The man being interviewed on the BBC was articulate. He wanted information about Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks to be declassified. He said at least three times, “We want President Biden to be at our side. He should have our backs.” And I wondered: “How can he be at your side and also have your back?” All I could imagine was an awkward sideways hug, but even that wouldn’t do both simultaneously.

The headline asked a question of no importance to me: Is Jeff Bezos an Astronaut?

I was mildly surprised when the woman of about my age and education asked, “What is hash?” I was more surprised, when her husband—the couple lived in San Antonio–pronounced Jose with a jay sound.

“Were it not for bunglers in the manner of doing it, hardly any would ever find out he was laughed at.” Marquis of Halifax.

It is fair and right to question how our Afghani withdrawal was carried out. But it is also clear that after twenty years and more than a trillion dollars, the United States has failed in Afghanistan. Even so, I see on TV people who were involved in our Afghan policies—diplomats, intelligence officials, military officers—opine on that failure but never on their own responsibility for the overall debacle. All of these people helped produce the disaster. Why should anyone listen to them? They have been consistently wrong, even though they don’t seem ever to tell us what fools they were.

 “If I blunder, everyone can notice it; not so, if I lie.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The formulators of our Afghan policies fall into a group similar to those who believe Space Jam was a documentary.

“Two bears can’t live in one cave.” Old Russian proverb. Ben Mezrich, Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder.

How do those who believe in American exceptionalism explain our role in Afghanistan?

A recent Nova Scotia election was won by Progressive Conservatives. Again we should be mystified by Canada. How can there be a progressive conservative? Certainly none exist in the United States.

In August, a half hour after sundown, a cacophonous, stereophonic symphony of cicadas led by an invisible conductor breaks out. The spouse does not like this music. For me it is a sound of summer. When that music ends, summer is over.

“The amount of sleep required by the average person is about five minutes more.” Max Kauffmann


I was surprised to read in the New Yorker the phrase “from whence.” I was surprised to read in the New York Times the word “snuck.”

 Old joke: He: “I never mince words.” She: “You should; it makes them easier to eat later on.”

How do used books get to where they are? My Brooklyn neighborhood has a couple of those leave-a-book-take-a-book birdhouse-looking structures, and I have begun utilizing them to cut down the books on my shelves. My intention is to deposit two or three volumes and to take one. Sometimes I take two or three, but never more than I brought. My net exchange has slightly decreased the burdens on my bookcases. Two weeks back I picked up a hardcover copy of Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves. The front cover has a picture of a stone, spartan structure with the roof missing settled in a stark landscape. The publisher has placed an emblem that proclaims, “Now the Hit TV Series Shetland.” I admire that series, and I grabbed the book. The book also contained stickers that the book came from the Hagen Ranch Road Branch of the Palm Beach County Library System in Delray Beach, Florida. This was not surprising. I have seen many used books that were apparently originally owned by libraries. (I was a bit surprised, however, that the book had been let go by the library when I saw the book was copyrighted in 2018. Expendable library books are usually much older.) Often books get into private hands through library sales, but this volume also had a sticker: “Ollies: Their Price $19.99; Our Price $3.99.” (The price listed on the dust jacket is $26.99.) Ollies, I later learned, is a chain of stores that sells remaindered goods, and I was surprised that I did not know of it before because I am devoted to remaindering stores. I found that Ollies had outlets near Delray Beach.) I liked Wild Fire very much, but I also am curious about how the copy I read got to a tiny kiosk in front of a rowhouse on Adelphi Street, Brooklyn, New York. Is it a story worth knowing?

The sign in the establishment: “Courteous and efficient self-service.”

 The man pointed at my chest and laughingly asked, “Is that true?” My tee read: “BEST. DAD. EVER.” I said, “It might be true if I didn’t have to buy the shirt for myself.”

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you knew how seldom they do.” Olin Miller

Sometimes when I am feeling a bit depressed, I cheer myself up by remembering I can go to Costco.

“He who is sorrowful can force himself to smile, but he who is glad cannot weep.” Selma Lagerlof.

“Some men have acted courage who had it not; but no man can act wit.” Marquis of Halifax.