Thursday, June 30, 2016

Life is life (da da da da da dum...)

(Soundtrack for this post, from Laibach, my second-favorite group of Slovenians...)

I wanted to post this quickly after my sad little rant from yesterday, because it sort of typifies my position as an "optipess". That is, I am very unhopeful about the overall trajectory of our industrial civilization. I really don't think that anyone will solve the two huge problems that are going to bitchslap us:

1) Industrial civilization is learning how to make things without people, especially things that don't require a special sort of creative process. So the people who used to live by "making stuff" are going to find that they don't have jobs. Or that the jobs they will have are either a) horrible, like hospice and elder care work, b) low-paying, or both. Basically I think that a hell of a lot of what used to be the "working" and "lower middle class" (and even a fair bit of the "upper middle class") won't have a way to make a living. And

2) Anthropogenic global warming.

I think the resulting social chaos - people fighting over water and cropland or trying to escape rising seas while scads of people will be living aimlessly, without work or hope and on the edge of appalling poverty - will make the great migrations of Europe and Asia look like a child's birthday party. the same time, my own life is fairly sunny. My hip is working much better. The Boy seems to be happier now that he's taking his Brain Medicine. The Girl is her usual sweetie self. And my Bride is, as always, a Garden of Delight, Dispenser of Pleasures and Domestic Goddess.
This, for example, is from the past Saturday. Mojo and I took the Girl to what we call "Sushi Train". It's one of several little kaiten-zushi joints in Portland, and the Girl loves her some sushi. About two-thirds of this stack is hers. That's a LOT of sushi..!
There's always something fun going on at home; yesterday I got back late from a soccer game to hear all about the little fledgling crow that the kiddos had found. They tried to shoo it back towards its' nest-tree (amid great caw-ing from all the neighborhood crows) when some sort of raptor arrived.

From the kids' description you'd think this sucker was the size of one of Tolkien's eagles! But I think it was either a red-tailed hawk or a big accipiter like a Cooper's hawk. Anyway, it took the fledgling for its' own hatchlings to the great excitement (and sadness) of the young people. "It's the Circle of Life..." sighed Little Miss, who then giggled when I reminded her that she says the same thing when she farts.

I'm doing good work and getting paid for doing something I love.

I live in a beautiful part of the world, and I have my books, and my sport, and my hobbies to distract and entertain me. I get to write to you here and get the opinion-kinks out of my head. I have people I love and who love me close to hand.

I have it pretty goddamn good, at least here, and for the moment.
And that's pretty much all any of us can ask from life, isn't it?

We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsered, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.

Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Abiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

~ Wallace Stevens

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tings Bruk Down, Part 2

I'm sitting at my desk here at work. Not working, obviously, but just waiting for the clock to run down. My Timbers are playing tonight and I'm idly wondering whether to go. I've been immersed in soccer lately. Copa America. EURO 2016. The local teams, Timbers and Thorns. As well as writing the Thorns for Slide Rule Pass. So I'm honestly torn. I'd kind of like to see the match. And I'd kind of like to go home and do nothing.

As I sit I'm reading the Internet. News, opinion, various blogs and websites I enjoy.

Every so often I check into my Facebook for good stuff like this:

Lee: I lost my electroporation virginity today - although my partner was electrifying, it was brief and shocking and I won't know for days whether I'm satisfied. ‪#‎scienceporn‬

John (a.k.a FDChief): I have this mental picture of you reclining on the lab table in nothing but a lab coat and cigarette holder while the device intones (in the HAL voice from 2001): "Procedure complete, Lee. Are you sure it was good for you..?"
Lee: That sounds like every day in my lab, John.
John: Well your work is a damn sight more fun that mine, Lee. WTF? GEOLOGY was supposed to be the place to major if your primary interest in science was primarily intoxication and reproductive anatomy. When the hell did you biologists get so lascivious?
Diane: Does HR know?
Lauren (Lee's daughter): I swear, you and John Lawes could write a book on things your offspring never want to hear
John: But not, alas, cooperatively. Apparently biology is the New Sexology and I appear to have completely missed THAT memo...
Lauren: You should ask her to recite her diatribe on pornographic pollination. I was scarred for life after that one. I swear, parents say the darndest things
John: That's the point. You get to be pains in our ass when you're little; we get to be pains in yours when you get big...It was worth the price of admission explaining to my daughter about puberty.
Lauren: My mom drew me a scientifically accurate diagram of the uterus and phallus. It was very educational
John: Knowing your mom...I'll bet. And probably pretty funny.
Lee: I don't remember any of that...

Some people give good Facebook. Some people post reams of fucking cat pictures and links to everything and nothing. It's like letter-writing. Remember those? Let me tell you; I could write a terrific letter. Most people? Not so much. That translates over to the electronic version of epistolary friendships, too, and I'll let you guess which is more enjoyable.

But here's the other thing I found on FB today:
"Democrats appointed to the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee by Hillary Clinton and the party’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, defeated a ban on fracking on June 24."
This was from my friend (and commentor here) Mike's feed. Mike and a lot of the comments on the original post were, understandably, furious.

It just made me sad and sick at heart.

Because I just don't see that there's a real hope in hell of "doing something" about anthropogenic global warming (or "AGW" for short...) through our political process. And if that's not possible...well...I'm not sure what this planet will look like with a return of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and I'm not sure I want to.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about what look like very similar electoral situations; Great Britain's "Brexit" referendum and the people who wanted out of the EU, and the coming U.S. general election and the people who want Trump.

In both cases there seem to be a fairly good prima facie case for opposing both Brexit and Trump. Both appear to be based largely on rumors and lies and fed by nativist anger and racist rage. Both appear to be like hitting yourself in the face with a hammer to swat a fly on your nose.

But in both cases there's the arguments my friend Mike and other lefty pals employ against HRC; that the "Remain" argument for the EU (and the "better than Trump" argument for Clinton) are, in effect, demanding your vote for something deeply flawed, something that rewards the rentier class that has effected a silent coup.

Mike and the Sanders supporters make good points about how the current system is horribly skewed against the "regular" Joe and Molly. How things like trade deals and crony capitalism strip people of jobs and wealth, and how people are sick of being "ruled", in effect, by unelected corporations and capitalists. I agree. The current economy isn't "good" for people like me, or my family.

The current system isn't "good" for the planet in terms of accelerating climate change. Both need to be changed.

But what bedevils me

Republics and democracies aren't good a big, radical changes. They're not good, either, at demanding that their citizens do things that they don't like to do in the short term to make things better in the long term. Remember when Jimmy Carter asked us to turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater? The average U.S. citizen knows perfectly well that things like eating McDonald's rainforest-beef hamburgers, driving an SUV, and living in a 3,500-square foot house with a quarter-acre lawn in a city built in a fucking desert are bad ideas.

They just don't want to not do them.

And - short of war - it's hard to either make them or persuade them TO do them.

That's why I eventually bagged on Sanders. Because I'd read things like this:
"We need a president who will vigorously support international cooperation that brings the people of the world closer together, reduces hypernationalism and decreases the possibility of war. We also need a president who respects the democratic rights of the people, and who will fight for an economy that protects the interests of working people, not just Wall Street, the drug companies and other powerful special interests.

We need to fundamentally reject our “free trade” policies and move to fair trade. Americans should not have to compete against workers in low-wage countries who earn pennies an hour. We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must help poor countries develop sustainable economic models.

We need to end the international scandal in which large corporations and the wealthy avoid paying trillions of dollars in taxes to their national governments.

We need to create tens of millions of jobs worldwide by combating global climate change and by transforming the world’s energy system away from fossil fuels."
...and I'd think, yeah, you're right. That'd be great. That'd be awesome.

How the fuck would you do that?

I mean, how does President Sanders go to Congress...the same Congress that has a House full of shit-flinging flying monkey wingnuts and a Senate that has enough of the same to prevent cloture, remember?...and tell them, yep, I want to cut the Defense budget and spend it on solar and wind energy. I want to reform the tax code to prevent capital flight and return the top marginal rate to 90% like back in Ike's day. I want to cut CEO pay. I want to raise tariffs to prevent offshoring and job loss.

These are fucking people who think that the problem is that there's not enough oil drilling in fucking National Parks, for fuck's sake. These are people who are elected by even stupider people who think that the world was created 6,000 years ago and that Jesus wants you personally to have the full tank of gas that those dirty, smelly Mooslim people stole and hid under their deserts.

Add to that the people, like the people who voted "Leave", think that "international cooperation" means Brussels telling them what shape their bananas should be.

And you have to convince all these people; the good folks, the worriers, the activists, the goofballs, gomers, nativists, racists, ignoramuses, conspiracy-theorists, ding-dongs, and low-information knotheads to be patient, compromise...and to give up their styrofoam cups and cheap plastic crap from Wally-Mart and NASCAR and put down their Confederate flags and ride the fucking bus to work.

What president could do that?

Hell, Jesus riding on a velociraptor and carrying an AR-15 couldn't fucking do that.

That's what kinda drove and drives me crazy about Bernie. Yes, these are all good things. do you get them? How do you convince people or coerce people or force people to stop building suburbs? To stop driving to work? To stop buying disposable diapers? To stop living in McMansions? To stop voting for people who tell them that they don't HAVE to stop doing all those things because "global warming" is a lie?

I want to hear not an uplifting speech. I want to hear a plan. I want to hear an actual strategy. How are you going to beat down FOX "News"? How are you going to force-feed Michael Savage and Rushbo and Coulter and Malkin and Beck and every other talk-radio moron a nice, hot cup of STFU? How are you going to get people who don't want to accept the science of climate change to accept it and live the lives they need to live to help change things? How are you - in detail, now - going to get people to ask for more taxes and less cheap Chinese-made crap and more equity?

I'm not saying that we shouldn't keep working for this good stuff Bernie talks about.

I'm saying that by its very nature it's a ridiculously difficult, painful, time-consuming body of work. That you're going to get beat. A LOT. And that you're going to have to grit your teeth and work with people you don't goddamn DLC triangulators and people who want fracking regulated rather than banned.

And that's fucking hard.

So hard that I'm not sure it can ever happen.

And that, in turn, really depresses the shit out of me. The worst are, indeed, full of passionate intensity. And the best...well, they're getting sick and tired of trying to roll that rock uphill.

I want to believe that there are ways. Real ways, practical ways, workable ways, to make all the good stuff that Bernie wants happen.

I just can't see anyone actually producing them.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Safe Breasts for Victory!

A lot of bizarre stuff happened here in the Land of the Big PX during the Second World War.

So I can't imagined armored brassiere cups were the most bizarre.

But...damn. That's pretty bizarre. What the hell was Rosie doing that put her lovely lady lumps so close to Industrial Danger?

We will never know.

Some ideas are too stupid to die and can't be killed.

Apparently there's a nutty little cluster of fuck buried in the U.S. State Department (from CNN via Pierce):
"More than 50 State Department officials signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria, calling for targeted U.S. military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and urging regime change as the only way to defeat ISIS.
The cable says that U.S. policy in the Middle East has been "overwhelmed" by the continuing violence in Syria. It calls for a "judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

The memo calls on the U.S. to create a stronger partnership with moderate rebel forces to battle both Assad's forces and ISIS, which would change the tide of the conflict against the regime and "increase the chances for peace by sending a clear signal to the regime and its backers that there will be no military solution to the conflict."

It also warns that as the regime "continues to bomb and starve" Syria's Sunni population, the U.S. will lose potential allies among Syria's Sunni population to fight ISIS. Moreover, it says, U.S. failure to stop the regime's abuses "undermines both morally and materially the unity of the anti-Daesh coalition" and "will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield."
It''s hard to tell where to start with this ridiculous level of horseshit.

Maybe here: "judicious use of standoff and air weapons"..? Judicious? How the holy fuck do you use a cruise missile "judiciously"? Tack a get-well card to the nose? Ensure that it has a jihadi-seeking sensor in the guidance package? Who the hell thinks this? State has seen a damn sight of war since 2001. It's been fifteen years of nonstop bombing and shelling and killing-wogs-in-kinetic-ways in the Middle East. Have these people learned nothing from all that so-far-prodigiously-unproductive bombing, shelling, and killing..?


If you can show me a "judicious" way of throwing high explosive long distances I will carry your rucksack from here to the Halls ofMontezuma and kiss your ass when we get there. about this one; "moderate rebel forces"? Moderate based on what metric? 50% less headcutting? 100% How many of their raggedy-ass "fighters" have read Atlas Shrugged? Where are these paragons of virtue? Can anybody find me someone, anyone, who is "moderate" in the damn cesspit of ruin and merciless hatred that used to be "Syria"? Can anybody tell me why I should trust ANYone there to tell the truth about their "moderation"? I mean, any State Middle East hand to believes any local between the strandline of the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf who boasts of their "moderate" credentials should have their fucking head examined.

According to CNN, "The 51 officials who signed the memo are mostly from the rank and file of the department, many of them career officers in the foreign service who have been involved in Syria policy over the past several years either in Washington or overseas." which, frankly, tells me a hell of a lot about why our "Syria policy" has been as fucked up as a football bat.

One thing I will give the last Adminstration credit for; in general it has resisted sticking this country's head further into the Middle Eastern tarbaby. I have often wondered why it has insisted in sticking to the ones it is already attached to. But this idiotic memo is perhaps a good reminder of why it's so hard to stop being stupid.

Because there's always people in critical positions who think that their contrarian idea is contrary because it's too clever for everyone else to recognize how clever it is and not because everyone else realizes it's completely moronic.

Shut up and sit down

Seems to be what the Republican voters in the state of Nevada told their lunatic gun-licking teabagger Michele Fiore. She lost the House District 03 to someone named Tarkanian who, since he is a Republican, is reliably spineless on the whole business of well-regulating the fucking militia but is less full-blown, bull-goose looney about armed sedition.

One can hope.

Mind you, she came in a strong third, garnering nearly 20% of the GOP primary voters. Which pretty much confirms what I've always suspected; that there's about somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of U.S. "citizens" who have no real idea what constitutes a polity, have no concept of (or interest in) a civil compact with their fellow-citizens.

As I've mentioned here before, Fiore represents the very, very worst of the greedy, stupidly chuckleheaded notion that there IS no social contract, that "I built that", that the entire idea of collective responsibility or community is not just impractical but iniquitous.

Needless to say I'm pleased that even the Republican primary voters in Nevada were unwilling to go so far into that fever-swamp as Ms. Fiore wanted them to. While it is reprehensible that some of these jokers let her get as far as she did, apparently sending her to join the poop-flinging Freedom Caucus in D.C. was too much even for Republicans, even in Nevada.
Enjoy spending more time with the family, Michele. Don't forget to keep the ammo out of reach of the toddlers, now, hear..?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The DaVinci Hoax (or; Sorry, Janet...)

A couple of years ago I wrote a little post about the possibility that there was a person who lived in 1st Century Judea named Jesus Josephson who wandered around talking about God and who maybe, possibly, got hitched at some point before he ended up (maybe, possibly) on a Roman execution device.

This was based on the controversy surrounding a scrap of manuscript supposedly detailing some discussion this guy had with his pals talking about his ol' lady. Nobody seemed to be sure whether this scrap was genuine or not, but the idea seemed interesting enough for me to run with.

Well, sadly, the whole magilla appears to have been a complete forgery that, unfortunately enough, the original author of the paper that began the speculation refuses to accept.

The story of the journalist that chased the scam down to its creator, though, is delightful in itself, including the East German STASI, a slithering con man, and


But I stand corrected; sorry, Janet. He just wasn't that into you.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The coveted Portland Public Schools Achievement Medal... know that there's a U.S. Army tradition called the "I-love-me" wall, right?

Since we can't get on-demand (or achievement-related) pay raises or promotions, soldiers get plaques or certificates or other gimcracks when we done good. These testimonials are usually hung up on the wall inside the platoon office, or in a barrack room, to remind us just how awesome we really are. Sometimes it helps when we suffer the inevitable fuckup and the First Sergeant calls us "oxygen-thieves". ten-year-old daughter - with absolutely NO prompting or example from Daddy - created this:
Her very own "I-love-me" wall.

I trust that she'll be bitching about the chow, goldbricking her way through detail (or "chores" as they're referred to in fifth grade...), and coming to me with ridiculous schemes to go on extended TDY any day now.

Sniff! I couldn't be prouder!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


My Sanders-supporting friends, let me put on my "older than dirt" political partisan cap and say this just once;

You stand at a crossroads now.

You can continue to strive for a more progressive Democratic Party in the future, for a lessening of corporate and wealthy interests within that party (tho if you think you're gonna get anywhere near "social democracy" in a European sense within the next century you've been huffing glue...). You can build grassroots organizations to help push the "Overton window" back to the Left.

Or you can retire to your tent to sulk about unfairness and corporate eeeeevil and stacked-deck primary processes. And as such you'll have as much effect on the political future of this nation as...Ralph Nader has had after 2000.

I've been there. I campaigned for John Anderson (remember him..?) back in 1980. I was a Dean partisan. I've labored for progressive candidates since I was old enough to vote. And I've been frustrated again and again watching "conservatives" work constantly and successfully within THEIR party to hijack it. Look around. The Donald isn't a "rogue Republican" - he's the Climax Teatard, the ultimate expression of what these Chrisopaths and antitaxers and Tenthers and Segregation Now - Segregation Forever diehard Dixiecrats have been drooling for since Reagan.

Since REAGAN; thirty-five years. Thirty-five YEARS, friends.

You want a "Sanders" in the White House and a Democratic version of the "Freedom Caucus" in the House? Are you prepared to work patiently for thirty-five years rather than throw a massive tantrum in this one?

Because that's what it'll take. And you can take those first steps today that will take us there then.

Or not.

Your call.


Monday, June 06, 2016

The Cat Yacks At Midnight

So here's a thing; Nitty Kitty (the older of our two cats) is occasionally bulimic; she binges on kibbles then yacks them up. I always hope that this occurs on a hard floor - as she did when she was ill last night - and not a carpet or someone's (Sheadooooon..!) dropped clothing or schoolbooks.

So here's another thing; I've grown so inured to this cat-yacking that the night-sound of the furry pest horking up her chow no longer motivates me to get up and find the vile spew.

I figure what's done is done, and no worse will occur before morning. In the morning I drag my ass out of bed and go clean up the nasty eruption.

Unfortunately for me, our crew of sugar ants was much less lazy. The little bastards were all over the place this morning. Gah.

I'm not sure who to blame at this point, but I'm working on making it either the car or the ants rather than my own sloth.

However you look at it, it's still revolting.

Saturday, June 04, 2016


The moment I stepped onto the front porch I knew it would be a breathlessly hot day.

Friday had been very warm in the oppressively cheerful way the early summer days here are warm; in the sun the heat bears down like hot metal while the shady sunless patches are pleasantly cool. The real measure of a hot Oregon day, however, in just at sunrise. Today the sun rose on a flat, breathless sort of dawn. Pulling the air into your chest it felt dry with the scent of dust. Even the asphalt was still slightly warm underfoot.

It would be a hot day.

The Pearl District of Portland has, in the preceding decade, descended from being a rundown post-industrial hardscape of dreary warehouses and melancholy-looking duplex apartments to a shiny, happy bustle of steel and glass and carefully-hand-rubbed artisanry; cute little coffeehouses, precious retail outlets, many, many spas and salons.

The early-morning passersby were already in their hot-weather wear; shorts, brief tops, and sandals, for both men and women.

Why is it that a woman's feet in sandals look pretty and tended while men's just look...unkempt?

The same goes for our legs, unfortunately; most of the Pearl morning women were tender, neat, and attractive from the hips down...while we betesticled types ambled about in an ungainly shackle of knobby knees and hairy shins.

In my heavy boots and thick work pants I envied the gentlemen of leisure their cool shorts and open shoes, but not their bumptious look. I know my own appearance too well to pretend that I would look any less ridiculous in their abbreviation.

There was a single five-hour parking spot next to our work site, a city block being transformed into a wooden-slatted hole in the ground, now full of machinery and the debris of construction. I fiddled with the parking machine and then stopped to enjoy a lovely pedestrian, cool in her flowing white dress and (of course) tidy jeweled feet in tenuous sandals, her bell of iron-gray hair shining like a gunturret in the heavy sun.

She passed with a look, calm and pleased with herself and her morning, bound on who-knows-what errand or no business at all; perhaps merely "taking the air" on a Saturday morning.

I was what I call the "anchor nanny" today. It is, rather like highway driving, one of those appallingly awful tasks that combines the necessity of constant attention with a complete lack of intellectual or physical stimulation. It is bookkeeping, pure and simple; so many feet drilled, so much silt, so much sand, so much anchor length (how much bonded, how much unbonded..?), so much grout pumped.

Primary grout volume, secondary grout volume...the point of the exercise is simply to reduce the number of indeterminate variables when an anchor is tested and fails. That way the designer can decide whether it is the design that is inadequate, or whether the construction was defective, or whether - if both appear satisfactory - the failure was due to some sort of anomalous soil condition that no one could have anticipated.
The crew worked in the heat, roaring like their equipment, cursing and sweating. I moved, like one of those slow-migrating animals (a tortoise, perhaps, or a similar creeping reptilian thing), from west to east following the shadow of the superjacent building and the eastern wall until, finally I could retreat no further and the sun in its' loathsome splendor leapt overhead and I was sweating and cursing and stinking like the rest.

By midafternoon no one wanted to continue. One of the drills got stuck, the foreman breathed out one last fiery curse and shut the job down.

I still had an hour to go, completing my report for the day, but at least in the cool of the old mill building where my company has moved. There was also cold beer, and I could strip out of the heavy protective gear and into shorts, daring the empty office to laugh at my legs. It was late afternoon when I emerged to be punched; gasping, breathless, by the hot, heavy gold blanket of the dying day.

“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit."

~ Ada Louise Huxtable