A Toast to My Alcoholic Father

"You would never know if I relapsed," he said to me. "I was very good at being an addict." 
No, honey, you weren't. None of us are. We think we are cleverly hiding it. We think we have it under control. We think we are getting benefit from it. We think we are the exception to the rule. We think we will be able to prevent it from consuming us. 
A Facebook Status Post
I have taken out the garbage in my home (eldest son always gets that job, ditto with husbands)  for my entire life. Consequently I know what people throw away in the house. I know who recycles and who doesn't. I know who is doing what based on what garbage appears in their waste cans. It is extraordinarily hard to disguise behaviors that create garbage, behaviors that leave behind evidence which must be destroyed if you want that behavior to be secret.

My dad went through an astronomical amount of Canadian Club, Black Velvet, etc. At least a fifth every, single, day, without fail. I must have hauled several tons of discarded glassware to the ashcan over the course of the years I lived at home with my parents. We kids knew the drill. Ice (this much) bourbon (that much) water (a much smaller amount) He always drank, all the time. It wasn't until the drunk driving laws started appearing that he knew he was heading for trouble, because he couldn't be without his glass of bourbon and a cigarette (Pall Mall's) at any point in any day. Couldn't do without it (them) until the cancer started.

When the cancer started it became imperative that he stop smoking and drinking, and he still couldn't do it. He just didn't know how to stop. He switched to low-tar cigarettes first. No more filterless Pall Mall's, it was Carlton's or whatever else he was trying that week. He insisted the low-tars were filled with cabbage leaves, but he had to have a smoke. The bourbon took longer for him to give up. He switched to cheap beer when it finally became clear he was going to have to stop his addictions, not understanding that he was going to have to actually stop the behaviors entirely. He smoked and drank until they stopped allowing him to eat because of throat cancer. In the end the addictions killed him by causing the cancer, and that is what I remind myself of mentally every time someone offers me a cigar or I pour myself a drink.

I stopped smoking cigarettes ages ago because I could feel the drag they were putting on my lung capacity, and that process took years. One of my sisters now runs a cigar shop and I have to decline offers of cigars every time she comes to town or we meet with relatives who have seen her recently. I can feel the itch of a lifetime nicotine addiction in the corner of my mind just thinking about picking up a coffin nail. The air in the Steele household was blue with tobacco smoke for my entire childhood. Nicotine was in the air I breathed every day until I left home and had to infuse the drug by smoking it myself. Kicking that habit was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it took years of mentally associating the desire to smoke with the smell of a the bars I worked in as a young adult, reminding myself of the stale smell of smoke, sweat, alcohol and vomit that permeates the air of a bar before all the people show up and renew the smells with life.

My dad loved to tell a story about me when I would drink with him. One thing my dad was really good at was spinning yarns, and he could talk all day and night if you let him. He was a certified master of bullshit and I could sit and listen to him talk for as long as anyone would let him talk. I was fascinated by his ability to just make stuff up on the fly. The bare bones of the story went like this; The first time my parents took me along for a fine dining experience, one that included courses of meals and an after-dinner drink, I cried for the glass of cognac they sat in front of my father. My father, being the indulgent person that he really was, wanted to see what I would think of the cognac. Would I hate it? Would I reject it because of the alcohol taste? He didn't know. So he handed me the snifter and as he told it "You drank it right down. Sat there for a few seconds. Then you cried for more!" It always got a laugh and I laughed right along with him.

I am reminded of that story every time I crack open a new bottle of brandy or cognac, which is about the only thing I will drink these days; and I will drink a quiet toast to my father on those days. It is because of him that I am not an alcoholic, and that is probably the best lesson I learned from him. I have often wondered what he would have made of the efforts to end addiction these days? Would any of them have helped him? Would he have wanted help?

Drafter, Drawer, Moron

An artist friend was lamenting being called a drawer recently. Tongue-in-cheek he informed the fan of his artwork that he was not a drawer, a single container in a dresser or chest of drawers, but was rather a draughtsman, thank you very much.

This witty rebuttal sent me scurrying to check word meanings at my favorite quick-reference of choice, Wikipedia. When I got there I discovered that I couldn't use Wikipedia as a reference for this subject, as I have discovered with previous subjects on this blog. Wikipedia defaults to popular word usage and doesn't reference the word draftsman, or draftsperson if you insist on neutralizing the word. It doesn't even reference the proper English Draughtsman that my friend used. No, wikipedia gathers all discussion of the field of technical illustration under the term...

Drafter.

The sound that you are hearing is the spinning of a million proofreaders in their graves. It's quite a rumble, isn't it? A drafter is a racing driver following a pack leader close enough to get a speed boost from the lead car's wake in the air. In no way, shape or form is a draftsman a drafter. That just isn't English.

An artist creates art. A draughtsman or draftsman produces technical drawings (which is where the slang drawer comes from) I was a draftsman for many years, I know what I'm talking about. Applying art techniques to technical drawings produces a "rendering," something I have hired artists to do. I would never refer to an artist as a draftsman. That is an insult worthy of a good cuffing in my book. What artists and draftsmen do look similar on the surface but are in actuality two completely different fields of work.

The insistence on sounding like a moron when speaking has driven me crazy for years, drafter/drawer is just the latest insult that I've stumbled across, and that one has bugged me since I started drawing. As far back as I can remember I have tried to correct other's poor word usage only to be rewarded with the label of smartass from most of the people I've tried to educate. I was either born a proofreader or a pedant and I've never worked out which group I'd rather be affiliated with, but it does remind me of one of the few times that I managed to get the last laugh on the subject.

In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added the inscription profession to World of Warcraft. I thought a scribe would be an interesting profession to get the Loremaster achievement with (Scribe. Lore. Get it?) so I spent a lot of time on the two 'toons that I leveled as scribes. In World of Warcraft, like most MMO's, you can spend a lot of time making things for other players. There are chat channels in the game where you can request needed items from or advertise your profession; and none of the players that I ran across in 6 years could figure out that someone who inscribes is referred to as a scribe. Inscriptors? Scripties? You name it. Never a request for a Scribe. In a moment of frustration I hit upon the right way to deal with this annoyance. I started explaining to the poor illiterate souls that a practitioner of inscription was referred to in a variation that reflected the sex of the practitioner. Like draftsman or draftswoman and many words found in romance languages. There was a sexual differentiation in the names and you needed to be sure to use the right one. Females were to be referred to as inscriptionatrixes. Males were only to be called inscriptionators. In six years of playing World of Warcraft, that never got old.

Atheist Hymnal

This popped up on Facebook as part of that sometimes annoying sometimes revealing On This Day function they've incorporated.


I had forgotten about this song having run across it so long ago. Not to argue with the joke involved in the song and title, but atheists have lots of songs if you mean an atheist wrote them. In actuality it is religion that has no songs; or at least no music,
I want to quote one humorous example that puts this idea to rest. I have had the good fortune of knowing a magnificent musician named Michael May, who was a virtuoso pianist, harpsichordist and organist. He did I don’t know how many “Messiahs” with me in Carnegie Hall with The Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra. To make a living he became a church organist. At one point during the communion, there were a lot of parishioners and he needed a lot of music. He ran out of music, so what he did was to take the score of “Carmina Burana”—how many of you are familiar with that? It’s a piece of music whose text has to do with lovemaking, debauchery, gambling and drinking. He played it slowly and softly, without the chorus, and nobody knew the difference. So without the words, you cannot tell whether or not a piece of music is intended to be religious. - David Randolph, No Such Thing as Religious Music
There are thousands of atheists writing music and singing songs, even songs about atheists and atheism. I've talked about Tim Minchin in the past. Nearly every episode of Freethought Radio that I posted about back when I discovered podcasting features songs by atheists about atheists or at least music written by atheist composers.

If there ever is an atheist hymnal, it won't be complete without a few songs from Shelley Segal. Dan Barker introduced me to her music on yet another episode of Freethought Radio, one that occurred after I had given up trying to illustrate the kinds of good information that was available in the podcast arena.

I wonder when you will start questioning all the bullshit everyone around you buys.

Words to live by. Turn to page 265 in the hymnals you can find on the backs of the pews in front of you and please sing along with me...

The Pop-Tart Conundrum

I have a burning question I want an answer to, but I doubt I can get the answer myself.

I love Kellogg's Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. I have been buying them by the case from Amazon.com until recently. The price was about what twelve boxes should be from the local retailer, two dollars a box or twenty-four dollars. We get free shipping from Amazon.com because we are Prime members, so having them delivered every third month made sure that we had Pop-Tarts in the house when I wanted some without having to make a trip to the store. Last month Amazon doubled the price of these Pop-Tarts to over $40 a case which prompted us to cancel the scheduled next shipment of them.

I started to get curious about this price hike, so I went to Walmart.com and saw that they were still offering Pop-Tarts for $2 a box. I was able to get them shipped for $2 a box by ordering a case and a half (free shipping on orders of more than $35) the extra half-case I made up of unfrosted strawberry and blueberry just on a whim. I like them but they aren't the guilty pleasure that the brown sugar cinnamon ones are. They aren't the ones I loved as a child.

This is the question. Why the price difference? Both Walmart and Amazon try to be the lowest price available in a given market. If you think about it, Amazon should be offering a discount on the items because we were buying in bulk (factory labeled cases) and Walmart actually had to take the time to box and ship 18 individual boxes of Pop-Tarts to my home in their own shipping containers, a perfectly valid reason to tack on a processing fee which they didn't do.

Why are Amazon and several other online vendors acting like there is a shortage of Kellogg's Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts when Walmart is not? Why that specific flavor and not the other flavors? Why isn't there a bulk discount when shipped in bulk? Doesn't this fly in the face of economics 101? I would love to have an answer to this question.

(sent as a online query)

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump. They can't stop talking about him. They can't be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from Trump himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media's fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything Donald Trump says with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of Donald Trump's voice.

The media's free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn't look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media's making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,



There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.” 
In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:
President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”
Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:
“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 
CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, Trump signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan's policies by the time Trump is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn't liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary's influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn't refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn't refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government's work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can't quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don't spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don't understand that the president's job isn't to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn't work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don't need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don't always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don't understand is how the media can't see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can't they see that they are Donald Trump's biggest fans? Perhaps they can't see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gate keeper and the top-down adminstrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

I am the 99%

I know this photo is from 2011, part of the Occupy demonstrations that year. There were quite a few of these images released with the title "I am the 99 percent" about that time.

I reposted it today because of the events in Washington DC, where the congress and His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump are trying to undo all the work done by President Obama. They are trying to repel the ACA which they nicknamed Obamacare specifically trying to denigrate his accomplishments and tar him with the failures of the policy they helped to shape. The ACA, deemed to be not going far enough by most Americans especially the ninety-nine percenters, and condemned as going too far by the most vocal minority segment (self-identified conservatives) of the electorate.

In what should have been an obvious if counter-intuitive turn, the same people who protested that Obama did not go far enough voted for what was popularly seen as the opposition party, the Republicans. However, what the Republicans are is the party that confined Obama to the minimum that he was able to do. What is now transpiring in Washington DC is what happens when fiscal conservatives who think they have a mandate propose doing exactly what the people who voted for them don't want done. To the utter consternation of the public who doesn't follow politics as maniacally as I do, the hardliners in the party think that this barbaric proposal they've dubbed the AHCA is not punishing enough. The hardliners want it to be more punishing on the poor, the sick and the disabled, the complete opposite of what the popular mandate was.

Candidate Trump in one of his only sane moments said he would protect Medicare and make sure that everyone had healthcare better than they did under Obamacare, the ACA. However, His Electoral Highness has also forgotten his own promises on the subject of healthcare in his efforts to rally the party that saw his stances of protecting Medicare and Social Security as being too liberal.

We now find ourselves caught in an example of the argumentum ad absurdum brought to life. The people who voted for one kind of change, people like the one in the image, discovering their representatives apparently do want to see them die in the streets after all. That the reason conservatives knew there were death panels in Obamacare was because they were planning on creating death panels themselves. Death panels staffed by health insurance insiders who want to protect their profits. I'd laugh at the absurdity of it, if only I weren't so busy focusing on not giving in to vertigo.

When I stumbled across that image in my Facebook timeline for 2011, I was immediately struck by the notion that I could craft a similar statement. Mine would have to be computer printed like his because dysgraphia would make it take two days to write by hand. It would go something like this,
I worked for 30 years until my health failed me. Unable to sit or stand without pain or dizziness, move without assistance, constantly medicated, I faced a future where the only hope of seeing my family fed or for them to continue to have shelter was to apply for disability. The federal government refused to honor my claim for almost five years. They said I wasn't really sick. They said I wasn't an American. I had to proved that I was both before they would pay me anything even though I had faithfully paid my taxes for my entire life.

Now I must stay unemployed in order to keep my family fed and sheltered and keep my insurance, the only thing that allows me to live an almost normal life. In the meantime my wife and children do not qualify for aide because my disability payments amount to more income than is allowed for the poor to make and still qualify for benefits. I have better care with Medicare than any of them receive even though they live in my house and must subsist off of the meager payments the government provides for my disability.

I am the 99%
 If you voted for Republicans in the last election what happens next to people like me, people like him, will be entirely your fault. Think about that the next time you are tempted to complain about your taxes, or to vote for people who promise to save you money by taking a lifeline away from other people. You could well be me one day. Probably will be.

While the current word is that the AHCA is dead, we should never forget that the hardest of the hardliners, the most conservative of the conservatives, the ludicrously named Freedom Caucus, refused to vote for it because it didn't strip enough benefits from the poor, the sick and the disabled. Think about that the next time you go to vote. 

Rites of Spring

A few years ago on Facebook, I posted the image at right to The Wife's wall.  Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it. Easter is the traditional holiday that most closely corresponds with the Vernal Equinox, the celestial demarcation for the beginning of spring.  Easter is promoted as the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine's day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.

I say silly me because I spent the better part of that Sunday fending off attacks from friends affronted by the notion that Easter is in any way sexual or that the fertility goddesses alluded to in the image have anything at all to do with the resurrection of their savior or the holiday that Catholics created specifically to counter the carnal celebration rituals which had predominated societies of all kinds prior to christianity's rise.

This year Easter will arrive almost comically late to the spring scene, April 16th. The trees have been budding for about a month here in Austin as I write this. The birds will already be on their way further North from here by the time we get to Easter, so the sexually repressed will breath a sigh of relief knowing there will be little confusion between their sacred holiday and the equinox. It is a testament to the sexual repression present in the US that there isn't even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn't about music. Another testament is the fact that I can't even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife's Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.

I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. The sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it's earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion's followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, he saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.

There is also a hemispherical bias at play here. I've often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.

I originally entitled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won't link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone.  Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen
One would think there was no basis for the worshipping of the feminine, a common theme in the pre-monotheistic times, if you listen to modern christian apologists. That there was no goddess Asherah mentioned in some versions of the Old Testament, that she wasn't worshipped as an equal right alongside the shrines to Yahweh in ancient Israel, before the cult of men, the cult of the penis asserted itself and made itself the lone holiness to be worshipped.

The truth is that the facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview try make them. For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter, as many of the christian apologists do.  However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn't some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;
Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally. 
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites. 
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin. (emphasis added)
The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;
The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid.
Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories.  They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn't need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.

The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US. The rabbit's springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.

The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be. If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject.  Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity's sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.


Betony Vernon The Boudoir Bible

Adam and Eve 
Albrecht Dürer
The US is demonstrably repressive when it comes to the subject of sex.  Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex like pornography, which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn't the internet. Or San Francisco. Naked bodies being used to sell every single product you can imagine, whether that sales strategy makes sense or not.

Pornography is not really sex in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male's bodily fluids aren't left inside the female's body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display only. As Robin Williams once famously quipped pornography is "an industrial film covered in fur".

Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn't include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us all the time, much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.

I have a solution to this frustrating issue from a non-believing perspective. I'm simply going to stop acknowledging Easter as a Spring holiday. The Vernal Equinox is the holiday now.  I'm done with the vagaries of Easter, aside from the chocolate of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are I'll take them where I can get them. I'll just wait til Monday April 17th to go chocolate and Blackbird egg shopping this year. I can wait a month. We've got these dice to play with. Should keep us busy for at least that long.

(What you have just read is the second 2017 version of my Vernal Equinox post. The "ctrl-z while editing" Blogger glitch claimed the first version scant days before its publish date. I have no idea how that version differs from this one.  C'est la vie. This post was based on one that was originally publshed here)




Every day should be a learning experience. I do my best to follow this wisdom day-in and day-out. It amazes me how often things I think should be transparently obvious are not, and how the mundane day to day events in human cultures sometimes never get communicated to people from outside that culture.

The Vernal Equinox, for example, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. I discovered this while listening to Code Switch the other day,


Lacking the ability to just move the New Year around willy-nilly myself, and also lacking a desire to mix one celebration with another, I'll have to simply wish celebrants of Nowruz a Happy New Year! and leave it at that. However, a two-week festival leaves plenty of time to celebrate beyond simply observing the Rites of Spring, so I may have to explore this festival idea some more. 

Don't Just Land. Colonize the Moon.

The first glint of hope for the future that I've seen since November 8th of last year comes from the Russian space agency. Talk about global political shifts. That sense of the surreal that captured me on November 9th continues to intensify,
Roscosmos
Russia's Space Agency (Roscosmos) has begun planning for its first manned lunar landing, starting with a recruitment drive for potential cosmonauts. The agency is looking for six to eight trainees with a background in engineering or aviation, or those who already have experience working in the space industry. All interested candidates will go through several stages of psychological, physical and medical tests during the selection process. The chosen eight will have to undergo some intense training until four remain. Those who get the job will pilot Russia's next-gen reusable manned spacecraft Federatsiya. 
Engadget, Russia's space agency preps for its first manned moon landing
Vladimir Putin, as part of his full court press to prove that Russia is still a world-class power (which, frankly, it is anyway. Who flies astronauts to the international space station? It isn't the US) Mr. Putin has decided to ramp up the Russian space program and set a goal of returning to the moon, the first time for Russians to attempt a manned lunar landing.

Sorting through the dozens (dozens!) of conspiracy fantasy sites talking about the grander plans and accusations floating around the interwebs in relation to this story, I begin to see a pattern. Vladimir Putin has embraced the lunar landing hoax fantasies (Here's proof the first landing happenedsubsequent landing sites documented here) and is beating that dead horse for all it is worth. Clearly this is part of a multi-faceted strategy to discredit the US and elevate Russia in international circles. It appears that Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump deserve each other.

There does appear to be a program though; and that program does appear to at least include moon landings if not the far grander moon base, shuttles and Mars landings that the soap opera digests of the internet can't seem to get enough of. (Google search result) Since there is a program to return to the moon, I'd like to offer a word of advice to the directors of the various space agencies on the subject of returning to the moon. Advice on the subject of wasting more money on flags and photo shoots and no permanent plans beyond that.

Don't do it.

Don't let Putin go back to the moon just to erase the proof of previous US landings (if that is even possible) Don't go back just to visit again and prove we can do it, again. Establish the permanent moon base that should have been established 20 years ago now. I cannot believe that I am sitting here in 2017 and we still don't have a permanent moon base. Why is this even a thing?

Colonizing space, if it is ever going to occur, has to start with a permanently manned lunar base. The dark side of the moon would be ideal for long-range telescopes at the very least, and is an obvious reason to place a permanently manned base there if only to service and maintain those telescopes. Those Hubble pictures we all remember? Does anyone aside from me remember how they put that telescope in orbit and it needed glasses? That was the first servicing mission to Hubble. Followed by four more missions. Now imagine instruments on the dark side of the moon with a nearby manned outpost that could just go out and kick a transceiver (or the moonwalk equivalent) for pennies on the dollar, all while doing colonization experiments that will get us ready to go to Mars. (No I won't change the phrasing to "far side of the moon." I like the dark side of the moon. It reminds me of something) If we had a moon base and the resultant enhanced launch capacity and expanded near space traveling range that comes with it, it might even be possible to go out and service the James Webb telescope after it launches. That is, if it fails to deploy as expected. If it needs maintenance like the Hubble did, because spending billions on a telescope that is effectively out of service range makes absolutely no sense to me.

I've already run across a chorus of we can't afford that's today just discussing this subject on Facebook. I'd like these people to justify themselves, just once. Just this once I'd like them to be honest on this subject and many other similar subjects. I want the people who complain about the economics of space exploration to admit, at least to themselves, that what they want is an end to space exploration altogether. I want them to at least admit it to themselves, because I know that is the goal whether they admit it or not so they might as well confess and get it over with.

Here's a topical economic aside. Saying we can't afford it when the government prints the fucking money in the first place is just this side of ridiculous. These people are happy to promote an increase in military spending when that spending is already higher than at any time since WWII. These are the same people who want to kill all spending on the arts and sciences and healthcare for the poor and disabled. They've long killed the spending on welfare and still beat the dead horse of welfare queens long after even the fake welfare queens would all be dead and gone. These we can't afford its are just another demand for austerity; and like all austerity, they are an attempt to produce wealth through starvation. This isn't really a viable long-term option, because you will starve to death eventually if you stay that course.

You want to talk about economics? How about the reduction in lift requirements to get materials off of the moon and into space, 1/6th the lift requirements of boosting these materials from Earth. Materials for the assembly of larger space vehicles and the solar satellites we will have to build if we are ever going to stop polluting the atmosphere burning fossil fuels for power. Those are all real economics that we are going to have to face at some point.

Personally I'm going to hold on tight to this ray of sunshine in the otherwise dismal post-apocalyptic double-plus good 1984 hellhole we've found ourselves in. I will continue hoping this renewed interest in space exploration will spur on the rest of the space industry to actually set a goal of a permanent base on the moon in the next 20 years. That would be completely doable and would prove that space colonization was possible. Let's do that instead of go to war again because of the economy, if you conservatives don't mind. Let's spend money on that, waste money on that, rather than on bombs and weapons. Where do I sign up for that parallel universe? That simulation? Anyone have a clue?

Indivisible Wednesday. A Few Choice Words on Conservatism

Wednesday's Indivisible is a stark contrast to the other days of the week, in more ways than one. The first Wednesday show of the 100 day run started with the host saying he thought we were pretty divided after all that, and then proceeded to trash the notion of indivisible itself each and every Wednesday since then. Perhaps it is because Wednesday's Indivisible show is run by and interviews conservatives and Republicans.

This week they didn't even bother to talk about the subject of the week, healthcare, for half the show. Rather than let the Honorable Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, continue to mouth half-truths and outright falsehoods for the whole program, the host decided to bring on a conservative apologist and attempt to explain away the actions of the authoritarians in their midst.

A few words for the Senator first. Medicare is for the disabled, the old and poor women with children at home. It isn't for people who could work and get insurance. There hasn't been a welfare program to speak of in this country since Bill Clinton signed it all away in the 90's. So your target of choice, welfare queens, don't exist anymore. Nice try Senator. You should really try harder.

But that really wasn't the annoying part. The annoying part of the show started about halfway through when the guest changed to Conor Friedersdorf who attempted to explain away the Nazi elephant in the room. The authoritarian problem in the electorate.

Mr. Friedersdorf first suggests that conservatives were resistant to change. That excuse is good as far as it goes, but it really doesn't cover the half of it. I'll get to that in a minute. He goes on to add that the second thing that conservatives don't like is government interference. Luckily I had swallowed the mouthful of tea I had just drank because it would have been all over the wall at that point.

They don't like government interference? Since when? They want government to be able to put pipelines anywhere they want. They want government to keep women from getting medical care that conservatives might not approve of. They want government to keep people off of drugs, etc, etc, ad nauseam. There are very few things conservatives don't want government involved in and most of them fall into the area known as my business. Sadly, my business as it applies to conservatives is just as varied as the business of the US is; and so consequently isn't enforceable as law in any real sense. There are some fine upstanding conservative drug dealers and pimps who would disagree with most of your social conservative stances on the subject of easy sex and profligate drugs.

Conservatives love change as long as the change is in the direction they want. They want to change healthcare back to what it was before there was healthcare. Back to when there were no cures or treatments for disease, just charlatans on soapboxes preaching the value of their snake oil. They want to change science back to religion, change the world back to christian and change the president back into a king. At least they appear to have succeeded on that last point. Conservatives are adverse to change only so far as the change that took our ape ancestors out of the trees and into caves.

Conservatives are not fans of small government. Conservatives are fans of low taxes on themselves, and they currently enjoy some of the lowest taxes on the face of the planet. Taxes will be even lower for the wealthy, lower than they've been since before the Great Depression, very soon now. Conservatives love authoritarians, they've been installing them for other democracies for several generations now. They've got a dictator in mind for us at the moment, too.

twitter.com
There is something they could do to convince me and the rest of the liberals otherwise. Convince us you aren't the racists, fascist and authoritarians we think you are. It goes something like this; we will believe the leadership of the Republican party and conservatives in general are not fascists and racists on the day they punish Steve King for being a racist and a fascist and not one minute before that.
What King said was RACISM with a pedigree directly traceable to The Fourteen Words (Also "14" or "The Fourteen") of White Supremacism and White Nationalism, to wit: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The Fourteen words are directly traceable to 88 words taken from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, "What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility." Next time you see a Neo-Nazi, look for the tattoos, 14/88, THAT's what those symbols mean. 14 words. 88 words. Right there. 
Stonekettle Station on Facebook
It's real simple. Hang Steve King out to dry for his blatant embrace of eugenics and racism, his wholly transparent use of white power talking points, and I at least will believe that you are earnest in your desire to bridge the gap. Span the distance. Meet us halfway, at least. Until then I'll be waiting here for the next shoe to drop. What will His Electoral Highness do next? Not even I am willing to guess that, and I've gone out on a limb for some pretty silly notions in the past.

Killing in Cold Blood

The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history and brought about by a looming expiration date for a drug used by the state for lethal injections. 
New York Times, Arkansas Rushes to Execute 8 Men in the Space of 10 Days
This strikes me as a really stupid reason to schedule a massive number of executions. Perhaps the stupidest reason I've ever run across since realizing that the death penalty is a holdover from the barbarity of our past that we should really leave in the past. The numbers of businesses who don't want to sell you drugs to kill your inmates with should be your first and last clue that the thing you want to do isn't something you should be doing.

I want it over and done. I do. I'm tired, boss. Tired of bein' on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we's coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand? - Stephen King, Frank Darabont The Green Mile
I believed in the death penalty when I was a child. I took the pro death penalty side in our high school debate team. We patted ourselves on the back for discovering the notion that beyond a shadow of a doubt meant the convicted were guilty. As a child, everything I knew was certain knowledge. What a comfort it was then, absolute certainty of truth.
When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known. - 
1 Corinthians 13:11
I know so little now, it is a wonder that I find the certainty to set words to paper. I do know this; The Innocence Project has tracked the number of exonerations in the United States since DNA evidence was allowed. As of this writing, 349 people have been exonerated. They couldn't have committed the crime they were convicted of, because evidence from the crime does not match their DNA. Twenty of those 349 people were serving time on death row. Thirty-seven of the 349 plead guilty even though they could not have committed the crime.

When I realized that people were fallible, that government was frequently in error, that majority opinion had no more connection to reality than the flipping of a coin, I backed away from believing that we were ever going to be smart enough to know who really needs killing. I have a challenge for those who hold fast to the belief that the death penalty is right and good. Listen to this podcast, a portion of the radio documentary Witness to an Execution which aired in 2000, and then imagine yourself in their shoes, if you can.


For my part, I recognize hell when I hear it described. I can hear eternal torment in every voice that speaks, especially the ones that say how much they believe in the death penalty still. I would not willingly stand in any of their shoes even for one execution.

The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. In the heat of the moment, in the crisis of real time, certain actions are valid that wouldn't be valid in other cases. When no other option presents itself, it is permissible to kill. Cops and prison guards should be armed and forgiven for actions taken in legitimate self defense of themselves and society, just like any other member of society would be forgiven in their place.

An unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney or a chair is not a threat. Killing that person is killing in cold blood. It can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable to making myself a party to murder, even if the man that we are killing "needed it".

(based in part on this post

DST? Why?

"I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." - Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks
Every time I have to change my clocks (whether it's to fall back or spring forward) the blood pressure goes up a few points just contemplating Daylight Saving Time.

I've tried just ignoring it in the past, and that didn't work out too well. Missed appointments, extremely early arrivals, whatever. Not really a solution. I've tried going to bed earlier in advance of the change, setting the clocks ahead early, also not very effective. You name it, I'll bet you I've tried it. No matter what, this time change thing always turns into a nightmare.


Thanks Kaiser Wilhelm! Well, truthfully it was our buddies in New Zealand who first suggested it,
Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Hudson, whose shift work job gave him leisure time to collect insects and led him to value after-hours daylight. In 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift, and after considerable interest was expressed in Christchurch, he followed up in an 1898 paper.
They were apparently smart enough to realize that this really didn't change anything about when the sun comes up. Leave it to the ever efficient Germans to think that they can control the sun's motion in the skies through legislation. They were the first ones to pass DST into law, so that much of the Last Week Tonight segment is true. The Germans were hoping to conserve coal for the war effort during World War One, but current studies show that there is no energy benefit for instituting DST,
The result of the study showed that electricity use went up in the counties adopting daylight saving time in 2006, costing $8.6 million more in household electricity bills. The conclusion reached by Kotchen and Grant was that while the lighting costs were reduced in the afternoons by daylight saving, the greater heating costs in the mornings, and more use of air-conditioners on hot afternoons more than offset these savings. Kotchen said the results were more “clear and unambiguous” than results in any other paper he had presented. 
Kotchen and Grant's work reinforces the findings of an Australian study in 2007 by economists Ryan Kellogg and Hendrik Wolff, who studied the extension of daylight saving time for two months in New South Wales and Victoria for the 2000 Summer Olympics. They also found an increase in energy use. 
From: Study: Daylight saving time a waste of energy

I just can't wrap my head around how this 'saves' anything, and why this is a benefit.


I can clearly see why DST is cherished and loved by authoritarians everywhere. I'm sure the #MAGA are foursquare in favor of it. I can't think of a better way to demonstrate the power and authority of government, that even the sun can be commanded by His Electoral Highness. Now that is a showcase of control on a grand scale (in China they only have Beijing time. Talk about authority) Trump can dictate what time the sun comes up and the sun will listen. Maybe he should tackle that Pi thing, try dictating that it will be 3.2 or something. I'm sure that will work just as well.

I can hear you laughing, dear reader. I've had this argument several times with many different people. Inevitably the person who thinks DST is a good idea will exclaim "Do you really want the sun to come up at 5:30 in the morning in the summer?" It still does come up at 5:30 in the morning, we just call it 6:30.



 I'm coming to the conclusion that there should just be UTC and local time. Local time can then be set according to the city authority or whatever the farmer in the field wants it to be. UTC is really the only relevant time anyway. The only time relevant aside from where the sun is in the sky on a given day. Local sunrise or sunset is the only metric that matters in the end. Timezones themselves have been rendered pointless by modern mechanisms. Not even trains rely on timezones anymore.



Imagine just for a few minutes, what it would be like for your GPS to calculate time variance based on degrees of longitude rather than twenty-four one hour timezones. In the same way your phone can change times for daylight savings, it can change time to keep up with your actual position on the globe. The device that you already rely on to tell you what time it is could just do the time calculation for your location and actually tell you what the local time is. The satellites that control GPS already perform these calculations just to be able to talk to each other and establish UTC for themselves.

Cities could assert their own authority and set time for the regions they control. That measure of standardization for a specific local area is understandable, but why would a farmer care what time it is in the city unless he is going there? Why does someone in Austin need to care what the time is in Denver, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles? If you need to know, ask your phone like you do for every other thing you need during the day already.

Why is this so hard to figure out?

(This topic is a frequent flyer around here because WE'RE STILL FUCKING DOING THIS STUPID SHIT. Posted here and here previously)

If This Was Mandatory Reading

I just finished reading (actually, listening too) Bernie Sander's book Our Revolution and I should give a hat tip (h/t) to DecodeDC and Jimmy Williams for suggesting it.



There really is only one problem with this book. The people who should be reading it will never willingly pick it up. Every Trump supporter, Clintonista (been called that myself) and Bernie bro who thinks Clinton betrayed Sanders and the revolution he rode almost to a successful nomination should read this book. He explains in graphic detail how his campaign succeeded beyond his initial aspirations when starting, and how we need to correct the system as it was before January 20th in order to make it serve the American people as it was intended.

Unfortunately that system, like his candidacy, is part of history now. The book is still worth reading, but I have serious doubts about there being much of a system left to fix after we pry His Electoral Highness out of the White House.

A better and probably still more relevant book is Robert Reich's Saving Capitalism,



Here is the review I published on Audible.com over a year ago when I read his book;
Prof. Reich crystallizes the trends of today's economics quite clearly, allowing us to inspect what the future holds if trends are not altered. it can be a scary future, or it could be a kinder future if we simply tweak the system in such a way that all can gain benefit from collective human progress. As all of us should benefit, being the product of previous generations of struggle. Everyone should take pause to contemplate this future, whether they agree with the forecast or solutions or not.
Just like Bernie Sander's book, the people who could profit most from reading this book will probably never be willing to read it because of the politics of who it comes from and the president with whom Robert Reich is associated.

I find I am a complete weirdo on the subject of what I will listen to or read. I actively go out and try to understand the opposing views so that I can see what I'm fighting against. I understand that Trump voters are not openly racist or probably even homophobic. They are mostly evangelical and pretty certifiably stupid since they fell for the machinations of a con artist like Trump, but they don't understand the forces that they have set loose upon this country. Yet. In their blind desire to have their own pain addressed, they have caused pain and suffering across a broad swath of America, and will not get one moment of relief from their own pains. I hope they can live off the schadenfreude, because that is about the only benefit that they will receive from their victory.

I took the time to listen to and understand conservative thought during my process of evaluating, supporting and finally rejecting libertarianism. I spent several aggravating months listening to Rush Limbaugh (as this blog can attest) as a part of this process. You cannot hope to defeat an enemy that you do not understand. Take the time to read their books, listen to their media, and understand their fears. Only then can you possibly present an argument that they will listen to. 

iPhones, Healthcare and Cake

I’m using a three year old Google Nexus that was gifted to me by friends. I have the cheapest available phone service in the United States here is my referral code.

I use old tech and cheap services because I’M POOR. I don’t have an iPhone, Chaffetz you asshat.

Don’t buy an iPhone get healthcare is the modern version of the clueless let them eat cake myth. These congressional idiots have no idea what poor people face in the US today. No idea. 

#trypod - Dating Advice and Tim Harford

If anyone were to ask me for dating advice; no one ever does, one of the benefits of repeating the story of how I met The Wife almost 30 years ago. I have to say, this is an unexpected benefit from knife skills and stories of knife skills, not being bothered with requests from single people asking "how can I be as happy as you?" I mean, knife skills have their own benefits to you and your partner, such as the person who has your six in a bar fight having the ability to gut anyone who comes at you from behind. That is a very useful skill, but I never thought the story itself had a benefit until I started writing this post. I'll have to remember that.

Anyway. Dating advice. I hereby vow to never give any. If I'm ever tempted to I will simply tell people to listen to this one episode of Planet Money,


Then I will tell them to subscribe to Why oh Why and listen to Episodes #8 How Will I know  and #12 Oblique Strategies specifically to get to the end of the story started in the podcast linked above. Why would I do that? Because a single girl like the host of Why oh Why is going to know more about dating than any guy who is breathing, and I'd be a bigger idiot than Tim Harford to offer any suggestions of my own.

Not that I disagree with Tim Harford. I'm rather fond of him. I'm currently listening to his 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy podcast, and I'm loving it. I'm noticing a pattern with Tim Harford, and that pattern is his love of the Oblique Strategies approach to answering really hard questions. Hard questions that don't have right and wrong answers, like most things in life.

I mean he uses Brian Eno's deck of cards in another (enjoyable) episode of Planet Money,


He mentions Oblique Strategies again in this TED talk,



Personally, I don't think he did the host of Why Oh Why any favors by pulling out Oblique Strategies as a way to answer her questions about dating. Reverse (the card he drew) is a particularly cryptic concept to apply to the notion of mate selection and dating. You can't really reverse. Asking herself why she started the dating and the podcast about dating (her interpretation of the meaning of reverse) leads her essentially to the question of discovering who she is before trying to find a mate. Life is to short to worry about finding out who you are before getting on with it. Part of finding out who your are is taking the journey through life. Picking a mate or even a series of mates if need be is also part of that process.

What follows is as close as I will ever get to giving advice on this subject. When you are doing things you like, you tend to find people you like. I think that is why so many people suggest "get a hobby" as a way to meet people. I think that is also the wrong advice. Get on with living your life, and then notice who you are living it next to. Across from. In competition with. Have conversations with those people. You might discover your very own knife-wielding love of your life. Or not, as the case may be.

Why #trypod? Clearly you didn't listen to the episodes. NPR and other podcasters are running a promotion this month trying to get people to promote podcasts using the hashtag trypod. I've promoted four podcasts in this blog post, not that I'm counting or anything. I routinely post what I'm listening to (if it is good) to my Google plus profile. What I look back on and really like gets spread around to other social platforms. So nice try NPR. I'll play along. Been suggesting things for people to listen to for years now.

In Defense of the Supporting Actor, An Ode to Bill Paxton

We lost Bill Paxton last Saturday and it was quite a blow to me as a film buff. I remember pretty much every movie he's been in, and his characters in each film. What I found surprising going through my traditional (morbid?) ritual of watching something that featured the recently deceased, I couldn't find anything that I wanted to watch that he starred in as a leading man.

Everyone remembers Twister, obviously. I probably remember it a little differently than most people. I grew up in tornado country. As good as the rest of the film is, I can never get past the final sequence of the two lead actors running uphill to lash themselves to a pipe in a wooden shed, with horses calmly ignoring the digital storm they couldn't see around them. This poorly thought out and executed sequence pulls me right out of the film and worst of all, ruins the whole thing for me. The rest of Twister deserves the kind of tribute that the storm chasers gave him upon learning of his death. I hadn't known it was such an inspiration to young kids of the time, motivating them to go into the field of meteorology and storm chasing in particular. Any film that inspires young people to do something good with their lives has to get a passing grade no matter what its other failings might be.

Similarly I wanted to like the film A Simple Plan but was put off by the fact that it was sold to us as a comedy in the trailers and promotional material, but was so definately not a comedy in viewing. It is a tragedy and a drama and worth watching. No matter how good it is it's not going to be remembered in a kind light when The Wife wants a comedy and she's mad and crying. That doesn't bode well for the film ever being rewatched in this household.

We settled on Apollo 13 and Tombstone for our tribute to him, two excellent films in which he plays positive if lightly comedic supporting characters, which was actually what Bill Paxton was the best at.

This shouldn't be seen as a slam or a put-down. The leading actor or actress in a film or play is only as good as their supporting actors allow them to be, and he was a consummate artist at playing the comedic foil or the well-intentioned loudmouth. My favorite film features him in a role he was essentially made for as an actor, the role of PFC. William L. Hudson in Aliens. It was just one more in a series of great supporting roles that enabled the top billed names to shine through his artistry off-screen as well as on it, but the stars were right in that film.

My favorite director combined with my favorite actor and actress of the time, with hands down one of the best supporting casts ever assembled. Case in point. I stumbled across this interview in my teary-eyed path down memory lane, and marveled at how these two work the interview together.


My favorite actress and one of my favorite supporting men, just naturally continuing the leading lady, supporting actor relationship established in the film; him laying up subjects for her to embroider as a leading lady should. Just a gentleman and the support that he should be, happy to be part of the interview.

I'll have to sit down and watch his directorial efforts Frailty and The Greatest Game Ever Played just to confirm for myself that they are as good as my friends have said they are, but he will always be Hudson to me. I hope he doesn't mind if I remember him that way.
It’s shocking and sad that American film and television creators won’t be able to rely on Paxton’s rough-hewn decency, his game sense of humor, and his canny ability to steal a scene. Paxton was dependably watchable in projects that weren’t as good as he was, and great in roles that gave his characters the scope and depth to display their irreverent and essential humanity.  
Variety - Remembering Bill Paxton, Hollywood’s Scene-Stealing Everyman

The Burden of Chronic Illness

How do you get past the "why can't you do its?" the (groan) "really? If I have to, I will." Why can't they just understand my limitations? I feel guilty asking my family to help me. 
I need to get out and do things, but I want to isolate myself from things that make me feel sicker. How can I do both? 
I became a different person after disability and handicap. After not being able to do many of the things that defined who I was to me. For me. First it was losing the ability to engage in paying work. Then it was household chores; mowing the lawn, working in the yard, even most dusting and sweeping (dust and mold allergies are my main Meniere's triggers aside from stress)  I have been reduced to editorializing on life from the sanctity of my home office where I have reduced the distractions and triggers to a minimum.

I'm right there with you. I feel like I'm hiding and that is probably because I am. Hiding from my symptoms and their triggers. I don't know if this is the right way to cope or not, but I'll do what I have to do to get by, because that is the minimum standard I've set for myself.

I don't know how you can communicate the limitations to the people around you. My wife and children are among the most supportive people I know and even they have to be reminded of my limitations sometimes.  I suggest trying not to take the grumping about unwanted burdens placed on those around you as personal attacks. The people who pick you up and care for you are caught in this situation with you. They have every bit as much right to be frustrated as you do.

I recommend frequent hugs, myself. I find them very therapeutic for everyone involved.

If you have daily vertigo spells to the point that you feel nauseated, you are precisely the kind of sufferer that the more drastic procedures for treating Meniere's symptoms are for. If the injections do not give you relief, you should talk to your doctors about other more invasive treatments. If the vertigo doesn't stop, you may have to face some of those consequences to make it stop. Making it stop occurring constantly, daily or weekly, is what every treatment out there is for. Keep looking til you find what works.

Just as important is the need to get people who understand your illness around you to support you. You need to get the feeling of vertigo across to the people you rely on. How helpless you are. Short of making them OD on alcohol or strapping them to the centerpost of a merry-go-round (no, don't do that. Try getting them to read this) I'm not sure that everyone will 'get' what the problem is. My wife has been there for me since the beginning. I'd be dead now without her. If they (husbands or wives) can't be made to see reason, then you need to find someone you can rely on to be there when you need it. You leave them (husbands or wives) when you find someone who cares, when you find someone who can help you with this.

This is what chronic illness is. You can't get through it alone, and unfortunately we, your fellow sufferers on the internet, can't be there for you in that way. We can't be there to mop up and change the sheets. Can't help tend children or cook or clean. Most of us wish we could, some of us know we'd be more of a liability than an asset. We can't, but there are caring people out there. It is just a matter of finding them. Have faith in that.

This is the new normal for us. For anyone suffering from chronic illness. There is no other real way for us to approach it. To get past it. Embrace your limitations and do the best you can around them. We have to focus on the day to day. The here and now.

There can be no plans, no tomorrow, without someone willing to pick up the slack because there is going to be slack. We can't kid ourselves about that fact. If it isn't a limitation, it wouldn't be an illness. It wouldn't be a disability.

Maybe it's just me. I don't know. I've fought against disability all my life pretty much without realizing it. There have always been various limitations that I've just worked around. Meniere's is just one more constraint that I don't want and didn't ask for, but there is no disputing its presence so make the best of it.

We can't wish it away, god knows I've tried enough times. The closest I ever come to prayer is in the depths of a vertigo spell. "Just make it stop." After awhile it becomes "just make it through this minute." Then it progresses to "five more minutes." Then ten, then fifteen, then onwards. If you get to the end of the attack, you get to see another day. Every morning you get to see, like the pilot who says "any landing you can walk away from" is a good one.

Enjoy the sunrise.