Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Collegian

Well, it’s official.  Tabitha is going to college.  She sent in the enrollment deposit tonight.

It’s not a surprise, of course.  We’ve all been working toward this for a long time, especially Tabitha.  She’s done well in school.  She is a blur of extra-curricular activities.  She took all the standardized tests and then some.  We looked at a pile of colleges – big ones, small ones, urban ones, small-town ones.  It’s been a ride, in some cases literally as we drove across the miles.

It’s a strange thing to have it so definite, though.  To know the timeline.  The last time we visited that campus, in March, they had a day of various sessions designed to answer whatever questions might come up about the curriculum, the financing, the resources available, and – last but not least – the timeline of what needed to happen to go from “admitted student” to “enrolled student attending classes.”  I know exactly when move-in date is.

They’re actually pretty clever about move-in, this college.  I have to hand them that.  They schedule the morning and early afternoon for things that the students and parents can do together, and then there is a cutoff time that is specifically designated for parents to Go Away.  “You can do things around town if you’d like,” they said at the session, “but you can’t be on campus where your child will be, doing things that new students need to do.”

“Like not be with their parents,” was the unspoken rest of that sentence.

It is a big thing, to send your child off to the next stage of her life.  I remember my dad saying that at some point your job as a parent was just to be a home base, a place in the world where they could always return and find love and comfort, but not the center of their lives anymore.  I remember being on the other side of that, once upon a time.  And now everyone has moved up a generation and I’m the one who will be keeping the home fires burning.

That’s as it should be.  But it doesn’t make it any less of an odd thing, after all this time.  As a parent, you remember.  You remember the child, even as the adult emerges.  And you let go, trusting that she will return, on her own terms this time.

She seems happy with her decision, and I hope she is excited.  It’s a big step, after all.

Congratulations, Tabitha.  I’m proud of you.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Hog Heaven

So today I bought a pig.

I don’t actually have the pig in my possession.  It’s still at the farm, where it will remain for the next few days until the results of some test or other come back – not for my pig, but for a nearby pig, and presumably something medical rather than multiple choice – and then we can move it to a different farm, where it will grow up and learn how to do Swine Project things under Lauren’s watchful eye. 

This is assuming that we can actually transport the pig from the one farm to the other, a task that involves 1) a vehicle, 2) a large tarp, and 3) a crate of some kind capable of holding a pig.  We’ve got all of these except the third one.  We thought we had a line on a crate we could borrow, our cat carrier being sadly insufficient for the task at hand (and don't even get started on all the rabbit boxes we now own) but all of our potential crates seem to have fallen through.  Fortunately the guy we bought the pig from said he’d lend us a wooden box of some kind for transportation purposes, so we may be fully crated in time for us to move the pig.  One does not simply shove a pig into a minivan without confinement and expect good things to happen to either pig or minivan unless you are recording something for America's Funniest Home Videos.

These are not concerns I ever thought I would have, growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but life takes you in some interesting directions when you're paying attention to other things.

It seems like a very nice pig, as pigs go.  It’s a Tamworth, which is a long brown pig (as opposed to the pink ones and the spotty ones and the black ones, which are all somewhat shorter in length though no less tall).  It’s also a squarish breed, which is apparently a good thing for a pig to be.  They’re known as “the bacon pig” because they have an extra rib which makes them longer and therefore have more bacon per unit pig than most pig varieties.  Or so I was told.  I have no reason to doubt it.

The farmer did say that Tamworths are pretty active and need to be walked and otherwise occupied more than other pigs because otherwise they will get unruly and unruly is cute when they’re the size of pit bulls but when they get to be the size of, well, hogs, then it gets significantly less cute.  Unruly does not win ribbons at the County Fair.

Tamworths: the Jack Russell terriers of the swine world.

This will be Lauren’s second year in the Swine Project.  She’s hit high school pretty hard and some decisions had to be made as to what activities could be kept and what needed to be jettisoned, which is why there will be no turkeys or new chickens this year, but she felt that the Swine Project was worth continuing and so here we are.  So it’s not really my pig, so much as it is a pig that we purchased for Lauren.

We may even have a second pig sometime soon.

And won’t that be a time.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Worth a Shot, Anyway

I’ve pretty much conceded my photography class.

I’ve been threatening to take a photography class for years now, but I had never really had the time before.  Too many classes of my own to teach, too many kids to pick up at the end of the school day, too much traveling from campus to campus in the time-honored style of the adjunct academic.  It’s easy to put nonessential classes aside.  But the girls are grown enough that they can get themselves back from school now, the market for adjuncts has cratered sufficiently that I’m not actually teaching anything this semester (perhaps this summer, if the enrollment gods smile upon me), and I’m pretty much always on Home Campus these days except for the days when I’m on the New Mother Ship Campus, which are getting more and more frequent these days and that brings us right back to the issue at hand, doesn’t it?

My friend Mark teaches the photography class down at Home Campus, and he graciously allowed me to sit in this semester since there was room for me to do so.  And I was good about attending for the first five weeks or so.  Even on the day that the water heater blew up all over the basement, I didn’t miss a class.  I took some halfway decent photos, struggled through a few basic technical lessons, and even managed to learn how to do a couple of things in Photoshop that didn’t involve me taking the entire computer and heaving it into the river, which I felt was an achievement.

We had some baseline photos to take – light, shape, color, and so on.  I thought I did a reasonable job with them, though there was ample room for improvement.





I liked the “create a black and white photo series with a splash of color” assignment.  Follow the bouncing yellow hat!








I even did a passable job with the light assignments, where we had to play with shadows, reflections, and light.  Again, lots of room for improvement, but not bad for what they were.




Then the portrait assignment came up, and it became clear to me just how few people I actually see anymore.  It’s hard to find volunteers for such things when your family is just as busy as you are if not more so and everyone else you see is either a colleague or a student.  This was doubly dispiriting as portrait and figure photography is what I’d really wanted to learn how to do most (the class didn’t encompass figure photography, but I figured the lessons from portraiture would translate).  Someday I hope to do such things more seriously than I do now, but today is not that day. 

Lauren eventually did say she’d sit for the portrait assignment for me, which was good of her, but between her schedule and mine we never got around to it.

And now it’s registration season and the life of the academic advisor is an unending blur of anxious students crowding around trying to get their schedules set for the fall.  It’s musical season down at Local Businessman High School and Tabitha and Fran have been sucked into that vortex, not to emerge until they are spit out the other side after strike.  It’s soccer season and LBHS’s newest midfielder Lauren is off at games and practices.  It’s meeting season down at Home Campus, and every spare moment not registering students is taken up by agendas and discussion and timeline planning and so on.  Pretty soon it will be finals.

Well, half a class is better than none, I suppose.  I’ll get back to it eventually.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:

--

1. Is there anyone surprised by the fact that der Sturmtrumper’s minions and enablers are gutting the federal civil service based on political loyalties, despite the vast body of federal law forbidding exactly such a thing?  It got so bad that Congressional Democrats have formally requested an explanation from the White House (and good luck with that, folks).  Yes, my fellow Americans, we are now a banana republic thanks to the crude and lawless regime that squats at the center of power these days. 

2. Kris Kobach, the GOP fool who is out to prove that anyone not voting for the GOP shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all, has had his day in court.  It didn’t go well.  For one thing, his attempt at “trial by ambush” (as Federal Judge Julie Robinson, a Republican appointee, put it) failed miserably – his attempts to introduce new “evidence” at the last minute were shut down several times, each time provoking more and more anger from the bench.  Do not piss off a federal judge, son.  Next time, try to get your “evidence” in on time.  As the New York Times asked, “How does it feel to have your papers out of order, Mr. Kobach?”  Kobach’s witnesses were an intriguing combination of wingnuts, fools, and blowhards, none of whom managed to help Kobach’s case in any way.  Kobach’s star witness, Hans von Spakovsky, testified under oath that he did not actually investigate the circumstances pertaining to the handful of non-citizen registrations that were supposedly central to his accusations (though the ACLU’s attorney had done so), and he wilted under cross examination like week-old lettuce.  There really is nothing to see here, folks.

3. Of course Kobach can’t prove anything.  There isn’t anything to prove.  Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an expert in constitutional law and election administration, sifted through every single allegation of voter fraud – the specific sort of activity that these laws are supposedly put in place to prevent – between 2000 and 2014.  Out of over 1,000,000,000 ballots cast a total of 31 credible examples exist, and even some of those are likely not relevant.  Worst case, 31 out of a billion is a fraud rate of 0.00003%.  Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, man, Mickey Mouse gets more write-in votes than that.  In Kansas, where Kobach is supposedly fighting a wave of voter fraud, he has identified a grand total of 129 possible cases of voter fraud since 2000, of whom 11 actually voted.  Kobach makes no distinction between intentional voter fraud, clerical error, and honest mistakes (i.e. people who thought they were eligible to vote but actually were not) and those 129 cases therefore represent a vast overinflation of the issue.  In eight years as Secretary of State of Kansas, he has managed only nine convictions for illegal voting, only one of which was actually for illegal voting by a non-citizen.  Which of course tells you that preventing voter fraud is not the purpose of these laws.  Preventing non-GOP voting is the purpose of these laws.  There is a reason why these laws disproportionately affect younger voters, non-white voters, and female voters, after all.  When your primary base is old white men, keeping anyone else from voting is your only hope of victory.

3. Are you aware that US military forces stationed in Syria have actually fought pitched battles against Russian forces there?  “Several dozen” Russians were killed, according to Kremlin sources.  Any reaction from Putin’s Puppet in the White House to the fact that Russian forces have attacked American positions?  No – why do you ask?

4. So now Our Confederate Attorney General, acting on explicit orders from der Sturmtrumper himself, has fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe less than 48 hours before McCabe was scheduled to retire, because that’s what happens when the petty and the vicious decide to punish people for partisan reasons.  I’ll let McCabe explain it in his own words: 


5. You know what?  Pissing off the FBI is not a good move.  Nixon didn’t figure that out until it was too late.  Grab yo’ popcorn, because shit just got real.

6. Former CIA Director John Brennan reacted angrily to the gloating message der Sturmtrumper sent out after McCabe was fired.  “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known,” he said to der Sturmtrumper on Twitter, “you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.  You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America.  America will triumph over you.”

7. The Tennessee GOP decided that a resolution denouncing white nationalism and neo-Nazis was just too much for their tender hearts to bear so they killed it.  Once again, the “Party of Values” fails the Nazi test.  As always, folks: when people show you who they are, believe them.

8. Der Sturmtrumper’s lawyer [EDIT: former lawyer – my, but the wheel does churn quickly with this group] has now publicly called for Robert Mueller to be fired.  Originally he claimed to be speaking for der Sturmtrumper himself, but then – once the political implications of that were made clear to him, one imagines – he backtracked to claim to be speaking only for himself.  Folks, if Mueller’s investigation is ended prematurely this will be a Constitutional crisis of the first order, on par with the Watergate coverup.  It will be prima facia evidence of guilt for every crime that der Sturmtrumper has been investigated for.  And it will be the end of the peaceful stage of the resistance to the current wannabe petit-Fascist regime.  I do not condone political violence in this country, but at current trajectory I would not be surprised by it.

9. Apparently the Russians have been hacking the US power grid for years now, and the only questions that remain are a) how effective was this, and b) what will der Sturmtrumper do in response?  As for the first one, the jury seems to be out on that right now, though whether they intended to do anything right now or are saving their final attack for an opportune moment is an open question.  As for the latter, well, yeah.  Putin’s Puppet isn’t likely to bite the hand that feeds him.

10. Der Sturmtrumper’s lawyers have filed a $20,000,000 lawsuit to keep a porn star quiet about an affair that he and his minions insist never too place.  Think about that.

11. If you want to know what corruption looks like, consider the fact that der Sturmtrumper has waived the fines for five banks convicted of crimes in the US, including the bank that he owes somewhere between $150,000,000 and $300,000,000 to. 

12. Wisconsin’s own Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has refused to call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Wisconsin legislature, in violation of state law that clearly says he has to do so.  Dane County Circuit Court Judge Josann Reynolds – who was appointed by Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) in 2014 – ordered the Governor to hold those elections in accordance with state law.  So naturally the Republican leadership of the Wisconsin legislature has called the legislature back in session in order to change the law.  Because when power is all that matters to you and you can’t win by following the rules, you change the rules until you do win.  Your “Party of Values” at work, good citizen.

13. The Wisconsin GOP asked for a stay of the original ruling while they rammed their “Fuck The Courts And The Law, We Have The Power” bill through the legislature and, not surprisingly, a second Dane County Circuit Judge – Richard Niess – has told them in no uncertain terms that this is a nonstarter.  “Am I to presume that the legislature is going to pass a bill that immediately affects individuals in unrepresented districts who will have no vote on that bill, that’s going to deprive them of an election that has been ordered by Judge Reynolds?” he asked.  Well, yes, that was the point the Wisconsin GOP was making, yes.  Remember, folks – these are the people who say they worship the Founding Fathers even though the Founding Fathers would have had them taken out back and horsewhipped for even suggesting such a bill.

14. And after being slapped down by two different courts and ridiculed in the national press for being the power-hungry autocrats that they are, it appears that the Wisconsin GOP may yet follow the law and hold the special elections required so that thousands of Wisconsin citizens won’t be unrepresented for a year.  Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has called for elections on June 12.  Look for last-minute bait-and-switch tactics, outright subversion, and general nonsense, but in the meantime celebrate a rare win for law and order in Republican America.

15. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, who has worked as an analyst for Fox “News” for years – generally advocating hawkish policies and once briefly suspended for using “a vulgarity” to describe President Obama, according to the New York Times – has left that network after realizing that it was nothing more than a frothing mouthpiece for ideological extremists.  It’s worth quoting his farewell message at length, to see what happens when a contributor recognizes that the main propaganda wing of American “conservatism” has become just another outlet of Pravda:

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to "support and defend the Constitution," and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

“In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts--who have never served our country in any capacity--dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller--all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of "deep-state" machinations-- I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

“As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin's agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the "nothing-burger" has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true--that's how the Russians do things. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.”


16. Meanwhile on the Russian front, it turns out that Guccifer 2.0, the supposed “lone hacker” who broke into the DNC’s computers during the 2016 elections, is actually a Russian intelligence officer, and that the cyberattacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign were “largely, if not entirely, carried out by Russian intelligence groups,” according to Business Insider.  Because Guccifer 2.0 made a single mistake online, American intelligence was able to identify that person as a specific officer inside the GRU, Russia’s intelligence agency.  You will note that this directly contradicts the story that der Sturmtrumper and his minions, enablers, and sycophants have been telling.  And boy aren’t we all just shocked at that, right?

17. So when der Sturmtrumper’s own national security advisors included a section in his briefing materials that read, in all capital letters, DO NOT CONGRATULATE Vladimir Putin for his sham electoral victory, what do you suspect der Sturmtrumper did?  Yes!  He congratulated Putin!  Because the puppet obeys the puppeteer, not the audience.

18. “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”  (Senator John “No Fucks Left To Give” McCain, R-AZ)

19. Yes, Obama congratulated Putin on previous electoral victories, but please note that those congratulations came before Putin’s Russia interfered with the American presidential election and before it engaged in chemical warfare on our oldest ally’s soil.  You can drop the comparison now, thanks.

20. Actual CNN headline: “John Bolton’s mustache is more qualified to be national security advisor than he is.”

21. From the article itself: “Bolton has distinguished himself as one of America’s most hawkish and ineffective diplomats for decades. … Few prominent national security figures are as ill-suited to the job of national security advisor as Bolton when you consider his views, his temperament and his ability to be an honest broker.  In fact, he is actually one of the few people on earth who would be worse than Mike Flynn, who was the worst national security advisor of all time.”  Kind of says it all, though not quite.  Add in the fact that Bolton has a long track record of strategically senseless warmongering, of confusing firepower with strength, and of being unable to see past his own ideological preconceptions, and then you’re getting warmer.  The fact that der Sturmtrumper has given the owner of that mustache a government post more influential than rural mail carrier is a disturbing and dangerous sign.

22. And now der Sturmtrumper’s personal lawyer has resigned.  You know, the one he was supposed to be on such good terms with?  That one?  And who has he been replaced with?  A halfwit conspiracy salesman of several decades’ standing, someone consistently on the opposite side of facts, reason, morality, and common sense.  Rachel Maddow put it best, really – der Sturmtrumper has pretty much conceded the legal defense of his criminal enterprises and has now gone all-in on PR and distraction.  Gonna be a bumpy ride before this smoking ruin comes in for a landing.

23. Actually, hold that thought.  According to the New York Times, neither the halfwit conspiracy salesman nor his equally unstable lawyer wife will be formally joining the legal team after all, it turns out, though they seem available for unofficial consulting if reports are to be believed.  So der Sturmtrumper remains in the market for legal help.  I know a few guys with loud advertisements and 800-numbers who might be interested if he pays them up front – maybe I should email him with a suggestion or two?  Nah.  Knowing me I’d get carried away with the suggestions and the Secret Service would show up at my front door wondering why I had regressed back to second grade and explaining patiently that one just cannot randomly give the president noogies.  Better just to sit this one out.

24. If you want to know just how immoral and panicked the NRA is these days, just note that in the twenty-four days after the Parkland school massacre they spent four times more per daily average on advertisements than in the twenty-four days previous.  They averaged $11,300/day before Parkland and $47,300 after, according to the Chicago Tribune.  They’re scared, and they damn well should be.

25.

26. The sheer amount of assholery, dickheadedness, and general subhuman filth that has been unleashed upon the Parkland kids by what Adam-Troy Castro calls the schmuckosphere is truly jawdropping.  American right-wing extremists are just furious that anyone, let alone high school kids, let alone high school kids who aren’t white boys, would dare to challenge their precious little world view and they are frothing at the mouth.  They threaten.  They denigrate.  They dismiss.  They lie, in profusion and in ever-more-frantic leaps of fevered hallucination.  They waggle their tiny little dicks and roar their pipsqueak defiance at the civilized world.  It’s always worked before.  Not this time, losers.  Not this time.  Americans have had it with your bullshit.  Do the world a favor and insert your assault rifles deeply into your lower intestines, go jogging, and leave the brave and the moral alone.


27. In case you missed it, a Nazi won the GOP primary for Illinois’ Third Congressional District.  No, that’s not an exaggeration.  Arthur Jones is an outright, proud-of-it, registered Nazi – one of those vile fools who believes in white supremacy, who thinks Hitler was right, and who flatly denies the reality of the Holocaust.  On the one hand, the Illinois GOP has denounced Jones and says it will try to find an independent to run in the general election, which should be interesting since they couldn’t find a Republican who disagreed with Jones enough to run against him in the first place, but hey, at least they’re trying.  On the other hand, 20,000 Illinois Republicans voted for this asshole.  Twenty.  Fucking.  Thousand.  That’s your base, GOP, and once again the Republican Party fails the Nazi test.

28.

29. A federal court has now ruled that der Sturmtrumper can in fact be sued by the Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  Impeachable from Day 1, this guy.

30.  Apparently der Sturmtrumper’s new lawyer now that John Dowd has left for other opportunities [Read: was forced out for reasons as yet unknown but likely far more entertaining than ones generally encountered in these situations] is, um, kind of not really much of a lawyer.  Andrew Ekonomou is a medieval historian specializing in the Byzantine Empire and the early medieval papacy whose legal career does not actually encompass time spent at a national firm, in Washington DC, or as a defense attorney.  He works for a firm that specializes in civil and criminal forfeiture cases against convenience stores accused of running video poker machines and he does murder prosecutions for the Glynn County (GA) District Attorney on a per-case contract.  His only real appearance in a national political context was sending threatening letters to people who had complained about being pressured by an aggressive right-wing fundraiser.  His conduct as a contract prosecutor in Georgia was sufficiently unscrupulous that the Georgia state legislature passed a law in 2012 specifically forbidding the things he was doing as standard practice.  All the best people, right?

31. Reuters is reporting that Mueller’s investigation into der Sturmtrumper’s collusion with Russia has now extended to the 2016 GOP National Convention, particularly regarding the disappearance of language in the GOP platform critical of Russia’s unprovoked aggressive war against Ukraine.  Keep your eye on this.  The underlying message here is that subservience to a foreign power may be something more general to the GOP than just der Sturmtrumper.

32. I didn’t watch the Stormy Daniels interview, because why would I?  I already know that der Sturmtrumper is a womanizing lowlife, the details of which I don’t need to hear.  I already know she’s telling the truth – you’ll note that der Sturmtrumper is suing her for violating an NDA, not for libel or slander or defamation.  And I already know that the modern GOP has no morals whatsoever and is perfectly happy with the fact that their Leader has affairs with porn stars while his wife (with whom he cheated while married to a previous wife) is at home with their child. 

33. Put some ice on that burn, son. 


34. Just so you can put the whole “GOP cares about the working class” idea in its proper context, the GOP-controlled legislature of Kentucky just made it illegal for doctors not in the pay of the coal companies to diagnose black lung disease.  The law actually prevents federally-certified radiologists from doing what they are specifically trained to do – interpret radiographs – and requires that such interpretations be made by federally-certified pulmonologists, of which there are six in Kentucky, four of whom work for the coal companies or their insurers and one of the other two will retire in June.  Out of state federally-certified pulmonologists are specifically banned from any diagnostic role as well.  The reason for this, obviously, is that those pesky radiologists were actually diagnosing black lung disease and that simply would not do, having GOP donors being held responsible for their actions like that.  So for the foreseeable future any Kentucky coal miner with black lung disease will just have to rely on the generosity of the coal company that would pay for his treatment in the event of being diagnosed with black lung, and if you think that’s likely then I’m not entirely sure how you manage to feed yourself in the morning.

35. The former Veterans Affairs Secretary has apparently found his backbone now that he is out of a job.  He’s flatly declared that der Sturmtrumper got rid of him in order to privatize the VA – because the GOP is nothing if not too damned cheap to pay for the health care of the wounded veterans they create with such abandon with their warmongering policies – and he has directly contradicted der Sturmtrumper’s account that he resigned rather than was fired.  That difference does have some legal implications regarding the flexibility of der Sturmtrumper to impose any new nominee into the position that he desires, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

36. So it turns out that most of the time when immigration goes up crime goes down.  Which implies a) that der Sturmtrumper is, as usual, completely wrong in his wild accusations and hysterical fearmongering, and b) crime is disproportionately being committed by people born here.  Maybe we should crack down on the locals instead of the immigrants?

37. What’s amazing to me about the recent fuss over right-wing propaganda network Sinclair Broadcasting forcing its outlets to read the same word-for-word prepared script is not that they would stoop that low or be that obviously totalitarian, but that anyone is surprised by it.  Really, people?  Have you not been paying attention to the inroads made by wannabe petit-Fascism in this country?  What’s really amazing is that the people ramming totalitarianism down your throat are the same people mewling the loudest about their freedom.

38. If you want to know just how low the modern right wing will go – how cowardly, how immoral, how contemptible they are – all you need to know is that Mike Adams, “an internet conspiracy theorist tied to Alex Jones,” according to the New York Daily News, has launched a new fake-news website whose only purpose is to slander a high school student who saw his friends shot to death in February.  Imagine – a kid who has seen more combat than the president, daring to speak out on something he knows about better than his critics do, and the lunatic right wing just sees that as an invitation for bullying and abuse.  People like Adams and his fellow website lunatic JD Heyes are the reason this country is becoming uninhabitable by any moral and patriotic person.

39. Der Sturmtrumper has decided that despite the fact that illegal border crossings are at record lows, immigrants are so damned scary that he needs to send the National Guard to the Mexican border to … um … what is it they’re supposed to do again?  Does anyone know?  Hello?  Is this thing on?  Jim Wright – a combat veteran himself – notes that this mission has no stated goal, no rules of engagement, no limits of authority, and no provisions for financing.  And that the Department of Homeland Security is on record as saying that they have not actually made any plans for this, even though they want this to happen within 24 hours.  “So,” Wright concludes, “we’re sending troops without clear orders, objectives, chain of command, or ROE.”  Tell me again how this is supposed to work.

40. If you’re not following Jim on social media, you need to be.

41. Just a thought – isn’t this the same group of paranoids who went ballistic over the Jade Helm exercise a while back?  Is military occupation just that much better when there’s a white guy in the Oval Office?  I don’t get the GOP at all, sometimes.

42. Also, isn’t this illegal under 18 US Code Section 1385 (“Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus”)?  Unless there is an express authorization for this by Congress, it seems to me that der Sturmtrumper and anyone else involved in this decision could be looking at two years in jail.  Or they would be in a country that still valued the rule of law over raw autocratic power.

43. Just gonna leave this here… 


44. Does anyone know how much money Wisconsin’s own Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has wasted in frivolous lawsuits trying to weasel out of obeying the law?  I’ll bet it’s enough to pay for a significant raise for every teacher in the state.

45. So now we’re in a trade war with China, one of our biggest trading partners and a nation that holds a significant chunk of the massive national debt that der Sturmtrumper’s policies have sent skyrocketing in the last year.  Trade wars rarely end well even when you have people who have a clue running them, and the fact is that we’re trusting our economic future to a guy who couldn’t sell gambling, steak, and alcohol to the American people and has been legally outmaneuvered by a porn star.  Look for the soup kitchens any day now.

46. You know that if the Chinese ever decide to dump their US debt holdings, they will essentially destroy our economy.  Yes, they’ll take a huge hit as well, which is the only thing preventing that course of action at the moment.  But at some point they may decide that the cost is worth it.  And if they dump all of their dollar reserves and force international trade in oil to be done in some other currency, well, it’s going to be a long hard time for your children.  Thanks, GOP!

47. Things with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are so glaringly corrupt that even Republicans have noticed.  Two GOP House members have joined the chorus demanding that he resign due to the unrelenting ethical void that he embodies.  Yahoo News put together a short list of 23 ethical issues that each individually would have put him out on the street with a tin cup in a normal administration that gave a damn about law and order, but which together barely make an impression in der Sturmtrumper’s howling wasteland of corruption and graft.  This list includes everything from shady real estate deals to end-runs around laws in order to give favorites exorbitant raises to boondoggle spending (including $120,000 to hire an opposition researcher to dig up dirt on his enemies [i.e. the media]) to reassigning/demoting/forcing out staffers who dare to question his improprieties.  That’s not even getting into the garden-variety conflicts of interests and naked partisanship.  This is what banana republics look like, folks.

48. You know, for a guy who claims to worship the military (from afar, admittedly, as Cadet Bone Spurs was pretty adamant about not getting involved when his call to service came) der Sturmtrumper doesn’t seem to value their expertise much.  He’s pushing for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria despite the fact that US military advisors unanimously warn that such a withdrawal would lead to a resurgence of ISIS.  Of course, then the US would no longer have military forces to trouble Putin’s mercenaries there, so perhaps that’s something to consider as well.

49. Uh, the Post Office is everyone's “delivery boy.”  That’s kind of the point.

50. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Rainy Day

There is an app on my phone that tells me what the weather is because simply looking out my window isn’t enough in this technological day and age. 

Mostly it reports on current conditions, letting me know the temperature outside in either Fahrenheit or Celsius depending on how a setting has been toggled.  I don’t know how it toggles as I never tell it to do one thing or the other but it seems to toggle from the one to the other with some frequency and that’s just how it goes some days and what are you going to do about it is what I want to know.

There are times when it lets me know what’s coming up, which can be useful when the weather is not as perhaps one might wish it to be.  You can make plans, or simply accept what is coming with graceful foreknowledge.  It says, “Snow expected at 8:45pm” or “High winds until 3am.”  Or perhaps “Plagues of locusts, hordes of tornadoes, and other assorted irritants to be defined as necessary will visit you until such time as you stop worrying about them.”  You can never tell with the weather.  Wait a couple of minutes.  It will change.


Sometimes it just says, “Rain will continue.”

Rain will continue, yes my friends it will, with no particular end in sight.  It is simply the new State Of Things, and one must adjust to it for the foreseeable future.

It will rain on the just and the unjust, on the strong and the weak, on fields and flowers.  Rain will continue, reminding us that there is so much in the world that can only be adapted to and not controlled.

I like when it says things like that, because then I don’t need to worry about what is coming up because it’s going to look like what’s already coming down and I'm used to that by now.

You think to yourself, is that an observation, “Rain will continue,” or a command?

Not that it makes much of a difference to those on the ground, who get wet either way. 

It was a grey, misty, drizzly sort of day today, just a few degrees above freezing in both metric and American, and for a while I was wandering about in it trying to get from Here to There for certain values of Here and There that had a lot of space in between them.

The rain did in fact continue.

There’s a lesson in there, perhaps.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Good Times in the Big Easy

My feet still hurt.  In my defense, though, I did a lot of walking last week.

New Orleans, like most old cities, is a pretty walkable place.  At least the older parts of it are, anyway, and the rest you can get to by streetcar.  Kim was one of the legions of chemists giving presentations at the ACS meeting last week, and I got to tag along as the Trailing Spouse.  The glorious part about being a Trailing Spouse is that it comes with essentially no duties.  She does all the work, and you get to wander around the city visiting things.  All you have to do is meet up at the correct time and place.


Sweet deal.

I’d been to New Orleans once before – 22 years earlier almost to the day, in fact.  Kim and I went there on our honeymoon, and I had fond memories of the place even beyond the whole “honeymoon” aspect of it.  There’s a lot to do there.  It’s not hot in March.  It’s almost always feeding time at the human zoo in the French Quarter and thereabouts, and there are few things I enjoy more than people-watching.  You also cannot find a bad meal anywhere in New Orleans, or at least I never have.  Win all around, I say.

We arrived in New Orleans pretty much the same way we did the last time – on widely separated seats on an airplane.  We were young marrieds when we first went down and had little money to spare so we flew standby, which is an interesting way to travel in the liberal arts sense of the term, the way three-headed frogs are “interesting.”  On the way down I sat next to a guy who gloried in outlining the prodigious amount of coffee he consumed every day (if he’s still alive today I’m sure he’s on his second stomach transplant and hasn’t slept a night since we spoke), and my seatmate on the way back spent the entire flight – the entire flight – telling me how “you Nawthunas nevah conquahed the Cajuns!”  Mostly I remember thinking to myself, “I guess we didn’t have to?”  It hadn’t seemed to have affected the outcome of the Civil War any that I could recall.  Let them have their damned swamps.

This time it was because we were flying in different classes.  Kim was in the regular economy class, which works as well or not well as it always has, but I was in the “Basic Economy” section, which is about half a notch above baggage.  They just randomly assign you a seat 10 minutes before boarding, and the seats are, um, narrow.  Really, really, narrow.  On the plus side, my seatmate was from Philadelphia so we got to talk about old times a bit, and that was nice.

And then I took my very first Uber ride. 

I’ve never been all that sure about Uber.  I’m old enough to remember being told a) never get into cars with strangers and b) be careful meeting people on the internet, and now here we were using the internet to get into some stranger’s car.  It’s a different world.  Turns out the guy is from South Jersey, though, so we spent the entire ride discussing the Eagles.  He and I agreed that the recent Super Bowl win was a Very Good Thing. 

We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and then wandered the couple of blocks over to the French Quarter to find some dinner, which was admirably supplied by a place called Felix’s, I think.  We ate well throughout our visit, as one does in New Orleans, from lunch at Antoine’s (which has been serving since 1840 – our waiter, a friendly soul, appeared to have been an original hire) to breakfast at Majoria’s Commerce, a diner in the Central Business District where the waitress calls you honey and pats your shoulder, and where nothing on the menu is remotely healthy even by the generous standards of 1945 when the place probably opened, but it’s all good.  Really, really good.

The first night we spent some time wandering up and down Bourbon Street with the rest of the tourists (hey – when you’re a tourist you might as well do some touristy things) before finding a lovely little bar about the size of your living room where the music was live and the Sazeracs where tasty.  Friends told us that we were not allowed to leave New Orleans without having a Sazerac and a hurricane, and by the time we left for home we had succeeded.  I have to say that while hurricanes are really good when you’re 23 and seeking Maximum Alcohol, you just can’t beat a good Sazerac.  I think I may have found a new favorite drink.  We liked them so much we found another a couple of nights later in one of the bars that seems to cater more to the locals than the tourists, where the guy at the end of the bar droned on at some length about something unintelligible and the bartender knew him by name.


Kim spent most of the time at the conference, which is why she was there after all.  That meant I had a great deal of time to myself and my only real goal was to wander around the French Quarter.  That’s how I spent Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Tuesday I zigzagged through the streets paralleling the river and on Wednesday I zigzagged the streets perpendicular to the river, so I figure I walked pretty much all of the Quarter, in addition to a couple of hikes over to the Convention Center.  It’s a walking sort of place.  You have to do that, to burn off all the food.

Things I noticed while walking about in the French Quarter:

1. People actually live there.  You forget that if you’re not paying attention.  There are grocery stores – actual grocery stores – and laundromats and post offices and all that sort of thing.  There’s at least one school, with parents who crowd the street in the afternoon to pick up their kids.  It’s an actual working neighborhood, and that’s one of the most interesting things about the place.

2. If you’re out there early enough – and I was generally walking around by 9am or so – it’s pretty quiet.


3. Once you get outside of the truly touristy parts – and even within them, to be honest – you realize that New Orleans is a poor and old city.  The housing is run down, the sidewalks are uneven, the streets are potholed and dirty.  And yet it has a certain charm to it, in large part because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.

4. There are few other places in the world where street musicians exist in such numbers and quality.  You can’t be a mediocre musician in New Orleans – the competition is just too severe.  Particularly along Royal Street, they will often just blockade the street and set up shop on their folding chairs.  The first time I saw this, I watched for a bit before a police car came slowly cruising up toward them.  “Well, that’s that,” I figured.  And then the band leader stood up, slid his tip buckets back a bit, and the cop cruised on by with a small wave, swerved around the barricade, and headed off down the street.  You have to appreciate that.

5. Everywhere on the sidewalks there are these silver metal discs about a hand’s breadth across.  Apparently they are attached to long metal rods, and at the bottom of the rods are chunks of wood.  City workers will pull up the wood to check for termites, and if they find any then the building they’re standing in front of is in deep trouble.  As the guy who explained this said, “When it comes to termites, we’re the interlopers here.”

6. When you’ve been trying to eat less salt for a few years, you can’t just ramp back up all at once.  I stopped in a battered little sandwich shop for a muffaletta and it was really good but I couldn’t finish it.  I am officially old, in just so many ways.

7. Apparently haunted real estate costs more.  Free history lessons, as Tabitha put it.


8. I never did get to the Cafe du Monde as the lines were just ridiculous.  But there are other places to get beignets.  I found one right next to the NOPD, where you can get three fresh hot beignets covered with about half a cup of powdered sugar and sit outside while random street musicians serenade you on a sunny day in New Orleans.  There is a certain satisfaction in that.

9. Sometimes the places you remember are just as you remember them.  On our honeymoon the B&B guy recommended a diner called The Clover Grill, and I stumbled into it for lunch one day.  They still grill their burgers under “a genuine American hubcap,” the waitress still doesn’t give a shit about your day, and the whole place still feels like you stepped into 1954, right down to the pink walls.  Glorious.


10. Everywhere you look there are hot pepper stores.  Hot sauce is the new trend, and I for one heartily approve.  How a place as small as the French Quarter can support four different hot sauce stores is beyond me, though.

11. We did go to a couple of museums while we were there.  I spent a charming half hour in the New Orleans Mint – a site so unassuming that as far as I could tell it didn’t even have a gift shop – and Kim and I went to the Pharmacy Museum, a true labor of love for whomever set the place up.  It’s fascinating but completely overwhelming.

12. There is nothing quite like walking by a steamboat moored by the side of the river and listening to a concert performance of the greatest hits of the 1920s performed on calliope from the top of the boat.

We didn’t spend all of our time in the French Quarter, and I wasn’t always on my own.  Kim generally had the evenings free and after her presentation Thursday morning she was done with the conference entirely.  We went to a jazz festival in Lafayette Park for a while – the one act we saw had serious overtones of klezmer to it (klazz?  jazzmer?) – and for our last evening there we took the trolley up to the Garden District and had dinner at the Camillia Grill, another revisit from our honeymoon.  The place is more surrounded by other things than I remember it being, but inside it’s pretty much the same.  And you can’t escape Wisconsinites no matter where you go – there was a dad and his daughter from Madison who were on a college visit to Tulane, and even though they left well before us we ended up sitting with them on the trolley ride back to our hotel, talking about college visits and the like.  It was nice.

We got back home on Friday, after one of those multi-pronged days of travel that you get on trips like these (car, plane, bus, car, couch).  My seatmates on the plane were from China and had their faces covered with those surgical masks that are inexplicably popular there, so there wasn’t much conversation.  I read my book, and eventually we arrived.  If our baggage had come out one minute earlier we’d have made the early bus, but as it was we sat for a while waiting for the next one, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world really.

It was a lovely trip.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

March On

This is not the post I had expected to write today, but it is the post that needs to be written.

This is what it is like in the modern United States, a once-proud republic now held in thrall by right-wing fanatics, ammosexuals, ideological zealots, and Dominionist blasphemers.  This is what it is like, to have to take to the streets with signs held high to protest the fact that children are being slaughtered in their schools by men with guns.  No civilized society would need such a protest, and you can draw your own conclusions about the modern United States from the fact that such a protest is needed.

Because there are actually those in this country who see no problem with such slaughter.  Who would rather have their guns than the children.  Whose weakness and fear knows no limit and must be compensated for with military-grade weaponry and junior-high-level snark.  Who shout “Shame!” at the people working to fix the problem, working to prevent children from being slaughtered.

Imagine having the sort of impoverished mind that thinks such a reaction is appropriate, if you can.

No, really.  Go ahead.  Try to imagine what it takes for someone to declare themselves on the side of the guns rather than humanity.  Get a good feel for it, and then you will know why evil flourishes despite the best efforts of men and women of good will, and why the children have been forced to lead since the adults have abdicated their responsibilities.

We marched here in Our Little Town, today, several hundred strong.  We marched through the downtown, past the pathetic young man with his penis substitute, standing on the corner as if he could intimidate us.

We are Americans.  We are not afraid.  These colors do not run.

We marched through the streets and to the office of our Congressman, a coward who has not had the backbone to hold a public town hall with his own constituents in years and who remains in office only by virtue of some of the most egregious gerrymandering in the entire United States.  He hasn't won his own home town in nearly a decade.  He wasn't there, of course.  He never is. 

There is a change coming, you partisans of the gun. 

We march to send you a message.  Don't say you weren't warned.

We outnumber you.

We are coming.

You are on the wrong side of history, morality, and American patriotism and values.

We will see you fail. 

We will make sure you and all your works are forgotten.

Sleep well.