photography travel

Venice, Italy, November 2023

I first visited Venice in 2002, I spend a long day tramping around the city with a college friend. We didn’t stay in Venice, that was too expensive.

I returned to Venice in 2007 with my Wife, part of our honeymoon tour of Italy.

The Grand Canal from The Rialto in the morning light

This time my daughters and my mother and youngest sister joined my wife and I. We spend three nights. We flew into Milan and took the train directly to Venice, choosing to see Milan as our last stop so we didn’t need to rush to make a flight on the last day.

We visited all the important sights —the Doge’s Palace [], St. Marks Basillica [], The Rialto []— spent lots of time walking around the streets and squares, at a lot of good foot and gelato, and took a trip to Murano [] —for the glass— and Burano [] —for the colorful houses.

St. Mark’s Basillica in the late afternoon sunlight

We were lucky to get into St. Marks at just the right time of day, to have brilliant late afternoon sun steaming in the windows and giving all the cold mosaic walls and ceilings an amazing glow. St. Mark’s is inspired by the Chruch of the Holy Apostles [] in Constantanople which no longer exits. But the influence of the Byzantium style of churches and church decoration is obvious. St. Mark’s reminds me of Hagia Sofia [], it’s nowhere near as big and it actually has a lot more golden mozaic everywhere you look (thought in absolute terms maybe Hagia Sofia has more, it’s so damn big…). Hagia Sofia is one of my favorite buildings in the world, and I get a similar feeling in St. Mark’s just based on the decoration, the mosaics and the marble and the domes. It was absolutly beautiful in the golden light.

Mask at Ca’ Del Sol

We also visited a shop, specializing in masks and costumes for Carnival, called Ca’ Del Sol []. We did buy a couple of masks but this place is like a wonderland. The floors, walls and ceiling and many tables are covered win masks. Manikins modeling full costumes stand in the corners. The old guy working there was a total character too, playing it up. Few things say Venice like a fancy carnival mask and Ca’ Del Sol, had the most fancy ones your can imagin.

Of course, the girls also needed their required Gondola ride. It’s just a thing you have to do when in Venice.

Did I mention gelato? Having discovered Gelato at Amarino’s in Paris in 2022it was a must to have actual Italian Gelato. (I didn’t write about it but we went back to Amarino’s every night after we found it, no matter how cold it was in Paris.) I even got to show them where I first had Gelato (that was in Milan). My older daughter made sure she knew where an Amarino’s was in every city we were visiting in Italy so she could have Amarino’s every day. (We did try a few other placed, but the quality of Amarino’s was consitent and higher than most easy to find tourist places).

It was not a long stay, Vinice is still expensive, and while it might be nice to spend a few more days to see everything, a few days is enough. Enought to wonder though the streets and allyways, over the bridges. Enought time to get a feel for why Venice is so famous. From Venice we took the train to Florence, but that is another post…

You can see the full Venice, Italy, November 2023 [] photoset on Flickr.


The Parable of the Sower & The Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Sower
Octavia E. Butler
The Parable of the Talents
Octavia E. Butler

The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler should be the book of the moment. You should read it now, in 2024, during the presidential election.

The core of the Parable books is a post-apocalyptic America. Staring in 2024 in a time when America’s worst impulses as a society and climate change have together wrecked America. Poverty, drugs and violence are rampant. Wealth buys what there is of security, the police are pay to pay at best and all too often just robbers themselves welding power for themselves in a dog eat dog world. Public education is a thing of the past. And actually slavery and de-facto slavery —debt slavery— in factory towns has returned. Drug addled gangs roam the streets killing and burning at will. Good people are ground up and spit out. The rich and even the middle class build literal walls around their houses and cul-de-sacs to keep out the poor and the violent. People live 19th century lives in the 21st century, bartering, eating what they can grow or scavenge.

Sower follows the teenage years of Lauren Oya Olamina, who starts life in a walled middle class community, if violently thrust out into the wild and eventually come to found a new community —and religion— that aims to help all of humanity with an achievable purpose, not a spiritual salvation but a path to fixing the real world.

Talents continues the story, showing how bad the world can be to those trying to do good and how people can be misguided into doing horrible things… and how power, even and especially power seeped in righteous faith corrupts people or makes them blind to evil done in the name of their righteousness.

I don’t want to give any more of the story of Lauren and the others away. Read the books. But what I wanted to point out is how close the US feels to this post apocalyptic world. It’s 2024 and of course things are not as bad as they are when the book opens in 2024. But the trends are all there. We are too close to this to be comfortable. I’ll let the story stand on it’s own, here are some choice quotes:

The most scary quotes, have to do with the political movement, a right wing Christian group, Christian America, and their leader who’s slogan is:

“Help us to make America great again.”

MAGA, written in 1993, at the dawn of the 1990’s when we looked to a future we thought was bright. The end of communism, the triumph of capitalism and democracy. Somehow Butler knew. She pulled the threads together and predicted it. Like the Simpsons.

“The purpose of Christian America was to make America the great, Christian country that it was supposed to be, to prepare it for a future of strength, stability, and world leadership, and to prepare its people for life everlasting in heaven.”

That, more or less is the summary of the Christian nationalism [] of Project 2025 [] and many of the people behind it. Excluding everyone who doesn’t meet their definition of a good Christian according to their particular flavor and interpretation of Christianity.

Jarret’s fanatical followers were the greater danger. During Jarret’s first year in office, the worst of his followers ran amok. Filled with righteous superiority and popular among the many frightened, ordinary citizens who only wanted order and stability,

Before Trump, before the rise of the Gospel of Wealth, before Nazi’s in Charlottesville. Jarret is an interesting stand-in for Trump. Jarret started as a preacher, not a property investor and reality TV star. But in the end he has political supporters and his out-of-control paramilitary hate groups. The Crusaders, like the Proud Boys and their ilk are extremists and domestic terrorists. And it’s all to realistic that the real-world crazies are only one steep away from the fictional crazies reign of terrors and atrocities.

Even some of the less religious ones support him. They say the country needs a strong hand to bring back order, good jobs, honest cops, and free schools. They say he has to be given plenty of time and a free hand so he can put things right again.

I hear some version of this from people I would not expect, rationalizing Trump, or ignoring his authoritarian and fascist tendencies for a variety of reasons. Often they are considering only one issue but when I ask, “why would you ever vote for someone who sounds like Hitler” they don’t seem to understand.

They have no power to improve their lives, but they have the power to make others even more miserable. And the only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it.

This ones strikes a fundamental issue in America politics over the last 30 plus years. The fact that politicians have failed many Americans. Focusing on globalization and a view of the economy based on national level KPIs like GDP and unemployment, politicians on both sides have failed so many Americans. Both rural and inner-city have been left behind and neither party has made any real plan to help them. Their anger boiled over, hatred of the “elites” and the “deep state” are rational given how they failed. Trump road the rural anger into the White House in 2016.

I have watched education become more a privilege of the rich than the basic necessity that it must be if civilized society is to survive. I have watched as convenience, profit, and inertia excused greater and more dangerous environmental degradation. I have watched poverty, hunger, and disease become inevitable for more and more people. Overall, the Pox has had the effect of an installment-plan World War III. In fact, there were several small, bloody shooting wars going on around the world during the Pox. These were stupid affairs—wastes of life and treasure. They were fought, ostensibly, to defend against vicious foreign enemies. All too often, they were actually fought because inadequate leaders did not know what else to do. Such leaders knew that they could depend on fear, suspicion, hatred, need, and greed to arouse patriotic support for war.

Most people have given up on politicians. After all, politicians have been promising to return us to the glory, wealth, and order of the twentieth century ever since I can remember.

I have also read that the Pox was caused by accidentally coinciding climatic, economic, and sociological crises. It would be more honest to say that the Pox was caused by our own refusal to deal with obvious problems in those areas. We caused the problems: then we sat and watched

Climate change denial, the pandemic and its economic consequences, and the culture wars seem to fit the bill…

Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments—the ones abolishing slavery and guaranteeing citizenship rights—still exist, but they’ve been so weakened by custom, by Congress and the various state legislatures, and by recent Supreme Court decisions that they don’t much matter.

This one hits close to home. The Supreme Court didn’t gut these ones, but they have been on a rampage recently overturning “settled law” and bending over backwards and contorting themselves into knots to justify their immunity ruling.

Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, “simpler” time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different. There was never such a time in this country. But these days when more than half the people in the country can’t read at all, history is just one more vast unknown to them.

The desire for some mythical time when America was “great” and the lack of how limited that greatness was (great for who?) or what it took (high taxes, high government spending). Education hasn’t fallen so far that only 50% are literate but the susceptibility to online misinformation and disinformation seems to affect at least 50%.

Ok. Enough. We’re fucked and somehow she predicted it.

You should read The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents.

You should read them now, this year. You should read them before the US presidential election. You should read them after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and after the Supreme Court gutted checks and balances and all but declared the president a king by granting unbelievably broad absolute immunity from criminal prosecution.

Their good books but also scary prophetic. I don’t think I can explain it without spoiling it. It made me think, it made me concerned, in a few places it made me hopeful, but mostly it made me concerned about many things I’m already worried about.


Still Biden

He didn’t do well. He’s never been an inspiring speaker, and he looked old and out of it during too much of the debate. But it’s him or Trump, that’s how the system works. I can’t see how a decent old man, even with dementia, who’s administration is filled with competent people that are broadly aligned with my political views could be worse than a narcissistic bully who is surrounded by sycophants, christo-fascist and nazi wannabes. I’ll take Biden over Trump. I would take Biden over Trump if Biden was in a coma on Election Day. I wish there was another choice.

I spoke with a friend when I was in the US, long before the debate. They said their objection, or their concern, with Biden was he would die or resign and Harris would be president. They didn’t like Harris —I’m not sure why, we didn’t discuss it— and they didn’t want four years of Harris. I told them they must have failed civics class, I told them that someone who is not the elected president taking over the office in case the president dies or resigns can only server two year as the unelected president (see note below). Then an election must be held. On top of that, two years of Harris is still better than four more years of fake-and-bake Hitler.

In the end, it’s the same to me. The choice boils down to the Trump or Biden, to the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate. I don’t believe the DNC will replace Biden at the convention. My own ballot from Virginia will have other choices but they are false choices.

In 2020 the Virginia presidential ballot had three choices: Republican, Democrat and Libertarian. This year it may have more, maybe RFK Jr. will be there running with his brain worm for VP. But, to me, even if I agreed with the third party candidates it would be stupid to vote for them. I’m voting against Trump. I’m voting against everything Trump stands for. Any vote other than Biden is a vote for Trump. Not voting is a vote for Trump. An intentionally spoiled ballot is a vote for Trump. There is no room for protest or idealistic votes for third party candidates or spoiling a ballot or not voting.

The choice is black and white, red or blue, republican or democrat, Trump or Biden. Given Trumps disdain for the law and for democracy I can’t imagine a scenario where I would not vote for Biden.

Note: It seems I’m the one who failed civics, I just read the twenty-second amendment [], and it says:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

So, it seems that if Biden was elected and resigned on day one, Harris could server out the whole term, but then would only be eligible to be elected once. And if Biden made it half-way and then resigned Harris could server the remaining two years and still be elected twice. So I apologize to the people I may have mislead.

It should also be noted that Donald Trump is on record as saying he would be president for “10 to 14” years. Which would violate the 22nd Amendment. Wikipedia points to other; Truman, Reagan, and Clinton who disagreed with the Amendment. It also notes that there have been 54 resolutions introduced congress to repeal the Amendment.

Personally, I think we need more term limits, not less. I think we need limits on Senators and Representatives too. And maybe even Supreme Court Justices. I think it was a mistake that the constitution does not impose limits as getting congress to vote to limit itself seems like a lost cause.



I got back from three weeks in the US last week. Saw my family, including people I have not seen since I was, like, eleven. And two of my sisters for the first time in most of a decade.

Each time I visit the US, I have less desire to go back to the US. It was low to begin with. Since the first time I got out of the US as a tourist I loved being out for the US. When I moved out for the first time I tried everything I could not to go back. Later I jumped at the first chance I got to leave again. Which landed me in Singapore. I’ve wanted to move on from Singapore but never had a serious chance, except for once during the financial crisis, but that was back to the US (needing a job trumped not going back at the time) and it fell through in any case.

Here’s the thing: the US is so fucked up on so many levels. I still believe it has the capability to fix itself but for fuck sakes no one is trying. They are all damn interested in fucking those that disagree with their worldview in every hole as violently as they can.

It’s the same thing that always happens. Everyone wants to save the world… they just disagree on how.

Maximus, Fallout Seasons 1, episode 5

And how. The system has the capability to fix itself but the American people seem too far gone.

There is so much wrong on so many levels.

Infrastructure is falling apart. Has been for years, remember the bridge collapse in Minnesota a few years ago? Almost every bridge on the interstate is older than I am. Most cities in the US can’t fix seasonal potholes much less large infrastructure. This is what taxes are for, for the common fucking good. Admittedly, there seems to be some improvement there, maybe it the infrastructure investment from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure push (seen here in H. R. 3684 – Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act []). Or maybe it’s older Trump-era or even Obama-era money.

Healthcare is fucked. It’s old news that most, if not all of the other OECD countries have better health care systems than the US. …Life expectancy, infant mortality, incidents of heart disease, incidents of obesity/diabetes, etc. We need to fix that shit, I’m not saying we need a single payer system like the UK’s NHS —they got problems too— but the absolute fuck up America has of corporate interests —looking at you private equity— and private healthcare is fucked, fucked, fucked. But shit man “freedom”… Fucking morons don’t know that freedom is not “everyone gets to do what they want” that’s libertarianism or anarchy. Freedom from disease, freedom from want, freedom from simple, easily fixable health problems is also “freedom”. Yet another Christos-faschist corruption of their so-called religion. American Christians would lynch Jesus these days for his liberal-left views. And for fuck sakes it helps the economy if people can work and live. But no, we need to make sure the billionaires and big business can get more money every year. Or they won’t create jobs. If we leave them alone their will invest and it will trickle down. We don’t need a fucking trickle (it never worked anyway []) we need fucking torrent. American’s are fucking morons.

Jesus fucking Christ everything has been supersized to stupidity levels. Everything is double the size it was 20 years ago in the US —the cars, the food servings, the amount of chemicals in the food. Fucking hell.

Government corruption seems to having a moment, be it Clarence Thomas obvious bullshit that republicans are tying themselves in knots over playing ostrich to ignore or Nancy Pelosi’s stocks. Time for some fucking term limits on all elected and appointed officials in the government.

Too many, most, American’s seem to have drank the patriotic Kool-Aid. Too many American’s have never spent any time in any other system. It’s sad, and I think more than a little bit responsible for so many issues, that most Americans will never have a passport. They will never have the opportunity to visit and to experience any other system to compare with the American system. Most people who do have a passport probably got it for a week of spring break or a post-retirement trip or maybe a honeymoon. I expect the majority of Americans who have spent any significant amount of time outside of the borders of the US were there to kill people.

I actually wanted to come to some point here and not just rant like a lunatic, but fuck it. I don’t even know where to begin. I’d say vote, but I’m not sure that will have any real effect on things. Politics is the most fucked thing in the whole country. Reminds me of something I heard long ago; “everyone should have the right to vote, most people shouldn’t”. Shouldn’t vote that is. Most people are too brain washed or disconnected from anything to understand the issues and evaluate potential solutions. The parties are pandering to their fucking lunatic fringe-culture-warriors for so long that I think they have forgotten how to actually even pretend to govern. The election is a fucking sound bite popularity contest. The point of a representative democracy was that there are too many complex issues for everyone to understand and so we rely on people who can focus on the issue to represent our best interests, but not we elect a bunch of fuck-tard ideologues based on the verbal diorreha that comes out of their mouth while rich people and companies pump their asses full of cash —fuck Citizens United []— and vacations to buy the votes they want not the votes we —the people— need.


Global Warmed

Southeast Asia is in the middle of a heat wave. Singapore is not really that much hotter, it’s still hovering around 30-32° every day. But in the mornings, when I go out before six AM with my daughter to catch the bus, I get hit with a blast of hot, sticky air the moment I open the door. It does not cool down overnight, the humidity is so high it’s like the old saying, you could cut it with a knife. Right now my watch says it’s 29º but feels like 35º due to the 82% relative humidity and it’s not even 11AM yet.

I know that “feels like 35º” maybe doesn’t sound that hot, I mean I grew up in Virginia and in the “dog days of summer” it was always nasty. Usually around 40º and at least 70% relative humidity. So it was hotter and more humid, but at least you could look forward to winter. But it’s just hot, crazy hot feeling.

According to [], the closest weather station to me is reporting a wet bulb globe temperature of 36, which is… bad. It’s complicated but a WBGT of 36 is in the black zone, which means something like “don’t work outside”. If a place is consistently in this category it becomes hard for humans to live. Humans can live in much hotter places but the humidity has to be lower on average, I mean, how else could anyone live in the desert? To keep living in a place with a WBGT of 36 air conditioning is a must, and of course every minute you run the aircon you are contributing to further baking the planet.

Anyway, the whole point of this is it’s hot, fucking hot.

And it’s only going to get hotter. We have fucked the planet. We have fucked it so hard that a lot of places are at risk of becoming unlivable in my lifetime, or that of my kids. All our grand plans to “limit” global temperature rise to 1º or 1.5º are all for naught. We can’t get our collective shit together because of greed and shortcitedness.

Science has been talking about the greenhouse effect and the potential for human activity to raise global temperatures since at least 1902 (read the history of climate change science [] on Wikipedia.) Here are two newspaper articles about how human’s burning coal was going to warm the world that are more than one hundred years old:

1902 new paper article citing human caused global warming due to coal burning.
1912 article about "Coal Consumption Affecting Climate"

The only thing they got wrong was the timescale. We fucked it up much faster than “a few centuries”.

We’ve been debating if humans were the cause of climate change or global warming my whole life. And capitalism has trumped science every time. Despite the fact that the other day I saw an article that renewable energy now accounts for more then 30% of electricity supply [], (I don’t think that includes trains, planes and automobiles…) it’s too little to late. Then, a few days later the Scripps Institute of Oceanography published the latest Keeling Curve [], showing how predictable it has become that shit gets worse every year:

The sawtooth pattern is somehow fitting…

This is the record of Atmospheric CO2 since 1958 then they started recording it at the Mauna Loa Observatory. There is a clear trend. And if you want to play the “it’s natural” bull shit game, take a look at some of the other diagrams. The 800 thousand year chart:

So there does seem to be some sort of cycle, but we kinda blew it out of the fucking water in the past 50 years. So yea, we fucked. And while we should celebratge the good, people should also know it’s too little to late.

We need to stop calling it “Climate Change” and start calling it “Climate Changed”, we geo-engineered our bed and now we have to sleep in it, without the aircon. And we can no longer pleed ignorance, not that that was ever an excuse, we know, we have known and we need to start figuring out how to live with it. Actually, I don’t even thing “Climate Changed” is the best, personally I prefer the older term, “Global Warming”, so from now on I’m going to call it “Global Warmed”. The pre-heating cycle is over, we can put the food in the fucking oven now.