The Hard World, a collection of poetry and fiction, takes a mature, unflinching look at the violence and passions that infuse our world’s grimmest moments and at the inexhaustible joy and love that no degree of suffering can overwhelm.
Tommy disliked his own face. He felt it was too pudgy, and growing up as he was in an age when the Mattering of Lives was a function of Color, and in which the crowds would judge a man not by the content of his character but by the color of his skin, and when all moral discernment was reduced to identification of whether a person was punching up (courageous!) or punching down (oppressor!), and when all of us were categorized and understood purely on the basis of superficialities, and when moral agency was equated with systematic violence because each of us was was Born This Way, young Tommy understood a person’s looks to be everything. If his face was too pudgy, then his corresponding worth as a human being was written, sealed, and irrevocable.
The COVID crisis helped Tommy in his fatalism, because the masks have covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto It, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Fortunately, happenstance brought Tommy to “Cosmic” Jack Willis. It also brought him into contact with the unlikeliest of saviors: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if the kids these days are ever going to stand up for themselves, the thing they need most might just be rock n’ roll…
At the time I write this, relations between the United States and China are mostly good. There is a trade war brewing, but this dispute is sharply limited to trade. The U.S. has expressed some concerns over China’s military build up, but so far there have been no actions by either side that required a military response. The two countries, if not the closest friends, certainly are not enemies.
I say this because I want to speculate on what a war between the United States and China would look like. I want to be clear that at the time I write this, there is no indication of such a war on the horizon, and I hope it always stays that way. But if circumstances were ever to change… Continue reading “How Would China Fight a War?”→
Metrologically speaking, an atomic clock is extremely precise, but we should avoid saying that it is accurate. Take several measurements of the same thing, using the same measuring device. Because of measurement error, you’ll get back multiple values. If your measuring device is accurate, those values will all be clustered around the “correct” value. If your measuring device is precise, then those values will be clustered very closely together. Continue reading “More Accurate than an Atomic Clock”→
To be selected by the State Department for a position as a Foreign Service Officer is no easy thing. The selection cycle takes at least a year, and often one must cycle through multiple times before making the cut. Part of the selection process is a notoriously difficult written exam. That one weeds out a lot of people. FSOs all pass that exam, they’re smart, and they know it. They read books by guys like Thucydides. Unfortunately, the fine folks of our diplomatic corps tend to stop reading part way through, and then they come away with exactly the wrong lesson. For the good of humanity, I want to correct this. Continue reading “Should You Ever Read the Melian Dialogues, then PLEASE Keep Reading.”→
I want to discuss what an economy is, because there seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding on this point. The misunderstanding is rampant even at the policy level, and human suffering results.
An economy is not stuff. We measure GDP in terms of numbers of automobiles manufactured in a year, and numbers of cavities treated in the same amount of time, and so on, and while products & services give us a nice objective measure of economic performance, products & services are not themselves the economy. Products and services are the results of an economy. The economy itself is something far more difficult to directly measure. Continue reading “Understanding an Economy– Because, Actually, Stuff Is Free…”→
Go to an airport bookstore anywhere in the world and you are virtually guaranteed of finding copies of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, targeting the modern day businessman. Business is war, these books insist, and Sun Tzu’s timeless principles will show you how to defeat your competitors. A simple thought experiment demolishes this idea. Business is not war, but I can tell you exactly what business is. Continue reading “Business and The Art of War”→
In a world of internet, air conditioning, and suburbs, it might seem like all the dragons have been slain and there are no adventures to be had. But frontiers exist still, and when you journey into the wild beyond, you want to travel properly armed. I was out there once, and I got caught short. I want to share this story because it is deeply instructive. Continue reading “Dragons, Soundings, and a Little Historical Context”→