Credit: iStock / alphaspirit

Ernest Hemingway supplied two of his characters in The Sun Also Rises with a pair of memorably terse lines.

‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.

‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’

Mike’s answer has been quoted endlessly since then, probably because it seems to perfectly encapsulate a recurring modern sensation of having things firmly under control, then seeing them start to slip slowly from our grasp, and then the next minute realizing we’ve lost hold completely.

And now, in 2021, the modern Republican Party seems to be taking its turn in Mike’s spot, sliding slowly — and…


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No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, questions surrounding free speech are hot-button items these days. Should anyone be free to say anything, about anyone, at any time, and to any audience? If not, who’s responsible for moderation, and what are the rules? And at what point does moderation become censorship?

Before we consider these questions directly, let’s start with a review of relevant legislation and technology, using our situation in the US as a point of focus.

The US Bill of Rights

The First Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1791, states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of…


The cover of “The Notes & Commonplace Book” by H.P. Lovecraft, with an image of a dragon.
The cover of “The Notes & Commonplace Book” by H.P. Lovecraft, with an image of a dragon.
Commonplace books have been around for a while

In the last week or so I’ve come across a couple of articles touting some trendy ways for individuals to collect information that is personally meaningful to them.

First, there was this New York Times piece by J. D. Biersdorfer telling you how to “Create a Digital Commonplace Book.”

Then there was a blog post at The Sweet Setup offering a “PKM Primer: An Introduction to Personal Knowledge Management for Creatives.”

Both pieces were well done, and I encourage you to read the pair.

A commonplace book, it turns out, is “a book into which notable extracts from other works…


credit: iStock/hkeita

As I watched the Biden-Harris inaugural ceremonies this week, I found myself overcome by unanticipated thoughts and feelings.

Although I’ve been aware of presidential inaugurations since 1960, when I was nine, this is the first one I’ve ever taken the time to watch in its entirety.

Of course, as a reliable Democrat, there were the expected feelings of relief as the political pendulum swung in favor of my preferred affiliation.

And obviously, given the armed insurrection we witnessed in our Capitol building only a couple of weeks ago, there was great relief as the wheels of democracy once again seemed…


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As I write these words, the invasion of our US Capitol in DC is only a week behind us.

At least in terms of what I’ve been reading (and writing) over the intervening period, many of us are wracked anew by the question of how it could have come to this, and what these actions might mean for our future.

In particular, many of us are wondering how so many people could have come to believe The Big Lie. Under Trump, the Lie has taken many forms, but by now its general outline is clear: Trump is the ultimate winner…


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The invasion of our Capitol building on January 6th, 2021, and the accompanying disruption of the work of our duly elected members of Congress, was certainly an unprecedented and frightening addition to our American history books.

And yet, when added to the list of coup attempts that have taken place around the world throughout human history, this action seems a bit out of place.

The New Oxford American Dictionary on my Mac defines the word coup in several ways, with the first entry going like this:

(also coup d’état) a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government…


Credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

Is It Really So?

Yes. We have this truth from no less an authority than Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, testifying back in 1971:

Gotta stand and face it:
Life is so complicated.

Even earlier, back in 1920, H. L. Mencken offered us this comforting assurance:

There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.

I was thinking about life’s complications recently when I heard Barack Obama’s insightful interview with Brené Brown. The whole podcast episode is well worth a listen, but just to cherry pick a few relevant nuggets:

When I actually took my theories and started testing…


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I came across a story in The Washington Post recently about a nurse in South Dakota haunted by memories of patients who were dying from Covid-19.

From Jodi Doering’s Twitter feed:

The ones who stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real: The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA… all while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. …


credit: iStock/iagodina

Social distancing and wearing of face masks have become the new normal for most of us, thanks to the continued threat of COVID-19.

As someone who’s over sixty, and yet not quite ready to bump wood when I stick out my elbows in the morning, I’m appreciative of my neighbors who wear their face coverings and keep their distance, as much for my protection as for their own: we need to contain this thing using the best tools we have available.

And yet, as ever more people work from home, and more students attempt remote learning, I’m concerned about a…


Scene from Frank Capra’s 1936 film “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”

There is a flaw in the reasoning behind our infernal, never-ending, society-splitting debate concerning socialism vs. capitalism, and I want to point it out.

To start with, imagine the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

(Notice I say “our” with confidence because, even though I don’t know who you are or where you were raised or what you look like, I do know that you, like all of us humans, are descended from one or more tribes of hunter-gatherers.)

Our ancestors foraged off the land. They did not accumulate more material goods than they needed, or more than they could wear…

Herb Bowie

Chief Practopian at The Practical Utopian

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