Days of infamy.

December 7th, 1941. November 22, 1963. September 11, 2001.

January 6, 2021.

These days raise questions: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor? What were you doing when you heard Kennedy had been shot? Who told you about the attack on the World Trade Center?

How did you find out there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?

In my case, although I was too young for the first two of those dates, I have strong memories (albeit, in the case of the last, recent memories) of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Capitol. In the case of 9/11, my mother-in-law called me, frantic and in tears, saying “Turn on the tv, a plane has flown into the World Trade Center.” (At that point we thought it was an air disaster, not the worst foreign terrorist attack to ever take place on American soil.)

Likewise, on January 6th, the Resident Shrink texted our family chat group with “turn on the news. Senate being evacuated with Trump rioters having got into the building.”

I felt like I did on 9/11 — this can’t be happening here. Not in America. We’re safe here. Except we aren’t, not anymore. Another layer of naive innocence has been stripped from my view of the world. I can see now that America is not exceptional.

In many ways, January 6th is worse than 9/11. The Capitol was overrun by homegrown terrorists, threatening that which is most central to our life as a country. From the beginning of our Republic, our democracy is central to who we are. That democracy has been endangered once before, and it took a war to get it back. (Even today we are not fully recovered from that war and the atrocities which made it necessary. The defenders of the losing side left a long line of ancestors who fight on and who were part of the seditioust mob trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.)

In the wake of the attack on our values, I find myself awash in grief and fear. What is going to happen next? Is this just the first salvo in a low-grade Civil War? How many people are going to die?

I do not ask why the insurrection of January 6th happened. I know why, or at least I think I know why. I know that deluded, angry people, egged on by a monomaniacal narcissist, acted on their worst instincts and desires.

We can only hope that they let their violent tendencies go. That they decide to live peacefully alongside their neighbors. I do not think that is going to happen. I think that the country is in real trouble.

God help America.

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Oh my God.

The Russians have won. We have turned into a banana republic.

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Have yourself a movie little Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, I developed a sore throat and congestion. In prior years, I would have taken some DayQuil and returned to cooking cornbread. (It really feels like a sinus infection.) In these times, though, I arranged for a COVID-19 test and have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas stranded in my room. Theoretically, since I have a tv and a bathroom and my family keeps leaving food outside my door, I should be just fine. I’m not, because… it’s Christmas. In deference to my sensibilities, we are not having “Christmas Dinner” until I have been released from quarantine. The Rocket Scientist made a kick-ass prime rib dinner, though.

I am spending time sitting on my bed watching movies on television (mostly on TCM) and on my computer. Herewith a dozen observations:

  1. I do not care that it is set at Christmastime and people have holiday parties and sing carols, any movie that has “Yippee-ky-ay Motherf***er as its most quotable line is not a Christmas movie.
  2. Gremlins, as dark as it is, IS.
  3. I would stack Margaret O’Brien’s turn as Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louis up against any performance by any child actor, ever.
  4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with its minor key and sad (original) lyrics, is perfectly situated for where it falls in the movie. The lyrics as reworked by Frank Sinatra (the ones that include “hang a shining star upon the highest bough”) would have been jarring.
  5. While It’s a Wonderful Life may be overrated, Jimmy Stewart’s performance is not. He is masterful.
  6. The Shop Around the Corner remains one of my favorite movies. It is so good, even its vastly inferior remakes are good. That is why every time I run across You’ve Got Mail while channel-surfing I end up watching the whole damn thing, even though I generally dislike Meg Ryan.
  7. I cannot imagine not watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve.
  8. Every year I discover new movies to love. Last year I found The Bishop’s Wife (the Cary Grant version) and Christmas in Connecticut (with the criminally underrated Barbara Stanwyck). This year it was Remember the Night, with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray, showing the marvelous chemistry they had in Double Indemnity. Remember the Night is almost a Christmas noir.
  9. Ah, the Battle of the Christmas Carols: I know that the Alastair Sim version is supposed to be the gold standard, but I much prefer the Patrick Stewart and George C. Scott versions. (The Muppet Christmas Carol inhabits a class of its own.)
  10. When given the choice, I would choose the Benedict Cumberbatch Grinch over Jim Carrey’s any day of the week.
  11. The animated The Grinch That Stole Christmas is better than both of them put together.
  12. The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas should be declared national treasures, only to be shown on broadcast networks, not cable, let alone a streaming service. (I’m looking at you, Apple.) Sort of like the baseball playoffs should be on ABC, not ESPN.

So there we go. I should start hunting down New Year’s movies. With any luck, I’ll be out of COVID-jail before then.

Posted in Culture (popular and otherwise), My life and times | Tagged | 1 Comment

Waiting to inhale.

I’m reading some really … well, let’s just say it’s not literature. I am working through the Merry Gentry novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. They are essentially fairy erotica. (Don’t judge me — ipt’s not Fifty Shades of Gray.)

One of the spells most closely associated with the evil Queen Andais suffocates the victim by taking up all the space so that they can’t breathe. They — Merry, mostly — struggle to force their lungs open as they are surrounded and weighted down.

Donald Trump did that to my brain.

I wrote more before the Trump presidency. I wrote on a more diverse set of topics before the Trump presidency. Although it was bad before, sometime last summer Donald Trump settled into my psyche, taking up all the brain power I could muster.

It seemed that any outrage in the newspapers was committed by Trump, or at least exacerbated by him. Almost anything he would do to destroy our democratic institutions that I could imagine, he did. Abetted by the lackeys he put into his cabinet, he acted in manners that were beyond my imagination. It represents a lack of thought on my part, but I never seriously believed any American president would effectively attempt a coup. (He has supporters that are openly urging him to do just that. Supporters who openly suborn sedition. That scenario showed up in my nightmares, but I never would have thought it would happen in reality. Where are the “lock ’em up” chants from people who claim to have monopoly on patriotism?) He fights a futile war against the results of an election he decisively lost, and uses that as a cover for scorching the earth behind him.

He did everything short of shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue.

Michael Cohen warned us. If Donald Trump has to leave the White House, he said, “there will not be a peaceful transition of power.” I thought he was exaggerating; I should have listened to the man who actually knew Trump.

I prayed for Trump’s death before — I pray just as hard for his death now. He is hollowing out government, hamstringing its ability to come on line seamlessly once his presidency ends. Our enemies must be laughing delightedly — especially Russia. He can do so much damage in the next six weeks.

I can’t think. Outrage fatigue and completely founded pandemic fears have crawled into my brain, short circuiting my creative synapses. I don’t want to write about Trump all the time, but I find that Trump (or his much more intelligent doppelgänger, Bill Barr) and the pandemic are all I can think about. At least all I can think about intellectually; writing trivialities about my life still seems doable.

The pandemic brings on thoughts of Trump. About how he could have done so much good, had he only told his cultists that the coronavirus was serious, had he told them that simple measures would help reduce the death rate. How he could have invoked the Defense Production Act sooner and more aggressively, making sure health-care workers had the PPE they needed. How he could have not simply shrugged “It is what it is” when asked about the staggering loss of life.

If he had only told the many who supported him that masks and social distancing and lockdowns, however unpleasant, would save lives, a lot of lives. If he had only pushed for more meaningful support for small businesses, so people who otherwise would be working could support their families.

I don’t want to spend all my energy thinking about Trump, writing about Trump. I want to focus on the rest of the world, or things otherwise than corruption, disease, and death. I want my brain to breathe easier.

Six weeks until hopefully that happens.

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It’s that time of year again…

…that time when I go over my favorite Christmas songs. Because, you know, you need to realize that if I could I would start playing Christmas music in August. Only the threats of my family to disown me keeps me from doing so. There will be a lot of overlap between this list and prior ones. Sorry.

Religious Christmas songs:

  1. Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Machlalan, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” My favorite version of any Christmas carol, EVER.
  2. Pentatonix, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” This song is joyful and all too often is sung almost like a dirge. Pentatonix captures the sheer wonder and happiness of it. I can almost see the angels and the shepherds going forth to the masses.
  3. Josh Groban and Brian McKnight, “Angels We Have Heard On High.” Thanks for this goes to a friend who said to me, “Are you familiar with Josh Groban? He’s fabulous.” She was also responsible for my love of Straight No Chaser.
  4. “What Child Is This,” many different versions. I especially lean towards those which refer to “the virgin” rather than “his mother.”
  5. John Denver and the Muppets. “Silent Night.” Yes, those Muppets.
  6. El Duende, “Gaudete, Gaudete.” This is visioning music, evoking medieval swirling skirts and smoky Yule logs.
  7. Shinobu Sato, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” This was used as the processional for my wedding (not this lovely acoustic guitar version, but a traditional organ).
  8. “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” several versions. This is just a great song.
  9. “Simple Gifts,” Judy Collins. I’m not quite sure why this is a Christmas song, but it seems to be. Unlike a lot of Judy Collins’s work, it’s singable.
  10. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Jordan Smith. The former Voice winner put out a Christmas album a few years ago, and it’s pretty good.

Secular Christmas Songs:

  1. Straight No Chaser, “The Twelve Days of Christmas. This narrowly edges out “The Christmas Can-Can” and “To Christmas!”
  2. The Bobs, “Fifty Kilowatt Tree.” I’m from Florida, I’ve seen trees like this.
  3. Barenaked Ladies. “Elf’s Lament.” North Pole workers unite!
  4. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” either Gayla Peevey (the original) or Kacey Musgraves. My family hates this song even more than “The Chipmunk Song.” That’s not why I love it, but it is a useful side benefit.
  5. Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I love Love, Actually. No, really. It doesn’t.
  6. Transiberian Orchestra, “Carol of the Bells.” I also really like Lindsey Stirling’s version. On second thought, I guess this is religious music. It’s a little hard to tell with instrumentals.
  7. James Taylor, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Taylor reverts to the original lyrics of the song, which are more melancholy than those you hear from most contemporary versions. I also love Taylor’s voice.
  8. Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans.” While I question some of the theology presented here, the message of mutual acceptance is needed year round.
  9. Jill Sobule, “Merry Christmas from the Family.” This sounds fun. Dysfunctional, but fun.
  10. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.” It keeps all the rest of us warm, too.

I’ve never considered music from The Sound of Music to be Christmas music, but if I did I would not choose “All My Favorite Things” but Leslie Odom, Jr.’s haunting version of “Edelweiss.” And this doesn’t fall into the category of Christmas, but I love Peter Paul and Mary’s version of “Light One Candle.” I play it all year long, because even though it references a specific holiday it relays a message that is important for all times. “Let There Be Peace On Earth” isn’t a Christmas song either, but it’s on my playlist, even though it makes me cry because it was Mom’s favorite hymn. I know of no one who better exemplified it.

I know this is a Christmas list, but I want to wish all of you a very Happy Holidays, whichever holidays you celebrate.

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Freedom? Safety?

You often hear “social conservatives” decry what they see as an infringement on their right to free speech. They claim that being called a bigot for espousing racist or homophonic or sexist speech has a chilling effect on the expression of their views.

Leaving aside whether or not this is in fact a good thing, freedom from speech has never been freedom from consequences. You say gay people are sinners, I am entitled to claim that the Christianity that you so loudly proclaim is a sham. The truism that the answer to bad speech is to answer with good speech still carries weight in some circles.

Furthermore, the First Amendment was not intended to be about individual response to speech. The amendment prohibited government action. Unless you incite violence or use your speech to otherwise plan or abet crime, the government isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and haul you off to Leavenworth or San Quentin or their local equivalents.

Supposing, though, that their argument had some minimal merit…

Within my lifetime, in places where I have lived, grave consequences attached to being gay. People who supported gay rights, or (God forbid!) outed themselves, were labeled as “perverts.”

There were people who lost jobs. Who lost families. Who were beaten.

Who died.

Where was their free speech? Where were those rights which social conservatives claim belong to all Americans? Being called a bigot is a far cry from the dangers coming out could pose. A component of free speech has to be safety from harm.

Freedom of speech for me but not for thee is no way to run a civilized society.

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The experts are giving us clear advice this Thanks giving: stay home, don’t have your family visit. Their warnings are laced with equal parts concern and incredulity that people would do such dangerous things as fly right now. In some cases, the pundits seem to imply that the people who are traveling must be MAGA-hatters who don’t believe the virus is real or at the very least not very smart.

“Remember, this is temporary,” they tell us. “There is always next year.”

Is there?

We feel some days that we are living in end times. More than a million of our fellow Americans have come down with COVID-19; more than a quarter of a million have died. and the curve seems to be climbing unabated. That’s aside from normal causes of death: cancer, car crashes, heart attacks, suicides, strokes, etc. None of us are vouchsafed a single minute. Tomorrow I could be hit by a bus. The day after, you could have a fatal heart attack.

The nature of the pandemic only intensifies the sense of urgency. If you die from COVID-19 you die alone. And the people who love you are robbed of the experience of saying goodbye in person as you slip from this earth.

We need each other. We need the people in our lives who add depth and love.

I understand this. The Red-Headed Menace and his partner, The Very Smart Partner, quarantined for two whole weeks so that they would be able to join our household bubble for the holiday. I understand the caution, too. Had they not been able to quarantine, we would have simply dropped off the turkey and trimmings on their doorstep. It’s not worth the risk.

I do not want the experts and tv anchors and newspapers to stop warning us. The pandemic is real and dangerous, and we need to be careful so that we can avoid taking this third wave worse.

I just want them to be more compassionate about it.

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My sister the Trump supporter texted me last night. We didn’t talk politics; instead we talked about my nieces and how my grand-nephew was entering first grade and how that seemed absolutely impossible and how he looked like the Red-Headed Menace.

It brought up for me the issue once again of how to interact with my sister. I know people who would urge me to cut “those horrible people” out of my life. I don’t want to do that. I do love my family, as much as I think they’re wrong. And increasing divisions in this country strikes me as counterproductive. So I think of Micah.

 The verse from Micah in the sidebar has been instrumental in influencing my political worldview. But lately, I’ve been wondering what it all means, especially in the context of today’s political and societal landscape.

Micah 6:8 clearly lays out three requirements for goodly living. To take the last one first, we are commanded to “walk humbly with your God.”  How is one supposed to do that? Is that walking humbly with respect to other human beings? Is it not using God as a smokescreen for things you would do anyway but which you want to wreath with a shroud of sanctity?

I also hit up against what do you do if you struggle with God, or even you don’t believe in God at all. Then the first two requirements for Godly living become paramount.

“To do justice” (also translated as “To act justly”) seems pretty straightforward. You act in accordance with what you understand as the just action to take. You support Black Lives Matter, if that seems important to you (as it does to me). You protest unjust action by the government, even if it’s just a letter to your congressperson. If a company acts in ways that hurts society, workers, or customers, you boycott.

But it also means justice in small ways. You give credit to the coworkers who came up with that great idea. You hold the youngest child accountable for his actions, especially if he tried to fob off responsibility on his older brother. You talk to your kids about justice, and about how privileged they are, and how important it is to always remember that.

You tell the truth as best you can, no matter how difficult.

Do I do these things? No. Do I come close? I try. I have the most difficulty in speaking the truth in uncomfortable situations. I work on it, but I am silent all too often. I never lie, but I bad at confronting people – including my family. (I blame my Southern upbringing for that.) I am struggling with it. Writing in this blog helps: I find it easy to speak the truth, to “do justice” here. And sometimes what I write here gives me the courage to speak out in other places.

And there is “love mercy” (or “love kindness).  I find the difference between the two translations confusing. Kindness is extended to everyone, regardless of status or relationship. Mercy is extended to those who need it: those in trouble, those in need of forgiveness. In some sense, people have to earn mercy. I have always preferred the translation of Micah which called for mercy, and it only occurred to me recently that it was because it required less of me.

But kindness or mercy run smack into justice. I can see where telling someone the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it, can be merciful or kind, depending upon how it is done. But justice sometimes requires anger. Protesting in the streets, speaking out loudly, cleansing a temple – they’re necessary, but how can they be merciful? Or kind?

I will continue to ponder Micah 6:8. I will be just, and kind where I can. Whether I can walk humbly with God remains to be seen.

I can but try.

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Elections checklist, update (reprise).

I was planning to run this on October 1st, but lost track of time, given everything else that is going on. Mail-in ballots have already gone out in a lot of states. (Sorry to spam you, but this information is important.)

Checklist to help make sure your vote gets counted:

For statewide requirements (registration, absentee ballots, etc.) check

  • Make sure your registration is up to date NOW. If there are problems, or if you have changed your name, address, or party affiliation since you last registered, reregister ASAP. That includes Americans living overseas, either civilians or military.
  • Develop a plan for voting: If possible check to see what options you have for voting: early voting, absentee/vote-by-mail, etc. Your registrar of voters website should have this information. Decide — will you vote by mail? At the polls? Early? If you choose to vote early, when will you do so? How does the pandemic affect those plans? Given the issues with the postal service consider early voting or vote by mail. Given the pandemic and the machinations against voting by mail, we’re all between a rock and a hard place.
  • Unless your state/county automatically sends out ballots to all voters (Washington, Oregon, some counties in California) determine what the first and last dates for requesting an absentee ballot are. Send in your request ASAP — now, if possible.
  • Know when ballots are being sent out. If you do not receive yours within a few days, call the registrar of voters.
  • If your state requires an excuse in order to get an absentee ballot, find out what excuses are acceptable and whether you might fulfill the requirements. Talk to your doctor if necessary.
  • Find out if there are other restrictions on voting. Alabama, for example, requires two witnesses or a notary. Alaska requires one witness or a notary.
  • According to the Washington Post, in many states the USPS will be unable to handle the ballots in a timely manner. If this is still the case in October, IF POSSIBLE DO NOT MAIL YOUR BALLOT. Find out where you can drop ballots off. Can you drop them off well before election day? Does your county have drop off boxes? Where are they, and what hours are they available? Can you drop them off at the registrar of voters office? Can you drop them off at the polls?
  • Return the ballot as soon as you can after you receive it.
  • If you will need help either filling out or dropping off the ballot, check and see what the rules are about this. Some counties and states make various accomodations for the disabled. They should be listed on the registrar’s website. Contact the registrar of voters if there is a problem.
  • If you do choose to use the USPS, check the front of the ballot. Some ballots require extra postage. Make sure to use an extra stamp or two to make sure the ballot gets to where it needs to go. If the ballot needs to be in by election day (or sooner) not simply postmarked by election day, make sure you leave enough time for it to get there. Given the issues with the mail, allow a lot of time. Again, it is best if you send it in as soon as possible after you get it.
  • Before you drop it off, either in a dropbox or in a mailbox, MAKE SURE YOU SIGN THE BALLOT.
  • Some counties and states have ways to check where your ballot is in process. (E.g. using bar codes or numbers on ballot stubs.) If that’s possible, after a couple of days check up on your ballot.
  • Develop a plan for going to the polls. What are the polling hours? When will you go? How long can you afford to spend there? Does your county have early voting locations, and would that be more convenient? If you are voting in person on election day, find out where your polling place is, and how to get there, if necessary. Is there an ID requirement? If so, make sure that you have the i.d. at hand.



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Farewell, RBG.

I don’t know what I could say that others have not said better. I will miss her, and her pragmatic support for women and LGBT+ rights. (She performed the first same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court.) She fought the good fight as long as she could.

I wish I could be in Washington for the lying in state. I, and so many of my friends, owe her so much. As I understand it (not being Jewish), the Jewish response to death is “may her memory be a blessing.”

That it will be. Goodbye, good lady.

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Small victories.

I am not sure I have mentioned it before, but I have tremors. In the past couple of years, they have gone from moderate to significant. (Both typing and eating have become difficult, although still possible. Between tremors and recurrent vertigo, I cannot drive.) I tell people to think of me as Katherine Hepburn in her last few years, but without the looks, talent, or money.

I still wear earrings. It takes me quite a while every morning to get them in, but I don’t want to lose the muscle memory it takes. Not to mention that if I don’t, the holes in my ears close up, and with the tremors I don’t want thave them re-pierced.

A couple of days ago I found a very long-lost earring. I liked these earrings: 10 mm light creamrose faux Swarovski pearl (because Swarovski is the best) and 6mm dark indigo Swarovski bicones. They match my hair. (Did I mentioned I dyed my hair blue? It was that or get a tattoo, and the tattoo parlors were closed.)

These earrings had been gone long enough that the sterling silver ear wires were tarnished. Putting tarnished ear wires in your lobes may be perfectly safe, but it makes me nervous.

So I changed out those wires for surgical steel. It took me twenty minutes, three different wires, and the ball and spring were sort of mangled in the end, but the earrings are wearable.

I used to bead and wirework. It was my chief creative outlet. I can’t do that, now: the last attempt drove me to tears. So even attempting this simple repair was a big deal. Before the tremors, it would have taken me two minutes — five at the outside, nowhere as long as it did today.

So I fought a simple battle, and won.

Go me.

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Just four years ago…

We were a nation that valued truth telling … before Donald Trump.

We were a nation of laws… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation that believed in the Constitution and separation of powers… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the press, if not revered, were at least respected… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation that valued science… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the presidency was about public service, not about getting as much as you could for yourself and your kids… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the Department of Justice worked to further the best interest of the country, not the president… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where white supremacists kept out of the limelight… before Donald Trump.

Oh, there were exceptions, of course. There always are. But there was not the wholesale attempts to undercut the entire underpinnings of civilized society.

Conservatives often talk about returning to a better time in America. They are usually referring to the 1950s, when minorities knew their place and women stayed within their proper sphere, the kitchen and the nursery. Now, though, liberals, too, talk about returning to a better time in America. In this case, though, they mean before 2016… before Donald Trump.

We have to succeed.

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Decisions, Decisions.

One of my goals for today was to clear out my overstuffed closet so I can put things in there without having to exercise my biceps. Then I had he notion to clear out my similarly stuffed bookshelves.

The Terry Pratchetts are not going anywhere. Well, okay, the Night Watch Pratchetts are going nowhere; nor are Thief of Time or Reaper Man. Or the Moist van Lipwick books. Or The Truth. (Well, one of the copies can go.) Especially not Monstrous Regiment, which may be my second favorite Pratchett after Night Watch. But I never really liked Mort or Hogfathet or Moving Pictures. Or Unseen Academicals.

Needless to say, any book even remotely concerned with art (with the exception of Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word, which I was singularly unimpressed with) is firmly attached to its shelf. Museums, art fraud and forgery, Nazi looting — it all stays.

I am not teaching Scripture classes, I don’t need four bibles and two bible encyclopedias. I am culling down to one of each. I feel guilty, though.

I am letting go of my “Corruption in Big Cities” set (two about Chicago, one about Hollywood and the William Desmond Taylor murder, and one about Storyville in New Orleans.) I’ll probably keep Devil In the White City, by Erik Larsen. (I also have Thunderstruck and Isaac’s Storm.) All of them hardback and pretty thick.

When I cleared out those, I found my small stash of science fiction — several by Connie Willis, a couple by John Scalzi. I wondered where those went — although not Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is with my “books I loved to reread” group along with Pratchett’s Night Watch and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I even named a cat after that book.

Should I reread Doomsday Book? Probably not right now.

There are books I feel guilty about getting rid of because they were gifts, and in some cases mark me as an intellectual. I am still getting rid of Mark Twain’s collected letters, though. It’s a good four inches thick.

I should probably wait to get rid of my copy of the Mueller report until after the election or Trump leaves office, whichever comes last.

I am a quarter through the books and have only culled a dozen of them. I really need to get more aggressive and disciplined in weeding things out.

Sigh. Thank goodness for Kindle.

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Happy Birthday to the Red-Headed Menace! I can’t believe you’re all grown up.

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I have been struggling with my feelings about several of my relatives. I feel they are good people, who have been there for me when I needed me. They are against the death penalty. They have never expressed racist comments in my hearing. They are not anti-immigrant.

They’re voting for Trump.

I know, only white supremacists could vote for Trump. Only people who feel no pain at kids in cages. Only completely soulless monsters. I see this all the time on Facebook.

Except maybe not. What — or who — could cause conservative but otherwise caring people to support a morally challenged pathological liar?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

These members of my family are strongly — one might say rabidly — anti-abortion. Control of the Supreme Court, and therefore reproductive rights, rests on the shoulders of an eighty-seven-year old woman with a history of cancer. If you honestly believe abortion is murder, as my relatives claim to do, you can overlook a great deal to possibly get control of SCOTUS.

They can deplore the lying. They can be appalled at the white supremacy. They can be saddened by kids in cages. They can be concerned about the federal response to COVID-19 (although believing that it is really the governor’s fault your state is a hot spot).

Then the equation kicks in: there were 600,000 abortions in the U.S last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And before that. What are a few thousand kids on the border against those numbers? An anti-abortion Court won’t stop all of them, but if Roe v. Wade were overturned…

In all likelihood RBG won’t survive the next four years. Biden will name someone young, who will protect reproductive choice for years. Trump, on the other hand, will name someone like Kavanaugh: young, conservative, anti-abortion.

I don’t know what to do with this. I think I understand their motivations, but I can’t bring myself to respect their choice. I’m sure they feel the same about me. But I do know that simply dismissing them does no good.

Because what ever happens, when this is all over, we are all going to have to live with each other.

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Elections Checklist

I will be repeating this several times before the election:

  1. Make sure your registration is up to date NOW. If there are problems, or if you have changed your name, address, or party affiliation since you last registered, reregister ASAP.
  2. If possible check to see what options you have for voting: early voting, absentee/vote-by-mail, etc. Your registrar of voters website should have this information.
  3. Develop a plan for voting: will you vote by mail? At the polls? Early? If you choose to vote early, when will you do so? How does the pandemic affect those plans?
  4. Unless your state/county automatically sends out ballots to all voters (Washington, Oregon, some counties in California) determine what the last date is that can you request an absentee ballot? Send in your request well before that date (as soon as allowable would be good).
  5. If your state requires an excuse in order to get an absentee ballot, find out what excuses are acceptable and whether you might fulfill the requirements. Talk to your doctor if necessary.
  6. If you suspect that the USPS might not be up to the job of handling all the ballots, find out where you can drop ballots off. Can you drop them off well before election day? Does your county have drop off boxes? Where are they, and what hours are they available? Can you drop them off at the registrar of voters office? Can you drop them off at the polls?
  7. If you choose to use the USPS, check the front of the ballot. Some of them require extra postage. Make sure to use an extra stamp or two to make sure the ballot gets to where it needs to go.
  8. Before you drop it off, either in a dropbox or in a mailbox, MAKE SURE YOU SIGN THE BALLOT.
  9. If you are going to the polls, find out if there is an i.d. requirement and make sure that you have the i.d. at hand.
  10. Find out where your polling place is, and how to get there, if necessary.

Most importantly,


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Just stuff.

Sometimes, when everything is going to hell, it’s important to remember what good there is in your life. So, in more or less random order…

  • Hamilton.
  • The Avengers movies
  • Fantasia (& Fantasia 2000)
  • Disney+
  • Art
  • Amazon (don’t judge me)
  • Facebook groups
  • Intelligent friends
  • Within that group, the alums of my college and law school
  • That I was able to reconnect with a close friend from college after eight years
  • Coursera and edx (and free online courses in general)
  • Blogging
  • The Cooking Channel
  • Alton Brown
  • That my kids are all grown up so I won’t have to start homeschooling (I know my limits)
  • The New York Times Mini Crossword
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • Google Art & Culture collections
  • Wikimediacommons
  • Good doctors
  • Good medicine
  • That I caught my tooth infection before it got too severe
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • That I have had the opportunity to travel so extensively
  • That the Rocket Scientist and I had our trip to South America just weeks before the coronavirus hit.
  • That the Rocket Scientist fixed the dryer with twelve dollars worth of parts thus saving us from having to have a hundred-dollar service call
  • New skills: baking bread.
  • People who take COVID-19 seriously.
  • That my family insists on me staying put and not taking chances, given my risk factors.
  • That live in an area where people have no problem wearing masks.
  • Horse racing
  • The color blue
  • The roof above me
  • The food in the pantry
  • The fuzzies: Penwiper & Pandora
  • The Not So Little Drummer Boy’s Sweet & Charming Girlfriend (Fiancee?)
  • The Red-Headed Menace’s Really Smart Partner (Note: the SCG is also smart, and the RSP is also sweet)
  • My family
  • Love
  • Life

Things are still terrible, but I think I feel a little better

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The best thing since…

On Saturday I baked my third batch of bread. Each batch makes two loaves. Because they have no preservatives if they don’t get eaten quickly they mold, so we gave a loaf to the Red-Headed Menace and his Really Smart Partner (RSP).

Because they are homebaked, we need to slice them ourselves. I cannot slice an even piece of bread to save my life. Either it is two inches thick, or so thin it tears before I can finish cutting it.

I really wish I could take the loaves somewhere and say “Here, can you slice this for me?” I don’t think bakeries would do that though.

Thing is… it is much better bread than the sliced type you get in the store. I wouldn’t trade it. So I guess it is a better thing than sliced bread.

Next up: cinnamon rolls. At least those won’t need to be sliced.

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I can’t really identify the last straw. Maybe it was the Administration deciding to have hospitals send COVID-19 data to HHS instead of the CDC. Maybe it was the threats leveled at schools who don’t physically open in the fall. Most likely it was…

Federal law enforcement being sent to a city that doesn’t want them, to inflame tensions and grab peaceful protesters and putting them in unmarked vans and taking them away. And reports that these tactics will be used nationwide.

I know we have to fight. I know that’s how the bastards win, by creating more and more outrageous situations so that we become inured to the slide into authoritarianism.

What’s next? Personally, I believe that those same shock troops will be used to interfere with people’s right to vote. Can’t happen? So many things have happened that would normally — or used to — be unthinkable that nothing seems off the table now.

I just can’t think. I try to keep abreast of what’s happening, but the circuits of my brain that sort out reality from paranoid delusion have burned out. Before 2016 — or even before 2018 — if you told anyone what has been happening this year, they would have suggested you seek help from a mental health professional.

I respect all of you that stay strong, that keep fighting. I’ll toss some money towards organization that are doing the work to make a better tomorrow, that are helping to keep us from just sliding into a dictatorship.

That’s all I can do right now.

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Guilty Pleasures.

In 2017, I spent four days in a Spanish hospital, laid low by pneumonia (my second bout in three years — one of the reasons that my family will not let me go to the grocery store). When I got back home, I was weak for a good six weeks. I spent a lot of time mindlessly channel surfing.

One day I chanced upon Saratoga Live, live coverage of racing from Saratoga. I love horses, and it was amusing — as much for the ads for stallions as anything else. One particularly caught my eye, for a horse called Data Link. “With no Mr. Prospector within four generations, Data Link is perfect for your outcrosses.”

Really, I thought. I know race horses tend to be inbred, but how big a problem could this be? So I kept informally checking pedigrees, and it did seem a lot of horses had Mr. Prospector blood.

I decided that I needed to be more systematic. I made an Excel spreadsheet of every horse that ran in any race the last week of the Saratoga meet, plus the horses that had run in the Triple Crown races, and a couple of Breeder’s Cup races. It came out to over 250 horses. I ran all the pedigrees back four generations. (Yes, it’s geeky. Don’t judge me.)

Something like seventy-five percent of the horses I tracked had Mr. Prospector blood. Wow.

It turned into an obsession — I started watching the races, both at Saratoga and elsewhere, but more interested in the post parade and seeing who the sires are than seeing the actual races. (Tracks are running races without people in the stands.) I am learning which sires turn out turf horses, which ones dirt, which ones sprinters, which ones distance runners. I am learning more about the horses (did you know that turf runners tend to have bigger feet than dirt runners?).

I have fun looking at the horses’ names. My favorite is a horse sired by Freud out of a mare named Plinking — Plink Freud.

I do watch the races, although I speed past all the talking heads going on about each horse’s chances. I don’t particularly care who wins, rooting for 1) a horse I have seen run and that I like, 2) a horse sired by a horse I like (the American Pharoahs turn three this year) or 3) the gray horse. (If there is more than one gray horse, then the prettiest gray horse.)

I don’t bet. I know myself well enough to know that I would run through a lot of money if I did. No, it’s better to just be a spectator.

What the hell, it’s better than binging on Tiger King.

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