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.