Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Movin' Out

I apologize for not having a post up yesterday, but it's moving week in old Bluztown.

I've been bringing packing and things over to Sweetpea's place for a couple of months now, so to lighten the load on moving day. I spent my last night at my apartment last Friday, and the moving guys come tomorrow.

As I've mentioned before, in the olde days, I would have just rented a truck and imposed on some friends to help me out, and done it myself. Not anymore. This time I hired 3 guys and a truck, for 3 hours.

Because of all my prep work, it should be a swift affair, probably coming in under the 3 hours. At this point, it's just furniture.
Empty dining room. (More or less.) This reminds me... I gotta take that map down.
Empty entertainment center and living room.
Empty picture wall.

At the moment, I'm sitting here in this almost empty place, waiting for some people to come and take my washer and dryer. Sweetpea already has a set that's about as new as mine, so why even move them? As it turned out, my friend Jenn was in need of a washer and dryer, so her husband is coming over to pick them up.

This greatly relieved me. I wasn't looking forward to trying to sell them on Craig's List or something like that. That I can send them off to a friend is comforting and saves me a lot of anxiety over the process. And her husband has a truck and a friend to bring, to get the thing loaded. All I have to do is supervise, like Fred G. Sanford.
We have the cable guy coming on Friday so I hope to be up and fully wired for phone/internet/TV, for my usual Monday post.

Everything has gone well so far. Wish me luck that it holds out!

Monday, July 9, 2018

More GOP Meme Deconstruction

Lottsa stuff going on since I last wrote about politics and what do you know? It’s the same damn stuff! So let’s look at some things I’ve pulled off Facebook over the last three weeks and see if it floats.
OK, this is from back in May so it’s a little stale, especially since former Trump fix-it lawyer, Michael Cohen, is now singing like a bird to the Mueller team.

This graphic contains a common problem with Republican memes… they try to compare two things that don’t warrant comparison. These situations are not remotely alike.

With the school shooting, there were some random notifications to the FBI about the guy who turned out to be the shooter. Yes, someone probably should have checked it out in a little more depth. But remember, there were no real actionable items. People said the guy gave them the creeps and was weird.

Well, that defines a significant percentage of the American population. You can’t just snatch up every oddball and social misfit. I know conservatives would desperately wish that to be true; just look how they’ve been trying to rid their communities of black boys cutting the grass or black girls selling lemonade, or black families at the neighborhood pool.

But what if the FBI started investigating every case where someone gets a weird vibe from a neighbor, maybe hearing shots fired in the yard, or yelling coming from inside the house. What happens if they start confiscating guns and locking guys up based on nothing but someone else’s heebie-jeebies? We’d have to let all the drug dealers and murders out of prison just to make room for the incoming.

On the other hand, the FBI had enough actionable evidence to secure a subpoena allowing them to conduct the raid on the lawyer’s office. And that mere act sent the Administration into a panic. Think they’d be panicking if there was nothing shady going on?

Also, it didn’t seem like “the porn-star” business had much to do with that raid. The Feds had plenty of other areas of inquiry. Subpoenas in a case like this aren’t given out willy-nilly. There has to be serious evidence of wrongdoing.

This theme is designed to do one thing: smear the FBI in the court of public opinion, so that when they start issuing charges against this president and his crew, their faithful sheep will bleat about bias and unfairness, rather than consider the gross misconduct and lawlessness of this administration.

Still with the Obama Stuff
First of all, the Democrats only had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for a short time. Remember how the Republicans kept appealing the recounts of Al Franken’s election to the Senate, so to eat up the time the Dems had? Then once the full 60 was sworn in, one of the first orders of business was the Affordable Care Act. And as opposed to what the common Republican talking points say, it was not rammed through; it took months to be debated and eventually passed.

There was also the Bush Recession to address, so the economic legislation sucked up a lot of time and energy. And that worked. Every economic chart you look at (other than those from Fox “News,”) show an almost immediate turnaround at the beginning of Obama’s presidency.

Immigration wasn’t exactly a front-burner issue. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect situation, but it wasn’t a crisis either. The whole subject is only a crisis to scared white Americans who think their influence is waning, and who don’t like pressing “2” for Spanish.

Then once the Democrats lost their super-majority with the 2010 elections, (and control of the House), the Republicans could and did filibuster everything else the president wanted to do for the rest of his administration. So there was a very short window for the Democrats to act unilaterally, and the product of those actions was universal health care and economic recovery from recession.

So excuse them for not deporting enough brown people.

Alibis for Caging Kids
Since the religious angle didn’t catch on, Republicans are trying out other rationales, to show support for their leader’s draconian border policy.
More false equivocation. This one is a slam dunk to debunk.

2.7 million kids who have a parent in jail, aren’t in jail themselves.

400k foster kids are not held in captivity either, surrounded by people with whom they don’t know and cannot communicate. While the foster program has issues, most foster parents are decent people trying to help kids in bad situations.

And 765k kids have parents who nobly chose to go into the military knowing the situation that comes with that service. And again, the kids are not locked up in mass barracks, cut off from everything they know.

So OBVIOUSLY, the media focuses on the current tragedy going on at our borders. That’s their job, to tell the public when there’s an atrocity taking place.

This, from the self-proclaimed party of Family Values. It's clear to me that the only families they value are white, American ones.

This one tries to break down the dumbness even finer, with an attempt at logic.
Yes, they lay out the illegalness step by step. But again, they miss the main point… when people go to prison, the kids do not, because you just don’t put innocent children in a fucking jail!
It’s funny how conservatives revere the law when it’s someone else breaking it. But when their administration officials commit felony after felony for things like lying on their financial disclosure forms, that reverence for The Law comes up missing.

Civil Discourse
I’ve had mixed feelings about the new tactic the left has taken up, of confronting influential people they encounter out in public. I think we should be better than that. We should wage war with ideas and leave the in-your-face bullying out of it.

And then I see memes like this:
It's funny how whenever you see a meme that starts out, "So let me get this right," they so rarely do.  Talk about missing the point, or at least willfully distorting it.

Yes, we had a hissy fit because everyone should be served at a place of business, not just those with whom you share a belief system. Conservatives started this very thing with their embargo on selling cakes or flowers for gay weddings, pursued it clear up to the Supreme Court, and won (with a hand-picked right-leaning court).

Plus, they’ve spent the last 10 or so years publicly coarsening the quality of debate.
But the first time it comes back on them, they want to whine about it. And they call liberals “snowflakes.” Maybe someone should design a “Karma for Dummies” meme because this is karma coming back to smite them right between the eyes.

If the right doesn’t start up the non-service movement, then they don’t get non-serviced themselves. A simple concept for simple-tons.
I think that pretty much spells it out.  All’s fair as long as WE aren’t inconvenienced. Screw everyone else. (I think “Screw everyone else” is actually in the Republican platform.)

So after further consideration, my opinion has evolved closer to this:

It’s a classic case of bullying, where once the bully gets hit in the mouth, they want to cry foul and play the victim.

Final Thought
One last note on the resignation of Scott Pruitt, as EPA chief.

I don’t think it makes a damned bit of difference. Even before I knew who the replacement was, I knew it would be more of the same. An oilman leaves, then we get a flak from the coal industry.

Best case scenario: the next guy spends a little less taxpayer money on himself while he disassembles the EPA. Either way, regulations get rolled back so polluters can go back to polluting the way they used to, while the atmosphere becomes visible again and the earth floods and bakes.

Nothing changes until this crew gets voted out. We start this November with a chance to retake Congress. If successful, that may help hold 45 in check until we can toss him out on his ass in 2020.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Southbound and Down

Sorry about not posting last week, I was out on vacation taking Sweetpea down to Florida to see my folks. I had thoughts about doing a post from down there, but it leaked right out of my head, along with any other thoughts of doing something productive.

It was an OK trip going down, only minor delays, but we coped just fine.
Airport draanks.

I’ll tell you, though, if you want to lower your opinion of the general traveling public, take a flight somewhere. The whole experience was one instance of bold-faced rudeness and inconsideration after another. And apparently, Delta’s plan for passenger space in overhead bins was more “Mad Max” than “A Beautiful Mind.” People were putting small bags and purses in the overheads, leaving the rest of us to scramble to find space for our regular-sized rolly-bags. The Delta flight attendants basically just watched the show. Maybe they had bets on how far away from his seat someone would stow his bag.

But we and our bags made it unscathed and after drinks, mustered out to a local restaurant for dinner. I should have known that something was up when my parents took us to the same place we used to surprise my mom for her 75th birthday.

After Dad quietly consulted with the hostess, they led us to the same back room, where I saw two people with menus up over their faces.

Aha! I knew it would be my sister and brother-in-law… they’d just been texting us.

But no. It turned out to be my buddy, the CFO’s son and daughter, Jacob, and Kyrie, on a road trip to take her back to Houston. Surprised the hell out of me. Kyrie has been the muse for some of my favorite and most enduring posts. Kyrie’s just finished her first year teaching and Jake is going to attend the University of Cincinnati this fall. I swear that last week, they were only babies.
I’d seen on Facebook that they were going to be in Atlanta that week, and I tried my best to convince them to come down a little further, but they shot me down, pleading that they already had all their arrangements set in stone. Seems they had this planned with my folks all along.

So, we held Part One of the Wild Rumpus at the restaurant, then adjourned to the house for Part 2. I had told Sweetpea that the first night in town was always a boozy gab-fest, so I looked like a seer. I’d been wanting to get her together with Kyrie so she could offer help and advice to a newly-minted teacher.

I also took advantage of the opportunity to slip Jacob some graduation money and thank him… because of their visit, I didn’t have to go out and buy a card.

Later, I told Kyrie it was all their fault that after they showed up, my vacation had nowhere to go but downhill.

But not totally. I always appreciate having the time to shirk my responsibilities and just chill for a few days. Sweetpea especially needed some veg time, coming off a long and difficult school year.

For the occasion, my dad invested in some new pool floaties.
After floating around on these things for a while, you totally feel like a Margarita.

Dad likes floating in them too. In fact, at one point, Sweetpea and I took turns pushing him between us in the floatie from one end of the pool to the other. It was like I was taking part in the Great American Pastime… playing catch with Dad.

Or I suppose you could call it Geezen Shuffleboard.

One day, Mom taught Sweetpea how to make “icebox dough.” That’s dough you use for pizza crust, cinnamon buns, or whatever. With a name like “Icebox Dough,” you can see how long this recipe has been around. I admit, my motives were selfish in making sure this “training” session happened.

I mean… who wouldn’t want pizza and cinnamon buns around the house?

The rest of the week was continuous series of swims and meals and drinks. We didn’t get to the beach until Monday, our last full day there. Sweetpea and I hung on the beach for a couple hours, before the Oldes picked us up for lunch.
Part of our beach mission was to find a little piece of sand upon which we can get married next year. The main beach was nice but would probably be crowded. (The last thing I want is for our wedding pictures to be photobombed by oily tourists and Speedos.)

After lunch, we took a drive further down the beach, away from the nest of hotels, and found a nice little spot with few people on it. (And this was around 1:00 PM. We have Estimated Wedding Time set for about 9:00 AM.) So now we have a plan.

I’d post a pic of the spot, but I don’t want to tip my hand. Also, and not insignificantly, I forgot to take a picture of the area in the first place. But trust me, it will be simple but beautiful.

We plan to do a kind of “guerilla” wedding. We’ll show up out of nowhere, just us two, our parents, and the wedding official, do the “I dos,” and be gone in ten minutes. Then off to our special wedding breakfast at Denny’s.

OK, probably not Denny’s. Maybe I’ll just bring a bag of Egg McMuffins.

And maybe we’ll invite Maurice, the house gecko. He seemed interested in our wedding discussions.
I’ll take a Bug McMuffin.”

The trip home was a bit more chaotic. Before we even left the house for the 7:20 AM flight, our hour and a half layover in Atlanta turned into a 3 hours layover. And once there, it got extended a half hour at a time until we were stuck there for almost 5 hours. But it worked out and we made it back home, bags and all.

But it was all good. We rode out the delays together and kept reminding ourselves that we’d be back. And next time, we’d leave a husband and wife.

Many thanks to Bluz Mama and Papa, for providing such an awesome place to hang out. And for all the laughs and food and drinks… (lots and lots of drinks.)

Monday, June 18, 2018

GOP Bullshit

I think Republicans are starting to get antsy about what’s going on in the country… they’re a lot more BS floating around than usual. Let’s skim across the surface of the GOP Pond and see what comes up in our net.

Fly, Eagles Fly
I know this is past its freshness date, but I wanted to make a brief comment on the Great White House Invitation Retraction controversy.

I’ve already written about how the “kneeling” thing is purely a political issue for the president. He’s still butt-stung over the NFL denying two of his bids to buy a team over the years, plus he gets to call a bunch of rich black guys “unpatriotic,” which plays to his base.

The angle I want to mention is how Fox “News” covered the issue by running pictures of Eagles players on one knee, knowing full well that they were kneeling in pre-game prayer, not protesting during the anthem. 
They knew it and they did it anyway because it’s the kind of thing they do all the time. Only this time, it got noticed by people who weren’t their devoted fans. The Eagles, themselves, called it out and it got picked up by the sports press. So, they took flak from everyone from the players to the rest of the media to other politicians.

Maybe one day their fans will catch on that they’re being lied to every day, but I’m not optimistic. And damn them for making me support a Philadelphia team!

Stone Throwers in Glass Houses
Do they really want to open this door?
“Nothing on Trump?” Really?
Well, only if you call 23 indictments of members of his campaign staff “nothing.”

They spent 6 years and millions of dollars investigating Hillary Clinton and came up with diddly-squat. Muller isn’t even done yet and he already has results. And unlike the Congressional Clinton investigations, this is not a political hit piece or show trial, so Mueller has no need to leak or otherwise publicize his findings until he’s done. And he hasn’t.

So when Republicans complain that there are no results and nothing on Trump, you have to add a giant, flaming, neon-lit, “YET.” Mueller is chopping wood and stacking the logs. He’ll light the match when he’s good and ready. In the meantime, all the clamoring about “no findings” is just desperately wishful thinking.

The Maher, The Merrier
The Republicans spent 8 years obstructing every single notion President Obama wanted, including infrastructure bills that would have helped rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, as well as putting a lot of people to work. Instead, they passed nothing of the kind, for the simple political reason of ensuring Obama didn’t get credit. Remember the Mitch McConnell quote about how their top job was ensuring Obama was a one-term president?

They didn’t care how dire the circumstances, (like at the onset of the Administration, when the Bush Recession was in full swing,) they did not lift a finger to help a single citizen. And once they had control of the House, they made sure the Democrats couldn’t pass anything either.

This is a bit from a comic, whose job is to stir things up. It’s not like he’s a congressman or senator or someone who can pass legislation.

So spare me the pearl-clutching about some comedian’s statement. Republicans embodied that very sentiment for eight years.

This goes to a common GOP strategy. Ever notice how they constantly accuse liberals and Democrats of things Republicans have been doing all along? Gaslighting at its finest.

Paging Charles Bronson*
This was just a random thing I sifted off Facebook, but it appears that conservatives are advocating for vigilante justice.

Well… as long as it’s a white person claiming justice. Footage of cops assaulting people for minor transgressions continues to pop up online. You won’t see conservatives advocating for these victims to start executing cops, that’s for sure.

Yes, it’s a tragedy, but what’s the solution here, just let the aggrieved family of crime victims hunt alleged assailants down and kill them? Is that kind of “American Exceptionalism” this country is all about?

OK, I guess it is… it’s the only way to explain the country’s fixation on guns.

*Because Charles Bronson starred in the Death Wish movies, about a guy who hunts down and kills the people who raped and killed his wife.

This is basically just another “made-up” controversy, but…
I don’t think this is a big deal at all, BUT… because it’s exactly the kind of thing Republicans bellyached about during the Obama Administration, it’s important to call out the hypocrisy now. Just one more thing that was only unforgivable because Obama was doing it. It was almost as bad as wearing a tan suit!

And speaking of the Trump/Korea connection, did you hear about 45 commenting on how he wants “my people would sit up at attention,” the way North Koreans do for Kim Jong Un.

“My people?” MY PEOPLE?

Just reading that gave me a twitchy eye.
Dude, we are not “your people,” you work for us. (In theory) And I bet a lot of that “sitting up at attention” comes from not wanting to be executed with anti-aircraft machine guns.

Not that such a thing would work in the USA… I’m sure, right now, the NRA is working on legislation to ensure anti-aircraft machine guns are legal for private ownership. Because, you know, hunting, self-defense, and the Second Amendment. We must ensure that WE have anti-aircraft machine guns so the gubmint doesn’t try to start making us listen, by pointing theirs at us.

OMG, What About the Children?
That used to be the refrain, didn’t it, whenever there was something remotely harmful, yet fun for adults? But now, instead of reading it, “What about the Children,” it’s more like, “What about the children?”

That’s the difference between American children and brown, foreign children.

And no, it’s not just because someone broke the law. People coming here and going through the asylum process are also being separated from their children. This is a one-size-fits-all policy, regardless of alleged illegality.

Now with the considerable amount of uproar on the subject, the Trump Administration and its enablers are trying to find justification anywhere they can. Paul Ryan thinks it’s a 1997 law, so now that meme is creeping around Facebook. Not that it’s tethered to the truth or anything.

The law in question is known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, “which set minimum standards for the detention, housing, and release of non-citizen children detained by the federal government. The agreement states that children should be released to a parent, guardian, or other entity “without unnecessary delay,” with limited exceptions. If that’s not possible, a child should go to “the least restrictive setting.””

I don’t see anything in there about prying children from their parents’ arms, but that doesn’t stop the GOP spin machine.

At least he’s not claiming Biblical justification, like Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee. As usual, the cherry-picking of the Bible continues so politicians can claim the godliness of whatever prejudice they entertain.

Apparently, they’re using Romans 13, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

If that doesn’t sound like one of those passages that were retranslated edited by a king or someone else in authority, to reinforce his own power, I don’t know what is.

If these hacks want interested in following the true spirit of the Bible, perhaps these passages might be more apt.
But that’s not was the conservative base wants to hear, who are just fine with immigrants, as long as they’re not foreigners.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Disappearing Act

There are big lifestyle changes afoot in ole Bluztown. Plans are for me to move in with Sweetpea around the middle of next month.

Because we’ve had this planned out months, it’s given me the chance to bring stuff over bit by bit. It’s only a 6-mile move, so my goal is to have just about everything but furniture transported over ahead of time. I make the trip from my place to hers at least twice a week, so I’m trying to make sure I never show up empty-handed.

Last month I made a list of all the stuff I wouldn’t need before moving so I could start getting it boxed up and moved. You know, things like my record collection, VHS tapes I couldn’t part with, winter clothing, picture frames, Christmas decorations, glassware, books, sports tchotchkes (like bobbleheads).

It took me two weeks just to move the record collection. I had them stacked in five old Peaches crates. Once upon a time, I had a bunch of boxes that were perfect for transporting LPs… In fact, that’s what they were shipped to the store in. I kept those boxes for every move I made and only got rid of them (under duress) a few years ago.

The boxes I have now are not a good fit. I have small, medium and large boxes. The large boxes are waaay too big, and more like for bedding and towels and stuff. LPs don’t even fit in the small boxes. And the medium boxes; well, they fit but when filled up with records, weigh a freakin’ ton. I could wrestle 3 of them into my trunk, so that’s all I took at one time. I didn’t want to risk popping a disc by trying to get a box that heavy out of the back seat.

But, we got it done, so my record rack became the first thing of mine to get set up at her house.
After unloading, I can re-use the boxes! 

Now, the odd part about relocating “incrementally” is while I roam about my apartment, I keep seeing the random empty spaces where my stuff used to be. It’s like being in one of those movies where parts of your life are disappearing. Like, this shelf is empty while others are still full. One cabinet is full of dishes; the one right beside it is empty. I pass an empty space on the wall where a picture used to be. It’s weird.
It’s like all the bobbleheads have been abducted.

It gives you the willies, man. I had to pack up the books the rest of the junk, just to make it uniform. And believe me, the books were no treat to move either. Between carrying all those boxes of books and records up out of my apartment and then downstairs to Sweetpea’s basement, my knees have been barking at me all weekend. If this pain doesn’t go away soon… I’ll just have to wait a little longer.

I am definitely too old for this shit. I don’t mind packing the boxes; I’d just as soon do that myself. But I am done with moving this heavy-ass furniture. Back in the day, moving meant I’d rent a truck myself and then my friends and I (or whoever else I could rope into it) would move all my crap ourselves. This time, I’m more than happy to pay for three guys and a truck to come hump my furniture from my place to hers. I’ll just supervise.

It’s going to be a big change though, seriously. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve lived with someone full time. The days of just coming home and enjoying three or four hours of solitude will be gone. Granted, I’ll instead be spending those hours with someone I love. But it will nevertheless be an adjustment.

Same with weekends. Since last January (of 2017) weekends have been like an ongoing series of mini-vacations. I go to her place on Friday night and we hang out until Sunday, going out or watching TV or movies.

But the last couple of weekends have been different. We have a lot to do, just to make room for my official arrival, so we’ve been busy at that. Two weekends ago, we cut the grass and weed-whacked the yard. Last weekend, we cleaned out the gutters and trimmed back the bushes. Both times we were racing to finish before the rainstorms hit.

We were finishing up our chores on Saturday, winding up electrical cord and dripping sweat, when Sweetpea turned to me and says, “Still wanna get married?

I was like, “Let me get back to you on that.”

Yes, I was kidding, but as an apartment dweller, I haven’t done any serious yard work (or home repair) since 1996. It’s been a nice break from adulting, I know.

Plus, I already bought the ring, so there are no takebacks. Hmm, I bet it’s no coincidence that she never had me help her in the yard until she got her ring (and the 7-day return period expired). Too late to back out now…

I’ll rest easier once we have my stuff set up at her place and all this transition stuff is done. OK, check that… I’ll rest easier once the cable guy comes out and hooks up our phone, internet, and TV “triple-play.”

All kidding aside now, it’s an exciting time. I know it won’t be a walk in the park, but it will be good. We’ll be partners.

I always wanted a partner… not someone to decide everything for me, or who I have to carry, but someone to walk with me, side by side, and navigate our way through life… as a team.

And as you know, there is no “I” in “Team.”

Luckily, there is “Meat.”

Monday, June 4, 2018

Odd Bits - The "Don't Let'em Eat Cake" Edition

Today, the Supreme Court found for the defendant in the Colorado case of the gay couple suing the cakemaker for refusing to make their wedding cake, based on his religious beliefs about gay marriage.

I can’t say I’m surprised that this court found for the defendant. What surprises me was that it was 7-2. Only Sotomayor and the Notorious RBG found for the plaintiffs.

The only bright side is that they found “narrowly,” so that the decision is not meant to be used to broadly roll back recently won gay rights. The way I understand it, the theory is that cake making is an “art,” and therefore free speech, in which the defendant must be free to “speak” for himself.

Personally, I think it’s crap. If you make cakes, you sell to whoever walks in your door, period. That’s how a free society has to work. Part of being a grown-up and having a job is having to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, in exchange for money.  Taking your own interpretation of what a 2000-year-old, frequently retranslated and re-edited book says about an invisible man in the sky and his formerly dead son, and putting it ahead of another person’s right to conduct business or simply function within society, is ludicrous.

But the court muddied the water a great deal, didn’t they? Now, every Bible-thumping fundie can try to wrap his anti-gay prejudice with Scripture and seek protection after refusing service to potential paying customers. Hence the cherry-picking of the Bible continues.

I have to give the original suit-filers credit though. If I were in their position, I’d have left that cake shop and told them to stuff their pipettes up their asses. But these guys were thinking of the bigger picture and how they might try to prevent such indignities from being thrust on others.

It will be interesting to watch the fallout from this one.

Flood of Attention
On one hand, it’s good to see Baltimore make the news for something besides riots, violent crime police corruption and STDs. On the other hand, the flooding of Ellicott City last weekend was a different kind of devastating. Although it was not so different from that “1000-year Flood” merely 2 years earlier.

Ellicott City is a cute little former mill town just west of Baltimore. Its Main Street is loaded with quaint shops, cafes, eateries, and whatnot. Main St. is carved out of the hillside and the whole community is surrounded by rivers and streams.

It used to be that when there was unusually heavy rain, the town would slowly flood from the bottom, up. But in recent years, there has been a considerable amount of real estate development in the upper hillside, with housing and apartment complexes appearing where there use to be grass and trees.

And now, with nowhere for the water to go, it all runs down Main St, which acts as a large funnel.

When the storm hit last week, the water running down the street was deep enough to reach the tops of door frames, and it was powerful enough to toss cars like they were matchbox toys.

The big question now is whether the former business owners and residents along Main St. are going to rebuild.

I know what my answer would be if I were in their position: “Oh, HELL no.”

The thing is, nothing is expected to change about the conditions that created the flooding. There are possible fixes, but they will cost over $60-70 million dollars and take more than 10 years to complete. (Think a series of runoff ponds, and pipes dug under the town.)

When a similar flood hit in 2016, it was just as devastating. Many businesses rebuilt and had just reopened this spring. Now, they’re wiped away again, and there’s nothing keeping it from happening again and again and again. Weather is growing more volatile by the year. What we’re seeing now is the new normal.

I hate to be a pessimist about this poor, beleaguered town because I truly enjoyed visiting. It was a really cool area to walk around, check out some unique shops and have a drink or two on a nice night. But unless something is done about all the “impervious” structures built in place of natural, absorbent terrain, there is no end in sight.

You know, over the last ten or so years, there was a program developed to help mitigate this kind of thing (as required by federal law). There was a tax put in place to levy charges based on the amount of water-impervious square-footage one had on his property. Money was to go for projects to handle water runoff and land erosion.

But because it was a tax, Maryland Republicans jumped all over it, calling it the “Rain Tax.” Sure, it completely missed the point, but it was an effective buzzword that got people’s attention. The current governor ran on repealing it.

That played well with wealthy developers and landowners, as well as Joe Sixpack, who bought the GOP’s mischaracterizations that he now needed to pay a tax on the rain.

Yeah, those stupid Democrats; they’ll even tax the rain! Har har har…”

But it’s no laughing matter now, is it, as we wonder if there will ever be money to put Ellicott City back on the map?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bible II: The Sequel

My apologies for not posting yesterday; I was celebrating Memorial Day with my babeh, and keeping a day of remembrance of those who served and died protecting our right to be batshit crazy.

This morning I saw possibly the dumbest op/ed I’ve ever seen. Granted, it was in the hard-right newspaper/website, The Washington Times, so the bar was pretty low. But still…

Apparently, the reason no one will compromise on gun laws is that the Second Amendment is a God-given right, (along with the First Amendment).

Who knew Thomas Jefferson was the 13th apostle?

After that lead-in, I directly concluded that the rest of the argument could be disregarded out of hand.
But curiosity got the best of me.

According to their opinionator, Citizens of America have Second Amendment rights because they live and breathe — not because government officials have chosen to bestow them with such, as some sort of privilege.”

You mean like the government officials who wrote the original document?

They go on: We know this because our country was founded on the principle that our rights come from God…”

Oh, they KNOW this! Sweet! I’d love to see some proof or evidence as to how they KNOW this!

I know what they’re getting at though. The Declaration of Independence includes a reference to an Almighty: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But the Constitution, the rulebook, if you will, contains no reference to religion other than the big one, right out of the gate, in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
So we’re supposed to believe that because in a document asserting our right to independence, our founding fathers included God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, that another document which never refers to religion (other than staying out of it), bestows a God-given right to semi-automatic weaponry.

That is indeed a reach of Biblical proportions.

Later, the author makes an attempt at logic to try to refute the common argument that, if there are limits to the First Amendment, so why can’t there be any on the Second? She brings up the “Fire in a crowded movie theater” cliché:

First off, screaming “fire” isn’t speech. It’s screaming “fire.” (OMG, Seriously?) Founding Fathers, when they penned that particular portion of the First Amendment, weren’t trying to protect nuts who falsely scream “fire” for the fun of it. They were protecting primarily those who speak critically of their government.”

I wonder if they ever heard about libel or slander laws. Those are limits on the First Amendment and have nothing to do with nutty public behavior.

Also, were the Founding Fathers trying to protect the right of rich people who claim it’s “free speech” to anonymously funnel unlimited millions to political representatives to buy influence? The NRA relies mightily on that government-given right, which was granted by the conservatives on the Supreme Court when they ruled on Citizens United.

Obviously, this crowd is fine with “government-given rights” when those rights align with their politics.

The writer goes on to criticize a New York Democratic candidate for Congress, Pat Ryan, (which was the point of the whole column), over his plan to ban semi-automatic weapons. Ryan’s quote:

The line to me is, the weapons I carried in combat [in the military] for 27 months should not be on our streets.”

The response?

Well, the line to law-abiding Americans is the Second Amendment. And with all due respect to politicians who want to talk and politick and trade and barter for gain at the ballot box, fact is: God-given trumps government granted.”

Translation: We shouldn’t adjust the Second Amendment because… it’s the Second Amendment.

Seriously, we have a God-given right to military weaponry? God, through the Founding Fathers, gave us the unalienable right to killing machines that wouldn’t be invented for more than another hundred years?

This is what happens when you mix religion and politics… you get a hazy stew of half-truths, misinformation, faulty logic, and self-interest.
Basically, it’s “God gave me Liberty, and my liberty is to own guns that go ‘Budda-budda-budda’ and destroy anything it hits.”

I can never get over how the same people who extol this country’s freedoms and greatness are also trying to turn us into a pseudo-Christian version of Iran.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Odd Bits - The Demanding Edition

We, the People of America, hereby demand that you read the goddamn constitution, or at least have someone else who knows how to read, explain it to you. Merely using King’s Court language does not confer kingly powers upon you. Also, may I remind you that the Justice Department is an independent body and does not serve as your personal hit squad, so you’ll have to smite your enemies using your own resources.

If you’re worried about the cost, just book another visit to your club in Florida. The windfall from that taxpayer-funded trip to your own property should be enough to keep you flush with shysters and goons for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, to fully understand that last part, please have Rudy or Sara explain to you what sarcasm is.

Jesus… to think that they called Obama the “Imperial” president.

With yet another school shooting under our belts, here come even more gun-mania alibi memes…

Mr. Patrick takes the award for the Asinine Comment of the Week Award with that beauty.

Sure, one entrance might be easier to defend against people coming in. But did anyone ever consider how a single door is going to work with everyone trying to get out?

Do you remember that Who concert in Cincinnati, back in the late 70s? The crowd waiting outside the arena, upon hearing the band start their sound check, tried to rush the one or two doors that were open and eleven people got trampled to death.

Granted, they were going in, but it’s the same principle: a large crowd of people trying to pass through a single choke point. That’s a recipe for carnage, even without some maniac firing shots.

What if the shooter, having smuggled in a semi-automatic weapon, counted on the mass of people forming at the doors and opened fire into a densely packed crowd of kids?

Or consider a shooter stationing himself between the only door and all the other students. Fish in a barrel, man.

Yeah, brilliant idea, Dan. It just goes to show how people will say the stupidest things, just to avoid crossing their overlords at the NRA.

As a public service, I will provide, via The Daily Show, this handy translator for use in deciphering the clichés and doublespeak coming from the gun apologists.
If they can widen the scope of this translator, we may be able to use it to completely replace the current White House Press Secretary.

Fallacies R Us
There are two major things are wrong with this meme.

First, it’s a textbook example of a logical fallacy, which states, “Item ‘A’ coming before Item ‘B’ is not proof that A caused B.” For example, you could also say, “The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Since then, 92% of large mass shootings have happened.” Or, “Bluzdude moved from Cleveland to Albany in 1990. Since then…”

The order in which two items fall on a timeline is not evidence of causation. Period.

The other issue with this meme is that it’s not like the schools were riddled with guns before 1990. Basically, there were few, if any, guns in schools before 1990, and few, if any, afterward. Therefore, there is no causation, or even correlation, that creating “gun-free zones” had anything to do with the increase in mass shootings.

I’d say you’d have to look at the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons among the general public as a major factor, especially in the years since the congressional Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to sunset during the Bush Administration. It stands to reason that the more military weaponry in the hands of the public, the higher the likelihood of one of these killing machines finding its way into the hands of some kid with a lethal grudge and lust for infamy.

But you won’t find any Republicans copping to that truth. The hell with the young lives lost, admitting something like that might cost them re-election.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dear Sweetpea,

By now, you’ve had your ring for more than 24 hours and we’ve both had the chance to tell our story to our friends and family. Yesterday, you made me the happiest man in the mid-Atlantic by accepting my formal proposal to get married. (OK, it wasn’t all that “formal. There were no tuxedos or tiaras involved.)

There has been a lot going on over the last two weeks, including a lot of plotting and scheming, but it really started several months ago. Another guy in my department was about to start shopping for a ring for his girl, so we began a conversation that drew in several others in the area. These friends became my “panel of experts” on how to go about buying an engagement ring.

Initially, when I Googled “Baltimore Wholesale Jewelers,” I found a place downtown near Camden Yards. It wasn’t open on Saturdays and opened and closed within my usual workday, so I knew it would be challenging to get out there. I figured I’d use this week’s Orioles day game as an excuse. I’d take the day off for the game and stop at the store first.

But then a couple weeks back, it occurred to me that their limited hours would be a continuing problem, what with needing to come back for fittings, wedding bands, and whatnot. So I Googled again and focused on our neighborhood. I found one place with the same problem. But then on the map, I saw a couple other places nearby and they were open Saturdays. After consulting the Yelp reviews, I picked a place to start.

Remember that Saturday, two weeks ago, when you took the dog to your sister’s house for a visit, and I ran errands and got a haircut? That was the day I selected your ring.

The jeweler asked me what I was looking for and I gave him your criteria… silver-looking band, round or square diamond cut. He asked for my price range and then went back to pull out some samples.

First, he showed me a simple ring setting in white gold. I thought it was gorgeous… simple and elegant. That was the one; I didn’t even look at any others. Then he laid out 4 envelopes with diamonds in them, and we went through each, lowest to highest.

The first was .94 karats, very good cut and clarity, and ran about $6k. Right there, I knew I’d find something nice because that one was gorgeous. Next, he showed me one that was .95 carats and a little higher quality. To me, it looked just like the first one.

The third stone was 1.01 carats and a little lower in quality. And that one was gorgeous too.

The last one he showed me was 1.05 carats, 3rd highest category in color, 2nd highest in clarity, and outside of the price range I’d given him. But that was the one. I loved it.

I know the differences were imperceptible to the naked eye but I wanted to make sure you knew, when I showed you the papers, that I found you a top-quality diamond. I wanted you to be proud of it. I know you don’t flash a lot of jewelry so I wanted this ring to be a good one. 
 The quality ratings for your stone.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that you have tiny little hands, which will make the rock look that much bigger.

I asked if he offered financing, and he said he didn’t. That surprised me for a moment. I briefly considered getting a bank loan on my own, but then had a moment of clarity that was definitely on the top of the scale, at least a VVS1. I had the money in my checking account; why would I ever want to get financing and pay the interest charges? Dummy! Just write him a check… Done!

He had me put $2k down on my credit card, to make sure no one else bought it out from under me. I had no problem with that… just meant I got some serious Thank You Points.

He told me that it would take about a week and he’d give me a call when it was done.

I wondered if you noticed, later that day when we reconvened at your place, if I seemed brighter and bouncier. I felt like I couldn’t contain myself with the excitement of such a big moment. But I tried to just be cool, lest you catch on that something was up.

The one thing everyone wanted to know was how I was going to propose. I told the jewelers that the only place of any prominence with us was Jilly’s, the bar where we first met. They had some suggestions but I didn’t really like them… I didn’t want the ring coming in food or a drink, or to even let it out of my possession. And I wanted to be the one to give it to you.

So I mentioned a scenario that had been rolling around in my head, where I make a play off of what I told you the day we met, when I didn’t want to let you get away. Rather than spend the rest of my bar-going days wondering if I’d ever see you again, I reached for your arm and said, “Wait, why don’t we just go out?

Well, the jewelers loved my idea, as did everyone I told it to at work (and over the phone and via email. I really should have kept my yap shut. I totally broke my own rule of keeping big news quiet until it was over and done, lest something mess it up.)

But still, when I told people what I was going to do, everyone LOVED IT. Several people told me they got goosebumps. So I basically sent my idea through a Focus Group to get it woman-approved.

I went back to the jeweler the next Saturday but he said he had to send it out to be assembled because he didn’t have that setting on hand. He told me he expected it back by the end of the week. I’d been hoping I’d have a week to prepare my plan, which I was targeting for Mother’s Day. But all things considered, I didn’t really need that much time.

Thursday afternoon, when I was working from home, he called and said it was ready. I went to pick it up that evening and was thrilled. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and exactly what I wanted.
Then I wrote the largest check I’ve ever written in my life. Made me feel like a bigshot! Dude probably raced straight to the bank to make sure it cleared before I got out of the parking lot.

Who knew that my going to the Orioles game Friday night almost ruined the whole thing? I was at my usual pre-game bar with Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Sister, telling them about my plans. The bar manager, who’s been hooking us up with discounts for the last five years, was listening in. He asked if he could crash the wedding. (I said he could if he makes it to Pensacola next summer.)

Then you and I went to the Orioles game on Saturday and visited the same bar before the game. I was worried that the bar manager might say something, but he didn’t. But then, the bartender, who I’d never seen before that day, said to us, “So, I hear you’re getting married!

I almost shit. But I thought I recovered well enough.  I said, “Well yeah, eventually… but not anytime soon…" We laughed it off. Then when you left to visit the ladies room, I said to her, in a tortured manner, “I’m going to ask her to marry me TOMORROW.”

Poor girl was horrified. She said the bar manager had told her we were getting married. See, I knew I shouldn’t have been blabbing my plans around town. Almost bit me in the ass.

And speaking of bites in the ass, you gave me one Saturday night, didn’t you? After the game when we were back at your place having a drink and sitting on the couch, we were discussing our future wedding plans. And you said something like “Wedding plans? It’s not like I have any evidence of any wedding plans…” as you waved your ring-less ring finger in front of me.

I was like, “She did NOT just give me a “Put a Ring on it” move…” I was thiiiis close to stomping into the bedroom, retrieving the ring from my bag and going, “OK, fine. Here’s your evidence, SmartassHappy now?” But a plan’s a plan.

Earlier that morning, I had gone down to “our” bar and spoke with the bartender, the one who was there when it all started. As you know, she’s a very stately, white-haired, English woman, who looks like she should be teaching at Hogwarts. I had a role for her in this event and thought she’d be willing.

She totally was. And more importantly, she’d be on duty Sunday, despite it being Mother’s Day. She said she’d make sure my usual barstool was available. I asked her to ask us, when she had a moment, “Remind me again how you two met up?” I said to make sure she said to “remind her,” because she absolutely knew how we met, and you know that. But that was the cue for us to tell our favorite story. I was going to change the ending.

When we were together Thursday night, I planted the seed about going to the bar for a drink on Sunday, after we ran our errands. You seemed quizzical about it… While we do hang out at various bars from time to time, we don’t usually set it up in advance. But I wanted to get a stake in the ground.

And you agreed, thank goodness, even though I could tell it wasn’t very high on your list of things you wanted to do that Sunday. So thank you for that.

While you were getting ready, I was sitting at the table and decided to have a little fun with the ring, so I took this picture.
That’s your ring on your copy of the Sunday puzzles.

Then, when we were in the store and I had the ring deep in my pants pocket, I got the idea to hold up the ring behind you while you were facing away, and take another picture.

But I abandoned that idea because it just didn’t seem like a good idea to tempt fate and have you turn around unexpectedly. But it did make me regret that I didn’t think of it earlier. I could have taken pictures of the ring all over town and all over your house. But again, why tempt fate? I’d probably drop it down a sewer grate.

Finally, it was time to go to the bar, and to our good fortune, the bar area was completely empty. We got our seats; the bartender greeted us and got our drinks. About five minutes in, she came back over and began talking about her husband and how they came to America. And then, she brilliantly pivoted to use her line, to remind her how we got together here.

You began the story, which made me happy. I love watching you tell it. We usually tag-team it to provide both of our points of view. But this time, you blasted right through it. As you were talking, the bartender let out a little gasp and ducked down to grab her phone. She said, “I thought I heard it ringing,” and then set it on the bar.

I thought, “You sly dog… I know what you’re doing. You’re getting the camera ready.”

You continued your story but inside I began to panic. You were getting dangerously close to the part I needed to deliver. So I apologize for butting in so rudely, but it was unavoidable.

I jumped into the narrative and instead of recounting to the bartender how I said, “Wait, why don’t we just go out?” I turned to you and said, “Wait, why don’t we just… get married?

With that, I fished the ring out of my shirt pocket and held it under your chin, waiting for the joyful explosion… that didn’t come. I even waved it a little bit but you didn’t seem to be reading me.

Little did I know that you were first thinking, “Why did he butt into my story,” and then, “Hey, that’s not how the story goes…

But then the lights came on and there was joyfulness onto the world.

And most importantly, you said “Yes.

I tried to put the ring on your finger, but I knew it wasn’t going to go on.

Months ago, I found one of the rings you wear on your ring finger and traced the inside of it onto one of my business cards.
I brought it with me so the jeweler would have a good starting point. But alas, when I picked up the ring last Thursday, it didn’t even fit over the first knuckle of my pinky. When I checked it against the circle on the card, you couldn’t see the circle, which meant the ring was going to be too small.

So I tried, but we’ll have to go back next Saturday and get it resized. At least you have this week to wave it around to all your friends at work. Just stay away from sewer grates.

You told me later that you hadn’t really wanted to go to the bar that afternoon, but you saw that I really wanted to, so you just went with it. And I told you that’s one of the reasons I love you that way I do. You do things like that for me all the time and I want you to know that I recognize it and I appreciate it. And I’ll do my best not to drag you along to places you’d rather not go.

I want to make it my top priority to be worthy of you and your love. You truly make me want to be a better man.

I love you and I can’t wait to be your husband.

Of course, after all the time we just spent trying to figure out who was the fiancé, who was the fiancée, and where the accent marks go, we’d better practice with those titles for a while.

The Obligatory Clasped Hands with Ring picture.