Sunday, October 21, 2018

Voted!

The decisions are made and the envelope is in the mailbox. Now it's the waiting. And hoping you all don't forget to take your turn. Turnout is vital this time. There has never been a more important election, at least in my lifetime. Possibly in the US's lifetime.

While I won't say whom I voted for, I'll share a little of my process. This year is one of those where it's straight party line, all the way. Those of you who know me, or even those who just regularly read this, can figure out which party that is. Back when I first started voting, there were a lot of ballots where that wasn't the case. A few from this party, several from the next, some independents.... Party wasn't the priority, not like today.

When that's not the guiding force, I have several other ways of choosing who's getting my vote. Perhaps there's a particular issue, especially in the minor local elections, where I look for matching values. That information is not always available. Heck, when I first ran for the city council, I had no real idea what the questions were, nevermind the answers. I'm amazed I got elected.

I don't decide by the barrage of ads, though I'm getting more informed on what the dog whistles are. Mostly, though, the DVR allows us to skip them. Our senate race must be costing an astronomical amount. Both candidates run opposing ads back-to-back in every commercial break on virtually every channel, even obscure networks. It's gotten so I can spot a frame in an ad as I flash through them all and know who the candidate is, despite not watching them. The brain must somehow piece them together anyway. Or maybe the thumb just gets so worn out pushing "skip forward" on the remote that I'm no longer as fast as I think I am. When those pictures no longer show, I know we're back into real programming. Gotta wonder who thinks those are still actually influencing anybody after this inundation. Other than refusing to watch any programming in live time.

I pay attention when one of those independent fact checkers offers information on somebody's position, particularly when candidates are shown to be - yes, I'll say it - liars. In nonpartisan races, all other things being equal, I'm likely to vote for a female candidate if one is running. We need more women's points of view. More need to be encouraged to run. If none get votes, why should any try?

Judges have always been tricky for me. I don't know any. Once I asked an attorney friend which ones on the ballot might be good or not. He approved of all incumbents. I'm not sure if that was helpful. Since I'm unaccustomed to any running opposed, it probably didn't matter. Besides, any judge with enough power to make a real difference is likely appointed by a high ranking politician. I don't get a direct say.

Arizona likes propositions on its ballots. Fortunately, the state also sends out pretty good information booklets covering the text of them, the consequences if they pass or don't, and a variety of opinion pieces per each one from both the proponents and opponents. It's good that we are retired, because that's a lot of reading to wade through. One was so detailed and lengthy that I was still confused as to what it was actually about. I called a friend who's politically savvy, and she spelled it out in a few words. It proposes to take funds from the already meager public schools budget to pay for vouchers to send students to private schools. I instantly knew what my vote was.

From those experiences and others, I have come to value networking to get facts and opinions on my ballot choices. Discussing issues in relation to my choices, making lists of who I do or don't want to choose, all prove helpful. As long, that is, as I consider the source. If I know the source holds opposing views to mine, I'll return the favor with an opposing vote to their choices. 

One thing I really appreciate about Arizona elections is how easy it is to have your ballot mailed to you. There's even a Permanent Early Voter status where you always get your ballot mailed out. No standing in long lines, which can be hours long here. And there's time (weeks) to ask questions and research people and propositions you know nothing about, instead of making split decisions during your minute and a half in the voting booth. It helps me make better choices.

I feel good about something else I've done in this election. After listening to the stories of voter suppression in many states, I've found a way to help in the fight for the right to vote. In particular, there's the situation in North Dakota where the rules have been changed since the primary as to what makes a legitimate voter ID. Having a P.O. box address disqualifies you.

Perhaps you already understand this issue, but if you don't, I'll give you the short tour. This is designed to drastically cut turnout in two ("blue") counties where the population is majority Native American. Historically, these reservations don't use street addresses.  The tribal members use PO boxes. The tribes say that is good enough, and historically it has been. Now, there is a very short window of time to 1: invent street addresses for all the members, and 2: produce voter IDs for all the members. People are willing to help, and one organization which is fundraising for political issues has organized the effort to raise the estimated $100,000 needed to complete the task.

Tired of being irate at all the voter suppression stories from around the country and not being in a position to do anything to help, I took advantage of the opportunity to act. They have my contribution too.

Friday, October 19, 2018

FYI: I Didn't Choke

It started with a coupon. A local burger chain had a discount of some new menu items and Steve and I had talked about checking them out next time we wanted take-out burgers instead of our usual choice of Burger King since this sale matched BK's prices. Yesterday, about 1:30 PM, we did.

You note I didn't mention the chain's name. And the burgers were fine enough, at the discounted price. Neither of those things is what this post is about. I'm tempted to think what happened is political, but assholes have been assholes forever, and today's political climate fighting against civility isn't necessarily the driving force behind this.

To my surprise, having thought that 1:30 was late enough to avoid the worst of the lunch crowd, the place was packed. The drive through was slow, and I had to wait behind three other vehicles just to turn in to its lane. Customers come at that lane from 2 different directions, and I waited with my blinker on to signal my intentions. Yes, traffic was blocked, but the two cars behind me on our side waited patiently. It was finally my turn to turn into the lane, just as soon as the tail-end car in it  pulled forward a little more.

There was half a car length available, when another car came from the other direction. Rather than driving through to park next to the building, as that lane was unobstructed, it stopped, then moved just a bit as if it were going to cut in next. I was hungry, and had been patiently waiting for a while, but at that point, I wasn't having any of it. I simply pulled across in front of the other car and halfway into the drive through lane. I do admit I was sticking out a bit into the other lane, but for about ten seconds only before the way forward cleared.

Meanwhile, the driver of the other car started honking. With both our cars having their windows down, we could clearly hear loud, ugly swearing from the other vehicle. I just ignored them, but Steve had a clear view of the full flock of birds they were flipping our way, and offered one back.

Mind you, this only took about ten seconds. Traffic moved, their way was cleared, life went on.

You'd think this was the end of the story, right?

They chose to pull past at this point, despite their earlier slight angling towards the drive through lane. The first big sign in the drive through blocked our views of each other. Silly me, I assumed it was over. But the man charged over from where they parked to right outside my window, yelling at full volume (I presume: it was louder than I can manage) and flipping more birds. I ignored him, but spent about 5 more seconds working to keep Steve from gesturing in kind.

The line moved a few feet more ahead, us with it. Now the woman appeared from behind the other side of the sign,  though not advancing further forward. Safety? Quick exit? Who knows? One decibel down from a full scream, she yelled to me, "I hope you choke on your sandwich!"

I just ignored her, heading forward again with the line. I had lots of thoughts about what might constitute a reply, but was in no hurry to escalate their activity. Would it have helped to reply how Christian this was of her? Among other thoughts, there were no indications of what her religious views might be. I thought back to my time of living in Georgia, and maybe offering a deep south response of, "Well bless your little pea-picking heart!"  In case any of you don't speak deep south, any version of "bless your heart" is not a blessing but an insult, indicating just how badly you think the other person need a blessing because they're totally unable to assist themselves and need divine assistance. Stupid, lazy, major character flaws, it's an all-purpose insult. It didn't seem likely to be of benefit to the situation either, so I stayed with just thinking it.

I did share with Steve my wonder at their stopping to take so much time venting at us, since presumably they were in a hurry to eat, explaining their anger over a short wait, and they were now much more delayed in placing their order.

And no, I didn't choke on my sandwich. Not one little bite of it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

So-o-o-o Crunched

It started with what is a fairly routine request in this household: "Will you call my phone?" One or the other of us will occasionally have left their cell phone in a non-obvious place. Since they are black, and easily hide, and since we frequently have mobility issues, when one can't be found, its ringing will point us at least to the right room for the search. Once there, we can hone in quickly on its location.

That's how it usually goes. Today when I called Steve's phone, it went straight to voicemail. Not helpful. A few questions produced ambiguous clues. Was it off while sitting on the charger? Unknown. Had it run out of battery and not been charged? Where was it last used and what had happened since then? All of these are the usual questions and of course the usual starting questions that already had led nowhere, but we're either optimistic or pessimistic enough to hope going through them now might produce results.

Nada.

He'd had one of his late nights with little sleep, so his lift chair was the obvious place to start the search together. Not between the cushion and arms or back, as far as we could reach. It often ends up there when Steve wears something without a belt. The very secure case for his phone is then substituted for pockets, which we've found on numerous occasions do not adequately secure a phone. Hey, women's pockets are even worse! I've often gotten up from sitting and the phone hasn't joined me.

After hunting from the top, we hunted from the bottom of his chair. Nothing on the floor, nothing showing hanging lower than we could reach from the top. It really helps to tilt the chair forward for a good inspection, since everything is black, shadowed, and otherwise unreachable. While it was thus tilted, we used the electric control to move the chair in case something might fall out.  Still nothing.

We set the chair back in its usable position for a round of head scratching. And because it had worked so well before, we again tilted the chair forward and searched under it a second time. The chair had moved relative to its location on the rug, and suddenly there was a black cell-phone shape on the rug.

Ahah!

Uhhh, not so fast with the celebration, folks. It turned out to be just the plastic backing of the phone. At least we now knew where to concentrate our hunt. Still seeing nothing, however, despite poking and prodding in hopes of moving the rest of the phone into a visible position, we decided a rest was in order. The chair was set up again, and Steve, now both frustrated and worn out, stretched it back into recliner position. As it moved, I listened for any odd sounds that might indicate it dropping the phone from its hiding spot.

What I heard instead was the crackling of breaking glass. It repeated as the chair rose to sitting position.

We'd already come to expect it was broken when we'd found the phone's back. It wasn't just that it had been removed from the phone, but its condition as well. Now I still make a point of bragging that my cheap little flip phone had gotten crunched in that chair, with dents to show for it, but still worked perfectly. I tried to cheer Steve up with that possibility for his phone. Neither of us actually believed it in this case. But Steve had hopes we could retrieve the phone in good enough condition that he could remove the SIM card, place it in the spare phone in his room, and again have a working phone with his data in it.

When we were ready to work some more, over we tilted it and continued looking and feeling around the bottom/side of the chair. It's possible that in crunching the front of the phone, it had also been shifted slightly. Steve found it almost immediately. Unfortunately it had become wedged between two steel bars which normally have no distance between them. They were therefore gripping this thing so tightly we couldn't budge it.

I went for a pliers. Woefully inadequate. Steve fetched a hammer and flat blade screwdriver. A little pounding made for about 1/16inch of motion. We had to try to push it upwards in terms of the chair's usual position, both because it had fallen down into that spot, and below that those two bars was the bolt which held them together. About 8 whacks finally produced movement, and another 5 minutes of work finally freed the (remains of) the phone.

Whatever glass they use to make those screens, as much abuse as this one had endured, no splinters came loose. Our fingers were safe. So, once Steve worked on his phone, was its SIM card intact. The rest was trashed, and the spare phone placed on the charger for the first time in nearly a year. While waiting for it to show signs of life, there was much cleanup to do.

It was a good thing that we hadn't decided to sit around first. I saw a funny looking black thing on the floor, hiding in the area right where the chair leg reached the floor. Picking it up, I held a plastic coated thin rectangle, once flat but now both highly bent and of uneven thickness. My suspicion was verified by the words "lithium battery" among a host of other small white letters. Since I was already holding it, I could feel there were no hot spots. Still, enough of them have made the news that I immediately took it outside and dropped it in the garbage can, both metal and underground. If something had to burn, it wouldn't be the house.

Latest status is the spare phone is charged, the SIM card in place, and the screen informs Steve he has to call his phone company tomorrow to switch his service over to it.

Not the worst outcome.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why I Really Left The Republican Party #MeToo

Count me too. Count me among those who have buried memories surfacing now among the bombardment of news and debate surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination. A few days ago I found it intellectually possible for that kind of memory to be recalled years later. I thought it possible to have gaps in those memories without negating their veracity. It was what I would label an intellectual exercise, somewhere along the lines of open-mindedness. Them. Not me.

Then Ford made one comment. Memory returned.

It's in bits and pieces. Some are missing. Date? I can narrow  it down to two years, those being while I attended Hamline University. Event? A political convention, aimed at Young Republicans.  Location? Some local high class motel, a place where individual topics and networking happened in scattered rooms. The people? Not sure I ever knew. I sure don't now, 60 years later. Except for a passing desire to kick a few sets of nuts, I don't care.

I grew up Republican. It was Ike's party, and our family was proud of my dad's service in WWII, in the European theater, under his leadership. Back then, this was all we needed to know. We were loyal Republicans. It was all one.

I'd never been politically active. As voting age hadn't changed yet, until the uproar over Viet Nam pushed lowering it from 21 to 18 ("We can get drafted and killed but we can't vote!"), I still couldn't even vote. Whatever was going on, it was somebody else's problem. Going to a political convention wasn't on my radar. I was simply a student, doing student things, just getting away from home for longer than a week-long summer church camp for the first time. In today's terms, I wasn't yet woke.

When I got invited to the convention, my first reaction was to reject the idea. After all, what could I contribute? How did I qualify? I didn't even have the justification of being attracted to the young man pushing me to go. But after his insistence that my presence there was appropriate, I let myself finally be persuaded by his assurance that I could learn stuff and "It'll be fun."

Politically, my memories were of being bored, uninformed, watching a lot of glad-handing, and still feeling out of place. I wasn't one of these people, but just observing from some outer ring. Big social gatherings have never been my idea of a good time. My hopes of interesting policy discussions did not seem to be on anybody else's agenda, despite the alleged point of the whole event. So, not fun after all.

From my perspective, the one good point was the availability of snacks pretty much everywhere.  Those who know me will not be surprised.

There was also alcohol.

Having grown up in an essentially teetotaling family, I'd had perhaps a single sip of beer before leaving home. Mom used it in making batter for deep-frying fish and onion rings. There was always about an ounce left in the can, usually going to Daddy. I was allowed to try it once. I hadn't been impressed. Still aren't. Now away from home, I was discovering things never offered  by my parents. Things like new ideas, mushrooms not in a Campbells soup can, seafood, beef not cooked to death, meals that didn't include boiled potatoes for every supper. And alcohol.

Someone, somewhere had introduced me to the concept that there were other, better flavored varieties of the stuff. I was gingerly experimenting. Most of it was still crap, as far as I was concerned, but I was still optimistic enough to try a sip or two of this or that. Not liking the flavor, I can confidently assure you I wasn't drunk, or even barely to the point of tipsy. But I probably had a few swallows.

They were offered to my by a guy, of course. In one of those rooms -where else? - which had quickly cleared out except for the two of us after whatever excuse for an event had finished. I was still way too naive to figure out what might have meant to the guy. Just not on my radar. Did I mention I was naive?

Suddenly I was lying on the bed, my companion on top of me, doing something that years later I came to understand was dry humping. It had just barely started, leaving me no time to push the bastard off me, before he was interrupted by a couple of his cohorts reentering the room, taking in his activity in a glance, and laughingly congratulating him on his supposed "scoring".

He didn't say anything to disabuse them of their notions with voicing any facts, just basked in their praise. So far as I was concerned, nothing remotely close to sex had occurred, and I was offended by his letting them think it had. It was just rude. I left the room, and the convention, immediately. If this was what young Republicans were, I wasn't nor ever would be one of them. I can only presume they joined the hordes of males now running the party. (I interject: does this mean their party platform has a mattress on it?)

By now you may be wondering why this memory resurfaced as a result of listening to the Kavanaugh hearings. What exactly triggered it? My details aren't her details, after all.

It was hearing Dr. Ford describing the indelible memory of the boys laughing together while assualting her, having a good time at her expense.

I too heard that laughter.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The President's* Call

Oh, no,  not that!

OK, they clarified: Not that. Not exactly...

Steve's phone got the message. I was sitting right next to him at the time.

It appears to be what they claim it is. All those paranoid conspiracy theorists out there will likely put some other spin on it, particularly considering its association with this President*. Add to that the "warning" that you can't turn it off or in some  manner disable some part of your phone to keep your phone from receiving whatever gets sent. What an invitation to paranoia!

Of course, your phone's location can already be tracked. It is generally assumed that the phone's location is also the owner's location. So thanks to GPS, THEY already know where you are. It tends to be helpful when you place a 911 call. Think of it as a trade, safety for privacy.

Don't want to be seen? You can always put a little piece of opaque tape across that teeny lens that faces you to keep your face from appearing to somebody you chat with when just texting isn't enough, because who knows what secret agency is really turning that on to track you and spy on your actions. (Tape works on laptops too.)

Your phone can be cloned, tapped, or hacked, so all your information can already be out there for the plucking. Security cameras in stores can show who bought supposedly untraceable phones as well. So much for any secrecy.

Depending on which TV shows you watch, and how it affects their plot's needs, you see that they may or may not be able to forcibly turn your phone back on after you've turned it off. Which side do you believe?

If paranoia is your thing, whatever it's about, it's already being done through your phone if somebody really wants to do it to you. So if you think about it, the only thing upping the ante on this call is that it's referred to as the President's* call. It doesn't take paranoia to imagine the myriad of ways Cheetolini can misuse a national communication system. Look what he's done to Twitter. At least there you have to actively participate in the process to view his latest spewings.

Funny thing with yesterday's call is, I didn't get it. As I said at the beginning, I was sitting right next to Steve when he did, so it wasn't my location. Maybe it's my phone company. The news reports stated many of the people who were missed by the call had T-Mobile. That's who I have, and with various takeovers and mergers, who I've had for over 20 years now. It's served me well, and if it was a company failure, I don't find that a detraction.

Maybe it's my stubborn refusal to "update" away from my old flip phone, which has survived all kinds of use and abuse including getting scrunched in the mechanism of Steve's lift chair (ask to see the dents some time) and replace it with a "smart" phone.

But sh-h-h-h-h! Don't let it get around. Somebody might find out that it's actually effective in blocking those President's* calls and either fix something on their end or do something to force me to upgrade. I don't want a phone that is smarter than I am, butt-dials everybody, and won't fit in my pocket.

Not to mention the price!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Raising Stupidity To A "Fine" Art

I have an opinion about what is being claimed to have happened. You have an opinion as well. What we don't have, and aren't being allowed to have unless something swiftly and radically changes, is evidence.

Yes, of course I'm talking about the Kavanaugh hearing and the charges of the women coming forward to accuse him of sexual improprieties from years ago. Even the term "sexual improprieties" is prejudicial. It's all just a prank, is how it comes across. Boys will be idiots. No real harm done. It's not like it's being investigated as rape, violence, drugging, repeat offenses. Maybe it was just a harmless lifting of a skirt in passing, eh? A leer and a crude comment? (Let's discuss how "harmless" those are another time.)

There are things that tilt our opinions one way or another. Politics seem to be the top one. Beyond that, the number of accusers tilt the scales for some of us, though even the 60 accusers of Bill Cosby still haven't convinced some that he did anything wrong. Maybe Kavanaugh didn't write "rape party" in his school calendar, so that means nothing ever happened, right, because, hey, wouldn't he have been honest in everything he wrote down?

Seriously, who really believes somebody would self-report the worst parts of their behavior in writing, and failure to do so is proof of anything other than a smidgin of self protection?  Well, maybe except for those idiots who post pics of themselves throwing up in the party punch bowl and otherwise being completely stupid where the whole world including current or prospective employers can review them. They might believe it. Even once they sober up.

Then there are the lists of folks who "attest" to Kavanaugh's good character. He was never obnoxious to me. He never raped me, or spiked my drink. Therefore he never did and doesn't/didn't make a practice of doing so. Try that one on in court: "Your Honor, here's a list of 65 people I never robbed, so I'm innocent." Jeffery Dahmer didn't eat everybody he came across, right? The 9/11 bombers didn't destroy the whole country, did they? And all the neighbors scratch their heads and avow their local mass murderer was such a nice, polite, quiet person.

He says, she says. Whom do you believe? How about looking where the evidence leads? Oh wait, what evidence? Rather than follow the usual procedure in cases like these, bringing the FBI in to finish their background investigation in light of new information/allegations, and reporting back with their findings, something which typically takes a very few days and could be done by now, they've actually been forbidden to investigate and make a report.

Although I'm personally highly sceptical, I doubt their report would exonerate Kavanaugh.  However, there is a slight chance it would. Absent such a report, should Kavanaugh be placed on the Supreme Court by Mitch McConnnel's runaway train, there would always be an asterisk next to his name. Any time he would be the 5th and deciding vote on any case before the court, that case would be suspect, that decision argued over. Unsettled law.

Is that what we want to do to our country?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Inconsiderate, Incompetent Buffoon

That's the nice way I'd put it. This time I'm not even speaking of Trump*. But it just goes to show there isn't just one of those in the government. This time, however, it's local.

Understand that I know to expect our property tax bill down here to have to be paid in October and March. So far the amount hasn't been a major problem, since I budget ahead for it. It's how they send it out that I find egregious. It arrived in the mail today. That's September 26th.

It's payable October 1st.

If you're calendar impaired, since the mail arrives late in the afternoon, that gives us four days in which to pay it. It would be five, but one of those is a Sunday. And just in case some homeowner hadn't planned ahead for the proper amount, since this is our first notice of the exact amount, you might also notice than not one of those four days is one where any kind of paycheck is expected. As retirees, we rely on the calendar of Social Security, which for neither of us falls within that deadline.

I called the state treasurer's office to offer a piece of my mind, having a few left to share. I was informed that the state guarantees that all property tax bills will be posted by the 26th. So some folks will have to wait a couple more days for the post office to deliver their bills, allowing them even a smaller window of reaction time. I should consider myself lucky?

I like to pay those important bills on time. These days, I like to pay all of them on time, and do my best to maintain a balance accordingly, as well as regularly check my finances online, going in both directions. Having the funds will not be an issue for me.

Not everybody is so fortunate as to be able to plan ahead enough to cope with a four day billing period. Granted, there is a small grace period before interest and penalties kick in, small enough it seems like a guaranteed moneymaker for the state. That's likely to fall even more unfairly on the less than wealthy.

Oh, the ongoing joys of having the Republicons run the government.

Inconsiderate.

Incompetent.

Buffoons, or worse.