June 28, 2018

Vindication Day (please don't use as acronym) for Trump Supporters

Alternative title: "Lord, take away my schadenfreude...but not yet".

Liberal hysteria over Kennedy retirement merely confirms the outsize influence the Court wields and it feels utterly of reaping a sowing: Liberal activists have always wanted disproportionately a powerful SCOTUS...which is fine as long as you got numbers. The quaint notion of judicial restraint probably more appealing to them now.

In a way, it's playing out the way it's supposed to, that is with voter rationality. The Supreme Court morphed into something much larger than the Founders intended by going from interpreting laws to making laws (such as creating the invisible right to an abortion; Roe v Wade has long coattails.)

Given that one-third of the government is now effectively half the government (a cowering legislative doesn't even protect its own prerogatives), and given that that half of that government serves LIFETIME terms, then it makes sense that when you're voting for president you're really voting for him/her AND maybe two SCOTUS justices to serve for 30 years. In other words, it's silly to vote for president based simply on that person's merits. It's voting in a whole team, and not just cabinet but a SCOTUS for eons.

All of which is to say the GOP voters were likely smarter than me.

Me in 2016: What the hell is wrong with Republican primary idiots?

Me in 2018: Hmm...(clears throat)... er, well, maybe there's some sort of collective unseen wisdom in GOP crowds that I've missed.

Of course it's still early and Trump's character is such that we're always an millimeter from disaster. But as Rich Lowery said: "It's funny how life works--Donald Trump may end up being the biggest boon to constitutional fidelity in a generation."

Devout Christian George W. Bush was a terrible president and pagan Trump is a great one so far. Go fig.

So my entirely unearned schadenfreude is off the charts; reaping the success of Trump supporters.

This tweet from Chuck Todd was unintentionally hilarious:
Man, summer is going to suck... it will be ugly;... we have a full fledged political circus on our hands... up to the voters to decide what they want...

Let's re-write it, shall we?, had Hillary won the election and she was deciding who to replace Kennedy with:
Man, this summer has certainly taken on an exciting new twist.. Republicans will try to make it ugly, but it looks like Democrats have the votes.

*

Charles Murry posted a "I told you so" tweet  about the failure of Bill Gates Foundation on education, linking to his distaste for educational romanticism.

I'm thinking that culture matters more than money when it comes to education: my moment of gobsmack was when I learned there is peer pressure in black communities not to study at school because that’s a white thing. At that point I became convinced that trying to fix woeful school districts is like spitting in the wind.

And even if a school district could overcome deficient childhood development there still would be inequality since by definition every district/student can’t be above average given a bell curve.

Jonah Goldberg wrote: “To fret about political, social, or economic inequality in a free society is to fret about the problem of freedom itself, for in the presence of freedom there will always be inequality of some kind.”

The thing is, you have to fight like hell against the tide in order to save individuals, even if in aggregate it’s hopeless.

June 26, 2018

Lamentations and Exaggerations

Spent hour at 11:30pm the other night trying to stop the waterfall in our basement by fitting cast-off PVC pipes and other tubes to get the water sump-pump'd into the yard at large. I'm mightily impressed by the power and ingenuity of water. The Romans have their aqueducts while we try to engineer the reverse.

I was naive to the fact that the previously opaque water removal system (I'd naively imagined it was just a sump pump and didn't much worry if it worked) turned out to be a living, breathing organism only as strong as the weakest link.  There are many potential points of failure such as:

- Sump pump location wrong
- buried water line to street on east side not working
- buried water line to street on west side not working
- city sewer backed up
- sump pump malfunctioning
- gutters not working properly

And we've experienced all of the above.


*

I was planning my annual 5k race but it was cancelled due to “deep water on sidewalks”; cue the ol' "how did we ever survive as children?"

I decided to run the 5k myself since I needed a workout and I'm a big risk-taker, witness my $30 bet on Justify in the Belmont.  Got t-shirt "I Survived Deep Water on Sidewalks".

Spent a lot of time on phone trying to get answers to why we can’t get Ohio Utilities to accurately mark our back property. A fair amount of work on our end to fix their mistakes. I’m perpetually astonished at how incompetent most people are at their jobs. Lowes made a forklift delivery the other day and ran into our fence, taking out a six-inch portion.

This was all presaged by Robert Ringer in the 1970s saying that as society decays that we who stay  minimally competent we'll eventually shine by comparison. Job security.

*

Mass at 8:30; had Crosier priest from the Congo; asked for donations to build a Catholic school there. Moved by the black priest’s singing, including an affecting “My Lord and My God” sung in his native tongue while lifting the Body and Blood. Unfortunately heard only about 50% of his homily due to poor acoustics and accent.

*

Took in new library in town, three times bigger than previous one. Unique feature is a patio structure (all windows) that looks out over grass and trees (and nearby buildings).

The upstairs is pleasant - late day sun and comfy looking chairs. Even has a coffee bar! Not your father’s library.

Cold as ice inside, like many restaurants and some churches. Entry should have signage warning of potential frostbite. It seemed kind of humorous that they brag of sustainability and environmental things while keeping the air-co at 55.

*

I'm finding it harder to take politics seriously these days given that Americans don't (witness the election of empty suit Obama and his successor). It's hard to keep a straight face watching the network news or seeing a Trump tweet. All farce all the time. No wonder Christopher Buckley can't spoof modern politics anymore.

*

Spent about 90 mins trying to get our dog's hair mats out. I’m becoming highly motivated to find a groomer and take it seriously.  Who knew brushing out a dog’s coat wasn’t optional? Thes amazing thing is how quickly he came down with this - in May he looked his fine, sleek self but once he started shedding naturally it soured into mats by mid-June.

And that's the way it was, as Conkrite sayeth...


*

Snippets of a 1970s Minnesota memoir, dedicated to my fellow Cincinnatian Cat:

...children would punch in 5318008 [on calculators] and turn it upside down to reveal BOOBIES.

Sister Mariella, whom some call Sister Carl Eller, after the Vikings’ fearsome defensive end.

Silence is the safest way to get along, which is all I desire. In life, as in games of tag, I never want to be It. I only want to be Not It.

“We don’t wear [newly bought] shoes out of the store,” Mom whispers. “We’re not hillbillies.”

As for Mom, she grew up in Cincinnati, evidently fearful that hordes of hillbillies would wade—straw-hatted, barefooted, bib-overalled—across the Ohio River and into her backyard. This might explain Mom’s endless cleaning, the neatening of drawers, the discarding of anything that isn’t nailed down.

Her rectitude and naïveté were instantly on display in her fourth-grade classroom in the mid-1950s. Students lined up for recess in front of the chalkboard, and when the line marched out of the room, there was often a single word scrawled on that board. She would erase it, and the word would reappear the next day. After a week, my future mom finally asked the class, “Why does someone keep writing ‘Pussy’ on the board?” The children gasped and giggled. Mom pressed on. “Is Pussy somebody’s cat?” There was more giggling, and a girl raised her hand. “Miss Boyle,” she said. “That’s something a lady has.” This only confirmed Miss Boyle’s notion that Pussy was indeed a cat, and she let the matter rest, but not before telling my future dad, who palmed his face in disbelief.


Mom hadn’t wanted to move from Cincinnati, where Dad first took a job with 3M, to Columbus, Ohio, to which Mickey Mining dispatched him and where Jim was born. She hadn’t wanted to move at 3M’s behest from Ohio

Through all these moves, she held fast to the polestar of Cincinnati: to Graeter’s ice cream and Ohio State football and the Big Red Machine of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose.

Mom says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” or “God bless it” when she’s angry. These are stand-ins for profanity. She says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” instead of “Jesus Christ” and “God bless it” instead of “God dammit.” It’s a clever bit of Catholic alchemy, turning blasphemy into praise.

This same sense of relief supervenes whenever the commercials air during NBC’s annual Easter-season screening of The Wizard of Oz, a movie that instills no wonder in me, only terror. The music alone ignites the acids in my stomach, exhaling only when the commercials abruptly appear. They act like smelling salts or a bucket of cold water thrown over a drunk, snapping us out of one world and returning us to the real one. I am grateful for their temporary respite from tornadoes and witches and flying monkeys.

Exploring South Brook by backyard or bicycle, I develop an expert knowledge of the neighborhood topography, whose yard I cannot enter to retrieve a ball (the Sea Hags, the two elderly ladies we seldom see) and in whose house I should decline the milk (the Sundems serve skim, and my body is accustomed to the higher-octane 2 percent). The Redmonds have central air—stepping across their threshold is like stepping into a refrigerated boxcar—and the Raichs have a basement beer-can collection. The McCarthy boys are allowed to collect pop cans, while the Rushin boys are allowed neither.

Young life holds few pleasures greater than the school sick day. The hourly ministrations of Vick’s VapoRub, the back of Mom’s hand on my hot forehead, the thermometer jutting from my mouth like a Chesterfield cigarette...

[Or snow day.] And then I hear it: “Bloomington schools, public and parochial—closed.” Instantly it’s Mardi Gras and V-E Day and the Lindbergh parade all in one, and the flakes falling outside look like ticker tape.

June 18, 2018

Hilton Head Trip Log


Sun: Had Fr. Ferrell at Mass and he gave a moving homily, relating his personal experience of becoming a Christian in his late 30s and how his friends criticized and strongly discouraged his becoming a priest. He said Mass with much reverence and I like him the more I see and hear him.

He said something about how he’d wanted to live for something larger than himself to live for and my mind went to Anthony Bourdain and his suicide. Fr. mentioned how fragile and changeable our emotions are and again I thought of how Bourdain was described as “giddy” a couple weeks ago and morose for the three days leading to his suicide. Perhaps manic-depressive. I recall how G Gordon Liddy said he couldn’t listen to certain kinds of music and how Bourdain was listening to the mournful “House of the Rsiinn Sun” on loop a few days before his death. Sad and shocking.


*

Then come 1:30 I did my obligatory run in the 88 degree heat, a labor of non-love but got it done. Maybe 2 miles all together. Surprisingly the beach was cool, much cooler than expected. I almost thought it was going to be a balcony day. Read some of The March, the novel about Sherman’s march, while partaking of light session “all day” beers. Yum.

Mon: 

Sunny, cloudless, with reports (retorts) of rain in C-bus. We picked a good week!  Wordsworth:
Yea, all the adamantine holds of truth...
Her spirit, must it lodge in shrines so frail?
He mused —upon these chiefly —and at length,
His senses yielding to the sultry air.

Read delightedly of the ‘70s memoir Sting Ray Afternoons - it's funny that there in Minneapolis he had neighbors he referred to as the "McCarthy boys" and another neighbor family "the Richardsons".  Sounds like ours Also read some of the Peter Hitchens’ Rage Against God.

*

Chesterton:
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.
Tues:

Funny how songs of the way distant past come back during days lounging in the June sun. Today came a cross between the folkish bluegrass “Chicken Pie Song” and “Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands Together” childhood ditty.

After breakfast headed out on a bike ride on 278 towards the farm market but only did about 6 miles. Then to beach for an abbreviated session - the rains came heavy at 2pm, just as the Dark Sky app predicted. Allowed me to get up to the place warm and dry with a minute to spare. The rains had staying power, 2-5pm. By the time it was sunny just stayed in condo and had Bloody Mary's.

Wed:

Walked with Steph on the beach for morning mile.  Come 3:30 clouds and rainstorm; the lifeguard whistles at me to come in out of water. But a satisfying day at beach nonetheless.

A tray table came that we'd had delivered via Amazon and planned to hang from our balcony.  Steph promptly dropped hex nut off balcony, tumbling into grassy obscurity. I wasn’t going to hunt for it given she dropped it and pessimistically assumed it was lost. It was. But it worked out for her benefit - went to hardware store named White Dog and met an instant friend - the owner is a dog lover extraordinaire and they talked dogs for at least a half an hour while Steph loved up the flat white Pyrenees dog that has many physical characteristics of Max, Max being part Pyrenees. Same paws and snout. But super laid back and a hefty but right-sized 135 lbs.

Later, saw three bucks (deer) feeding next to beach for first time.

Wed:

Saw on internet:
“Say not I am too young” is a phrase that reminds us that wisdom is aligned to charity (as St Thomas teaches:), not to age.”
That’s a pretty concise description of why there are a decent number of saints in the Church who died at a young age since wisdom is a function of charity, not chronological age.

And a tweet from a bishop regarding a Dorothy Sayers novel:
An older Lord Wimsey anticipates George Smiley in some ways:
“Tell them to bring up a bottle of Scotch and a siphon and some beer, for malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.

Thurs:

Feel like I’m getting my sea legs! Late start for sure. The cumulative effect of books and beer and 9 hours of sleep a night. Kind of wondering why I’m so slow to relax this time; I suspect work agonies.

As the song goes, which I played on loop this morning,”Don’t Try to Live Your Life inOne Day”. Also some great “Turning Japanese” while doing a mile beach walk before Mass, arguably the greatest pop song of all time, ha.  Overcast a.m. before sun resurrection around 10am. Read a bit about whom some say was the greatest horse never to win the Derby, the philly Zenyetta. Didn’t mature in time to do the Triple Crown races.

Delish breakfast using our new tray table hooked to balcony railing. Yum.
On beach by 10:45, soaking in the rays in surprising privacy. Early June seems less crowded than August week.  Wondrous 4 hours there that went by in 3.5 minutes. Read some, cigar’d some, did nothing some.  ‘Round 1pm did my run, a strong 2.5 miles that shows I’m improving in fitness down here, at least running fitness.

Thanks to the magic of the Dark Sky rain we missed the rains by a few minutes, a good opportunity to head back up to hydrate and lunch.

*

I did a 7pm bike spin down to the Hilton Head Academy and back just before dinner. I’m not sure Steph appreciated my departure while she cooked, but I’m feeling the loss ... of vacation time.  Quiet desperation has set in, a desperation for beauty.

After dinner did an 8:30pm, walk. Still light outside.  Oh, beguiling ocean! It mesmerizes... Walked to the live band at the Holiday.  Meanwhile the sea continues its ceaselessness, the show that must go on. An old, fat couple sits at the edge of the water in chairs, wordlessly watching the waves while there’s still light to see by, as the young folks stream by.

I feel a longing for more time outside in this “midsummer’s night madness” (is there such a condition and could I have it?). There’s a world of difference between Thursday morning, when all is right with the world (i.e. two full days ahead) versus Thursday eve when the “sudden death” of Friday’s last day approaches.  We have a spaghetti dinner with corn on the cob and salad.

Fri:

Lounged the morn; to beach by 11am and off on bike around 1pm to the Stables to see the great horse Harley. And so his huge head was admired and feted.

Rode through the painfully beautiful cathedral-groves; tall southern pines that make one gasp in wonder, surrounded by Secretariat-red needle beds. All on a picture perfect June day, the apotheosis of season married to the apotheosis of place.

Back at the condo I immediately discover the iPhone I’d put in my back pocket had popped out at some point during the 8 mile ride. Thank God for “find my iPhone” app. I was able to track the location of the phone via my iPad deep in the heart is Sea Pines. (The guard at the entrance had pity and didn’t make me pay $5.). I parked in somebody’s yard hoping not to get towed and went on foot for about a half-mile. I saw the phone lying in the street, grist for a car, while meanwhile a car is coming! I rush out in the middle of the street like a madman holding up my hand in the universal motion of “Stop!” and then save the phone from destruction by seconds. All in a day’s fun. Technology, the cause and solution to many world problems.

Read another 20 pages or so of Jonah Goldberg’s absorbing history lesson.
Some historical fiction about Thomas Jefferson as well.

In retrospect it seems like a vacation’s purpose is simply to give you that Thursday morning moment that confers that all-is-right-with-the-world feeling, that expanse of sheer-dom and do-nothingism that in its best moments leads to poetry.

I felt it, for maybe an hour, a respite and a clock negator, my moment of zen or bliss or rumspringa.

Sat: Neat to see some of the rural Southern coast, from Beaufort to Charleston. Woke at 6am and by 9:15 our bags were checked for 10:30 flight. Smooth handoff of rental car. Felt a little nerve-racking time-wise, oh me of little faith.

Drove by Parris Island Marine base; later stopped to get gas and saw jaunty old black man with Marine cap pull up in motorcycle looking like maybe a part-time drill instructor.

The flights were painless - just one hour long each during which I consumed multitudes of the Secretariat book. Just love the dawning realization of the wonder horse they had on their hands after the Derby. Sort of reminds me (in an opposite fashion) of the dawning realization that Hillary lost the election, and how her team and her affiliated media (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc..) were affected.

By the time we Uber’d home it was just 3pm - earliest arrival ever after Hilton Head thanks to the friendly skies. By 4 we were picking up the dogs and Steph saw Sharon and the facilities for the first time. The dogs went bananas seeing us (and each other). They were clobbering each other even before being let out of the gate.

Lots of drama with the dogs later; I noticed Maris eating grass. I thought it odd she was doing it in the middle of the yard and I got more suspicious when it looked like she was pawing it. I went out there and Max followed me since he doesn’t let me out of his sight.

He breaks into a sprint and I realize he realizes Maris had discovered Fort Knox - it turned out to be a nest of at least a half-dozen baby rabbits. They all looked dead; Maris had made quick work of most of them. Max took one and went off a short distance to eat it while I hustled back to the house to get a plastic bag to collect them. By the time I got back and started gathering them, Max had finished eating the one whole and grabbed another. I tried to spray him with the hose but he simply relocated to the back corner of the yard. I finished gathering and disposing of them, then came back out. About five minutes later I see Max suddenly getting low and stalking Maris. This was unusual; normally he does that with dogs he doesn’t know and wants to fight with. He then raced towards her and turns out she’d found a new baby rabbit that apparently had made it not quite to safety. Max now ate this third one.
Hours later the dogs were still visiting the scene of the crime, like slot machine winners who think that by playing the same machine they’ll win more money, or in this case baby rabbits.