Checking in…

So it’s been a while since I wrote here. Just because I am not writing does not mean that I am not thinking, however. Let’s see…

The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy got married this last October in Korea, and I, The Rocket Scientist, Railfan, and the Resident Shrink all went. I participated, dressed in a traditional Korean outfit called a hanbok.

My hanbok. It makes me look like a beached whale; then again these outfits make everyone look like a beached whale

Korea is a staggeringly beautiful country, and I look forward to revisiting it. I’m happy with my new daughter-in-law (The Very Lovely Wife) who is quite sweet and funny. My son is loved by her family, so all around I think it works.

After I came back from South Korea, I worked for the elections office again. As in previous years, I worked for the county next door to the one in which I reside. As usual, I loved working on elections: although what I did this year was a great deal more boring than previous stints, I feel a glow of pride at helping grease the wheels of representative democracy in this country. I have a post I have been mulling over but have not yet written.

The Red-Headed Menace and their partner came to town for the holidays. All three of my kids were here for Christmas, and I was determined to enjoy it. Time flies and children grow up and leave… Especially since RHM’s partner (The Very Smart Partner) proposed to them on New Year’s Eve. So at some point in the future I will have another member of the family. It’s so nice when your kids end up with great people; sort of a endorsement of your parenting skills. I genuinely like both the VLW and the VSP.

The kids are okay: Railfan passed the CBEST, the California teacher’s basic skills test, and is looking for work as a substitute teacher. RHM is still in graduate school in the middle of the country, in a college town in literally the middle of nowhere. I think they will probably move back to the coast when they are done. NSLDB is working for a tech company, and seems to be weathering the tech crash okay, except for the effect on his unvested stock options.

I may have a new gig. I am going to work for a trivia company (as opposed to a trivial company) writing questions. How long I do this will be dependent upon how much work they throw my way. I’m excited… There are a lot of trivia companies out there. My contract with the company I signed on with simply states that I can’t sell any questions I give them to any other clients, not that I can’t have any other clients. I really liked the guy who interviewed me: he had obviously watched my Jeopardy! appearance before we talked. (After I said something about losing to Ken Jennings, he said “Well, I wouldn’t have gotten the astroturf question” — referring to Final Jeopardy!) If I can get a modicum of work (say a few hundred dollars a month) I think I will enjoy writing for them very much.

I have been following the developments in the House of Representatives with a combination of schadenfreude and dismay. As amusing as it was, I think we are so screwed.

So, that’s what’s up with me. I hope everything is going well for you.

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Product review.

In early July, Dorothea died.

Do you remember Dorothea? My 13-inch Macbook Pro that I bought with the first money I made working at elections? Like all of my electronics, she was named after an artist, in this case, noted Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. She was a good computer, although she had gotten somewhat sluggish over the years. Her battery life had degenerated as well, even though I had replaced her battery in the summer of 2020.

She died as a result of a freak iced tea accident.

Attempts to revive her after she dried out a few days proved unsuccessful, so there was really nothing else to do but buy a new computer. I could have simply bought a “renewed” machine from Amazon, and it undoubtedly would have been a serviceable machine, except that… it would not have had a MagSafe power cord.

MagSafe cords are wonderful. If you have never experienced them, they are magnetically attached to the computer. When the computer is plugged in, if you pull on the power cord (by, say, tripping), the cord will disconnect rather than pull the computer toward the floor. They were standard on Macbooks for years until 2017, when Apple in its inscrutable way stopped making them.

I trip over air. “Klutz” is too generous a word to describe my relation to the physical world. My sense of space is warped beyond all recognition. I stumble, I veer unexpectedly, and I occasionally fall. (In July, a fall sent me to the ER — I looked like I had lost a bar fight.)

Apple must have finally gotten tired of people complaining all the time about how the MagSafe cords were so much better than USB-C power cords. They blinked. Starting with the 2022 models, some Macbooks now come with MagSafe cords. Specifically the latest Macbook Air.

Meet Frida.

She’s named after Frida Kahlo. And boy, is she pretty.

She is not your standard titanium gray, but a lovely silvery-gold color that Apple has named “startlight.” (I nearly opted for their other new color, midnight, but it’s a fingerprint trap.) She has a very long battery life. (I can go at least a day or two without charging. For example, she was at 100% two hours ago, and now she’s at… 95%.) She is incredibly light — closed, I can hold her in one hand. Not as light as a tablet, but much less than Dorothea. She has the aforementioned MagSafe power cord. And, best of all, she has a fingerprint reader in the power button.

My tremors have gotten bad. Typing passwords is a major pain, even if the built-in password manager on Safari can take care of most of them. I tend to use long passwords, and retyping them drives me nuts. And now I don’t have to! I simply have to touch the power button — much like on my phone. This makes me irrationally happy.

Unfortunately, she only has two USB-C ports. On Dorothea, I had two USBs and a HDMI port. I have to use an adapter now, which is annoying. It tends to deter me from keeping my backup drive in place.

I love her, and have been careful around her. I have had her for nearly a month, and today is the first day I have allowed myself to have anything to eat or drink in her vicinity (a Cherry Vanilla Coke Zero Sugar in a covered tumbler). I know that at some point she will become old hat, and I will eat breakfast while reading the Washington Post and lunch while checking Facebook, but that’s for the future. For now, she’s a lovely little toy, albeit a necessary one, and will be treated gingerly.

My grade: A- (points taken off for the lack of ports)

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Random reviews

I just thought I’d pop in to get a few opinions off my chest… in no particular order are reviews of things I have read or seen recently.

Raising Steam was Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld novel…. and it shows. For those of us pretty well versed in the series (I’ve read 31 of 41 books, as well as some of his Discworld short fiction), it seems like Pratchett knew it would be the last: he throws in a lot of references to the earlier books, and not always smoothly. The central characters are a familiar major player (Moist von Lipwig from Going Postal and Making Money, quite possibly my second favorite Discworld character, after Sam Vimes), a familiar secondary character (Harry King (“King of the Golden River”)), and a newcomer (engineer Dick Simnel). Other Discworld Denizens show up for various reasons — Lord Vetinari, of course, as well as Sam Vimes (and assorted Watch members), and the Low King of the dwarfs, Rhys Rhyersson. While the plot is straightforward enough, there are too many throwaway moments that seem almost to be put in so as to get as many references to other books as possible. While playing spot the reference is fun, it can also be distracting, such as when two characters who as far as we know have never met turn out to be old chums who spend a page commenting upon events — and don’t show up in the rest of the novel. What they say to each other has no impact on the plot whatsoever. Raising Steam is good, but lacks the smoothness of, say, Night Watch. If you have not read the other books (especially the last four, including Thud! and Snuff) the book would seem even more disjointed.

I fell behind in keeping abreast of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I missed the Ten Rings movie, and Thor: Love and Thunder has not come to streaming yet. I have however watched all the MCU miniseries on Disney+. Ms. Marvel had wonderful performances and in any case, it was lovely to see a superhero who is not a white male. And hopefully, it will inspire young people to learn more about the history of India and Pakistan, especially the Partition.

And then there is… Moon Knight. I don’t know how to talk about it without giving away spoilers. Oh, well… Oscar Isaacs plays a dweebish museum gift shop clerk, with a fascination for Egyptology and a secret. Stephen Grant finds himself losing time, and discovering himself in dangerous situations with no idea of how he got there. He discovers that he is sharing a body with a mercenary named Marc Spector who is incidentally an avatar of a disgraced Egyptian god. The series swirls together humor and action and suspense, all anchored in Isaacs’s impressive performance as a mentally ill man who is struggling to just figure out what’s going on. I really think I need to see it again to really understand it. I will say that Isaacs captured the panic of someone who has lost time and has no idea how they got to where they are. It’s played for laughs, but it’s not really funny.

I am surprised that I liked the series; I generally feel uncomfortable watching presentations of mental illness in popular culture. I don’t mind works that from their outset have WTF?? written all over them (WandaVision being the prime example), but works where I can’t figure out what happened make me uneasy (I call it “Black Swan syndrome”). One definite quibble: I am appalled by their vision of what a psych ward is like. But all in all, worth watching for Isaacs’s juggling act, if nothing else.

And finally, I need to review the most fascinating show in town, the January 6th Committee’s hearings. Unlike most Congressional hearings, these are actually compelling viewing. The committee has mostly steered a carefully orchestrated course, admirably laying out the appalling story of one of the most horrible days in American history. I found Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony particularly captivating.

They have made the occasional misstep, unfortunately. The most significant involved Senator Josh Hawley. By highlighting the incongruity between Hawley encouraging the mob and then later running from it, they opened up the Missouri senator to mockery from everyone from the Internet to late-night television hosts. While I understand the temptation to point out Hawley’s perfidy, giving in to that temptation made the committee look petty and partisan. It damaged the its credibility and gave a weapon to MAGA faithful to wield against the committee. It was an unforced error — Josh Hawley is not really that important, is he? Hawley has turned the attention into fundraising fodder.

So that’s what I’ve been reading and watching lately.

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When I graduated from college, I wore a button (among many, much to the consternation of my parents) that had a coat hanger in a red circle with a slash. After all, it was only ten years since Roe v. Wade, and abortion rights seemed tenuous. I could easily see us slip into the dark ages where people did not have the autonomy to determine when they would have children.

Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, seemed a pipe dream. After all, sodomy was illegal in many states. Homosexuals were targeted by the “Silent Majority.” No, marriage between people of the same sex was not going to happen in my lifetime.

So here we are. Same-sex marriage is the law of the land. (Although for how long, God only knows with this Supreme Court.) Abortion, on the other hand, appears on the edge of disappearing, at least for most people. Who knows how many people are going to die — either from botched illegal abortions or from pregnancies that endanger people’s lives but which they are prevented from terminating. Time to hunt down my button again.

I am grieving.

I am grieving something else. Since its founding, the Supreme Court seemed like a bedrock of democracy. Yes, it sometimes swayed with political winds, but for the most part, it was far less partisan than either of the two other branches of government. That’s gone now.

May God help us all.

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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.” Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamed of… not Wellesley, but some unidentifiable college of my imagination.

I started in a large hall, all chestnut and cherry, with walls covered in decorations such as would be found in a medieval church, in the manner of American colleges of such an age. A hall such as would be used for convocations and large assemblies. More like a church, the room was redolent with the smell of old candles and incense. This was not Wellesley – Wellesley would use its beautiful stone chapel for such occasions. Nor was this Stanford Law School, with its soulless brutalist modernism. Nor was it the only other building I had been in at Stanford as a student, the gilt-laden Memorial Church.

The room was large, but I gave it only passing attention. My interest was piqued by a door at the side, barely visible behind a row of ornate choir stalls. I started up what proved to be a stone tower. 

The tower was not empty – chairs and easels filled the corners, and every so often a door would open into a cramped office, clearly of some academic toiling away. I passed by one office and glancing in saw my freshman Latin teacher, whom I (and numerous other young women) had had a terrible crush on. I wondered idly where he was these days and what he was doing. As if to underscore the unreality of the space, the next office contained my law school bankruptcy professor.

I kept climbing. This once again told me it was not anywhere I had been – I had never climbed Wellesley Tower while there, nor Hoover Tower at Stanford. Call me lazy, but I am rarely inclined to climb any tower, anywhere. I have climbed towers before (St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida)), but only under the most exceptional of circumstances. These days, with my limited mobility, climbing towers is a pipe dream.

I came to the top. There were no bells (unlike Wellesley) just a glorious open space with blue skies with puffy clouds and cool, bright, air.

I woke up. I spent the next twenty minutes fixing the dream in my mind, every scent, every color.

I don’t know what the dream means, other than I am getting very tired of my COVID prison. I notice that climbing the tower didn’t give me an escape, merely a respite. Maybe that’s all I get, right now.

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COVID strikes home..

I have become one of the one people out of six that have gotten COVID in my county. I tested positive both on two at-home tests (by different manufacturers), as well as not one but two PCR tests. (I had to go to the ER, and the results from the first PCR were not posted yet, so the doctors ordered a second 90-minute test.) My middle son had symptoms but has not (yet) tested positive. We are both in isolation.

I had to call my dentist, who was grateful for my calling, and my oral surgeon, who was not. His office questioned whether I had been symptom-free when I had visited them before (I had been — and had taken a test that morning).

This is cosmically unfair to the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy. He remains symptom-free and has tested negative, and so has the run of the house but finds himself waiting on Railfan and myself because we can’t leave our rooms. Fortunately, Railfan continues to test negative, so he probably only had a cold and will be out of his room shortly.

I have a television, which Railfan does not, but he has an extensive online social network (he mods a Discord group), which I do not, and also a chair and desk, unlike me, who has to resort to sitting on my bed, which does my back no favors. I am envious of both of those.

I watch Turner Classic Movies in part. I have seen part of Fiddler on the Roof, part of Bridge on the River Kwai, part of Blithe Spirit, and most of Dog Day Afternoon, which I stumbled upon one night and found fascinating. I have DVRed a few movies. It’s the channel’s “31 Days of Oscar” month, where every movie is an Oscar winner for something. This means that the level of fare is a little better than usual.

I lucked into watching An American in Paris, which is charming. (The scene with Gene Kelly and the Parisian children makes me smile.) It has Gershwin, even better. And I will get to watch the Oscars without interruption, which will be fun. As you can see, I am trying to put the best face on this.

Unfortunately, an American in Paris was followed by Gone With the Wind, which I refuse to watch. TCM has claimed that they want to put difficult movies “into context,” but they don’t really. All they did for this movie was to say that it remembers slavery as “a dream remembered.” They mentioned Hattie McDaniel’s historic win as the first Black actor to win an Oscar, but didn’t mention that she had to sit aside at the ceremony.

I was sickest the first day — although I thought it was only allergies when I got up but took a test anyway. I got to feel worse during the day, including a fever and shortness of breath. That last resulted in a trip to the ER, where they determined the COVID exacerbated my asthma, took a chest x-ray, gave me prescriptions for prednisone for the asthma and anti-virals for the COVID. The anti-virals were stocked at only a few pharmacies, probably because it was an old drug (retail price: $2.59). It cost more for the gas to get to the pharmacy than the retail price of the drug.

So here I am. Slowly going stir crazy. I am better enough to be bored, but not well enough to leave me room. Mostly it upsets me that I have to burden others with my care. Although I am glad they continue to test negative.

I am trying to figure out where I picked it up. The most likely seems to be the oral surgeon or the physical therapist. It doesn’t really matter, though. I have notified the people I have been in contact with to the best of my ability, including putting my result into the California Notification System, which notified me the day after I tested positive that I had been exposed. Some help.

I really don’t know what to do next.

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As though January was not horrible enough, on the 30th my cat Penwiper died without warning. We didn’t even get to say goodbye.

She was a marvelous cat: independent, smart, and beautiful. She had a black and white pattern that looked like a harlequin. I had chosen her name from my favorite science fiction book ever, To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. We had had her since she was a kitten.

She stayed indoors, although she desperately wanted to be outdoors. When she was “prowly,” she would hind behind corners and furniture when she sensed someone going out. She waited patiently after I went out, or when someone took the trash out, because she determined that someone would be coming back in. (She understood that I almost always forgot something — usually my keys or, in these days of COVID, my mask — which meant that I would be coming back inside shortly. I was the person she most tried to escape from because I was the slowest in the household.) We took to having someone watch her whenever anyone went in or out to make sure she stayed indoors. Her best trick was when she started hanging around the corner in the hall, because when she meowed it sounded like she was already outside. People would mutter “how did the cat get outside,” and open the door and she would dash out.

She could understand when people were gone. She would stand before a chair or a room, meow, and turn and look at me as if to ask “where are they?” I would reply something along the lines of “She’s gone until Tuesday,” and Penwiper would look down for a second and then walk away. She would ask no more than once every couple of days. She could remember they were gone, just not when Tuesday was.

She liked playing the cat equivalent of tag. She would meow, look at me to follow, and when I did she would lead me all over the living room and into the garage. I was confused about this until the day when I started running after her, and she started running to keep in front of me. I realized that it was a game.

Like cats will do, she would occasionally bring gifts. Once when she got out she left half a snake on the front walk. In December she left a stuffed llama ornament on my floor. She generally left the Christmas tree alone, but this time she wanted to give me something.

Since the Rocket Scientist has been working at home (basically since March 2020), she has liked curling up under his desk lamp or sleeping on the couch behind his desk. She kept either RS or the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy company while they worked. She would also keep either the Resident Shrink or myself company by curling up on our beds.

She needed to be the center of attention: she would lie on computer keyboards or even turn them off, and she would bat books down when I was trying to read. She did like to watch television, though, provided there were people or animals and no explosions or violence. She especially seemed to like Animal Planet and the Westminster Dog Show. I don’t know if she thought they were cats, or that they were potential enemies.

I miss her. I miss the little things, like not having to close my door when I left the house to keep her from going in and peeing on my bed. (It was her territory, after all.) Or, knowing when she was in the garage, simply saying “come in” when people knocked at the door. (We never seem to get people here who do not live in the house.) Our other cat (not really ours, Railfan’s), Pandora, almost never wants to escape.

We have Pandora, who since Penwiper died has been coming out into common spaces and interacting with people other than Railfan. She seems to know that her competition for the place of family cat is gone now. Until Pandora dies, we will get no other pets.

So goodbye Penwiper. You were very much loved.

Cross-posted in Facebook, here is my favorite Penwiper story.

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Yeah, I know.

I haven’t been writing. Sometimes I wonder why I have this blog if I am not going to write in it. I thought that in 2009, too, but then in 2010 I began writing again.

The state of the world doesn’t help. The failure of democracy is watching a trainwreck in slow motion.

I once described a personal event to friends of mine as a trainwreck: “I am not driving the train, I’m not even a passenger, I’m just a farmer watching the destruction of his back forty.”

This time I’m a passenger. I may be a higher class passenger, who is more likely to survive what’s about to happen, but a lot of people around me will get hurt — some will die. I feel completely helpless against the terrorists who are overtaking the engineers.

And then there is the pandemic. Omicron’s transmissibility approaches that of measles, one of the most contagious diseases in the world. In spite of all our precautions, we’ve had a case of COVID in the household: Railfan came down with the virus around New Year’s. It was mild — more like a cold than anything else — but it still poses a threat. I have lung issues that make possible infection potentially quite serious.

I was in Georgia when Railfan got sick. I was helping the Rocket Scientist with his late mother’s house. It turned out she had a latent flea problem that came out when Atlanta experienced a freak winter warm spell. I’m allergic to fleas — and at one point had close to a hundred itchy flea bites. I was popping Benadryl and Xyzal to try and keep the horrible itchiness bearable. Foggers only did so much to control the problem — we had to call a professional to come out. We called a different professional out to deal with the rat problem, which was the reason there was a flea problem, to begin with. What can I say? The house had been closed up since April 2020.

When I heard Railfan was (mildly) ill with COVID, I started crying. I’m ashamed to say it was not about him (remember, he had mild symptoms), but that I would be forced to spend another week in Georgia. Thankfully, after ten days, his rapid antigen test came back negative and I could go home.

So I am home. I need to go to medical appointments I canceled, but the professionals want me to wait until next week and take a PCR test. I already took one, but it may have been too soon; tomorrow will be five days since I flew home. Flying home was an experience: on one of my flights the plane was crammed full; the guy right next to me wore a mask, but still. And I was in a United lounge, where probably a third of the people were maskless. And I had to eat, which means for a short time I was maskless myself. (I had no choice — I had take meds that had to be taken with food.)

So tomorrow I will take a rapid antigen test, which hopefully will come back negative.

It’s enough that I am considering lockdown again. We have restarted ordering at least some groceries online, although the Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy is going to the store occasionally. And as concerned as I am about us, I worry more about the Red-Headed Menace and his Very Smart Partner. RHM and VSP live in the wilds of central Pennsylvania, which has even higher rates of infection. Is this the new normal? It’s a scary thought, one which invades my brain from time to time.

It’s a shame, really. It is a beautiful day here in Northern California, with blue skies and just enough wind to blow away pollution and keep our air quality at moderate. Tonight we will belatedly take down the Christmas tree (postponed since both I and the Rocket Scientist were in Georgia, where he still is), thus ending my favorite time of year. I am determined this year to find joy in spring, which once again seems to be coming early to us unless we get more rain soon.

And there are small discoveries and joys to write about: Amy Schneider’s run on Jeopardy!, Coke with coffee (not my idea, it’s actually a new product), a new way to mainline caffeine.

So, I will try to write more. I can’t say it’s one of my New Year’s resolutions since I do not make them anymore, but it may just be a goal. We’ll see.

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Gosh, that was good.

I don’t do restaurant reviews here, but this post is an exception. On New Year’s Eve, I had one of the best meals I have had in a long time, at South City Kitchen in Vinings, Georgia, near Atlanta. (South City Kitchen has two other locations, one of which has become a favorite restaurant of Hollywood types when they’re in Atlanta.) The Rocket Scientist and I chose to have their New Year’s Eve prix fix dinner, and I had a marvelous time. (Don’t worry, we sat outside on a terrace that was otherwise empty for most of the meal, next to an open window, and the servers were masked.)

Dinner started with “She-Crab Soup.” Rich and creamy, with plenty of crab, a cup of this soup would be a meal in itself, along with the cornbread and biscuits that came with the meal. (The lightest biscuits I’ve had in a long time. The cornbread was good, too.)

I am still recovering from oral surgery, so I was limited in what I could order for my entree. I settled on the shrimp and grits. I have never had shrimp and grits before, but this entree was exceptional. The tomato-poblano sauce could be served on its own as a soup. The creamy grits are the best grits I have ever had. I only ate part of it, so that I would have room for dessert, but am looking forward to reheating the portion I took home. It won’t be as good, of course. The Rocket Scientist had the pork chops, and they were smoky, moist, and flavorful, accompanied by tasty, nicely roasted sweet potatoes.

If I was less than impressed with any part of the meal, it would be dessert. Don’t get me wrong: the vanilla bean cheesecake was very good, with cherry compote. Perhaps because I was already full, I was not bowled over by it. It was simply a very good cheesecake. The best part was the lemon whipped cream. The Rocket Scientist, on the other hand, ordered the other dessert option, the bourbon chocolate bread pudding. That was wonderful.

Coffee rounded out a very nice meal. Good food, good conversation, everything you would want on a New Year’s Eve date. Or a date anytime, really.

So, if you’re ever in Atlanta, try out South City Kitchen.

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Dear Pentatonix…

I love you, folks. Really I do. I have been listening to you a lot over the past month — your “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is my favorite Christmas song. It is joyous, it is catchy, and the video makes me happy. But…

I don’t care how beautiful (and it is) or haunting (and it is)…. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is NOT a Christmas song. What possessed you to put it on your Christmas album? Didn’t you listen to the lyrics?

Neither is “Let it Go” a Christmas song, but at least that one is about ice and snow. (You are not the only group that does something like this — Home Free included “Colder Weather” on their Christmas album, and that is not about Christmas, either.)

Still love you people, though, and your version of “Hallelujah” joins Rufous Wainwright, Tori Kelly, and four other artists on my iTunes.

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I have a sore throat, so according to household protocol I am stuck in my rooms until it goes away or we find it’s not contagious. It’s not COVID — I have passed a Binex test this morning. But it could be something else. I know it’s early, but to pass the time I am watching Christmas television programs (the good ones — not Lifetime movies).

So, some thoughts on How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated original, not the two feature films). This is my favorite Christmas special, even more so than Charlie Brown or Rudolph. It helps to know the show when reading:

  1. “Welcome Christmas” is not the most annoying Christmas song ever, but it’s up there.
  2. Some of those decorations look dangerous. Especially the spiky things on the floor.
  3. His reaction is disproportionate, but the Grinch does have a point about the noise on Christmas morning with small children. Fire engines with “realistic sound,” anyone?
  4. I have read people complain about the roast beast having no bones. Clearly, it’s a turducken.
  5. Strawberries in winter are much more impressive than the traditional citrus fruit, which are in season. When I was growing up, my parents would give us a tangerine in our stockings. It confused me — I grew up in Florida! Citrus fruit was everywhere! The divinity, on the other hand…*
  6. Reprise of annoying song.
  7. Max is the best character in the whole story. I wonder what sort of dog he is.
  8. Impressive crafting there, Grinch. Making an entire Santa costume from scratch in an afternoon.
  9. Unlike “Welcome Christmas,” “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” is a wonderful song.
  10. Scary trip down the mountain. Max probably sees his life flash before his eyes.
  11. Most impressive pool shot ever.
  12. Who puts kids to bed with candy canes? Sticky, sticky!
  13. Taking all the food is a bit much.
  14. Cindy Lou Who is cuter than a sack of kittens.
  15. The Grinch is not the only one who lies to kids… Do you really think Santa exists?
  16. Leaving a crumb too small for the mice? What did the mice ever do to him?
  17. The candy and the ice cubes he took are going to make everything wet and mushy.
  18. Is it me or do the mountains look like Bald Mountain in Fantasia?
  19. Another reprise of annoying song.
  20. Awww.. nice messaging about the meaning of Christmas.
  21. Why don’t things fall out of the bags on the sled when they are tipped over Mount Crumpet?
  22. Heart growing three sizes sounds unhealthy.
  23. After he carved the roast beast, the Grinch was arrested by the Whoville police on multiple counts of Grand Larceny.
  24. And, finally, last reprise of the annoying song.

I hoped you enjoyed reading. Maybe next time I should do something longer, like It’s a Wonderful Life. Or probably not.

*f you are unfamiliar with divinity… it is a fudgy marshmallow-like candy with either pecans or peppermint bits. My mother was generally a bad cook, but she made amazing divinity. I could never get mine to set up properly.

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I find writing difficult today. Not b because there is little to write about; on the contrary, there is too much to write about. I suffer from outrage fatigue. The Kyle Rittenhouse trial (and the increasing seeming likelihood he will be acquitted of murder), the trial of Armad Aubery’s killers, the resurgent GOP, the increasing refusal of the Senate to pass voters’ rights legislation, the abortion ban in Texas — and the Supreme Court’s reaction (or lack thereof) to it; it all seems too much. I keep feeling that we are watching the slow death of representative democracy (such it is; it has never been perfect) in America.

Not that there’s a dearth of people writing — on blogs, Facebook, elsewhere — about the state of the world. I am following the Rittenhouse trial through the Facebook posts of my friend Jane, a very experienced trial lawyer who is rightfully outraged by the deference shown by the judge towards the defense.

I have suffered from outrage fatigue for many years now. The Trump administration went from bad to worse, with new revelations detailing even more horrors. I had hoped that the respite offered by the Biden administration would be enough to give me the strength to take up the fight once more. To write more letters to Congress, to write to this administration, to participate in protests.

Then came January 6th. The attack on the American capital shocked me but oddly did not surprise me. We have been heading this way for years; the election of November 2020 simply accelerated the attempted coup. Had Trump actually been elected President* (rather than simply psychotically insisting that he had), we would have seen a slower and more effective de facto overthrow of Congress. Whether we would see violence towards liberals (or more than we see now, as threats against elected officials increase) is an open question.

What did shock me was the response; the GOP denied that anything untoward had happened (these were “patriots,” after all), and much of the public seemed apathetic. We have one staggeringly close to an actual overthrow of the government, and most people seem to not care.

And then there are the swathes of the public that refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. I find it almost incomprehensible that large numbers of people faced with death from a deadly disease would reject a miracle of science, a way back to that normality they claim to want (and, in some cases, claim is already here, flying in the face of the strong evidence otherwise).

In October, I joined the club of people who know someone who died of COVID. Not someone close, thankfully, but someone in my extended family nonetheless. His siblings got vaccinated after he ended up in the hospital, but it should have not taken that for them to take care of themselves and other people.

As I sit here writing about all of this, I find myself grinding my teeth. Many people grind their teeth at night, I grind my teeth during the day. I have weird wear patterns on some of my teeth because of constant grinding. (And yes, I now have a mouthguard, but it interferes with speech so I hesitate to wear it during the day.) I once ground my teeth so hard I chipped a crown. The state of the world can cause me to do that.

The Not-So-Little Drummer says that means that I am not really suffering from outrage fatigue, that I really do care. I think perhaps I care so much I can’t bring myself to dwell too much on any one thing, the way I would have to to write about it.

Maybe he’s right.

*I know someone who rejects the notion that Biden won. A sibling, whom I had always thought of as being intelligent and relatively liberal (certainly for Florida) told another sibling that they were sure that there was election fraud because of the large numbers of ballots that came in late for Biden. I guess descriptions of the process which told how those ballots were the result of mail votes being counted, and that many more Democrats than Republicans took advantage of the process so as to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19, failed to register. It makes me want to hit my head against the wall.

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The weather is gray and misty; my favorite time of year. I was reminded of the book The Mists of Avalon, and thought would write a post about my heartbreaking disenchantment with the book. And then I remembered: I wrote about it in 2015. Rereading it, I like what I wrote, and I think you guys might find it interesting, too.

But now I’m left without a topic for today. Rats.

I am used to the situation where other people have written about topics better than I have. I just don’t encounter it with myself very often.

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Life intervenes.

So, I have been meaning to blog every day, since I am not doing NaNoWriMo. I haven’t been, but I actually had a subject for today (my favorite book cover — The Mists of Avalon) and how my love for it and the book itself were destroyed by finding out about its author, Marian Zimmer Bradley.

But I got caught up in doing stuff (starting with a dental appointment). And tonight is Bar Trivia.

Spend an evening struggling to write a blog post, or going out and seeing my friends and have fun?

Bar trivia wins. No contest.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll blog.

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The limits of love.

Kyle Rittenhouse currently is currently being tried for murder. Remember Kyle? He’s the teenager who crossed state lines with an AR-15 to confront protesters, to show how much of a man he was. After murdering three protesters, he was able to walk past the police and go home. (He turned himself in later.) He now claims he was in fear of his life.

The actions of the police, in this case, are beyond the pale, and many have rightfully questioned the competence (and impartiality) of law enforcement that would hear gunshots and ignore the teen walking towards them with an assault rifle. Be that as it may, my thoughts keep going towards Rittenhouse’s mother. She drove him across state lines with that murder machine.

What the hell was she thinking? She must have approved of his actions — and the possibility he would kill someone — or else she becomes a poster child for the “world’s most dangerous and stupidly indulgent parent.”

Any competent parent knows that you don’t give children everything they ask for. Children and teens have limited notions of consequences, for themselves and others. Giving them everything they desire results in adults that are incredibly self-centered at best and sociopathic at worst. Guess which one I think Kyle Rittenhouse is headed toward being?

I love my kids dearly. But each of them knows that there are limits to that love. All of them know, because I have told them, “I love you, but if I find out you have done something evil, like murder, or rape, or domestic violence, I will turn you in. I will find you the best defense attorney I can, but I will still turn you in.”

Not that I ever think they will do anything like that. I have raised three moral, compassionate, human beings. (My statement was prompted by a discussion of another case — I don’t remember which one — in which parents smuggled their kid out of the country so the kid wouldn’t face prosecution.) But it never hurts to reinforce that each of us lives in a web of civic responsibilities. “Don’t do evil,” to swipe an overused phrase from the Google Marketing team, is the least of those responsibilities. (The extent to which Google lives up to its own motto is a post for another day.)

Maybe it’s being a lawyer that makes me feel so emphatic on this point. I have a responsibility to uphold the law. (And I wouldn’t be my kids’ defense attorney so there would not be any privilege.) Does this conflict with my instructions to my kids that if they are picked up they should not tell the cops anything beyond their name until they talk to a lawyer? I don’t think so. The Fifth Amendment is part of the law, as well, and I have a responsibility to uphold that, too.

But the basis of civil responsibility is the recognition that others matter, too, even people engaged in activities you don’t agree with. I wish Kyle Rittenhouse had understood that.

Or at least his mother had.

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