Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Santa, Godzilla and Jesus Walk Into A Bar: Chapter 1: No orphans were harmed in the making of this story.

This might be my favorite Xmas story I ever wrote; if you've read it before, maybe read it again. If you haven't, then here's the first installment of the story, from back in 2011:

and Jesus
Walk Into A Bar"
The Greatest Xmas Story Ever Told.

(By me.)

No orphans were harmed in the making of this story.

And only one orphan was harmed in the telling of it.

On the street in front of Nick, who makes UFOs for a living – it’s a long story, and there’s no time to explain it right now because we’re only moments away from something really important happening --  was a tiny brass trumpet.

It was dirty.

It was covered in soot and laying in a puddle of slush next to a crumpled pack of cigarettes, and looked as though it had a lipstick smear on it, on the wrong end, and maybe some teeth marks, too.

So naturally, Nick picked it up and was just seconds away from blowing into it when the door to the bar he’d just been told to leave opened up behind him and he heard the voice of the man who’d told him to leave, saying:

“Okay, okay. So here’s this one: Santa, Godzilla, and Jesus walk into a bar…

and Nick paused with the dirty lipstick-smeared horn up to his mouth and listened because with a set up like that who wouldn’t, and then that important thing you were told was going to happen but you already forgot about it happened:

A body slammed to the ground in front of Nick, falling into, as it happens, the exact same puddle that Nick had just pulled the trumpet out of. How’s that for irony? We’re only just getting started, too.

Sirens immediately started up all around Nick, and from both ends of the street – he was in the middle of the block – came cop cars racing towards him, almost as if they’d been waiting for just this.

(They had been.)

Nick squatted down and looked at the body in front of him. It was a large man, laying on his stomach.  His face was turned to the side, his eyes closed. Somehow, the fedora the man wore, which Nick hadn’t noticed until that moment, had stayed on when the man had fallen to the puddle from wherever it was he’d fallen from.

All the buildings on the street being three stories or shorter, Nick didn’t bother looking up above him.  The man had fallen straight down from the sky, Nick knew, because it had happened right in front of his eyes.

“We’ll take care of this, sir,” said the surprisingly sexy cop who was suddenly standing in front of him. Nick blinked up at her, and saw her eyes narrow in a fetchingly cute way.

“Where’d you get that horn?” she said.

Nick looked down at his hand, still poised near his mouth.

“It’s a trumpet,” he said.

The cop reached for her waist, and Nick made his second regrettable decision that day, the first being “admitting to the bartender that he had no money before he ordered.”

He ran.

The third regrettable decision he made a second later when he looked back and saw the sexy lady cop lifting up the dead bum’s jacket, and noticed the dead bum had wings.

PART TWO COMING SOON. Or if you want you can buy the entire story all at once here. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Merry Guckmas!

This was originally posted in 2008. That's right: I'm recycling posts.


Christmas season hit full swing this weekend at our house, with activities both traditional (the putting up of the tree), nontraditional (the throwing of the "L") and the newly-traditional.

In the "newly traditional" category of holiday fun (?) I can now include the Annual Lights Going Out And Decision To Just Keep Our Eyes Higher Up On The Tree. When something happens twice in a row, it is either phenomenal bad luck or a tradition. I consider it a tradition, since I am trying to to keep my life in perspective by reminding myself that what I usually consider to be phenomenal bad luck, like the lights going out on my Christmas tree, would not be considered bad luck in 98% of the world, where "phenomenal bad luck" would be less likely to mean "now I have to crawl under the tree and unplug some plugs and then plug them back in," and would be more likely to mean "an alligator just ate Grandpa."

So it has become a tradition that at some unknown point after putting up the tree, the lights will go out unexpectedly, plunging me into darkness and making me stop doing what I'm doing (this year, it was looking up Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CDs online) and start doing what I'd rather not be doing, which is moving the gates away from Fort Christmas and crawling under the tree to "fix" things the only way I know how to fix them: unplugging and plugging in the lights a few times.

When that did not work, I then went to Plan B, which was "unplug the lights, find the next lowest plug, and plug that into the extension cord." That worked; all the lights except the now-disconnected strand went back on and the tree began glowing with all of the peace and love and hastily-assembled nature of the holidays at our house, leaving us free to look at the tree and enjoy it if we do not look at the lowest set of branches which are now unlit, and leaving me to also briefly wonder if it was possible, since this exact same thing happened last year, if it was possible that I'd taken the defective strand of lights last year and had not thrown them away, but instead had put them in the box with the others, and also if it was possible that I'd not only done that but I'd also put the defective lights on first, just as I had last year.

All of which is possible, given the quality of the lighting and electrical work in our house. After all, I wasn't able to assemble all of the Christmas decorations. Our outdoor decorations -- Giant Rudolph, The Drunken Reindeer, and Pete The Patriotic (And Now Christmas-y) Parrot -- have not been put up yet because each time I tried to put them up, something came up that distracted me.

The thing that distracted me on Saturday, which was Christmas Decoratin' Day, was the Poop Emergency that took valuable time out from putting up the tree and diverted me to less-fun activities like "removing everything from Mr F's bed, including Mr F, to wash and sanitize it." We had to do that because of the Poop Emergency, which Sweetie discovered and which was therefore her fault even though I had to clean it up.

It was about 1:30 in the afternoon, and I was 1/3 of the way through the tree, hitching branches and layering lights on while I watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Sweetie had gone upstairs to do something. She was "taking a break," from whatever else it had been that she was doing. I heard her calling me from upstairs and asked what she needed and she said "Mr F has taken off his pants and pooped all over everything."

I am a clearheaded thinker. I immediately and clearheadedly proceeded with my three-step emergency plan, which is (a) pause the DVD so that I don't miss the part where Clark goes sledding, (b) head upstairs and (c) mentally blame Sweetie for this because if she had not gone into their room to check on them, we would not have known about the Poop Emergency. Which may not sound fair, given that we would have discovered it eventually, "eventually" being when we went to get the Babies! up at four p.m., but if we'd waited until four p.m. to discover it, then there would have been no risk that I would miss the Clark-sledding part, and also I would have been able to put up the entire tree without taking a break to lift a disgustingly-coated Mr F out of his crib -- carefully, at arm's length-- to begin the process of sanitizing his room.

Mr F had a Poop Emergency because he likes to take his pants off, and the results of that emergency was that roughly 80% of his crib, and 80% of him, were untouchable. I lifted him out of his crib and said "What is going on here?"

"Guck," he told me, which constitutes the only time that Mr F's main word, guck, actually answered the question or contributed meaningfully to the conversation. There are commercials on TV right now in which a mom follows her kid around with one of those annoying cards where you can record a greeting, trying to get the kid to say the greeting for her. Which really makes the card the least thoughtful thing you can give someone for Christmas, doesn't it? Those cards cost, I bet, about $5.00 each, and then you have to record the person's voice on it, and mail it, so it's $5.00 plus some time and effort, the end result of which is to send this message: I am obligated to spend some money and time on you, but I do not want to spend money on something you really want, so I got you this card.The "personal greeting" portion of that card ought to say this: Here is my voice. You could hear my voice if I just called you on the phone, but I am not going to do that. I am giving you the gift of the sound of me.

I feel the same way about those cards that play a snippet of music for the person when they open it up. It's like giving someone a mixtape, only there's no mix, and they only get a portion of the sound. If a mixtape says I have all these emotions about you that are best captured by these 22 songs in this order, then the audiocard says I feel part of an emotion about you, best expressed as a snippet of a Ramones song.

I may feel that way, I guess, because I know, deep down inside, that no message would ever be communicated by the Babies!, so my family could not possibly get a cute card which opens to a cheery Babies! style greeting. Mr F and Mr Bunches steadfastly refuse to be cute in any kind of commemorative way. When they were younger, at about one year old, Mr Bunches craved attention in weird ways. He would, for example, try to steal attention from Mr F like this:  Mr F would cough, or spit up, or do something else that would arouse concern, and we would say "Are you all right?"

Mr F never responded to that question. But Mr Bunches did. He would respond to us asking after Mr F's health by twisting his head sideways, crossing his eyes, and sticking out his tongue while making choking noises -- trying to get us to ask him if he was all right. He would do that three, four, five, ten times in a row... until the camera appeared, at which point he'd stop.

Mr Bunches plays the piano, too. He will walk up and hit keys and sing, saying "Yeah!" in different keys and tones. I've tried at least fifteen times to get that on video, to no avail. Last week when I came home early they were bouncing on the couch, up and down and smiling and laughing, in a video-perfect way that would be ideal for recording and then sending to Disney executives with a note on it telling them where to send my twenty million dollars. They did that for about five minutes, so I got up and left the room and came back with my camera, hidden behind my back, and they were still jumping. I pulled the camera out, and they stopped, in unison.

So I would never be able to get Mr F or Mr Bunches to talk into the card and send it to my relatives as cheap-out method of "giving" them a "present," and even if I could, the Babies! don't bother talking yet, at least not using our words. They've got their words, and they're sticking with them, so they'd never say "Merry Christmas" into a card. Mr Bunches says "No," a lot -- often enough that it's pretty clear he doesn't know what "No" means. Try to pick him up from climbing into Fort Christmas and he'll holler "Nononononono" and you'll think "Oh, he knows what that means." Then offer him a cookie and he'll take that while saying "Nonononono," and eating the cookie. It's a malleable word.

As is Mr F's word, "Guck," which is what he told me when I took time out from building Fort Christmas to clean up the Poop Emergency. "Guck!" he said to me as I picked him out, and "Guck!" he told me when I put him back in the now-sterilized crib, and "Guck!" he said to me later that night when we showed him and Mr Bunches Fort Christmas. If I could get him to talk into a card, I'd just be wishing people a Merry Guckmas.

Fort Christmas is what I call our tree this year. The Babies! are in the phase where they like throwing things and running -- a phase that has stretched from when they were first able to throw and run -- and we did not want them to run into or throw the Christmas tree, so we hit on the very Christmas-y idea of putting a fence around the tree. That beat the alternative, which was to suspend the tree from the ceiling, and which I very seriously considered not because it would be safe but, to be honest, because that would be kind of cool, wouldn't it? A tree that hangs from the ceiling and rotates slowly?  The only things that kept me from hanging the tree from the ceiling, from decorating the tree and then attaching a rope to it and hauling it up off the ground to levitate, victoriously and Christmas-ily, above the living room, the only things were (a) I could not figure out how to plug in the lights if I did that, and (b) I could not figure out how to keep Sweetie from noticing that I'd hung the tree from the ceiling.

So, next year, maybe. Until then, we have Fort Christmas, the fence around the tree, but no other Christmas decorations. We do not have indoor knickknacks like a Nativity Scene or snowmen or angels, due to the aformentioned throwing/running phase; the only knickknack we tried to set up so far was Cookie Monster, a statute that sings "I'll have a Blue Christmas without me cookie" in a horrifying voice, and Cookie Monster has already been thrown enough times that his singing is becoming disturbingly erratic; and, we don't have outdoor decorations because I haven't been able to put up the yard decorations due to distractions, like the Poop Emergency and like the need to get a new extension cord.

We need a new extension cord because the old one has a giant gash in it, a gash I put in it when I was briefly attempting to use the hand saw to cut down parts of the Old Shed this last summer, and a gash I didn't recall until yesterday, when I was going to set up Giant Rudolph, The Drunken Reindeer, and Pete The Patriotic (And Now Christmas-y) Parrot and grabbed the extension cord and saw the gash in it, and considered, for a moment, whether it was likely, or only kind of likely that if I just used the extension cord anyway, something bad would happen, and also whether it was likely or only kind of likely that Sweetie would find out. That's how I gauge what are good ideas and what are bad ideas: I imagine what the result would be of the idea's worst outcome, like if we were to be standing outside the smoldering remnants of our house the next day and Sweetie says "How could this have happened?" and I would have to worry that a fireman would say "It happened because someone plugged all these inflatable yard decorations into an extension cord that really was just a bunch of exposed wiring, and then that someone for some reason put all that exposed wiring into snow, which is water, after all, and which conducts electricity perfectly."

Then I also considered whether I would get sued if someone touched our yard and was electrocuted, and that would be far, far worse, I assumed, for neighbor relations than simply not raking my leaves. People will put up with a lot from neighbors, the way my neighbors have put up with my yard and with that dead tree that I didn't cut down for a long time because I figured it was cheaper if the tree simply fell than if I had it cut down (it did eventually fall, and it was cheaper). But they won't put up with electrifying your whole yard. I assume.

I decided that it would be better to go the next day to get an extension cord, which I did, at about five o'clock, from the World's Most Depressing Mall, where I also had to go to get a gift card for a coworker -- she specifically requested one from a store that is only found at the World's Most Depressing Mall -- so I took the Babies! with me to the World's Most Depressing Mall to get the coworker a gift card from the fabric store (again: she requested it.) And we were going to get an extension cord, too, but then I got distracted by the idea, and then the reality, that the Babies! could play in the mall, so I let them do that, and that's when we had the Nontraditional Throwing of the L.

The World's Most Depressing Mall is a mall here in Madison that has, maybe, three stores in it, and one of those stores is the "Department of Motor Vehicles Express Center." If a measure of how good a mall is can be had by determining how many cookie stores it has, a measure of how bad a mall is can be done by determining how many of its spaces are taken up by nonstores. One mall that I used to live across from had a social security office and a public library in it. That's a bad mall. The World's Most Depressing Mall is not much better: there's a fabric store, and a shoe store, and a baby-furniture store that's always closed, and the TJ Maxx Store where Sweetie was once taken in by a sign that promised a comforter was only $19, and then when they charged her $39 she was too embarrassed to say she didn't want it anymore or to ask why that comforter was in the $19 bin--

-- what keeps people like Sweetie and I from getting rich, really, is that we are too embarrassed about money to insist, when we pick out a comforter from the $19 bin, that either we pay $19 for that comforter, or that we don't buy the comforter. Instead, we just pay the $39 and then complain about it--

-- and then there's a pizza place and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and I think a store that sells rocks, and not much else.

What kind of a lure is the Department of Motor Vehicles for a mall? I always thought the point of malls was to band a bunch of stores together so that when you had to go to one, like when you just had to get an Orange Julius, you'd see all these other stores and shop there, too. But the mixture of shops at the World's Most Depressing Mall seems designed to drive people away. Who in the history of the world has ever thought: I need some fabric, and to renew my driver's license. It's too bad I can't combine those into one trip.

Beyond the bad stores, there's also the fact that the mall is in between two actual good malls so that you would never go to the World's Most Depressing Mall unless you absolutely had to, and beyond that there's also the fact that almost nobody absolutely has to go to the World's Most Depressing Mall so that it's almost always completely deserted, which it was Sunday night when I went to the fabric store to get the requested gift card.

As we were walking out of the fabric store, the Babies! in the stroller were getting restless and wanted to walk around. Letting them out of the stroller to walk around a mall is a terrible idea. It's an idea that I give in to all the time, anyway, because I give in to all of their demands, but it's a terrible idea, especially because Sweetie was at home so I was on my own with two two-year-olds who were restless.

But the World's Most Depressing Mall was empty. Aside from me, I bet there were only ten other people in there, two of whom were mall walkers doing laps. Keep in mind that this is a mall. During the Xmas season. Total of ten people.

But for me it was ideal: I had twin two-year-olds in an indoor, tiled, clean, enclosed space that was, for all intents and purposes, empty. So I let them out, and they began running, which in a real mall would be dangerous because real malls are filled with child molesters and teenagers, but in this mall it was no problem at all because there was nobody here except mall walkers, and I was pretty sure if they tried to abduct the Babies! I could catch them as they tried to mall walk away.

So Mr F and Mr Bunches went tearing down the mall to do what they like best, which is run and throw things and also to bang on windows and doors because those make good echo-ing sounds when you hit them really hard. I mostly let them do that, at least when nobody else was around. I did that parenting thing that I bet everyone else does, too, which is this: Let your kids do whatever they want to do when nobody is looking and then when somebody comes along, act like you care.

So Mr F and Mr Bunches would be pounding and hitting the glass on the front of the fabric store, and I'd just be watching them, and then the Mall Walkers would come around on a lap, and I'd say "Now, boys, don't hit the store. That's naughty," and stop them until the Mall Walkers left and then it was right back to whatever they wanted to do. I like to think of that as Focused Parenting.

I also let them throw the L around, because they like the sound the L makes, especially on tile and when it echoes. The "L" is one of the six remaining magnetic letters in the alphabet that was on our refrigerator, letters that stick to the 'fridge and then can be put into this little device that would sing a song about the letter. The song went:

L goes LLLL.
L goes LLLL.
Every letter makes a sound
And L goes LLLL.

If you put say, "G" into the device, it was more complicated:

G goes Gee.
G goes Guh.
Every letter makes a sound.
And G goes Gee.
And Guh.

Which made the song technically incorrect: Every letter doesn't make just "a" sound; some letters make more than one sound. They should have sung Every letter makes at least one sound or Every letter makes some sounds when the letter is one, like G, that makes more than one. But it's all academic now, because the device no longer works since it was not built to withstand being thrown repeatedly, and because we only have six letters left on the refrigerator. The rest have been taken into the bathtub, or lost on car trips, or are under the stove, where they have stuck themselves to the bottom of the stove and so could only be removed from under there if I was willing to pull the stove out and tilt it forward and peel the letters off, which I am not willing to do because I think doing that would wreck the stove and so I'm willing to risk having magnetic food to avoid ruining the stove.

The "L" came with us to the mall and was in the stroller, so I let the Babies! take it out and throw it down the mall, listening to it clink and clack and echo, and I even took the L and threw it for them so that it would bounce and make bigger clinking and clacking, which they loved so much that it drove them into bigger fits of pounding on the fabric store window, and also made them happy enough to talk.

"Nononononono," Mr Bunches would holler as he ran to get the L and have me throw it again.

"Guck," Mr F would tell me as he tried to get the L from Mr Bunches so that he could give it to me to throw again.

That was how we whiled away nearly an hour yesterday afternoon: throwing the L around the deserted World's Most Depressing Mall, after which I had to reluctantly conclude that we would not have time to get the extension cord to put up the inflatable decorations, a decision that left me with no more chores to do that day. I got the Babies! back into the car, flush with the excitement of having run around a mall. It was the highlight of their weekend. They'd paid little attention to Fort Christmas, they'd beaten up Cookie Monster, they'd been nonplussed by our drive to look at Christmas lights Friday and Saturday night, but here they were on Sunday evening, sparkle-eyed and apple-cheeked and breathless with the kind of excitement that only comes 'round once a year.

Once a year, that is, unless I find myself needing some fabric and to renew my driver's license.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Good thing Obamacare fixed health care...

... so we never have to think about it again, right? NOTHING TO FIX HERE. Keep that in mind when the GOP -- soon to be NUMBER ONE IN PEDOPHILE SENATORS!! -- threatens to tear down Obamacare, too. What we had before was terrible. Obamacare is terrible. What we will have next is terrible.

Here's what got me started thinking about this. From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Let him read you a story

My story, "Pete and Repeat Went Out In A Boat" has been turned into an audio story by Tall Tales TV:

Tall Tale TV is a product of a guy named Chris Herron. He turns short stories into audio stories that you can listen to, emphasizing scifi and fantasy.  His channel can be found by clicking here.

Here's Chris' story:

My name is Chris Herron, and I narrate audiobooks. In 2015, poor control of my diabetes left me legally blind for the better part of a year. The doctors predicted an 80% chance I would never see again, but I changed the way I was living and through sheer willpower beat the odds. During this time I couldn't read or write. Two things that I had been turning to for comfort since I was a small child. With the sheer amount of stress I was under, this was devastating. My wife took me by the arm, lead me into the local library, and read out titles of audiobooks to me. I chose the audiobook versions of books I had loved such as the Disc World series, Name of the Wind, Harry Potter and more. They brought my favorite stories to life in ways I never thought possible, and helped me through the darkest time of my life. Once my vision recovered, I maintained a love for audiobooks. I decided I would turn my focus from being a writer to becoming a narrator. I devised Tall Tale TV as a way to help out all the amazing authors in the writing communities I had come to love before my ordeal. I created Tall Tale TV to help aspiring authors by providing them with a promotional audiobook video. A way to showcase their skills with the written word. They say the strongest form of advertisement is word of mouth, so I provide a video to a platform of readers to help get people talking. Help them spread the word.

So give my story a listen and then check out the rest of Chris' stories!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Future: A True Story

Me: I wonder if the boys will still like going to the playground when they're twenty.

Sweetie: I can just see you taking them to the park, with your cane and your monocle, saying to the other kids get off my lawn.

Me: Why do I have a monocle?

Me: Do I become evil?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A minute with Mr Bunches

As I got ready to peel the potatoes...

"Dad, are you going to shave the potatoes?"

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Quotent Quotables

"...Space. The place where British people do not go because the British space programme is, what, two guys with a really long stick?”

“In that way, Jed, it is very much like U.S. healthcare.”

Tigerman, by Nick Harkaway


28,000,000 adults in the US have no health insurance because even with Obamacare, health insurance is still too expensive for them.

3 out of 4 Americans work for a company that does not offer them health insurance.

Uninsured people who end up in the hospital receive fewer diagnostic tests and services and have higher mortality rates than insured people in the hospital.

Since the passage of Obamacare, health insurance companies have seen their profits and stock prices rise higher and faster than nearly any other type of company in the S&P 500.

Plus we don't have a space program either.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A reminder: George W. Bush was our worst president ever.

Democrats recently decided to become even more Republican than they were already (and than they have been since Bill Clinton first moved the party significantly to the right in the 1990s, helping create our current world, in which two major political parties compete to see who can be more cruel to the middle class and poor.)

That rightwards-and-downwards shift by Democrats is reflected in numerous ways, most recently in reports that Democrats were now more approving than ever of George W. Bush, the worst president in United States' history. It's not true that a majority of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Bush now (only 48% do) and the way the question was asked ("Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bush?") doesn't demonstrate approval of any specific policy or policies Worst Ever pushed through, but still.

But still.

So some reminding.

Bush is credited with a $1,300,000,000,000 tax cut as one of his first achievements in office. Those tax cuts left unchanged the taxes paid by people earning between $17,000-$68,000 a year. They were a subsidy, at the expense of that lower middle class, to the top earners, who saved a minimum of $25,000 per year on their taxes. That's minimum. A person earning $374,000 per year in 2001 has in his or her pocket an extra $325,000 by 2012 as a result of Bush's tax cuts. A person earning $68,000 per year then has no extra money now.  Those tax cuts repealed the estate tax, allowing the rich to pass on their wealth without any taxation.

The deficits created by the Bush tax cuts (which never produced the surpluses predicted, because: economics) will account for fully 1/3 of the national debt by next year.  Bush and the rich borrowed from the poor in 2018 to finance a spending spree that caused the economy to crash in 2008 and left our current government impoverished. Again: $1 of every $3 the federal government owes today is directly because of the 2001 Bush tax cuts. (The economy began to grow faster after the tax cuts were phased back out in 2012.) (But in exchange for phasing taxes back up in some cases, other things such as the capital gains tax cut were made more permanent.)

Bush started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter without any reason and the former without any reasoning. 20,000+ Americans have been wounded in Afghanistan, 2,800+ killed. The numbers are just under 32,000 wounded and just over 4,000 dead in Iraq.

The Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina was more callous and less effective than Trump's response to the three hurricanes this year. Bush refused to agree to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. US greenhouse gas emissions rose steadily from 2001 to 2007.

Bush's administration engineered bailouts of numerous businesses that caused the financial crisis. They turned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into guarantors and rescuers of businesses, allowing risky investments and commodifying people's mortgages so that to this day people are foreclosed on by lenders with little risk to the lender and lots of loss of homes to people who did not cause the problem but are suffering the fix. The federal government took over a major insurance company and made low-interest loans to businesses to guide them through the financial crisis, deals that supposedly were anathema to the Republicans but which we know were not, because Republicans use government to benefit the rich while Democrats use government to benefit themselves (and they are also the rich.)

When Richard Nixon died he was given a state funeral and honored by genteel comments from everyone. People forgot that he was a criminal who only avoided prison because the man he gave the job to pardoned him, and people forgot that Nixon ordered peace talks to end in Vietnam so that he could be re-elected. 22,000 more people died before that war ended, all on Nixon's watch. He got a state funeral and honors for killing 22,000 young Americans. But at least it used to take a person dying before we forgave his sins and pretended everything was all right. George W. Bush pushed America into a ditch -- a ditch dug by Bill and Hillary Clinton and one that is being filled in above our heads by the Trumpocalypse, true, but it was Bush that put us here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

There goes 2020, here comes the Dickensian America of Tammany Hall.

California will vote in the 2020 primary on "Super Tuesday,"  Early primaries favor well-known candidates. Having lots of primaries at one time favors candidates with lots of money to compete in multiple states at the same time. Having lots of primaries early on means that well-known candidates with early fundraising advantages can effectively sew up a nomination before any other candidate can gain much traction, which is what happened in 2016.  Then after a number of early wins the leader seems to be a foregone conclusion and the funds -- as well as votes-- start moving towards the leader and away from challengers.

So a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who had broad support in the Democratic Party, had virtually no chance of winning the nomination in 2016 and would have even less in 2020.

Those are things largely beyond the Democratic Party's control. What is not beyond the Dems control is who the delegates are.  The Democratic National Committee is attempting to name as "superdelegates" for 2020 a lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. as well as a lobbyist for Venezuela's national petroleum company, among others. The party also ousted some minority members from power positions including the head of the Arab-American Institute, who had backed Sanders. Numerous Clinton backers and friends will now hold positions of power.

Superdelegates are not bound by primaries and can back who they want.

The Democrats' answer to losing to the Republicans in 2016 is to become more like the Republicans. We would not be noticeably better off if Hillary! were president, but we will be noticeably worse off as both parties continue to march steadfastly to the right.

Friday, October 20, 2017

These footnotes got a little out of hand but the point is this is cool music.

Last night I bought "Act 1- New Game" by Phillip Leon (son of writer extraordinaire* Andrew Leon). Andrew says it's good music to write to, and it is that -- it's got soundtrack written all over it -- but it's also just plain good music to do anything to.  You could listen to this music and go for a walk, or listen to this music and rail against rich people, or listen to this music and kneel for the National Anthem, or listen to this music and dream of the day when society finally stops letting rich f***s destroy the world and we can all be a little happier.

You can listen to the music and be a little happier, and for just $5** you can get the music for yourself and make Phillip Leon both a little happier, and a lot more likely to keep on making cool music like this.  Go buy your own copy here. 


**Come on it's FIVE BUCKS. Even I spent that much and I am the cheapest living human being.***

*** that's true. I won't buy a brown belt to wear with my brown pants because what am I the queen of England here?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shut up about celebrities giving away a miniscule amount of their net worth.

After losing faith in Captain Hammer yesterday, I got up this morning to read this headline over my Frosted Flakes (TM):

Chris Long Will Donate All His 2017 Game Checks To Charitable Causes

It's all over the headlines, at least the headlines that deal with athletes.  Chris Long is apparently an NFL player on the Eagles. He will make $1,000,000 this year and has already given away six of his paychecks (of six games) with 10 to go. Says Deadspin:

Long will donate the money to “organizations supporting educational equity and opportunity” based in the three cities he’s played in: St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia. He used his first six game checks to fund scholarships in Charlottesville, Va., which means he will use his whole 2017 salary to educate others. Long is in the first year of a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Eagles, and his base pay for the year is $1 million.
“I’m playing the entire 2017 NFL season without collecting income because I believe that education is the best gateway to a better tomorrow for EVERYONE in America,” Long said on his website. 

Apropos of what I said yesterday, though, Long has actually earned $88,000,000 in his career. He is giving away 1/88th of his total past earnings. He's about 30 years old. So if Chris Long lives to be 100, he will live another 70 years. If he never earns another penny again, he will have an average of $1,257,000 to spend each year for the next 70 years of his life.

His average earnings per year so far have been $9,798.000. Because of the way search engines work it is impossible to find out how much he might have donated in the past, so I can't comment on that.

People frequently justify paying millions of dollars to athletes by pointing out that they work very hard to do what they do, have short careers, and not everyone can do what they do. That is true of numerous other occupations, including lawyer and doctor and tax accountant and teacher. And while athletes careers are short, the fact that many of them make tens and hundreds of millions in a few years is not justified by a short career; most people do not make tens of millions in their lifetime.

Plus, Chris Long is the son of NFL and television star Howie Long, which means Chris had advantages growing up that many kids who aspire to be in the NFL do not have. He went to a private school where tuition starts, for pre-kindergarten, at $13,000+ per year, for example. He went to the University of Virginia as an undergraduate before going to the NFL as a 2nd overall draft pick. Going back to 1942, only 168 UVa players have ever played in the NFL. Is it possible that being the son of a former NFL player who had a television position at the time his son was playing helped attract the attention of NFL scouts to a college that places about 2 players per year on average into the NFL (out of 1,600 players total on active rosters at the start of the season?)

Deadspin, which is usually pretty good about pointing out hypocrisy in sports, played up the Chris Long story without batting an eye. But Chris Long's donation means very little in the life of Chris Long, who likely will have a long and fruitful career post-NFL as well, as a television personality or coach, and who already has earned more money than 10 other men will in their lifetime. Chris Long's million-dollar donation also means very little in the life of those who depend on donations for education.

In 2012, the Washington Post published an article on how grossly underfunded public schools are. In 2017 Complex published essentially the same story, updated.  America spends less than $10,000 per year, on average, per public school child. Attending an NFL game costs a fan, on average, $209 per game.    With 8 home games per year, an average NFL fan spends in excess of $1,600 just watching football. The Philadelphia Eagles average 69,000 fans per game; each home game you see Chris Long play in means that people voluntarily spent $14,421,000 that day alone to attend that game. If the Philadelphia Eagles (a company valued at $2,650,000,000 -- that's two billion) donated one game worth of attendance per year, they could increase public school spending by $14,00,000 per year. If each of the 32 NFL teams did that, it would amount to $461,472,000 worth of extra school spending.

The Philadelphia Eagles' owner, Jeff Lurie, is worth $2,000,000,000. If he would give up 1% of his money the way Chris Long gave up 1% of his, an extra $200,000,000 would be given to education.

So Chris Long's self-aggrandizing donation costs him little and does very little for public education in this country. And Chris Long's dedication to public education is questionable in the first place; not only did he go to private school, but he endorsed Gary Johnson in the 2016 election. Gary Johnson wanted to get rid of the Department of Education and wanted to privatize public education in New Mexico using the voucher system. Sound familiar? It's essentially the Trump/Scott Walker plan to dismantle public education.

In the end, Chris Long gets a ton of publicity to top off the Super Bowl ring he lucked into last year, all in exchange for making a 'sacrifice' that isn't. Chris Long is a phony and people who give him attention for this are playing into the myth that celebrities are worth celebrating.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Technically his character in "Firefly" had been fighting on the wrong side in that war, too.

Celebrities make millions of dollars, and lord it over regular people like us. While we (and I in particular) frequently rail against the billionaires who now run the country officially and previously and soon will run it unofficially when they return to their day jobs, it's important to remember that 'celebrities,' about whom there is little to celebrate, as they contribute nothing to life in any meaningful way, also have millions upon millions of dollars which they use selfishly.

And do not tell me that "celebrities" donate millions of dollars; a famous person who has $100,000,000 and donates $1,000,000 of that has donated 1% of his or her wealth, which is a miniscule amount, especially considering that the person would be left with $99,000,000, which is more money than any one person can spend in a lifetime and more than any one person should be allowed to have.  If you make $100,000 per year and donate $1,000 of your money to charity, you've made the same percentage donation, but have hurt yourself worse than the celeb who donates 1%, because you are left with only $99,000 and must go on working and earning money to continue to live; a 'celebrity' who is left with "only" $99,000,000 need never lift a finger again, literally. 

"Celebrities" make it worse when they use their star power to demand money from us not just for entertainment, but for charity, rather than simply contributing their own money and shutting up about it. If you call in to a charity and donate $100 because Seth Myers asked you to, do you get a raise at work and more attention from your boss? Likely not. But because the 'celebrity' was on TV, people will buy their album or watch their movie or whatever. So shut up about celebrity charity work, too.

This whole rant was set off by Captain Hammer's self-satisfied smug Instagram post there. I saw that just before I left for work this morning, and it enraged me. I love to travel. I love it. It is one of my favorite things to do. I don't get much of a chance to travel, though, as I had to point out to Captain Hammer in my responses:

I'd post more, but it's 8:20 a.m. and I have on my agenda today an appeal in a foreclosure case and then working to keep a client from being evicted from her house. After that I will probably work a bit on helping people whose cars were repossessed or whose kids were bullied at school, until I go home tonight to see if Mr F will sleep through the night at all, as he's not sleeping again -- hasn't slept well 6 of the last 7 days and slept only about 2 hours last night -- and we don't know why. 

But yeah after that I'll probably contact my travel agent and use some of the millions of bucks I earned pretending to be a space captain so that I can go jet around the world and crap all over people who work for a living.

Monday, October 09, 2017

"Escape From The T. Rex!"

Mr Bunches invented a game! It's called "Escape From The T. Rex." He designed it, and I drew it to his specifications.  Here are the game pieces:

Each player is a jungle explorer, and has to make their way along the treacherous path from Start to Finish:

You roll a die to move, but Mr Bunches decides how many steps to take in between the marked spaces.  This is intentional: Mr Bunches hates to lose (he is always the red explorer) so by not marking spaces on all the boards, he can decide (as he did tonight, for example) that if you roll a six and are pretty close behind him you move 6 tiny little spaces so you stay behind him.

There is, of course, a T. Rex:

Scientifically accurate

But the T. Rex only comes into play if you land on that space, in the middle of the board, labeled "Eaten By The T. Rex!"

If THAT happens, your piece is replaced with one of the pieces indicating that his head has been bitten off:

and you are either out of the game, or returned to start, or -- in one strange quirk tonight -- turned into an angel and then by magic your head is back.  (That happened to my piece, I think because I looked sad at being out of the game.)

If a person makes it all the way to Finish, then you have escaped the T. Rex and also beaten it so that it turns into a fossil:

Pretty sure that's EXACTLY how fossils are made. 

It is a VERY exciting game that combines the best of science, board games, and the thrill of Escaping From A T. Rex!

Monday, September 25, 2017

I think a cool thing to do would be to spend an entire day using ONLY Star Wars quotes.

Boom goes the dynamite
"... Only you can see then, Martin. You want to know why?"

"This is bullshit," Martin said.

"You've got the sight," Harrison said. "The third eye. The sixth sense."

"I don't see dead people," Martin said.

"No, you see worse. I've met people like you before. You have a talent. You don't need a gadget to make it work."

"Is there where you tell me to put away the targeting computer?"

-- We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Boys etc etc August!

Miniature golfing:

Swimming at the "Dolphin Pool" (So named for its dolphin-water fountain)

At Zipline Park. 

On our way to the Dolphins' Cove waterpark for Mr Bunches' early birthday present. No pictures from the waterpark, for non-waterproof-camera-related reasons. 

Babysitting Mr F's and Mr Bunches' nephew (my grandson) and taking him to the nature trail...

Mr F & Grandson at the splash park:

Swinging on the last weekend of summer...

Bonus Summer Day: Actually September 1, but I took the day off and we went bowling: 

Mr F has a "Green Machine," a Big Wheel for older kids, but it had already been delivered to the school by the weekend of September 2 (he uses it for phy-ed), so he was relegated to old school Big Wheels when playing outside: 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The boys are tenty-one, part two: pics from July

Sweetie and I agreed summer seemed less full of activities this year -- me busier with a new job and having fewer days off helped that. But we packed a lot in.

Stewart Lake, 

This is our nature walk to the natural springs and then the big hill we call "the mountain." We got to the springs, but this impending thunderstorm called off the hike up the mountain:

Free day at the Milwaukee Public Museum: Mr Bunches in the butterfly room

Us in the European village. 

Mr F in front of the Native Americans hunting buffalo display. Clearly excited by it!

We only stayed about 1 hour at the museum. It was supercrowded and Mr Bunches was made nervous by the dinosaur display where the dinosaurs seem VERY real and there are thunder noises in the background.

Swimming, then swinging at the beach down the street from us.

This was when we went to go wading up the river, right at the start. Mr F slipped and cut his ankle, and while it wasn't bad I didn't want it to get infected so we cut the trip short. Then weather kept us from ever finishing the trip, one of three traditional summer activities we had to skip that we'd done every year up to this one. 

The Vilas Zoo in Madison. Free, so we go all the time. 

Sad story alert! This is a splash park where Oldest Daughter brought her son (my grandson) and I took the boys. While Mr F and the grandson had a great time, Mr Bunches kept coming over and telling us that there were "troublemakers" squirting him (as shown below). We both thought he was just having fun and saying they were troublemakers because of the squirting, which, you know, splash park. We learned after we left that it had really bothered him, that he wanted to play with the horse squirters but was trying to get the kids to stop squirting him, and that in fact he wanted our help. I felt guilty for days.

I took him back to the splash park a month later, and he was worried about the troublemakers being there again. So I stuck by him and when a kid tried to squirt him, I explained to the kid that he did not want to be squirted, and Mr Bunches finally had a good time there.

This is what happens when you swim several days in a row...

Mr F finished off July lounging in our lower level, where my home office used to be but now it's becoming a playroom again.