Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy T-Day

You say you're eating me? Hah!
Whether 'T' in your world is "Thanksgiving" or "Turkey" or "Tofurky" ... a veggie turkey-equivalent which we cooked one year and found very tasty but a great deal of trouble to prepare; also, the name of the company that manufactures the veggie turkey as well as many other meat substitutes much easier to prepare and including Polish sausage, Italian sausage, various sandwich-style lunch "meats," and so on... I hope your T-Day is a joyous one, celebrated with friends and family, given over to excess in eating (and drinking if you're not driving somewhere), and focused on the notion that we actually have much good in our world to celebrate, notwithstanding the utter stupidity of evil people who do their best to spoil the celebration. I raise my glass to you all!

Stella and I and our decades-long friend Catherine, none of us being interested in cooking this year, are taking advantage of another culture's indifference to the uniquely American holiday (i.e., they're willing to open their restaurant and make money off of us) by dining at India's, one of our favorite Indian restaurants... indeed, none better in Houston, though a few are as good. None of us has family in Houston or easily accessible, and over the years a personal tradition has emerged: gathering a few long-time friends to serve as family (the tradition is old enough to extend back to including, one year, my father and Catherine's mother, who bravely undertook their first sampling of Indian cuisine) and voicing our gratitude that life has, at least some of the time, been very good to us. I raise my glass also to the late Mr. Bates and the late Mrs. Fairchild, and to other willing "family" who were not biologically family, who gathered with us over the years.

Finally, I heft yet another glass (and begin to grow a bit woozy!) to all of you who blog for the progressive or Democratic or other liberal cause. Hang in there. I can't promise things will improve, but I know we will keep trying, as have so many before us, to better the lives of those less fortunate or downright unfortunate. Surely that is why we are really here. Surely it is any such betterment for which we give thanks. Put aside fear for a day; give your best and receive our best. For all of you I give my thanks; to all of you I raise my glass!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trump-l'œil [sic]

No, not trompe-l'œil, in which the eye is deceived, but Trump-l'œil, in which Donald Trump deceives the voter in as many different ways as his clever yet perverted brain can conceive. TPM provides a lot of examples at the moment, and I didn't even search for all of them, just harvested their main page:
This man is a dangerous nut-job who would be an unholy terror as president... but nonetheless, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleeeez let him run as an independent! At worst, his current followers would vote instead for the Republican candidate; at best, they would bolt the GOP altogether and wreak havoc both in the presidential race and down-ballot. What fun that would be!

For a lot of reasons I'm taking a vacation from politics for a couple of weeks, probably until the local runoff on 12/12, but if events drive me to write, I'll try not to post any more consecutive articles about The Donald. Meanwhile, please wish me good weather, low stress and a lot of time in front of the rainbow‑maker, which is working exceedingly well in the angle of late morning sunlight that Fall brings to Houston. Imagine an entire wall, reflected by a mirror filling the entire perpendicular wall, all full of literally dozens of tiny rainbows like the ones in this video, chasing all around, all over the harpsichord, etc. ... if my camera were working, you wouldn't have to imagine it, but alas it isn't! Meanwhile, here is a video of the device taken by someone who makes much better short movies than I do. Or try this one!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trump Is A Conservative An Anti-Religious Nut-Job

Well, I suppose he could be both, even at the same time. But anyone who claims to support the First Amendment view of freedom of religion in America can't go shooting off his mouth like this:

Businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said the U.S. will have to "strongly consider" shutting down some of the country's mosques during a Monday morning interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

After the attacks that rocked central Paris and killed more than 100 people, the French interior minister called for the closing of radical mosques in France.

On MSNBC, host Joe Scarborough asked, if President, would Trump consider closing mosques?

"I would hate to do it but it would be something that you're going to have strongly consider," Trump said. "Some of the ideas, some of the hatred, absolute hatred, is coming from these areas."

Perhaps some of the problems do come from "these areas," but their solutions emphatically do not, at least in a nation that wants to be taken seriously in its claim to offer freedom of religious belief.

Religion is about belief, and belief is precisely what is protected by the First Amendment against government infringement.

All belief is protected. But not all action deriving from that belief is protected: your religion can lead you to believe in, say, ritual human sacrifice, but the First Amendment confers no right to perform such sacrifices; murder is still murder. Still, the First Amendment does not permit anyone to shut down meeting places of selected religious groups or treat them differently under law. Those who murder or threaten to murder can be arrested and charged under law, but their houses of worship may not be tainted by the fact that murderers attend.

I am not saying this is easy. We appear to have some evidence that some Muslims indeed want their ritual sacrifices in the name of their god, and are willing to misuse individual mosques in pursuit of such terroristic murders. But we still do not have a right to shut down places of worship because some bad people attend them and try to use them for nefarious purposes. If that were the case, I could surely compile a list of various Christian denominations whose most radical churches should be shut down... oh, never mind; don't get me off the topic here. The simple version is this principle: shutting down places of worship is not a valid or viable solution to the problem that some criminally or terroristically inclined people do their organizing at or through those places. The terrorists may of course be pursued— their religious institutions may not.

And besides, shutting down mosques is surely a self-fulfilling act. Shut down mosques, and you will justify acts by the very terrorists you wish to stop. Why is this so hard for some people to understand?

And so we come full circle to the antireligious Mr. Trump. Those who are contemplating voting for him should think long and hard: Will the GOP always offer presidential candidates who will shut down only mosques? or could the practice extend to churches? or synagogues? or your very own house of worship?

Sick And Tired

No, I mean I'm physically sick, and fatigued as a result. I've experienced this feeling off and on in the past; it usually passes in a day or two. Meanwhile, I have little choice but to stay at home and let kitty Esther try to heal me. Hey, a mother of five kittens all of which grew to healthy adulthood is bound to be pretty good at healing...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Every Civilized Person Is French Today

Here is TPM's summary article on the Paris terrorist attacks. As of early Saturday morning (1:10 AM CST) the article seems to be updated every few hours. If it seems out of date, please view the TPM main page. Here is a live stream of France 24 provided by TPM. President Hollande of France has declared a state of emergency and closed the borders. According to reports, all the terrorists who struck in Paris are now dead. For what it's worth, our Department of Homeland Security says there is no credible evidence of a similar threat to the US.

Whatever our nationality, we in the civilized world are all with France in spirit today. I am outraged, disgusted and frankly bereft of hope for civilization every time such an incident happens, hopeless because I cannot see how the nations of the world can survive the terrorists of the world. My heart is with the French... how could it be otherwise... but I know that that is not enough to put an end to the terror. Must the world continue to live with these killings of hundreds or thousands of innocent humans for the rest of human existence on Earth? It is not a pattern I am willing to get used to. My thoughts and prayers, like those of most Americans, are with the French people, particularly with the families of those killed in Paris. Courage, everyone. I do not have any easy answers; we must all awaken tomorrow and face the world we live in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kitty Esther's Most Recent Transit Through The Pearly Gates (Cartoon)

Thanks to one of Stella's brothers for the ref. Stella promptly reminded me of the frequent diner card we take to Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet, which is, in its own right, a kind of paradise...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Houston Election Yields A Fallen HERO

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), approved by City Council and Mayor Parker, failed in its judicially mandated vote by the people of Houston. It wasn't even close: when I went to bed, it was losing about 39% — 61%. I suppose the leaders of the opposition and the fear-filled citizens they misled at every turn (and "misled" is putting it politely) simply cannot abide being protected by a HERO. Well, damn them to HELL (Houston Equality Losing... Lost). Considering how many of the people engaged in the assassination campaign likely consider themselves Christian, the whole sordid business gives me one more reason not to be one.

Sylvester Turner and Bill King will be in a runoff for mayor of Houston. I like Turner well enough and have voted for him in a couple of his many past runs for mayor, more with a shrug than a happy dance, but he seems the best available this time as he was back then. The other guy, a colorless (pun intended) businessman with apparently sterling if not golden conservative credentials, leaves me wondering: which citizens is he Bill‑King?

In Houston, not all precincts have been counted, either citywide At-Large districts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) or regional City Council districts (A, B, C... etc.), so I'll defer addressing those races. And in the districts without incumbents, I don't really know much about a lot of the candidates The only observation I'll offer now is this:
  • Incumbency is an almost overwhelming advantage, but many races have no incumbent running this year.
I'll try to write more later. Today I have to grocery‑shop before another possible bayou‑filling event Thu/Fri/Sat...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Election Day!

It's time, my fellow Texans and Harris County residents and Houstonians. This is your last opportunity to vote for local offices! See for the info you need if you want to vote. I confess to some relief that we shall see no more "bathroom invasion" ads about the HERO on TV; I was beginning to have trouble restraining my murderous impulses toward the people who framed that ad and anyone else who agreed with them... seriously, it's much better to vote on the matter than to threaten someone over it; go vote while you still can!

Monday, November 2, 2015

CBS Newscaster Falls Off His Segue [sic]

Fall from Segway™
I understand that the pressures on the man performing today's 90-second summary in CBS's morning newscast were considerable, but this (non-)transition had unfortunate consequences.

A story about whether ISIS was actually responsible for downing the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt was followed immediately— segue, no significant pause in verbal transition— by these words:
Ice is reforming in Antarctica.
I am sure that thousands of people, including me, heard that line in its context as
ISIS— reforming in Antarctica.
Well, hell, I suppose there are no guarantees in lightning-fast news summaries, and maybe, just maybe, the sequence was an accident. Maybe the Moon is made of Roquefort, too...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Harris County Residents: Learn To Use One Easy Site That Monitors Bayous Rising

That's the Harris County Flood Warning System. Please view the page before continuing to read this post. If you enter from the main page, its usage is more or less obvious (except for one quirk), and considering, in every significant rainstorm, how many people here run their cars into deep water, it could be good for drivers (though not so good for car dealers) if everyone visited the site... frequently.

The quirk? The flood gauge boxes are named by nearest major street intersection. Once you've hovered over a flood gauge box to obtain a popup for the particular flood gauge you're interested in, you must mouse to its "more information" link WITHOUT crossing another flood gauge box! You'll doubtless do just that a few times until you learn to watch where you're driving mousing.

Click2Houston similar map
Yes, Click2Houston (broadcast TV Channel 2) has a similar map which provides some people similar info on bayou flooding (see thumbnail at right). It's great, IF you happen to wish to travel near one of its listed flood gauges, carry a 40" flatscreen TV in your car and are able to read very small print on a TV screen in a mere instant... it's not that the Harris County site is better, but that for unassisted home use to obtain info on a specific gauge it's probably more convenient.

NOTE: the web site calls the device a "gage"; please google that spelling ("define:gage") to see why I do not use it. I am confident a reader will correct me if there's an industry-specific reason for using the aberrant spelling. - SB

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Overnight Underwater Report

OK, there's no useful info in this post, but I couldn't resist the subject above. So what happened in Houston?

Flood damage, including even two HPD patrol cars stuck in deep water on Allen Parkway. Wind damage, apparently from tornadoes, which removed roofs in the Friendswood area and trees in, uh, some other places I don't remember. And the reported condition of Hwy. 288 is "Two Gross," a wretched pun attributable to a lot of Rice University students around the year 1970.

And it's still raining this morning, so of course Stella can't resist going out... she doesn't want to miss the second day of her Chinese calligraphy class. I do not consider the class outrageously expensive unless it costs her her car...

Enough. This should all be over by about 6:00 PM, if you believe the TV meteorologists. Until then, please, friends, stay off the roads if you can avoid them, and exercise extreme caution if you can't.

Oh... Our House? It's just fine. I was awakened overnight by the loudest sustained hard rain on the roof I've ever heard here, but it stopped before there was even a threat of flooding. Be careful, good people, and if you can't be careful, be lucky.

UPDATE about an hour later: water is standing on the lawn at about grass height, lapping over onto the brick patio in some places. In the past, this has not been a sign of impending house flooding; I can only hope this event follows the same pattern.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Central Texas: Flooding, Tornadoes, And Every Other Damned Thing

Because of river conditions left over from the Memorial Day floods, the rain last week and today's heavy rains in central Texas, there were some astonishing flood totals on many rivers in central and south Texas. Click here for a Google result and pick your own bad news.

What about Our House? well, some of the same stuff is coming here tonight. It's not raining now and there has been at least some time and sunshine to drop the level of water here, so supposedly kids here will be able to go out for Halloween tomorrow night. But I admit we're looking over our collective shoulder; no one in Houston takes heavy-rain events or indeed any kind of rise in river levels for granted. (Well, actually, I know one Texan who does, and proudly points to never having lost a car since she moved here 30+ years ago as evidence that she can shrug off such events. No, not Stella. But I think it's just a matter of time. Pride goeth before a waterfall...)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver Becomes Speaker Of The House

Wide shoulders?
Nah... narrow mind.
That's right, Paul Ryan (R-WI) will wield the gavel that may (or may not) confer upon him an opportunity to starve an unlimited number of grannies. Or he may receive by turns the unbridled contempt of the paranoid wing and of the merely radical wing of his party, while he accomplishes even less as Speaker than John Boehner. These days, there are no moderates in the House GOP caucus. Ask the Z.E.G.S. in about six months, if he lasts that long.

I confess I detest the man and everything he stands for. He is arrogant, self-important and sententious in everything he says. He also lies egregiously and frequently in his public capacity. One could argue he is better off as Speaker than he would have been as veep, but frankly, Speaker is a more powerful office, in which he can do more damage. The importance of a strong Democratic showing in the 2016 House election, especially if Republicans take the presidency (and I choose the word "take" advisedly, after sElection 2000), cannot be overemphasized.

Dog help us all in the next term!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Voted Against Term Limits For City Of Houston

I voted. I know that by looking at the sticker a poll worker applied to my shirt pocket. At least the "sticker" (heh) reminds me when its low-bid not-very-sticky stuff doesn't send it straight to the floor again. Must have been a "brother-in-law contract" for the stickers, as my late father used to say.

And never forget what I used to say was the slogan behind this city seal: "Houston — come here to be railroaded! (Or get plowed.)"

If by chance you haven't voted yet, and you live in Houston, here's an alert...

You know, without a doubt about the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), City of Houston Proposition 1, which has already passed City Council and (if I understand correctly) is on the ballot because some cranky judge ruled that it had to be approved directly by city voters.  Please vote FOR it.

But I'll bet you don't know about City of Houston Proposition 2: it would impose term limits on all city elected officials, both duration (maximum 4 years) and number of terms (maximum 2). I urge you to vote AGAINST it. If you're voting, you already have a powerful term-limiting document in your pocket which gives you the power to decide whom to re-elect and whom to term-limit. This proposition would wrest that power from your grasp and automate the process; that's about as antidemocratic (small-'d') as it gets. I do not know which political slimeballs a) are convinced they cannot get elected often enough without this change to the city charter, or b) fail to see that forcing the electorate to shake up the whole slate of government officials and replace them with a bunch of newcomers every few years is a terrible idea, but as we lack the authorization to boil the slimeballs in oil (and besides, gulab jamun are much tastier), I suggest you vote AGAINST City of Houston Proposition 2.

See to find your early voting polling place and an early voting schedule. Or vote on Election Day, Nov. 3, at your regular polling place (NOT typically one of the early voting locations!). Final reminder: bring your !@#$%^& photo ID! Republicans did this to you, but you can't vote without it, so bring a Texas DL with your current address on it.

(I surely do miss the helpful election website that Scott Hochberg used to put up before he retired from running for office; we all have to compensate the best we can for that loss... of the site and of Rep. Hochberg, who was the Rep. you longed for if you supported responsive representative government. Thanks, Scott, for your years of service!

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

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