Judgement Calls

“What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

F. Sherwood Rowland

Despite what many might believe, life is a series of judgement calls. We often face a plethora of options with little or no clear guidance on what path to follow.

As we first venture out on our own to face these choices, a lack of experience compounds the problem or youthful exuberance—what some might see as youthful indiscretions—makes us vulnerable to the verities of fate. Whether there is such a thing as fate or pre-destination doesn’t really matter.

Whether we make choices or fate made the choices for us, the ramifications still take effect. I, for one, believe in free will. As we gain experience, the value of making considered judgement calls becomes all the more clear.

The critical importance of judgement calls come into sharp focus when we face the decision about following the guidelines as we re-emerge from under the shadow of COVID-19.

Science offers the best basis to weigh our options. Emotions, instinct, and gut feelings, while useful, can sometimes be dangerous when making decisions that may affect the lives of others. Our emotional need for stability, consistency, and flexibility in our daily lives comes with a caution label.

Sometimes what we desire the most is that which we need the least.

Science tells us this virus is dangerous, easily spread, and highly contagious. Those who suffer the most severe—sometimes fatal—symptoms cross the spectrum of humans. There is no “common” victim. Treatment protocols, such as they are, are by necessity tailored to the individual patient. Doctors and nurses are making some of the most significant judgement calls because there is no widely accepted treatment protocol, although we are gaining knowledge with each passing day.

Until we develop a vaccine, and until our collective experience provides us with a roadmap to the most successful treatment protocols, this virus poses an imminent and deadly threat.  One that is not going away because we grow tired of the inconvenience, see bogeyman hands in the restrictions, or wish it to be so.

The science on the progression of the virus is clearer than it was several months ago. The effectiveness of social distancing, as debilitating on our daily lives as it has been, seems to have slowed—but not stopped—the spread of the virus.

Yet many seem to ignore the facts before us.

They will ignore the predictions based on deeply considered analysis of the evidence we have before us—not guarantees, not certainties— for no better reason than a gut feeling. Science suggests keeping these controls in place, while we relax them in a managed way, as the best course.

We should make that an elemental part of our judgement calls.

The premise is simple. Control the spread, minimize the drain on hospitals, until we develop a vaccine. Virus have always affected humans. Evolution has always changed viruses. Another will mutate and replace this one. It is using the best tools we have to face the threat that will make a difference, not focusing on the inconvenience.

And when this passes we need redouble our efforts at preparing for the next one. This is a judgement call based on facts and experience not emotions, frustrations, and irrationality.

People flood social media with memes and numbers and arguments on both sides of the issue, yet these forums are almost always emotion-based and agenda driven. And those who would follow medical advice from such forums should seriously question their own judgement.

Those who see visions of a new Black Death scourging the world want to lock themselves away until they can be guaranteed of their survival.

Those who see the hands of a governmental conspiracy, controlled by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, yet invisible deep-state, want to throw open the doors, toss caution and rationality to the wind, and go back to “normal” without so much as any acknowledgment of the real and deadly threat.

Why some who protest against these closures feel the need to bear arms is beyond me. It makes them seem more unstable and less rational. And those who cower in their homes out of an irrational belief they can forever avoid exposure to viral pathogens are equally delusional.

We face significant choices over the next few months. Many of those personal decisions will be judgement calls; follow guidelines, wear a mask, keep practicing social distancing. While we all may live our lives, and we should not passively accept government imposed limitations, keep in mind our sense of human decency can guide us.

I, for one, will wear a mask until the science says it is safe not to. I will limit my exposure to others and maintain a social distance. I will do these things not just to protect myself and my family, but to protect everyone.

I do not want to spread the virus to anyone else even if I have no fear of catching it myself. I do not want to cause the death of any other human, even if I did not know I did.

Why would anyone want to bear the thought of making such a poor judgement call?


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We Are Not So Different from the Past

“What is past is prologue,”

William Shakespeare: ‘The Tempest’ (1611) act 2, sc. 1, l. [261]

After I posted a recent piece (Link here), a friend reminded me of a book I’d read several years ago called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The book is a masterful piece of science fiction writing.

Published in 1937, the book tells an imaginative tale of the universe. Told with the dust from World War I still settling, the pain of the depression fresh in the minds of many, and the rise of fascism—both foreign and domestic—on the horizon, Stapledon offered some interesting perspectives.

I decided to re-read the book. Several lines from the introduction caught my eye. These words, written more than eighty years ago, speak of the political chasm between the left and the right, liberal and conservative, that some see today as a new phenomenon.

Perhaps it is not.

Stapledon recognized the vast differences between the left and the right and felt the need to warn his readers of the reaction his words might foster

“At the risk of raising thunder both on the Left and on the Right, I have occasionally used certain ideas and words derived from religion, and I have tried to interpret them in relation to modern needs. The valuable, though much damaged words “spiritual” and “worship,” which have become almost as obscene to the Left as the good old sexual words are to the Right, are here intended to suggest an experience which the Right is apt to pervert and the Left to misconceive.”

It would seem our differences have always been with us. Technology has just made it easier to write or publicize whatever one believes without the safety mechanism of editing, writing with any semblance of logic, fact-checking, or subjecting oneself to the criticism of those one hopes to influence.

We can merely block those who hold opposing views or claim them to be fake.  By ignoring or discounting those with whom we disagree, we lose the opportunity to meld opposing views into a consensus of real value.

It would seem we may have always been this way.

While each moment may be unique to those in the middle of it, there really is very little new under the sun.


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Are We Alone in the Universe?

With the recent release of video footage taken by US Navy pilots of Unidentified Flying Objects—UFOs—the question of are we alone in the Universe comes to mind. The UFOs are not incontrovertible evidence alone. The unidentified part is still the key, but their aerial performance begs an explanation.

At one time, people who argued against an Earth-centric solar system faced torture, imprisonment, and being burned at the stake. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest for his contention Copernicus was right and the earth revolved around the sun.

Eppur si muove (and yet it moves.)

At least they let him live. Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, was not so fortunate. He faced the Inquisition, was convicted of heresy, and they did burn him at the stake.

The evidence mounted, science persevered, and the heliocentric solar system is now unchallenged. We now know we orbit a rather insignificant star in a less dense area of the Milky Way—our galaxy—as one small system among billions of others. Many of which have planets.

To put it in perspective.

There are at least 2 trillion galaxies in the observable Universe. Assuming the Universe is isotropic, the distance to the edge of the observable Universe is roughly the same in every direction.

2×1012   galaxies doesn’t paint a clear picture. But this does,
2,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the observable Universe.

While each galaxy is different—some bigger, some smaller, some older, some younger—they average about 1×1012 stars. The latest estimate of the number of stars—something that continues to grow with each improvement of our ability to observe the Universe—is 2×1024.

2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe. Now we’re getting to some serious numbers.

If only a small percentage of these stars host planets and a small percentage of these planets can sustain life, that’s still a whole bunch of potential ETs in the Universe.

On 9 January 1992, radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12. This discovery was the first definitive detection of exoplanets.

Since then, we’ve identified five thousand one hundred and eight ( 5108) exoplanets. Some, about thirty, are in the Goldilocks Zone. Not too warm, not cool, and thus potential locations for developing life.

A brilliant scientist, Frank Drake, once devised an equation to evaluate the potential for life in the Universe. This was back in the early 1960s when the picture of the universe was much smaller.

Each element represents variables—number of stars, number with planets, number of habitable planets, etc.—you can dig deeper into this on your own. But the most interesting element is L.

L is the average lifetime of an intelligent civilization. They are several factors, but the most telling is whether the intelligent civilization can survive the development of weapons capable of its own destruction.

We reached that threshold shortly after World War II with the advent of Thermonuclear weapons. There are at least 14,500 in existence on this planet. Whether we survive to travel the stars is yet to be seen.
(Here’s a neat link if you’d like to plug in the numbers and see what you come up with. https://www.easycalculation.com/science/Drake-equation.php)

There’s another aspect of the Universe posing a problem for interstellar or intergalactic travel.

The speed of light is a limit one cannot exceed, at least as best we can tell at the moment. There is always the imagination of Star Trek and Star Wars (although the very name is ominous for survival.) Yet the possibility of finding a way around this limit is there.

There is another issue. One discovered by Edwin Hubble, the name sake of the telescope that has provided much of the astounding images of galaxies. It seems the Universe is expanding, and the expansion is speeding up. Everything is moving away in all directions.

Expanding faster and faster away from every other object.

Eventually, the galaxies and stars will become so far apart, the light will no longer reach us, and the Universe will wink out. The good news is the sun will be a red giant long before then, and we will no longer inhabit a planet capable of sustaining life.

We won’t be around for the final lights out, but someone might be.

Is there intelligent life in the Universe?

No one can definitively answer that at the moment. A better question might be why would they come here? In such a vast Universe, why look in such a sparsely populated part of this galaxy? Why not explore the dense center with a much more target-rich environment? And if they are here, why not say hi?

Perhaps humans, with their propensity for killing each other in increasingly efficient ways over myths, misconceptions, and material possessions is an argument against the premise.

Maybe ET knows there are few signs of intelligence worth contacting here. I mean just look at…


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Virion: Is Global Warming Sending Us A Message?

Could it be the melting of the frozen Arctic Tundra is the source of COVID-19? Has climate change awakened a new plague on mankind?

In 1967 two scientists, Syukuro Manabe and Richard Wetherald, released a report that reverberates to this day. And like most evidence-based reporting perceived to impact business or economics in a negative way, it was ignored, demeaned, discredited, and challenged. Ultimately, more research confirmed the evidence, and corroborated the initial report. Leading to its wide acceptance.

They did not set out to establish the existence of global warming and anthropomorphic climate change. Manabe and Wetherald posed a question—what effect does the increase of Co2 have on the atmosphere—and followed the evidence. Interestingly enough, using mostly calculations on paper lacking access to sophisticated computers, they predicted a 2.36-degree rise in atmospheric temperature over fifty years.

Measurements taken in 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of their prediction, measured the actual rise at 2.57 degrees. The science predicting the rise was remarkably accurate and borne out by the verifiable numbers.

(Manabe, S. and Wetherald, R.T., 1967. Thermal equilibrium of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences) and https://www.carbonbrief.org/prof-john-mitchell-how-a-1967-study-greatly-influenced-climate-change-science

In Cosmos |Possible Worlds| by Ann Druyan, she points out that, based on this initial report,

“The larger community of climate scientists predicted these impacts of climate change. Heightened flooding of coastal cities, check. The mass death of coral reefs by ocean warming, check. The increase in intensity of catastrophic storms, check. Lethal heatwaves, droughts, and runaway wildfires of unprecedented magnitude, check. The scientists warned us. The corporations with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and the governments they supported acted just like the tobacco companies. They pretended the science was unsettled and stalled for precious years.”

Druyan points out an even more ominous consequence of our failure to heed the evidence provided by science.

“An outbreak may begin when a virion, a mega-virus, dormant for over 100,000 years, is awakened as the permafrost of the Arctic melts away.”

Since the consensus—despite the spin by those with a political agenda to make this some intentional plot by China to obfuscate incompetence within the administration—is that this virus is neither man-made or genetically modified, it is a naturally occurring phenomenon.

And likely to occur again.

So, could it be an ancient virion* — the complete, infective form of a virus outside a host cell, with a core of RNA or DNA and a capsid—long dormant in the once frozen permafrost of the Arctic, now rises from a cryogenic slumber to ravage the world with a new virus?

We have re-embraced the benefits of science. We look to scientists and researchers for a vaccine to eliminate the threat of COVID-19. Shouldn’t we be willing to heed the warnings long available to us to prepare for what will inevitably be the next challenge facing the world?

Suppose the virus is “man-made,” not by our intent but by our willful ignorance?



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Memory Containers

I have always enjoyed walking. I once spent six months walking from Georgia to Maine. When you walk, life slows down. You notice things you may never see in a car.

Even the most familiar roads contain surprises hidden in plain view. That is one problem of living at vehicle speed, we often miss the opportunities of life.

Although I have lived in many places, some longer than I ever lived in Cumberland, it is the first place I ever knew as home. Thus, it is etched onto my soul and the most memory-rich of the places I walk.

When I lived in Lincoln, my walks would often take me by many such familiar places. I lived just over the line from Cumberland and sometimes walked a loop up Albion Road to Mendon Road and down Manville Hill Road.

Passing by Cumberland High School released a floodgate of memories of the Class of 1974. It seemed at once like such a long time ago and the briefest of moments, despite the abundance of memories. Many of the houses I’d pass once were the homes of friends. Some may still be there; most are scattered by the winds of fate. But the memories still live.

Memories of many firsts, many experiences, many moments.

Passing every house, even those I now walk by since moving away from Lincoln, I think of the memories within a home. Cumberland memories are more intimate, more familiar, more embedded in my DNA. In my new neighborhood, or wherever I find myself walking, all the memories are hidden away in other lives.

But I know the memories are there. I know they exist. It is the way my mind works. I picture the moments. I hear the voices, the laughter, the tears. I am a spectator to a kaleidoscope of lives, anonymous yet familiar.

It is a universal bond all humans share, the magic of memory.

Christmas celebrations, births, birthdays, deaths, new puppies, old dogs, hot dogs, charcoal smoke, snowstorms (No school!), baseball games, marriages, divorces, learning to ride a bike, watching a child take those first steps or a loved one taking the last ones, even if you don’t know it at the moment.

Moments of every life remembered.

I wonder if the spirit of all the memories, the quantum energies of life, still echo within the walls. Inside every house—sometimes a home, sometimes the scene of heartbreak—do the memories still remain?

Our memories are a quantum entanglement, always with you no matter how far away from them you’ve wandered. That’s the most precious thing about memories, they persist even if we cannot recall them. Once made, always bonded, even if they are shadowed and hidden by the mists of passing time.

Our own thin place, where we see with the utmost clarity or vague familiarity that which reminds us of our common humanity.

By taking the time to notice things we often fly by in the cocoon of everyday living, we experience the most common of shared human qualities. The community of memories.

“This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish extravagant spirit full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions; these are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion.”

William Shakespeare


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Gideon’s Bludgeon

First, there was Collision Course, introducing Detective Lieutenant Josh Williams, East Providence PD Special Investigations Unit Commander. Then came Silenced Justice, and the adventures of Lt. Williams soared to new heights.

Now, the next in the series, Gideon’s Bludgeon, brings the challenges facing Lt. Williams and the members of his investigations unit to a whole new level.

A killer is leaving body parts all over the state, and a young detective newly assigned to the SIU thinks the killer is sending a message.  The trail leads Williams and his fellow officers to a world of unimaginable terror and mystery.

The next exciting release from JEBWizard Publishing and author Joe Broadmeadow. Stay tuned for more details.  Meanwhile, check out the other books here, https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

Here is short excerpt from Gideon’s Bludgeon.


Puzzle Pieces

“Hey L T, come look at this.” Detective Frank Lachance said. “Tell me what you think.”

I looked over the top of the Providence Journal, twisting my feet apart on the desk to get a view of the young detective.

“Frank, does it look like I give a shit about your latest discovery? Let me remind you it is Sunday…Morning… And what do I do every Sunday morning before anything, and I mean anything else?”

“Read the paper,” Lachance answered.

“That’s my boy. You’re learning. Now whatever monumental revelation you’ve had can wait until then. Now go make sure there is more coffee. I need the extra push for my morning constitutional.” I put my feet back together and ducked behind the paper.

“Lieutenant, it’s about the body parts in the bay. I talked to a friend of mine from the State Police, and we think they’re connected.”

“Were connected,” I said, from behind the paper, “that’s why they’re body parts now instead of a whole body. But I’m glad you and Trooper Dudley DoRight figured out that elusive element.”

I heard him pick up his laptop and walk to my desk. Plopping the computer down, he tapped on my paper.

“Do you want to die?” I said. “Give me a minute, I know my gun is around here somewhere.”

“Come on, Lieutenant, give me five minutes, and I’ll not only get coffee, but I’ll also go out for your favorite pastries.”

I put the paper down. “Frosted Apple turnovers?”

“As you wish.”

The kid’s enthusiasm reminded me of myself a century ago when I was an ambitious first-year detective. It was not contagious. I was immune to any such passion after thirty years of rolling in shit with the dregs of the world. And putting up with wannabe hero political cops, who got all their ideas from TV but ran and hid when shit hit the fan, saps the life out of you.

Someday, this kid will be an old burn-out like me, but for now I suppose I should humor him. To a point.

The kid was smart, good at his job, and showed lots of potential. He paid attention and was willing to learn. I’d humor him for five minutes. Plus, for a frosted apple turnover, I’d remarry all my ex-wives.

“Okay, Columbo, whaddya have?”

The look in his eye said it all.


“Ah jeez, never mind, show me what’s worth risking my wrath over.”

The kid spun the laptop so I could see. A spreadsheet, with highlighted cells, filled the screen.

“This is an Excel spreadsheet. A spreadsheet–.”

“Stop there, kid. Yeah, I know what a spreadsheet is. I know my way around computers. I’m old, not dead. Tell me what this piece of work shows, save the technology lecture.”

The kid smiled. “Cool, okay. You know how over the years various body parts have turned up along the bay?”

“Hmm, body parts along the bay?” I reached out and smacked the backside of his head. “Stop talking to me like you’re the school resource officer in a kindergarten class. Everybody in the whole fucking state knows the body parts story. Jeez…”

“Sorry, anyway, Jerry Paulson from the State Police and I think there’s a pattern to them. A message the killer is trying to give us.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Know what I think. I think sending you two knuckleheads to that FBI Profiling Serial Killer seminar was a fucking mistake. I told the chief that, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He has his head so far up the Attorney General’s ass trying to get the head investigator position there and retire.  He jumps at any idea the AG throws out, and the Homicide task force was the latest. I knew you and that trooper would start salivating for your very own Rhode Island serial killer. You’d invent one if you had to.”

“Listen to me, Lieutenant. Look at the spreadsheet. I put the date of recovery in one column and the recovered body part in another. The first was four ago. They are found on the same day, the last Saturday of each season, every year. And if you sort by date of recovery oldest to newest, it looks like he’s sending us a human jigsaw puzzle.”

He slid the mouse around and sorted on the date. “The first discovery, (Date) was a right foot. (Date) left foot. (Date) right leg, on an onto this spring, the torso.”

The one part missing, the head, was all that was needed to complete the puzzle.

I looked at the screen. No doubt the kid was onto something.

“I also added in location. At first, it didn’t help. Then I did it by the side of the bay where the part was found. It alternates, East Bay, West Bay, south to north.”

 “No shit, Frank. No shit,” I played with the columns. I was right, this kid might be the one I’d been looking for. Someone to mentor before I pulled the pin.

“What do you think, Lieutenant?”

I hesitated a moment. If word got out that we are looking at this as a serial killer, the media frenzy would drive us crazy. Worse, if the AG finds out, he’ll turn it into a fucking circus. I had to approach this delicately. Temper the kid’s enthusiasm with rationality.

“This is smart work, kid. But we gotta keep control over it. Limit who knows. If any of the suck-ups around here find out, they’ll tell the world. Some of these assholes are so close to the chief they could wear his ass for a hat.”

I tapped my finger on the desk. “Tell you what. We work this off the books for now. No reports in the system. Back to paper notes only, and we’ll lock it in my office at night. I’ll call Captain Murray at State Police Headquarters. He owes me a big one, anyway. I’ll get him to keep this between us. I’ll have him send your Trooper Knucklehead counterpart down here like you’re chasing burglars or something.”

Lachance bounced around like a nine-year-old told he was going to Disney. “Great, I have a few ideas on some things we might do with new technology the FBI uses. I’ll see what I can come up with.”

 “Frank,” I said, in my most stern lieutenant boss-type voice. “Work it, but quietly. Understood?”

“Yes, sir. Ah, there is one more thing, Lieutenant.”

“What’s that?” I said, dropping the paper onto my lap one more time.

“This Saturday, it’s, ah, it’s the last day of Spring.”

“Great, happy summer, kid.”

“Lieutenant, if the pattern holds, we will find another body part this Saturday on the east side of the bay, north side. The head. I think we should try to run a stakeout. Maybe get lucky.”

“Hmm, and how should I find enough cops to run this stakeout and keep it quiet? Not to mention, getting El Hefe to pay for it?”

The kid actually smiled. “That’s why you’re the Lieutenant.”

“I got a better idea, kid. How about I get you assigned to the SIIU with Lieutenant Williams? He loves this shit as much as you do. Then it can be his headache.  I’ll take care of that; you go get my apple slices and make sure you get the ones with the thick frosting. Now move.”

I watched the kid fly out the door. I almost missed that joy for the job. Almost.

Whatever possessed me to let him talk me into this? One year left, one more year, and I’d run out the door. Thirty years over, and I get a pension to cover my bar bill. This last year was supposed to be uneventful, not some reality TV series.

But no worries. I had a solution. Reaching for my cell, I hit the speed dial for Lieutenant Josh Williams.

“Lieutenant Ford, what can I do for you on this fine morning?” Williams answered.

“Josh, I’m getting El Hefe to give you that extra body you’ve been whining about. Det. Lachance will be transferring into your unit first thing tomorrow. And he comes with a bonus.”

“And what might that be?”

“He has his own trooper. You get two for the price of one,” I chuckled. “No need to thank me.”

“Why do I have the distinct feeling I am getting screwed here?”

“To borrow a line I recently heard, that’s why you’re a Lieutenant.” Ending the call, I resumed reading the paper.  All was right with the world.


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Noticing Things

I grew up in Cumberland, Rhode Island, where we were fortunate enough to have a world of fields and streams and woods to explore to our heart’s content—or when we got hungry, whichever came first.

The streams offered us the chance to catch sun turtles, snakes, crawfish, and frogs. The ones we called Leopard frogs—because of their color, we didn’t know their proper name—were the most difficult to catch. Shaped like an arrow, only the most stealth-like approach allowed you a chance. The slightest movement drawing the frog’s attention, and they shot across the bank in what we saw as prodigious leaps. Or they would dive beneath the green water plants and hide in the mud.

Sometimes, we would work up the courage to reach into the mud, usually on a dare. More often, one of us would point out the myth of poisonous water moccasins—also known as Cottonmouth snakes—lurking just below the surface, waiting to kill us. There were none, but the common water snakes were close enough to make us wary of dying a horrible death on the banks of the stream. 

Plus, we couldn’t be late for dinner.

But the interesting thing is it seems I notice more wildlife here in Cranston—our new home — then I ever did in Cumberland. Back then, we had the usual rabbits, skunks, and squirrels. I don’t recall ever seeing a deer or a raccoon. Now, I see them all the time along the bike path winding through this semi-urban environment.

We even have turkeys wandering in and around the houses on the street.

In Cumberland, there were robins, blackbirds, and sparrows in the woods and the occasional pheasant. We feared the pheasants. They had a habit of waiting until you were right upon them before bursting into flight, the wings thumping like machine-guns as we scattered and ran in the other direction.

The pheasants left as they filled the fields over with more homes, doubling the population of the town. The Cumberland of my memory was a small town where everybody knew everybody. I’m not sure if that is true today.

But in Cranston, the species of birds and wildlife seem limitless.

I put out a bird feeder. It serves as entertainment since I’m not much of a TV watcher. To be honest, we watch a few Netflix or PBS series, but only at night and just for a couple of hours.

I’d rather watch the varied species of birds, looking for the new and unfamiliar. Cardinals, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Robins, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Pileated woodpecker, Bell’s Vireo, Gold Finch, Common Raven all these and more flit between the trees, the ground, and the feeder, competing for the seed.

I do not discriminate against any creature—feathered or otherwise—gathering seed from the feeder. But I confess to engaging in interspecies schadenfreude, that delicious German term for taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Here, it is watching the squirrels’ frustration, unable to penetrate the brilliant squirrel-resistant (nothing is ever squirrel-proof) design of the bird feeder.

I enjoy watching their gyrations trying to get at the food, then surrendering to defeat. It reduces them to looking up from the ground like common street beggars, gathering the scraps of seeds knocked loose by the birds.

It is these simple things in life that give me the most pleasure.

We also host a resident rabbit family. Two fat adults and at least one small baby. There are likely more babies—these are rabbits after all—but I’ve only seen one at a time.

I go between watching the rabbits and glancing skyward for the many hawks—Red Tail and others. I have mixed feelings about what I might do should one make a dive for the rabbits. It is all part of nature. Who am I to interfere?

I wonder if it is just the stage of life I am at because I now notice these things? Perhaps back then, I didn’t notice the things that surrounded me because I hadn’t learned to see them. Perhaps it’s more a matter of gaining insight into all the world offers that has opened my eyes.

Since you are under “house arrest” anyway, now might be an excellent time to turn off the computer and the TV and watch the actual nature show in your own backyard. You might be surprised what you see.

Stay well.

P.S. For those of you who’ve enjoyed reading my books, stay tuned for some exciting new releases coming this summer. And for those of you who haven’t read my books, what’s keeping you? You’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Click the link and read away.


The Way We Were

Seismic changes in life are rare, yet they happen. They often come in the form of war or invasion. Perhaps this pandemic is an enemy invasion, something we’ve been battling since the first humans interacted with nature.

Life has changed. The world, growing smaller every day, has changed. And things will never be the way they were.

But that does not mean the virus will forever control life. Science and diligent research will find a solution to control this variety. And the lessons learned in our response will guide our preparations for future outbreaks.

This points out the danger of ignoring facts in pursuit of political gain. There has been a marked decline in recognizing the value of science and the scientific method, replaced by anti-vaxxer style hysteria, mumbo jumbo pseudo-science, and rejecting the path of informed enlightenment. Some would return to the dark ages of religious-based faith healing despite all evidence to the contrary.

Religion has its place. But praying to some entity—assuming there is one—makes little sense if this same entity sent the plague of the virus in the first place. Or allowed it to happen. If you want to pray for something, pray for the understanding that medical research and science are the solutions to the immediate problem. Pray for effective planning and preparation for the next pandemic.

Leaving blame aside for the moment, now is not the time to cut funding for organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and others. While they have a broad mandate, they have limited authority over their member nations. Such organizations can be the basis for better recognition and response to these situations, given a re-evaluation of member nation responsibilities to the rest of the world.

Now is the time to measure what they did right, what they did wrong, and make sure we equip them to respond rapidly and effectively to future pandemics.

The WHO was formed after World War II because back then we had the foresight to recognize that a seismic shift had changed the world. We knew we would face more globals issues, some of which might involve pandemics. We need to rekindle our foresight and look to the future through the filter of rationality and reason, not as adversaries of other countries but as fellow humans.

Now is not the time to resist such efforts, now it the time to re-double them. And the United States should be leading the way, not retreating into the delusion of isolation.

The lessons learned here should force us to increase our efforts to prepare for such outbreaks and encourage us to foster a closer relationship with the rest of the world. Viruses and diseases do not recognize borders. If we pull back from international cooperation, we will lull ourselves into a false sense of security.

Like it or not, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world. Any serious efforts at restarting and growing the economy will depend on both international trade and travel. It is the reality of the times we now live in.

An illustration of this disdain for facts and reasoned analysis is the false—and dangerous—comparison of the COVID-19 virus to the flu. While I empathize with those struggling in these difficult economic times, a rush to reopen the country may come at a staggering cost of lives.

Flu comparisons are inaccurate, misleading, and a dangerous basis to justify reducing measures to control the spread. The total number of dead, while staggering, has been limited by the stringent measures. This is not the flu. With the latest figures out of hotspots such as NY, the death rate of COVID-19 surpasses that of cancer, heart disease, and car crashes. All leading causes of death in the United States.

The flu is a poor comparison to put the COVID-19 threat in its proper persective

“The number of new deaths reported in the US in the week beginning March 16 was 678 percent higher than the previous week. In New York State, the number grew thirty-six-fold the same week. By comparison, the worst one-week increase during the 2017-18 flu season was 24 percent, and during the 1957-58 Asian flu was 48 percent. Although the growth in COVID-19 deaths is now slowing, the number of new deaths last week was still more than double that of the week before.

Strikingly, in the state of New York, the number of people who died with coronavirus last week was more than any other cause of death — in fact, more than twice the average number who die in a week from all causes combined.” https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/not-like-the-flu-not-like-car-crashes-not-like

In its simplest terms, the CDC estimates between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths from the flu last year. Accurate numbers are difficult to come by due to a variety of factors, including multiple symptoms and pre-existing conditions, i.e., heart disease, cancer, which may have been a factor in the deaths.

Many deaths involve people who had the flu but may have died from other complications. Yet, for our purposes, these estimates are valuable to put things in perspective. But, we must remember these numbers are far from absolute. Using such uncertain factors to derive certain actions is dangerous and fraught with peril.

But if we ignore the complexities and just make a raw comparison as some in the media would have us do, COVID-19 has killed over 30,000 in the US since they identified the first case in January. And these numbers are likely under-reported. The true tally may not be available until we can undertake a full analysis of the pandemic, and that can’t happen until it is over. That may take months, if not years.

THIRTY THOUSAND in less than four months. Even if this rate were to decline by 20% a month, by the end of the year, another almost thirty thousand people would die. Such a rapid decline is unlikely since the peak is still uncertain. Without stringent measures in place to control the spread, what would that number be? And what number of dead Americans are we willing to sacrifice if we just shrug our shoulders and say, “it’s no worse than the flu.”

We’ve tested less than 1% of the population of the US. As of today 3,420,394 tests have been conducted. Of those,

665,970              tested positive

2,754,424          tested negative

10,821                pending


Now there are a lot of factors to consider, but if the rate of positive test results is consistent it means almost 25% of the population might test positive. That is almost 80,000,000 Americans. A 1% mortality rate would kill 800,000 Americans.

Almost as many casualties of the World Wars, Viet Nam, Korea, and the Civil War combined. That’s the potential scope of the problem we need to consider. https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf

Things may never be the way the were. But with a measured and rational approach, we may get to a place we want to be.

A Case for the Death Penalty?

State V. Homer J. Squirrel


Count 1: Willful Destruction of Private Property (Garden)
Count 2: Terroristic Activity in the Destruction of Food Supplies During a Pandemic
Count 3: Conspiracy to Interrupt Lawful Distribution of Life-Sustaining Food Supplies (Bird Food)

Court: Having been found guilty by a jury of your peers (well, in the imaginary trial I would envision might happen), there remains the penalty. Is the State ready to argue?

State: We are your Honor.

Court: Proceed

State: May it please the court. After a trial of two days, Homer J. Squirrel stands convicted before this court on all counts. I should like to point out to the court that Mr. Squirrel has continued to raid and disrupt the property of the victim and still digs many holes in the garden.

While the State recognizes the legitimate right of the defendant to gather foodstuffs for his own survival — I assume it’s a he, but I haven’t seen his n***, ah never mind—this unrepentant invasion of the garden, this interference with food production in this time of the pandemic, and what we expect will be his raiding of the bird feeder once deployed, will continue unabated.

The only appropriate punishment is execution by firing squad at the next opportunity (or whenever Amazon delivers the BB gun to said Government Executioner.)

The State rests.

Court: Does the defendant have anything to say?

Defense Counsel: We do, your honor. The defendant wishes to speak on his own behalf.

Court: Very well, Mr. Squirrel, please direct your statement to the bench and, if you could, please stop chattering and burying things in your attorney’s briefcase.

Homer J. Squirrel: Your Honor, while I may well stand convicted before you, I must protest the unfairness of the verdict given the prejudice of the jury. This jury of my peers consisted of several dogs, two birds, several rabbits, and a mixture of other creatures who compete with me for the available food in the wilds of Cranston. All are known squirrel haters

What the State failed to tell the court, is the victim has draped what seems to be some sort of force field over the garden, repelling all creatures who dare try to enter the said garden. This field ensnares birds and has proven impervious to any attempt to gain entry, ah, not that I have your honor. Still, word travels fast among us tree-dwellers.

Under these circumstances—I am just trying to live and provide for my brood of babies—I would ask the court to show mercy and sentence me to probation.  Thank you, your honor. (Stenographers note, defendant scampers over several tables on the way back to the defendant’s table.)

Court: We shall leave this in the hands of the people.  The two options are;

  1. Death by Firing Squad (administered at the next moment of opportunity)
  2. Probation with a deferral of death sentence pending any new violations

I leave it in your hands. Comment below Death or Probation, and the consensus will determine this varmint’s future (or lack thereof.)

Social Distancing: Turns Out I’ve Been Practicing This for Years

It would seem many are put out by this forced social separation to stave off the spread of the Coronavirus. In taking an inventory of things in my life, I realized that there isn’t a significant difference in my daily activity between BC (Before Coronavirus) and DC (During Coronavirus.)

While I am certain those who live in an urban environment find it much more disruptive, I live in a neighborhood. One modeled on the post-WWII design and celebrated in that classic tune by the Monkees, Pleasant Valley Sunday.

The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song
Serenade the weekend squire, who just came out to mow his lawn

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care

See Mrs. Gray, she’s proud today because her roses are in bloom
Mr. Green he’s so serene, He’s got a TV in every room

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don’t understand

Creature comfort goals
They only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see
My thoughts all seem to stray to places far away
I need a change of scenery

Ta Ta Ta…

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday…

Who knew how prescient those architects of the 1950s were,  envisioning a time when we would need houses built with a space between them, perfect for maintaining a non-lethal distance from our neighbors?

As to my daily routine, little has changed there either. I get up sometime between 5 and 6 am, write for a few hours. Then I make coffee and breakfast when my wife gets up, attend to any chores around the house, write and/or edit more, perhaps work on our puzzle addiction, read for a few hours.

Then repeat.

The only noticeable change is our shopping habits. We abandoned the concept of doing a giant shopping long ago, instead buying a few things to make for dinner and stocking up on just the essentials for breakfast or lunch.

The difference here is we now can have all that stuff delivered.

This both supports the economy and puts money in the pockets of those Instacart, GrubHub, and DoorDash drivers. Who thought such normally invisible occupations would become essential, rising from anonymity to rock star level popularity?

In scenes reminiscent of my childhood, I now keep an eye out for the delivery trucks like I did for Palagi’s Ice Cream.  They could bring a tear to many an eye if they installed bells on the trucks to ring as they entered a neighborhood.

In this greatest of countries in the world, one can even get beer, wine, and vodka delivered. This may not be Nirvana or Paradise, but it is a reasonable facsimile.

I think the younger generations—enamored of Instant Messaging, Texting, and Facetime—are more prepared for the siege of isolation. Those apps are their preferred form of communication, even when sitting next to each other.

For me, I often leave my phone at home just to increase my level of isolation. I miss the days when phones stayed tethered to a structure where they belonged.

When phones morphed from household furniture to what amounts to a virtual ankle bracelet–monitoring our every move and putting us in constant communication–we lost a bit of our freedom and independence.

Progress isn’t always progressive.

Our other addiction is taking walks. Once, we took one along the Appalachian Trail. My daughter will not be shocked I mentioned this. She will tell you it was only a matter of time. There’s a joke about people who’ve hiked the trail.

How can you tell if someone has hiked the Appalachian Trail?
Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

And so it goes.

We’ve continued our daily walks, weather permitting. The nearby bike path is deserted on most days, but there’s been a slight uptick in the numbers on nicer days. Still, the logistics of walking the path allow a proper separation.

When the crowds (such as they are) prohibit this, we walk the neighborhood where everyone has adopted to “move to the opposite side of the street” policy.  It makes for a pleasant walk, the opportunity to say hello to our fellow inmates, and avoid the constant bombardment of the latest statistics on the virus. 

When the occasional thoughts of going out to dinner, or for a drink, or seeking some outside social contact come wafting up from my subconscious mind, I take pause. I measure the loss against what I am doing. For me at least, it’s hardly worth noticing.

Turns out, I am good at this social distancing/separation thing. But I won’t miss all the cars being driven by people wearing masks. Lines of traffic now look like a casting call for a show about an Emergency Room.

But the inevitable time will pass, and soon AC (After Coronavirus) will be upon us.

While it is important to stay informed and practice this separation, it is just as important to live life.  You can’t get these days back, so make the most of it. When this passes, as it will, some of you might want to hold on to a moment or two of self-isolation. Time spent in quiet contemplation, absent all the hustle and bustle of life, might do you some good.

Perhaps it will make you better appreciate—and see the differences in—all the things you have that truly matter, and what you can do without.  Learning to separate the flotsam and jetsam of life from the things that make life worth living might make all this temporary disruption to the world something more than just self-preservation.

P.S. For those of you familiar with the Monkees tune, no need to thank me for that song playing over and over in your mind. Consider it a soundtrack for your isolation. JB