Saturday, September 30, 2017

D'ye Want The Fried Calms With That?

     You can "clam up," but you can't clam down. Conversely, you can "calm down," but no one ever calms up. And yet they're not opposites -- it's totally possible to calm down and clam up.

      This is one of the great mysteries of the the English language.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Orville, Four Episodes In

     Looks like we have a St@r Tr*k series back, only it's not smug or pompous.  The Orville is still The Original Series-type stories on a The Next Generation-level budget, playing with familiar tropes in a competent manner.

     Episode Four cribs from Heinlein and Asimov -- and they were cribbing from Tsiolkovsky and Emerson (or at least playing off their work) when they wrote their versions two generations ago, or perhaps three. 

     My hope is that it it is ST-like enough to keep the network happy, while getting enough Barney Miller effect* from the humanizing effects of humor to remain enjoyable.
* Though it was a situation comedy, Barney Miller is consistently rated as one of the most realistic police TV shows by working law enforcement personnel.

Puerto Rico: This Is An Actual Emergency

     While The Nation was fuming over the people of Peurto Rico left suffering without air-conditioning thanks to cold, uncaring Mr. Trump, various agencies both public and private were rushing aid to the battered U.S. Territory.  The Feds bestirred themselves to wink at the 1920 Jones Act, which limits cargo transport between U. S. ports to U.S. flagged vessels, and lo, the containers are piling up on  the docks--

     And piling up and piling up.  No phones, no fuel, torn-up roads and running out of places to set cargo containers down, open 'em up and get out the helpful items inside: how's any of that going to move to where it is needed without communications or haulage?

     Mass communications are down to a handful of surviving radio stations* and unless commercial power is restored soon, they're going to start going dark as they run out of fuel for their generators.  Point-to-point comms is limited to radio -- public safety, amateur radio, CB and FRS -- and it., too, is only as good as its power source.

     This is going to be a slow-motion humanitarian disaster.  People are going to die.  There's already a lot of finger-pointing, doom-saying and feckless optimism, depending on the source, but none of it means a damn.  The rural poor are best off in this kind of situation: if you already lived in a shack and got your water from an open well or hand pump, you're unlikely to be much worse off.  Poor as the territory is, most people aren't at that point, don't know anyone at that point and may not have access to clean water or possess the skill set to get by for long without access to a level of civilization you might think pretty meager -- but which is nonetheless essential.  Refrigeration alone changes the patterns of people's lives and vanishes as soon as the power goes away.

     There will be a lot of posturing and shouting but won't mean much.  Even "sending in troops" (what troops, from where?  The 2075th Airborne Roadbuilders, the Marine Lineman/Generator Corps and the USAF Parachutable Cellular Tower Bombers have been just sitting around buffing their nails? Seriously, the part of the .mil devoted to rebuilding stuff is already busy; I'm sure they'll lend a hand but it's going to take a lot of hands, in a place that's having a tough time feeding the people who are already there) won't make a big difference, quickly.

     Puerto Rico will be a long time recovering.  No amount of speeches in D.C. will fix it and stacks of dollars are of slightly less immediate use than those stacked-up cargo containers on the docks.   There are going to be locals working for three hots and a cot for themselves and the kids for quite awhile before things begin to look as if they might be on the way back to something approaching the previous level of normal life there.
* Inshore AM stations with relatively short or strong towers appear to have survived best; this should not be surprising and it's actually helpful.  In terms of sheer coverage, old low-fi AM gives the most coverage per Watt: that means for a given amount of fuel, you can run the AM station longer than an FM with the same coverage.  But the remaining stations are not only low on gas, they're short on people -- and the people are, like everyone else there, short on food and water.  The clock is ticking and prioritization of resource allocation has to start at a very basic level: pretty much every assumption you might make runs up against needing to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to get things to the people who need them.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Had This Been An Actual Emergency..."

     There was another national-level test of the EAS -- the modern synthetic replacement for the old-fashioned Emergency Broadcast System -- yesterday and it appears this will be a yearly thing.

     For decades, the FCC had been assuring various Federal civil-emergency agencies (of late, FEMA)  that EBS and then EAS was absolutely spiffing, all worked out, set up and ready to go, yessirree Bob!  --Then several years ago when worried FEMA staffers, I'm told mostly the nuts-and-bolts type who have to make things work rather than bureaucrats, insisted on trying it, it failed pretty miserably.  A low-bidder system used to send spoken messages from the Feds to the very first level of big radio stations conked out and a big chunk of the nation heard a mumbling garble instead of "...This is only a test...."

     Since then, the system has been cleaned up, augmented by an all-new Internet-based emergency message collection/distribution system, and generally revamped under the (respectively) watchful and worried eyes of FEMA and the FCC.  Last year's test wasn't too bad and this year?

     This year, it mostly worked.  The magic black boxes at "broadcast stations in your area" grab the first tagged message they get from whatever source and file any later duplicates.  Stations that received the Internet-delivered version had pretty good audio quality; stations that got the station-to-station-to-station relay first had, in large part, adequate fidelity.*  A few, out at the end of long chains of pass-it-on, didn't fare quite so well.  Along with the audible message, TV stations and cable/satellite systems send a text "crawl" over the picture with content delivered over the same system and those came through just fine.

     So, for whatever its worth, had it been an Actual Emergency, you would have got the message -- and there's a whole other part of the system that pushes alerts to mobile phones that has yet to get a national-level test but is already in use for localized bad weather and "Amber Alerts" for children in imminent danger.  Five years ago, neither of those would have been true -- but thanks to a handful of people at FEMA who wanted to make sure, it's working.
* In order to get the most reach from the fewest Primary Entry Points, national EAS messages begin on a few dozen powerful AM stations, who receive it from an Undisclosed Location (usually Mt. Weather but I'm sure that's only one of several possibilities) near Washington, D.C. via, ahem, "secure means."  In Indianapolis, the state primaries listen to signals from Cincinnati and some muddiness and static is normal: it's quite a distance and their receiving locations are all right by busy highways.  The station-to-station part of EAS is, however, fast, and that path beat the Internet-delivered one to Indy by about a minute.  So that's what people here heard.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Heard On The Radio

     On my morning commute, I usually listen to WICR, an FM station owned and (student) operated by the University of Indianapolis that picked up the classical and jazz programming once carried on WIAN-FM when that station became an NPR affiliate.*  The station plays classical music weekday mornings from what is now Classical Music Indy and used to be the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis, and the light, pleasant fare of  Performance Today is my normal soundtrack.  Yesterday, they were playing "Night On Bald Mountain," perhaps best known from its use in Disney's Fantasia, and I tuned in near the end, when the music has turned lovely and lyrical--

(Here's a link.  I'd embed it, but YouTube has removed or hidden the feature that let me shrink the window to fit my blog's column-width.)

     "H'mm," I pondered, "Is that Mussorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov?"  I couldn't remember and decided to check later.  Both, as it happens! Mussorgsky worked on the original for years and never got to hear it performed before an audience.  Rimsky-Korsakov published his own arrangement five years after Mussorgsky's death and that's the version we know.
* Indianapolis is underserved for non-commercial radio compared to many cities of similar size. The history of it is tangled, but here's what I have puzzled out:  Butler University's WAJC, once the city's primary NPR station, had a commercial license and was sold in 1993 to operate as one; the Fine Arts Society had put an FM station (WAIV) on the air in 1961 but by the late 60s, decided to get out of the uncertainties of ownership and sold their station, which became WTLC, something of a legend for soul music programming.  About the same time, the Indianapolis Public Schools expanded WIAN to make it a full-power non-commercial station. WIAN and the Fine Arts Society worked out an arrangement to provide classical programming when that station wasn't presenting educational material.  WIAN also carried jazz and big band shows, and things went along that way until Butler sold their station and full NPR affiliation became available. (I'm a little hazy on  the history of local carriage of National Public Radio, as I'm only a casual listener.) IPS's WIAN was acquired by PBS TV station WFYI and became WFYI-FM, a fine example of an NPR station and these days, the programing provider to many of the smaller university stations throughout central Indiana -- and the Fine Arts Society's programming (and jazz) moved to the U of I station way down at the low end of the FM dial, which had moved their transmitter in with channel 6 TV to cure a mutual interference problem and incidentally upgraded their coverage a great deal.  "HD Radio" has given WICR additional program services on the same FM carrier and these days, the main FM has classical mornings, jazz in the afternoons and U of I sports and various public affairs-type shows (including a unique call-in history program presented by the indefatigable Nelson Price), while their HD2 operates as "The Mirror," playing jazz when the main plays classical and vice-versa...and HD3 is a contemporary music station.  Not bad for what started out as a ten-Watt FM that covered their campus and not much else! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In My F*cebook Feed...

     The news and news-like items Facebook decides I should see tend to be pretty eclectic and I find value in that: it sends me headlines I might never encounter otherwise -- or at least not from that angle.

     Such was the case yesterday, when it decided I should read a Bernie Sanders (!) entry linking to an article in The Nation (!!) slugged, "The U.S. Government Fails Puerto Rico Again" (!!!).  It's a rambling, unfocused piece, ostensibly about how the island territory has been wrecked by the latest big hurricane (true) and the Feds haven't done a darned thing (patently false).  That's WTF number one -- I see the FEMA emergency and disaster declarations as they are released (over the President's signature, BTW); there's an e-mail listserver and I'm on it because part of my job involves making sure such information goes on the air when needed.  99.9% of the time, that list is a waste of my time (and I hope it stays that way) but it is publicly available information, no farther away than an Internet connection and a search engine.

     WTF number two: the article manages to blame the current Administration both for failing to make Puerto Rico a state and for not granting the territory independence! (Mr. Obama's Administration seems to have overlooked the matter as well, and so on back to 1898, but oh, that dastardly Mr. Trump...)  Interestingly -- and to all appearances, unknown to the writer and editors at The Nation -- the processes by which a U. S. Territory may gain statehood or independence are largely bottom-up, not top-down: the people who live there start the ball rolling, something Puerto Rico does with regularity.  Recent voting has suffered from indecisiveness and/or low turnout; readers can sift through those tea leaves as they will.

     WTF number three is the extent to which "Presidential Derangement Syndrome"* causes the writer to link the President's recent Twitter-fights over NFL player behavior during the national anthem and with North Korea to A) racism and B) a lack of concern over the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, to the point of comparing the number of tweets on each subject.  Now, if they were comparing with, say, tweets about the storm damage in Texas or Florida, or tracking FEMA performance across all three, they might be onto something; but the behavior of a celebrity President on a short-attention-span social media platform is not actually indicative of what the parts of the that actually do things (or at least write memos and checks that get others to do things) are actually doing.

     I'm not a big fan of Mr. Trump.  I didn't vote for him (nor Sec. Clinton, either) and I still think we'd've been better off with the Libertarian candidate sitting in that office right now (though I'd advise caution around the baked goods in that case).  But one thing I'm sure of: he could Tweet about Puerto Rico all day long and it wouldn't get help there any faster than ships can haul the goods and equipment they need.  I'm not at all sorry to see FEMA handling that while the Executive himself swaps barbs with NFL players and a fat little autocrat.  Each to his area of skill -- or, as Senator Sanders and The Nation might prefer, "From each according to his ability...."
* An ailment suffered not by Presidents but by The People, usually most prevalent among those who voted for the other major party's pick.  It causes Presidents to appear bigger, more evil, and more organized than they actually are, and their Administrations likewise.  Personally, I'm taking more and more comfort in the knowledge that the job is really too big for any man.  YMMV.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Can't Complain, But...

     No, I really can't.  Houston (etc.) is a mess.  A lot of Florida is a mess.  The Keys are in sad shape and they're all way ahead of the U. S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and less well-known places in the Caribbean.  A lot of that part of the world looks like a war zone and with widespread power outages, telephone service out, damaged infrastructure and a lack of people and parts to fix them, it's far from over.

     Here in the Midwest, we've had--  Well, hardly anything.  Over a week of 90 or more degree highs and humidity to match, so bad you can break a sweat hanging laundry.*   And every time I feel like complaining, pictures of smashed house and sagging dams crowd it right out.  Hot?  Humid?  So what!

     Our weird weather is likely to sort itself out this week.  The damage from two powerful hurricanes in a row will take a long time to put right, in places that can scarcely afford to and can't possibly afford not to.
* So why would you?  I like to hang-dry quilts, blankets and sheets going into the Fall, trapping a little bit of the scent of warm outdoors for the Winter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Okay, I'll Level--

     I have not been well this past week.  Had a flu shot last Friday (and they usually zap me for a couple of days), had some nasty dental work Monday, I've been fretted over my Mom and related issues since getting crosswise with my big sister a couple of weeks ago* and maybe it's just the combination of all that.  Maybe I'm feeling old.  Next Spring, I'll turn 60 and I'm not ready for it.  (Maybe I'll start over at 50 instead.)

     But I haven't been 100% and neither has the blog.  Sleeping most of the time, not eating much, getting nothing done.  I'm not happy with this.

     Time for more vitamins and coffee.  Might not be a long-term fix but sometimes you need to use a cane for awhile before you start walking without one again.
* Something the two of us are very good at.  It's easy for each of us to blame the other but I suspect it's the combination.  We react like vinegar and baking soda, two harmlessly inert household substances that foam and fume when combined.  Alas, we don't neutralize one another in the process but remain as base and acid as before.

Friday, September 22, 2017


     Sausage and eggs and this and that....
     It was good!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

And Then My Phone Rang

     It's work.  They broke something kind of important, by doing something that shouldn't break it.  And now I'm troubleshooting over the phone.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Multicultural Square Eggs

     Because if pastrami and Swiss cheese on rye is good for lunch, why not sneak it into breakfast?  I was making a "gashouse" or "square" egg for breakfast, which is an egg fried in a hole punched in a lightly toasted slice of bread.

     Rye bread, as it happened, which reminded me that I still had sandwich makings in the fridge.  So when I flipped the egg-and-bread over and laid a slice of Swiss cheese on it, I already had a thin slice of pastrami cooking next to it (the pre-packaged stuff is too moist anyway!),  As soon as it was warm, the pastrami went on top, I set another slice of it warming, and flipped the whole stack over for a bit to make sure the cheese was melted.  Add the second slice of pastrami to serve and there you go -- adjust times and quantities as desired; I break the egg yolk and cook 'em firm but other people like runny yolks with this.

     It was delicious.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oh, Darn It

     The eggs have (as the carton says) expired -- as of 25 August.  I'm certain we bought them after that, which is a mistake on the part of the store.

     Refrigerated eggs are essentially "fresh" two to three weeks after the "sell-by" or "expiration" date marked on them and should be edible for another couple of weeks after that, though you might not be able to make nice fluffy meringue with them.  But we're on the edge where occasional surprises happen and I'm just not up to rolling those dice this morning, especially atop corned beef hash.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Early, Early

     It's 6:30 a.m. and I'm the only mammal awake in the house.  Tam is asleep in front of a droning television; her cat Rannie is at the foot of the futon, unable to stay awake.  Huck, my cat, is napping, half hidden on the next-from-the top platform of carpet-covered "tree" that is all his, sprawled out like an apex predator who doesn't have a care in the world.  (Accurate enough; he's the biggest tiger in this jungle by a wide margin, hunter of the wild long-legged centipede, assorted tiny spiders and any flying creature that blunders into his domain.)  Even the television seems to have foregone its normal shout in favor of a calm retelling of recent events.*

     Breakfast is done and I'm here at the computer with no demands on my attention other than the keyboard and screen, a precious moment of quiet before the hubbub of the day.
* I suppose the demise of the yelling, hard-sell automotive huckster in the wake of the bankruptcies and dealership implosion nearly a decade ago is not a positive economic sign, but I am still having a hard time missing them.  On the other hand, my paycheck is dependent on those TV ads and they are a lot different to what they were a dozen years ago.  Entertaining people over the air free for nothing except hearing a few ads used to seem recession-proof -- it was even, almost, Great Depression-proof! -- but the entertainment's got a lot of competition these days and the ads, at their peak, were more and more of an assault on ear and eyes that could, eventually, turn their attention elsewhere.  Your radio and television were a nice big home for a lot of us; your cellphone is suddenly more crowded and the accommodations aren't all that deluxe, either.  Yes, Miss Desmond, "'s the pictures that got small!"  Literally.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

So, There May Be A New Orson Welles Film In The Pipeline

     On the other hand, The Other Side Of The Wind has been in the pipeline so long, it may have curdled.  Highly experimental, it may be an artifact of its time (early to mid 1970s).  Or it could be timeless.  Either way, Indiegogo and Netflix are finishing what Showtime could not -- and there's a lesson in the changing  nature of mass media right there.  Even the editing technology is nothing Welles would have known, though I'd like to think the man who lined up multiple Movieolas* so he could move from cut to cut while skilled minions stuck the cut film together in his wake might have enjoyed an all-electronic 4K editor that sticks "footage" together as rapidly as you can mark the in and out points (and unsticks them just as fast if you change your mind).

     They're starting the sticking-together process now, an amazing development to anyone who has followed even a little of the occasionally bitter feud between Oja Kodar and Beatrice Welles over which of them owns the rights to what parts of the late actor-director's work.
* Or so I read.  The editing-room footage in F For Fake shows flatbed editors instead, which spool faster and are gentler to the film. All I ever ran for film editors were tiny Super 8 versions, though I have stuck 16mm film back together in splicers, themselves streamlined artifacts unchanged since before WW II and now undoubtedly rusting away in scrap heaps.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hurrying Out

     Routine doctor appointment this morning.  Early this morning.  Too early.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


     I had raw vegetables (with hummus and alleged pita bread.  Alleged hummus, too) from the vending machine at work for lunch the other day.  They were a bit long in the tooth and it has put me way off my feed.  Dinner last night was Not Much and breakfast this morning is not sitting as well as I would like.  It's too darned distracting.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Orville

     Fox, inept as ever when it comes to SF, has been pushing The Orville as some kind of boffo-laughs sci-fi comedy.  It isn't.

     It is, however, pretty good for what it is: a kind of cousin to the original Star Trek with a thin "fourth wall:" The Orville is self-aware SF adventure with some humor.  The writers, director and actors know when they're wading through familiar tropes, and they know you know -- and they're not averse to throwing the audience a quick wink over it.

     Despite that, the world-building holds up far better than you might expect, helped along by slightly rumpled uniforms and a future universe that isn't quite as slick as it aspires to be.  If the writers can continue to walk the tightrope -- especially in dialog -- between stereotype and satire, between too real and too cute, it's going to be great fun.  And if they fall short, it will still be fun.

     Rolling-on-the-floor, bigtime laugh riot?  Nope.  This show is too fond of its source material to go for the easy laugh, at least in the pilot.  Instead, it delivered a fun drama -- verging on melodrama -- with a couple of narrative threads and clever solutions to familiar problems. 

     Watch it while you can.  There are 13 episodes ready to roll and from there....  I have no faith in Fox not meddling with or cancelling the series and that's too bad; it deserves a good run.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday, Tuesday

     Gotta git.  I have been wrestling my own sloth for a weeks now.

Monday, September 11, 2017


     I deliberately didn't post about it this morning.  A lot of good people -- heck, a lot of people who were, on average, average, and what's wrong with that? -- died as the result of a small group of violent bastards; more have died since, from the same root cause.  I mourn those people, most of whom died not as heroes but unsuspecting.  There were heroes, and plenty of them: first responders, the passengers who kept the hijackers on Flight 93 from completing their plans, and others.  It is right to remember all of the fallen.

     What's not right is to wallow in the end of an illusion, the illusion that nothing bad could happen in the continental U.S.; that's simply crazy, and anyone who remembers learning about 1812 and 1861-65 should darned well know better.  This country is a special place, but it's not charmed.  Our specialness is not inherent but an act of will, an ongoing effort to live up to the promise of the U.S. Constitution.

     And nobody can take it away by wrecking buildings and murdering people.

It's Monday

     A lot of Florida is messed up and Texas is still wringing out.  Give 'em hand, if you can.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Torn Apart By She-Bears

     I'm not going to explain the post title, other than to remind readers, "Really don't make fun of bald guys," and to explain that today's screed is about--

     Well, it's about faith, I suppose, and True Believers and confirmation bias and if it's right to leave someone up to their neck in alligators because you think they have been rubbing the wrong shade of blue mud in their navels.

     The continental United States (and Mexico and countless Caribbean islands) is being hit by dreadful weather, wildfires, earthquakes and tsunamis.  These are facts.  You can watch some of it happening right now, in real time, via your computer or television.

     Let's start with confirmation bias, or perhaps Idiotic Smugness: I have seen a couple of instances on social media of people pointing out, "See, all this is happening right after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement!"
     Sure, but even if you believe the Agreement is funding some sort of Captain Planet-type corps of superheroes pushing back against the cruel thermometer of Wicked Industrial Mankind (it isn't), there's one tiny problem: "The Paris Agreement (French: Accord de Paris), Paris climate accord or Paris climate agreement, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020."
     Catch that last?  Twenty-twenty.  So far, Paris hasn't produced anything but fancy talk and high-falutin' plans.
     In fact, though President Trump most certainly has announced the U. S. would withdraw from the Agreement, it works out that the very earliest date by which this country could be out would be 4 November 2020, which just happens to be the day after the next Presidential elections, making this one of those safest of Presidential promises, slated to occur after the promiser's term of office has ended.*

     A little sneakier and more smug are those who say, "With all this horrible weather, now you/politician/whoever have to admit Global Warming is real!"
     Yeah, no.  For the sake of argument, stipulate Anthropogenic Global Warming is real -- and then explain to me how a people in general and the political class -- overlapping groups that includes flat-earthers, far-out conspiracy theorists and hardcore young-Earth creations -- will be persuaded by by yet more evidence.  And the cited evidence (recent weather), while suggestive, is far from incontrovertible: weather isn't climate.  Climate isn't weather. Looking back, the short-term "noise" of weather is huge compared to the long-term trendlines of climate: there's a lot of jitter.  On the scale of geologic time, the climate shows lovely rising and falling curves, Ice Age to Warm Period and back again, a bit sawtooth-y; zoom in to the span of a single human lifetime and the big curve vanishes under warm spells and cold snaps, floods and droughts.  At no time has the planet been entirely Edenic: it's a tough place for individual naked apes and it's not all that great for the other critters, either: mortality is 100%.

     I'm also unimpressed with the people who claimed Houston's lack of "proper zoning" and Texas's GOP-dominated, business-friendly state government made the hurricane damage there worse than it could have been.  The city got as much rain in four days as it normally receives in the course of a year.  When that happens anywhere that gets rained on regularly, terrible things follow.  People drown in their own attics. Industrial facilities are washed out...and into people's back yards.  You can't zone for it and the political climate and party in power are insignificant against the power of a storm -- as Hurricane Sandy showed, when plenty of code-compliant seaside homes were destroyed as far north as New Jersey and New York.

     The lesson here is not that "The thing I want to believe about climactic trends and our ability as a species to affect them is the Absolute Truth," no matter which way you lean.  The lesson is Bad Things Happen.

     Are you gonna pitch in to help the victims or not?
* Which is not to say Mr. Trump won't run again, or that it is outside the bounds of possibility that he might win, at which point that chicken is going to need roosting space.  Nevertheless, it hasn't even hatched yet.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Tamara's Back!

     After nearly a week away, Tam is back!  This is good.  The cats get irked when they are fed late and me--  Well, I'm a worrier.  It's a lot better for me when there's someone around to keep an eye on things.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Okay, Let's See...

     There's a massive hurricane barreling towards Florida, as people in Texas continue to recover from their own hurricane; hackers grabbed the personal data of over 700 140 million people from Equifax, one of the three companies that keeps track of our credit ratings; North Korea is making saber-rattling noises about whacking North America with a thermonuclear-airburst EMP that would wipe out most computers (including, one supposes, the compromised computers at Equifax), and we just had the biggest solar flare since 2006 and the geomagnetic storm it will trigger is going to hit some time today--

     Yeah, it's Friday.

     P.S.: I have been reminded that much of the West is presently on fire, too. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

DACA: At Least It's A Normal Mess

     Say what you will of the Trump administration's announced end to DACA -- actually a phase-out, since the system will ramp down over several years and not just "end" in six months as headlines claim* -- it is, at least, a normal kind of posturing between the White House and Congress.

     A little history: Federal attempts to resolve the issue of the children of non-citizens raised in this country date back to at least 2001, when the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in the Senate.  There was a lot of back-and-forth in Congress and it has been revised, rewritten, argued over and voted on, but by 2012, was still stalled.  The Obama Administration, feeling that urge to Do Something that mars most Presidencies, decided they had some precedent in the occasional Executive use of "prosecutorial discretion"† in allowing refugees from bad weather or worse governments to enter the U.S. without the usual constraints, and established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, essentially doing what the DREAM Act intended without waiting for Congress to pass it.  The apparent intent was to buy time and try to chivvy Congress into acting.  The latter effort failed.

     And there's the rub or at least a point of friction -- temporary humanitarian relief is one thing,  permanent programs of this nature are the business of the Legislative branch, not the Executive.  This conflict gives both sides wiggle room to argue legality and I have heard a lot of it.  Which side is correct?  Probably both, or neither: a fairly clear distinction has been made fuzzy.

     Pulling the plug on DACA is now being cast as an effort to -- wait for it, wait for it -- chivvy Congress into acting.  Possibly the White House needs to keep a mule around as a reminder.

     Meanwhile, the DACA protectees are about as demographically assorted as any group of people in their age range living in the U.S. -- a little poorer, a little more likely to be speaking Spanish at home, but you can sort through them and find med-school students from sub-Saharan Africa and hairdressers born in Russia, heroes and nobodies and people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley in roughly the same proportion as in a group of citizens.  They're not, aside from their legal status, all that special.  Singling them out for deportation as their protection expires is about the same thing as a state changing its firearms laws and seizing the rifles owned by those dutiful gun-owners who registered their "assault weapons" before they were outlawed: the people who followed the rules are the least likely to problematic. On the other hand, if The Law Is The Law in one case, it certainly is in the other and if we're picking and choosing, that'll take some serious explaining.

     Congress has at least four bills floating around that would Do Something, if they are so minded.  They might.  They might not; this entire thing is exactly the sort of can of worms they like to pass around, make impassioned speeches about and hope it goes away.  If it does go away, a lot of pretty average folks will be facing serious consequences.

     But the Executive and the Legislative branches playing "I dare you" is, at least, the normal sort of thing that goes on in the Federal government, and that aspect of it comes as almost a relief after months of tabloid-worthy drama.
* Vox, of all places, has an article that includes some factual charts and graphs along with tear-jerking photographs.  If Congress does nothing, the final group of DACA protections will expire in the Spring of 2021.

† This is more usually invoked when J. Random Badguy kicks down Grandpa's door in the middle of the night, Grandpa beats him half to death with a baseball bat as he is digging through Grandma's jewelry drawer and the prosecutor declines to bring charges against Grandpa.  You can't rely on it happening.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

This Is Why They Sell Pepper Spray

     It's one reason why they sell the stuff: Bloomington's got a serial flasher and he's chasing after young women. The prime suspect was already out on bail for a similar crime here in Indianapolis in February.

     A little behavior modification would go a long way in reducing such crimes.  Averse conditioning in the form of pepper spray, for example; if there was a one-in-four chance of being pepper-sprayed, and if we let flashers learn that via experience, it'd do a whole lot to reduce the number of such incidents.

     College students, young women in particular, consider carrying pepper spray: small, portable, non-lethal -- and used judiciously, it contributes to the betterment of society.  Flashing is a crime of intimidation, usually committed against women, and it is best stopped early, before the flasher goes after bigger thrills.  A reminder that such behavior is intolerable would go a long way towards correcting it.  It is unlikely to do them lasting harm and may prevent injury to others and a long jail sentence for the perp.

     Won't you please do your part to help?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Tick: A Little More

     Finished watching the first half of the current TV series of The Tick.  It is pleasantly nuanced, especially for a superhero satire, and delivers more in the way of cliffhangers and thrilling fight sequences than the television versions of Superman or Batman ever did.

     While The Tick has always had a little more depth (or at least inner turmoil) than most superheroes and Arthur is memorably human, frail and worried, the humanity and depth of the characters in this version may well be traceable to character creator (and main writer) Ben Edlund having written for Joss Whedon's* series Firefly, Angel and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on the time between the last two incarnatioins of The Tick and this one.  I see another another writer from Whedon's Firefly stable in the credits, too: Jose Molina.  It shows.

     The first half of the season ends with a biggest cliffhanger so far.  I'm looking forward to the next group of episodes.
* I'm not a big fan of his politics but he's an extraordinarily talented storyteller.

Monday, September 04, 2017

I Pretty Much Took Labor Day Off

     Tam and I had big plans.  They never happened.  I napped, then grilled a couple of steaks, did some laundry and ran the dishwasher. 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Pye Wacket/The Hidden Frontier

     Lenticular spacecraft are nothing new in the nearly-real world of defense studies.  Nevertheless, the notion of a lenticular missile came as something of a surprise to me.

     ...And then I scrolled down to the chart labeled "UFO Reports Per Month," covering 1935 - 2005.

     It fits extremely well with the timeline of the Hidden Frontier, especially the not-quite-a-war fought from the late 1940s through 1987 between the U.S. (with selected NATO allies) and the "Far Edge" refuseniks of the Federation of Concerned Spacemen.


Saturday, September 02, 2017

Secret Submarine NR-1

     I've been reading about the smallest nuclear submarine in the U. S. Navy, the NR-1, which was, in some ways,  more like a spacecraft than a submarine.  Fascinating stuff, or at least the parts the people involved can talk about are.  The little sub (probably) did a lot of of interesting Cold War-ish things and plenty of it is still a deep, dark secret.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday At Last!

     And yet, it's not quite my Friday -- I have to fill in a few hours for a vacationing co-worker tomorrow.  The rest of you, celebrate!