Outdoor Hockey

In general, I enjoy the NHL games played outdoors. I might argue that they are turning to that gimmick a touch too often these days, robbing the event of its inherent specialness, but I’m still on board for at least one outdoor game each year. It’s different and fun and the players just seem a little happier.

Most years, it’s also a chance to have a hockey game in a giant arena that holds tens of thousands more fans than fit into a traditional hockey venue. After a couple of dicey years, the NHL developed a mighty mobile refrigeration unit that could maintain a good sheet of ice just about anywhere.

Just about. Today’s outdoor game in South Lake Tahoe was a disaster. The sun shone down and any ice over painted areas, like the logo in the center of the rink or the red dots, turned to slush. After the first period it was decided to postpone the rest of the game until long after nightfall. Luckily no one was hurt before that decision was made.

When you schedule an outdoor game, the weather will always be a risk. It seemed smart at first blush to put a game where there was no need to accommodate fans in a beautiful wintry setting. So the NHL decided to play a couple of games in Tahoe, setting up the rink on a golf course next to the lake. Lovely.

The thing is, when you don’t have to accommodate fans, you don’t have to build a rink. There are thousands (probably) of outdoor rinks on this continent that could have hosted this game — and imagine all the extra hometown color that could have enhanced the story.

I have been skating plenty of times — as ai kid I hit the ice fairly regularly in the winter — but I’ve never skated indoors. Not once. The little rink in my hometown was nestled in a deep canyon and shaded by ponderosas and long banners of fabric hanging from wires overhead to thwart the Northern New Mexico sun. At 7200 feet altitude, the air was cold and dry. Good for ice.

For the cost of building a rink on a golf course and then destroying TV ratings by moving most of the game until after most hockey fans were asleep, the NHL could have installed glass at our little rink and played the game in the most nostalgic setting imaginable — a little rink in a little town (high enough up that even the Avalanche might have been short of breath), and the players could have got their hot chocolate in little plastic cups just like the rest of us do. It could have been fuckin’ magical.

Much fancier than back in the day, but ready to host a big game.

Addendum: I went looking for a picture of the ol’ rink, and apparently it has glass now. In fact: “Built in 1936, the Ice Rink is the only refrigerated, NHL regulation, outdoor Ice Rink in New Mexico.” Those who know the history of Los Alamos realize that in 1936 the town didn’t exist; the rink was part of the Ranch for Boys that occupied the land before the Manhattan Project. Maybe there’s an old photo somewhere of Colgate and Pond in hockey garb. All more fascinating material for the TV yakkers to gush over.

The rink in this picture looks WAY swankier than it did was when I was a kid. Maybe not so good for nostalgia, but that ice is just waiting for the NHL to figure out how to get a no-audience outdoor game right. And with the glass they won’t have to send someone up the slope into the woods to find the puck quite so often.

1

Gotta Ride, Part 6: The Crash

I have set a goal for myself: Get to the top of Mount Hamilton by bicycle before I turn 60. It is a well-known climb in these parts, and it has the advantage of being a serious ride that I don’t have to start with a ride in the car. It’s only a few miles from home to the foot of the climb. It’s about 1300 meters from where I live to the top. Routine for some, the achievement of a lifetime for others.

I have given myself three years to get fit enough to make that climb, and let me tell you, kids, I am extremely excited about this goal, and I’m sure I can do it.

If I survive those few urban miles between me and the mountain.

December 19 was, mostly, my best ride ever. I had planned to do a small loop up the first couple of miles of the climb. That would be a preview to a bigger loop I would build up to. Not even remotely close to the full climb, but more than I had done on the last trip.

Man, I had fun. I told myself there was no shame in stopping for a breather a couple or times, and I missed the turn for the smaller loop and kept on going up. I found the larger-loop road down and took it easy heading back; this wasn’t a time trial. It was a chance to enjoy the day, and when my tire hissed and spat angrily I pulled over only to find that the sealer goo I had reinforced just prior to the ride worked perfectly.

It was a tiny road down, twisting and turning, but there were almost no cars. There were many junior-high level kids slogging up the other way, pedaling at absurd gear ratios but moving forward and up. A club? A team? Just what kids do up there to get around?

I had a song in my heart when I returned to the foot of the mountain. An epic day, for small values of epic. I’ve mentioned before how much I love a good day on the bike; this was the best day ever.

Until the crash, at least. I was back on urban roads and looking over my shoulder to check traffic as I approached an intersection, when I hit a massive ridge of pavement in the bicycle lane. According to software, I was moving at somewhere between 17 and 18 MPH when it all went to hell.

The Death Berm. It’s taller than it looks in this photo.

My first thought, as my reflexes fought to control the bike, was utter surprise. That didn’t last long. Given the distribution of my injuries, it’s pretty much a miracle that I didn’t break a wrist or leg or you-name-it trying to break my fall. I wobbled, I tipped, and I smashed to the curb and slid across the sidewalk to wrap myself around a tree in its oh-so-soft mulch.

Somewhere in there I heard the sound of my helmet whacking against the pavement. It seemed, in that time-dilated moment, that I had been waiting for that sound.

Finally I was at rest, against the tree, and I hurt in a very non-specific way. I just hurt. My watch asked for my attention. “It seems you have fallen,” It said. “Do you need help?” I wasn’t sure at that point how to answer.

A bystander came close, but not too close. He asked if I was OK. I was still trying to figure that out, as I lay on my back and looked into the clear sky. My watch asked me about my status again, ready to call 911 on my behalf if I was unable to answer. I selected “I did fall, but I’m OK.” I still wasn’t sure that was true.

Once the bystander was sure I was not going to die, my Samaritan turned to humor. “You need last rites? Because my friend here is a priest.” I wasn’t ready to laugh, but I was glad he was. When I told him I was wearing a brand-new helmet, one with new technology for better brain protection, he was effusive. “Wow! that’s great! Thank God for that.” He couldn’t offer physical aid, but he was working as hard as he could to throw spiritual aid my way.

Eventually I convinced my electronics and my helpful bystanders that I would be all right. I just needed to lay on the grass for a bit. After a short while I got up, documented the death berm in the bike lane, and started my ride home.

That was a long six miles. There was enough blood coming off me that motorists at intersections waved me along and waited for me to cross. I couldn’t (and still can’t) signal my right turns; my shoulder won’t allow it. My front derailleur is either damaged or knocked out of whack; I tried a shift that left my chain flopping around my bottom bracket, and in my state that nearly dumped me over again. There is also quite a bit of cosmetic damage to my brand-new bike.

Perversely, I’m a little proud of those six miles. Not in the same way I’m proud of the climb that came before; but proud nonetheless. Two miles from home I called the Official Sweetie and said that when I got home I needed to go to urgent care.

As my Samaritan was quick to tell me, it could have been a lot worse. I had a good helmet and somehow managed to hit the concrete with my fleshy parts, and not break any bones. My brain survived unscathed, judging by subsequent code reviews. I have a massive hematoma on my thigh, a bulge larger in span than my fully-extended hand, that ripples when I tap it. The doctor says it will probably go away, and almost six weeks after the wipeout it seems a little smaller. I have a separated shoulder that is pissing me off and making it difficult to sleep. But I am alive.

I am alive, and I really, really want to get back to climbing that mountain.

7

Use It or Sell It

I don’t spend nearly as much time in video conferences as many of the people around me do, but even after we figure out what normal is anymore, it’s likely to include a lot of telepresence. I have been mildly dissatisfied with some of my gear for these gatherings, but it has recently occurred to me that I already have excellent alternatives.

The first annoyance is my dissatisfaction with my older-generation little earbuds. They have an elegant design, but they are persnickety. I think keeping the case in my pocket has introduced grime in the connector and inside the case as well, but where else am I going to put the case if not my pocket? I’m not buying a fanny pack to carry around my too-hip earbuds. And beyond that the buds have this slick, “I know when I’m in your ear” feature that doesn’t always know when one or the other is in my ear.

I have another set of headphones, the over-ear type, that I really like. I can save swearing at the sleek little ear buds for when I’m on the workout machine, and wear the superior cans the rest of the time. The only catch: no microphone. My laptop has a microphone, but it turns out I have an even better solution.

I have an actual microphone. A pretty good one, in fact, purchased roughly 25 years ago. Maybe 30. I’ve been paying to store it and I’ve been dragging it along with me ever since, but I’ve hardly used it. (it was bought as an expression of commitment for a project that failed to launch.) It is a condenser mic, but it has a battery if you are in situations where you can’t provide phantom power. It turns out somewhere along the way I also picked up a little tube preamp to supply phantom power and provide knobs to twist. Used even less.

All I need to get that rig up and running is a cable that has XLR on one end and USB on the other. That’s not as simple as it sounds, because on the microphone/amp end of the wire the signal is analog, while on the computer end the signal is digital. So it’s not just a cable but an a/d converter. But those converters are out there. You can pay as much as you want, or twelve bucks.

Also, I will need a desktop microphone stand, or a Tinkertoy set.

But the bottom line is that I have utter overkill for the microphone requirement. And if I don’t use that microphone now, what the hell am I holding on to it for?

But it doesn’t end there. There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when my employer introduced their new line of laptops this year. Sure there is much excitement around the new chip (I have no information about it that you don’t, but it sounds pretty dang awesome), but the laptops still have the same barely-adequate cameras their predecessors did. Back when the new lineup was finalized, that probably didn’t seem like such a big deal.

Software has improved the quality of the video from these laptops, but for a company that makes a big deal of the awesomeness of the cameras (plural! working seamlessly together) on their phones, they sure seem to be slacking on the laptops. (My uninformed opinion is that this will change when FaceID come to the laptop line.)

My “office” corner is fairly dim, and I like it that way, but it doesn’t work so well in virtual meetings. If only I had a better Web camera! Like, that Canon right over there. Huh. And then with the 50mm at a fairly wide aperture the background back-lit liquor cabinet would just be an interesting blur, rather than a testament to what I have become. Turns out Canon rushed out software to make many of their cameras work with many of the conference platforms. All I need is… the cable to connect the camera to the computer.

I am two cables away from having a pretty high-end conference station. Because I TOTALLY NEED one. And hell, If I can’t justify owning that microphone now, it’s time to let go.

2

Hank Aaron

I was a kid in 1974, and not particularly attached to baseball. Yet I felt the buzz as Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron approached the all-time home run record.

Aaron was approaching a record set four decades earlier by Babe Ruth. He accomplished this (I read today) by being the singly most consistently great player in baseball history. This is something that can only be accomplished by a talented athlete who never takes a day off, mentally or physically, for decades.

In 1974, there were a lot of other things I didn’t know. My recollection of the game is vague, except for the part where Hank went long. While I watched the TV to see if this would be the at-bat that made him a legend (not even really understanding what that meant, but I was caught up in the spectacle), I did not know that Hank Aaron was receiving death threats every day. A lot of people were threatening to kill him if he, a Black man, were to break Ruth’s record.

When Aaron’s team relocated from Milwaukee to Atlanta, he wasn’t too stoked. He had played minor league ball in the South, and the fans had not been pleasant. But his team moved, and so did he, and he quietly became a voice of racial justice in Georgia.

But (I read today), rather than being filled with anticipation at breaking a legendary record, Aaron was living in hell, and just wanted that final home run that put an end to the conflict, one way or another. That angers me, that such an accomplishment would only be a source of catharsis, rather than joy. That the last part of the climb to that summit would be tainted by fear of something not natural but simply evil.

Aaron broke the record set by a man who played in a league that excluded black players. Imagine what might have become of Ruth’s numbers if he had had to face Satchel Paige occasionally, or any of a number of powerful pitchers and fielders relegated to the Negro Leagues.

Aaron’s record was eventually broken by the bioscience industry, with Barry Bonds as its representative.

Neither of those two were dealing with thousands of hostile letters every week. Neither of those were just wanting to get this whole thing behind them.

Hammerin’ Hank, you’re still my hero. You’re still the home run king.

Fun Fact: Hatchet detector

You are watching or reading or scrolling past a political ad. In that ad there is a photograph of a public figure. If that figure’s mouth is open, it’s an attack ad. Every time.

1

A Cocktail Challenge

Your assignment, kids, is to come up with a cocktail with the following name: The Tears of Q Spirit. If you would prefer to avoid politics, The Tears of Ben Roethlisberger is an acceptable non-organic substitute.

Barring obvious troll recipes that include bologna or Barton’s QT, I will drink all the entries and judge them. There might be a prize, but even if there is, it will probably be something you don’t want. Feel free to suggest a prize, even if you don’t enter the contest.

Back in the heyday of this blog, I might have been able to expect as many as four entrants in this contest, but now, well, I’m just hoping for a chuckle. If you choose to answer on Facebook, I’ll even pop over there to check it out.

1

Trump’s Virtual Impeachment

Today a handful of executives yanked Trump’s megaphone out of his hands. Given the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. I was gleeful when I heard the news. But still, a handful of executives took the megaphone out of the hands of a major political figure. That’s… unsettling.

Given the Circumstances. Ultimately, Facebook and Twitter and the rest had no choice, and that is not their failing. Although the platforms are (currently) shielded from legal liability for things people say through their services, when someone promotes violence, someone must be held accountable. Currently, the individuals who promote hate and violence on those platforms are doing so in secure anonymity or implicit immunity.

You can’t protect both the platform and the individuals who use it. Someone must be held accountable.

The tech companies are seeing how that is shaking out. The party of individual responsibility is shrieking that they are being censored for irresponsible speech, but will block every effort to hold individuals responsible for what they say online. On the other side, the Democrats are intent on finding someone to blame.

Ultimately, I don’t see any way forward that doesn’t hold individuals responsible for the things they say. That means that when someone named RegularJoe456 posts a comment promoting violence, that Martha Haas, the person who lives behind that name, is held accountable.

And Fer Feck’s sake, let’s all understand that inciting violence and threatening someone’s life are not free speech. Never have been, never will be. Also libel and slander laws still apply on the Interwebs. Free speech does not mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. Free speech does not mean a company is legally required to publish your bullshit.

There can be no freedom without responsibility. And until people are held accountable for their speech on the Internet, the companies that enable that speech will have no choice but to police their platforms.

5

Blam!

“EMBRACE ME!” the hand grenade cries.

About a year ago, I wrote that the impeachment of Donald Trump would provide Republican leadership with a historic opportunity. I asked you all to picture people rowing a canoe in choppy waters, while a fizzing hand grenade rolled around their feet.

The paddlers are, of course, the Republican Party, and the hand grenade is, of course, Donald Trump. The Democrats came along and said, “We INSIST you throw that fizzing hand grenade out of your boat!” (About the fizzing – many hand grenades have fuses; once the pin is pulled and the lever is flipped, there is fizzing, for a few seconds before detonation.)

The Republicans had a choice: Save themselves or defy their opponents. They chose to defy their opponents. They picked up the hand grenade and held it to themselves.

Now the hand grenade is detonating, and while I thought the worst-case scenario for the Republicans was losing the senate, in fact there is a much worse outcome. For them. I’m kind of stoked.

Midterm elections almost always swing against the sitting president. In normal times Republicans could dream of recapturing both houses of congress two years from now. Heck, they made pretty good progress in the House of Representatives this year. They won key legislatures to keep their flagrant gerrymandering alive.

In fact, there’s only one thing that could change that outcome. Things would actually be looking pretty good for Republicans now, were it not for the hand grenade detonating in their canoe.

I am in the short term simultaneously frightened and gleeful at the passing events. Tomorrow the “Sedition Caucus” will go on record, putting their names on an attempt to nullify the certified votes of the people of the United States of America. Outside Trump will wave his tiny fists in the air and the Proud Boys will answer.

Donald Trump is no smarter than any other hand grenade, and cares for the people around him even less. Now he’s so far off the range that Tom fucking Cotton is sounding like a reasonable person.

You had your chance, kids. The Democrats gave it to you on a silver platter. Now you simpering, spineless, cynical anything-to-please-the-base cowards are going down with the ship.

2

Diversity

If there is a big decision and everyone in the room agrees, then someone is missing from the room.

2

“Cancel Culture” My Ass

Let’s cut straight to the bone. Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the United States of America. He led armies that killed thousands and thousands of US servicemen. You can’t say “I support the troops” and “General Lee was OK” without being a hypocrite.

But now, as his effigy is removed from places of honor throughout this nation, crybabies are accusing us of engaging in “cancel culture”. The implication of this phrase is that we are rewriting history, changing the past, and removing inconvenient truths.

That is the opposite of what is happening. When I was growing up, General Lee was a genius general who reluctantly chose to fight for the cause of slavery. Here and now, I call bullshit on textbooks that were edited to pass muster in Texas and the south. Would a court let me off for reluctantly murdering someone? No. Lee had a choice, he made it, and he is a traitor.

What is being canceled is the alternate history that made confederate generals into great men. (Many of them weren’t even very good generals.) What’s being canceled is our willingness to overlook the flaws of our founding fathers. What’s being canceled is our communal agreement to forget uncomfortable facts.

The wing-nuts who coined “Cancel Culture” want to make you think there is a liberal cabal intent on erasing facts. But that’s not what’s really happening. There is a liberal cabal all right, and they are dedicated to adding facts to the debate. If those facts make people uncomfortable, too fucking bad.

What the wing-nuts call Cancel Culture is all about addition, not subtraction, and it is a good thing.

2

The Case of the Missing Episodes

A while back I wrote a silly bit of serial fiction in these pages called Allison in Amimeland. I went back to read over the story so far, and I enjoyed it, but I got the the end, and I asked myself, “What happened to fencing club?” One of my favorite episodes wasn’t there. One of the silliest episodes, that took a convention of anime (and plenty of other action genres) and had fun with it.

Then there were the parts where Hitomi and Allison trained together, parts that touched on other anime themes. Missing. Where were they?

Apparently at some point I decided those episodes belonged in later chapters. I had wondered why in conversations with people who had Read AiA that they didn’t respond when I talked about some of my favorite bits.

But they’re not in the “drafts” section of this blog. There are some old Jer’s Novel Writer documents that have some of the published AiA chapters, and some html exports from Jer’s Novel Writer than even reference one of the missing chapters. But the chapters themselves are nowhere to be found. I am bummed.

I have other higher-priority writing projects right now. Too many of them. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to do any of them until the inaugural episode of the fencing club sequence is restored and safely published here at MR&HBI. So AiA chapter two may be on the horizon.

On a side note, some of the formatting has been lost in previous AiA episodes; I’ll be restoring that shortly. While I rewrite some of the best silly bits to kick off Chapter 2, feel free to go read Chapter 1.

2

Are We There Yet?

There are times I just keep loading news sites waiting for the headlines to change. I’ve come to realize that all I want is to read, “It’s over.”

1

I Learned Two Things Today

Today while reading a math puzzle column I have mentioned before, I learned two things.

First, there is a mathematical concept called a derangement. Second, there is (or at least was) a publication called Journal of Recreational Mathematics, which is about the best title for any publication ever. Were I remotely qualified, I would revive it, but I’m actually not even qualified to subscribe to it.

1

Tools I Used While Installing a New Range Hood

An almost-comprehensive list of the tools I (and the Official Sweetie) used to install a new hood over our cooktop.

  • box knife
  • scissors
  • extension cord (green, 2-prong)
  • Craftsman variable-speed drill motor
  • Ryobe “drill saw” (sucked)
  • safety goggles
  • drill bits (various sizes)
  • straight steel aviation snips
  • left-turn steel snips
  • right-turn steel snips
  • flashlight, large
  • flashlight, small
  • table lamp with zebra stripes, fluorescent
  • Skil saber saw
  • stud finder (go ahead, say the joke)
  • MacBook Pro, to search for other tools
  • 2014 Mini Countryman, to fetch tools
  • Malco duct crimper (surprisingly fun!)
  • pencil
  • tape measure
  • paper towel
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • disinfectant spray
  • gauze
  • first-aid tape
  • heavy work gloves
  • chisel (3/8″)
  • Black and Decker circular saw
  • extension cord (orange, 3-prong)
  • 12″ rail clamp
  • 1/2″ socket
  • 1/4″ socket
  • 3/8″ socket
  • socket wrench, small
  • large-to-small socket adapter
  • socket wrench, large
  • small metal stool (pink)
  • Tacx bicycle repair stand (the key piece!)
  • wooden shims
  • digitally-controlled Dremel motor
  • analog-controlled Dremel motor
  • router attachment for Dremel motor
  • cutting bit for Dremel motor (x5)
  • Beats Audio over-ear headphones (for ear protection)
  • pointy hole-punch thing
  • Dyson upright vacuum cleaner
  • ratchet-drive screwdriver handle
  • Philips-head screwdriver attachment
  • long Phillips-head screwdriver bit (in drill motor)
  • hacksaw
  • carpentry ruler combination square (you’d think there’d be a better name for these)
  • Iron Horse sawhorses
  • Wood rasp
  • towel
  • Band-aid
  • hammer

It always ends with the hammer.

3

So, This Donald Trump Guy..

There’s a reality TV star making all kinds of headlines lately, saying the most bizarre and flat-out crazy stuff. People have been calling him a liar for decades now, but that misses the core of it: When he speaks, at that moment, Donald Trump believes what he is saying is the truth.

It is a particular skill some people have, that everything they say is by definition true. The words might come out of his mouth from a place somewhere around his gonads, but by the time those words get out of his mouth, into his ears and from there to his brain, they are simple truth, wrapped by his wisdom and galvanized by his intellect.

Bonus reinforcement if a major media network slavishly parrots the nonsense.

By now Trump is surrounded by a hand-picked bunch of slavish sycophants who only feed him selected information that reinforces his entrenched beliefs. Those simpering toadies present only the data that reinforces Trump’s delusion — a positive result in a questionable poll, or an anecdote from someone who got laughed out of court. The laughing-out part is not part of the presentation.

All Trump hears is “facts” that prove him right, and Rupert Murdoch makes sure he sees that same nonsense on his television screen. If one carefully hears only that information, then one could come up with some pretty whacked-out ideas.

Trump has made sure that the only voices he hears are the ones that feed his delusion. Part of the delusion is that he can ignore that he has done that. It just so happens that the “best people” are the ones who tell him what he wants hear.

But I have to give credit where due. While Trump says things he (at the moment) believes, based on the nonsense his staff is feeding him, he’s not above using the moment to bilk his supporters. The money people are giving him for his shameful court challenges is going straight into his pockets. If he makes enough, maybe is pal/creditor Vlad won’t have to break his legs.

2