Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Thanks Village Voice

The Voice published Ward's last column as a tribute.   It's worth a read.  Note, Ward did not cease his gadfly role after he retired.  He was especially focused on the humor to be extracted from the presnut, and was among the first people to  be banned from the presnut's twitter feed.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Here's Why Jeff Bezos is about to be a Trillionaire!

So today I tried to order some birthday present for Harry, which is Friday. He is 87 on Friday and dying for some new underpants and tee shirts and long sleeve tee shirts.  What a surprise it will be!!

So I get on the internets and I find a fair (but expensive) price on the items I want at Duluth Trading they have great quality and usually worth a few extra bucks.   I spend about 15 minutes on it because their web site is not exactly user friendly, but they have two of the three items (wrong time of year for long-sleeve tees) and I finally get to check out and they are out of stock on one of the two items I want.   Another 15 minutes wasted.  

So I  check Walmart and they have exactly what I want and I spend another 15 minutes figuring out  whether I have an account there, and I apparently do, so I have to find the fuckin password, which I do, and I go to check out... and they tell me I have to go to the store cause its not available on the internets.  Only available in the store, which I am not going to the store because of ... the virus.  So fuck them.  25 minutes or so wasted here.  

So I checked Lands End but the prices are crazy and I am by  now swearing a lot and resigning myself to going to Walmart when I think... COSTCO.   Duh.  Costco will have it.  Yes they do but they can't ship anything until at least June 1.  FUCK THEM!

So I'm  swearing and going to the car when I think: I have missed the obvious.  Amazon.  Of course I hate Amazon,  Its too big and too rich and they treat their employees like peasants but the Prime TV thing is great and when it absolutely positively has to be there over night?  Jeff  Bezos is on the job. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Anything is Possible

Can the NFL play without fans in the stadium?

"I'm from Cleveland, Ohio.  I spent most of my childhood going to the stadium where it was just me and a few friends watching the game. It can be done."  Evan Dawson, WXXI radio host.  
Like a Walk in the Park

It's the second consecutive day of splendid weather.  Needless to say, between the fact that I have been actually working for a client, doing my usual work of driving Mr. Harry and being out in the sunshine I have had nothing to say here.

On days like this, unless preoccupied with getting caught up on mowing the grass, I like to walk about three miles.  Lately I've been starting out with a stroll around our "back 40."   That's the ten acres of wetland  that lies about 1000 feet behind us.  When we bought this place 20 years ago, it was an impenetrable swamp used only by hunters.  First time I went back to explore I got turned around and lost until I remembered that moss grows on the north side of the tree. 

Several  years ago Hickory discovered that we could have the wetland "reclaimed" by the government, which would pay us to allow it  to be done.  And I thought, "Gee I could keep this  impenetrable swamp or let them pay us real money to turn it into a series of ponds surrounded by an embankment on which we could maintain a path so we could walk back there and see ducks  and stuff...".  What a hard decision that was!

So now we walk back there to see ducks... these little brown wood ducks, and mallards, and this time of year especially, and as much as we would prefer not... Canadian geese.  There are two mating pair of geese, one of which hatched seven gosling.  (We think we may have lost a goose last night to one of the fox or maybe the giant coyote.  There was a lot of squawking and honking and we had to let the dogs out to investigate.)  We have a blue heron who feasts every year on the quadmillion frogs that live around the ponds and make a lovely country style racket. 

We have pheasant this year (the mega millionaire neighbor raises them for shooting on his property and occasionally one escapes).  No turkey this year, an alleged giant coyote (which could be the neighbor's dog), raccoon and possum and fisher and generally, wild things. And of course deer, which breed like rats here.  we also have rats, by the way, muskrats for sure.  And to keep it all clean and tidy, buzzards.  It's a pleasant way to start a walk and they say a few minutes with mother nature every day is good for you.  Hoping for no deer ticks. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Happy Mothers' Day

I am now old enough to wait patiently behind slow moving drivers,  reminding myself about the famous virtue.  But I was in something of a hurry to get to the Longhorn Steak House on Mothers' Day so I actually passed the old driver who was creeping along at the speed limit.  Pick-up time was 5:30.   Dinner was  at 6 and our own old people get grouchy when it's late. 

We had something of a debate over Longhorn or Ourback and this time Longhorn won because our dearly beloved wanted surf n turf and the lobster was much better at Longhorn.  Outback was preferred because it has more experience handling carryout.   So  I called in the Longhorn order and they said they don't have lobster, so  I checked with the dearly beloved who said she would be happy with a 12-ounce steak.  Then they don't have a 12-ounce steak. Eight ounces was the max.  So I went with that. 

Got to the Longhorn and the parking lot  was full.  There were four carryout slots and they were full and the other cars were filled with people  waiting for carryout.  The guy on the phone said you just wait in your car and someone will come out and verify your order and deliver the food.  I waited. This appeared to  be a prescription for disaster. I waited.  No one approaches the car. There is a young woman running from car to car on the other side of the parking lot.   I called my friend Pat to pass the time.  He's in Virginia making Chili for Mothers' Day dinner.  A sensible solution it seemed to me.  I then spotted an employee.  Hung up the phone and  tracked the kid down.
Yes, he said, I'll take your name down and be right back.  I told  him I was scheduled for a 5:30 pickup.   He said "Sir, all these people are scheduled for a 5;30 pick up."  I got back in the car called Pat back.  We laughed it off... maybe the presnut is  in charge...  I spied another wait person, this one bringing out food to a car.  Signed off with Pat.  It's now 6:10. 

Food was delivered to the car next to mine.  I flagged down the waitperson.  "Who is responsible for this mess?" I asked.  She rolled her eyes.  "Longhorn,"[i] she said.  "They didn't bring in enough help.  They just drafted wait staff to help in the kitchen."  What are the chances?  "They should get to it soon,"  she said.

I'm imagining the fool who failed to figure out that if you schedule ... say... thirty dinners to be delivered at the same time, you would have to have a substantial staff and plenty of planning.  Not to mention that this was likely more than  30 dinners.  The lot was full.  I could see the front door from my car.  The crowd there grew and shrank over time.  Now there were 16 standing there.  People came and left.  Some careening angrily from the parking lot. 

It's 6:30.  I call home, threatening to leave.  Fact is we don't have a Plan B.  Will says he and Swillar will put together some appetizers and see what  kind of a meal we can cook quickly.  The dearly beloved asks that I stay on.  I tell her I'll give it until 7. 

I am waiting.  There was a pretty good blues program on 90.1.

It's 6:45.  I track down the waitperson again.  You've got until 7, I said. I have never waited that long for service anywhere in my life.  "You should be coming up, " she said, "they are starting to get to the 5:30s."

I'm thinking of memorable restaurant failures. Otherwise known as "THE LAST TIME I EVER WENT TO THAT FUCKING PLACE."   The time I took Harry and Shirley to my favorite business lunch spot because the service was extraordinary and Shirley had been having a run of bad luck with restaurant service.  We sat for a good 15 minutes before they came with water and menus.   The first thing Shirley ordered they didn't  have.  The second thing she ordered they didn't bring because  they brought something else.  They put onions in her salad.  The waiter was rude and no one ever apologized.    Then there was Uno's.   We were returning from Maine, hungry.  We had been driving for 10 hours.  A party of six including three adolescent boys.  It took 20 minutes to put in an order and another 30 before it was delivered. Every order was screwed up.  My order was forgotten entirely and I refused to wait until they got it right.  Red Lobster?  I tried to remember what I had against Red Lobster, but I have vetoed return visits so often that they quit asking to go there.  I still hate the place.  That was 15 years ago. 
I wait.  The blues show is off.  Its 7.  I've been here since 5:30.  The wait person comes by.  "What's your name again"?, she asks.  I spell it for her twice.  "I  think it's ready," she says.  She stops to answer questions from the multitude.  I wait.  She's out the door with a large bundle.  The crowd begins to part to let her through.   She stops to explain something.  I wait.    She arrives.  Mission accomplished!  She smiles,  I open the back door.   There is already a 20 percent tip on the bill.   I slipped her an added $5.  It's 7:10.  I have never waited this long without being completely pissed off.  It's not my day.  It's Mothers Day.
So here is the review:   We had two filet mignons for the old people.   They were burnt to perfection (just then way they like them).   They were also cold.   Poor Shirley, the senior Mother,  couldn't eat hers. The baked potatoes were not cooked.   Swillar, usually sanguine,  found her chicken sandwich acceptable.  Will and I had the salmon.  It was dried out and cold and  burnt.  No amount of microwaving could save it.  The wine was good Swillar brought it .  The beloved one, whose 12 ounce steak was really only 8 ounces because that's all they had,  won the prize.  It was a perfect medium rare, the mashed potatoes were still hot and the gravy excellent.

 I got the consolation prize: three coupons for free appetizers good only at the bar!!  I will be so excited to collect. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Which side are you on?

The faced book has removed a propaganda thing claiming that wearing masks actually makes you more vulnerable the Covid 19 and is a get rich scheme cooked up by the vaccination tyrants. Somehow it  benefits Bill Gates, like he needs more money.   Good on the faced book for exercising intelligent editorial control. To those who claim this violates the first amendment: it does not because the government is  not involved.  And to my dear friend who argued that there are two sides to every dispute... read on. 

Certainly there are two sides to every athletic dispute.

 There are two sides to the argument about whether the presnut had the largest inaugural crowd in history if you are willing to see aerial photos of the Obama inaugural crowd and the current presnut's crowd and not believe your own eyes. There are two sides to the argument over the presnut's continuing support from Russia only if you are not willing to believe the latest findings of the Republican dominated Senate Intelligence Committee or the ongoing work of the CIA and FBI and NSA.  Or maybe you think Russian domination is a good thing. 

There are two sides to the theory of evolution, but you can only teach one of them in school science class.  That's because one of those sides is science.  The workings of evolution have been observed, measured and documented by trained scientists using standard, widely recognized processes and verified by more trained scientists (and many many 10th grade biology classes) in the 200 plus years since Darwin took  his little boat ride around the world.   The other side is religion.  You can teach it in a class on religious belief generally, but you can't label it as science because it  is not.  (See Kitzmiller v. Dover Schools).

There are two sides to the argument over global warming if you fail to recognize the rising temperatures, massive wild fires, freaky tornadoes and storms.  It's another of those arguments you don't want to be on the wrong side of. 

Two sides to every argument admits of disparate approaches to difficult problems but it does not admit to different facts.  It's all about the evidence. It's about rational people critically evaluating the demonstrable facts and deciding what is true or not.  If you assume that all people should have equal economic opportunity then the facts of trickle down economics, established since the turn  of the 20th Century, are that it benefits only the wealthy and leads to substantial inequality.  (And if you hate big government it's worth noting that large or small, government has the capacity to interfere in the marketplace and for the last 50 years at least, such interventions have benefited the rich.)   Trickledowners tell the truth: you don't care about economic opportunity for all.  You believe wealthy people rule and poor people are expendable. 

 The facts about vaccines are that we humans have been vaccinating ourselves for centuries.  The Chinese invented smallpox vaccine more than 1,000 years ago.   John Adams was following a well established practice when he gave each of his children a scratch on the arm and smeared it with the blood of a soldier who had died of smallpox. Louis Pasteur invented a rabies vaccine in 1885 and by 1930 there were vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis. The polio vaccine was years in the making.  When it was perfected it was given to every citizen.  (I was in a cohort of 1.8 million children who got the shot in 1954 as a part of the first mass trial run.  In  a model of government efficiency, children were bused to nearby collection sites (the Weir, KS,  parish hall in my case)  lined up, inoculated with an enormous needle (I was 6) and carted home.  Researchers successfully  targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella and these vaccines were routine for newborn children by the 1990s.

Vaccines became controversial in the late 1990s, when a report was published in France that claimed a connection between vaccinations and autism.  This study has been frequently and effectively discredited., but it persists in the minds of the same people who believe that Bill Gates needs more money and that the Deep  State exists.

There are two sides to the question of whether the government should or should not be involved in combating the virus (or whether big government is better than small government).  We are seeing that argument gamed out in real time, and the evidence so far indicates the less government crowd is not doing such a good job.  Governments actively engaged in the fight (New Zealand, Korea, Germany to name a few) are getting control of the virus. Total victim numbers are declining and the opportunity to safely open up (with limitations) is on the horizon.  In the USA the victim rate continues to rise, the dead pile up, and efforts to "open up" the economy are scaring hell out of rational citizens.  One side of this argument is you embrace your freedom.  The other is it could kill you.  

Monday, May 4, 2020

Learn everything you need to know about Kent State here:  https://www.truthtribunal.org/
Something's Happening Here

It's the 50th Anniversary of the murder of four students by the United States Government at Kent State University.  A time to reflect.   On May 4, 1970 I  was student teaching in Abion, PA., a wretched poor white trash community to the south and east of Erie.  I was married, 21, and my son was just old enough that when the 20th anniversary came around at Kent State he served on the student committee that organized the commemoration... he was 2.   There was no protest at my school, Edinboro State College;  not that day, and not the next day, not two weeks later when they killed two students at Jackson State, not on any day during that turbulent period.  Edinboro State was work-a-day college for work-a-day Pennsylvania.

May 4 would have been an otherwise unremarkable day in my life but for the news, which we got sometime before the school day ended.  It was a beautiful spring day, I was bored... I hated teaching ...and wished I was at Kent, just as inn 1969 I wished I were at  Woodstock, and later I wished I was back at Kansas University, where students were burning down the campus.  It was a year for wishing I was in other places.  Truth is I was lucky to be going to school and luckier still that I was not in uniform heading to the battlefields of Vietnam. Like most of my classmates, I didn't have the luxury of doing the cool stuff.

None the less, if I was passionate about anything in those days, I was passionate about the Vietnam War.  I had done the research, could find no threat from the vast Commie conspiracy and certainty not from Vietnamese nationalism.  It was obvious even then that the wars' real harm was the ongoing loss of life and national resources in a war that, we were soon to learn from the Pentagon Papers, we could in no way win. And now  they were murdering students.  Something was happening.    

Curiously, I'd feel a lot better if Nixon were president today.  He was evil and scheming and in the end mad as a hatter.  But he was competent.  Faced with a crisis pandemic he would have taken charge, harnessed the power of government, asked the nation to work with him and  moved forward.  Given his choice of crises, I'm betting Tricky Dick would have taken a pandemic any day over an intractable war that no one could win. 

Friday, May 1, 2020


Here is what I wrote this morning:  Warm and sunny morning.  Opened the upstairs windows and may even get a walk in today... What a thing.  Two hours later the temperature drops and  gray skies appear.  F THIS!!   Weather person says more rain today.  Rained most of yesterday.   Got my lawn mowers back from the shop Wednesday and even got some mowing done before the rain started.   Paying lawnmower bill made me miss the days when you took the mower to the neighbor who was good at these things and got it fixed for free.  I could have bought one new one for the repair bill on two. 
Started new rule this week, only one shopping day per week.  Requires a lot better planning, which has never been a strong suit here, but the rule is do without if you don't have it.  We will not starve even if we don't have any bread (which I'll  bake anyway.)  More importantly it's been more than two weeks since I bought gas and I still have better than a half tank.  I  usually fill it weekly. 

Here is a rant for ya!  One frightening note:  no chicken at Costco and very little at Wegpersons.  The presnut has done the right thing by ordering meat processors to stay open, but of course he has half-assed it.  He should be putting someone in charge with authority to ensure meat production and distribution and coordinate the health, safety and compensation of workers.  Failure to do so will turn this into another shitshow.

And speaking of shitshows, the Congress has thoroughly made one, too.  Only a few weeks into the virus reconstruction package and the wheels are already falling off the bus.  People who are out of work have discovered that the generous government tax refund is not enough money (and some people who got it  don't really need it), unemployment money is not forthcoming because the system is overwhelmed, and even if it weren't,  an unemployment check in most states is not adequate.  Tax breaks for millionaires materialize out of the government soup, big business got to the trough first and small business got pushed aside. 

There is a cheaper, easier and more equitable way to deal with this:

  • Everyone, including unemployed people, landlords, corporations who need assistance because of the virus get in the form of forbearance.  All mortgages, credit card payments, car payments rent payments, bond payments will be delayed until this is over.  Payments resume when the economy returns to normal and loans are extended on the back end. No interest accrues  in this period.  No balloon payments.  
  • People who have no money for food will get direct government support up to  80 percent of income.  
  • Everybody takes their losses.  Banks lose interest income, landlords lose rent.   Concert goers  don't get a full rebate on those concert tickets.  
  • No one gets a windfall.  People holding those concert tickets share with the musicians and vendors and venues. \
  • Everyone is eligible for interest free government guaranteed loans to be paid back on a schedule. Health care is free.  The government will subsidize the hospitals until this is over.