Old Friends

Wandering around a new library this morning, guided by Dewey’s decimals, I walked back into the past and other libraries I’d read. Here, I found Anthony Boucher’s anthology of Great Science Fiction Stories nearby Ellison’s Dangerous Visions. There, along the wall of low shelves, Frog and Toad are friends.

How long, O Lord?

“Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” —Isaiah 6:9-13

Why Do I Keep a Library?

Hope.

My father keeps a library. His father and mother had books and albums of photographs galore. My mother keeps a library. Her mother and father did not. Visits to my grandparents homes felt different, and the difference was most obviously, to me, in the books.

I grew up among books. They were my playground, my refuge, my adventure-land. I could retreat to the library and lie with National Geographic, the World Book Encyclopedia, or ancient Triple-A maps. There lived philosophies, prophets, histories, fantasies, adventures. I traveled to far distant Camelot with a Connecticut Yankee. I never thought I wouldn’t keep a library.

But the reason for it was the future: my children would laugh and play here too.

They haven’t, not as I thought.

Their pleasures have been, in large part, electronic. What is there to see and love in a virtual world? How do you pass it on? My youngest, No. 2 Son, recently excavated the Apple Macintosh LC-III that I kept because maybe one day I might need it. It holds nothing much. I never bought much software, and toward the end it was not much more than an e-World terminal. He’s been playing Sim City 2000 (1993).

I feel a certain nostalgia, but of what use is an LC-III now? I regret my digital life. What is there to show of what I’ve done? I may have saved some documents, but who can read them? Even an audio recording of my grandparents needs a cassette player. Consider this website: It is not just HTML and CSS and a smattering of PNG images. It is WordPress and PHP and Apache and MySQL and FreeBSD and Pair.com and electricity and the Internet. What future does it have? It hardly holds interest for anyone now; of what interest will it be when I am gone?

But books, barring insect, fire, or flood, will remain.

And if my children do not play here, perhaps one day my grandchildren will.

Spreading Warmth

I’ve been watching the fog expand out from the creek. The hills were a pale pink over the thick fog, and there was a definite end to the cloud. Over the past hour the fog has expanded up around my house and taken on more of an orange glow. The hills can no longer be seen: only cloud beneath the baby blue sky. And the condensation coating the window.

Just now one of the pines jumped up and caught the golden light.


The sun burned the mist away while I wasn’t looking, but it lingers in the valley above the creek.

clouds over the creek

Perhaps this drama of thermodynamics will lovingly play out again tomorrow. Number One Son has reported some difficulty selecting a topic on density for a paper due next week for his science class.

Cowpasture v. U. S. Forest Service

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear Cowpasture River Reservation Association, et al. v. United States Forest Service, which is an interesting case from the Fourth Circuit. It’s personally interesting to me because the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will pass near my parents’ house along a rather odd route that seems to avoid a number of obvious gaps and instead wants to go straight up and straight down the Allegheny highlands. And because even though I live in New York, I still think of Highland County, Virginia, as home.

But it’s also legally interesting because, as the Fourth Circuit observes, the statutes allow only Congress to grant a pipeline right-of-way on National Park lands.

The problem with the Forest Service’s argument is it misreads both the [Mineral Leasing Act (MLA)] and the National Trails System Act. The MLA specifically excludes lands in the National Park System from the authority of the Secretary of the Interior “or appropriate agency head” to grant pipeline rights of way. See 30 U.S.C. §§ 185(a), 185(b)(1). In other words, the MLA concerns the land, not the agency. The FEIS concluded, and the parties agree, that the ANST is a unit of the National Park System. Accordingly, even if the Forest Service were the “appropriate agency head” in this instance, it could not grant a pipeline right of way across the ANST pursuant to the MLA. Interpreting the MLA as the Forest Service argues would give the Forest Service more authority than NPS on National Park System land. This defies logic. [emphasis in original]

What sort of grounds will SCOTUS find to permit the pipeline to cross National Park lands? In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the proposed route also crosses the adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway.

partial route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

We trust the United States Forest Service to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971). A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources. This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.

Present Opportunities

There’s a sense of responsibility to the warm lump of soft cat in my lap which supersedes all other urges to rise from bed or chair. No contest between this comfort and the obligations of the day, whether work or food or a shrieking kettle. How long will I remain here, trapped by devotion, under covers when there are matters ostensibly more pressing?

Moments only.

The minutes, hours, days are full of moments. She knows this, and in her own way remonstrates when I attempt more than pay her heed. This is why she sits on my book, or rests her paw on my writing hand. Because moments are each their own, and I must choose.

A New Kind of Credit Card?

A while back Apple announced plans to launch the Apple Card. It launched.

A new kind of credit card. Created by Apple, not a bank.

Issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch.

Apple Card completely rethinks everything about the credit card.

It represents all the things Apple stands for. Like simplicity, transparency, and privacy.

And it’s the first card that actually encourages you to pay less interest.

https://www.apple.com/apple-card/

What’s that again? Less interest? Tell me more!

Variable APRs range from 12.99% to 23.99% based on creditworthiness. Rates as of August 2, 2019.

https://www.apple.com/apple-card/#footnote-4

Weird. That sounds exactly like every other credit card I’ve ever had.

The Apple Card app in the Wallet does have some nifty features, such as math and pretty pictures, to help you estimate and plan payments on the card. This is novel. And the card itself is physically satisfying.

But the Apple Card feels like a missed opportunity to make a significantly different credit card. Like many decisions of the Tim Cook era this one is safely pretending to be radical. A truly new kind of credit card would have the following features

  • Low interest, such as one percentage point over the prime rate, for everybody.
  • Provide a ladder out of debt, not just a shovel to make the hole bigger.

I’m sure this card will be profitable.

On Attempting to Determine the Outcome through the Selection of Candidates

Just in from the Well-at-Least-It’s-Not-New-Jersey Dept., New York is redesigning its license plates again. If you are a New York State resident, you have until noon on Monday, September 2nd, to pretend to express your opinion. Or you could send a letter to Governor Cuomo.

https://now.ny.gov/page/s/vote-for-the-next-nys-license-plate-design

You may notice something unusual about the selections above, aside from that they are mostly ugly and look like the work of someone who thinks that just because one can, one should. Or, as a friend-of-a-friend put it, “looks like Cuomo is dividing the Statue of Liberty vote so the bridge he named after his daddy will win.”

Send Reminder to Cancel Auto-Payments

Dearest Facebook: Thank you for reminding me to delete Messenger and WhatsApp by sending me an unauthorized notification. Best Regards,

It may not be as well known as it should be that when you remind someone of your existence, particularly in an annoying fashion, such as by forcing a decision, they are likely to evaluate their relationship with you and find it wanting. For example, several thousand businesses happily let their credit cards automatically pay $50 per month for an over-priced Internet hosting service–until they were offered the opportunity to migrate to the “new, improved” version, which promptly resulted in mass cancellations.