Tuesday, June 05, 2018

I Just Flew In...

...and boy are my arms tired...

...from punching American Airlines people in their fracking throats.

I was trying to get to Michigan for Debbie's mom's funeral. American had the best fare with reasonable times both going up and bringing both of us back to Florida. I book the flight no problem. I get to the airport no problem. I get through security no problem. We all board the plane no problem. The plane pushes back from the gate and problem. Some sensor somewhere in the bowels of the airplane was giving nonsense readings. So was the backup sensor. So there we sit, ten feet from the jetway, waiting for maintenance. Maintenance gets there and the first thing they do is shut off the AC inside the plane. This was a completely full flight, mind you, sitting in full sun in Florida with outside temps already edging up to 90. The pilot kept coming on the intercom every 15 minutes or so to assure us that it will be "just a few more minutes."

After about 45 minutes of everyone on the plane getting increasingly sweaty (and ripe), the pilot says he is going to tell the maintenance guys that they have to get the AC back on and to assure everyone that the gate people had verified that we would all be able to make our connections in Chicago. A few minutes later, the AC came on, then numerous minutes after that, we were given the all clear to take off.

Yet oddly, 10 minutes or so later, we were still sitting in the exact same spot where we had been for the last hour. Finally, the pilot comes back on to inform us that turning the AC on while repairs were going on had blown out the power to everything on the port side of the aircraft, including the fuel pumps.

"...and we kinda need those."

Yuk, yuk, yuk.

So more fews of minutes while we wait for the maintenance guys to get back and try to get things working. They fail and the pilot pulls the plug on the whole deal. So over two hours after we pushed back from the gate, we were rolled back up and "de-plane-ed". No idea when or if the plane would ever take off and by that time, that day's flights were already full. Finally, the gate agents are told to clear us out of the gate to make room for another flight, and off we all go out through security to the main American counter at which there was exactly one agent at the customer service station. For an entire plane-load of people. Well, OK, not exactly one agent; more like some fraction of an agent because she was doing double duty as some sort of concierge-to-the-really-really-important-passengers while also trying to work through a line of 100 or so people.

[Aside: There were about a half-dozen people on the plane who were on their second attempt to leave Tampa, as the early morning flight to Chicago the previous day had also been cancelled due to mechanical problems. In other words, I wasn't unlucky; this is a chronic issue.]

An hour or so later, I finally get my turn and I get booked on basically the same flight leaving the next morning. I asked where my checked bag was and found out that it was still sitting in the dead plane waiting for me to request it to be taken off. What?!?! Fine. Get my bag, please. I get boarding passes for the next day and head down to baggage claim to wait for my bag to show up.

That process went something like this. Everyone sits and waits. Eventually, the alarms go off and the lights start flashing and the Friendly Male Voice (tm) comes on advising us to not ride on the luggage carousel and to be sure we have our own bags because many bags look alike and not to stick our tongues in light sockets or poke ourselves in the eye with a screwdriver or run with scissors. Finally, the little garage doors open, the belt begins moving and dozens of hopeful people rush up to the carousel.

And one bag comes out.

Then everything shuts down, only for the entire sequence to repeat again in 15 or 20 minutes. Four hours later, my bag is the one that pops out. I consider myself lucky; there are still a dozen or so people waiting for luggage.

Fortunately, I had decided to drive myself and pay for long-term parking rather than bum a ride from someone. I tell American to shove their hotel voucher deep and on a slant, grab the car and head for home. I hit the Z-hills Domino's for some grub, then eat while making phone calls to let everyone know what was going on.

My flight the next morning leaves at 7am, so I'm supposed to be at the airport at 5am which means leaving here at 4am and getting up at 3:30am. By the time I'm done eating and talking on the phone, it is after 10pm, so I don't even bother with going to bed. I just set an alarm and doze on the recliner.

The next day, getting to Chicago is uneventful. I find my gate, verify my departure time, go grab a (very pricey) bite to eat and wait. The screen at the gate has a count-down clock showing how long until boarding starts. When it has about 15 minutes left, it suddenly jumps back up to 35 minutes.

Crap.

The gate agent grabs the mic and says, "Pftz jpwmzkin fjwnn wkjfhi alakj kj wjpoieajghahf. Klajr fjoinfj klahauoiehjht jlkuotuiwuier jijithe hteh. Thoiuewr oiu."

We find out later that we were delayed because our crew got held up on their previous flight when the door on their inbound plane started to fall off mid-flight. But it was all good; no one got sucked out of the plane like last time(s), and we finally got in the air and made it to Flint in time for me to make it to the viewing and Rosary for Debbie's mom. We got through the funeral, took care of most of the thank-you's, divided up who was going to follow up on what, said our good-byes to everyone and started for home.

Well, we tried to start for home. Due to a big storm making a mess of things in Chicago, our flight couldn't get cleared for take-off. At least this time, we were immediately "de-plane-ed". We had a fairly tight connection in Chicago, but it was also delayed, so we were hopeful we would make it. To make sure we would get home, we had the gate agent grab us seats on the later flight. After less than an hour, we were herded back on the plane and took off. We made it to Chicago in good time and started taxiing up to the gate.

And taxiing. And taxiing. And taxiing. And taxiing. Finally the pilot came on and apologized; we had landed in Indiana and would be driving the rest of the way to Chicago O'Hare.

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

After driving for longer than we had just flown, we were sent off to some sort of penalty box for showing up too fast, where we sat for another 20 minutes or so. Finally we get to the gate, grab our stuff and head for our connecting flight.

Now somewhere along the way, Debbie had tweaked her knee pretty good, so she was moving kinda slow. And naturally, because we came in on a baby jet and were leaving on a 737, we had a little less than five miles to walk through O'Hare to get to our connecting gate. We got there just in time to see our flight being pushed back.

OK. We're OK. We have seats on the next one that leaves in a couple hours. I go up to the gate agent to get boarding passes for the next flight. Before I can say anything, the woman gives me The Hand, and tells me she's too busy and that I need to go stand in line at the customer service desk.

Bitch.

So we go stand in line with a hundred other people at customer "service". After a half-hour or so, some pretentious asshole in a beard and turban announces that the customer service desk was closed and we would all have to go to the other desk in the next terminal.

At this point, I'm getting a little testy. I have a few choice words for Mr. Pretentious as well as a suggestion for where he can... um... store his turban. Oh yea? Go ahead. Call security. Kick me out of the airport. I'll walk to Tampa, and I'll probably get there faster.

Anyway.

We finally gimped to the other customer service desk which, of course, had twice the line as the first one. We spotted some customer service phones, but on closer inspection, they were all out of order. Because this is American. Above the non-functioning customer service phones, a screen was showing scenes of exotic places we could be going to if we weren't trapped at Chicago O'Hare. Mixed in with the idyllic scenes was a slide with a customer service phone number.

Bingo.

Debbie grabbed the cell and in about two minutes we had seats, the flight number and a gate. Off we went at top speed, which wasn't much. I recall being passed by a ninety-year-old woman with a walker. But we got there, Debbie grabbed a seat and I went to stand at the (empty, natch) desk at the gate. There was one person ahead of me who was obviously a newbie air traveler. She asked me why there wasn't anyone working the desk. I said, "Oh, someone will get here fifteen minute before we board. Someone may walk up before that, but they will just use the computer and pretend you don't exist." She looked at me like she was trying to figure out if I was pulling her leg or not. When there was around 25 minutes left on the countdown-to-boarding clock, a guy came up to the desk and started banging away on the computer. She started talking. He never looked up or gave any indication that she existed, then just walked away. The poor woman looked at me in complete amazement. I said, "That's customer service, American Airlines-style." Everyone in line behind us just chuckled. It really is astonishing what you can get used to....

In any case, the gate agent showed up precisely 15 minutes before boarding, we got seat assignments, boarded on-time and made it all the way to Tampa without anything falling off the plane. The one up-side of missing our connection was that our bag had made the connection and was waiting for us outside the American baggage service area. We had our luggage and were in our car heading home while everyone else on our flight were still waiting for the baggage carousel to start up.

So, yea. American Airlines. Never again. If my choices are American or riding a bicycle, look for me peddling in the bike lane.

And please understand; I'm not in any way blaming any of the "customer facing" employees. For the most part, they were as frustrated and clueless as the passengers, doing what they could for as many people as they could as fast as they could. Granted, a couple seem to take perverse pleasure in the suffering of others and even tried to add to it in whatever petty ways their bottom-of-the-totem-pole position afforded them. But they were a distinct minority.

No, this is a management problem. Maybe the flora and fauna growing in American's c-suites should be forced to fly in steerage with the deplorables several times a year, just to get a taste of what their cost-cutting looks like for their employees down in the trenches as well as their customers. The most poignent moment of the entire clusterfuck was waaaaaay back at the very beginning when at around the one-hour mark of sitting 10 feet from the gate, the pilot came on and apologized yet-again and assured everyone that he was doing everything in his power to get the plane off the ground because this was his last flight before getting some down time and seeing his wife and kids.

Yea. Life in these united States.

And I'm going to stop now before this becomes the Great American Novel.

P.S. Dear American; just in case this little diatribe comes to the attention of your Customer Care Department (or whatever you call the people from India you contract with to try to offer freebees to smooth ruffled feathers), don't waste my time calling. I don't care if you give me free airfare for life, I'm never flying American Airlines again. Thank you.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Marge Wiklanski/Boris, RIP



Debbie just called a little while ago. Her mom died peacefully May 12, 2018 around 11pm.

God Bless You, Mom.

You will live forever in our hearts.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Good Bye, Dozer


As Jon Katz says, you did what you came to do and it was time for you to go help someone else.

Love you always, buddy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I don't really mean that; things are pretty dry around here, but they are a whole lot less dry than they were 48 hours ago. We've had two days of everything from light sprinkles to thunder-lightning-horizontal-rain-OMG-it's-TEOTWAWKI! It looks like it is finally over, so maybe I'll get some clean-up done on my couple days off.

Speaking of a couple days off, on my last couple of couple of days off, we got this done:

Our Fortress of Solitude (with gaping hole)

 
Inside our Fortress of Solitude (with gaping hole)

Not sure what we are going to do about the gaping hole. No combination of standard blinds matched the odd size of our RV-plus-extension-plus-Florida-room-width porch (one reason it took us the better part of six years to make this simple improvement). I'd like to build something free-standing that would fill the gape (is that English?), but the company that makes the blinds doesn't sell the fabric in bulk. I have some shade fabric we bought like six years ago, but it really looks ugly next to the grey:

Ugh....

The company that we bought the brown stuff from now has grey fabric, but it's a lot darker than the blinds, so I'm not sure it would be much of an improvement. But for now, another project checked off the list; only 7,429 to go.

One of which is to get this site away from Google. I have a solid possibility. It costs money, but not very much (less than $50/year). It will likely be somewhat painful to move all the accumulated crap to something else, which is exactly why Google thinks they can get away with anything. At this point, I'm just ready to be done. I started this thing with a paid web host, then moved it to Blogger (before it was Borg'ed by Google) to save the pittance I was paying the host. One of those decisions that seemed to make sense at the time, but was probably not a great move in retrospect. TANSTAAFL. Now it's looking like I'll be taking this thing full circle back to a paid web host. The difference will be the physical location; my original host was in Alaska and the one I'm considering is in Iceland. So the latitude will be similar, but the longitude certainly will not be.

So now I have to figure out how to migrate everything and how much disk space that's going to take and how much monthly data gets burped up, etc. I'm sure Google will be very helpful....

Not much else going on. We still have no clue what we are doing about our parents, both of our jobs still suck dead bunnies, and all the news media can do is scream RussiaRussiaRussia!!! and BombAssadBombAssadBombAssad!!! (sigh) I can't even force myself to care enough to criticize all the stupid.

Other than to say this: If we continue in the direction that things seem to be heading, the US government will wish it never stopped hiding all those flag-draped coffins.

Well, the sun is out and it is just now getting up over 70 degrees, so I should go outside and wash some siding.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kill Moose and Squirrel!

[Well, there was a Youtube video of Boris and Natasha right here, but apparently Google has a problem with someone using Google to link to Google. This is why I am currently shopping for someplace else to have this blog.]

So now the evilly evillest of all evils, those Rascally Russians are poisoning aging double-agents who were pardoned and exiled from Russia in a spy swap nearly a decade ago. Like all the other blame-the-Russians stories, this one is really hard to swallow.

First, unless the UK has Abby Sciuto working for them, there is no way they had evidence pointing to Russia a day or two after the "poisoning". As any cop, detective, prosecutor, etc. can tell you, even in a high-profile case, you are talking weeks if not months. Only on TV can a complex chemical analysis be run in the time it takes to air two boner pill ads and a weather update. That goes double if the unknown substance is suspected of being a lethal Cold War-era nerve agent. Not to mention that there is a treaty that both Russia and Britain are signatories of that details how this exact situation is supposed to be handled. Rule number one is evidence must be turned over to an international body, which the Brits refuse to do. One suspects that the reason for doing so has a great deal to do them not having any.

Then let us consider the minor fact that Russia destroyed all its stockpiles of such chemical weapons which was verified by international observers. The formula for Novichok is public domain and could be made anywhere by anyone. So we are to believe that the Russian government went to the trouble of secretly synthesizing a known Soviet nerve agent that was sure to be tracked directly back to them, then smuggled it into the UK so they could poison a double-agent who knew nothing of value about Russia, mere days before the Russian presidential elections.

Riiiiiiiiight.

In terms of pure stupid, this ranks right up there with "Russians hacked the DNC!" and "Russians hacked voting machines that aren't even connected to the internet!"

And then we have the Mueller investigation and the completely off-the-rails idea that a few planted Facebook jpegs from a Russian troll farm gave the presidential election to Trump. I love how the windbags in the MSM are trying to play this thing both ways. One minute they are mocking Internet Research Agency for only getting around 19,000 hits on the Hilltendo video game while also claiming that the only reason Hillary lost was because of IRA ads. Sorry guys; you can't have it both ways. Either Jesus arm-wrestling Satan, or Muscle-Bound Bernie in a banana hammock were just so much internet flotsam, or they were part of one of the most successful psy ops in human history.

And if it is the latter, then we need to just pack it in now and give up, because we've already lost. Look; if our "democracy" is so fragile that it can be completely undone by a silly Flash-based video game, then what could it possibly matter who sits in the Oval Office (or Congress, or the Supreme Court, or any Governor's Mansion, or state legislature)? Just run up the white flag already, and pass the Drambuie; 'cause this sucker is goin' down.

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based world, on top of everything else we have to deal with, both of us are having serious work issues. We are considering lawyers. Yea. It's that bad. At this point, I could give a flying sack of hippo dung about my job. I'm already past my average length of stay with any given employer, but Debbie has a different attitude towards work. And it really may not matter given that how things are going with Debbie's mom and my parents, I'm not all that sure we're even going to be living here much longer.

Gotta go work on taxes.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Frack Yourself with a Rusty Walmart

Sorry; I've been catching up on my Lee Camp.

So this post has nothing to do with fracking. Or rusty Walmarts.

Nope. I figured I need to say something about school shootings.

First: those who are claiming that the terrified kids running out of the Stoneman Douglas High School are "crisis actors", you can go frack yourself with a rusty Walmart. I sincerely hope there really is a hell so you can slow-roast in it for all eternity.

Second: I am a life-member of the NRA. I will never hide that fact, nor will I ever apologize for it. You think the NRA is the evilest evil that ever eviled an evil? That's fine. I happen to think that is a spot-on description of Hillary Clinton, whom you likely worship as a goddess, but it really doesn't matter to me what you think. (And I'm 100% positive that the inverse is also true.) Where I begin to care is the point where you think that your political opinions are Holy Writ and mine are a heresy worthy of having me burned at the stake.

Does that mean that I agree with every word that has ever fallen from the lips of Wayne LaPierre? Absolutely not. I think he has said some monumentally stupid things in his time as the executive VP of the NRA. Just like every other human that has ever lived. If you agree with everything that another person or organization has ever said or done, then you are a corpse. It really is that simple. Hell, I don't even agree with things I've written in the past on this very blog.

But the fact remains that at crucial points over the last several decades, the NRA, sometimes alone, has stood athwart the mainstream political flow shouting, "Stop!" For that and for that alone, they will always have my support. Of course, the US political process often makes them seem lunatic when they are simply giving themselves negotiating room. For example, if we are talking tax rates, me saying the top tax rate should be 5% and you saying it should be 95% is viewed by the press and the public for what it is: an opening bid in a process that will end up somewhere that may not be perfect, but perfect will at least be somewhere within sight. Both initial positions are absurd, but no one questions the sanity of those proposing them. When the subject is, say, bump stocks, taking an absurd starting position can make you sound... well... absurd. Especially when the absurdity is amplified by a press corp mostly made up of those on the ban-everything-more-lethal-than-a-paring-knife end of the political spectrum.

All that to say that my leanings are strongly libertarian and that I tend to be allergic to the words "government ban", whether the object being banned is marijuana or 15-round magazines. Over the last several decades, there has been a tendency to remove human agency when a person commits some horrific act. It can't possibly be that someone's son or daughter is broken in some fundamental way. No, no!! It's the demon weed, or internet porn, or violent video games, or comic books. Or ugly guns.

Another thing that makes me break out in hives are "easy" answers. In this most recent instance, we have a clear case of undiagnosed, and thus untreated, mental illness. Easy answer: anyone with a mental illness is banned for life from ever owning any kind of firearm. Perfect, right?

Except.

Did you miss that "undiagnosed" part? Nothing in any of the half-assed mental-health-related proposals I've seen flying around the internet would have changed what happened on February 14 for the simple reason that a very broken human being slipped through the cracks. So the first way that such an idea fails is the problem of false negatives.

The flip-side is, of course, the problem of false positives. Anyone who has spent five minutes perusing the DSM (Everyone does this, right? Not just me, right? Hello? Anyone? damn...) knows that every single person at some point in their life meets the criteria of a mental illness of one sort or another. The problem is that, unlike biological diseases, there is no definitive test that can be run on a patient to reliably determine that they have, for example, clinical depression. I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I know this because of various blood test that were run, including something called a FISH test. No such test or tests exist for clinical depression. A few quotes from the above-linked Wikipedia entry (hey, it's on the internet, so it must be true...):

Despite caveats in the introduction to the DSM, it has long been argued that its system of classification makes unjustified categorical distinctions between disorders and uses arbitrary cut-offs between normal and abnormal.

...

It has also been alleged that the way the categories of the DSM are structured, as well as the substantial expansion of the number of categories, are representative of an increasing medicalization of human nature, which may be attributed to disease mongering by psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies, the power and influence of the latter having grown dramatically in recent decades.

...

[Psychiatrist Allen] Frances warned that if this DSM version is issued unamended by the APA, "it will medicalize normality and result in a glut of unnecessary and harmful drug prescription."

(Emphasis is mine.)

Does that really sound like something that can be used as a basis for banning someone from gun ownership? And if you think it is, then why not use it to also ban people from driving semi's? Do we really want the mentally ill piloting 80,000-pound vehicles through our cities? Or voting? I mean, obviously only a mental patient would vote for Trump, right?

Is this really a direction we want to head?

One problem with something like a school shooting is that because it is so horrific, it tends to be viewed in isolation. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who is to blame for this? It's hard to do because it involves kids, but we really need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Not just one barely-adult deliberately killing 17 school kids at a particular school, but all the school shootings (seven so far in 2018, not the commonly-reported 15). Then take another step (or two or three) back and look at all gun murders so far in 2018 (589, counting the latest in Orlando just a few hours ago). We can blame the number of guns or the types of guns all we want, but the bottom line is that there have always been large numbers of every kind of gun available in the US. Everyone I grew up with had guns in the house and we all knew where they were and how to use them. Yet we would never have dreamed of shooting someone with one. Well, there was this one kid, but he was widely recognized as being seriously broken and, last I knew, was permanently institutionalized. And even he never managed to kill anyone.

No, something has changed, and I don't think gun laws will help. If a person is serious about killing another person, they will. Humans are just too damn easy to kill; shoot, stab, bludgeon, strangle, punch. If we can't even stop people from killing each other in our prisons, then just what sort of laws do you think would make any difference "on the outside"? I know it's the worst sort of cliche to say that guns don't kill people, people kill people, but it's true, hackneyed or not.

Look, when I was in school, everyone with a small game license brought a shotgun to school. After soccer practice, several of us, including the soccer coach and several of the teachers, would head out to the field behind the school to see if we could bag a pheasant or rabbit for dinner. (This was during the Volcker recession; many families in my school subsisted mostly on home-grown veggies and wild game.) I hated some of those guys, a feeling they reciprocated, yet it would have never occurred to any of us to take a shot at each other. Not because we were soooo much more mature than high school kids these days or any of that crap. Thinking back on some of the ass-hattery we routinely got into, we were probably bigger dipshits than average. But shoot each other? That was so far out there the concept didn't exist. And this was in Flint, in the early 80's when we held the national championship for murders for several consecutive years until Washington DC finally beat us out for the title.

Sorry, I don't have answers, easy or otherwise, other than to say that something is causing a record number of broken people. We owe it to ourselves... we owe it to our kids, to get past the political posturing and easy answers (Ban AR-15's! Arm teachers! Metal detectors! Barb wire! Lock up [fill in the blank]!) and try to figure out why the US is the world leader in building psychopaths.

Sorry this went on so long, but this is kinda important.

[Update: you have to see Lee Camp's interview with a teacher from Stoneman Douglas High School]

Thursday, February 15, 2018

If a Tree Falls in a Forest...

...what are the odds that it will hit our car?

100%.




Luckily, no broken glass. In fact, other than some dirt and a few small scuff marks, no real damage to the car at all. However, what we park the car under didn't fare so well.


The park guys came back here with chains saws and got rid of the big stuff. I spent my days off cleaning up the rest.





 We're not sure what we're going to do now. I don't like the idea of our car sitting under old trees without some kind of protection from falling debris, but technically, that ain't part of our lot. The only reason we've been able to use it is because everything was already there when we bought into the park. The new management was rumored to be instituting a park-wide ban on all new free-standing structures, but as is usual, nothing official. There is also a rumor that all the dead-end roads like ours will have turn-around's installed so people don't have to back out. I need to find time to run over to the park next door and talk to the Corporate Head Cheese and get the real 411.

My mom had a second "event" back on Sunday, February 4th. Given our problems with 911 the first time around, I just stuffed her in the car and didn't even bother with it. This time seemed much worse. The aphasia was much worse and was combined with a lot of confusion. She asked me about halfway to the hospital if I was a friend of her son, Ric. She took much longer to come out of it as well. She's home, but still struggling with the aphasia, especially when she is tired or upset. She is also having a lot of trouble with numbers. Again, no word on if any of this is permanent, if these "events" will continue or if there is anything that can be done to prevent them. But I'm sure the hospital is being paid well by the US taxpayers for keeping her in there for several days so twenty different people could come in and ask her what her name is, where she is, her address, phone number, who my dad is, who the president is, etc.

Debbie's mom is now back to where she was a couple weeks after her initial surgery. She was doing well, trying to talk, recognizing people both in person and on the phone, etc. Then her surgery site became infected (MRSA, natch; she is in a hospital) and was transferred back up to Saginaw to take care of that. Everyone was so focused on the infection they "forgot" to pay attention to her lungs. After getting transferred back down to Pontiac, she stopped breathing. Ever since, she has been in a deep sleep and is not really responsive. Debbie will be heading back up in a couple weeks to give her brother and sister-in-law a break from bedside care.

[Update for 02/18/2018: Debbie's mom is awake, seems to recognize people both in person and on the phone.]

I got through a first-draft run of our taxes. We're still getting hit with the $1,000 nigger ta... er... Obamacare tax. At least that goes away next year for a little while. (All of Trump's tax cuts for working stiffs expire the year he leaves his presumptive second term. The tax cuts for his corporate buddies are permanent.) But thanks to the massive medical bills we had to pay last year, we're still getting at least something back. It will likely all go into car repairs; we had planned on replacing the Durango this year, but then we had to give all the money we had saved to the fracking doctors. If we are going to be driving the thing up to Michigan again this summer, I need to get it to the garage and get some major work done on it. That will likely eat our entire tax refund plus a bunch more. Yaaay!!!

2018. The Year of Suck.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Shit Houses, Shitholes, and Other Shit


Whatever term Trump did or did not use, his point stands. Some countries are shitholes. That doesn't mean that every single person living there is a shithole, but before allowing them into our country, we should take a much closer look at them than we would someone from a non-shithole country like Norway. Of course, most of the shitholes in the world were created by the US, like both of Trump's examples (El Salvador and Haiti). And soon it won't matter, because the same people going nuts over whatever it was that Trump did or did not say, are busy turning the US into yet-another shithole. Once we are as big a shithole as Somolia, what motivation would anyone have to come here anyway?

Problem solved.

In yet-another example of Florida as the Land of Stupid, a couple walk up to a hotel valet stand, demand the keys to a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider and drive off. Problem: it wasn't their Ferrari. When they were stopped by police, the guy claimed that a) he didn't steal anything because the valet gave him the keys, and anyway, he was planning on taking it back; and b) he didn't have a clue how all that cocaine got on the center console. The real owner is now suing the hotel for unspecified damages. I'm assuming the valet was fired, but I'm pretty sure that would have happened no matter what he did. He reported that the guy was acting like a douche, and nothing screams Ferrari-owner like being an insufferable douche. I mean, who else other than a complete douche would spend $300,000 on a frackin' car. If the valet had refused to give him the keys and it turns out that the guy was the owner and really had left his valet ticket in the car, what do you think would have happened to the valet? Exactly. A classic no-win situation.

It looks like Michigan is trying to catch up with Florida in the Land of Stupid competition. A guy gets arrested for murder, then asks about the status of his "other murder case" during his arraignment. Right before that question would have been a great time for Rodriques-Ortiz to shut up. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for society), he did not. Wasn't it Mark Twain (or maybe Lincoln; or maybe Proverbs) who said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt"?

It appears that the medical-industrial complex isn't done with us yet. Now it's my dad who is being sent off for a battery of tests. For some reason, the only place on planet earth these tests can be done is down in Tampa, where my father is not allowed to drive. The day of his appointment is normally one of my days off, so my parents thought they were all set. But alas, it is on the one Wednesday of the month that I work due to the monthly physical inventory being taken. So now we are scrambling to find transportation. What makes it more difficult that it ought to be is that they won't even give a time for the test; they'll call the night before and let us know when he is supposed to be there. What in bloody hell? Have I mentioned lately how much I hate doctors?

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate working?

Anyway, we have most of our tax forms, so I need to go make a first cut at our taxes.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ronald Kellaway, RIP

We got word that my Uncle Ron passed Sunday morning. The MRI had shown damage to the brain stem, so it was already decided that there would be no "heroic" measures taken. My mom isn't well enough to travel, so she won't be there for the funeral. She was instructed not to come by both her sister (Ron's wife) and her nephew (Ron's son), so it looks like we won't need to figure out how to get my parents up to Michigan.

And I'm becoming weary of typing those three letters in post titles.

2018? Still suckin'.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Robert Thompson, RIP

Bob has been seriously ill for quite some time. It seemed he was recently making some progress, but I read a post on his site by Barbara (his wife) that he died during the night on Saturday. Bob's blog is another link that has been on this site since day one. He will be sorely missed.

In other medical news: Debbie's mom seems to be doing better. She is more alert and has been responding to yes/no questions. They are supposed to be changing out her trach for something that will allow her to talk. She is moving her right arm and leg more as well.

My mom is home and stable. She seems to be fully recovered other than some slight aphasia. She will be talking along just fine, then the completely wrong word will come out or she will simply blank out on the name of something or someone. No one is saying whether this is a permanent thing or what, so I guess it's just wait and see.

So that's the good news.

We got word on Saturday that my Uncle Ron, who was already in the hospital for a triple by-pass, had a massive stroke and was completely non-responsive. Late yesterday, he was scheduled for an MRI to see if there was any reason to continue to treat him. No word yet on the outcome of that. His son had just died in November at 41 years of age. Nothing like piling it on.

We got word yesterday that my Uncle Jimmy's mom passed away. It was not unexpected, but that really doesn't mean much. No matter how "expected", death is never... well... expected.

So yea, 2018 ain't lookin' any brighter from here.

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone up in Michigan.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

So Far, 2018? You Suck.

Tuesday evening, I get a phone call from my mother. Something is wrong; can I come down. Every question is answered with, "I don't know." I get down there and she's in full-blown aphasia. I grab the phone, call 911 and give them the house address. After a brief hesitation, the guy says something about how we're in Crawford county and to hold while he transfers us. After some back-and-forth, I think to ask what county I'm speaking with. Antrim County. In Michigan. At that point I just tell them to forget it and shove everyone in the van and head to the ER.

Now, please do not interpret anything that follows as a criticism of Antrim County 911. They were not at fault and even went as far as somehow tracking us down and sending an ambulance to my parents' place all the way down here in Florida. At that point, we were already in the ER, but still some serious effort on their part.

No, what follows is squarely aimed at Verizon.

How the hell can it be that I can get a restaurant's daily specials sent to my phone because I happen to be driving by it, and yet Verizon with its incredible network and unlimited technology from the whole universe cannot locate a 911 call to less than a 1,000-mile radius? Shame on you, Verizon. No; I'm going much further than that. Fuck you, Verizon.

Fuck. You.

Deep.

And on a slant.

With sand in the Vaseline.

[Aside: A good collection of Talking Heads, FYI.]

So anyway, she did have a small stroke, probably caused by a blood clot. She was supposed to be released this morning, but of course, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills screwed up and she sat in a chair for nine hours waiting to get cut loose because some shit dick "forgot". And for this, the US taxpayers will be paying bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Every encounter I have with the medical industrial complex gives me a deeper understanding into why these united States has the absolutely worst health care in the first world while spending an order of magnitude more than any other country.

Meanwhile, in Michigan nothing has really changed with Debbie's mom. Some movement in hands and feet, but she is still unresponsive to verbal commands. They are working on getting her transferred to the hospital that one of Debbie's brothers works at so she will be close to somebody in the family. The hospital she is at now is a four-hour drive from the closest one of her kids. Debbie is staying another week to make sure everything is settled as it can be before she comes back down here.

And tomorrow, I get to go back to work for another week.

Woo.

Hoo.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

So It's 2018...

I'm not sure what happened to 2017, but I'm not really sad to see it gone. I can't think of much of anything we managed to accomplish in the last year other than enrich of bunch of doctors, PA's, labs and all the other flora and fauna of the Medical Industrial Complex. About the only good thing that happened is that we no longer have to pay thousands of dollars in penalties because we cannot afford health insurance. That has to be one of the most monumentally stupid... well... I've covered all that before. So I guess 2017 wasn't a total loss.

In keeping with the rest of the suck-fest called 2017, it ended with Debbie's mom having a brain aneurysm that burst. Debbie has been up in Michigan with her for the last week. At this point, everything that can be done has been done. Now it's just waiting to see if she wakes up, then it will be up to a year in various stages of recovery, with the definition of "recovery" being... um... "flexible" is probably the nicest word for it.

I didn't do my usual Christmas post because I just wasn't feeling all that Joyeux this Noel. I worked both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, and Christmas day was taken up with the park dinner and being with my parents. New Years wasn't any big deal either, between Debbie being in Michigan and me having to work both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Have I mentioned lately that working really sucks?

For the new year, I made another blog tweak. Up to now, the books in the current and past reading lists over there on the right were Amazon Affiliate links. In theory if someone were to click on one of them, then buy something from Amazon, I was supposed to get some fraction of a cent. Well, in the nine years I've been doing that, I've gotten about $4, which Amazon will not let me do anything with. I'm supposed to be able to use it towards stuff I buy on Amazon, but all I get is some error that something isn't set up and to click here. Which I do and then spend the next hour filling out all sorts of crap. Then the next time I go to use my four bucks, I get the same error message. This has been going on for years. I'm done. The lists will still be there, but that's all it will be: a plain-text list. Amazon can take its Affiliate crap, fold it 'till it's all points, then shove it. Deep. And on a slant.

What else? Oh, yeah. I checked our site stats today and it seems we are a big hit in Russia. In the last week, we've had more site traffic from Russia than from the US. If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you in on a secret: Uncle Vlad pays really well! I can see why Trump, being a savvy business dude, jumped in bed with the guy. I'd have linked to RT years ago if I had only known!

[Dear NSA, FBI, Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, et al.: English does not have "sarcasm" punctuation, which makes it difficult to be clear when one is writing sarcastically. I am. If I were truly in the employ of Putin, neither of us would be working our crappy jobs, nor would we be living in this dump.

Likewise, if Trump were in the employ of Putin, he wouldn't need his current crappy job as POTUS, nor would he live in the antiquated dump known as the White House.

Thank you.]

Everyone who knows me knows that I don't really see much point in the whole "smart" "phone" thing. (The scare quotes are because based on all the problems I see people having with them, neither  the phones nor the people using them seem all that smart. And I never see anyone use the things as a phone.) In fact, they probably annoy me in a way nothing else can. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I'm not the only one:

I attended the carol service of my niece’s nursery school. Upon each carved pew, the screens of the iPhones of proud parents, their heads respectfully bowed, displayed pages from Facebook and Twitter, and twinkled throughout the ancient religious ritual like the stars that led the wise men to the very cradle of Christ.

As the lights dimmed and the candles flared up for a beautiful choral arrangement of the Coventry Carol, the assembled infant singers could look up and see that many of the grownups in the room, their lowered faces lit beatifically from below by the Caravaggio glow of their iPhone screens, were not the slightest fucking bit interested in them or their stupid fucking song.

This is of course a valuable preparation for adult life, where dreams are crushed and hope and pride are trampled in the dirt. Nothing says “Christmas” like orchestrated mass indifference to the creative efforts of small children, I always think.

Which is pretty much what goes through my head anytime I see someone poking at a screen during a meeting or a church service or a wedding or dinner or a funeral. But what really floored me was this bit:

My own Christmas sounds a note of doom. So far, I have escaped ownership of a smartphone or a tablet. With a deserved sense of superiority, I have watched the rest of you degenerate into being no-attention-span zombie scum, fixated on trivial fruit-based games and the capture of invisible Japanese imps, entirely unaware of the geography of your own surroundings, info-pigs gobbling bites of fake news headfirst from shiny troughs 24 hours a day, while our decaying planet performs its last few million fatal, and yet still beautiful, rotations before you.

But now I must become one of you. Having abandoned paper letters, and now declaring even email obsolete, my nine-year-old daughter’s school has told me I need an iPhone to receive any administrative communication.

(Emphasis is mine.)

Wait.What? I'm really hoping that this guy is sending his kid off to some snooty British prep school. Please do not tell me regular schools are doing this crap! It's bad enough that corporate shit-dicks like Dollar General require that their minimum-wage, 15-hour-a-week employees have smartphones for things like obtaining a copy of their W-2 so they can file a tax return. But schools? You have got to be fracking kidding me!

Speaking of RT, I was reading about some hit piece that NPR ran on Lee Camp and his show on RT called Redacted Tonight. I had never heard of such a thing and would have likely died at a ripe old age blissfully unaware that any such person or show had ever existed. But if it was so anti-American and pro-Russian that the mighty NPR had to try to put an end to it, then I was definitely going to watch it.

And I did.

It's basically another faux-news program like The Daily Show that somehow manages to do a better job covering the news while making jokes about it than nearly all "serious" news sources can manage these days. One interesting thing is that I can't watch it on the RT website. The video just craps out about halfway through. But I can watch it no problem on YouTube. I can't prove it, but I'm betting that somewhere along the line, the RT site is being throttled. Nice.

Although Camp is not in Jon Stewart's league by any means, Redacted Tonight is funny and clever enough to spend 20 minutes or so once a week watching it. Camp's Christmas rant alone is worth the price of admission.

Lessee... what else? Oh, yeah. Because I'm on my own and, as everyone is aware, I'm such a raging party animal, I've been binge-watching the original X-Files series. Other than all the computers looking like TRS80's and cell phones the size of Volkswagen's, it holds up pretty well. Sure there are plot holes you could toss Donald Trump through and entire episodes that would be over in five minutes if either of the protagonists had the IQ of pond scum, but I can say that of every dramatic show on TV, past and present (and I'll even go way out on a limb and say, "and future").

Speaking of the future, it's that time of year to look back at what I expected for last year and what I expect for this year. I have to say that I'm really surprised that we made it all the way through 2017 without some sort of crash, bust, implosion, etc. I have to give credit to the Masters of the Universe at the Fed, ECB, BOJ, PBOC, etc. for keeping all the plates spinning for another twelve months. Not that the real economy is in any better shape now than a year ago. The opposite, in fact. But all the modern-day tulip bulb bubbles keep going up; stocks, bonds, real estate. And of course the grand-daddy of all bubbles, Bit-coin and all its crypto-clones. As anyone with memories that go back further than the Tuesday before last Friday knows, that just means the inevitable crash will be even bigger. Maybe 2018? Dunno. The delusions of the masses have outstripped my ability to comprehend. So still-more of the same in 2018 with a high probability of something serious that will give everyone a good, hard shot to the 'nads.

On a personal level, we are both still working. We are not homeless (in spite of the best efforts of the medical industrial complex) nor in prison, so in all a good year. We're still waiting for the Lotto people to give us a call, but no joy yet. I still haven't really recovered from all the medical crap, but I am determined to complete at least one project around this place over the next year. I may have to hire it done, but regardless, it will happen. I feel stupid having to hire things that I know I can do myself (and in fact have done for myself in the past), but I just don't have the energy yet. We'll see what happens.

Well, enough. The X-Files is calling my name....