January 19, 2017

A Field Guide to POTUSes

My latest theory on politics is that the least patrician and intellectual  person wins every presidential race in the modern era.

Reagan v Carter
The California cowboy had the reputation as a non-intellectual, an actor no less, and it played him in good stead against Carter's comparative intellectual mien and effete-ism.  

Reagan v Mondale
Mondale, with his soft patrician sweaters and "low energy" vibe, couldn't appeal to Joe Lunchbox, nor sometimes even to the faculty lounge lizard.  

Bush v Dukakis
True, George HW Bush was the ultimate patrician white male, but he came off as more corny than intellectual in his speech ("Not gonna do it!", "Read my lips!") and he was facing an opponent who looked the part of a patrician and whose picture is under the dictionary captioned: "Pointy-headed Massachusetts intellectual." 

Clinton v Bush
Clinton masked his policy wonk streak with an Arkansas background, down home speech, and the reddest of redneck families.  The ultimate non-patrician white male.  

Clinton v Dole
The bland Midwestern politician Dole looked like a Founding Father, and was, in fact, a contemporary of the Founding Fathers.  Way too much of the Senate parliamentarian/patrician. 

W. Bush v Gore
W. Bush was the anti-intellectual cowboy riding in to save the day from Gore, who was even whiter than Bush and heavily into non-blue collar fetishes like climate change and paying advisers on how to become more of an "alpha" male. That doesn't play in Ohio biker bars. 

W. Bush v Kerry
It's a little known fact that John Kerry played a philatelist in the film "How I Married Into Money".  He also got an honorable mention under the dictionary definition of "Pointy-headed Massachusetts intellectual". 

Obama v McCain
Obama, although a cerebral type, betrays none of that in his speeches, which tend to be "folksy" and littered with brainless slogans like "Hope and Change!" and "Yes We Can!".  McCain, while no intellectual, has enough of a patrician about him given his white hair, good manners, and family background.  

Obama v Romney
Romney is so stiff and W.A.S.P.-ish that the state of Massachusetts filed a formal complaint against his campaign, saying that Democrats have the patent on these guys (see Dukakis and Kerry). 

Trump v Clinton
Trump is the iconic nouveau riche guy whose idea of noblesse oblige is the obligation to hit back harder than he got hit.  He's also the least intellectual person you'd care to know.  Hillary combined nerdy-ness and lying, a particularly poor combo. 

January 13, 2017

More Innocent Days

Attached is something our company provided before 2011 – it was the source of endless mirth back in the day (much less funny now given the new reality of terrorism).

It’s hard to know where to begin, but I guess under the "can't hurt to ask!" category we have: “why did you place the bomb?” followed by “what is your name and address?”.

Also liked the thoroughness of potential background noises such that “crockery” was included.

If someone got a bomb threat, I'm not sure they'd have the presence of mind to say, "Please wait on the line sir while I find my bomb threat checklist."

January 12, 2017

U.S. Health Data Maps

Neat map tool here that shows the change between 1980 and 2014 in mortality rates due to various causes.

Some results:

--Cardiovascular disease worsened significantly for men/improved for women.

--Cirrhosis of liver increased bigly for women.

--Mental and substance abuse disorders better for women, worse for men, especially in KY-PA-OH axis,

--Change in self-harm and interpersonal violence markedly higher for women compared to men.

--Interesting how crossing a border seems to change mortality - Texas is doing so much better across the board than Oklahoma.  Perhaps due to better economy?

--In terms of overall life expectancy at birth, men pretty much show poorer change numbers, women better.  And California, go figure.  The politically dysfunctional state seems healthy in terms of life expectancy rate change. 


So in summary and to oversimplify:  Women are drinking more but in general not abusing substances resulting in death (KY/WV big exceptions).  Women are doing better mentally, men are doing worse, except with respect to deaths due to self-harm and interpersonal violence  

Women are becoming more like men with respect to drinking and violence, but less like men when it comes to general overall health and susceptibility to disease.  I wonder how much of it can be tied simply to men dropping out of the workforce.  Work seems to keep people healthier. 

January 09, 2017

Jeremiahs and Pariahs

Thanks very little, Meryl Streep, for picking on the potus-elect's disabilities (sensitivity to slights and easily distracted nature).  It doesn't help to pile negativity on our president elect in advance. By crying wolf, Streep only waters down when (not if) Trump oversteps.


Trying to ponder mysteries without any clue, like how Trump won. Or how it is that Appalachian folks on the dole and Native Americans on the dole both have sky high suicide rates / drug dependency and general misery. It certainly calls into question my lifelong conviction that work is the curse of the workin' class. My dream was to retire at 30 but surely to my detriment.

Less of a mystery is why Applachians stay in a community with so little opportunity: it comes down to sentiment, and that some things are more important than money:
But why did he stay? "I know there is very little opportunity here," Reed says. "But I wanted to come back because I need someone to remind me of what life is about. I know these people, prayed with them. They carried me when no else would. We value people, memories, and experiences."...I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the sentimental case for staying. At night, in my inn, I could hear the trains huffing... It was an oddly comforting sound.
So many mysteries, so little time. Today has been replete with them.

I also got briefly obsessed with the unsolved July murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, which Julian Assange has implied was a whistleblower. Similarly the disappearance of Eric Braverman, who was hired by Cheslea to clean up the Clinton Foundation and since Oct-Nov has not shown himself in public. I looked at the FB accounts of his mother and father, stepmother and stepfather.

In an Internet age, when answers to everything are at your fingertips, it's feels almost foreign that so many things are still unknowable.


I read a lot of Jeremiah last night for contrarian purposes. I'm perversely interested in some of the most unpopular books in the Bible like Jeremiah. No one quotes him approvingly except for the 2.5 passages in which he's happy and upbeat. It's like how I'm drawn to extremes such as the presidency of James Buchanan, arguably the worst president in US history (at least according to biography of Buchanan I'm reading titled "Worst President Ever").

At the very least I want to understand how it is the ancient Jews so favored these "doom and gloom" prophets such that they included them in their sacred scripture.

Still want to find the right book on Jeremiah. It's not enough to read the actual Scripture, I hunger for opinions on how it fits into the whole scheme of history and theology. I got a lot of wants. I want to sit down with the reliable, great biblical scholars and pepper them with questions. I think I want to see the "worst" the Bible has to offer, in terms of woe and doom. God is unchangeable, therefore I can't simply write off Jeremiah as being part of that benighted old testament. It's surely part of my project of reconciling judgement and mercy which is likely a hopeless cause. But there's a measure of facing your fear in this. For similar reasons I think D. Keith Mano faced the sexual lust dragon by writing novels involving lust. Whether his project was successful I don't know, but Mano seemed bent on destroying lust by visiting the "scene of the crime".  I think if I can learn to stop worrying and love the Jeremiah then I'll be a more holistic Christian. 

From Peter Kreeft:
Jeremiah himself was just the opposite of our stereotype of the doomsayer: someone stern, severe, and sour, tight of jaw, bitter of bile, and hard of heart. Jeremiah was a sensitive, gentle, kindhearted man; but God called him to deliver a harsh, hard message. God often calls us to necessities that we think our natural personalities are not fit for...
No Old Testament poetry is more heartfelt and feeling-full than Jeremiah’s, except some of the Psalms. A few of his expressions have become famous, such as, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (8:22) and his personification of death as a grim reaper (9:21–22).
If God allowed reincarnation, I think Jeremiah would be the prophet he would bring back today. For the besetting sin of our society too is not so much any one particular sin—lust and greed and sloth and luxuriousness are hardly our invention—but the loss of the consciousness of sin. Our ancestors may have been more cruel than we, but at least they repented.
Yet even the coming exile is mercy, for it (and it alone) would turn Judah’s heart to seek God again, to listen and repent. There is always hope because His love and mercy are as unchangeable as His justice and truth.
Scott Hahn:
The Chosen People had forsaken their covenant with God, throwing off the yoke of the Lord in moral obduracy (Jer 2:20), and so earned the more severe Babylonian yoke. Jeremiah repeatedly preached the direct link between moral decline and political degeneration with the aim of sparking a real moral reformation.
The thing about Jeremiah, like Jesus, he did not withhold themselves from judgment. Just as Jesus suffered for our sins and for our sake, so too did Jeremiah, who suffered much mental pain and anguish, was rejected and hated, and loathing doing what he was called to do:
In a Christlike manner, Jeremiah made his life a Messianic prophecy, enduring for his people the very sufferings that were predicted and proclaimed... Jeremiah saw himself as “a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer 11:19). Like Christ, he wept for his people and called upon them to turn aside at the last hour, only to receive from his people rejection and anger.
I pondered on John the Baptist wondered at the absurdity of his baptizing Jesus and how we can perhaps think of the absurdity of our bringing others to Jesus. But our God has this thing for using humans. As I read in Saving the Bible from Ourselves:
I will read straight through Esther and then consider how it is that God simply will not act alone in this drama. He is uncompromising in his determination that humans act like humans and play their parts. 

January 04, 2017

Dazes of Holly

This, that, and another thing:  Christmas Day began with 8am Mass at Sacred Heart with a new guy, a huge Grizzly Adams priest with full black beard. He sang part of Mass, which seemed appropriate given the organist/cantor couldn't sing due to a cold or something. Adams gave an inspiring homily and I thawed. "O Come All Ye Faithful" is so good when four full verses are sung, the last in triumphal Latin, as if we singers sudden acquire the gift of tongues, so foreign does that language sound to these post-Vatican II ears.


A few days after Christmas, we received quite a production number from grandsons 6-yr old Sam and 4-yr old Will. Music ("Blame") via Alexa, strobe lights from Sam via a flashlight, and dancing from Will. Hilarious and impressive and harrowing all at the same time (the latter because interest in acting and stagecraft is not exactly a great thing given Hollywierd).


A couple days ago I read this Pope Francis-like offering from a novel by Lydia Millet:
Watching her protect a ratty mouse, a dog-eared, broken-spined, finger-smeared picture book, it's almost possible to believe that everything in the world is precious, that each humble item that exists has a delicate and singular value. 
It's possible to believe that all matter should be treated tenderly.

My wife is working on cleaning up garage. She curiously judges her vacations by how productive it is while I judge a vacation day by how leisured it is.

Passed up the chance to buy an old restored farm house in the country.  The hard part was taking it on faith that even the glories of the interior would get stale, that tall ceilings and marvelous entry way would become commonplace (or cluttered beyond all recognition). I was set on making my wfie's country dream come true but ultimately recognized that it has to be a 2-way street. To go into a house buy hoping the inspection would fail, well, that speaks volumes in itself.

Peggy Noonan writes in her book of a dead fireman on 9/11, a Patrick Byrne, who shared her grandfather's name and my great-great-grandfather's. Even the middle initial, "D", matches in my case. I include this riveting information only because my uncle reads this page.

Sometimes I feel discouraged praying to saints given there's so little in it for them. I notice some people "bribe" saints by promising to spread their fame to others if their prayer is answered, but I don't know that many people. I can't offer a saint intellectual stimulation or a shared depth of spiritual things or a shared holiness. Friendship in a natural level presumes a shared enjoyment in each other - how does that work on a supernatural level?

But really the sheer essence of love is not getting anything for it.

I finally had enough time today to order a frame for Bill Luse's farm painting. Only after about 8 years or more.


It's sort of startling how little human nature has changed such that ancient Greek philosophers from 2500 years ago can write the following (from "The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living" by Kevin Vost):
To get carried away beyond true need is to walk over a cliff. Even with shoes, if you go beyond the measure of the needs of the foot, you will think you need gilded shoes and then shoes with purple embroidery. The sky is the limit once a thing moves beyond its true measure.
Females are called “ladies” or “mistresses” right after they turn fourteen. If they see they are valued as nothing but bedmates for men, they place all their focus on their appearance and place all their hopes on luring a man. We should rather take care to make clear to young women that they are valued not only for their attractiveness, but for appearing modest and showing self-respect in their dress and manner.
Sheep don’t show how well they have eaten by vomiting up their grass before their shepherd, but by digesting their food and producing wool and milk. So too for you, don’t regurgitate philosophical propositions to non-philosophers, but show them the actions such propositions lead to in one’s life, once they are digested.
Be on your guard when faced with apparent pleasures...call to mind two times, not only the time in which you’ll enjoy that pleasure, but the time afterwards when you’ll berate yourself for your action.
Speaking of regret afterwards, our conscience can seem to be a pain but John Henry Newman had a rather high view of it, via Fr. Robert Barron:
John Henry Newman refers to the conscience as “the aboriginal vicar of Christ in the soul,” in part because it mediates the presence of the God who knows and judges even the most intimate affairs of the heart..."For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). This in itself is a good thing, for it proves that the transgressor is in the presence of God.

Started the New Year with a Latin mass. It'd been a full two months since my last one, so it felt time.

In Bruce Springsteen's new memoir, he says the Church of his youth was mysterious, and now is welcoming. That pretty well describes the changeover from Latin to English in the mass as well. Springsteen said he believes in Jesus but "I no longer believe in his godly power. I believe deeply in his love." And I think for a lot of people that is the sense of it. To hold that Christ is both powerful (for example, to judge) and loving is the mission of the church and not an easy one in this age.

I think part of the mystique of the Latin mass is reassures one of God's power and majesty. The English mass assures one of God's accessibility, perhaps, at the cost of seeing his power. (That power, incidentally, includes the power to forgive sins.) The foreign language alone, the Latin, reminds me that I'm not God, that he symbolically speaks in a different tongue, that his thoughts are way above mine.


Ronald Knox on the mystery of free will, mentioning how our will can't simply be predicated by motives nor be attributed to mere brainless whim. If the latter, how can there be punishment or merit? If the former, if motives are tyrants that force us into doing what we do, then there is "no room left to put anything of ourselves into it.":
Neither of these two positions will do. Just as there is no explaining of the way in which subject and object interact upon one another in our knowledge, so there is no explaining of the way in which our will and the motives that inspire it interact upon one another when we choose between two courses of action. It is a mystery, and we must bow to it.

Funny novelistic line (Jonathon Lee's High Dive):
He struggled sometimes to shake the idea that his early life had been all about an excess of sex and a sense of bottled potential, and that these things had, in the rich tradition of life's droll jokes, been replaced by an absence of sex and a sense of wasted potential.

I Write the Answers that the Whole World Needs

The Columbus Dispatch recently offered questions that Gov. John Kasich needs to answer.  As a public service, I will answer them. I give and I give:
As America gets a new president and Ohio gets the final two-year budget from Gov. John Kasich, the start of the new year contains many more questions than answers. Such as:

1. What happened to the Ohio “miracle”?

Kasich himself came up with this over-the-top label for the state’s economic turnaround. A year ago he was campaigning for president on the basis of doing for the American economy what he did for Ohio's. But now state government revenue is receding and Kasich says Ohio is on the verge of a recession.

Me: The Ohio economy, like the weather, fluctuates. Politicians take credit, mostly falsely, when things go well. Politicians take blame, mostly falsely, when things go poorly. Same as it ever was as the philosopher says. The economy is not something government can "manage", unless you want to institute the old Soviet Union's oh-so-successful "5-yr plans".

2. Can the state get a handle on its drug problem?

The Kasich administration was hailed for early recognition of and action on Ohio’s struggles with pill mills, over-prescribing doctors, opiates and heroin early on. Yet the problem continues to worsen, to the point where Ohio now leads the nation in drug deaths. So far, Kasich has rejected calls to declare a health emergency and direct even more resources into treatment. Is he going to do anything more?

Me: That the heroin epidemic continues to worsen despite the Kasich administration's "early recognition and action" tells you all you need to know about the scourge of drugs. Would you ask, "what is Ohio going to do about the fact that drugs are addictive?" Or "what is Ohio going to do about the 100% mortality rate human beings experience?" See "Dreamland: The True Story of the Heroin Epidemic" by Sam Quinones on why Ohio became ground zero for the initial epidemic.

3. What about other seeming intractable problems, such as infant mortality and the “ achievement gap” in student performance?

Again, the administration won praise for going after infant mortality right away, especially after Kasich brought it up in his first State of the State address in 2011. Still, Ohio remains at or near the bottom of statistics showing how many infants — especially African-Americans — die before reaching their first birthday. And if black children do make it to school age, they’re still much more likely than their nonminority classmates to score badly on achievement tests, despite efforts of multiple governors to tackle the problem.

Me: If Obama, America's first black president, couldn't do anything about infant African-American mortality, then how the heck can a governor? How folks think government has the power to change behaviors that place infants at risk, or groups that stigmatize learning as "acting white", is completely beyond me.

4. How much of what he wants will Kasich get from the GOP-dominated legislature in his budget proposal?

The governor already has predicted that lawmakers will yet again reject his proposal to increase the severance tax on oil and gas production, even though Ohio’s assessment is among the nation’s lowest. (The sway of the fossil fuel crowd was underscored during last year’s lame-duck session when Republican lawmakers voted to give the oil and gas folks a tax break retroactive to 2010 of more than a quarter billion dollars.) Kasich also has been repeatedly thwarted in attempts to cut state income taxes in favor of increased “consumption” taxes.

Me:  How much the Kasich will get from the GOP-dominated legislature seems like a question for the GOP-dominated legislature. I'm not sure we pay politicians to be in the business of making predictions.

5. Will Kasich talk to us?

Me: Given the quality of the questions above, I think he's smart not to.

December 21, 2016

Missing that Election Buzz

I miss the great drama that was the '16 election. It was like a long-running soap opera, beginning in March of 2015 when Ted Cruz announced he was running and I began watching the political show With All Due Respect daily.  I recall Trump's famous announcement while on the Trump Tower escalator and thinking it a publicity stunt for The Apprentice. Or like how some has-been celebrity joins the Dancing With the Stars cast and lasts all of a week or two for lack of discipline.

Surely a poor use of time, to be consumed by an election for upwards of a year and a half.  Now With All Due Respect is off the air and Morning Joe is less interesting and the WaPo has suffered as well. I miss the intense engagement, waking up every morning to see what fresh Trumpian gaffe turned up, or what legal troubles and indictments Hillary might face due to her numerous transgressions.

No wonder there were so many celebrity deaths just after the election - people wanted to hang on to dear life just to see the results. It's uncanny how many died just after Nov 8th: Glen Ifill, Robert Vaughn, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor...

Over the same period in 2015, only semi-famous Robert Loggia died.  People die more frequently during winter, likely from lack of motivation, similarly post-election.

The election was fascinating because the two major parties contributed patently ridiculous candidates - a would-be jailbird and a "reality" show star. That alone was a first in my lifetime (in most elections, there are two credible candidates, such as Bush v Gore or Bush v. Kerry).

Second it was fascinating to see how this con man, this carny barker, could get the august GOP nomination and then win the general. He was a blowhard, didn't everybody see this? I recall being shocked very, very early in the election season when at a family gathering my brother-in-law said he supported Trump. First off because my bro-in-law is a financially struggling blue collar guy who has worked extremely hard and here he was supporting a plutocrat-rich man who inherited most of his wealth. It seemed an audacious fit. Then too I was surprised simply because he supported mostly Democrats in the past and was no friend to the GOP. I realized then that Trump had something of a cult following. It felt like there was something in the air, in the culture, that I was completely oblivious to.

I used to feel like I was plugged into politics if not pop culture, but now I can claim neither. The race was also fascinating in part for the solipsistic reason that it told me something about me, namely how out of touch I am.

Elsewhere, I was surprised to learn how the earth was once pounded so hard that 70% of all vertebrates died:
The K-T [dinosaur] extinction was not the first such massive die-off in history, nor was it the largest. The Permian-Triassic extinction event, known as the Great Dying, occurred 251.4 million years ago and eradicated 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of all terrestrial vertebrates species on earth.

December 20, 2016

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like But You Can Never Leave

The shock and awe onslaught from ATT Uverse continues apace. Definitely a huge learning curve for me in more ways than one. I was a babe in the cable woods.

For example, I was completely oblivious to the nature of communicating with a cable company, i.e that it's a master-servant (they being the master). Thus, you petition to have service cancelled, you don't demand it. You make it a project, and include a timeline with intermediate, reachable goals. I went into it blind thinking it a one-off. Instead, I've invested five phone calls averaging 20 minutes and experienced two missed appointments.

Sarcasm or lectures are deeply frowned upon by Massah Cable. Free associating on the nature of their business model or dramatic reenactments of "ancient" (last week's) history and such will not be tolerated.

I learned this the hard way, as ATT won't cancel my service. A google search nicely explains in a 5-step guide applicable for me for ATT, and how it demands the skills of a diplomat combined with the tenacity of a Rottweiler:
Now that you’ve selected the correct option, cancelling service, you should be connected with a human being. Double check you’re in the right place by asking if they’re part of the retention department. If they aren’t a retention agent, ask them to transfer your call to the retention department for you, and ask them to do a ‘warm’ transfer. With a warm transfer, the original agent will sit on the line and make sure you’re directed to the right place. Conversely, a ‘cold’ transfer means they’ll hang up and let the system do it, which has a good chance of hanging up on you or sending you to the wrong department. If you’ve made it to this point, you’re well on your way to being able to successfully cancel your cable. So what’s next?
Prepare Your Excuse
The easiest method to cancel cable without hassle is to say it’s because you’re moving. Tell the agent that you’re moving to an area outside the service area, preferably outside the country.
The cable rep you’re talking to is very important in this process. If they make a ‘mistake’, your service might not get cancelled at all, or, they might cancel it immediately (even though you still need it for a few days). However, in our experience, the nicer you are, the fewer ‘mistakes’ happen. Be nice and your service will (likely) be cancelled on the day that you want, with everything neatly tied up in a bow.
One of the most important parts of cancelling service with a cable provider is returning the equipment. If you don’t return something, they will put it on a bill or send it to collections. As we mentioned in our Comcast article, cable companies would much rather charge you than have that old remote back.
While you’re on the phone with a representative, ask them to tell you what equipment that you’ll need to return to them. Write down the serial numbers they have on file. If you listened to us, you probably already bought your own modem but beware. One of all cable companies’ favorite tricks is to have unreturned equipment on the account.
Take photos of all the equipment, (and make sure those serial numbers match with the ones they told you on the phone). You can’t have too much evidence. You probably won’t need it but if you do, you’ll thank yourself for having taken the time collecting it.
You’re 90% of the way there! The last step (and most important step) of cancelling service is confirming that you’ve actually cancelled the service correctly. After you’ve finished the first four steps, call the cable provider back and ask them to confirm that everything is taken care of on the account. To be especially careful, ask them about three things: (1) if there is an outstanding balance on the account (2) if there is any unreturned equipment (3) if service is cancelled fully. Make sure that all of the answers match up with what you expect. If they don’t, have the agent on the phone fix the issue and then do step 5 one more time.
In a comedic turn worthy of an Oscar, I signed on with Time Warner in a knee-jerk "rebound" moment, returning to the arms of my former adversary. The enemy of the enemy is my friend, so they say, but Time Warner immediately rewarded me with internet speeds in the single digits, frosty indeed given we were paying for a 50mbps package.

So now I sent an email to WOW internet provider, applying for a service contract, so that I can have three internet providers providing at the same time. Ideally I could wait until I've successfully cancelled Time Warner and ATT before getting WOW but that could be 2018...

Another thing I was oblivious to was just how slim the competition is in Columbus market. You've got only three players with high speed internet: ATT, Time Warner, and WOW. And some of the reviews of WOW make your hair curl, constant outages and sudden illicit bill changes. But now Wow is looking pretty wow-derful.

Last night on a whim I called ATT and asked for an update on the service that was to be cancelled. Strictly for entertainment purposes. I expected nothing other than the humor of it, the sheer wonder of customer service so bad that it appears a mirage, and sure enough after 20 minutes of feverish activity the rep said that I would have to call back tomorrow. I asked if she could call for me, figuring that canceling a service was not exactly brain surgery, but the answer was "no". Apparently they don't do interoffice calling 'round those parts.

It all makes me realize how beautiful a thing detachment can be when achieved. The beauty of a St. Francis is that he didn't need the Internet or cable TV, and if he was on earth today he still wouldn't need it.  You end up being a slave to the thing you crave.  Hence St. Paul calls himself "a slave to Jesus Christ" in his letters. He's a slave, 'cuz he craves - the righteous One.

December 18, 2016

You Can't Fight City Hall (or the Cable Conglomerate)

Cable companies are the dregs of the earth. Sigh. I know that. But I signed up with Time-Warner as punishment to ATT, which is a desperate enough move (and a merger seems imminent anyway with ATT), but it felt good in the moment. Which is what Bill Clinton says often.

Ultimately it seems ATT Uverse just doesn't offer standalone Internet, which they have never told me but can be inferred from voluminous phone calls to reps. To say that communication is not ATT's strong suit is like saying ballet dancing is not my strong suit.

I got stood up for the 8am-10am appointment today. Called ATT. Tech said that that appointment got scheduled over top another appointment (being my cease and desist phone and cable order).  Would've been idyllic to have been informed of this. But this rep assured me they'd be coming out between 8am-8pm today to do that order, although he couldn't give me a time window.

Naturally, I got stood up for the 8am-8pm appointment today as well. Called again and got another tech and this one said no appointment was needed, they'd do it remotely. By tomorrow.

But the straw that broke this camel's back was when I asked, with much trepidation, what my new bill would be. Not $79 like I was told by a rep not even five days ago, but $128. Game over, Time Warner wins. In the space of a single week I had three different customer service reps give me unique if not particulary compelling stories. (And they say the gospels don't match up exactly!?!)  I feel pretty confident that if I call back I'll get new "information".  

Of course I'm back in the boat where I have to negotiate yearly deals with Time Warner to prevent them from jacking up the Internet-only package, so this all feels so pyrrhic a victory. My goal was to avoid having to renegotiate every year and now I'm back to renegotiating every year. I've squared the circle. I fought the cable and the cable won.

What I've learned from all this is that annual re-negotiating is not negotiable. 

Consider it part of the life maintenance, like going to the dentist.

Political Karma 101

Bush 41 in '90: "I lost to *this guy* [Bill Clinton]?"
Hillcat in '16: "I lost to *this guy* [Trump]?"

In a way, the only candidate who could not be slimed by the Clinton machine was Trump, since he self-slimed in advance.

David Brock and the other lizardly slimers could find (or manufacture) something heinous on any candidate even if that candidate was a saint, but Trump's sh*t shield was sh*t itself.

In a preverse way it's like how Jesus defeated death using death itself.

December 16, 2016

More Memoir

I've heard from countless (read: "0") readers clamoring for more of my online blog memoir.  "Blog memoir" is like the zenith of self-absorption, no?  Where you not only have the gumption to start an unsolicited blog, but then you want to talk about yourself instead of say, politics or religion.

But enough hand-wringing, let's talk about me.

It all began with a randy Irish king. So my ancestry DNA report says; I'm related to the same pagan king as Harvard academic and beer summiteer Henry Louis Gates. Separated at birth us two.

And from the king so down through the ages, begets led to begats, all now enshrouded in the blessed obscurity of the pre-Internet, pre-Facebook era. But what is genealogy research but gossip for nerds? Life in the past lane.

The "Adam" in our family line was purportedly born in New Jersey around 1865, son of an Irishman and gifted with a name so common that he's nearly irrecoverable from a historical point of view. At some point he - my great-grandfather - practiced the blacksmith trade in St. Louis, but a black cloud hung 'round him, for he attracted cyclones and floods: first in 1896 in St. Louis and later in 1913 in Ohio.

Like Melchizedek, there are no birth nor death records. He presumably died in that flood but his body was never found, and I always slightly preferred an alternative history where he vamoosed and headed west for drier climes.

He took temperance pledges that never took; once he fall off an embankment after too much liquor but survived to tell the tale. He seemed larger than life in the single surviving photo, like Clark Gable crossed with Billy the Kid. Handlebar mustache and mischievous eyes. But he gave the world a scion, my grandfather, who inherited a larger-than-life aspect that at the time I took for granted...

Courtesy Lino

This picture from Lino Rulli's feed (from his visit to Mexico City last year) practically deserves a caption contest.  Some tough-looking hombres in this one. For one thing, it's not enough to go on your knees to the basilica but you have to do so blindfolded? It's almost like he lost a bet or something. But seriously, great to see such devotion.  

December 14, 2016

Un-imprimatur'd Thoughts

Watched a bit of our office of finance meeting via streaming. It brings out the cynic in me. Ultimately I just don't get the point of it other than being a training vehicle for execs to get practice speaking in front of large audiences. The content was numbingly dry and pointless - either too broad a view, or too much in the weeds. Either cliche or pointless obscurity. I ought have more charity, but it just seems like these things have jumped the shark. They had twee slides made up in the Jib-Jab way where you see an elf body with the presenter's face. And the presenters made little jokes at the previous presenter's expense, such as "well since Bill took up most of my time, I'll have to hurry." Or "you can see how busy Ron's slide is - I'll give you a second to digest it" (it shows an indecipherable hieroglyphic slide).

In a way, I feel a sense of wonder that these executives have so high an enthusiasm level that they can actually read a motivational business book from cover-to-cover. Or that they would be so ambitious as to actually want to get up in front of a bunch of people and be critiqued by the likes of me.

I think it's the way I'm supposed to feel about God and neighbor. I need to be just as enthusiastic as they are, only about saving souls, starting with my own. Motivational books, the kind that turn me off, are no different in many respects as St. Paul's letters of exhortation. And when Pope Benedict writes of how the smallest gestures, like those of a smile, are of import, it reminds me how these executives take the small things, like their jokes or handshakes or gestures or slides, seriously. There's no minutiae in the spiritual world, witness the Little Way of St. Therese.


Dorothy Day's thoughts (in First Things) about how the sexual revolution:


The problem with buying two missals to compare and contrast and then send one back is that it's awfully easy to simply keep both. Which would be extremely wasteful since I can't use both. The Daughters of St. Paul has a more readable font and a couple-sentence reflection on readings. The production quality is so-so; cheap cover and not many inviting illustrations. The Our Sunday Visitor is a perfect complement: beautiful leather cover, nice illustrations, but a yellowish paper with poor fonts. I guess I can use both for awhile and try to see which one I'll use in the future, but neither one is that elusive perfect Roman Daily Missal.

Handsome beginning illustration to Our Sunday Visitor missal

Our Sunday Visitor - looks worse in actuality than in this pic

Daughters of St. Paul

Called the cable company and cut the cord! So freeing.  I was a bit too eager to speechify on the phone to the poor sales rep; she tried to get me to look at DirectTV but no dice. I told her the whole setup is a poor business model, this scam where you have to call up annually and threaten to quit the service to get a reasonable price. It kind of snuck up on me, the resentment of the scam, but when it hit it hit with a vengeance - much as it did for voters who got so fed up with business-as-usual that they up and elected a Trumpster. (You can't say that Obama wasn't ample warning: he was an unknown in '08 and won everything, so it's not like Jeb Bush was going to have a chance when there hasn't been an "insider candidate" win since Poppy Bush in '88.)

Supposedly we still get basic cable because that was the only way she could avoid scamming me on the Internet side of things (by a huge surcharge on streaming). More than the money it was the principle of the thing; that not everyone pays the same price, that for the same service my stepson pays half price they call every year and negotiate a better deal. I really don't want that hassle. Although I should probably pay my stepson to represent us, ha.

Anyway it was supremely satisfying to vote with my wallet today. And my mouth as well.

December 09, 2016


The following from First Things reminds me of how Fr. Groeschel used to say that prosperity, paradoxically, breeds anxiety.