Amazon to Swallow Whole Foods Whole?

In this era of daily, mind-boggling reports out of Washington, I sometimes feel as if my mind cannot boggle any further. And yet… Amazon.com taking over Whole Foods?? I thought I was dreaming when I heard it on the radio the other day. I do not like that Amazon is threatening to take over everything.

I have such mixed feelings about Amazon. As a customer, I find them easier and more pleasant to use than just about any other online merchant. As a writer, I am keenly aware that the ebook revolution they kickstarted with Kindle self-publishing is one big reason I have an active and growing readership, and am making more money from my books in backlist than I did when they were new. At the same time, I am keenly aware of their sometimes predatory practices in the publishing industry, and I worry about their growing power in the marketplace. As a viewer, I love some of their TV programming. As a citizen, I am both alarmed by their monopolistic tendencies, and pleased by some of the choices Jeff Bezos has made in spending his billions (keeping The Washington Post going strong, for example, and funding the development of private space-travel technology through Blue Origins). Also, I admire his willingness to take the long view on his investments, going for long-term growth and not just short-term profits. This is something the world needs more of, although not necessarily on such a gargantuan scale.

Amazon is truly a complex phenomenon, and my mind continues—against all odds—to boggle. I still sort of wish they weren’t buying Whole Foods, but here’s an interesting article on the reasons for his making the move.

Terry Bisson, in his SF novel Pirates of the Universe, depicted a future in which just about everything was owned and run by a corporation called Disney-Windows. Looks like he got the basics right; he just maybe picked the wrong company.

March for Science, Boston

The Boston branch of the March for Science drew a gratifyingly large and diverse crowd to Boston Common. I decided it was time to get out there and put my feet where my mouth is (not in my mouth; you know what I mean), and I’m glad I did. Here are some pictures to tell the story.

 

 

 

I don’t know who any of these people are, just that they cared enough to come out in support of science, clear thinking, and the welfare of our planet.

Happy Earth Day!

Love the Weather, Hate the Climate (Change)

I went out biking today with a glorious, record-breaking temperature of 72 degrees in Boston in February. I can’t deny it was wonderful, a great day for walking, biking, dogging. Here is a selfie of me out on the bike path, soaking up the wondrousness. At the same time, I had recurring visions of icepacks melting into the sea, polar bears on ice floes, and sea levels rising. And the thought: This can’t be right.

You listening, Pruitt?

It Was Only a Nightmare

Crying Lady Liberty

I had the worst nightmare last night. I dreamed that my country elected a narcissistic, racist, willfully ignorant, misogynistic liar to the presidency. And that at least one commentator said that millions of Americans considered this a “spiritual victory,” because it was a rebuke to a corrupt government. In the dream, it was a spiritual victory—but for the side of darkness, not the side of light. I woke up shaking with fear and disbelief—and then realized that it was all okay, because it was only a dream.

And then I discovered that it wasn’t.

Not quite half our population is in mourning today. The other half is celebrating. But this isn’t baseball or football; this is our future. After we mourn and dust ourselves off, it will be time to figure out how to move forward, protecting our democracy.

My first draft of this ended on a note of discouragement. But I just heard Hillary’s remarkable concession speech, and I liked the verse she quoted from the Bible: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Those seem like pretty good words to live by, especially today.

 

Hillary or Bernie? Bernie or Hillary?

Bernie-vs-Hillary-on-HarryTomorrow (oops, it’s past midnight, so it’s today) is Presidential Primary day in Massachusetts. I still haven’t decided between Hillary and Bernie, because there are things I like about both of them. Bernie’s plain speaking* is majorly refreshing, and he has impressive and passionate grassroots support. On the other hand, his indifference (or opposition) to sensible gun control is really troubling, especially as we watch the scoreboard ratchet upward on crazed mass killings. On the other other hand, he knows Harry Potter.

(*I guess Trump supporters think he’s a plain speaker also. But there’s a difference between speaking plainly about the needs of the people and the need to work together, and plainly mouthing bigotry, racism, sexism, arrogance, and greed.)

Hillary favors reasonable gun control, and she has impressive foreign policy experience.  I admit I was unenthusiastic about her at first. But as I’ve heard her speak more, I’ve warmed to her a lot more. And yes, I think it’s time for a woman to be president, though I would not vote for her just on that basis.

I haven’t heard either of them speak on their support for space exploration, which would be relevant to me if I knew their stands.

Given that either is a mostly acceptable candidate to me, I think it comes down to two questions: Who is more electable nationwide? And who has a better chance of leading the country in the face of a hostile and dysfunctional Congress?

I’ll let you know what I decide.

Meanwhile, when it’s voting day in your state, please vote!

*Picture borrowed from slate.com.

Life Imitates Art Imitating Life

Red line trainThis is nuts. On Thursday, an MBTA Red Line train in Boston took off without its driver (who had stepped out of the cab to throw a switch under the car). The train ran through three stations inbound from Braintree, with no one at the controls, until dispatchers cut the power to the third rail and brought it to a coasting stop.

Reports emerging from the investigation indicate that the driver had not properly set the brakes before exiting the car, and further had tied off the “dead man” lever that controls the train’s movements. (This has not yet been officially confirmed, so we’re going here by reports from The Boston Globe.)

This could be a remarkable instance of life imitating art, said art having already imitated life.

UnstoppableIn the 2010 movie Unstoppable, a runaway freight train endangers an entire city, due to its load of toxic chemicals and the sharp curve it is thundering toward. Only the heroic actions of engineer Denzel Washington and conductor Chris Pine save the day. The cause of the runaway: a dunderhead engineer* getting out of his locomotive to throw a switch without properly setting the brakes, and (I forget exactly how) leaving the controls in such a position that they start the train rolling under power.

That movie, in turn, was inspired by a real-life incident in which a freight train in Ohio, carrying dangerous cargo, rumbled along without anyone in the cab for 66 miles before finally being brought under control in much the same way as in Unstoppable.

It would be very hard to make this stuff up and have anyone believe you.

*In the film, the engineer was clearly a dunderhead. I’m not suggesting that the driver of the T train was. That’s for the investigation to decide.

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