Thursday, December 30, 2021

The email riles up Curmudgeon... again

I have a number of email accounts, personal and professional, and they all get clogged with garbage. But some of the emails get my goat more than others....

This one hacks me off every single month: I have a DirecTV dish and a ginormous AT&T bill each month that goes along with it. Which I have faithfully, if never cheerfully, paid when due.

This never stops AT&T though. It insists on treating me as if I were a habitual deadbeat. From today's email:

For the record (although, as a long-time solo practicing lawyer I know this is one of the oldest lies in the history of commerce) my check to AT&T is in the mail.

And was, moreover, before I got this insulting notice.

I can't imagine ever sending such a notice to a client, huffing about payment on a bill not yet due!

Didn't we used to have antitrust laws in this country? AT&T was broken up during my lifetime -- how was it allowed to recombine, like a Ray Harryhausen skeleton in Jason and the Argonauts, only bigger and more evil?

Slightly less aggravating was the email I received from an auto dealer. (A couple of years ago, I was compelled to buy a new van to replace our old one. Indeed, it was at the repair shop referred to in the linked post, on a subsequent visit, that the repair technician came, someberly, into the waiting room -- I think he was clutching his hat with both hands in front of him, eyes downcast -- to tell me, "You know, Curmudgeon, we all have to go some time....")

Anyway, the dealer (separate and distinct from the repair shop) showers me with emails, touting new models or service on my van. I don't answer them. And I don't feel bad in not answering them.

It's not like they're paying for postage.

But the dealer, apparently, is becoming slightly peeved, as this excerpt from the dealer's most recent email would indicate (edited to remove identifying details):

Hello [CURMUDGEON],

I have attempted to reach you, but I've had no success.

Either you have been eaten by alligators or you are just plain swamped. If you have been eaten by alligators... my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members. If you are still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened. I hate to keep pestering you, but I do want to express my desire to work with you.

Please pick one response, email or phone (773) xxx-xxxx letting me know what our next step should be:
1. Yes!, I have been eaten by alligators. Please send flowers.

2. No, I have not been eaten by alligators but you may wish I had been because I have decided I have no interest in your service. Sorry, you are sunk (Thanks for your frank honesty, I can handle it.)

3. Yes, I have some interest, but here are my challenges:..............

4. Yes, I have some interest. Let’s talk and get together on:...........
Please be as open as possible. Thanks for your response.

Doesn't that seem a tad peevish to you?

I have not, and will not, respond to this email, although the temptation to choose option 1 is pretty strong.

But I, of all people, should be sympathetic when an attempt at humor falls flat.

Least aggravating, for purposes of this review, but still, in my opinion, a nusiance, is this reminder from Walgreen's:

Yes, I am cheap. (I prefer to say frugal, but I won't argue with cheap.)

But would I really venture out unnecessarily in the midst of a record COVID-19 surge just for the sake of 83 cents?

I'll have to get back to you on this... I'm still thinking it over.

Meanwhile, have a safe and healthy New Year's holiday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A creature from your worst nightmares: A millipede as big as a car

You're looking at a picture of a Giant African Millipede, this one from the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose, California. (Do you know the way to San Jose?) (Sorry... couldn't help myself.)

Anyway, if you look at the stats thoughtfully provided by the zoo at the link in the preceding paragraph, you'll see that this creepy critter is typically eight to 12 inches long... and can get up to 15 inches long. If your stomach is strong enough, you can click around the Intertubes and find pictures of these slimy devils crawling on peoples' hands... and sometimes their faces.

Yet this guy is a midget. A piker. A Lilliputian.

At least by comparison to the nine-foot long fossil millipede found recently in England. The link is to a USA Today story, by Jordan Mendoza, reprinted on Yahoo! News.

Although I'd prefer to believe that Mendoza is just joshing with us, I am obliged to report that the story is also on CNN, Live Science, and NPR.

England was closer to the Equator 326 million years ago and this beheoth, called Arthropleura, flourished in the warm, tropical conditions that then prevailed.

Arthropleura now displaces Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, a giant sea scorpion, as the largest invertebrate currently known to science.

(Of course, who knows what tomorrow may bring?)

I don't want anyone to think that I knew all this off the top of my head. I didn't. In fact, until I saw the linked Yahoo! News article, if asked, I probably would have said that the largest invertebrate known to scinece was a centipede that Long Suffering Spouse once saw on the living room ceiling one cool autumn morning. If the fur on that creature could have been preserved, it might have made her a fashionable-looking jacket. Or at least a stole.

Not that she would have worn it.... Long Suffering Spouse has a particular aversion to centipedes (or anything else that trespasses on the premises but belongs in the Great Outdoors).

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Beware! Earworm ahead

At least, the above and foregoing sign will trigger an earworm if you are of a certain age.

And, if not, you can 'tuck in your hair up under your hat' and ask an elder why this is funny.

If the elder of whom you inquire has access to the song, and offers to play it for you, run -- do not walk -- away quickly.

You have been warned.

Friday, December 10, 2021

16 years of blogging?

It seems hard to believe, but I started this blog -- which was actually my second effort at blogging (get it?) -- in December 2005. We have just passed this site's 16th anniversary.

I still had a kid in grade school in 2005. In the years that followed all five of my children have graduated from college and gotten married. Three of my five children have children of their own at this point; Long Suffering Spouse and I have been blessed with 10 grandchildren so far. I have chronicled some of these events here.

I have no doubt written some things in the course of those years that I would disagree with today. Thinking people modify their opinions and revise their views as new information becomes available. As they (hopefully) grow in wisdom and experience. My wife or my children or grandchildren might wince if they were ever to read through the archives here in any depth. Certainly there have been occasions were I have griped about this child, or that one, or written some things that might have been embarrassing for them. Then.

Then again, this has been an anonymous blog. So the members of my family did not know what I wrote about them when I wrote it. If they ever do read it -- perhaps when I am gone -- they may enjoy it. I hope so. Even when they see where I have occasionally exaggerated for comic effect or narrative clarity. Or given Long Suffering Spouse the most cutting lines.

In my writing I have always tried to avoid saying anything that would embarrass me if read from the pulpit at church. I think that's a good rule for anyone who writes, online or off. In the course of 16 years I may have been better at it some times than others.

My first blog was created when Older Daughter was studying in Spain, during her junior year of college. I found it convenient to create a Blogger account (a different one than the ones I use now) in order to leave comments on the blog that Older Daughter created while she was overseas. At some point, probably because my comments on her blog became too lengthy, I created a blog of my own. Things sort of evolved from there.

So, in a way, this is all her fault.

Sorry. Inside family joke: Older Daughter feels that she is blamed for everything. Which is absolutely not true. I blame her siblings for things, too. Sometimes I even blame myself... probably nowhere near as often as I should... but such is life.

Anyway, Older Daughter came back from Spain and at some point thereafter I started this blog without telling anyone at all.

And I was shocked to find that I had no readers. Hmmmmm.

From those inauspicious beginnings, I actually built something of an audience. I was totally geeked in 2007 to welcome my "20,000th visitor" -- 20,000 page views seemed like a lot to me, then. At my peak I probably had two or three dozen regular visitors, most of them generous with their comments. It was a little community.

But time marches on. Some readers moved on with their lives. Some passed away. By 2013 I stopped posting as much. From 136 posts in 2013, to 40 in 2014, to 20 in 2015. In 2020 I did not post at all. (I was too busy, I suppose, hoarding toilet paper.)

And I was shocked to find that I'd lost the little audience I'd had. Hmmmm.

Actually, last month I had 1,957 page views here, according to Blogger. That would have thrilled me in 2007. Perhaps the Blogger counting system is more generous than the old Sitemeter. But I doubt they are that different. But the 40 or 50 or 60 daily visitors I have now don't give me that same 'community' vibe I had here in 2007 through about 2012.

At this point, 16 years in, what I've got here is inventory -- 1,982 published posts and counting. Maybe I can yet build something on or from this.

Seems to me to be worth a try. After all... 16 years... I've had this site open now for about a quarter of my life.

Happy Blogaversary to me.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Very Peri? I dunno... looks kinda purple to me

We are entering the Silly Season now -- or, more properly expressed in 21st Century America, the Even Sillier Than Usual Season. A whole bunch of "end of the year" stuff makes it into the news, mainly because those charged with gathering real news, those few that are left, are busy with Christmas preparations (and/or Winter Solstice or some other Winter Holiday preparations) just like the rest of us.

Thus, for example, in December, various groups announce what the Word of the Year Is -- three I've heard so far are "Vaxxed," "Vaccination," and "Boostered" -- and these announcements are solemnly reported.

Surprised?

Me neither. But it was on the "news." You probably saw or heard it, too.

This morning's revelation is that the Pantone Color Institute has announced its Color of the Year for 2022.

The real story, it seems to me, is how somebody dreamed up a company, and apparently made money in so doing, that makes and sells colors. Apparently by licensing said colors.

But that's not the story being reported today by Time Magazine or CNN. Nope. The story these outlets (and several others besides) are reporting is the creation and selection of the color itself, described on the linked Pantone website as "[e]ncompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression." The Time Magazine article says Very Peri is "a dynamic periwinkle blue with a vibrant, violet-red undertone designed to evoke the glowing touchscreens of the digital world and the creative possibilities of the future."

Sounds very deep, doesn't it?

Obviously, if Very Peri is in the headlines today, all the serious problems of the world have been resolved, right? COVID-19 is no longer even a nuisance -- Putin has pulled back from Ukraine -- the Palestinians and Israelis have resolved all their differences -- and poverty and hunger have been eliminated from the entire globe. Right?

No?

None of the above?

Well... casting about for a silver lining here... several of my granddaughters say that purple is their favorite color. Perhaps they'll be happy to learn that this shade of purple is the Color of the Year....

Monday, December 06, 2021

Did you put your shoes out last night for St. Nicholas?

(Photo credit: nestfullofeggs.blogspot.com)

Today, December 6, is the Feast of St. Nicholas. When we were kids we'd put our shoes somewhere where St. Nicholas could fill them with candy or other sweets. Depending on how the religious calendars coincided, St. Nicholas would sometimes bring marked down, post-Hanukkah gelt. (If Hanukkah came late in a given year, the Hanukkah gelt would wind up in our Christmas stockings instead.)

Very ecumenical and economical.

Naturally I tried (at least once) to leave my boots out for St. Nicholas, as opposed to mere shoes. My parents vetoed the plan.

The thought -- now -- of eating something that had been left to linger in my shoes overnight strikes me as awful. What were we thinking?

But, of course, what we were thinking -- then -- was that this was an opportunity to get candy and we really didn't care if it had to marinate in our stinky gym shoes for some hours before we could get at it. Chocolate is chocolate.

Nor were we overly concerned with whether St. Nicholas was or was not the same guy as Santa Claus. I suppose if we thought about it, we might have wondered why the same old guy would come by on both the 6th and the 24th. With a different modus operandi on each occasion. But no self-respecting kid wonders long about where candy is coming from, as long as it's coming in sufficiently copious quantities.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The one unbelievable thing about Stargate SG-1

Long Suffering Spouse and I recently found Stargate SG-1 on Netflix.

We used to watch that show all the time. We started watching it again on Netflix. We found we still liked it. Naturally, therefore, it is being removed from the streaming service effective today. Anything we like is discontinued and/or canceled.

There are hopes to revive the show, according to recent news accounts. If the show does come back, a central premise of the old show will be discarded: This time, the Stargate program will no longer be a secret.

That was always one of the least believable aspects of the show anyway -- and I say this fully cognizant of the fact that the show was a splendid and unapologetic mashup of science fiction and ancient Egyptian (and Norse) mythology, complete with parasitic monster "snakes" who inhabited, and possessed, many of the bad guys (and some of the good guys, too -- Teal'c for one, and all the Tok'ra).

Ben Franklin said (correctly, I believe) that two people can keep a secret -- as long as one of them is dead. Yet, somehow, a few leaks notwithstanding, despite hundreds if not thousands of people directly involved in the program, who knows how many other members of the Deep State (the show really was ahead of its time on this) trying to horn in on the alien action, and hostile politicians concerned about costs and benefits, viewers were supposed to accept that the Stargate program remained a deep, dark secret. Even with alien invasions and battles in Earth orbit -- the vast majority of the world's population never had a clue.

But while the continued secrecy of the Stargate program was pretty hard to believe, it was not the most unbelievable aspect of the show.

No... the least believable aspect of the show was the premise that all this ancient alien hardware, often buried beneath rubble, or in a glacier, for thousands of years, nearly always worked. Network connectvity was never an issue. Just dig out the gate, dust off the DHD, and off we go! In one episode, the Stargate on one planet was hit squarely by a meteor, buried in rubble, and still worked like a charm.

And the alien equipment never needed updates.

The SG-1 team would come under heavy fire, race back to the gate, dial home, and -- after a big whoosh -- there was the wormhole straight back to the base.

Never was there an announcement before the whoosh: "An update is available for this Chappa'ai. Would you like to download this now, or postpone it to later?"

Once chevron 7 was locked, where was the video? You know... the one that said, "Your wormhole will begin after these ads."

Occasionally power went down -- at the base -- because human equipment powering the Gate failed. But if there was power available, there was always the appearance of blue, standing water -- never the spinning circle of doom like you and I get every other time we turn on our computers. Never once, after the intrepid SG-1 team dialed in, was there a message saying, "Your Chappa'ai has encountered a problem and must restart. Information is being collected about this failure to send to the Ancients."

Faster than light travel? No problem. Little gray men impersonating Norse gods? Totally understandable. Flying pyramids? Advanced aliens wearing suits of armor? All good here. But this Ancient technology always, always working? Impossible!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Facebook: Living your best lie

That's not a typo in the headline... it's kind of a click-bait play on words... it is supposed to put you in mind of the Oprah "best life" thing. Whatever. You're here. Stay with me and I'll explain....

That's a happy-looking kid, right?

It's the kind of thing you typically see on Facebook or Instagram these days: Happy people doing happy things. Celebrating. Enjoying each others' company.

Oh, sure, there's also the political dreck. Sloganeering. Shouting in the echo chamber. Racking up 'likes' from all those in your 'silo'. All those people telling you how right you are, though you've never met them. It makes it all the harder for you to understand why Cousin Bessie blocked you. Or your mother.

Today, I'm not talking about that problem.

Instead, I'm talking about all these happy people on Facebook and Instagram doing marvelous things. So enthused. So satisfied. They're all doing so much better than you are.

At least, it looks that way. And that sometimes brings you down.

But are all these people really as happy as they appear?

We're in the Holiday season now. You may have already gotten some Christmas cards. Some of these may have Christmas letters.

Everyone is always doing so marvelously in Christmas letters. OK, yes, Dad died -- but the letter says that Mom has reentered the world with new energy and enthusiasm. She can't live alone anymore -- but the letter says that Mom is thrilled to be at Restful Acres with all sorts of fun and cheerful neighbors. And such wonderful activities! (They go on a bus to a casino once a month and everyone loses a cup full of coins in the cheapest slot machines. But the letter doesn't include that bit.)

And Junior? Well, he lost his job. And didn't get off the couch for a month. Didn't bathe for the first two weeks. But, with the bill collectors circling ever closer, he took a job flipping burgers for a fast-food chain. As a college graduate, he may eventually get a shot at management. Some day. (Though there is a PhD with more seniority working the french fry machine.) So the Christmas letter says Junior has changed careers and is now exploring management opportunities in the convenience dining sector.

Sis is miserable, having broken up this past Spring with the young man everyone thought was The One. Sis was distraught for the longest time. But she did go visit her cousin in Wisconsin over the summer. (They ate ice cream and cookie dough nonstop for a week.) So the Christmas letter says Sis is enjoying her freedom, traveling to see family and friends.

Those Christmas letters no longer fool you. You have learned to read through them. To read between the lines. They don't make you depressed like they used to; instead, you are filled with wonder at the creativity your Christmas correspondents possess and their skill at turning sows' ears into silk purses.

Well, Dear Reader, think of Facebook or Instagram as year-round Christmas letters. 24/7/365. You must see through these too.

Some of your Facebook "friends" really are happier than you. Or better off. But toilets still backup unexpectedly. Even at their houses. You just won't hear about it on Facebook. On Facebook you'll see a picture of your friends' kids dressed up for their darling Christmas photos. But no one will tell you that two of them puked on the morning of the shoot -- and the other one puked immediately after the picture was taken.

And some of your "friends"? If you knew what really went on in their homes in between those precious photos, your heart would break. From compassion, not jealousy.

You'd never know it from looking online... but life just sucks for everyone sometimes. Keep that in mind and you'll be happier. Not because you would revel in someone else's sorrow. That would be sick. No, you are happier because you realize you are not alone in having problems.

Meanwhile, you just took an amazing picture of your dog tangled up in the Christmas tree skirt. She looks so cute. Go ahead and post it on Facebook. I'll "like" it.

Yeah, in a sense, it's all a lie: The dog who looks so cute in this picture is the same mangy mongrel who pooped in the middle of the kitchen floor to punish you for being too long away on Thanksgiving. That beaming kid who is so proudly displaying the certificate he got for his art project is the same little monster who said he hates you because you would not let him stay out past 10:00 p.m. on Saturday. But you would be embarrassed and ashamed to burden the world with your troubles and I totally understand that. And I have troubles of my own, anyway. I don't need to hear about yours.

You put your best gloss on the posts you share with the world on social media. Just as your aunt sugarcoats the bejeezus out of actual events in her Christmas letter.

This isn't just a social media thing. Or a Christmas letter thing. You probably don't dress formally to go out to the store -- we live in a very informal culture these days -- but, unless you're hoping to be captured for posterity in one of those 'sights seen at Wal-Mart' websites, you at least comb your hair and wear presentable clothes. Since you don't "always" look like that, that may be called a "lie" also.

But your appearance is really an expression of your self-respect. You share your better self with the world.

And that's all your "friends" are doing on Facebook, too. Call it a lie if you must -- but it's just people sharing what they want you to know about their lives. Don't feel bad about how well everyone else is doing. When folks look at your feed, it looks like you're doing great, too.

Wow. Have you got them snowed! (*Clicking 'like' now on adorable kitten picture...*)

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Perils of Punditry? Knowing when... and how... to hold your fire

Stephan Pastis nails it again in yesterday's installment of Pearls Before Swine (image obtained from GoComics.com).

He does have a platform -- a daily comic strip -- from which to issue Important Pronouncements about the state of the nation and the world and the species. And, of course, from time to time, he does, usually in an amusing way. As he does here.

You beg to differ, perhaps. You will not contest whether the strip is or is not amusing -- what strikes me as funny may leave thee cold -- but, you say, this strip does not make an Important Pronouncement.

But think for a moment: What he is saying here is that, sometimes, at least, it's OK not to be consumed with the Big Issue of the day. Sometimes it's OK not to expound on the same issue that everyone else is expounding (and pounding) upon. (Twitter may devour you for failing to Do Your Duty and foist your Proper Opinion on the rest of the world, but that's another story. And who are the Twitterati to tell us what to speak, and when, anyway?)

Sometimes it's OK just to think about obscure Scrabble words. Or something else that interests you. (I haven't actually checked to see if "crwth" is really in the Scrabble Disctionary. But I remember the rhyme from when I was a child -- The vowels are A, E, I, O, and U/ And sometimes Y or W. Perhaps this is the word where W serves as a vowel. There had to be at least one or it would never have made it into the rhyme... right?)

Fact is, we are all pundits these days, or we can be, with Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram or Tik Tok as our Public Platforms. I was already one among millions when I started this blog... now I may be just one among billions. My opinions are as strongly held as ever -- as Long Suffering Spouse would attest, when she sits with me during the evening news -- but they are mere drops of water in an endless ocean of online opinion.

I am grateful for the reiminder that I am under no obligation to share them all. Neither is Mr. Pastis. Neither are you.

That does not mean we should not speak our minds. But we can pick and choose our shots. Maybe even -- and I know this is crazy -- but maybe even when we're not shouting into the void... we might actually be able to listen?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Another thing we never imagined we'd have to think about: "Reconnecting" with family after a Pandemic

My friend Steven and I were chatting on the phone the other day. Among other things, we discussed the forthcoming Holidays.

"My sister has decided to pass the baton," Steve told me, talking about who would be hosting his family's Thanksgiving dinner. One of their nieces had elected to step in. She's young, Steve said, but she and her husband have a big enough house for the extended family.

But there was a problem, he said: The niece and her husband are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

A few days ago, Steve said, he mentioned the possible dinner plans to his 30-something son. His son was quiet for some time, evidently weighing his words carefully. "Dad," he said, "I don't know if I can reconnect with persons who are not vaccinated...."

I snorted at that one. Reconnect? I hooted, far more mockingly than I should have.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Like my friend Steven, I am fully vaccinated. Or as fully vaccinated as I can be at this moment: I have not yet had my booster shot, though I will get one as soon as I can. I wear my face mask in public places, not because some idiot politician tells me to, but because, sifting through all the dreck on TV and online, I am persuaded it provides some protection against infection. At worst, it does no harm. In my opinion.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that, just as blood is thicker than water, blood is absolutely thicker than some stupid virus. You don't jettison a family member because he or she has made what you think is a dumb, or even irresponsible, decision about vaccination.

Look at it this way: Suppose you are vaccinated and your cousin Farquar and his wife Fannie are not. They invite you over for holiday cheer. You have minimized your risk of getting the virus and protected yourself, as much as possible, against dire consequences should you catch the virus anyway. Farquar and Fannie don't care about getting the disease, and while you may potentially transmit it to them (the vaccinated can still spread the disease, apparently) they have assumed the risk of that unlikely outcome.

But what, you ask, about old Aunt Flossie, who lives with Farquar and Fannie, and who likewise has refused to take the shot? Because the consequences of Covid can be so much more severe for those who are older, some may see this as a tougher question.

I don't.

Flossie has made her decision and, if she still has command of her faculties (and especially if she still makes that delicious pumpkin pie), I say the calculus is the same. She has assumed the risk of contracting the disease from you, and you have minimized the risk to her by being vaccinated. Would you feel bad if she succumbed to the Covid a few weeks after your visit? Of course. But you can't know, and would never know, assuming you did not come down with a diagnosed breakthrough infection shortly after the gathering, whether she got it from you or while shopping at the local Wal-Mart. (And you should realize that the odds would favor her getting the bug at Wal-Mart.)

Maybe you think it a tougher choice if you are hosting. Because you are bringing Farquar and Fannie and old Aunt Flossie into your home with all your other, vaccinated relations, some of whom may be young children who can't be vaccinated.

As this is written, the Pfizer shot has been approved for children aged 5-11. Two of my eligible grandchildren have already received their first dose. The other two eligible grandchildren have their first shot scheduled. But that means that I have six grandkids who can't be vaccinated. So, yes, I have thought about this.

Here's the way I figure it: According to all I have read and seen, the very young are the least likely to get the disease or suffer serious consequences if they do. There's a reason why vaccines were prioritized first to the elderly and only now to children. The risk that Flossie, Farquar, and Fannie would pick up some non-Covid bug that the kids acquired in school or daycare seems much greater, to me, anyway, than the risk that the kids might pick up the Covid from Flossie, Farquar, or Fannie. Assuming of course that Flossie, Farquar, and Flossie aren't wheezing and sneezing when they come to your house.

Which brings up another point.

Remember those far-off, carefree days before the Pandemic when the Holidays rolled around and everyone in the house got sick? I do. How many times did we muscle through this -- I'm using the inclusive "we" here, meaning me and you both -- and persuade ourselves that the kids weren't too sick or that we could hold down the aspirin and cough syrup long enough to get through the family gathering?

We were such idiots.

Thanksgiving and Christmas will come next year, too. Probably. Unless the Chinese invade Taiwan and trigger nuclear Armageddon. Or Yellowstone erupts, and wipes out much of America. But the odds are pretty good that the Holidays will return next year, right on schedule.

Therefore, if you are feeling punk, or puny, or whatever euphenism you favor, don't go visit Aunt Flossie or Farquar or Fannie. Cancel the dinner at your home. Reschedule it. There are, as the song says, 12 days of Christmas. No federal laws will be violated if your Christmas feast is not celebrated exactly on the 25th Day of December.

That should always have been the rule. I'd have enjoyed a great many more New Year's Days if it had been.

But, if you're feeling healthy, and they're feeling healthy, see the family over the Holidays. Vaccinated or not. Because, in the long run, family is about the most important thing we have or ever will have in this world.

Just maybe don't talk about politics. Or vaccinations. And, under no circumstances, if you are in the Central or Eastern time zones, do not delay Thanksgiving dinner beyond halftime of the Dallas game.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The contradictions in the recent Facebook meme on public education

This was making the rounds in my Facebook feed the other day. In light of the outcome of the Virginia governor's race this week, it may be particularly important to break the statements in this meme down.

Why tie this to the Virginia race? Well, the one-time governor, and one-time prohibitive favorite to be governor again, Terry McAuliffe, lost the election. It appears that he fared worse in prosperous Northern Virignia suburbs that had gone heavily for Joe Biden just a year ago. And, in particular, this statement, made by Mr. McAuliffe in the course of a campaign debate, has been linked to his downfall: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

On an individual level, this is surely correct: Mrs. Jones, the local chapter president of the Flat-Earth Society, can not demand that her little Johnny and all his classmates be instructed in her own peculiar brand of "science." Also, as the first paragraph of the meme above suggests, Mrs. Smith, who believes in Biblical inerrancy, is free to send her little Susie to a private school which respects that belief; she does not have the right to insist that Susie be instructed in these beliefs in the local public school.

But the second paragraph of the meme is where the problem comes in. It reads (with emphases as in original):

The purpose of a public education in a public school is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community, the public[.]

This statement, too, is substantially correct, in my opinion. The purpose of public schools is to produce good, productive, patriotic citizens, the kinds of persons who will hold good jobs in an increasingly complex economy. People who will respect the law and support the Constitution. People who will be kind and generous and sympathetic to the plight of their less-fortunate neighbors. People who will be proud of their communities, local, state, and national, and who will make their communities proud in turn. The types of people you'd like to live next door to, and associate with, and do business with.

At least, that's what any healthy society would want, and demand, from its public schools.

But, again, the above statement is only substantially correct because it fudges on clearly saying what society should demand of its schools, saying only that the purpose of the public schools is to teach students what society needs them to know.

How do we determine what society needs our public school kids to know? We determine it from collective expressions of public policy: State statutes, to start with. The several states have always had principal responsibility for public education in America. And every state has many laws dictating what the public schools must teach. Gym classes, perhaps (so that future grown-up citizens are healthy) or financial literacy classes (so future grown-up citizens understand how to write a check, or the uses, good and bad, of credit cards). Most states have specified required courses that must be taken, and passed, in order to obtain a high school diploma.

And here's where we run into trouble... certainly the person on whose Facebook feed I first saw this would be fundamentally opposed to any law purporting to ban the teaching of "Critical Race Theory" in the public schools. My Facebook friend would feel quite strongly that states should not carve out whole topics or areas of instruction as forbidden. I tend to agree with her. But if the client of the public school is not the parent but the entire community, and the entire community enacts such a law through its elected representatives, isn't that the end of the discussion?

Yes, the parents alone are not the community. But they are a part. The teachers alone are not the community. They are also merely part. Also part of the community is the grumpy old couple with no children who always oppose school bond issues. And the parents who send their kids to private schools. And the seniors worried about what sort of stuff is being taught to their grandkids. We are all a part of the community and we all should have a say in what is taught. And it is not offensive to nature, or good order, or to the Patriot Act for persons who have a particular interest (e.g., parents) to demand to know what goes behind closed school doors.

But all of this controversy, all of this anger, all of this angst can be substantially reduced if only all of us can recall the purpose of public schooling. I've given you my understanding. Let me give it to you again:

The purpose of public schools is to produce good, productive, patriotic citizens, the kinds of persons who will hold good jobs in an increasingly complex economy. People who will respect the law and support the Constitution. People who will be kind and generous and sympathetic to the plight of their less-fortunate neighbors. People who will be proud of their communities, local, state, and national, and who will make their communities proud in turn. The types of people you'd like to live next door to, and associate with, and do business with.

Can we agree on this much? If not, what should be added? What should be taken out?

One thing we should be able to agree on: The public schools should not be used to teach kids to hate America, or each other, or themselves. Our nation is not perfect. No human thing is. We can always learn from our mistakes and grow from them -- if we don't ignore them, that is -- and I firmly belief that we have learned and grown as a society in my lifetime. We can, and must, continue to grow and learn and adapt. But we need to work together.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Do you know where your children and grandchildren are getting their news?

The headline sounds rather like those grim and accusatory later-night TV announcements of my youth: "It's 10:30 p.m. [curfew]. Do you know where your children are?"

You're here online... looking for something, presumably... so you are a step ahead of so many of our fellow citizens who consume news only from television.

You have perhaps already noticed... and rebelled against... your being funnelled into tribal groups in ways that surpass anything that poor, crazy Howard Beale imagined in the eerily (and presumably unintentionally) prophetic movie Network. Fox News... OAN... MSNBC... CNN... the demons on one network are the plaster saints on another. Shades of gray are ignored and overlooked. Matt Taibbi has written extensively, and persuasively, on this subject (see, in particular, Taibbi's book, "Hate, Inc."

The modern political and media landscape reminds me of the child's game, Mad-libs, where random nouns and verbs and adjectives are inserted into unseen sentences (unseen until all the blanks have been filled in, that is) to alleged comic effect. In my real life I get emails from all sides of the political spectrum. They are typically chock-full of overwrought, hysterical, the-sky-is-falling rhetoric -- it seems that only the proper nouns differ -- Pelosi is used in this one, Trump is used in that one, and so on. But the sentences are otherwise the same. They could be written by the same person. For all I know, they may be. I'd accuse that hypothetical person of being a Russian... but then I'd be stooping to the same level, wouldn't I?

Anyway, some people go trustingly into tribes. You, reading here, are resisting the siren call of one side or the other. (Here, you're in a no-tribe zone. Not because I'm so rational or anything; it's just that neither side would have me.)

It seems that a lot of people resist being placed into tribes. Many folks, apparently, have simply lost trust in the media, doubting everything they read or hear or see. Chaos ensues.

Our kids and grandkids never had trust in the media to lose. We may have become disillusioned with the 'dead tree media' and or the 'MSM' but our young people never paid attention to either. They get their news... if they get it at all... online. I remember my Oldest Son's snide remark while visiting one day, seeing the Sunday Tribune on the couch in the living room: "Look at that!" he said, feigning astonishment. "They've put the Internet on paper so old people can read it!"

Long Suffering Spouse, a middle school Spanish teacher, always asks her students for names of people important to them so that she can incorporate the names in games or skits teaching conversational skills. Some years ago, the names suggested for these lists moved from sports figures (though admittedly there are still some every year) or TV stars to YouTube or Instagram or, increasingly, TikTok "influencers." I know, because she brings home her list every year and makes me Google the names.

Every now and then some weisenheimer will try and get a porn star included on this list -- or nominate some persons whose views are wholly inappropriate in my wife's Catholic school. I'm not talking about these.

What this tells me is that people still crave information and knowledge of the world beyond their immediate circle. But, increasingly, they are seeking that information and knowledge from sources we never heard of and could not imagine.

Weird stuff follows. Because reporting what those crazy young people are up to -- especially if it's done in a snide and superior tone -- has a long-standing tradition in this country. An online outfit called Distractify published a list of school challenges allegedly making the rounds on Tik Tok. The article claims that Tik Tok users are challenging school kids to perform these tasks (and post their results) during the 2021-22 school year:

September: Vandalize school bathrooms

October: Smack a staff member

November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school

December: Deck the halls and show your balls

January: Jab a breast

February: Mess up school signs

March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria

April: “Grab some eggz” (another stealing challenge)

May: Ditch day

June: Flip off in the front office

July: Spray a neighbor’s fence

It is my duty to report that Internet debunker Snopes.com found little or no evidence to support the contention that these 'challenges' are indeed making the rounds. (The linked post deals specifically with the October 'smack a teacher' challenge.) On the other hand, there were considerable media reports of school bathroom vandalism during September... even some relatively minor damage to a couple of the bathrooms at my wife's school... and the Tik Tok challenge was cited as an inspiration.

I don't know what's really going on with or on (Chinese-owned) Tik Tok. But I have come to realize that it has outsized importance among our kids and grandkids. That concerns me.

When I was a kid I listened to music that my parents did not like. But we watched the same newscasts, read the same newspapers (there were lots more of them, then). We even watched a lot of the same TV shows. We may have drawn different conclusions from what we read, or saw, and, of course, we often did -- but we were starting with the same raw material. We grown-ups dither now about the gaps among us, locked in our 'silos' or tribes, to the point where we do not seem to notice that there is also a gap between old and young -- and it's not just about music any more. It's about everything... and that frightens me more. Because we are not using the same raw materials to develop our own, unique world views.

Which brings me, at last, back to the Candorville comic (by Darrin Bell) at the top of this post. Long Suffering Spouse, for example, would not 'get' this. Even though one of the kids in her homeroom last year had 5,000 followers on Tik Tok. I think it's pretty funny. Funny... and a little scary, too.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Who are the Twitterati and why did we cede control of our culture to them?

It must have been so difficult in Ye Olden Days to put a mob together. It happened, of course, from time to time, even before the Internet. No less an authority than Smithsonian Magazine, in a June 2020 article, reports that nearly 2,000 Black Americans were lynched during Reconstruction, perhaps as many as 6,500 from the end of the Civil War until 1950. Murder by mob. Over and over and over again.

A mob is a gathering of people which collectively adopts, by some unspoken means, the IQ of the most ignorant person present.

Which is why Internet mobs are so very dangerous indeed: With old style mobs, whether recruited by newspaper or word of mouth, the individuals comprising the mob had to have at least enough intelligence to work their own doorknobs. Now, with the Internet generally, and Twitter specifically, even that minimal qualification is no longer necessary. So we have mobs that are more ignorant than ever, and they can assemble at the Speed of Light.

And supposedly serious people take these mobs seriously indeed.

Careers are ruined, reputations trashed, lives are forever altered all because largely anonymous people take their umbrage to Twitter.

In a recent post by Ken Levine, "Dave Chappelle and the current state of comedy," Levine laments, "Remember the days when some people thought something was funny while others didn’t and it was just chalked up to differing senses of humor?"

Levine was not defending Dave Chappelle per se. He's not particularly a fan. But, he said, he is glad there is at least one comic out there who is fearless, who is willing to ruffle feathers, who forces people to think. On the other hand, he adds,

I’m personally not a fan of mean-spirited comedy. And if it’s designed to demean anyone, regardless of color, gender, age — then it’s not for me. And it’s not the type of thing I write. But I don’t think there should censorship when it comes to comedy. I don’t think writers or comics should be blasted for things they wrote or said that may not be acceptable now but were when they wrote or said them.

That last sentence should be engraved in stone somewhere. Perhaps atop a pile of rubble left over from the destruction of statues of persons we (as a society) once thought heroic or important for something they had done in their lives, only to be torn down recently by mobs who were outraged by their failure to espouse 21st Century "values" (as they see them) in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, or 19th Centuries. I'm not talking Robert E. Lee here, kids. I'm talking about George Washington. Or Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, Levine's post cited to a long article on Commentary called "Destroying Comedy," by David Zucker. Zucker was one of the creators of the classic movie Airplane!, one of the many funny movies made a generation ago that could never, ever be made today.

Which was Mr. Zucker's point exactly. Go ahead, read the whole article. I'll wait.

You're back? I thought some of his jokes very funny, others crude and tasteless. Kind of like his movies. The good ones had more hits than misses, the not-so-good ones had more misses than hits. Whatever.

This passage in particular jumped off the screen at me:

[S]ome of the best contemporary comedy minds are abandoning laughter in favor of admittedly brilliant but serious projects such as Joker, directed by Todd Phillips, and Chernobyl, written by Craig Mazin. These men collaborated on two of the Hangover pictures, which struck gold at the box office. Phillips summed up the general plight of the comedy writer when he said, “It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it. So, you just go, ‘I’m out.’”

Zucker suggests we use Phillips' estimate of 30 million as the number of the perpetually outraged Twitterati or, as Zucker writes, that portion of the "population is killing joy for everyone." By his reckoning, that comes to about 9% of the population.

Nine percent. Do you realize how vanishingly small 9% is?

Donald Trump -- Donald Trump! -- got 34% of the vote in Ken Levine's California (source: Wikipedia). Trump was buried in a Biden landslide -- in a state where Republicans are an endangered species -- and he still got nearly four times (3.77777 if you're keeping score at home) the estimated percentage of perpetually outraged Twitterati, compared to the rest of the country.

And I think Mr. Phillips may be overly generous in his estimate. An outfit called Statista estimates that there are 73 million Twitter users in the U.S. as of July 2021 (and another 17.55 million in the U.K. -- not all our online outrage is necessarily domestic). An online marketing firm called Oberlo suggests that there were 55 million active daily Twitter users in the U.S. as of Q4 2020.

That makes sense to me: In my own family I am by far the most active Twitter user. I post fairly regularly. But my sons follow the latest local sports news and rumors on the site and seldom, if ever, post. Their usage varies widely, fluctuating with the seasons. None of us, to my knowledge, has ever joined a Twitter mob.

So the percentage of persons regularly active on Twitter should be less than the total number of registered Twitter users. And there are uses for Twitter, believe it or not, besides trying to ruin the lives of persons who inadvertently offend the perpetually outraged. And there are right-wing kooks and crazies on Twitter, too, and these would presumably not be upset at the same things that animate their equally dim brethren on the Left. So the total number of perpetually outraged Twitterati should be some modest percentage of overall active Twitter users -- 30 million may be way high and off the mark.

But whatever. Assume that they are 9% of the country's population. Ninety-one to nine is not just a landslide, it's an avalanche. And while the vanishingly small cadre of perpetually outraged Twitterati may be concentrated in various geographic locations -- perhaps in the most hip, trendy, and tawdry neighborhoods of our largest cities -- they could not carry an election for dogcatcher. Anywhere. Why do we listen to such as these?

Part of the reason, presumably, is because the perpetually outraged make such outlandish statements that media types, the few remaining journalists and all the multiplying cable 'news' outlets, find them irresistible. They bring in eyeballs. Or clicks. And that's how media companies make money in 2021. And, some, surely, are embedded in the media or in academia. But, if you went to college -- heck, if you went to high school -- you know darn good and well that not all teachers are necessarily smart.

And they may "follow" each other. The more followers one has on Twitter, the greater that person's presumed influence. But if all the like-minded (and I am using 'minded' here in the loosest possible sense) perpertually outraged folk follow each other, that has no influence on the 91% at all. And some of them aren't even influential enough to attract followers even within their own tiny-minded clique. Chicago Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) recently apologized online for 'engaging' with a Twitter user who had one more nostril than he had followers.

That's a positively Churchillian put-down.

Let me conclude by going back to the Ken Levine post I mentioned at the outset. A final quote:

The night ALL IN THE FAMILY premiered on CBS, they installed extra phone banks and operators to field the inevitable throng of complaints. They got 12 calls. 12. Now today those 12 could cause such a stink that they might be able to pressure ALL IN THE FAMILY off the air. How horrifying is that?

It doesn't have to be horrifying at all.

In the Pixar movie A Bug's Life, a handful of grasshoppers terrorize an ant colony until one ant, Flick, realizes that, just by sticking together, the ants are far stronger than the grasshoppers no matter how loud the grasshoppers roar or how scary they look. The perpetually outraged Twitterati are the grasshoppers, people. We are the ants. We don't have to live in fear of them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Curmudgeon turns out to be not the retiring sort

Photo credit: Ernst Vikne Flickr stream from Wikipedia Commons

I am not ready to retire.

No, that's not right: I'm ready. I'm more than ready. I am not able.

I meant to be rich and famous some day. Or at least rich. Or at least not broke.

I joked about it -- in 2010 I said I was disappointed to learn that the Mayan calendar had been mistranslated and that the world would not end in 2012 after all. (Spoiler alert: It didn't.) But, see, I said I was rooting for the End of the World in 2012 because my credit cards would have just about maxed out by then.

In reality I scrimped and saved and got my credit cards back under control (the last of my five kids finishing college helped a lot in this regard). But I'm not out of debt yet... and I'm not likely to ever be completely out of debt.

Actually, it turns out that reaching retirement age is in some ways like being a teenager all over again, except without the hormones (darn it): As my friends in high school all turned 16 and got their drivers' licenses I wasn't 16 yet and I was kind of envious because I wasn't yet old enough. Now my friends are all retiring and I'm not quite old enough and I neglected to get a pension from anyone.

That was poor planning on my part.

This is the 'second wave' of retirements in my case: Some years back, when I was coaching at what I called Bluejay Park (my coaching "career" ended in 2006) a lot of my fellow coaches started turning 50. That may not strike you as a particularly important milestone. But most of these dads were City workers -- cops mostly, but some firemen, at least one guy in the Department of Forestry) and they had their 30 years in with the City and were therefore eligible to retire and collect their full pensions. Many did retire. Most found other jobs, too, meaning they had some pretty good earning years while I was rooting for the Mayan prediction to be true.

I had a plan about how I was going to get a pension -- lots of plans -- none of them practical.

So I'm still here, still pursuing plans that are unlikely to bear real fruit. But I'm more at peace now with that. And I'm prepared to muddle through.

I'm not either of the old duffers on the bench in the picture above. But come sit next to me on this bench in the Blogosphere. I'll tell some stories, and maybe I'll even make you smile.

Or piss you off. In 2021 I suppose that seems more likely.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Now we know which side to take: Balding Billy blasts billionaires' space efforts

Nothing against Balding Billy, really. He and his lovely wife, Bonnie Kate, will be King and Queen of Great Britain some day. Probably. Assuming the monarchy survives his father. Which it most likely will. The monarchy is too important for the British tourism industry.

But that doesn't mean that anyone should take these "Royals" seriously. The Brits like them because they have good manners and dress well and they provide a little lustre to any social occasion that any of them happens to attend. An animatron could probably do those jobs just as well. But the "Royals," being human, and not very bright, are capable of stupendous blunders, and make them from time to time, giving fodder for the tabloids (at least outside of Britain) and plots for new Netflix programs. It all keeps the tourists interested.

Before you accuse me of being unfair, consider the position of the monarch in the British constitutional scheme. The Sovereign can advise, and warn, and has a right to be informed -- and then, when instructed, to sign here and here and read the occasional speech exactly as written. The Brits know better than to actually pay heed to one of these creatures.

So, when Balding Billy says, in a BBC interview, "We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live," it means absolutely nothing.

Billy may or not be a billionaire in his own right. Yet. He will be eventually, of course. And he will acquire his billions in the oldest of old-fashioned ways: He will inherit it. (The present Queen controls a vast personal fortune in addition to the tourist traps she fronts.) But -- unless I missed it -- he's not advocating hocking the Crown Jewels in hopes of 'repairing' the Earth.

It's all very amusing, really, how the billionaire space entrepreneurs, Musk, and Bezos, and Branson, are portrayed as having the solution to all the world's problems in their wallets, but selfishly choose instead to squander their fortunes on space travel:

But that doesn't mean that it's true. Because it isn't.

We should continue to try and solve our problems here on Earth. Which we'll never do, of course, because we are imperfect beings who will never achieve perfection in this life. But we can keep trying to improve.

At the same time, however, we must also look to the future, to our future, as a species. Our fragile civilization should persist, at least until the next eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano... which probably won't happen this year or next... but might. And all the tax revenue in the world won't help us then. And who knows what other nasty tricks Mother Nature may play on us? Maybe it will be another, deadlier virus. Maybe it will be an asteroid. No... dispersal is a sound strategy for any species; it is a necessary strategy for ours, too.

I'm sure I'd much rather have Balding Billy and Bonnie Kate as neighbors than Musk or Branson or Bezos. Less drama. Polite chit-chat over the back fence. Their kids would play nice with my grandkids. But, obnoxious as they may be, I'd trust Branson and Musk and Bezos with the future over Balding Billy. Any day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Not really in defense of Jon Gruden... but....

I haven't read any of the emails that cost Jon Gruden his job as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I have seen some snippets in some published news accounts. Let us stipulate that they are as awful as they have been reported to be.

Gruden surely should have known better than to commit racist, homophobic, or misogynisitic slurs to paper or, in this case, email. He is old enough to know better -- 58, according to my quick research this morning -- and he was likewise an adult when he wrote the emails he is accused of writing. His case thus differs from other recent instances where young atheletes have faced condemnation for social media posts made in high school.

First takeaway: Never put anyting in writing that you wouldn't want read back at you from the pulpit of your church. I've tried to teach my kids this. I've tried to conduct myself this way, too. I'm certain that I have failed, from time to time, though hopefully less and less as the years have accumulated. Nobody's perfect.

Second takeaway: Don't write in anger. And, if you do write in anger, don't press "send."

During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln composed all sorts of vitriolic letters, often to generals in the field that he felt were lacking the proper resolve or spirit, and when he finished one of these, he would put it aside, in a drawer, for later consideration. Usually, the letters actually sent were toned down considerably.

In our modern, instant age, it is all too easy to lash out in anger. We don't even have to pause long enough to address an envelope or find a stamp. We can just press "send" and spew our vitriol out into the world at large. The temptation is grave enough in supposedly "private" communications, such as those in which Mr. Gruden apparently exchanged with Bruce Allen, the former president of what is now the Washington Football Team. (It was while sifting through Allen's old emails, as part of a broader investigation into allegations of misconduct concerning the Washington NFL franchise, that Gruden's emails were apparently uncovered.) The temptation to vomit unfiltered rage may be overwhelming when one is allowed to vent anonymously, as is so often the case on the Internet.

But we should hardly be surprised that Mr. Gruden had anger issues. (Imagine: A coach with a temper. Next you'll be telling me that there's an accountant out there who has an affinity for numbers.) Mr. Gruden, in particular, was renowned for his anger issues, made all the more marketable by his apparent resemblance to the Chucky character from a series of horror movies and television shows that I will never willingly watch.

Sometimes, when people blurt unthinkingly while angry, they will use slurs. As apparently was the case here, in at least one of the damning emails, Gruden used derogatory terms for a homosexual person to describe the Commissioner of the NFL. That does not mean that Mr. Gruden necessarily harbors a particular animus against the LGBTQ+ community, or that Gruden believes, or then believed, that the NFL Commissioner is in fact a member of that community. It does mean that, on one occasion when he pressed "send", Gruden was angry about something the Commissioner had said or done and could not come up with, and/or did not try to find, a better way to express that anger.

That doesn't make it "OK" to use those words. Or any of the other hurtful words Gruden is accused of using. That is why this is, at best, a half-hearted defense of Mr. Gruden.

Human beings are supposedly rational creatures. We are blessed with the power of speech. We have hundreds of thousands of words in the English language alone from which we can choose when we feel the need to express an opinion, positive or negative, about anything. We should always be able to find words to express ourselves without resorting to racial, homophobic, or misogynistic slurs.

At the same time, however, though we are rational creatures, we are also emotional. Sometimes, our emotions get the better of us: We say things we should not say, using words we should not use, using words would not use if we took the time to reflect on what we were really trying to communicate.

I wonder how any of us would fare, including Mr. Gruden's new ardent detractors, were we subjected to the kind of scrutiny that Mr. Gruden has recently experienced.

I offer no opinion on whether Mr. Gruden should have been able to keep his job, despite the newly disclosed emails. He foreclosed further debate on that point by choosing to resign.

But, ultimately, I would hope that none of us, including Mr. Gruden, will be judged solely on what we said, or wrote, in a moment (or, apparently, in Mr. Gruden's case, several moments) of anger. Rather, I would hope that we are judged by those who know us, and see us, and live and work with us, on the totality of their observations of us.

In this harsh and unforgiving modern age, I realize that this is a big "ask." But I'm asking anyway.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Yogurt: Why in the world does anybody eat this stuff?

It's supposed to be good for you, I know. What I don't understand is why.

Yougurt, sold openly in stores in containers such as that pictured above, is, insofar as I can tell, the exact same thing as milk that's been left in your refrigerator a week past its use-by date.

Except for Greek yogurt. That's milk that's been left in your refrigerator two weeks past its use-by date. That's why it's chunky.

And, yet, this container has on it its very own use-by date. A date that is, inexplicably, still in the future.

America: We don't make much of anything anymore, but we can market anything!

As you may be able to deduce from the foregoing, this container of yogurt, taken from the Curmudgeon family refrigerator, was not purchased for my consumption.

My wife, Long Suffering Spouse, claims to like plain yogurt. She uses it, sometimes, as an ingredient in 'smoothies.' These are concoctions, made with a blender, into which all manner of fruits and vegetables are hurled, there to be sliced, diced, and liquified. Along with yogurt.

It is a fate too horrifying to contemplate.

Mind you, I don't much care for fruits or vegetables either. But I harbor no special animus against them. I would never mutilate---indeed, utterly destroy---them in this fashion.

But my wife---my wife who claims to like fruits and vegetables---sees nothing wrong with condemning innocent fruits and vegetables to such a gruesome fate. With yogurt, yet.

But, whether it is from pangs of conscience or the press of time, Long Suffering Spouse does not always get the chance to ritually slaughter fruits and vegetables in whirling blades of death before her yogurt goes "bad."

Each time this happens, when she happens to mention it to me, I ask, "How can you tell?"

For some reason, my wife does not always find this endearing.

Since the Pandemic began, my wife and I often do our grocery shopping together. I go racing through the aisles, grabbing the usual sundries (bread, coffee, coffee cake...), and bringing them back to the cart; she lingers among the fruits and vegetables, carefully choosing which ones she will destroy. The container used in the above illustration was acquired during one such recent joint venture.

I brought it back to the cart as directed.

Now you have to understand that the last couple of times we have bought yogurt, my wife was unable to use it before it supposedly went bad. (I've also sometimes asked if yogurt becomes edible after its experation date; this, too, has not been well-received by my better half.)

Anyway, because I am an obedient husband, I fetched the yogurt, reporting the stated use-by date to Long Suffering Spouse, who always asks about such things. "Can we just throw it out now, when we go through the checkout line?" I asked, as I dutifully put the container in our cart. "It would save time later."

My wife was not amused. On the other hand, in the week or more since we returned from that expedition, she has not yet found time to make her "smoothies."

Meanwhile, as you can see, I have, finally, gotten some use from this purchase.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

I have this superpower... and it does me no earthly good

I can't fly, of course, or turn invisible, or toss about heavy objects. These days I count myself fortunate if I can open a pickle jar.

But I do have a superpower. I'm like a negative chameleon. Put me in a room with "progressives" -- these days it would be a well-ventilated room, naturally, with all of us wearing masks -- and I become the most conservative person around. At least insofar as they would be concerned. On the other hand, put me in a room with conservatives, and all present will immediately think of me as left of Bernie Sanders.

I used to think that made me a "centrist," whatever that is. A middle-of-the-roader. (And you know what you are likely to find in the middle of the road? If not... consult the Greatest Hit -- and only Top 40 hit -- of Loudon Wainwright III.) I figured, if everyone on the Left disagreed with me and everyone on the Right disagreed with me, I must be charting a proper course.

But, now I know, that's not it. Not it at all. It's a consequence of my superpower. I can bring people together -- I can unite Left and Right in common cause: They can all hate me. If that's not a great superpower, it's at least an uncomfortable one.

Case in point. This morning a lot of people on social media are losing their..., er, are very upset over the Supreme Court's decision not to prevent a Texas law that places certain restrictions on a woman's ability to obtain an abortion in that state from going into effect while the challenges to that law are litigated.

I quickly note that I am not taking a position on a law I haven't read. Nor am I offering any opinion on the action, or, rather, inaction, of the Supreme Court of the United States. But many of the people expressing their outrage this morning were running this image with their posts:

So let's see what this means: As long as a woman has a heartbeat, no one can tell her what she can do with her own [ ] body. So... she is free refuse to wear a mask, for instance? Or to refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

I am reasonably sure, however, that 99% of those posting this graphic today would recoil in horror (and outrage -- always outrage) at such suggestions. But... isn't that a logical conclusion that must be drawn from such a statement? Otherwise the graphic would mean that, as long as a woman has a heartbeat, no one can tell her what to do with her own body as long as (and only if) we agree with what she wants to do, or not do, with it.

The day before a different meme was making the rounds in the other social media silo, this one a letter from a fire chief in Aurora, Oregon, asserting that he would never insist that the members of his department receive a COVID-19 vaccination, despite a gubernatorial mandate requiring vaccination by a date certain. Even if he loses his job because of it. In the letter, the Fire Chief writes:

The "vaccine" is not the issue. Please take out the word "vaccination" and insert any other medical procedure or medication. These choices are better left beftween an individual and their physician.

I'm certain that a great many of the individuals circulating this letter in the last few days, and lionizing the fire chief's bravery in the face of government tyranny, are among those rejoicing this morning that the Texas abortion law has gone into effect. But I wonder if those persons realize that their new hero has coopted the abortionists' fundamental position: "Those choices are better left between an individual and their physician." (The chief has even utilized the language of the "Pro-Choice" movement, whether wittingly or not.)

We will leave aside, for the moment, the question of how many physicians would counsel a patient against taking a COVID-19 vaccine -- unless the patient had some very specific medical condition which the vaccine might negatively impact. We will likewise leave aside how many people with such exotic medical conditions, whatever they may be, are otherwise fit for the fire service.

But... the question becomes... are all these people, on both sides, mere hypocrites, willing to use any language or tactic to advance their immediate objective? Or are they simply incapable of realizing the inconsistencies of their positions?

I could go on. There are so many othe examples I could cite. And... maybe I will... someday. But, then, you'd really hate me... wouldn't you?