...is to stop digging, does that mean the first rule of postholes is to stop posting?
One of the neighbors who will also benefit from the mailbox moving project volunteered himself and his son to dig the postholes for three new mailbox posts — for his place, us, and the neighbors in between — and now all I need to do is set the new post, pour in the Quikrete, add water, and hope the stuff sets before it starts raining tomorrow.
We still haven't been given a date for when the new mail delivery route goes into effect, but that's supposed to be the only remaining formality.
While it did take some time for the request to reach the postmaster in charge of our area, once she got the request she responded with alacrity. It's a common jape that the U.S. Postal Service has two speeds, neither of which is Fast, but on this occasion at least it's far from accurate.
Update, a few hours later: The post seems pretty well set but I'll give it some more time, probably until morning, before covering the concrete with dirt.
The hole originally was a few inches too deep, compared to the old box across the road, so I grabbed a spare rock and dropped it into the hole. That boosted the post just enough to put the bottom of the new box's mail slot at exactly the same height as on the old box, and the mix braced the post just fine all by itself.
I'll wait to mount the box until it's almost time for the route change. It's already got nice big reflective numbers on both sides, which will make the numbers on the cheapo wooden posts I pounded in a few years ago superfluous. They're already trying to peel off anyway.
Donald Trump is not yet President of the United States.
In fact technically, he is not yet even President-Elect of the United States.
The process of electing a President only begins with the votes being counted on the night of the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Those are unofficial totals. They don't become official until the Secretary of State or equivalent official in each state and D.C., where the 51 separate elections for President are conducted, certifies them.
Once the totals are official, each state's slate of Electors is notified, according to the laws of their respective states, which will be called to cast a vote for President. Maine and Nebraska apportion Electors both statewide and by congressional district; all other states and D.C. go winner-take-all. Since the Constitution empowers state legislatures to decide how Electors are to be chosen, either option is legitimate — as would be letting the sitting legislature at the time name Electors without consulting voters at all.
Once the 51 slates of Electors have been named, they are called to their respective state capitals (or appropriate venue in D.C.) to cast their ballots next Monday, December 19.
Once cast, the votes are then sent to Washington to be counted before a joint session of Congress, which is set to occur on January 6, 2017.
For all but two weeks before the Inaugural Ceremony on January 20, there is no "president-elect." There is a presumed president-elect, and given the stability and predictability of the process over the centuries we have grown accustomed to acting as though the presumed president-elect is, in fact, the president-elect. So far it has worked out that way.
Only after the President of the Senate — in this case Vice President Joseph R. Biden — announces the result of the Electors' votes will Trump (barring some surprise) actually become President-Elect. As a result, at 12:00 noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2017, he will become President of the United States.
Under the Constitution as amended, the term of the incumbent President ends at precisely that instant and he loses the powers of the office immediately; there is no circumstance under which, constitutionally, he can retain them. His successor cannot take up those powers until he has sworn the Inaugural Oath, but he already holds the office.
If the shit hits the fan and there is no President-Elect by noon on January 20, there are provisions in place dictating who shall exercise the powers of President after that time, and what must be done, if anything, to finalize the succession. Again, the outgoing incumbent can't continue in office if he is not the President-Elect.
One of the more contentious elections of recent times took place in 1960, in which Senator John F. Kennedy, Democrat, ultimately defeated his Republican opponent, Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Despite mutterings about election fraud favoring Kennedy, Nixon solemnly carried out one of his last constitutional duties on January 6, 1961, announcing his former election opponent as President-Elect of the United States.
Meanwhile two-time bull riding world champion Sage Kimzey made it three-time. Despite having a merely good run at the finals, his spectacular earnings during the season kept him ahead of his rivals' better go-rounds in Las Vegas. Kimzey finished third in the NFR averages, but it pays to have a lot in the bank before the big year-end show; he's the one who got the championship saddle.
I would have gathered the rodeo circuit takes a bit of a break now but I've seen references to, for example, the 38th Annual Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in Great Falls in mid-January. Which, if Great Falls had an indoor rodeo arena I could imagine it better. Maybe they're counting on the Chinook.
Update: Just discovered Great Falls does have an indoor arena they use for rodeos. I guess everything's up-to-date in Electric City!
When Mrs. McG and I moved in at these home acres, it was not the first time we'd had a mailbox beyond the end of our driveway. Our home of four years in the outskirts of North Pole, Alaska received its mail at a mailbox cluster around the corner. But traffic on our "street" and the cross "street" the mailboxes were on, was never particularly active.
Here our mailbox, though merely across the road, is across a road that is an increasingly busy (and speedy) commute corridor — and one that the county will be promoting as such in the coming years, although hopefully not until we've moved out west.
We and our same-side neighbors have petitioned the local postmaster to have our mail route adjusted so that we can move our mailboxes onto our own side of the road. I don't know how long it will take but having the postmaster in our corner don't hurt.
Our neighbors had seen a lot of accidents on this stretch of road even before we'd moved in, and we seem to be the only ones who haven't yet needed to replace a mailbox. Though our mailbox could sure use replacing just from ordinary wear and tear. Getting the go-ahead to have it on our own side of the road is as good an excuse as any.
Even if (see previous entry) we're only able to use the replacement box for a few months, it'll be good to leave things safer for whoever lives here next.
CBS Sports is covering all ten daily rounds of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, continuing through next Saturday.
Of course the event I'm most interested in is once again bull riding, but since a key character in my latest attempt at fiction writing is a former steer wrestler, I'm paying attention to that event as well.
Before I started watching these events on TV I couldn't have explained the differences between bareback and saddle bronc riding (hint, there's more to it than the presence or absence of a saddle), but I've learned enough to recognize that the event depicted in Wyoming's "Bucking Horse and Rider" logo (you'll see it on the University of Wyoming's football helmets as well as on Wyoming license plates) is saddle-bronc riding — because of the rider's upright posture and the presence of a rope connected to the horse's bridle.
I have yet to see a saddle-bronc rider in one of these rodeos waving his hat during the ride, even among those who still wear hats instead of helmets.
As a rule, rodeo cowboys have tended not to have facial hair, but I've been seeing beards and mustaches on some — and in Thursday's first round of team roping the heeler on the winning team sports a big mountain-man beard. Well, they're from Canada. No telling what goes through their minds. They placed a little lower in Round 2 last night though.
Barrel racing, professional rodeo's only women's event, has the widest age range in the sport; one contender in the 2016 NFR is 68 years old, nearly three times the age of your typical post-college rookie professional. Of course rodeo has college, high school and even junior high school levels, as well as "Little Britches." At those levels you'll also see girls compete in goat roping and breakaway calf roping.
It's a shame those latter two events don't afford opportunities at the professional level, since unlike barrel racing a roping event actually showcases a ranch skill that many a working cattlewoman may use on the job.
It wasn't all that long ago I would gnash my teeth at the unavailability of Wyoming football games despite their being in the same conference as then-ranked Boise State.
This season I've been able to watch most of their games as they dominated the Mountain West Conference's Mountain division — even beating Boise State, to my surprise and great satisfaction. This coming Saturday they'll host West division leader San Diego State for the conference title.
It wasn't all that long ago Wyoming was the sad sack of the conference under a coach more interested in designing uniforms than winning games. The turnaround undoubtedly has a lot to do with their increased TV presence.
Last night's final regular season game in Albuquerque was alarming, and I stopped watching when New Mexico's lead widened to 28 points. In the end Wyoming lost, 35-56. If they play like that on Saturday the Aztecs will avenge their loss of last weekend by winning the title.
Here's hoping the Cowboys get their act back together.
Update: Two weeks after edging San Diego State in regular-season play in Laramie, Wyoming lost by a barely wider margin in the Mountain West title game — also in Laramie.
I'm thankful 2016 only has less than six more weeks to go. I'm less thankful that immediately after 2016 will come 2017.
I'm thankful the same mob of rent-seekers and power-fellaters I desperately wanted to be rid of a year ago is in place now to (if ncessary) keep Trump in check.
I'm thankful Hillary Clinton's political ambitions appear at last to have been ended. Something tells me Bill is too. I expect him to turn up appearing haler and more energetic soon, after a few Waffle House breakfasts and steakhouse dinners. He'll have earned them.
I'm thankful it hasn't been made mandatory to watch or listen to presidential speeches; if it were, my year's liquor budget would have been spent before St. Patrick's Day.
I'm also thankful for all those maudlin, Frank Capra reasons everybody else is saying today. But you already knew that. Saps.
Eight years ago or so, I placed a curse on then-President-Elect Barack Obama — as I've mentioned in the past year.
The curse was that Obama should suffer a long post-presidential retirement knowing his presidency had been a failure. Judging by what I've been reading, the only part of the curse yet to play out is his living to a vast age.
I'm loath to amend it so that he never sees another black POTUS, though I was born into a Catholic family during the tenure of America' first Catholic president, and there hasn't been a second one yet. Maybe one reason Hillary lost this election was so that the first female POTUS wouldn't sour the nation on electing another one for half a century or more.
Before 2008 I was convinced the first black president would be a Republican. I soon amended that to the first successful black president. At the rate the Democratic Party has gone, that could be a tautology.
...is to repeal or, preferably, amend a 105-year-old law that didn't directly affect the Electoral College.
That law is the Apportionment Act of 1911, which capped the United States House of Representatives at 435 seats. I wouldn't be surprised if most people thought that number was set in the Constitution. Well, it isn't.
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electoral College is capped at 538 because the House is capped at 435. Amend the Apportionment Act to set a higher total number of House seats and not only does the House become more representative, so does the Electoral College.
Any other adjustment to the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment. This one can be done by the 115th Congress and signed into law by President Trump.
If, that is, those butthurt over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election are really upset over the allegedly un-small-D-democratic outcome, and not just the un-capital-D-Democratic outcome. Call it an integrity test.
I wrote here about the relative merits of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire. Of necessity I also referred to differences between the Longmire in Johnson's books versus the one on the TV series.
Now that the expiration date seems to have been set for the series, I suppose it's time I said how disappointed I've been with the TV Walt since "Longmire" became a Netflix show after its cancellation by A&E following its third season.
The Walt Longmire portrayed on television became far more paranoid and vindictive in the fifth season than ever before. Even though it's entirely possible his suspicions about Jacob Nighthorse (a character created solely for the series) are correct, the lack of confidence in himself, his daughter and his best friend seen in the last ten episodes seems totally out of character even for the TV version, which was never as secure about the people around him as Johnson's original.
I can only hope the producers will use the upcoming last ten episodes to put their show's lead character back on an even keel. The long waits between new Longmire books will mean the Walt they show us at the end of Season 6 will be in our minds for a long time before Craig Johnson can cleanse the taste from our palates.
Yesterday was the start of early voting here in Georgia, so Mrs. McG and I swung by the newer of the two early-voting sites in Coweta County to have our say.
In principle, early voting is described as a bad thing because it encourages people to vote before having the chance to learn all there is to know about a candidate or ballot question. In practice, it dissipates the impact of "October Surprise" gotcha revelations about a candidate or ballot question — which in my mind isn't a bad thing. Eliminating the incentive to play endgame gotcha tricks on the electorate changes the tenor and rhythm of campaigns, and really the only ones with reason to complain are those who rely on such tricks.
In 2016 there are no negatives about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton that I needed to wait to hear.
Contrary to my preference I also voted dutifully for Republicans down-ballot, even where the only other line for that office was for a write-in vote. Given that Hillary Clinton may win, she needs to be confronted with a Congress that is at least nominally opposed to her agenda. Having Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Dick Durbin or some such as Senate Majority Leader would mean fast-tracking Hillary's every whim — whereas Ryan and McConnell will only fast-track 90% of them.
For now I'm dropping Red Canyon as the subject of my background image, in favor of a recent photo of the Dunoir Valley, up the road from Dubois, Wyoming.
At this point the valley of the Wind River runs between the Wind River Mountains to the south and the Absaroka (ab-SOR-ka) Mountains on the north. The latter range, which spawns DuNoir Creek, also marks the east side of Yellowstone Park as well as of the caldera of the supervolcano that created its thermal features.
The continental divide leaves Yellowstone Park and runs along the Wind Rivers to South Pass, where the Oregon Trail crosses from the Sweetwater River basin into that of the Green River before striking off toward Fort Hall, Idaho. The paths of the Mormons, the Donner Party, the Pony Express, and the 49ers of the California Gold Rush instead took a southerly turnoff that took them to the Great Salt Lake and, except for the Mormons, beyond.
Viewers of the "Longmire" TV show that haven't yet watched the fifth season on Netflix may be confused about the pronunciation of "Absaroka." I'm not sure what author Craig Johnson's intent was for the Absaroka County in the books, but the TV series made a decision to pronounce the name as it was spelled, in part perhaps to distinguish it from the mountain range more than 100 miles to the west — the mountains looming over Durant, Wyoming are the Big Horns; Durant is based on Buffalo, Wyoming at the junction of Interstates 25 and 90.
The name "Absaroka" comes from the name the Crow Indian tribe used for themselves, presumably pronounced more like the mountain range than the fictional county.
I've been asked on Twitter to tell this story, but it's far too long a story for Twitter.
Years ago, when I was single and underemployed and living in my mother's mobile home in south Sacramento, the neighborhood surrounding the MH park was on a long downhill trajectory and, as a result, so was the park itself.
This place was not a stereotypical white-trash, tornado-magnet "trailer park" — at least, as intended when designed and opened in perhaps the 1970s. It was supposed to be a safe, quiet country community for retirees and decent working-class people whose only shot at home ownership in those days might be one with axles under the floor. Residents might have a house note far briefer than the typical 30-year mortgage, plus a monthly rent bill and utilities. The park had its own well and water system so that was included in the rent.
Park management had a pretty high rate of turnover and some managers were more conscientious than others. No sooner did one with good ideas for cultivating a sense of community get burned out and leave than her successor started letting in all manner of riff-raff including people who got busted for drug-dealing and prostitution.
The incident I'm going to relate, though, involved the son or nephew of someone who had already lived there when Mom moved in and a family that had moved in after, but some years before things really went bad. At some point the former son or nephew, with some friends, got into a feud with the eldest son of the latter family, and one night a brawl broke out that resulted in several sheriff's cars and a sheriff's helicopter responding to restore peace.
Later as I was talking to members of the latter family someone threw a juice bottle full of — it turned out — water against their house. The eldest son, Jason, got a baseball bat and I got a smaller, lighter club of my own making and we walked over to the other side's house to see if there was anyone around to ... ask about the juice bottle.
We stood outside the darkened mobile home and spoke amongst ourselves loudly enough to be heard if anyone was hiding inside or nearby, to remind them that they didn't have as many friends there as Jason's family had.
Soon a sheriff's car came around the corner in our direction, headlights off. I called to Jason and we walked toward the car — with our respective clubs in our hands.
The car braked and the driver threw open his door and crouched behind it with his gun pointed at us, ordering us to drop our weapons, which of course we promptly did. We got patted down, and before this deputy was finished with us another arrived and said we weren't the ones they'd been called in about. Deputy Gun agreed, but finished the procedure and put our clubs in the trunk of his car before letting us walk back to Jason's house with the other deputy.
After some conversation with Jason's parents about what had happened and what Jason and I had been up to, Deputy Gun gave us back our items, and advised me that mine especially, being smaller and lighter, would be most effective against an enemy's knees.
Later when we told the story to some of our other neighbors, one of them — a redneck even Jeff Foxworthy would disavow — bluntly informed us that if he'd been with us he would have told the deputy to go stuff himself, and maybe even taken his gun away from him.
It might have been doing the gene pool a favor if he'd tried.
Before the latest Longmire book came out — it turned up in my e-reader app yesterday morning and I finished it by that afternoon — I had devoured all 16 of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett books. Both are set in fictional counties in Wyoming, and both involve the named protagonist in the solving of mysteries.
Most people only know the Longmire on TV (returning soon for Season 5 on Netflix), but apart from the characters' names and the Wyoming setting (though filmed in New Mexico) the TV series is a different critter with a more troubled, less confident Walt than in the books. And the literary Henry Standing Bear makes Lou Diamond Phillips' version, however well portrayed, look like a koala.
Well, Joe Pickett is a game warden, employed (in most of the books) by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. He's not supposed to solve crimes unless they're committed against elk, sage grouse, or cutthroat trout. And the first time we meet him in "Open Season," he's trying to cite a poacher who ends up taking Pickett's gun and stopping just short of blowing the game warden's brains out.
Similar mishaps befall him in most of the books, but even before this incident he was already famous for citing the Governor for fishing without a license — something most of his colleagues consider a damn fool stunt.
Thing is, a few months later the man who grabbed his gun is found murdered in Pickett's home woodpile, and the mystery of why he's there doesn't seem to interest Twelve Sleep County's sheriff as much as it does Pickett.
After having immersed myself in sixteen years worth of Box's Wyoming — the Pickett books come out every March like clockwork; I wish I had his discipline — the new Longmire book, "An Obvious Fact," was a chance to revisit Johnson's. It's less political than Box's stories — heck, it's even less political than the "Longmire" TV series — and also more comfortably masculine.
Well, part of that is because Walt Longmire is a widower and his best friend is tall, dark and savagely noble. Joe Pickett, on the other hand, is married and he and his wife Marybeth have spent the book years raising three girls on a paltry state salary and whatever his wife can earn at the local library or as a free-lance business manager. And while Walt approaches his job philosophically, Joe is kind of a stickler (hence the ticket he wrote against the Governor) for whom his occasional acts of badassery, demanded by exigent circumstances (nearly always to protect his wife and daughters), are departures he prefers not to let become habitual.
I like Longmire because he's an example. I like Pickett because he's the kind of guy Longmire would be an example for. And I'm looking forward to next March to find out what happens to him next.
Meanwhile on the home acres here in subtropical west Georgia I am actually seeing some first fall color on certain trees. I don't mean the poplars — apparently they start dropping leaves in midsummer — but others that I wouldn't expect to see turn before October.
Our highs are staying in the mid to upper 80s, so I don't know what's up.
Back in 2004 I bought the second of my two Ford Broncos — the one I traded to a rent-a-car outfit in 2013 for The Hippo — and set about arranging to get tags, insurance and title.
I got tags and insurance okay, but for the heinous crime of putting the correct odometer reading on the title application I was told to get the seller's notarized signature attesting that the odometer figure I had entered was correct. Once I had persuaded the seller to meet with me for that and submitted the paperwork, the DMV (or whatever it was called then; its name has changed since) told me to find the person who sold it to the seller and get their notarized signature.
As you might imagine, I told them no. I also told my state senator and state representative. And the governor. In the end it was the letter I'd sent the governor that won that battle for me. I got my title without any further field trips.
Flash forward to 2016, when the county water agency replaced the water meter here at the home acres. Two months later our new high-tech water meter began showing such spikes in the flow rate that a water agency technician brought a notice to our door about it, and upon further investigation our best suggestion from the agency was to check around the house for leaking faucets or toilets.
Right at the beginning I told them we had no leaks that would explain these spikes, and pointed out the apparent coincidence of their leak report coming so soon after a new meter was installed. The response was that no, if that were the cause it would not have taken two months for the leak to appear, nor would it happen in spikes as the meter was showing.
When after some weeks of this I finally photographed water running across the edge of our front field and into the ditch, it having risen right at the meter, they finally sent a technician to check it out.
He tightened a nut near the meter — apparently left slack during the installation months previous — and fixed the leak. And we're getting almost our entire current water bill credited back to us.
When will these government agencies learn not to mess with me?
My Google Project Fi phone bill this time around, including a credit of over nine bucks for cellular data (I used 77 megabytes of my 1-gigabyte budget) and the various taxes, fees, assessments and surcharges came to less than $25.
It wasn't all that long ago, with three lines on our AT&T account, that we could find ourselves spending over $200 a month.
Of course, Mrs. McG is still on AT&T but her next phone bill should be south of $60, depending on how Ma Bell calculates those taxes, fees, assessments and surcharges. She's paying a flat monthly charge for data, with unused data being rolled over for one month, after which time she will have paid for data she didn't use. I like the plan I'm on better.
I'd like to see if I could keep my data usage even lower this month, just for the heck. It may not work out that way though.
One thing bothering me is, my very-much-not-new Nexus tablet has already upgraded to the next version of Android; my much newer Nexus phone hasn't, yet. There's no reason for the delay, either.
We live in whitetail deer country, where the land was naturally forested before settlers came to farm. While farming hasn't disappeared from this patch of subtropical west Georgia, the forest has grown back more than it's been held at bay. People like having trees, especially if it means less to mow.
And you know how I feel about mowing.
Most of our home acres is wooded, as is the case with most of the neighboring properties. We hear owls sometimes at night, and I've seen coyotes skulking across open spaces. And we often see whitetail deer.
Most often what we've seen this summer have been two does and three spotted fawns. We've seen hints that one of the does is mother to two of the fawns, suggesting the third belongs to the other doe. We don't know for sure but we think one of the does was the fawn we saw last year and that the other is her mother.
They've all become pretty brave about being near the house, as a picture in a previous post suggests. Given the usual range of whitetail deer I can't say whether they hang around mostly on our property but we're definitely on their regular circuit.
Years from now when we resettle out west the most common deer will be muleys, mainly because whatever place we settle on won't likely have much in the way of woodlands, even if the surroundings aren't agricultural. In fact we'd be more likely to see antelope than deer. Either way their range would be such that we probably won't see the same animals as regularly as we do here.
They'll most likely be farther away too, but that'll mean more opportunities. Especially the antelope, which are almost as common out there as pigeons in a city park.
Update, Wednesday, just after 9:00 a.m.: We just had two whitetail bucks venture into the front yard, nervously looking around. One had a fairly small rack but the other's was approaching respectable. This isn't the first time I've seen antlers on deer around here, but it's not common — or at least it hasn't been.
Bucks wandering around together is a clear sign that the rut hasn't started, as if it still being August weren't. Once the pheromones start flying bucks that were friends become rivals and won't be getting along at all.
Anyway, Hartford and his little buddy went back into the woods after just a few minutes.
The temperature was 56°F. Riverton has never recorded a high temperature that low in the month of August. Until this, the latest out of 237 consecutive "hottest years on record" according to the global warming alarmists.
Yes, yes, there is a difference between weather and climate. Funny how that difference never applies to unusually hot summer temperatures. Or even temperatures that aren't the least bit unusual.
Mrs. McG and I have taken to watching rodeo on TV lately, and we've already learned to recognize names and faces of some of the top contenders.
The other night we watched a rerun of last March's RodeoHouston "Super Shootout," which features winners of eight top rodeos (including Houston's final rounds the previous night) in five of the most popular events — bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and bull riding.
Actually most of what I've been watching is Championship Bull Riding, which is on every week and is only a few weeks old when it airs, so I've become familiar with quite a few of the top bull riders in the 2016 season.
Anyway, the first round of the Super Shootout eliminates four of each set of competitors, and in two of the events the cowboys who won last year's Cheyenne Frontier Days went into their final rounds after having scored highest (those scores don't carry over into final rounds) so they were favored in the finals. One of these was the bull riding.
As tends to be the case at most regular rodeos, the bull riding finals were the last competitive event, with the highest-scoring bull rider from the first round, Aaron Pass, riding last. So there he was in the chute, getting set for the opening of the gate, but he didn't like how he'd gotten his rope tied and had to redo it.
And one of his competitors, Sage Kimzey — the one who'd scored highest so far in the final round and had the most to lose if Pass had a good ride — climbs up on the chute rail and helps him tie it down. When the gate opened you could see Kimzey sitting on the rail cheering Pass on. And Pass won the night. His CFD teammate, steer wrestler Nick Guy, had also won his event.
In a really fairly short time since I've been catching rodeos on TV I've been impressed with the sportsmanship among rodeo competitors. These guys aren't raking in megabucks, they're responsible for their own equipment and for getting to their events, and they're in a dangerous sport that can and does claim lives. Yes, they get sponsorships, and many come up through the high school and college circuits where it's easy to make contacts, but money from a family-owned hardware chain with only three stores isn't going to buy a jet.
You'd think they'd be hungry, and they are — but they're not on each other's menu. These are hard-working, good-natured, polite men and women doing what they're good at and loving it.
I'll choose the rodeo over the NFL or the NBA just any damn time.
It does seem that cell phone plans are getting simpler these days. After Mrs. McG's mother passed away I adjusted our AT&T plan and discovered that our old rollover-minutes, unlimited text a-la-carte-features plan was horribly obsolete. We wound up with unlimited talk and text, with a shared pool of cellular data that would rollover any unused megabytes.
Since my phone was still on contract and Mrs. McG's contract had expired, our line charges were different (mine being painfully higher). The plan itself was a third line item on the bill. All in all, before taxes, fees, surcharges, assessments, etc., we were paying the phone company $105 a month for two lines.
Well, I recently bought out my AT&T contract and switched to Google Fi, using one of my two Google accounts to anchor it, and ported my AT&T number to Google Voice on the other account. Since my wife likes her iPhone and doesn't want to have to learn her way around Android, she's staying with AT&T. Without my line charge, and with a smaller pool of cellular data because I'm not drinking from the same trough anymore, the AT&T bill should be $50 lower, while I expect in a normal month with Fi's unlimited talk and text and pay-as-you-use data*, my phone bill will be barely above $20.
(*This isn't how they describe it, since you pay your full anticipated data "budget" up front when service starts — but thereafter their "credit" essentially means each month's data charge is for what you used the month before.)
Technology is largely responsible for the arrival of unlimited talk on cell phone plans, but so is the evolution of use patterns. Text and data have become the growth loads on cellular networks, and while us old farts think of texting as SMS from phone number to phone number, alternatives like Apple's iMessage, Google's Hangouts, and all those social networking apps have accounted for most of texting's actual growth (Mrs. McG and I almost never use straight SMS anymore ourselves). Hence, data is what phone companies charge for.
Besides smaller phone bills, I switched to Fi because it allows me to use straight wifi for voice calling when the cell signal from one of Google's cellular "partners" — T-Mobile, Sprint, or U.S. Cellular — is too weak. It also means if I happen to be holding my tablet when a call comes in, I don't need to dig for my phone, I can answer it on the tablet using Hangouts. (I've done this once already, in fact.)
With AT&T I had never been happy with the voicemail system, and had been using Google Voice for voicemail on that number almost as long as I've had a smartphone. Google offered "visual" voicemail long before AT&T did, and although my AT&T contract phone was compatible with the carrier's latecoming VVM system, I was never able to get it working.
It remains to be seen whether I'll be completely satisfied with Google Fi, but so far I'm happy with the voice service over wifi; we'll see how "partner" cellular works out when the need arises. With AT&T I never used much cellular data and habitually used secure wifi whenever it was available — and Fi allegedly protects connections over unsecured wifi with a type of VPN so now I'm more open to... open wifi. I get a better realtime picture of my data usage over cellular with Fi than I did with AT&T, which threatens to be an annoyance in new and different ways.
The real test of this service will come the next time we travel. We used a good chunk of our AT&T allotment during our Wyoming trip this summer, but I'll be paying less for data overages than the missus would.
One of the things I enjoyed most during our visit to Wyoming this summer was being able to scan the horizon for distant weather. Watching thunderheads rise over a faraway mountain range was very different from how we learn of storms around here — on radar, by mobile alert, or hearing the rumble of approaching thunder.
On the first day of the return drive Mrs. McG and I watched two clumps of cumulus clouds grow into thunderheads in western Nebraska — one of which won the race and stole the energy that had been feeding the other. Though there was obvious rain or perhaps virga from the unusually high cloud base, we never saw any lightning during the hours we were able to observe the storm.
Back in Wyoming where we spent the bulk of our vacation, a normal part of daily life seemed to be high winds resulting from the collapse of thunderstorms that had developed over the nearby mountains. Forecasters in that area had grown wise to the ways of thunderstorm outflow and could tell with fair certainty when the gusts would reach town and when they would subside. On July 4 high winds in the afternoon had made us wonder whether the planned fireworks shows in various towns might have to be canceled, but by dark everything had calmed down and the shows went off without a hitch — though the surprisingly well-attended little show we went to took a worrisome long time to start.
Been wondering why I sometimes wake up with dry eyes that can't focus properly without eyedrops, but this morning I think I found out.
Apparently I've sometimes been sleeping with my eyes, or at least one eye, open (insert cowboy-in-Indian-country joke here), and this morning it happened while I was dreaming. So I dreamed I was awake, in my bedroom, but unable to see anything except what I, still asleep in bed, happened to be looking at.
When you blink and move your eyes, and your head, and even sit up and try to get out of bed, but all you can see is the slightly tilted image of your bedside lamp, you begin to think something might be wrong.
Oh, and what "woke" me in my dream was a loud, repetitive whump that I couldn't locate, and which didn't change in intensity no matter what I did — but it was my disobedient eyes that eventually drew my full attention. I'd actually forgotten the noise until it stopped. When I woke up for real, still looking at my bedside lamp. And when I looked away from my lamp then, I saw... things other than my lamp! It was a miracle!
This was another of those "sleep paralysis" dreams I've been having on rare occasions throughout my adult life. I'd long since realized they were merely dreams, and now I suspect they happen because my eyes open in that particular sleep state. Most previous occasions it's been in the deep darkness of late night or much earlier morning, but if, say, my eyes in that sleep state are hugely dilated, that could explain why the things I remember seeing during such a dream didn't look as unlit as they did once I came full awake.
Also, since subjective time in a dream is different from waking time, my eyes may have been stiller and thus getting a longer exposure, creating an illusion of more light in the room.
So anyway, as soon as I realized that my eyes felt all scratchy again, I reached for the eyedrops and there was, once again, not a dry eye in the house.
While we were in Wyoming, Mrs. McG and I briefly considered making a day out of getting Idaho onto her life list. She's never been there, and for me it's been a solid 50 years; my brother and I along with Mom, her younger sister and a trio of cousins all traveled up from Los Angeles to Mom's birthplace in Montana to visit Nana, and our path took us through Las Vegas, a corner of Arizona, straight up through Utah, and across eastern Idaho.
As you might imagine, I don't remember much about the trip, having not yet started kindergarten...
Anyway, we ran the numbers and judged that it would be a really long day getting there and back to where we were staying. An upside was that it would involve finally getting to see the Grand Tetons with our own eyes, rather than having to settle for pictures and video.
We decided not to wear ourselves out just for the chance to buy gas and use a restroom in the Gem State and turn right around and head back. Some other time, Tetons.
Meanwhile, the background image (since replaced, but preserved in this post, above) is of Grand Teton herself, fronted with aspens in their fall foliage and (I assume) Jackson Lake in the foreground. You should be able to make out the copyright watermark in the upper right; I found the picture in a Google image search for Wyoming aspens in the fall, shown first. Deserves it.
First they spin an ISIS-inspired mass shooting carried out by a registered Democrat as being the NRA's fault (what else could they do, admit that Obama's inept foreign policy — conducted by his fellow former Senate Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry — have utterly failed to defuse the terrorist threat?).
Then they stage a sit-in on the House floor, demanding to vote on a bill that would place Americans' due-process protections at the mercy of presidential political appointees maintaining secret lists.
I'm not on the Trump train, but I am wondering whether I ought to be.
When my mother Eileen was in her late 60s, doctors found it necessary to amputate her lower right leg.
The following June, she got on a plane in Sacramento — alone — and came to Fairbanks, Alaska to spend two weeks with Mrs. McG and me.
Mom had a prosthesis, but it was painful and awkward to use, so she spent most of her time in a wheelchair. This included the Midnight Sun game, where the beer lady made her rounds in the stands telling jokes to the bleachers rising behind the box area we'd claimed.
Completely unaware of our presence right behind her, beer lady told a riddle: "What do you call a lady with one leg? Eileen!" Mom was tickled, but we weren't sure the beer lady would be if she found out so we kept the laughter to ourselves.
A more adventurous outing was our attempt to take Mom to the Arctic Circle, which ended far short of the Yukon River when my flat tires outnumbered my spare tires. Mom needed to relieve herself while we waited for help, so I pushed her in her wheelchair about 100 yards up the gravel road looking for a reasonably level spot to get her far enough into the woods for some privacy, then I retreated to a discreet distance waiting for any call for help. The only call that came was, "Okay, I'm done."
By the time we got back to the car, Mrs. McG had flagged down a passing king-cab pickup in which a lady from Anchorage was taking her own relatives to see the Circle. She was kind enough to drive Mom and the missus to Yukon Ventures (now Yukon River Camp), where they managed to get spare tires on which I could drive us back to town.
As we made it back into the Fairbanks vicinity I apologized to Mom for the debacle, but she insisted she'd had fun. Later, when I wrote a narrative of that trip, the dire possibilities that had weighed on me during it caused me to rhyme Jack London by giving it the title, "To Change a Tire." Our gratitude to our rescuers remains undimmed.
We lived in Alaska five years, but those two weeks are the brightest memories. When Mom passed away in 2002, my eulogy included the telling of these two stories because they illustrated so well how inspirational she could be — and epitomized one of the guiding principles I ascribed to her: "Do something you've never done before."
The Mustache ardently recommends Carmax for all your used-car-buying needs. We've bought two vehicles from the Lithia Springs, Georgia location and been quite happy with both the experience and the vehicles.
And the advantage of dealing with Carmax over that place that lets you buy a car in your kimono is, you get to test-drive your vehicle before you hand over any money.
But what we did today was sell a car, The Hippo. This was the minivan my late mother-in-law got after she moved in with us — though not from Carmax (that car-buying experience did kind of suck). But Marie was a conscientious car owner and she saw to the recurring maintenance like clockwork. Which is why the Carmax appraiser valued it at almost the maximum Kelley Blue Book number. That was what they offered, and that was what we walked out with.
We weren't at all sure what to expect when we drove up there, but the reality was far smoother and more satisfactory than the best we dared hoped for. So the Mustache also recommends Carmax for your car-selling needs, provided of course the car you want to sell is worth more than the duct tape holding it together.
Now our insurance costs will go down, we'll pay for fewer car tags each year, and it'll be up to someone else to get it smogged, now that it's old enough to need it.
It's a relief to once again not have more vehicles than we have drivers.
Last week I bought some deli-style lunch meat for sandwiches, including a couple of packages of roast beef because I prefer beef over ham or turkey.
Yesterday I finally opened one of the packages of roast beef only to notice that the sell-by date on the package said 2010. I looked at that, and I looked at the meat. As a rule I don't take a chance on eating six-year-old lunch meat — it's a thing. But as a rule I don't expect six-year-old lunch meat to not be green and fuzzy.
I sniffed the meat. It smelled like fresh roast beef lunch meat should.
And I decided that somehow the package got misdated at the packaging plant, and I went ahead and had my sandwich.
This was yesterday. Nothing uncomfortable has happened since then. Everything I've sent through the digestive tract has traveled in the intended direction and at the intended speed.
I think I may have guessed right about that sell-by date. And I think I'll have another sandwich.
The Curious Case of the Non-Traveling Freight Train
The CSX main line through our general area is mostly single-track, with occasional sidings. It's a busy line, so it's not unusual to see a train waiting on a siding for an oncoming train to clear the track ahead before it continues on its way.
What's less usual is to see a freight train waiting smack-dab on a stretch of single-track line. Today it was a northbound Tropicana train (southeastern trainspotters will know what that means), stopped about 100 yards short of the one major at-grade crossing outside of the next town — well short of where it could have entered the siding that runs alongside the main line, as sidings do, through the town (where most crossings are not at-grade).
Thing is, some trains are too long for the sidings. So they have to wait on the single-track until the oncoming train can get onto the siding, clearing the main line ahead.
Makes you wonder why CSX doesn't just double-track the line between the two sidings this Tropicana freight was waiting between.
Today or tomorrow, I find out whether the Libertarian Party nominee will be an option for my vote in November.
The frontrunners are:
Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who likes using taxpayer dollars to fund Genocide, Inc. (otherwise known as Planned Parenthood) and thinks it would be wonderful to force a Jewish baker to decorate a cake for Nazis.
John McAfee, best known for creating the antivirus software that bears his name and has become so bloated that it's second only to Norton in how quickly it gets uninstalled when I see it, and second best known for being a person of interest in his neighbor's murder and eventually getting so paranoid about the case that only the restraint of the Belizean police — and his hasty flight to Guatemala — prevented his compound from becoming a second Waco.
Austin Petersen, barely old enough to even run for president, but he says the right things about most of the issues and doesn't contradict himself four words later. In a few more years he could be a truly formidable, seasoned candidate and he's already the first prospective face of the Libertarian Party that doesn't seem to have mental or chemical (or both) issues. I have seen some reason to question his maturity though.
Anyway, if either Johnson or McAfee gets the nomination, I'll probably have to vote for Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party nominee. I'm not so big on some of the so-con baggage they bring to the table, but at least they're not certifiably insane. That I've been able to detect.
I know nothing at all about Castle's background or character, but on the bright side he's almost certain not to get any Electoral Votes. So I've got that going for me.
Which is nice.
Update: It's Johnson. Now not only am I more democratic than the Democrats and more republican than the Republicans, I'm also more libertarian than the Libertarians.
Today Peach Staters pick their down-ballot nominees, and since it's a presidential election year the races are few. Georgia elects its statewide officeholders in off-year elections.
As discussed in a previous entry I have some idea who I'm voting for, but my county doesn't go out of its way to publish who's running for what. It gets printed in the paper, allegedly, but if you miss it in the paper you find out at the polls.
Normally I'm against coddling the disengaged, but the only thing I'm disengaged from here is the goddamn local newspaper; requiring me to pay for a subscription to know who's on my ballot could arguably be considered a poll tax. Other places publish updated candidate and ballot-question lists online. It should be a constitutional duty of every county board of elections or voter registrar.
Rashin' fashin' Rick Rastardly!
Update, Wednesday: The U.S. Senate nomination went as I expected, with the incumbent winning outright by a huge margin. Maybe in November I'll write in Zell Miller. The state senate nomination also got settled yesterday, with the candidate I voted for apparently unopposed in November.
There will be a runoff in July for the congressional nomination, so I just sent the candidate I voted for a few dollars to help with that.
Georgia's congressional and legislative primary election is a couple of weeks away yet, and since my Boehner-era congressman has chosen not to seek re-election, my state senator is among those seeking to replace him.
I've liked him since he joined the state senate, and I'm satisfied that he's not a Trumpkin nor a GOPe toady — on the latter, as far as can be determined about someone who's a member of a part-time body on the state level; becoming a full-time lawmaker in D.C. may change that. But, that's the chance you take, and it's why members of the U.S. House of Representatives face the voters every two years.
As Crane seeks to succeed Westmoreland in a year when his state senate seat is up for re-election, various characters are seeking to succeed Crane. One of these, Matt Brass, has served as Westmoreland's chief of staff. While I was disappointed that Westmoreland kept voting to keep Boehner as Speaker, by and large I thought he was one of the better members of the House. For most of his tenure he was the first, and so far only, congressman I've had that I ever actually approved of.
So Brass's association with Westmoreland doesn't automatically cross him off my list. Anyway, I'd have no trouble voting in November for whichever candidate gets the nomination.
Our state representative, Lynn Smith, has been in the legislature too long already, but is unopposed for the Republican nomination. The odds of a Democrat winning in November in this district are about as good as the odds that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from "The Simpsons" could win a write-in campaign for public office.
I'll have to write in a name, or skip that line altogether — the outcome would be the same either way. Maybe I'll try Apu.
After that are judgeships and school board seats. At those levels I've tended to vote against incumbents when they have a challenger, just on general principles. There've been exceptions but not this year.
Two and a half weeks remain before the balloting, so it's possible at least one of my choices could change. Early-voting has already begun but I don't see a need to do that for these offices; our fire-station polling place isn't likely to be a madhouse for this as it was in, say, November 2012.
Update: We also have a U.S. Senate seat up for election this year. I think I'll vote for Derrick Grayson. The incumbent, Johnny Isakson, is right out (though he'll probably win the primary outright).
I can see me casting a lot of write-in votes this November.
If Donald Trump secures the Republican nomination for President, the media will close ranks both on the news side and on the advertising side — and the only pro-Trump stories or ads that will ever see the light of day will be the ones that make him (and Republicans in general) look the most ridiculous, and Hillary look the most sympathetic.
I can understand having doubts about an outcome on the pivotal day, but I have never grasped some people's reflex to embrace the truth of anomalous bad news — especially if the source may be profoundly dishonest and deeply invested in a "FUD" strategy to dishearten its opposition.
Anyway, I was confident Ted Cruz would do well today in Wisconsin — home state of my first choice for president this cycle, Scott Walker, who won three statewide elections in four years' time and endorsed Cruz a week before the primary. Walker was as much responsible for my confidence as Cruz was. Still, it was a stressful day waiting for results.
I can only hope the shine is finally off the Trump zeppelin now, and that Cruz arrives at the convention with the 1,237 or more delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.
In November of 2015 a non-typical mule deer buck was taken in the Big Piney area by a hunter [after mule deer season had closed in October]...
This case was brought to the [Wyoming Game & Fish Division]'s attention by concerned citizens who had witnessed the mule deer buck on display at the Salt Lake City 2016 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo.
The reporting parties had noticed the same buck in the area after the October mule deer season had closed, they inquired information from the hunter and learned that it had been taken in November and notified the WGFD.
The picture here and those at the link give an idea what "non-typical" can mean, and why the informant had reason to suspect a violation. An animal so conspicuous that photographers were taking pictures of it earlier in the summer should have been a red-flag warning to the hunter in question not to take the shot unless he was absolutely certain it was legal. It was a deer-hunting equivalent of stealing the Mona Lisa and offering it for sale on Craigslist.
Mule deer are distinguished from whitetails by, among other traits, larger ears and, in typical animals, a distinctly different antler pattern. This buck, while non-typical, still obviously had mule-deer antlers.
When I snuck in the back way and set up a new Twitter account, I called myself (after a couple of attempts that just didn't work for me) "Obey the Mustache." And for some reason it seemed that a default slogan of "The mustache abides" would be perfectly appropriate.
I knew of the line from The Big Lebowski that goes, "The Dude abides," and I know a lot of people on the internet who loved that film. I didn't know that the line is said in a scene featuring Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliott (whose image from Tombstone I cropped for my Twitter avatar because mustache).
I didn't know it because I've never seen the movie. I don't really know that it had ever sunk in for me that Elliott was even in it.
I have a knack for pretending familiarity with pop culture crap like that, thanks to who I hang out with, and the combination of the better-than-average memory God gave me and the somewhat more problematical one Google put online. But I guess if I'm going to use a motto that echoes that movie line, maybe I should go ahead and see the damn movie. (Thank God for Netflix.)
I'm thinking once the election mess has gotten less ripe I might change the Twitter handle to "The Mustache Abides," but right now I'm feeling too bossy to change it.
My most intensive exposure to "Star Trek" — the original series, that is — was in syndicated reruns on afternoon TV while I was in elementary school. Considering that the series had been canceled by NBC when I was only seven, that's a quick turnaround by the standards of the era.
I remember hearing about what a phenomenon the show had become in syndication and how wonderful it would be if it ever resurfaced in some form or other. The animated series was a sop in some ways, but Filmation's production values simply couldn't do the stories justice.
Then came the success of 1977's Star Wars, and we finally got Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. It seemed like a lifetime, but it was released only ten years after the series had ended.
From that first movie until Nemesis spanned 23 years — it's been 14 years now since the latter was released. And now fans are awaiting the third installment in an alternate-timeline "reboot" movie franchise 50 years after the first episode aired.
That ten-year stretch when "Star Trek" existed only in fan conventions seemed a lot longer when I was in elementary and junior-high school.
Multi-rotor drones are more stable because the lift footprint (if there's such a phrase) is wider, and when the rotors are distributed around the edges, the body interferes less with the air's downward motion, which means the rotors provide more actual thrust.
By not wasting thrust you get more lift with shorter rotors, which require less power to rotate faster, amplifying the benefit of more rotors.
Processing power used in miniature drones allows the thrust on each rotor to be adjusted more responsively to changing conditions.
While I'm not big on the idea of pilotless passenger drones, I can see these innovations making the piloting of small aircraft simpler with computer-assist (as most of us already have to some extent in our cars), which could finally put personal VTOL flight within reach.
Though I find myself picturing the sudden cloud of rotored vehicles every rush hour on L.A.'s 405 freeway, rising like newly-fledged giant mosquitoes, trying to escape the traffic jam — only to lock rotor shrouds with one another and tumble onto the frontage streets, and onto the buildings facing them.
Via Instapundit, a link to not only an appalling attempted miscarriage of justice and attempted corruption of the electoral process, but also an inspiring censure of same by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon.
The judge opened the hearing by reading into the record an astonishing letter he had just received from the chair of the EAC [U.S. Election Assistance Commission], Christie McCormick. It informed the court that DOJ had told the EAC that it would not defend the agency, and that it would not allow the EAC to hire its own counsel. McCormick informed the judge that she believed DOJ was not fulfilling its duty and obligation to defend the EAC and had a potential conflict of interest.
It was clear that Judge Leon was shocked at what DOJ had done.
I'm not, and probably neither are you. If you wonder why the Left goes to the lengths it does to silence those who tell the truth about them, it's because they know that not everyone will refuse to hear that truth. They couldn't keep Judge Leon from hearing it, and using the authority of his bench to box their ears.
Leon is a Bush appointee though, so you may rest assured the mob will rain down calumny and vitriol on him, as they are wont to do.
The way to beat such attacks is — to paraphrase the British WW2 morale poster — Keep calm and stay focused.
Here I wrote of my two degrees of separation from John Wayne, and added in an update that a young, not yet famous Duke had made the acquaintance of Wyatt Earp in the 1920s.
This morning I happened on the story of a modern-day Wyatt Earp, descended from one of the original's brothers, who was starring, as of 2011, in a one-man play about the Wild West legend. Curious, I resorted to Google and Wikipedia, and found that the only Wyatt Earp brother known (according to Wikipedia, for what that's worth) to have had sons was his older half-brother Newton, who died in Sacramento (my boyhood hometown, as noted in "Who Needs Bacon?") in 1928.
I grew up in a house from which I could look out my bedroom window and see the mausoleum at this cemetery.
I'm not sure how this affects my degrees of separation from Wyatt, since Newton died before either of my parents had ever heard of Sacramento. I certainly never saw the grave as I never went into the cemetery myself.
Now, it's possible Virgil, James or Warren Earp might have had sons that Wikipedia neglected to mention, so that particular question remains unanswered. However Newton did name his two sons after brothers Wyatt and Virgil, which names might have been handed down to subsequent descendants.
I could email the guy and ask, but it doesn't seem like a good reason to bother him.
Update: Holy carp. Newton's son Virgil* is buried in the other cemetery I lived near in Sacramento, before we moved the other place near East Lawn. I don't recall ever entering that cemetery either.
* (Link goes to a Youtube video of Virgil's 1958 appearance on "The $64,000 Question.")
'Nother update: Just remembered something else. As many of you may already know, Sam Elliott — who played Sacramento Virgil's uncle Virgil in Tombstone — was born in Sacramento.
This is getting spooky.
'Nother other update: Wyatt Earp played cards at least once with Soapy Smith, who was born and raised somewhere not far at all from where I am sitting right now. Of course, Wyatt's best friend Doc Holliday was born in slightly less nearby Griffin.
Though I lived in Alaska, I never got to either Nome (where Wyatt had a saloon) or Skagway (where Soapy ran a gang).
'Nother other other update: According to Ancestry.com, Newton's son Wyatt had a son named Frederick Wayne Earp, who lived in Sacramento for close to 50 years until his death in 1978 at the relatively young age of 59 — when I was 16. I have yet to find reference to any children, but they could still be living. Fred's uncle Virgil doesn't seem to have any sons recorded in Ancestry.
This is getting out of hand update: Tracked down the cemetery in Woodland, California, where the famous Wyatt Earp's nephew Wyatt is buried. During my college years I had friends in Woodland who lived mere blocks from this cemetery. I visited them, but (again) never the cemetery.
Incidentally, while Ancestry has this Wyatt dying in Utah, as Find-a-Grave agrees, it also claims he died there in 1920 rather than the 1937 shown on his marker. Now, Ancestry also claims Wyatt II's wife died in 1920, so I suspect there was a data input error at some point on Ancestry for Wyatt.
It boggles my mind how I grew up so surrounded by Earps and didn't know it. I wasn't even all that interested in the Earp legend back then, really. If I had, I suppose I would have wondered why all these Earps were to be found in Sacramento, of all places.
Make it stop! update: Have just found that one of Virgil II's homes (c. 1943) was one block over from where my father worked during the 1960s.
Sacramento wasn't that small of a town, even back then!
In the wake of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden death yesterday, one thing has become apparent: Democrats (and many Republicans) haven't yet come to the realization that President Barack Obama has not been the nation's most popular political figure for quite a while.
In a constitutional republic with democratic processes, popularity matters more than a lot of us — myself included — would prefer. Popularity is how Ronald Reagan was able to get so much of his agenda enacted despite never having Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.
The fickle winds of popularity made Bill Clinton reverse his longstanding opposition to welfare reform, then secured his re-election, only to see him leave office as a punchline after surviving an impeachment trial.
And for the bulk of Barack Obama's presidency it's been his popularity — real or presumed — that has enabled him to steamroll John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (and Paul Ryan) whenever they were forced to contemplate defying him. The glimpses of the man behind the curtain have never overcome their awe at the apparition of Obama, the Great and Powerful.
Right now, Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself), when they're not promoting the preposterous claim that the Senate must rubber-stamp whomever Obama nominates to succeed Scalia on the Court, are claiming that refusal to do so will result in a massive Democrat wave at the polls in November, propelled by indignation at Senate Republicans' shabby treatment of Barack Obama.
Like Donald Trump or hate him, he has at the very least accomplished the reduction of Obama from Most Popular Political Figure Evah!!! The question is whether Washington insiders like McConnell genuinely realize what's happened and deliver on their promise to block Obama's nominees.
Early voting for Georgia's presidential primary begins tomorrow, and I'm thinking about taking advantage. It'll allow me to register my preference before the polls open for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
In 2008 and 2012 the candidates I wanted to vote for weren't even still on the ballot when Georgia voted. I had to settle for leftovers that didn't inspire me and were useful only to let me vote against the ELECTABLE!!! candidates we ended up having foisted on us solely so they could lose in November.
This time it's different. I'm going to get to vote for a candidate I actually preferred even before the post-Iowa dropouts left the stage. Why wait until March?
The best part? I'm pretty sure Jeb Bush will be out of the race by March 1. The alleged frontrunner until last summer. When Bush drops out, Trump will have my permission to follow. Then Ann Coulter can go back to pushing Chris Christie who will be angling for a veep slot by then.
These are not predictions, they're wishcasts. All the more awesome, though, if it happens that way.
So Charles Hill posted a link to his weekly Vent, this time about the "six degrees of separation" theory. And of course he mentions the Kevin Bacon variant game, and I got to thinking about that.
Kevin Bacon co-starred with Tom Hanks in Apollo 13.
Hanks was among the vast array of celebrities interviewed by the late Harry Martin, who was for many years the entertainment reporter for Channel 3 in Sacramento (passed away in 2008, aged 81). Harry was also the only person who managed to interview Leonard Nimoy with his Spock ears on.
Among Harry's co-workers at Channel 3 was longtime news anchor Stan Atkinson, whose other duties for the station included hosting the local cutaway breaks during the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
One year when I was in high school I accompanied my dad and some fellow CB radio club members in volunteering behind the scenes at one of these local telethon events; I helped man the refreshment table, and that's how I met Stan. So I've got a Kevin Bacon Number of 4, right?
But according to a story my parents used to tell, during a period when they managed a motel in midtown Sacramento, one of the guests was Slim Pickens. Allegedly I was small enough to sit on his lap.
Pickens, of course, worked with about as many stars as Harry Martin interviewed, including John Wayne, Peter Sellers, Mel Brooks, James Garner, Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen — pretty much everybody but Kevin Bacon.
All those big stars with whom I have just two degrees of separation.
And if anybody Slim knew or worked with ever met Kevin Bacon, that would let me claim a Bacon Number of 3.
But let's face it. I like my John Wayne Number of 2 better.
Update: Just read that John Wayne knew Wyatt Earp. Take that, Bacon.
All the other candidates but mine are big poopy-heads, and so are all their supporters!
Following up, hence the altered date.
For all the talk this election cycle about a Republican Establishment, it's become apparent there is also a Conservative Establishment that isno less panicked about Donald Trump than the other one.
National Review's recent "Against Trump" issue, while correct in principle, was ill-timed and ill-toned — and will likely turn out to have undermined efforts to elect an actual conservative to the presidency in a year when we were better positioned to do so than at anytime since 1980.
The entire political system is losing its shit, including the sector that has spent the last several years pleading with voters and elected officials to stop losing theirs.
If Trump ends up winning it will be because of one simple truth about politics: Desperation does not inspire confidence.
If they wanted to stop Trump what they needed to do was cause him to appear desperate.
There are still no committed delegates for the Republican nomination. Political consultants may think they know how things will go, but they're prone to viewing the situation through their own navels (guess from which direction?). A saying about how foolish are those who allow themselves to be led by fools, goes here.
A dusting is what we got, but it’s resumed snowing and the wind is blowing.
Before it got light I heard the sound of a limb giving way somewhere, and returning from a sightseeing drive I saw a number of fresh pine boughs on the ground in the county right-of-way next to the road, so that may have been it.
I’m guessing the moisture feeding this snowfall is from the Gulf or the Atlantic, pulled all the way around the low pressure center and into the cold air being drawn down from Canada. It’s light enough to drive in but the wind persuaded me to head back to the barn.
No idea how much longer it’ll last, considering it wasn’t supposed to last this long in the first place.
No complaints — since I’ve no place to go, I’ll sit here with my coffee and let it snow.
In light of the aforementioned alleged chance of wintry precipitation in this weekend’s forecast, a song lyric I wrote six years ago in honor of a similar forecast. Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel and music lovers everywhere.
Hello winter, my old friend
I see you’ve come around again
Tomorrow there will be some rain dripping
And that night so many cars slipping
On these roads, narrow, winding and all too dark
A skating park
And the sound
Will echo through the chilly night
And we will see the flashing lights
Near the fenders that are all wrinkled
Yet so pretty with the snow sprinkled
While the victims stand exchanging insurance cards
In nearby yards
To the sound
If I were you I’d hesitate
To get onto the interstate
Because you know it won’t be heavenly
Going sideways doing seventy
Knowing it will end with a hollow, crashing thud
And spurting blood
And then the sound
Weather Underground forecasts a middling chance of snow hereabouts on Saturday morning. I will, of course, believe it when I see it.
I've been ambivalent about which of my phones to use, but I think that's over now. My newer one — which runs an outdated version of Android but is supposed to get the latest update sometime this decade — has better battery life (and if the battery dies it can be replaced) but doesn't interface well with in-car Bluetooth for hands-free telephone use. My older phone, which has had the latest Android version for months already, has no trouble with Bluetooth but suffers from its 2014 battery that can't be replaced.
I'm hoping when the new phone does finally get updated the annoyances will go away, but if the Bluetooth bug remains I'm willing to revert to how I used my phone in previous vehicles — by not taking calls while I'm driving.
I've seen at least one argument to the effect that Ted Cruz is not a "natural born" citizen, but is instead an "ordinary" citizen. I can't help but wonder what is the "ordinary" manner of gaining U.S. citizenship, and how it differs from being "natural born."
There are only three ways to become a U.S. citizen. The one that applies most, er, ordinarily is by being born on United States soil. That's how I got mine, and it's how Donald Trump got his. Another is by undergoing a naturalization ceremony. For this you have to apply, take a test, and swear an oath.
The third way is to be born outside the United States but to a parent who is a U.S. citizen. That's how Ted Cruz got his — and also John McCain. And even if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya instead of Hawaii (spoiler: he was born in Hawaii), he too would be a natural born citizen of the United States because his mother was a U.S. citizen.
There are three ways to become a citizen, but there are not three classes of citizenship. If you gained your citizenship at birth and did not have to take an oath, you are a natural born citizen. If you were not natural born to U.S. citizenship, you have to be naturalized. It really is that straightforward.
Many people object to the blanket "born on U.S. soil" path because of the "anchor baby" problem, and argue that even on U.S. soil "natural-born" citizenship should be limited only to cases where at least one parent is already a U.S. citizen, and require a naturalization ceremony otherwise. I am inclined to agree with that. But it wouldn't change this simple fact:
The "ordinary" form of citizenship is natural-born citizenship.
The Iowa caucuses are just over two weeks away, and the New Hampshire primary eight days beyond that. They will, as they always do, nuke whatever conventional wisdom will have been established by national polling — mainly because the delegate-selection process for a party's presidential nominating convention is never a national event.
There are those in various camps who even argue that the state-specific polls won't predict outcomes, and in a caucus state that is almost certainly true to some extent. If I were running a polling organization I would have figured out by now some ways to tweak the raw data and come up with something in the ballpark of actual results, but then again the caucuses have been vulnerable to gaming (read, "cheating" to us less sophistic flyover rubes).
I won't get a say in the process until March 1, Super Tuesday. In the past the outcomes in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have tended to leave unappetizing pickings by then. I gambled, though, by putting a campaign sticker on my car a couple of weeks ago. We'll see how long it stays there.
I'm going to try to have nothing to say about the Republican field before Iowa, because anything I could say before then would, like everything else that will be said in that period, be interpretations of events filtered through a partisan bias that won't serve any useful purpose.
"But aren't you a partisan?" you might ask. Yes, but although you probably wouldn't be reading if you didn't agree with me generally on issues, I have no reason to assume you share my particular partisanship on the question of candidacies. Election seasons do enough damage to friendships and alliances over Team Colors differences and I have no interest in getting into fights with people I agree with on almost everything else.
If you see me less on Twitter over the next few weeks, that will be why.
For now, hunker down, cover your ears, and beware of shrapnel.