Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Motorcycle Thing?

     Along College, along about 49th Street, there's a corner of shops.  This is unremarkable in and of itself; College Avenue was a main route of the city and suburb streetcar/interurban route, and has retained much of its streetcar-neighborhood flavor, with small business building on the corners, every third or fourth intersection from at least 16th Street all the way up to 62nd/Broard Ripple Avenue.

     Sunday afternoon, I saw this:
Weird angle: I made the phone a camera on a red stoplight, then shot without looking when the light changed.
     49th and College has been making progress but struggling a bit. The Northwest corner was last occupied by an excellent barbecue joint; when it moved out, nothing but graffiti and broken windows moved in and stayed for nearly ten years.  Across the street, a large liquor store, plumber and dry cleaner's did okay.  The remaining corners held a veterinarian and another cleaner on one side and a former KFC, occupied by a series of short-lived eateries, on the other.

     The plumbing company, on its third generation, went out of business (Steck's, and I still miss them -- the same family own and still runs Winthrop Supply, selling plumbing parts with an eye to the needs of the neighborhood, nearly all pre-1950 homes).  A Little Caesar's has moved into the defunct KFC and shows signs of staying.  Agrarian, an urban-farm supply shop (are chickens the new widescreen TV?  Yes, they kind of are) and brewpub tasting room  for Upland Brewing Co. filled up the vet's building, and the vacant, paint-tagged building was finally pushed over, to become a gravelled lot.  The vet, in need of larger quarters, moved out.

     Between the liquor store and former plumber, a line of small shops held a varied array of enterprises; the brilliant, quirky restaurant Recess showed up in 2010 and has been a real asset.  The plumber's became The Sinking Ship,* a large pub with, I'm told an excellent menu.  Between the two, various shops came and went, clothing stores and the like, including Lava Lips, which sold a huge variety of hot sauces but found there wasn't enough walk-in business to keep the doors open; I'm told they hope to come back as an online store.

     The last time I had a good look at the former Lava Lips and the adjoining storefront, there was a sign saying something about "motorcycling accessories" and "coming soon."  Looks like they may be open!
* Where liquor law and good intentions create paradox!
The law ain't always an ass, but you can see one showing from there. 

Monday, June 29, 2015


     I've seen a few commentators fume about the Supreme Court "finding new rights," often followed by disparaging remarks about "emanations" and "penumbras" sufficient to make me worry about the kimchi. 

     Still, they have a point; if there'd been any need for other rights, I'm sure some provision would have been made for Teh Gummint to recognize them, something along the lines of, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."  Crazy talk, right?


Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Decisions Capsule

     In case you missed it, the upshot of last week's events and Supreme Court decisions is this:

     If your gay spouse is injured putting up or taking down a Confederate battle flag and does not have health insurance, you can now be stuck with the fine for their not being insured in any of the fifty states.  There'll be no more weaseling out of it on account of your marriage not counting in your state of residence, y'hear?

Of Laws And Courts And Technicalities

     So...the Supremes upheld the Affordable Care Act* and my right-wingish friends are fuming, followed by many of the libertarian ones.  "OMG!," they emote, "It's become a government of men and not of laws!"

     But let's stop for a moment.  Assume this was a law you liked or better yet, were neutral about.  The plain intent was that it should work a certain way.  It's already caused hasty and sometimes unexpectedly costly rearrangements of health insurance for millions of Americans (under threat of fines!) and if the rug gets yanked out from under, that bids fair to create the same kind and scale of disruption all over again, mostly to the very same people -- people, generally, for whom even a little budgetary bobble can be a disaster.

     Now you be the Justice: here's a law that's written wrong.  The people who wrote it -- people you can call up on the phone or probably even go have drinks with after a long, hard day of Supreming (especially if you hang out with insurance lobbyists) -- are saying they slipped up, of course they meant to include the Federal fill-in for state exchanges in the part of the law at issue.  Meanwhile, opposition to the entire law, very much on party lines, wants the error to be read as given, in the expressed hope that it will lead the scuttling the entire law. You're the Justice; you have a choice that boils down to A) endorsing a partisian position that if it works as expected, will screw over millions of Americans who've been shafted once already or B) go with the original intent of the law instead of the sloppy drafting of it.

     Personally, I'm surprised the Court was able to muster three dissenting votes.

     Look, I dislike that law intensely, but taking it down via a technicality is cheating.  It's BS.  It's underhanded.  Yes, Washington abounds in underhanded BS and yes, individual (and corporate) defendants squeak by on "technicalities" all the time. --That government of laws rather than men is supposed to err on the side of letting the guilty go free rather than punishing the innocent: all justice is flawed and it must, therefore, be set up to err on the side that protects the innocent.  If you take keeping the workings of law from causing harm to the innocent as a goal, the Supreme Court did the right thing, galling though it is.

     Yeah, it sucks.  There's no magical gambit, no shortcut.  Don't like ACA?  Elect a President and a Congress with a clear mandate to fix that and have at it.  It's what the side that ran the blamed thing through did.
* And if you can't afford it, they'll fine "tax" your non-insuring self right into the poorhouse, 'cos that's compassionate and makes any damn kind of sense, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Sky Is Full Of Wonder

     Even from the parking lot of a well-known (and often-mocked) gigantic, ompnipresent, budget-price five-and-dime:

     Here's a closer look at the blue and gold fan:

     Gaudy, wonderful, and best seen from a wide-open parking lot.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Floor Drain!

     Called the plumber this morning, after more unsuccessful attempts to get at the stopped-up floor drain.  They were pleased to tell me they could get around to me...Monday.  It was disappointing, but you don't want them with so little work they can't stay in business.  They offered to put me on the "standby" list, which I accepted.

     Wouldn't you know, Hope Plumbing (they spring eternal)* called in the afternoon and said if I would be home in about a half an hour, a plumber could meet me.  Checked with the boss and he okayed it.

     $239 and some deft hammer work and a minor drain-snaking later, I have a working floor drain.  The drain grate and cleanout were stuck fast; the grate popped out when struck but the brass plug -- much thinner than I expected -- had to be bashed in and replaced by an expansion plug like the one on the main cleanout.  A little messy (the plumber cleaned up the very worst of it) but much better.
* One of the very only plumbing companies I know of that keeps chickens. Because who doesn't like fresh eggs?

Vexed By Flags

     Stalked by semiotics?  Vexed by vexillology?*  It seems to be going around and, like most of human affairs, it's a mixture of the heartfelt and the half-baked.

     Many of my readers (unlike the gen. pop. or most politicians) already know that the "Confederate flag" people are getting so exercised about wasn't the national flag of the former Confederate States of America and it never was.  The usual form seen today is an historical fiction, the colors of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the shape of the CSA Naval ensign.

     Historical fiction and something else: that flag started popping back up on state flags in the U. S. South during the early days of the civil rights struggle and it was very much a big old gesture of defiance to the Federal government.  Just like the war of 1861 - 65, that actually happened; we can fight over causes and motives and who swung first, but most of the principals are dead and my necromantic telepathy is pretty weak.  It became a symbol for one side in a big fight.

     The President the other day expressed the opinion "that flag belongs in a museum."  I disagree with him on nearly everything, but I think he was right about that, on two levels: first, you'll note that he didn't say "destroyed."  We can't hide from our own history -- this country once tried to split itself in two and fought a huge and horrible war that ended with part of the nation invaded and conquered by the other half; that alone would leave lasting scars.  But we can't keep rubbing everyone's nose in it, either.

     And the other part of that war, the compromises that led to it and the century-plus of social issues that followed, led to recasting of the starry St. Andrews cross in another and less-noble right; people that harken back only to the Civil War Between The States overlook 150 years of subsequent, painful history.

     There is a compromise, for places where that flag might justifiably be flown.  The CSA was as weak on vexillology as it was on human rights.  It had three flags, none of them a full-sized 13-starred blue-on-red saltire.  Georgia's state flag is a riff on the "first national," which was replaced because it bore too close a resemblance to the U.S, flag; the "second national" or "stainless banner" that replaced it had the Confederate cross in the canton on an otherwise white flag; it was criticized for being too white, easy to mistake for a flag of truce (irony might not be dead yet but it's gasping for air: the flag's designer, W.T. Thompson, referred to his design as "The White Man's Flag."  Yes, the man said that, and worse, too.)  The "third national" fixed that by adding a wide vertical bar of red along the edge farthest away from the flag staff.  It is probably already the flag found over graveyards of the Souths's war dead, troops who were in the majority middle-to-lower class, not slaveholders and in general, barely different from the Union rank-and-file in background and outlook.  Dead kids, without much grasp of the larger issues when they lived, sent to die by politicians and generals and deserving, I think, to not be forgotten.

     Remember them, but leave the dead to slumber.  State governments in the South are presently having to wrestle the ghosts of their parents and grandparents, addressing generation-old flag laws.

     They're addressing flag laws because, to their horror, there are nine innocent people dead and nothing they can do will bring them back.  Legislators and Governors are wrestling with symbols -- and with ghosts.

     (I'm probably going to take all manner of flack from proud, sincere -- and in all likelihood, fair and decent -- Southerners over my flag musings.  Tell you what, guys, get in line, right behind the East Indians and Native Americans, who have an even bigger bone to pick with an Austrian painter over flags and semiotic drift.  History happens, usually before we even show up to be vexed by it.)
* Vexillology: not just the study of flags, the title of a Deadmau5 album.  How can you not like a song-title like "Fustercluck?"  Which might itself be a good title for a history book covering this period.  Or any other.  We're all just groping our way through the fog, folks, and you can do it annoyed and bitter or you can just grit your teeth, grin and get on with it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Floor Drain Woes

     At least I hope it's the floor drain.  I'm running a test right now that should help find out.

     The air-conditioner and dehumidifier both empty into into the floor drain in the basement.  I went down to the basement this morning when I was getting ready for work (Roseholme Cottage is short on closet space, so about a quarter of the basement has been set up with hanger rails) and lo, there was a small puddle around the drain.

     We're short-handed at work this week.  I pretty much can't skip a day.  Tam had left much earlier for a busy day.  I turned the dehumidifier up to 605, wet-vacced the water right ebfore I left for work, and hoped for the best.

     Didn't get it.  Didn't get worst, either, but there was a fair-sized puddle when I got home.  Vacuumed it up again, made a supply run to The Source Of All Existential Terror -- yes, Mal-Wart, Lowe's having decided not to stock poison ivy killer! -- and when I returned, so had the puddle.  Removed the water again and tried to get the cover off the floor drain but it's well-rusted.  Got the screws out (a #3 Phillips hex-bit in a 10"-swing brace doesn't take no for an answer!) but multiple efforts failed to dislodge the cover.  One last desperate ploy remains: let it fill up again and try the big plunger.

     My test consists of running the dishwasher, which needs run anyway.  If I get big puddle of warm, soapy water, that'll tell me it's not just a mudded-up floor drain.  Yeah, maybe not the cleverest of ideas but it's what I've got.  I own a little portable sump pump and if I have to put it to work, I will.

     ...Whine, whine, whine.  The cool air is working,  And I had dinner.  Been plenty of times I had no chance at the one and not much at the other.


     You know, I went to write a long essay and stopped just now about three-quarters of the way through.  Just gave up on it.  It's unlikely to change any minds.

     Ain't working.  Need something better. So I'm borrowing Kerry's birthday wish and passing it on:

     Here's his and my happy-rainbow wish for y'all: be nicer to others.  Yeah, most of your peers are ignorant yammerheads, at least some of the time.  So are you.  So am I.  Some people are heedless.   And some people are just plain evil.

     We can't fix 'em.  Our only real resource is ourselves.  So fix what you can reach: Be a little nicer to others.  Cut 'em some slack.  Maybe they are idiots -- so what?  If they're not hurting anyone, leave 'em be.  If they're worrying you, talk to them.

     I'm not asking you to love everybody, or to trust them.  I'm not even asking you to like them.  Just -- be nicer.

     Try it.  Even if for only one day.

Monday, June 22, 2015

So, Why Are Some People Calling The Charleston Killer "Crazy?"

    The leftier parts of the news-blogosphere complex have been drippping with memes and one of 'em is, "Look, there those white folks go again, a white man commits an act of terrorism and they call him 'crazy' instead."

     It is, of course, inflammatory, and not at all in line with general trend of public reaction in Charleston; but it's also at least partially accurate, just misinterpreted: it's a distancing thing.  Guy looks like my son or brother, goes and does something like that?  Nobody I know would do that -- unless they were crazy.  And so people who look like the killer say, "He must be crazy."  It's not an excuse.  They're trying to say, "I'm repelled by his actions.  I'm not like that."

     Crazy? You don't have to be sane to be a terrorist.  Conversely, while the kind of horribly cold calculation involved in sitting through a Bible Study class in order to commit multiple murders certainly seems insane, the twisted little weasel who did so may or may not meet legal or medical definitions of "insanity." It does not reduce the outrageousness of his actions.

     It was an act of terror.  --A particularly ineffective one.  And we can take the wind right of the sails of any would-be cheerleaders or copycats by ensuring it does not provoke greater polarization or violent reaction, because a big, divisive reaction is what terrorists want: terrorism attempts to leverage public opinion and official reaction as a force multiplier.

     Don't let any fast-talker divide you from your fellow, peaceable humans.  Yeah, there's still a lot wrong with the way people treat one another; read history and you'll see we really are doing better now than we have in the past.  We haven't built Utopia yet and we're unlikely to, but civil amity is not losing ground, despite the noise-level in social media, despite the jaywalkers who swear at you in your car, despite the pushy drivers who won't let you cross the street.  Hateful bastards may always be among us, but they get less and less traction over time.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Message?

     "Triple Flower is down.  I say again, Triple Flower is down!"

     So, I went out the back door and the third bud on the big Asian lily had bloomed -- but the pot had fallen over again.  That's it, time to repot.  Photo to follow; I stood it back up and it needs some quiet time.

     Update: "Triple Flower is in her new home.  Triple Flower is in her new home."
      I hope she likes it.  The other lily that traveled with this one hasn't bloomed.  There was no drain in its pot and the poor thing was almost drowning!  So that one got new digs too, this time with proper plumbing.

     I also snuck a couple more perennials in next to the front steps, where the stonecrop and yarrow hangs out.  We'll see if they all get along.  I'd like to add more feathery, exotic-looking yarrow to the back part of that area, but I haven't found any so far.  It's a little leftover spot, between the raised bed where the main herd of hostas live and the steps.  My plan is to fill it up with perennials, with tough, aggressive stonecrop in front to keep the riffraff out and taller stuff in back that can peer over it and catch some sun.  I'm not a very attentive gardener, so I try to set the plantings up so they will have a chance to fend for themselves.
     Another look at the big lily -- pretty good for an orphan that had to sleep in the basement all winter!