Brace yourselves in 90 days

Ready for an April snowcopalypse?

When I was a cub reporter out in the woods, the radio station would get calls from two or three local farmers who liked to start out their day gabbing and kibbitzing with the radio kids.

One of them — was it Ed Kastenschmidt or one of the other guys? — had a theory that a major snowstorm always occurs 90 days after a thick fog. He was convinced of this and never forgot to call when we did, indeed, get a big snowstorm three months after pea soup.

I thought of that theory last week, when we had several mornings of very thick fog, thick enough that the weather service issued warnings.

If my old friend was right, we can expect a major Midwest snowstorm around the second week of April. It’s been a quiet winter so far, so it’d be ironic for the biggest storm of the season to hit in the early days of spring.

The main purpose of this blog post is to give me an “I told you so” I can link to during the snowstorm.

Alternatives to tyranny are out there

I’ve been trying out a new browser called Brave, recommended because it allows for a level of privacy no longer available through many of the big names. I like it so far.

I had been using Mozilla Firefox for years, but I downloaded Brave five minutes after I learned that Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker didn’t think it was enough for Twitter to take away Donald Trump’s platform.

Regular readers know I liked Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate in this year’s election frolics, so you understand this decision had nothing to do with supporting either of the bitter old men nominated by the major parties.

Trump needed to be silenced as merely the tip of the iceburg of “the rampant use of the internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy,” Baker wrote. “We need solutions that don’t start after untold damage has been done,” something “more than just the temporary silencing or permanent removal of bad actors from social media platforms.”

Among Baker’s solutions are to “Turn on by default the tools to amplify factual voices over disinformation,” and to illustrate what tools she means, she linked to a story where Facebook conceded that after the election it changed its algorithms so that news outlets that accepted government decrees at face value were given more visibility than outlets that gave voice to dissenters:

“The change resulted in an increase in Facebook traffic for mainstream news publishers including CNN, NPR and The New York Times, while partisan sites like Breitbart and Occupy Democrats saw their numbers fall. After the election, some Facebook employees asked at a company meeting whether the ‘nicer news feed’ could stay, according to several people who attended.

“But they were told that the ‘break glass’ measures, including the N.E.Q. (”news ecosystem quality”) change, were never supposed to be permanent.

“‘This was a temporary change we made to help limit the spread of inaccurate claims about the election,’ said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. ‘We’re still ensuring that people see authoritative and informative news on Facebook, especially during major news cycles and around important global topics like elections, Covid-19 and climate change.’

Baker’s statement made it clear she is among those who want a “nicer news feed” that choked out alternative news sites, especially those that don’t toe the Party line so much.

The last thing I advocate is violence. A violent revolution typically replaces one group of violent thugs with another.

The second-to-last thing I advocate is censorship. I’m not afraid to give voice to idiots with addled brains, because I believe in a marketplace of ideas the idiots will be seen for what they are, no matter how loudly they shout.

And so hello, Brave. Hello, MeWe. Hello, DuckDuckGo. Goodbye, Facebook “Warren Bluhm, writer” page and Mozilla and Google.

Here’s a link to the article where I found Brave and other alternatives to tyranny.

The sun always sets

On the darkest day of my professional career, the universe conspired to make me laugh.

As the boss droned on about why he had sold the business to our most hated competitor, I looked down and saw the woman next to me was taking notes on a pad.

The pad had an illustration across the top of the page with the words, “One hundred years from now, none of this will matter.”

“Yep,” I laughed, and whispered, “Thank you, Lord.”

It’s sort of gallows humor — after all, you know why none of our current troubles will worry us a century out — but it has more than a kernel of truth.

Whatever’s weighing you down, whatever is keeping you awake at night, even that will be over someday.

Take heart and aim for better days.

These difficult times ain’t

We laughed at the sixth or seventh TV ad, all of them for different products or services, all of them nearly identical, and we haven’t stopped laughing.

They start with a somber solo piano … and then the announcer says …

“In these difficult times …”

“We’ll get through this …”

“… because we’re all in this … together.”

OK. We get the message. I disagree.

Not with the “we’ll get through this together” part. The first part.

What’s so much more difficult (or “challenging” or even “unprecedented”) about these times?

In fact, these times are pretty easy in comparison.

Surviving day to day has always been difficult. It’s always been challenging. But modern medicine, food supply chains, communications, and a plethora of modern conveniences make surviving day to day a whole lot less difficult.

These times may be more uncomfortable than they were before someone decided that locking down the economy might be a good way to stop the spread of a serious virus (how’s that working out, by the way?) — but difficult? challenging? Unprecedented? Are you kidding me?

I’d rather be alive in 2021 than in 1941 or 1931 or 1861 or 1721 or 1621 — Now, THOSE were difficult and challenging times!

As I write this, the sun is shining, it’s a mild winter day, the house is warm and comfy, and life is full of promise. I’ve known a lot more difficult times than this, and if you think back, I’ll bet so have you.

The next time you hear somebody say those magic words, “these difficult and challenging times,” laugh out loud and get back to enjoying this wonderful life.

You have been called to live in freedom

The Rev. Dave Wilkinson shared the first part of this quote from Galatians in his SOUND BITES Ministry email this morning. It’s a call to early Christians, but I think we could all stand to listen.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, live by the Spirit … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

A Little Volume of Secrets

A decade ago The Secret was all the rage, with its Law of Attraction that if you decide you want something hard enough, the universe will shift in ways to make it so.

As I poked around I learned that this idea was not exactly new; in fact variations on the theme were being advanced a century ago and more.

“The aphorism, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart so is he,’ not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life,” philosopher James Allen wrote in 1903. Later in the 20th century Earl Nightingale said “The Greatest Secret” is that “a man is what he thinks about.”

The idea is encapsulated in the aphorism attributed to Henry Ford that whether you think you can do something or you think you can’t, you’re right.

The best short books or essays that I found about the concept were Allen’s “As A Man Thinketh,” Russell H. Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds,” and Wallace D. Wattles’ “The Science of Growing Rich.” In my early days after discovering print-on-demand and independent publishing, I assembled the three in a book I titled A Little Volume of Secrets.

I’ve put a new cover on the little volume and re-released it for sale by discerning retailers everywhere. Entrepreneurs and independent thinkers are no doubt familiar with these works, and the goal is to have them all in one place for your re-reading and gift-giving pleasure.