Archive for January, 2015

Letter From New York 01 31 15 How lucky are we?

January 31, 2015

The days are growing longer. It is 5 PM and there is still light and I am grateful. It lightens my sprits for the days to be growing longer. Not so long ago it was dark at this time.

It is a white world that I look out upon. There was fresh snow yesterday and we are facing yet another storm that will lay another foot upon us and may disrupt my intentions of being in the city on Monday. It is very cold outside with wind chills of minus 15.

I am just back from a long and lovely lunch with my friends Larry Divney and Alicia Vergara. Recently they were in Mexico and while scouring a flea market there Alicia found two masks to bring back to me, knowing I collect them. They are wonderful and I already know where I will hang them. Primitive and powerful, they will make a great addition to my collection.

Alicia went off before we started lunch to buy something from one of the neighboring stores. While she was gone, Larry and I chatted about how lucky we are. For one, we are above ground. That’s always a good beginning. And we are living in Columbia County, New York. It’s a great place to be and we were having a lovely lunch at Ca’Mea, one of the best restaurants in Hudson. We had a martini and then a lovely white wine with lunch. I had onion soup and pasta with a chicken ragout – tremendous.

As we chatted, I confirmed how lucky we are. After all, we could be living in Donetsk in Ukraine, where there is a constant shelling of the city and where residents are running out of the most basic supplies. Apparently, the Russians are reinforcing the dissidents with their “little green men,” Russian soldiers or “volunteers” in uniforms with no markings. Lots of tanks have crossed over from Russian into Ukraine. They are dying by the dozens there.

We could be living in a hundred places where there is no peace but we are living in Columbia County, New York where there is a great deal of peace. Surrounded by white snow with more to come, it is hard to imagine a place more tranquil than this. As I waited for Larry and Alicia, I noticed two women at the bar, eating lunch and thought how lucky we all are. There is no shelling of the city where we live. We have all kinds of reserves. All we have to worry about is a coming snowstorm. That’s a luxury. In Donetsk, a snowstorm could be the difference between life and death.

In the “Caliphate” that is ISIS, there is video out that allegedly shows a second Japanese hostage being beheaded. I wince with pain that this is happening. While denouncing all the mistakes the west has made, ISIS is creating its own path of travesties, crimes committed for reasons I do not understand.

Far from my world of snow and peace, men are trampling on the rights of others in the name of religion. Christians and Protestants did it some centuries ago and now Islam is doing it, between Shia and Sunni.

We are so lucky to live where we do. As brutal as 9/11 was – and I lived through it – the thousands upon thousands who are dying in Islamic countries, as Sunnis kill Shias and Shias kill Sunnis, dwarf the numbers killed that day.  It goes on and on and on.

And I don’t really understand why. But then that’s what Christians were doing back a few centuries ago when Catholics and Protestants were locked in brutal warfare with each other, all in the name of God.

The sun has set. The floodlight on the fountain in my yard has turned on. I will soon go to a neighbor for dinner. We are gathering for a movie night, in a neighborhood where we aren’t worried about bombings. How lucky are we?

Letter From New York 01 30 15 Tensions and tolerance…

January 30, 2015

To the west there is a pink glow to the horizon, hopefully signaling decent weather. Last night and this morning, four inches of white, puffy flakes fell, once again burying the landscape. According to the weather reports, we might get down to minus 25 degrees wind chill factor, the coldest I remember in my fourteen years at the cottage.

It could be brutal! I’ll leave the cold-water faucet running in the kitchen; that’s the one that tends to freeze.

It’s been a good day albeit not the most productive day I’ve ever had. Lingering for a long time over the NY Times and my coffee, I got a later start on the day than I wanted. But, all in all, it was a pleasant one here in Claverack, a few errands run after shoveling and digging out. After a cup of Earl Grey tea, I sat down to write.

It’s been a busy day out there in the world.

First of all, Mitt Romney shook up the game board of the Republican Party by announcing he was NOT going to make a third run for President, much, I’m sure to the relief of many. It doesn’t make Jeb Bush a shoo-in but it does relieve the tensions some were feeling about having to choose between the two of them.

Speaking of tension, the new Greek Finance Minister, Mr. Varoufakis, has announced that Greece will not negotiate with “the Troika.” That’s the IMF, EU and ECB, who lent the money to Greeks to bail them out after they were on the verge of defaulting over all the other money they had borrowed. The Eurogroup’s Chairman, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was not amused when he was in Athens yesterday. Not amused at all.

In Pakistan, dozens were killed at a Shia Mosque by some elements of the Taliban who have declared the Shia their enemy even though they are all Muslim. In all the raging within parts of Islam about the West, the real carnage is between Muslims themselves.

In Paris, the “Treatise on Tolerance” by Voltaire is climbing the Best Seller list. He wrote it 250 years ago to address the violence between Catholics and Protestants. Do you think we might get it translated into Pakistani and distributed there?

Rap mogul Suge Knight was arrested last night for murder. He allegedly got very angry with two men and drove over them in his red pick-up.   Violence seems to follow the man wherever he goes; last August he was shot several times in a club.

The NY Times was trying to peer into a crystal ball this morning, speculating on Katy Perry’s half time show at the Super Bowl. One burning question: what color will her hair be? I have friends who will be watching Sunday for the commercials and Katy Perry. Admit it, you have friends who will be doing the same thing!

The NFL has taken into its custody 108 footballs, 54 for each team on Sunday, to ensure there is no Deflategate in Arizona. A graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, Thomas Healy, has published a paper that purports that the deflation of the footballs may not have been an act of malfeasance but rather the result of going from a warm, dry room to a wet, cool field. The Patriots should give him tickets to the Game on Sunday. He will be in Arizona but has no tickets for the game.

With or without tickets, I will not be in Arizona for the game and will probably be wishing I were in a warmer clime on Sunday if the predictions for continued cold hold. I dreamt last night about going to the Caribbean, laying on a sandy, sunny beach with a cold glass of Sancerre at my side.

Letter From New York 01 29 15 Recent events and good friends…

January 29, 2015

As I make the return journey from the city, I am riding alongside a steel grey Hudson River on a day that is equally grey. The world feels a gloomy place and there are reports of more deep cold and snow arriving. Looking out the window, it almost seems I am viewing a black and white film.

Here in New York, much of the news is focused on the fall of Sheldon Silver, the soon to be ex-Speaker of the State Assembly. His fall from grace is being chronicled by news outlets both on the left and right; it has been a stunning collapse in the fortunes of a man who has ruled the State Assembly with an iron fist for more than two decades. Accused of graft, he is being forced from his position and his maneuverings to exercise power in the background have been thwarted by newly elected legislators and forces from the suburbs around the city.

When first accused there were supporting voices. In the last week, they have fallen silent. His law firm has fired him. Fellow legislators and old friends are distancing themselves. He is in a very lonely spot.

The New England Patriots have more than one problem as they roll toward Super Bowl Sunday. There is the shadow cast on them by Deflategate; according to one report I read today, the majority of Americans think they did it. The NFL continues to investigate. But now they are facing the challenge that Tom Brady, legendary quarterback for the Pats, has a cold. He promises to be a hundred percent by the time of the game but he was sniffling and coughing all through a press conference.

Deflategate is serious to many. I find it both humorous and a little sad if somehow not surprising. People have been cheating since the beginning of time.

And since the beginning of time, opposing sides in a war have taken hostages. Today’s drama is once again focused in the Mideast. ISIS promised to release a Japanese hostage and not to kill a Jordanian pilot who is also a hostage in exchange for a woman sentenced to death in Jordan for being part of a suicide bombing that took place several years ago in Amman. As the sun sets, it appears negotiations have failed. ISIS has failed to prove the pilot is still alive and Jordan won’t move forward without that knowledge.

In the category of still trying to comprehend are two things. One is that the Koch brothers, two of the richest men on the planet, with their allies, plan to spend nearly a billion dollars to influence the 2016 elections. That is as much as either the Republicans or the Democrats will spend. Since the Kochs favor a conservative agenda, it effectively means doubling the resources available to the Republicans. It’s mind-boggling.

The other thing I am assimilating is the size of Apple’s quarterly earnings in the 4th quarter of 2014. It was the biggest quarterly profit in history, for any company, anywhere. $18 billion. There were a lot of iPhones sold, something like 74 million, which was far more than anyone was expecting.

Today I had a call with two old friends. We all worked in the cable business in the 80’s and 90’s and had not spoken in awhile so we set up a conference call. Medora and Bruce each have a daughter and they attended the same schools in California, though at different times. They had a lot to share about that and it was interesting to listen to. Bruce mentioned an article he had read this morning in the NY Times about the “Uberization” of work. We’ll only work when we’re needed, summoned perhaps by an app. It’s a novel thought and a bit frightening.

But mostly it was good to share some time with old friends and have a good old “chin wag” as my Australian friend Gour would say.

Whether you are living in America or a refugee camp in Turkey one of the things which supports us is the community of people around us. They help us stand when we think we will fall.

Letter From New York 01 28 15 Pondering Artificial Intelligence

January 28, 2015

Heading down to New York, the train is running alongside the Hudson River, a sheet of white as yesterday’s snow accumulated on the river’s ice. The sun gleams down, reflecting enough that it causes eyes to squint when looking out. It is a scene of rough beauty.

In the city tonight, there will be a reunion of several of us who worked on some programs together for the Discovery Times Channel during its brief and glorious moment. Two of the people, Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, have gone on to be nominated twice for Academy Awards for their documentaries. Diana Sperrazza is still at Discovery, working as an Executive Producer for the Investigation Discovery Channel.

We don’t get together often so this is a special occasion.

I will slip into the city today and will probably head home tomorrow or at the latest early Friday.

Traversing south I am passing the mightiness that is West Point, a severe redoubt on the opposite bank. It is hard to be tired of this ride, one of the most beautiful in America according to most who categorize such things.

Along with the NY Times, I often check out the stories on my phone’s BBC app, an interesting re-cap of news with a British perspective. The story I found this morning most interesting was one that was headlined: AI will not kill us, says Microsoft.

How can one resist that kind of headline?

I couldn’t.

Eric Horovitz, Microsoft’s Research Chief, has an opinion markedly in contrast with some others, including physicist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, both of who are warning that Artificial Intelligence could supersede us and destroy us. Hawking has said that AI could “spell the end of the human race.” Musk has put up ten million dollars to prevent it from happening.

We are experiencing this first wave of artificial intelligence in things such as Siri, the voice-activated assistant on our iPhones or Contana on Windows Phones, which will be integrated into the next version of the Windows OS. There is a little device from Amazon called the Echo, which comes equipped with Alexa. She is the subject of an article in today’s USA Today, outlining her benefits and her limitations.

My friends, Lionel and Pierre, have an Echo and I’ve been getting to know Alexa the last couple of weeks. She’s very friendly. Her voice is silkier than Siri and she plays music well. She answers basic questions but you can’t have a conversation with her the way one could with Data, the humanoid robot of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But you can sense it’s coming.

It’s both exciting and a little eerie. We are getting tastes of things that will come. And come they will. Because we can make them happen, we will make them happen. One day we’ll be having a conversation with Alexa’s descendants and the next they may be plotting to rid the planet of the messiness of humans. People like Horovitz suspect that one-day machines will be self-aware and where will we be then?

Back to Stephen Hawking, who has said, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” That’s a sobering thought: being superseded. Elon Musk thinks, “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” Ouch!

Mephistopheles, get away!

According to the BBC, Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the Spectrum Computer, believes it is unavoidable that artificial intelligences will wipe out mankind. Double ouch!

But can AI appreciate the wonders of a ride down the Hudson River the way I can? We don’t know that yet. If they become self-aware, perhaps they will.

Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov had his robots built with three unbreakable rules. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.”

I wonder if those who are developing AI have thought about including The Three Laws into their work? Might be a safeguard from The Terminator.

Letter From New York 01 27 15 On the 70th Anniversary…

January 27, 2015

A light dusting of snow continues to fall but we did not have the major storm that was predicted; it veered at the last minute to the east, sparing both the city and Claverack. I’m still waiting for the plowman to come and do the drive but that’s minor compared to what might have been. All is calm.

The deer are scampering across the drive as I type, continuing their restless wanderings. Jazz plays on Pandora and I have a fire in the Franklin stove. It has been a lazy day. Trains weren’t running into the city this morning. It was, in effect, a snow day.

Sipping morning coffee, I read the Times and finished last week’s edition of The Week, my favorite magazine. In the afternoon, while doing some household things, a British mystery played. It seemed like that kind of day.

It is snowy and cold and winter desolate. Perhaps not unlike the January 27th of seventy years ago when Russian troops liberated Auschwitz. German soldiers were lining up prisoners about to gun them down when the warning came that the Russians were coming and they fled.

58,000 were forced on a death march from Auschwitz to other camps. 15,000 of them died before reaching other camps. Left behind were thousands deemed too ill or weak to walk.

Today, about 300 survivors of Auschwitz gathered in a white tent for ceremonies to mark the anniversary. The Presidents of France and Poland as well as the American Director, Steven Spielberg, of the famous Shoah Project, are joining them.

It is possibly the last major anniversary that will be attended by survivors of the camp; they are aging and passing from the scene. Many are in their 80’s now; the youngest in their 70’s. Soon time will have silenced their voices.

Let us hope the memory of what happened doesn’t fade and that we never again allow such things to happen.

But the signs aren’t good. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, perhaps now at the highest levels it has been since the end of World War II. Jews are leaving Europe at a faster pace than ever, frightened by the events around them. This was underscored during the Charlie Hebdo terrorist action in Paris where hostages were taken in a Jewish grocery store, with four being killed.

One of the stories I read today stated that Anti-Semitism is not returning to Germany; it never left. But there was a time when boys weren’t afraid to wear their yarmulkes and now some are.

90% of those who died at Auschwitz were Jews. The others were of Romani descent, political dissenters, homosexuals and others the Nazis hated. They hated extravagantly.

One survivor asked the question of how men could spend their days slaughtering human beings and then go home to their wives and children, eat dinner and listen to music? Because we are human beings, capable of extraordinary dichotomies, including the ability to do just that. Many days at Auschwitz 6,000 human beings were killed. In the end over 1.1 million died there, 15 square miles devoted to death. And those who did the killing went home at night and seemed to live normal lives. Is it possible? Yes, because it happened.

Letter From New York 01 26 15 Storm a’comin’!

January 26, 2015

For the last half hour, the deer have been madly racing back and forth across the drive, first to the east and then back to the west. Perhaps they are attempting to decide where to shelter from the storm that is a’comin’.

Eastern seaboard Governors have been going on the radio all day, warning folks of the apocalyptic storm which is bearing down on the Northeast. All day we have been prepping. Down in the city the snow has started to fall while here in Claverack, the first flakes are just beginning to tumble from the sky.

It threatens to be worse in the city than here, but not by much. The latest I heard was a prediction of 12 – 18 inches with freezing temperatures followed by the possibility of another 12 inches tomorrow.

Currently, I am cozy in the cottage. The danger we face, other than not being potentially able to get out of the house, is that the heavy snow might bring down the power lines and electricity will go.

In case of that, I have candles at the ready; water in the tub to flush toilets and as much wood as I can handle in the house. In situations like this before, the Franklin stove has warmed the house quite nicely. I’ll have books and magazines to read by that candlelight and hopefully we’ll make it through.

It will be interesting. If there is no blog tomorrow, it will because there is no power, no Internet and no heat. I’ll be holed up, living as if I were in the Wild West.

For the first time I can remember, this winter storm has been named: Juno, who was the Roman goddess of women and marriage and wife of the big cheese, Jupiter.

In the meantime, beyond the storm-centered northeast, the world has been ticking on. Alexis Tsipras is now formally the Prime Minister of Greece and is receiving congratulatory phone calls from other European leaders, also telling him, nicely, that they’re not budging on the Greek debt situation.

In Syria, Kurdish fighters have driven ISIS troops out of Kobane, the much-contested Syrian border town. In Iraq, there has been some headway against ISIS also. Kobane lays in ruins with most of its population now refugees in Turkey.

A hobbyist has come forward in Washington, DC to admit that he was the one who crashed his drone into the White House lawn last night, precipitating a lockdown of the President’s house. It’s been a not very good year for White House security. Small drones are especially troublesome – and potentially dangerous.

While not being dangerous to us earthlings this go round, a mountain-sized asteroid is slipping by earth tonight. It is thought an asteroid about this size collided with the earth about 65 million years ago, bringing an end to the Age of Dinosaurs. Scientists are studying this one to help them know how to knock one off it threatens to collide with earth. Can’t do it yet which is why I am glad this will be a near miss.

The Church of England has installed its first female Bishop with a minimum of muss; only one man stood up and shouted about it being wrong. I had expected more.

Obama is in India. Apparently he and Prime Minister Modi have been glued at the hip since his arrival, which is not what usually happens. Apparently Modi is a great fan of Obama’s and modeled his recent, successful campaign to become India’s Prime Minister after Obama’s two wins.

Dark has fallen across Claverack. The snow is only lightly falling right now and the temperature is dropping.   I will think good thoughts and say prayers that the power stays on, allowing me a day of having little to do but cozy in the country.

Letter From New York 01 25 15 Acts of men and weather must be left to others…

January 25, 2015

Waking early, sunlight danced off the creek while the geese sailed up it, as if there were no concerns in the world. All day, it was bright and sunny. Now, as I sit down to write, the light is beginning to fade and the temperature is about to plummet. Another storm is on its way, threatening inches of snow and deep cold.

As I usually do, the day started with coffee and the NY Times.

The Greeks went to the polls today and, as the day ends, it appears that the Anti-Austerity Party is going to win the day. No one has been hurt more in the west than the Greeks by the recession. They have depression levels of unemployment and social programs have been cut back; the Euro Zone has imposed harsh measures on the country. It has been a brutal period. Suicides became more common and an air of despair settled on the country.

Now, they seem to be saying: we’re not taking it anymore! If the anti-austerity party has won, there will be shaking across Europe. Lots of people in Spain and Italy are tired of austerity, too. The French aren’t so keen either. This will embolden their movements.

Antipathy runs particularly high toward Germany, the largest economy in the Euro Zone and mother hen to austerity as a way of life.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the morning. Will the markets across the world panic? This is exactly what they didn’t want. Alexis Tsipras is head of the Syriza party, which is anti-austerity. To actually govern he may have to become more centrist and he may not have won a clear majority so he’d have to create a coalition government, for which some are hoping.

But this is a turning point and there will be fraught days ahead for Greece and for Europe, with financial tensions high. Hopefully everyone will keep their heads and wits about them.

Greece, poor Greece, could end up significantly worse if things don’t get played correctly.

While Greece teeters on the edge, Obama is in India to cement relations with that country. From there he goes to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects at the passing of King Abdullah, who, from some reports, couldn’t stand Obama. But appearances must be kept.

In Nigeria, the Boko Haram has started an offensive against the major city in the Northeast, Maiduguri. Secretary Kerry is in Lagos, the commercial capital, visiting with the current President and his chief rival in upcoming elections, about how to deal with the Boko Haram. While we are closely watching ISIS as they try to establish their “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram is attempting to do the same thing in Nigeria and they are just as deadly and cruel as the fighters of ISIS.

And that is all far away; here the deer are roaming the yard and the fading light is being reflected off the snow. The blizzard watch is being upgraded to a blizzard warning and I can feel the temperature dropping. It is now developing into a major – if not historical – storm with potentially two feet of snow coming for the city and here. The Mayor of New York is saying it may be the worst in the history of the city. Blimey!

In a fun bit for today: 100 years ago the first transcontinental phone call was made between Alexander Graham Bell in New York and his former lab assistant, Thomas Watson, in San Francisco, 39 years after their famous first call. Added to the call were the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, and the President of AT&T, Theodore Vail. So it was also the first conference call.

In the not too distant future, a martini awaits and I will focus on other things. There is little I can do about the impending Greek crisis and less that I can do about the Boko Haram. I will leave them to other, hopefully wiser, men.  And both them and the weather to God.

Letter From New York 01 24 15 On the verge of singularity?

January 25, 2015

Night has fallen in Claverack, deep, dark night, the kind where you can see nothing outside your windows. Jazz plays in the background. It is chill but not as chill as it will be; tomorrow the temperature will plunge to 9 degrees and the lows will be that or lower for the rest of the week. Brrrr…

Waking this morning, I discovered four inches of fresh snow when only one had been predicted. It was beautiful though I waited to go out until the afternoon. I have a Prius, which is a lovely automobile but not great in snow. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a wild turkey regally crossed in front of my window. The geese in the creek sailed majestically upstream, a flotilla of living beings, glorious in their beauty.

It’s been a quiet day. Waking early, I fixed coffee and snuggled down with the NY Times. Lazily, I got up and organized some things. Young Nick came and we sorted all the things that needed to go to the Transfer Station, the euphemistic term used in Columbia County for the dump. He shoveled my deck while the snowplow freed the driveway of snow. The orange County trucks plowed the streets. By noon, the world was back to normal.

Normal is a relative work, of course.

It looks like ISIS has beheaded one of the Japanese hostages. Gruesome.

Two planes were held in Atlanta after “credible” bomb threats.

Sarah Palin is considering a run for President while out in Iowa some are branding Chris Christie of New Jersey a flaming liberal. Ouch! Worst thing that a Republican candidate can be called!

In an interesting note today, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, said the Internet would disappear! Not really. It just will fade into the background because it will be so integral to our lives. And, yes, I think that’s true. In a few years, we won’t be thinking about the Internet because it will be the thread of our lives. Google has just invested a billion dollars in Elon Musk’s efforts to connect all the unconnected with satellite delivered Internet services.

We’re moving into a very interesting world.

Years ago, I read Dan Simmons’ Hyperion novels, a quartet of books that laid out a world not unlike the one we are moving toward. Prescient in many ways; a dark vision of AI taking over man and man striking back, interlinked with all kinds of religious threads. I’ve read them twice. Supposedly they were going to be a movie but I don’t think that’s happening.

I think Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, has just given some millions to prevent AI from achieving a takeover of men, as in The Terminator or the Hyperion novels.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t think I will be here when that happens, one way or the other. The actuarial tables indicate I won’t.

There are those who preach we are fast approaching The Singularity, the moment at which we create AI that is smarter than we are, when brains can be uploaded for a kind of immortality. Or when machines turn on us. Guestimates suggest that it will happen about 2040 and I am not sure I will last that long. Might be a good thing. I don’t want to be chased down the street by The Terminator when I am old.

We are, technologically, doing amazing things. We are transforming the world.

Yet tribal rivalries are causing huge cataclysms in our world. We advance but we regress. I get confused.

But we are humans, contradictory creatures that defy stereotypes, contradictory creatures that propel us dramatically toward a technological future we can barely imagine while at the same time some are desperate to draw us back into a barren past.

Letter From New York 01 23 15 At home and out in the world…

January 23, 2015

It is a day when the sun has been sparkling off the ice on the drive. I knew it was four o’clock because the deer wandered across the yard in their daily pilgrimage. The setting sun, still bright, is casting long tree shadows outside my windows.

I am freshly back from the city, settling down into a freshly cleaned cottage, ready to enjoy the weekend. There are buckets of things to do tomorrow; I have emails to catch up on and bills to pay over the weekend.

A winter storm is coming, not a terrible one but they’re predicting about four inches of snow in total and the nights will be, for here, bitterly cold. Wood is stacked by the Franklin stove to help heat the house tomorrow.

After getting back home, I took a break and walked my neighborhood. The house that will forever, to me, be Rosemary’s cottage has been torn down and a new one is being built on the old footprint. It is a sign of change in the neighborhood. I haven’t really met the new owners yet, hopefully will. They’re living in a rental next door right now and haven’t been very visible.

Out in the wide, wide world Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia, died, replaced by his half-brother Salman, who has assumed the throne and assured everyone he will continue the course. Abdullah was 90; Salman is 79. I think the older generation is thinning out and the younger ones will start getting a chance but will it make much of a difference? Stay tuned.

Out on Mars, the rover Opportunity is celebrating its eleventh anniversary. Designed to last for three months, it has kept on going and going and going with no signs of stopping. Remarkable little machine. Space stories give me so much delight.

Out in the Mideast, the deadline has passed for Japan to pay a ransom for two of its citizens being held by ISIS. The world waits to see what will happen.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t follow football. But even I have not been able to escape what has become known as Ballghazi and Deflategate. The Patriots apparently were playing with deflated balls when they defeated the Colts and that’s not allowed. Belichick, coach of the Patriots, and Tom Brady, the quarterback, have NO idea how that happened. NONE whatsoever. The NFL continues to investigate. And, for some reason, I find it fascinating.

What has been absolutely fascinating has been the arrest of Sheldon Silver, who is the Speaker of the State Assembly. Accused of taking millions as graft, the papers today were filled with photos of him being taken for arraignment in hand cuffs. The NY Times is calling for him to resign and the Post relished his predicament and devoted endless pages to it in their paper today.

It may well shake the very foundations of government in New York State, not that that would be a bad thing. New York is notorious – not as notorious as Illinois but the impression I’ve had is that Albany politics are pretty grimy.

So we go into the weekend, the sun almost set. Off to dinner with friends and then a cozy night at the cottage.

Letter From New York 01 22 15 Heading to the country in the morning…

January 22, 2015

Today’s blog post will, of necessity, be short. I had a meeting at three today and spent the day prepping for that and when it was over, found myself doing what many a person in the northern part of the country does, thinking about a warm weather vacation.

Intending to write, I found myself deep in websites about Caribbean islands and the warm weather temptations they provide: swimming, snorkeling, diving, laying in hammocks in warm sea winds. It sounds all very delicious and I’m thinking of treating myself to one.

In the meantime, the afternoon evaporated and I am leaving soon to go the New York Video Meet-up, a monthly event put together by my friend Steve Rosenbaum, a television producer turned digital entrepreneur. He’s written a couple of books, including CURATION NATION, a good read about digital curation.

Because I was so focused on the meeting, I ignored much of the world though, of course, I spent some time on the NY Times app as I sipped my morning coffee, of which I probably had too much. I think I over-caffeinated myself today.

I found myself paying occasional attention to the digital newsletters that come in on a daily basis, noting that Amazon is offering episodes of TRANSPARENT to everyone, in hopes of getting more people to sign up for their Amazon Prime service, which provides two day free delivery plus video.

Being a great fan of Prime, I have been watching some of TRANSPARENT and find it California delightful.

In the meantime, I am once again being inundated by appeals from the Democratic Party for my support and for me to join them in railing against the Republicans. I had hoped for a respite from that after the election but I’m afraid the frequency is nearly at the same dizzying pace as it was before the election.

Because I subscribe to CNN Breaking News, I did find out that it appears Yemen is without a government today, what with the President, Prime Minister and the entire cabinet resigning. I wonder what will happen to that poor, unstable country?

Though I have not been following it, there has been a great deal of controversy spawned by AMERICAN SNIPER, the Clint Eastwood movie starring Bradley Cooper, Oscar nominated for his role in it.   I will look into it when I get some time.

Weather has been chill but the snow flurries predicted for this morning did not arrive but a nor’easter is supposed to be on its way with inches predicted for the weekend. I will be cozy in the country then.

With daylight fading, I must be off to the NY Video Meet-up. Then to dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant on the Upper West Side, Thai Market, and then home to the country in the morning.