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Random Thoughts About Whatever Comes to Mind

We Are Now The World's Biggest Banana Republic

On the face of it, Wordsworth and O. Henry would appear to have little in common, yet this morning-after-the-end of the U.S.'s international leadership role it's hard not to think of both of them.

It was O. Henry who, back in 1904 in a short story inspired by his time in Honduras, coined the term "banana republic", which was subsequently picked up by political scientists to describe politically volatile countries in Latin America whose economy was dependent on a physical asset - fruit, minerals, whatever - controlled by a combination of foreign corporations and a local elite dependent on them. Through subsidies and bribes, combined with tactics designed to destabilize legitimate national interests, the foreign commercial entities gained and retained access to the desired resource.

The result was a highly stratified society in which most of the local population was poor and survived at the mercy of a small ruling class that  Read More 

Come From Away - At The Start Of A Moment

It's hard to believe that it's been fifteen-plus years since 9/11, a national tragedy both for what it was and what it set in play (it's not good when your leadership doesn't just lose the white hat but stomps on it, then throws it as far away from home base as possible).

It was certainly one of my odder personal experiences, as only a change in scheduling related to an Atlanta house sale kept me from being in NYC at the WTC Marriott that week  Read More 

Loss Of An Original Mind, An Affectionate Heart

Any death represents the loss of uniqueness - the one pair of hands that could shape clay in just that way, the one brain that analyzed situations in just that manner, the one person who combined just that knowledge-set, circle of acquaintances, capabilities, and experiences.

With the death last week of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, we lost something else: a true original. Known for her quirky  Read More 

The Love Of Libraries

Sometimes you read an article about someone else's experiences that brings back your own with breathtaking poignance. Today, in the midst of a world that seems prepared to devalue the worth of the written word just as it prefers easy answers and disastrous chaos to hard work and unpleasant reality, such an article appeared in the SundayReview of The New York Times. By Mahesh Rao, the article - An Elegy for the Library - describes his experiences with public libraries in Nairobi, London, and Mysore. Rao, a native of Kenya, is an award-winning writer who  Read More 

The Job From Hell In Fond Memory

Writing AMERICAN HEALTH CARE has made me think, for the first time in a long time (at least seriously) about my first job, probably because it was in a medical practice, a very large medical practice.

When I was seventeen, toward the end of my freshman year in college, I lost my scholarship because I had refused to continue taking a class with a teacher who sexually harassed me. (Far from being illegal, this was considered a more or less standard job perk for a certain kind of academic jerk - and evidently still is in some schools).  Read More 

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Christmas Ornaments Are Like Books

The most unusual Christmas ornament anyone ever gave me was a little wreath carved from coal. The giver was June, a cousin of my mother's. Her much-older sister Helen had died, leaving everything to her, and one of the things that turned up was a large stash of Christmas ornaments neatly stored in the attic, ready for the next year's tree.  Read More 
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Successful Patient Website Is Up!

It's the time of year for Christmas trees, and two are up and decorated. Light garlands are strung on the fence out front. Snake Mountain, whose top forms our across-the-valley view, is frosting up in the mornings. It's going down to 15°F tonight, and all the cats are tucked up against the cold.  Read More 
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Oh No! Vine Is Closing! Download Your Videos ASAP!

On October 27, in the midst of all the current craziness - everybody get out and VOTE! - Twitter announced that it was closing Vine. If you don't know what Vine is, then at this point it doesn't matter to you. If you do, then you''ll share the pain being felt by many of us.

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The Mystery of the Missing Majorette

Art Dodger, survivor of personal tragedy turned amateur cold-case sleuth, tried to keep an open mind. So teenager Danielle Standridge disappeared twenty years ago? That didn't necessarily mean anything other than that she'd gone. 15-year-old girls did all sorts of odd and unexplained things, then and now. Even so, in his experience, which was considerable, when a girl as good-looking as Danielle managed to stay disappeared for two decades, it usually didn't bode well.  Read More 
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Talking Tea with Ken Cohen

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of "talking tea" with Ken Cohen, Philadelphia tea connoisseur, voice talent, and lawyer. I got to know Ken when he narrated the audiobook of my study "The Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Shoguns."

Ken is incredibly knowledgable about tea, and it was quite flattering to be asked to participate in the inaugural podcast  Read More 
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