Suffering Yet?

In 2019, I wrote a series of five books whose titles were taken from the Bible, Chapter 19 of the Book of Matthew. If you went to Sunday School, you probably had the picture of Jesus on the cover of your lesson. It showed him with sheep and goats in the background, welcoming children. Here’s what Matthew, Chapter 19 says:

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

The last book borrows from Hinduism and from Hopi mythology in referencing their vision of the end of the word. It’s called Karma and the Fourth World.

The books chronologically depict the fate of the United States over the next decade. You might call it a fever dream; others dystopian. But as my friend Martha asked, “how can you call it dystopian if it’s actually happening?” Dystopian: an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.

“Typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.” Yes, there are elements of both of those realities. But I did not create any scenario that hasn’t already happened or isn’t in the process of happening. Margaret Atwood said something similar about Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale – a prophecy we’re seeing beginning to play out now in Texas, relative to women and carrying babies – anyone’s babies – to term.

In my books, disintegration happens slowly over a period of five years or so in the latter part of this decade. One unusual man sees bad things happening – specifically to children because of the musings of a demagogue within chat rooms and social media. He steps up and tries to help, only to be manipulated by larger forces within and outside the government. That sets the spark that effectively destroys what we know as these ‘united’ states.

“So,” you ask, “How did you come to write this book?” Ask any author that, and they will labor to explain it to you. But in my experience, books write themselves. I just gave the story a little shove, and then ‘it’ was off to the races, detailing how one thing leads to another, and then..well, I won’t give away the ending, but everything that happens is not only logical, but probable. Ask Martha.

“OK,” you say, getting a little frustrated with me. “WHY did you write this book?” Are you some kind of ‘Oracle Jones’, soothsaying into the future? I didn’t think so at the time. Trust me, nobody is more freaked out than me when the things in that book start to materialize. Now, I did not predict a pandemic until much later in the story. But that’s secondary to the point. The entirety of the series is about the breakdown of order in our society.

Most books from this genre start with what happens after the ‘end’, and do a poor job of detailing how we got there. I always found that rather annoying. Nuclear war; some kind of solar flare, climate change, even zombies (how did they BECOME zombies?) usually start the story. But I start with an ordinary family on an ordinary day contemplating the unthinkable because of one thing: fear. FEAR. Say it again, y’all: fear.

It seems like these days we have a lot to fear, but elements from organized and social media like to exploit that emotion – for ratings or some other kind of gratification. This has led to the worsening of tribalization and alienation: failure to trust one another or our institutions. We certainly have seen that in spades relative to Covid, the election, the economy. Fear of dying; fear that ‘the wrong team’ won, fear of destitution: but the greatest fear of these is another: fear of the unknown. Fear of losing control over our lives. The frustration of seeing a gallon of gas increase in cost by a third in just a few months. My children may have to move because their rent will increase by 50% when they renew their lease. This isn’t ordinary inflation, in my opinion. It’s the end of the era of low inflation. Hate to take credit for it, but I’ve been predicting that for the past ten years..it was inevitable..too many dollars chasing too few goods.

So am I telling you all this just to hype my book? Maybe – partially – but there’s more, as infomercials always say. In some strange way, I take comfort in the supposition that this inchoate fear will no longer be undefined by the end of the decade. It will be realized in a very new reality. At least we’ll know where we stand then.

Oh, by the way, I’m working on a sequel. It’s too early to talk about – I’ve just written the first book and halfway through the second in what will likely be a series of just three this time. So my point is: life will go on. Differently, with a whole different set of issues than what we have to deal with now. But it will go on. And the things we worry about now will seem trivial then. You might not, but I take solace from that fact.

And Then She Didn’t

I never heard back from the woman again. So the next time the School District complains they can’t get any help, think about my experience – and don’t bother to apply.

Spam Filters are Wonderful Inventions

I added a new Spam filter to the blog and it works! In the past week, there have been 47 attempts to infiltrate my blog with weird advertisements, many from China. The new filter sweeps them up and dumps them into one folder which can be easily emptied. I used to have to wade through and pick them out one at a time. This is great.

So where am I with my writing? Well, let’s see..The Algorithmic Brain is long since finished, with tiny edits as I share it chapter by chapter with my writing group. Then there’s The Cheese Stands Alone. I’m up to Chapter 14, with an expectation that I’m about half done. So that makes for another 28 chapter book, which seems to be my rhythm. I have not yet begun with my outline for It’s the Young Ones Ya Gotta Watch, which I believe will be a short story to put in the 7/17/71 folder to be published as an anthology of Kiernan, Emily and my writing. I’m thinking about the outline for the sequel to The Algorithmic Brain, which will be called The Algorithmic Brain Goes Back (Be Careful What you Wish For). What happened to The Reconvening, you ask? It’s up to Book 2, Chapter 6, with an outline to show where it should go. It’s my least favorite writing, so it’s slow going. I shall pick it up again when there’s time to concentrate.

That’s Kiernan!

Time? Well, with Kiernan coming quite often for school, time is a little bit limited, which should make me more efficient in its use. You’d think – but no. When you are retired, the use of time changes, so it’s necessary to pick a rhythm, and then vary it. Why? You become stuck if you don’t. Is that bad? Yes..I think that contributes to brain deterioration, and my brain is doing enough on its own so…

Otherwise, it’s just carry on and try to get some work done before she comes over and I get sucked into the world of virtual learning. It’s never dull ’round here!

She Did!

Yesterday morning I got a voicemail message at 8:16 am from Amanda, the manager of the cafeteria at Limestone Creek. She offered me a 4 hour per day job with the school food service department. Promising to call me back with the proper job application code, she welcomed me to the team.

Pikachu

I guess buying the apron was a good investment, eh?

Now I have to think more about time utilization, assuming I make it through the hiring process. Four hours a day feels doable, so it’s a start toward a new career path that fits with my other vocation. I think it will be good exercise too.

Emily came yesterday and finished her last practice test before taking the official GED exam. She will take the first of the four tomorrow afternoon. She’s starting with Language Arts, which should be her strongest subject. I’m confident she’ll pass them all, in preparation for starting at Palm Beach State College in the spring. That’s so great.

In the interim, we still need to figure out about Covid and Kiernan and vaccination. It’s supposed to be ready in a few weeks. Will she get the vaccine? Will there be side effects? Will she stay with virtual school? All issues that will need discussion and decisions. Ah, me. Remember when life was so much simpler – like in 2019?

Will She Call Me or Will She Not?

I had my interview – of sorts – yesterday. She didn’t really ask me anything, just wanted to know if I had any questions. Does that mean it’s a given I’ll be hired? Or does it mean a pro forma interview but there’s no way they would hire me in a million years? That is the essential question.

What a Cute Apron, Eh?

She did point out that it takes a month to get hired; that you have to be able to lift 40 pounds (I used to lift Kiernan when she weighed 42# per the Publix big scale in the lobby..?), pass a background check, buy no-slip soled black shoes, black pants and black t-shirts which is the uniform. Gee, how colorful! I guess stains don’t show, but seems like it should be like the pediatric ward at the hospital. Uniforms with Pokemon? Wait – I know – black uniform is fine, but flexibility with aprons? That’s where Pokemon can make his appearance – or maybe Sonic the Hedgehog or a Minecraft cow? Plain white apron with decals? Worth exploring? Absolutely.

Ok, so I went ahead and ordered the apron from Etsy. That’s a vote of confidence that they’re so desperate for help that they might even hire me. After all, I showed up, on time, didn’t have two heads or roll on the floor, frothing at the mouth. I didn’t talk too much (self-coaching there) and I agreed that I wanted to pursue being hired. What else could I have done? I didn’t mention the writing part (see previous post re: Pandora papers). I was humble, pointing out that it wasn’t a question of the job being less than what I could do, but rather expressing my concern that maybe I wasn’t good enough for them. And if I don’t get the job, at least Kiernan will like the apron, her being a big fan of Pikachu (that’s that rabbit on the front – I guess he’s a rabbit..sigh.)

OK – enough on that for now. No debt ceiling crisis at least until the end of the year. Ho hum. I really don’t want to talk about Washington and/or politics. Instead, let’s talk about something really interesting: um..yeah. Cryptic crosswords!

Very Tricky Puzzles

I signed up with a site that provides a new cryptic a week. It was highlighted last week in the puzzle section of the NY Times, and for $48, I get a new puzzle each week that’s just challenging enough to make it worthwhile – plus access to the previous 79 puzzles in their archive. So far, I’ve been able to solve them all, with a little help from WordPlays, but only indirectly. Two guys create the puzzles and run the site. They seem very pleasant, and one of them responded to my e-mail, complimenting them on getting onto the NY Times puzzle page and saying I enjoyed the puzzle. Great fun. I know – ho hum..

Melting Permafrost Will Produce Many Surprises

The writing is going well..I’m on Chapter 12 of The Cheese Stands Alone, and Book 2, Chapter 6 of The Reconvening. I’m ready to start on the outline for the parody of Covid vaccine wars, and, of course, The Algorithmic Brain is finished and partially uploaded to Kindle Vella. So the only big writing issue now is getting Emily to finish working with me on the story set in Siberia called Permafrost Hell. Everyone loves a monster story, right?

That’s it for today – other issues to worry about.

It’s On

I got a call yesterday mid-afternoon from a nice-sounding woman who said she was the food service manager at Limestone Creek Elementary School. That’s where Robin and Kirsten went to elementary school in the 90’s. The lady asked if I was still interested in a job with food service. I said I was, and we agreed to meet tomorrow (now today) at 3:00 pm.

So now I’m one step closer to becoming a lunch lady. It’s three in the morning, and I’m tapping away on this computer, after waking up at 1:51. It occurred to me that my greatest fear is not being physically fit enough for the job.

I haven’t been to the gym but once since Covid took over our lives. After I went that one time to the Silver Sneakers class, the Delta variant started making the news, and I backed off. Now I’m preparing to jump into work that requires physical labor, at this point of unknown quantity and duration. Will I be able to handle it? That is the question. We’ll see.

Right now, after I finish this post, I’m going to watch the DVD I bought from Amazon (of course) about the pandemic of 1918. I still have it in my mind to write a satirical piece about Covid terrorism – on both sides of the argument. I want to get it done before my anger and frustration with the vaxxer vs anti-vaxxer nonsense subsides. Gotta finish that outline this week – in between interviews to be Granny O, lunch lady. Wish me luck today.

No Interview Yet

I got no phone call yesterday from the elementary school out here in the Farms to set up my interview for the role of Granny O, the lunch lady. But I can understand that – after a hectic, short-handed lunch period, who wants to call somebody up and interview them for a job that will go to another cafeteria? Nonetheless, I really do want to hear soon..I feel my future is waiting in the wings…

Having said all that, and apologizing for keeping everyone waiting with bated breath, can we talk about China for a bit? I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot since the news about Evergrande being ready to implode and Xi (aka ‘the government’) the Magnificant being unwilling to bail them out of the mess they’re in, caused by Xi (government) in the first place..whew! You get the idea…

Anyway, here’s the thing. Xi has positioned himself to be absolute ruler by purging the competition, changing the rules of the game, and showing, via Hong Kong, that he is ruthless. Sound familiar – Hitler? Stalin? It’s an old play book, and historically, one that hasn’t worked out well for either the despot or the people he rules. I don’t think it will be any different for Xi or for China. He likely thinks he knows best, which means he has no respect for the Chinese people. He’s also influenced by his youth under the Mao-created Cultural Revolution, where his sister died and his family suffered terribly. So he perceives the good citizens of the very large country of China as sheep to be shepherded – or herded, in the case of Hong Kong.

The Playbook of Bolshevism

Having said all that as background, let’s focus on the economics of the situation in China. Xi (government) has taken the power away from tech companies and Chinese billionaires. Some who have crossed him are now MIA (Jack Ma from Ali Baba, e.g.). His newest initiative is for these wealthy companies to ‘share the wealth’ with start-up companies and the rural areas that haven’t benefitted from their success. In effect, it’s the ‘collectivization’ strategy initiated by Stalin that starved millions; the ‘collectivization’ in Vietnam that starved millions..it’s a page from the oldest playbooks of Bolshevism. It completely undoes the strategy initiated in the late 80’s and early 90’s by Deng Xiaoping. That strategy led to the successes that created those billionaires and tech giants.

Xi intends to undo all that, and continues to threaten Taiwan, a sample of the ruthless label generated with Hong Kong. There are several ironies here. This makes him the ‘new’ Mao, who used the Cultural Revolution as a way to stay in power. Will Xi end up repeating the actions of the man who nearly ruined his life? Maybe not intentionally, but likely within the realm of possibility. When the ‘collectivization’ strategy fails, who will take the blame? What will Xi do to distract people from these failures? That’s where the really big purges will kick in; and then Taiwan will be in real trouble.

War as a Distraction from Economic Distress – and Consolidation of Power?

Xi’s strategy simply won’t work. It would be like trying to dismiss gravity. But it will take time for the failures to clearly manifest themselves. That’s when we – and Taiwan – need to seriously worry – say some time in ’28?

I’m Back with News

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? With the nonsense going on today, who wants to comment? First of all, it’s a waste of time, it doesn’t make me feel better and eventually becomes a rant. Don’t want that.

So instead, I’m gonna embark on a new career path – yes, at my age, dear. And what is this new ‘career’ path? Lunch lady..aka food service worker I at one of several elementary schools in Jupiter. OMG, you say (or write?) Yes, Virginia, I am excited to say I will become a lunch lady. OK, why?

Well, first of all, they need the help. Second of all, hey – gives me something to blog about, right? It’s at most 5 hours a day, aerobic exercise (if my knees hold up), and I’ll be doing something good, safely ’cause I’m as vaccinated as a body can be.

Craziness, you say? Well, we’ll see..will there be any great exposés of food service – the ‘Pandora Papers’ of the lunch line? Not likely..what there will be, assuming I get the job, will be small vignettes about my day serving, cleaning or tallying lunches for little kids. What could be any more exciting than that? Ahem..that was a rhetorical question.

Will it release all ills or will it just be another can of worms?

So stay tuned for the further adventures of Granny O Lunch Lady..can’t wait!

Penny is here

Madame Penny Lain

Yesterday we drove down to the West Palm Service Plaza to get our foster-to-adopt female boxer. She was picked up as a stray in Miami-Dade, checked out, vaccinated, chipped and turned over to a boxer rescue group. We were approved on Tuesday to be a foster family, and a volunteer was calling Wednesday night about “Bernice”, a name which Kiernan said did not fit her. It was Kiernan that came up with Penny because her coat is the color of an oft-handled one cent piece. I added Lain, in honor of our granddaughter. So now she’s Penny Lain. I’ll ask Alexa to play some Beatles music to honor her new moniker.

The Street Where you Live?

The story I make up about Penny is that she was a breeder in a puppy mill. She was probably kept caged for most of her life which looks to be between 6 and 8 years. Penny is small-framed with soulful brown eyes. She’s practically toothless, so her diet now consists of ground turkey and brown rice; she gobbled up every morsel for her breakfast. When we walk together, she looks out at the world as though it’s totally new and marvelous. For the next two weeks, we will walk together with the leash just to be sure she doesn’t try to explore too much of that outside world.

Right now we’re on the living room couch. She’s asleep, but prior to dropping off, she did her best to merge her body into mine. She seems starved for human interaction, which fits with the breeder scenario. She used the crate to sleep last night, but insisted the door be left open. We’re not sure about cat interaction yet, but early signs are she has no interest in Maddox the porch dweller.

Happy or Not so Happy Cat?

I’m sure there will be lots more about Penny in the future. Having a dog again will be a big change for us, but a good one. I think Penny Lain has found a home.

Credit Suisse – 51% Likely to Go Belly Up

Remember 2008? Well, the meltdown in ’08 actually started in ’07, but nobody noticed until it was a tidal wave. Well, the meltdown of ’22 has started in ’21, and nobody’s noticing. I am.

Remember When?

Two names will go down in infamy for bringing down Credit Suisse, the company that will start the dominos falling. Archegos and Greensill Capital. Credit Suisse bet on both these companies, that are now in bankruptcy. The losses are going to run into the billions. More important: when Credit Suisse goes down, they will likely take others with them. So why isn’t this the headline on the front page of every newspaper in town? Because we’re all distracted by other news: the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, and Matt Gaetz dragging a 17 year old around with him on his travels.

Matt Gaetz “Brand” is in Meltdown at the moment

So back to the point: Archegos Capital was borrowing from multiple banks that somehow didn’t know about each other. Archegos Capital is a guy named Bill Hwang, banned from Hong Kong markets because of insider trading nine years ago. In the age of the internet, how is that possible the banks didn’t know about his debt load? That’s a good question. But the failure came from a bad review. Yep. When you own a bunch of stock (Viacom and Discovery, Inc.???) and somebody writes a bad review and you were using borrowed money to buy those stocks that just went down in value…gosh! It’s 1929 all over again!

Greensill capital was highly leveraged (remember credit default swaps?) and its insuror, Tokio Marine Management, got cold feet and wouldn’t renew their policy. That brought the entire house of cards down. This is ’08 for sure..and there will be more to come from companies you likely never heard of before they melt.

It seems like we’re back to ’07 and the financial fall is just beginning. When it begins to affect US banks, will the government bail them out this time? Uh, nope. First of all, the government just gave away all this year’s tax revenue to all of us. No money left in the till. Besides, the Biden administration ain’t the same as the end of the Bush/beginning of the Obama administration. No Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and head of the New York Fed branch Tim Geitner to guide this disaster. Instead, there’s the hangover from the Mnuchin days when all this started. The new Secretary of the Treasury (who is it ..quick..not a clue, right? It’s Janet Yellen, formerly head of the Fed..ok, then who’s running the Fed? Jerome Powell.) These two are the ones driving fiscal policy right now that will not have any money left over to bail out the banks. So I start to get that sinking feeling that comes when you’re in the stateroom and the Titanic hits that bump in the ocean.

When I wrote the Suffer the Children series, it was a very similar situation. Lots of bad things happened with a pandemic of parents killing children, covered up by the government. When the smoke cleared from all that, everyone figured out the US government was insolvent. No gold in Ft. Knox, no cash in the bank…a taste of things to come in the next year.

Get ready.

Lizzy, You were Right

Elizabeth Keubler Ross described the five stages a person going through in dealing with the death of a loved one. I am going through those stages now in dealing with the near-death of this country.

Next week’s Cover for the New Yorker magazine

Yesterday, I was in denial, so I found humor in Viking dude’s appearance – inside the capital building, wreaking mayhem with the rest of his unwashed mass insurrectionists (the UMI’s). Now I’m moving smartly on to anger. Yeah, baby, I am angry. Not at Trump – he’s toast. I’m angry at the likes of Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Brian Mast (because he’s our Congressman) and that capital policeman who opened the door to the UMIs. I spit on all of you. So I’ll write this, and then maybe I can move on to depression.

Here’s what he said yesterday in his ‘concession’ speech:

I’d like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol. Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. Why are you outraged? You fostered it

I immediately deployed the National Guard and the federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is and must always be a nation of law and order. That’s a lie. It took hours for the National Guard to arrive, and it was too late by the time they did.

The demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. Really? Yes, I think they do represent your Ruined America. And there was no ‘infiltration’. They blasted through broken windows, with a woman dying in the process. You craven coward with your squirrel words.

And to those who broke the law, you will pay. We have just been through an intense election, and the emotions are high. But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. Who the hell wrote this paragraph? I think he riffed line two and maybe three. How do I know? The speechwriter who wrote this would never have put these three disparate notions into one paragraph. Doesn’t fit with the mold.

We must get on with the business of America. My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results. And some illegal ones, like trying to intimidate the Georgia Secretary of State into ‘finding’ over eleven thousand votes. Gimme a break.

My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American Democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and the eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections. Now Congress has certified the results. This is the bullshit paragraph. You were doing exactly the opposite. The integrity of the votes? Yeah, the ones for you. Defend American Democracy? By stealing an election? Reform election laws so you can win every time. Now Congress has certified the results – with the exception of those Senators and Congressman who voted against doing so. A pox on their house – oh, wait! There’s already a pox on all their houses (cue Viking dude).

And a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. Put there by our black and brown voters from Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Phoenix. We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude for showing up. My own state succumbed to Trumpism. Aargh.

My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation. 2020 has been a challenging time for our people. Your focus now turns to saving your own skin between now and the 20th. Gonna pardon yourself for any and all crimes committed during your four years? Sure, why not?

A menacing pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens, isolated millions in their homes, damaged our economy and claimed countless lives. Defeating this pandemic and rebuilding the greatest economy on earth will require all of us working together. Oh, Donald, please don’t pretend you even care, and for God’s sake, don’t help. You’ve helped enough.

It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community and family. We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family. Wow. Remember, you just sicc’d Viking dude on Congress? I know you’re reading this off a teleprompter, but I’ll bet your nose grew at least a millimeter when you read these lines.

To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime. And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning. And he’s baaacckk. Your incredible reign of terror is not beginning, it’s ending. Good riddance. Gbye.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. God has damned America because over 70 million of us support this guy. Damn all of you. Yes I said it: damn all of you for being gullible enough to fall for this guy’s goddamned bullshit. You all see yourselves as good Christians and upright citizens. You are silly, white, members of a cult..a cult of personality so obviously corrupt and evil that even a 7 year old knows that. My Kiernan told me so..

So if paragraph 6 comes true, and Viking dude has to go to jail, I’d prefer his punishment instead to being forced to watch Donald give this speech over and over again. Think of it as deprogramming. It was used successfully in the 60’s when kids joined the Krishnas or the Moonies. Maybe it’ll work this time and Viking dude will lay down his horns and get a job serving lutefisk at Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace in Minneapolis – get it – Viking? OK, a little humor never hurts, at the end of a rant. Right?