Writing on the wall for an old friend

My beloved Kindle is about to be deprived of its direct access to the Amazon store, as the company begins to phase out its support of the venerable device.

“While you can continue reading on your device, as of August 17, 2022, store functionality will no longer be available,” the email announcement said. “This change only affects certain devices introduced 10+ years ago (listed below). As of August 17, you’ll no longer be able to browse, buy, or borrow books directly from these Kindle devices … You can still access your existing library from your Kindle, deliver newly purchased or borrowed books to it, or download books from your ‘Archived Items.’” For now.

The Kindle has been the most durable and long-lasting of all the electronic devices I have acquired in recent years. I much prefer its “e-ink” display to the LCD lights. It feels more like reading a book compared with other iterations of the Kindle app.

But someone has decided it has served its purpose long enough, and it soon will be put out to pasture. I, the vinyl aficionado, will continue to use the comfortable old tech as long as I can. I’m content with my Quicken 2013 software and my iPhone 7s, too. If they continue to do their jobs efficiently, why do I need a shiny new version?

Memorial Day pledge: No more war

© Janossygergely | Dreamstime.com

We set aside this day every year to honor and remember the people who have died in war. From time to time someone points out that the best way to honor war dead is to work to ensure there is no war.

But war goes on, and perhaps it always will as long as we turn for leadership to disturbed people who would violently take land from and kill those they perceive as enemies.

Life is a precious gift, too precious to leave in the hands of death merchants. To honor the victims of war, may we raise a chorus of “Never again. May we resolve our future differences in peace.”

Restoring liberty

I mentioned a little while ago that “I’m putting the final tweaks on a collection of musings about this topic, you know, the topic about certain, unalienable rights and the unpleasant folks who fight tooth and nail to take those rights away.”

At the time I was still wrestling with what to call the darn thing. With freedom and liberty under attack from all fronts, I flirted with titles like Freedom Elegy, and I considered bland titles like Essays on Liberty, and I even made a cover with just the title Freedom on it.

I think I’ve settled on the title I attached to a post the other day, and even a subtitle: Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty. The first two words are from a blog post I wrote in the early days of the pandemic when it looked like the draconian measures were starting to lift a little, “Reopening and reclaiming.”

But then, “Restoring Liberty”?

How do you restore what has, in reality, never been gone? 

Let’s go back to the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Got that? “Created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that is to say, they have been yours from the moment you were created. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are “unalienable” rights, that is to say, it is a violation to infringe on these. 

Be that as it may, of course, depriving people of their unalienable rights is commonplace these days, especially via government fiat, and it is necessary to reclaim these rights and restore a culture of respect for them. How do we do that?

Folks like Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. taught a spirit of noncooperation with unjust laws. Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax to protest slavery, declaring “I cannot for an instant recognize … as my government [that] which is the slave’s government also.” Gandhi led a march to the seashore to gather salt in defiance of a salt tax that imposed a jail term on anyone who dared make salt for themselves. King was jailed for leading peaceful protests against racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Restaurants and other businesses that refused to close, and even people who declined to wear a cloth mask, were publicly reviled and chastised during the pandemic even in the face of clear evidence the COVID-19 virus was going to infect its share of people no matter what the government ordered. There was negligible difference in the number of cases reported in states and nations that locked citizens down and those that allowed citizens to live their lives freely. The harder and longer government pressed, the more obvious it appeared that the orders had more to do with imposing its will than protecting health. 

Even so, many would-be leaders were loathe to lift the restrictions, and they and their sycophants work to this day to to suppress dissent from the party line. But that’s how you restore rights: By exercising them — speaking out, assembling peaceably, and refusing to cooperate with laws that blatantly infringe on them.

A common trait of political beasts is that once they have passed a law or tax, even a bad one, they will resist repeal with every fiber of their being. Once a right is taken away, getting it back becomes a daunting task. Close to two years after we began to reopen, some of the restrictions and government presumptions have still not been lifted, and some may be permanent, or as permanent as bad law ever can be.

It’s up to us to live, be free, and pursue happiness even when — or perhaps especially when — it means defying those who would deny us those rights.

And so, the book’s title will be Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty. I still expect to make it available by the first day of summer. In fact, I submitted the materials Saturday with a publication date of June 21, so assuming all goes well, you’ll be able to pre-order yours before then.

Number of the Beast

Uh oh. This is the 666th consecutive day that I have posted on this blog. The devil you say.

Superstition has grown around the number 666, fueled by John the Revelator himself, who wrote of a beastly tyrant who forced everyone to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead, “so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.”

And then he left a hint about whom he was describing: “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is a man’s number. His number is 666.”

Through the years a mythology has grown around the number, from declaring that UPC bars are the mark of the beast to declaring certain politicians to be the beast incarnate. (Actually, I might accept a theory that all politicians are variants of the same beast.) 

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw about these matters; I just had to note that I couldn’t help but note the number this post holds in the blogging streak’s sequence. I confess to uneasiness about this particular number even as I admit it’s an irrational feeling. If something unpleasant befalls me today, draw what conclusions you will.

Puppies and world leaders

There is more love in a puppy’s eyes than in any president’s.

There is more trust in an old dog’s eyes than in those of any king, queen, prime minister or chancellor.

There is more heart in a hound than in any sociopath who wants to be master.

Yes, I trust my dog more than any government leader. So if my dog doesn’t like you, I’m not so sure I should, either.

Echoes of freedom past

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes,” someone said.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but you can hear its echoes every day. Politicians goad each other into waging war. The actions of insane criminals are used to justify shackling the innocent. Censors in every era use the same arguments to silence original thought or dissent. 

The same wind that brings echoes of past foolishness also brings echoes of lost freedoms. The hills are alive with the cries of free men and women who no longer are allowed to walk, talk or act freely. The echoes recall a time when your body was yours, what you earned was yours, your land was yours, and your honestly acquired property was yours.

Tyrants seized power or were “duly elected” on promises to protect and defend your rights to what was yours. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us over and over, and there’s too much shame to go around.

Still, I’ve got a bell and a song to sing, and the star of freedom never quite winks completely out. Echoes of freedom past are never quite stilled. 

Richard Jeffries in the house

Better late than never — The Story of My Heart, book 6 in the Roger Mifflin Collection, is now on sale. Here’s the blurb:

“In the history of literature one happens, from time to time, upon a book which has been written because the author had no choice but to write it,” biographer Walter Besart said of Richard Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart. “He was compelled by hidden forces to write it. There was no rest for him, day or night, so soon as the book was complete in his mind, until he sat down to write it. And then he wrote it at a white heat. For eighteen years, Jefferies says, he pondered over this book-he means, that he brooded over these and cognate subjects from the time of adolescence. At last his mind was full, and then-but not till then-he wrote it. Those who have not read it must understand at the outset that it is the book of one who dares to question for himself on the most important subject which can occupy the mind.”

Or, as Roger Mifflin put it more simply, “If your mind needs a whiff of strong air, blue and cleansing, from hilltops and primrose valleys, try “The Story of My Heart” by Richard Jefferies.” Book 6 in the Roger Mifflin Collection of vintage classics.

Here are links to buy the book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

UPDATE: For whatever reason, Amazon includes reviews of this public-domain book from all sources. Some people slap old manuscripts on a page without regard to formatting, and so you will see reviews that mention “no attention given to where chapters begin and end” or “Great work, bogus edition.” Rest assured that the books in the Roger Mifflin Collection have been properly formatted and edited with an eye toward quality control. You’ll also find bonus materials including the chapter from Walter Besart’s Eulogy of Richard Jefferies that references this book. When your package arrives, make sure the vendor has given you the right edition: