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Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms

All about Meniere’s Disease. Updated periodically.

When I’m questioned about why I’m retired already, or when someone airs doubts like are you really disabled? the subject of Meniere’s disease is bound to surface. It is bound to surface because Meniere’s disease is the answer to both questions. If you just stumbled across this article on my blog and want to know what is Meniere’s disease? I’ve never heard of it. I can understand that feeling. I’d never heard of it before its symptoms wrecked my life.

Continue reading “Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms”

A Cashless Society

Going cashless shouldn’t bother anyone, but it will probably bother most people quite a bit. Most people seem to value those little green rectangles of paper, but paper notes have no real value. They are a liability since they can be easily stolen and the cost of maintaining and policing the physical currency is astronomical (both points are made in the SGU episode segment) Digital currency has all the benefits of physical currency, without the need to carry it around. It is a win-win.

I used to be a hardcore numismatist. I was all in on silver and gold currency, coin collecting, etcetera. Then I tried bartering for goods with silver as a test to see how well it would be received by businesses. Most businesses were not interested. They wanted to deposit their earnings in the bank at night and the bank only accepted federal money, “the coin of the realm.” The test was a failure, as was the silver currency that I was using as my test at the time.

To individuals, the physicality of the money is what makes it valuable. To volume businesses, the physicality is a liability. This is why credit cards took off and why businesses gladly gave four percent to the card issuers in exchange for not having to deal with cash. It makes their jobs easier and safer and the analog or digital nature of the money being traded on the card system makes no difference as long as it can’t easily be stolen or have to be stored.

The value is in the goods exchanged, the location maintained, not in the money that made the transaction possible. Money has no value because you can’t eat it, it won’t keep you safe, it doesn’t make you live longer. The things that do can be traded for money, so long as the person who has those things has them to trade.

The future’s cashless society will look almost exactly like the one we live in now. The government will have to maintain accounts for each and every one of us in order to make it work; otherwise the poor will be shut out of participation in the economy to the detriment of us all and to the eventual destruction of our societies. In the US they may even make us all banks so that the fed can just issue us money directly. You’ll be able to go to the Post Office (most likely) to conduct your federal banking business. The better off will move their funds to private banks, but the poor will have to rely on government issued cards to buy their necessities. Life will go on pretty much as before.

Black markets will still exist. They’ll go to the barter system and commodities like gold and silver. They’ll create bot nets of dummy accounts that will mask the crypto-currency transactions. The buyer will need to show up with the commodity the seller wants in exchange. Currency is irrelevant.

Bob talks about the briefcase full of cash and that magical moment of imagination towards the end of the segment as a reason for preserving the greenbacks. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction? You never see what is in the briefcase. You only see the golden reflection on Pumpkin/Ringo’s face, but that’s enough to make you understand the immense value of what is in that case. The money in his wallet is irrelevant. The money in your wallet is irrelevant. The money in my wallet is irrelevant. The commodities. They have value.

Standoff Scene from Pulp Fiction (Prime Video)

Based on an email sent to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe in reference to the segment in episode 844.

NBC App Wants Feedback?

I’ve been catching The Rachel Maddow Show via her audio podcast for years now. I occasionally watch the partial video podcast too, but only on days when I want to see what she’s talking about. Wednesday was one of those days.

There was some bit or other that was visual later in the show on September 2nd, and so consequently not in the video podcast which is generally the first thirty minutes of the show or the first story, whichever comes out to about half of her airtime, and I thought I would try to catch that bit on MSNBC’s website. While looking around on MSNBC.com I noticed that there was an NBC app that they said I could watch the show on, so I downloaded and installed the app.

The Rachel Maddow Show is indeed on the app, but the ability to search for clips from that or any show is almost non- existent, the same problem that I run into on the website. The content is almost always more easily found on YouTube than it is on MSNBC.com or NBC.com, even when NBC puts the video on YouTube themselves.

I couldn’t find the current episode of Rachel’s show that day. So I gave up and finished listening to the audio podcast. The next day it was the same problem when I thought I would start with the NBC app instead of heading straight to the podcast. I could find yesterday’s show (now I had forgotten what it was I had wanted to see in that show) but not that day’s episode. Back to my podcast app then.

What good is yesterday’s news? It is of little use unless you are constructing a narrative that spans the subject in question, as Rachel did when digging up what the news was on the day that Roe versus Wade was decided by the supreme court. I don’t need to see yesterday’s news if I’ve already heard that news. I had heard it. I heard it elsewhere.

Today I opened the app to watch Rachel Maddow for September 3rd, 2021. It isn’t available on the app yet. The feed helpfully says “finish watching” on the episode I’ve already seen elsewhere and queued previously. When I scroll through to the end of the episode, the app queued all the ads from the episode for me to watch just to finish the show. If I wanted to check that I’ve seen the end of the days news from her, I have to watch five thirty second ads.

I’m not going to watch five ads, not even five ten second ads. I won’t remember what the first two ads were about by the time I get to the fifth one. No, I’m going to close the app and do something else. Everyone would close the app and so something else.

When I exit the video stream, the NBC programmers incautiously ask me for for feedback on my dissatisfaction. My feedback? You might want to change the way that scrolling feature works. You won’t retain too many watchers if you don’t. You might want to rethink not putting the latest news show on the feed. Everyone will have seen the episode elsewhere before they will see it in the app, making including all of your news programming in the app pointless, those viewers permanently lost.

Also? The feedback page errored out when I went to send this novel to you. You might want to fix that issue as well. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Postscript

The reality of the situation is even more ridiculous than I described. I have to have a cable subscription to be able to access MSNBC content on my phone. Never mind that the content comes with ads embedded, ads that they pretend to everyone actually pay for the content (clearly the ads do not pay for anything. So why must I watch them?) I have to pay the middleman, the cable company or some similarly set up other middleman, in order to watch content that is available on the web for free if I simply wait a few hours and then go to a pirate site to download it.

I don’t mind paying for entertainment, I do that all the time. I do mind being charged for access to information that is necessary for the proper functioning of a self-representational governmental system. Access to current news is essential, unless we are all going to just bow to the man and let him make our decisions for us.

Graveyard of Empires

I remember those days like a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. I was walking to work from my remote parking space. I had been loaned out as a draftsman to another firm while working for Graeber, Simmons and Cowan back in 2001. I don’t recall the name of the firm, but I can point you to the building it was in on Congress Avenue if I happen to be driving with you downtown.

A plane had struck the North tower of the World Trade Center at some point during my drive to work that morning. I was late to work as usual when I was under a deadline and working late nights. The second plane struck not too long after we had all settled down to work that day, and I believe we were dismissed early because there was no use in pretending we were going to get anything done on the project with the kinds of things that were happening in the world that day.

I remember the second plane strike most vividly because it was one of the first times that I was forced to use the internet to get essential news updates, there being no television in the office I was working at. We watched the video of the crash over and over that morning, before leaving to go home and contemplate what we had just witnessed.

When the Travis County Libertarians convened later that week to try to pass an antiwar resolution, declaring that Travis County Libertarians were opposed to the war in Afghanistan that the President was proposing, I motioned to table the declaration. With a second and a majority vote, we did table it. The majority of us at that meeting that day knew that blood called out for blood. It was inevitable and probably right for the United States to seek vengeance against the instigators of the plot that destroyed those towers in New York City. I don’t regret doing that; even today, twenty years later I don’t regret it. I regret that we violated parliamentary procedure to get the resolution tabled, but not that we refused to say that the United States had no right to seek vengeance. Blood called out for blood.

By October 7, 2001, when the war against the Taliban started:

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada, Australia, Germany, and France pledge future support. The wars early phase [PDF] mainly involves U.S. air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that are assisted by a partnership of about one thousand U.S. special forces, the Northern Alliance, and ethnic Pashtun anti-Taliban forces. The first wave of conventional ground forces arrives twelve days later. Most of the ground combat is between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents.

cfr.org

I was actively planning to go overseas to help rebuild Afghanistan. They needed engineers and experienced construction personnel, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, my expertise to work at something that would hopefully inspire a lasting change in the country that had fostered so much hatred for the United States. This was a radical change from the teenager I had been a scant decade earlier. I was ready to go to jail rather than even register for the draft when I turned 18 in 1980. I was that opposed to war.

I knew that if we wanted to avoid a quagmire in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, it was going to take finesse and a deft hand on the tiller, and I hoped that the former Texas Governor was up to the job that he had signed himself up to perform as President of the United States. I wanted to be part of the success of that effort. I wanted the cycle we were caught in to end.

My hopes were soon dashed, though. By the middle of 2002, before I had made any headway in deciding if it would be smart to involve myself in Bush II’s ill-begotten war on terrorism, he was already taking his eye off the ball and had begun flirting with conducting a war against his daddy’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein:

There’s an old line: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And so it was with the Iraq war. Bush and Clinton and Powell and Blair knew quite a bit that wasn’t true. As Robert Draper shows in his book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,” they were certain Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Only he didn’t. They were also certain, based on decades of testimony from Iraqi expats, that Americans would be welcomed as liberators.

nytimes.com

We ultimately squandered the opportunity handed to us by our allies in Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a limited campaign that would destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush betrayed the needs of the nation and instead pursued imperial goals, trying to bring more countries under the direct control of the United States military through a permanent troop presence and a widening field of battle that essentially encompassed the entire globe, much less all of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden left Afghanistan while we were distracted and took up residence under the protection of one of our purported allies, Pakistan. He lived in hiding there for another decade while our President’s dreams of empire were pursued at our nation’s expense. At the cost of nearly a million lives. Iraq’s government was destroyed and the entire region was destabilized because of the War on Terror. President Bush played right into OBL’s hands and attempted to colonize not just Afghanistan but Iraq as well.

We betrayed our allies, the Northern Alliance, the people who should have been the tip of the spear in everything we did in Afghanistan so as to keep our footprint in the country to a minimum, and instead tried to occupy the country. Time and again it was shown to us that this effort was doomed, and yet we kept doubling down on the investment of blood and treasure, with no one in leadership willing to admit that we were never going to be able to leave the country that we stupidly thought we could control.

We know now what that error has cost us. Has cost the people of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the United States lead war in Afghanistan has finally come to an end, and the war between conservative governing factions in Afghanistan is set to begin. No one knows how long that war will rage, or what the ultimate outcome will be, but there is little doubt that the next war in Afghanistan is about to begin. Begin without our presence for the first time in a generation.

Donald Trump, the only president in history worse that George W. Bush, was left in charge of the United States when it came time to cut a deal to get us out of Afghanistan. President Obama could have done it, should have done it, but he thought he could turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse (the same hope of every leader left in charge of a debacle in the making) and kept us fighting an unwinnable war for the entire eight years of his Presidency.

Barack Obama, to his credit, did finally see to the death of the architect of the attacks on our country, but he failed to realize that with the death of OBL we no longer had a reason to stay in Afghanistan. We should have gotten out then, at least. Instead we kept lying to ourselves about what the ultimate outcome of the boondoggle would be. Another ten years went by.

Donald Trump, in his infinite lack of wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was hand the country of Afghanistan back over to the people we had fought for twenty years. He released the prisoners of war that we had captured and had them sign his peace deal, tying the hands of Joe Biden to the August 31st deadline that we have just gone through.

The Ezra Klein ShowThe Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have

Make no mistake, Joe Biden understood what needed to be done when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. He opposed the surge. He wanted us to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. As Ezra sums up in his article in the NY Times, it was always going to end this way. President Biden knew this just as well as Ezra’s guest in the podcast embedded above knows this.

There was never going to be a time when the coddled, corrupt Afghan puppet that we installed as leader of the country was going to be willing to risk his life for the country that we created. The same clearly went for all of the military personnel that we meticulously trained alongside us for twenty years in-country. Without leadership that would stand firm beside them they would melt away, leaving all the technology we had left in their hands in the hands of the enemies that Donald Trump put in charge with a stroke of his pen.

The Northern Alliance might have been up to the task if we had allowed them to lead, to put their blood and treasure on the line as the cost of not supporting the central government in Kabul. We’ll never know, because that eventuality never occurred. Instead we colonized and set up a puppet government just like we did in Vietnam; and the entire façade collapsed without our constant support, also just like Vietnam.

Now. Now we need to be working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to insure that it doesn’t devolve into the hellhole the Taliban made of it before. If we don’t do this work then we will find ourselves once again drawn into conflict there sometime in the future. Drawn into conflict or attacked by terrorists that found safe harbor there just as they did before. This outcome can’t be allowed to occur; and the only way to stop it is to help make Afghanistan the place it should have been all those years ago when we decided to continue being an empire instead of being a republic of fellow humans that needed to see past wrongs righted and the guilty brought to justice.

How can we, the country that still can’t come to peace with its own slave history, its own genocide of the original population of the land our country was founded on, how can we hope to ever show others how they can move past the point were blood calls out for blood? Who else is there that will do this work if we don’t?

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Featured image from: warfarehistorynetwork.com

When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50¢? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Under the hood of the rental car. In a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.

Reinventing the Game

I was relating the story of the Cleveland Indians trying to change their name to the Guardians to The Wife the other day. She didn’t believe that they could have been so stupid as to not determine that there was a team named Guardians in Cleveland before changing their name:

Cleveland Indians changing name to Cleveland Guardians: Tom Hanks narrates announcement

That’s shaping the two teams up for a fight. The Guardians roller derby team has filed a trademark application for the rights to the name. The MLB team did the same four days prior, but trademarks often go to the first entity to use the name, rather than the first to file for it.

fortune.com

This apparently put her in the mood to watch one of her favorite standby movies:

Major League (1989)

I don’t know why someone who hates watching sports as much as she and I do can sit down and repeatedly watch movies about the business of sports over and over again like she does. But she does, and this movie is just one among many that she has rewatched repeatedly over the years including movies like Draft Day, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Jerry Maguire and several others. Major League is a film that I also like. I like it for the comedy and the comeback spirit that is the theme of the movie. What I was reminded of when I wandered through and watched a few scenes of the film with her, was the similarity of that movie’s theme to the theme of:

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball (2011) Movie Trailer

There is very little comedy in Moneyball. But that line from Brad Pitt “There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there is us.” It is the theme of Major League, but Moneyball is a movie about events that actually took place in baseball history and not a comedy spoof about underdogs who beat the system. The manager of the Oakland A’s at the time, Billy Beane, and a character named Peter Brand, an amalgamation of several people who worked with Beane to implement the Moneyball algorithms into the selection process for new players, changed the way baseball has been run ever since the season that is documented in the movie. It is truly a movie about the underdogs taking what has been given to them, and making something better out of it.

Major League is a funny, heartwarming movie. Moneyball is a down to brass tacks gritty-assed film about the choices that go into putting together a winning team. Both movies tell a similar story. Don’t blame me if I like the story of a real underdog succeeding over the fiction. It took me forever to even get the Wife to watch Moneyball. The fact that math was somehow involved in the movie was enough to leave her cold. After having watched it once, she’s now put that movie into rotation, too.

Here’s hoping the Cleveland Indians get to change their name. I doubt a name change will be enough to change their baseball future, but anything is possible. Any move away from using native Americans as sports mascots is a move in the right direction. Time to leave that past behind us.

MAGA: Rising Gas Prices

facebook.com/McGeachinforidaho

Dear wannbe Governor,

I would have sworn that everyone was onboard with oil prices rising so as to save the oil industry? That seemed to be the mantra under the last president. I mean, the oil industry collapsed under Trump and the glut of gasoline that his pandemic failure caused drove oil down into unheard of negative prices per barrel last summer. Republicans were crying left and right for someone to do something to prop up the price of oil. You can’t sell gasoline if no one is driving, and no one was driving last summer or all of last year. This summer, now that people are driving again, there isn’t enough gasoline to go around. Hence the price rise. This is not rocket science, nor does it have a single thing to do with President Biden.

If you want to thank President Biden for something, thank him for the infrastructure bill that he helped guide through congress with bipartisan support. He’s easily been more of a president in his first six months in office than Trump was at any point in his entire four years in the office. I’ll bet Biden won’t be impeached even one time during his presidency. He’s hands down better than the last guy, but probably not better than what might have been if the woman had won in 2016. What was her name again?

President Biden has been good for the country, in any case. There is no point in trying to throw shade at him for the elevated gasoline prices, which are ridiculous right now. Who’s going to disagree with that? Would you like him to institute price controls so that the cost to the consumer doesn’t go up? No? Then what action by the executive will change the price of gas? Nothing. Nothing that the executive branch can do will reduce the price of gasoline at the pump right now aside from that action.

Joe Biden has not been bad for the country. It floors me that Republican hopefuls think that trashing President Biden will earn them points. If anything, Biden and the Democrats should be doing even more than they’ve already done. They should have already killed the filibuster and passed voter protection laws:

They should have passed the bigger infrastructure bill.

Afghanistan? You want to blame Joe Biden for Afghanistan? Obama should have pulled us out of Afghanistan eight years ago instead of waiting for Trump to make a deal with the Taliban to take over when we left. The only thing that would have been better than that is if Bush II hadn’t been dumb enough to try to colonize Afghanistan in the first place (Graveyard of Empires? Hello?) The bullshit coming off the current crop of Republicans is the same odiferous stuff that Trump was shoveling for the last four years. The people who smell what is coming off the Biden administration and think that what they smell is bad for us should remember that. If what is coming out of the White House smells bad, it’s because the staff there haven’t gotten all the bullshit that Trump left in the White House out of it yet. You can take that observation to the bank.

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Bone Conduction?

I have been relying on Aftershokz headphones for nearly everything that I hear for almost a decade now. The Titanium series was reliable even if the pads fell off of the conduction ends of the headset pretty routinely. If you held your mouth the right way you could sometimes get the pads to stick back on, or you could try your hand at gluing them back on yourself. I wore each set until the speakers quit working one way or the other, and I was thankful to be able to enjoy music again for the first time in over a decade since I started suffering from hearing loss due to Meniere’s.

The new Open Move design doesn’t have pads that can fall off, so they get higher marks from me than the old Titanium’s did.

I couldn’t figure out how to get the headsets to work with the PlayStation 3 or 4 though. I also couldn’t get the Bluetooth connection to work properly with my laptop and the various games and chat software that I have used over all these years. I bought a wired set of Aftershokz Sports for that purpose. Even though the first generation of Sportz didn’t have a mic, they worked like a charm for what I needed them to do. They worked like a charm until I accidentally pulled the wire out of the in-line battery pack a few days ago.

when I went online to try to get a new set of Sportz I discovered that Aftershokz has discontinued them. Now that is a problem. The Wife had noticed that they had been discontinued earlier in the year (before her trip to the hospital) and so she had bought an alternative headset that advertised itself as being bone conduction; bought them prophylactically in the eventuality that I destroyed the set I was relying on for gameplay and late-night movie watching. She likes not being woken up by the deaf guy trying to hear his movies and games at night.

Now there is bone conduction, and then there is bone conduction. On a totally different level there is the fraud that calls itself bone conduction, the trendy thing people are paying for in headsets these days. On Amazon I ran across four different stores all selling the exact same headset: LBCW, LBFXQ, LBCD and GZCRDZ. Who knows how many more there are if I were to go looking further down the search results list. All of these stores are selling the exact same headset and all of them are not bone conduction. How do I know this? First off, the images are identical on all the store pages, as are the color offerings for the device. The wiring harness is the same as is the microphone embedded in the wiring.

I know they aren’t bone conduction because the headset the wife bought from a fifth store on Amazon has proven it isn’t bone conduction through rigorous testing. I’ve used bone conduction headphones for years and they don’t work if you stick them in your ears. If you stick these headphones in your ears (as uncomfortable as that is to do) you can hear them better than if you place them correctly just above the jawbone. They are not bone conduction, and they aren’t even worth the extremely cheap price charged for them. Do yourself a favor, pay the extra money and get a real bone conduction headset.

As I said though, I can’t get the Sportz that I like unless I buy a used pair off of eBay, and there aren’t a lot of those either. Not having a wired headset will put a crimp in my late-night movie watching and Red Dead Redemption II playing at 4 am, but I think I have solved the Bluetooth issue on my laptop.

After some sleuthing, I have discovered a work-around to get the headset to work for both gaming and chatting. In the Windows sound panel, set headphones as default. Then in your chat software set it to use the default output and you should be able to get sound from both channels simultaneously. If your laptop doesn’t have a built-in mic this work-around might be a problem for you. In the meantime I will be looking for a suitable wired headset replacement to connect to the PS-4 at least. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

Left Behind. Celebrate Sinister Triskaidekaphilia

As Rose Eveleth explains in a brief piece titled Two-Thirds of the World Still Hates Lefties: “Even the word left comes from ‘lyft’ which meant broken. The German words ‘linkisch’ also means awkward. The Russian word ‘levja’ is associated with being untrustworthy. Synonyms for left in Mandarin are things like weird, incorrect and wrong.” Meanwhile, “right” has mostly positive associations (e.g. “correct”). The history here is long, and not just linguistic — in the Middle Ages, witchcraft was sometimes associated with left-handedness as well.

99percentinvisible.org

The 13th of August is international left-handers day. I find the selection of that day to represent all the people who share my digital disfigurement to be strangely apropos. Thirteen is supposedly a bad number because the twelve disciples plus Jesus equals thirteen people at an event. There are many buildings that do not have a thirteenth floor. Friday the thirteenth is supposedly an unlucky day. Today is Lefthanders Day, an unlucky day on the most ominous day of the week. How fortuitous for those of us who celebrate this kind of oddity.

The thirteenth is my lucky day. I was born on the thirteenth. I got married on the thirteenth because the wife insists I remember things that fall on the thirteenth day of the month. She also scheduled the births of our children (C-sections are like that) for the thirteenth of the month. It isn’t her fault the children didn’t actually emerge on those days (birth is like that) So when Friday the thirteenth rolls around I enjoy the double-whammy of good luck; my favorite day of the week and my favorite day of the month combined into one great day to celebrate. Celebrate your weirdness. Instead of triskaidekaphobia embrace triskaidekaphilia in the presence of that sinister friend of yours:

While much of the world has at least accepted left-handedness in modern times, there were long periods in many countries in which left-handed children would have their tied hands behind backs in to “retrain” them. Intentions were good, in theory — kids were supposed to be prepared for a right-handed world, or so went the thinking. Paul Broca’s breakthroughs regarding the lateralization of the brain in the 1800s were a first step in recognizing the scientific reality of left-handedness, but research was slow to expand well into the 1900s.

99percentinvisible.org

None of us are normal. None of us are average:

99% Invisible – 226 On Average

Today, we take for granted that equipment should fit a wide range of body sizes rather than being standardized around the “average person.” From this understanding has come the science of ergonomics: the study of how to match people’s physical capacity to the needs of the job.

99percentinvisible.org

I can’t write with either hand, so it makes little difference to me that I am lefthanded. Still, there is no denying that scissors conspire against me, that pliers and other hand-specific tools attempt to maim me and all of the projects I embark upon. There is little surprise that power tools terrify me. The guards are always on the wrong side of the blade. The handles on the wrong side of the cutting surface. Left-handers are maimed at a much higher rate than right-handed people because the tools are not designed for them to be held in the left hand. The amazing part of all of this is that we manage to thrive in spite of the barriers put in our way. Celebrate being in your right minds. Southpaws unite!

facebook.com/Stonekettle

Don’t Deny You Watch Me

Concord HPL 115 – 1979

I bought Tom Petty’s forth album when it released in 1981. It was just another cassette in a very long string of cassettes that I bought at the Hastings next to the Safeway where I worked in downtown Sweetwater that year. But it was one of the first cassettes (Much like RX5) I played on my prized new stereo that I bought to put in the first car that I paid for by myself, a burnt orange ’72 Chevelle with an all-black interior. I spent countless hours cruising the drag and the blacktop highways surrounding Sweetwater, Texas in that car. Hard Promises was one of my mainstays, an album I came back to time and again.

I never bothered to read the track list. I had a purist’s sense of album-oriented music. The tracks were irrelevant back then, the album was what I listened to. I know what the track names are now, of course. The Waiting was one of my all-time go-to songs. Eighteen and still chained to my mother and my siblings, waiting is what I was doing back then. It was the hardest part. A Woman in Love was also achingly true at the time. My fiancée betrayed me for another man, another boy-child with better prospects, not too long after I picked this album up. On replaying it after the breakup the song could make me weep almost uncontrollably.

The third song was a puzzle. I never could figure out the words of the chorus. No matter how many times I replayed the album, the best I could make it out to be was Don’t Deny You Watch Me:

Spotify – Nightwatchman

Don’t deny you watch me never made sense when coupled to the verses, and I felt like an idiot a few years later when I finally thought to read the track list. It might have helped me to understand what the title was and why if I had known that Tom Petty had a job as a security guard/groundskeeper through the years he was putting the Heartbreakers together and writing the songs that would eventually make him world-famous. The story of talking to the security guard that he credits as the inspiration for the song seems apocryphal to me. It’s a nice story to explain away the presence of the song on the forth album. It doesn’t explain the emotion of wasting your time away at minimum wage as a Nightwatchman.

I woke up with those lyrics in my head today. I’m trialing Spotify right now, so I queued up the song and let Spotify create a playlist based on that song. After a couple of false starts, it did pretty good at serving me up songs I wanted to hear as I was preparing breakfast. Then I hear the familiar funky bassline of My City Was Gone and I started to pass the song over:

Spotify – My City Was Gone

Then I stopped myself. The intro music that Rush Limbaugh pilfered and abused for more than a decade is free from his taint now, I said to myself. I will allow myself to enjoy the song as if I was hearing it for the first time again. I never knew of the song before I first heard it being used as intro music for the Rush Limbaugh show (Much as I had never heard AC/DC’s Gone Shootin’ before hearing it used as an intro for Jeff Ward’s talk show) I made a dedicated effort to understand what the show was about and why people thought it was funny back in the day, after I first dismissed the show because it replaced the talk show host I had been listening to on 590 AM in 1988. The previous show had been about Austin and subjects around Austin and it was relevant if not actually always interesting.

The Rush Limbaugh Show was propaganda crafted for a particular audience and worldview, and try as a might I could not enjoy the show or the callous bastard that was the host of the show. I did catch glimpses of his humor, briefly. It never stuck and never stood up to later analysis in the harsh light of reality. His television show was completely laughable and deserved to be cancelled. Few people even remember his abortive attempt to take over television, but it was one of the first real setbacks the man encountered. I wish he had encountered more of them, he might have become a better person.

For years, the bassline that began My City Was Gone was my personal warning to change stations, and it was the only part of Limbaugh’s show that I really ever paid attention to. I lamented his use of the song because it destroyed my enjoyment of it. As usual, with conservative politicians, the songs they pick are selected for the tones they set, and not for the actual messages that the songs contain.

Born in the USA is a lament, not a celebration. That didn’t stop Ronald Reagan from using it incessantly to promote his presidency. My City was Gone is also a lament. A denouncement of all things corporate and consumerist and new:

Hynde’s particular stolen mental property is Akron, Ohio. And granted, this is no Norman Rockwell painting small town: it’s a big city. Even so, the parts of Akron Hynde loved best had been altered beyond repair during her time away. “South Howard had disappeared,” she sadly notes. South Howard Street is the historic center of Akron. When she continues with “reduced to parking spaces,” she’s referring to how this city center was leveled to make room for an urban plaza highlighted by a trio of skyscrapers and a couple parking decks.

songfacts.com

The picture the song paints is not the picture that Rush Limbaugh or his fans would embrace. It is bleak and cold and heartless, like their beliefs are, but they fail to recognize. If they understood this fact they would change their beliefs. That they remain unchanged is more of a testament to their lack of understanding than anything else they might say or do.

I played the song through no less than a dozen times today, and I’ve enjoyed it more each time. Nightwatchman lead me to this song again, I can’t deny it. I do watch you, conservatives. I do watch you, and I condemn you. You can never have real music with the ideals you profess. Real music has soul, and your hollow capitalist ideal knows no soul.

Featured image is a capture from the live performance of My City Was Gone linked in this article about the song.

What Do You Want to Remember?

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

Whatever can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford (Ask Me)
Robert Bly Reads William Stafford: The Darkness Around Us Is Deep (1993)