Sunday, December 31, 2017

Read in 2017

A banner year, this. Particularly as for the last few years, I’ve missed my goal of 1,000 pages a month.

Finishing reading the Old Testament as a family certainly helped, with an 1,100-plus page boost in the spring. Another opportunity also led to more reading, but I can’t yet discuss that openly.
Here’s the tally:

Airframe, by Michael Crichton. 348 pages.

Asterix Chez les Helvetes, by Uderzo and Goscinny. 48 pages.

Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves. 408 pages.

Boom! Talking About the Sixties, by Tom Brokaw. 659 pages.

Brass Check, The; by Upton Sinclair. 78 pages.

Bridge at Remagen, The, by Ken Hechler. 239 pages.

Crossings, by Sarah Johnson. 360 pages.

Crystal Blade, by Kathryn Purdie. 360 pages.

Crystal King, by John M. Olsen. 309 pages.

Dark Breaks the Dawn, by Sara B. Larson. 301 pages.

Dave Barry Turns 50, by Dave Barry. 211 pages.

Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Double Down, by Jeff Kinney. 218 pages.

Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Old School. By Jeff Kinney, 217 pages.

Emil and the Detectives, by Erich Kastner. 160 pages.

Essential C.S. Lewis, The; edited by Lyle W. Dorsett. 536 pages.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. 184 pages.

Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett. 247 pages.

First on the Moon, by Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin. 511 pages.

Flying Dutch, by Tom Holt. 251 pages.

Good Intentions, by Ogden Nash. 180 pages.

Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, The; by Erma Bombeck. 239 pages.

Grey Seas Under, by Farley Mowat. 255 pages.

Holy Thief, The; by Ellis Peters. 246 pages.

Hot Zone, The; by Richard Preston. 300 pages.

How to Be (a Fake) Kreskin: Mental Marvels, Feats, and Stunts that You can Do, from the World's Greatest Mentalist; by Kreskin, the Amazing. 130 pages.

I'll Mature When I'm Dead, by Dave Barry. 254 pages.

Joachim a des Ennuis, by Sempe and Goscinny. 191 pages.

Joy of A Peanuts Christmas, The; by Charles M. Schulz. 120 pages.

Le Bouclier Arverne, by Uderzo and Goscinny. 48 pages.

Making of the President 1960, The, by Theodore White. 481 pages.

New Realities, The; by Peter Drucker. 276 pages.

Non Campus Mentis, by Anders Henriksson. 150 pages.

Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, by Joseph E. Persico. 520 pages.

Old Testament, The. King James Version. 1,145 pages.

Peter Principle, The: Why Things Always Go Wrong, by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. 180 pages.

Princess of Mars, A; by Edgar Rice Burroughs. 185 pages.

Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett. 253 pages.

Richard Nixon: The Man Behind the Mask, by Gary Allen. 433 pages.

Rules of Thumb, by Tom Parker. 148 pages.

Slip of the Tongue, A; by Joel Fram and Sandra Salmans. 176 pages.

Teapot Dome Scandal, The; by Laton McCartney. 351 pages.

Toposaurus: A Humorous Treasury of Toponyms, by John D. Jacobson. 243 pages.

Up the Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman. 340 pages.

Wheel on the School, The; by Meindert DeJong. 298 pages.

Who's Afraid of Beowulf? by Tom Holt. 206 pages.

Winter Falls, by Jacque Stevens. 288 pages.

Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett. 323 pages.

Page total: 13,707 pages.

Again, I’ve read a lot of nonfiction this year. Best read of the year is a tie between Joseph Persico’s Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, and Meindert deJong’s The Wheel on the School.

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017: A Look Back

Oh, 2017. We all thought 2016 was the train wreck to end all train wrecks, but there were times, 2017, you looked back at 2016 and said “Hold my beer.”

But you weren’t all that bad. Let’s take a look:


I shared a delightful poem from Ogden Nash, written also from trying times.

I wrote what has now (inexplicably) become this blog’s mostpopular post by number of views.


I started a new job. Well, stayed at my old job, actually. But with a new employer. Hey, don’t try to understand it; government is involved. And I had many an adventure getting my new ID badge.


I wrote the second- and fifth-most popular posts on this blog.

I also posted a Star Wars/Pee Wee Herman mashup video that did not get near enough love.


My credit card information got stolen.

Yet I found wisdom in the form of Jimmy James.


I deconstructed a rational childhood fear: Alum.


I remembered getting lost.


I remembered finding myself again.



I read a book that taught me a lot about why it’s important to get to know people.


I was released from my Scoutmaster calling.


We finished cleaning out Mom’s house the night we sold it, and the fire department came.


I hit my 10-year blogging anniversary.

Take that, Karl Marx.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

But What KIND of Evacuation?

It’s true what they tell you – when an alarm goes off, your first natural reaction is to say, “Huh. What’s that noise?” Then the sequence goes like this:
  1. That's an alarm.
  2. Damn, that's the fire alarm.
  3. Should I evacuate? (The building, not other evacuations; those come upon seeing flame in close proximity).
  4. Well, I hear noises in the other cubicles. Perhaps they're evacuating. One way or the other.
  5. What should I bring? Oh yeah, bag, keys, COAT. It's freaking only ten degrees above zero outside, and it's windy. TAKE THE COAT.
  6. What about the binder that holds the novel I'm writing? That seems superfluous.
  7. Yeah, leave it. We'll be back inside in no time.
  8. Oh yeah. Evacuate.
That was the scenario today at work, starting at about a quarter after two.

Here is where I say I am not writing any of this as an official spokesperson for Fluor Idaho LLC, the company I work for. Nor do I present myself as an Expert in These Matters. I’m just an office schlub recounting his day at work, nothing more. Any journalist looking for real, actual information should contact Fluor Idaho, not me. I am a moron.

It kinda felt like this – I’m Homer in this situation – but a lot more organized because I will give them credit, the emergency response folks at Fluor Idaho (I’m one of them, happily not on duty today) react professionally and get the job done as it should.

For us, the worst part was standing out in the cold until they cleared us all to go into a nearby building to shelter. The worst thing that happened to me therein is that the battery died on my Kindle.

They eventually cleared nonessential workers to go home if they wished. I was lucky enough that at least one route back to my old stomping grounds at RWMC was clear, so I walked through the cold and borrowed a cubicle so I can catch the bus at the normal time. I could have gone home, but it would have been a logistical headache to find someone who could give me a ride, and then figure out how to get to my truck. It was easier just to stay here and go home the normal way.

Part of me – a very small part of me – wishes I’d been on ERO duty today, just to be part of the action. But as they won’t be going home at 5 pm, I’m not sure I’d like to be there. But I’d do it if it were my turn.

I feel bad for my boss, who left her house keys in the building we had to evacuate, and there won’t be a chance she can get back in there to get them. I hope she gets things worked out.

Decaying into Camazotz

This has been said:

Evidence is mounting that that the world is no longer fascinated with Silicon Valley: It’s disturbed by its callous behavior. But it will take a massive shift to introduce self-awareness to an industry that has always assumed it was changing the world for the better.

This has also been said:

John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Lesser known is the line he penned two sentences before this one: “[W]e have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion.” My takeaway from these lines isn’t that only a Christian or Bible-believing society can enjoy the blessings of liberty, but that a society which depends on big-G “Government” as its only governance is doomed to failure. A society without the rigors of standards, of mores, of ethical integrity not just as an abstract concept but as a foundation of a worthy character, will find itself growing an overarching external scaffolding to provide a poor substitute for the skeleton it no longer has.

As has this:

[Elder Dallin H. Oaks] asked, “What has caused the current public and legal climate of mounting threats to religious freedom? I believe the cause is not legal but cultural and religious. I believe the diminished value being attached to religious freedom stems from the ascendency of moral relativism.
“More and more of our citizens support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses. Each person is free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong. Our children face the challenge of living in an increasingly godless and amoral society.”

We keep looking for guidance in technology and government and sneer at guidance from religion – forgetting that these are not one or the other choices – that we can work with the three – and more – and HAVE to work with the three and more in order for this world to do anything but decay into Camazotz.

There is not one thing alone on this Earth that man has created that will “save” us, either in the moral, religious, ethical or governmental sense. There exist combinations of things that may do a better job.
Self-governance. If we want our institutions to succeed, we need more of it, and fast. Self-governance does not equal “My way or the highway.” There can be no selfishness in self-governance. Such a thing must be built on moral and ethical standards that consider the needs of those outside of our own skulls.

In other words – no matter what guidance we seek, we have to be willing to put in at least half the effort, or more. We can’t turn to technology or government or religion and say, “Hey, this is YOUR problem, you deal with it so I don’t have to.” This is where we fail – when we abdicate responsibility to someone else and take it for granted they’ll do the right thing.

Blessed Solstice

Because of my location on this spinning planet of ours, tilted on its axis at that famous 23.4 degrees, I’m familiar with darkness.

Not as familiar, say, with folks above either the Arctic or Antarctic circles, but familiar enough that when I get on the bus at 5:30 am and get off it at 6:30 pm, the sun may as well not exist.

This morning, a slim crescent moon shone through the fog as I walked in the chilly air from the bus to my cubicle – a brisk walk of ten minutes through, this morning, single-digit temperatures. Coming to work in the morning is an adventure of dragon breath, treading lightly on iced asphalt, and gazing in wonder at the tangle of fire suppression system supply pipes that greet me at the door where I’m greeted with blessed heat and the distinct odor of soggy cinder blocks.

The sun, on the solstice, rises approximately an hour after I arrive.

When I leave at night, I see the wan sun setting in the west, but for most of my journey to the bus it’s obscured by one of the largest buildings in Idaho, dripping with snow and ice the sun has managed to melt off its roof. I board the bus in semidarkness, then emerge under the stars as I drive the rest of the way home at 6:30.

Oh, when those days begin to get longer. Soo I’ll enjoy the red sunrises when I get to work shortly before 7 am. I’ll get to see the lenticular clouds that form over the Big Southern Butte, or imagine that the sunrise behind the buttes to the east is fire from newly-erupting volcanoes and I’ll get to go home – via Twin Falls, most likely, or maybe Mud Lake if the Menan Buttes don’t get into the act too.

I won’t have to worry about Vitamin D supplements.

So I look forward to the solstice, cold and dark that it is. It means spring is coming to the rescue.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

[Summons Gnarly Powers]

I have, of late, been reading fantasy novels.

Now this might be due to the overload, but this is how I’m feeling about books featuring people with those gnarly powers right about now.

It could very well be I’m just reading books in which the magic systems are too pedestrian, or books in which the plot is just a romance novel under a thin veneer of fantasy.

It could also very well be that the “person with gnarly powers uses said powers to fight other people with gnarly powers” trope is just worn a bit thin on me.

Not that I don’t love a good fantasy. I look to the likes of Lord of the Rings and The Book of the Dun Cow/The Book of Sorrows and see stories coming from a worlds filled with magic. But y’see, while magic may exist in these books, it’s the little characters relying on their own inner magic of faith, grit, hope when all is hopeless, that keeps me coming back. That’s real magic, not any of this elemental-bending stuff.

That’s easy ju-ju, no matter the training the little wusses have to go through to master the act.

But watching Cano Mundi stab Wyrm in the eye with the horn of the dun cow and die in the act to save the world (for the five minutes it remains saved), now that’s magic.

Watching Samwise Gamgee go back up the stairs of Cirith Ungol after Frodo screams at him to go home, now that’s magic. (Recall: Most of the magic seen in LOTR is used for evil.)

Not that I don’t like magical novels. Magic, done well – even if it’s done as parlor tricks, as in Terry Pratchett’s novels – is a fun thing to read. And try telling me the magic in Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell isn’t fun to witness, especially when mice are involved. Maybe I’ve just read a string of mediocre, magic-filled novels, and am ready for something else.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"What Else is On?"

Remember the triumphant, feel-good ending of The Truman Show, where Truman sails into the wall of the massive television studio that’s been his home and his prison? He talks with Christof, the show’s director/God through the clouds and is unconvinced that remaining in his sheltered life is a good thing.

“In case I don’t see ya,” he says with a grin, “Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” He then walks through the open door into the darkness, and the audience watching cheers.
Then they ask what else is on.

Or at least these guys do. Because to them, The Truman Show was entertaining television – but just that: Entertainment. Show’s over, folks – so what else is on?

I fall into that trap a lot. And I don’t even watch much television.

We all do it, to a certain point – what wildlife biologist Jeff Higdon calls “five-minute activism” in an article at on whether a polar bear photographed by National Geographic is starving due to climate change or is starving due to the multitude of other reasons animals starve in the wild.

“What I would like to see is people learning more about these issues,” Higdon tells Slate. “It infuriates me, it’s a five-minute activism kind of thing for people. The photo gets thrown around and two days later it’s forgotten about and no one’s behavior has changed.”

I see a lot of this. I indulge in some of it – armchair activism, but little else.

Like what’s going on at the FCC re: Net Neutrality.

I’ve seen the problem – bogus comments, spammed comments, weird comments, bot comments – touted as a problem on the FCC’s part in filtering or managing comments. However – I think a lot of this trouble (and it is trouble) is linked to the kind of idiot Internet behavior that leads us first to believe a photograph of a starving polar bear shows evidence of climate change and then second to forget about said polar bear five minutes later: The Web is entertainment, it’s for trolling, it’s for making a point without technically doing anything about the underlying problem.

The Internet is the quickest way to do something to feel good about having done something, rather than doing something to actually do something. (Want an example of the feel good/do nothing activism? Click on the link to “” in the Wired story linked above. It takes you to this, at least for the next day or so:

Yes, filling in a few info boxes and then shooting off this email makes you feel good about doing something. But what did you actually do? Did you read the letter they suggest the whole way through? Chances are you didn’t, because you don’t have the time because you’ve got to see what’s on next!

Yes, Internet activism is easy. So easy bots can do it. So easy pro-net neutrality activists can do it. So easy the Russians can game it, and you know they’re gaming it because come on they’re totally gaming it.

What did I do?

During the FCC’s first comment period on net neutrality, back in 2014, I told them, in a unique letter, I favored net neutrality because I have cable internet and already see my ability to use the internet on a nightly basis squeezed by poor capacity on the cable provider’s system. I cautioned them that failing to keep the net neutral, my ability to teach classes online – my second gig – would be hampered if suddenly teaching were designated as a second- or third-tier Internet activity.

Then sometime between April 27 and Aug. 30 of this year, I sent them another unique letter – electronically – reiterating my desire to see the net remain neutral.

Mindlessly using any commenting system to send a message to a government entity gives such entities fuel to say, “Hey, the people just don’t care.” Think otherwise? Read this, and look at the table where the top most common names are provided. Nobody is taking any of those messages seriously.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December 12, 2017

Ten years.

Ten years blogging.

Ten years wasting your time and mine.

I’m writing this post right now during an idle moment at work in late June, so I can’t as of this writing give an official count of the number of posts I’ve published.

Comments, now, tallying comments are easy. Meaningful ones: Less than two dozen, and that’s being charitable. There was for a time I was on the Random Translated from Chinese Comment Bot’s radar, but those moments have long gone.

Purpose? Plenty of that. This blog will be a treasure-trove to my descendants, providing any of them are interested and the Wayback Machine still functions. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll deliver the username and password to this blog to my descendants in my will, out of fear they’d take one look at it and delete the whole thing.

I have also considered using one of those blog-to-book services, however given their inability to capture linked material and to play YouTube videos, their utility seems limited.
Perhaps, of course, I could hand my credentials over to my estate, or the university library or presidential library to which I bequeath my papers.

Or I could just go on babbling since NONE OF THAT IS EVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

And to tell the truth, I have blogged before.

I started a blog briefly around a Thanksgiving break some time before 2007, but the effort petered out and I have since lost track of it. It’s in the blogspot/blogger blogosphere somewhere. Perhaps I might look for it. (I’ve tried a few times to search for it, but it’s a tiny needle in an ever-expanding Internet haystack, so I’ve given up finding it. Maybe you’d care to look for it – I recall I began blogging in the 2003-2005 year range at the time I was working at a local newspaper and thus hated writing with a passion.)

There were also copious amounts of blather posted while I was a university student in the late 1990s. The year 1997 plays prominently in my memory. So this should, by rights, be a 20-year anniversary post.

But I won’t brag up my credentials. Ten years of consistently bland writing is enough to celebrate, is it not?

Monday, December 11, 2017

"Why, He's a *Licensed* Driver!"

By the end of the week, our oldest will join the ranks of even the great Lord Morley in becoming a licensed driver.

Our son took his written test today, and will do the skills test Wednesday. Then sometime after that our insurance agent will contact his RV or boat dealer (or both) and say the purchase is a go.

I don’t want to know what it’s going to cost us to insure our son. Boys in general get a (deserved) bad rap, insurance-wise. I’m fairly sure this will be my reaction to the insurance company’s quote.

Nevertheless, we’ll pay. My Dad paid for me for the first little bit – and I recall myself, on my own, having to pay roughly $500 a year for insurance on a 1976 Chevy Nova that was in the final stages of Rusting Rigor Mortis. That would nearly double what we’re paying for insurance, and I’m sure prices have gone up since the mid-1990s.

We have visions of him doing errand-driving for us. But given his homework load, his impending mission, and his general desire to remain motionless in the basement, it’s likely we’ll still have to do a lot of driving, mainly taking his sister to ballet lessons in Rexburg – because that burns up an evening, with the thrilling monotony of driving bookending the repetition of the seven basic ballet movements.

I hope our son can avoid the misery of auto accidents. I was in two of them in my formative driving years, one of them minor, the other major in terms of damage but minor in terms of injury. I can still remember the pattern on the shirt I was wearing for the latter one – ludicrous spoked steering wheels from a boat, with “Anchors Aweigh” underneath them in script. I see the pattern once in a while at the fabric store and I feel nauseous, although as time has passed, it’s mostly because I’m in a fabric store.
I do remember this: Never heard a cross word from my parents about it. Although I’m sure plenty were said behind my back. Yeah, that nausea is coming back; it never really goes away, does it?

But let’s not focus on that.

Focus on his successes – and the worry that the panic we saw in him in the kitchen this weekend when he forgot to spray the pan he was putting the brownie mix in never kicks in while he’s driving and oh God he’s going to get into so many wrecks . . .

But let’s not focus on that. Focus on the positive. He’s learning. Developing skills. Problem-solving and problem-anticipating skills. They’ll be honed over time. I mean, look at me: Knock on wood, not even a speeding ticket in twenty years of marriage. I’ve slid off the road a few times in winter, including one bladder-stressing moment when my truck spun right through the only gap in a long stream of traffic on a slick road. But not a dented fender nor a visit from a policeman. Let’s hope that keeps up, and is our son’s future.

For I, too, am a good driver. A licensed driver. Just don’t hand me any cigars at the gas station . . . I wouldn’t mind being brought in on the Wookalar case, though.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Weird Contrast in Books, Part II

Richard Nixon the Man Behind the MaskRichard Nixon the Man Behind the Mask by Gary Allen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In reading Gary Allen’s “Richard Nixon: The Man Behind the Mask,” we get a peek at the right-wing nastiness that’s now in the fore.

Let me say I don’t believe the right-wing has a corner on nastiness, as there’s plenty of that to go around in the extreme fringes of any political party. It is telling, however, to see the paranoia, the disdain for the media, and the veiled and unveiled racism inherent in right-wing Republicans of the 1960s and ‘70s, which we recognize today in the right-wing we’re seeing in power.

In reading about this author, I see an irony. He mocks Nixon as an opportunistic politician, willing to bow to whatever winds blew to get him elected. Yet Allen was a speechwriter for George Wallace, a politician who started out as a Democrat on a crusade for race reconciliation in the South and who ended as a right-wing Republican who sang the graces of segregation because he saw in it supporters enough political power to get him into office. We all have our blinders, I suppose, but for most of us, we don’t get the chance to have them displayed so prominently.

Allen and his supporters lament a party that slipped slowly to the left. Not that the party ever would become eponymous with the Democrats. What one perceives as a shift to the left can really be a shift to the center, where more and more voters find themselves due to the ugliness of the party purists on either end of the American political spectrum. Ronald Reagan would also probably be labeled as a squishy liberal by Allen et al’s standards, and might find it hard to fit into the Republican Party of today, which is slipping now to the right.

Allen is somewhat schizophrenic – lionizing conservative firebrand Barry Goldwater for his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1964 and then, in the same chapter, lambasting him for being a tool of the grassroots wave that took him through the nomination and to the election, but without the fire to do anything more than put his shoulder to the wheel after it was all over:

[Goldwater] was propelled into candidacy by the zeal of the grass-roots to capitalize on the great depth and exuberance and loyalty felt by his hard-core supporters all over the country. Instead of continuing the crusade Goldwater went back to his ham radio. The ’64 election was water over the dam – Goldwater over the dam.

No wonder Allen then fled to the firebrand race-baiter Wallace – here was a man who would follow through! Blinders fully on, of course. The desire to win – no matter the moral quality of the bedfellows – is what the right-wing seems to want, then and now. The ilk of Trump and Moore may have questionable morals and standards, but by golly they whistle the right tune!

Allen is consistent in his schizophrenia. In the chapter entitled “The Pachyderms Return,” he laments that Nixon avoided patronage of many who helped get him elected, and then concludes by castigating Nixon for appointing several long-time friends and aides to his cabinet. Patronage only works for Allen, it seems, if those getting the plum jobs are conservative Republicans.

And see, you get this on the left too. Nobody’s immune.

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A Weird Contrast in Books. Part I

The Associated Press and Labor: Being Seven Chapters from the Brass Check; A Study of American JournalismThe Associated Press and Labor: Being Seven Chapters from the Brass Check; A Study of American Journalism by Upton Sinclair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to, I’ve now read Upton Sinclair’s “The Brass Check,” his critique of the “concrete wall” of early 20th century journalism.

Sinclair might be pleased to know that with the passing of a century, American journalism has improved. Somewhat. Though he might find some situations the same, albeit with different characters.

(This is an interesting contrast to my other read this week, Gary Allen’s critique of Richard Nixon from the right-wing. Surely if Allen and Sinclair were to find themselves in the same room, some kind of matter/anti-matter explosion would occur.)

The journalism Sinclair describes reminds me of the “fake news” phenomena we witness today on the Internet. I have to wonder if it’s gullibility of the reader, the gall of the fake news producer, or a combination of blissful ignorance and “I don’t have time for this” that makes such fake news proliferate. Facebook (something I’m sure Sinclair would find appealing and appalling at the same time) is working on a fake news detector so we can see, sometime soon, whether we fell for or followed fake news on our feeds. The question is: will the detector be fake news itself?

I feel we’re in the same kind of quandary Sinclair found himself in when newspapers were sending and receiving fake cablegrams on his behalf in order to get the story, or writing pure fiction about him running a ranch for ne’er-do-well boys in Nevada while he was living in Bermuda. There’s such a proliferation of news and “news” thanks to the Internet, he might even find himself wishing for the halcyon days when the press was a “concrete wall” or symbolized by the metal bars of a prison cell. The mainstream press may have much higher ethical ideals (somewhat) than in his day, but in our day, who wants to listen to the mainstream press?

It’s interesting, too, that Slate would publish this work as a literary-critiquey message to the new owners of the LA Weekly, who apparently are Trump supporters (!) who have fired most of the paper’s writers and want free contributions from the unwashed masses. (Had they been liberal owners, I suspect Slate wouldn’t be reacting this way; rather they’d briefly lament the state of modern journalism and leave it at that.)

But it doesn’t matter. It got me to read Upton Sinclair, something I’ve been meaning to do since I found a copy of The Jungle at the thrift store who knows how long ago. (I’ve read plenty by Sinclair Lewis, whom I often confuse with Upton Sinclair, however.)

I suppose the bottom line is we still have a national press controlled by business interests, a national press that often fakes ethicality as long as some political line is toed (and again, both sides of the American spectrum do this) or if there’s an element of sensationalism about the story to be told. Not that we don’t have reporters and organizations with high ethical standards that are worth far more than the powder it would take to blow them up – it’s just that the elements Sinclair decried in journalism are pretty much intact in the broad spectrum of what we call news.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"The Meadows"

You remember the guy from “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” the one who went on about “The Pentaverate” and how he hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes?

I’m reading a book about Richard Nixon that was written by him. Or at least someone who thinks an awful lot like him.

I know there was a right-wing of the Republican Party that was convinced Richard Nixon wasn’t conservative enough. This guy apparently belongs to that wing – Gary Allen, author of Richard Nixon: The Man Behind the Mask”. Or something like that. Looking at the cover, it’s hard to tell what the title is.

Colonel Sanders hasn’t yet come into the picture, but I expect his arrival any minute.

Gary Allen doesn’t like liberals. He does NOT like journalists. He does not like the Council on Foreign Relations, nor the Rothschilds, JP Morgan, and many, many others (thus the SIMAAM reference). And surely, he does not like Richard Nixon, and I haven’t even gotten to the part of the book that discusses Watergate yet. As the book was published in 1971, however, I suspect Watergate is not covered extensively.

Most of the books I’ve read about Nixon or relating to Nixon – even the one by G. Gordon Liddy(!) were relatively historical (if we can put the self-serving of Liddy’s book aside). The Man Behind the Mask may be the first purely political book I’ve read about Nixon. And it’s weird. W. Cleon Skousen, so far, features prominently – not surprising, as the author was a member of the John Birch Society.
So, lots of weird little triggers. I may or may not finish reading it. It seems written for that specific kind of audience that wants MOAR EVIDENCE that Nixon is a “squishy liberal,” rather than a conservative. I’m sure the audience did a lot of nodding while reading, while the more critical observer might look at Allen’s equation of pragmatism=betrayal as a tad off-kilter. Give no quarter to the liberals is the core of this book, and as Nixon gave quarter, wharrgarbl Goldwater or something like that.

Kind of sounds familiar these days. What we might give for the stability(!) of a Nixon White House today.

Beauty, Clark

I’m not sure you could call it my first day as ward membership clerk, but it’s what I’ve got.

In typical “sandblasting a soup cracker” style, I got some training. I may or may not remember how to log in to the computer, and I sure hope I remember that other password because the ward clerk says there may not be a reset password option. Hoping I got it written down well enough I can read it. I should probably get a notebook or something.

One important thing to note: I’m *this* close to getting a key to the filing cabinet containing the candy bars. Oh, and also the records.

There’s apparently a training video I need to watch. Should have watched it last night, but we went to the Wesley Bell Choir at the Methodist church instead – one of our holiday traditions. They do a good concert. Also, the first blizzard of the year. We had to crawl through it to get to and from the church. And I was glad when we got home to think that my truck was (finally) tucked away in the garage, out of the elements. I had the garage cleaned weeks ago, but the truck, wouldn’t fit in until we got the tailgate fixed so we could close the garage door. That only happened Friday.

But back to clarking, as I’m going to call it.

Basically, I’m a stalker. I’m supposed to find out where people go and where they come from and where they’re supposed to end up. That’s about all I’ll say about it, as I’m dealing with a lot of personal information.

I may also want to read the church handbook, re: Clarks. I’m sure there’s revelatory stuff there.

And as long as this post is going to be somewhat biographical our journal-y in nature, I’ll add this:

The Nutcracker is halfway over – last performance is tonight. Another sign, along with the Wesley Bell Choir, that the Christmas season is sneaking up on us once again. Lexie did her (first, I think) solo in the show – as the ribbon candy dancer. I should probably have taken some pictures, but we will have a video of it coming shortly. Isaac also had a first in this round – I missed the leaping part, but he ended up holding a ballerina as part of the opening act – which they call the “Party Scene,” which takes up HALF of the entire show. It was fun to see, particularly as his face was, typically, pretty expressionless. But the more I watch this show, the more I understand why Tchaikovsky didn’t much like the music he did for it. (The music’s fine, but the story for the show is pretty dull. Girl dreams, hero saves her from the Rat King, and sweets dance for a very long time for their amusement.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Eyes On, Tentacles Ready

Item: Elon Musk announces plans to put a midnight cherry red Tesla Roadster in orbit around the planet Mars.

“I have news.”

Goom looked up from the display table. One tentacle continued to twiddle with the image of a supergiant red star on the screen, but the others stilled.

“Announce your news.”

Frop bubbled as the brain strained to remember the protocol of such announcements. Delivered correctly, they were automatically recorded by the station’s systems. Delivered incorrectly, they required much time and labor to correct.

“Inhabitants of exoplanet Suchoi-Sonambli-Kotol-Three have launched a vehicle. Apparent destination, S-S-K-Four.”

The system pinged as it recorded Frop’s report. Frop bubbled deeply.

Without looking at the screen, Goom snaked tentacles across the table, grasping at galaxies, then stars. A smear of light whirred past on the screen until the view slowed and settled on the image of an uremarkable star halfway up a galaxy’s spinning arm.

“S-S-K-Three,” Goom burbled as a tentacle poked the third planet from its star – a twinned planet; the larger a blue jewel, the smaller a grey, pockmarked disc.

“Longest outward launches: Two small radioisotopic-powered probes that entered the interstellar medium, still communicating – feebly – with home. Coming shortly after the first meat landing on the twin. Twin revisited five times. No permanent visitations,” Goom chirped from memory.

“S-S-K-Four visited by non-meat, both on the surface and in orbit,” Goom said, this time staring at characters zooming by on the display. “Varying successes. Some crashes.”

Goom tapped the screen, bringing S-S-K-Four and its two orbiting moonlets into close view.
“Nature of newest vehicle?”

“Insufficient data at this time, though deltas indicate this vehicle ranks among the heaviest ever launched from S-S-K-Four,” Frop said.

Goom’s tentacle twiddled the planet on the screen – a rusty planet pocked with extinct volcanoes and gouged with immense canyons. Smaller than S-S-K-Four, but reasonable for . . .

“We will watch this vehicle,” Goom said. “Make note.”

The system pinged and the display zoomed out to show both the rusted planet and the blue jewel, with an icon indicating the estimated location of the vehicle.

“Eyes on, Lieutenant Frop,” Goom said. “Tentacles ready.”

“Tentacles ready,” Frop echoed.

Frop slithered back to the home station, bubbling. Those passed turned an eye and bubbled in return as the system relayed the news to all watchers. Some watched the new vehicle for a time while others turned their eyes and tentacles back to their own watch stations, a bit jealous, perhaps, at Frop’s good fortune. Though launches and vehicles were many, launches capable of carrying meat were fewer.

Any launches of meat were noted and recorded and passed along to the higher authorities, but it was rare when news trickled the other way – often it was only in the popular media that those at the stations saw what came of their reports, if even the longest-lived of them were alive when the reports bore fruit.

“To launch meat requires a long view,” Frop recalled from lectures during years at the academy. “To launch meat, a species must see a purpose that takes them from their home planet, a purpose that sustains the departures, a purpose that builds destinations. When a species builds a destination that lasts generations, that species is noted among the great ones. It is essential – and feckless – to launch machines. But effectual when the launches of meat follow, and are sustained. This is what you will watch for. This is what you will report. Species leaving behind infancy and taking on the responsibility of maturity.”

Besides, the lectures intoned, sending meat and retrieving meat and giving meat a home shows the meat is moral and ready for the long view.

Frop watched the vehicle launched from S-S-K-Three, and made the requisite reports.

As expected, the further from home, the smaller the vehicle became. Though the planet was small, its gravity well was deep enough to make launching in stages the only way.

Those in Frop’s subgroup discussed the vehicle, and the meat’s choice to land on the twin, then seemingly abandon it.

“This is not the long view, not the long view,” said Thorp, leader of the subgroup.

“Yet not unprecedented,” chimed in another. “We’ve seen it many, many times.”

“It could be a longer view,” Frop said. “Skipping one in favor of the other. And why not – landing on a planet much closer in size to their own, with more resources nearby – the planet’s moons are made of metal! Natural for them to go where the resources are plentiful.”

“Could be, could be,” Thorp bubbled. Thorp liked to keep optimism among the watchers.

And Frop watched.

Then the vehicle blossomed and shed parts and the observations came back and again Frop stood before Goom, going over the report protocols.

“I have news.”

“Announce your news.”

“Report on the vehicle launched from S-S-K-Three.”

“How much meat?”

Frop’s tentacles drooped to the floor.




“Nature of the probe, then.”

Frop hummed. “Not a probe.”

Goom hummed, twiddled at the rusty planet on the screen.

“What has arrived at S-S-K-Four?”

“It appears to be a ground vehicle.”

“Set to descend?”

“No,” Frop hummed. “To orbit.”

“A mistake, then? There have been others.”

“Apparently not,” Frop said.

Both Frop and Goom hummed.

“There are many such ground vehicles on S-S-K-Three,” Frop said. “Of the nature that require, at times, oxygen to function. There is little oxygen at S-S-K-Four.”

“And none in orbit,” Goom said. He tapped the rusty planet and the vehicle orbiting it changed from a red, meaty color to a cold blue, matching that of the other failed vehicles in orbit or crashed on the planet.

“And the long view?”

“Unknown,” Frop said.

“Return to your station. Eyes on, Lieutanant Frop. And tentacles ready.”

Frop slithered and hummed back to the station, as those at the stations passed pretended to monitor their own planets.

Personal Essays and Family History

And now, my beloved bretheren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.

So writes the prophet Nephi in 2 Nephi 33, verse 13.

In this chapter he bears a powerful testimony of the value of the records he keeps. He expresses the hope that they would be preserved, and be found valuable to us in the latter days.

We, you and I, will never write scripture.

But I testify to you with the same assurance that Nephi testifies to us that what we write will speak to those who follow us as a “voice of one crying from the dust.” We may not speak to millions; we may speak only to those of our descendants who do family history and bother to dust off the crack open the paper and electronic files they find with our names on them. But we do speak.

I have many photos of my father, from those taken of him and his brother as boys at their Dutch village school, to a photo I have of him on my desk at work, where he poses next to his beloved 1948 Ford pickup.

But the things of his I value the most are the words he wrote. Some were written to me, in the form of letters and father’s blessings. Others were written to the family at large. But in his words I hear his voice and feel his love.

And he was not an educated man – his formal schooling stopped at the equivalent of the sixth grade, due to World War II. And English is not his native language.

But in his beautiful script, learned at that Dutch school, I can hear his hopes for his children, his love for his children. His love and hopes for me.

Don’t think of writing as something you do to pass a class – like this one.

Don’t think of writing as something you’ll do now, but never again.

Writing things down is how we communicate with those who come after us. And while we can communicate through photos and recordings and video, what we record in writing carries more of our voice, more of ourselves, more of our loves and cares and dreams, than any other medium.

So please write. Write for yourself, your children, your future children. Don’t write just for me or for any other instructor – because we won’t remember what you’ve written, to be honest. Your descendants, however, will.

Drown them in your writing, no matter how trivial it may seem. Someone down the line will enjoy reading the things you write. They’ll enjoy hearing your voice out of the dust, even if you’re around and not so dusty.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Moving Cheese -- Union Style

As I write this, I’m still in my normal work cubicle. Whether or not I’ll finish this after a successful move or not is questionable.

Because of my current work location, I have to cross union lines for this move. Both unions apparently have to be involved, or they would not be unions. Unions aren’t apparently built for efficiency.

Best yet, since I’m the one who has to cross the lines, it falls to me to negotiate the complexities. And guess how excited I am about that, given my general excitement about the move in the first place.
I do have one box packed. I should probably finish the other. But I’m not anxious to do so.

[Insert a couple hours of whargarbl]

It’s quieter here, I’ll give it that. I don’t have our Criticality Safety engineer shouting at me from halfway across the cubicle farm (he rarely shouts in anger; they’re happy shouts).

Getting moved was, well, okay. Not as complex as I thought – but I did have to go back to my old office to pick up my phone. I thought about bringing it, but they kept saying “turnaround office in 637,” so I left it. But then I would have been phoneless here. And while that might have its advantages, I have let my cell phone number slip out so they’d find me eventually, like the Libyans.

It felt weird leaving. I’ve been at my current location for I’m thinking six years, and I’d gotten used to the people around me and they’d gotten used to me. I did have a few goodbyes with people, though I’ll still work with them. It is different, though, when you can walk to their cubicle and ask a question, rather than have to send an email or pick up the phone because of the distance.

I’ll also have to figure out when it’s time to leave so I don’t miss my bus. And whether or not I want to catch the buses on this side, which I understand are free but require me to be here early, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:15 or so AM. I’m not sure free is worth that, as the extra time I’d just have to eat; there’s no overtime for showing up on the bus, as it’s shift turnover time.

My new cubicle is smaller. Briefly, it had an undercabinet light that might help me deal with what I think is growing Seasonal Affective Disorder. If we get to put together a laundry list of things we’d like as we settle in, that’s what I’ll ask for.

Also, I’ve already seen a mouse in the building. Not that a mouse scares me off. My first home at RWMC had marmots in it.

I am NOT underneath an air conditioning vent. That’s good.

I cannot poke my head out of the cubicle and glance out a window to see what the weather is. That’s bad.

The move did inspire me to clean up all the folderol I had on my cubicle walls. That’s good.

I didn’t do any cleanup of the folderol until I got here. That’s bad.

I’m no longer area warden, since I left my old building. That’s good.

I have no idea who the area warden is here, where our assembly area is, where we go if we have to evacuate, etc. That’s bad.

I did manage to get two procedures done for ARP, so they can happily go back to work and not bother me until the next fire. That’s good.

I’m pretty sure my Frogurt toppings contain potassium benzoate. That’s bad.

Can I go home now?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Cheese Moving

Late last week I got an email at work asking for a list of things we wanted to take with us for our office move.

I dismissed it. I knew the writers at AMWTP were being moved to a different part of their building because of issues in their current location (noise, cold, stuff dripping on their desks). No one had talked to me about moving – I’m in a different building, serving a different group of workers.

Then today I got another email about “the move.”

So. I decided to make enquiries.

Apparently, I’m moving too.

It’s a real “who moved my cheese” moment (thus the video of Frank’s rat trap). While I’m still grappling with the newness of the idea (and I’m not yet sure I’m sold on it yet) it’s becoming more apparent that there’s not much I can do about it.

So the cheese will move.

It’ll make it more of a challenge for my customers to drop in on me. Which will probably mean more emails and phone calls, as I’m being moved about a twenty-minute walk (round trip) out of their way. I’m not sure what purpose the move serves other than getting all the writers together, because we can communicate via email and phone just as easily as anyone else.

The wheels will turn and I’ll find my cheese again. And probably have to get fitted for an additional pair of glasses.

Or this.