Archive for the ‘Mathew’ Category

Letter From New York 10 28 15 Cheery in the middle of swampy mess…

October 28, 2015

South Sudan. Dinka. Nuer.Cannibalism. Zanzibar. Boko Haram. Obama. Cameroon.  IS.  Caucasus. Iran. Syria. Russia. US. Turkey. Putin.

Outside the day is grey, gloomy, down right dark and definitely chill. My own spirits are quite the opposite. Despite the exterior my interior is quite bright, for no particular reason but I am delighted and grateful for the quiet joy of this dark day. I’m at my friend Todd’s office, doing some work for him and some for myself.

I had a couple of personal errands to do this morning and then I arrived here, an island of warmth and cheer on a dark and rainy day.

Reading about the conflict in South Sudan trumped my cheeriness. There has been violence ranging there for months and the two sides have been brutal. There are tales of the Dinka killing Nuer ruthlessly; sometimes making them jump into bonfires and then forcing people to eat the burnt flesh. There have been rapes, pillaging, burning of churches, all the things that happen when men get fire in their killing bellies.

Further south elections in Zanzibar may explode into violence and across the continent Nigeria has freed approximately 300 women from the Boko Haram.

Obama has sent three hundred soldiers to Cameroon to train soldiers. Africa and the Middle East are riven with Islamic terrorists. Some, like Boko Haram, have sworn allegiance to IS. And everywhere I look it seems we have a muddied response to it.

Iran has now joined the Syrian conversation at the same table with the US, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, its longtime regional rival. Iranian troops are on the ground in Syria. The Russians are there. The Turks seem to be chasing the Kurds there more than IS. It is a political, ideological swamp and in that swamp millions are displaced and dying.

Putin, who is playing around in Syria, has his own IS problem. There is a ragtag group of rebels in Russia who have declared the Caucasus Emirate and sworn allegiance to IS. Muslim Russians are being recruited by IS, going to fight and are returning. Mostly they are locked up or under police surveillance but the social unrest and economic hardships in that part of Putin’s Empire is making it easier for IS to recruit.

It is a cycle that may be coming around to bite Putin in the back. It’s why he says he is in Syria. Now some of the 7,000 Russians and former citizens of the Soviet Union who are there are trying to slip back into Russia to wreck havoc in retaliation.

Thinking I would get some relief by seeing what was happening in the world of entertainment, I quickly backed off when I kept finding stories about the ubiquitous Kardashians.

Goodness, looking at the world’s stories has tempered the day’s good natured-ness. I will have to get it back.

Letter from Claverack 09 13 15 In a time of travail…

September 13, 2015

The sun is setting here in Claverack. It has been a grey day, mostly, with bits of rain here and there. It’s been warm but not hot. The high was at most mid-70’s today. Soon it will be cool and I’ll be lighting fires in the Franklin stove.

As has been the case of late, I had a hard time waking this morning and hit the snooze alarm an annoying number of times but, as it was my personal commitment to go to church today, I pulled myself eventually out of bed and prepped myself and got off to church.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about my Catholic childhood, all of us forced to attend Sunday Mass with our classes, filling the 9:00 service with all our bodies, a Mass generally avoided by any thinking adult. Who would want to go to church with hundreds of school children?

Sister Ann, my 8th grade teacher, announced one day that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics. I remember thinking how strange that sounded. Certainly I didn’t think of myself as being persecuted. I lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and it didn’t seem to me that anyone was persecuting me for being Catholic.

I was born a couple of generations after that had happened.

It came to mind today because Mother Eileen, interim Pastor at Christ Church Episcopal, where I now attend service, talked today in her sermon about those who are suffering around the world because they are Christians.

And, while I am not in those countries, it is real that Christians in Iraq, Syria, and other places are being targeted. There is IS with its rigid and antediluvian interpretation of Islam and there is persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Muslim/Christian tensions inflame the African continent.

I thought we were beyond those times but we’re not, not at all.

As I drove to church, I was listening to a program on New England Public Radio that was devastatingly funny in its oral portraits of what Republican candidates are saying regarding constitutionality. It was almost hysterical, except these people are serious. The constitution should be enforced when combating Muslims but shouldn’t be enforced when Kim Davis refuses to uphold the law of the land. The hypocrisy was astounding.

Post church, I went for a drive while I listened to “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!,” my favorite NPR program and then I went to the Red Dot and perused a new cookbook I had purchased the other day, realizing that we are slipping into fall and it was time to think about Holiday meals.

While the day was supposed to be cursed with thunderstorms, there were none. A bit of light rain has fallen but nothing more.

It is seven in the evening. The light has almost completely left the sky. The light on the fountain has automatically turned on.

The house is quiet. My world is quiet though I know that far away from me the world is not quiet.

The Saudis are bombing Yemen, inflicting terrible pain upon the civilians. People in the lands controlled by IS are cowering in their homes. The markets of Baghdad are not safe.

All of this seems far away. Today, though, Al Qaeda called for individuals to launch attacks in America. Europe is in turmoil over the refugee situation. 14,000 refugees arrived in Germany today. Austria and Hungary have closed their borders.

They are being overwhelmed.

People are lamenting the refugee situation without looking at the wars that are causing the situation.

These are desperate times. I am not sure what to do except to donate to charities who are attempting to help the massive flow of people, desperate to escape their desperate lives, wanting to flee to someplace where they might not be randomly killed or starved for lack of resources.

I have no answers and am not sure I have the questions. I only know we are in a time of travail.

Letter From New York 08 14 15 The Way It Was Is The Way It Is…

August 14, 2015

A couple of generations ago, when I was a young man out of Minnesota, freshly burped up on the sunny shores of a foreign country called southern California, I found myself working at KMPC Radio in Los Angeles, then a powerhouse, now long gone, gobbled up by the Disney Empire.

I was Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and was well liked by the sales department, having done them a couple of good turns along the way.

One of the sales people, Al Gottfried, invited me out to his house one holiday season. His brother-in-law was a big muckety muck in television movies at the time. Over crudité he and I talked about how he got started in television movies.

He told me that when he was younger and had ideas for television movies, he thought he could go pitch the networks directly. Nope, not the case, he quickly learned. Because he had never done it, he therefore couldn’t do it. It was a Catch-22. He learned his ideas weren’t bad but he just couldn’t get access.

His solution was to marry himself to an established production company for TV movies. Eventually, people got to know him, trust him and he could launch his own company.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to open the West Coast office for A&E and I entered the world of cable, which I had wanted to find my way into for three years. I learned a lot during the six years I ran advertising sales for A&E on the West Coast, followed by a stint with Discovery.

Cable was the new technology. We were gnats to the broadcast networks, annoying but not to be taken seriously, even if their parent companies were big investors in cable networks. No one worried about us.

But it became a world in which creators found new canvases; producers shut out from the broadcast networks found homes in the world of cable. Movie channels like HBO and Showtime had time between movies that needed filling. There was a busy business in programming those empty spaces. Odd programming that would never have had a chance in “television” found homes on cable – and audiences.

An example of this is “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, a delirious hoot of a program that began on a local station in Minneapolis, moved to The Comedy Channel, which morphed into Comedy Central, ending its run on SciFi, now called SyFy.

Branded entertainment is the catchword of the day, when it’s not being called “native advertising.” Cable was doing that in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Bob Bolte of Clorox’s Media Department had a program running on USA for years that was the harbinger of things to come. A&E was doing “promercials.”

When I said that cable would one day have as much viewing as the broadcast networks, I was laughed out of the room. Then the day happened, sooner than I thought. Cable grew up.

It began to need ratings to feed the financial expectations of their owners. Cable is part of the “television” business now, no longer derogatorily called “cable.”

It has major businesses to protect. Cable needs big hits. No more “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Cable needs hits as much as broadcast networks. And in needing those hits, cable has followed the lead of its broadcast brothers. If you haven’t already done it, you can’t do it. So producers wanting to break into cable now have to partner with established producers until they make their own name. The lively, sometimes crazy kids, who produced for cable in the early days, became grown-ups but there are still wild, crazy kids who want to create content.

They turned to YouTube and Vimeo, Instagram and Vine. Suddenly you had Michelle Phan and PewDiePie, who have millions of viewers and helped spawn MCN’s [Multi Channel Networks]. Digital is the new cable and as companies who owned broadcast networks invested in the upstart cable networks, the established cable networks are investing in the upstart digital companies. A&E has put $250,000,000 into Vice, the upstart digital news service, and is giving them H2 to program.

The way it was is the way it is. We just have different upstarts this go round; as there will be other upstarts in the next go round.

Letter From New York 07 30 15 A party on the train and a missing dentist…

July 30, 2015

The moment I stepped out of the apartment this morning, my glasses steamed up. It was that kind of day. Stopping at CVS to pick up prescription, I exited into a torrential downpour. I stood for ten to fifteen minutes getting a cab, while balancing a suitcase, knapsack and CVS bag before one arrived.

The reason I was weighted down with all this “stuff” is that tonight is July 30th and I was appointed bartender for tonight’s Empire Regulars’ Retirement party for Ray, one of the most beloved conductors on the Empire Service. I think tomorrow is his last day; today is his last time conducting on one of our regular trains.

Emails have been racing back and forth all day about who was going to bring what…

Cheese and crackers and cold meats and Italian sausages, soft drinks and my “Ray Martin” drink, a concoction of limeade, seltzer, ice, and vodka, topped by a maraschino cherry.

It’s been my job for nearly ten years this fall to come up with a signature drink for our train parties. I did “Baby ‘Tinis” for a baby shower, held for a couple of regulars having their first child. One was pink; one was blue. They had opted not to know the sex of their child so I did one for each possibility. For a Halloween party, I created a “Pumpkin Tini” and so it has gone for all these years.

Ray has been great to all of us and we want to send him off in our signature style, a party on the train.

Not very much a party was Gay Pride in Israel. An ultra-Orthodox Jew named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people in the Pride Parade. Just a few weeks ago, he was released from prison, having served his time for stabbing three people in the 2005 Pride Parade.

The plane part found on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Western Indian Ocean, is being closely examined to make sure that it is truly from a 777. If it is, it is probably from MH 370, as there are no other missing 777’s. There is no desire to give friends and relatives of the flight’s passengers anything but 100% certainty.

Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati policeman, has been charged with murder of a black man, Sam Dubose, after he shot Dubose following a stop for a missing license plate. Tensing was wearing a body camera. The Cincinnati prosecutor has called it “senseless and asinine.” Tensing has pleaded not guilty and is held under a million-dollar bail.

The Greek Debt Crisis continues roiling. Tsipras is being confronted by the far left of his party and he has thrown down the gauntlet to them. Germany wants the IMF to be part of the bail out. The IMP says not right now; it wants to know Greece can succeed. Who knows what will happen?

Tsipras remains incredibly popular, even after his U turn. He seems refreshing to the Greek populace, so used to career politicians.

Walter Palmer, the Bloomington, Minnesota dentist who has brought down the world’s wrath by killing Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, has disappeared. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officials have been relentlessly attempting to contact him. It’s not the first time they’ve been in touch with him. There was an incident a few years ago here in the States.

No success. Silent as a tomb, where some people would like him to be.

But if I am going to be successful at tonight’s party, it’s time for me to finish this and head for Penn Station to join my fellow revelers. Shhhh! It’s a surprise.

Letter From New York 06 24 15 But it looked good in the movies…

June 24, 2015

It is a sunny day in New York City, the temperature is in the 80’s but the air is not sodden with humidity, as it was yesterday. Pleasant enough, with breezes, that I walked a mile to the restaurant where I met a friend, Guy McCarter, that I hadn’t seen in some years. It was nice, in that we picked up again as if no time had passed at all. We visited and then he headed to a meeting and I sauntered back to Todd’s office.

Tonight I am meeting a friend at 5:30 at the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, home of the “Round Table” back in the 30’s, and then to dinner with another friend at Nirvana, then home to read I suspect.

Last night, I stayed up too late finishing Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop,” a funny book about the newspaper business pre World War II.

Joseph J. O’Donahue IV, who I had the great pleasure of knowing, was born in 1912 and passed away 88 years later. He was a great bon vivant, considered one of the best looking men of his generation, and sailed, mostly, through life with grace and elegance.

Mismanaged trust funds left him hard up at the end of his life but he carried on with huge style and was a fixture on the San Francisco social circuit.

He declared that civilization had ended with World War II.

I don’t know that is true but certainly sometimes it seems that on some levels the world was more civil then.

Treatment of blacks was worse in this country. Joe once brought Josephine Baker, the African American dancer who had wowed France, to El Morocco in New York and was turned away. He never returned to the Club. If Josephine wasn’t good enough, he wasn’t either.

Now that I think about it, it wasn’t so terribly civilized then but it sure looked good in the movies.

There were the Nazis. And there had been the “War to End All Wars,” which was merely a prelude to the big show, World War II. Joe was asked to leave Germany by Adolf Hitler after protesting the arrests of Jewish friends.

And there had been the Great Depression, not a good time for anyone.

No, civilization didn’t end with World War II, a new age opened up.

And that new age, in which we live, isn’t particularly pretty either. IS militants blew up a couple of tombs in Palmyra yesterday. They were about 500 years old and held the remains of important Shia. IS is, you see, Sunni. They have also mined the classical ruins to discourage any efforts to take them back.

Palmyra was a place that was on my bucket list. It will probably have to stay in the bucket. In interesting news, if not a media stunt, is that Lexus is developing a hoverboard like the one used by Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” They plan to test it out in Barcelona in the next few weeks. I’ll be following.

The Queen [Elizabeth II of Great Britain] is visiting Germany. While there, a small robot performed for her and charmed her.

She may not be charmed by the fact she may have to move out of Buckingham Palace for an extended period of time, as there is so much updating to be done. Wiring, plumbing and decorating all need to be brought into the modern age as, for the most part, nothing has been done for at least sixty years.

In September the Queen will become the longest reigning British monarch. She will overtake Queen Victoria that month. Given that her mother lived to be something 103 or 104, I am guessing we may have the Queen around for a while.

One of the things which has been around for awhile is the Greek Debt Crisis, described by one as the slowest moving financial train wreck in history, which could be a good thing. Had a collapse happened three years ago it would have been much worse.

Monday’s optimism that a deal could be done has faded and a meeting broke up early because of “major policy differences.” There are only six days left to the month. At the end of June, Greece needs to make a payment and it doesn’t have the money. The European Central Bank is propping up Greek banks as depositors remove a billion Euros a day.

I feel a little like I need propping up after having stayed up too late reading. I’m off soon to drinks and dinner and hopefully a pleasant night in New York.

You have one, too, wherever you are!

Letter From New York 03 19 15 Hard to believe…

March 19, 2015

It is a little after eight in the morning and to my left is the Hudson River with morning sun glinting off the water as we roll south. I am heading into the city for a few meetings and to organize for my departure to India. Most of the clothes I will be taking are in the apartment in the city and I need to sort and organize them, deciding what I will take. I have been warned to bring sweaters and a jacket or two as the nights will still be cool.

It is definitely still on the chill side today in New York. Sometime this winter will end but it is not today. It is good though that the sun is out and the day is bright; it lightens the feel of the day against the cold. Snow will come tomorrow, the first day of spring.

While I find it hard to believe after the winter the Northeast has had, this has been actually the warmest winter on record.

The front page of the NY Times is filled with exegesis of the victory of Netanyahu in Israel and attempts to parse what directions he will take as well as what twists and turns will come in his relationship with President Obama.

There is still a manhunt in Tunisia for accomplices in the killing there of 19 outside a museum. No one has claimed responsibility. Just now, as I was searching the news, my iPhone sent a breaking news alert from the BBC announcing that four people had been arrested.

The UN has stated that IS may have committed genocide against the religious minority Yazidis. There were about a half million of them, living mostly in the plains of Nineveh province in Iraq. They captured the world’s attention last year when many fled ahead of IS to Mount Sinjar where they remained trapped until the US led coalition managed to break the siege via aggressive airstrikes coupled with an offensive from the Kurdish Pesh Merga.

Hundreds have been killed. Women have been given to IS soldiers “as spoils of war.” That’s if they were lucky; many, including girls as young as six, were regularly raped. Boys as young as eight have been abducted and sent away to train as IS soldiers.

On the other side, the Iraqis have not been so innocent either if UN reports are correct. They have been taking revenge on Sunnis for the killings of Shia.

The land between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, the “cradle of civilization,” is a bloody mess.

The British have sent 35 trainers to Ukraine to help Ukrainian forces in defensive tactics. Putin’s spokesman has said this does not “strengthen trust.” He says it with a straight face, too.

In other British news, Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, his wife and Duchess of Cornwall, are making a visit today to the Oval Office.

Office productivity will probably take a nosedive today as March Madness descends on America. There are sixteen games today and sixteen tomorrow. Many will be hunched over their computers, not working but watching the games stream.

Apple is part of the Dow Jones index, as of today. The Times noted that blue chip stocks in the index tend to underperform. Not happy news, I’m sure, to my friends who have Apple stock.

In Basel, Switzerland, Buddy Elias passed away. He was the closest living relative of Anne Frank, who left behind a diary before being transported to Auschwitz, where she died.

The French are considering legislation to set minimum body index measures for models to fight anorexia. Over the last few years several models have died, including a French model that weighed 55 pounds at one point.

I am finishing this in the Acela Lounge, where I retreated after arriving in New York. The day is going to be a busy one and it would be challenging to find another time to write.

Letter From New York 03 11 15 As the sun glints down…

March 11, 2015

As I move north toward Hudson, the sun glitters sharply off the Hudson River, the ice floes seem more diminished and it was nearly sixty degrees in New York City today. On a day that was supposed to be cloudy, the sun has been present in all its yellow glory.

On my way home after several meetings, I will be meeting friends at the Red Dot for dinner tonight and then home to sleep and to work from the cottage tomorrow.

In Ferguson, Missouri, the Chief of Police, Thomas Jackson, has stepped down, following the City Manager yesterday and a judge earlier this week. All of this, of course, is fall out from the report issued by the Justice Department that was harshly critical of the practices of the City of Ferguson, accusing the town of systemic bias against African-Americans.

As I left the Acela Lounge, a report was airing on CNN regarding the apology of a University of Oklahoma student identified as one of the leaders of a fraternity’s racist chant.

In Atlanta, an unarmed black man was killed today, the third unarmed black man to have been killed by officers since Friday. Naked and acting deranged, he was shot by a police officer.

In a story that will keep on giving, Hillary Clinton declared that she used one email for “convenience” and that perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea. No, Hillary, it was not a good idea. As she marches toward the declaration of a run for the Presidency, it seems her opponents are not other members of the party but the media. Her relationship with the media has long been tumultuous and it looks as if it will stay that way.

Moving further north, the ice floes have thickened but it looks like the ice pack of two days ago is beginning to break.

While we hear frequently about the number of foreigners slipping away from their home country to fight with IS, we don’t hear much about Americans who are flying to Iraq to fight IS. Apparently there are a few, mostly veterans who have become dissatisfied with life at home. The US government is actively discouraging this and pushing anti-IS troops in Iraq to keep them away from the front lines. Some have gone across to Syria and join groups there after their battle hopes have been frustrated. Officially, the Pesh Merga says that there are no Americans fighting with them at this point. At one point, they said there were about a hundred.

On the BBC app this morning, I read a heartbreaking story out of China. Apparently there are 20,000 children who are abducted every year in China and then sold online to individuals desperate for a child. It may be that there are as many as 200,000 abducted every year. The man profiled today had his five year old son abducted and has spent years looking for him to no avail. It did not sound as if stopping this was a priority for the authorities.

In Nigeria, approximately 150 children five to seven years of age have been rescued from Boko Haram. They do not remember who they are or where they came from, recalling nothing of the lives they lived before their kidnapping, making it difficult to return them to their families.

The Iraqis are making steady progress in Tikrit while IS set off 21 car bombs in Ramadi, just to remind people of their abilities. Because defenses have been strengthened around Ramadi, the car bombs mostly exploded before they reached their targets.

A member of a Russian Human Rights group has said that one of the suspects in the death of Boris Nemtsov, the anti-Putin activist, probably gave his confession after torture. The activist is facing jail for having spoken out. Ah, the beauty of democracy in Russia.

New York City announced this morning that it will continue its ban on ferrets while in Italy, a young woman is devoting her life to rescuing pigs. She claims, and I have heard from others, that pigs are smarter than cats or dogs.

The train is rolling slowly north and soon I will be back in Hudson and on my way to the Red Dot.

Letter From New York 03 05 15 In a winter wasteland…

March 5, 2015

As I start to write this, I’m on a northbound Amtrak train, heading back to the cottage after three and a half days in the city. I’m looking forward to being back there. There is paperwork I must organize for the accountant and I will do that this afternoon, cozy with a fire and a good British mystery playing on Acorn TV. The city is a mess. No way around it. A mess. Slushy, heavy snow is falling and tangling traffic and all transit.

My train was late arriving into Penn, coming in swathed in snow and wet. Now we are exiting the tunnels to parallel the West Side Highway before breaking free of Manhattan.

It is wildly beautiful and winter treacherous. Ice floes dot the Hudson.

A Delta flight skidded off the runway an hour ago at LaGuardia, closing the airport.

While having my first cup of coffee this morning and reading the New York Times, I read an article that outlined the depth of Iran’s involvement in Iraq. While I had learned yesterday that an Iranian General was seemingly directing operations, I did not know there were Iranian soldiers on the ground, which apparently there are. The General, Qassim Suleimani, has been described as a stately Osama bin Laden. That is the apparent reason that the US led coalition has not been involved in the advance on Tikrit. It doesn’t want to be seen aiding the Iranians, particularly this General.

At the same time, thousands are fleeing, attempting to reach Samarra for safety.

IS is fighting back, setting oil fields aflame to obscure targets to the Iraqi jets that are pummeling them. They have booby-trapped the roads leading into Tikrit and that is slowing the advance.

In Africa, Boko Haram, under pressure on several fronts, struck back by killing scores in a village in northeast Nigeria.

Late last night Hillary Clinton tweeted she wanted the State Department to release her emails and State says they are reviewing them.

The snow has shut down Washington. Congress called it a week yesterday. President Obama is at the White House, snug I’m sure, with only a briefing and a lunch with Vice President Biden on his schedule.

Everyone is attempting to interpret the questions asked by Supreme Court Justices in yesterday’s hearing about Obamacare. The pundits are working on reading the tealeaves.

Elsewhere in politics, Jeb Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls are converging on Iowa this week to attend an agricultural forum. While far and away in the lead among donors and Republican centrists, Bush is having trouble breaking through to the rank and file. There is fatigue with the Bush name and Jeb needs to find ways to separate himself from his father and especially his brother.

The World Resources Institute has stated, in its first comprehensive analysis of all the data, that by 2030 there will be a tripling of the number of people affected by river flooding. It is hoping its report will encourage countries to take mitigating measures in the coming years.

May 7th marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. Torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915, the ship sank in just eighteen minutes, taking nearly 1200 people down with her, including 128 Americans, among which was the playboy Alfred Vanderbilt.

The sinking, always surrounded by elements of mystery, became a rallying cry that helped bring America into World War I in 1917. “Remember the Lusitania!” The Lusitania was a Cunard liner and Cunard is hosting a special sailing to note the event.

On board were four million rounds of ammunition. It has long been believed that the ship was also carrying dangerous stores of munitions that were highly unstable. Shortly after the torpedo hit, a second explosion racked the liner and it began to list precipitously. Minutes later it was gone.

To my left, the Hudson River is a white wasteland but the snow has stopped and the weather improved. In a little less than an hour, I’ll be in Hudson and not long after that at the cottage, curled up with my papers to get to the accountant tomorrow.

Letter From New York 02 27 15 About missing a day…

February 27, 2015

For anyone who might have noticed, there was no Letter From New York yesterday. It was my intention to write it after a mid-afternoon appointment with a former client to do some more consulting for them. The client, Nick Stuart, has also become one of my closest friends. There were three of us at the meeting and when were finishing, Nick suggested that the two of us play hooky and go see KINGSMAN, the new Colin Firth movie, which we did. It was a chocolate cake piece of old fashioned spy fun with high tech tricks.

Then I went on to drinks and dinner with Leo Brunnick, the CEO of Patheos, largest Internet site devoted to religion, who has become a friend. We started with martinis at Sardi’s, the venerable theater haunt down in Manhattan’s Theater District, followed by tapas at Buceo 95, a wine bar on the Upper West Side, a part of New York that Leo does not usually visit.

We had a great time but by the time I sent him home in a taxi and walked back to my place, it was late and I was exhausted.

Now, I sit in the Acela Lounge at Penn Station, waiting for my friend Lionel, who lives across the street from me in Claverack; we’ll ride the same train back home.

When I was kid, one of the many things I wanted to be was to be an archeologist. So I was shocked this morning as I perused the Times to find that IS is systematically destroying ancient monuments and treasures in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, which has been under their control since last summer.

The treasures date back to the ancient Assyrians, who ruled a vast Middle Eastern Empire three thousand years, which at the time was the largest empire the world had yet seen. They left behind stunning works of art to which IS is now applying the delicate touch of sledgehammers.

The present day descendants of the Assyrians are Christians and another group of them has been kidnapped from their villages by IS. The IS militants are swarming across the territory they control intending to remove from it, one way or another, anyone who subscribes to a different religious view than theirs. There is a stretch of 30 Assyrian Christian villages that now stand deserted, residents having fled to safety or been captured by IS.

Against this backdrop, the Assyrians have joined forces with the Kurds and are fighting back, with some success.

Eric Holder, still Attorney General, has encouraged Malls around the country to enhance their security. The fear of a homegrown terror attack is what keeps him up at night, he says.

What might keep up many at night is that tonight funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire. The Senate has passed a bill to keep it going but the House remains riven and Boehner is scrambling.

To my great sadness, Leonard Nimoy, creator of the character of Spock, our favorite human/Vulcan half-breed in the Star Trek television series and series of movies, passed away today.

In Mexico today, “La Tuta” [The Teacher] was arrested. His real name is Servando Gomez who started his life as a teacher and became a Drug Lord. For years he has taunted authorities with videos, boasting of his close ties to politicians. He swore never to be taken alive. He was captured, without a shot, while eating a hot dog at a hot dog stand.

In another sad story, seven people killed, and another one wounded, in a shooting spree by a 36 year old man who then fatally turned his gun on himself. Tiny Tyrone, Missouri is reeling. A lonely little town 50 miles from the Arkansas border, it is the kind of place where everyone knew everyone else.

The top news story this morning when I woke was that “Jihadi John,” the IS militant believed to have beheaded western hostages, had been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwait born, London bred 27 year old who once upon a time was “the boy next door.” He studied computer science at the University of Westminster. He is now one of the world’s most wanted men.

Speaking of being wanted, it will soon be time for my train and I must sign off, gather my belongings and head for Track 5.