Saturday, December 31, 2022

Goodbye, 2022

     It's time to kiss this year goodbye -- on the cheek, not the lips -- and kick it out the door.  Possibly without a parachute.  Farewell, 2022!  Let's hope 2023 is better!

     Dear fates, let it be better.  Please.

Friday, December 30, 2022

This Just In?

      Did you hear?  Netflix is working on a George Santos biopic, to be called Forging A Career!

      That's a joke.  Unfortunately, the Long Island politician's seemingly unending series of lies describing his education, family, career, employees and personal life is not.  Also not a joke: that his political opponent apparently assumed there was no need to do any oppo research, that only one small, local paper reported on the questionable nature of the then-candidate's self-reported history and that exactly zero of the big news organizations, from the New York Time to Fox News, caught the story at the time.  Now it's too late and the state of New York is about to ship a particularly bare-faced liar off to the U. S. House of Representatives.  He may be hounded out of office by public pressure, but if he digs in, there's little the nearly evenly-divided House can do officially.

      Elsewhere, Fox News opinionator Sean Hannity has incurred wrath by admitting when questioned under oath about voting-machine fraud costing then-President Trump's re-election, "I did not believe it for one second."  Oops!  That's not what he was saying at the time.

      One lesson here is that when politicians and news commentators tell you their peers are cynical, serial liars, they're probably describing the ones they know best: themselves.  There's a little deception in all of it; pols and talking heads go out there day after day, night after night, happy, sad or so tired they can barely focus, and they hit their marks and say their piece no matter what -- and that's kind of a lie.  Public figures burnish their resumes a little bit and we wink at it; J. Random Senator says he spent a college summer doing charity work when instead he was sweeping floors at the Y for beer money or hanging out in the Hamptons, tipping lavishly.  But the way over the top stuff, well, they're not supposed to do it.  If they're going to cast stones, they'd better be up there with Caesar's wife in the penthouse above reproach, not living in a glass house, or it will all come crashing down.

      Me, I'd be happy to see more lies falter and fail, and in coming weeks, they just might.  We'll never have perfectly honest politicians (we'd probably loathe them if we did, even more than we do now), and news commentators will forever fall to the temptation of saying what's popular or attention-getting instead of hewing strictly to the true and the real; but the most egregious lies need to be found out and their tellers hauled into the light and laughed at, no matter whose interests they serve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Yeah? You First

      You've got to love the commenter who told me to "Just go bake cookies" if I'd lost the fire of enthusiasm for some parts of my job.  (Or go elsewhere, which isn't easy once you're over 60.)

      Look, pal, I realize you haven't been paying attention (and why should you?), but the fact that I can't bake cookies right now is one reason why I'm still working.  The oven in my ancient gas stove is unreliable and I have been making holiday dinners on the charcoal grill for years now.  I need to replace it (the range, not the grill).  A nice pilotless range would suit me, so I'll almost certainly have to get a 120V receptacle installed behind it.  Since the range sits between two cabinets, I can't cheat with surface-mount the way I did in my last place.  It's a tiled wall, too, which makes it a job for a pro.  Not because I can't do wiring, but because I can't do a nice, finished job of it.  And I don't want to spend weeks cooking with an electric skillet -- I want to get the old stove out and the new one in, all in the same day.  That takes money.  My fridge is increasingly unhappy these days unless I keep it full, and a size-matched replacement set up the way I prefer (narrow, cabinet-depth, freezer on the bottom; pretty much a UK-standard fridge) leaves very few choices, none cheaper than $1000, American.

      The dishwasher's been dead since 2020.  I'm really hating that.  The water heater is now at least fifteen years old.  The washer and dryer were old when I moved in, too.  Once I retire and "go bake cookies," there won't be money to replace any of them.

      It's a lovely fantasy to think about quitting and spending as much time as I can manage writing, cooking, messing with old radio gear and building furniture.  The reality is, it all needs to be paid for -- and before I can spare money for that, I have to get the basic, high-ticket items squared away.  I could walk away right now and keep the house and utility payments going until full retirement, while eating regular meals, and maybe save enough back to pay the higher real estate taxes that will kick in once the mortgage is paid off.  But there wouldn't be any margin at all.

      I worry that there won't be much of me left when I reach retirement.  Increasing arthritis is going to slow and limit how much I will be able to do of the things I enjoy.  But if I don't get this place squared away first, that will be the least of my worries.  At one point in my current job, I spent about a dozen years working for a guy who disliked me, a sentiment I returned.  He assigned me crummy tasks whenever he could and never spared a chance to make a wisecrack or criticism at my expense.  I got through it.  For that matter, so did he, until leaving for other reasons.  It's not like I haven't had to bear down and deal with this kind of thing before.

      Welcome to the part of middle class where you don't get to just walk away with a golden ticket, where you don't always get to love every part of your job, where you do what you need to do to keep the bills paid, your car running and the basic household appliances working.  Isn't it just like that for most people in the middle -- except for the ones working at jobs they simply despise?

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Among The Humans

      I worked at the Main Campus yesterday.  Since the 26th was Christmas (observed), it wasn't too bad: no adult supervision and most of the suit & tie offices were empty.

      Today, not so much, and I am looking forward to it as only an achy, short-tempered sixtiesh person who remembers the old days can.  It's not so much that the place is awful; the remaining staff are hardworking, decent folks and the current owners are not deliberately evil.  But almost all my peers are gone, as are nearly all my friends and long-term acquaintances.  So the whole thing has an air of returning to the little town where you grew up, only to find most of the things you remember are gone and what remains is altered in strange and discomfiting ways.  Being away for most of the pandemic hasn't helped; the place I remember is the place I worked at for over thirty years -- and that place was already gone before we dispersed in March of 2020.

      It still pays the same, at least -- well, a little more.  And the health insurance is good, reason enough to hang on in and of itself.  But I sure do miss some of the people, let go when their position was eliminated, retired, moved away or dead.  The hallways and rooms are haunted by memories these days.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Score: Turducken 1, Roasting Pan 0

      It was my fault.  Yesterday, the high temperature in Indianapolis was 18°F.  I had a leftover turducken.  I'd ordered one for Thanksgiving, which arrived frozen as hard as a rock.  I put it in the fridge to thaw a day later than I should have.  It was still solid when turduckens showed up at our corner grocer the day before Thanksgiving.  I put the frozen one back in the freezer and bought a thawed one, which we enjoyed on the holiday.

      That left a rock-hard Cajun-style six-pond pound turducken with sausage in the freezer.  I decided to make it for Christmas, and gave it a proper three-day thaw.  On Day One, our weather went nuts and I resolutely set aside my doubts.  It would all work out!

      Come the 25th, I did all my prep work indoors, built a nice big charcoal fire in the grill (quickly!), and laid down a layer of chopped apple and turnip in the roasting pan, with the turducken barely fitting on top.  The lid wouldn't quite sit all the way down.  I made sure there was plenty of charcoal along the edges of the grill, pushed the center clear for indirect heat, and set the roasting pan in place on the grill bars for a three-hour bake.  It was 15°F in the back yard when I started.

      The grill was nice and hot.  I checked at the half-hour mark and the lid had settled.  I left my old oven thermometer in the grill then.  Thirty minutes later, I had a peek: it was 350°F in the covered grill and the aroma was wonderful.

      At ninety minutes, I thought about opening the lid of the roasting pan, but decided not to.  At two hours, thinking to add some carrots and a chopped onion, I discovered the lid was stuck.  It just lays in place, but it wouldn't budge.  I nearly burned my left thumb trying, having only brought along one oven mitt.  I got another mitt and tried.  Nope.  Okay.  I let it cook.

      When I brought the pan in after three hours, I was able to pry the lid up.  The turnips and apples had caramelized and gone a little beyond that.  Perhaps more than a little beyond.  The turducken was fine, moist and tender, the skin golden-brown -- but the outermost layer of vegetables was charred.  Worried about the outside air temperature, I had built my fire too hot and left the turducken in too long.

      We had our holiday dinner, with baked potatoes and a little of this and that, and I got the remaining turducken out and had a look at the pan, scraping out all the loose stuff.  Kind of a thick layer left, so I filled the pan and lid with hot water to soak while I did the rest of the dishes.

      A half hour later, water drained, the sludge in the pan was not coming out.  Just not.  Even digging with a bamboo skewer wasn't helping.

      Those pans aren't very expensive and that one had served for two years.  I pitched it and will buy another before Spring.

      I will try the apples and turnips thing again, perhaps with a pork roast.  It smelled wonderful and I think it added to the flavor.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

      Here's the happiest and best of Christmas -- and other holiday -- wishes to you and yours, 

      As ever, I will gratefully accept (and return) whatever sort of seasonal good wishes you are comfortable sharing.  Practically every religion and culture has some kind of holiday on or about the longest night of the year (or shortest, for those of you on the other side of the Equator).  Parts of the planet that get serious winter weather have well-established traditions and rituals.  Nearly all of them include sharing hopes for a pleasant winter and year to follow, and only the meanest of souls would reject such an offering.

      Happy holidays is among the most inclusive sentiments, for all that some people get grumpy about it.  I don't care where, how or if you worship; I just want to wish you well.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Well, That's Better

      It's -9°F in Indianapolis right now and TV says the wind chill makes it feel like -37°.  -37°???  That's too low.  I asked the robot, and she said, "RIGHT NOW, THE WIND CHILL IS MINUS 28 DEGREES."

      Such an improvement!  Whatever it is, even short exposure gives me blinding sinus headaches and my fingers stop working very well.  This is the kind of weather that destroys garage door springs, so if I need to drive anywhere, I'll have to struggle with the gate or walk around the block to get to my car.  So I'm hoping to avoid it.  Tomorrow will be twenty degrees warmer and 11 above sounds much less offputting.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Weather Alert

      You don't need me to tell you that there's horrible weather coming to most of the contiguous U.S., if it hasn't already arrived where you are.

       I hope the forecasters have erred on the side of caution and it will fizzle out, leaving us feeling a little silly.  But you can't count on that, so stock up, batten down and we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Audits, The Deep State And Least-Bad Options

      Congress will be releasing Mr. Trump's tax returns from during his original campaign and Presidency.  Most modern Presidents have just made them public as a matter of routine; he refused, saying he was under audit.

      But it is apparently mandatory for IRS to audit the tax returns of a sitting President.  That was news to me this morning and I'm in favor of it.  If any President used the complimentary shampoo at the hotel in Far-off Foreignistan, or the High Panjadrum there slipped him a diamond necklace, I want to know about it.  Whatever spare change he earned selling copies of Grit or hawking his autobiography, I want to know about it.  If he's given a huge wheel of cheese, lets it sit in the entrance hall of the White House for a year and then invites the public to drop by and eat it up?  I want an accounting of it -- and if he charges them a dime a nibble, he'd damned well better report that income.

      Here's the punchline: until 2019, none of Mr. Trump's Presidential-time tax returns were under audit.  That year, IRS apparently began to take a look at his 2015 (or 2016; reports vary) return, in a manner far more desultory than they did the year they decided losses on some rental property I owned weren't deductible but the income from it was, threw out my return and stuck me with a huge tax bill that took a decade to pay off.  --But of course, I wasn't their boss.  The good news is that if you've been fretting over a Federal "Deep State" gunning for poor old innocent Donald Trump, you can unclench: IRS is one of the biggest hammers in the Federal toolbox, and they deferred to the Chief Executive so abjectly that they didn't even do the auditing they are required by law to do.

      Meanwhile, their boss lied about being audited as an excuse not to make his tax returns public, even though there's nothing in the IRS audit process that demands secrecy.  The IRS knew his claim was untrue -- but said nothing, presumably unwilling to contradict the big man.  That's not a Deep State, it's a state of spinelessness.

      Elsewhere, the pundits are chewing away at the January 6 Committee's referrals to the Department of Justice, which include criminal charges for Mr. Trump's role in various phases of the insurrection and attempted autogolpe.  DOJ already had a Special Prosecutor on the job and their own list of possible charges (which as far as I know, they haven't shared), so it's impossible to know how all that's going to play out until it happens.  It's an ugly example of a very old principle: "If you strike at a king, don't miss."  Over at The Bulwark+,* Jonathan V. Last lays out the three possibilities and they're all bad:

      1. Do nothing: "Boys will be boys," which will show there's no downside to trying to grab the government by stealth or force other than some bad press.  In that case, it will happen again and again.  Eventually, someone's going to succeed and it's not going to matter much what flavor of authoritarian we get, it'll suck.  It'll be way worse, way sooner for some people than for others but in the not-so-long run, we'll all lose.  Even a cursory glance at 20th Century history makes that obvious.

      2. Go to court and lose: the same outcome as the first option, only now hard-core Trumpists (a subset of Republicans but a good-sized one) are even angrier than they were.  Expect more couping, now with extra revenge!  At least he will have had his day in court and with diligent attorneys on both sides, we can reasonably expect that a lot more of the facts will come to light.  And it does raise the stakes for any future coup attempts.

      3. Go to court and win: This is still not a happy reconciliation and a return to the halcyon days of yore; Mr. Trump's supporters will be madder yet, he'll be able to point to the trial as even more evidence for his claims of being persecuted and we'll still be short one functioning, normal political party.  On the other hand, we have the same benefit as option 2: the lawyers are going to be able to do some serious digging, witnesses will have to testify under oath and they will have far fewer excuses for keeping secrets.

      These are all lousy outcomes -- and they're all the result of a President who treated losing an election like he was having trouble getting a zoning exemption or attempting a hostile corporate takeover, resorting to guile and threats when a straightforward effort failed.  But our Federal government isn't a zoning board or a business enterprise, and you can't do things that way.  Career politicians know this; you can say a lot bad about them, lazy, feckless, slippery or even stupid, but nearly all of them know where the bottom is and why you don't try to dig through it.  Donald Trump did not share that awareness and he still doesn't.
* The bulk of the article is paywalled, so don't ask me about his insightful conclusion; but as a nation, we'd already jumped out of the airplane by the end of the day on 6 January 2021 and from there down, the question is what we're going to use for a parachute and how hard we're going to hit when we inevitably reach the ground.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

I'd Love To Post Something

     But mostly I just look at the news and wonder, "What next?" 

     Yeah, I have opinions about a lot of it, but so does everyone else.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Acute Tactics

     Yesterday, I noticed the little box-of-stuff-a-month subscription I have to a service that keeps nudging anyone who signs up to write more had sent a deck of cards with various starting points for writing.

      This type of thing owes a debt to Brian Eno's "Oblique Strategies," a collection of cards with highly lateral notions, for use by anyone who gets stuck while doing a creative endeavor.  You grab one at random and give it a try.  It's not a bad method; even when the card suggestion is no help, it provides a short break that can help you get out of a rut.

     Imitations are not always up to the level of the original and the whole thing is just asking to be parodied.  And so, I give you my contribution to the field:

Acute Tactics

Write down a bunch of random stuff on cards. Have copies printed up and sell them for inflated prices.
Vagueness will make you sound deep. Connecting unrelated things will appear insightful.
Never admit this is something you dreamed up to pass time while waiting for the bus.
Browbeat all of your creative friends to endorse this as a remarkable idea. Get them so involved that they'll lean on their friends to say similar things, too.
Never forget that nearly all who strive, fail. The quicker you fleece them, the sooner they'll get back to their useful and dull little jobs.  If you don't, someone else will!
Philosophy is for suckers.  Money talks.
Art is whatever the people who buy art will pay you for.
Failure is always an option, but it's best if the other guy fails.
"Intellectual property" is the stuff others only thought they owned.
There are only two plots, but every check is unique, different and wonderful
Think of a number, any number. Got it? Hold it firmly in your mind. You're wrong.
The expression on people's faces when they have just had a great insight is exactly the same as the expression they make when they suddenly have to crap.  This is not a coincidence.
The bigger they are, the more easily they can crush you.   Practice flattery and plan your escape routes in advance.
Always be humble. You have to give the rubes something for their money and if you're modest about it, they can't claim they were cheated.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

In A Better World

      In a better world, Elon Musk would have never bought Twitter.  Not because he's "ruining" it; Twitter always was and remains a private company and whoever owns and controls it can do just about anything they like with it, banning or admitting whoever they prefer.  Nope, the problem is that owning Twitter magnifies him and up close, he's got the same feet of clay as anyone else.

      From a distance, you've got the super-genius financier revolutionizing cars, digging tunnels, making space travel cheap and frequent and planning to settle Mars.  That's impressive stuff, even if he makes the occasional misstep in his personal life, in an interview or in a tweet.  Up close, you've got a man whose main difference from everyone else is that he's got a lot more money.  He's pretty typical of the financial-type techbro.  We wanted Moses dressed as Tony Stark; owning Twitter dropped the veil and we saw Just Some Guy with SF dreams and a wallet fat enough to make progress towards them.

      Power may not reliably corrupt but it inevitably brings out the jerk in everyone -- and we're all jerks.  Count on it.  We can be certain that George Washington's White House staff and the secretaries and domestics serving Cincinnatus when he served Rome occasionally remarked about their boss, "What an asshole."

      Twitter was arbitrary and capricious by committee under previous ownership.  Now it's arbitrary and capricious by one man's whim.  Either way, the medium amplifies every decision.  This can be bad for business.  One of the few virtues of committees is that they generally move quite slowly and often predictably.  Advertisers, investors and users like that   An individual owner can move quickly, in surprising directions.  And even his smallest jerk moves cast an enormous shadow.

      Social media these days offers a staggeringly wide array of choices, from Right to Left to mixed to apolitical, with varying degrees of anonymity.  While you might (or might not) decry the tendency to form "silos" of similar outlook and attitude, it's certainly disconcerting to have one's silo repainted after you've become comfortable inside it, and that's what a lot of the angst over Twitter's changes is about.

      Maybe the Great Wizard is always smoke and mirrors and it's the little man behind the curtain who gets things done, frantically working the controls, looking frazzled and improvising as he goes.  I'm okay with that. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

I Have Only One Question

      Republicans, are you proud of this guy whose "major announcement" was that he's hawking overpriced digital cosplay trading card featuring himself?

      This country needs at least two serious political parties to keep the government functioning.  When there are only two major parties, they're pretty big and there's a little room around the edges for grandstanding to the base, horseplay and junior high school type cliques and verbal sniping.  An unfortunately high degree of that is normal, but it doesn't keep the adults in the room from getting things done.  As it stands, we're short at least one serious party.  (A strong case could be made for being one and a half parties low, but even half-serious is an improvement.)

      Electronic bubble-gum cards featuring a politician as a superhero, Old West Sheriff and so on?  Issued by the guy himself?  That's not even close to normal or serious.  That out-Stalins Stalin for ego and has all the class and dignity of a drunk asking for spare change at a bus station.  Especially at the prices he's asking. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

It's Bill Of Rights Day

     Today's the day we celebrate the first kept promise of the Constitutional Convention: the document might never have been approved at all without the assurance that the new government would add a Bill of Rights as soon as possible.

     These days, most politicians are at least good on the idea that the government shouldn't require you to put up soldiers in your house.  (That's Number Three on the big ten countdown!)

     Aside from that, well, the Dems aren't so happy about the Second Amendment and various parts of the First draw the ire of politicians from both parties, with calls from some of the Right for a de facto (or even de jure) state religion and the Left and Right singing alternate choruses of How Awful The Press Is When They Criticize My Side.  And a whole lot of us, politicians and protesters alike of every stripe and leaning, seem to be skipping over the fine print in "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," forgetting that breaking out windows, kicking in doors, setting fires and putting politicians and the general public to flight does not, in fact, constitute peaceable behavior or even petitioning.  (Burning down a bookstore or stealing a laptop computer isn't speech, it's the exact opposite.)

     Don't even get me started on the Fourth Amendment, pretty much the Rodney Dangerfield of protected rights; "What has it got in its pocketses" appears to be the eternal question of police and grasping politicians, and if you have the temerity to suggest that the right of people "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects" ought to be very broadly interpreted, they'll look for ways around it while asking darkly what it is you've got to hide, when the whole point is that it's none of their darned business.

     The entire Bill of Rights is a list of things the government shouldn't be doing or getting in the way of -- and a lot of our law consist of attempts to get around those limits.  The sweeping Ninth and Tenth Amendments are often treated as mere sentiment, and that's a pity.

     Nevertheless, battered and chewed at, the Bill of Rights still stands, a bulwark against the ever-present temptation to use the blunt instrument of government to make other people behave in the manner we personally think they should.  That's not how it works in this country; we got rid of Kings to begin with and did away with masters less than a century later.  Nobody is the overall boss of you -- and that's how it should stay.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Universe Is Not Locally Real

      At least at a certain level it's not "real" in terms of having inherent characteristics until you measure it; and it's not "local" thanks to quantum entanglement: stick a pin in a photon here and one waaaaaay over there says, "Ouch!"

      What this means is the physics insights of the philosopher Charles M. Jones were correct: when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff, he is perfectly safe until he measures his state by looking down -- and then it's too late.  It also explains why the Road Runner can anticipate the coyote so well, and make things go wrong for him with nothing more than a quizzical look: the "spooky action at a distance" the theory implies (and which everyone suspected all along was breathing on the dice and making toast fall butter side down) is hard at work.

      This now joins the Frederic Bean "Tex" Avery theory of subjective reality, in which our perceptions show us not the real world as it is, but an image of it deeply affected by our own notions.  Maybe you did jump out of your shoes with fright (and right back in).  Maybe it only felt that way.  Maybe you'd better check.

      Just don't look down.  You may be higher up (and less well supported) than you think.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

'Tis The Season To Ensure The Rains Return?

     I'm told the Aztec Re-Enactor's Club puts on a holiday pageant this time of year that is utterly heart-wrenching.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Recursive Humor

      I bragged to the chimp that I had opposable thumbs.

      She said, "Good, because I'm against them."

      I told her, "Not in that way."

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Perilous Or Merely Loud?

      A commenter to my previous posting remarked, "IMHO the 2024 election will decide if our country has completely lost its way or not."

      A lot of people feel that way, though they come at it from different directions, and it's easy to see why.  Me, not so much.  Oh, these are fraught times in our politics, make no mistake -- but the United States has been fraughtled rather a lot over the years, everything from the acrimonious emergence of the first party system to the Civil War (and the messes leading up to it and trailing after), from Jackson and Wilson's sweeping changes to the Federal government, from the political fallout of the the Great Depression and the rise (in other countries) of modern authoritarianism* to the political turmoil of the 1960s.  This is not a placid, serene place.

      We do, however, manage to muddle through.  That's why I don't believe in "Flight 93 elections."  That's not how it works here.  That's not how it has ever worked.

      We have always been a country with deep suspicions about our government.  Lacking any of the weight and gravitas of that "divine right of kings" stuff, we're even a bit skeptical about vox populi, vox Dei, and have laced it around with Bills of Rights, vetos, and checks and balances like the separation of powers.  The film Network, with its cry of "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" tapped into a quintessentially American sentiment, one that resonated through the "Tea Party" movement, Occupy Wall Street and beyond.   In 2016, Donald Trump grabbed a rich vein of it and rode it all the way to the White House.

      But all of that emotion is just emotion.  It rarely translates into substantive action and when it does, we don't always get what we thought we wanted -- and what we want, really, is to be heard and for the necessities of life to continue to be easily available.  When a particular movement makes like a car-chasing dog that finally manages to catch one -- and has no use for it† -- we vote for a return to the norm.

      The 2022 midterms were a prime example of that.  Mr. Trump was (and remains) firmly focused on unmoored myths about his 2020 Presidential loss.  Party primaries produced a broad range of candidates, especially for the Republicans, everything from old-time business-as-usual GOP wheelhorses to flamboyant Trumpists like Kari Lake.  In the general election, the plain old Republicans did as well as usual, winning in solidly GOP areas, winning their share in "purple" places -- but the overwhelming majority of the GOP's "mad as hell" offerings lost, even in states where their party otherwise did well.  When they won, it was by narrower margins than their more mainstream peers.

      Anger with nothing more to offer wins headlines and can win an election, but it cannot keep on winning.  If the only solution put forth is "throw the bums out," we already have a system that does just that.  It's built right in.  And it's still working fine.  Oh, it's lumpy and bumpy and uneven; but it works.  And as Winston Churchill observed, all of the alternatives work a whole lot worse if they work at all.

      America is built on compromises and do-overs.  We run 'em every couple of years, alternating between big, noisy Presidential contests and smaller midterms.  If you don't like who or what you got this time, there's always next time.  Anyone who tells you differently -- anyone who says, "Vote (for my guy) once and then stop voting," is an enemy to all Americans.

      Yes, our way is sloppy and inefficient.  We keep having to slap patches on the underlying structure -- but it works, it keeps on working, and it is built to let us keep on striving to do better.
* I have recommended Hard Times by Studs Terkel in the past as a fair-minded, clear-eyed look at this time in our history and I will continue to do so: he got out there and listened to a wide variety of people who were in the thick of it, and shared their stories while not spinning ivory-tower theories of his own.  It's modern history without any fancying-up.
† One of the more-isolated sites my employer maintains had a next-door neighbor with a pack of poorly-disciplined hunting dogs.  The lane leading back to our stuff was very rough, limiting speeds to 20 mph or less.  The dogs would chase our company vehicles, biting the tires and being spun away, over and over.  While the dogs were in some danger of broken necks, they appeared to think it was a wonderful game.  There's a lesson in that.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

When They Tell You What They Are, Believe Them

      In the United States, we vote our public officials into office.  In the Legislative and Executive branches, they serve fixed terms and then we take another whack at electing someone to the job -- maybe the same person, maybe someone new.

      Elections are fundamental to our system of government.  We have struggled over who gets to vote (originally just property-owing white men who had reached a certain age) and steadily expanded it to include all citizens (minus some categories of felons).  No elected office is a lifetime position.  While incumbents quite often get re-elected unless they've been very bad indeed, we can count on a chance to replace them with a new politician -- mind you, there's no promise the next one will be any better, but at least they'll be different.

      When the loser of a Presidential election posts on social media, “Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,”* when there is no legal framework for it -- and no reason to believe "massive fraud" occurred in the 2020 Presidential election -- he is calling for the abrogation of the basic principles of our system of government.

      When the narrow loser of a gubernatorial election didn't simply call for a recount but filed a lawsuit full of extraordinary allegations (which we can safely presume will get their day in court) in which she calls for "An order setting aside the certified result of the 2022...election and declaring [she] is the winner...," that's well outside of the way elections really work in this country.

      So we should not be too surprised when a Claremont Institute Fellow puts forth,† as a serious position, that "even if conducted legitimately, elections no longer reflect the will of the people" and therefore the right should stop participating in "the technocratic accumulation of votes."

      Let's see -- people named winner by "declaration," demands that certified election results be set aside, claims that legitimate elections somehow fail to represent the will of the people, sneering at voting as mere "technocratic accumulation:" this isn't at all congruent with American democracy as it has been practiced for at least 233 years.  It's a goose-step match for autocracy, especially the more virulent forms of it that afflicted the 20th Century, most often under the banners of fascism and communism.

      Don't be hoodwinked.  These are people who exploit the anger and frustration voters often feel when their side loses.  The real solution is to get out there and do a better job in the next election.  This is the United States of America, where no elected office is a forever job and where we're on our sixth or seventh set of political parties, depending on how you score them.  Whining how it's all over and we ought to set ourselves up with a strongman or two -- or fifty-one of them -- is pernicious nonsense.
* This was widely reported as Mr. Trump "calling for the termination of the Constitution."  While that would certainly be the effect, it looks to me more like a puffed-up version of a spoiled child of wealth demanding that any rules standing between him and what he wants should be put aside -- for him, and not for anyone else.  That's not how it works in this country, or at least not how it is supposed to work.  At the Constitutional level, it is most certainly not how things work.  This isn't browbeating a zoning board into letting you run up a casino in a residential neighborhood.
† I debated a direct link, but I'm of the opinion the article is poisonous sophistry and the author is just one more authoritarian propagandist, with a slicker line than most of his fellow-travelers.  "Hard Truths And Radical Possibilities;" you can do a web search for it but it says nothing about American democracy that the losing side in WW II didn't already say, right down to calling our votes mere "nose-counting."

Friday, December 09, 2022

So I needed To Use Up Some Canned Meat

     Fun with Spam (the meat product). Also multicolor potatoes, mushrooms, rainbow carrots and various herbs and spices.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Well, This Is Nice

      Day Three of a four-day vacation, and I went home early from a late lunch yesterday and pretty shortly after, fell asleep in a chair while reading online.  So I went to bed and spent at least fourteen hours there, mostly asleep.

      I'm up now, but not a hundred percent.  Made a little breakfast but I'm way out of it.  Took a couple of aspirin a few minutes ago, and we'll see what they do, especially with plenty of coffee.  No serious sinus or throat symptoms, at least.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022


      Yesterday, the first day of what should have been an "Oops, there's time left this year" week off, I worked.  We had three long-stalled projects aloft and that was the day a crew was available. 

      At the end of the day, only one was completed.  Another might be, but changes elsewhere in the Big Corporate Behemoth for which I work make it impossible to check right now -- and that was a "drop-in" replacement that required drill-press work and rewiring.  And the third job, once we'd had the device hauled down from a truly dizzying height, turned into a "box it up and send it back to the manufacturer" repair.

      Meanwhile, correcting another ongoing problem has turned into a year-plus slog for parts, thanks to pandemic-related materials problems.  And the long-term "temporary" fix for it has developed problems of its own, which result in my phone being sent alarms every few hours around the clock.  The base problem has been known and discussed since 2009 -- known, discussed and left to fester, while I improvised ways to keep it from getting worse; but those ways rely on other systems working, systems which have begun to fail.

      I'm singularly unimpressed.  There's only so many patches on patches on patches I can keep going; I've documented it and if all fails, well, then it does, and I'll help 'em recover from it.  But they can yell at themselves over it, not me; I have done my part.

      (In related news, it has taken the "full speed, push hard" people at work twenty-seven years to break or ruin every drill in a 1/16" to 3/8" by 32nds index.  I suppose I should consider that a victory; at the main location downtown, the same job takes them about six months.  Unless you're drilling a lot of steel and iron or abrasive materials, twist drills should have a very long life.  Copper, brass and aluminum don't take much to help the drill work, a little chalk or high-tech Boelube and care with feeds and speeds, but if you won't do that, you'll kill 'em quick.  Of course, these are the guys, a subset of my co-workers, who never heard of a "file card" brush to clean clogged files, or rubbing a file with chalk to help cutting and keep it from filling up.  The rest of us try to keep them away from the tap and die sets and the better screwdrivers -- which they use for pry bars, of which we have a nice assortment -- and wrenches. Pliers, vise-grips and the wrong hammer for the task at hand are their natural tools.)

Sunday, December 04, 2022


      It's the old word for "counterclockwise."  And here, it is a tale of routine, romance and revolt:

Saturday, December 03, 2022


      NaNoWriMo is over.  I didn't win -- that is, I didn't write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I got about 22,000 words down, which is better than I've ever done in that much time, and I'm okay with that.

      The NaNoWriMo website supports setting goals outside of their events, using the same progress-tracking tools.  So I have set a new goal -- to keep going through December on the same project, aiming for a 50,000 word total.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Linguistic Patrol Returns!

      Yes, with a groan of the starter and fingers crossed that there won't be too much old-gasoline varnish in the carburetor, the Linguistic Patrol coughs, backfires and roars into action for an emergency mission!

      But why, you ask?  It's The Case Of The Hidden Reputation!

     One of the major news sites, in an opinion piece about the rise of an extremist loudmouth (pick your own example; it doesn't matter), referred to the individual's having "...established a certain cache" in their particular segment of the political spectrum.

      Cache?  Wrong!  Cache can be a noun or a verb, and both versions address the notion of stashing things away for possible future use.  It's pronounced "cash."

      The word the writer was after would have been cachet, which refers to the prestige of a person or organization.  It's the state of being respected or admired, or it is a distinguishing mark or seal.  It's of French origin and the t, in fine French style, is silent: "kah-shay."

      They're both real words.  Your computer's spellchecker cannot tell that you've grabbed the wrong one.  The reader, however, may find encountering cache for cachet or vice versa to be as grating as getting a piece of eggshell in a fried egg -- and not a small piece, either.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

You Call That Cold?

      It was 19°F when I woke up this morning, and I do call that cold.  Today's high is predicted to be 38° -- which is not really a high.  It's a low wearing a fedora and a stick-on mustache, pretending to be a high.