A few years ago when tablets were the next big thing, there were articles everywhere explaining why tablets would replace everything else. All the techno-pundits said no one would need a computer because everything would be done on a small, portable device.

72-Alien Computer-B_06

It didn’t happen. Everyone bought a tablet, but no one threw out their computer.

I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have a smart phone. Sometimes, I even use it. I have two tablets and had as many as four until I gave two away.

tablets kindle iPad

I have a terrific 14-inch laptop and a desktop with a big monitor. I rarely use the desktop, but I keep it because you never know. The big desktop monitor is actually a touch screen. It used to reconfigure itself when a fly or a mosquito walked across it. I turned the touch functionality off and use a mouse. If I hadn’t been able to get rid of the touch technology, I would have been forced to defenestrate it.

Warning: You cannot edit a photograph — or really, anything — using a touchscreen.

my office and desktop computer

I’m sure those who extol mini devices as a total computer solution have never designed a book, made a movie, edited a photograph, used Photoshop (or any Adobe product), converted a book to a PDF or edited a manuscript. I know this because it’s impossible. All other problems aside, little devices are too small. You can’t edit a big thing on an itty-bitty screen.

This is not my opinion. It’s a fact. Operating system is irrelevant. Mac, PC, Android or Linux, size matters. You can argue this until you’re blue in the face. It won’t change anything.


I read an article that explained how you can type just fine on a virtual keyboard. No, you can’t.


If I’ve got room in my house for every kind of device, surely there’s ample room in our world for everything. Personally, I like choice. I like using different devices for different tasks. You can’t replace everything with one thing  and there’s no reason you should.

An office

One size never fits all. Diversity makes life interesting. Let’s celebrate our differences. We don’t have to go to the same church, read the same books, believe the same stuff … or use the same computer

If everybody would quit trying to force their opinions on others, life would be better. For everyone. So live. Enjoy. Let everyone else do the same.


Another year, another anniversary. It seems, given recent events, especially timely to remember where hatred leads.

Terror, born in hatred and nurtured by evil, doesn’t always come from somewhere else. We grow our own bad guys, too. It’s why I cringe at the over-simplified “meme psychology” that currently dominates media. Education doesn’t cure evil. Nor does sending in the Marines. Evil will always be us. We need to recognize it for what it is. Even when it smiles and makes pretty promises.

It happened — or perhaps culminated — on November 18, 1978. Which makes today the 37th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, one of the most bizarre, horrible events of the 20th century

If you were old enough to read or understand television news in 1978, you remember the Jonestown Massacre. With religious fanaticism and radical fundamentalism enjoying a groundswell of popularity — even among people who ought to know better — it’s a good time to remember where exhortations of violence can ultimately lead.


The phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has become common parlance for “to blindly follow.” It carries a negative connotation.

The “Kool Aid” references go all the back to the 1950s when it was the typical drink for children on suburban summer afternoons. The origin of the saying is something else — darker, and different. It has become the kind of bland rhetoric about which we don’t give a thought, but its roots lie in horror.

Before we talk about Kool-Aid, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane to that particularly awful episode of American history.


Jim Jones, cult leader and mass murderer, was a complex madman. A communist and occasional minister, he founded his pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” which became known simply as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name was supposed to refer to “the people of the world.” Jones called it a church, but it was closer to a warped version of a Marxist commune based on a hodgepodge of Christian references and paranoid conspiracy theories.

The Peoples Temple was a cult requiring total obedience and commitment from its members. Jones was the cult’s leader — and a homicidal maniac.

He had positive attributes too. Jim and Marceline Jones were in favor of racial integration. They adopted kids from varying backgrounds. They were the first white family in Indiana to adopt an African-American boy. Other adopted children included three Korean Americans, one Native American, and a handful of white kids. They also had a child of their own. Jones called his adopted kids the “Rainbow Family.” He made a name for himself desegregating institutions in Indiana.

jim_jones jonestown

Before you get dewy-eyed about this, know this story climaxes with the murder of the Jones children by their parents.

The Peoples Temple continued to expand through the 1960s. Jones gradually abandoned his Marxism. His preaching began to focus on impending nuclear apocalypse. He even specified a date — July 15, 1967 — and suggested that afterwards, a socialist paradise would exist on Earth. Where would the new Eden be?

Jones decided on Redwood Valley, California. Before the expected apocalypse, he moved the Temple and its peoples there. When the end-of-the-world deadline passed without a holocaust, Jones quit pretending to be Christian and revealed himself as an atheist who used religion to give lend legitimacy to his bizarre opinions. Jones announced that “Those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion must be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” Prophetic words since Jones was a drug addict who preferred literal to metaphorical opiates.

As media attention increased, Jones worried the Peoples Temple’s tax-exempt religious status was in danger. He was paranoid about the U.S. intelligence community — probably with justification.

In 1977, Jones moved the Temple and its people to a different site that Jones had been working on since 1974. It was located in Guyana and he modestly named it “Jonestown.” It was a bleak, inhospitable place. Built on 4000 acres with limited access to water, it was much small and overcrowded. The possibility of starvation was never far.


Nonetheless, Jones decided his people would farm the land of his utopia. He had put together several million dollars before getting to Jonestown (he confiscated all his followers’ money), but wealth was not distributed. He barely used any of the money for himself and lived in a tiny, bare-bones shared house.


U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in November of 1978. Rumors of peculiar goings-on were leaking out of Jonestown. Ryan decided to investigate rumors of abuses in Jonestown. Ryan didn’t travel alone. He took a contingent of media people including NBC News correspondent Don Harris and other reporters, plus relatives of Jonestown residents. He assumed that this would protect him — a major miscalculation.

During his visit to Jonestown, Congressman Ryan talked to more than a dozen Temple members, all of whom said they wanted to leave. Several of them passed a note saying: “Please help us get out of Jonestown” to news anchor Harris.

If the number of defectors seems low considering the more than 900 residents of Jonestown, remember they had not been allowed to talk to most of the “fellowship.” The number of those who wanted to leave could have been much more. We’ll never know.

Ryan began processing the paperwork to repatriate Temple members. In the middle of this, Ryan was attacked with a knife by temple member Don Sly. This would-be assassin was stopped before Ryan was hurt. Eventually the Ryan party decided to leave. They and the Jonestown defectors drove to the airstrip and boarded planes.

Jim Jones had other plans. He sent armed Temple members — his “Red Brigade” — after the Congressional party. These creepy “soldiers of the Temple” opened fire on them, killing Ryan, a Temple defector,  three members of the media, and wounding eleven others. The survivors fled into the jungle.

jonestown massacre anniversary

When the murderers returned to Jonestown and reported their actions, Jones promptly started what he called a “White Night” meeting. He invited all Temple members. This wasn’t the first White Night. Jones had hosted previous White Night meetings in which he suggested U.S. intelligence agencies would soon attack Jonestown.

He had even staged fake attacks to add a realism, though it’s hard to believe anyone was fooled. Faced with this invasion scenario, Jones told Temple members they could stay and fight imaginary invaders. They could take off for the USSR or run into the jungles of Guyana. Or they could commit mass suicide.

On previous occasions Temple members had opted for suicide. Not satisfied, Jones had tested their commitment by giving them cups of liquid that supposedly contained poison. Which they drank (???). After a while, Jones told them the liquid wasn’t poison — but one day it would be.

Jim Jones had been stockpiling poisons — cyanide and other drugs — for years. On this final White Night, Jones was no longer testing his followers. It was time to kill them all.


After the airstrip murders outside Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered Temple members to create a fruity mix containing a cocktail of chemicals that included cyanide, diazepam (Valium), promethazine (Phenergan — a sedative), chloral hydrate (a sedative/hypnotic sometimes called “knockout drops”), and Flavor Aid, a beverage similar to Kool-Aid.

Jones told his followers they should commit suicide to make a political point. What that point was supposed to be is still a matter of considerable debate. Temple member Christine Miller suggested flying members to the USSR.

Of course, Jones was never interested in escape. His answer was death. Lots of it. He pointed out to his followers that Congressman Ryan was dead (and whose fault was that?)  which would surely bring down the weight of American retribution. An audiotape of this meeting exists. It is as creepy as you’d expect.

Finally, it was time for detailed instructions which — still baffling to me — the followers did as instructed. I will never understand why.

Jones insisted mothers squirt poison into the mouths of their children using syringes. As their children died, mothers were allowed to drink poison from cups. Temple members wandered out onto the ground where eventually more than 900 lay dead, including more than 300 children. A handful of survivors — mostly those who were away on errands or playing basketball when the mass suicide/massacre took place — survived.

Jonestown massacre

Jones did not drink poison. He died from a gunshot to the head. It’s unclear if it was self-inflicted. Jones probably died last or nearly so and likely preferred a gun to cyanide. He had witnessed the horrendous effects of death by cyanide and no doubt wanted something quicker.


In the wake of the tragedy at Jonestown, the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” became a popular term for blind obedience, as Temple members had apparently accepted their cups of poison without objection. According to various accounts, the primary beverage used at Jonestown was actually Flavor Aid (sometimes “Flav-R-Aid”) — although both Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid were used.

Kool-Aid was better known than Flavor-Aid. Kool-Aid was introduced in 1927 in powdered form. When Americans thought about a powdered fruity drink mix (other than “Tang”), “Kool-Aid” came immediately to mind.

So, although Kool-Aid and Flavor-Aid were both present at Jonestown, the phrase “(don’t) drink the Kool-Aid” has become entrenched in popular lingo.

Personally, I never touch the stuff.


Back from a brief foray over to Facebook, the social media site I love to hate, I was whacked with this witty bit of philosophical twaddle.

crazy but happy

I looked at it and realized I’ve seen a lot of similar “memes” lately. All of them seem to be saying that your choice is to be nuts, off the rails, mad as a hatter … or miserable, bitter. Living a life of quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation.

Apparently the latest popular “wisdom” — surely promoted by the same geniuses who want Donald Trump or Ben Carson as president — is it’s impossible to be sane while happy.

In other words … if you are in your right mind, you’re miserable? You haven’t had a single laugh in your entire life?

I’ve been through a lot. Sick, poor, bankrupt, and homeless — I’ve been there. But I’ve also been happy, joyous, hopeful, determined, and successful. Sane and simultaneously content. I’ve lost. I’ve won. In and out of love and marriages. Life isn’t always happy, nor is it only pain and agony. It’s not only anything.

Even when I was homeless, life wasn’t a vale of tears. I figured I was temporarily un-housed, between residences and after a while, it got resolved. Life went on — up, down, and sideways.


Life isn’t this or that. Happy or sad. Bitter or crazy. Life just is. You get the good times, the bad times, and plenty of in-between times. It’s a package deal. Money or lack thereof is not the key that unlocks happiness, though it can provide a very comfortable version of misery. Happiness is what you provide. You own the key.

Some of the most bitter rants I’ve heard come from young people. At the advanced age of 19 or 20, they have concluded that life has cheated them. They didn’t get “the good stuff” they deserved.

At 19 or 20, if you have yet to achieve The Good Life, it’s because you’re still on the starting line. You have not been cheated. If you decide it’s over, it means you’ve given up without a fight. Haven’t entered the fray. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, no one said it was going to be easy.


Most of us need a few years to figure out what comprises a good life, then a few decades to achieve it. Get an education. Work at this and that until we find where we belong, until we discover the satisfaction of a job well done. Figure out what “well done” means. For me, for you.

Work isn’t punishment. Properly done, it’s a reward. Challenges and difficulties are not necessarily punishment either. Sometimes (not always), they’re part of growing up, of discovering who you are and what you were born to do. Sometimes, they turn out to be the best of times.


Trick Questions

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

Here’s the original answer. Same question. Same answer. Different picture.

This must be the interview which celebrates my having won the Blogging Pulitzer, right? No? Has there been a mass shooting in town — and I’m the shooter? The Blackstone has angrily overflowed and washed my house away?


72-WNEX Radio_023The aliens have landed and are shacking up in the guest room? The aliens tried to land, but couldn’t find a suitable spot to set down, the driveway being full of cars?

The President is visiting us because he’s run out of foreign countries with which the U.S. is, was or will be at war?

Really — I’m past the age where I have anything left to hide. What could anyone ask about which I haven’t already written and published in a post?

So bring it on. We are media savvy in this household. Ain’t nothin’ you can ask that we can’t answer!


America, land of the brave and the free. Photo by Turtsman.

My father was not a wise man, but a smart one who knew how to make money. He was a lifelong Democrat, small businessman and other things I would prefer not to delve into right now. A big part of his salesman’s repertoire were one liners and jokes. This was a favorite of mine.

It isn’t what you don’t know that will get you. It’s what you DO know that’s wrong.

Albert Friedman
Self-Made American (1917 – 2010)

How true it is, and also, how sad. So many people knowing with complete certainty so much that is so wrong. For them, the motto will forever be thus:

Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up.

If you want to maintain your bona fides as a Real American, you should continue to watch only Fox News. It will help to reinforce your unfounded opinions by presenting pseudo facts and speculation in lieu of real information and you will believe every word. Rupert Murdoch is laughing all the way to his offshore accounts.

Don’t read anything that contains facts unless they comply with your preconceptions. In fact, it might be best to avoid reading entirely. Make a flag of your ignorance. Wave it proudly. Tell the world you know nothing and don’t want to learn nothin’ neither.

Finally, proclaim that you are the prototypical American, unlike the rest of us snobbish book-reading socialist anti-Christian liberals who don’t agree with you. After that, you can wonder why the world is losing respect for the United States. Maybe it has something to do with “true Americans” like you with your passion for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and stupidity.

You vote against your own best interests because you vote not for people who will help you, but for those who share your hates. Anyone can have you by preying on what you hate. You hate so many things that you are easily had. You are America’s fools and losers, the people about whom H.L Mencken spoke when he said:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 – 1956)


I really shouldn’t spend any time on Facebook. All it does is piss me off.

hate speech is not free

THE ORIGINATING COMMENT: Why political correctness is necessary: Spics, Micks, Gooks, Geeks, Freaks, Nips, Hebes, Kikes, Towel Heads, Camel Jockeys, Zipperheads, Chinks, Negroes, Darkies, Niggers, Crackers, Honkies, Spooks, Degos, Wops, Frogs, Canucks, Ice Farmers, Hockey Pucks, Queers, Fags, Homos.

Without it these and many other epithets would still be part of our jargon. Is this what you really want? 

Note: Author was well-intentioned.

FIRST COMMENT: Those are all just words. Being offended by them only gives them unnecessary meaning. Political correctness won’t stop…it will grow and compound until everything will offend someone. Anyone of us can pick and choose what we are offended by and legislate all others to conform. Stop being offended by everything and you take the power away from offender.

ME: Bullshit. Do you seriously believe that not being offended would make the slightest difference to these assholes?

NEXT COMMENT: People use words to make them feel better about themselves. They can call me anything they want, but it doesn’t make them a better person. But when they find I will not respond, they have to face the fact that I am the better person.

My thought balloon: No they don’t. They will harass you until you run, turn to fight, or they escalate and do you harm.

ANOTHER COMMENT: People who use those words aren’t worth listening to. That’s why when so many of a certain group use them then we know the opposition and know that to use those words ourselves is to degrade not others but ourselves. Individuals of xenophobic and bigoted mindsets always have a way of outing themselves, sometimes even in their political platform. Dog whistles galore.

ME:  Are you people serious? Have any of you actually ever been called nigger or kike or any of those other names? When somebody meant it? We can’t make people stop hating, but we can at least keep their behavior from being acceptable or worse, fashionable.

This attitude has allowed cyber-bullying to reach the point where teens are driven to suicide. It’s exactly the same as telling a kid who is being bullied that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you.”

Names hurt. Bullying hurts. Hate hurts. Words have power.

So now, words are no big deal? Words are powerless if you want them to be?

How many suicides of teenagers are the direct result of name-calling? Bullying? Cyber-bullying? How many lives are ruined by cruel words, verbal abuse? Rumors? Lies? Ignore them and they won’t matter? Since when was that true?

Calling it “political correctness” makes it sound so inoffensive. But this isn’t a mere matter of correctness. It’s a matter of common decency and basic fairness. We are all entitled to live in a world without being jeered at, without being taunted, called names. Without being tormented by rumors and whispering campaigns. You call it “political correctness.” I call it justice.

People who talk about how all you have to do is “ignore them” have never been the butt of verbal abuse. Or faced down bullies and wondered if they were going to come out of it in one piece.


If you were bullied as a kid, how did the “not paying attention to them” work for you? How many problems of bigotry and unfair treatment have been solved by ignoring them and “being the better person?”

If they are calling you — or anyone — hateful names, they want you to feel bad. That’s the point. That’s why they are doing it.

Taking the high road is not going to make it go away or make it hurt less. We can’t cure hate, but we can make the haters shut up. I’m in favor of making them shut up. How about you?


I have been a-wandering in a strange, alternative universe called Facebook. It’s a place where anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

At some point yesterday evening I stumbled into a heated interchange that started with the potential candidacy of idiot doctor Ben Carson and roamed far afield.

Flag on the harbor

confederate flag

At some point, someone averred: “In this country majority rules, so if most of the people in a state want to fly the Confederate flag, they can. It’s IN THE CONSTITUTION.”  Along the way, someone else suggested the losers of a war don’t get to fly their flag. The south lost the war (a point often overlooked in such discussions) and they should get over it. 

I asked if the majority in a state favored slavery, would that be okay too? Most of the combatants in this discussion said yes, which proved my fundamental point. That I was interfacing with morons.

No, it isn’t in the Constitution. There’s nothing at all about flags in the Constitution. Not a word. Nothing guaranteeing rights pertaining to flags. As far as the other stuff goes, the Constitution is not designed to protect the rights of the majority. Quite the opposite. Its intent is to protect the rights of minorities because otherwise, you have tyranny.

Sorry. I digressed.

This brought a flurry of rebuttals and name-calling, brought to a head when someone offered a golden nugget.

“The Confederate flag was a battle flag and had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. It was about taxes.”

Although I know arguing with idiots is a waste of perfectly good time I could productively use playing mindless games, I had to say something. There is so much historical evidence proving that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing but slavery.

United States Slave Trade

United States Slave Trade

The Civil War was predestined and the framers of the Constitution knew it. Our founding fathers made a deal with the devil to allow slavery. If they had not, there would never have been a United States. The Constitution would not have passed, might very well never have been written.

Slavery was the burning issue during the constitutional convention in 1788 and it tore the country apart a mere two generations later. They knew it would. The guys who wrote the Constitution may have wimped out, but they knew it wasn’t a real solution, just a band-aid. They also knew the issue would come to war and blood and death. It was that kind of issue.

To declare otherwise is plain ignorant. There are lots of aspects of history that are disputable, but this isn’t one of them. There is too much evidence in the form of diaries and writings — not to mention correspondence between famous guys like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington.

Sometimes, I think Americans must be the happiest people on earth, because we are surely the most ignorant. (And we know ignorance is bliss, right?)


My statement was quickly swallowed by passionate southerners declaring I was an out-of-control left-wing lying Yankee liberal socialist commie. I retreated to a stupid pop-the-bubble game and the battle went on without me.

Why do I bother?