The Grim Reaper comes for all

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Vin Scully

I know, that's a morbid, depressing headline. But it's true, and as one gets older—and as I personally can no longer pretend I'm not firmly within middle age—the people in the world who leave us are more and more often people we have a personal connection with in some fashion. At 53, I'm not in the stage where I'm scanning the obits for people I know or anything, but I am in the stage wherein the public figures that reach their ends are a kind of contemporary.

Recently there have been a couple of those for me, and, naturally, my friend Erik beat me to the punch in writing up reflective memorials for them and I can't improve on his remarks. But I will say a little bit anyway.

For the great Vin Scully, longtime broadcaster for the Los Angeles (and before that the Brooklyn) Dodgers, who passed away on August 2nd at age 94, Erik noted the achievement of sheer longevity Scully accomplished thusly:

 One of the first games he broadcast for the Dodgers, when he was a mere stripling of 23 in 1950, was an exhibition game against the Philadelphia A's, managed, in his final year, by Connie Mack, who had been born in 1862, just after the Battle of Fredericksburg. So just those two men connected the U.S. Civil War to the present. Remarkable. If you want to put it in baseball terms: Connie Mack began playing professional baseball in 1886, and managed professional baseball from 1894 to 1950, at which point, at that exhibition game, you can imagine him tagging off to Vin Scully, who broadcast professional baseball games another 66 years. So it's 1886 to 2016. That's the entirety of the sport, really.

Vin was my introduction to baseball entertainment. I grew up in a minor-league town, where there was a Triple-A team affiliated with the Astros (and Rangers before that) and where the local TV station occasionally ran Padres games, but the local radio ran Dodger games. Nearly every night (or afternoon) in the spring and summer I could tune in to AM 1400 and hear the almost musical phrase, "It's time for Dodger baseball" in the dulcet tones of Vin Scully, followed by "a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be."

I never was a Dodger fan, but I was always, always a Vin Scully fan. There are/have been other good baseball play-by-play pros—your Jon Millers, your Gary Thornes, your Dave Niehauses—but there has ever only been one Vin Scully; no one has ever been as good at that job. Vin not only narrated the game for you, he made it art. He (and presumably his staff of minions) prepared so meticulously for every broadcast that he had stories about even the most no-name of journeyman callups to relate during breaks in the action. He famously lip-read arguments on the field between managers and umpires, substituting creative metaphors for the swear words when he interpreted for the radio audience. (My favorite of Vin's substitutions was “'that's fertilizer,' Lasorda yelled, ‘100% fertilizer.’”) He made the most inconsequential blowout game between teams long eliminated from the pennant chase entertaining.

Vin was also the regular TV guy on the NBC Game of the Week for much of my growing-up years, setting my standard for televised games as well as radio. He had a decent repartee with color commentator Joe Garagiola on NBC, but he was always best as a solo act, just chatting with the listener one on one. Or, as he put it himself, "I tried to make believe I was in the ballpark [grandstands], sitting next to somebody and just talking." In modern times, when thanks to the Internet and MLB.TV one had a choice in such things, when I had the option of watching a game with the Dodgers' broadcast feed or the opposition's, I would always choose the Dodger feed because of Vin. Heck, sometimes I would tune in Dodger games as background noise while doing something else, just for Vin.

Scully was the best for a lot of reasons, but one key element was a sense to know when to stop talking and let the moment speak for itself. He described his approach to the gig this way: "The game is just one long conversation, and I'm anticipating that, and I will say things like 'Did you know that?' or 'You're probably wondering why.' I'm really just conversing rather than just doing play-by-play. I never thought of myself as having a style. I don't use key words. And the best thing I do? I shut up."

Erik lists some favorite Scullyisms—“Bob Gibson pitches like he's double-parked”—but there have been so many that I both heard myself and read quoted by others that I couldn't pick favorites. But there is one that resonates more and more in my middle-age, from a game Vin did between the Dodgers and the Cubs in the late '80s and regarding the Cubs' slugging outfielder: "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren't we all?"

 

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Nichelle Nichols

The other obit from this month that hit my world was that for Nichelle Nichols, famous for portraying Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek, who died at 89 years old. Erik again has a better tribute. As a champion-level Star Trek nerd I of course know all the oft-told stories about Nichelle and her Trek history—how Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to remain with the show when she was thinking of leaving; how she inspired Whoopi Goldberg and plenty of other young African-Americans just by portraying a competent professional on network television; how she didn't know ahead of time that her audition for Star Trek was for her former affair partner, Gene Roddenberry, whom she left because she didn't want to be the "other woman"; how Bill Shatner sabotaged the alternate-take filming of the alleged "first interracial kiss" scene with her, insisted on by network suits, to ensure that the kiss would make it on air despite NBC's worries about alienating racists in the South—and how she turned being typecast as Lt. Uhura into a way to reach out to the scientific community, working with NASA on minority outreach and recruiting several applicants who would become prominent astronauts and administrators for the agency (including shuttle astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, who "returned the favor," as it were, and appeared as a transporter chief on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation).

I never met Nichelle personally despite seeing her in person at a number of conventions. I've never been an autograph hound or anything like that, so didn't wait in line to speak with her and have her sign stuff, but I did enjoy her appearances and the occasions she would close out her bit with a verse or two of "Beyond Antares."

A class act, a quality human, and a loss to the world.

Nichelle had been in poor health for a while, it wasn't a shock to learn of her passing, but it still gave me a sad, as the kids say. We've now lost De, Jimmy, Leonard, Majel, and Nichelle from the original core crew, not to mention Rene Auberjonois and Aaron Eisenberg from Deep Space Nine.

I'm at that age. The obits are more often for folks that were somehow important to me now.

(Oh, and to answer Erik's question, Nichelle's character of Uhura got her first name, Nyota, non-canonically in novels in the '80s; it was only in the J.J. Abrams movie of 2009 that it was first used on-screen. Fanfiction attempted to name her "Penda" previously, but we can all agree the final choice was the better one.)

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We're back

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Greetings and felicitations, nerds, sportsfans, and politicos. After a lengthy era of negligence, things here on StarshipTim.com are nearing a revival. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. The world keeps throwing stuff at us that needs opining about.
  2. I need to personally vent.
  3. It is a golden age of fantastic TV that requires some proselytizing about.
  4. My site covering the Seattle Mariners, grandsalami.net, is possibly (probably) headed for extinction and my Mariners and baseball columns will migrate over here. 

Number 4 is the most consequential. Had the GS site succeeded in bringing in enough revenue to break even, or even showed progress toward doing so, it would likely remain the time-suck that it's been for four-plus years and my online writing would still go there. I had been spending more time maintaining and creating content for that site than I had on really any other project over these years and (a) it began to be a chore; (b) the lack of engagement beyond single-page visits from Facebook groups was frustrating; and (c) it made me not want to do any other writing at all because of (a) and (b). As one can see from the most recent post prior to this one (scroll down), it's not a new thought. I contemplated this last year but ultimately decided to give it one more season to try and make it work over there. Nothing changed.

Which isn't to say grandsalami.net had no audience; it does have one, albeit one that tends to behave in the "new normal" of Internet users. Which is to say, readers spot a link to a GS post on Facebook (occasionally Twitter), click through, read it, and go back to Facebook (or Twitter). They don't stick around and follow internal links to other content or subscribe to RSS notifications or basically do anything except what they're told to by their social media feeds. It's annoying.

But it's also useful info; that behavior doesn't much depend on the GS brand or anything other than the links themselves. I speculate that the same behavior would apply to baseball-related posts on this blog shared on those social media groups and accounts. Similarly, that behavior can be exploited for posts on other topics with tags that place links in other Internetizens' feeds. It's not a done deal yet, I haven't 100% decided to throw in the towel on GS. But it's 85+%. That number gets higher as I factor in that the baseball season only lasts half the year and traffic over there goes down to nothing in the wintertime, while political and pop culture posts have year-round appeal. 

All of which is to say, the blog will rise from the ashes as GS slowly wilts away. Freeing up the time spent there—a not-insignificant amount of which is spent on stuff that nobody ever sees—will be a boon for not only this site but my overall time-management, which, frankly, can use some work.

Some redesign here might be part of the process, but only minor tweaks; I like the look of things here overall. Maybe deemphasizing the Trekkiness a tad with the fonts? We'll see.

Meanwhile, I remain a Mariners superfan even if not actively running that other site, so I am off to watch tonight's game against the Evil Empire, otherwise known as the New York Yankees. As my friend Mack likes to say, "FTY."

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Return of the Blog? Maybe?

AbramsYell

As is obvious, I have not been maintaining this blog very well. There have been innumerable things I've thought about writing, many topics in the news and in my personal headspace that deserve a few words here and there, but I've not mustered up the time and energy to to it. My writing time has been taken up on my other website endeavor over at grandsalami.net, but that too has been suffering.

When I relaunched grandsalami.net as a web-only entity, following the demise of the print edition that I worked on as production designer/layout artist/copy editor for so many years, it was in the hopes that after a couple of years' time it would garner enough traffic to a) pay for itself, b) pay an additional writer or two, and c) show the promise of making a small profit. But it's done none of those things and I've been feeling a bit burned out on it. I'm considering letting it die after the end of the baseball season; the aspects of it that I tried to port over from the print magazine are apparently of little interest to the web readership and what traffic it gets tends to be on commentary posts. You know, the sort of thing that makes up a blog.

So I'm thinking of letting that entity go and instead revitalizing this site to be home to my baseball commentary as well as stuff in the news and stuff elsewhere in life again. I'll bring the minuscule ad revenue generated at grandsalami.net over here, maybe. Do a small bit of redesign. I don't know for sure. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm being upstaged in my own mind by others, like Craig Calcaterra, whose "Cup of Coffee" newsletter covers baseball and politics and makes me chuckle and go "hmm." on a regular basis.

Stuff is happening, macro scale and micro, and even though I have thoughts I've not been articulating them. I should figure out a comfortable way to devote time to doing so.

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Bansei (2002-2021)

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Bansei (mid-late October 2002 - May 15, 2021)

Bansei did not wake me with a meow, asking to be fed. She did not sneak into the shower while the water was warming to sip the presumably much tastier water from the shower spigot. She did not rub her head against me or trill in anticipation of tuna. She did none of those things because she left me last Saturday, dying due to complications from kidney failure at the age of 18 years and 7 months.

I've lost cats before. Four now as an adult and at least that many as a child. It's always tremendously upsetting. I love my cats, past and present, all very much and all uniquely. Losing Bansei has been hitting me harder that I anticipated it would, and I've been anticipating it for a while now.

My truly awesome veterinarian gave me the bad news a few months ago, at Bansei's last regular senior checkup: the one functioning kidney was no longer functioning. Things were going to worsen, but for the time being it was manageable with medications and home hydration treatments. Bansei had been living with chronic kidney disease for nine and a half years, a slow and mostly imperceptible condition that would, every few years or so, take a leap and get worse but never really affected her daily life in any significant fashion until recently. About three or four years in it affected her litter box habits in an annoying (to me) way, otherwise the only way we knew there was a problem was when we'd do the lab tests at her semi-annual vet checkups. She was a tough old broad in that respect. Even in the midst of the end stages of her disease she continued to eat (though not enough), purr, enjoy the sun, and engage in activity commensurate with a kitty of her age, the equivalent of 90 in people years. Still, during the last couple of months there was no mistaking a deterioration in her overall health and I knew we were down to a matter of weeks, maybe months if we were really fortunate. Every time she had a relatively bad day I would steel myself, sometimes nervously going into a pre-mourn, but she always perked up shortly after.

One of the complications of not having working kidneys filter blood properly is hypertension. I knew this because I read whatever I could find online about feline renal failure, and I began to notice over the last ten days or so that her pupils tended to stay dilated more than seemed appropriate for the light level, an indication of said hypertension. Even so I was still surprised and not immediately cognizant of what exactly happened when Bansei had a stroke Saturday afternoon. I was out on my balcony and heard her yowl from inside. When I came in to check on her I couldn't find her right away, then saw out of the corner of my eye that she had tumbled down the stairs. She must have been walking out of the bedroom and toward the balcony door when the stroke hit her near the top of the stairs. I scooped her up, breathing but immobile, and held her close while I phoned my friends Amy and Lindsey for help. I knew there was nothing more to be done; the stroke had left her paralyzed. While I waited for Lindsey to come over, I held Bansei and stroked her and talked to her, trying not to cry lest I upset her further. I told her she deserved better, that I had done my damnedest to give her the very best life I could give her and how it was totally unfair that we did not yet have Dr. McCoy's kidney-growth pills that would have spared her this indignity.

BanseiTower

Lindsey (a licensed vet) arrived and helped ease Bansei's distress and bring her time to a close. It was, given the circumstances, probably the best outcome (except for the stroke) I could hope for, only a very brief period of severe suffering and absolutely no question that I was not acting prematurely. Yet I felt, and to a degree continue to feel, quite irrationally, that I failed my precious kitty.

Intellectually, of course, I know better. I know I did everything that could possibly have been done short of a traumatic hospitalization at the end of her life that I didn't want to put her through. But that's the thing with pets—they are utterly and completely dependent on their human(s) to take care of them. They trust us to do right by them. I was responsible for her, so even though I know full well that the only thing I could have possibly done differently was opt for a euthanasia in advance of any possibility of severe decline—something I could never bring myself to do—there are feelings of guilt. That I should have, somehow, done more.

The irrational guilt will pass, I know. It was the same when Pixel died a few years ago, and though circumstances were different back in the early aughts (veterinary malpractice, plus younger me not knowing as much as I do now), it was similar when Bansei and Pixel's predecessors, Charcoal and I-Chaya, died.

I've been cleaning up the condo yesterday and today, dismantling the various devices I cobbled together to help Bansei in her elderhood and mitigate her frailties. It makes the place look very empty in spots. I notice her absence everywhere. But for the rest of us, life goes on. I have Kuro-Raimei and Zephyr still to care for and comfort me. And I will always remember my Bansei.

I first met her on the last day of November, 2002, at what I've come to think of as the King County Animal POW Camp, a dreadful shelter down in Auburn. I'd been wanting to find a new kitten after losing I-Chaya a couple of months prior and checking out various places. On walking into the facility I decided instantly that I would be taking someone home from there if just to save her from that wholly unpleasant environment. Bansei was in a very small cage with two brothers, and she looked at me in what I anthropomorphised as anxious hope. I chose her, told the attendant, and then was told I couldn't have her yet as she hadn't been spayed. But I could put in the paperwork and come back three days later. I did, and took the estimated-to-be-seven-week old baby girl cat home and gave her the best name any pet cat has ever had in the history of cats: 伴星 (ばんせい).

BanseiKitten Pixel

She took immediately to Pixel, who was by then 2½ or so. The two of them played together and Bansei at that age liked to fetch foam golf balls I would toss around our small apartment on 45th Street. She grew up fast and still tried to squeeze into small spaces she used to fit into for a while after it was impossible for her. It wasn't long before she developed the first of her many many medical and dental problems; Bansei became the most expensive cat I've ever had by far. After we moved into a bigger space when she was around four, she had to have her first tooth removed due to a genetic predisposition for resorption. By the time she was middle-aged, she'd had all of her fangs removed—at times making her twist her mouth a bit in what I called her "tiny Elvis" face—and by the time she was elderly she only had a smattering of small teeth left. When she was 9 she'd apparently decided she didn't like the (rather expensive) food I was feeding her and went on a hunger strike; taking her in to see Dr. Schuldt and discover any underlying issue, we found that she had begun to go into liver failure due to lack of intake which was due to an infection and things looked very bleak. But Dr. Schuldt is the best, and though it took weeks in the hospital Bansei recovered fully, though her kidney disease began as a consequence of all that. She had another, briefer, hospital stay for a lesser ailment too. We needed great veterinary care and I'm grateful we were able to get it.

When I would go out of town Bansei would get anxious. Until her last couple of years, she was a fastidious groomer and when I was away for any length of time she would overgroom as a coping activity. This led to many hairballs in inconvenient places and taught me to lay towels on the bed and other furniture when I'd go on trips. Her temporary caretakers sometimes reported that Bansei made it known they were unwelcome invaders and that they were to leave the food and get out, else there would be trouble. I was sorry to hear this in most respects, but it also made me feel good—Bansei had a human and it was me, nobody else.

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She was upset when we moved again, into the home I'm in now. It was big and unfamiliar and she stayed in her cat-tree cube for nearly three days straight before getting accustomed to the new digs. Then she enjoyed the larger space to roam. When Pixel left us, Bansei was very sad, wailing and sniffing around and searching for her pal, and really was never the same afterward. Raimei joined us a few months later and, while this new kitten was very keen to be friends with Bansei, Ban-ban really wasn't having it with kitten energy. She adjusted and there came a sort of acceptance and détente, but to take some of the unwanted attention off Bansei, I brought in kitty number three, Zephyr, to be Raimei's principal playmate. It worked out well and we were a happy three-kitty fam.

Until last Saturday.

I will and do miss Bansei's loud voice, her subtle purr, and her loyal companionship. I will miss her forays into the shower, her insistence on only the best tuna-based food, the way she draped herself over the sofa arms on a hot day like a Salvador Dali painting. I will miss her insisting that it is time for my guests to leave when she's had enough of their presence. I miss her climbing into my lap when I watch TV and her favorite method of expressing affection, pressing her head up against mine and rubbing her cheeks on me to mark me as hers.

She was my unique and precious companion star, the Proxima to my Alpha (and to Pixel's Centauri-B). Without her I have a hole in my heart.

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Double Standards

Quite a couple of days it's been, eh?

There's a lot to be said about the attempted coup and attack on the Capitol building by some of the world's dumbest criminals, but I'm going to skip a lot of that right now. Other people are saying those things very eloquently anyway, particularly Chris Hayes:

But among all the talk and righteous outrage has been a lot of anger about the lack of force used by law-enforcement against the insurrectionists. That's the part I want to get into.

Firstly, the Capitol Police were (a) compromised by infiltrators/partly collaborating with the mob and (b) prevented from having adequate manpower to handle the situation by Federal officials, victimized by Trumpian sabotage. So even though their lack of preparation is astounding, it was part of the coup attempt and that should be factored into the outrage. That lack of manpower is a big reason there were so few arrests Wednesday—when you're that understaffed to begin with, you don't want to take more officers away from trying to handle a mob in order to book people—but hopefully there will be many arrests to come in the next several days. After all, so many of the mob members were quite willing to let us know who they are, with their selfies and carrying their phones with them the whole time and their stupid refusal to wear pandemic-practical face coverings. Finding them shouldn't be that hard.

But the thing that's bugging me is the backlash at the obvious double standards among police forces—surely, if these were BLM people demonstrating, there would have been lots of shooting, lots of beatings, a much higher death toll. Which is unquestionably true. For the reason that the people in charge have radically different agendas for those two circumstances, and because of systemic bias in law-enforcement that sees brownness as a threat and palefaces as protectees. That part of the outrage isn't what unsettles me, it's the next part of most of those complaints: "Where were all the rubber bullets and brutal beat-downs?" When that part is said in ironic fashion to illustrate the reality of the double-standard, right on, I'm with you. When it's meant literally, with a genuine wish to see the police assault and brutalize these insurrectionists—a group I have heard suitably described as "Vanilla Isis" and amusingly if not appropriately as "Y'all-Qaeda"—that's where I get a little queasy. We can't be out for blood for the sake of getting even.

Which isn't to say there shouldn't have been a decent-sized security force in place Wednesday, there absolutely should have been. After all, this was a known event, they fucking announced it to the world in advance. And said force should have repelled the mob when they tried storming the building for the safety of the officials and staff within. I would have preferred the members of that mob be subdued and arrested rather than helped down the Capitol steps and sent on their way after leaving the building they just vandalized.

But in the vein of two-wrongs-don't-make-a-right, brutalizing Vanilla Isis once they're not an immediate danger is just as bad as brutalizing Black Lives Matter protesters. Yeah, I'm human, I get the idea that there would be some satisfaction in seeing that asshole photographed with his feet on Nancy Pelosi's assistant's desk or the idiot carrying a lectern out of the Capitol laid out with a blow from a cop's baton; heck, it might feel good to take my Louisville Slugger to Ted Cruz myself. But we can't have it both ways. If beating up our black and brown neighbors for peacefully marching is intolerable—and it is—then we shouldn't be calling for similar smackdowns of these fuckers.

The Capitol Police need to be investigated, there were clearly elements of that agency that were in on the insurrection. But the rest of them were overwhelmed by design, hamstrung from being able to effectively contain the mob by the fact that the Defense Department and the Executive Branch of the Federal government—i.e. Trump and his minions, otherwise known as the instigators of the insurrection—control things like the DC National Guard and prevented aid from other jurisdictions from being speedily deployed.

There's so much outrage to go around with this event, it's truly gobsmacking that we are in this reality of a United States populated with a hefty percentage of people who are truly evil and/or astonishingly stupid and pathetic to allow a Donald Trump presidency in the first place. I just don't think it helps anyone to actually want to see heads cracked.

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Election Thoughts

Screenshot 2020 11 08 211107
The world rejoices, including this woman in Japan

Relief.

That's my top-line reaction to Election 2020: Stepping Back From Tyranny, the sequel that blew the pants off its progenitor, Election 2016: Racism is Back and it Brought Misogyny Along for Laughs. Composing a post to articulate my feelings from this week has been a challenge, because those feelings run the gamut. But relief, yeah. That's the biggest thing.

Going into Tuesday, I had convinced myself that I wasn't all that worried. Clearly, the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket was going to win, there was no possible way President VonClownstick had enough people in his basket of deplorables to match the rest of us, not after the 63 million people that voted for him last time saw how he actually performed for nearly a full presidential term. Sure, he and his corrupt minions were going to try every bit of ratfuckery that they could think of to suppress the vote and cheat their way to "victory," but, I told myself, we had the numbers. We would turn out a record-breaking tsunami of votes that would prove more than enough to counter the cheating.

In the end, I may have been right about the result, but I wasn't right about my confidence. I was lying to myself—I was worried. And it manifested as a knot in my guts Tuesday evening and really kicked into high gear when things were still too close to call Wednesday morning. The bastard was actually getting more votes than last time. Millions more.

How the—

what—

that's not—

It was dumbfounding. The logical portion of my brain was calm, I knew that circumstances remained favorable and that because of the pandemic the Republicans' favored methods of committing election fraud would be largely neutered. But my emotional condition was fraught. Like, I'm sure, many others around the country and around the world (and perhaps even some extraterrestrial observers, who knows), I found myself in a kind of stasis, continually either watching TV news coverage or reading Twitter feeds, needing to see updated results. (I call it Kornacki Syndrome.) It was exhausting, but I wasn't really aware how much so. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, I had gotten, I don't know, maybe eight or ten hours of sleep over the roughly four-day period, snatched in bits of two hours at a time and lightly enough that I was never far from waking up to check Twitter again. When all the press outlets called Pennsylvania and Nevada, confirming a Biden victory, it was like a string was cut. The tension relaxed and I fell asleep, deeply enough to have weird dreams and keep me out of commission for the entire rest of Saturday. Except for a brief interregnum to feed the cats, who had awoken me with unsubtle demands, I slept from around 9 in the morning until 2:30am.

The sleep was refreshing. I'm able to put my mind off the news. I read fiction most of the day and was able to be completely immersed in the book. The grip of anxiety that has been a constant companion for four years isn't gone—we've still got 73 days until Joe and Kamala take over, and you know it's going to be a rough transition—but it's vastly improved.

Relief.

But there's more, too. The flood of feelings includes several distinct emotive states.

Pride in the passion displayed by so many of the 75 million voters that got us here. A kind of relish in the success of efforts like that of fairfight.com to combat voter suppression and turn out people who historically haven't really participated. Glee in the utter foolishness of the Trump campaign's attempts at lawsuits to throw out votes. Even a kind of patriotic satisfaction in the power of an engaged electorate to overcome the forces of propaganda and fascism. Hope for a reform that will come with not only Biden and Harris leading the way, but with a score or more of outstanding congresspeople, including my own representative Pramila Jayapal, newly-elected Mark Kelley, Adam Schiff, and Val Demmings pushing for a better future.

On the flip side, though, there's fear. Fear of the more volatile cohort in Trump's fanbase, who will not take this well. Fear for the future, as 70 million Americans have shown themselves to be perfectly OK with authoritarian rule. Confusion about those Americans, a large portion of whom are almost certainly not evil but brainwashed; how does that happen, can they be reached, are they too far gone? Are they able to come to the realization that they've been conned, or are they too damaged? (Of course, a not-insignificant percentage of them know exactly what they were doing and are ruled by some combination of greed and hate and self-loathing, be they the likes of Mortimer Duke or George Zimmerman, and I've long accepted that we'll never be fully rid of them.) Outrage and disgust that there are pockets of this country that simply refuse to evolve; Americans this week reelected or elected for the first time some truly horrible people to both houses of Congress—Mitch McConnell, an evil man with no redeeming qualities, was handily reelected by the citizens of Kentucky; Lindsey Graham, an obsequious toady that is clearly being blackmailed, easily regained his seat; Devin Nunes, a Russian asset, is returning to the House. Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, and Darrell Issa—all terrible people—were all reelected.

We've done the most important thing. We've ousted Trump and given the United States the opportunity to fortify itself against potential future autocratic leaders. But there's a long way to go to bring this country into a worthy future, and parts of it may have to be dragged along kicking and screaming.

But for now, relief.

 

*ADDENDUM*

 

I just watched John Oliver's show from tonight and, naturally, he makes some of these points a lot better than I. Please to enjoy.

 

 

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May We Live in Interesting Times

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The past week has been, let's say, trying. I've not been doing well with it.

Those who have been readers of this irregularly updated site know of my struggles with what I refer to as the Black Hole; while in inapt metaphor in some ways, it serves my purposes. The gravity of depression is the worst thing about it—it pulls you into it and the deeper you go the more energy it requires to break free.

Except you can't ever break free of the Black Hole. It's always there, the best you can do is achieve a high, stable orbit. I manage this more often than not, thanks in large part to psychopharmacology, but not always.

Even when not in the grips of an episode, maintaining orbit requires a certain amount of energy. If you get sapped of that, you start losing altitude. Gradually at first, so slowly that it can be a week or three before you realize you've slipped and only notice when it gets to be closer to a free-fall.

Anyway, ever since President VonClownstick was declared the winner of the election four years ago, there's been an extra layer of tension in my psyche. Like many of us out there, I'm anxious. A kind of primed fight-or-flight response waiting to be triggered. My mind has been on a more-or-less constant Red Alert. This year it's only been ratcheted up. I mean, impeachment failed because the entire Republican party has become a corrupt anti-democratic scourge and then the pandemic hit. And that was met with such ignorance, disinterest, and astonishing levels of incompetence as to put the US Government effectively on the side of the coronavirus. It was already enough to drive one up the wall, and then RBG died, and we can't even give her the mourning she deserves because her death set off another round of nationwide anxiety attacks.

I hit the wall. Figuratively, I mean, I didn't actually punch my walls. But I was angry enough to. I was mad at pretty much everything for a while there. My Red Alert mind boiled over in frustrated rage at how our society put itself in an entirely predictable, entirely preventable, mostly self-inflicted catastrophic circumstance.

I've started to gain some altitude on the Black Hole. I'm not spewing anger at every turn any more. I'm a little more even-keeled. But the catastrophic circumstance we're living through is no better. After RBG died and we all set about fretting over how to prevent the VonClownstick brigade from further turning the Supreme Court into a fascistic rubber stamp for government by mobsters, the pre-election GOP propaganda and machinations to interfere and cheat went into overdrive.

I don't know how I'm going to keep up the necessary fight against the Black Hole over the next couple of months; I won't truly be able to relax and really climb to high orbit until this regime of criminal thugs is gone. But in the meantime, we've all got to do our part to make sure we actually get to that point.

That means, first and foremost, to ensure that everyone who is able to vote does vote in this election.

The Trumpsters are out there decrying voting isn't legitimate, that we need to "get rid of the ballots," that people shouldn't be allowed to participate unless they vow to support the incumbent. The president is on TV just about every day making such claims, railing against mail-in ballots, against early voting, against participation, basically. His claims are all bullshit, of course, but they have a purpose. The guy is by no means an intelligent person, but nor is he a total moron. There are one or two areas in which he has some competence, and manipulation is one of them.

The president is railing against voting by means other than in-person at polling places for two reasons. One, because he wants to lay the foundation for his inevitable "legal" challenges to the election when he loses; by squawking repeatedly for months about how mail ballots are fraudulent in advance of the election, before there could even be any evidence of what he wants us to believe, he hopes to make it seem reasonable to make that claim after the fact—he needs this advance primer because he knows his challenges will be baseless and wants to create a false basis in the minds of the public first. Two, and this is something I have yet to hear any media types give much attention to, because mail-in/absentee ballots leave a paper trail, and the more voters he can drive to in-person voting at polling stations, the more votes will be cast on machines that can be hacked and by methods that cannot be traced.

Donald Trump is the most obvious and most prolific practitioner of psychological projection anyone's ever seen on a national scale. When he accuses someone he considers to be an opponent of a certain behavior, you can bet it's because he himself is doing it. Be aware of that whenever you hear him accuse someone of something nefarious. He is accusing the Democratic party of dishonesty and thievery because he is dishonest and thieving. He may actually believe it; it is entirely possible that he cannot conceive of other people behaving in ways he does not, that he truly believes that everyone is as crooked and self-interested as he is because what else is there? He has no frame of reference for anything else.

Anyway, that's a whole 'nother tangent. The point right now is that we all have to vote. We have to turn out in unprecedented numbers, to cast an avalanche of votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so large that it overwhelms the efforts of the VonClownstick faithful to cheat and sue and discredit their way to "victory." Everyone, if you're not yet registered to vote, do so now. Get an absentee ballot if you can. Cast it as soon as possible. Do everything you can to ensure your ballot is able to be counted on or before election day.

'Cause this is it. If this goes badly, this country is over and we're on our way to being Trumpistan. Donald Trump and the Republican party have declared war on the United States Constitution and on democracy itself, and if we allow them to win that war all bets are off. We have to beat them. Soundly and decisively. And then make sure this can't ever happen again.

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First-World Problems

st ultcomp15

It's been a week—more, really—of frustration here aboard StarshipTim, with the various components of my computer infrastructure all choosing to crap out on me in quick succession. Things are on their way to normalcy, but the journey has been a bit more adventurous than I'd prefer. I would not call it fun. Lots of time ended up being wasted and delays were/are getting a little extreme on some other items needing my attention.

And I missed out on some stuff I had intended to be quite attentive to this week, including the DNC. I did watch most of Wednesday night's convention program in real time, that was the slate I was most intrigued by, with President Obama and Senator Harris headlining. (And they were both great, by the way.)

But this technofiascofubarmeltdown, which really started a few weeks ago when I decided my laptop had met the end of its usefulness as a portable device, isn't over yet. I'm able to type this on my office PC now only through tenacious determination to make the frakking thing work.

Anyway. Laptop: replaced. The replacement machine is very nice, I'm pleased with it despite it arriving with a small problem of some stuck pixels on its screen. Fixed for now, but I wonder how often that problem is going to recur. It's a refurbished item, bound to have some issues, but for that I could afford it was a pretty sweet buy.

Office PC: under repair. This computer is a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, starting with what at the time I acquired it was a new motherboard and case and CPU, then gradually added onto over the years with expanded capacities and swapped out components and pieces recycled from old PCs. During the setup of the new laptop, which I had networked to the office in order to install common software, this PC spontaneously rebooted to a backup drive. First sign of trouble, and since I didn't even remember I had installed  the backup drive the last time I had a drive failure, it freaked me out a bit until I realized I still had all my stuff. Anyway, a little restart repair procedure and all was well again, or so I allowed myself to think, until little chirpy noises started to emanate form the desktop box. Weird, but I figured it was a fan and swapped in another fan from my box of random parts. Then it spontaneously rebooted again. Then crashed. The OS drive—the "Bridge"—isn't that old, I thought, but run some checks on it.

All tests fine. Hm. OK. Let's clone it just in case. OK, but the clone wouldn't boot, even after rebuilding the boot manager. (And that chirping was back.) Not good, corruption was in the mix pre-cloning. Still, I had everything backed up, so we'll just use that backup drive—"Auxiliary Control"—and load everything onto that, turn it into the main drive for now. It's old, though, so once that's up and running try and fix the Bridge drive. No bad sectors, after all, and of the four HDDs in the thing it's the second-newest. While we're doing that, put Windows 10 on it so I can have a dual-boot system for those times when I want something that runs on one system but not the other, and for consistency with the laptop.

All going fine, if a bit tediously, getting all the software reinstalled and the programs back to the way I like them. Then, as I'm about done, the damn thing spontaneously reboots again, only this time it gets stuck at the reboot process and when I do get it to start it sometimes lets me choose which drive to boot to and sometimes not, and either way takes nearly 10 minutes to do it, and the chirping, STOP THE CHIRPING!

This afternoon's crash, after finally getting my backups reloaded, I admit defeat: This drive is kaput. No bad sectors, no apparent corruption of data in the new installs, but crashes and ten-minute boot sequences and chirps—now definitively NOT from any fans—and the latest symptom, failure to be recognized by the BIOS, and I have to call it. TOD: 11:43pm.

Working from Auxiliary Control is fine for now. It's got all I need. But it's much smaller than The Bridge was, and quite a bit older, so I will once more be scouting the eBays for a new drive. With luck, the Bridge can be recovered and transplanted with the aid of EaseUS or similar help; if not, well, we'll just do all this setup one more time.

But for the moment, I think we're good. I'll install any remaining programs as their need arises and can now get back to the requests of some clients and covering the Mariners on grandsalami.net and paying stricter attention to the news and fixing the deficiencies on my catio and catching up on the Reading Pile. Oh, and I see the new season of Lucifer is on Netflix now, so...

OK. Got through this long rambling post and not once has the computer so much as hiccupped. So I think it's safe to shut it down without fear of never getting it started again. Here we go.

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Good Choice

Biden-Harris

 

Excellent.

This is a great pairing, and Kamala has exactly the right kind of chops to take on the VonClownsticks.

Everyone make sure you're registered to vote, and vote as soon as you can. Get those ballots in before the corrupt administration can "lose them" or invalidate them or otherwise cheat them out of the picture.

And the cheating will be massive. The Russians are already doing their thing, the post office is being dismantled, Barr will facilitate any tyrannical moves Trump and co. can think of. We must turn out in such massive numbers that they are overwhelmed.

Otherwise this country is finished.

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Convergence of Catastrophe

Rachel sums things up pretty well.

 

 

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Class is in Session With Professor John Oliver

Everyone watch this. That is all.

 

 

 

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Anxiety Today

634054 1

I was on a Zoom call yesterday with members of my softball team, just shooting the breeze about whatever, you know, trivialities and silliness, but near the end of the hour-plus we were talking, we inevitably got to discussing the current state of chaos outside our windows and in the country generally.

I remarked that I was feeling a greater level of anxiety than ever, an unprecedented-for-me nervous anticipation of disaster, and one of my teammates asked me what, specifically, I was anxious about. I found it to be a tougher question to answer with any eloquence than it really should have been. I suppose that's partly due to the anxiety itself, flummoxing my search for appropriate words. And part of my lack of eloquence may have stemmed from a stunned reaction to the question. Wasn't the source of my anxiety self-evident? Weren't the disasters I was afraid of obvious?

Well, maybe not. I'm more immersed in news and current events than a lot of folks, and I'm older than some of my teammates on the call. My politics might be different than theirs, which wouldn't matter in years past, but today means I get information that other people aren't necessarily exposed to. So maybe I need to try again, to better articulate my anxiety. I'll give it a go.

What is happening in this country today, this week, this month, this year—pandemic, racism and police brutality, an impeached president that got away with his crime, all of it—is fucking insane and plenty enough cause for alarm, but most of my anxiety comes from the government response to all of that. Mayors and governors are gaslighting their constituents about the police brutality perpetrated in response to protests over police brutality. The president of the United States is demonstrating his unabashed fascism without any real pushback from within the administration. These are extremely upsetting developments and there is absolutely zero reason to assume they will fade away on their own. Locally, things seem to be calming with some real communication happening between protesters and the mayor of Seattle, and our governor is plenty sane. But the nation's government is on the verge of becoming an enemy force, of we the people and of the states and cities, and that freaks me out.

That sounds like a hyperbolic statement. It isn't. Donald Trump is a literal fascist. Even if everything he has said and done prior to this hasn't bothered you, just look at what he has done in the last two or three days. He has an unidentified and therefore unaccountable paramilitary force patrolling Washington, DC. He has ordered police and military to assault Americans for no reason beyond his convenience. He has threatened the nation's governors with military invasion if they don't start cracking heads. He has had fencing erected not just around the White House, but around public grounds near the White House to fortify it against American citizens that have the temerity to dislike him and say so, in ways expressly permitted in the U.S. Constitution. He has indicated that he considers protests of American citizens against racism and police brutality to be insurrection against the United States government. He has said so by threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act, which he thinks would allow him to mobilize the American military as his own personal gestapo.

Perhaps more importantly, he has people supporting him that appear to be completely on board with his fascism. Not just the MAGA redhat idiots that are fast becoming a new KKK, but the Attorney General of the United States, the Senate Majority Leader and scores of House and Senate Republicans, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, many if not all of the other members of the Cabinet. (Yes, Defense Secretary Esper went on TV to say he didn't support Trump's threat to use the military on Americans, but hours later he caved to pressure and got back in line behind fascism.) The United States is threatened today as it never has been before, and that is because elected (more or less) leaders are betraying their oaths to respect, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States on a daily basis.

If not for these betrayals, if not for these people who value personal power and oppression over the Bill of Rights, if not for these so-called leaders shrugging their shoulders when abuses are committed over and over and over again, Donald Trump would have been removed already. By invocation of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or by conviction in the impeachment trial. He'd be gone. Even if you choose to ignore everything that came before in these 3½ years, the actions taken in the last 48 hours would be enough for a truly American cabinet to remove this president right now.

The fact that this president remains president, the fact that Mitch McConnell and the McConnell Minions refuse to do anything to constrain him, sets the tone for leaders in other offices. The governor of Texas "jokes" about shooting journalists. Senator Chuck Grassley says "it's OK" to use police force to clear peaceful protesters from a park if a small fraction of them could be a "potential problem." Senator Marco Rubio called the protesters in Washington, DC, "professional agitators." Even Democratic officials are taking cues from the White House—Andrew Cuomo and Bill DeBlasio, both Democrats, are today defending the New York police department and claiming they don't brutalize people despite the evidence of our own eyes and ears. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti praised the LAPD this week and downplayed the brutality perpetrated by that same LAPD. It's all fine. Keep on with the thing that has people outraged and demonstrating in the streets in the first place. We can lie to the public and say nothing bad is happening; after all, that's what the president does.

Maybe younger folks are inured to this. Maybe people whose formative years coincided with 9/11 and the reaction thereof don't have the same sense of shock and outrage and fear because some level of lawless and un-American behavior from national leaders seems normal. It's not. The Bush years, bad as they were—and they were very, very bad, as bad as a lot of us thought this country would or even could ever get in terms of presidential leadership—were a scratch in comparison to the gaping, infected wound the Trump Administration has inflicted on the entire world. Horrible as he was, George W. Bush never wanted to be a fascist dictator. And in the Obama years, Mitch McConnell stoked an opposition party and screw-you-all policies that fed the same kind of authoritarian, trample-the-Constitution ideology that Trump now personifies.

So maybe this seems like more of the same and nothing to freak out about, because isn't this the way things just are?

No. Not by a long shot.

For anyone not sufficiently convinced that we're in a dire and critical juncture of history here, I recommend listening to or reading the transcription of this interview from the podcast Deconstructed. It's published by The Intercept, which counts among its staff people I do not consider to be reputable journalists (looking at you, Glenn Greenwald), but Deconstructed host Mehdi Hasan is not Greenwald, and the content of this individual report is bang-on.

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