On Your Mark . . .

The Presidential debate is a day or two away (Monday Sept 26). The mariner offers a last look at the vector analysis he and readers have been using to determine which candidate is ahead instead of the ruckus media news presents with every word spoken by the candidates – a boring and indecisive and unfair analysis. A second vector analysis will be posted after the debate once the first round of polls and other measurements are published.

538.com (Nate Silver) – Today, as of 1:10pm, the betting odds are Hillary over Donald 59.5% to 40.5% – trending toward Donald. The popular vote, an assimilation of hundreds of polls and forecasts, has Hillary ahead 46.6% to 44.2% for Donald.

Electoral Vote – The latest analysis of the fifty states shows Hillary ahead of Donald 288.8 to 248 (270 to win). Donald still has two reasonable combinations to reach 270 even but it requires every small state, even Maine’s 1 vote plus Donald must win Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Colorado.

Battleground States – measure is points in polls.

Arizona – Donald +1
Colorado – Hillary +9
Florida – Tied
Georgia – Tied
Iowa – Tied
Michigan – Hillary +6
Missouri – Donald +3 but trending weak
New Hampshire – Hillary +5 but trending weak
Nevada – Tied
North Carolina – Hillary +1 but trending weak
Ohio – Donald +1 but trending weak
Pennsylvania – Hillary +6
Virginia – Hillary +4
Wisconsin – Hillary +5

Down Ballot Races – Sources suggest the House will remain in Republican hands. However the race to control the Senate is hot: The democrats are favored to take control 59% to 41%.

Local Paper and Magazines – reader’s choice. The mariner strongly recommends Atlantic Magazine which did an extraordinary job of covering the debate from every angle. Atlantic gives significant weight to the manner in which voters prefer one candidate over the other and style/personality is important:

“The most accurate way to predict reaction to a debate is to watch it with the sound off”

“Trump speaks at a fourth grade reading level. In political language, plainness is powerful.”

“How best to prepare for debating Trump? I’d start by thinking of him as a monkey with a machine gun.”

One section of the Atlantic coverage alluded to Donald’s prominent intention: emasculate the opponent. Remember Donald’s nicknames for his Republican opponents, e.g. Little Marco? It was important to belittle them; winning on policy was never the issue. How will Donald fare against a feisty woman?

Atlantic Magazine covers all the issues – even the intellectual ones. Check it out at

http://www.theatlantic.com/

Have Fun.

Ancient Mariner

 

Still Talking About It

The mariner was motivated to opine the effect of telecommunication on our cultural environment. The assumption is that the telegraph and its telephonic advances permit us to have personal interaction among many cultural environments instead of just one comprised of our geographic home base, that is, our town, neighborhood, trade, and family.

The smart phone is part of a different technology requiring huge inventories of collected information – information about everything and everyone everywhere around the world, past, present and future. There is mundane detail about history, culture and the mechanistic information derived from millions of advances in science, technology and computing; each of our personal lives has been recorded into this unimaginable library as well. The change agent is that, in principle, all knowledge is accessible to all persons – instantly. What rituals change when knowledge no longer resides only in books or lectures or personal experience?

Public education is experimenting with empirical teaching. A student no longer needs to memorize traditional information from books. Further, to keep up with cultural values, a student must learn at the speed of using the information while actually performing the behavior that requires it.

Culture is still reacting to “free knowledge.” Day-to-day behavior still rests on activities that require humans to travel about as they accomplish their daily pursuits. Examples where cultural change already is noticeable are shopping, working, education, entertainment and news, geographic information about other individuals and objects, and collectively what an individual does each hour of an average day – the giveaway is the term ‘online.’ It isn’t ironing and patching socks – how we passed time before electricity and computers.

The two technologies, telephony and data libraries (called ‘clouds’ under certain configurations) have merged to provide a use for the smart phone. Imagine a multidimensional telephone network that doesn’t need wires; call it the Internet. Imagine a global wireless network where everyone has a telephone number called an email address and/or a presence on the wireless network itself called a website. There is a reason so many individuals are drawn into almost continuous focus on the smart phone while walking, communicating, researching, playing games, purchasing or even connected to several other users at the same time.

The smart phone is the device with which we will change the meaning of privacy; the smart phone is the device through which we will allocate many decisions about our daily life to what free information tells us to do; the smart phone is the device with which medicine will know everything about us from that seasonal sneeze to our genome.

Technology already is advancing much faster than culture can. It will be natural for economic and political forces to leverage technology before culture has established acceptable moral rules encoded to balance our free information environment

The next two generations will struggle to survive in a new world that essentially has no roots in the cultures of past centuries. The third generation will be the proof in the pudding: Will culture have been responsive enough to survive in a viable, satisfactory state for humankind?

Ancient Mariner

 

Let’s Talk About It

God must have wanted the mariner to write about this post’s subject: the influence of communication. Within eight hours, the mariner had the following experiences:

He spoke with a friend at a street fair who raised the subject of life before the telegraph; a while later, he spoke with another friend who questioned how the smart phone is warping our culture; mariner’s wife found an old book about email at the book sale and brought it home to read[1]; later in the evening, CSPAN’s interview program, After Word, interviewed Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times about his new book, Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?

Let’s talk about it.

The telegraph provided a leap forward in a person’s ability to communicate coast to coast across the US more or less immediately. That was the change agent – speed. Before the telegraph, time and current events were a guessing game. Sometimes it took more than six months to deliver mail between President Polk and Sacramento, California. It was quite expensive. Commerce certainly benefitted with the telegraph and the US economy leaped forward, too. After the Civil War, communication was expedited by the railroads, telegraph and a decade or two later, automobiles.

But what really changed was the culture. Mariner frequently uses the example of an individual who wanted to escape bad fortune, criminal activity or simply a dissatisfying life by leaving one town to start life over again in a town fifty miles away. Change one’s name and a new life is born. In many rural areas, the railroad arrived before the telegraph. Put the two together and postal service became a functional advancement along with new financial liaisons that exposed different towns to one another; one could no longer depend on leaving a former life behind. What changed was a culture based, in the strictest sense, on local rules and values – a tribe-based culture. With trains, automobiles and telegraph, local idiosyncrasies were exposed to collaborative associations with other tribal identities. Local newspapers from other towns and cities were read as the post office followed the telegraph around the country. The one-town tribe evolved into a county tribe; eventually county tribes evolved into regional tribes usually linked to a large city. Small, completely independent tribes have disappeared except in places where population is scant like the mountainous states in the west. Tribes began to appear within mega-cities based on economic class and skin color. These smaller tribes have begun to protest this inequality; again, we are in the midst of tribal redefinition.

Anthropologists have identified primates as a family that prefers small groups, or tribes, as the most comfortable grouping. Homo sapiens will find a tribe somewhere if only a neighborhood, an extended family or a poker game.

Play a memory game: How many icons of tribes can you name? Mariner will offer four obvious ones: churches, United Steelworkers, NFL teams and Greek societies like Pi Delta Ci.

Because of telecommunications, tribes are no longer tied to locations or territories. Further, communication of values is so efficient one can belong to many tribes simultaneously.

We will discuss smart phones in a later post.

– – – –

Vector Analysis Update

 

538.com (Nate Silver). Nate says all the events of the last week made various polls jump around a little but overall, the odds remain at 69% for Hillary and 31% for Donald, an exchange of 2 points toward Donald.

Electoral College – A vote cast today would have Hillary winning 274 to 258; 270 to win.

Battleground States – Trend has Donald gaining. The 11 state polling averages:

Colorado          46 to 35 Hillary

Florida            44.4 to 44.4 TIED

Iowa               40.6 to 42.4 Donald

Michigan          41.4 to 34.6 Hillary

Nevada            43.8 to 42.4 Donald

New Hampshire 43.6 to 36.4 Hillary

North Carolina   45.2 to 43.6 Hillary

Ohio                  42.8 to 44.2 Donald

Pennsylvania     48.2 to 39.8 Hillary

Virginia             46.8 to 37.8 Hillary

Wisconsin         45.2 to 38.8 Hillary

Down Ballot Races – The common attitude of most sources is “Win the White House, win the Senate.” The House remains Republican.

Local Papers and Magazines – Reader’s choice.

The overall balance of the vectors has not changed much except to note Donald has gained in some battleground states. Still, sitting 9 points behind Hillary in Pennsylvania, Donald cannot make 270 points in the Electoral College.

REFERENCE SECTION

If a reader is looking for interesting television, that is, mostly analytical and creative shows, Bloomberg Television dedicates much of Saturday afternoon to similar shows.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

[1] The Tyranny of Email, John Freeman, Simon and Shuster, 2009.

Early Voting

Another analytical weight that is important to our vector analysis of the campaign is absentee or early voting. Unfortunately, the effect of early voting can’t be verified until Election Day. What analysts do instead is speculate on a state’s early voting in recent elections. While difficult to capture, early voting is rapidly expanding. It is expected to be 30% of the votes in this election. Some states have implemented mail-to-the-voter ballots as a primary method of bringing together ballot and voter. The voter still has the choice of casting their vote in person at a voting station. In some cases, e.g., military serving overseas, votes may not be fully counted for a month after the election.

No one will disagree that this election is an odd election. The bombastic style of Donald has stirred grass roots “register and vote” efforts which may help the democrats in down ballot results. New registrants particularly have impressive numbers. Consider how the voting may be altered in the south: More than 20 percent of the nearly three million votes already tabulated in Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa have come from people who did not vote in the last midterm election, according to an analysis of early-voting data by The Upshot (New York Times column).

– – – –

Chicken Little came to visit the mariner this morning. Chicken is quite disturbed about North Korea (NK). Exploding nuclear bombs every once in a while is noteworthy in itself for its impact on all our lives whether they are launched in war or not: The radioactive particles will reside in all our bodies within a year.

The nuclear activity in NK has its own set of worrisome issues for us. In reality, NK is a rogue nation. It has the credentials of a nation but no rational constitution, no citizens’ rights and no legitimate economy – dealing in contraband of all kinds, drugs, pirated copyrights, and an abusive tax system that is similar to what most nations consider import-export fees: any national income is taxed up front before funds are made available for commerce.

How will China handle this? How will Asian countries handle this? How will the West handle this? Economic sanctions don’t work because there is no flexible labor economy. Unpaid slaves do a significant amount of work. Slaves are acquired when the court finds a citizen guilty of something and sends them to prison.

Prisons work differently in NK. When a person is sentenced to prison, it is for an inordinately long time. Further, the sentenced person’s parents, immediate family, including all children and others living in the household, are imprisoned. Most, if any, will never leave.

Isn’t this Donald’s solution for American Muslims?

Life goes on in the prisons; people live their lives working for the state, older ones die, new ones are born. Famine is prominent. There is a vacuum of education. Not only is this tragic for the prisoners, it is dangerous for the rest of the Pacific region, including the US.

The following is an excerpt “Three Generations of Punishment” which aired on CBS Dec. 2, 2012. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent.

Tonight we’re going to tell you about a place so brutal and horrific it’s hard to believe it exists. It is, by all accounts, a modern-day concentration camp, a secret prison hidden in the mountains, 50 miles from North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. It’s called Camp 14, and according to human rights groups, it’s part of the largest network of political prisons in the world today. Some 150,000 people are believed to be doing hard labor on the brink of starvation in these hidden gulags. But it’s not just those who have been accused of political crimes; it’s their entire families — grandparents, parents, and children. A practice called “three generations of punishment.”

Very little was known about Camp 14 until a young man showed up in South Korea with an extraordinary tale to tell. His name is Shin Dong-hyuk and he said he had not only escaped from Camp 14, but he was born there. He’s believed to be the only person born and raised in the camps who’s ever escaped and lived to tell about it.

Anderson Cooper: Did anybody ever explain to you why you were in a camp?

Shin Dong-hyuk: No. Never. Because I was born there I just thought that those people who carry guns were born to carry guns. And prisoners like me were born as prisoners.

Anderson Cooper: Did you know America existed?

Shin Dong-hyuk: Not at all.

Anderson Cooper: Did you know that the world was round?

Shin Dong-hyuk: I had no idea if it was round or square.

According to other testimony by former camp guard Ahn Myong Chol of Camp 22, the guards are trained to treat the detainees as sub-human, and he gave an account of children in one of the camps who were fighting over who got to eat a kernel of corn retrieved from cow dung.[16]

The course of NK is entirely in the hands of Kim Jong-un, an immature, narcissistic 32-year old considered in some respects to be a demigod. His word is the only word. If he wants to nuke the Pacific Rim, so be it.

Kim Jong-un is now capable of causing immense damage to the Earth, its inhabitants and the global ecology. Unlike other nuclear nations, there is no government; there is no political citizenry; there is no information about when or whether NK will launch a war. It’s all up to Kim….

In a US military training program for higher ranks, attendees were warned that NK is unstable internally. As such, any number of military actions could erupt within the region; no one can speculate when Kim Jong-un will strike back or how. The US, along with Pacific Rim nations like Japan and Micronesia, must prepare responses which anticipate the extent to which NK will erupt.

Chicken Little’s question to mariner is, “Are our anti-ballistic defenses able to protect us from a NK nuclear strike?”

Ancient Mariner

Friday Update

Let’s check in on our vector analysis of the Presidential Campaign:

538.com (Nate Silver) – Nate provides three projections:

Polls only (more than 350!) present odds of Hillary winning 69.1 to 30.9.

Projection today without future analysis present odds of Hillary winning 75.5 to 24.5.

Polls and forecast combined present Hillary winning 71.0 to 29.0

Electoral College – A vote cast today would have Hillary winning 347 to 191; 270 to win.

Battleground States – Trend has Donald slipping. The 11 state polling averages:

Colorado          46 to 35 Hillary

Florida            45.4 to 42.4 Hillary

Iowa               41.4 to 40.4 virtually tied

Michigan          41.4 to 34.6 Hillary

Nevada            44 to 32 Hillary

New Hampshire 43.4 to 46.4 Donald

North Carolina   45 to 41 Hillary

Ohio                 45.2 to 41.6 Hillary

Pennsylvania     48.2 to 39.8 Hillary

Virginia             48.8 to 37.8 Hillary

Wisconsin         45.2 to 38.8 Hillary

Down Ballot Races – CBS says Democrats have a weak bench (full article http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/us/politics/democrats-weak-bench-undermines-hope-of-taking-back-senate.html?ref=politics&_r=0 )

“WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats, aware of the dead weight that Donald J. Trump has placed on their vulnerable Republican colleagues, can taste a reclaimed majority.

But just as Senate Republicans blew their chances in 2010 and 2012 before finally taking control in 2014, Democrats find themselves hobbled by less-than-stellar candidates in races that could make the difference in winning a majority.

In Pennsylvania, Katie McGinty, a relatively unknown former federal official who has never held elective office, is ahead in polls but lags Hillary Clinton’s large lead in the state. In Florida, a nasty primary between two flawed candidates could harm the Democrats’ chance to unseat Senator Marco Rubio.

Several high-profile Democrats turned down the chance to challenge Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina before they settled on a civil liberties lawyer, Deborah Ross, who is not necessarily a good fit for suburban voters there. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat and former state attorney general now running for an open seat in Nevada, has also failed to catch fire.

To challenge 82-year-old Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Democrats settled on 72-year-old Patty Judge. Senator Rob Portman’s Democratic challenger in Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland, is 75, an easy target for Mr. Portman’s taunting nickname, “Retread Ted.”

Local Newspapers and Magazines – the reader’s choice.

Using our weighted sources, we know that Hillary is well ahead but the down ballot may not produce a typical “coattail” of same party wins.

What did Donald and Hillary say on the boob box? Do we care? Keeping track of our weighted evaluations is more accurate and more informative than the kindergarten seen on cable news.

Sometimes, while we are poking around, we discover a nugget. For example the interview of Barack by Fareed Zakaria on GPS made many helter-skelter issues seem rational – all things given.

Ancient Mariner

It’s Time Again

Okay, readers. It’s time for another haiku poetry challenge. We of the iowa-mariner.com blog periodically craft a haiku poem. For the youngsters who have forgotten the rules and for those new to the blog, here are the rules for writing haiku poetry:

  • Haiku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.
  • (an English imitation of this.)
  • Haiku poems don’t need to rhyme, but for more of a challenge some poets try to rhyme lines 1 and 3.

Abandoned buildings
Along the street row on row
They watch and they wait

Across the dark street
I ponder a lonely house
I hear it sobbing

© 2016 Darlene De Beaulieu

 

Nature’s wake from sleep
Life flirts with beauty
a time for flowers to flaunt

 ©2016 Funom Makama

 

Our day-to-day life
Wrestles with that moment when
One day will suffice

2016 Ancient Mariner

Haiku discipline forces the mind to think thematically and procedurally at the same time. It is a nice replacement when crossword puzzles no longer satisfy. One is not caged as in soduko. A winning haiku invokes empathetic feelings.

Ancient Mariner

Beyond Voting for People

Reader Ben submitted a website that provides another perspective into the will of the people rather than the will of legislators. It is the referendum or public initiative. A referendum is a petition signed by enough citizens that it qualifies to be on a ballot along with the vote for elected officials. It is true that state legislatures may submit a referendum as well. The importance of referenda is that they are driven by pure populism; it is the mood of the people at the street corner. There is no better source about the American attitude than to track ballot initiatives based on signatures of individual voters proposing legislation. Ben recommended a very rich source for learning about the world of public initiatives. See:

https://ballotpedia.org/2016_ballot_measures

Referenda are proclamations that rise out of discontent by the common masses. Typically, they are confrontational declarations reflecting a dissatisfied and often constrained public. While referenda allow the lowest personal emotional attitude to be expressed, the referendum process also demonstrates the fallacy of populist resistance.

For example, in California, a tax referendum was proposed that would change the state’s well being through to today (source: Wikipedia):

Proposition 13 (officially named the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation) was an amendment of the Constitution of California enacted during 1978, by means of the initiative power. It was approved by California voters on June 6, 1978. It was declared constitutional under federal law by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Nordlinger v. Hahn, 505 U.S. 1 (1992). Proposition 13 is embodied in Article XIII A of the California Constitution. Proposition 13 has been part of the California Constitution for 38 years, 2 months, and 25 days.

The most significant portion of the act is the first paragraph, which limited the tax rate for real estate:

Section 1. (a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties.

The proposition decreased property taxes by assessing property values at their 1975 value and restricted annual increases of assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2% per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except for in cases of (a) change in ownership, or (b) completion of new construction.

In addition to decreasing property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds (2/3) majority in both legislative houses for future increases of any state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates and sales tax rates. It also requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote majority in local elections for most local governments proposing to increase special taxes.

end quote

The impact of this initiative brought the California government to its knees. Every category dependent on property taxes essentially went bankrupt – especially education. It remains this way today because the initiative requires a two-thirds vote to change it.

Alternatively, in many states, ballot initiatives have moved the role of marijuana toward legitimacy – in spite of Federal resistance.

There are two ideas in play that often are lumped together but in fact are clearly different. One is populism, which is an action in resistance or rebellion; the other is egalitarianism, which is a philosophy of government often in conflict with capitalist attitudes. The following is from a Stanford University tract:

Egalitarianism is a trend of thought in political philosophy. An egalitarian favors equality of some sort: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect. An alternative view expands on this last-mentioned option: People should be treated as equals, should treat one another as equals, should relate as equals, or enjoy an equality of social status of some sort. Egalitarian doctrines tend to rest on a background idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. So far as the Western European and Anglo-American philosophical tradition is concerned, one significant source of this thought is the Christian notion that God loves all human souls equally. Egalitarianism is a protean doctrine, because there are several different types of equality, or ways in which people might be treated the same, or might relate as equals, that might be thought desirable. In modern democratic societies, the term “egalitarian” is often used to refer to a position that favors, for any of a wide array of reasons, a greater degree of equality of income and wealth across persons than currently exists. End quote.

The philosophy of egalitarianism and the emotional act of populism have the same objective but require different processes for implementation. Egalitarianism requires a government which governs a culture of equality while populism does not require a pairing of government oversight with public attitude.

However, expediency is a tool of change. Bookmark Ben’s link.

Ancient Mariner

Nits

EXISTENTIAL

The mariner long ago grew weary of individuals – especially in news media – abusing the word ‘existential.’ Everyone who abuses the word should be forced to read Kierkegaard and Sartre, the philosophers who established the purpose and philosophy that spawned a popular movement by the same name.

The most common abuse is to use ‘existential’ when in fact the proper word is ‘empirical.’ It is a directional error. Existentialism says that all interpretations of reality begin within the self; to declare something as real or present in behalf of others is to suggest an empirical reality – to which one may have an existential response.

Oh well, mariner’s professional philologist friend says forget it; people will use words as they will. That’s how language works. This is another reason old people pass on.

– – – –

THE ELECTION

The last post about gladiators and vector analysis was a dud as the mariner suspected – but he was entertained constructing the allegory. Below the mariner suggests six sources (dare he mention they are comparable to weights?) with which to measure a candidate’s momentum versus the opposing candidate(s).

538.com: Nate Silver is renowned for his accuracy in anything that is associated with probability from horse racing to political elections. His website provides the reasoning behind his projections and he does analysis of each poll in context – something television doesn’t do. Check the politics page at

http://bipartisanreport.com/2016/08/15/nate-silver-the-538-election-prediction-model-issue-historic-new-statement-stats/

Electoral College: Keeping track of votes by poll is deceptive. For example, polls asking voters who they will vote for shows Hillary ahead 43% to 40% while electoral votes have Hillary ahead 339-197 (270 to win). Unfortunately, each vote carries more or less influence depending on the state in which the vote occurs. The Electoral College allocates its votes at the state level according to the number of Congressional districts and Senators (2). All but two states are ‘winner take all’ which means the state party winner also takes the losing party’s votes, combined to equal the electoral vote for the state. Conceivably in a close state race, what is a close number of citizen votes is suddenly doubled in the Electoral College in behalf of the state winner.

Battleground States: As of the moment, there are eleven according to Politico [www.politico.com]. In principle, battleground states are states that, according to election history, are split evenly enough to vote either way. They change over the years but typically run eight to twelve states en toto. The premise is that all other states will vote traditionally in the election; it comes down to how the battleground states will vote that determines the election. Below is a list of this campaign’s battleground states.

Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin.

Down Ballot Races: The Presidential Campaign has an unusual amount of influence on the voter turnout. Senators, Representatives and local legislators must compete among unusually active groups: tea party, “alt-republicans,” establishment republicans, progressives, establishment democrats and even the Libertarian and Green parties are active as alternatives to Trump and Clinton. Check your local and state polls to have a sense of how much Congress and your state will swing. Local politicians reveal a lot in their behavior and group preferences.

Local paper editorial page: If you are fortunate enough to live in a location populous enough to have a decent newspaper, it will be more favorable toward one candidate.

All these sources may talk about what the candidates said yesterday but the source cannot help but reflect momentum. Using momentum instead of gladiator punches to determine who is winning provides more substance for entertainment, keeping bored folks involved.

Two Magazines: Atlantic Magazine and The Economist are two of mariner’s favorites. Pick your own but make sure they are not too biased one way or another.

Ancient Mariner

Two Roman Gladiators

This is a post that indicates mariner is bored and looking for something to do. Most readers will find little benefit in reading further. Nevertheless, the mariner grows bored with the Presidential Campaign. Some readers may be bored as well. We have learned who the candidates are by watching endless interviews, and reading redundant commentaries. By now we intuitively know our four candidates’ personalities, platforms, location on the spectrum of liberal-conservative, rational-irrational, useful-irrelevant, and plutocrat-egalitarian among many more. Whatever else is to be known is minimal and fodder only for the gristmill of the news media.

What will keep our attention for the next seventy days?

The post title implies what the mariner will not watch. He will focus on the larger perspective of two combatants sparring in a coliseum – more like boxers than gladiators. We have grown tired of the meaningless debate points (punches); we may be more interested in watching a higher level of competition: It’s not what they say; it’s whether they successfully counter the other one thereby gaining or losing the match to the Whitehouse.

This means we must keep track of polls, betting odds, electoral probabilities, one or two political websites, related national and international news, and which pundits are brought to the glass tables of cable news. The specific detail of the candidates’ comments will not mean as much to our spectrum analysis – it’s whether the campaign changes a candidate’s momentum.

If the reader chooses to pursue this more sophisticated comparison, his reasoning powers will be enhanced by practicing ‘vector analysis.’ Assume the reader has the task of keeping a washer centered over a small circle on a large table. This is made difficult because the washer has seven strings attached to it hanging over the table edge each with a different weight tied at the other end. The task is to rebalance the weights on all the strings so that the weights are complimentary to the task of centering and stabilizing the washer over the circle. In the example of the campaign, it’s how much out of balance the strings are – the distance away from the center; the farther, the more momentum for one of the candidates….. Perhaps this is too much trouble.

But for those who may enjoy casually thinking about the campaign from the point of view of all the elements of a campaign instead of just the words of the candidates, entertainment may be had for seventy days. The personal benefit from this effort is that the reader will know why the candidate won, not just because the Electoral College and FOX/CNN says so.

Ancient Mariner

The Yard

Mariner is one of those obsessive gardeners who keeps adding to his projects and workload in the gardens until the whole process threatens to break down – neighbors insinuate that it already has. Primarily, this is because the mariner is very old but his visions are as expansive as ever. He tells his neighbors that at his age it takes eight hours to do four hours of work. It also takes two years to do a three month project – and a neighbor’s help in lifting a 100-lb bag of anything.

One traditional process that has not changed over many years is how the mariner makes compost. Needless to say, his lawn-fascist town considers the area behind the garage not to be an attractive site. Simply, over the year, mariner throws anything (garbage to grass clippings, finished annuals, etc that will decompose into a big pile). Anything – any dirt, sand, last season’s old pot dirt, garage sweepings, etc. Occasionally he will salt the mound with triple ten fertilizer. The newer stuff is piled on top of older stuff. If the mound becomes dry, mariner waters it as if it were another garden.

In the spring, when fresh soil is needed, he digs into the pile until he strikes decomposed soil. He granulates the retrieved soil (removes larger clumps that aren’t decomposed), adjusts the ph and adds horse manure.

To the mariner, all this mound building is nothing more than chores. What mariner enjoys is exploring the mound each year to see what vegetation grows on the mound. He has retrieved feral tomatoes, watermelon, acorn squash, bell peppers and this year a full crop of cantaloupe – all surviving a year or two as seeds in the compost biome. Further, he discovered miniature cattails which will be kept for the proposed water feature. A couple of years ago two attractive but different trees emerged; he has kept them for the patio project.

By the end of summer, the mound is a wilderness of huge weeds and endless groundcovers; redistributed zinnias flourish in unexpected places. Trees are sprouting all the time – especially Oak and Maple; they must be pulled or they become a difficult nuisance. Frogs, toads, crickets, sow bugs, ants, stink bugs, centipedes, spiders, rabbits and dogs stop by this wilderness McDonalds all year.

All in all, this has been an empty tale but it can be a tiny slice-of-life story.

Ancient Mariner