Saturday, February 25th, 2017

My eyeglasses are the best cat toy our kitten has ever played with. If I’m sitting anywhere in the living room, I can’t set them down for a minute and he’s there, swatting them to the floor so he can chase them around.

I spent ten minutes looking for my glasses the other day before the light bulb went on and I got down on my knees so I could look under the sofa. There they were, way back against the wall all tangled up with the dust bunnies.

And it’s only my eyeglasses. My Darling B can leave her glasses lying around any old place. He won’t touch hers. Tell me how that’s fair.

cat toy | 5:25 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, February 24th, 2017

I’m going to miss my smoothie this morning. We were all out of vanilla soy milk, one of the ingredients we really can’t do without. This happened last Friday, too. There was maybe half a cup of soy milk left, so I stretched it with water. The results were, ah, not good, so I didn’t even go there today. We’ll have to lay in a more generous supply of soy milk when we go shopping this weekend because without my morning smoothie, I’m not a very happy camper. I’m not, say, suicidally depressed about the loss, it’s just that I could feel better about the world, and all it would take is a smoothie. Not much to ask. It’s vitally important not to overlook very small tweaks to achieving happiness.

anguishing loss | 5:54 am CDT
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I dreamed that we came home from work and found that our little red house had been moved so that it now sat shoulder-to-shoulder, as it were, with the house next door. “Didn’t there used to be a lot more room between our houses?” I asked My Darling B, possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever dreamed of myself saying because obviously there was a lot more than a finger’s width between the houses when we left for work that morning. Also, the spot where our house used to be was now a slab of concrete.

When I went to city hall to ask what happened to our house, they said they had to move it because of a plan, and that’s about as far as they could explain it. “What did you do with all of the stuff that was in our basement?” I asked, and the nice lady told me, “Oh, it’s all still down there.” She didn’t offer to get it out of its subterranean tomb.

slab | 5:47 am CDT
Category: dreams
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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Just how cold and hard and flinty does your little heart have to be to make you believe your most important mission in life is taking away the health care plans of 30 million people who couldn’t obtain it or afford it until the Affordable Care Act came along? Asking for some friends …

Q&A | 8:21 pm CDT
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Saturday, February 18th, 2017

I tried to stay up late last night and I got through Stephen Colbert’s monologue and his interview with Julie Andrews, then I was done. Managed to stay up past eleven, didn’t make it to eleven-thirty. Just didn’t have the juice. Of course, the big fat cheeseburger tranquilizing me from the inside out probably didn’t help nor, I think, did the beer I was drinking. If I want to stay up late tonight, I’ll have to be a bit more sensible about it, eat a salad for dinner and follow up with a cuppa decaf, then maybe get a nap. This is what you have to look forward to in your middle age, kids, if you want to stay up late enough to watch Colbert or Saturday Night Live.

I’m not sure I’m still in middle age, now that I think about it. The last half of middle age, maybe. When does middle age end and old age begin? I’m just going to pick and number and say 70. I like the sound of that. That’s still a few years away.

You’d think that after staying up past eleven and this being a Saturday, I’d get to sleep in late BUT NO, I DID NOT. Like clockwork, all three cats came to the bedroom door to whine for food. They’re good about leaving us alone all night long, but when the clock strikes five they’re right there. Almost as if they can count. Before we brought the kitten home, I’d just shuffle into the kitchen, dump an indeterminate amount of kibble in two dishes, leave it out for them to fight over, and shuffle back to bed, but the kitten is a crazy-ass force to be reckoned with. If I were to leave three bowls out, he would find a way to eat all of them, leaving none for the other two, or so little as to make no difference. He still eats his din-dins in a separate room. Even if I elect to leave him locked up in there and go back to bed, as I did this morning, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m going to fall asleep again after doing all that running around.

But I did try. Laid there for about a half-hour. The bed was super cozy-warm and the house was quiet as a tomb, but even so, I gave up at five-thirty, rolled out of bed and made myself a hot cuppa before firing up the laptop to see how much longer we’ve got before the first shots of the revolution are fired. I figure it’ll be six months, maybe a year. Not more than a year. I don’t see how this craziness can go on more than a year. Or maybe it can. The Great Depression dragged on for years while Roosevelt’s government kept a sharp lookout for warning signs of the next revolt. That was a pretty bad time, but circumstances were markedly different than we find ourselves in now. Just for a start, Roosevelt generally tried to appeal to the better natures of the public instead of kissing up to nationalists and raging against the press. So there’s that.

eleven | 6:44 am CDT
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It seems this would be an especially appropriate time to talk about why I believe rounding up undocumented people and deporting them is so revolting to me.

Right out of the gate I’m going to refuse to use the term “illegal immigrants” or its shortened form, preferred by lunch-room lawyers and pundits, “illegals.” People aren’t illegal. Their actions can be illegal, but people themselves never are. Describing a person as illegal has got to be about the most revolting way you can possibly treat them. I’m going to stick with “undocumented” because my experience tells me it’s the most accurate way to describe them.

Here’s why: We Americans were raised to believe we are citizens because we were born here, but that is no longer true. We are citizens only if we can prove we were born here, which a shocking number of American-born people can’t do, or at least I think it’s shocking. One is shocking. If only it were just one. I go to work every day to help American citizens prove they are who they say they are. It’s literally in my job description.

The standard of proof is usually a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. When I was just a lad, it was pretty easy to get a driver’s license. I filled out an application, I took a test to demonstrate my knowledge of the rules of the road, and voila! I was licensed to drive. But now that a driver’s license is more than just a license to drive, every state of the union requires you to show documented evidence of your birth, usually a certificate issued by the state. If you lost your birth certificate or never had one, you can get a replacement, but the state usually requires you to show photo ID. How’s that for Catch-22?

Just a note here: For a lot of American citizens (way too many, again), birth records simply don’t exist. There are various reasons for this, but the most common are: the state lost the records (fire, flood, incompetence), or the parents didn’t record the birth, sometimes because the parents didn’t believe in or bother with the legal ins and outs of life, but often because they were so poor they didn’t have the resources to travel to the county seat. If you were one of those people, you could record your birth now by going to court, which takes time, money, and the stamina to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

It doesn’t end with your birth certificate, by the way. To get a driver’s license you also have to prove your identity, which is different from proving your birth. Most people show a Social Security card to prove their identity. If you don’t have one, guess what you have to show the Social Security Administration in order to get one? See “Catch-22” above.

What I’m getting at is that there are way more undocumented Americans than you know. By the letter of the law that I hear practiced daily by lunch-room lawyers and television pundits, these Americans reside here illegally, because they have no documents to prove they were born here, and a lot of them would not be able to produce documents if you gave them all the time in the world to get them, because they don’t have the resources to do so.

This is relevant to the conversation about people who come to America from other countries without documents because the only thing about their situation that is different is, they weren’t born here. They came here because they wanted a better life for themselves or for their children. That is literally the American dream. Know-it-alls who say immigrants are welcome but only if they jump through the bureaucratic hoops set up to do it legally are speaking from the position of Americans who were born here.

It’s a great privilege to be born in America. You are instantly a citizen. You don’t have to do anything at all to be one. You can literally coast through every step of your life, skip school, duck out of work, do nothing at all for your community or society at large, and still be a citizen. Or, you can excel. Either way, there’s no test, or there wasn’t until you had to show your papers to get a driver’s license. (You watch; eventually American-born citizens will be swept up in these “enforcement actions” for the sole reason that they didn’t have the required documents.)

To the naturalized Americans who jumped through the hoops, good on you. You applied, you paid the money, you took the test. I admire your determination to be a naturalized citizen. I also admire anyone who has the determination to walk here from Central America, then work the rest of their life cleaning toilets in a hotel or deboning chickens in a processing plant so their children can live a longer, fuller life. Whether or not they got naturalized or got a green card, American dream achieved. Documents don’t make us Americans. Determination to live a better life in a better country makes us Americans. Kicking people out of the country doesn’t make it better.

documented | 12:19 pm CDT
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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I have a deep laceration down the inside of my left index finger and it’s still pretty fresh, so typing this is a dicey proposition. I’m going to give it my best shot, but if one of the upcoming sentences trails off with an “aarrrrgghhhhh…” you’ll know why.

I’ve actually got three lacerations on my left index finger, now that I’m looking at it. Just the one is deep and painful enough that can feel it every time my finger lands on a key, though. The other two are days old and barely broke the surface.

Taking stock even further, there’s another cut on the knuckle of my left middle finger, a stab wound on my right index finger, and two lacerations on the outside of my right pinky. These were all a gift from the otherwise enjoyable company of the kitten we invited into our home a month and a half ago. He’s a lot of fun to play with, because when we’re playing I can avoid his claws. It’s when he comes out of nowhere that I end up bleeding and howling in pain.

Tying my shoes in the morning was his favorite time to ambush me. I would usually sit on the sofa to put my shoes on and he would be waiting under the coffee table. The first time he did that, I thought it was funny, but only because he didn’t draw blood. The second time was pretty painful. Those claws are sharp as ginsu knives. There hasn’t been a third time because I don’t put my shoes on while sitting anywhere near the coffee table or any other hiding places now.

He launches his second most effective ambush from under the kitchen drawer where I stack up the Pyrex bowls, bolting out from under cover of the table or from behind the fridge just as I’m opening it up. Our last encounter was so devastating that I leave him locked up in another room while I’m unloading the dishwasher.

He’s going to grow out of this behavior some day. I’m not going to miss it for a second.

lacerated | 6:22 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Thursday, February 9th, 2017

In the past few months, I’ve read an awful lot of what used to be called the print media but is now called FAKE NEWS by the only media that apparently matters any more (Fox and Trump), and I’m more than a little upset by the increasing use of FAKE WORDS like “wanna,” “gonna,” and “kinda.” I think I must’ve read hundreds of articles by this time that put those words into people’s mouths when quoting them, and it still derails me to this day.

I know this is going to sound to you the way my teachers sounded to me when they grumped about how “ain’t” isn’t a “real word.” I think mostly they didn’t want us to say “ain’t” because we were young and they were old, and uselessly carping about the how young whipper-snappers are murdering the language is one of the mileposts on the road to becoming a crotchety old coot that you have to drive past on the way to senility.

So I’m going to do it. See what I did there? Not I’m “gonna” do it. I’m going to do it. Because when I write down what I want to say, I don’t try to spell the sounds that come out of my mouth. If I did, you’d probably bust an aneurysm trying to catch on to what I was saying. Or, to put it another way: You’d prolly busta anyarizum tryna kech awnta watta wuz sayen. I learned to spell so you wouldn’t have to risk a seizure trying to figure out what the hell I was trying to say.

Maybe it seems more authentic to write “wanna” because that’s what the speakers said, but it’s more than likely they also said “prolly,” “hafta,” and “dunno.” I have yet to see the print media use those “words” regularly. If what writers are trying for is authenticity, they’re missing by miles.

Again, this is just me taking another step toward becoming a codger on the porch, waving my cane at those darn kids on my lawn. Words morph over time, so it’s inevitable that “wanna” will become a REAL WORD. I’m still not sure whether or not “ain’t” should be a word. I’m inclined to accept it, having heard it all my life. Maybe that’s how it is with the generation writing the news today.

wanna gonna kinda | 4:07 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I keep a copy of “A New Dictionary of Quotations” by H.L. Mencken next to my desk and flip it open to a random page to pass the time while my older-than-dirt laptop boots up.

Here are a few quotations from the page I randomly opened to today:

“You have no idea how destitute of talent are more than half of the members of Congress. Nine out of ten of your ordinary acquaintances are fully equal to them.” – Sergeant S. Prentiss, in a letter to his sister, February, 1833

“We do not elect our wisest and best men to represent us in the Senate and the Congress. In general, we elect men of the type that subscribes to only one principle – to get re-elected. – Terry M. Townsend: The Doctor Looks at the Citizen, 1940

“You can’t use tact with a Congressman. A Congressman is a hog. You must take a stick and hit him on the snout. – Henry Adams: The Education of Henry Adams, 1918 (Quoting an unnamed member of the Grant Cabinet, c.1875

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – S.L. Clemens (Mark Twain)

Congress hasn’t changed much, has it?

plus ca change | 9:18 pm CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Hey, it’s 36 degrees and raining this morning here in the formerly great white north, more like April than February. Coincidentally, there are news reports that a giant Atlantic storm is sucking above-freezing temperatures into the north polar region for the fourth time in a year, melting the ice instead of freezing it. Probably nothing to worry about, though. Go back to eating your breakfast.

melting | 5:49 am CDT
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Sunday, February 5th, 2017

There were a couple of utility trucks in the street in front of the neighbor’s house when we came home about a week ago. Both of them had the logo of Madison Gas and Electric, the local power utility, on the door. They were the kind of trucks that are so big, we had to slow down to walking speed so I could carefully thread the car between them. One guy in a hardhat was walking up the street toward the trucks, but all the rest of the hardhats were in the trucks.

We didn’t think anything of it until later when we were unwinding with a couple of beers in the living room. We’ve got a pretty big picture window, so we saw when a couple more MG&E trucks pulled up and closed ranks in the street around the end of the neighbor’s driveway. About a half-dozen hardhats got out of the trucks, huddled for a few minutes, then started getting equipment out of their trucks and setting to work. Some of them worked in the neighbor’s yard, while others fanned out across the neighborhood.

One of them walked across our front yard. We waited for the sound of the doorbell and when we didn’t hear it, I got up off the sofa and opened the door. Nobody there. Stepped out onto the front stoop and right away saw a guy in a hardhat bent over next to my gas meter, working on it with a monkey wrench as long as his arm.

“Hiya,” says I.

He looked up at me briefly before answering “Hi,” and bending to his work again.

It didn’t seem as though he was about to offer any kind of an explanation, so I followed up with, “What’s going on?”

He set the monkey wrench down, sank to one knee beside the meter and began sniffing around it with a hand-held gas detector. “Oh, the neighbors reported a gas leak. It’s coming from the main so we’re gonna have to dig it up and fix it. I’m just checking the rest of the gas meters on this street. You had a little bit of a leak but that normally happens when the gaskets shrink in cold weather. It’s fine now.”

Oh. Just a gas leak? A minor one? And you fixed it with your trusty monkey wrench? Well okay, then. I thanked him for the information and he left, walking down to the next house.

“What’s up?” My Darling B asked when I went back into the house.

“Nothing much,” I told her. “Just a gas leak. Go back to your Facebook feed. Pay it no mind.”

gas gas gas | 5:00 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, February 4th, 2017

I’m going to try an experiment this morning: How long I can hold off checking my Twitter feed to see what crazy thing Trump has obnoxiously tweeted about? The cats woke me up at five-thirty this morning; the clock is running.

This is a new kind of obsession for me. I’ve indulged a few obsessions before: collected around a hundred books about the moon shot and read every one of them at least once (recommendation: the best one is Apollo: Race to the Moon, by Blyford and Cox); collected something like twenty or thirty typewriters (if you want one that’s both pretty and is a pleasure to write with, I feel confident you’d be happy with a 1944 Smith-Corona Sterling); and I’ve got a basement full of toy trains (talk about an obsession no one understands).

But avidly watching a politician as he wrecks diplomacy, courts constitutional crisis, and cheats the people of the nation without the slightest hint of self-restraint is a new one for me. I was mildly interested in depraved politicians before Trump, particularly after the GOP took over the Wisconsin statehouse, but Trump’s administration is a whole new level of depravity.

Or maybe I’ve just been naive. I’m getting the impression that, generally speaking, politicians have always been as awful as they are now. If they weren’t, it seems odd that so many already in office would be so eager to carry Trump’s brackish water. I mean, there appears to be an all but insignificant group who will question Trump’s actions, and an even smaller group who will oppose him (if Kristen Gillibrand runs for president in 2020, I may have to consider volunteering).

Honestly, there’s no “maybe” about it: I’ve been naive to have bought the bullshit line that politicians work in the best interest of the American people, and here I’m talking about all of the American people as a whole, not just the American people who get fired up as a politician’s base, or a politician’s biggest donors, who I will assume are American and people, too, although even that seems to be in question. From where I sit, most politicians appear to be in it for themselves, their party, and the monied interests who back them. If they weren’t, they would ensure their constituents were treated at least as well as they were, would stand on their principles when their party twisted their arms, and would refuse money and favors from “donors.” I don’t know how else anyone could explain the multimillion-dollar donations, the gerrymandering, or the legislation that obviously came down from their monied interests, rather than up from their constituents.

And now we have President Donald Trump, who doesn’t even pretend not to lie (telling a lie and then telling a contradicting lie does not count as pretending not to lie), who unrepentantly breaks the promises he makes, and who openly admits that he’s changing laws to benefit his friends. The members of the GOP rally around Trump because either they genuinely see a politician they like in him, or because they think he’ll let them advance their own agendas. I suspect the majority believe it’s the latter instead of the former. I have no doubt there are plenty of Democrats who have the same thoughts.

If Trump lasts four years, I predict he will be reelected easily. It happened in Wisconsin, it’ll happen in Washington. There was an opposition to our new administration in the first year or so that was comparable to the crowds that have risen to protest Trump. In Wisconsin, the opposition even managed to trigger a recall election, but in the end they didn’t rally behind a single opponent who could carry the day. An opponent to Trump will have to rise very soon and the opposition will have to rally behind her (I’d like it to be a woman, partly because it’s way past time for America to elect a woman to the presidency, but also because I’d like to see a principled, gutsy woman take Trump down) or we’re gonna be stuck with Trump, Trump, Trump for the next eight years.

And that’s my sunny blog post filled with joy and happiness on this beautiful Saturday morning. Stick around to see what I have to say about rainbows and unicorns.

rise up | 7:01 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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