Wednesday, October 26, 2016

That Was The World That Was

The original post: Half of Americans want to take the US back to the 1950s.

Me: The only good thing about the 50s is that I was young then. Other than that they were really rocky times.

Susan: Personally, they were the best of times, growing up in the Berkshire Hills. We were encouraged to be all we could be, and protected from evil so we could succeed.
You grew up in Victorville, didn't you?

Me: Various air bases. I loved living with my grandparents in Connecticut while Dad that was on remote duty (occupation duty in Germany?) I have a few vivid memories but in general I don't remember it very well but I loved it.

I don't remember the time before that in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Although maybe I do, I certainly have some memories that are floating around that I can't quite place.

Two years in Oklahoma was a wonderful time. Right behind our house was the railway track and behind that empty space. The stream ran down a sandstone bed to the wetlands with willow islands and the railway tressle.

Then Biloxi Mississippi, "the capital of segregation". We lived on base there. But trips outside were like taking a journey into a hostile land. They're all sorts of rules that everyone had to obey, White and Black. Good memories, but also not so good.

Then Germany, then here.

My point is though that of course all these times were wonderful. I was a kid. But the 1950s was the time when it was still perfectly acceptable to south to murder Black people. Homosexuality was illegal. So was most consensual sex between married couples! You conformed or you were thrown out. Girls were sent home if they dared wear pants to school. The rat race was on. The government was ready to attempt to survive a nuclear war. The polio epidemic. And so on.

That was a lot of hope, but it was balanced by a very real fear.

Things are much better now. I miss some things, like letting us kids loose and not seeing us until sundown. Still, historically it was a very bad century and the 1950s largely seem so wonderful only by comparison to the horrors that had come before.

I remember reading stories nostalgically remembering the whirr of a hand pushed lawn mower making the smell of fresh cut grass as opposed to the smell of burning gasoline and fresh cut grass. Then I read a Ray Bradberry story in which he nostalgically remembered the swish of the scythe to cut the grass. All of us remember our childhoods as such a wonderful time. And so they were. For us as individuals.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Truth, However Ugly, Is The Cure

In response to this article I posted:

Fear and resentment are the main forces at work.

>Interpreting a focus on civil rights as a threat to white Americans is, of course, not new. Just think of the pushback against Black Lives Matter’s expressions of despair over police killings of unarmed African Americans, or the outsize hostility toward San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests during the national anthem before games.<

And, sorry Trump apologists, economic issues are NOT an important driver of Trump support.

Even in the general election, while support for Trump is correlated most strongly with party ID, the second biggest factor, per the analysis of Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner, was racial resentment. Economic pessimism and income level were statistically insignificant.<

The truth hurts, but only the truth can heal.

 And in response to the above article I posted:

>But if Trump’s strategy is all about dragging Clinton down into the pig slop with him — and about generally spraying a fine mist of pig slop over the whole process, to make (some) voters turn away in disgust — it looks as if this all may end with Trump floundering around in the pig slop all alone. <

This has been the losing strategy for the Republicans for years now. Every time it fails they tell themselves,"We just need to be even more extreme and more hateful". And then it fails again.  They just can't learn.

The Republican Party, in collaboration with its extremist right wing media machine, has created all the problems that they are facing now. Trump is not the disease. Trump is only a symptom.

If the party is not to continue in its steady decline, currently slowed only by carefully rigged elections thanks to the most effective gerrymandering in history, it must cease to base all of its hopes in fear mongering, race baiting, and rage enhancement.

But it's spiral of addiction and self-destructive behavior  seems unbreakable.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret

America was founded as a Christian nation? John Adams said, "It was the general opinion of ancient nations, that the divinity alone was adequate to the important office of getting laws to men…"

So far, so good for the belief.

Later he went on to say that the united American states, "…have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments directed on the simple principles of nature."

Uh oh!

Later in the same work he added, "It will never be pretended that any person employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or or in any degree under the inspiration of heaven, anymore than those of work up on ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise were agriculture: it will be forever acknowledged these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."

So says one of the most important Founding Fathers. No religion need apply in America. Love it or hate it, this is the fact: America was intended to be a totally secular nation and its government was intended to have no relationship to God whatsoever.

Quotes taken from John Adams three volume Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America published in 1787.

Note: Adams got one thing wrong. Many people are certainly pretending that their fantasies are real are refusing to acknowledge reality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

" I Have The Power!" Says He Man The Physicist

Time for a rant. I'm watching Startalk, a  program I enjoy (although not one of my favorites) and I am listening to obviously highly intelligent people make utter fools of themselves.  What about?  Schrodinger's cat, of course!

We keep hearing about this over and over again as if it is a great mystery. Schrodinger presented the concept in order to disapprove the observation theory of reality. His intention was to show just how ridiculous the position was and therefore that it was impossible.

Yet, time and time again people take the issue seriously as if it were a real problem he presented in order to demonstrate the strangeness of reality rather than the foolishness of their ideas.

The original issue was that of quantum uncertainty. Down at that sub microscopic level things happen statistically rather than rigidly. That is to say,  there is a percentage which indicates how likely anything is to happen or an object is to be in a given place rather than an absolute reality. This means that if the quantum level under certain circumstances an object may be in more than one place at any one time. Or to put it another way there is a high probability it is here, a lesser probability it is there, an even lesser probability it somewhere else. This sounds like just a description of working in reality, but any quantum physicist will tell you that this is a description of the actual state of the particle. It isn't entirely in any one of those places.

Down at the quantum level, physicist assure us,  an object may simply stop being where it is and start being somewhere else. It has not moved. It has simply stopped being where it was and started being somewhere nearby. As insane as this sounds, every experiment made to prove or disapprove it has proven it. It is called quantum tunneling and it happens because quantum particles exist where they are only as a matter of probability. They can stop being where they are and start being somewhere else without warning.

This was interpreted decades ago as meaning that in the quantum world nothing existed until someone observed it to exist any particular place. When they made that observation then the thing was there. They had seen it, so that made it be there. It was actually only probably there until someone looked at it.

Schrodinger thought this was ridiculous. He said that if you took a box put a cat in it and next to the cat put a detector which would react if an atomic particle was emitted by a radioactive material, and if that particle would trigger the release of a  poison gas which would kill the cat, then, since the particle might or might not be emitted, according to this theory, the cat would neither be alive nor dead until someone opened the box and observed it.
Schrodinger's point was that the argument was ridiculous and should be discarded.

Unfortunately, people have been taking it seriously ever since he proposed it. It is obviously ridiculous. Furthermore, it is obvious why it is ridiculous.

What makes me the most angry is that this was pointed out at the same time Schrodinger made the suggestion. It is not new data.  It is old data which is ignored for the sake of thrill and showing off.

The response to those who took the issue of observation seriously was  the question, "Does the moon exist if no one is looking at it?" Or "Does the moon exist if a mouse looks at it?"

The answer is at the moon exists, obviously, even if no one and no living thing looks at it. The issue is not that a quantum state cannot be resolved into reality unless someone observes it. It's simply a question of interaction. When a particle can be either here or there it is both here or there in a state of what quantum physicists call super position. But the moment that particle interacts with other particles, no observation required, then it must be in a particular place and therefore it is in a particular place. No observation required. No life required. No experiment required. Only necessity is required.

The moon exists because its gravitational field interacts with the earth's gravitational field, etc. etc. etc. The detector either identifies an emitted particle or it doesn't. No other observation is required.

Or as someone else once put it:

God in the Quad
Ronald Knox

There was a young man who said,
Must think it exceedingly odd

If he finds that this tree
Continues to be

When there's no one about in the Quad."

Dear Sir:
Your astonishment's odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree

Will continue to be,

Since observed by
Yours faithfully,

Repeating, when a particle must be either here or there then it is either here or there and only in one of those two places.

The error  these scientists are making, and I must assume it's a deliberate error, since the points I have  made above were made decades ago, is one of the oldest problems and philosophy. Solipsism.

Solipsism is the belief that only your mind exists--everything else is created by you. You are the sole creator and the sole power and the sole being that exists in the entire universe.  Taking the Schrodinger's cat situation seriously requires an observer, and surely that observer must be you, if you carry this on to its logical conclusion. So what if Professor Dorffel believes that the cat is alive or dead?  You haven't observed it, and only your God-like observation power can make things real or false.

What nonsense.

I appreciate the desire to make science interesting to ordinary people like me, but it should not be done with the foolish equivalent of pulling a quarter outof someone's ear.  It gains attention, but it illustrates nothing about the nature of reality.

End rant.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Whiter Than White

Excerpts plus very brief comments.

>Baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who’d endorsed Richard Nixon in 1960 and attended the 1964 Republican National Convention as a “special delegate” for New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, “asserted that any black leader who demonstrated support for [Goldwater] would lose power and influence since ‘the Negro is not going to tolerate any Uncle Toms in 1964.’ ” <

How times change.

>Attempts to bring nonwhites into the fold inevitably run up against a key reality: that movement conservatism is a white ideology.<

How times stay the same.

>Goldwater wasn’t just offensive; he articulated a vision of national life that would inevitably leave black Americans on the margins as second-class citizens, subject to the whims of segregationists and their allies. And if Goldwater didn’t see it, his explicitly anti-black allies did.<

Exactly the same.

>Romney explained during a Republican presidential debate, “We’d have a card that indicates who’s here illegally. … And if people are not able to have a card, and have through an E-Verify system determine that they are here illegally, then they’re going to find they can’t get work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work.” Romney took the right-most position on immigration, and used it to sink his strongest rivals, like then–Texas Gov. Rick Perry.<

So....16And the second beast required all people small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark—the name of the beast or the number of its name.  Revelations.  👍🏻

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mad Men 2016 Version

From a  Boston Globe report on a Trump rally.

A Trump supporter, "There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Including destroying it?

Another Trumpster, "“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.
“I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Thus genuinely rigging the election.

Joe Cecil, a 39-year-old restaurant manager, said he has never voted before but is newly inspired by Trump.
“If people are offended by the sexual stuff, what do they think is going to happen when Muslims come here, implement Sharia law, and start raping our women?” he asks.

What can you say about simple insanity?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Rights And Wrongs

In response to a post which reported that high school students were expelled in punishment for their Facebook posts supporting neo-Nazis and the murdering of Jews I posted:

Talk about a mixed bag!

1.  The postings were disgusting. There is no excuse for them. It's clear that at least some if not all of the parents were shocked by their children's behavior. I repeat, there is no excuse for this. I make none.
2. Once informed of this, Facebook correctly took down the posts.
3. This is exactly the kind of hate speech the Donald Trump calls politically incorrect. It is exactly what he has authorized and made acceptable again.
4. The school was completely and totally wrong and punishing the students for these actions.

How can I say on the one hand of the actions deserved punishment and then immediately add that the school should not have administered punishment? The answer is very simple. This was none of the school's business.

Once we begin to allow schools to punish students for actions taken off-campus and after school hours, we have given schools an unbelievable excess of authority over parents and children and at the same time we have put upon schools a terrible and impossible burden.

Should schools also punish children for talking back? Not eating their dinner? Not cleaning their rooms? Parents are in charge of the children when their children are not in school. It is been traditional, and  may still be a cultural fact, that Japanese teachers are superior to parents. Parents  traditionally bowed more deeply to teachers than teachers bowed to parents. Teachers were considered to be failing in the duties if they did not spend at least some nights checking to make sure the lights in students' bedrooms were on well after normal bedtime. This was accepted as evidence that the child was studying hard. If a teacher felt parents were not doing their duty, the teacher was expected to give the parents a stern lecture. Parents were expected to listen and comply.

I do not think this would be appropriate in America.

This  also places  a ridiculous burden upon the schools. Every teacher in the high school is to be held accountable for disciplining their students for their behavior of those children after school hours?  Only the principal? So he's now responsible for all the students in the school?

Discipline and lessons are clearly in order for these children, but since these activities took place off-campus and after school hours, the school should not be involved in individual responses unless the parents ask for assistance. The school is responsible for being aware of this conduct and making it a part of lesson plans to prevent such actions as a part of educating our future adult citizens.  This, however is a general action not specifically aimed at individual pupils.

As a parent I did not want the government, not even in the form of the school system, taking responsibility for the actions of my family outside of school hours and activities. As a parent, I will deal with my children.

As an retired educator I would have objected to being required to deal with private disciplinary problems which should be in the hands of the parents.

There is one possible excuse for the school's actions. While the article strongly implies the students were expelled for being a part of the group and for the posts, it also mentioned that at least some students reported being threatened and harassed by members of the group. Such behavior, if it took place on school grounds, would be a valid reason for the expulsion of the students who actually threatened or harassed other students.


The report about parent teacher relationships in Japan is from Samurai's Ghost, a book written by an American who taught in Japan for a number of years.

Donald Trump, Flea Magnet

In response to an article showing in grim detail just how much virilent racists love Donald Trump and how they expect him to bring back the days of white supremacy, I responded:

Trump supporters should remember the old saying, "If you lie down and sleep with stray dogs, you will get up with fleas." Trump is deeply beloved by neo Nazis, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and other murderous hate groups. Why do they love him so much? Why don't they feel repelled by a man who is so beloved by such monsters?

From the article, “The success of the Trump campaign just proves that our views resonate with millions,” said Rachel Pendergraft, a national organizer for the Knights Party, which succeeded David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “They may not be ready for the Ku Klux Klan yet, but as anti-white hatred escalates, they will.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Memes vs. Facts

A democratic Party meme saying that Donald Trump humiliated himself by misunderstanding the purpose of the 14th amendment when he said that it does not apply to what he referred to as "anchor babies" is not entirely accurate. I reposted and said:

In fairness to Trump, because I think it's good to be fair even to unfair people, the Supreme Court has never ruled on the exact meaning of the 14th amendment.  It does echo the principle of English law which itself was originally controversial but was eventually settled to mean those born in England are English citizens.  Also most of those who supported the amendment agreed that this was its purpose applied in America.

However, some who voted for it did not agree with that, meaning their support was aimed at naturalizing slaves born in America.

In other words, it is generally accepted by legal scholars and courts that Donald Trump is wrong on this issue. There is however a minority group of legal scholars who think he has a point.  But he is certainly wrong in that this is not settled law and his position is contrary to the great majority of accepted opinion, and that means that this meme is also wrong in suggesting he humiliated himself for taking a position not yet settled in constitutional law and which has some supporters in the legal community.

My conclusion is that Donald Trump made a fool of himself for loudly insisting that his minority position is absolutely correct, but he did not humiliate himself completely because the issue is still open to debate.

Interesting note: I also believed that this was absolutely settled law until I researched it. It's always wise to check your facts. Even some of your most cherished opinions may turn out to be wrong and not fact-based. Personally I think the concept of "anchor babies" is repugnant and believe that anyone born in America is an American citizen, but it is not yet settled constitutional law.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Love you then
Love you now
Love you all forever

All for free
No cost or price
Not even shipping-handling

The bridges failed
The roads decayed
But love can fly

From March 2016


Time to be reborn
     Or at least renewed
No need for that for me
     My love endures and thrives

Yet my garden's not secure
     Neglect dries out some precious plants
Dries out the roots
     With self-inflicted drought

So much so lush and green
       Blooming out full display
So much sad and  brown
      Whithered by their self contempt

Strange garden
     Half alive and half dried out
Half loving
     Half hating

This, the garden of my soul
     Loves and waits for gardeners
Loving those who never left
     Loving those who never come


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Constructing Stuff

Constructor theory

My friend asked me to look into constructor theory because he knows I'm interested in nonmathematical  popularizations of physics. He finds the concept quite interesting but since he's currently seeking a professorship and has a life, he lacks the time to check it out himself.  I had never heard of Constructor theory and it sounded really interesting, so I've been digging into it.  Here is my report to him. says:   >Constructor Theory is a new approach to formulating fundamental laws in physics. Instead of describing the world in terms of trajectories, initial conditions and dynamical laws, in constructor theory laws are about which physical transformations are possible and which are impossible, and why. <

Interesting. However, too vague to be meaningful. Further digging revealed more detailed explanations.

The creator of the thory, David Deutsch says on the :
>The purpose of this project is to discover the single underlying explanation for all distinctive properties of information in Physics and beyond, which is at once the root of both the familiar properties of information, such as transcending specific embodiments, and its apparently paradoxical quantum-mechanical ones.
Our main innovative tool for addressing this is Constructor Theory, recently proposed by David Deutsch. This theory expresses all scientific theories in terms of a dichotomy between possible and impossible physical transformations - an audacious departure from existing fundamental physics (whose dichotomy is between what happens and what does not, given initial conditions).
Applying the constructor-theoretic approach to information theory, we have established the result that a simple constructor-theoretic property of the laws of quantum physics implies all the disparate features that distinguish quantum information from classical, thus revealing the hitherto mysterious connection between them. (Deutsch and Marletto, 2014)
Building on these results (Marletto, 2015), we have also addressed the issues of whether and how certain properties of living entities, such as the ability to self-reproduce and replicate, can be possible under no-design laws of physics. One shows that they can, provided that those laws allow, in addition to enough resources, information media, as characterised in the constructor theory of information.
Our work is now focussed on two projects,“Constructor Theory of Testability” and “Constructor Theory of Probability”. The latter generalises the well-known arguments to show how the Born Rule can emerge in unitary quantum mechanics, un-augmented with additional probabilistic postulates. Our constructor-theoretic generalisation depends on fewer and much simpler axioms, which are better motivated physically and are now expressed in an information-theoretic form. The Constructor Theory of Testability uses this argument to show that Unitary Quantum Theory is testable against rival theories. A new strand of research in the direction of investigating the properties of superinformation media has also emerged, using the information-theoretic tools of constructor theory to explore the information-theoretic properties of quantum media – chiefly, the possibility of teleportation  – regarding quantum systems as a special case of superinformation media.<

This sounds like Deepak Chopra; very high sounding language which seems to convey zero meaning.

So I began looking for a more practical, understandable, popularized explanation. You know, something within my range of comprehension.

Things seemed to make a lot more sense at this level.
The idea is that rather than establishing complex sets of rules and laws to predict or describe outcomes, physics should turn to a simpler, more fundamental concept which would underlie those rules and laws.  In the fact they were seeking the E = MC2 (I can't figure out how to get that two little and floating… Oh well, you know what I mean) that underlies all physics. A simple concept, easily expressed which then leads to the much more complicated world when it is applied to reality.

This is a very exciting concept. Many scientists and mathematicians are deeply enamored of the belief of beauty in simplicity. They are convinced that complex descriptions of reality must have an underlying simple and easily understood beauty and symmetry.  Constructor physics promises to be that theory of everything which starts so simple and clear and only becomes complex in application.

I must question the sweeping level of these promises. I always tend to be suspicious when you get this level of conviction.  As one advocate website has it, "Only a fool would bet against the possibility that constructor theory could also become a mainstream idea in physics that will have profound consequences for our future understanding of the universe."

Well I certainly don't want to be a fool,  but is it really foolish to engage in the usual scientific procedure of doubting any new theory until it is conclusively proven?  This kind of enthusiasm strikes me as an attempt to poison the well of anyone who dares to doubt.  It the theory is that wonderful, why the need to denigrate those who question it?

A critic ( says, >What is this constructor theory? It's a sequence of worthless would-be smart sentences sold as a "theory of everything" and a "unifying theory of classical and quantum physics" and "all information in them" which also "defines all forms of information" and transforms all of our knowledge to "claims that some tasks are impossible"....

Some of the most experienced readers already know that
a kettle may heat water.
Fortunately, the authors allow us to formulate even such statements in a more "natural" and more "profound" way:
For instance, a kettle with a power supply can serve as a constructor that can perform the task of heating water. <

This is where the theory loses me, although supporters seem to enjoy this example with particular delight.  So,  a kettle becomes a constructor of bumps if I grab it by the handle and use it to hit someone in the head?  If he chooses to fight back, is the kettle now a constructor of fistfights?  Might it  even become the constructor of a restraining order?

Is this really physics?

The worst criticism of this concept from my point of view is that after all, it describes things that it says are impossible. However, it offers no proof that they are impossible, unless you include the laws which are supposed to be derived from this theory. In practice this means that the theory is simply describing something that the laws have already established. The laws come first, they are not derived from the theory as advertised.

As exciting as I found the idea originally, as I researched it and thought about it, my opinion has settled into believing that this is merely an elaborate linguistic construction.  I'm reminded of the endless ramblings of Wittgenstein.  It is easy to confuse reality with language, but language is only descriptor of reality, not the thing in itself.

Sadly, I have to turn away for what I thought at first was an exciting new idea. When it comes to theories that cannot yet be fully tested, perhaps not even deeply tested, I'll stick with string theory.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Duty Calls

I told myself that I would set a time for myself so that I would begin writing again. I love writing. Outside of family it is my favorite activity. But it is also the hardest work I've ever done. Although often the result of the effort is very negative on my health, yet I don't think I can live without writing. Back to the point, I told myself I'd write in October so I wouldn't feel guilty until then. Well, it's October. And my friend Bobby seemed disappointed when I told him he wasn't doing any serious writing. For whatever reason it helps me a great deal to write when I feel that I'm writing to please someone.

Actually, now that I think about it that makes sense. If I write it in my head, which is my normal procedure, that satisfies me. The point of writing it down on paper, an extremely difficult enterprise, is really only useful if someone's going to read it. So, here we are. I do not intend to post the entire story but I will post a little bit I have gotten down today. I remind everyone that this opening excerpt is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and is my intellectual property.

Whiskey on a Sunday
(...drinking buttermilk through the week, whiskey on a Sunday...)

Late night. Quiet night. The children were nestled all snug in their beds. Their parents were deep in REM rest.
When from the cell phone there rose such a clatter, the two dads woke up to see what was the matter.

"Damn friggin…" Still half asleep but recognizing the shrill steam whistle he used for his sister's number, Mark Carter was ready to kill.

His husband Sam, also still half asleep knew the drill. He grabbed the phone, tapped answer to shut it up before it rang a fourth time and then ignored it to regain some peace.

"OK, steady, remember what we said? I'll take care of it, you just get back to sleep." Almost instantly realizing he had just thrown gasoline on the fire, he immediately injected, "Cleansing breath! Cleansing breath! Come on, deep! Deep."

He was answered by a growl, which he carefully ignored. "No. Don't say anything. I'll take care of her. Please. You' ll wake up the boys." Sam struggled to keep his gaze calm and steady and watchd the anger begin to fade in Marcus' reddened eyes.

And that was enough for now. He gently backed out of bed still trying to get a grip on being awake in the real world and headed out the door while making soothing nonsense sounds. He was rewarded with a muted angry grumble which suggested Marcus was falling back to sleep; probably an angry sleep with angry dreams, but at least sleep.

After a quick check to see that the boys were still asleep, they were, he moved into the kitchen and finally paid attention to the cell phone. "Jenny, why do you hate me? Why do you hate your brother?"

The only answer he got was, "Sorry."

"That's nice. You're sorry. I'm awake. I think your brother is going back to sleep. No, I'm sure he is. Because he's not here yelling at the phone while I try to talk to you."

Then he was awake enough to ask a very pertinent question, "Why did you call on his phone? Why didn't you call on mine?"

"I did call on yours. You'd turned it off."   Astonishingly, she had chutzpa to sound like the aggrieved party.

"That's because we are trying to get some sleep. That's because it's Friday night. That's because the boys will be up at 7:30 tomorrow morning like they always are. That's because we'd like to get a little sleep before that happens." He glanced over the microwave, "Oh Lord! Are you aware, Jennifer, but it is 2:34 in the morning?"

Perhaps realizing the impact of her actions, she responded "Yes?"

"OK. You know I'm going to listen to you. I always listen to you. But first I would like to vent a little steam. That all right with you? Because if it isn't, then just hang up and I'll talk to you tomorrow. During the day. When people are awake."  He waited, then he took the silence as consent.  "You know what your brother said after the last time you called us in the middle of the night?  Of course you don't. But now I'm going to tell you.

First, he said that the next time you do this I should ask you to Google the lyrics to a song. The song is called Laura. By Billy Joel. Listen to it.

Then he told me that the next time you called either I would tell this to you or he would. So I am.  He said you should stop living in those sitcoms you  watch all the time. He said in the real world there are no cute adorable completely safe gay friends that a woman can always come to anytime of the day or night and talk to and is always so understanding that he always makes things right because he's so sweet and lovable and safe."  His word spliced together into one smooth and unpunctuated sentence.

He waited for an answer. After a bit, it came. "There's one. There's you.  And that Laura crack is unjustified. I'm not just anybody, I'm your sister in law.  I'm the little sister you always wanted but never had."

He let out a long plaintive sigh. "Maybe I was wrong to want a little sister."

"You're being really mean. Maybe I should just hang up. I guess I'm really sorry. I just needed somebody to talk to."  She sounded sad.

He knew her well enough to realize she really meant it. So now he found himself feeling guilty for being upset that she had destroyed the peace and serenity of an otherwise perfectly pleasant Friday.

"Cleansing breath. Deep cleansing breath."  He told himself. Then he took it in. Then he breathed it out, very slowly. "Jennifer, you know I love you. But tomorrow the boys will be up. And you'd think they had an alarm clock set the way they get up almost exactly at 7:30. It's been a long week and we're both very tired. So I've got a deal for you."

He waited, but when there was no answer he proceeded, "I will listen to you. For as long as you want. Then, tomorrow morning at 7 o'clock you will let yourself into the apartment, very, very quietly. Then you will sit in front of our closed bedroom door. When the boys wake up they will be delighted to see their Auntie Jenny waiting to get them dressed, get them fed, and take them out for the day."

"How long?" she asked is if she had room for bargaining.

"2 o'clock. Until 2 o'clock." He was very definite.

"Noon." She tried to be firm, but she knew she was not on stable ground.

"2 o'clock or good night. You choose." His tone left no room for negotiation.

"OK. You got me. I wouldn't have called if this wasn't important, so OK." She didn't let any of her exultation show. This way she got the attention she needed, and got to spend a day with her beloved nephews. Good deal. No, great deal.  Trump, I got you beat!