Forget family trees. I was rooting in family fields.

I’ve never really been into genealogy and have a confirmation bias that means I tend to agree with articles that point out all the flaws in today’s DNA testing fads. [And I really don’t care about Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry, either. I care a lot about how she can actually achieve much-needed reforms in American society.] Anyway, since I’ve started this lifetime as a Yank, I guess I need to honor/honour that tradition of searching for my biological roots. And since any good Irish comedian can go on for 20-30 minutes about people from distant places looking for long-dead distant relatives, I felt obligated to give them some credence.

So…I rented a car and found myself driving over the terrain my grandfather most likely walked over while leaving Ireland well over a century ago. The farms, fields and hills looked an awful lot like the farms, fields and hills I left behind in piedmont North Carolina. All in hopes of standing at his birthplace. But which one? We have “official” documentation that claims two different places and two different dates. Read More

It’s GDPR time. Here’s what you need to know.


It’s GDPR time and here’s what you need to know.

Here’s your personal information we have on file:  your email address.

A copy of the form you completed to request being on our mailing list.

Why we hold it: Because you requested to be on the mailing list for Jim Maney’s occasional blog. You may recall that after you asked to be on the list we sent you an email asking you to confirm that you really wanted to subscribe. Once we received your reply we placed you on the list. [You may have also noticed that the blog posts are becoming more and more occasional, since I’m devoting more time to the Tao-not-Dow project.]

What you need to do to remain on the mailing list: Nothing.

What you need to do to leave the mailing list: Reply to this post saying that you want to leave/unsubscribe and I’ll “unsubscribe” you.

I’m pretty sure that’s all we need to do right now. Hope you’ve got a great weekend planned and it turns out even better.


You can’t eat the scenery

Youghal, County Cork – I spent a week here the other day. For me, it’s one of those places where you go to be, rather than to do. I’m not sure how good this is for the local Chamber of Commerce types – or restaurants, pubs and others who rely on numbers and activity for their livings – but I understand their position. In other words, you can’t eat the scenery.

Through the years I’ve spent quality time in too many old towns whose best days are history. In Youghal’s case, larger ships and a shallow harbour pretty much doomed things a century ago, along with an evaporating industrial base in the more recent past. In Cork, the channels perfect for Viking longboats and his/her majesty’s fleets aren’t quite up to today’s tankers, freighters and ocean liners. But we’ll always have Cobh just a bit downstream, where the Titanic last saw land and today’s monster liners call on a regular basis with floating populations dwarfing the town’s. Read More

When will we ever learn?

Remember South Pacific? I’ve worked the show, seen the film, know most of the music, but had never read the book. Well now I have. If you’re creating a mass-entertainment musical for post-war America I guess you don’t want to include the book’s wartime reality of permanent fungal rashes, raw skin, racism, and rape attempts. Or the pervasive escapism of amateur warriors fighting stultifying boredom and real fear with alcohol-infused fake fun. Yes, I’ve been to a number of Michener’s islands, where half-century old military detritus still hasn’t rusted away. And the book triggered my own Green Machine memories of swamps, snakes, and seriously itchy full-body rashes in the days before steroid shots cured whatever ails us. And I thought of woolen redcoats and steel-clad conquistadors going out to conquer tropical people and poisonous plants. Remind me again, please. What were they – and we – fighting for? There are things you can say in a book that are harder to say in mass media – something to do with audience demographics. I understand now why it won a Pulitzer Prize.

I still don’t understand the need for war. Read More

Janus was the Romans’ two-faced god – but wasn’t a politician’s patron.

He was the god of new beginnings and perspective on the old, not selfishness and age-old greed. And my perspective on the past? It’s that we’re condemned to continue it, at least for the immediate future.  So…today I’ll use one of Janus’ faces to look back your favourites from my past year’s postings under my own name. While my subject matter didn’t change much from previous years, my style did. Since people respond a lot more to soundbites than blogs, I switched emphasis, using my photo library as backgrounds for my own thoughts and whatever quotes that caught my fancy.

Damn, it worked! Over two million sets of eyeballs saw my stuff on FB, Twitter and directly on my blog.

I wasn’t particularly surprised that some quotes by famous folk topped the list, which made me truly appreciate all the people who spent some time with my own thoughts. I was surprised, however, that some of my photos and 600-word blogs finished in the top rankings, as well. A million thanks are due to all the people who liked, shared and retweeted me.

If you feel that Alice in Wonderland is an appropriate way to kick off the new year, you’re agreeing with nearly 17,000 other people.

If you prefer to reflect on the source of so much political angst, join nearly 15,000 others. Along with Lewis Carroll’s Alice, these James Baldwin and Martin Luther King quotes ranked in the top ten of every metric I looked at.

Neck and neck for the next place on the chart are the optimism of GK Chesterton and the cynical realism of Garry Kasparov. Read More

Who am I this time? A Taoist or Dowist?

Am I simply appreciating the steps on my journey – or counting and analyzing them? Well this week it’s time for me to be a Dowist and take some counts to see what you’ve appreciated over the past year.

With so many ways to count things – total impressions, engagement, likes, retweets, shares and the rest, I could easily develop a case of paralysis by analysis [an occupational hazard from all those years in media]. But I won’t, because I’ve got better things to do. As I expected, a few of my favourites weren’t yours. And a few of your favourites surprised me.  Aside from a clear choice of number one, popularity tended to occur in bunches, with lots of ties or rankings separated by one or two readers out of thousands. Not bad, considering that there are over 300 images on the website with about half appearing in social media.

So…here goes –

Number one, with no other image even coming close, was a quote from a Qing Dynasty commentary on the Tao, showing that fake news isn’t a new phenomenon. The same commentary gave us a second member in the top ten, showing that Goebbels’ Big Lie is not only common currency today but thrived thousands of years ago. At least the ancient Chinese didn’t have to deal with today’s media environment.

Numbers two, three and four also reflect today’s political life, not only ranking high in total readership but also in retweets and engagement [clicks, comments and similar involvement beyond just looking]. Read More

“I can but no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”

Twelfth Night, Act III, Sc 3

While I hope I haven’t become one of those people who need to rely on the kindness of strangers…my six-month old Shakespeare’s Tao Twitter page just topped 2,000 followers and I’ll be damned if I know more than a handful of them. It’s a bit early for serious number-crunching, but this milestone, combined with the season, led me to a quick year-end analysis.

But first, as the year wraps up, I’m glad that I’ve found it fun to put the website together and then share it on FB and Twitter. It’s been fun – and a bit of work – going through my memory banks and researching to find Shakespearean quotes that match Lao Tsu in both spirit and text. It’s been a bit easier going through my old photos to match images to the quotes. This was a considerably longer process, since the photos brought back so many wonderful memories and generated some wonderful daydreams.  The result? A website with 131 Shakespearean quotes for people to use and abuse. When you get there you’ll see a Shakespearean sampler, with my own favourites, as well as a tab with the full collection.

OK, so much for me. What do other people like? Well, since both Shakespeare and Lao Tsu spent a lot of time on the use and abuse of power, a few images jumped to the top of the list, with “likes” and “shares” spiking whenever the Tweeter in Chief did something more outrageous than usual.

Number one on the hit parade: “It is excellent to have a giant’s strength” from Measure for Measure. [Over 10,000 hits and counting]

Next in line, running neck and neck with each other, are “The fool doth think he is wise” from As You Like It and “An empty vessel makes the loudest sound” from Henry V.

Read More

Is it just me – or did your 2017 evaporate before it began?

Politicians usually bury an important story amidst assorted chaff in late-in-the-week press conferences. Well it’s now late-in-the-year for most of us, but I don’t have anything of particular importance to bury. So there aren’t any long stories or random philosophizing this week – just a few memories from the past year’s circuit around the sun. Hope the year you’re wrapping up gave you more good stories than bad.

Living across from a hospital, I’m used to seeing hospital entryways populated by patients with their flimsy open-backed gowns flapping in the breeze while they puff away with one hand on their cigarette butt and the other keeping their IV pole from rolling down the street. A third hand might be able to cover that other butt, but it’s not a priority to them. The other night I saw one better – I guy walked into a pub across from the hospital, still dressed in his flappy gown and fuzzy slippers. He ordered a pint, sat down and watched the soccer match. A few nights later I mentioned the incident to a nurse from a different hospital, who told me that being in a hospital is stressful enough without adding the stress of quitting tobacco to the mix. She changed the topic without addressing the man’s escape to the pub. Read More

When circuit boards replace synapses…

Please lend me your ears. That is, if you’re not using them – or what’s between them.

Many people don’t listen. To themselves. Or to anyone else, either. No, I’m not talking about ego, insecurity and willful ignorance of others. I’m talking about physical and mental awareness of ourselves and our place in things.

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We think out loud. Read More

Lots of time to spare? Fly Norwegian Air!

I was lucky, others weren’t. When Norwegian Air cancelled three trans-Atlantic flights on the same Friday, following a series of similar cancellations all in the same week, they put us all on a Belfast flight, promising to bus the Cork, Shannon and Dublin passengers to their respective airports. I was returning from a business trip with a weekend to spare when I received their cancellation text on my way to the airport. Others had special events in their diaries, which they may or may not been able to attend, jet-lagged or not. Read More