18 February 2021

The Moment

498,469   deaths in the United States from the pandemic. So far. And that’s not counting people who died from other immediate causes but would still be alive were it not for the disease. And incompetence by leaders like Greg Abbott (allegedly governor of Texas, though he’s not doing his job) proves lethal when confronted by a new threat—an extreme weather event of a kind increasingly common due to the instability brought about by global warming. At least one Texas mayor (Tim Boyd, Colorado City) actually had the audacity to resign rather than do his fucking job, all the while abusing his constituents who expected him to actually lead. No word on whether this lazy goldbricking politician will return the money he was paid for occupying a position he had no intention of fulfilling.

And speaking of goldbricks, Rush Limbaugh has died. I personally wasn’t aware he was still alive, though as he is about the same age as I am, I sort of assumed he was. This AINO POS deserves part of the credit for the low position the United States occupies on the world stage, but not much. If it hadn’t been this Morton Downey Junior wannabe, it would have been some other brainless name-caller who thinks he’s got an unearned right to an opinion based on nothing but his feelings about the way things ought to be. Research is for losers. You can make a fortune blowing hot air over the deregulated airwaves, defaming those who don’t have your platform, undermining the nation that supports you. Dean Clarence Manion did it better.

I spent two days in the cold and dark while I waited for PGE to get the power back on. Yes, we had an ice storm here in Portland, a fairly rare event for us, but at least our officials didn’t try to shuffle off their responsibilities onto others—or, if they did, they were better at hiding it. I’ll no doubt find out later on. I didn’t die, anyway, though I was bored as hell and forced to read actual books (yes, pieces of paper glued together between stiff covers) to pass the time. (Willy Ley’s ancient history of astronomy, Watchers of the Skies was one of them, if you’re interested, and Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament was another. My supply of books is limited, partly because of the shelf-space issue, and partly because of the relative ease of obtaining virtual books I can look at on a machine, so when the power goes it’s either relics from my childhood or books that I can’t get in electronic form….)

Well, boredom stops here, now that I’ve got the internet and my e-library back, so I’ll be shelving Ley (and to some extent Metzger) until the next information drought comes along.

25 January 2021

Old Person Rant #59

For no good reason—well, today I’ve been converting old files from one format to another—I’ve been thinking about how much of my life I’ve spent just copying material from one form to another. Typing up handwritten notes, photocopying typescripts, scanning typescripts into a digital copy, copying reel-to-reel recordings onto cassettes, or cassettes into wav files or flac files or whatever, or changing superscript files to wordperfect, wordperfect files to ms word, ms word files from doc to docx, and on and on and on. And there’s constant information loss at every stage of the process. Let’s try converting an old wp file to ms word for example—piece of cake, right? Well, some of my old files are catalogs of project material that—thanks to varying situations of acquisition—exists in different formats itself. I therefore constructed tables of data to tell me where I could find particular items, using Greek letters and other symbols as reference points. (Phi stood for a photocopy, for example, and tau for a transcript, and beta for an old-fashioned white on black copy, and so on and so forth.) Okay, so now I transform the old wp file into ms word and guess what—the table structure comes through just fine, as do the lists of material written in Latin characters—but all the Greek characters and symbols have been stripped out. Useless. Okay—let’s say I use some form of Open Office to convert it instead. Now the symbols come through just fine, but the table structure is destroyed. I’ve found the simplest thing to do is to convert the document twice, using one system on one and one on the other, and then use the compare feature to try to reconstruct the original with a minimum of fuss. Am I happy with this? Well, no, but at least I’m not copying the whole thing by hand. I mean, with some stuff I’ve had to take printouts of the old documents and scan the results into jpegs or whatever to have anything usable.

Mind you, today’s efforts are comparatively simple. The only glitch in converting from the old ms word format to the current is that certain features of the new don’t work unless I create a blank document and manually copy the contents of the old file into it before saving it. Tiresome, but at least I don’t have to transcribe the whole thing by hand. And nothing like the annoyance of trying to copy the contents of an old wire recording into one of the (relatively) new digital formats.

24 January 2021

Screw It

And again I have absolutely nothing to say on a day in which (I’m sure) many things happened—I just haven’t looked at the news, or much of anything else. It’s a dull gray day here with water constantly falling from the sky and not much else of note about it. I took my dog up to the park briefly, and my roommate’s dog up the street a bit and back, and they didn’t seem to mind the rain—though my roommate’s dog is supposed to avoid getting wet as long as he still has stitches in his ear. (The stitches are a souvenir of an encounter with a passing creature of some sort—a dog I suppose—while he was out briefly chained in the front yard on Boxing Day.) My internal landscape is gray and foggy as well, so it’s pretty much wall-to-wall grim here.

But I am alive. Still. And that’s all good. I guess. Screw it. Or whatever.

23 January 2021

Clarification

In the news I see that Dr. Fauci has contradicted whatever members of the incoming administration claimed about there being no vaccine distribution plan. It seems there was in fact a plan. An inadequate plan. A bad plan. But not a nonexistent plan as had been reported.

Well, I’m inclined to trust the doctor on this one. A bad plan—an inadequate plan—these are not the same as no plan at all. A bad plan may be better than no plan at all. More likely a bad plan is worse, involving clearing it away before the real work can be started. But it is not no plan at all, so I am noting that correction.

22 January 2021

And That's What I Like About Nowhere

420,008   pandemic deaths in America, and it turns out that the outgoing President had no plan at all for getting vaccines to the people who need them, and the incoming team is going to have to start from scratch. I knew from the beginning that putting an inexperienced real estate developer in charge of one of the most complex organizations on earth was not going to go well; I knew there would be bumps in the road as the clueless tycoon learned the basics of the job he had taken on; but I did hope he would rise to the challenge and surprise us all. He surprised me, at any rate—I never thought anyone could so blitheringly incompetent as this guy proved to be. I mean, the president of the goddamn United States has the ability to call on the world’s greatest scientists, foreign affairs experts, diplomats, military strategists—whatever is needed—to help him stumble through the affairs of state, so there’s no excuse for this level of incompetency. If somebody really can’t do the job he was elected to, he at least has the resources to fake it.

Even with expert advice things are chancy, as Kennedy found out with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But ignoring the people who know what they’re talking about is a recipe for disaster, as Reagan found out with the AIDS epidemic, or as Bush II found out with Nine Eleven. Listening only to the echoes of your own voice spouting bromides you’d heard some popular pundit expound is a road to nowhere.

21 January 2021

Back to 1776—and Then Some

Well, that didn’t take long. Apparently that noxious pseudohistorical partisan hit job our government posted the other day—yes, that 1776 commission report—is already gone. That’s politics for you. At least this time the prevailing winds and historical honesty were aligned.

The whole concept of having an official interpretation of American history is a bit nauseating, actually. It’s no longer a matter of which events, which individuals, which movements, which institutions are worth remembering; now orthodoxy demands to control how you feel about them, who were the heroes and who were the villains. Was the genocide directed against the Native American peoples worth remembering? (Apparently not; I didn’t see a word about it there.) Were the Progressives right in their aims? Why not?

It would be bad enough if the interpretation were at least based on a solid historical foundation; when key pieces are made-up or based on misinterpretations of the evidence the whole thing reeks of bad propaganda.

Fuck it. The whole thing reeks. Period.

20 January 2021

Good News / Bad News

On the good news side, Paul Pierrilus—who was scheduled to be “deported” to a country apparently randomly selected by US officials—is still home, thanks to the diligence of his congressman, Mondaire Jones. It seems that the DHS could not produce an approved travel document for Pierrilus. His future is still uncertain. On the bad news side, the authorities did manage to split up two Haitian brothers traveling legally in the United States on visas, sending one of them to Mexico (for unknown reasons) and the other to a detention facility (as an unaccompanied minor), much to the consternation of family members in California who were expecting them.

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