with most Ricochetti, one of @drbastiat ‘s posts, Strange Things Aren’t Getting Better, got me a-thinkin’.  Yeah, I know.  A-thinkin’ isn’t my best look.  The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo probably echoes your thoughts.  She has told me numerous times, “Honey, go do something physical or dynamic or ballistic.  Go beat somebody up, or shoot up something, or blow something up, but in the interest of all that is good in this world, don’t set yourself to a-thinkin’.”

Too late.

April Showers Me With Gifts


Yes, I did retire from teaching school two years ago. However, I also signed up with substitute services. It’s been a nice little side job and my teacher friends appreciated having someone dependable to call on.  Last November, I was asked by a friend who is the vice-principal at an elementary school to step in for a few weeks for a third-grade teacher at her building. We were still working online at that time, so it was not any problem. At the end of that first assignment, the teacher extended her leave, and then extended it at least twice more, until the first week of March when she submitted her retirement papers. So, now I drive twenty-five miles each way to finish out the school year. I just felt like I ought to finish it out because I had been their “teacher” almost their entire time in third grade. We’re a team. There are only five and half weeks left anyway, so I’ll be fine. Plus, I love their sweet little selves! It is a hazard of teaching. You bond with these small people! Occasionally, I grit my teeth over one or two children and just smile grimly to make it through the school year, but mostly, every one of them has a little place in my heart!

This week, for example, I got two little gifts. One boy brought me half of a peach pit shell. He was so excited for me to see it. It’s from his grandfather’s yard and the boy has told me about the peaches and how delicious they are. He gently laid the peach pit shell into my hand, and said, “You can examine it carefully later. It’s really just so interesting to look at.” He is the boy who asked me in early March if I minded “getting soil on my hands” and when I said that I loved to garden, the next day he brought me a little black seed and urged me to plant it at my house. (I did…but it hasn’t sprouted. Yet.) The other present I received was a small bag of green figs. We’d written a journal entry “Tell about a food that you really just don’t like to eat.”  I talked about ripe figs. I don’t like Fig Newton cookies, either. So, within a day or two, one of my little boys presented me the fruit! He got them from his backyard and was so pleased to treat me with something he knew, for sure, that I’d appreciate. They listen…

The Dangers of Hero Worship


Before I moved to Hilton Head, I practiced for 20 years in a small town in the mountains of east Tennessee.  I loved it there.  Everybody knew everybody, the schools and churches were wonderful, and it was a great place to raise my kids.  It had a cute little downtown (pictured at right), with cute little shops on each side of the road, and a traffic circle with a war monument in the middle.  Like every other small town in America.  Lovely.

One day when I left the office on my way home, I pulled out right behind a big green military truck, which was going maybe 25 miles per hour.  I grumbled as I followed for nearly a mile through town.  When we got to downtown, the military truck pulled off to the side, revealing a roadblock and lots of cops right at the entrance to downtown.  One of the cops walked up to my window and greeted me warmly:

Cop:  “Hey, doc!  Great to see you!”

COVID Theatre Across the Atlantic


The funeral of Prince Phillip, husband of the Queen, was one of the most moving royal events of the last few years. This was perhaps the most iconic shot of the entire event:

Quote of the Day: The Right Trousers


‘They can tak’ oour lives but they cannae tak’ oour troousers!’ The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett.

The Wee Free Men, be it rightly said, is another one of those books that I am a shameless recommender of – and the first in a sequence of what are called children’s books (but actually have an awful lot to them). They feature – well, you will see what it is they’re featurin’ – but I dinnae think it’s givin’ too much away to say that it includes fairies (nay, pictsies) whose swords, so it is said, glow blue in the presence of lawyers, and who really appreciate the importance of freeeedoooom!

At Least for Now, I’ll Take Tennessee over Texas: A Trip to Austin


I own a house in Texas, but I lay my hat in Tennessee, so you could say I have taken Sam Houston’s path in reverse, traveling east instead of west.  As a result, I sometimes wonder if the “hero of San Jacinto” ever missed the purple mists that regularly settle over the mountains where he once roamed with the Cherokee, or if he put where he grew up out of mind after establishing a new republic in the 1800s.

The truth is, in my case, I can feel deeply homesick for Austin a full year after leaving it, as I think of fresh-lime margaritas in hundred plus heat, as I recall the joys of live music in old beer halls where people two-step in cowboy boots.  There are few scenes as pretty to me as a sunrise over spring fields covered in bluebonnets, miles of highways draped on either side with the wildflowers that were once planted through the efforts of Lady Bird Johnson.  I miss the boats and bats by Town Lake.  I think it’s cool how children are still taught to be proud of being born in the place their great grandfathers’ settled.  The sky really is bigger on the plains, which makes a soul feel more free.

If You Were Trying to Start a Race War…..


…. would you change a single thing from what the far-left of America is doing now?

I know the title may seem provocative to some as this idea is but a subset of a universe of things we proles are not supposed to even think about, much less say out loud. If it seems provocative, good, because it seems to me to be high time more people started talking openly about what is happening all around us every day.

Quote of the Day: Seen By One


“The lover sees this plain woman crowned with the light of heaven. She walks in beauty. Her eyes are windows to Paradise to him. Her body, every inch of it, is an incarnation and epiphany of celestial grace. In her he finds the ecstatic vision that his heart has sought. All this passionate intensity […] is not illusion. [….] The lady is as glorious as he sees her to be. It has been given to him who loves her, to see the truth about her. The rest of us bystanders, mercifully, have not had our eyes thus opened, else we would all go mad. It would be an intolerable burden of glory if we all saw unveiled, the splendor of all other creatures, all the time. . . . We cannot bear very much reality.” — Thomas Howard

In The Evidential Power of Beauty, Fr Thomas Dubay makes the following claim. Who knows you best? Almost invariably, the answer is the person who loves you most. Love is interested. Love digs deep.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me


Usually people want Ten Things, but let’s make it easy for everyone:

1. In 1999 on Kauai for a conference called Storytelling in the New Millennium, I interviewed Todd Rundgren, Thomas Dolby, Graham Nash (a super nice guy), and Dennis Muren of Industrial Light and Magic for video press releases.

For Your Viewing Pleasure…


In the event that you either A) missed yesterday’s podcast, or B) are morbidly curious enough to see the podcast being made, here is the video version.  Actually, it really is fun to watch Troy Senik’s animated reactions to the mischief our conversation generated, so I do hope you will enjoy the proceedings:

O Canada


I’ve always had a fondness for Canada. Not the actual thing, but the idea of Canada I have in my head. Unspoiled forests, resolute Mounties, briny fishermen in hardscrabble towns where traditions go bedrock-deep,  magnificent architecture. It’s like a parallel version of the US:  select the top tier of the US states, do a copy-drag, reproduce it, and run a simulation to see how the cloned version would do if you moved the French sliders to the maximum settings,  and tweaked the national character settings vis-a-vis their powerful neighbor so they were always trying to balance pride and envy, contempt and admiration, resentment and gratitude. 

In the Canada of my old imagination, it has cosmopolitan cities with dreadful 70s cement architecture built by men with egregious sideburns, and I still like it. They built a whole nation up there, another iteration of Western Civ. Australia without the lethal fauna and convict history. It’s fun to think about a nation that fused the US and Canada, how it might have shaped our own culture. 

Rusty Young, RIP


The great pedal steel guitarist of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, Rusty Young, has died at 75. He always struck me as one of the nicest people in rock — and among the most loyal, too:  he stayed with Poco, through all of its incarnations, for 50 years. He is best known for three songs, the first being “Kind Woman” for the Buffalo Springfield (he was invited to one of the band’s recording sessions … and stayed).

When the Springfield broke up, he and his fellow band member (and lifelong friend) Richie Furay formed Poco and, in the footsteps of Gram Parsons, invented country rock. Poco was never a giant success, but it remains highly esteemed among aficionados. Young did contribute two of the band’s best songs — which are also among the most beautiful in the rock canon:

In this Martini Shot Classic episode, Rob exhorts his fellow writers not to dwell in cynicism and self doubt about their new projects, but rather think of them in terms of wonder, enthusiasm, excitement, curiosity, gratitude, joy, and adventure. Strong advice — if only he could convince himself to take it.


‘Have You Completed Cultural Competency Training?’


CAQH is a website that serves as a sort of repository of data on doctors. I have to re-attest every 120 days and update my data. For example, uploading my latest renewal for my malpractice policy, did my office address change, hospital affiliations, and so on. I’m not sure who runs this site but, apparently, insurance companies, etc., use it to get info from one central location.

I got a notification that my “Education & Professional Training” data was out of date, so I went to look and see what the problem was. There is a new question, that I have to answer in order for my file to be considered “Complete.” It gave me the chills:

Can the Democrat Party Survive Without Identity Politics? (Part 2)


On the other hand, there may be a more relevant question facing us today: can the Democrat Party survive with identity politics?

Four years ago I wrote an article with the above title. I speculated about the inherent instability of a political movement that is based on identity politics. I suspected that once such a movement achieved power, that the smoldering internecine battles would turn ugly (and perhaps violent) and tear the power structure apart. This brief article asked a lot of questions, but I put the third paragraph in italics, as I think that is our primary concern here today – four years after I wrote this:

I read a fascinating article by Paul Mirengoff a few days ago on PowerLine, with a similar title. I made a quick post over breakfast to get the opinion of my esteemed Ricochet colleagues (…and the rest of you, too!). I have given this a great deal of thought since then, because it highlights a dichotomy I’ve never been able to resolve. The Democrat party has been the party of identity politics for as long as I can remember (I’m 48 years old). It has always reminded me of European governments, which are typically incredibly complex coalitions of many different groups who have little in common. These groups need each other in order to project power, but they don’t necessarily like each other all that much. The Democrat party includes trial lawyers, unionized factory workers who drive huge pickup trucks, environmental wackos who drive Priuses, teachers’ unions, and so on. They have nothing in common, other that their desire for power. I can understand that. I was an athlete for a long time, and I had to work with people that I didn’t necessarily like if I wanted to win. That’s the way the world works.

The Biden Tax Idea That Will Hit You. Good and Hard.


We haven’t seen details of President Biden’s “Made in America Tax Plan.” It’s designed to pay for his $2 trillion “infrastructure” plan. All we have is an 18-page description published by the Department of the Treasury. But it’s a good guess that we will get all the details when the White House finally sends its FY2022 budget and supporting materials to Congress, likely after he finally delivers his first State of the Union (SOTU) address before a Joint Session of Congress on April 28, right before his 100th day in Congress. That’s a popular but meaningless benchmark that journalists like to write about.

But one needs to go back to the 2020 campaign and read or hear what then-candidate Biden promised as part of his tax plan. We know that he promised to repeal the “Trump Tax Cuts” that lowered tax rates for everyone and really lowered corporate income tax rates from the world-highest 35% to 21%. Biden also promised not to raise taxes on incomes of less than $400,000 per year.

The Pandemic Under a Hillary Clinton Administration


The late, great Rush Limbaugh used to say, “‘What If’ is a children’s game.” But I’m a kid at heart. This is all silly speculation, but what might the pandemic look like today if Donald Trump had lost in 2016 and Covid-19 had struck America under Democrat Executive Rule?

  1. There would have not been the Trump travel bans. When Trump proposed bans on international travel, particularly from China, the Democrats accused the President of racism. If those bans hadn’t been imposed, perhaps the United States would have been struck with more cases earlier resulting in many more deaths.
  2. All states would have been forced to impose lockdowns. A complaint that continues from many Democrats is that Trump didn’t act boldly enough and force all the states to enact lockdowns and mask regulations. Now we have empirical evidence that shows that states that enacted harsh regulations are often doing much worse than states that allowed more freedom.
  3. The Supreme Court would not have struck down the harsh lockdown regulations imposed by states such as California. “But Gorsuch” is still a Never Trump mockery, but without Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, but instead justices chosen by Hillary Clinton (nominees that surely would have had a diversity of pigment and sexual proclivity, but not thought) would have upheld all of the violations of the First Amendment rights to worship and assemble.
  4. There would be less effective treatments for Covid-19. The Trump administration encouraged experimentation in treatments for Covid-19 and was often mocked for doing so (“He wants to inject people with Clorox!”) But the stoppage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in recent days reminds us that under Democrat regimes, there is “an abundance of caution” which doesn’t allow for expedient medical experimentation by rather allows bureaucrats to slow every process.
  5. We would still be years away from an effective Covid-19 vaccine. Under a Clinton administration, there would have been no Operation Warp Speed. Every rule and procedure the FDA has put into place demanding slow and rigorous studies to be performed before the next step in vaccine research and production could be taken. And any vaccine for Covid-19 would still be a distant hope.

This is all speculation, of course, fantasy really. But as for me, I have little doubt, that the United States, and the world, would be in a sorrier state today if Hillary Rodham Clinton had been the 45th president.

Group Writing: Odds and Sods


April brings, if not so many showers lately, then seeds to be sown – and I’ll get to them any day now, really I will: Dahlia seeds and all sorts, lamenting the cold spell we’ve been having, have taken to asking me confidentially, wouldn’t I rather sow them in pots on a nice warm windowsill instead?

It also brings digging to be done and roses to be planted – old roses, nice old roses, good old roses with fine-sounding names – like Gloire de Dijon (a golden apricot-yellow climber) and Star of Waltham (a rich open red).

It brings pots and seed trays and things that need washing (I’m getting there, I’m getting there).

Huawei’s Dystopian Aims for 6G


When President Trump banned both import of Huawei devices and export of hardware and software to Huawei, the decision was described in the press as “controversial”. The argument was that he banned Huawei 5G components and smartphones because he was: pick one: xenophobic, a Russian bot, ignorant of free trade, and (the best one) he is in thrall to Apple so he had to try to kill the Huawei smartphone business.

I have not seen “smoking gun” proof that Huawei 5G equipment includes spyware. But it could. Or it could get a firmware patch at any point that would add it because Huawei is a Chinese company and all Chinese companies are required to assist the CCP when it asks. So: (1) they could do it, and (2) if the CCP asks, they would do it.

Kelly Maher and Lyndsey Fifield consider all the things they’ll have to tell their kids about one day—dial-up internet, encyclopedias, the satisfaction of a well-timed trip to the bathroom during a commercial break, memorizing phone numbers? Tuck in for a great discussion of how to raise resilient, not-tech-reliant kids in a digital world.

No, we’re not going to tell you what the word in the title of this episode means. But it is revealed within. Other things revealed in this episode: weird injuries from benign objects that befell men as they get older, what if they held an Oscars® and nobody cared, Hollywood producer Scott Rudin is revealed to be a bad boss even though they made a movie about it 30 years ago, we defend iconic Simpsons character Apu from that sap Hank Azaria who voices him, the now obligatory joke designed to offend at least someone, and we propose re-making the last season of Game of Thrones. Because why not?