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Professor Liddle-Oldman

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I Will Give You A Name, And I Shall Call You Sting. [Nov. 21st, 2014|03:19 pm]
[mood |contemplative]

21 November 2014

Republicans again.

I've been listening, on and off, to NPR news shows, and they keep having republicans on to discuss their positions regarding, in this case, the President. Their positions are, largely, that they hated the Clintons with a bitter passion, but that fades into insignificance at how much they loathe and detest the current President. They are especially incensed at the idea of his getting anything done, ever, in any subject. If they could nail up the Oval Office bathroom, they'd do it.

I realized what listening to them fulminate reminds me of.

In The Hobbit, at the end of the Mirkwood sequence, as you remember, the dwarves are captured by giant spiders. Bilbo finds them the next morning, bound and hanging from a tree, and comes up with the idea of luring the spiders off to prevent them from beginning to dine on the unfortunates. He does this by infuriating them.

The spiders saw the sword, though I don't suppose they knew what it was, and at once the whole lot of them came hurrying after the hobbit along the ground and the branches, hairy legs waving, nippers and spinners snapping, eyes popping, full of froth and rage... The spiders swelled with rage, and spluttered and frothed, and hissed out horrible curses…

Doesn't that precisely describe the Republicans in their response to, well, pretty much everything? Go ahead, picture it, and see how much sense it makes.

Maybe I can get Peter Jackson intrigued?
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The Ministry Of Love [Nov. 20th, 2014|03:34 pm]
20 November 2014

It is no secret that I have become increasingly contemptuous of the American Right, once merely the shelter of racists, nativists, buffoons, misogynists, the fearful, the angry, and the selfish, but now essentially a wad of happy tools for a tiny coterie of Saudi, Russian, and American oil billionaires who would really like feudalism back, and are willing to put a fair amount of money into the effort. Mind, this also gives them an excuse and a better chance to be racists, nativists, buffoons, misogynists, the fearful, the angry, and the selfish, and they're throwing themselves into their roles with vigor.

That being said, they've advanced to using the language of abusers.

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking to some congressthing from South Carolina. The thing was explaining that if the President attempts to get around the absolute obstructionism of this useless and hostile Congress, (by trying to address the illegal immigrant crisis with executive action, in this instance), the Republicans were going to sue him, impeach him, and bring the entire US government down in a flaming ruin – and it would be President Obama's fault entirely.

This is almost precisely the same statement as "Why you makin' me hurt you, Lucille? Why you got to make me mad?" The Republican Party has managed to sink through the layers of dysfunction and narcissism until they've reached the very nadir of human conduct. I can't be the first one to say this, but the party of Abraham Lincoln has morphed into the party of George Lincoln Rockwell. We should all be so proud.
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Religion And Politics [Nov. 5th, 2014|11:16 am]
[mood |gloomy]

5 November 2014

Mid-term elections yesterday. We of course exercised our franchise, and, as usual, the poor things got all sweaty for no purpose. The election was, and I'm using technical terms here, a complete clusterfuck. Here in Massachusetts, one of the bluest states, they elected a Republican governor because the Republicans have done nothing for six years but make sure President Obama fails, and telling everyone that it's his own fault. They repealed a measure that links the gas tax to inflation because, hey, taxes R evil and bridges just fix themselves. They voted down expanding the bottle bill (requiring deposits on soft drinks and beer containers) because the beverage industry poured millions into spreading lies about it. (For example, a little over half the state has curbside recycling, not most of it – and home consumption isn't the damn point anyway. It's water bottles and sports drink bottles thrown into gutters and by the wayside that are the problem.) They overwhelmingly approved organized crime to move into our cities and run casinos, despite the failure of casinos everywhere to provide anything but crime and bribes and another place to practice your addictions. Republicans – now synonymous with "traitors", openly and proudly working to destroy the Constitution, flawed as it may be, and replace it with an oligarchy of their masters – are triumphant everywhere, once again proving that people are terrible at calculating their own best interests, panic like shying horses at flutteringly leaves, and remember nothing past last Tuesday.

(Deep breath)

I suppose this is practice in bearing Jeb Bush's election two years hence, which they're already spreading money around for. People will not have the faintest recollection of Georges I and II, and how W tried to break the country and did break the Army. Jeb will run on "Isn't it time for a white Christian?", and once again the government will bow to the .1% and fap to Atlas Shrugged nightly.

Poop, I say. Poopy poop!

Janet, who now uses a mail-in ballot, handed me a 3x5 card with her suggestions on it. No on Question 1, repealing the gas tax adjustment. Yes on Questions 2, 3, and 4, expanding the bottle bill, de-approving casinos, and mandating sick leave for companies over 11 people. (Sick leave passed, to my amazement – apparently, no one paid a lot to defeat it.) Below that were her suggestions for all of the other positions open this year – Straight Democratic. I pointed out that I'd be happy to vote for a gay Democrat as well. Mind, we're not all that excited about the Democratic Party, but they have one outstanding characteristic that attracts us – they're not Republicans. OK, two characteristics – they have a chance of getting elected. We refer to voting for an Independent or Green candidate to show our ideological purity as "Nadering". It's just wasting a vote, and with the enormous success at Republicans suppressing the voting rights of everyone but them, any effort is needed

Poop, I say. Poopy poop!
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Randomage Of The Random Randomings [Oct. 14th, 2014|02:42 pm]
14 October 2014

It's Dwight Eisenhower's birthday – he'd be 124, so it's largely ceremonial. My favorite diner gives you a free breakfast on your birthday, but I think they're safe from him. I bring this up because it occurred to me this morning that, though he's surrounded by initial Presidents – FDR, JFK, LBJ, and even RMN – no one to my knowledge has ever called him DDE. Lord knows what Mamie did behind closed doors, though.

Boston used to have – like all major American cities – a lively newspaper culture. There were newspapers published all up and down lower Washington Street, still called Newspaper Row. (In fact, the rumor is that a major cutthrough from the street, Pi Alley, is named after the loose type surreptitiously dropped from pockets to save the sorting and recasing.) Then, of course, came your modern world and television and the post-literate generations. Newspapers began to fail. The Boston Globe – which we still get delivered every morning – held on, though it lost its Evening Edition, its classified section, and most of its thickness; all the rest began to amalgamate. The end product of this is the Boston Herald, fit for wrapping spoiled fish and fanning the Grinchy hearts of Teabaggers.

One of the intermediate steps was a tabloid called the Record American (referred to by all as the Wretched Armenian), which I believe was the Boston Record and the Boston American combined. In fact – here's Wikipedia: In 1961, the Boston American merged with the Boston Record to become the Boston Record-American, a tabloid that was published throughout the day with five to six editions. In 1972, it merged with the Boston Herald Traveler (no hyphen) to become the Boston Herald-Traveler and Record American, a broadsheet that eventually was renamed the Boston Herald-American and is now the Boston Herald.

The shop teacher at my school, an engaged and supportive French-Canadian we all called Bud (though his name was Armand), subscribed to this paper and left it tucked behind the fire extinguisher in the shop, which doubled as the school's workroom, studio, and machine shop. (I had many happy hours playing with the lathe and the bandsaw.) It was the only paper I had access to at the time, and like most tabloids had a good comics section. I remember tracking Ike's decline and death in its pages.

For that matter, I remember his top hat during Kennedy's inauguration. I can truthfully remember the Eisenhower administration, though I will admit that I wasn't particularly political at that point. Well, I remember the end of it – I wasn't tracking all that well at the beginning of it, not having been quite born.

I have no idea how to close this, so I'll throw in something even more random. I was in a warehouse store the other day, looking over the book table. There were two separate just-published books – in this carefully merchandised array of perhaps 200 titles – explaining just how Lyndon Johnson had had John Kennedy shot so that he could seize the Presidency. I have no idea where this bizarre meme abruptly came from. (I'm not saying he wouldn't, actually, but his further career did not demonstrate a desire to be Dominar over all.) It reminds me of the book – which I glanced through and disposed of – someone gave me proving that Abraham Lincoln had deliberately caused the American Civil War for his own nefarious ends, despite the fact that no problems existed whatsoever.

Which of course reminds me of the Holodeck malfunction in Futurama that produced Evil Lincoln, and on that note I depart.
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The Professor Is Thrust Roughly From The Future [Oct. 9th, 2014|01:22 pm]
9 October 2014

It is possible I may be having a domestic crisis.

My desktop, which must be a decade old by now, has been running slower and slower. The little gauge says that "System Idle Process", or somesuch, is using more and more memory. I've actually been using my business laptop for a lot of things – if you don't log onto the company net, none of the monitor programs engage and you can read web comics and political blogs without impediment. (The fact that I often have to haul my business laptop home is a different story.) However, the desktop still has iTunes, pictures, and all my spreadsheets on it.

I tried to do some housekeeping last night – enter the last few weeks of grocery receipts, put in the books we've read in the last month and a couple new ones, maybe check my mail (though the system no longer can find the server for outgoing messages, so I can't reply to anything), and maybe even download the latest podcasts. However, I got a Mystery Screen, and then when I tried to reboot it declined to boot at all. It just beeped a lot.

We actually have a new laptop, since Christmas, but since it came with Windows 8 we haven't gotten it to do a lot yet. With great effort, we installed my email on it, but I've never found it again. (I can't even turn the damn thing off, much less get it to do anything.) None of my activities have been moved over yet, and they may not be until we can put Windows 10 on it next spring.

My worry, of course, is that the hard drive kacked it; shit the bed, screwed the pooch, died the True Death. I have a backup, but it's far from current (the desktop has been crashing if I tried to update it). My plan is to take it to a commercial enterprise this weekend and see if they can recondition the software, or, failing that, extract the hard drive contents to transfer to the new machine, once we can do that. And/or, quite possibly, put in a new hard drive (if that's the problem) and start over.

It's a fine future, until the mainspring goes SPROIIINNNGGGGG.
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It Was As If Each Man Were Suddenly And Momentarily Turned To Fire [Oct. 3rd, 2014|10:51 am]
3 October 2014

As everyone remembers, after the Martial cylinder fell on Horsell Common, the population came out to gawk at it, Wells among them, having seen the impact site from his office window. The Martians unscrewed the tip of their shell and struggled out under what to them must have been hellish gravity. As we later found out, they began to assemble the equipment they had brought in a knocked-down state. By the time a delegation of local worthies, led by Ogilvy the astronomer, approached under a white flag, the Martians were equipped enough to sweep a beam weapon around their landing site, incinerating the ambassadors, various bystanders, trees, and Woking.

It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle of fire in the sand pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common.

I've always been startled at the unthinking brutality of this act, but of course, the "me" that was astonished was the nine-year-old who read The War Of The Worlds for the first time. My 'pod happened to play "The Eve of the War" today, and I realized that it actually made a deal of sense – it was an act of carefully thought out brutality.

The Martians, after all, had not come in peace. They had in fact come to not only colonize Earth, but to turn us all into juice boxes. (Wells later, from hiding, watches an indignant banker drained of blood as a Martian lunch, astonished to the end that they didn't appreciate how important he was.) They were in fact, just after landing, as vulnerable as they ever would be; clumsy in the gravity, out of their vehicles, and with their equipment still stowed. They were, in the cynical violence of the exploiter, simply securing their beachhead. Not only did they dispose of the group approaching them, but the crowd – those who did not get flame-broiled – fled, leaving clear secured space. Further, no one was going to approach soon, giving the invaders space to finish their preparations.

For that matter, for all they knew, there were military in the area. They had regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drawing their plans against us, but they had done it from at least 60 million miles away. They didn't know what unit patches the British army might be wearing; they wouldn't know the precise state of arms that might come against them. (Though a spectral analysis of the atmosphere would give them a rough idea of technological level – what sort of waste products were and were not present?)

So – older, better read, and much more used to the calculus of violence, I now see the perfectly good (if not very neighborly) reasons the Martians would secure their landing site and buy themselves time to set up their equipment with the lives of natives they were just going to kill anyway, either to destroy resistance or, later, when they got peckish.
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Consolation For The Old Queen, Now Forgotten [Sep. 29th, 2014|06:01 pm]
29 September 2014

It is our 29th anniversary. We got married 29 September 1985. I am clear about this because my wife intelligently had it engraved on the inside of my wedding ring. Naturally, we are both at work.

We're still not sure what we're going to do. It's quarter of six, here; I'm going to leave early tonight, in fifteen minutes, and not bring my laptop home. However, my lovely wife is trying to lose weight in preparation for scheduling her surgery, and taking her out and feeding her would amount to sabotage. I suppose I could go out and bring back something reasonably compliant; roast chicken, perhaps. There is an excellent chance we'll simply sit in the living room and watch Dancing With The "Stars". (This year Tommy Chong is on it, so I've at least heard of one contestant.) (I don't actually watch the show, but the wife does, being a dance person, and I'd stay for the togetherness.)

We got married two days after a hurricane – Gloria? – swept through New England, leaving powerlessness in its wake. My apartment had no power (luckily I had an ironed shirt left), the church had no power (luckily Unitarian churches usually have clear glass windows), and the reception had no power. The restaurant (The Barnside, long gone) put out all its candles, cooked on gas stoves, and did a pretty good job by us. The band (more of a string quartet than someone who'd do the chicken dance song) showed up with a rented generator. A lot of guests didn't even realize that the power was out.

Later, when I have time, perhaps I'll tell the story of the lovely Mrs. Professor's discussion with the catering manager when the manager said – the day before the wedding – that they might or might not be able to deliver.

So, 29 years ago tomorrow, we flew to San Francisco, my only flight. Janet pointed out that we only had two weeks, really not enough time to go and come back by train. Now, I'd argue Sheldon Cooper; then, I had to admit the utility.

But still, whatever we end up doing, we'll be together. We've held and been mutually supportive through penury, illness, operations, family drama, dead cars, and redecorating three rooms. We are battle tested. We still find each other interesting and funny. We're still happy to get home to each other. I'm a lot damn luckier than I ever expected to be. (And it confuses the hell out of me, another story entirely.) Happy Anniversary to us, and let the low-calorie vegetable dishes flow!
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The Shallow End Of Deep Time [Sep. 23rd, 2014|04:57 pm]
23 September 2014

It is said that in England, they think 100 miles is a long way. In America, they think that 100 years is a long time. With that in mind, Friday my church is celebrating the 375th birthday of our congregation.

The current building (which has the tombs of both Presidential Adamses and their wives in the basement) only goes back not quite 200 years, but it's the fourth building.

There are more official celebrations later, but Friday is the actual anniversary of the first covenant. It was a lot more muscular than our current one; the congregation was Calvinist then. We've been sliding left ever since. We were discussing this at the last Board meeting, and I foolishly murmured that we might have a reception on the actual day. (I'm Congregational Life, so I'm supposed to be coming up with ideas like this anyway.) This rapidly developed into a potluck supper; someone more energetic and organized than I volunteered to do publicity; and we were off.

My original idea was a wine-and-cheese sort of thing, but it's all gotten hearty. Now I plan to buy a couple loaves of good bread, sliced, and put them out with butter, and maybe some cheese after all, and certainly still wine. Not good wine – basic gallon table wine should do fine. Everyone can police their own children, but there's also no better way to develop a teetotaler than let them get into the Paisano once.

I intend to read out the original covenant, and we'll recite the current covenant, and then there'll be cake. Once again we'll party like the white overeducated upper middle class professionals Unitarians almost always are. (As part of the recent search for a new minister, the committee did a survey of the congregation, and more than half of us have advanced degrees.) (Our former minister had a doctorate in physics.) Maybe I should buy sherry. Hmmm.

(If you were wondering, the current covenant, from 1991, reads

As a free fellowship of this historic church,
We unite to lift our hearts and open our minds to a larger reality;
To accept, support, and encourage one another;
To seek the wisdom in all religions;
To cherish and sustain the web of life;
And to strive for justice, compassion, and peace.
)

Should be a fine time. I'll let you know.
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At The Party, She Was Kindness In The Hard Crowd [Sep. 22nd, 2014|03:47 pm]
22 September 2014

Let's start with NPR (National Public Radio), not with Arthur Dent.

I was listening to All Things Considered or The TED Talk Hour or some damn thing like that, and they had a story about a guy who read Hitchhiker's Guide and was struck by the line He had been extremely chastened to realize that although he originally came from a world which had cars and computers and ballet and Armagnac, he didn't, by himself, know how any of it worked. He couldn't do it. Left to his own devices he couldn't build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich. He (the man in the NPR story, not Arthur Dent) decided to build a toaster from first principles.

He budgeted a year for the attempt. He bought a £3.99 toaster and disassembled it as a model. He went down into a mine to gather iron ore; he climbed a Scottish mountain to harvest mica. In the end he had a device that looked like a freeform sculpture and, when he benchtested it, blew out his circuit breakers and burst into flame. (Though, technically, he could have made toast with it.)

A while back, I was watching How It's Made, one of our favorite shows, especially when we're tired. One of the segments was on recycled paper products; they were making those four-position coffee trays that litter the back seat of my car. An endless stream of forms made of bronze wire dipped into the pulp slurry and picked up a thick layer of wet pulp, and went off to be dried. (The next time I got everyone coffee, I took a close look at the tray. By thunder, there was the imprint of the bronze mesh, right there in the cardboard.)

This reminded me of vids I'd seen of people making hand-made paper; essentially skimming thinner pulp slurry with wide flat screens, shaking them dry, and tipping the result onto a drying stack. And that reminded me that I haven't the first damn idea how to go about making paper, even though I know all the steps. How do I pulp the cotton/linen rags, or how do I pulp a tree? Just boiling them isn't going to do it; the technical word for that process is "laundry". What are the screen frames made of? What are the screens made of – silk? Really fine wire cloth?

Not that there's much point to all of this, but this may well be why I hoard lined pads. I'll never advance technologically to the point where I can reproduce them. Hell, I can barely make a sandwich.
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Mysteries Of The Future!! [Sep. 5th, 2014|04:34 pm]
5September 2014

I have two computer-related questions. One affects you. One doesn't.

(This is a generic, non-specific "you". If you use one a these comuptating engines, you've met the situation.

Who came up with this Control-Alt-Delete, and why. What's the thought behind this bizarre ritual? What's wrong with a button that says "Hey, computer!"?

Second – I'm reading client SOPs. They are obscure, and confusing, and couched in a babble of initialisms and undefined terms, and so boring I keep nodding off. But, the worst of it, is that, though they're all PDFs, they're all low-resolution scans of printed documents. The bigger you make the pages, the fuzzier the printing – and this client really loves small, intricate diagrams of processes, all of which have scanned as fuzzy black squares.

The future. It's electric, it's eclectic, and I say to hell with it. (grumps).
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