Monday, May 02, 2016

George Takei is absolutely right




Well said. If we don't stand together, no progress will, or even can, be made.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Okay, maybe this is piling on. So be it.


Look, I'm not a big fan of making fun of people in a mean way. But when the target is such a hate-filled, hypocritical, terrible douchebag, I'll make an exception.





This guy sat in an office down the hall from me for nearly two years and I have no memory of him. I guess that's a very good thing.

(For more proof of Cruz' calculated douchery, check out this article detailing an email from Cruz to supporters, whining about how hard it is to run for President of the United States, and see Sen. Elizabeth Warren's epic Twitter response. It's a quick read and great.)

Vaccines work


The next time someone says that vaccines don't work, show them these. [click to embiggen]




The colors indicate the number of cases per 100,000 people in the United States. The dark line is where a vaccine was introduced.

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal. See more charts and details here.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Now innocents are getting hurt


When specifically asked his opinions on Ted Cruz, Boehner made a face, drawing laughter from the crowd.
“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former Speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”  Link


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Alabama - We Dare Defend our Rights . . . to own you!


Monday in Alabama was Confederate Memorial Day because apparently in the twenty-first century, celebrating long-dead traitors and racists from 150 years ago is a thing they like to do in the South. Of course, ever since Dylann Roof, inspired by Confederate lore and swag, walked into a church in Charleston and slaughtered nine black Americans, Confederate adoration has taken a bit of a hit in the polls. And that makes the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, sad.
“The next question that has to be asked is so what’s the next thing you are going to do,” he asked, “are you going to take a bulldozer to the monument and forget what people fought for to preserve a way of life that makes us special and unique?”
Not content with the point that owning people and committing treason against the United States is something unique and special to be celebrated, Merrill also touted the awesome character of his state.
“When we have things happen in our state, we don’t rely on the federal government to come take care of us,” he said. “We take care of ourselves. For example, after the tornadoes in 2011, or after the massive flooding we had. That’s who we are. That’s who these people were. I’m proud of that.”
That's an excellent point and something to be proud of. After all, Alabama ONLY gets 36.5% of its annual revenue from the federal government, putting it ninth out of fifty states for the percentage of federal help it gets. In fact, Alabama gets more than $3 back from the federal government for every dollar it spends in federal taxes. And let's not forget Alabama's special and unique history that's being celebrated, where they built their state through UNPAID SLAVE LABOR.

But in case you were wondering that all this would paint Merrill as a potentially racist idiot, don't worry. Why, he knows some black people!
“We’ve got two African Americans that work in the lobby area of our office here,” he said. “None of them are working here because they’re black, but because they’re highly-qualified, trained professionals. I judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

One of the awesome things about idiots is that they never know when to shut the hell up.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Housework


Sorry for the lack of recent posts. We have a deck on the back of our house and it's been years since it's been stained. So Carol and I have spent some evenings and the last couple of weekends getting it ready to be stained. This included cleaning it and then sanding, which takes up a huge amount of time. Plus we've been delayed by rain.

Our original schedule was to have it stained this weekend. Then that changed to just finishing the sanding. Sadly, although we've made a lot of progress, some sanding remains. We'll have to stain it next weekend. We hope.

It will be really nice once it's done, hopefully in time for our family to visit in a couple of weeks for Rachel's graduation from college.

But next time, I'm paying someone to do it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Autopsy, I mean biopsy, results!


I received an email from my colonoscopy doctor with the results of the biopsy on the two polyps they removed. Here's what he said.
Your biopsies showed that you had 2 different types of polyps. One was a tubular adenoma. ​ ​An adenoma is a benign polyp, but has potential to become cancerous over time. ​ ​Fortunately, your polyp was found and removed at an early stage. ​ ​Because you could form more of those type of polyps in the future, another routine colonoscopy is recommended in 5 years.
​ ​
The other polyp was completely benign type (call hyperplastic polyp). That type never grows into colon cancer, and can therefore be essentially ignored.
​So I have to get another colonoscopy in five years rather than ten. Not the end of the world, but I was really hoping for ten.

The results really show the value of getting this procedure. If I hadn't gotten it done, I'd have a potentially cancerous polyp in my colon today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Procedure Update - Final


That was fun.

No, seriously, it was fine. The 5AM dose of Draino did its job, so I was ready for the procedure this morning. I had to keep getting up from bed, but I actually did get some sleep.

When we arrived at the clinic at 10:10, there were quite a few people already waiting, so I had to wait about 45 minutes. Once back in the very busy patient area, I changed into the standard hospital gown in the bathroom, answered a bunch of medical questions to make sure I was ready, and was taken to my bed. Along the wall were at least ten occupied beds with curtains on each side for privacy, but nothing in the front. So most patients in bed were facing a host of nurses and other patients who were walking by. You were always completely covered in a blanket, so it wasn't too undignified. Really, though, it kind of felt like a medical assembly line, much moreso than I expected.

Fortunately, I was lead to the last bed in the far corner and so was out of the traffic lane. I was also next to the window; I clearly got the best bed in the place. The nurse came by and prepped me, inserting an IV into my wrist (easily the worst part of the entire procedure and not too bad), and hooking me up to the machines to check my vitals. After a little while, the anesthetist came by and asked me more questions and explained what was going to happen.

She wheeled straightaway me into a procedure room and reconnected me to the monitors. My doctor was there as well as an assistant who introduced himself. After some banter (I'm good at patient/doctor banter), the anesthetist injected the sedative into the IV line and about a minute later my head started feeling fuzzy, which I noted to the doctor. I don't even remember falling asleep, it was that fast.

Some time later the anesthetist woke me up and gave me some juice. I felt a little groggy but fine. After a few minutes, I got dressed and sat down with the doctor. There were two small polyps which he removed and will be sent to biopsy. If they're benign, I'll return in ten years. If they're cancerous, I'll return in five years. I'll know in about two weeks. Carol was waiting to drive me home.

My meal of choice after not having eaten for 43 hours? Checkers meal #3, Champ Burger, no cheese, medium fries, and a medium banana shake. Mmmmm. I got home and slept for three hours.

Tomorrow it's back to work.

If you're 50 years old, get a colonoscopy. It's not a big deal and really important for heading off colon cancer. Modern medicine can do amazing things. It's stupid not to take advantage of it.


Procedure Update 3


It's 5:22AM.  I just took my second dose. I mixed it with water instead of ginger ale this time. Yeech. Should have stuck with ginger ale.

Last evening was fine. I watched TV and cleaned the bedroom while taking the occasional break. I never felt compelled to go (I had images of THAT scene from Dumb and Dumber running through my head (Google Dumb, Harry and toilet), but it never came to that). Really, it was much easier than I anticipated. I think eating less in the couple of days before helped.

Now I'm about to start my second bottle of water which is the last thing I can ingest before my procedure at 11AM.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Procedure Update 2


The laxative was a mix of sodium sulfate, potassium sulfate, and magnesium sulfate. Per my doctor's instructions, I diluted it with ginger ale. The result was just a little syrupy but didn't taste horrible. I drank the 16 ounces (6 medicine, 10 ginger ale) quickly and without problem. Now I have to drink 32 ounces of water over the next hour.

And I wait . . .


Procedure Update 1!


Okay, I realize this may be in the realm of "too much information".

I am about to start the "bowel prep" for my colonoscopy. That's where you take some industrial strength laxative and spend the next several hours cleaning out your, er, guts. That's not the worst of it. Even worse, I have to repeat the procedure six hours before the procedure, which is 5AM. Augh.

I'm sure this won't be too bad. I ate lightly all weekend and yesterday and haven't eaten at all since 7PM last night, 23 hours ago. I have drunk a ton of apple and grape juice.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Old Person Update


A couple of weeks ago was my paternal grandmother's 93rd birthday. She's my last grandparent still alive and lives in a nursing home in Indiana where she's pretty unhappy. There's not much going on there but watching television and the occasional visit from a relative, so she's bored and wants to get the whole thing over with. I don't blame her. It's tragic that most places in our squeamish society don't let people choose when to end their life.

Meanwhile, my 69 year old mother had knee-replacement surgery this week and is recovering well. She has had a lot of mobility problems and we're hoping this will resolve many of them.

And then there's me. I'm 51 years old and getting my first colonoscopy on Wednesday. I am starting with the dietary restrictions today, building up to a full fast on Tuesday to Wednesday while I take the medicine to flush out the system. Awesome. On the plus side, while fasting I can drink all the white grape juice I want. I like white grape juice.

Getting old sucks, but modern medicine makes it a lot more tolerable (in most cases).

A Star Wars Story


If you haven't seen the preview for Rogue One yet, you should.



I think this looks fantastic. It takes place just before Episode IV, A New Hope, (or the original Star Wars for those who are casual fans) so it seems retro and new at the same time. Plus, no Skywalkers. Bonus!

We just watched The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray and none of the problems I had with it have faded with time. But I am really excited about Rogue One.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Walking Dead have walked too far


The Walking Dead season finale is on tonight, with the survivors meeting their arch-nemesis, Negan, for the first time. After 6 seasons of our heroes encountering zombies, cannibal humans, and other violent survivors, I'm not really looking forward to it.

I've watched The Walking Dead since the beginning and have really enjoyed the depth to which the show has examined a zombie apocalypse. They do a great job of developing interesting characters and showing the dehumanizing effects that living in such a world would have. The characters have ups and downs in morale, meet new friends and often enemies, lose people constantly, and even sometimes manage to find stable homes for months at a time. But inevitably, some outside force (zombies, other humans) manages to drive them out onto the even more dangerous road. The show is intensely nihilistic, as there is no happily ever after possible for these characters. The show's creators and showrunners have said as much.

Last season, the heroes of the show arrived in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of DC. You wouldn't know it since they still film the series in Georgia and the setting looks nothing like any of the modern cities around DC. (In fact, pretending they're in Alexandria is kind of laughable at this point.) By now, the characters have had a home in a fenced in community for several months, although still in daily danger.

For the last several episodes, they've come into contact with small groups of other survivors who are led by a man named Negan. Their encounters with these groups have been uniformly deadly for Negan's people, up to an episode where the heroes of the show preemptively attacked a building filled with Negan's people. They went into the building at night and killed all of Negan's folk without a single casualty on their side. The show tried to make it very clear that the people they were murdering in their sleep were bad, evil people. Okay. But they killed them in their sleep.

In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent says of the Batman, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

The Walking Dead has reached that point. The good guys have become the villains.

I'm not sure I want to watch that any more.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trump spoke the truth


Everyone, even some Republicans, were shocked by Donald Trump's recent statements endorsing punishment for women who have abortions, if Republicans ever manage to get the procedure banned.
“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.
Typically, even the most ardent pro-lifers don't say that women should be punished if they have illegal abortions; they say that the doctors who perform abortions should be punished.

Two things.

One, all the Republicans getting verklempt over Trump's statements are really only outraged because he said out loud what their position really is. For political reasons, they know they can't say they want to throw women in jail. But that's the end result of their policies. Because banning abortion won't stop women from having abortions. Abortions happen in countries where abortion is really, really illegal with a conviction bringing hard and long jail time. Banning abortion just makes women have risky, unsafe abortions. So, if Republicans want to stop abortion totally, eventually they'll have to start throwing women in jail. In fact, some women in America have ALREADY been thrown in jail for terminating a pregnancy.
Multiple U.S. women -- with few options to get themselves to one of their state's dwindling legal clinics -- have been arrested for illegal abortions after they bought abortion-inducing medication online. And thanks to the growing number of laws aimed at protecting “fetal rights,” other women have been punished for doing activities that allegedly harmed their pregnancies. Americans have been charged with murder for allegedly seeking to harm their fetuses by attempting suicide, using illicit drugs, or even falling down the stairs.  Link
Second, the idea that women aren't already being punished is ludicrous. Laws making women travel hundreds of miles, spend time and money to stay overnight in a strange city, have a forced ultrasound, be forced to hear anti-abortion propaganda, and making women walk through a gauntlet of anti-abortion zealots, are all intended to punish (and thus discourage) women who are having an abortion. They are being deliberately punished for exercising a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

What Trump said was chilling and terrible politics. But what he said was absolutely the Republican position. He just wasn't supposed to say it out loud.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Batman v. Superman


Here are a few random thoughts on BvS which we saw Sunday night. Some spoilerish discussion below, although nothing that you haven't seen in trailers.

I enjoyed parts of it, hated parts of it and thought a lot of the film was a complete mess. To start with, angsty Superman is a huge bummer. Director Zach Snyder doesn't seem to understand the appeal of the big blue boy scout and so in both this and Man of Steel runs Superman through the emotional wringer. It doesn't work and Henry Cavill isn't charismatic enough to make you care about a character that Christopher Reeve and to a lesser extent Brandon Routh just nailed. Then add in the always agnsty, and now inexplicably murdery, Batman, and you've got a grim, joyless film.

I mean, the only way that Batman would actually want to fight Superman is if he's a complete idiot. The movie tries REALLY HARD to make the fight inevitable and Batman's motivations understandable. The movie fails. Batman is a complete idiot.

There are at least three long, surreal dream sequences in the movie which you know are a dream when they start, so you're just waiting for them to end so you can get back to the story. And, holy crap, I DO NOT EVER WANT TO SEE ANOTHER SCENE OF BRUCE WAYNE'S PARENTS BEING MURDERED. Geez, every fricking movie.

The key to the success of Marvel Studios superhero films is that even the ones that aren't that great (Thor 2, Iron Man 2, Age of Ultron) are still loads of FUN. The characters are alive, have interesting relations and ideas and exude charm and FUN. But DC's cinematic universe is dour and dark.

The one exception in this movie is a big one. One character was fantastic and despite only a few minutes of screen time, should serve as an example to DC what they need to in future films.

Wonder Woman.



Wonder Woman absolutely rocked. She seemed to be having a great time, wasn't riddled with self-doubt and self-loathing, and almost seemed like she flew in from another, better, movie. When she appears a few minutes before the image above, it's a great moment. I am really looking forward to her solo movie next year.

DC continues to not have their act together while Marvel knocks it out of the park on a regular basis. However, I am really looking forward to DC's Suicide Squad later this year because it looks like, oh what's the word? It's what every superhero movie should be. Oh yeah, FUN.

And it has one of the greatest superhero movie trailers of all time. Really.




Sunday, March 27, 2016

Low expectations - Superhero edition

We're sitting in the theatre waiting for the start of Batman v. Superman. I do not have high expectations because DC can't get their act together. 

I'll report on the other side. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What a team he's put together!


Relax, everyone. Relax.

Sure, Republican frontrunner and all but certain nominee may be a know-nothing, proto-fascist who encourages violence at his rallies, but he's got this foreign affairs thing DOWN. Take it from him.

I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. I know what I’m doing, and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have, you know, a good instinct for this stuff.  Link
See? He's got a good brain. You don't need actual knowledge, experience or social skills to be President. Just a good brain and a good instinct for foreign affairs. Trump is basically a one-man State Department all on his own. So stop worrying that he'll embarrass the United States and set us back fifty years, while possibly causing WWIII along the way. He's. Got. A. Good. Brain.

You can tell he's got a good brain because it keeps his hair so well nourished.



Friday, March 18, 2016

Old School Promos Rock


Gizmodo posted an article about Star Wars today and someone in the comments mentioned the Burger Chef Star Wars promotional posters from 1977. I had the entire collection (I may still have them somewhere) and they were frigging GLORIOUS.

I haven't seen or even thought about these posters in years. Thanks to the Internet, here they are.





Awesome.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

He built that - Words from a guy who wants to be President


The President of the United States is supposed to represent ALL Americans. Here's a recent ad demonstrating, in his own words, how one candidate views some Americans.



This devastating ad was created by the Clinton Campaign, a feminist group -- Holy crap, by a conservative PAC (!) to stop Trump from getting the Republican nomination. Good luck with that. I hope this ad runs all the way through November.

Here's the thing though. Trump will be the Republican nominee. There's no stopping him at this point. And all these conservatives - the former candidates, the moderates, the establishment Republicans, the NeverTrump people - will ALL fall in line and support Trump. That's what they do. And it's why it's absolutely necessary for every single American who doesn't want a President who would say those things to vote for the Democratic candidate.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

So then this happened . . .


Today, something mind-blowing, something absolutely unprecedented happened. DC's Metro, the second largest subway system in the United States by ridership, announced it was closing at midnight and not opening again until Thursday morning so they can run safety inspections on 600 electric cables throughout the system. There have been two recent incidents involving those cables, one fatal, so rather than tackle the problem piecemeal, Metro decided to go bold. To say the announcement was something of a shock is an understatement.

Tens of thousands of people (maybe more) won't be able to get to work in DC tomorrow, including me. The Office of Personnel Management has graciously allowed us to USE OUR OWN FRICKIN' LEAVE as a punishment for not being physically able to get into work.

Metro is a good system. It was underbuilt from the start and badly planned for the unexpectedly large number of people it carries every day. Plus, it gets funding from Maryland, Virginia, DC and the federal government, none of whom want to spend money on it, so it's chronically underfunded as well, resulting in aging and failing infrastructure. I rely on it every workday and usually it works fine. But its problems won't be solved until a reliable source of funding is established by Congress.

So I'll be here tomorrow, teleworking as best I can. Some of my staff drive into the office so they'll hold down the fort. Work will get done, because that's what we do.

But still. Metro just closing completely. Mind blown.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trump for President


I want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee for President.

I want that because I still have faith that the American people won't elect a lying, misogynistic, racist, ignorant, fascist to the Presidency and will elect another Democrat. And I'm hopeful that a Trump nomination will result in Republicans losing many, many seats in Congress as moderate Republicans and conservative Independents either sit out or vote for Democrats. Retaking Congress is the only way things will ever progress in America.

Of course, I'm really concerned about what will happen to some Trump voters, also ignorant, racist and apparently violent, when their guy doesn't win.  I'm hopeful they'll calm the F*CK down and get with the program, but they never did during Obama's Presidency, so I have little hope they will under a Clinton or Sanders' Presidency. After all, there won't be a black man in the Oval Office, but it will be either a woman or a Jew. And the Trumpets may be driven by their inevitable shellacking to take even more radical actions.

The biggest surprise for me in the crap sandwich that is the Republican primary season is Trump. I had always thought of him as kind of an amiable, egotistical, blowhard. Kind of an asshole, but never someone who would encourage violence against minorities and those who disagree with him. (I didn't know it before, but there's actually a good deal of evidence that this behavior is typical for him.)

Honestly, now that Trump's invested in running for President, I think he doesn't care about what happens to people he opposes; he's decided to do anything to win. That's what's behind all this; a deep indifference to other people, so long as he gets what he wants.

I really hope my faith in Americans is justified. Because if not, we're screwed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Zootopia


We saw Disney's animated film, Zootopia, last night and I really enjoyed it. It started out as a typical "believe in yourself, you can do anything" movie and quite unexpectedly turned and became deeper
and more complex. The issues it deals with are topical and very important.



There's a lot to like in this movie. The characters are well drawn, interesting and motivated. The main character, Judy, a small-town bunny who wants to be a policeman in the big city, is the type of character I love; an empowered, ambitious, smart female, much like Rey in The Force Awakens. We've seen lots of animated movies featuring worlds created and populated by anthropomorphic animals, robots, fish, aliens, insects, and even monsters. I think the world of Zootopia is one of the most creative and well thought out I've ever seen.

The only thing that makes me a little uncomfortable is the underlying metaphor of racial tensions. I don't have any problem with the metaphor itself, but its execution in Zootopia is a bit troubling. I won't go into it, but this article articulates my discomfort very well. I'm not sure I totally agree with the author, but I'm not sure I disagree very much.

In any event, I'm looking forward to seeing Zootopia again.

What's Ipecac Reading Now?


At the moment, I'm back on my World War II kick, reading Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed by Michael K. Jones. Jones' work is a reinterpretation of the battle of Stalingrad based on interviews with survivors conducted after the fall of the Soviet Union and without all the communist propaganda that infected previous accounts. 

The idea that a defeated, outnumbered, demoralized Soviet army, retreating from the bigger, better equipped, triumphant, more professional German 6th army, would turn the tide of the war in a desperate stand at Stalingrad, has always seemed impossible. I'm finding the book fascinating and finally starting to understand what happened. It's still amazing, but at least the story is coming clear.

I guess now I'll have to watch Enemy at the Gates.



Before this, I read Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, the basis of two different classic movies, (1956 and 1978). I really enjoyed the story of a Doctor returning to his small town to find that alien pods have been taking over the townspeople, destroying the originals and creating exact duplicates in their place. It's a good story and well written, although the characters constantly do stupid things like not taking pictures or movies of any evidence and they keep destroying the physical evidence of alien pods, even when it falls into their laps. Still, it's easy to see why this story was made into multiple movies and created the "pod people" meme.

Afterwards, I watched the 1956 version of the movie starring Kevin McCarthy. They fix some of the glaring problems with the plot of the book and ramp up the paranoia. Given that the two leads are both divorced, I found the movie pretty daring for the 1950s. Not so daring was the studio-imposed "happy" ending. Lame. I'm looking forward to watching the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.