Carrying Stones – moving a mountain one stone at a time

Trying to Write Again

Years ago, Merlin Mann1 said you can’t think your way out of writer’s block. You must write your way out of thinker’s block. I’ve been trying to do the former when, obviously, I should be attempting the latter.

So much as happened since New Year’s Eve 2020. The novel coronavirus pandemic aka COVID-19. People wearing masks alongside their embittered archenemies who refuse to wear such a violation of freedom. The Black Lives Matter Protests and the anonymous federal police stripping protesters of their rights by hauling them away in unmarked rental vans. This occupational force first raided Portland, Ore., with more federal forces promised for Chicago, Ill., Albuquerque, N.M., and other American cities under the moniker “Operation Legend” (a name that would make Cobra Commander cackle with maniacal glee).

In addition to all of the national trauma, my wife’s father-in-law in ICU for more than a week.

Violence and disease are everywhere we look. Our goofy man-child president flounders about like a drowning orange monkey while our nation founders and sinks in the sea of division he has created. As I write this, more than 4 million cases of coronavirus are on the record along with roughly 144,000 dead Americans.

Yeah. Dark times, they are here.

The overwhelming firehose of bad news is the latest reason I haven’t been writing (and believe me, I have a bucketload of reasons not to write at the ready). I should say firehoses, plural. The sheer amount of animosity flooding through the nation’s TVs by the media is drowning everyone who isn’t bingeing reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or longing for Happy Days.

  1. I started following Merlin when he was a “productivity guru,” a term which would either make him giggle or sigh with exasperation. I think he is brilliant for a lot of reasons. Find one of his podcasts.

Photos of Roadside Americana

Download 11,710 Free-to-Use Photos of Roadside Americana:

The Library of Congress has published over 11,000 high-resolution shots of U.S. roadside attractions, and released the images (to which it had purchased the rights) into the public domain. The photos were taken by architectural critic and photographer John Margolies, who spent forty years documenting his travels along U.S. highways, photographing billboards, drive-ins, diners, car washes, mini-golf, novelty buildings, and other roadside constructions.

These are great and free to use! You can view all of them at the Library of Congress, though many are easier to review on Flickr.

24 Hours on Facebook

The main lesson learned after 24 hours on Facebook is that the people most likely to ask What Would Jesus Do are the least likely to follow his lead.

I was raised in a Southern Baptist church and respected the adults who taught us right from wrong. They taught us about the wrath of the Old Testament God and the compassion of New Testament Jesus. Our teachers were strong, yet gentle.


Several years ago, I had a bout with the flu that evolved into pneumonia. I was out of work for at least two weeks and didn't fully recover for 4 to 6 months. After that experience I am hesitant to venture out into the COVID-19 world because, despite arguments to the contrary, it is still a problem in America. I fear that if I get it, it won't be one of the easy cases you hear about, it will be one of the bad ones, and I am just not willing to risk it.

This makes me sad because I want to be on the streets protesting to support the #blacklivesmatter movement. Because I am afraid of getting sick, I have donated what little I can to support the movement and decided I could log into my dusty Facebook account to let people know my thoughts and maybe help them see the world as I would like to see it.

It did not go as planned.


I have aged with those people I grew up with in church. Naturally, I was friends with many of them on Facebook. I took a breath and dove in to engage them. I wasn't there to berate anyone for their views, but to have conversations with people backed with sources to support my beliefs.

It didn't take long before I was lumped in with "you Democrats" who just want to elect politicians who kill unborn babies. This was from one of those adults I looked up to in church. My head is still spinning from the exchange because we were talking about the T-shirt they posted that said "All Lives Splatter" with an image of a car plowing through a crowd of people. You've probably seen it too. It offended me and I asked if they really thought encouraging injury and murder was the right thing to do. That's when I was essentially labeled a baby killer.


In another thread, I was discussing the battery on 75-year-old Martin Gugino. He stepped up to speak to an officer among a squadron of police in riot gear. The officer responded by violently shoving him to the ground. In the video of this incident, you can see Gugino immediately begin bleeding from his ear. You see his phone fall from his limp hand, which then begins to twitch involuntarily. The police looked at him and just marched past him. Follow-up reporting says he sustained brain damage from this needless aggression.

Someone once counted among my best lifelong friends—also a fellow church member, now with a long career in law enforcement—accused me of being a writer who can make things sound the way I want. I say accused because in context I could sense his contempt for the skill. He pointed out the old man's "ASSAULT" (his caps, not mine) led to the officer's need to defuse the situation. That response could have been talking to the man or some other act that wouldn't have impaired his abilities for the rest of his probably short life.

My friend's comment broke my heart and curtailed my fruitless mission to have intelligent conversation with others. Facebook just isn't the right forum. The people I grew up with, people I held in high regard for decades, lost my respect in one day with a single exception.


One friend in law enforcement met me in the middle. He understands where I'm coming from and agrees to disagree. He listened to what I had to say and I returned the favor. That was all I was asking for from anyone. I'm taking him to lunch on Friday to show my appreciation and to continue a good conversation with a friend.

Finding Words

A couple of days ago I started struggling with writing something titled “Take a Breath, Count to 10.” I now know this isn’t the time for that, but I’m still struggling to find appropriate words.

Are there any?


I have been thinking lately about George W. Bush. I didn’t like him. I didn’t support him. I didn’t agree with his views, which were clearly leaning right into the Republican Party platform. I didn’t agree with going to war in Iraq.

I probably wouldn’t have said it then, but now I can say I don’t doubt he was a patriot. I don’t believe he sought the presidency with the goal of undermining American values. I believe he wanted to be president for all of the right reasons _as he saw them_. I believe he wanted to make America a better and safer place for Americans.

I do _not_ believe Trump sought the presidency with the same noble intentions in mind.


I support the protesters and resent those who riot. The rioters shared the their Molotov cocktails with the president to fuel the flames in an attempt to silence protesters.


Trump has announced his intentions to declare Antifa as a terrorist organizations. If you don’t know, Antifa is nothing like Al-Quaida or other known terrorist groups, It is a shortening of Anti-Fascist. Can an American be anything but Anti-Fascist?

It seems the president’s leans toward Pro-Fascism, but Profa doesn’t have the same ring to it.

COVID-19 and the American Idiot

Watching the row of men toting long guns, marching shoulder-to-shoulder toward the capitol, sent a bead of cold sweat rolling down my back to meet the shivers crawling up my spine.

This isn’t the opening of a new novella about the Civil War. It’s my recollection of watching spoiled middle-aged men threaten the government of Michigan because they are temporarily inconvenienced by those who would keep them safe and healthy. The world is in crisis from covid-19.

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alienation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay
—Green Day, American Idiot

Watching strangers die while the disillusioned fight for their right to die (and ultimately, for their right to kill others) is difficult, but hearing people I actually know personally who refuse to take the global pandemic seriously; well, it’s painful. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to know something is wrong, and something is very wrong in America right now. Our nation is sick and those who want to help the nation heal are outnumbered by those who want to get a haircut in a crowded barbershop before busting through a line of diners to hit the buffet.

My wife Julie and I are lucky. We are perfectly matched to prefer each other’s company to the company of others. Both of us work at home and have much of our needs delivered.

On that note, we are thankful for those who deliver mail and goods to our house. We’re thankful for the police and firefighters and garbage collectors and everyone who is essential to keeping things moving. On the flip side, we watch these deluded masses, these protesters, these American idiots, with a growing resentment. Despite their saber-rattling claims of protecting their rights, these are no patriots.

One cannot discuss a void of patriotism without mentioning Donald Trump. He didn’t create the virus, but he ignored it. No amount of gobbledygook and political double-speak can delete his earlier statements and those of his comrades at Fox News. I’m not going to do the digging for you, but there are examples aplenty of their downplaying of the virus. Calling it a hoax and making asinine statements about having only 15 cases in the US, soon to be zero.

The strongest thing Trump did was call for a partial ban on travel focused on China. He then proceeded to invest nothing with the borrowed time. Some businessman, huh?


Here for your entertainment: Green Day!

John Prine

Bridge Concert 10/22/16 Roger Waters “Hello In There” John Prine song – YouTube:
John Prine touched so many lives including mine. So many musicians loved his work and appreciated his muted style. Many covered his work, but this performance by Roger Waters (begrudgingly of Pink Floyd fame) is among my favorites.

They even performed this song together in 2017.

I hate COVID-19. It is taking so many lives from doctors to grocery workers, mothers, fathers, children, and so many great artists.
John. Hello up there. We miss you already.

How I lost control of our bank accounts to a phone scammer

How I lost control of our bank accounts to a phone scammer | The Robservatory:

Do yourself a favor, and don’t be me. I never thought I’d be “that guy” either, as I keep current on scams, look for signs of fishiness on phone calls, etc. Still, they got me, and it was painful—not necessarily in terms of financial loss (we’re out $500 for maybe 60 to 90 days while they investigate), but in terms of time: Time to fix what I did, and even more time spent beating myself up over my stupidity.
Here’s the tl;dr version: Do not ever, as in never ever, give out a verification code over the phone. I know that now. I knew that earlier today. I’ve known that for years. And yet, I did it. What follows is a bit of the nitty-gritty on how I got scammed, what I learned (beyond the above), and some technological things that affected my behavior during the call. Hopefully the sharing of my stupidity will help others avoid the same fate…

Click the link above and read this article. I think it is so important for people to understand how these scams work. Rob is smart and I am thankful he detailed all of the steps that made this phone scam so convincing.
Sorry for your trouble Rob, but thank you for sharing!