Uncategorized (A Not Totally Random Blog)

Trump Indictment Stronger Than I Initially Thought

At the risk of alienating everyone on the planet, I read the full Trump indictment and have mixed thoughts. 

When the first reports came down, I thought it sounded weak. After reading it, plus the supporting document everyone seems to be ignoring, I think it’s stronger than many pundits are claiming (assuming the evidence to prove it is convincing, always an “if”).

One thing the supporting document does (again, if the evidence is there to prove it) is to preempt an argument that the payment to Stormy Daniels wasn’t made for campaign purposes, but to keep the assignation secret from Melania, which is not a crime.

But the supporting document claims that Trump tried to stall paying Stormy Daniels until after the election, at which point he’d have withdrawn from the deal, because it no longer mattered. If true, that means it had nothing to do with Melania, because hiding it from her would have been just as important after the election, as before. (It would be really ironic if Trump’s attempt to cheap out on Stormy Daniels is what ultimately undoes him, given his his history of underpaying subcontractors in business settings. Karma, as they say…)

Secondly, the indictment seeks to paint a larger conspiracy than simply hushing up Stormy Daniels. There is also Karen McDougal, the Playboy model (who was cheaped out on and apparently never paid), and a bellboy who alleged that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock. The last of these apparently wasn’t true, but the trio reflect an overarching process that can be painted as a conspiracy, the moment it touches on an otherwise illegal activity.

The underlying illegal activity was widely seen, prior to today, as a federal campaign financing violation, in which Trump disguised the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels as attorney fees to his fixer, Michael Cohen. That way of framing the case produces two major legal problems: (1) This is a state case in New York, for which federal campaign financing violations might or might not be relevant; and (2) federal campaign financing law is hard for the average person to understand.

The supporting document indicated that the prosecution has at least two ways of getting around that problem. First, they don’t need to rely on Federal law; New York has its own campaign financing laws.

But potentially more importantly, in the effort to hide the payments, Trump and his associates appear to have falsified tax records. This is a lot easier to follow for anyone who’s ever paid income taxes.

Cohen paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket (plus $50,000 to someone else for a purpose not disclosed in the current documents.) That’s $180,000 total. But if Trump and his associates simply paid him $180,000, and called it attorney’s fees, he be out of pocket for federal and state taxes on that $180,000—a big ask from a friend. So instead of $180,000, they gave him $360,000 (assuming he’d pay about $180,000 in taxes) plus a $60,000 bonus, then spread it across 12 months as payments on a non-existent annual retainer of $35,000 a month.

If this can be proven, there’s a second irony even larger than the first: Trump could go down for tax fraud for arranging for Cohen to declare TOO MUCH income.

If that happens, it’s got to be a first.

Summer Series Math

This post is purely of interest to those running the TRL Summer Series.

As promised, this year’s Shamrock Runs (and several other multi-race events in the TRL Summer Series) will be scored as a single race, with adjustments not only for the differing distances, but for the difficulties in the courses.

In the interests of transparency, here’s a quick peak under the hood of how I intend to do it.

Continue reading Summer Series Math

Will ChatGPT Send Writers the way of Buggy Whip Manufacurers?

If you’ve been listening to the news, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the new AI website that generates prose answers to the type of questions previously addressed by Google and other search engines. In fact, its heart seems to be a search engine, with a more interactive, chat-like interface than prior search engines. It’s kind of fun to play with, but also concerning, because it’s about to revolutionize a big part of our world in ways we may not really want.

So far, I’ve heard two groups raising the alarm: English teachers, and science fiction magazines.

Continue reading Will ChatGPT Send Writers the way of Buggy Whip Manufacurers?


We called him GM because generally his motor was running. He was a big cat, pun’kin and white (the image above isn’t him, but it’s not super far off), and an outdoor cat because my brother, his nominal master, didn’t clean the litter box as often as our mother’s nose preferred. She gave up asking, discarded the litter box, and decreed that the cat, now an adolescent kitten, be ousted at night and whenever the house was unattended.

Some cats wouldn’t have taken kindly to such treatment. GM thrived on it. Although he ultimately died young, he lived with flair and packed more adventure into a half dozen years than other cats manage in two decades. He became a hunter so self-sufficient that grocery-store cat food nearly followed the litter box into the trash. We kept a dish of dry food in the kitchen, but he seldom touched it.

Much to my relief, he showed little interest in killing birds. Nor was he much of a mouser, preferring bigger game. One morning when he was only six months old, he was waiting beside a partially-eaten squirrel, which he’d placed on the welcome mat beside the newspaper.

Whatever reward he was expecting, he didn’t get, and that was the last time he did that. But we could tell he’d had a successful evening if his belly was distended and he was unusually lazy in the morning.

His favorite prey seemed to be rabbits, which he ate in their entirety except for the big bones of the thigh and the fur-ball of the cottontail. My brother and I would tally the kills when we mowed the lawn: clunk from something hidden in the grass, an explosion of fur, and we’d chalk another up to GM. In the summer, he averaged about four a week.

My mother was delighted. The daughter of a farmer, she had no sympathy for rabbits. And in the years we had GM, she had the best gardens of her life. Long before, she’d given up hope that our dog, a 20-pound poodle named Suzy, would rid the garden of rabbits. Suzy was eager to make the attempt, but her methods, although spectacular, did more damage to the garden than to the rabbits.


Lessons from Patience

For most of my life, horses have played little if any role, so my first experiences with my friend Vera’s 12-year-old gelding, Patience, were a bit intimidating. Patience, you see, was half-Percheron, and he was big. He’d also once been a wild mustang—something that raised thoughts of bucking broncos and undomesticated beasts with a penchant for kicking through walls.

Actually, he was quite gentle—a relief, since he weighed in at a lean 1,300 pounds. Vera acquired him through the federal government’s adopt-a-horse program, training him herself and choosing his name because, she declared, “that horse is going to teach me patience.” 

It was a lesson that came to include me one Fourth of July weekend when the three of us—Vera, Patience, and myself—attempted a 50-mile packing trip.

Continue reading Lessons from Patience

The Race I Never Dreamed I’d Run

Ten years ago, I had knee surgery.

I will never forget what the doctor told me when I woke up. “It’s worse than we thought.” He then added that the drugs from the surgery would mean that I wouldn’t remember those words, but he was wrong. Running as I knew it ended that day.

Seven years later, I had a hip replacement. Arthritis is the family bane. But this time, I wasn’t even thinking about running. Not only had I gained dozens of pounds, but the hip was so bad that the surgeon took one look at the X-ray and said, “That’s a bad hip. Let me check my schedule to see if we can move up your surgery.”

She did, for which I was grateful. I’d reached the point where the 150 meters from the nearest parking spot to the track where I was then coaching had become the longest walk I could manage without a break, and I took it for granted that there would be a time or two each day when the pain would be enough to make me nauseous.

But this is not that kind of story.

Because earlier this month, I rediscovered racing.

Read the rest on Podium Runner…

Masks: the Golden Rule is not a sign of weakness.

I’ve said this before (in fact, I’m using the same photo as last time), but it’s worth repeating. The latest run of the University of Washington’s coronavirus model shows 363,000 deaths by the end of December, with the death rate hitting 2,900 a day by then–a horrible projection for what might happen in January.

But if we can raise the rate of mask-wearing, especially indoors, that number of deaths falls by 86,000. Given that more than 200,000 people have already died, that means the number of new deaths is cut in half. Simply by biting the bullet and wearing masks. (Note, I may not have these figures exactly correct; this was breaking news on TV a few minutes ago, and I didn’t have time to grab a pen. But I’m close enough.)

Mask wearing is not a sign of weakness. It’s not even something you do for yourself. It protects you some, but it works best if the people around you are also doing it.

Mask wearing is something you do primarily for others.

If they reciprocate, THAT protects you. But even if they don’t, it sends a signal of strength. “I care.” Why is that so controversial?

It’s the Golden Rule in action.

It’s that simple.

My 2016 Book…and the London Marathon

Back in 2016, I coauthored a short book (more a novella than a novel) with Phil Maffetone about a hypothetical “Million Dollar Marathon,” in which runners competed on a one-mile track, with the giant prize to anyone who could break 2 hours.

It’s fiction—I thought of it as near-future science fiction, since that is part of what I write—focused on a Tibetan refugee whose background gives him all the tools needed to make this quest possible.

Now, this weekend, the London Marathon—thanks to COVID-19—will be conducted under a protocol amazingly similar to that in our book. The best in the world, male and female will duel on ~20 laps of a 1.34-mile loop.  Not a track, but not all that different from Phil’s and my setup.

Continue reading My 2016 Book…and the London Marathon

Quick high-veggie hot dish

With all the political news raging this week, I figured it was time to do something different. Here’s a quick recipe of my mother’s, adapted to my tastes. It makes a very good potluck dish (it always gets raves), a side dish for dinner, or a great lunch. (I used it on my diet.)

Basic ingredients:

  • 1 can corn (or fresh corn, but that takes longer)
  • mushrooms (1 small can or fresh; fresh is better)
  • half a large onion
  • 1 ounce mozzarella cheese
  • Small sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange)
  • Jalapeño
  • Roasted cashews
  • Salt (if desired)
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder (minimal)
  • Parsley flakes
  • Paprika
  • Cumin

Drain canned veggies and put them plus chopped fresh veggies in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Add spices to taste. Place sliced cheese and cashews on top. Heat on high until cheese melts and everything else is sufficiently hot. (If preferred, you can give the chopped onion a head start, but I generally find that unnecessary.)

Serves 4 as side dish; or one as lunch. (Total calories about 450, depending on how many cashews you use.) For heartier version, use more cheese.