Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grooming 101

I recently added grooming to my list of goals this year.  A lot of little things go on that list, but there's one big one at the top.  My arch nemesis: shaving!  Flight attendants can't have neck beards, and I can't shave every day.  It's a conflict I've been working on for years.

No one showed me how.  My mother bought me an electric razor when I was in junior high, and I walked around with razor burn to some degree for the next few years.  It was the right tool for me.  It didn't get too close, and I eventually learned to make multiple light passes so it didn't irritate the skin too much unless it was very humid.

Over the years I experimented with various razors and creams, with limited success.  Then there was the horrifying price of my limited success.  As I learned to shave closer, the ingrown hairs started.  That's a problem I never solved.  As I dug a thick black half inch hair out of my neck the other day, I decided it's time.  I grabbed the phone, and made some more phone calls.  I eventually spoke to a place that does laser hair removal that actually gave their prices.

For just the neck, they charge $75 to $100 per session, depending on how good of a candidate you are.  And I'm a very good candidate.  My skin is very light, and my hair is very dark.  They tell me I'll need something like a session every 6 weeks for a year, and about twice a year after that.  But they think I need my hair removed.

Each time you have laser hair removal, it damages the hair follicle, on purpose.  It causes the hair to grow back finer and finer until it doesn't come back.  Most of their clients are transgender people, but thin is close enough for me.  Close enough to stop the onslaught.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dear Senator McCain

I had been at first baffled, then irked, by Senator John McCain's speech on the Senate floor about how the current health care bill is being handled and then his vote on said proceedings. So, through his web site, I sent him an email:

Dear Senator McCain:

I am very disappointed in you and I want you to know why.

As I write this, the US Senate is debating a health care bill that will affect millions of Americans. My concern here is not about the attributes of the bill ( though I could likely go on and on about that ), rather it’s about you.

The speech you gave as part of your vote on sending the bill to the floor was impassioned, might have taken a little guts ( more on that later ), and, for the most part, contains words and thoughts that I’d wished I had said. It was right on.

You said,

“We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, … . I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.” Amen to that; even if the process is successful it likely should not be.


“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act.” I commend your suggestion here.


“Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work.” Again, thank you for saying that. It does seem to me that this is the most common thing Republicans have done for some time.

But talk, even words as brave-sounding as these, is cheap; I would have had much more respect for you and hope for our country, if, instead of all this, you would have uttered just one, different, word: “Against.” You voted to continue the process currently underway; to continue the process you don’t think will work and think probably should not work. An “Against” vote would have stopped the current process, accomplishing, I believe, far more than your ( now empty sounding ) rhetoric.

Your party and the POTUS wanted a “For” vote, and you gave it to them. The “bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet” wanted a “For” vote and you gave it to them. Your vote aided and abetted a process your words cry out to be changed. …  Who is going to change it?

Indeed ... if not you, who? ... if not then, when?
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Back Dirt Side

In my Convergence wrap up, I hinted I was feeling a little disparaged by the club I'm in.  That would be the official Honor Harrington fan club.

It's a fun idea for a club.  It's broken down into chapters called ships.  An area would hold a fleet of ships, and each ship would center around a subject of interest.  Different posts on a ship would correspond to a different job.  The Comm office might be in charge of communicating with other groups and relevant business, for example.  And of course the command staff commands.

The problem at Convergence was with my commanding officer.  Volunteering with my club was also volunteering for convergence at this point.  After spending hours lifting heavy equipment to help out my club at Convergence, I was told we didn't have one minute to sign my Convergence volunteer slip.  Not in those words, of course.

I missed out on a t-shirt, which is not a big deal, but it really was just a slap in the face.  In that moment, I knew I'd never volunteer on that project again.  It wasn't a huge leap to see that, this club really isn't for me.

I've been involved for few years, since the moment I saw 50 people together dressed in the uniform of a space navy from an obscure sci-fi series I had been reading.  But time passed, and I never did get close to anyone in this group.  And their events never really worked within my schedule.  The truth is, it was time to go, and I'm a little grateful someone gave me the kick in the pants I needed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Another Shooting in the 'Hood

“They’ll come after you, and you,”

Last time I felt this way Jeronimo Yanez had just been acquitted of all charges in the traffic-stop killing of Philando Castile. Philando Castile is black and Jeronimo Yanez is not. Black Lives Matter. The verdict made me wonder.

More recently, another cop in our city wounded two pet dogs while both the cop and the dogs were on the north Minneapolis property of the dogs’ owner. The dogs were not charging the cop, hardly walking towards him. I saw the video from a surveillance camera – and I just cannot believe a cop, holding a service revolver, presumably trained to be in tense situations, could feel threatened for his life, even by a pit bull possibly looking menacingly at him. He had jumped the fence into the territory of the dog, after all. “Just shoot,” seems to be the mantra.

A couple days ago, a white woman, Justine, believing a sexual assault was occurring in her alley around 11:30 PM, called 911 for help, approached the squad car with the two cops who responded, and was shot and killed by one of the responding cops. Let that sink in: as she approached the car of the two cops who responded to her call, one of them, from inside the car, shot her dead.

The good news is it’s not another white cop killing a black civilian for no obvious reason. The really bad news is it’s a cop killing a civilian for no apparent reason whatever. There is no video evidence. The body cameras cops are required to wear and these cops apparently should have had on, were not on until after the shooting.

What is happening to our society?”

Several days later, I continued to be heartbroken, heartsick, and at least somewhat fearful because of this shooting. Philando Castile’s mother said, after the not-guilty verdict ( paraphrasing ), “They’ll come after you, and you,” angrily pointing, “and then your mixed-race children. Every one of them.”

I admit to not taking that very seriously, though her pain was obvious, palpable and pressing in on me. Now, with that as a back-drop, my head is doing some awful things. Like thinking the cops believe they can kill just anyone with impunity; like noticing the cop in this case is black, a Somali, and wondering if he was part of a terror cell; like wondering if a job as a cop is so stressful that anything that moves while they’re on patrol is likely to be experienced as threatening ( and therefore shot ).

The thing is, this woman did nothing wrong and no one is even claiming she did. The cop, his lawyer, his partner, his partner’s lawyer, the Police Chief and the Police Union have all said the same thing about how this incident happened, which is NOTHING. ( The Chief did say it’s a tragedy and the Department has immediately asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ( BCA ) for an independent investigation of the incident. She is as eager as we are for answers, she said. ) The shooter opted, as is his right, not to talk to the investigators; his partner did speak to them.

The BCA’s preliminary report provides an account according to the shooter’s partner, who was driving the squad. Near the end of the alley a loud noise occurred, startling him. Justine then approached the car and the driver’s partner pulled his weapon, reached across the driver, and shot her through the driver’s window. She died from a gunshot to the abdomen.

For the two most recent shootings here, of a black man shot by a white cop, I can conjure up the possibility that the cop feared for his life. I can do that even for the cop that shot the pet dogs. It takes some doing, but my imagination is alive and I can imagine it. But, sure as shooting
( pardon the expression ), I cannot find Justine threatening no matter what I do with my imagination.

I say … “This kind of thing doesn’t happen here” ( and I whisper, or maybe only think, “in White America, to White Americans” ). I now know, in a way I did not know last week, that the Black Community has lived with this sort of possibility for a very long time. Something has come what seems like full circle, and I don’t think I like it.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Theological Skepticism #7

A while back a friend visited her sister's family for Easter.  They are Catholic, so they attended church together as part of their Easter plans.  Now, they would have gone to church anyways, being a Sunday.  What was different for my friend was the church.  She mentioned in passing that this church is very "progressive," which she doesn't mind in general.  But she went on to say that she, "Doesn't know what to think about gluten free host."

All of my Catholic friends seemed to agree that this is a real conundrum.  As they see it, there's not supposed to be any gluten in the host.  It should be transformed into human flesh.  There's no gluten in human flesh.  But on the other hand, you don't want to exclude people with gluten allergies from participating.


This seems to me to be the definition of willful ignorance.  It's supernaturally transformed into Jesus, or it isn't.  If it's Jesus, there's not gluten.  If it's not Jesus, there is gluten, but no compelling need to eat the ordinary pad of bread.  The only reason to use gluten free bread is for people with:

1. Gluten allergies.
2. Know it's just pretend.
3. Would like to continue pretending.

This was back on my mind today because the Catholic church just released an official statement on the subject.  Gluten free bread is not a suitable material to transform into Jesus.  It can't be used.  However, low gluten bread is allowed.  Wow.  Way to intentionally miss the point.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Convergence 2017 Wrap Up

The convention was good.  I had fun.  As usual, there was nothing I would call a, "must see."  But there's always something fun going on.  And It's always fun to hang out with people who've gone way deeper into the sorts of things I'm interested in.  I came away with a few things to look into, like always.

It seemed to me the Skeptchicks had a much smaller presence, with is always good from my point of view.  I experienced many fewer instances hearing white straight biological men being slandered for how we were born.  Not zero, mind you.  In general, I would say they were much less political, but still very political.

As for me personally, I kept failing at my Nightwing costume.  I ended up just painting the decals on a body suit, and cutting the mask out of black felt.  It turned out good, not great.  It looked home made, which has it's own appeal.  I also bought a Robocop outfit, but didn't wear it.  I was sick of sucking in the last of my gut after a day of Nightwing.

Coming out of this, I felt a little disparaged by the club I'm involved with, and the volunteer system at the convention.  The club a big presence at the convention, and it's kind of the one big thing I do with them.  Most other events are in the evenings, and run into the hours I work.  Many of my volunteer hours at the convention didn't get logged this year, so it looks like I won't have a hotel room next year.  If I'm not living in Minnesota by then, I might just go to some other convention instead.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Playing in the Garden ( again )

I have, in a past post, fessed up to liking to work in our peace garden. That is, in the parts of our property that are not grass. I’ve enjoyed both weeding ( in part for the more or less instant gratification ) and installing a border to separate the garden from that which borders it.

I didn’t make much of it, but that post showed a border I had installed everywhere, several years prior. The border consisted of a series of three-inch diameter, half-round logs, with alternating lengths of three and five inches, with each series of nine having three long metal spikes which poke into the ground, to stabilize the border.

I said, in that post, “( You can also see the three inch half-round border I put in several years ago; that was fun while it lasted, but it certainly appears that its lasting is about over. Another story, perhaps. )” I am here telling at least the beginning of that ‘other story.’

Figures 1 and 2 give a pretty good indication of what that border looked like just after installation.
Figure 1 - What the border looked like right after installation
( and the buried old plastic border highlighted )

Figure 2 - Another view of the view following installation
There were some graceful curves between the lawn and the garden that were created a long time ago and this border followed them very nicely.
( See Figure 3. ) 
Figure 3 - A graceful curve, which the border follows nicely

The border is high enough to keep a significant quantity of wood chips out of the grass, the half round logs look very rural and the varying height of the logs adds personality. I really liked it.

My installation put the bottom inch or so of wood into the ground; I am unsure if the installation required this or if I just did it. I put the half-round logs deep enough into the ground that they were quite solidly packed between the earth on the garden side and the sidewalk ( or old border ) on the other. Over the years, the earth’s moisture played havoc with the wooden logs ( which I might have realized would happen if I had given it much thought ). Figure 4 and Figure 5 present a representative view of what that border looks like, in various places, today. Rather unattractive. 

Figure 4 - The wooden border has rotted out
( Notice the graceful curve it followed, though. )
Figure 5 - Another view of the rotting border.
Not being one to rush into things ( a highly polished skill of mine,
procrastination, according to my dear Ellie ), this year I looked at other options for this type of application and bought one ( yes … one … a single unit … uno ) section of a rubberized material intended to resemble brick. A section is about four feet long, and long plastic nails pounded through pre-drilled holes in the rubber, into the soil, provide stability. There are four of these per section of border.

Ellie and I weeded our peace garden recently, and I removed most of the half-round sections of border that had rotted out. She had suggested that removal of these sections would improve the looks of the border even if I did nothing else. She may be right; I believe the jury is still out. Regardless, I used the occasion to check out the newly purchased brick-look border. ( See Figure 6 and Figure 7. )

Figure 6 - The 'looks like brick' rubber border.

Figure 7 - A closer look at the 'looks like brick' rubber border
I think it looks great. I may even replace other sections of the wooden border that have rotted out.
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