Our Unintelligent Intelligence “Services”

Recent security breaches at the White House have focused attention on the failures of our security and intelligence services. The poor performance of these organizations is not new. And while opposition politicians act as if these failures just started under the Obama administration, I can remember a number of them from years past in my…

A collection of crime fiction book covers displayed as a collage

Why Do We Like Crime Fiction So Much?

Take a look at the New York Times best seller list any given week and you will see that about a third of the books listed are crime mysteries. Americans, at least those who read and buy books, are in love with crime fiction. Readers of the genre will have different preferences. Some like the…

Map showing roads and businesses in a small part of Janesville, Wisconsin.

National Bicycle Month vs. Reality

I just read that this is “National Bicycle Month” and that this week is “Bicycle to Work Week.” I have no idea who makes these pronouncements, but I am sure they represent a kind of wishful thinking rather than an accurate reference to everyday reality. Last week an article in the Washington Post reported new…

In the foreground a Chinese flag flutters in the wind looking toward skyscrapers in the distance.

China Galleries: Beijing

Several years ago I was fortunate to visit China three times. I made the trips in 2005, 2006, and 2008. On the first trip I was amazed at the incongruity between my expectations and the reality I found. Like others of my generation, I grew up during the cold war. I remember that my first…

Snow convered fields against a blue sky.

The Beauty of Quiet Landscapes

I like landscape photography. I like looking at it. But more than that, I like photographing it. The reason is simple. In order to photograph a beautiful landscape, you have to go there. And being there is itself worthwhile, even if you decide not to take the picture. Landscapes vary a great deal. Some are…

Snowy owl perched in a tree branch looking at the camera.

Winter Birds

At the beginning of March I learned there were snowy owls not more than ten miles from my home in Janesville, Wisconsin. In fact, they had been here since November, and I did not know. On receiving this news, I immediately grabbed my camera and headed out to the solid white tundra that had been…

Wrecking ball labeled "politics" destroying a monument to civility

How Can We Save Democracy from Our Own Irrationality?

Recent studies confirm that when people holding false beliefs are confronted by facts contradicting those beliefs, not only do they fail to reject their false beliefs, but they believe them even more strongly than before.* Philosophers, political scientists and social psychologists have long noted the irrational aspects of human nature. Nonetheless, one of the cornerstones…

Collage of book covers

My 2013 Year of Books

I like to read contemporary fiction, especially mysteries. When it comes to reading, mysteries are my guilty pleasure. But this past year I tried to put the mysteries aside (for the most part) and read less pleasureful, but perhaps more thought provoking, literature. The annotated list for the past year is below. If you have…