I am now working for the 2020 US Census. Two things:

  • They’re hiring. The pay is reasonably good, and there are some part time positions with flexible hours. Check it out at Most importantly, the Census is a noble and Constitutionally-mandated endeavor.
  • Much like when I worked for the Elections Division, for the duration of my employment with the Census, I will not be writing political posts for this blog. Yes, I know what’s going on; I read the Washington Post. Yes, I know we are heading into an election year.

    The Census is Caesar’s wife: it must not only be impartial and nonpartisan, it must be seen to be impartial and nonpartisan. While I understand that I don’t have a big audience here, it really is the principle of the thing.

I wrote this on my sidebar, but I wish to reiterate that the opinions in this blog are my own, and that I do not speak as a representative of any employer, past, future, or present.

I’ll still be around, commenting on movies and what not.

See ya’ in the funny papers.

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Hijacking the Jukebox.

In the time I have spent hanging out in The Bar (aka the place with better wifi and better drinks than Starbucks, not to mention all the friendly people, aka my favorite local place to hang out), I have heard a lot of different music from the jukebox, except for country. That is, other than the time I played “Ode to Billie Joe” for a friend on day the grounds that everyone need to have heard this song.

I am thinking the next time I go in I will play country. I am currently on a country kick, after having been away from it since 9/11. Then it seemed everything was red, white, and blue, my country (i.e., the Bush administration) love it or leave it. (I’m looking at you, Toby Keith.) Although I did buy some country records, I was not really into it. (For example, I dislike Blake Shelton’s country records. That said, I was surprised when I heard the duet of “Fly Me To the Moon” that he and Adam Levine performed on The Voice. The man has a smooth baritone, and perfect phrasing.) There were some good women artists, such as Miranda Lambert, but it seemed to me that country radio played a lot of “bro country” songs. (It wasn’t just my imagination, either: a study recently showed that women were severely under-represented in country music.)

The Ken Burns series has rekindled my interest in country, partly since they stopped pretty much at about 2000.

So, my playlist:

I think I can play five songs without people getting too upset, so…

  • “Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash (the live from San Quentin version)
  • “Pancho and Lefty,” Emmylou Harris (if the jukebox does not have Emmylou Harris, I’ll settle for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard)
  • “Streets Of Bakersfield,” Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens
  • “Travelin’ Thru,” Dolly Parton (this song has become a personal anthem for me)
  • “Hurt,” Johnny Cash (Johnny Cash was a genius)

If I thought I could get away with another five…

  • “Ode to Billie Joe,” Bobby Gentry (as I said, everyone needs to hear this song at least once)
  • “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt
  • “Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow Medicine Show (although I would settle for Darius Rucker)
  • “I Still Miss Someone (live),” Rosanne Cash
  • “Friends in Low Places,” Garth Brooks (of course)

And just another five to round out the list:

  • “Crazy,” Patsy Cline
  • “Jolene,” Dolly Parton
  • “Deeper than the Holler,” Randy Travis
  • “Down at Twist and Shout,” Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • “Clown in Your Rodeo” (or “Asking Us to Dance” — aka, the most romantic song ever), Kathy Mattea

This does not even begin to scratch the surface, and I have a puny number of songs. I only have about 170 songs, ranging chronologically from “Mule Skinner Blues” by Jimmie Rodgers to “Space Cowboy” by Kacey Musgraves. My country playlist clocks in at only a bit over 8 hours.

So, maybe I could just keep making lists, and playing them five at a time… “Amarillo By Morning,” George Strait, “My Church,” Marren Morris, “Me and Bobbie McGee,” Kris Kristofferson (although I am sure no one would object if I played the Janis Joplin cover), “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the Brandi Carlisle and Emmylou Harris version…

Watch out, people.

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Yes, we know.

A few days ago, a friend was quite reasonably griping about the poor service she had received on a recent order from an online shopping service. Someone popped up to mansplain to her that the service in question treats its people horribly, implying that she was contributing to the problems those workers faced. She responded with the disdain that his arrogance called for.

Like me, my friend is disabled, and the guy who took it upon himself to “educate” her in her social responsibilities knew that.

I’ve heard it before. Lectures about how you should never use Amazon Prime Now, even if you are alone and that may be the only way you can get the food or OTC medications you need. How you should never use Uber or Lyft, even if you are prohibited from driving.

It’s like lecturing people about eating fast-food when there may be no grocery store within five miles. It’s like lecturing people on medication that the weight gain is bad for them, when the meds are what keep them alive. It’s like condemning the elderly who go to WalMart because they are running on a ragged economic edge and things are cheaper there.

I have been a liberal all my life. I hate to say that I, too, failed to see how the actions that we demand of others may not be possible. Twenty years ago, before my tremors got so bad I have to put whipped cream on my coffee so it won’t slosh and burn my hand on the way to the table, I would have been behind the straw ban all the way.

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

I don’t presume to speak for all disabled people, but for myself:

I know the gig economy is dreadful for workers.

I know delivery services like InstaCart can pay their workers horribly.

I know that Amazon workers often end up quite close to the poverty line, and they can be fired by a computer if their productivity flags.

I know that Lyft and Uber claim their drivers are independent contractors rather than employees so that they don’t have to provide sick leave or worker’s comp.

I know Whole Foods (which delivers through the Prime Now app) just yanked health coverage from a whole lot of their part-time employees.

Google Delivery, GrubHub, DoorDash…. as I said the gig economy sucks for people.

And you environmental activists: I know that ride-sharing is worse for the environment.

And yes, I know that plastic straws contribute to plastic in the ocean, even if it is a minuscule part of the whole.

I know. We know.

Transit may or may not be a possibility. Here, it’s not. I have been told I am not to drive at all. Lyft makes it possible for me to get to dental and medical appointments, and get out of the house before I slit my wrists (Not seriously. I don’t think.)

The store is five minutes away. I was told NO DRIVING. The concussion specialist followed that instruction up with “this isn’t about you; this is to safeguard everyone else on the road.”

I am privileged: I have the resources to use Lyft. Otherwise it would take ninety minutes — or more — instead of the twenty it takes with Lyft to get to a doctor’s appointment. Furthermore, the last time I used transit, I was hit with a dizzy spell and had to stagger the block from the closest bus stop to my house unable to see straight. I was terrified the whole time that I would fall and not be able to get up.

So the next time you make pronouncements about how awful people are who engage in activities that activists decry, stop for a moment and think about the people who may have no choice in the matter. Understand that, and tone down the rhetoric.

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What I learned from “Country Music”

Since the series is so sprawling, I an only going to present thoughts I have arising from the last three episodes of Country Music:

Bluegrass banjo and mandolin players: how do they DO that? It makes my fingers hurt just to watch them.

This series is inspiring me to look up (and buy) music, both by artists I love (Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson) and ones I haven’t heard before (Townes Van Zandt, Asleep at the Wheel, Bill Monroe).

When I die, along with “Amazing Grace,” I want “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “Go Rest High On That Mountain” performed at my funeral. And “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Good luck in finding someone to play that last one.

I really like how the series mostly relies on artists, songwriters, producers, and executives (i.e. people who have first hand knowledge of the events) to talk rather than historians.

I have always loved Kathy Mattea’s music, but now I want to go out to have coffee with her. Or a beer.

The number of singers following in the steps of Hank Williams — including his son — is sad. That quite a number of them survived it is reassuring.

Of all the remarkable origin stories in country music, the none was more so than Kris Kristofferson’s. Rhodes scholar, studying the romantic poets? Helicopter pilot and instructor at West Point who drops everything to move to Nashville to become a songwriter, and who becomes a janitor to make enough money to live, before getting his break and making it big? It sounds like an over-the-top drama from Miramax.

Also, how many country singers — or American singers in any genre, for that matter — have their most well-known song inspired by a Frederico Fellini film?

Dwight Yoakam is a handsome man. In the nineties he was totally hot. Sort of like Tom Petty if Tom Petty wasn’t ugly.

I have come to be fond of “Wagon Wheel” just from the snatch of it in the commercial at the front of the show.

I am even more astounded by Johnny Cash than I was before. I loved his music, but now I cherish his activism and concern for social justice. The trolls would call him an SJW, and I’m sure he would wear the label proudly.

Singing “I Walk the Line” when you’re having an affair with a singer you are traveling with (even if she does turn out to be the love of your life) is hypocritical, though.

Aretha Franklin may be the voice of God, but all the angels sound like Emmylou Harris.

John Denver may not have been a country singer, as people asserted, but he was definitely a country songwriter. “Back Home Again”? “Sunshine on My Shoulders”? “On the Road”? “Matthew”? If they had been sung by Vince Gill, everyone would say what great country songs they were.

I’m so glad they saved the Ryman. It is an irreplaceable part of American cultural history.

My second favorite story was how Willie Nelson’s label put out Red-Headed Stranger thinking it would crater and so in the future he would be more likely to do what they wanted. It spent over 100 weeks on the country charts, and is considered one of the best albums ever made. (His producer said that after that no one interfered with Willie, “including me.”)

My very favorite story is how Vince Gill’s bluegrass band was at the last minute signed to open for… KISS. Needless to say, it did not go well. As Gill said as he was laughingly recalling the story, you couldn’t script this.

I had a lot of other thoughts, but I’ll spare you.

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What I did today.

I have a bead stash. (Beaders understand this. So do knitters, for that matter.)

I know people with much bigger stashes, but mine is not really anything to sneeze at. Ignoring the silver (I can’t quite remember how much I have, other than 300 3mm silver balls, 25 feet of 24 gauge dead soft sterling, and about 3.5 feet of 20 gauge dead soft sterling, plus headpins of various gauges — I have more than that but I can’t remember exactly what), the replacement value of the Swarovski crystal bicones alone is $60. (I’ve used up a lot of what I had. Were I to buy full packages of the crystals in the shades I use, it would be approximately $130. I know, I priced them out this morning.) Then there is the amethyst, onyx, carnelian, various shades of jasper, malachite, sodalite, three types of quartz (rose, crystal, and ice), freshwater pearls (although I’m low on these), faux pearls (Swarovski, of course, they’re the best), cloissone … and so on. All of these in multiple sizes and in some cases shapes.

And the lapis. Mustn’t forget the lapis: 4, 8, and 10mm.

They’ve been languishing in their bag for quite a while now. (One of the big advantages of beading as a hobby over knitting is that you can have a decent stash that fits in the size of a carry-on bag, rather than taking up half a wall.) I have felt guilty every time I looked at them, thinking I really should find a beader — preferably young and just starting — to give them to.

Right now I am a) waiting to be called in for training for a job, and 2) have a health issue which limits how much I can do. So this morning I thought “hey, let’s try beading!”

This what I made:

It took two hours, and I was exhausted at the end. Ten years ago it would have taken half an hour, tops. On a slow day.

Specifics, for people who are into that sort of thing:


  • 8 mm amethyst rounds
  • 10 x 6 (I’m estimating here) amethyst ovals
  • 8 mm rose quartz rounds
  • Swarovski: light amethyst bicones, 6mm and 3mm; amethyst, 3mm bicones

Clasp: 20 gauge dead soft sterling silver (I am out of hard, which is what I would normally use for clasps


  • Aforementioned amethyst ovals and rose-quartz rounds
  • 3mm amethyst Swarovski bicone
  • 2mm sterling silver bead
  • Surgical stainless fishhook ear wires (I’m out of sterling ones)

My design originally included mauve freshwater pearls, but ten minutes frustrating labor convinced me that the holes were too small for me to be able work with. I would have used faux pearls instead, but the colors of the ones I had clashed with the rest of the materials.

I’m a little nervous about the earrings; I needed to open the loop on the fishhook, which is not something I ever like to do, but I think I closed it completely, and besides which I was using a 20 gauge sterling headpin as the base, which is pretty thick for that application (at least as far as I am accustomed).

So, that is my major accomplishment for today.

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I’ve made such progress.

Before I start, I just want to say that this is NOT a sob story. I don’t want sympathy, let alone pity.

I have spent most of my life defining myself by my intellect. I went to one of the nation’s premier liberal arts college. I did so well on my GREs and LSAT that the counseling center at my undergraduate college, asked me write up my suggestions for success. (Namely: study the books if you feel you have to (more important for the GRE, especially the subject test), get enough sleep, get all of your gear ready to go the night before, and eat breakfast.) I graduated from a top five law school. I passed the California Bar the first time I took it, even though I was six months pregnant and throwing up all through the first day, and zonked out on antiemetics the second and third.

I was on Jeopardy!. I lost. Although I never really told people this, I was somewhat crushed. (Although I had an excuse: I lost to Ken Jennings.) I told people it was just an honor being able to play.

Dear Academy, it’s such an honor to be nominated….

I kept on mentally thinking of myself as, if not the smartest person in the room, then certainly one of them. I was not accomplished (and I’m not) but by God I was smart.

Then in 2015, following a serious viral infection, I developed delirium from what the doctor described as post-viral encephalitis. I suffered cognitive damage, memory damage, and executive functioning/attention damage. The unfamiliar doctor who did the psychometric testing told me, “You’re fine. Your scores are average, some high average. The only problem is attention and executive functioning; those are very low.” She didn’t quite understand why I started crying. (The doctors who knew me agreed that I was not “fine.”)

Losing high cognitive functioning devastated me. I had not lost my intellect, I had lost myself. I had lost my sense of identity. I had lost my way of being in the world. (As an aside, this is the reason Dr. Strange is my favorite MCU character. His experiences resonate with me in a way that, say, Iron Man’s, do not.)

It took a year, but cognition came back (mostly), memory came back (mostly), and the executive functioning…. is probably toast for good. I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated squirrel.

During that year, I had to find a new identity. I had to change the way I think of myself. I was still smart, but not as smart. But I came to realize that that was not all I was. I was caring, I could be funny, I was passionate about people, I was courageous at times. I was sweet, and gentle. (There are negative attributes too, but those are for another post.) Those things had been there all along, of course, but I was too busy being arrogant about my intelligence to think about them much.

I am thinking of all of this because of tonight’s trivia game. My friend Chris, who runs the trivia games, had an entire category of questions that were on my Jeopardy! game. He didn’t tell us that was what it was until afterwards, of course.

I tanked the round. True, a particularly annoying team was making so much noise that it was difficult to hear, let alone think, but really, for most of them I just didn’t remember. (I did remember the question that had been final Jeopardy!, about Monsanto. I grinned at the memory of getting it right, and stomping the annoying Georgetown lawyer who came in third.)

Chris told me later that he expected me to run the category. And five years ago, I would have been angry with myself for not doing so. I would have been upset at not getting questions I had gotten right fifteen years ago. I would have worried about whether I was losing my grip. I would have beat myself emotionally over a really silly trivia game being played for beer that I’m not even going to drink.

Tonight, though, I am simply terribly amused. Whether or not I remember what animal is on the Victoria Cross, or what inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire called themselves, it’s all good. In Moana, Maui said “Hook, no hook. I’m still Maui.” I could say “Smarts, no smarts. I’m still Pat.”

So as I said, I was — and am — greatly amused by my poor performance in the “Jeopardy!” round.

That was true even before I won the game.

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DRVs (and other things).

I am still stuck at home. Given that I used to drive sometimes to ease severe stress, I am experiencing more stress than usual.

I was very good yesterday: I needed some items from the grocery and was sorely — very sorely — tempted to drive to the store. I didn’t. I ordered from Amazon Prime Now. I know that Amazon (and Amazon Prime Now) and Lyft are bad for workers. (I read the terms of payment for Instacart and was not impressed.) But I depend upon them to cope with my current situation. (One problem is that I am required to order more than $35 to get free shipping, so I tend to order more than I planned to. On the other hand, Whole Foods (which delivers through Amazon) had both baby mixed carrots and cotton candy grapes.)

I have bought an HDMI cable and can now hook my computer up to my television. I can watch Good Omens on television, and rent Avengers:Endgame and not have to watch it on my computer. Yay!

Just in time, too: my cable box has died. Last time that happened, I lost all the (many) shows I had DVRed.

Let’s see… I am not worried about the silents. They’re pretty much in the public domain, so on Halloween I can watch the original Nosferatu (I rewatched it last week and oh, wow is that creepy), and the original Phantom of the Opera, and the Swedish Phantom Carriage (and Haxon, for that matter), and the House on the Hill (the Vincent Price version) which is not a silent but is in the public domain (as is, famously, It’s a Wonderful Life). I can finish watching The Passion of Joan of Arc.

I’m not too concerned about the classics. TCM shows them often, so I expect to be able to re-record Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and All About Eve within a year. My Fair Lady and Gigi are more problematic — they show up rarely. My best hope there is if they are shown during TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar in February.

The miniseries are probably toast: The Name of the Rose, Fosse/Verdon and Ken Burn’s Country Music, although that last one will almost undoubtedly end up on Netflix. I will lose 52 episodes of Jeopardy! (I record them and watch them when I get around to it — don’t judge me), 130 odd episodes of Good Eats (not to mention about fifteen episodes of Good Eats: the Reload). Fortunately, American Gods, Sherlock, and the first two seasons of Downton Abbey are on my computer.

Woodstock, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Wonder Woman are gone. As is the 2019 Westminster Dog Show (I re-watch this often — don’t judge me). (No way in hell that wire fox terrier should have won.)

I have recorded other things, either to watch myself or to force the rest of my family to watch. (I think I have 12 Angry Men, for example.) Those don’t matter as much, although I really wish I could have gotten people to watch The Oxbow Incident. Members of my family seem reluctant to watch any movie which is either in black or white or has subtitles.

It’s a pain, but on the other hand it is good to occasionally clear things out. I am going to miss Woodstock, though.

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