Wednesday, January 31, 2024

My Blog Is Not Your Debate Club

     This is my blog, where I hold forth on my opinions.  You get to read them for free, paying exactly what they are worth -- same value as any other opinions.

     While I publish some comments, especially if they offer cogent, interesting, amusing and/or original points (even if they differ from my own notions), I don't publish every comment.  If all you have to offer are reheated partisan bumper-stickers or anger, don't expect to get through the filter.  All-caps lectures?  Knock yourself out, but the very first "YOU'RE STUPID..." results in it being deleted with the remainder unread.  Getting yelled at is no better than an echo chamber.  This blog is neither.  It's a megaphone, and a pretty small one.

     Don't like it?  Make your own blog.  I hear Substack's got lots of extra capacity these days.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Doesn't Work That Way

     Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, to the U. S. Federal government, over their access to the border: "You don't need to be here."

     Nope.  Exactly backwards.  Whether they are doing a great job or a terrible job of controlling the borders of the U.S., the national border is very much within the purview of the Federal government.  It's a core job of national governments everywhere.  In that part of our country, it has worked that way since 19 February, 1846.  Starting in April of that year, the state government of Texas was damn happy to have Federal troops bleeding and dying on their behalf, and apart from the few years they spent under the ultimately less-sheltering wing of a different federation, that's how it's been.

     It's a bit late to change their minds now.  In fact, there was a war over it.  Texas was on the losing side.

     There's a bill in Congress at present that would give the border hawks everything they've been asking for.  It's got many of the more-liberal Democrats fuming -- and so are the large Trumpian wing of Congressional Republicans.  The Dems are angry because they think it's too harsh.  Mr. Trump's fellow-travelers are not as clear about why they dislike it, but it seems to be based on their presumptive Presidential candidate not liking it: he doesn't want to lose such a great issue to campaign on!

     Yes, there you have it: the fellow who is griping about a flood of informal, illegal and/or refuge-seeking migrants pouring over the border wants them to keep on coming, hurried masses yearning to breathe free,* until the November election.  It's a crisis, he tells the cheering crowds, they've got to be stopped!  --But not quite yet.  At least not for another nine months.

     'Splain me that.  Lt. Gov. Patrick, you can go first.
* Texas has not yet implemented air tolls for non-residents, though they may be working it.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Rescament Planning

     Ever since I crossed the magic threshold by turning 65,* I keep getting invitations to "planning seminars" and "complimentary dinners" (plus a mandatory presentation, and it's an easy bet which comes first) about my glorious golden years.

     The joke's on me -- and on them, too: I have a little money.  Effectively a pittance, coverage for emergencies and unplanned expenses like needing replacement appliances or major repairs, and that's it.  There's no nest egg to "invest" in one of their schemes.  There's barely enough for me and not a bit left for them to rake off the top.  (Oh, I'm sure it's all aboveboard by the letter of the law, but the Indiana Secretary of State has his doubts.)  Plus Social Security.  If that falls short, it's hemlock for afternoon tea.  But I'll be damned if I'll let some grifter vampire off my declining years. 

     No safe investment turns around quickly enough for a person with only modest retirement savings, if they start with it at 65 or older -- and IMO, nobody with plenty in their retirement account needs to go moving it around near the end of the game, either.  All that happens for certain is that some clever outfit gets a slice from your pie, and that's not a winning bet.
* Which demonstrates these fools are too greedy to keep track: I can't get full Social Security until I'm well past 66.  People in my age range have been seeing the limit slowly ramp up.  It's currently set to top out at age 67 for people born in 1960 or later, but I wouldn't count on it staying there.  If you wanted to kick back younger, you should have been born earlier or become a millionaire.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Dead People Aren't A Math Problem

     Soldiers, civilians and every version of combatant in between from the most innocent of persons to the worst of terrorists aren't counters in a game.  They're people.

     Any time you try to do math with them, you end up pursuing morally repugnant lines of thought.  "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" at least pursues balance, albeit bloodily; ten, or a hundred or a thousand of the other side for one of your own does not, and cannot.  It's a crime to murder one; it's a crime to murder millions, and pseudoStalinesque cynicism aside, turning it from a tragedy into a statistic doesn't actually change what it is.  One killing doesn't magically make another one or thousands more okay, though it may be necessary in order to stop the process from continuing, a matter which is only clear after the fact.

     The usual pundits and online self-appointed experts are holding forth on the interim ruling of the International Court of Justice in regard to South Africa's (essentially a proxy for Palestine) charges of genocide against Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip.  To them, it either went too far or didn't go far enough, and never mind that the ICJ is toothless: nations accept or ignore its rulings voluntarily, so the World Court tends to not issue orders that it knows will not be obeyed.

     I'd love to have a real strong opinion on the conflict and share it with you, but I keep getting distracted by the piles of bodies and the plight of the survivors, and by the festering emotions on all sides that the present action will not relieve, no more than any of the previous ones have.  I don't have any answers.  All I know is that human suffering isn't a math problem.  The solutions to it may be, but we're not close to knowing how to set up those equations, let alone how to solve them.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

What A Relief

      The voicemail from my zoologist friend was rushed, so I'm pleased to find out that while he is indeed now working in the motion picture industry, his title is definitely not "Bee Strangler."

Tuesday Primary

     The New Hampshire primary didn't rate a comment yesterday because it was predictable -- on the GOP side, the former Governor did well against the former President but didn't win, just as the most sensible pundits predicted.  The national-level Dems kind of sat out their own primary, not even bothering to enter the current President because they want the South Carolina primary to be their first of the season.  (Nevada's in there, too, but it's complicated, a primary-caucus thing that straddles voting in SC.)  Nevertheless, he won as a write-in.

     So there you have it: we went in with a November rematch between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden likely, and it still is.  We're probably not going to have any surprises in later primaries.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Medical Marvel

     What's worse, yawning at a medical miracle or denying it?  Either way is a vote for ignorance, superstition, barbarism.  It's unsurprising that some of the biggest vaccine skeptics and the most blase are to be found in well-off, highly advanced countries: living in a bubble, it's easy to believe they're not a big deal, or even bad.

     Not everyone has that luxury.  Malaria, for example, kill over six hundred thousand people every year -- mostly children -- and sickens millions.  Tropical countries are hardest hit.  There's finally a working vaccine, and yesterday Cameroon joined a list of African countries rolling it out with routine childhood vaccinations.

     Humans have been using some form of vaccination for centuries; variolation against smallpox arrived in North America over 40 years before the American Revolution. 

     And the U. S. appears to be having more frequent outbreaks of measles these days, thanks to people dodging vaccinations for their children.  This is significant because measles, uniquely as far as I can find out, wipes the slate clean for your immune system, knocking out all of the cells that "remember" how to fight every other virus you've had.  Getting a case of the measles is no big deal in and of itself for most people with access to modern medicine -- but they'll be getting a lot of other things all over again afterward, some of which are a very big deal to catch as an adult.

     Vaccines work.  They're making life better for billions of people.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

What A Day

     The Governor of Florida has dropped out.  I had not expected further changes in the roster of GOP Presidential hopefuls until after New Hampshire's primary, but there he went.

     While supporters of Governor DeSantis are disappointed, and many of his foes both within and without his party are making clever and/or cruel cracks, I'm wondering if this means there will be any debates between the remaining two leading Republican contenders.  Probably not.

     The November matchup pundits keep telling me hardly anyone wants is looking more and more inevitable.

     Unrelated, I see Geritol is still on the market.  Sadly, they took the alcohol out of it a long time ago.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

V-1, V-2, V-3...

     No, I am not collecting WW II terror weapons.  I have somehow acquired a few ribbon microphones made by Electro-Voice and I've never had them all together in the same place until today.  I thought I had one of their first and smallest (V-1) and a couple of V-2s, but it turns out I have three different models. 

     At least one of the later examples has been crudely "repaired" by bolting in a dynamic element, which has not aged gracefully.  Electro-Voice did this after they stopped making new ribbon microphones; building and assembling the transducer is finicky, specialized work and once those skills are gone, you can't count of getting a good result even if you kept a stock of spare parts.  The good news is that while E-V's ribbon "motors" are held in somewhat mixed regard, there are at least four different drop-in replacements, (one kit and three fully assembled), all of which sell for far less than the price of a classic ribbon microphone.  Are they any good?  I don't know, but the creators haven't been pilloried in print yet, which in the picky world of pro and semi-pro audio is a very good sign.  Certainly even an average-sounding replacement is better than a paperweight.

     Also, it looks like I'm going to need a V-4 to have a good start on completing the set, and there appear to be a couple different V-2 and V-3 versions....

     At this point, I am well on the way to equipping the studios of a radio station in about 1937.

Friday, January 19, 2024

When A Squirrel Gets In

     We had some excitement at the work location I call "The North Campus" awhile back.  Normally unstaffed, it is divided into four main rooms and a very large garage, with the washroom and a kitchenette.  The two largest rooms are equipment rooms, with fire-rated walls and doors, one at the front of the building and one at the back.  They don't share ventilation systems and have no intentional connections.

     The back room is mostly minor and out-of-service stuff these days.  I'm not in there a lot.  One fine day, I opened the door to find...chaos.  Insanity.  The floor (and many elevated flat surfaces) was uniformly scattered with...stuff.  Black shreds.  Green pellets.  Blotches of liquid.  And poison-bait mousetraps, badly chewed up and opened.  It looked deliberate and malicious.

     Nothing was stirring.  I stepped around cautiously and the mess was everywhere.  I thought we had rats and I called our Building Maintenance supervisor to let him know we needed an exterminator, badly, and soon.

     He was on site with the hour.  He wages an unrelenting battle against vermin at the main campus, especially every variety of rodent, and it took him about thirty seconds to know the enemy: "You've got a squirrel."

     Yes, a squirrel.  A cute little fuzzy woodland creature, amusing as they bounce busily around, gathering, eating and hiding nuts and berries, chasing and playing....  Indoors, they're not so cute.  While hand-raised squirrels were once popular pets, wild ones don't cope well with being indoors.  It makes them panicky.  And it turns out that what kills a mouse mostly intoxicates a squirrel.  We had one regular-sized squirrel.  It made a king-sized mess.

     There's a lesson there.  Take a thing out of its normal environment, let it run loose, and you may get outsized effects.  Damaging ones.

     Take a sleazy, attention-craving real estate promoter with a long history of litigation and stiffing contractors and put him into a powerful position in national politics and you get chaos.  Insanity.  You get Donald Trump.  The Authoritarian Playbook: 2025 has a well-researched report on what that particular fuzzy little woodland creature is promising and it's bad news.  Perhaps you found his antics amusing in his natural environment, but the Presidency ain't it.

     The squirrel we had at the North Campus was live-trapped and set free among trees, far from homes and businesses.  It's time to do the same on the national level, and if the courts only intoxicate the pest, there's always the ballot box.  Before he makes an even bigger mess.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Down For The Count

     My right knee is swollen and there are things grinding and popping when I flex the joint.  It's running warm.  It just feels like bad machinery.  My left knee has been sore for the past three weeks, after a couple of stupid falls and a bruise or blown-out capillary has caused a big discolored patch.  (I'm still pretty good at falling, thanks to a lifetime of nearsighted clumsiness, but it leaves a mark even when you do it right.)

     I worked off a ladder for several hours over the past couple of days, and did so last week as well.  If I'm not careful, I will stress my right knee doing that -- turning while it's got weight on it, or worse yet, letting that leg dangle, making the knee joint open up.  The extreme cold hasn't helped; the North Campus facility, designed around heat-producing equipment long superseded, only has working supplemental heat in one room and in this weather, the rest of the building varies between the low 60s and mid 40s, depending on the room.

     My knees were bad last evening and a night's rest only made it worse.  I have managed to limp from bedroom to kitchen to office to washroom, but that's it.  Either of my usual work locations involves much longer walks and that's not happening.

     Rest and analgesics can only go so far.  I'm coming up on another session with the ice pack and dreading it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

We'll Miss The DeSantis - DeSantis Debate

     As the Republican race heats up (something between "chilly" and "tepid") going into New Hampshire, Governor Nikki Haley has announced she will only participate in a debate if ex-President Donald Trump also takes part.  He won't, which would have left Governor Ron DeSantis debating himself.

     With Mr. Trump a little occupied with court cases and Ms. Haley sitting it out, I'd think Mr. DeSantis would have been fully capable of contesting the issues with himself -- perhaps the "less government interference" Ron vs. the Ron who did his best to stick it to Disney over political speech by a corporation (Hey, who remembers Citizens United, kids?  Fun times!).  Or he could take on both sides over State interference with parental rights, with which he has lots of real-life experience.

     Ms. Haley is considerably less awkward and about thirty percent less culture warrior than her foe for the second-place spot, so I guess we'll see which one a minority of Granite State Republicans prefer.  The Iowa caucuses didn't quite bring out fifteen percent (15%) of that state's registered GOP voters, about 7.7% of whom preferred Mr. Trump, leaving 7.3% in a slightly uneven split between the two Governors.  These are not numbers indicative of screaming landslide levels of support for any of them.  (Not that the Democrats look to be any more excited about their guy, either.)

     So far, 2024 is looking like the cold oatmeal of Presidential elections.  It's a pity Pat Paulsen isn't around to bring his level of enthusiasm to join the third-party candidates; he'd fit right in.  I can see it now: "Paulsen in '24: we've upped our expectations, now up yours."

Monday, January 15, 2024

Oh, Boy!

     Who isn't excited about the Iowa caucuses?

     Well, me, among others.  We may get a surprise; some of the pundits have been rather wishfully reading signs in the tea leaves that Mr. Trump might not do as well as expected, and Ms. Hailey or Mr. DeSantis* may do better.  But it's not much of a surprise: the differences among the three are largely of degree, not of kind.  A firehose of chaos, a stiletto of exclusion, a bludgeon of social engineering?  No thanks.

     I miss the day when high-up Republican politicians were mostly worried that Joe Sixpack was going to track mud on the carpet, or his younger, left-leaning co-worker might make off with the good silver.  They just wanted you to keep the shades down and not be loud about it if you were going to be different, and show up for work on time in the morning.  It could be sniffy but it had a certain honesty and a degree of looseness their current coalition of Christian nationalists and Evangelical fellow-travelers,† conspiracy-theory nut jobs and barstool broservatives entirely lack. It makes the contest a lot less interesting.

     While President Trump II would undoubtedly be an unhinged revenge tour, I don't think the various flavors of Trumpservatism Lite the remaining GOP contenders have to offer is any kind of prize by dint of being less short-term worrisome.  We have in this country now a political party akin to European Social Democrats, and another party that revels in authoritarianism, trade barriers and social re-engineering.  Irking the other side is increasingly a major goal -- and however much fun that might be for the ones doing the irking, it's not how you get things done.  It's not going to take us back to the Moon, get cheap nuclear fusion working, end wars or unfuck the messes that send people scurrying from ill-run kleptocracies to the bigger, better-off nations in large numbers.
* Or however he's spelling it these days.  And yes, I gave none of them their current or former titles.  If you don't know what they are by now, perhaps you shouldn't bother to vote.
† I'm not criticizing anyone's religion here, but the "Christian nationalist" weirdos have been close students of the free-pass-for-ostentatious-religiousity that the Taliban and ISIS got from plain old ordinary Muslims, and they are working a Christianized version of it as hard as they can.  Fall for it at your peril.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

"Getting Hit On The Head Lessons"

     I replaced the Amazon Fire Stick streaming device on my bedroom TV last month.  The old one was struggling to keep up.  The slightly different menu structure of the new one led me to discover Prime Video offered Mannix in their free programs.

     The series takes heat for the number of times the lead character gets hit over the head.  I didn't remember much about it, but I thought it might be instructive to watch, since I'm writing a little PI fiction these days.

     It's instructive, all right.  While Mike Conners as "Joe Mannix" does get hit on the head enough in the first few episodes to lead to a lifetime of career-ending traumatic brain injury trouble (and takes bad beatings all over, too), that's not the only lesson to learn.  The first season writing is remarkably lazy.  It's not incompetent; story continuity's good, the characters aren't especially thin for 1960s - 70s TV.  And the actors are okay; Conners can carry off the role well even in hokey scenes, sets that wouldn't have been out of place in the campy TV Batman and contrived fight sequences (why do groups of bad guys always attack one at a time?).  But major plot points turn on coincidence and blind luck; normal police procedure is waved off when the hero and his associates even bother to wait around for law enforcement after leaving dead bodies on the scene; somehow, Mannix knows every mid-level mobster and small-time crook in LA, in depth and detail.  There's a little support for the last item, given that the first season has him working for "Intertect," a highly-computerized PI a time long before centralized, interconnected databases and high-tech piracy made the kind of snooping and probing the company apparently does even possible.  Later seasons have him striking out on his own, which is likely given the amount of grief he causes his tolerant boss at Intertect and the way his methods clash with theirs.

     The series is pulpy stuff, even by the standards of the time, and Season 1 was shot on a budget that leads to repeated use of the same interior sets, redressed (all LA apartments appear to have the same layout), but the plot holes big enough to back his various custom cars through are the real problem.  Action  and acting skills can only go so far in covering for them, and it's a real lesson in how not to keep the audience engaged when you tell a story.  Serendipity happens -- but nobody can make a living relying on it and any detective worthy of the title views it with extreme skepticism.  Just ask Philip Marlow or Sam Spade, who were working that coast long before Joe Mannix first got bopped behind the ear with a length of pipe.  Or Harry "Get off your ass and go knock on doors" Bosch, who is a lot more careful about who he lets sneak up behind him.

     Still, the jazzy theme music and fast-moving plots do have their appeal; but it's junk food, filling but not nourishing.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Past Is A Foreign Land

     Watching an old episode of the delightful TV pulp The Wild, Wild West that used faked voodoo and a wide array of 19th-Century quackery as plot MacGuffins, which the intrepid heroes West and Gordon mostly scorn from the outset, it struck me:

     It's hard to believe how skeptical a people we once were.

     A lot of us will fall for about anything these days.

Friday, January 12, 2024

If You're So Kewl....

     ...Does your application, operating system or programming language have a cartoon mascot?

     (Special recognition to Plan 9 From Bell Labs, named with a knowing wink to Ed Wood's best-known assault on cinema.  Their mascot could have been so very much worse.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Running For What?

     Indiana's 2024 Gubernatorial election is a hot contest.  Not for the Democrats, who have only the slimmest of chances if that, and are running one (1) candidate (the optimistic Jennifer McCormick), but at least six Republicans are wild for the plum job at the top.  Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch appears to be favored by her outgoing boss, and the state could certainly do worse.

     One of the other primary contenders has managed to run ads so offensive and askew that I'm not even sure he understands the office he's running for.  And he's not some kook from the margins, though he certainly sounds as if he's got a bird in his head.

     He's promising to make Indiana "safer."  And as Governor, he says he will do so by "solving the fentanyl crisis," (unlikely, but enforcing the state's drug laws is certainly part of the Governor's job), which is illustrated via side-by-side maps of Indiana and....China.  I'm pretty sure getting China to stop exporting dangerous drugs and their chemical precursors to anyone who can pay no matter how shady is a Federal task.  But this guy is specifically promising, in his own voice, to "hold China accountable." Good luck with that.  I love my state, but we're not a nuclear power.

     He's promising to "destroy the cartels," with video showing what appear to be south-of-the-(national)-border drug ops and "deport criminal illegals."  Indiana can arrest and charge them here if they commit crimes in the state, but deportation and securing the border would be a, you guessed it, Federal job.

     And here's the kicker: the guy making these promises is an incumbent U. S. Senator from Indiana, Mike Braun.  He's already in a job that does have power over these issues, and was when his party held a majority.  He didn't manage to do a thing about them then, and if he becomes Governor, he won't have the ability to anything at all about them.

     He's topped that, though.  His most recent ad also promises to stop the "woke transgender ideology," over scarily-processed video that shows two athletes (a swimmer and a bicyclist) and an airhead social media influencer.  None of them live in Indiana.  Indiana does not control the sanctioning bodies for either sport.  And our state doesn't regulate social media.  Are those three weirdos?  Yep, they sure don't look like the church lady down the street.  But we live in a country where it's supposed to be safe to be freaky and if it creeps you or me out, well, we don't have to invite them home.  We live in a country where things like sports mostly have their own regulatory bodies and they set their own rules, and if people don't like it, they can go raise a fuss with those organizations instead of clamoring for the heavy and often fickle hand of government to interfere.  What he's done is essentially a threat, as much as any campaign ad featuring crosshairs over a person's face or name, and it's not a threat against criminals, political opponents or even Indiana citizens, but three people chosen specifically to make hackles rise.  At least Willie Horton had been convicted of (multiple) crimes before his star turn in a campaign ad, and even that was widely condemned as a disgraceful use.

     Mike Braun appears to have some strange fixations.  And he clearly thinks the voting public are a bunch of easily-stampeded morons, who have no idea what the powers are of a U. S. Senator or the Governor of a state.  There are five other Republicans on the primary ballot.  If that's your party, any of them would be a better choice.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

This Is Fine

     My efforts to post more have encountered the iffy nature of my aging desktop computer: the browser keeps crashing.  Something that it ate, I suspect, or the fat, fat collection of cookies the New York Times insists on to track my Wordle results.

     There's a fix for that, and it's not like I'm in some world-wide Wordle competition and need to keep track. Have to try that tomorrow.

Monday, January 08, 2024

The Takeaway

     We had Indian food last night -- Tam's a big fan and there are at least three places nearby with delivery/carry-out.

     "Indian food" covers a vast sweep of culinary styles.  All I know are the local restaurants.  But based on them, India does better chicken dinners than anyone, anywhere else.

     Chicken is good stuff anyway.  Back in the 19th Century, roast or fried chicken was a luxury in the U.S.  Most people couldn't afford to cook a hen until she'd stopped laying eggs, and they were really only fit for stew by then.  By the 1960s, it was  an inexpensive food and when KFC showed up in our small town, it was a revelation compared to the dry and crunchy stuff most places served.  It was enticing; we didn't have it often but we all looked forward to it.

     Indian chicken, Tandoori baked, or various "butter chicken" versions in a spicy, tomato-based sauce, is light-years ahead of the good stuff I remember from childhood.  It's a real treat.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

The New Lost Cause

     Representative Elise Stefanik was on Meet The Press today, serving up a selection of warmed-over rhetoric about the 2020 election,* in particular claims about the Constitutionality of states making changes to election law that indeed would have been big if true -- but they were not true then and they still aren't.  These claims (along with many others) were tested in court and lost.   In particular, Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar et al., on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's changes, was put in front of the conservative-majority U. S. Supreme Court, with three members appointed by Donald Trump himself, and the Court dismissed it.

     There isn't any "there" there.  It's a farrago of self-serving nonsense dreamed up by former President Trump and his co-conspirators to save face over an election they lost fairly and squarely.  His Administration's own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency described the election as "...the most secure in American history."  This is not some ragtag assortment of opposing-party elected officials, but an agency under the Executive Branch.

     The Trump campaign hired two different private firms to investigate possible election fraud.  They found nothing.  At least one of the firms was (and is) run by a Republican with a history of combating fraud and waste in government, and of disillusionment with conventional party policies.

     And yet there the Chair of the House Republican Conference sat on live coast-to-coast TV, repeating Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election and refusing to commit herself to accepting the outcome of the 2024 Presidential election, no matter which way it went.

     This relentless retconning of established historical fact resembles nothing so much as the South's persistent -- and partially successful -- effort to respin the Civil War's cause and conflict away from the open, avowed effort to preserve slavery that Confederates proclaimed at the outset of the war.  Most of the GOP's prominent politicians keep hammering away in support of this set of falsehoods and with every repetition, the lie is further transformed into false memory.

     The years may crumble Mr. Trump's election lie away, especially if it continues to translate into failure at the ballot box.  But the Lost Cause slowly heaved itself up from the swamp of memory as a heap of deceptive monuments and stood, stinking, in public squares for nearly a century; it was only with the last ten years that the worst of them are being pulled down by a public disgusted by the lie.  2024 is a critical year.  Will a majority of Americans embrace the lie, or turn, clear-eyed at last, to the truth?
* The persistent way many politicians will return to their chosen topic and talking points in an interview, no matter what questions they are asked, never ceases to amaze me.  Democrat Claire McCaskill is a particularly frustrating example but Congressperson Stefanik gave her style a run for the money this morning.  As Machiavelli would have observed, "Gold will not always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers will always stretch way out for the brass ring."  Gotta keep those free rides coming!

Saturday, January 06, 2024

"It Was A Hot And Spicy Spam...."

     No, not exotic and unwanted email; it was Hot & Spicy SPAM®.  I had a can of it and I've been wanting to try it.  I diced (quarter-inch cubes) a large Idaho baking potato* and started it cooking, then diced and fried the meat product.  Once they were well-browned, I followed up by pushing the mixture to the sides of the pan and scrambling four eggs in the center before mixing it all together and adding some dried parsley and marjoram.

     I served it with a generous sprinkling of grated, aged Cotija cheese, a Mexican cheese that's a little akin to a mild Parmesan (better, if you ask me) or feta and the result made an excellent brunch.  The SPAM® variety is hot enough that I wouldn't want to eat it plain, but not so hot that the potatoes, eggs and cheese couldn't tame it.  Some mild peppers would have gone very well in the mix.  Mind the salt -- if you are trying to cut down, use more potato.
* Yes, I am a barbarian.  But they're perfectly good general-purpose potatoes.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Not That Stanley

     I was not paying close attention when all the buzz about Stanley cups took off, so I spent several hours wondering where all those hockey fans were coming from, and weren't the NHL championships much later in the year?  And wasn't there just the one Stanley Cup?*

     Yeah, not that one, though the colorful, mass-produced, name-brand Stanley cups kind of approach the NHL trophy for size and shape.

     The world is a strange place.
* In fact, there are three.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

The Epstein List

     The news sites have been buzzing about it, but who cares?  Most of the prominent names have already come to light and the people who committed provable crimes have been charged, most if not all have gone to trial, and the ones found guilty have been sentenced.

      Criminal actions were undertaken; he was a terrible, terrible guy and most of the people playing along knew it.  Maybe they pretended not to see.  Maybe they lied to themselves.  Maybe they gleefully joined in.  We don't know.  The justice system doesn't know.

     Justice is, of necessity, imperfect.  The police are not all-seeing.  Witnesses are of varying degrees of reliability.  Prosecutors, judges and juries have to work from imperfect knowledge.  We can either have a criminal justice system that, shockingly, does not punish every criminal, or we can have one that sweeps up the innocent along with the guilty in hopes of catching every malefactor.  (In the real world, you get a little of both, and the question is, which way should the system lean?)  The people who set up our justice system thought it was better to miss the occasional criminal than to punish the innocent.  YMMV -- until you find yourself in the crosshairs, having done nothing wrong.

     Is it galling nevertheless that some scofflaws walk free?  It is; but there's nothing but prurient interest in poring over a list of Epstein's known associates.  Are Donald Trump and Bill Clinton both on it?  Yep.  The guy hobbnobbed with the powerful and the famous.  It was what he did.  Maybe they were horrific horndogs; maybe they were dewy-eyed innocents, swept up in the glamor of it all.  There's no way to know.  Get over it.  Such remedies as the law can apply to those persons and their actions have been applied (or perhaps the cops are still digging) and our continuing to stare at the skin-crawling details is coarse salaciousness, not a hunger for justice.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Hey, Register To Vote

     If you haven't registered to vote, do so.  Then go and actually vote.  It matters.  It counts.  A whole lot of fools and people who just want to see it all burn will be voting and you ought to vote right back at 'em.

     And it's a whole lot better than whacking one another over the head with clubs.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024


     I'm going to walk more this year.  I spend too much time just sitting, and I need to spend more time on my feet.  When I'm walking, I do more fiction writing -- not at the same time, but it helps me work out what needs to happen, in what order.

     I'm going to try to doomscroll less this year.  I'm not going to stop following the news; when nitwits are hell-bent to make to mess of normal election processes and candidates are mumbling about violence, it's a good idea to keep an eye on them.  But I'm going to make an effort to not be distracted by distressing trivia.  Jerks in and out of office have been pulling attention-getting stunts as long as the Republic has stood, and have occasionally managed to turn them into ill-meaning and ill-tempered law, but historically we have corrected such missteps, sooner or later.

     I'm going to replace the appliances that need it.  The dishwasher's been dead since early in the pandemic and we stopped using the garbage disposal when it showed a predisposition to back up into the defunct dishwasher.  Both of 'em need replaced now.  And the elderly range is long overdue for replacement.  Retirement (or possibly a shift to reduced hours) looms (unless the economy takes a turn for the worse), and I need to get the major stuff out of the way first.  I gave up too easily on my first try to get a new dishwasher, in part because I'm going to have to scrub the kitchen first.

     There are a few furniture-building projects the need done, too.  I promised Tam a kind of chifferobe, I have been intending to make display shelves full length of the living room wall behind the couch for various items (cameras, telegraph keys, old computers, typewriters) we have scattered here and there, and I need to make still more bookshelves, replacing the last of my first decent set of home-made shelves, now over 40 years old.  They're still pretty solid, but they're too short and too wide for where we are using them.  The shelves are pretty straightforward; I keep putting off the chifferobe because it's going to require a version of panel and frame construction and has to fit the available space quite precisely.  It's time that I accepted that my first try is probably going to be ugly, and got on with it.