Not going gentle into the 21st Century

Some companies I do business with are only lately being dragged kicking and screaming into the information age. 

On a vendor web site, I'm trying to figure out this product matches what we need at the shop.  Don't bother trying to telephone the vendor -- all you'll get is, at best, a very courteous and sincere young person who has access to exactly the same web page that I have. 

But look!  They have a helpful explanatory video! 

Only not: 

"This video does not exist." 

It was a trap.  And I walked right into it with both feet, and my hands in my pockets. 

Disappointed cat is disappointed.


Relative Disaster

On 29 May 1919 there was a total eclipse of the sun that was visible in the southern hemisphere.  A team of scientists with specially filtered telescopic cameras documented the event.  What was super special about the cameras, apparently, was that the films showed not only the rim of the sun but also stars around the sun. 

The stars weren't in their predicted positions.

This is the etymological essence of a "disaster":  dis + aster (star).  The appearance did not match the expectation. 

Once that news came out, it was more widely accepted in the astronomy / physics community of scientists that the "unprovable" theory of a 40 year old German-born mathematician / physicist was demonstrably true.  Albert Einstein's theory of relativity was fact, not just weird math.  Light had been seen to have bent in the gravitational field of the sun. 

So it is that 30 May is considered the "birthday" of general relativity.  Oh the theory had been alive and kicking in the womb of mathematics since 1905, in all the glorious beauty of the Lorenz transformation, but 30 May is when it came out singing the praise of the Creator. 

Space-time ain't flat.

But I'm still waiting for artificial gravity -- and anti-gravity!


Small (and Large) Change

The tasks that are to be faced each day at work always require more time than one day provides.  Therefore a type of triage needs to be performed to move some tasks off the back burner and others to the front of the front burner.  Otherwise nothing gets done.  Or nothing seems to get done, because the only things that get addressed are the new tasks the day brings, and which always arrive like Neville's grandmother's howlers dropped by owl during breakfast.

I have seen a kind of automated coin sorter that uses rotating discs with coin sized holes to separate each different diameter of currency into a separate pile.  Most days my task triage works the same way, picking out the biggest items and feeling good about getting them into the stack marked DONE.

But if I do this every day, then there would be a constantly-growing number of small tasks that fall through the sorting process every day.

So every once in a while -- once a week or twice a month? -- the sorting algorithm gets turned on its head and I try to see how many of the nagging little nits I can pick out and crush.  Good intentions being what they are and all that, it always seems like THOSE are the days when a big muddy sluice comes flooding into my department and over my desk with a fresh alluvial deposit of Big Diameter Problems, all in bright red envelopes.  Cover your ears and run for your life!

And the ha'pennies keep silting up the crannies of my work spaces ...


Calls for tighter screening for mental illness make me nervous.

The legacy news media loves to focus its spotlights on instances of violence that tickle their socio-mythic Gräfenberg spot.  When what they term a "mass murder" has occurred, the bass beat booms out, the disco lights start to flash, and the spotlights converge, and the blood dancing begins.  That's sick, really.  Probably mentally ill. 

Immediate conjecture about the Motive of the perpetrator ensues.  My bet is that Motive is something the media types learned from cop shows on TV, and that most of them could not define Motive, nor come up with a story about what Motive has to do with the etiology of a crime event.  As I understand it, Motive is irrelevant as to the fact of guilt in a court of law.  If the facts are substantiated, you will be found guilty of vandalizing your neighbor's car with no regard to why you did it.  Yet Motive continues to be a sparkly bauble to the media magpies. 

Then, eventually, we hear those magpies accuse the perpetrator of insanity.  He's crazy.  Mentally ill.  Those who seek Safety Above All call for gun control, knife control, insanity control. 

"We need better ways to screen out those who pose a danger to society."

Oh, really?  Listen to what you're saying.  Do you really want to go there?

Calling a spoiled liberal-gone-wrong "mentally ill" is an affront to our millions of mentally ill who suffer and function, more or less, every day all around us, and who even in their darkest moments of depression or self-harm, would never cross the line into homicide.

Look at the history of the 20th Century.  Who were the greatest mass murderers?  Governments -- far and away, more than all the wars, hugely and in a wholesale manner that would be unimaginable and unbelievable were it not for the gut-wrenching  fact of the number of those culled by socialist regimes during that bloody century -- the seekers of the perfect society, destroyed their own. 

You're more likely to go on vacation somewhere and get killed by a falling coconut than walk around America and get killed by a kid with a grudge.  But you're far more likely to be killed by a powerful socialist state.  So I for one do not want to give my progressively more socialist government any more information about myself than necessary.  And my health records are not necessary, except in specific cases of competency at law, and similar situations.  And mental health records are health records.  No one's visit to a psychologist should be subject to a review by some Safety Bureau. 

If we value the life part of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," then access to the means of defending life is a necessary condition of a free society.  A free society entails some risk.  Sorry, no promise that All is Safe Here.  Regardless of FDR's rhetoric, you don't have a right to feel safe.  You have a right to pursue your own happiness by making yourself safe as you care to -- without running over my right to pursuit of happiness. 

When the Safety Bureau, by whatever name it comes to be called, begins to screen out the rights of the mentally ill, it's only a tiny baby step to screening out the lives of the odd, the weak, the undesirable.  The perfect (and perfectly safe) society always ends with people being thrown into the ovens and the killing fields.

Don't go there. 



I do not think five moves ahead.  Nor even three moves.

Most days I think nine moves behind. 

On a good day I not only make a list, but remember to read it. 

I read the list for the pleasure of crossing things off.  I have been known to add to my list a line about a task I have already finished, just so I can cross it off.  See -- thinking several moves behind.

I do not like chess.  I understand the rules, and I respect it -- in very much the same way I understand and respect symbolic logic.  Chess and symbolic logic are binary.  The complexity comes from products of binary events. [Classical (syllogistic) logic is not binary because it has middle terms; the result of a syllogism is not a product but a power of the predications.  (Ha! Spell Checker does not like "predications"! Cretin Spell Checker!)]

But I was thinking about thinking several moves ahead.

I am sitting in a chair.  I have finished my cup of tea.  I have come to the end of the chapter of the book I am reading.  I have decided to go to the grocery store.  Before I go I will need to turn off the window fan, remove it from the window frame, close the window, lower the blind, and adjust the blinds for best effect against the nearly-solsticial angle of the sun later today.  That's five moves ahead.  Six, if you count going to the store.  So what do I do? 

Reach for the laptop to blog about it. 


Point of View

When Dad was going through his final fight with cancer, I was able to spend some time with him.

The last few times, he was in a morphine coma because what the pain in his body was taking from him was just too much.  Every movement, too much.  Every procedure, too much.  Beyond capability to express, or even to let him cry out.

Those hours are etched in the hardest stone of my memory.

In that room I could hold his hand, or wipe the tears from the corners of his eyes, without him feeling embarrassed and self-conscious. 

In that tiny room I talked a lot.  Out loud.  Even though he couldn't respond.  Talked to him about things we used to do, about happy memories.  Talked to him about what a great job he had always done, often against terrible odds, such as when the company cut his career out from under him and he had to start over. 

In that final room I read to him.  The Gospels.  Every one of the Psalms. "They have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones." -- Oh, that was him, that was my Dad, with the tubes coming out of the backs of his hands, and wasting away to bones. 

I have dreams of that room.  I dream those hours that were, now, most of a decade ago.

Some of the dreams are mere remembering.  As it was, where it was, all the sounds and sensations.

But some of the dreams go vertical.  In my dream the room is the bottom of a rectilinear shaft hundreds of feet deep.  I am looking down on the room, the bed with the cancer-crucified man who loved me so much he acted all my life for my good rather than his own pleasure.  I am looking down on the both of us, me in the armchair drawn up to his final bed, all of it oddly lit from above and between like looking down on a stage through one rack of theater lights while more lights shine from higher up.  The scene changes in my dreams, as the observer-I moves farther up the shaft, and the sick man and his son get smaller and smaller below.

In the vertical dream the observer-I tries to protest:  No, don't take me out of this room!  Let me stay!  Don't let it diminish!  I don't want to go away!  I don't want to have it all go away!  Let me go back down and be the son who watched and prayed.  Let me go back down to then and even farther back to before the conversation became all one-sided.  Let me go back and back and back -- into a time and place where I can pick it up and enter it and live it again and maybe get something right this time, something that might save us both.

But then I wake, and I know: that was then and there, while this is most of a decade down the road, and there is no fixing it now.  At best there may come a time when, in the vertical dream, I cease to scream.  Perhaps some day I can ascend to the next rack of theater lights, turn my gaze from the sick man on the tiny bed far below, and say hello to the man who loved me so much -- no longer in pain, but whole.


Statistics, weather, roulette...

Casa Crowndot is within the portion of California currently classified as in stage D4 drought.  This is defined by the indices as occurring 2% of the time or less.  [The picture of the highway alert sign is stolen from KQED.]

I heard this referred to on the radio as a "fifty year drought."  Two percent = 1/50 = happening once in fifty years? 

Wait a second.  I remember being in Berkeley in 1977.  Show of hands:  who is old enough to remember the color drought charts in public rest rooms -- "Don't flush until the color matches..." -- anybody?  But the drought of the 70s was less than 50 years ago.  What gives? 

No fair.  Do over. 


What would _______ do?

What Would Jesus Do?  That's not really a question, is it?  We know what he would do.  In addition to turning a whole lot of water into a whole lot of wine for some couple's wedding, he would lay down his life for our sake, and in so doing, conquer death.  Then he would rise from the dead and have a barbecue on the beach.

There are other people who provide grist for the metaphysical mill as a thought experiment, whether we would really ever do what they would do, or not.

What would John Moses Browning do?  (My favorite)
What would Marcus Aurelius do?
What would Winston Churchill do?
What would Ronald Reagan do?

On the other hand,
What would Josef Stalin do?
What would Pol Pot do?
What would Idi Amin do?

What would Hamlet do? (Even he did not know)
Well then what would the Dread Pirate Roberts do?
What would Master Chief John 117 do?
What would Gordon Freeman do?

What would Colonel Jeff Cooper do?
What would Clint Smith do?
What would Larry Correia do?

You get the picture.  It expands one's horizons.


Embracing my inner sappiness

Sometimes I see a YouTube link that promises to be all heartwarming.  But I click the link anyway.  I can tell by 0:05 into the video that it is going to make me cry.  The piano.  Those opening chords are a tip-off.  But I'm such a sap that I stay with it.  And yeah, I end up getting my eyes washed out.  Because I'm just in the mood to embrace the mushy, drippy, slushy, maudlin side of my nature. 

After a day at work that has tenderized me like a thousand blows from the spiky meat hammer -- it's just the thing. 

Here I am.  I'm all softened up.  Make me cry. 

Ahhh.  Better than a warm bath. 


Plato - Not.

I see stuff like this.  Oh, you kids.  I don't know who would have said this, but probably somebody after, you know, BOOKS!

I like books as much as the next person, but ... Plato?!


Hey, I'm back in fashion!

If you wait long enough, things come back around. Have a rack of fat ties, skinny ties?  Paisley shirts?  Bell-bottom jeans?  It's just a matter of time before they are back in the avant garde.

Now it's "short" shorts for men.  [Link is to a yahoo "shine" page, with pics of male models in standard length shorts (and one in what used to be called "hot-pants", and two in... what are those, buckle-free knickerbockers?)  Beware: what is seen cannot be unseen! You have been warned!]

I have gone through about fifteen years of summers of shortening new walking shorts so that the hem would not hit the back of my calf.  Somewhere between mid-thigh and a few inches above the knee seems normal.  Otherwise, why wear shorts? 

For running, of course, my favorites are as short and split-side as I can get away with...


The Shores of Tripoli

On 14 May 1801, the Islamic extremist government of a Berber state under, the control of the Ottoman Empire, declared war on the United States of America.  This has become known as the First Barbary War. 

"Radical" or "Extremist" Islam is, well, just Islam.  The religion of peace (?!) has been involved in terrorism, murder, kidnapping for ransom or for slavery, since its entry into history. 

Apparently, Barbary pirates had been engaged in pillage and slavery for centuries.  This came to the attention of the patriots of the American Revolution, who relied on an agreement with France for some protection of shipping.  The European powers basically advised the United States to just pay the ransom and/or protection money and deal with it like they had for centuries.  Thomas Jefferson acting as foreign minister during the 1780s had some success negotiating cessation of hostilities with the pirate states. 

However, Mohammedanism being what it is, things got worse. 

When Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801, the Grand High Muckamuck of Tripoli upped the ante with a request for nearly a quarter of a million dollars (1781 dollars!) in tribute money (with no real guarantee of protection).  Having received our Strictly Negative ® reply, the Big Fish In A Small Pond declared war on the USA. 

Hey, how did that turn out for ya, Yusaf?  Not good.  USS Enterprise was an ass-kicking schooner at that time.  USS Intrepid was a captured and repurposed pirate ship.  And Marines, well they were already proving that -- MARINES! 

It took a few years to wind down.  But its conclusion was such that it took about a hundred years to flare up famously again during Theodore "Big Stick" Roosevelt's presidency.  ("Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!") 

Flash Crowndot Bonus:  Perdicaris was a GUY

Ahmet:  Mrs. Perdicaris, you are a very difficult woman!

Ion:  That's because I'm not a woman. 

Ahmet:  ...
The Wind and the Lion would have been so-o-o different!


Talking Turkey

Things I never learned until I tried:  Turkey poults respond to pishing

Young Turkey [crossing the road - don't ask why]: Lup?

Me:  Lup?  Lup?

Young Turkey:  Lup? Hoop?

Me:  Lup?  Lup?  Hoop???

Young Turkey:  Lup?!  Lup-Lup-Lup!

But then I was back to my car and back to being human.



The Hallmark holidays are not my thing.  Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Administrative Professionals' Day, Fill-In-The-Blank Day -- not my thing.

One of the things about Mothers' Day that chafes, galls, and burns is the marketing that implies/assumes the grudging nature of the male's compliance with the whole thing. 

"Yeah," the ad goes, "It's that time again and you're gonna hafta take the old Battle-axe out to brunch, so you might as well get it over with at So-'n'-So's Shrimp-Flavored Deep-Fried-Batter Emporium, where we have a special going and you can wash it all down with carbonated wine in Mothers' Day style!"

You MUST do this or there will BE NO PEACE.  I think that's the message.

Pajamagrams?  Seriously?

Brunch?  As opposed to just getting drunk at home?  Seriously?

Chocolate Dipped Berries?  Notice they don't even say "strawberries" this year?  Just "berries."  Could be DINGLE- !

 * * *

My mother passed away almost fourteen years ago.  I love her and miss her every day.  I still have the certain knowledge that her love surrounds me.  That's why the marketing pains me so much. 


Milk Money

I am so selfish that I spend big money on lunch twice a week, thereby taking bread out of the mouths of my family and making it dead concrete certain that the baby will never grow to more than starveling runt-of-the-litter proportions. 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I await the happy arrival of the lunch caterer who brings me a giant salad of my choice.  As I wait I have some folding money and some coins jingling around on my person. 

The possibility that a stray two-bit piece may high-dive out of my shirt pocket made me remember that Mom used to scotch-tape my milk money to the top of my Roy Rogers lunch box lest the precious silver (later nickel-copper sandwich alloy) be lost. 

Yes, a thermos bottle came with the lunch pail, but it was cheaper to buy the milk at school, and easier (no cleaning the thermos bottle) and assuredly cold (really, even on the hottest days in the San Joaquin Valley it arrived at the classroom cold!).  Plus the milk came in rectilinear cartons  made of heavy weight paper and coated with paraffin, which you could scrape off the carton just for fun.  This was before the days of milk in plastic jugs, and even before the days of hip-and-gabled milk cartons of plastic-coated card stock.   In those days the cartons had a hole in a corner of the top that was plugged with an elaborately formed and folded and stapled hinged stopper welded in with more paraffin. 

It was primitive, but really we had it good.  When my older brother started school, they were still bringing the cow into the classroom, and you had to pump your own... 


Nodachi Cuts Twenty-six Tatami Mats With One Blow

"Sherwood Fair, Bruce Baldwin cuts 26 mats to take the world record in the Nodachi class sword. February 24th 2013" -- posted by William Lowry on YouTube, February 25, 2013.

Nice slice.  And it doesn't look like he was even using the blade to its greatest advantage either in slashing or in tip speed. 


The perfect cup of coffee

First we pick the coffee beans at their peak, after consulting a coffee astrologist regarding the phase of the moon, and after certifying that the beans are grown on sustainable farms run by organic coffee farmers who have not been vaccinated.

Then we grind the beans, one by one, in harmony with their natural rhythms, using a proprietary method first to euthanize them in a humane manner accompanied by the recorded sound of waterfalls and zither music.

Next we procure pure water from  a high mountain stream in a progressive-controlled jurisdiction.  We filter the water through layers of unbleached hemp fiber and conflict-free diamond dust to remove any lingering phobias or impurities. 

To the sound of mystic drumming, we place the freshly ground coffee into a reusable hemp-cloth filter in the coffee maker's receptacle cone.  The coffee maker itself is of course designed to gently raise the pure water to the optimum temperature before . . .

   < sound of phonograph needle scratching across the surface of a vinyl L.P. record >

Wait, what?  I am the opposite of a coffee snob.  I hate it to be cooked to toxicity, but to me the perfect cup of coffee¹ is the one that's there when I want it, with a minimum of fuss! 

- - -
 ¹   Mrs. Crowndot reminds me to point out, dear reader, that by "coffee" we mean real coffee², not decaffeinated coffee.        

 ²   As of this writing, "real coffee" at Casa Crowndot means big red tubs of Folgers regular, Folgers Black Silk, or Folgers Colombian Dark Roast.  To be authentic Crowndot brew, the coffee³ must be purchased on sale and placed in the strategic coffee reserve for an undisclosed period of time.

 ³   See footnote ( ¹ ).
- - -  


Fast? Food?

I keep bumping into articles on the intertoobs about the supposed health benefits of a "modified fast" once a week.  To clear out your liver or some such 18th century homeopathic science fiction.

But the fact is, once a week or so I actually DO a modified fast already.  A highly modified fast.  I call it "eating normally".  You know, three meals plus snackies?  Yeah.  I do that.  About once a week. 

A few more days a week I also tend do do a less-modified fast -- I just eat my two regular meals and snackies really fast!


Remember your history, my children!

When President George W. Bush left office, the Iraq war was won.  All we needed to do was work out the details of our ongoing presence there.  It would have been nice to have had a kind of Rhine-Main Air Base Southeast, in the middle of the Arab picnic ground.  President Bush was looking to the big picture, to gradual education in freedom throughout the region.  Now the Obama Administration and the Democrat Congress are out of Iraq.  As of late 2013, not a single U.S. combat soldier is left in Iraq.  How long before Congress has given away all the gains?  This administration, and this Senate majority leadership, have a very different Big Picture in mind for Iraq policy, one that has more to do with personal political expediency than the spread of freedom.  Bad for us, bad for the people of Iraq, bad for the region.

The American thing is not just an idealism.
"The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie."
  -- J.A. Schumpeter
Because one of America's ideals is Truth, the real American speaks the truth, and the last thing he will do for the Truth is lie.

But because we do not have a continuity of ideals in Washington D.C., but seem rather to oscillate from American to Socialist on an irregular basis, the effect of the selling-out of our friends in and around Iraq is that America gets judged as just another idealism, and just as full of lies.  But American foreign policy failure is not the fault of the American ideal.  It isn't Eisenhower's fault or Nixon's fault or Reagan's fault or Bush's fault.  It's Democrats' fault.


Somebody besides me does remember the end of the Vietnam war.  Good old Bruce Herschensohn even wrote a book telling the truth about the Vietnam war: An American Amnesia: How the U.S. Congress Forced the Surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia (Beaufort Books, 2010). The Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973; the Republic of (South) Vietnam surrendered to the communists on 30 April 1975 -- the picture of the "last helicopter out of Saigon" comes to mind.  Such a turnaround.  And all due to the Democrat-controlled 94th Congress pulling the plug on our friends.  Then came the Vietnamese boat people and all the rest.  At least the Democrats were able to turn the lie into something "everyone knows":  Nixon lost the war in Vietnam, it was a defeat for America.  No, we won the war.  Congress lost the peace.  It was a defeat for the people of Vietnam and freedom-loving people everywhere. 

The similarities to the scenario unfolding in Iraq are chilling. 

Be vague. Be very vague.

People respond to stressful situations at their level of basic training.

They do not rise to the occasion.  What appears to be "rising to the occasion" is how the untrained view the well-trained when the poop hits the air circulator and it turns out that Mr. Well-Trained has been operating at a power-conservation level all this time.

This goes for emergency situations.  Firearms training.  It also goes for basic moral fiber, as revealed in the everyday work world.

I work with people whose response to stress (which turns out to be anything that they did not initiate knowing they could control it) is to become vague.

As a purchasing agent, I know what this look like:  department heads give me the least meaningful information and make the most egregious assumptions.

I don't work in your department.  I don't work with your equipment.  I don't know the operating parameters.  I did not engineer this project for the last eight months.  So when you bring me a little slip of paper (oh yes -- the paper size is in direct proportion to the quantity of hard information and in reciprocal relation to the degree of requester's stress) that says,
             'Price on CBN stones & holder DBL length (2x4") 5.709" ID' 
I have no idea (as I am pretty sure you haven't either, dear reader) what you are talking about.

So I basically have to both psychoanalyze the requester, and re-engineer the whole thing, and come up with a recommendation for something that's way out of my area of expertise.

See?  If anything goes wrong, blame Purchasing!

Being bad at coming up with information is balanced by being really good at casting blame in the after-action reports.

Time to wave the flag.  (Not the flag of surrender.)


I might as well start saying good-bye now . . .

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10 KJV)

If the next fifteen to twenty-five years go as fast (I'm told it will be faster) as the last ones, I may not have time otherwise.

It's been fun.  I love you all.

But please know that I don't plan to go easy into that good night.

I would like to keep moving as long as possible  on this side of the great divide -- I have a lot of karma to work off !