Monday, February 16, 2015

Down Time

I find I have nothing to say these days.

It’s winter in Wisconsin, which means that it is cold, grey, icy, and inhospitable outside.  I’m actually okay with this, as it means that I can stay in with my books and my tea and nobody feels any need to give me moral criticism for not being Out And About the way that apparently all the good people of the world are by reflex action.  On the other hand, though, it’s not much to write home about.  It’s a quiet sort of life.

There’s a lot going in politically, as the right-wing extremists currently masquerading as the once-proud Republican Party careen ever closer to their goal of subverting the Constitution and American civil society entirely and replacing them with a one-party Gilded-Age theocracy of the damned.  The problem, as is probably evident by now, is that even considering the matter is infuriating to someone who actually has a clue what this nation was founded upon, as I do, and that makes bad copy.  That plus the fact that I was born in Philadelphia and therefore pessimism is my birthright makes me rather corrosive on the subject these days.  I can ruin people’s days merely by expressing my views, and who needs that?  Better to stay quiet, perhaps.

I’m reading some good books, but those go onto the end of the year posts.  As far as sports go, I’m enjoying soccer and hockey when I get a chance.  American football is over and baseball hasn’t started.  There’s a lot of curling going on around these parts as well.  Other than that there are no sports of any note.  I lost interest in movies years ago.  Not much to report upon, really.

My semester is phenomenally busy – for all that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) insists that university faculty are lazy, I’d put good money on the fact that I’m working harder than he is, and I’m not even tenure track.  Most university professors I know would be thrilled to be forced to work a 40-hour week.  They wouldn’t know what to do with all their new-found free time. 

So it’s been kind of quiet around these parts.  Perhaps it will pick up soon, though.  You never know.

Monday, February 9, 2015

News and Updates

1. Tabitha has joined the Dungeons and Dragons club at Local Businessman High.  She seems to be enjoying it so far.  She was worried at first that they would not let her join, since she didn’t discover the club until well into the school year.  “Nonsense,” I told her.  “I know exactly what the membership of that club looks like, because – while I never got into that game in high school (God alone knows why, as I was precisely the target demographic for it) – I was friends with most of the guys who played it.  You are an attractive young lady.  Trust me – they would KILL to have you in that club.”  And it turns out that Father knows best, at least in this instance.

2.  The benighted kids who make up that club insist that dwarves are not fireproof, however.  Honestly.  What good are flammable dwarves?  How can you expect to use them as projectiles when facing dragons if they are not fireproof?  Kids these days.

3. The Home Campus Trivia Team emerged victorious from this year’s annual fundraiser for the local orchestra, recapturing the crown that had been ripped from our grasp by Local Parochial School by a rather healthy margin last year.  This year’s victory was a near thing, and we look forward to trying to defend our title next year.

4. The girls went skiing for the first time this year this past weekend.  From all accounts they had a grand time.  Rather than sit in the lodge all day and grade papers, I ended up on another trivia team at a fundraising event for a local baseball team.  It was a good time and we came in second, in large part because you needed to have grown up in that town to know a good portion of the answers.  “Name the last six mayors”?  Seriously?  I don’t think I could do that in the city I grew up in, let alone anywhere in Wisconsin.  And yet it was a good time anyway.

5. We would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.

6. Every time I hear about the budget proposed by Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) it just gets worse.  Today’s fascinating reveal was the part where he used the bill to cut the salary of the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  There are a number of problems with this beyond the fact that it is toddler-level petty, but perhaps the biggest one is that it is flatly unconstitutional to reduce the salary of a sitting judge during their term in office.  But since the right-wing extremists currently staging their psychotic episodes in the name of the GOP firmly believe that laws, constitutions, morals, and ethics are for other people to follow but do not apply to the special little snowflakes that they are themselves, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that little stunt.  Stay tuned for the further adventures of Sock Puppet Governor (tm) in his quest to subvert a once-proud state and become the GOP presidential nominee.

7. He just might become that nominee, despite the fact that his grasp of issues and ability to speak coherently on any topic other than his own purported magnificence has been compared unfavorably to the former half-term governor of Alaska.  Given the announcement by his owners that they would be spending nearly a billion dollars in the 2016 election cycle it is entirely possible they may just buy the nomination outright, which would put Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) front and center.  Free market capitalism in action, folks!  That whirring sound you hear is the Founding Fathers spinning so frantically in their graves as to create electricity.

8 I kind of feel bad for the non-insane conservatives out there who have nobody to represent them in the American political arena anymore.

9.  I got my first invitation to join the AARP this week.  I think it might be worthwhile, if only to legitimize my demands that those meddling kids get off my damned lawn.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Few Ideas in Wisconsin

I’m not really upset anymore when Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) lies to me.  Honestly, I’d be more surprised if he didn’t.  The man has a strained relationship with reality to begin with, and I wouldn’t trust him to tell me the weather let alone anything of actual substance.  I’m not sure he’d be capable of telling me the truth even if he wanted to do so.  Old habits die hard.

No, what upsets me is that he puts so little thought into his lies.

He clearly believes that the rest of us are stupid.  That we will swallow whatever half-assed excuse he offers for the most recent assault on the dignity, worth, and future of the state of Wisconsin without questioning him or doubting his story.  Part of me thinks that this is because he believes he’s the smartest person in the room and the rest of us are all just automatons there to do his bidding, not worth the time or effort needed to come up with lies that are at least plausible, and part of me thinks that he honestly believes the lies himself – that whatever nonsense he is spewing at the moment is the Truth and we’re all just being unreasonable for not accepting it at face value and swooning over his bravery in facing this harsh, harsh world.

This, of course, is one of the definitions of psychotic.

The latest iteration of this sad tale comes as Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) is pushing his budget for the next two years for Wisconsin.  The budget is of a piece with the rest of his policies, an act of vandalism rather than sound financial planning. 

Having spent most of his re-election campaign lying about the vast surpluses his slash-and-burn policies must have created during his initial assault on Wisconsin, because they must have, he now turns around and declares that rather than invest those surpluses in our children’s future he needs to continue his slashing and burning because – surprise! – none of those surpluses were actually real.  They were just another of his sincerely believed lies, trumpeted loudly enough to sucker his base into voting for him again so he could have a platform for implementing Charles and David Koch’s agenda in a presidential campaign.  The man is a sock puppet, but anyone who hadn’t figured that out by last November is likely beyond hope now.

His budget merges agencies, diverts funds from public education in order to expand the right-wing fantasy of private school vouchers, defunds public radio (the most reliable source of information in America, according to several studies I've seen), cuts medical benefits for senior citizens, and guts the Department of Natural Resources (and eliminates much of its ability to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources until long after his reign of terror ends).  The biggest cut, of course, is targeted at the University of Wisconsin System, which will absorb $300 million in damages even as it is legally forbidden from finding new income sources to make up that loss, because that’s what passes for responsible fiscal planning among the modern right wing.  It will cripple the UW, and that’s precisely the point.

Education just makes the peasants uppity.

On the other hand, he does want the state to spend $222 million on a new stadium for the privately-owned Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.  Bread and circuses for everyone!

So far none of this was unexpected.  Like many of the leaders on his side of the aisle these days, Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has made no secret of his hatred of the kind of informed citizenry that the Founding Fathers knew was necessary for a republic to survive and he has done his best to prevent such a citizenry from surviving.  It will take a few years for the state to collapse completely, so I'm sure he figures he’ll be safely on his way when that happens and it won’t be his concern anymore. Won't he be surprised.

What did strike me – and many others – as rather more vicious than usual was his attempt to destroy the University of Wisconsin System at its core.

The University of Wisconsin rests on what is called the Wisconsin Idea, something that no other public university system has copied.  It has been part of state law for over a century now, and it identifies the UW as integral to the health and future of Wisconsin as a whole.  It reads as follows:

The mission of the system is to develop human resources, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses, and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose.  Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition.  Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

The Wisconsin Idea sets out a vision of a society where educated expertise is valued not merely for its practical benefits but for its ability to make this a better world for those living in it and for those still to come.  It ties together the university and the state, and upholds the social compact made between free citizens of a republic, a much more enlightened burden than that made between lords and peasants.

Naturally Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has a problem with this.

So, buried deep in his budget, was the Wisconsin Idea According To Governor Teabagger (A Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of Koch Industries), to wit:

Notice first and foremost, the addition of the phrase “to meet the state’s workforce needs.”  Translated out of the Teabaggerese, this is a demand for the University of Wisconsin to degenerate into a taxpayer-funded corporate training center.  While this is certainly in keeping with the right-wing corporatist mantra of privatizing profits while offloading costs onto the public, it does raise the question of why, if corporations are the highest form of institutional life on the planet, they can't handle that themselves.  But that's the direction he wants us to go in.  If it ever gets enacted, maybe they’ll rename the football team to match.  Go Trainees!  Fight!  Fight!  Fight!

While there is only one message in the added text, there are two big messages in the deletions.

First, there is the wholesale elimination of any suggestion that the UW – and by extension any government agency – has any responsibility for promoting the general welfare.  How silly of the Founding Fathers to put that phrase in the Constitution, after all!  Clearly Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) knows more about the purpose of government than James Madison!  The parts about extending knowledge beyond the boundaries of campus, stimulating society, and improving the human condition are obviously Communist propaganda and do not fit into the modern right-wing refusal to accept any responsibility for anything, even as they drain off the accumulated achievements of past generations.

This, by the way, is the main reason why you cannot call them “conservative.”  Genuine conservatives, fired by the spirit of Edmund Burke, would be horrified at such obvious moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

Second, there is the rather telling deletion of the search for truth.  Truth is not kind to the modern right wing.  It has a disturbing tendency to contradict their carefully constructed and hermetically sealed ideological worldview, and therefore must be avoided at all costs.

Which brings us back to the lies.

I’m guessing that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) didn’t think anyone would burrow down deep enough into the budget to catch that before he and his cronies, minions, and lackeys in the legislature had rammed it into law.  Given the irresponsible speed and reckless criminality with which they had worked to shove previous bills through the legislature before they could even be read, this is not an unreasonable assumption.  But someone did, and then all hell broke loose.

Turns out people rather like the idea that the University of Wisconsin is dedicated toward making the entire state a better place.

At first Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) attempted to defend this change, but eventually that became untenable.  So he declared that it was all a “drafting error,” and not meant for consideration.  This despite extensive documentation that the specific deletions and additions were explicitly ordered by his staff, right down to the last comma.

I’m sure he believes his own story. 

Me, personally, I’m offended by the sheer half-assery of it.  Look, guy – I know you’re going to lie to me.  It’s how you came to power. It’s how you maintain power.  It’s what you’re building a presidential campaign upon.  But you know, the kind of rank incompetence you bring to this task is pretty much on par with the kind you display in most other areas of your administration.  Try harder next time and see if you can at least achieve plausibility.

Atta boy.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Diving Into the Great Salt Lake

Well that was a day.

Today was America’s greatest secular holiday, a celebration of wretched excess that dwarfs any other on the calendar, which is saying something.  I know that there are a great many people who do not like the Super Bowl or sports in general – many of whom get rather snotty about it, frankly, as if this somehow makes them Better Human Beings than the rest of us – but I always look forward to it.

This year had an extra edge to it, though.

It didn’t have anything to do with the game itself.  I don’t particularly like the Patriots, a team whose basic attitude toward the rest of the world seems to be smug disdain, and while I have a sneaking fondness for the Seahawks it doesn’t actually amount to caring whether they win or not.  For all that it was a great game – some phenomenal plays, a fair bit of back and forth, a close score, and within forty seconds at the very end one of the most spectacular catches I have ever seen and one of the most boneheaded play calls ever made.  So from a football perspective, it was a perfectly fine evening.

No, my interest this year was dietary.

It’s been a year now since my doctor did that finger-waggle thing that doctors do when confronted by middle-aged men who insist on eating like graduate students.  And for a year now I have been dutifully cutting back on the salt in my diet, much to my dismay.  I eat more healthy foods and less junk.  I have cut out salty snacks pretty much completely.  It’s about as boring as I thought it would be, but there you have it.  I have been good.  I have the medical results to prove it.

But not today.

Super Bowl Sunday is the one day out of the year where Americans are legally obligated to eat junk food, to consume in vast and irresponsible quantities food that has no natural ingredients whatsoever, food that can only be considered food by virtue of the fact that it does not kill you there and then, food that should be regulated by treaty and would subject people to criminal penalties if forced on the unwilling rather than snorked down by the barrel by people paying for the privilege.  It is a day set aside for chips, wings, dips, and other consumables of which nobody over the age of 40 should eat more than a handful.

On this day, my diet could go suck eggs.  Which are low-salt and should make it happy.

For myself, I had plans to fall off the low-salt bandwagon with a thump that could be heard on the other side of the continent.

It snowed today here in Baja Canada – great billowing gusts of dry, powdery flakes that blew up in the air, obscuring visibility and keeping people home who would otherwise have gone to the homes of friends for shared food and beverages.  So all of the snacks that we had planned to bring we just had to eat ourselves, beginning at 11am and continuing right through the final whistle of the game.  I gave it my best effort, and it was glorious.

Oh, tomorrow I shall return to my diet.  For the next 364 days I will eat things that middle-aged men should eat and look back on today with that mixture of satisfaction and mild embarrassment that comes from doing stupid things intentionally and without regret.  And I will look forward to next year’s Super Bowl, whomever is playing.

You have your holidays.  I have mine.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vocabulary Lessons

I’ve been watching a fair amount of English Premier League soccer for a while now.  I like it.  It’s an interesting game to watch for those who don’t need the constant short-attention-span-theater adrenaline rush of scoring the way basketball fans seem to do.  Concussions are considered abnormal, unlike in American football.  And it can be an elegant game to watch in the way that hockey is, all back and forth and motion.  It’s a game of space, where it often makes sense to go backwards.  And it has a certain restful quality the way most spectator sports do – you get caught up in it and the rest of your brain turns off for a while.

That’s a nice quality to have this year.  It’s been a long year and it’s still January.

The broadcasters here were smart enough not to hire Americans for their play-by-play announcers.  They just stream the English broadcasts.  I’m sure they have come to some arrangement whereby those original announcers take time now and then to explain things that the folks back in the UK probably don’t need to have explained, but I appreciate it.

Even so, there are noticeable vocabulary differences that took me some time to adjust to, even beyond the obvious “football” versus “soccer” dispute. 

One thing I noticed after watching for a while was the constant use of the word “pace.”  In the US, announcers would probably use “speed,” especially when describing the motion of the ball.  Sometimes “velocity,” if they felt their audience could handle it.  It’s interesting that the EPL announcers often use it to describe the motion of people too, usually as a property – “he’s coming down the side with pace.”  We don’t really use the word that way here.

Nor do we use “quality” quite the same way.  Quality in the EPL seems to be a general term covering all manifestations of skill.  Teams have quality.  Shots have quality (though in the US we would say that they displayed quality, if we used quality that way at all).  “Skill level” seems to be the term here, as far as I can tell, as far as we have an equivalent.

Games are called “matches.”  In the US, match is generally reserved for tennis.  And there are all sorts of matches in soccer, none of which have any real equivalent here.  “Fixtures,” which are the normal league games.  “Friendlies,” which we would call exhibition games.  And things in between that I have no idea what they are.  EPL teams seem to play in about a dozen different leagues simultaneously – the EPL itself, the FA Cup, the European Cup, and so on.  They all overlap.  American sports are much more monotone.

Soccer games are generally played on a “pitch,” which is a word that has a number of meanings in the US, none of which have any connection to a playing surface unless that surface sits on a significant angle.  “Field” is preferred here.

EPL players wear “boots” and “kit” for games.  Kits are “uniforms” here.  As for boots, well.  During a halftime show of an EPL game I watched one announcer explain that in America boots were “cleats,” which struck me as inaccurate.  Cleats go on the bottom of shoes.  We say shoes.  Boots are for skiing.

The announcers also use the word “touch” a lot.  It mostly means contact with the ball and can be heavy or light depending on whether the ball gets kicked away or stays where it ought to be.  I don’t know what the equivalent term would be in any American sport.

They also say “side” where we would say “team.”  Matches are played by sides.  Here games are played by teams.

It took me a long time to figure out what a “table” was and how it mattered.  In the US we would say “standings.”  It’s just the ranked list of teams according to their won/lost records, and sides move up and down the table just as American teams move up and down in the standings.

Soccer is a timed sport, like American football and unlike baseball.  They have overtime like we have, at least in some World Cup games, but they also have “extra time,” which has no real equivalent here – time added on to the game to make up for various halts in the action.  My favorite term, though, is “normal time” or “regular time” which refers to the standard 90 minutes of play without either overtime or extra time.  We would say “regulation time,” which sounds kind of rigid.  I like the idea of “normal time,” as if it is an island of sanity in a world gone mad.  It makes a difference which side of the line you’re on.

The one thing that they do that isn’t really a vocabulary difference but which did confuse me for a while anyway is list the sides differently when describing matches and giving scores.  At the top of the screen during the matches there will be a little graphic with the score that will look something like this:

Everton 1-0 Crystal Palace

It’s easy enough to see that Everton is winning, though in the US we’d put Crystal Palace’s score after their name rather than before.  But who’s the home team and who’s the visitor?

In the US we’d read that as “Everton at Crystal Palace,” making Everton the visitor.  But they would read it as “Everton hosting Crystal Palace,” making Everton the home team.  This took me forever to figure out, but I’ve now gotten to the point where I find it more comfortable and am constantly having to stop and think the other way when looking at American sports.

So I drink my tea and let it all wash over me, unaware that I’m learning things anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Your Call Isn't Really That Important To Us, Now That You Mention It

So apparently my cell phone is really more of an anchor for miniature boats.

I hate having a cell phone.  I’ve never found one that actually gets a signal and the fact that I am constantly reachable sort of grates on me.  If it weren’t for the fact that I have kids and you never know when you will need to call someone in an emergency I’d probably have abandoned the whole cell phone idea as a bad move long ago.

But I have one nonetheless, and I pay money for the service.  Therefore I expect it to work.

My cell phone provider – who, for the sake of not being sued, I will refer to as Sexually Inexperienced Mobile Company USA – does not share this expectation.

Now, it could be that they are just trying to get rid of me.  I can understand this, actually.  I have one of those grandfathered plans where you pay so much up front and they charge you as you go to whittle that pile of money down.  And if you don’t whittle it down in a certain period, you still have to re-up every so often or they just declare the account dead.

I get charged 20 cents/minute for all calls, incoming and outgoing, and last year I think I managed to spend almost $30 total.  They can’t be making any money off of me.  I just don’t make that many calls, and I find texting to be an unmitigated nuisance with no redeeming value whatsoever.  I will actively avoid sending or reading texts if there is any possible way to do so, and there almost always is.  Most people I know are aware of this, which means that the only texts I get are ones I have no need to look at anyway, such as notifications from SIMCUSA about the wonderful things that they would be doing for me if only their service worked.

I’ve been trying to use the cell phone more this year, though, since the simple fact is that you have to put in so much money every time you re-up and it’s been piling up a bit.  This means having to find somewhere with a half-decent signal and someone to call and time to call them, three things that rarely line up.  Sometimes they do.  I still have a lot of money in the account left to go even so, though.

Which brings me to my current situation.

On Friday I attempted to make a local call.  SIMCUSA refused to allow this, informing me by recorded message that I did not have enough money in my account to make this call.  I checked my account.  There was $52.99 in there.

Query: is there anywhere on earth I cannot call from Wisconsin for less than $52.99?

Answer: no.

So I spent an unhelpful quarter hour on the phone with a SIMCUSA operator who, ironically enough, was clearly not anywhere in the USA, though I have no information on their sexual status nor do I really want any.  I have no idea where their call center is located but my guess is they have far more interesting food than we do.  What they don’t have is any actual clue what is going on, as we all agreed that I had plenty of money to make any call I wanted and yet no calls could be made.  The best this person could come up with was that I should always dial the area code even for local numbers.

That was about as effective as you’d imagine.

So two days later I was back on the phone with another SIMCUSA operator whose basic argument was that there was tower maintenance in my area and therefore I was being unreasonable expecting my phone to actually make phone calls.  The fact that I had tried to make phone calls from places beyond my home tower did not seem to move him.  That was his story and he was sticking to it.

Let me tell you what an entertaining half hour that was.  You can take the boy out of Philadelphia but you cannot take the Philadelphia out of the boy, and it is my fond hope that his ears are still ringing from the rather pointed denunciations of his company and the general nonsensical nature of his advice that he was favored with during that call.

I did get some financial recompense for the fact that I cannot use a service for which I am paying, and my plan is to burn through that within a week or two once I can make calls again, which the last SIMCUSA operator assured me would be no later than February 6, probably, if all went well and the telecom gods were properly propitiated with sacrifices of Sexually Inexperienced Actual Humans or, failing that, lemon meringue pies or other sweet pastries.  And once my balance is whittled down to something I feel I can afford to lose, well, there are other cell phone providers who would no doubt be willing to provide an actual service for the money I feel constrained to give them for a device I'd rather not have in the first place.

So if I have your phone number, perhaps we'll be talking soon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

News and Updates

1. I find that I am always cold these days.  I don’t know why, as I have always liked cold weather and it has not been especially cold of late anyway.  It does give me an excuse for more tea, though, so that is okay.

2. There are a lot of similarities between birth and death – ask any poet, or get people to start singing from The Lion King if you doubt me – but the one that has struck me most this week is that both create a kind of null space in the world that puts you on one side and pretty much everything else on the other.  I remember having this feeling when Tabitha and Lauren were born like, “Why is the rest of the world proceeding on as usual?  What on earth could they be doing that is that important?”  It’s been like that here for the last week.  And if it has been like that for me, an old friend 4000 miles away, I cannot even imagine what it has been like for Julia’s family.

3. Unfortunately the rest of the world continues to roll on and make demands.  The semester starts up on Monday and I still have syllabi to complete.  At least I figured out the trick to making setting up online discussion areas a whole lot simpler.  So there was far less obligatory profanity and whiskey consumption than usual during the set-up process, and in context this is probably a good thing.

4. I got my car back today.  It was icy a while back and Kim ended up sliding into the back of a minivan while stopping for a red light.  Fortunately the main injuries were to the vehicles involved and the city rescinded the ticket for unsafe driving, admitting that the conditions really did not allow safe driving at any speed, but it is astonishing how much damage one can do to a car at 4mph.  I finally took it in to get fixed this week.  It spent a few days in the shop while I drove the loaner they gave me.  The loaner was essentially a stripped down version of my car, which was nice since all of the things were in the same place and I didn’t have to figure out how to turn on the wiper blades from scratch.  It was entirely manual, though – windows, door locks, side mirrors, everything.  This fascinated my children and their friends.  “Oh!” said one friend, looking at the window cranks.  “So energy efficient!”

5. Lauren insisted the loaner car smelled like a bowling alley.  I kept telling her it just smelled like a clean car and not seven years’ worth of accumulated cracker crumbs.

6. I am thinking that I will completely revise my World History to 1500 class this fall to match the wonderful framework I found in a book Kim gave me for Christmas.  I even emailed the author about it, and he graciously responded with more information.  So now I have another project, because I clearly don’t have enough projects.

7. Lauren spent last weekend at a bonspiel.  Tabitha spent last weekend studying for midterm exams and Skyping with friends.  We never saw either of them.  It’s such a different thing, having older kids.

8. Applejack sours: the universe’s way of letting you know that it sympathizes.

9. For all those who are still sending out Christmas cards, we give thanks and rejoice that we are not the only ones.

10. I have discovered Welcome to Night Vale.  HP Lovecraft writes A Prairie Home Companion – why did I not know about this sooner?  “Look to the north.  Keep looking.  There is nothing coming from the south.”