Thursday, October 10, 2019

News and Updates

1.  Today started with my office door handle falling off in my hands.  It can be very difficult not to see things as harbingers and omens in these parlous times, really it can.

2. Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but it is hard to keep up with the raging dumpster fire that is der Sturmtrumper and his entire administration, their supporters, and their effects on the world at large.  You sit down to write something coherent about the latest news and then – BAM! – the president and his gang get even more stupid, venal, petty, corrupt, and morally bankrupt before you can even get to the first punctuation mark.

3. Eventually I’ll get enough of a running start to write something, but for now all I will say is that the continued support among the GOP base for der Sturmtrumper in the face of overwhelming (and largely self-provided) evidence of impeachable offenses is a damning indictment of American politics, education, and morals.  There is no way any thinking human can continue to support him, and I will leave the implications of that up to the reader.

4. The Higher Higher Ups to whom – if you follow the chain of command all the way up to where the air is thin and causes brain damage without proper protective gear – I and the rest of my colleagues down at Home Campus ultimately report hired a Very Expensive Consulting Firm to do some database transferal chores.  Basically we have a lot of information in one computer system, and it had to find its way into a different computer system before the first one was dropped into the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.  The VECF was likely paid a sum of money not incommensurate with its name in order to do this project.  So guess what we’re all now redoing by hand down at Home Campus!  I think the CEO of VECF should be billed personally for my time, preferably at the “Dude Needs A Long Vacation” rate.

5. Now that we are empty nesters, the place gets kind of quiet.  So last Sunday I whomped up a big batch of macaroni and meatballs and invited Lauren’s squad over for dinner.  And they came!  It was nice to have them.  Perhaps we’ll make this a regular occurrence.

6. I’m trying to find time to paint the front of the garage.  It has needed painting for, well, an embarrassingly long time now.  I just hate home maintenance is all.  We did look into getting someone else to do it, but the first estimate we got – the only estimate we got, since apparently exterior painters are booking out to 2025 around here and many of them don’t even bother responding to requests for estimates – was roughly triple the value of the garage itself and everything in it including the cars.  So I now have a can of “garage white” paint just waiting for it to stop raining long enough for the wood to dry out a bit.  Three or four days is what the paint store people said, otherwise the paint will just fall off.  I’m not sure we’ve had four days without rain since July, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time before Thanksgiving either, after which it will likely be too cold.  On the one hand I really didn’t want to paint anything.  On the other hand, it needs to be painted and I’ve gone to the trouble of buying paint so I’m kind of annoyed that I can’t just get it over with.

7. On yet another hand (I’m an academic – I have an infinite supply of hands), I rather like grey, rainy fall weather, so there is that.

8. I’ve been trying to play more piano of late.  I kind of got out of the habit when the girls were little – they really didn’t like it when I played and there wasn’t much time for it anyway – but now it’s often just me in the house since Kim doesn’t get home until late, so I’m relearning some of the things I once knew.  Perhaps I’ll learn new things soon.

9. We have been trying to figure out how to get the one cat who is too thin to eat more while getting the other cat who is too fat to eat less, and this project has met with about as much success as you would expect.  A while back Kim bought a timed feeder that looks strikingly like Eva from Wall-E (“EeeeeEEEEEEva”) and which spits out food at seemingly random intervals and then chirps proudly to let you know that it has done this.  It’s like having a plastic toddler.  The original plan was to provide more food to the skinny cat, so we tried to put Eva in high places where the fat one couldn’t reach, but it turns out that the lure of cat food is stronger than the pull of gravity and the fat one seems to be eating most of the food.  This seems counterproductive.  We’re still working on a solution.

10. In the last month I have been handed both a wheat cent and a silver quarter in change.  This made me happy.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Peeking Over the Ramparts

I warned you.

I warned you in November, after the Democrats took the House of Representatives and der Sturmtrumper could no longer hide behind a solid GOP wall that would gladly overlook his crimes, his corruption, and his dictatorial urges as long as they got their judges and their tax breaks.  I warned you that it would get ugly, that it would get worse, that the future of the republic was in jeopardy, that the hard part had just begun.

And all those things have come true.

Der Sturmtrumper has been twisting feverishly in the wind for the last week, spitting bile and random accusations in all directions, ever since the impeachment inquiry became real.  He’s raged.  He’s thrown half his administration under the bus.  He’s held the most bizarrely pathetic open-air pity party in federal history.  He has, in violation of federal law, demanded the identity of the whistle-blower whose complaints he has explicitly confirmed as accurate, and his minions have set up a $50,000 bounty on the whistleblower’s head because nothing about that screams dictatorship or nutjobs at all.  He’s called for civil war.

Imagine – a sitting US president calling for civil war because the US Congress is starting to exercise its Constitutionally mandated oversight.  Who’da thought it?  Well, besides anyone who has paid attention to this sorry and lawless excuse for an administration since before it was inaugurated, I mean.  Who?

The Founding Fathers, that’s who.  Der Sturmtrumper is the sum total of everything they feared when they set up the republic in 1787.  The demagogue and would-be tyrant.  The guy riling up the mob and tearing down the Constitution.  The thing they fought the Revolution to create, built the Constitution to thwart, and created the Electoral College to avoid when the mob got out of hand.  They knew it was coming.  They just didn't know when.

Bearing in mind that my success rate as a fortune teller is pretty much zero, this is how I'm going to guess it will go.

There will be an investigation – a lengthy and excruciatingly public investigation, one hopes, though in the last 48 hours there have been new revelations of impeachable offenses roughly every 45 minutes or so, so perhaps that won’t be necessary.

There will be a vote on impeachment.  Given that our Criminal In Chief has already confessed and seems proud of it, there is only one way for that to go.

There will probably be a trial.  Let me clarify – the Constitution mandates that there be a trial, but then the Constitution also mandates that a sitting president shall get a vote on his nominee for the Supreme Court, and Moscow Mitch – the single most corrupt man in Washington DC, up to and including der Sturmtrumper – didn’t care about that either.  It’s entirely possible he will just refuse and then it will be up to the GOP Senators to decide if they care about the country more than their party.

I know where my money is.

But let’s just say that, perhaps by mistake, Moscow Mitch lets a trial happen.  Der Sturmtrumper will either be convicted, as the evidence and confessions demand, or his party will declare the republic to be at an end and all hail our absolute GOP overlords.

It's rather late in the game either way.

Der Sturmtrumper has already done incalculable damage to the standing of the US in the world.  He has already – perhaps fatally – undermined American political institutions and social norms.  He has shaped and encouraged a large body of Americans who think that Fascism is perfectly fine as long as they’re the ones doing the marching and the killing.  He has run roughshod over laws, morals, Constitutional restraints, human decency, and any claim this country ever had to have actual values.  It will take decades for the US to recover from this administration even if everyone involved in it slinks away quietly in chains.

There is nothing so dangerous as a cornered rat, however.  The odds of anything happening quietly with this administration or its supporters are effectively nil.  They're just a hairsbreadth away from a coup and you can see the idea gaining traction with them.  They're cornered, their ship is sinking, and they're ready to blow the whole thing up rather than see justice being served.

Hold onto your hats, folks.  We could end up miles from here.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Game Night

Now that Kim is working in Madison she rubs shoulders with a different strata of Wisconsin society than we usually see here in Our Little Town.  Specifically, the strata that has Green Bay Packers season tickets, which are highly prized in Wisconsin.  If you want one you should get on the list right now and perhaps your grandchildren will get them.  The wait is several decades long.

Not every season ticket holder can make every game, of course, and sometimes they’ll sell you individual game tickets.  And if those tickets are for a game against my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, well, really, how often does that kind of opportunity come up?  It was a Thursday night game, which did give me pause as it meant we’d be leaving Our Little Town sometime in mid-afternoon in order to get up to Green Bay in time and we’d likely be back home in the wee hours of the morning.  But even when I get deep into my “why am I leaving my house exactly?” mode I can still recognize that yes, indeed, I should leave my house for this, and Kim really wanted to go, so we went.

The only other time I have ever been to an NFL game in person was 1972.  Tom Dempsey was kicking for the Eagles, Richard Nixon was president, Veterans Stadium was about a year old or so, and my dad and my grandfather took me to a preseason game against what were then the St. Louis Cardinals.  I don’t remember much about the game, to be honest.  I’m sure they lost – they lost pretty much every game that year and for most of my childhood – but I remember it as a good time.

Like most older stadiums, Lambeau Field sits in the middle of a city neighborhood rather than being marooned on an island of asphalt on the outskirts of town.  It’s actually a bit surprising how quickly it comes up when you get into Green Bay – you get off the highway and head up Oneida Street and – BOOM! – there it is.  All of the businesses along that street close on game days, apparently – even the gas stations stop pumping gas, though they do stay open to sell you snacks – and they sell parking.  We found a spot without any difficulties, paid the fee, and started walking.

And here I discovered that it really was going to be a good night.

I wore my Eagles jersey and hat, of course.  As someone who has lived in Wisconsin for nearly a quarter of a century now I’ll cheer for the Packers against any team except the Eagles.  When the Eagles are involved there is only one team to cheer for. 

Fly, Eagles, Fly!

And while I did get grief for this from Packers fans, it was a good-spirited sort of grief – the kind of grief that comes from people who understand that this is a game, that we’re all here to have fun, and everyone should just relax and enjoy it.  I saw a lot of Packers and Eagles fans hanging out together and doing each other favors (taking pictures, and such), and a lot of people in Aaron Rodgers jerseys came up to me and asked if this was my first time at Lambeau and how I was doing.  We talked as fans of our teams and as fans in general, and it was really nice.  Several people – both Eagles fans and Packers fans – noted my jersey and Kim’s Packers sweatshirt and had fun asking how we worked things out, and we had fun answering back.  The entire time I was in Green Bay – from the moment I got out of the car through the entire game and back to the car – I never had any trouble.

You have to love that.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Lambeau Field, as a sports fan.  It’s one of the iconic stadiums in this country, and those get more and more uncommon as time goes by.  We walked up and found a line.

They funnel you through a long line of metal detectors and then through another chokepoint at the gate where you show them your tickets, so we had plenty of time to mingle with other fans.  There were a lot of Eagles fans – it seemed to me that maybe 20-30% of the crowd had Eagles jerseys or other gear on, while most of the rest had Packers stuff.  There was the occasional Bears fan, but nobody discussed that.  While we waited to go through the metal detectors and ticket takers there were more than a few rounds of dueling cheers (“Go Pack Go!” followed by “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!” in a sort of beer-fueled round – a lot of the people in line with us had been tailgating since lunchtime, after all) and then we were in.

We found our seats pretty quickly.  We were on the 15-yard line, on the visitor’s side, on the end of the stadium that has Green Bay painted in the end zone rather than Packers.  It’s all bench seating in Lambeau – aluminum benches with numbers painted on them to let you know where you’re supposed to sit.  They might as well have been made of spun glass and razor blades for all that most people actually sat down during the game. 

The first thing you notice when you see the teams out there warming up is that the field is actually fairly small.  This makes sense when you think about it.  It’s 120 yards long and 53 yards wide and that’s it.  It looks much bigger on television.

The second thing you notice is that sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but those guys are huge.  Carson Wentz is nine feet tall, and the guys on the line of scrimmage each weigh half a ton.  Aaron Rodgers is only eight and a half feet tall but he has the mustache to make up for it.  The only exception is Darren Sproles, the Eagles running back, who can stand up comfortably between Wentz’ knees. 

We watched them warm up for a bit, and I went out to the concessions to find dinner.  It was surprisingly tasty, all things considered – don’t ask for nutrition and try not to think about the prices, but if I wanted either of those things I’d have stayed home.

And then the game began.

We were in a section that had a lot of Eagles fans in it – in the rows surrounding us it seemed pretty even, actually – and there was a great deal of cheering to be done whenever anything happened because no matter what happened somebody thought it was worth cheering about.  Most of the action happened at the other end of the field, regardless of who was defending that end, but enough came our way to make it interesting.  It took the Eagles most of the first quarter to remember how to play the game, and then after that it got pretty evenly matched.

The Eagles took a one-point lead into halftime.

The second half went much like the first.  I’m not sure why the coaches made some of the decisions they made (Seriously, Pederson – a 2-point conversion in the 3rd quarter?  And LeFleur, 1st and goal from the 1-yard line and not a single running play?) but I will admit that it kept things lively. 

If you’re planning to go to Lambeau for a night game, though, be warned: when the Packers score, they turn off most of the bright lights and shoot off fireworks.  There is about a 3-second gap between those two things, which means that there is a short time where you’re starting to look for the exits because what just happened?  And then the fireworks go off and you think, “Oh, okay.”

Thursday night NFL games are not always good games, but this one actually was – if you were a neutral fan just looking for an entertaining game, you’d have been happy with it.  And as an Eagles fan, I was very happy.  The Packers had the ball with less than a minute to play, about 7 yards from the Eagles’ end zone.  I asked Kim, “Are we going to stay for overtime?” and she said “Hell yes we’re staying for overtime!” and then the Eagles intercepted the ball in the end zone and the game was over.

It was a long ride home and a long day the next day, but it was worth it.

Fly, Eagles, Fly!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Fast-Moving News Day

So let’s see – where are we today?

1. Der Sturmtrumper’s White House released a thoroughly incriminating “transcription” of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine, one that essentially confessed that he used tax dollars to try to strong-arm a sovereign nation into supporting his petty partisan re-election campaign.  Seriously – it’s right there on the document, which (as of this writing) you can download directly from the White House web site.  The real shocker of this not that he’s basically admitted everything the Democrats have accused him of this week, but rather that he felt that this document would somehow help his case.  Not only do we have Corrupt, we have Stupid Corrupt.

2. The White House has admitted that this transcript (which is not really a transcript but was in fact put together by the Trump Administration) is not even a complete not-really-a-transcript and that there was more there.  Which of course begs the question: what could they have possibly left out that was worse than what they put in?

3. Der Sturmtrumper, not content to implicate himself, has also implicated Vice President Toady.  “I think you should ask for VP Pence’s conversations because he had a couple of conversations also.”  Seriously – why bother with an investigation when he’s happy to tell you all about it himself?

4. The White House took its talking points on how to respond to this scandal and emailed them directly to the House Democrats, because why not?  They then sent out a “recall email” notice asking for them back, just in case you thought these goobers really lived anywhere in or adjacent to the real world.

5. Der Sturmtrumper also went on CNN and announced in front of the world and on video that “Nancy Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House.”  Uh, what now?  Did I miss an election?  Has Congress ceded the power to name its leaders to the Executive?  Or is this just more evidence of the mental instability that has defined this president since before he was elected?  Hard to say anymore.

6. In a series of tweets (and when, dear God, did Twitter become an acceptable form of communication for a political leader?  Seriously – this shit has gone on too long) der Sturmtrumper also demanded that Congress investigate Joe Biden’s son if they’re going to investigate him.  You know, someone should tell him that this isn’t his call either.

7. Aides to the Ukrainian president have publicly confirmed that it was well understood that their investigation of Biden was a necessary precondition to any dealings with Trump, just in case you’re wondering about the whole quid pro quo angle.

8. Der Sturmtrumper, when asked if he thinks Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails are in Ukraine, said, “I think they could be.”  I don’t know, maybe he’s trying to beat the rap on an insanity plea?

9. On top of everything else, Rudy “Madman” Giuliani may well have violated the Logan Act, which is a rare treat in the world of international politics. 

10. Any movement among the GOP to recognize the corruption they’ve been propping up for the last three years?  Minimal at best, it seems.  Mostly loud defense and nonsense, as far as I have been able to see.  We’ll see where it goes from here.

May you live in interesting times.  May we all survive them.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Busy Day in Politics

So here we are.

Item one:

A sixteen year old girl just went to both Congress and the UN and blistered their damnfool ears with righteous indignation about the future of the world.  For her trouble she has become the target of every doughy rightwing incel who can still find his keyboard amid the piles of Mountain Dew cans on his desk and was personally mocked by the most corrupt president this country has had in over a century, both of which she should wear as badges of honor.  She should win a Nobel Prize just for this week, let alone the years she has already put into this cause.  She should win it because she is right and they are wrong.  She should win it because she has the courage to say it to their faces.  She should win it because outrage at the slavering buffoons who think it’s perfectly okay to roast the planet and slaughter my children so they can buy a second yacht is the only correct response to those buffoons. 

Greta Thunberg is exactly the hero the times call for now, and those who can’t see that will be forgotten on the ash heap of history if they are lucky and cursed by whatever descendants survive if they are not.

Also, old white men should not get into trolling wars with teenagers.  Der Sturmtrumper may be the most visible example of what happens when unmedicated assholery intersects modern technology on the shitter at 3am, but teenagers grew up with this technology and they will destroy you if you tangle with them.  And good for them. 

Item two:

It has begun.  After nearly three years of national disgrace and international embarrassment, three years of watching the Dunning-Krueger poster child for corruption, petit-fascism, and authoritarian arrogance strut upon the American stage as if he were fit so much as to pick up the rolling turds of the Founding Fathers with his bare hands, three years of demonstrated criminal activity and immoral actions, three years of sabotaging the national security, world standing, economic future, and social fabric of the United States, three years of braying minions who see nothing wrong with this, it has begun.

A deeply flawed and bitterly incompetent president is finally, formally, going to be the subject of an impeachment inquiry, and where that goes will be anyone's guess.

He’s guilty, of course.  He’s admitted it himself, numerous times, most recently yesterday.  His only defense all along has been “so what?” and maybe, just maybe, there is enough patriotism and respect for the law and for the Constitution and for morality in this country that “so what?” isn’t going to be enough anymore.  Maybe.  I don’t doubt that the GOP will fight tooth and nail for this guy, will defend with every scrap of their power their grip on absolute authority and minority rule in this country, and let them.  They will either lose and be destroyed for a generation, or win and declare once and for all that the American experiment in freedom and self-government has come to an end.

The Founding Fathers never thought the republic would last as long as it has.  Republics require virtue - the ability of leaders and citizens to place the common good above their petty private interests and to work for justice and morality - after all.

And now, we wait.

Item three:

In all of British history I am not sure that there has ever been a verdict by the British supreme court that a sitting Prime Minister had so misled the Crown that the proroguing of Parliament was “unlawful, void, and of no effect.”

From a distance, the saga of Brexit has been a sad spectacle of a once proud nation destroying itself with right-wing idiocy – something that, as an American, I have no real standing to criticize another country for, given the last three years, but which I find disturbing anyway.  I have friends there.  I've been there.  It's one of the places on the planet that I enjoy and find absolutely fascinating and it's been painful watching this process unfold.

I am glad that there is some resistance to the fundamentally unsound and anti-democratic maneuverings of Boris Johnson and his minions, and I can only hope to see that kind of resistance succeed in my own country for our own issues as soon as possible.

It’s been a busy day.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Rattle Rattle

I have had pretty much the same cough since the Johnson Adminstration.

My mother burned out any number of those old black and turquoise vaporizers when I was a kid.  Vick’s Vapo-Rub was the scent of my childhood.  It goes away for long stretches, but every time I get any kind of cold it comes back and lingers long after the cold disappears.  Face it, if the next great pandemic is respiratory just say goodbye to me now.

I’m in the middle of one of these at the moment, and it’s kind of annoying to be honest.  Not just the coughing, which is annoying enough as it is, but also the things that the coughing makes you do.  Such as sleep elsewhere until you finally find some kind of medicine that will allow your wife to get a good night’s rest.  Such as taking this medicine for a week before you read on the box that it is supposed to be orange flavored, because you never in a million years would have guessed that from the available evidence.  Such as trying to teach a class without sounding like a tuberculosis ward.

Eventually I started to wonder if perhaps I should get this checked out.  I am one of the lucky ones in this country who actually has health insurance, after all, and it would seem churlish not to put it to good use.  Not everyone can do that.

On Thursday I called over to the doctor’s office and asked if perhaps I ought to come in for a visit.  I spoke with one of the nurses for a while, describing my general state, and after a while she said that they’d had a cancellation that afternoon and perhaps I should take it.

So I went.

The doctor was over an hour late in actually seeing me, which I suppose I should not have been surprised by since he, like everyone else in late-capitalist America, is governed by bean counters who believe he can accomplish far more than any realistic estimate of what a doctor can accomplish per unit time and who get persnickety when that illusion is dispelled. 

He went through much the same process as the nurse had, though in person this time.  There was also a certain amount of requested hyperventilating while he listened to my lungs.

Eventually he told me that I had some kind of condition which, as near as I could figure, translated as “You have a cough, and it is causing you to cough more.  If you can stop coughing, you won’t need to cough.”

It sounded more official when he said it.

So now I have a short term prescription for much higher power medication, in the fond hopes that it will be able to do what generations of black and turquoise vaporizers could not.  “Let me know if it works,” he said, which implies that he’s about as optimistic as I am but we agreed it couldn’t hurt.

In the meantime, I feel fine even if I do sound like a Harley in bad need of a tune up.  It makes me feel more like a Wisconsinite, anyway.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

News and Updates

1. I’m guessing that I didn’t actually break my toe last Sunday – I just bashed it all to hell.  It is mostly not purple anymore.  I’ve been able to wear normal shoes since Tuesday and go up and down stairs without too much fuss (always my standard gauge for measuring foot injuries).  And it’s pretty much stopped hurting.  The bruising did spread a bit but in a fairly bottle-shaped pattern so I’m feeling confident that won’t be a larger issue.  So three cheers for me – I didn’t damage myself as much as I thought.  Rah.

2. Somehow I have become the local guru for our new classroom management software down at Home Campus, which is a tremendous irony since I have been loudly vocal about the fact that this software program sucks stagnant swamp water and everyone involved in its development, marketing, and purchase should be publicly flogged.  Seriously – how do you build an educational software platform that can’t do submodules, can’t move items in bulk, can’t (without intervention from several layers of IT professionals) handle giving one grade to a lesson where students choose between multiple discussion forums to answer, doesn’t allow you to look over discussion posts without instantly marking them as read, doesn’t let you give subject lines for discussion posts in a forum, and can’t keep discussion forums in the order you want them without rearranging them every time someone makes a post?  But since I’ve been beating my head against this particular wall longer than most people on my campus, I am now one of the people they come to for advice.  I try not to cackle when responding, but this program needs to come with gift cards for your local liquor store and a 2x4 to beat against your skull to dull the pain when the liquor is not enough.

3. In all seriousness, I am fairly convinced that I now have minor nerve damage in my right hand from having to move 3000+ quiz questions by dragging and dropping them individually in that program last month.  I should file a claim.

4. When der Sturmtrumper is finally driven from office, there will be a reckoning.  It will not be pretty.

5. I stumbled upon a trove of old mini-DVD discs from a movie camera we had when the girls were little, and surprisingly enough they can still be played on my computer.  I’ve been having fun watching and remembering, and I’m copying them over to the computer in the fond hopes that I can update the format to something more accessible. 

6. It’s been seriously rainy here the last week or so – severe thunderstorms most nights, flood watches and warnings, the whole nine yards.  The cats are mildewed and the house feels like it just ran a mile.  The lawn is now approaching wild prairie status and we’ve forgotten what color the sky is when there aren’t any clouds.  Other than the lawn and the humidity, I’m pretty okay with this.  It beats August.

7. My brain has been playing some weird things on the mental jukebox of late.  I spent all day yesterday humming “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” by The Magnetic Fields, which is a strange one even for me.

8. I haven’t had to adjust my car seat in weeks, and it still doesn’t feel right just getting in and driving off.

9. On the other hand, I now have a repaired back tire and a new windshield, which combined are probably worth more than rest of the car at this point.  But my goal is to nurse this car for another five years, until Lauren graduates from college, since I’m enjoying not having a car payment at the moment and would like that trend to continue in these more expensive than usual years.

10. I put together a list of projects for myself and actually managed to get one of them done this weekend, much to my surprise.  I’m not sure what use this is, given that it is something of an archival project that literally nobody but me cares about, but it does feel good to have completed something.  Doesn’t happen very often, really.  Might as well enjoy it.