Thursday, February 22, 2018

Saw Mom Yesterday

     She's in better spirits.  She...flickers: she knows you for awhile, and then not so much, and then she remembers again.  But she's happy, not scared or sad.  And they're keeping an eye on her blood chemistry and adjusting her medications accordingly.

     The situation isn;t great but it's about as good as it could be, in light of her age and health.  Mom grew up during the Great Depression and WW II, at the very tail end of what's been called the "Greatest Generation," people who not only endured by persisted and triumphed.  But no one wins their last battle; the best any of us can hope for it to enter it unafraid.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Worry About My Mom

     I'm getting better but I'm Ssill not quite up to snuff.  Some of it is the muscle relaxer.  Some of it is...I don't know.  Worn out. 

     My Mom's having some more serious difficulties.  Any prayers, positive vibes and good thoughts you'd send her way will be much appreciated.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Nominally Off This Week

     Though I am on call if the weather gets better.  And I'm still sick.  I did a poor job of taking my medicine on schedule over the weekend, and now I am keeping track.  Maybe that will help.

     Something I dislike even more than the way people shout talking points past one another in the wake of firearms tragedy is the level of personal attack to which many descend.  It is actually possible for people to have deep, fundamental disagreements without either one of them being evil or uncaring.  But not, it seems, without them accusing one another of it.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

It's Not License To Be A Jerk

     I'm sick and tired of people behaving like arseholes and when they are called on it, shrugging it off by claiming to be "on the spectrum."

     That's not how it works.  If you're on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, you're not any different than anyone else with a disability who is able to function in the wider world: sure, decent people treat you fairly, and decent -- or at least ADA-compliant -- workplaces and businesses have removed physical barriers, but if you're on wheels or sticks, if you can't hear or have lost a limb (and so on), you've still got to work harder than the person who isn't challenged.  I watched a blind man cross a street the other day; he read the signals fine by ear and with his cane leading the way, crossed briskly, found the curb, stepped up (the cut is offset and he'd missed it), crossed a patch of grass to the sidewalk and worked his way over to the traffic-light pole to press the button so he could cross the intersecting street: it was more work for him than you or I encounter accomplishing the same task. 

     And if you're not so good at social interaction, that's not a license to be obnoxious.  It means you're going to have to work harder at saying "please" and "thank you."  If you're not so good at reading nuance, you're going to have to ask people for clarification. And you're probably going to have to figure out how to phrase it in advance.  It's not a badge of specialness or a get-out-of-awkwardness-free card, it's a problem, and one that you must deal with.  Deal with it.  Work at not being a jerk.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


     Wednesday hit with a thud at mid-afternoon, when TV news devolved into the kind of close attention given to a disturbed killer that disturbed killers crave--

     The predictable talk of "too many guns" and "violent video games" and so on followed; they are cheap and easy things to blame but boys have always played violent games  (remember cap guns and tin soldiers?)  and this country has long had widespread firearm availability and ownership.  What nags me is that no one seems to much care about identifying and maybe even straightening out the killers before they strike.  There's a pattern of torturing small animals, of social alienation, threats of violence and so on that appears to be common to many people who later commit horrific crimes, and it is largely ignored.  Instead, there's a focus on the means -- guns for mass shooting, the hardware of imprisonment for abductors -- or the victims (who indeed rate attention) or the now-outre personality and behavior of the criminal.

     Where was all that when the kid was a Cub Scout?  Where was the concern when he kept tripping fire alarms?  It it enough to expell a child with behavioral problems from school, and let the wider world deal with them?

     For every person who commits a headline-grabbing crime like this, a few dozen more are committing lesser violent crimes; or among the homeless, and perhaps preying on their fellows.  If we're determined to be "doing something," let's direct our energies at people, not objects.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Read It. Read The Links.

     Reason magazine may have found the next Michael A. Bellesiles: Nancy MacLean, author of a hatchet-job bio on one of the early lights in the Public Choice movement.  She certainly has an agenda, and is quite willing to dream up quotes to match.  Have a look.  Don't sperg out, follow the links.  Paging Mr. Fisk....

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It Wasn't.

     They guessed wrong.  The tower guy started up one of of my employer's towers in a nice sunny downtown location, got about thirty feet up, said "Whups!" and became very meticulous about maintaining two points of attachment as he climbed higher.  Ten feet on, he shook his head and called down, "There's ice on every horizontal surface!"

     That was it for tower work yesterday.  I had plenty else to do.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Can It Be...?

     After weeks and weeks of (well-justified), "Not in this weather," the tower crew is thinking this is the week.  We'll start with (what I hope is) a small task today, and -- weather permitting! -- move on to the big job tomorrow.

     Given that the outstanding feature of the weekend was sleet and today's forecast calls for a high of 33°F, I'm a little surprised.  But I've worked with these guys for years and they have a very finely calibrated sense of the possible when it comes to weather and high places.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What's On The TV?

     It might look like a penguin, but it's actually a Russian cop show, Gentlemen Comrades. No, really -- set in Moscow in the aftermath of the October Revolution, with the ongoing Russian Civil War raging in the distant background, a time and place for which "interesting" is an understatement.  The city is a mess, crime runs rampant, the Bolsheviks are grabbing power with both hands while trying to consolidate what they already have.

     There's a functioning secret police/political police, the Cheka* (of course), but regular police forces, the newly-formed Militsiya, are struggling, understaffed, inexperienced and overwhelmed.  And it's these ordinary cops, the "Criminal Police," who are the focus of the series.  The first character we meet is a "revolutionary sailor" -- which means he's an earnest rube, something like a patriotic, unsophisticated farmboy -- freshly assigned to the Moscow militsiya as an investigator.  The second is more complex: a former detective for the Czar's police, now out of work, under considerable suspicion and drinking heavily.  Events unfold; the young sailor meets Dornbergs, his boss and (apparently) the top man in  the Criminal Police, and is assigned to stop a strange gang of leaping, white-robed criminals.  Meanwhile the same gang attacks a friend of the former Imperial detective, frightens his sister, and leads him to sober up and offer to help the militsiya for just this one case.  Dornbergs accepts (over the objections of his Cheka liaison), pairs him up with the young sailor and the hunt is on.

     It's about as accurate as Have Gun, Will Travel, or perhaps Hec Ramsey, and for similar reasons of national myth and cinematic convention (parts of the past were considerably filthier than you'd care to see).   Production values are excellent.  The acting and story-telling is first-rate and the overall sweep and structure reminds me of the first season of Homicide: Life On The Street, with an emerging ensemble cast of well-developed personalities.  Each story arc takes up at least two hour-long episodes, allowing for fairly convoluted plots; gun geeks may enjoy the Nagant revolvers, Broomhandle Mauser "Bolos" and other early 20th-century firearms used by police and bad guys.  The contrast between the eager greenhorn and experienced detective is well-played, as are various subplots.

     English subtitles appear to have been translated by a native Russian speaker, with some of the foibles of number and article typical of that tongue; they're clear enough, and the substitutions of "Mr. [Last name]" for "firstname + patronymic" and "KGB" for "Cheka" are actually useful clarifications for English speakers.

     I'm a half-dozen episodes in  and still enjoying it.  Sure wouldn't want to have to live through it at the time!
* "The All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage," no less, later changed to, "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption," which developed from a similar organization operating in Petrograd.  "VCheka" and "'Cheka" are the short versions of the name, from Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya, "All-Russian Extraordinary." Over time, they became the GPU, OGPU, NKVD and, yes, KGB. Ordinary crime was at best outside their remit.  At worst?  H'mmm, remember how the FBI and the Mob were said to work together during WW II? Yeah, that.  For decades.