Cuneiform and Clay Tablets — the Only Thing More Cumbersome Than 3 x 5 Cards for Taking Notes

Cuneiform tablet This month marks the 70th anniversary of what, when I was studying there from 1966 to 1968, used to be called the Russian Research Center. Today, this modest corner of scholarship at Harvard University is known as the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and it is housed in a much newer, […]

Another Bombshell for Pearl Harbor?

Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Tojo (right) Wow! I’d always believed that the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought the United States into World War II, was the responsibility of the aggressive military clique behind Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime prime minister. However, after recently reading an article that describes a meeting between Tojo […]

Does Voter Apathy Exacerbate Political Polarization?

In the wake of this past Tuesday’s primary elections here in California and several other states, my attention was drawn* to a Los Angeles Times report on voter apathy. “No offense, but I never vote,” a man, age 63, told the reporter. Asked why, the man responded, “I don’t believe in the system.” As someone […]

“Burning Man”

These giant folded-paper “mushrooms” grow (and shrink) when spectators step on a switch. (All photos courtesy of Sandra Kelley-Daniel) This past week Sandra and I were visiting our son Adam and his family in the Washington, D.C., area. Last Sunday we all went to the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery where we enjoyed a remarkable exhibit, […]

Dear Mr. Delta

UPDATE: I sent a slightly revised version of the letter below to Delta’s complaint line the evening of May 16 and received a very gracious and responsive reply early the next morning. (I’d originally written this complaint primarily for the amusement of my blog’s readership, and only later decided to send it directly to Delta.) […]

A Hero You May Never Have Heard Of

Norman Borlaug About a month ago I saw an online birthday tribute to a 20th century hero few people have ever heard of. On March 25, Norman Borlaug, an agronomist who passed away in 2009, would have celebrated his 104th birthday. Borlaug’s work, say those who are familiar with it, saved billions of lives. It […]

The Limits of Canine Intelligence

  Rin Tin Tin Years ago, when Johnny Carson was the face of late-night TV, he once drew hundreds of outraged letters after he dared to say, in conversation with a guest, that pigs are smarter than dogs. Lassie lovers were not amused. I spent my childhood largely unaware of the limits of canine intelligence. […]

Recollections Called Forth by the Closing of America’s St. Petersburg Consulate

U.S. consulate-general, St. Petersburg, Russia The U.S. consulate-general in St. Petersburg became a casualty this week of the current escalation of tensions between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, following the attempted assassination in England of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko and his daughter by Russia’s FSB (successor to the USSR’s notorious KGB). Putin ordered […]

Kisses and Buses: Do You Know the Difference?

Can you tell the difference between a kiss and a bus? What a crazy question! A kiss is a smooch and a bus is a coach, two entirely different things (that almost rhyme). Do you know any other words for kiss? Probably very few. Smooch is pretty good, and if you want to pile on […]

California’s Next Big Thing

It’s been over four years since Sandra and I moved from Hawaii to Wine Country – aka Sonoma County in Northern California – and, while winter is a little chillier here than in “the Islands,” we really love it. One of the things we like best about this area is something we just couldn’t do […]