July 28, 2015

"I can’t say [young Scott Walker] was an angel. He was a little mischievous. He liked to talk. You could just see the gleam in his eye then that you see now."

Said Walker's 3rd grade teacher, quoted in "Scott Walker's Iowa."
There is no question that Walker is the Republican to beat in Iowa: He is practically a local.... It might sound trivial, but in Iowa politics, feeling comfortable with a candidate is paramount. Walker “talks like we do,” [said Matt Strawn, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman]. “He drinks the same beers we do. The most important thing to be successful in caucuses is, you need to be accessible and authentic,” Strawn added. “The last few caucus winners have been people Iowans found relatable.”

July 27, 2015

Is the fact that Trump's official website has no "issues page" evidence that he's not a serious candidate?

That's an argument made here.

But:
As far as I can tell, Jeb Bush's website "contains no issues page."

And Scott Walker's website also "contains no issues page."...

The websites of Trump and Bush and Walker all look like they could have been designed by the same person. They all have a bio of the candidate with vague references to their political ideologies but no concrete plans. Those websites all feature "news" stories and social-media links instead of "issue" statements. So are the three Republican candidates who've been doing the best in the polls all unserious about vying for the presidency?

I can think of two better explanations. Either (a) they plan to add an "issues" section later in the campaign, after their positions have had more time to jell, or (b) they've decided that a continually updated "news" format is a more dynamic, effective way to engage potential supporters than a static list of policy statements....
I'm perfectly amenable to the argument that Donald Trump is not a serious candidate. But I'm interested in why anyone gets the safe harbor of being considered "serious." Does everyone who's ever gotten elected governor or senator deserve a presumption of seriousness as a presidential candidate? And what do we think we are doing when we attribute "seriousness" to a person? What is seriousness anyway? I'm asking because I think we need to be careful about getting conned by seriousness. It's easier and safer, I think, to go with our instincts rejecting people who seem to us to lack seriousness. The greater risk is that we'll instinctively and without good enough reason hand power to someone who has somehow caused us to class him (or her) as serious.

"Dying for Christianity: millions at risk amid rise in persecution across the globe."

A long article in The Guardian. Excerpt:
According to David Alton, a crossbench peer who campaigns on religious freedom, “some assessments claim that as many as 200 million Christians in over 60 countries around the world face some degree of restriction, discrimination or outright persecution”. That is about one in 10 of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world....

“Whatever the real figures the scale is enormous. From Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt to North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, from Cuba, Colombia and Mexico to Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan, Christians face serious violations of religious freedom,” Alton said. Persecution ranged from murder, rape and torture to repressive laws, discrimination and social exclusion....

"New York magazine published this week’s cover on Sunday featuring 35 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault."

"All 35 women were interviewed separately over the past six months for the explosive photo essay, which provides comprehensive accounts of their trauma and signals a shift in public perception of Cosby’s accusers...."

Sounds like quite the coup for New York Magazine, but I've been trying since last night to click through to the NY website and it's not available. So it's not getting traffic from me. I'll just have to move on and accept that the 35 women each served up quotes similar to the one that's quoted at the link (which goes to The Daily Beast):
"I think his legacy is going to be similar to OJ’s legacy,” said Joan Tarshis, one of Cosby’s accusers. “When you hear OJ Simpson’s name, you don’t think: ‘Oh, great football player.’ That doesn’t come to mind first. I’m thinking it’s not going to be: ‘Oh, great comedian.’ It’s going to be, ‘Oh, serial rapist.’ And that will be our legacy."
UPDATE: "Anti-NYC hacker takes New York Magazine offline."
A self-described hacker called ThreatKing, who says he hates New York City, claims he has successfully overwhelmed the site with a distributed denial-of-service attack, overloading its servers with traffic.... But it's not an attempt to silence the 35 women who have come forth to describe their alleged assault, nor the magazine that pieced their story together, ThreatKing said. Instead, he claimed, this stems entirely from his dislike of New York City, which he extends to magazines that share its name. ...

“I went to new York 2 months ago. It was really bad,” ThreatKing said. “Someone pranked me. Everyone started laughing and shit. The first 10 hours being there. Some African-American tried to prank me with a fake hand gun.”

"Most actors want to get their name in the paper. They like all that attention. I very often am struck with the illusion of success."

"Sometimes it's difficult when you meet people, because you see that they've prejudged you. Not to be treated normally. To have people staring at you, like an animal in the zoo. What it does is remove you from reality."

Said Marlon Brando.

"Tragedy of ‘golden’ daughter’s fall resonates with Asian immigrant children."

A WaPo headline. A family murder story is packaged as revelatory about "Asians." I wonder why this kind of crude stereotyping is considered acceptable in the mainstream press.
[Reporter Karen] Ho said the expectations placed on many Asian American children “have a huge long-term impact on your ability to withstand failure.” She added, “You just grow up chronically afraid. This buildup of lies is because Jennifer felt like the alternative was just unfathomable.”

“The more I learned about Jennifer’s strict upbringing,” Ho wrote, “the more I could relate to her. I grew up with immigrant parents who also came to Canada from Asia (in their case Hong Kong) with almost nothing, and a father who demanded a lot from me. My dad expected me to be at the top of my class, especially in math and science, to always be obedient, and to be exemplary in every other way. He wanted a child who was like a trophy — something he could brag about.”

July 26, 2015

Michael Lutz — a conspicuous critic of the John Doe investigation — dies by apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Here's my post from last October about Lutz:
I'm not surprised that [John Doe prosecutor John] Chisholm declines to answer [Stuart] Taylor's long list of questions, even though Chisholm did speak up in response to Taylor's original attack and seemingly went to some trouble in an effort to to impugn Michael Lutz. Lutz was Taylor's unnamed source for the article that depicted the prosecutor and his office as highly politicized and openly antagonistic to Governor Scott Walker.

The questions standing alone go a long way toward rehabilitating Lutz after the attack on his credibility and they also work to restate and emphasize Lutz's original charges against Chisholm. Taylor observes that Chisholm has generally denied that he had a political agenda, but that he doesn't seem to have denied the specific allegations that Lutz had made. This corresponds to what I wrote when I saw Chisholm's response:
Reading [Taylor's original attack and Chisholm's response], I'm thinking that Taylor raised suspicions that Chisholm and his lawyers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have not adequately refuted. I want to see a specific statement from Chisholm that goes into the details, something more than expressions of outrage and denials that could be based on Chisholm's belief that he compartmentalized his prosecutorial decisionmaking and his personal political beliefs and husbandly tenderness.

Were there blue fist signs in the office and other expressions of support for unions and antagonism to Walker? What was the extent of participation in the protests? Did Chisholm speak openly about his wife's feelings in the context of the case? Taylor's article created a strong motivation to respond on that level, and neither Chisholm nor his lawyer provided that response.
So I'm pleased to see Taylor taking this approach — with far more detailed questions —and I'll reprint Taylor's questions below:
1. In a September 12 article by Dan Bice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that Mr. Leib “said Thursday that Lutz had left a message threatening to kill Chisholm and his family in the past year. He did not provide audio of the voice mail.” Was this an accurate and complete report of what Mr. Leib said to Mr. Bice, and of what Mr. Chisholm told Mr. Leib?

2. Mr. Lutz has said in response that while he may have used harsh or even inflammatory words, he never said anything that he intended or that Mr. Chisholm interpreted to be a threat to harm anyone. Does Mr. Chisholm challenge this statement by Mr. Lutz?

3. If Mr. Chisholm does challenge it, how does he explain his failure either to prosecute Mr. Lutz or to report him to appropriate authorities for making a death threat, which would have been a crime?

4. And what, if any, steps did Mr. Chisholm take to protect himself and his family from Mr. Lutz? Armed guards? Moving his family to a safe location? Having Mr. Lutz tailed? Anything at all?

5. Mr. Lutz has explained the alleged death threat roughly as follows: He feared on the basis of one or more phone conversations that his best friend and former police partner, Jon Osowski (also the brother of Mr. Chisholm’s wife) was in trouble, and perhaps suicidal, so that he (Mr. Lutz) requested help in urgent phone calls to the Chisholms, expressing increasing and agitated concern, and possibly saying something that might be twisted out of context as threatening. Finally, Mr. Lutz has said, says, Mr. or Mrs. Chisholm or both went out into the night to help Mr. Osowski. Does Mr. Chisholm deny the accuracy of this account?

6. Mr. Lutz has also said that Mr. Chisholm has played the recording for him and that the two of them “laughed about” the episode the next day. Does Mr. Chisholm deny this?

7. In light of the evidence that is now available, will Mr. Chisholm or Mr. Leib or both retract and apologize for accusing Mr. Lutz of making a death threat?

8. If not, will you repeat that you believe that Mr. Lutz made a genuine death threat, and thereby show that you are not concerned about possible liability for libeling Mr. Lutz?
That ends the set of questions about the "death threat," so the numbering goes back to 1:
1. As far as I know, neither Mr. Chisholm nor anyone else has ever suggested a motive for Mr. Lutz to lie about Mr. Chisholm. Do you maintain that he had a motive to lie and, if so, what was it?

2. Mr. Lutz has said that his motive for making allegations of bias against Mr. Chisholm was and is that “I don’t like what he has done in regard to political speech that he disagrees with.” I am not aware that anyone has challenged the truthfulness of this statement. Do you challenge it?

3. Mr. Lutz has said that at least before this September, he had been friends with John and Colleen Chisholm for more than a decade. Do you deny that?

4. He has added that has visited the Chisholms’ home several times and gone to dinners, after-work functions, and other outings with one or both of them over the years. Do you deny that?

5. He has also added that he gave $200 in August for a Chisholm campaign fundraiser. Do you deny that?

6. When Mr. Lutz went into private practice, Mr. Chisholm wrote a memo (of which I have a copy) to him dated July 27, 2011, saying that his service “has been exemplary,” that his “dedication and hard work … have proved to be invaluable,” and that “I am extremely grateful for the service you provided.” Do you deny that?

7. In a previous letter of recommendation (of which I have a copy), in November 2007, Mr. Chisholm wrote that Mr. Lutz had been “one of the best investigators in the Milwaukee police department” and had “removed some of the most dangerous offenders from the streets of Milwaukee” while combining “a remarkable memory with unceasing hard work and courage.” Do you deny that?

8. Mr. Lutz has said that in late 2010 or early 2011, he heard Mr. Chisholm and others in the DA’s office express anger at the newly elected Scott Walker, who Mr. Chisholm said had backed away from an agreement to support statewide stepped pay raises for DA’s and their assistants. Do you deny that?

9. Mr. Lutz has added that Mr. Chisholm complained that Mr. Walker had “lied to my face” about stepped raises. Do you deny saying anything like that?

10. Mr. Lutz said the following in a May 20, 2012 email to an unidentified person, a copy of which he gave me, while saying that it accurately described a conversation he had with Mr. Chisholm in or about March 2011: When “I was a Special Prosecutor in the DA’s office and [Wisconsin Supreme Court] Justice [David] Prosser approached me to do a [pre-election] video spot about how the decision authored by him about the guy who shot me was a very important ruling for Police officers in general, DA Chisholm … stated that he couldn’t allow me to do it and he wants to stay as far away from these Republicans as he can.” Do you deny saying anything like that?

11. In the same email, Mr. Lutz added that Mr. Chisholm “went on to say how he knows that Act 10 would eventually end up in the [Wisconsin] Supreme Court and didn’t want Prosser to decide on the case.” Do you deny saying anything like that?

12. Also in the same email, Mr. Lutz added that roughly eight months after this conversation, Mr. Chisholm’s “liberal block of DA’s, 80% of them, are actively campaigning, emailing, and even verbally bashing Walker at charging conferences.” Do you deny that?

13. Mr. Lutz has said that Mr. Chisholm told him that his wife, Colleen, a teacher’s union shop steward, had been repeatedly moved to tears by Gov. Walker’s policies regarding public employee unions. Do you deny saying anything like that?

14. Mr. Lutz has said that Mr. Chisholm told him that his wife “frequently cried when discussing the topic of the union disbanding and the effect it would have on the people involved.” Do you deny saying anything like that?

15. Mr. Lutz has said that Mr. Chisholm told him that he felt that it was his “personal duty” to stop Gov. Walker from curbing public employee unions. Do you deny that?

16. Mr. Lutz has said that Mr. Chisholm told him that his wife had joined public demonstrations by one or more unions against Walker’s policies in 2011. Do you deny saying anything like that?

17. Mr. Lutz has said that Mr. Chisholm made most or all of the statements numbered 10 through 16 above while the two of them (and perhaps one or more others) were speaking in Mr. Chisholm’s personal office in or about March 2011. Do you deny that?

18. Mr. Lutz has said that in the first half of 2011 (roughly), many of Mr. Chisholm’s subordinates were very strongly opposed to Walker and his union-curbing policies. Do you deny that?

19. Mr. Lutz has said that a number of subordinates of Mr. Chisholm joined public protests in 2011 against Walker’s policies. Do you deny that?

20. Mr. Lutz has said that some Chisholm subordinates hung images of blue fists on their office walls in 2011. Do you deny that?

21. I believe that Gov. Walker’s Act 10 and perhaps related legislation or policies caused cuts in take-home pay for Mr. Chisholm and his subordinates, as for other unionized public employees, in part by requiring them to pay for previously free or inexpensive health insurance, pensions, and perhaps other benefits. Do you deny that?

22. The cuts in take-home pay for Mr. Chisholm and/or some of his subordinates were roughly 10 percent or more. Do you deny that?

23. One or more of Mr. Chisholm’s subordinates will be entitled under current law to a pension in excess of $1 million each. Do you deny that?

24. Mr. Lutz told me that Mr. Chisholm told him that as a result of Act 10, Colleen Chisholm’s union local disbanded and that she was very upset about this and the effect it would have on members and former members. Do you deny that?

25. The impact of Mr. Walker’s polices on the Chisholms’ finances also included whatever pay Mrs. Chisholm had previously received from her union. Do you deny that?

26. I have reason to believe that Mrs. Chisholm had been receiving more than $20,000 a year in gross compensation from the union. Do you deny that?

27. I have been told that after I published some of Mr. Lutz’s allegations without identifying him, the DA’s office developed a list of people who might be my source. Do you deny that?

28. I have also been told that there were as many as 10 or 12 people on that list. Do you deny that?

29. I have also been told that Mr. Lutz was not on that initial list. Do you deny that?

"The Milwaukee lion saga continued Sunday morning as the 'lion-like' creature apparently slipped through a police dragnet on the north side."

"Police saw the animal in a ravine near N. 31st and W. Cameron Ave. as late as 7:15 Sunday morning but by 9:30 they said they had searched the entire four-block containment area and had come up empty...."
Herbert Ball said he did see the lion last night while looking outside from his home at 31st Street and W. Cameron Ave. Ball said he saw the animal walking down the hill into the ravine and called the police just after 7 p.m. "It was big," Ball said. "I just saw heavy brown fur and a long tail." He said his neighbor saw the lion sitting beneath a bridge on W. Cameron Ave....

"We are not prepared to be beating the bush for a lion in the dark," [Deputy Inspector Steve Basting] said Saturday night....

Ronnika Bynum, who lives in the area, said she talked to a man near N. 32nd St. He told her he saw two lions. "He said it looked like a mother and baby," Bynum said. She said she's not worried. "I'm excited.," Bynum said. "I love lions. You don't get to see stuff like this in Milwaukee."

"Imagine not knowing that the sun is a star, or that there’s a solar system."

"Imagine not knowing what a human cell is, or what menstruation is, or, until you’re 18 and three weeks away from your arranged marriage, what sex is and how it works. Imagine never asking for a puppy growing up, because dogs bark, and that means they are beasts and demons. Imagine you have been told for your entire life that in the secular world, people mainly rape, pillage and murder, that it’s all a lawless meaningless free-for-all, and you are safe only in your little enclave, where these things do not happen."

"Man arrested in N.J. after he enters home and lives under bed in spare bedroom for 3 days."

"He used to date my daughter five years ago... It didn’t end well…He didn’t say why he came back."
[Jason] Hubbard allegedly entered the home through an open door on May 7 when one of the occupants was taking out the garbage, police said. Hubbard apparently remained under the bed in the spare bedroom until May 10 when a homeowner heard a noise in the spare bedroom. Upon looking under the bed, the homeowner discovered Hubbard and “immediately called police.”...

“I don’t think he was eating,” Adamcewicz told WABC 7. “I think he just had water under the bed.”

"Neal Falls showed up at the woman’s home on July 18 after answering an escort ad... He showed up with a 'kill list,' multiple pairs of handcuffs..."

"... and a Subaru full of weapons and tools, including a shovel, knives, a bulletproof vest, a machete, bleach, trash bags, sledgehammers and axes....  In Falls’s pocket, police said, was a list of names of potential future victims, all of whom are sex workers who advertised.... Now investigators are trying to determine whether Falls, 45, was responsible for a string of slayings targeting sex workers in Ohio and Nevada, the station reported....  From the moment Falls showed up at the home of his latest alleged victim, a sex worker, he turned violent... 'I knew he was there to kill me,' she said. 'I could tell that he had already done something because he said that he was going to prison for a long time. And that’s when I knew he was gonna kill me.... When he strangled me he just wouldn’t let me get any air... I grabbed my rake and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him. I just grabbed the gun and shot behind me.'"

From "Woman who shot alleged attacker may have slain a serial killer, police say."

He has a gun and he's already strangling you, and you beat him with a rake.

"I hear the only person beating me in Iowa is Scott Walker. I can’t believe I’m in second place. Folks, will you please put me in first place so I feel better?"

Said Donald Trump, as if he were running for President simply for the feelings that swell within him. Trump is attacking Walker now. He's saying that Wisconsin is "in turmoil" and "a disaster." To be fair, Trump is lashing out after Walker's campaign sent out an email that said Trump's other name was "DumbDumb" (which really is lame — name calling? I thought Walker was above that).
Trump told the crowd Saturday that he had helped Walker win his race because he admired the candidate’s “fight,” but didn’t know what he was fighting for. “I’ve been very nice to him,” he said.

But after Walker’s fundraising email went public, Trump declared: “I can finally attack.”
So you see the message here: Don't attack Trump or he will target you. It would be foolish to stand down because of that threat, but it's also foolish to attack Trump in Trumpish terms (like calling him "DumbDumb").
“A guy like Bush, a guy like Walker, are controlled by the people who give them money,” Trump said. “They will be bombarded by their lobbyists who donated a lot.... The other guys running, the Republicans — they protect each other," Trump said early in his speech. “Me, I don't care.”
That's the position from which Trump plays. The others need a good response, not lame repetitions of the the smug assurance that Trump is ridiculous. Not that he isn't. He is!

July 25, 2015

Donald Trump...

... circus peanut.

"What Your Parents Really Think About the Places You Take Them When They Visit."

"Raise your hand if this has happened to you: your parents/siblings/friends are coming to visit you in Los Angeles and despite having a full and happy day-to-day life here, you’re not sure what to do with them when they arrive."

So that's about L.A., and maybe it's a problem that's especially trying in L.A., but it's a generic problem. And it's not just a problem about how a resident deals with (and hears from) his parents (or siblings/friends). It's a problem you have with yourself when you travel.
Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.... For my parents' most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.
See what I mean? When you travel, you don't know enough to get to the authentic experience (a phrase I, absurdly, feel I should put in quotes but cannot, not without creating the wrong impression, that I'm snarking on the idea of authenticity). You may wish you could just mesh with the citizenry, but you can't. Even if you wanted to avoid the tourist attractions, you're aware that you've got limited time and you feel you ought to be using it, consuming something. You can't just stay in and read one day. Every part of the day, it seems, must be optimized for getting at this place you've gotten to. If you do fill that time or some of it with the famous attractions, you can feel that you're not truly in the place, that it might even be better looking at photographs of the place, because the photographs are framed to exclude the people thronging about, the people who are not even the people of the place you came to see. They are outsiders, outsiders like you. If you want less of you, stay home, where you are the only you there.

Now that you've made it through my Paragraph of Assorted Musings, let me assure you that there's a funny enough list of "What I told them"/"What they said" items at the link. One of the items is Intelligentsia — "It’s a very nice place with kind-of annoying people and great drinks" — which is one of the places my son took me when I visited him in L.A. back in 2008. I don't remember what he told me or what I said, but I do remember taking what I think of as one of my best photographs:

Intelligentsia in Silver Lake

"I very much live in the now now... I mean, I have no real recollection of how I used to be..."

"... and no real interest in trying to preserve it or trying to go back there," says Richard Bandy, who woke up after surgery with no memory.

His wife has written a book about the experience of being married to a man who suddenly didn't remember their past together. She says: "His expression and experience in the hospital was nearly angelic. He was so neutral. He didn't appear like he was suffering pain at all, and he was able to write a few words, and he kind of kept writing the same questions over and over again to me."

So he became what looked to his wife like an angel and what feels to him, from the inside, like living in the now. Meanwhile, he's had to be informed of what he's done in the past:
I mean when I read it in the story — because I've read the story several times — it kind of always makes me cry, unfortunately. But — well I don't know if it's unfortunate or not. But when I read the stuff about myself and [my son] Joshua, I honestly could not believe that that had happened. I'm not sure that I actually remember, but I was physical with him. Pushed him down to the ground and pushed him out the door and that sort of thing, and, you know, was very intimidating to him, yelling at him, screaming at him, that sort of idea.
I guess he didn't have to be informed. She didn't have to write the book. If by chance, a devil becomes an angel, should the angel be told he wasn't always like this?

I'd say yes, if you want a high-quality angel. But perhaps no, if you want to protect a person who's suffered a great loss, knows it, and could be shown the mercy not adding the burden of the past, especially since he's disconnected from the past and disabled from connecting in the form of a true memory (as opposed to a memory of having heard about the thing that he doesn't directly remember).

But the son exists. Does it help the son for his father to learn what he did and (as the mother puts it) "make amends"?

Do these questions mean anything, considering that every time he learns about his past, he forgets it again, and can, at any point, opt out of the knowledge going forward? Another way of looking at it is that the wife has gone through a lot, and we shouldn't judge her for appropriating all this material to serve her interest in expression and to acquire money for the family.

Just because he woke up an angel, by chance, doesn't mean that she must herself choose to be an angel. But if she were to choose to be an angel, to match her accidentally angelic husband, should she not have written this book?

"Matt and Sweat weren’t very good criminals. They were blunt-instrument types."

"Unlike, say, Whitey Bulger, they weren’t the kind of criminal who gets away and lives for years off the fat of his crimes. They were the kind who gets caught and pays the price, and then gets caught and pays the price again."
Part of the reason for this is that people who have spent a substantial part of their life behind bars often don’t know how to function on the outside. Everyone knows the famous cases—Gary Gilmore, Jack Abbott—of parolees who commit terrible crimes for no understandable reason soon after getting out. They’re used to life in lockup, where there are rules for everything. Life without ubiquitous rules freaks them out....

It sounds glib to say that Sweat may have wanted to escape, but never really wanted to be free, at least if freedom means what it means to most of us: staying out of prison. But what would Matt and Sweat most likely have done if they had managed to get to Canada or Mexico or even Vermont?

Nelson Mandela, imprisoned, was told "Indians get trousers. Indians get socks. Boys get shorts."

He petitioned for long pants.

For the annals of Men in Shorts.

A woman sitting behind a couple at a baseball game photographs the wife's phone, which shows her texting to another man.

The woman passes a note to the husband: "Your wife is cheating on you. Look at the messages under Nancy! It's really a man named Mark Allen." They include a phone number for him to message if he wants the photograph of the wife's phone, and he does: "This is the guy you gave the message to at the ball game send me that pic please." He gets the photograph and the woman tweets a photograph of her holding her phone with his message asking for the photograph and her sending the photograph. Nice touch: Her iPhone has a classic cracked screen. And the tweet is drawing commentary:
"Yeah it sucks that she might have been cheating but it was really none of your business," @steelerfan1874 reacted. "You should have paid attention to the game instead of the people in front of you."

"No one safe out here any more," @PizzaPartyBen added.

July 24, 2015

One more day on Lake Wingra...

... possibly "the prettiest urban lake anywhere."

DSC04419

"A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky 'powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words)..."

"... such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death. I told my friends Kate and Allen, 'I would like to see such a sky again when I am dying.' 'We’ll wheel you outside,' they said."

Writes Oliver Sacks, who is dying.
I almost certainly will not see my polonium (84th) birthday, nor would I want any polonium around, with its intense, murderous radioactivity. But then, at the other end of my table — my periodic table — I have a beautifully machined piece of beryllium (element 4) to remind me of my childhood, and of how long ago my soon-to-end life began.