Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Surviving The Weather Event

You may have seen some terrifying photos on the national news of the impact of the storm(s) from the western US as they passed through Houston yesterday. The main difference here is that the same images, along with many more, appeared on the local news, which ran continuously for over 24 hours. The sheer scale of the thing reflected the fact that the storm and its aftermath had no precedent in recorded Houston and Harris County history. Welcome to the new reality, folks.

Stella and I and the kitties are unharmed, and the house we rent was largely undamaged. Apart from a tiny leak under one of the glass doors in the den, we have experienced no flooding to this point. Indeed, the cats found new places to nap through the whole thing. This is in stark contrast to the effects in much of the city:

  • At least 13 local bayous topped their banks, or are expected to do so as rain that has already fallen swells the bayous and creeks upstream of us. We may yet see some high water here.
  • Many, many Houstonians are now homeless. In many cases, families found themselves trapped in their flooded homes and apartments; locating these people, removing them (often from upper floors) and transporting them through frequently obstructed streets (think: swamp boats and big trucks) to quickly established new shelters is a major and ongoing undertaking.
  • Despite best efforts, a few people died: it is hard to imagine, sitting at home, dry and comfortable, why anyone would attempt to drive their small vehicle through a completely flooded underpass (often with flood depth markers, in feet, painted on the columns), but that is one of the most common causes of death in such events here.
  • More rain is on the way today and for a few more days. Ground saturation assures that a much smaller quantity of rainwater implies large problems still ahead. One can only hope and pray that a) people show good sense, and b) we don't get additional large quantities of water at Our House.

Thank you for your patience. I'll probably blog a bit more than I have in the past month, but not as much as I might like. Stay dry, folks...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Blog Break

Not me... I mouse left-handed
and my hair is gray!
Before I had a smartphone, I always imagined it would be much more convenient to do research for blog posts when I'm away from home if I had a mobile device literally always with me. As it turns out, that aspect is true... but the phone does not provide me with any more time or energy actually to write those posts. I made a new folder  in my email called BlogThis and began sending myself links and notes each time I ran across an article or post worth my time (and presumably my readers' time as well). Indeed I blogged a few of those, but the rest of life goes on... significant weather events, my health and that of my friends, household matters, etc. ... and at the moment I have a backlog of 33 articles in the BlogThis folder.

In short, I'm getting the research done, but the blogging is going by the boards. Many of the pending BlogThis entries are obsolete by now, so I believe I'll take a break of a few days, let them all obsolesce, and start fresh, knowing how the presence of the new phone changes things. Please bear with me; I'm not ready to quit blogging yet. But there's this article I found that I just have to make notes on for a future blog post...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Debunking Myths About The Koch Brothers

These myths, documented at billmoyers.com by two well-respected Harvard scholars on government and policy, reveal five common fallacies or misunderstandings prevalent among left-leaning and Democratic writers, fallacies which could put our democracy in peril of literal takeover by wealthy but ideologically driven oligarchs. Conspiracy theory? maybe, but I suspect we ignore multibillionaire right-wing crazies at our peril. YMMV.

NOTE: the original draft of this post was written on a smartphone, composed using the Google keyboard with its auto-completion feature. When I saved the original draft, Google keyboard silently changed one word I typed manually, "multibillionaire", to "multimillionaire". The mistake is understandable, but it must have been a lower-level Google developer who saw fit to make the silent change: a Google CEO (or some such) would never have made that mistake.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In Vino Ver... Oh, The Hell With It — DOGGEREL!

I glanced over my little wine rack today after a minor buying run. No individual wine was more than $5 a bottle and most were cheaper than that... it is possible to buy a very satisfactory table wine for very little money these days, and I've done exactly that, because retired elderly Americans aren't left with a great deal of money, except those who are, ah, left with a great deal of money.

In any case, I noted that the rack contained sixteen bottles of wine. Sixteen wines... hmmm, how could I resist a bit of parody...
In Vino...
Some... people say a wine is made out of grape;
A poor wine gets ya' by the neck o' the nape:
The nape o' the neck, and skin an' bones...
A nose that's weak but a finish strong...

Ya' taste sixteen wines, 'n' whaddya' get?
A little bit drunker and possibly wet;
St. Vincent don' ya' call me 'cause I cain't go...
I SOLD MY SO-O-O-OUL... FOR A CASE OF MERLOT!
- Steve Bates
OK, it could be better, but I'm impatient to publish before the effect of the wine wears off...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Trump The Fascist

I do not enjoy publishing an unadulterated slur against a presidential candidate, even a Republican. But Trump is no ordinary Republican candidate, and I choose my words based on Trump's actions at campaign events, from documentation by Juan Cole and from ABC News footage I saw myself, shown on this evening's news.

Trump was interrupted by protesters apparently from Black Lives Matter (no unusual event; so was Bernie Sanders) and responded, "Get them out of here," or words to that effect. A reporter in the "media pen," attempting to take a picture of the BLM protesters, apparently stepped a foot or two outside the line. A Secret Service agent (which, BTW, The Guardian referred to as an "SS agent"!) first grabbed the reporter's throat, then, on meeting resistance, threw him to the floor. Trump's audience cheered; Trump himself beamed.

I ask you: is this presidential behavior? Is it even rational behavior?

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but Trump's actions bug the bejezus out of me. YMMV.

Friday, February 26, 2016

THIS  POST  IS  INTENTIONALLY  POSTDATED
Early Voting Starts Tuesday 2/16 In Texas

Harris County residents please find information and useful links below; also a fragment of parody/doggerel for the occasion. We plan to vote this weekend; one of us has a paying gig that makes weekday voting difficult!

(This post will float to the top while early voting is ongoing, i.e., through 2/26. Election Day is 3/1; your Election Day polling place is most likely NOT THE SAME as any early voting location.)

NYT Editorial On How GOPers Are Behaving

The short version on GOP behavior as a whole: deplorable. The NYT says it better than I ever could:
...

Forget an up-or-down vote [on Obama's nomination to replace the late Antonin Scalia] on the Senate floor. Top Republicans are pledging not to hold hearings or even to meet with a nominee.

In a statement dripping with sarcasm, Mr. McConnell said that Mr. Obama “has every right to nominate someone,” and “even if doing so will inevitably plunge our nation into another bitter and avoidable struggle, that is his right. Even if he never expects that nominee to actually be confirmed but rather to wield as an electoral cudgel, that is his right.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip, said, “We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president.”

These statements are so twisted that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s take them one by one.

...
And so they do take them and wield them like sharp swords.

This is not my father's Republican Party... yes, Dad was a Democrat, but he could occasionally be persuaded to vote 'R'; he was very proud of the whole system and explained to me why it had so many virtues.

McConnell & Co. were not virtuous when they decided to defy the Constitution by refusing even to consider "advise and consent" on Obama's proposed Supreme Court nominee. If one of us went to one of our bosses and said what today's GOPers in Congress are saying to the President and the American people, s/he would be met with Donald Trump's signature line, "You're fired!"

And the small bit I saw of last night's "debate" ... we don't have cable, but we were having dinner in a restaurant that plays Conservative News Network (CNN) continuously... was a schanda für die goyim... and the GOPers themselves seem unaware of that shame. The Democratic Party ("Democrat Party" if you're the author of Marco Rubio's campaign commercials) sometimes does things that make me squirm in embarrassment, but the Rethuglicans often do things that make me want to toss eggs at them.

Shame! Shame! Shame!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ogden Nash, ‘With My Own Eyes,’ 1950,
   Or,
America Isn't So Bad After All

View this long poem (but very much worth the reading!) here. Click the magnifying glass "+" several times if the font is too small for you (as it was for me). Or go find and purchase a first edition of Nash's The Private Dining Room, which is where I discovered the poem.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Thomas Piketty On Bernie Sanders: The End Of The Reagan Era

In many respects, we are witnessing the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections,’ writes Piketty. This column is food for thought, and many of us are very hungry!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All Animals Democrats Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

Trevor Timm at The Guardian reminds me... reminds us all, or informs those of you who didn't already know... that the sadly misnamed Democratic Party chooses its presidential candidate using a system that is outrageously undemocratic (small-'d'):

Even if Sanders wins the popular vote, Clinton could still get the nomination

The Democratic party decides its nominee in a massively undemocratic way – and is a ticking time bomb for the party and its voter base if Bernie keeps winning
... 

The Democratic party’s nomination will ultimately be decided by more than 4,700 delegates at its nominating convention in the summer. Most of those delegates are allocated based on votes in each state’s primary or caucus. However, the party also assigns what are known as “superdelegates” –
700 or so people who aren’t elected by anyone during the primary process and are free to vote any way they want at the convention. They are made up of members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee – which is made up of much of the establishment that Sanders is implicitly running against.
 
According to University of Georgia lecturer Josh Putnam, superdelegates exist solely to allow DNC elites to better control who ultimately becomes their nominee. “The reason superdelegates came into being in the interim period between the 1980 and 1984 elections was to allow the party establishment an increased voice in the nomination process,” he wrote on his blog in 2009.

...
Not that anyone ever asked me, but this is exactly why I ceased giving money to the Democratic Party through the DNC, DSCC, etc., and started giving money directly to candidates' campaigns. Although I've given and will continue to give money to Bernie Sanders for President, I am nonetheless long since not officially a member of the Democratic Party. I vote straight 'D' virtually every partisan election, but I just can't handle the notion of superdelegates.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Friday Monday Catnap Blogging

I really haven't gotten the hang of the camera in the new phone... my heavy-handed application of GIMP (the Photoshop equivalent in the Linux world) makes this pic barely acceptable. Esther catnaps in Stella's grandfather's rocker, which makes Esther the only sentient creature in the household who is not off his/her rocker:

Esther on her rocker

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scalia. Dead. Yesterday.

I knew about it then, but God asked me to announce it only on a Sunday. 

Dead and (one hopes) gone...
Actually, I found out while I was sitting in a car in the Academy Sports & Outdoors parking lot, waiting for Stella who was trying to buy tennis shoes. I struggled mightily to find a free, unpassworded WiFi available from the parking lot. I found one, with a signal strength so low that its download transfer rate was only 1mbps. About the only news list I subscribe to is The Guardian (what? you expect an American news service to publish straight info on American politics, etc.? gimme a break!), and I saw the announcement of Scalia's death pass quickly before my eyes, but the connection was so iffy I gave up and dismissed the browser. But even the dismissal didn't get through the bad connection; I received one article from the Guardian, sans photos, and read the basics.

I have never had any sympathy for that man. He was a smiling dogmatist, with no redeeming qualities I could ever find. (I guess that makes me one of those "liberals" The Guardian said found him "infuriating" ... fair enough.) Read the article at ThinkProgress for a list of possible consequences of Scalia's sudden absence on the Court; be forewarned, they range from actually beneficial to nearly "chaotic" (their word, not mine). Now that there is a 4-4 tie between conservatives and moderates (the last actual liberal retired and died over a decade five years ago), cases which provoke an ideological reaction from the Right will rebound to the lower court in which they originated; in many cases, that court has more "tighty Righties" than the Supremes... and the result will apply only to the circuit in which that court operates. In other words, no help for Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. Sucks, if you ask me.

Here are other articles I found once I had a solid connection from inside a bookstore:
That will do for the moment. Ted Cruz and other Repugnant members of Congress are vowing to torpedo anyone... ANYONE... Obama nominates to replace him. Dog help the next Repub president, whenever they manage to steal that office again...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gravitational Waves: They Found Them, For Real

Somewhere in (or out of) the Multiverse, the shade of Albert Einstein is smiling.

From The Guardian:
Gravitational waves: breakthrough discovery after a century of expectation
Scientists announce discovery of clear gravitational wave signal, ripples in spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein

Physicists have announced the discovery of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.

The announcement is the climax of a century of speculation, 50 years of trial and error, and 25 years perfecting a set of instruments so sensitive they could identify a distortion in spacetime a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4km strip of laserbeam and mirror.

...
The waves were discovered in the wake (literally, I suppose) of the collision two black holes a very long distance from us. The signal received from the LIGO matched the mathematical model of the event to a very high degree of probability; in other words, what they observed is for real.

So what difference does this discovery make? Remember: until ~378,000 years after the Big Bang (hence 378,000 light years from that event), space was opaque to electromagnetic radiation, e.g., light and radio waves. So no matter how good a conventional light or radio telescope scientists manage to create, they cannot see closer than that to the Big Bang. But gravitational waves are not similarly stopped. And a lot of awesome and interesting stuff happened in that era; scientists would surely learn a lot about how our universe formed (and presumably about how other universes form, if there's really a multiverse). That alone has me excited.

Here are some other worthwhile articles (not in chronological order; sorry):

Science News: Gravitational waves explained
The Guardian: Gravitational waves: breakthrough discovery announced - as it happened
Sciencealert: IT'S OFFICIAL: Gravitational waves have been detected, Einstein was right

The Exercise Of Executive And Judicial Power, Both To The Public's Detriment

First, the Executive branch, in which the DNI threatens to use the "internet of things" to spy on Americans in their home or at work:
US intelligence chief: we might use the internet of things to spy on you
(Warning: your refrigerator is telling the spooks what you snack on at midnight!)

Not to be outdone, the Supreme Court throws a spanner in the works of Obama's executive orders reducing carbon emissions:
Carbon pollution controls put on hold
(Note: today's Big Event may change what the Supreme Court does about a lot of things. See more recent post above.)

It's not so much that we need [booming Republican voice] LESS GOVERNMENT as that we need more constraints on all branches of government. Say, I know what... we need a Constitution; that should provide the necessary... oh, right; we've got one of those, and it doesn't seem to constrain much of anybody in government...

Vote!

Early voting in the 2016 primary starts this Tuesday. Here's the Harris County, TX early voting schedule:
Early Voting Hours of Operation:
February 16 - February 19: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
February 20: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
February 21: 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 
February 22 - February 26: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Choose your early voting location at this page (.pdf). Any registered voter in Harris County can vote at any early voting location shown on that map. Be sure to bring an approved photo ID (e.g., your Texas driver license or a concealed-carry license). For good measure, if you have your voter certificate, bring that, too, but it is not sufficient; you must have an approved photo ID.

Later today I'll post additional info, but there is no official word on Election Day poll locations yet (goddamn Republicans anyway). Also, there will be a bit of doggerel on this post...

ADDENDUM: Doggerel as promised, a parody with apologies to the late great Nat King Cole... sing this to the tune of his song "Smile":
Vote, though your brain is aching;
Vote, though bad news is breaking.
When their attack is a weight on your back,
If you vote, yes, despite your terror,
Vote, you can face your mirror;
You'll find your life ain't worth a groat,
If you... don't... vote!

        - SB after NKC

Monday, February 8, 2016

‘... Secure In Their Persons, Houses, ...’

This is not really a Fourth Amendment issue because the search party is not from the guvmint. But it is indisputably an unreasonable search.

First of all, this is for real, not some scam, or a setup for a home invasion robbery; the call came from our landlord's secretary, whose voice and caller ID are known to me. That was the first thing Stella asked when I informed her.

Our landlord's insurer on this house has insisted on inspecting the interior of the house for safety violations. When I heard from the secretary, the landlord (generally a good guy) had already set up an appointment for us, this Wednesday at a named time. The insurer will send an inspector. To look for what? I don't know. Her name is Jody, but what are her credentials to do such an inspection? I don't know that, either.

The government would need a warrant to do this, but in our "guilty until proven innocent" era, a private corporation can demand anything it damned well pleases as a condition for doing business with them, and if all the insurance companies conspire together to do these inspections, it's a certainty that property owners will yield.


Welcome to America in the 21st century.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Friday Cat Blogging On Sunday

This pic of Lily is clipped from one of the first photos at home using the new phone:


The original is better, but huge... I had to reduce the file size a lot by reducing the pic size and cutting the jpeg quality a bit. Sometimes Stella wishes she could reduce Lily a bit, but dieting is not Lily's forte.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes



(removed)