Tuesday, December 8, 2015

News and Updates

1. When Kim and I got engaged, 21 years ago, my brother’s first reaction (after congratulating us) was to pause thoughtfully and say, “You know, for the rest of your life Dubuque will be a romantic place for you.”  And he was right.  We spent this past weekend at our favorite B&B there – the Richards House, if you are in the neighborhood and looking for a marvelously relaxing place to stay – not doing a whole lot of anything.  We even managed to get the same room where we got engaged, all those years ago.  It was a very good weekend.

2. The best Italian restaurants are the neighborhood hangouts – the ones where the wood paneling and the paintings on the wall are straight out of 1964, where the owner and his wife sit at the bar and greet you as you walk in, and where the food is good, plentiful, and comfortable.  We went to Mario’s this weekend, just a couple of blocks from the Richards House.  You should go there.  You can tell them I sent you but they will probably just look at you in a puzzled sort of way if you do, so my advice is just to eat and enjoy.

3. I have now seen my second James Bond movie.  I am made to understand it was one of the better ones – Kim has seen them all and knows these things.  It struck me as a not-unpleasant way to spend an evening, particularly as there was a pleasing amount of screen time devoted to Lea Seydoux, but it was rather less realistic than Mad Max and had some large and puzzling plot holes (what happened to the widow, anyway?).  Also, is it just me or do other people also notice the fact that Bond is a raging sociopath?

4. We’ve managed to get our Christmas tree up, though after a week or so it still has only a single decoration on it.  There has been no progress on our Christmas letter.  I did buy a bunch of those Charlie Brown stamps, so that’s something.  Kim has done a fair amount of gift shopping, and I hope to get into that soon.  My guess is that the usual level of holiday panic will be upon me soon, and the usual level of “whatever, dude” will follow.  I am a bad, bad celebrator of holidays.

5. I will no longer engage with gun fanatics online.  All I get when I do that is unhinged ideology, pathetic hero fantasies, and hallucinatory self-serving historical revisionism, and that has simply gotten old.  If you are too stupid to understand that a nation where the mass shootings are a daily occurrence is a nation in need of serious change – change that starts with doing what every other civilized nation on earth has done and putting reasonable restrictions on the availability of firearms, particularly military-grade high-powered weapons – then you are not worth my time.

6. If I never hear another advertising jingle sung to the tune of a Christmas carol, that would be okay.

7. There isn’t a single major candidate running for the GOP nomination who should be allowed to walk the streets unsupervised by grown-ups.  Seriously – this is the best they can come up with?  A proto-Fascist con artist, a dazed and (all kidding aside) possibly mentally ill surgeon, a Canadian grifter whom nobody even in his own party can stand, a failed business executive, and a lightweight Senator who can’t even be bothered to show up to work?  No wonder they don’t believe in evolution or progress.  They clearly have no experience with those things at all.

8. When Dick Cheney comes out from his lair to condemn you as being too extremist in your hatred, you’ve got serious issues.  Donald Trump has crossed the line from parody to threat and should be heartily condemned by every thinking American for his assault on human decency, religious freedom, American values, and the Constitution.  It bothers me that so many people in this country refuse to do that, though the blunt condemnation of his racist and incendiary rhetoric from many Republican leaders encourages me.  They need to rein in their extremists, and I’m glad they are finally beginning to recognize that.  I hope that trend continues, though the vitriolic backlash those leaders are receiving today from their own base is not a good sign.

9. Coming up with essay questions for exams is one of those chores that never seems to get any easier.  It’s hard to find a question that will tie together enough class material to be interesting in a way that students can understand what is being asked of them and can be accomplished in the time allotted.  Coming up with three questions at once, for the same exam, is even more of a chore.

10. Doctor Who has aired its final regular-season episode of this most recent series.  I enjoyed this season’s episodes far more than many of the last few seasons.  Peter Capaldi does a remarkable job of bringing out the darker and more alien aspects of the character, and the writing is just leagues beyond anything poor Matt Smith was saddled with.  They finally figured out what to do with Clara's character, and Ashildr was a nice surprise.  All in all, a satisfactory and satisfying season.  Christmas episode in two weeks – we’ll see if they can keep it up. 

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