Anger in the Air

It is late dusk, the Fourth of July, 2020. There is everywhere, all around me, the rumble and pop of fireworks. It has been going on for a while, now.

I don’t honestly remember any Independence Day being quite like this one.

But of course in my lifetime there has not been a day like this one. I hope there is never a day like this again. We are celebrating the moment we became a nation built on principle, and simultaneously we are revolting against a regime that has abandoned principle.

Around me is a nearly constant drumbeat of noise, near and distant, sharp with proximity or heavy with distant force. The soundscape is frothing, rolling and popping, unceasing. It has not been like this before.

But of course it hasn’t. Nothing has been like this before. This noise is coming from Americans, the true proud-to-be sort, even the earned-my-right-to-be sort, but it is certain the noise is not coming from people happy about the way things have been going around here.

As I type this the background has become a steady roar. You can take that as a metaphor if you want.

Gilly

About two years ago, we welcomed into our house a little asshole we named Gilfoyle. He is at least in part a Lancashire Heeler, a very small dog designed to move large animals. You want to succeed at that job, you better be an asshole.

Gilly sleeping with eyes open. Because the world is full of danger.

Right now he is under my desk, sleeping on my foot, snoring a little bit. Wherever I sit down to work, he will always be close by. He loves Mommy more, but I stay still.

In the evenings, there is a routine. After a few minutes of snacks and training the dogs and the humans take their places on the couch. Gilly (after sniffing the outside air, drinking water, and rubbing his face on the floor) jumps up on the couch (with a tiny, tiny bit of assistance) and takes his place against my left thigh.

Sometimes, if the Official Sweetie and I are still snacking, some tiny treats will also reach the canine elements of our pack. Last night we were eating chips, and now and then a tiny piece of chip would find its way to the pups. They do likes them some chips.

But then I offered Gilfoyle a chip and he went totally fuckin’ nuts. He bit my finger and then went after any part of my body he could reach, barking and flashing teeth and… I dunno, fighting for his life?

I should have been more ready. I had been sipping Tequila, and I’ve seen plenty of times before that when I’m drinking liquor Gilly is much more volatile.

It breaks my heart. I don’t know Gilfoyle’s history, but I can make a few guesses. When Dad’s been drinking, prepare to fight for your life. I will never erase that impulse. I can never love this dog so hard that those scars go away. But Gilfoyle, my friend, my foot warmer, I will never hurt you. I promise.

Dogs and Tennis

I’ll admit it, yesterday I snuck over to Facebook to see what people have been saying about my more recent episodes (I probably log in to Facebook as often as once a month these days). In response to my recent episode about getting creative with sports, Candace Reedy said, “I always thought golf and tennis would be greatly improved by retrieving dogs…”

I agree wholeheartedly. And dogs and tennis balls? It’s as natural as beer on Friday. I once wrote somewhere in the million-plus words of this blog, that if dogs could raise a statue, it would be to honor the person who invented the tennis ball.

The Round Mound of Hound in intensive training.

So — dogs and tennis. Obviously a good idea. But how, exactly, would it work? I’m here to help make that real. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do.

Overall, I think dogs would add two things to the game: chaos and slobber.

Let’s think about slobber. You’re going to have wet-ball players and dry-ball players. When you serve a ball that is sodden with dog drool, it will feel like you’re hitting a lead weight. If you serve with the usual overhead motion, you will be launching a slug and while it might not get over the net quickly, when it touches the surface on the other side, it will drop flatter than a biological slug. The ultimate dream of topspin players to keep the ball low to the surface on the bounce; with a drool-ball there will hardly be a bounce at all.

But when you toss that saturated ball over your head, dog spittle spinning off, droplets shining in the sun, your opponent will know what is coming, and rush the net. So what do you do instead? The lob-serve. Hit it deep, keep it squishy, and your opponent will be forced to hit it on the volley rather than let it “bounce” – a relatively tough shot.

But here’s were things could get tedious. Your opponent is just as restricted as you are concerting shot options. She will be sending a lob right back. Not exactly the recipe for excitement.

Except, of course, there are dogs on the court! And the right dog for this game will be expert at shagging lobs. But then what happens? Simple: If the dog catches the ball on the volley, it’s a point for the dog’s team. If the dog catches it on the first bounce, no points for either side, a do-over. The dog can enjoy the ball for a limited time, juicing it up, but when her teammate says “drop”, the ball is returned to play.

Imagine you’re Roger Federer, able to serve a thousand miles an hour, give or take. You’re a dry-ball player. Your dog is an Australian Cattle Dog, nimble as all get-out and filled with energy, but is well-trained to give the ball back before it is too sodden. Your dog’s name is something like “Ace.” 

Today you’re facing an up-and-coming dog-tennis player named Casey, a scrambler in the Michael Chang mold, and his canine teammate Luna, a youngster of uncertain parentage with strong legs and an almost limitless supply of drool. Casey is good at deflecting hard serves so that Luna can have a shot at them, and Casey’s scrambling style will eat you alive once things get sloppy. A classic wet/dry showdown!

Stuff like that is what sport is all about.

One of My Favorite Stories has Changed

Harken back with me, to 1985, the year I turned 21. In our mighty nation, it is an obligation to celebrate this momentous birthday with alcohol. There was a catch, however. My Most Significant Birthday Anniversary fell on a Sunday, and in 1985 in New Mexico, Sundays were no-booze days.

However, as a physics major I was able to count, and I realized that to have a boozy party on Sunday, I would need to buy the supplies the day before. It was a bullet-proof plan.

Except that Saturday night at New Mexico Tech is a time of madness, and friends came by and word of booze leaked out and so forth… and we drank it all. My roommate and I awoke Sunday morning, having promised a party that night, and having no alcohol.

I put out some feelers to see if I could scrounge the booze, but no dice. That left only one choice: Arizona. I can tell you now that it is 156 miles by Alfa Romeo odometer from my dorm room in Socorro to the closest booze store in Springerville, Arizona.

But highway 60 is a joy to drive, up through Magdalena, past the VLA, though Datil and Quemado, and over the continental divide at Pie Town. It was cold, but I had the top down and my friend Jane in the passenger seat, the heater was roaring, and the Alfa was feeling frisky that day.

I was driving just a tad over the posted speed limit. By “tad” I mean roughly 60% over the speed limit when the cop topped the hill right in front of me. Busted. I pulled over, and waited while the officer drove to a place where he could turn around safely, and returned to have a conversation with me.

There are tactics he used, which I have since learned are Standard Lies Cops Tell to Get Their Way. He said I’d have to follow him back to the station if I didn’t let him search my vehicle. I could have responded with “Am I under arrest?” but I was a dumb kid and I didn’t have anything to hide.* So I helped him search my car. It turns out I did have something to hide, but the guy just chuckled at the brick of bottle rockets in the glove box.

Without the heater it was pretty chilly at that altitude in early spring, and my co-pilot and I were stomping our feet and blowing into our hands. The cop laughed at that as well. “I remember when I was young and stupid,” he said, looking at the top-down sports car. He never actually finished searching the car.

Eventually he wrote me a ticket, and we continued on to Springerville at a much more sedate pace. We found the liquor store, and bought one of everything. Home we went, to a birthday party that had not a single female guest. So it goes.

It’s a good story. I especially like the “young and stupid” bit. The search was likely because highway 60 had become a major drug conduit from El Paso to Los Angeles. But the cop and I had even shared a chuckle, despite my flaying of the speed limit. And for many years after, I have enjoyed telling that story.

But you could change one thing about that whole encounter, and everything would have been different. You could add pigment to my skin. If I were black, or even brown, there would have been no chuckles. I would have been lying face-down in the prickly weeds on the side of the road, backup troopers watching over me, while my car was systematically dismantled. Before I could re-assemble it, the Alfa would have been towed, the impound fee more than the car was worth. The bottle rockets would have put me in jail overnight.

Fun story, right?

___

* “I don’t have anything to hide” sounds great until you’ve established the assumption that resisting search is implicitly an admission that you have something to hide.

Getting Creative with Sports

I’m writing a story with a lot of swimming in it — specifically swimming under water. It got me to thinking about things that have nothing to do with the story, about swimming and sports and whatnot. I knew some competitive swimmers back in the day, and I remember watching one of those guys traverse nearly the entire length of the pool without breaking the surface. That was a long time ago.

Less long ago, I read that in swimming competitions the rule makers now mandate that swimmers have to come to the surface a specified distance after they dive in or after they turn. Why? Because all that splashing on the surface slows you down. Underwater is faster.

The Swimming Czars put rules into effect because swimmers will otherwise exploit the limited size of the swimming pool and spend half their time submerged. Understandable, but… you want to know who does the butterfly fastest? Put them in a nice, calm lake and point to a buoy.

Maybe this has already happened, but I think swimming can learn from the biker kids over at the velodrome. I went to a few events when I lived in San Diego, and those bicyclists have some crazy competitions (motorcycles on the course, unknown race length, slingshot your team mate, it goes on). If there’s a way to cheat, the riders at the velodrome will have a competition to see who does it best. It’s actually a lot of fun to watch, even if you don’t understand everything that’s going on.

If the lords of the swimmin’ hole adopted that ethic, there would have to be a competition that disallows breaking the surface except on turns. I think that would be hugely entertaining. You have the best conditions for world-record times, but swimmers only get to take a breath once every fifty meters. Mess up your turn and don’t get a full fresh lungful, and you’re in a world of hurt for the next fifty.

I encourage the ruling bodies of every sport to consider events like this. Body-checking in a marathon? Making sounds in golf? Team bowling? We could revolutionize sport itself!

The Devil, the Pandemic, and Me

I am imagining right now sitting in a quiet place, drinking beer, and realizing that the devil is there as well, hunched over his own brewski.

Chances are Old Nick doesn’t want to be bothered, but eventually I would have to say something. I can’t help it. “Hey,” I would say, “If I could point to one person and you made him sick, you could make me sick, too.”

The devil, I imagine, would ponder this for a moment before shaking his head. “Nah. The guy you’re thinking of sends me a lot of business.”

Where There’s Smoke…

I was pondering this morning how I could best describe for y’all the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad five miles that were the end of my bike ride a couple of days ago. Today’s plan was to get a happier ride in before it got too hot, then have a beer or two and regale you with my story of (rather mild) heat stroke.

I have been craving protein since that ride and I was in the kitchen piling up turkey and cheese on my sandwich when The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas said, loudly, “Jerry! Come here RIGHT NOW!” In our many years together, I had never been summoned that way before. I dropped the mustard and hurried to find her. I rounded the corner to see the laundry room filling with white smoke.

Both the washer and the dryer were running, and I unplugged them both as one smoke detector after another began to tell us what we already knew. For one heart-stopping moment it seemed that the smoke was actually coming from the garage, but eventually we opened things up and while the dogs cowered from the terrible noise we vented the smoke and things calmed down.

It wasn’t clear at first which appliance had been smoking; but when we opened the dryer smoke came rolling out. “Can you fix it?” Official Sweetie asked, and after some thought I figured I probably could. Fundamentally, dryers aren’t that complicated.

Eventually we restarted the washer and very quickly realized what the problem was. “It’s never made that sound before,” OSMR&HBI said. Our washer was toast. The dryer had filled with smoke as it pulled air in.

Washers like ours have a complex gear box that, when driven by an electric motor, can move the tub and the agitator thingie in a complex motion. My best diagnosis is that the gearbox seized up, and the motor was burning itself up trying to turn it. Time to find some new parts.

This quest was made more difficult because the number on the cover of the manual wasn’t the model number of the washer, but was in fact the part number of the manual itself. Because that’s obviously the most important piece of information a customer might want to know. For a while it seemed that there were no parts for this washer anywhere.

It took me a while to find the actual model number of the washer, first because the plate with that information was well-hidden behind the lid, and second because there was no way to read that information while the lid was open. It took several tries with my phone camera to get a shot from inside the tub while the lid was mostly closed that captured the model number legibly.

Armed at last with the right model number, I was able to look up the parts. Gearbox for sure, and given the amount of electrical insulation that had been turned into a toxic cloud, it seemed a fair bet that the motor would need replacing as well. Cost of parts: $350 after I shopped around a bit. (The gearbox replacement part was an update to the version in our washer, and is used by literally dozens of washers from all the major brands.) Add to that cost a few hours of cursing and bloody knuckles.

New washer: $550-ish. The Official Sweetie set to shopping.

I don’t know if you guys have heard about this Pandemic Thing, but it leads to a lot of uncertainty about just when a product you buy might reach your doorstep. There is no uncertainty at all about whether the product will be brought inside the house. Availability of washers ranged from weeks to months, the delay inversely proportional to the desirability of the machine.

We discussed for a bit whether to get “good enough” sooner, or order what we really wanted and deal with not having a washer for a while. We agreed that waiting for the right machine was better than spending the next few years with a washer we didn’t really like. (“We” in the previous sentence is only 15% me.) Official Sweetie found the right machine online at Lowe’s, but there was no indication when it would be delivered until after the purchase was made. “If it’s too long, we’ll cancel,” OS said.

It’s being delivered tomorrow.

That in itself was a shock, and ultimately a happy surprise, but it took some adjusting to. Specifically, we will have to get the old washer to the street, and haul the new one up our front steps and into the house. This sudden need for logistics and heavy lifting was as much an emotional hill to climb as it was a hassle. Not for the first time, I wished we had a good hand truck.

I’d estimate I ask, “do we know anyone with a dolly?” about twice a year — often enough that I decided it was time to buy one. Back to the Lowe’s Web site for a preorder. Subsequently I set foot in a retail store for the first time in months to snag a Milwaukee with big, stair-friendly wheels. (Even this was not entirely without challenge, as the preorder had not been filled yet when I got there. I went to pull the item myself, and I was told it was on aisle 39. I marched along, 35, 36, 37… and then the wall of the store. There is a 38 and 39, they’re just… looped back around over there.)

Home, carefully washed so I could accept the welcome of the pack, I pulled out the (not-really-that-) old washer and we rolled it to wait by the front door.

I have a few people now encouraging me to ride my bike regularly. I’m hoping “my washer caught on fire” will earn me slack for one day, at least.

A Pair of Coding Aphorisms

I write software for a living, and I take great pleasure when fixing a problem means reducing the number of lines of code in the system. In the last two days, I have come up with a couple of observations:

Every line of code is a pre-cancerous cell in the body of your application.

Now, “line of code” can be a deceptive measurement, as cramming a whole bunch of logic into a single line will certainly not make the application more robust. There are even robots that can comb through your code and sniff out overly-complex bits. But just as in humans weight is a proxy for a host of more meaningful health measurements, lines of code is the proxy for a host of complexity measurements.

But the point stands. I recently had to fix a bug where someone had copy/pasted code from one place to another. Then the original was modified, but not the copy. All those apparently-safe lines of code (already tested and everything!) were a liability, where instead a function call so everyone used the same code would have been more compact, easier to read, and much easier to maintain. There’s even an acronym for this type of practice: DRY — Don’t Repeat Yourself.

While that’s one of the more flagrant ways code bloat happens, there are plenty of others, mostly symptoms of not thinking the problem through carefully at the get-go, or not stopping to reconsider an approach as the problem is better-understood. Stopping and thinking will almost always get the project done sooner — and smaller.

One important thing to keep in mind is that programming languages are for the benefit of humans, not the machines that will eventually execute the program. If the purpose of your code is not obvious from reading it, go back and do it again. Comments explaining the code are generally an indication that the code itself is poorly written.

No software is so well-written that it ages gracefully.

I work on a lot of old code written by others, and I know people who work on old code written by me. In some cases, the code was shit to start with, but in others time has simply moved on, requirements have changed, and the code has been fiddled and futzed until the pristine original is lost to a host of semi-documented tweaks.

Naturally no code I have ever written falls into the “shit to start with” category (how could you even think that?), but that doesn’t mean the people who have to maintain that old stuff won’t be cursing my name now and then, as some clever optimization I did back in the day now completely breaks with a new requirement I didn’t have to deal with at the time.

And sometimes even if the code itself is still just fine, the platform it runs on will change, and break stuff. Jer’s Novel Writer was pretty elegant back in the day, but now when I compile I get literally hundreds of warnings about “That’s not how we do things anymore.” Some parts of JersNW are simply broken now. When I no longer work where I do, I will likely rebuild the whole thing from scratch.

Speaking of work, I am very fortunate to work in an environment that allows us to trash applications and rebuild them from scratch every now and then. Having a tiny user base helps in this regard. And as we build the new apps, we can apply what we’ve learned and maybe the next system will age a little better than the one before. Maybe. But sure as the sun rises at the end of a long day of coding, someone will be cursing the new system before too long.

Igneous Home Security

I am on the back patio, and over the fence I can hear my neighbors talking. Apparently they have massively upgraded their home security system, replacing the gravel alongside their house with LAVA! It is now very risky for the children to play along there, but apparently they are willing to take the risk. I hope they’re careful.

Prestigious Tattoo Locations

Let’s say for a moment that there is a field of sporting competition where, rather than a trophy or a belt, the winner earns the right to wear a special tattoo. As with every other sport, some awards are more prestigious than others. Where do the most prestigious awards go? Face, maybe, for world championships, but how do you rank lesser awards?

Obviously I’m writing a story where exactly this is the case, and our main woman has new ink for a recent win in a regional contest. “It’s only forearm,” I wrote, but then I hesitated. Forearms are pretty visible, and by proximity to hands might be pretty choice real estate. Or not. How do you rank thigh, calf, and elbow?

As I ponder this, I think if I were sponsor for one of these events I’d offer a prize of a tiny little star on the earlobe.

And! I bet there would be integrated tattoos, that formed a triple-crown meta-tattoo if someone gets them all.

And! Kids with promise could choose to put their high school state championship on their thigh to save room for greater rewards to come. The hubris! The insult to the people who got you to where you are! But here’s one trophy case you can’t rearrange later.

To be honest, none of this matters in the story I’m writing, except the “It’s only…”. Jaqi is shrugging off her most recent victory.

But honestly, I think UFC should consider this.

You may be Hating Trump for the Wrong Reason Today

So on Thursday, Trump invited the head of science for the Department of Homeland Security to join his coronavirus press conference. Mr. Bryan said some things that were interesting, giving valuable information that could be used to slow the spread of the virus. And he did mention that yes, sunlight has been shown to kill the virus on surfaces.

That’s not really a surprise, UV light has been used to disinfect surfaces for a long time now. But the effectiveness of UV against this particular virus was encouraging, and supported Trump’s “this will all go away in the summer and I’ll take credit for thinking of it” plan.

After Mr. Bryan, himself not a scientist — he holds a masters degree in strategic intelligence — sat down, an obviously pumped president returned to the lectern. There were things that could kill the virus! He probably already understood that at some level before, but now he was really seeing it! All we needed to do was take the things that killed the virus outside a human body… and put them inside.

So he turned and said to his pet non-scientist from Homeland Security that Mr. Bryan should look into using light inside coronavirus patients. But why stop there? Disinfectants also kill the virus! Perhaps we should look into using those inside the body as well! Trump was, at that moment, spit-balling ideas with someone modestly more qualified than he was to figure that shit out.

Had they been alone in a quiet room, Mr. Bryan might have been able to say, “Good idea, Mr. President, but those things kill indiscriminately. The challenge is to find something that will kill the virus without killing the host, or to strengthen the host’s innate ability to fight the virus itself.” And Trump would be pissed, but probably not enough to fire the guy, and life would go on.

But that’s not what happened, because it was not a quiet room. It was a press conference, going live to the entire nation. Trump suggested investigating shooting up disinfectants.

Trump does not think before he speaks. If he did, it might occur to him that this is not the first virus humanity has encountered, and that perhaps there were reasons we don’t try to apply chemicals that kill indiscriminately inside our bodies. The closest we get (as far as I know) is chemotherapy, where the drugs are really nasty, but even then they target the bad cells more than the good cells.

Trump didn’t think, because he had a Great Idea.

What Trump thought would happen: His science pal would say, “That’s a great idea! We’ll get right on that!” Probably, in the short time of the press conference, The Donald didn’t even have time to get to the part of his fantasy where the world lionizes him for single-handedly solving the crisis. That came later in the shower.

What actually happened: The world went ape-shit because his incredibly stupid ideas were spoken in front of the whole damn country, and a lot of people instantly conflated “Tide Pod eater” with “Trump Supporter.”

Sure, people have already died from Trump’s medical advice, and some of the deaths have a Tide Pod glow to them, but not very many. Not very many deaths by stupidity can be directly attributed to Trump, anyway. We’ll never know the death toll from liberating Michigan. Might be zero, might be a thousand or more when all is over, but we’ll never know. However many people he does kill by supporting those protests, a disproportionate percentage of them will be first responders and health care professionals, and more than a few working poor.

His tweets about “liberating” certain states (he did not congratulate protesters in states with Republican governors, although the policies and the arguments were the same) are ultimately far more harmful than a few dumb-ass remarks that may get a handful of fucking idiots killed. Trump’s “cross your fingers and hope that sunshine saves us” strategy (I bet Australia can’t wait for… oh, wait, never mind) is much more dangerous to our nation as a whole than suggesting people should shove blacklights up their butts.

(Donald didn’t actually suggest that, just as he didn’t suggest people do I.V. drips of Lysol.)

I’d guess that Trump’s idiot musing on Thursday will kill ten people, tops. Ten stupid people. Probably fewer. And while I’m as big a fan as anyone at pointing out how goddam moronic our president is, we need to remember where he’s doing the most harm and who is being harmed. While the man-child president grasps for a miracle cure to get him (not us) out of this pickle, the rest of us have to keep pushing ahead.

This is the calculus we have come to, weighing the relative harm of Trump’s stupid-ass statements. But as long as we’re here, let’s keep a little perspective. More people will die from his evisceration of the EPA than will inject Lysol into their blood.

I look forward to things returning to normal so we can go back to trying to find all those children ICE misplaced.

Rode the ol’ Bike Today

There was a time, not that long ago really, that I spent many hours each week on my bicycle. It was my primary transportation; so much so that I had to get a little trickle-charger for my car’s battery, because it would be weeks between times I needed to drive it.

Every once in a while, I would poke my leg and think, “I didn’t know I had a muscle there!” It was silly how well-defined my skinny legs became.

Then… I stopped. The reasons are uncertain, but it may have been about time. The 30-mile round trip added an hour to my commute time each day. (The amount added varied greatly, based on traffic, but when I was at my best the bike round trip was never more than 2:15, and the car commute varied from 1:00 to 1:45 or occasionally much worse).

Time. It was probably a work crunch that did me in. I remember thinking, not long before I stopped, that I could not imagine going back to commuting by car. And then I did.

Mondays were good days back then. I called them “Monday legs,” the way I felt after two days’ rest. I’d scoot to work and feel full of life, a feeling that lasted all day. I used to say, “The first 100 miles each week are easy.”

I have tried and failed — more than once, now — to recapture those days. I am trying again. There was so much good about that time. I even, really, truly was in a conversation with someone about hippie shit and he said, “Well, I drive a Prius, so…” to which I could honestly reply, “I ride a bike.” One of the greatest moments of my life.

Another great moment was when my liveroligist said that my enzymes looked good. I am of the body type that puts fat on organs. The bike fixed that.

And when I am on the bike, I can just think for a bit.

So here I go again. If any others who read this use Strava, please help me out by connecting with me and pushing me forward. Hold me accountable. Talk trash. I’m known over there as Jerry Seeger.

I Was Speechless, Now I’m Not

Yesterday I wrote an episode about being absolutely flabbergasted that The Donald would support protests that will literally kill US citizens. Time has lent me a little perspective.

One thing about Trump’s murderous actions is actually smart in an evil kind of way. A few months from now, Trump will say, “I tried to stop the recession, but the damn Democrat Governors stopped me! It’s not my fault!”

Because he’s totally in charge — unstoppable, a fucking genius, just ask him — until it’s not convenient to be in charge and a scapegoat is needed.

And honestly, the coming recession is not entirely his fault, though if he weren’t such a pig-headed asshole, or at least even capable of listening to his advisors, the problem would not be so bad. But Trump’s say-it’s-not-a-problem-until-you-take-credit-for-solving-it approach was the guarantee this virus needed that it could go wild.

Things are bad. This is where Trump usually declares bankruptcy, and leaves the people foolish enough to do business with him holding the bag.

But, true to his bragging before he was elected, Donald Trump could literally take a Russian-made AK-47 into a nursing home and mow down the occupants, and if he said it created jobs, 42% of the American populace would say, “their sacrifice is for the best.” There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will shake the conviction of that 42%. We can go into why another time (most of the reasons have little to do with Trump himself), but that bunch is fuckin’ entrenched.

Somewhat symmetrically, about 48% of the populace of this country would never, ever support Trump, even if he managed to do something magnificently awesome. A hypothetical that will never happen, but anyway.

So for Trump and his sorta-Republican handlers, this is all a game, playing the slavery-inspired electoral college and the disproportionate influence of rural voters to close the gap in the approval ratings. Thus, “Liberate Michigan”, a swing state. Some of those protesters may die as a result, but even more poor people will. And a significant group will say (not out loud) that a few more dead old folks is the price you have to pay to let me go back to making some asshole rich. Because the assholes have equated making them rich with survival.

Nowhere in that equation is the idea that maybe for a little while we can take care of people without making the assholes rich. Or, god forbid, the assholes could take care of their own.

For perspective, the retail employees of my company are still being paid while their stores are closed, and a heart-warming percentage of them are volunteering to bolster customer support over phone and Internet, as people need more remote help with tech than ever before. If you asked our CEO why he was paying idle employees, he would look at you funny and say, “because it’s the right thing to do.” If you were to ask those volunteers who could earn the same paycheck while playing WoW, they would say the same thing. “We have a rare opportunity to really help.” Ethics are powerful.

But there are no ethics in Washington, especially among the corporate dickwads who whisper in Trump’s ear. It’s 42-48 and all that matters are the votes and where they happen. The real threat to reelection that Trump faces is that if everyone can vote by mail, the Republicans won’t be able to rig the election by suppressing the vote in poor neighborhoods. Donnie himself actually said EXACTLY THAT on Fox the other day. Seriously. He said that if there was mail-in voting everywhere, Republicans would never be elected again.

I Imagine one of his handlers slapping his head and saying “of all the things we told him, that is the thing the idiot actually learned?”

A New Low

I’ve been trying to get my news from sane sources, which rules out Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. So while I was aware that Trump ignored his own health and security advisors, who had been warning him about the virus heading to our shores, I had insulated myself from his ridiculous tweets. Trump did nothing in the face of those warnings — except to downplay them — because he didn’t want it to be true. In fact, he claimed it wasn’t true more than once.

There were plenty of warning signs that we now know Trump was informed of early on, but understanding things is not what Trump does best.

For example, Trump is just not equipped to understand that when a virus shows almost no mutation in very separate cases, that means it is really, really contagious. To be fair, I didn’t know how alarming the DNA similarity was until recently, but I am able to learn. Donald Trump is not. He is stupid and pig-headed, and since he has fired almost everyone who would dare contradict Fox News, there is no one left to try to guide him. If a problem can’t be handled conveniently, best to just assert it’s not a problem. That (almost) always works.

But then yesterday I learned that Trump has been tweeting support for the protests against social distancing. Sure, this is easier than providing leadership or doing something to materially help people who are in a very bad way right now.

The protests, incidentally, are funded by Trump’s pals, who care more about their corporate bottom lines than the lives of the people who work for them — and financing protests is way cheaper than supporting their employees directly, with the benefit of making the whole thing look like someone else’s fault.

The tweets left me utterly speechless. The same guy who is saying “this is for the states to handle” any time a state asks for federal help is also undermining the attempts of states to handle things, and people are going to die as a result. Not just a handful of the morons at the rallies, but the people those morons go on to infect, and the people who see the morons protesting and turn into morons themselves.

NOT on the list of people who will die as a consequence of these protests are the wealthy men and women financing the rallies, or the “journalists” who long ago forgot what the word means, who are now praising the morons, because those assholes ALSO don’t care whether the protesters or their families live or die. It will be the poor and the underserved, as always, who bear the brunt of the harm they are doing, and those people aren’t voting for Trump next time anyway.

Elevator, Ocelot, Rutabaga to One and All

Pretty safe to say that 16.000 on the Muddled Calendar is the strangest of times to be saying Elevator, Ocelot, Rutabaga (so far). Still I wish you, each and every one, a happy and prosperous new Muddled Year.