On Reading

When mariner was just beginning his elementary school years, he began reading the family library. It consisted of about ten or twelve popular novels and a 1939 Book of Knowledge encyclopedia; the encyclopedia still is in his possession. The novels were best sellers and classics of their time but alas, over the years mariner has forgotten the titles. He does remember not having the patience, and perhaps the maturity, to finish the novels. However, he did, believe it or not, read page by page all nineteen volumes of the encyclopedia (the twentieth volume is an appendix).

Mariner more or less avoided reading fiction until high school – except for the beloved Sunday comic strips and comic books. In high school there were classes that existed only to read fiction. Books like Old Man and the Sea and (horrors) Heart of Darkness. In college mariner discovered fiction ponies called Cliff’s Notes; these helped his experience in those ‘fiction’ classes.

Not that mariner was illiterate or indifferent about knowledge and information. Mariner was the kid who would cut school and spend the day at the public library (not the fiction section). Later in life, after mariner was married, he decided to enroll in a Master Degree program. He knew his weakness for reading and his impatience while waiting for information to emerge. He asked his wife, an ardent reader, if she would read his textbooks for him. Succinctly, with a tone of disgust, she said, “No.”

So mariner had no choice but to learn to read very, very fast. He enrolled in Evelyn Woods’ speed reading program. Mariner must say up front it is a remarkable training program with excellent improvement in reading something extremely fast. Mariner’s words per minute tripled. The sensation of eliminating subvocalizing is a memorable experience. One feels as if they are in a plane lifting off the runway and soaring.

But mariner did not take Evelyn’s classes to read more fiction. In a manner of speaking, he wanted to avoid reading. The class he took to heart was the class about how to read nonfiction!

Mariner was able to dissect a textbook or treatise in a fraction of the time by not reading all the words! Specifically, one memorized the primary table of contents, skimmed through the preface, and then studied the author’s writing style. It turns out most writers habitually use one of three sentence locations within a paragraph to state the specific point or information for the whole paragraph. Most nonfiction writers use the first sentence of the paragraph to state the primary point. Second most popular is using the last sentence of the paragraph as a summation. A few writers set up the paragraph in the first sentence but don’t state the point until the second sentence. Combined with the top down thread of the table of contents, one can literally jump over chapters to sustain continuity. Don’t try this with math or engineering texts.

As the decades passed, mariner remained a reluctant reader unless there was a task at hand or a goal that required additional information or understanding. During his career, he often had to fly to different locations. Any traveler knows that hours in an airplane can be boring. One day mariner decided to try reading a novel.

At the airport bookstore he picked up Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. On the plane, he started at the beginning. A story line developed and pieces of plot were linked around the person in the story. At the end of the first chapter, the novel started all over again with another person. The second chapter never referenced the first chapter! Hell, mariner doesn’t have time for this nonsense. He closed the book and has never looked at a novel since.

The same pattern emerges when mariner watches movies. His poor wife enjoys movies. Mariner notes the color schemes, the actors, the music and the pattern of camera shots. About fifteen minutes into the movie – to his wife’s chagrin – mariner says he has seen the movie.

Ancient Mariner


Contemporary References

Today’s post is all reference section. Mariner provides a list of intriguing and entertaining articles from various sources that help us interpret daily life in a modern and unconstrained world.


This first article from the Atlantic Magazine is about how the business world manipulates how users relate to their smartphones:

Copy website to reader’s browser


The linguist Gretchen McCulloch aims to clear some things up with her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. The “new” rules, she says in an interview, are emergent. Basically, communicating requires more than just a factual statement pursuing clarity; it also must simultaneously convey a state of emotion associated with those facts. Provided by NPR:



Just so the reader knows, CRISPR is not something to keep lettuce fresh. “CRISPR = Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences.” Basically, it is a sequence of DNA that has space at the end where specially contrived DNA can be affixed – thereby changing the genome of the creature at hand. Science Magazine shows us how Chinese Agronomists are changing food crop characteristics:


Puerto Rico isn’t the only troubled subculture within the United States. At the other end to the North is Alaska, with deep concerns about sexual abuse in communities that have no law enforcement. ProPublica offers this sobering account of life in the back country:


Ancient Mariner


Mariner advises readers that the women on television who wake up, sit up, smile a big grin and stretch their arms skyward is a myth fostered by mattress companies. Mariner does not have this experience upon wakening. When mariner wakes up it is like disinterring the dead.

Mariner’s wakefulness begins as virtually unnoticeable stirring for about fifteen minutes. Finally, he rises to sit on the side of his bed not with stomach muscles but with the counterbalance of his legs falling to the floor. He sits motionless. The brain does not function – his brain is mesmerized by the pattern in the carpet; his knees and back voice dissent at the idea of rising. Blood begins to flow through his muscles as though it were oatmeal; the cells pass the word cell-to-cell: “He’s awake; get ready.”

Mariner looks out the bedroom window. Cat Stevens’ morning has broken; inside mariner’s morning is broken. After several minutes, thoughts begin to occur in the vacant brain: shave. Shave?! “What is this, a concentration camp?” It is the 995th day of the Trump Presidency. Oh no – mariner has been sent to hell! Mariner struggles to construct his day. This is an important moment. If mariner comprehends there is a schedule, he continues to sit a few moments then rises from the side of the bed. His muscles leap into action like first responders. On the other hand, if no schedule surfaces, mariner rolls back onto his bed, pulls his linen casket cover over him and retreats whence he came, perhaps to be disinterred later.

There is no alcohol in this scenario; no THC. (Though the mariner suspects the women in the mattress commercials are into crack and amphetamines.) Sleep deprivation isn’t an issue; during his life mariner typically averages 6-8 hours. So why does mariner greet the day with lethargy and the speed of a sloth?

There are two reasons: 1) Mariner pushes his day into the wee hours; this has been his style his entire life. 2) Mariner has no obligations that require precise scheduling or timely responsibility. In other words, mariner is retired. Somewhat responsible for himself, he tells friends he works an eight hour day – it just takes three days to do it.

Seriously, the lack of schedule is one element among many that leads to a degraded quality of life. On some occasions, it may cause depression and a tendency to become a recluse. It may contribute to earlier dementia. On the skill side, lack of participation in social groups, shared events and daily interaction with others diminishes the personality leading to shallow thinking and a reduced ability to solve problems.

At a more abstract level, one’s sense of self suffers from lack of a reason to be – a raison d’être. This, too, can lead to depression. It is important for retired folks, especially surviving spouses, to identify with a set of tasks that bolster one’s feelings of self-value. It may be an elaborate hobby, a responsible role in a club or church, volunteering in charitable organizations or finding a job. There are many mutual care opportunities where a couple of elderly retirees commit to supporting each other – an instant family!

Mariner’s death sleep aside, he keeps busy during the day on several fronts that engage him physically, mentally and socially.

Here’s to retirement – the good life!

Ancient Mariner



Fly By Subjects from Mariner’s Mail

֎ Astrophysicists have pursued dark matter for decades. It seems there is growing evidence for yet another kind of dark matter. The new dark matter is called ‘Chameleon Theory.’ It is so named because it can change its mass thereby ‘hiding’ among other objects. If the reader is interested, check out https://www.livescience.com/65919-chameleon-theory-explains-dark-energy-maybe.html?utm_source=lst-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190712-lst

֎ The US dominates international trade when it comes to services. The following statements are from a Politico podcast.

The national dialogue about trade has almost exclusively focused on hard goods, the things the US makes or grows. But if the tariff debate focuses only on goods, there is a risk of leaving out something crucial to our understanding of trade today. There’s been an equally stunning shift in a different segment of the economy. . . . In fact, when we look at the US, the US actually runs a trade surplus when it comes to the services component.

. . . . The hottest areas of the economy, consumer tech, software, retail, entertainment, and communications now account for the most number of jobs, and they’re becoming export industries.

– – – An educational podcast that looks at global trade from a fresh perspective. See the podcast at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/sponsored-content-rethinking-americas-role-in-global/id1202281739?i=1000442921861

֎ Fivethirtyeight.com (Nate Silver’s website) has an article about the Democratic campaign for the presidency. A hidden influence is asking voters who their second choice would be. See: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/lanes-are-starting-to-emerge-in-the-2020-democratic-primary/

֎ From The Atlantic: The age of TikTok begins.

If you didn’t know, now you know. The fun, jumpy, puppy-and-meme-laden video app is well on its way to becoming the next big social network. It’s already broken the 1-billion-monthly-users mark and ranks as the third-most installed app worldwide—just behind Facebook’s WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger—for the first quarter of 2019. TikTok overtook YouTube as the star of this year’s VidCon, an influential gathering of content creators in Anaheim, California. “The older generation doesn’t realize how important TikTok is yet,” one 21-year-old attendee told our Gen Z translator Taylor Lorenz. See: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/07/tiktok-stars-are-preparing-take-over-internet/593878/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20190712&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

Ancient Mariner

Our Democracy at Work

AT&T maintains a formidable presence in Washington. The company spent more than $15.8 million on Washington lobbying last year, and its lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2019 put it among the top two dozen companies, according to a POLITICO analysis of disclosure filings. AT&T has 17 in-house lobbyists and also retains nearly 30 outside lobbying firms, according to disclosure reports.

Readers need to know that AT&T owns:

•HBO and Cinemax, as part of Home Box Office Inc.

•TBS, truTV, TNT, Studio T, and TCM, as part of Turner Entertainment Networks

•Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, as part of the TBS, Inc. Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media (AYAKM) division

•CNN and HLN, as part of CNN News Group

•The websites Super Deluxe, Beme Inc., and CallToons

•DC Entertainment

•DC Films, including all of the “Batman” movies

•Turner Broadcasting International

•Turner Sports, including the website Bleacher Report and the rights to March Madness and NBA playoffs

•The CW (50%)

•Warner Bros. Animation

•Hanna-Barbera Cartoons

•Fandango Media (30%)

•Warner Bros. Consumer Products

•Warner Bros. Digital Networks

•Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures

•Warner Bros. Pictures International

•Warner Bros. Museum

•Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank

•Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden

•Warner Bros. Studio Tours

•Warner Bros. Pictures

•Warner Animation Group

•Warner Bros. Family Entertainment

•NonStop Television

•New Line Cinema

•Turner Entertainment Co.

•WaterTower Music

•Castle Rock Entertainment

•The Wolper Organization


•Blue Ribbon Content

•Warner Bros. Television

•Warner Horizon Television

•Warner Bros. Television Distribution

•Warner Bros. International Television Production


•Alloy Entertainment


•Warner Bros

Is democracy threatened by this? What happened to antitrust regulations?

 It is an age of corporatism unbridled by a government that still thinks only in terms of the printed page. How will AT&T influence our opinions not just for entertainment but for news and an understanding of reality? This is too much control over a public’s perception of the issues of daily life.

Ancient Mariner



New Stuff

֎ Beginning next year, FedEx will deliver seven rather than six days a week, to accommodate our insatiable online shopping habits. “Online shopping is seven days a week,” the company’s COO told the Wall Street Journal. The company expects that the number of package deliveries in the U.S. will double by 2026. [The Wall Street Journal]

Mariner’s wife, and a zillion other inveterate shoppers, is dismayed at this kind of news. Box stores of every ilk are disappearing on a daily basis. Where will folks shop? Online doesn’t count; one must arrive and walk the aisles, touching and musing about every item then going to a competitive store to start all over again walking the aisles. Mariner’s wife confesses that often nothing is actually bought – unless there is probability that it will be returned anyway. Online stores try to emulate shopping by sending several examples from which to choose but it isn’t the same. Where is the parking lot? Where are the automatic doors? What’s down this aisle? Where is the checkout line?

֎ Billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to transport you from Los Angeles to San Francisco at a speed of 600 miles per hour. To do this, he is proposing to create a high speed train system called the Hyperloop that will cut travel time between the two cities to just 30 minutes! [Inhabitat.com]

When mariner was young, he remembers reading an account of a person riding in an early version of an automobile before they were a common sight. The person feared for his life as the automobile approached 30 miles per hour. “Humans aren’t made to move this fast,” he said. Young mariner remembers urging a friend of his father, who was taking them for a ride on a new, unopened airport runway, to go faster – go 60 miles per hour! It was exhilarating! Bon voyage, travelers – and don’t pull the emergency stop cord.

֎ Daniel Neiditch is seeking $85 million for a 15,000 square foot space located at 42nd St. and 12th Ave. in Manhattan. He is offering a list of perks to go along with the property to justify the high price:

– A pair of seats on an upcoming Virgin Galactic space flight (retail price: $250,000).

– Two Rolls-Royce Phantoms and a Lamborghini Aventador roadster.

– A $1 million, 75-foot yacht that’s included (along with five years of docking fees on the Hudson).

– A summer stay in a mansion in the Hamptons that typically rents for $350,000 a season.

– Courtside seats to the Brooklyn Nets (worth $225,000),

– A live-in butler, private chef, and a year’s worth of weekly dinners for two at the flagship restaurant of Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud.

– $15 million to pay for renovation. The condo has been on the market for five years, in large part because of its exorbitant price, but also because it requires renovation and the new buyer will need to displace current residents. (The ‘penthouse’ is actually 13 separate units on one floor which are filled with month-to-month renters.)

Do readers feel as mariner does that this offer is too surreal? It just doesn’t seem to have any excited expectation about it. Perhaps one would be more interested if one had a billion or two and could take on the property just for something different to do. But mariner likes the new idea of packaging goodies with a home for sale. How would that alter market pricing? One could sell a junk house for a lot of money by including some neat stuff.

Ancient Mariner



Mariner’s back yard, typically a number of gardens surrounding a large circular lawn, has been for the last week or so an archipelago – a series of random islands amid a large body of water. The rain is relentless and endless. It is difficult to weed or otherwise work with plants while standing in several inches of water; cutting a lawn beneath standing water is comparable to one of Las Vegas’s water displays. The cattail ditch has become the deepest part of a large pond preventing mariner from reaching his compost bin.

So outdoor work is unavailable. There are endless projects in mariner’s workshop but they don’t spark any interest. Workshop projects are of three types: timeline projects which must be finished sooner than later (too much like work), waiting projects which are on hold for some reason (reasons which may become infinite), and big task projects usually involving furniture, shelves, repairing equipment or welding.

Another pastime is cooking. Something mariner hasn’t done for a while is bake. That’s because mariner is on a low carb diet – sort of.

To pass some time, today mariner will make English muffins Alton Brown style. Alton must have difficulty keeping interest, too. He invented a way to make English muffins using 3-inch tin cans sitting in an electric frying pan. Mariner has made these muffins before and it is fun to tinker with tin cans rather than to sit by the oven waiting for the timer.

Mariner also has some 4-inch tin cans to experiment with baking cake rolls in a similar fashion.

Mariner also has mail to process.

Finally, his last available pastime is to write a blog post.

Ancient Mariner


Will the shoe ever drop?

There is a term that describes a period of Hebrew history leading up to the birth of Jesus – ‘the fullness of time.’ It refers to a promise made by God to the people of Israel that peace and happiness would return and everyone would be blessed. God didn’t exactly say when that would be; he just said, “In the fullness of time.” Habakkuk 2:3:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

It took centuries before Jesus was born.

Do the citizens of today have to wait centuries before this difficult time passes? Will the people of the world feel great relief and blessing – or as alter ego Amos would suggest, Armageddon? Religious faith provides hope and fulfilled expectation but today fullness lies in the hands of the three branches of the US government. Perhaps Amos knows something.

If one listens to environmentalists, the shoe will not drop – it will float away. If one listens to Congress, and listens, and listens, they say in the end, “What shoe?” If one listens to the Courts, they care very much about the shoe – should the shoe be made of horsehide and thong? Perhaps it would be more meaningful if it were a wooden sandal . . .

If, on the other hand, we turn to today’s version of the Pharisees, that is, the corporations and banks – the shoe definitely will not drop. Fullness of time is already here.

Yes, mariner knows he did not characterize the Executive Branch. It is just too painful.

To take another lesson from the New Testament, this cup will not be taken from us.

Our times are too painful to wait centuries.

Ancient Mariner



The Word is God

Regular readers are aware that mariner is a fan of haiku. Indeed, he enjoys any short, insightful phrase that takes the mindset to another focus – a small stretch from habitual awareness. Unfortunately, mariner is too pragmatic for many of the ‘Zen’ sayings found on calendars and in greeting cards. But there are many other sources, particularly in literature and poetry that are rich and insightful for anyone. For example:

֎ Louise Glück’s “Field Flowers,” spoken from a flower’s point of view:

Your poor idea of heaven: absence of change.
Better than earth?
How would you know, who are neither
here nor there

. . A thought that leaves one hanging in purgatory without residence before or after. The following is a quickie from mariner’s wife:

The ground is flat
The Earth is round
The truth is never plain, I’ve found
The plane is never true.

Here’s a haiku:

The rain falls heavy
It soaks, it cleans, it feeds life
Rain is Earth’s gardener.

֎ Mahatma Gandhi said this one:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

֎ And Elie Wiesel:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

 Don’t give up on literature and reading despite the onslaught of thumb technology. The best of life is in the written word.

Ancient Mariner

Just so you know . . .

֎ 415 parts per million

At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, carbon dioxide levels were recorded at 415 parts per million last week. That is the highest level recorded there since it began such analyses in 1958. It’s also 100 parts per million higher than any point in the roughly 800,000 years for which scientists have data on global CO2. In other words, “levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now nearly 40 percent higher than ever in human history.” [Popular Science]

֎ Utah recently passed a law that requires doctors to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to performing an abortion that occurs at 20 weeks of gestation or later. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said it considers the case to be closed as to whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage in development.

“The science shows that based on gestational age, the fetus is not capable of feeling pain until the third trimester,” said Kate Connors, a spokesperson for ACOG. The third trimester begins at about 27 weeks of pregnancy.

To find out more, see: https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190518-ls

֎ Can students’ life circumstances be quantified alongside their SAT score? The College Board’s new “disadvantage” score attempts to add a measurable layer of context to each student’s test score, taking in environmental factors such as crime rates and housing values where the student lives. Test-taking students won’t see their score, but 150 participating colleges will begin evaluating applicants on this metric in the fall. Notably, the score doesn’t look at race, so it can still be used in states that have banned racial preferences in public-college admissions. [The Atlantic]

֎ The United States is facing an affordable housing crisis.

Nearly two-thirds of renters nationwide say they can’t afford to buy a home, and saving for that down payment isn’t going to get easier anytime soon: Home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth. According to research from the advocacy group Home1, 11 million Americans (roughly the population of New York City and Chicago combined) spend more than half their paycheck on rent. Harvard researchers found that in 2016, nearly half of renters were cost-burdened (defined as spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent), compared with 20 percent in 1960. [More at Curbed.com]

Now is the time to tour one’s favorite botanical garden. Make an outing of it with an outdoor lunch. This time of bountiful blossoms lasts only a week or two. Peace of mind may be discovered amid the tumultuous moment in history that everyone is experiencing.

Ancient Mariner