May 16th, 2020


Random Bits from Facebook

May 1:
Counter-intuitive Capitalism

It turns out that there is a sound Capitalist argument for Universal Basic Income. In a depressed economy with a significant labor surplus (which has been true of the lower half of the US economy for most of the last 40 years), the most valuable thing average people can bring to market is their ability to consume. In strict Capitalist terms, UBI doesn't pay people to do NOTHING, it pays them to CONSUME. And THAT is something the economy actually needs.

May 1:
Watching "Frankenstein" on YouTube (Miller as Monster; we saw the Cumberbatch as Monster version back in 2012). GREAT play.

May 2:
And now for something completely different...
Original meme: All of the animals which appeared in this motion picture were ritually slaughtered and eaten at the rap party, along with two production assistants whom no one liked (but found to be quite tasty).

(21 reactions, several shares, and great-grandchildren, at least)

May 3:
From an RPG GM Group:

Someone: Most of us have been playing various role playing games for a long time. What motivates you to continue playing? What drives that passion?

The responses were joyous and inspirational and, to me, really, really alien.

My answer: I don't know any more; I've lost it. I joined this group as part of a personal quest to get it back.

May 4:
It's May 4.

The day when my vague dislike of all things Star Wars gets pushed right to the edge of hatred (though it never falls over).

It would have been almost exactly 37 years ago; the movie didn't open for a few more weeks, but I rushed out and got the Marvel comics adaptation, because I wanted to see how Lucas was going to resolve the wonderful mythic conundrum that had been set up by Vader's announcement that he was Luke's father. I had been waiting for THREE YEARS...

LUCAS THREW IT AWAY. He had never had a solution, and he couldn't be bothered to invent one, because it didn't involve selling toys.

I was an emotional wreck at that point anyway; my fiancee had dumped me a few weeks earlier, and I was considerably less sane than even my normal dodgy standard. And now this. I had been in love with Star Wars for six years; I had only been in love with the redhead for one.

I got over the redhead. That breakup turned out to be a very good thing, actually. But Lucas... Lucas had broken my heart (and forever destroyed the already marginal narrative integrity of his creation) out of LAZINESS. It's hard to forgive that.

The thing is, I WANT to forgive Star Wars. I still vividly remember the joy those first two movies gave me. I still drag myself into every new movie hoping to find more than a few vague echoes of that long lost magic, but it remains lost.

The risk analysis engine in my head, which never sleeps, assures me that I am wasting my time, that the machine which Star Wars has become is not just soulless, but soul-consuming, and that there is no hope that the magic will return.

"Really?" I ask. "No hope at all?"

"It is a non-zero probability," the Risk Engine replies. "It would be a very poor wager."

"And yet," I say, as I put my money once again on the long shot, "I continue to hope."

May 4:
My cousin, David Walthers, died early Sunday morning at the age of 76. He did his 20, and more, in the US Army, and then kept doing the same thing as a civilian contractor for another 20 or so. We weren't close; we haven't spoken since his mother's funeral back in 2005.

I am now Grandma Haynie's oldest surviving grandchild. Not sure how I feel about that.

May 4:
Howard Ballard, the hero of the following piece, died in the small hours this morning at the age of 91.

My sister-in-law Sue, Howard's daughter, shared this with him shortly after I wrote it in 2018. I have known, from the moment that I finished writing it, that I was morally obligated to read it at his funeral.

Circumstances have interfered. I do my best.

In December of 2013, at a family gathering, I made an off-hand comment about the impossibility of a human-powered helicopter, and Howard, my bother's father-in-law, looked me in the eye and sincerely asked me why it was impossible.

Howard was in his 80s, then, a retired marketing guy whose only formal experience with physics or engineering would have been during the Truman administration. The answer he wanted was really over the edge of his world. But he seemed to be really interested, so I took a deep breath and dove in.

I hit him with the distinction between momentum and kinetic energy, and power limitations, and scaling issues, maybe three minutes of really hard core geekery while the other nine or ten people at the table looked on with interest, amusement, or boredom. Howard asked intelligent questions and stayed engaged, and in the end, I think he really got it. I wouldn't bet that he could reconstruct it the next day, but at that moment, he had a firm grasp on this obscure little bit of the esoterica mathematica.

Every now and then, someone does something that just makes me proud to be a member of the same species, does something that cuts through all of the angst and the doomsaying and makes a little voice in my head say, "Damn. Score one for the big, pink monkeys." That night, it was Howard.

I can only hope that, if I survive that long, I can play the game of life half as well as Howard did that night.

Here's to you, Howard. You still make me proud to be a member of the same species.

(I have since learned that about six months before the above mentioned conversation took place, the AeroVelo Atlas, a gossamer monstrosity that occupied half a football field and was powered by an Olympic-level cyclist, flew for 64 seconds. *I* was wrong; Howard was still impossibly cool.)

May 6:
One of the myriad ways you can dichotomize humanity is that there are those who find the idea of reunion with and eventual dissolution into the cosmic oneness as comforting, and there are those who find the idea horrific.

May 6:
On this day in 1937, broadcaster Herbert Morrison choked back his desire to let loose with an entirely appropriate string of expletives, and said, "Oh, the humanity!"

May 6:
The Mark 2 soda bottle mask is more comfortable AND actually filters the air, in addition to giving your speech a Darth Vader reverb. (Appropriate image.)

May 8:
The following was brought to my attention by Bob Burgermeister, and is simply too good to NOT share: "Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn." --The Venerable Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen

May 8:
So... Agreements have been signed, the typesetting is mostly done, and I am pretty happy with this cover. I may replace the typeface, but I like the illustration and the layout. (Image of late version of cover.)

May 9:
The ultimate mother's day quotation:

"Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself, 'Lillian, you should have remained a virgin." --Lillian Gordy Carter (1898-1983), mother of 39th US President Jimmy Carter

May 10:
So... After seven years, ten months, and eleven days, the cola vow is on hiatus. It hasn't been paid off, or rescinded, it's just on hold for a while for a couple of reasons.

Last night, I drank the last of the Dr. Pepper in the house before my nightly caffeine cutoff. This morning, I filled my mug with ice, and filled the empty spaces with Coca-Cola.

It was a religious experience. I didn't actually cry, I just got kind of misty. Oh, my goodness gracious.

May 11:
First Person:

There is a scar in the midde of my forehead. It's pretty much dead center, horizontal, about two inches long. It was smaller when I got it, but it has grown with my head over the last 60 years...

When I was still luggage, my dad added a porch onto the back of our house. Being a bricklayer, it was a brick porch, surrounded by a low parapet topped with a flat cut stone coping. It was probably too low to be legal today, but it was convenient to sit on.

At some point in the summer of 1960, when I was four years old, , my parents were entertaining their friends the Arnquists on that porch. Their idiot elder son, whom no one was watching too closely, and had been watching acrobats on "Bozo's Circus" earlier that day, got an idea. He was going to jump up into a handstand on top of the parapet, and then do a backflip onto the ground six feet below. He was no more capable of performing this trick than he was of sprouting wings and flying to the moon, but he was somewhat reality challenged, even then.

No one actually saw the idiot child as he walked up to the parapet, put his hands on the edge of the coping, took a deep breath, and smashed his forhead into the edge of the coping as hard as he could. My detailed memory of the evening ends at that point; I got four stitches, and a persistent scar. I have no idea what impact the incident had on my parents' peace of mind.

I guess the point of this is that I was already thoroughly sanity optional BEFORE I cracked my head open...

May 12:
While the soda-bottle mask is unquestionably ridiculous, it has advantages. First, it really was made of common household items (and the design process started before other options were really available). Second, it's more comfortable (for me, anyway) than the "behind the ears" suspension of most commercial masks. And third, because it's a hard shell mask, it's easy to wear without wearing. If I go for a walk, I let the mask dangle on a lanyard, and if someone comes within about fifteen feet, I can clamp in on my face instantly, and then drop it again ten steps later. (I still have to take a moment to put it on to enter a building.) Because trying to exercise with a mask in place is just insane.

May 13:
Life and Biology:

I noticed three different aromas yesterday. This is unusual; normally I am only aware that I actually have a sense of smell once every two or three days (and then, the smell I notice is usually unpleasant). The triple play triggered some long dormant thoughts, and I realized that I seem to have more olfactory sensors in my mouth than in my nose. (Everyone has olfactory sensors in their mouths, they are just usually overwhelmed by the ones in the nose.) I don't know if I ever really had reasonable sense of smell; by the time I reached adulthood, chronic sinus blockage and scar tissue had certainly done it in.

The takeaway from this is that, going forward, when someone says, "Smell this," I need to inhale sharply through my mouth, and I MIGHT actually sense something. Because inhaling though my nose has always been a waste of time.

May 14:
Long ago, and in a far country...

I was on my way home from work, wearing my security uniform and driving my rusted out '71 Chevelle. It was about 8:30 in the morning. I stopped for a light, and saw two young women on the corner with their thumbs out. I reached across, rolled down the passenger side window, and asked them where they were going. They said Joliet. That was about 50 miles out of my way, but the girls were cute, and I had no plans.

They were going down to visit their respective boyfriends in two different Joliet prisons; I drove each to her respective destination. It was a silly, Quixotic thing that cost me about ninety minutes and four gallons of gas. They probably gave me some gas money; I don't remember, and don't much care.

The thing is, I have just that much real world relationship to Stateville, and I wouldn't trade it. Say hello to Jake for me. (Image of Bluesmobile, Jake, and Elwood in front of the open gate.)

May 15:
Sign of the times:

I was out walking along Grand Avenue and saw a man walking toward me. At about 15 feet, I clamped my mask over my face and kept walking. We were about three feet apart when he passed next to a lamp post, turned around, and started back the other way. He was moving faster than I was, and the range increased quickly. I noticed that his right pant leg was hiked up near his knee, and there was a blocky lump on the inside of his right ankle. He reached the driveway of an apartment complex and turned in, and I realized that he was exercising within the limits of his ankle monitor.

Life in Waukegan...

May 15:
If you can't laugh at yourself...
(Image of Black card with "Fiddler's Rose" cover and white text: "The writing is very good. We can't possibly sell it." --The Publishing Industry)