Monday, October 16, 2017

Not So Grand Theft

Q: How do you create a conservative?

A: Rob a liberal.

That’s the old joke, isn’t it? I got to test that hypothesis a couple weeks back, when I had some stuff stolen from my car, in the parking lot right outside my place.

I got in the car that morning and I immediately felt like something was wrong. I looked down into the storage compartment under my sound system and saw that my sunglasses were gone.

Normally that could have meant that I just left them at work or in the apartment, but I hadn’t worn them anytime recently. I looked to my right and saw that the passenger-side door was unlocked.

That gave me pause. I knew that I only flicked the “unlock” button on my key fob once, which should only unlock the driver’s side door. (Two pushes unlocks all doors.)

With that, I began to take inventory, to see what else was gone. I opened the top section of the center console. Coin container: there. USB charging cords for phone and MP3 player: there. Burger King coupons: there. (Phew!)

Then I opened the lower compartment and what I saw broke my heart.

Bastards stole my CD case!

Can you imagine that? And these weren’t even retail CDs… these were 13 homemade mix CDs full of dinosaur rock and blues, with cute little graphics inserts I designed and printed myself. What kind of car burglars would want something like that?? It’s not like they can sell them… My only guess is that they probably didn’t even look inside the case.

I checked my glove box and my car docs were still there, but I didn’t see the emergency knife I kept there. I have one of those fold-out knives with a 3” blade, a blade-slot in the handle to cut a seatbelt, should I be dangling upside down, and a steel point on the end of the handle, to break the glass should the car be under water after I cut off the seatbelt.
A week later I ended up finding the knife wedged between the seat and seat back of the passenger seat, but not until I had already ordered another one. I also thought they got my large golf umbrella, but I found that stuck in the back of the trunk.

Other casualties? A lint roller.

Sweetpea had just given me the lint roller, to combat the onslaught of second-hand dog hair that was invading my car. I hadn’t even opened it yet.

They leave the knife, phone accessories, and several bucks in change and assorted crap in my trunk, but take cheap, drugstore sunglasses, homemade CDs, and a lint roller? WTF?
Who the hell would want these? (Outside of The Burgh, that is…)

I wondered how they got in; I ALWAYS lock my doors and there was no sign of break-in… and where? I mean, they could have stolen that stuff when my car was parked at Sweetpea’s house the night before and I might not have noticed when I came home after dark. But I managed to put it all together.

It came down to that one-push unlocking. The passenger door was open that morning and I didn’t open it. I’m very conscientious about locking up when I visit Sweetpea. Her neighborhood has seen better days.

And I lock up the car at home too; I always have, especially ever since I had my car burgled for spare change about 10 years ago, in my parking lot.

In the end, it was pizza that did me in.

When I went to see Sweetpea that night after work, we got take-out pizza. I took home the leftovers, still in the big pizza box. When I pulled into my lot, I had to wrangle my laptop back out from behind the passenger seat, along with the pizza box on the passenger seat, plus another container of leftovers. Obviously, amid all that wrangling, I forgot to lock my doors.

You’d think if you left your door unlocked just once, you might get a “bye” on it. But that one time I left the door open was the one time some schmo came looking for an easy score.

Or was it?

Now I think it’s more like some dude (or dudes) troll the parking lots regularly, looking for cars left unlocked just that “one time.” Strolling through lot after lot in the middle of the night would be easy as pie. Mine is such a quiet neighborhood, literally nothing is going on outside. I swear, anytime I come home after dark, like 9:30 PM, it might as well be 3:00 AM.

So, I reordered my knife, as I said, plus another pair of shades and a new CD case. Sweetpea suggested I put a cheap stick-on label on the case and mark it: “HOMEMADE ROCK COLLECTIONS 1980-95,” like it’s part of a whole set of other cases. That should repel any CD thief under the age of 40.

But it’s the loss of the CDs that really hurt. I spent a lot of time and effort putting those together. Luckily, I still have the graphics inserts with song listings on my PC so I can recreate the collection. And I have plenty of blank discs. It’s just going to take some time.

Also, I’m going to have to repurchase some of the MP3s, because a lot of the songs I’d burned had copy-protection on them. Then once I upgraded to a newer PC, those files no longer play, nor can I burn them to CDs.

Oh well, live and learn.

At least that pizza was good…

But did the experience turn me into a conservative?

Please. This was chump change compared to the robbery the current conservative administration is proposing for the middle and lower classes. 

If only we could just lock the doors to keep out the Koch Brothers.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taxing My Patience

Remember how there used to be a Tea Party who got howling mad about any increase to the deficit? I sure do. I wrote about it from way back in 2009 to clear up to this year that they were only concerned about the deficit because it wasn’t one of “their guys” in charge of the spending.

Trump’s new tax plan is destined to explode the deficit. Even without the details laid in, it’s going to be break-the-bank expensive.

Anyone see any Teabaggers out in the street demonstrating? Anyone hear any Tea Party senators making anti-deficit spending speeches on the Senate floor? Any Tea Party representatives railing against increasing the deficit into any microphone they can find?
Of course not. Because it’s their guy doing the spending and for some unfathomable reason, spiking the deficit to give the country’s top earners a tax cut seems like a good idea to them. (Probably because they’ve been funded by the Koch Brothers all along, and the Kochs want tax cuts.)
If there are going to be any offsets, look for them to come from programs used by the middle and lower classes.

Perhaps they actually believe it when the GOP says this tax cut is targeting the middle class. But all you have to do is look at the ideas they’re talking about and it’s as plain as day that the only people upon whom this will have a positive effect are the top 1%.
I mean, repealing the Estate Tax alone affects around 200 people in the entire country… the richest of the rich.

Or perhaps they believe it when they’re told that giving tax cuts to the rich will trickle down into more jobs and better pay, when everyone with at least a couple of brain cells left and who were alive in the 80s knows that when Reagan cut taxes for the upper crust, there was no glut of jobs or higher wages. There was a recession.
And when George W. Bush doled out a huge tax cut to the wealthy, they pocketed the dough and paid out higher bonuses to the executives. There was no job creation, only the Great Recession of 2008.

When Kansas and Wisconsin enacted the Republican Nirvana of slashing tax rates to business and the upper class, the states’ economies dove straight into the dumpster, where they remain.

Tax cuts for the rich DO. NOT. LEAD. TO. MORE. JOBS. It’s just the excuse they use to get you to continue to vote Republican. How many times must this play out before we catch on to the ruse?
On the other hand, Minnesota raised taxes for the upper class and cut taxes for middle and lower classes. Know what happened? Booming economy. Schools are properly funded and performing to high standards. It’s pretty much the opposite of Kansas.
Republicans love to talk about how we have the largest corporate tax rate in the world. (We don’t, but why let facts get in the way?) But even if it were true that we did have the highest rate in the world, why would it matter if no one actually pays that rate? With all the loopholes and gimmicks corporations use to reduce their tax burden, the official rate is irrelevant. The biggest companies pay a lower percentage than you or I do.

I would have no issue with lowering the corporate tax rate if they could ensure that would be the amount the companies paid. But they’re not talking about closing the loopholes, are they? Not seriously.  

However they stack it, there is no scenario where corporations are going to pay more than they do now. Such a proposal would be killed in an instant by big business lobbyists.

They can hype it as a boon to the middle class as long as they like. Just remember the ultimate truth… This tax cut isn’t for us. We’re just getting enough to wet our beaks.

The real meat goes to the richest people in America. It’s the Republican way.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Raven Mad

I haven’t been the Ravens’ Stadium for a Steelers game since 2008, the year I got sucker-pushed and assaulted in the upper deck, after a Ratbird loss. Then last year, a work contact invited me to a game in their corporate suite, which I hesitatingly accepted.

Escaping that experience without cuts or bruises, I decided to take my friend up on his offer to see the Steelers game this year. And even better, I could take Sweetpea to what would be her first pro football game. My plan was to wear a light jacket over my jersey, thus allowing me to move about incognito until I could get up to the safety of the suite. They don’t allow gang wars in the suites.

As you may have heard last week, there was a wee bit of controversy about football players kneeling down during the national anthem. Both teams this week took great pains to pronounce that they would stand straight and tall this week.

I had to laugh on the way in, as I passed by the statue of Ray Lewis, captured in mid-spasm of his game-starting “dance.” A local petition claimed to have over 45,000 names asking for the statue to be taken down, due to Lewis’s participation in the anthem debacle in London. (He was on both knees, so I assume people were doubly offended.)

I laughed because this was a guy whose posse killed two guys in 1999, who got rid of evidence and the murder weapon, misdirected the cops, eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice. Then he testified against the alleged assailants, who were then found not guilty, in part because of Lewis’s untrustworthy testimony.

All that is fine with the people of Baltimore as far as Ray being statue-worthy. But he takes a knee during the anthem to protest police injustice and that’s what offends people to the point of wanting his statue removed? I think some of these fine, upstanding “Patriots” have their priorities scrambled.

The Ravens went all out to jump on the old U-S-of-A train. They played the full Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA” song, with loads of red, white and blue lights and decorations. They did a full color guard presentation.

Baltimore still plays up the Edgar Alan Poe angle any chance they get. At the gate where the players enter, they have it done up like a graveyard or something.
All I can say is once the Ratbirds came spilling out of the tunnel through all the smoke, it looked like they were shooting out of a sewer pipe. Which only confirmed my long-standing suspicions.
One much-needed light spot was when Terrell Suggs came out of the dressing room wearing a “Bane” mask. As you may recall, Bane was the villain in the last Batman movie, who blew up Heinz Field (as Pittsburgh stood in for Gotham City during filming) and two football teams, including many actual members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He even did the “Bane pose,” clutching his hands on the bottom of his collar. As the designated Ratbirds “villain,” I don’t like the guy, but I’ll give him credit for that bit. I thought it was clever. I wonder what’s next though… coming out with a Pennywise the Clown getup?

Anyway, then came the long-awaited moment of truth: the anthem.

Before the anthem, the announcer went into a long spiel about pausing for a moment of prayer and reflection, to “pray for kindness, for unity, for equality and justice for all Americans.” With that, the whole Ravens team got down on one knee and the crowd erupted in boos that shook the whole stadium. They didn’t even boo the Steelers that hard. I mean, it just reverberated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the City of Baltimore. Philly may boo Santa, but Baltimore boos silent prayer.

The Ravens were going with the Cowboys option of kneeling early, then standing for the anthem. I hate to give the Cowboys credit for anything, but I don’t think that’s a bad idea. You can get your point across without appearing to dishonor the flag, the military, the police, hot dogs or apple pie.

But it didn’t matter here. They booed like it was their job to be that offended.

By what? Who knows? I suspect that the predominantly white crowd didn’t like having to acknowledge the obvious institutional racism that pervades this country in general and police forces in particular.

I heard a number of people try to provide alibis for the crowd, the most common being that they didn’t know they were only going to kneel before the anthem. I call bullshit. The announcer made it clear that a moment of prayer and reflection was coming. There was no confusion unless the crowd was brain-damaged. (OK, maybe.)

They knew what they were booing and made it clear the next day’s morning’s paper. They don’t want to be reminded of social problems when they’re at a sporting event, which sounds an awful lot like the very epitome of white privilege.

If only people of color could pick and choose when to be discriminated against. Maybe they wouldn’t have to inconvenience everyone by protesting their status as second-class citizens.

Anyway, they did the anthem (for which all teams stood,) which featured a flyover by four A-10s, which I’m sure was totally not a waste of taxpayer dollars. Maybe we should have demanded our money’s worth out of those flights and asked them to drop a couple bombs into the poor neighborhoods. They could wipe out the crime AND clear room for some new condos in one fell swoop.

Eventually, there was a football game to be played and it was a fairly standard affair from that point on. And as usual, I still had things to complain about.

The Ravens still decline to announce the name of the opposing defender who makes a tackle against them. They announce their own players’ tackles, of course. And they announce the opponent’s names of those who throw or complete passes or run the ball. But no tacklers. I still can’t imagine why, other than cheap homerism. It’s like it would be an admission of weakness that the other team could make a tackle against your guys.

This is something they brought with them from Cleveland because the Old Browns did the same thing. It was annoying then and it’s annoying now. It does a disservice to the paying customer. Even if I’m a home team fan, I want to know who’s tackling my guys so I know who to yell at for not blocking properly. Next time I’m there, I may take a knee to protest it.

They have a new stupid wrinkle since I was there last. They have a “crowd effect” counter that counts off every time the opponent false starts on third down or doesn’t convert. At face value, it’s no biggie, but I see it as sucking up to the crowd’s collective ego. It would be more accurate if they also listed how many times the crowd did absolutely nothing of consequence to affect the opposing team.

For example, the Steelers probably converted 4-5 third downs on their opening drive, before eventually committing a false start penalty. The big counter then read “1.” It should have read “1-5,” like a won/lost record.

All bitching aside, though, it really was a good day. We had a great view:
It was a beautiful day for football, with the high temp around 70.

We had great food in the suite:
First helping: 2 crab cakes, some shrimp, and a meatball. You don’t even want to know about the other helpings.

We got to go down on the field for warm-ups:
Antonio Brown, before assaulting the Gatorade cooler. I asked him over the house for Tang and egg salad sandwiches.

And I got to show my honey a good time, on my birthday.

Oh yeah, my birthday was yesterday too. But I’m totally not saying how old…
Anthony Chickillo knows…

There were a lot of yinzers on hand but I didn’t witness any inter-fan violence, which was a nice change. Of course, I was mostly in the gentrified air of the 2nd and 3rd levels. (The “club level” is on the 2nd level and the fancy-schmancy suites are on the 3rd.) I know better than to go up to the upper deck wearing Steelers stuff again. On the middle levels, someone wants to see your ticket roughly every 25 feet.

I did get to spend halftime with my brother, though, on the 2nd level. He was there with my nephew, who is a freshly minted 12-year old now, and was seeing his first pro football game. Happy Birthday, Sammy! It’s been close to 12 years since this story

The only downside to the day was getting out. My plan was to leave with about five minutes left to go, but apparently, about 35,000 other people had the same idea. That probably had to do with the Ravens trailing by a couple of scores. We ended up taking the long way out of town, but we made it.

All in all, a good day. I might even try it again next season, if my white privilege holds out.

DVD Director’s Commentary: I considered writing about the slaughter in Las Vegas today, but I don’t know that I have anything new to say. Just look up what I wrote about the last several public slaughters and everything still holds true.

If the murder of two rooms full of first graders doesn’t move the needle on getting rid of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, nothing will.

Unless, of course, the next killer takes a knee before shooting. I bet we’ll be outraged enough then…

But until that happens, there’s always “thoughts and prayers.” In other words:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Appetite for Distraction

President 45 has once again played this country like a symphony maestro.

Here we are again, on the precipice of losing insurance coverage for tens of millions, thanks to the newest ACA repeal bill Republicans are ramming through Congress. And what is everyone talking about this week? Football players taking a knee for the national anthem.
At a speech in Alabama, (where else?), he said that he’d like to see any player that knelt during the anthem get fired, and he referred to such a player as a son of a bitch.
He knew full well he’d generate a response from the NFL, and the owners, players, and coaches didn’t disappoint. Most of the owners released statements supporting the players’ right to protest as they saw fit. Teams held team meetings to decide how they should handle this provocation.

Some teams linked arms along the sideline. Others had some players stand and some kneel, according to their respective consciences. Still others (including mine) stayed in the locker room during the anthem, so to stay united as a team and not to isolate any one player.

And as if on command, the nation’s self-appointed “Patriots” on duty, all lavishly swathed in red, white and blue, had a conniption fit.

As usual, much of it was factually untrue.

No, the NFL commissioner did not fine the Steeler players one million dollars apiece for failing to appear on the sidelines.

No, there is no passage in the NFL game rulebook addressing requirements for the national anthem. The article and section numbers cited in the graphic led to various other mundane points of gameplay. In fact, there isn’t a single line in the entire rulebook addressing the national anthem. (About 90 seconds worth of Google research debunked that meme.)

It’s also worth noting that players standing along the sidelines for the anthem is not exactly a longstanding tradition. It only began in 2009, after the US Dept. of Defense paid the NFL $7 million in taxpayer dollars to buy patriotic participation in the pregame ritual. Senator John McCain called it “Paid patriotism.”

Facebook “Patriots” seem to be in love with the Steelers’ left tackle, (and former 3-tour Army Ranger) who stood for the anthem alone at the mouth of the tunnel. This is ironic since I’d bet if you asked his new supporters a week ago about what they thought of Alejandro Villenueva, they’d say he should be deported with all the rest of the illegals. They wouldn’t say that to his face, of course, because Al goes about 6’9”, 320 lbs.

When I wrote about this last year, I pointed out the inherent disconnect of a group of people viciously “protecting” the virtue of our Free Country, while simultaneously denying people the very freedoms this country specifically and pointedly protects.
When Colin Kaepernick first protested, everyone made much of how privileged he was and how he (and other rich NFL players) had no legitimate reason to protest. (Empathy is not a quality that conservatives understand.)

And then back at the beginning of this month, NFL player Michael Bennett wrote about his shameful treatment at the hands of the Las Vegas police department, where he was thrown to the ground, cuffed so tightly his hands went numb and had a cop’s knee between his shoulder blades to the point that he couldn’t breathe.

The reason? Officially, someone thought there were gunshots somewhere. Unofficially? He was a big black man who looked like trouble.

This shit goes on every single day. In the old days, you never heard about it in the media. Now in the era of cell phone cameras and social media, we hear about some of it. We heard about this one only because the victim was of such a professional stature that he had a microphone through which he could publicize his story.

What’s going in the Take a Knee backlash is a philosophical bait and switch. These “Patriots” are uncomfortable with the charges of institutional racism at the root of the player protests, so they pivot to Soldiers and The Flag and This Great Country of Ours. On that, they can pontificate for days.
I understand… it’s easier to wrap yourself in the flag than to address the serious problems with the way this country polices itself. But that doesn’t make it right.

We always hear, “This is not the time,” and “That is not the way to protest.” But no one ever, EVER explains when it IS the time or what the “Patriot-approved” way to protest might be. But I’m pretty sure it involves staying in one’s house with the doors shut, the blinds closed and the phone off the hook. And make sure it’s not too loud so one doesn’t disturb the neighbors.

I don’t think for an instant that 45 didn’t want this weekend to transpire exactly the way it did.

Congress now has 6 days to pass an Obamacare repeal and the bill under consideration has been harshly criticized by everyone in the medical industry, from health care groups to patient advocacy groups to doctor and nurse lobbies, and even insurance groups themselves. The only supporters are the GOP congressmen and senators who have campaigned for years on how they’re going to repeal Obamacare, plus the fools who Fox “News” has conned into thinking that would be a good thing.

John McCain has come out against it. Murkowski and Collins are leaning against. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have come out against it for not going far enough, although I suspect both will be reeled back in by the threat of the ACA remaining as is.

I’m sure the Republican leadership is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Murkowski and Collins, from threats to massive projects for their states, in hopes of avoiding another vote that falls short.  The last thing they want is millions of constituents blowing up the phones to register their dismay at the prospect of this insurance travesty becoming law.

And next thing you know, with one speech, no one is talking about health care anymore. All we’re talking about is some athletes spending a minute and a half on one knee, which in real terms, doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference in a single American’s life.

That, my friend, is a master manipulator, playing you like the latest version of Madden for Playstation. The longer he keeps everyone talking about NFL protests, the better his chances of taking Obama’s name off one more thing and calling it a “win.”

It is our patriotic duty to resist this faux drama and to pay attention to what is truly important.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Homeless Thoughts - The Genetic Edition

There are very few ideas bubbling up in me today and none of them contain even enough substance for one of my semi-regular “Odd Bits” posts. So today’s post has been downgraded to Homeless Thoughts.

“Shoot, or I’ll Stop”
Oh look, more police shootings in the news. St. Louis is enduring ongoing protests after yet another jury found a white policeman “not guilty,” after he shot an unarmed black man. The guy, after having fled from the cops, was still sitting in his car. The officer shot him through the driver-side window.

The officer testified he felt endangered because he saw the victim holding a silver revolver when he backed his car toward the officers and sped away.

Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith's car after the shooting, but the officer's DNA was on the weapon and the victim’s wasn't. Dashcam video from the cruiser recorded him saying he was "going to kill this (expletive)." Less than a minute later, he shot the victim five times.

I’m not sure how you get to “fearing for your life” when the victim is still sitting in his car. Of course, the driver was a black man, so fearing for one’s life seems to be the default law enforcement position.

Granted, I’m not saying the guy was a model citizen or anything. He was fleeing from the cops. But it seems to me like another case of “shoot first, ask questions later.” Disobeying police orders is a crime, but it shouldn’t be a death penalty crime, to be judged and executed by an adrenaline-fueled, pissed off cop.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, cops shot a Trans kid who was an LGBT campus leader, who wouldn’t drop a (folded up) knife. Shot him right through the heart. Kid was slowly walking toward several cops and didn’t comply with their orders.

So armed policemen, in numbers, are now deathly afraid of pale, Trans kids now? They seriously couldn’t wing a shoulder or leg, but feel compelled to go for the stone-cold kill shot?

This is another case that called for calmer decision-making. It’s almost like our nation’s police force just can’t help themselves anymore; they have to kill anyone who disobeys.

I believe in law and order as much as the next guy, but there is a system of judges and juries that are charged by the constitution to deliver justice. No one ever passed a law that said, “Shoot anyone who disobeys.”

Severe punishments for mid-to-minor transgressions is how police-states and totalitarian governments start.

Republicans’ Zombie Healthcare Bill
They’re trying one more time to kill the Affordable Care Act. The attempt at tossing millions off their insurance comes via the Cassidy-Graham bill, which Republicans are trying to ram through Congress before the end of September. That’s the deadline for passing the bill with only 51 votes.

Reviewers already say that this bill is even harsher than the last couple, and it shuffles money from states that expanded Medicare via the ACA (blue states) to the states that ignored the ACA (red states).

If we’re to thwart another attempt at devolving the health market into chaos, there will have to be a concerted effort to get some GOP senators to vote no on the bill. A good starting place would be those who voted no the last time: Murkowski, Collins and McCain. Rumor has it that McCain is onboard this time, but that Rand Paul isn’t. (It’s not conservative enough.)

One Big Family

I sent that out on Saturday, after reading about the promotion in the morning newspaper.

The idea was for the fans to take cheek swabs, seal them in baggies, and put them in bins stationed around the concourse. Then they’d go online and register and eventually get some kind of genetic test results back.

Does no one want hat or pennant giveaways anymore?

And they were all set to go but then Sunday morning, the Ravens postponed the promotion due to privacy/security concerns. I can certainly see that… who knows what could be done with your DNA on file.

If they do follow through with the promotion, I hope the instructions are clear. If they say to take a swab from the inside of their cheek, they better specify that they mean the ones on their face.

Starting Them Young
Speaking of football, my Steelers weren’t on local TV again Sunday, so I had to watch from my local sports bar. This time, my brother met me there.

The last few years he’d bring my nephew along but this year, the boy is away for his freshman year of college. I asked if he was going to bring his younger boy, Sammy, and he said no. But then he texted back later and said, “Change of plans; Sammy wants to come.”

The boy is 11 so he can’t sit at the bar, but that’s no reason not to come watch football with his dad and uncle! Hell, it’s not just a bar, it’s a restaurant, and kids go to restaurants all the time. I sat at my usual place at the bar and I saved them the high-top table behind me.

It was especially nice because there’s a real cross-section of humanity at this place, with some legit local color. I think it’s good for the boy to see people from all different walks of life hanging out and getting along. And if he plays his cards right, one day he may meet the love of his life in a place like that.

I did.

Now speaking of the aforementioned Sweetpea, I ordered tickets today for 2 last Orioles games this summer. That brought my count of O’s games this season to 10. Last year I saw 26, so that was a major change. But for good reason.

In years past, I had plenty of time to go to ballgames because I had absolutely nothing better to do with myself. And rather than cocoon down in the cave, I opted to go out and mingle with the world.

But this summer, with Sweetpea in my life, sure I’ve gone to games, (often with her), but I have other things to do now and someone to do them with. Call it a more well-rounded life.

So while I haven’t been bringing home the Orioles swag like I used to, (from promotional giveaways), it’s not like I don’t already have a dozen orange t-shirts anyway. And I don’t have room for any more bobbleheads.

Spaced Out
I saw on Facebook that it’s been officially decided that leaving two spaces after a sentence dead.

Which is fine. But can somebody tell my fingers? I’ve been trying… reeeeally trying, but it is so ingrained in me, I can’t NOT double tap the space bar after a period.

I’ve been trying to comply for the last couple blog posts. I’ll start out the first sentence or two fine, but once I start thinking about the subject matter, those two spaces just start appearing automatically, then I have to examine every sentence break and remove all the renegade extra spaces.

I must be getting better though… I just went back to check my work and only found two instances.

The downside is that all those abandoned spaces have to go somewhere

Monday, September 11, 2017

Odd Bits – The “Irma Sick’a These Hurricanes” Edition

So how’s the weather lately?

Good God, it’s like Mother Nature is having a fit of projectile vomiting all over the south. Maybe it’s about time we figure out that it’s not such a good idea to pave over every living surface across cities that are at zero feet above sea level.

Mankind may not have control over nature, but we sure have influence. The effects of these storms wouldn’t be nearly as bad if we weren’t cutting every corner in sight just to put up a couple more condos. Why not shortchange barrier vegetation, overlook crumbling dams and pave over every square foot of waterfront real estate? Why let a few worry-wart hippies get in the way of development?

Look, I don’t believe that the existence of these two latest hurricanes constitutes proof of climate change. I do consider them two more pieces to add to the mountain-sized pile of evidence that climate change is happening and is contributed to by humans.

Just look how both of these storms were described.  Harvey was an unprecedented storm; with conditions never before seen in recorded history.  And then a week later, Irma becomes the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

We’re breaking temperature records year after year after year and contrary to the common arguing point, they’re not just blips.  I’ve posted it before but it warrants reposting.  Check out this timeline, showing temperature variations going back to 20,000 BC. You’ll see slight wobbles that take hundreds, if not thousands of years to take place.

And then you get to the 1930s and 40s where temperatures start to rise noticeably and then BANG, they spike with the 80s and 90s.  There is no 50-year change like that EVER in prior ages.  Only a moron can conclude that humans haven’t had a hand in it.  Or, Republican politicians whose heads are so far up the Koch Brothers’ asses they have to look out their navels.

Take a look around, down in Florida. This is going to be the new normal. The big ones may not come every year, but they’ll come often enough to make it hurt. Where they land will be a crapshoot, but unless we change the way we develop our coastal areas, the results will be the same. The shit that doesn’t get blown down will get flooded out.

So keep disassembling the EPA. Keep cutting funds for NOAA and hurricane research. Continue to ignore our infrastructure and let the rich bastards siphon up all the tax cuts. Eventually, they won’t have any place left to moor their yachts. 

In fact, they’re probably working on an underground luxury condo system in Kansas, right now.

Breaking It Down
Speaking of murderous clowns, I saw the movie “It” this weekend. I loved it.
 The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’ definitely should not see It.*

I was a fan of the book, way back when. And I even liked the 2-part TV movie from 1990, although the special effects are painful to watch today. (They used a lot of stop motion photography, which looks like it’s from the original King Kong movie.)

As you may remember, the story involves a group of seven kids coming together to fight a supernatural monster, who terrorizes the town by abducting and killing children. Twenty-seven years later, the same kids come back to town as grownups, to finish the job.

This movie limits the story to that of the kids (which will be followed by the inevitable sequel, to tell the rest of the story.)

What I liked best about the new movie was the interplay between the kids… you know… ragging each other, mother jokes, sister jokes, dick jokes, aggressive use of profanity… Just how I remember being 13!  It was believable and real. The child actors do an amazing job.

And while the clown bits were definitely nightmare inducing, it was the atrocities committed human to human that were the most disturbing. I don’t remember if it was in the book, or it was from an interview, but Stephen King once said that (and I’m paraphrasing from memory), kid’s lives take place just under the gaze of adults, like it’s a whole different world.  The grownups rarely see what’s really going on and are consequently of little help.

That may be less true now, with the advent of helicopter parents and constant cell phone communication, but it was true in the 50s where the book was set, and it was true in the 70s where I grew up. Bullies had free reign to terrorize. There were no checks on bad or abusive parenting.

Kids just had to make do. Maybe that’s what I like about this story. It’s just kids taking their fates into their own hands and doing what desperately needs to be done.

*DVD Director’s Commentary: Just to explain the picture to the non-Monty Python fan, The Knights Who Say Ni should not see the movie “It” because “it” is the one word they cannot hear, as per “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail.” Perhaps they could see it with the sound off. I just wouldn’t want to sit behind them.

Another Season Begins
Football season began for me last weekend with the opening game of my Steelers’ 2017 season. I went to my local sports bar for the festivities and it was nice to be back. Sweetpea has kept me well occupied lately, so I hadn’t been out to the bar for most of the summer.

The Steelers opened against the sad sack Browns, which should have been a walkover; like a 5th pre-season game. However, someone forgot to tell the Brownies, who battled a disorganized-looking Pittsburgh squad to a 21-18 loss.  We got the “W” but didn’t look very good doing it.

I just wonder if it was my fault.

See, last week, I decided to use my new window-facing office space for a little municipal smack talk, by pinning a Terrible Towel to the end of my desk, so that it is visible from the main road.

I thought of doing it last year, but the season had already started and I didn’t want to mess with the mojo. I figured if I posted it before the season starts, I’d be all right. And opening against the Browns made it seem like a good bet. I used my 6-Time Super Bowl Champions towel because I didn’t really have much choice. I have two others that are individual Super Bowl towels, which I have displayed at home, and I have my plain, unadorned “battle towel,” for use at games or watching at home.

Now, I’m not sure if it was a good idea. Maybe it was the towel mojo that clinched the win. OR, maybe the Steelers won despite the temptation of karmic smackdown. I’ll have to watch carefully in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I was hoping it would be a visually striking presentation, but I ended up receiving a lesson in “scale.”

This is a shot of my building from a couple blocks away, from my walk in from the subway.  The arrow shows where the towel is.

OK, no one is going to see that from their cars, from that far out. 
This shot is from across the street.

You can kind of see something up there, but it’s hard to tell.  Now if I just zoom in a bit… 
OK, now we’re talking.

Unfortunately, the human eye doesn’t come with telescoping zoom capability.

Maybe I’ll just have to settle for pissing off the people on upper floors of the Marriot and the condo across the street.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Under the DACA Night

President Trump’s executive repeal of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals act, aka DACA, shows he’s finally exhibiting some of that business savvy for which he’s supposedly famous. By creating a 6-month window for Congressional action, he’s insulated himself from any blowback.

The idea of booting kids and people who were brought here as kids out of the only country they’ve ever known is essentially barbaric. It’s as if they’re sub-human. Any such enforced roundup would create an expensive and inhumane mire, from which our country’s reputation may never recover.

So why is Trump proposing that very thing? Politics. This is a move designed to be red meat for his racist base and a poke in the eye for progressives and anyone else with a conscience.
But by dropping final implementation onto Congress’s lap, he’ll seek to escape the blame, however it turns out.

If, by some miracle, Congress can agree on and pass a bill that formalized the DACA principles, then upon hearing complaints from the racist right, he can reply, “I killed the DACA order via executive action.  Blame those weasels in Congress for reinstating it.” (Granted, he’d still have to sign the bill.)

Alternately, if Congress is not able to enact a replacement and the rest of the non-racists in this country protest, he can say, “Blame the do-nothing Congress… I gave them every chance to come up with a new plan.

It’s basically a move right out of a reality TV show like Big Brother or his own Apprentice. One guy comes up with an evil plan, talks others into executing it, then stands by when it blows up, going, “Hey, they did it, not me.
I’m sure this blame-evading malleability played into the decision to have his AG, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions announce the news. Sessions, who looked practically gleeful at the podium, has never had a problem jamming up people who had the misfortune not to be born white.

Particularly odious was his bald-faced lie about providing motivation for other children to come here illegally.  As Attorney General, Sessions knows full well that the DACA only applies to those brought here before 2007.

I swear I am constantly taken aback by how brazenly this administration lies to the public.  Big, shiny, obvious-with-even-a-cursory-fact-check LIE. But they know their base isn’t interested in facts; they’re interested in getting rid of the ferners.

Research into DACA shows that the US would take a loss of over $105 billion dollars in lost revenue over five years.  $105 billion!  That’s a lot of dough to squander over racist posturing.

And yes, that’s what it is… Racism. That’s the only reason left after you look at some of what “dreamers” have to do to qualify:

·        Provide a clean criminal history
·        Have paid taxes for the last three or more years
·        Prove they have been providers for their communities
·        Prove that they are in or have been in school
·        Prove that they have never asked for welfare or government assistance
·        Renew their application every two years AND pay $500 each time.
·        They also pay state and local taxes and cannot collect Social Security.

These are tax-paying, upstanding, non-criminals, which is supposed to be who we want coming to America.

And the claims of, “but it’s illegal…”?  Bullshit. Why does illegality only bother conservatives when there are minorities involved? I seem to recall several bank executives plunging the country into a years-long recession, costing millions of people their pensions and 401ks. To date, not a single one has gone to jail or been convicted of anything. Of course, those were rich white people.

Even right at this minute, the Wells Fargo scandal is widening, where throughout the entire banking chain, millions of insurance and consumer accounts were created out of thin air, defrauding millions in the process. No one has even been fired from their board, let alone arrested.

Unpunished illegal activity runs rampant in this country, but law-and-order people only get upset about it when there are brown people involved. So spare me the platitudes about the sanctity of the law.

If you want to see a demonstration of this point, just wait until Mueller announces the litany of illegalities tied to the Trump campaign and administration that are sure to come, (assuming Trump doesn’t fire him, beforehand.) The silence from those "Sanctity of the Rule of Law" people will be deafening.

So when all those arguments are discarded… criminality, illiteracy, being uneducated, “sponging” off the taxpayers, what’s left?

Simple, garden-variety racism. Fear of those dissimilar to ourselves.

And because of this fear, 800,000 people have to live in terror of being scooped up and tossed into a country they do not know.

How very Christian of the god-fearing Republican party.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Doctors and Vacations Don't Mix

As an offshoot of my bout with atrial fibrillation in May, I went back in to see my cardiologist for a follow-up.  The good news: the old tickers is fine.  The bad news: I have to start acting like a grownup now and get some wellness care.  (Meaning maintenance drugs.)

First off, I know my blood pressure has been creeping up. I get a reading every time I give blood or otherwise see a medical professional, so I’ve seen the pattern. That the doc wants me on BP medicine did not come as a shock. In fact, I’d already been working on lowering my sodium intake.

Now, I never put salt on anything (but French fries), but have you seen the sodium content on prepared foods? Holy crap! Just about everything I buy from the grocery store is loaded with sodium. One can of Campbell’s chili has over 1600 mg, and most Progresso soups have over 1000. You’re only supposed to have 2000 mg per day, and probably less if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure.

I’ve been buying lots of “no salt” canned vegetables and “reduced sodium” soups. They’re better for me, but unfortunately they taste like sawdust. I had to consult with Sweetpea to help me make my side dishes taste like anything.

So I was ready when my doc prescribed BP meds for me.  (Lisinopril, to be exact.)  I also had to go buy a blood pressure monitor so I could take daily measurements and report them to my doctor every week.  I got one for Sweetpea’s place too, so I didn’t have to schlep mine around every weekend.

He also had me get some bloodwork done, which I haven’t had since around 2009.  My cholesterol was in the high range… just barely, but still high. (And the “good” cholesterol was barely too low.)  So I’m on cholesterol medicine now too… Crestor. 

The bloodwork also showed a problem with my triglycerides. I don’t know what those are but I have way too many of them. No pill for that; only way to address that is to lose weight and drink less.

And there it is… That’s why I avoid doctors the way I do. Total buzz-kills, and I mean that literally. Obviously, I’ll have to seek an exemption for football season.  I’ll see if there’s any wiggle room.

I’ve been on the meds now for just over a month.  Good news: my BP is way down.  The meds are doing the job. The bad news: I have one of the common side effects… persistent dry cough.  I asked him give me something else; we’ll see if it kills the cough. Just started taking it on Friday. No change with the cough yet but the BP is still good.

Another ramification of my follow-up is that my doctor hooked me up with a primary care physician, right in the same hospital complex.  I haven’t had a PCP, pretty much ever, so this is a big development.  I’m happy that whatever comes up, I’ll be in a facility that can handle it so I won’t have to be sent all over hell’s half-acre for different services.

I met with her for an initial consultation last week and we hit it off well.  Hell, it was almost like a first date, with all the relating of personal history.  But it’s time that I get with the program and start taking better care of myself.  I want to have a lot of time with Sweetpea before I get old and decrepit. 

And as I feared, our discussion led directly to the Big C. 

You know… Colonoscopy.  I knew I was five years past the threshold so I’m overdue.  I’m not exactly looking forward to it but I realize it’s inevitable. But when she asked me when I wanted to schedule it, I was like, “It’s gotta be before the end of the year.”

She looked at me like she was surprised by my rush.  I said, “That heart treatment this year filled up my insurance deductible. I’m in the sweet spot now, with the insurance picking up the bulk of the bills, so I want to fit in everything I need before December 31st.

If they must shove something up my ass, I’d rather not be the one paying for it.

On the bright side, we decided I wouldn’t need another prostate exam, without the appearance of symptoms indicating that one is required. I think I high-fived her. You really have to appreciate all of life’s little victories.

So there I was, all ready to make life changes and commit to good health, but there, standing in my way, was a week’s vacation in Ocean City.  Sweetpea had a friend with a condo for rent down there, so there we went… me, her, and two of her friends (a guy and a girl). 
This was the back of the place, with up and downstairs decks. Gorgeous.

Seriously, no one should have to start a new healthy lifestyle during a week in a beach house.  I know I ate stuff down there that I never eat at home.  The snacks were totally on point.
These were just the snacks Sweetpea and I brought.  Similar quantities were provided by the other two guests as well. To look at our countertop, you’d think someone handed a hundred-dollar bill to a 9-year-old and said, “Go get some food for your treehouse.”

Our first full day down there came with the threat of heavy rain, which was supposed to start around 1:30. We decided to hit the boardwalk for a couple hours before the rain began. 

There are all kinds of odd places on the boardwalk and it’s funny about the things you consider when you’re on vacation.
YOLO, right?

Wrong!  After careful consideration, I decided, “Oh HELL no.”

The rest of our board walking didn’t work out though… Rain started early at 12:30, so we did the only reasonable thing. We took refuge in the nearest bar. After a couple drinks, it looked like it was letting up, so we made a break for it. Bad choice. We got soaked running back to the car.

Note to Doctor: Today I went for a run.

Things started clearing up on Tuesday, enough so we could get in a round of mini-golf.

Note to Doctor: Played 18 holes, and didn’t even use a cart.

Wednesday and Thursday were gorgeous, so we spent the morning and early afternoon on the beach. At one point on Wednesday, I posted to Facebook:

Beach status check:

Times in water: 1
Times crushed by wave: 2
Saline in nasal cavity? Yes. Note to Doctor: I’m staying hydrated.
Water in ear? No.
Lost contacts? No.
Lost hat? No.
Sunburned? No.
Sand in every crevice? Well, shit…
Families of goobers set up directly between us and the water? 2
I wanted to move our chairs up and sit right in front of them.  See how they like it.

So the results of the beach experience were mixed.

After beaching, it was time to go out and get some libations. Because it was too early for “Happy Hour,” we went to Happy Lunch instead. That’s like Happy Hour with sandwiches.

The “guy” part of Sweetpea’s friends was the guy she texted the day we met when she saw me at the bar and wondered what my name was. They’d been friends for more than 20 years.  I only knew him as the jolly Ravens fan from the other side of the bar.

When we were at the condo, I said to him, “In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d find yourself in a beach condo for a week with “That Steelers asshole over there?

No surprise there.  Besides differences in football allegiance, we also had another significant difference:
I don't know how the dude even sits on a barstool without falling off. That’s a serious “Costanza” wallet right there.

He and the other girl left on Thursday, which gave Sweetpea and I some time to ourselves in the condo, which was nice.

In other news, Sweetpea wants to get our own beach house, so I’d better get to work.

This was the longest amount of time we’d ever been together without a night apart.  We both wondered if it would work, or if there would be problems. We were delighted to find that we could have kept going.  Granted, it’s a vacation on the beach, not the daily grind of working, commuting, household chores and complaining about the utility bills.  So it’s not really a fair comparison to a long-term living situation. But is sure wasn’t a disqualifier either. We are both optimistic for our futures together.

As long as I can stay healthy, that is.  Oh, that reminds me:

Note to Doctor: I played another 18 holes, still without using a cart.  And I had to use steps, too (to get up onto the pirate ship.)

A Shameless Plug
As some may know, my friend Sherry Stanfa-Stanley spent a year doing her 52/52 Project, in which she did one thing outside of her comfort zone for every year of age. She did things like going to a nude beach, zip-lining, acting as a street mime, crashing a wedding and a fraternity party, and going into a sensory deprivation tank. 

After first blogging about her experiences, she then wrote an honest-to-God book about them.
The book was released last week and I was thrilled when my copy arrived.  I was even more thrilled that I turned up in one of the stories (page 300) and in the acknowledgments. The acknowledgment stemmed from a comment I made to her from THIS blog in 2011, which may have just instigated the whole shebang. 

But the “Bluz” angle aside, the book is a real hoot to read. Trust me, you’re going to want to go along for the ride.  She’s one of the bravest people I know.  There is zero chance I’d do even half of the things she tried.  You can order it from Amazon by clicking the link: Finding my Badass Self

You can either tear through it in a couple hours, or read it more… incrementally.