Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friday Random Ten

Somehow the knuckleheads grading one of our sites up in Ridgefield, Washington just got some crushed rock delivered today that, oh, by the way, needs to have compaction testing Monday. Which means that I need to get the lab testing done by then, and this particular lab test (called a "Proctor", ASTM D 1557) takes about 2-3 hours over two days at least.

Which means I'm working this weekend. Thanks, dummies, thanks for nothin'.

Anyway, it does give me a chance to blog. The sad fact is that I don't have any particular thing very compelling to blog about. So you'll have to make do with my meandering about. Feel free to give me a slap upside the head in the comments if this pisses you off in a particular way. So, in no particular order, here's what I've been up to/thinking about lately.
I am just never going to make a living repairing appliances. This was conclusively proven the past week beginning the night that my wife and daughter attempted a "special baking project" (it sounds better in the original German - Sonderbackenprojekt!) that - whatever the hell it was - proceeded to goosh all over the inside of the oven. Including all over the lower, baking, heating coil.

Well, I pulled out all the racks and turned on the self-cleaning setting and was fairly irked to find tha next morning that the damn thing was still filthy. Which was explained when I pulled on the baking coil and it came apart in my hand. Apparently whilst the Sonderbackenprojekt was an abject failure as baked good it worked like a charm as a corrosive on the coil.

Well. Fuckadoodledoo. Fortunately these heating elements are all plug-in and out, so I reached in, undid the two little self-tapping screws that held the element in place and pulled it out.

And arced electricity right across the live wire at the back to the interior of the oven casing; immediately the clock display on the control panel went dark.

As it turns out, the particular type of Frigidaire oven does NOT have plug-in-and-out heating coils, and I now had not just a broken coil but a fried microchip that controlled the whole magilla. I had effectively toasted $500 worth of oven/range.

This meant a week of take-out Mexican, Chinese, and Thai, and a trip to the local appliance warehouse store. The new stove arrives tomorrow, and the old one is going off in the appliance dead-cart to whatever sad plague-pit appliances that have been short-circuited by idiot homeowners go. We are $500 poorer and I feel like a total fucking nimrod.
Following this story its hard to figure out which part pisses me off more. The fact that, as a citizen, it pisses me off that the damn coppers dressed up in soldier gear? That in the crappy Missouri town these ding-dongs seem to think that the way to deal with their enraged citizens is to act like soldiers, complete with Army Man gear and surplus military vehicles? I mean, damn, boys. We beat the living daylights out of 250-pound Cuban crossdressers up at Fort Indiantown Gap with nothing more than those big plastic Roman-style riot shields and big long riot batons and that was when we really were soldiers. You're supposed to be there to enforce civil law, not retake fuckin' Fallujah or thump the heads of dangerously psycho Cuban detainees. As a citizen of a notional republic the last thing I want to see is my cops acting like ersatz soldiers; that's why there IS a civil law.
(And for the record, the basic problem isn't about cops or soldiers but race; Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station said it first and better than I ever could, so I'll just link to him and leave with the observation that unlike Jim, I have no problem being cynical and pessimistic about our country. We've spend 300 years whistling past that graveyard, what in hell would make anyone think we're going to change now? Us white folks are still the boss and we'd have to invest an immense amount of cash, time, and lives in making the United States a different place for our black citizens, and if there's one thing people are good at it's avoiding things that take time and effort and thought and doing the easy pleasant things even if the long-term results are very, very bad. That's why we miss our prostate exams. That's why we choose to have sex even if it means fucking crazy people. That's why we buy cheap shit off the Internet. Good luck getting those kinds of people to solve a 300-year-old race problem.)
Or is it the fact that as an old soldier, it pisses me off to see the coppers doing such a shitty job playing soldier? Having a flak vest and a K-pot doesn't make you a GI, dumbfuck. If these negroes really were as badass as your faux-Army outfits suggest they are? They'd mop the damn floor with you, all bunched up and standing around exposed to gunfire. It's like half of these so-called "SWAT teams" that seem to be thrown at everything from serving a summons to busting a loud party; just having a bunch of neat-o GI gear and two days a year "tactical training" doesn't make you actually good at soldiering.
Which is good, because you're not a fucking soldier. You're a cop. Officer Friendly. You're not supposed to be storming the Rhine or retaking Hue'. Put the GI clobber back in the locker and go find yourself a nightstick, for cryin'outloud.

Jesus wept.

Speaking of civilians, sod this for a game of soldiers;
"When Smedinghoff and the others walked through the base’s south gate that morning of April 6, 2013, they turned left and headed to where they thought the school was. But a guard at the compound door where they knocked said they needed to go to another door, so the group turned around and headed back the way they came, the report states.

They were caught in the initial blast at about 11 a.m., when a remote-controlled bomb hidden under a pallet that was leaned up against the base’s southern wall detonated.

Five to 10 seconds after that initial blast, a man driving a blue Toyota — who the report states had been shooed away from the gate when the group was leaving the base — drove within the formation of soldiers and civilians and blew up his car, gravely injuring Smedinghoff, the interpreter and the three soldiers, among others.

Smedinghoff suffered a pelvic fracture, an open wound on her right lower leg and a severe hip injury but was “awake and alert” during the medic chopper flight to a nearby larger base, according to the report. But her blood pressure plummeted due to internal bleeding, and she died at 1:02 p.m."
It sounds like this entire day was a complete and utter goatscrew from before the get-go:
“Planning for the mission failed to provide enough detail for an operation that included a “Senior Civilian Representative” such as Addleton, according to the report. The pre-mission activities did not have the proper focus because the routine nature of this patrol led to a sense of complacency by the civilians and military leadership,” the report states. The report says State Department officials shared a lot of information with Afghan government officials regarding precise departure times from the base that morning and Addleton’s VIP inclusion. The military did not share such information with the Afghans, the report states."
"The military did not share such information with the Afghans."

No shit, Sherlock. And all so the Scholastic, Inc. book people could get some happy snaps?
What a friggin' hot mess.

It looks like our Portland Thorns FC may end their season early, and largely because they were unable to put away the bottom-feeders in the NWSL this year. I've had fun as the Thorns "beat writer" for Slide Rule Pass this season and I will be disappointed if the team's year ends this Sunday. The Thorns have been the consensus pick for the past two years of women's pro soccer and both years have seen much more difficulty and drama than they should have. Portland loves this team; we routinely draw ten thousand or more in a league where four or five thousand is a huge crowd; hopefully the front office will recognize that as special as it is and move to address the difficulties in the off-season.
Giving me more to write about, of course; I'm a fan, but as a writer I'm as selfish and parasitic as the next writer...

Speaking of soccer players, I was reading something about one of our Portland players and the article noted that she wore size five soccer cleats.

She's not a small woman, and it reminded me of stopping off at the old Adidas store, back when it was in MLK, and they had a pair of Tiffany Milbrett's boots and I'd swear they were like a size four. Tiny. Now, admittedly, Milbrett was a dinky thing, five-two or thereabouts, but I couldn't get over how tiny her feet were; her cleats were like kid's shoes.

And it seems to me that in general we American and European guys typically have a thing about women being small and dainty. Back in the day ol' John Suckling described his ideal babe this way:

"Her feet beneath her petticoat
Like little mice stole in and out,
As if they feared the light..."

Bob Herrick (the "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" guy, a contemporary of Suckling's) said:

"Her pretty feet, like snails, did creep
A little out, and then,
As if they played at bo-peep,
Did soon draw in again"

Leaving out the kind of gross image of snail-feet, we're obviously talking teensy little size threes here. These gals aren't clomping around in some boondockers.

And it occurred to me that I totally don't get the whole "tiny feet" thing.

I mean, I like women, and I generally like women's feet. They're usually pretty, especially since you typically tend them better than we do and keep them neat and groomed. But a full-size woman with teeny-tiny little feet? She'd seem...well, unfinished, to me, anyway.

I just don't see women as something decorative. They're nice to look at, yes. But more than half the fun in life is doing things, right? And who wants to do them alone and then come back and tell your inamorata about your adventure? Isn't it more fun to adventure together? A big, strong, adventurous woman needs big, strong arms and legs with big, strong hands and feet to go adventuring...or play soccer, or hike, or swim. Well, maybe not soccer; Milbrett did pretty damn well in her tiny size fours.

But in general, give me a woman built for comfort and for speed, rather than for daintiness. And that includes the shoe size.
But maybe that's just me.

The crap we take from computers never fails to astound me. At the moment it's another fine Microsoft product, the calendar widget that goes with the Office e-mail application, "Outlook".

Or, in this case, doesn't go. My company "upgraded" to Office 365 in the spring. It's a kludgy mess, slow and buggy, and I try and avoid using the 365 apps whenever possible.

But I can't avoid using the e-mail, and with three offices in two states in order to schedule anything we have to depend on an on-line gimmick. The problem being that within a month or so of "upgrading" Outlook lost the shared calendar. Literally; when I opened the damn thing the folders just weren't there.

Our IT guy, who is sort of a maroon, spent an entire month dicking around with various Microsoft IT people supposedly fixing the thing. He finally came trotting proudly in with this "fix" this week which required about eleven restarts of Outlook. After the twelfth, though, there they were. We had our calendars back.


While I could see them again, I could actually do anything with them; couldn't add an item to the schedule, couldn't delete or change one. The "fix" was completely worthless other than finding the shared calendar folder and retrieving it, like a dead field mouse to lay on the bedspread. Gah.

Since we were talking about women's bodies - okay, well, their feet - I ran across this picture the other day:

That's Gary Player. Guy has to be, what, about 97? Kidding, no, he's probably in his seventies. Still...damn, I'd like to be in that kind of shape in my seventies.

As it is I'm finding it hard to just keep my shape. The bad hip means it's hard to do any sort of aerobic exercise. So I have to rely on diet, and dieting pretty much sucks; it's kind of like starvation, only with food. But, still, even with good diet and exercise it gets more difficult to keep in shape the older I get.

I think I've mentioned this before, but perhaps the single most irritating part of aging is finding things that my body no longer wants to do willingly, or, worse, wants to do at all. Physical activities that I took for granted, from just getting out of bed to getting in and out of a vehicle, are no longer simple. For example, I have a very hard time entering and leaving a small car from the passenger side. My right leg bends so slowly, and so little, that I have actually had to use my arms to lift and turn it to get inside.

Have you any idea how irking that is? Rrrrrrr.

Oh, one last thing I almost forgot; Mojo went to a timber carnival last weekend.

Do you have those where you are?

They're definitely a Northwest (and upper Midwest) sort of thing, a combination of small-town festival and logging field day. With the end of hand-logging they are also a sort of historical celebration of the old skills that once earned a living in the woods; buck-sawing, climbing and topping, axe-work such as springboard and block chopping, and choker-setting.
It's all very commercial now; most of the competitors are itinerant athletes rather than local boys showing off. But the "Logger's Jubilee" in the little Washington town of Morton sounds like it still retained some of the small-town flavor. Mojo enjoyed it, basking in all the manly loggery goodness and getting prettily pink from the sun.

And as for me?

Well, Friday has turned to Saturday, my Proctors are done, and so is this post.

I have another ready to go, though. So I'll be back most quick smart.


Ael said...

Is it really about race, or is it a class problem disguised as a race problem?

Most of the Americans I have met have been in the military. The enlisted were typically "lower" class and were drawn from all over the USA. I did not see evidence of racial prejudice between them. I did see incidents where skin color played a role, but it was in the same order of magnitude where big ears and funny shaped feet also played roles. Young men are sensitive to physical differences between them and can be cruel about it.

What I did *not* see were gun crews where the blacks rode on one side of the gun tractor and the whites on the other. Shit details seemed to be handed out evenly (modulo peoples proclivity to fuck up and hence attract shit).

Please let me know if I was misreading my perception of the US military.

Now, assuming that I am correct that people pretty quickly abandon racial stereotypes when they enter the military, then perhaps the fundamental problem in America isn't race.

Perhaps it is a class problem (and most importantly a lack of social mobility between classes.) However, some of the *markers* that we used to quickly distinguish between classes tend to be race based. For example, whites and Chinese are indicative of middle/upper class, black and latino suggest lower class. In cases of doubt, wait till the person speaks and sort them based on accent.

I once watched a London department store greeter perform class sorting based on accent. They would ask incoming shoppers if they could be of assistance and based on the accent of the reply, the greeter would either direct the shopper to the front or back of the store.

I was curious how I would be sorted with my Canadian accent so I went in. The greeter didn't miss a beat with my non-classifiable accent. He simply asked me if I saw anything that appealed to me (hence allowing me to self sort between "front of store" and "back of store").

Anyway, if the essential problem is really about a lack of social mobility then all this clothes rending and hair pulling over race provides a fine distraction.

FDChief said...

It's a race problem.

The whole "it's not about race it's about class" meme is a very common way that white folks like me like to dodge the fact that we've set things up (or stood around with our collective thumbs up our collective ass while the thrones and dominations set things up) so that being darker than coffee-cream meant that you had a hugely inequitable chance to be poor. For all that we've done - and I'm not denying the either a) the U.S. has come a ways from where we were and b) the "black community" has had a hand in what's happened to them - the bottom line is that our society is stacked so that "straight white male" is the easiest difficulty setting BY FAR and that "black male" and "black female" are much harder. Study after study shows it; if you're black you will get rejected for the loan or the job that the white boy with lesser skills and credentials will get, that you will get stopped, frisked, and jailed - or beaten, or shot - for minor "infractions" that someone like me will skate on by with.

You have to be a pretty dreggy white boy to get the same sort of scrutiny from store security, or cops, or the public in general that a fairly bog-standard young black man gets.

Perfect example; we were at the local public range yesterday and the two guys on the pistol range were just a couple of young black guys out for a day's fun shooting. And even though I consciously tried to avoid the thought I looked over and for a split-second thought "Damn, the Columbia Villa Crips are moving up to the next level if they're here taking pistol practice on the 25 meter range..."

And I'm 1,000% less openly racist than most Portlanders.

So, no, it's not about class, other than in the U.S. black = "dangerous low-class yobbo".

Barry said...

"The bad hip means it's hard to do any sort of aerobic exercise"

GET IT FIXED. Believe me, at about 60-90 days, you'll be literally kicking your own *ss for not doing it sooner.

Ael said...

Was my impression of the US military wrong then?

Do black soldiers get treated differently from white ones?

I am honestly asking.

mike said...

I feel for your adventures in oven repair. Yesterday I torpedoed my garage door opener when trying an adjustment.

Golf has been good to Gary Player. It may not be as athletic as soccer or the other football, but it is great for you if you stay out of a golf cart, stay away from the cart girl selling beer, and don't go into the 19th hole to lie about your score afterwards. I see octogenarians and an occasional nonagen-whatever on my local course that are in great condition.

FDChief said...

Ael: Yes, and no.

First, you saw the GIs mostly at work. And the work environment for U.S. troops may be the most coercively nondiscriminatory society in the U.S. The Army is extremely aggressive about prosecuting any soldier, NCO, or officer who is tagged as "Does not support EO/EEO". You get that on your OER/NCOER? Instant career killer. There is nothing - literally nothing - anywhere else in U.S. society like it.

And what you might not have seen is what happened when those GIs got OFF work. And my experience was that there was a fair amount of segregation in the social lives of U.S. troops. Black guys usually hung with other black guys, white guys with white guys, Latinos with their own buddies, and that sometimes even meant groups of Mexican-Americans hanging out separate from Puerto Rican-Americans...

So, like I said; yes, and no. The U.S. Army is terrific at forcing people to get along at work. What they CAN'T do is completely change the attitude of guys like my old Ft. Bragg roomie who had a baseball bat labeled "Nigger Knocker" behind his wall locker.

FDChief said...

Barry: Problem is, I get it replaced now and it wears out before I'm 65-70. And the track record for second replacements is bad, very bad. Both orthopods I've seen have been very insistent that my best option is to keep this bad thing as long as possible.

Sucks, but the alternative is worse...

basilbeast said...

John Oliver showed this clip on his show last night.

As for our little race problem, I find it just weird that the mostly white fans of the NBA and NFL rave about their black heroes, wear their heroes' names and numbers and then proceed to "tsk tsk" their heroes' off-the-field shortcomings.

I think much of the problem is due to power, who has it with all the perks and visual trappings and who is fit only to serve.

That's why affirmative action was such a sore point, and why I believe it's still needed. The places of our power do need to reflect the look of our population.

The "I don't suck because I have power and status" syndrome that has been with us forever.


FDChief said...

basil: Sports and entertainment have always - sell, entertainment, anyway - been places where blacks could "stand out" without danger in white society. So long as the happy darkies were singing and dancing, us white folks were just fine with that.

Sports is a more recent accomodation; my father told me of going to a Cubs game in the early Sixties when white fans surrounded a small group of blacks bold enough to venture into the North Side and roaring out "Shine On, Harvest Moon" in the faces of the terrified people. He remembers the vile, unforgiveable racist howls coming out of the stands at the early black players like Robinson.

The bottom line was that after the color line was legally broken in the 1950s and 60s and black families could no longer be redlined the wealthier and more conventional black people moved out of their old neighborhoods.

Those were the people - the doctors, the lawyers, the pastors, the newspaper editors and small business owners and such - that formed the solid middle class of the old segregated communities. They were able to move into "white" upper class communities with very little friction. First, the upper class and upper middle class people living around them were raised to hide - or, as best, genuinely not feel - any sense of real violent racial hatred. Second, the black families were a teensy-tiny minority and as such really not threatening. They HAD to adopt the manners and mores of the white families around them to survive, and did.

That left the lower-middle class blacks with the truly impoverished blacks in the old neighborhoods. The blue-collar black families TRIED to move out but found that the white blue-collar families would sell out as soon as more than one or two black families moved in. Throw in the massive flight of blue-collar jobs from the historically black northern cities like Detriot, Chicago, Rochester...and the desertion of the black upper class...and you have the implosion of black America that began in the Fifties and Sixties and continues today.

But it's not even that simple. It's an immense mash-up of white privilege, black social dysfunction, economic and political disparity, emotional and intellectual resentments, mistrusts, and angers. Like I said in the post, I have no idea how to solve it and I have every confidence that nobody but a tiny minority of my fellow white citizens has the willingness to devote what would be needed - including personal time and trouble - to even come close to addressing it...

Ael said...

Thanks Chief.

You are correct, I mostly saw GI's at work and not play.

I guess I really don't understand much about America and Americans.

basilbeast said...

Kareem says:


basilbeast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ael said...

Thanks basil,

That was a very useful link. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar interweaves the problems of class and race in a coherent fashion.

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