Sunday, October 20, 2019

My Worthless Feeling

I have nothing to allow today.  Which is rarely an impediment to my writing in these chronicles.

Beat you to it.

Anyway, I'm taking the day off.

Talk amongst yourselves.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I don't particularly know what came over me.  But a couple of months ago I decided that I wanted a nice wrist watch.  The only type of watch I've worn since-when?-law school I guess has been a running watch, a Timex Ironman (more specifically) the last 15 years or so.  The Deacon gave me a FitBit watch 4-5 years ago.  I was teaching full-time back then.  It would amaze me how many steps I would take in the average day.

You think teaching ain't work?  Buy a teacher of your acquaintance a FitBit or similar product and check his or her mileage.  Bet it's more than yours by a couple of laps.

But keeping track of all the stuff the stupid thing compiled on me on a constant basis) became damn near a fetish.  Or as close to one as I'll ever have. And my eyes are pretty bad.  I had trouble seeing the face of the device (you couldn't really call it a watch) in broad daylight.   So I went to Wal-Mart last spring and got me another Ironman.

Which suits me just fine.  Until I saw an article in Esquire Magazine about watches it recommended.  And it occurred to me that here I am pushing 65 and I didn't have what my father would call a "dress watch."  Besides, I'm no longer paying for 2 houses so the cash flow has improved considerably. So off I went in search of my dream.  

Now I knew I wasn't going to buy a Rolex, although my brother Bob gave me a fake one for Christmas one year.  Or anything that cost over $500.  So the first place I looked was at a large department store in the mall down the road.  This was a mistake.  The men's watches on display there were heavily reliant on the bling.  A gentleman of my age and station should not disport himself as Willie the Pimp.

So I started looking online.  I told my buddy Phil what I was up to.  Turns out he had a Citizen in his desk drawer that he wasn't wearing.  So he gave it to me to try out.  It's a lovely watch and I am grateful for his thoughtfulness.  But the damn thing has a black face, black hands and black numbers.  My eyes are so bad I can't read it even in good light. So first priority was to find a watch I can actually read with ease in all light.  

Two things became readily apparent once I started looking.  The first is that there have to be 25-30 companies in America that make quality timepieces in my price range.  The first one I ever heard of was Shinola out in Detroit.  I think I saw a story on 60 Minutes about how the company bought a building downtown and trained unemployed folks how to make watches.      I don't know if Shinola was the inspiration for all of these other companies making watches in this great land of ours.  But there sure are a lot of them.

Secondly, if you don't think Facebook doesn't read your mind or something, just look for a watch online.  Or some other discreet niche product.  As if by magic you will find ads from makers and sellers of watches on your feed.  Same thing with golf equipment.  It's really true that there's no such thing as privacy out there on the Internet.  So don't go looking for sex toys online unless you Mark Zuckerberg all up in your business.  

A word to the wise is sufficient.

After much looking and research I settled on a watch made by an outfit in Los Angeles called VAER.  The one I picked was semi-military in style in that it had a green face and white hands and numbers.  It came with two straps.  One was a gray nylon "NATO styled" strap for use in diving and other adventurous water sports.  The other is a "burnt orange" leather strap.  I have a feeling that the military grade strap will stay in the box.  I don't like to swim.  Besides, NATO will probably be dissolved by the time the election rolls around.  The Texas Longhorns will not.  Finally, it cost far less than my price range.

So I placed the order.  They said it would take about 2 weeks due to a backlog on orders.  Most likely it was the lies about backlogs on orders that were backed up.  But I didn't mind.

My new watch came in last Friday.  It was just as pretty in the box as depicted online.  It has a nice heft and feel to it on my wrist seeing as how, unlike either the Ironman, the FitBit or the fake Rolex given to me by Bob, the new watch has a million moving parts.  And it has a feature VAER calls lume which is just a fancy Latinate word for "light." Which means I can read it in pitch darkness as well as normal light.  And I can.  I am so happy.  

So if you are in the market for a reasonably priced, attractive timepiece that is made in the USA, take a look at the VAER website.  Or any of them.  They are all pretty good.

Just don't be surprised when Mark Zuckerberg gets wind of this too.  



  

Sunday, October 06, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I know a woman whose late husband found himself in protracted litigation over real estate during a time when he was not at all well.  She wrote me to tell me that she had heard recently that the attorney for the other party was now himself gravely ill.

"Karma is a bitch ain't it?" she wrote.

Indeed it is.  In this case it has given a perfectly nice little lady a license to indulge in schadenfreude.  Which I completely get.   

I don't claim to be very good at Christianity.  I have my moments I suppose.  But I  understand the inability to forgive.  

In my own life, there are a couple of people whose funeral I would attend pretty much only to make sure that they were indeed stone cold dead.  Which is petty in the extreme and goes against both my home and church upbringing.   I know this.  I was raised better.

But under certain circumstances Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek is not just impractical.  It seems impossible. Ask anybody who has gone through a divorce.  Who has come out on the short end of a business deal.  Who has been denied a promotion or otherwise works for a son-of-a-bitch.  Pick your own scenario. I know that you can.

Which is why the scene in the courtroom in Dallas was so remarkable.  A young man named Botham Jean was sitting in his apartment eating ice cream when he was blown to Kingdom Come by a cop named Amber Guyger who claimed that she not only somehow mistook his apartment for her own.  She mistook him for an intruder.  

The prosecutor called this unlikely mistake of both identity and residence "murder" and a jury agreed.  It gave Guyger 10 years.  Just before she got led off, the brother of Botham Jean approached her.  And the now famous picture shows him hugging her and offering her his forgiveness.

Seriously.  

By all accounts, Botham Jean was a fine young man. He was much beloved by friends and family.  He manifestly did not deserve to have his life taken from him by an addled police officer.  And yet Amber Guyger was forgiven by the brother of the man she executed.

Could you do that?  I know I couldn't.  I'm not nearly Christian enough or man enough.  Mercifully, most of us won't have to have our faith tested in such an extreme way.

I'm no theologian but I am a practical man. Perhaps there's a middle ground.  I heard a rabbi once say, on the Don Imus show of all places, that "hating somebody is to drink the poison and expect that other person to die."  I think that this is useful advice which I have tried to follow in my own life.

Like I said, there are a few folks that I would just as soon not ever have anything to do with ever again.  But I refuse to hate them.  Mainly because to hate them would require me to think about them.  I refuse to let them occupy real estate in my head.  I refuse to drink the poison. 

That ain't exactly offering up my cheek to be slapped.  But that's the best I can do. 

The harder question would be what would I do if one of these people that "I would just as soon not have anything to do with" asked me for forgiveness.  I am comfortable posing this question as I am certain that it is purely rhetorical.  Narcissists have no need of reconciliation.  

But my answer is, God help me, that I do not know.  I do not know if I am capable of being Botham Jean's brother.  But I refuse to hate.  Like I said, it's the best I can do.

And I guess that would be my response to my widowed friend.  

I hope she finds a measure of peace someday.  I hope she can put down the poison.

But I likewise understand it, and will not blame her, if she never does.      









  

Sunday, September 29, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

"[T]here's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it...It sounds horrible to me."

                         From the unclassified notes of a telephone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky of the Ukraine July 25, 2019 which were released by the White House.

I have never, in this space or otherwise, advocated for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  In the first place I consider myself to be an imminently practical man.  And I failed to see the use of initiating such a divisive process when there is no practical hope that the Senate would convict given the fact that it is controlled by the Republicans.  Rather, I would vastly prefer to defeat Trump at the ballot box.  If he is removed from office by any other means, it will do nothing more than stoke the fires of grievance burning in the guts of his base.  

Not that removing him from office by either method will mean that we will be shed of Donald Trump.  No.  As long as he has opposable thumbs he will post away on Twitter.  And, most likely, he will host his own show on either radio or Fox.  Which was most likely why he ran in the first place.  I am not the only person to believe that Trump never believed he would actually pull this off.  Nor did he particularly care.  All he cared about, all he still cares about, is the brand.  He will not go gentle into that good night when he finally leaves office.  The money he stands to make is too good to pass up.  And when Trump finally gets on the air, he will make Mike Huckabee look like George Will by comparison.  At least voting him out takes care of the asterisk that he and his supporters would otherwise place by his name if he is removed..

But I digress.

I have changed my mind about opening an impeachment inquiry.  Trump committed an impeachable offense, if not a felony, through the firing of James Comey.  And now we have evidence that he solicited the assistance of a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival while his administration was holding up aid to that country.  Aid that had been appropriated for that purpose by the Congress. 

If that's not a "high crime and misdemeanor" what is?  As the Speaker of the House said in an interview said the other day, "What choice do we have?"   Practicalities of the politics of it are no longer enough.  This has to be investigated.  

But still.  I don't get it.  I never had Trump up there with Machiavelli insofar as tactical ability is concerned.  But my God.  It's not like the President of the United States has private conversations with leaders of foreign countries.  Or, if he does, they are infrequent.  No. Most of the time there are people listening in and taking copious notes.  And a transcript will be prepared.  

Why didn't a bell go off in his head alerting him to the fact that it might not be the brightest thing in the world to make an extortionate demand or, if you prefer, attempt to make a deal involving the highest offices of the United States for his political gain while the walls had ears?

Maybe it's because Trump is not the brightest bulb that's ever been screwed into a socket in the Oval Office.  Which means he really believes that because the phrase "quid quo pro" was never uttered that none was ever offered.  

Please.  Trump has dealt with mobsters enough to know that the language of extortion is subtle.  This provides a measure of deniability if somebody is wearing a wire.  And it's scarier.

For example: "You've got a nice business here.  I would hate to see something happen to it."  Language such as that has been held by the courts to be extortionate. Or, I have a friend who grew up in New York. He had a relative who was in construction who was asked rhetorically by a mobbed up union representative "You ever seen a body at the bottom of an elevator shaft?"

In the situation at hand the Trump Administration was holding up money legally earmarked for the Ukraine.  According to the notes RELEASED BY THE WHITE HOUSE ITSELF, Trump asked the Ukrainian President for "a favor." Said favor being help in finding dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. You think President Zelensky didn't catch the clue?

And as if this wasn't enough, he offered the assistance of the Attorney General of the United States in this regard as long as the services of his personal attorney and free-lance diplomat Rudolph Giuliani in this regard.

Clearly, an inquiry must begin.  Even though I dread the prospect of this with every fibre of my being.  Donald Trump has no shame.  And to paraphrase what was once said about the Taliban soldier, "He would burn down a village to light a cigarette."  Those two traits together, along with this lack of respect for the rule of law, and/or basic decorum and feral intellectual deficits make Donald Trump a very dangerous man.

The worst man for these perilous times.  And it is for this reason that Nancy Pelosi will have to keep a tight rein on the proceedings to make sure that they don't devolve into the circus that I fear Trump and Fox News will attempt to portray them to be.  

The great Swedish tennis player Mats Willander once said that the difference between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer was that "Roger has no balls and Rafa has three"

The Speaker of the House is similarly endowed. Metaphorically speaking of course.  My money is on her.  

But God is this going to be ugly or what?  













Sunday, September 22, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

About a month ago the Deacon revealed unto me that she had gone vegan.  This was in response to my asking her why she wasn't eating any of the jerk chicken that I had grilled with my loving hands.  At her request. Or so I had thought. 

Anyway, I wasn't completely surprised by this.  Although D enjoyed the occasional bite of steak off the grill or my butterflied pork chops, she pretty much preferred fruit and vegetables to anything else.  Indeed, her daughter Sarah of Arabia was vegan when I first made her acquaintance back when she was in high school.  So veggies have been a thing at the dinner table for the 5 years we have all been together. 

As far as relationship changes go, this is not that big of a deal.  It does tend to complicate the formerly simple question "What do you want to do for dinner?" But it's not like she expects me to cross over with her.  Or join a temperance league.  The latter persuasion being a shorthand version of the phrase "general indignities sufficient to make life intolerable." Or whatever it is. I don't wait tables or do divorce work.

D and Sarah are good cooks. Truth be told, I've eaten a lot of their vegan cooking and I have to say most of it's pretty damn good.  Besides, I spent many years in South Louisiana and  there's not much that can't be improved to my taste with Tabasco and/or cheese.  I buy sandwich meat and bacon from the deli.  Sometimes I'll have a sandwich and eat some of her dinner for a side.  It works.

I'm a decent cook. But my repertoire is pretty limited to guy stuff such as grilling and soups and stews in the winter.  For years I have made chili on Sunday nights in the fall and winter.  I guess I will give it a whirl using fake meat if ever we get seasonable weather around here.  I made a red meat sauce using ersatz beef the other night.  I found the pasta made from chickpeas a whole lot stranger than my red sauce.  Then again, Tabasco and cheese can normalize just about anything.   

Since D has come out of the closet-or more accurately the barn-on this issue I have become aware that there are many in her number.  My friend Paul at school has been giving me some good tips.  "Hummus is a good bridge in a house divided," he advised.  And he is correct.  I've eaten more hummus in the last month than in the previous year.

And there's no doubting the health benefits.  Neither Paul nor D are heavy people.  But Paul is now fitter and more trim since he has given up meat.  And D is more willowy than she was.  And her recent blood work is perfect.  Can't argue with that.  

The fact of the matter is that global warming-there I said it-will make traditional meat agriculture more expensive.  This cost will have to be passed to the consumer.  Another school friend Steve used to be an aficionado of the "cheap steak." Sometimes I would go to the store with him where he would reveal his secret knowledge of how to find the perfect specimen.  I'm afraid this knowledge, like driving a shift on a column, is obsolete.  There ain't no such thing as a cheap steak anymore.  Plant based food is the future whether we like it or not.  

But this new plant based world of meat products is not without complications.  There was a fascinating article in the paper yesterday about whether plant based pork ( and other formerly forbidden foods) may be consumed by our Jewish and Muslim friends.  It is a subject of some debate in those two cultures.  As one of the rabbis interviewed said, "Ask any 3 rabbis and you will get 25 opinions."  So there's that.

Last night D wanted to try one of those Impossible Whoppers made by Burger King.  So being the good provider that I am I went to the frequently robbed BK over by the medical school and got 2 to go.  Or given the gunfire that occasionally erupts over there, I got 2 to "run real fast."  Anyway, the burger was really good.  I couldn't really tell the difference between it and the real thing.  So there's another option.

It is clear that plant based food is part of our future both as a society and within the confines of this house.     As long as I can make my Sunday night chili in the winter months and have the occasional steak on the grill I can handle this.  

But I ain't going back to BK after 8 pm again. The health effects of the Impossible Whopper Burger would be offset by an overdose of lead.  And admittedly things might get tense around here if D starts handing out temperance literature on the street.  But so far so good.

Like I said, as far as changes to relationships go, I can handle this.  


Sunday, September 15, 2019

AWOL

It's been a busy week by my admittedly negotiable standards for the concept of busyness.  Nothing to report since last week.

However, I will note that another hurricane seems to be bearing down on the Bahamas.  Maybe some TV preacher with appropriate magic skills can go down there and talk some sense into it before it makes landfall.  

You do remember that the two charlatans I wrote about last week claim they can talk to what the sane world otherwise considers to be meteorological phenomena don't you?  And convince it to change course.

I'm guessing they will stay home since Florida is not yet in danger.  

You can't make this stuff up.

Anyway, carry on!




Sunday, September 08, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

For the life of me, I don't know how people can come to believe this stuff.  The "stuff" to which I am referring (and please feel free to insert your own favorite descriptive word if you feel so led) are the recent stories out of Florida-and it's always Florida-where a couple of TV preachers have claimed that God, working through them, caused Hurricane Dorian to miss the Sunshine State.

The first guy I heard about is a preacher down there named Rick Wiles.  An Internet search for him causes many entries to pop up, many of them containing such words as "right-wing" and "bigot."  Earlier this month, he hit up his evidently gullible and weak-minded viewers for-get this-100 million bucks.  That is breathtaking.  Even old pros at working the preacher con like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart might be hesitant to put the arm on the faithful for that much long green.  Not all at once at least.  Wiles says he needs this much scratch to build a global media "for the body of Christ to get us through to the End when Christ comes back."  Which is a positively Trumpian serving of word salad.  

You notice these guys never give a breakdown of where the money they solicit will actually go?  Do you think there is a reason for this?

Anyway, Wiles said that God told him "to speak directly to the storm" and get it to turn northeast.  Really.  He said God told him to talk to a phenomenon of nature. 

Kat Kerr is another preacher down there.  She has pink hair and claims to have been given tours of Heaven off and on for the last 10 years.  She took to the beach down there in Jacksonville armed with a rod or a staff which she swung baseball- like (left handed just like me)  at the storm-or in the direction of the storm- which was at that time 40 miles out-commanding that it head east in the name of God.  

Which the damn thing did, making landfall at Cape Hatteras about 6 this morning, knocking out power to 250,000 people in the process.  I guess the TV preachers in the Carolinas don't have the same juju as the ones south of there.

Now I do not believe for one second that God intervened in human history at the behest of these two.  Or evidently anybody else if you take into account the carnage visited upon the Bahamas.  They got churches down there.  I'm certain that folks there were fervently imploring the Almighty to spare them.  Which He, in his mercy, obviously did not. But to paraphrase Mr. Lincoln, still it must be said the judgments of the Lord are righteous.

To believe otherwise is to ignore one of the logical fallacies identified by Plato: that of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" or the fallacy of "false cause."  Sequence is not always causality.  Just because the medicine man beats his drum to make it rain doesn't mean that if it rains he was the reason.  And just because some pink haired lunatic takes 3 cuts at the ocean allegedly in the name of God doesn't mean she-or God come to think of it- was the reason that Jacksonville was spared and North Carolina was not.  

This is not religion.  This is superstition.  This is magical thinking at best and a con at the worst. 

But I will tell you this.  If one of these charlatans-wherever they may be in this great land of ours- can use their suck with the Almighty to stop the next mass shooting, I will gladly open up my wallet.  I think my money is safe.

Until then I'm going to try to learn to swing that right handed wedge I got in the garage.  If acting crazy is the long term side effect from swinging from the port side I'm going to try to cross the hell over before it's too late.