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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,301

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Dear Lincoln Project...

Dear Lincoln Project,

I'm grateful to you.

We share a few values: Love for our country. Respect for the Constitution. Belief that a government should not wantonly disregard its responsibilities to its citizens and our neighbors in the world community. An understanding of the power of unity, humanity, and shared sacrifice to achieve great things. Maybe some others.

We both recognize some existential threats to our nation: A would-be authoritarian fascist dictator who desperately wants to retain his grip on the levers of power and continue destroying the democratic institutions of our nation, and a major political party that has traded its responsibility to govern in the broader interests of all citizens for the support of a toxic minority that enables it to retain its grip on the levers of power. (There's a theme here, right?)

In the face of these existential threats, you have stepped up, and put your not-inconsiderable talents at the service of our country to meet them. And you have done so at some personal sacrifice- as you noted, none of you are likely to get the kind of satisfying, lucrative employment you formerly enjoyed from Republican Party sources. You have walked your talk with amazing grace, and I respect that.

There are some things we will probably always differ on: It concerns me that although you see the roots of the Republican Party's devolution in its tolerance of racist opportunism and willful embrace of disunity and division as a tool for retaining power, you don't seem to make a connection between this and movement conservatism's definition of "freedom" as "people (including corporations) should have the least possible restraint on their choices regardless of how much that puts the well-being of their neighbors, communities, and posterity at risk."

But let's put that aside, for now. I think we have some opportunities to continue to achieve the things we do agree on, and advance the values we do share, without putting too much strain on the places we will probably always differ.

Should we succeed in electing, and installing, a Biden Administration, I hope you might be willing to discuss the challenges that Administration will face in communicating with our painfully-divided citizenry. Your experience and skills could be valuable in helping restore the trust of Americans in our government- and without that trust, we will face continual and costly challenges in healing the fabric of our nation.

Checks and balances are critical, but so is that trust. Government earns the trust of citizens by acting in their interests, but also by being transparent, honest, and communicating effectively. I am pretty sure that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have bedrock commitment to that transparency and honesty in their governance, and they will need plenty of skilled help in communicating effectively.

If you don't feel able to provide active assistance to a new Administration in building trust, might you be willing to simply refrain from working against it?

Think about it.


Biden Administration To-Do List: Somewhere Near the Top

Start with this article. And then this one. And then maybe this one... I could go on. I have dozens.

(For those too lazy to click and read, the links go to an article about a boy in Roswell, NM who walks to his (closed) school so he can use its wi-fi to do his online school classwork; a report on lead in the water of New Orleans shaping up to look like a Flint redux; and a story about a crumbling highway bridge in eastern Washington state.)

Yes, there will be a LOT of urgent priorities for an incoming Biden Administration to address- saving American lives by dealing effectively with the pandemic, unfucking the voting system, setting up a judiciary review commission to expose, impeach and/or remove Federal judges who lied to the U.S. Senate during their confirmation and/or who are manifestly unqualified for their responsibilities, restoring needed functions of government, etc.

So I don't say this one should be at the very top of the list.

But somewhere near the top, this should be ready for a roll-out:

Massive deficit spending on vast public-works projects to transform and restore the physical infrastructure that once enabled the greatest economy in the world to expand and flourish. Millions of jobs bringing high-speed bandwidth to rural areas (think the REA) and working with cities to rebuild sustainable clean water and safe power grids.

Millions of jobs restoring both mass transit and safe highways to deliver goods such as PPEs, medical supplies, essential food and other gear.

Oh, yeah, and millions of jobs in public/private partnerships to restore the whole supply chain of critical equipment and materials for health care, education, and public safety, from building and repurposing factories to incentive programs for union workforces, to a carrot/stick program of regulations and incentives for moving goods and supplies in the most sustainable and carbon-neutral possible way.

And millions of jobs transforming our power grid to deliver sustainable energy, secure from hacking, vandalism, or other attacks.

And millions of new, accessible training and education programs to teach essential skills to anyone wanting to work in a new economy based on sustainability and equity.

And millions of jobs administering available grants and subsidies and assistance teams to help America's farmers restore the ability of our arable land to provide a sustainable, diverse food supply rather than Big-Ag welfare producing monocrops for industrially-producing foodlike substances with minimal nutritional value and maximal "shelf life".

Get Americans back to work building a sustainable, equitable economy for our grandchildren and we will have less time for doomscrolling through Russian propaganda sites working to divide us and spiral our economy further into a death spiral. Less time for Call of Duty cosplay in the woods. Less time for sitting in front of Fox and OAN.

In the long run, this will do much to unfuck things.

I hope they're already at work on the deets and have a few potential bellwether projects getting ready for rollout.


It's crystallized into something very simple for me:

Joe Biden has learned, and learned a LOT, from every mistake he's ever made. And he's had the long experience to make many, and learn from every one of them.

[Redacted] believes he's never even made a mistake, and he's the same person now as he was in first grade.

There is no starker contrast in terms of whose hand I want at the helm of this nation.


I just did the most important thing I will do all year.

The most important thing I have done since November 8th, 2016.

The most important thing I have done in a lifetime of political participation.

I completed my absentee ballot and took it to the County Clerk's office, where I turned it in. My partner was with me, turning in a completed absentee ballot.

We were not the only ones. There was a steady trickle... two people just leaving, a lady coming up the walkway toward us as we left, another man getting out of a car with a ballot envelope in his hand as we drove out of the county building parking lot.

And what came to mind was a book read to me when I was very small. See if you recognize the excerpt:

"'This,' said the Mayor, 'is your town's darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
to come to the aid of their country!' he said.
'We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So open your mouth, lad! Every voice counts!'"

If you haven't done it yet, do it. Help someone else do it. Every voice counts.

Because a person's a person... no matter how small.


Breathing Difficulties and Their Effects

I've had asthma most of my life. Since we moved to the high desert with its clean, dry air it has generally been well-controlled, but that doesn't mean it's "gone" and it can flare up any time with a variety of triggers: mold, stress, dust, pollen, infection, too much of certain foods, etc.

I treat it with great respect. It can kill me. It makes me more vulnerable to other problems (including, emphatically, the coronavirus infection) and can turn a mild URI into pneumonia.

For a number of years when I was younger, I assumed that the times when I wasn't conscious of an acute episode of bronchial spasm meant that I was "fine" and could ignore my asthma.

It took some serious bouts of pneumonia and persistent, serious bronchitis to teach me otherwise.

See, asthma isn't just about the acute bronchial spasms. You can be having an "attack" of mild bronchial spasm without realizing it, if you are not paying attention. You're not gasping for breath. You're not wheezing.

It can sneak up on you. You're not even aware that your breathing is growing shallower, unless something happens to make you suddenly try and draw a deep, full-chested breath, and you end up hacking up half a lung. An attack of pollen-related hayfever may seem all about the nasal passages, the snot and the sinus congestion, the itchy eyes, and you lose track of what's going on in your lungs until suddenly a sneeze turns into a cough and you're hacking up some nasty stuff and still not able to get to the "bottom" of a really satisfying breath.

When this happens you're already more than halfway to the major problem zone, which is a nasty place to be, involving a breathing mask with corticosteroid mist, trying to sleep sitting up, and occasionally even an epinepherine injection. No, you don't wanna go there.

The smart asthmatic learns to be alert for the symptoms of breathing difficulties before they get to that point. They're a bit subtle, but once you're aware of them, they're quite easily recognizable.

Basically, you're experiencing a chronic, low-level oxygen deprivation, "hypoxemia". Symptoms include headaches, changes or irregularities in heart rate, anxiety and confusion, a dry, shallow cough, and various aches and pains you don't even notice at first, but are the consequence of you holding your body in ways that compensate for the breathing difficulty you don't even notice.

I check blood oxy when I feel a headache, a little dizziness, mild nausea, etc. Or when my hayfever acts up. If I see a drop, it's a signal to pay attention. Am I doing something I should stop doing? (The wind is blowing dust around... stop gardening and go indoors. Drink some extra caffeine- a mild bronchodilator that sometimes helps arrest a developing episode. And so on...)

I treat my breathing with respect, and I'm maybe hyper-aware of how my own breathing difficulties can have an impact on my work performance, my mood, my interactions with other people.

This is only part of why I'm so diligent about avoiding potential coronavirus infection vectors.

If I were an obese seventy-something male with hypertension and signs of dementia/diminished mental capacity, I would hope very much that there were people around me who cared about me enough to help me notice and deal with my breathing difficulties.

Because prolonged hypoxemia can end up doing (even more) damage to the brain.


Take the joystick away from him. NOW.

FFS, have the staff at Walter Reed NO professional standards? No competence? No awareness of the importance of their own responsibility?

I don't give a rat's ass how [Redacted] "feels" or what his prognosis may be.

They should have called Pence and Pelosi as soon as they started administering the cocktail of drugs that included steroids, dextromethorphan, and god-knows-what-all, because THAT STUFF WARPS YOUR JUDGMENT AND PERCEPTIONS while you are on it.

The person occupying the most powerful public office in America, with all kinds of national security implications, is on JUDGMENT-WARPING DRUGS.

Never mind that he's never had anything that could pass under the most lenient circumstances as "good" judgment to start with. That can be called a matter of opinion. Being drugged-up is NOT a matter of opinion, it is a fact. The medicos owed it to both their professional ethical standards, and, in the case of the military docs, their oath of service, to invoke Amendment 25 when those drugs were administered.


Why doesn't anyone else see this? Why is no one hanging a bell on this 800-lb. tiger?

This is not a partisan issue.

This is the controls of America's economy, public health, infrastructure and national security in the hands of someone who is seriously impaired by pharmaceutical intervention.

FFS, people! Take the damn' joystick AWAY.


COVID Stories

There is "the COVID story", and then there are COVID Stories.

"The COVID Story" is news. It's case counts. It's science reporting. It's slapping down rumors and conspiracy theories. It's exposing the stupid, venal mismanagement, and occasionally it's celebrating some selfless heroism here or there. It's the "big" story, and it's important, and by and large, it's what the media gives us.

The media is not giving us many COVID Stories, though.

I understand the challenge. Here in America there have been more than six and a half million cases. For each case, there is at least one story and, more likely, many. Stories ranging from the deepest of painful tragedy to heart-lifting triumph, and all between. Sublime stories, ridiculous stories. Deeply significant and important stories. Trivial stories, pointless to anyone but the one(s) who experienced them.

How do you capture all that?

I can't begin to imagine, but one thing I do know: In the sharing of stories there is healing, change, connection-- all the things we need most right now. We may shrink from sharing so much pain, as the teller or the reader/listener, but the sharing process is necessary and denying it will only delay what is needed.

No, I'm not saying everyone has to experience all of those millions of stories, nor that everyone must turn their story into something to share with all and sundry. Not all at once, not now. The raw pain can overwhelm, the anger and frustration can block connection rather than promote it, sometimes.

But ultimately we must all share our COVID Stories, with those we love, with strangers, with each other. We must re-knit the fabric of our community, our commons, our caring about each others' well-being, and our understanding of how others' well-being enriches us and enhances our own well-being.

We may need to do it in stages- after all, for some of us the stories are still happening, continuing to unfold.

And when a story is shared, we can acknowledge it. We can hear. We can let the story teller know we hear. "Oh, that sorrow touches me, too." "Thank you for sharing your gratitude/your hope/your strength." "Stay strong, you are not alone."

Sharing our stories is not a demand for help or action, it need not tax us beyond our strength to hear/read those stories. We do not have to rush out and try to make it better or offer advice or solutions. Just listen and acknowledge and connect. That can be difficult enough, but it is utterly necessary and it will bring rewards ultimately.

Here is a COVID story from me:

My mother is very elderly. Her physical health is good and she has had a long and productive life that has included almost 50 years in recovery from addiction to alcohol and pills. She has been a spiritual light for many.

But that light is dimming. Even with more than 40 years of recovery, the effects of addiction on the brain have contributed to a relentless march of short-term memory loss, inability to focus, and creeping dementia.

At over 90, the last five years have brought her loss after loss, as her elder siblings have passed, and friends in her age cohort have passed or lost the ability to stay in touch. She's always been sociable and deeply reliant on her network of friends and 12-Step program comrades for her sense of identity and accomplishment. And the friends who remain to her, her younger family members, and her 12-Step "family" were generously and joyously supportive of this, even as she went through the painful transitions of losing her independence.

She lost her ability to drive, but an AA friend provided a reliable weekly ride to her home meeting. She lost her best friend from childhood, but that friend's daughter became a frequent visitor and often helped her with shopping and errands and social time.

She had a health crisis last fall but younger family rallied around and her physical health, at least, recovered wonderfully. But the trauma of hospitalization exacerbated her cognitive difficulties and increased her problems with her lifelong mood disorders. It was another painful trauma when she had to move out of her home to an assisted living community.

Our hope was that she would be able to participate in structured activities, find friends- including some who had moved from her independent living housing community before her. A local AA group was investigating the feasibility of doing a regular meeting at the assisted living apartments. She was looking for a new home group in the neighborhood, and when the weather permitted she was walking in the new neighborhood.

But that was in January.

Then came the lockdown. And weeks of isolation.

Her hatred for her new apartment became a driving obsession. She thought moving might help.

The daughter (my older sister) who lives nearest and is her primary caregiver, moved mountains and bent steel bars (metaphorically speaking) to find her options and help her make a choice, and with high hopes, she moved a few weeks ago.

Into another locked-down community, because that's all there is.

She's getting worse. Her cognitive function is decreasing, the dementia is gaining ground. Her short-term memory loss has progressed to the point where if I call her on the video phone in the afternoon, she can't remember that we spoke in the morning, and says, "Oh, I'm so glad you called, it's been so long since we talked!"

She is a gallant fighter. She is getting help, but her care givers- my sister, the geriatric NP who is now her primary health care specialist, friends and family- struggle with how much she needs and the logistics of trying to meet those needs in the face of lockdown, social distancing, etc. She would doubtless be losing ground much faster without all we can do.

But I can't help but think that if we had a competent, caring government, the worst of the pandemic would be over by now. Lockdowns would have eased, resources would have been made available to improve the situation of vulnerable and forcibly-isolated elderly people. The rest of us would not always be trembling on the edge of exhaustion and racked with anxiety. There would be some hope. There would be some optimism. There would be a sense that there will be solutions, and we will find them.

She might have access to more resources, more ways to socialize, things that would keep her from feeling the desperation of lonely isolation and the grinding anxiety of living in [Redacted]'s America.

She would probably still have difficulty, not all the cognitive decline or dementia would be staved off.

But she would enjoy life more, for longer. There would be more for her to do, more interaction available, more services, more help. More respite for her caregivers. More dignity. More serenity, however episodic.

Others have had more painful, sudden trauma, loss and suffering, I know. But this slow torment is also a COVID Story.


On the gifts given to American Presidents...

There is a long and interesting history behind the giving and receiving of gifts to and by U.S. Presidents. Official policies have changed and evolved several times.

Policies on gifts to other Federal Employees are quite clear, by law the definition of "nominal value" is updated every three years so that diplomats on foreign service are clear on whether they can take a piece of gifted art with them when they leave their posting, or procurement officers in various departments, etc., have clear guidance on whether that mocha latte' brought to the meeting for them by a friendly wannabe contractor can be accepted.

But for Presidents, things are different. As their official role requires them to be the official recipient of nation-to-nation gifts, they are exempted from many of the statutory guidelines.

(The Resolute Desk, for example, was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes.)

Most recent Presidents have sidestepped the question by voluntarily following, in a modified fashion, the rules for senior officials- they accept gifts graciously with personal thanks and "on behalf of the nation" thanks, and then they are referred to the Office of Protocol at the State Department for review. Most of the really valuable ones end up in a national museum. Many of the less-valuable but interesting, quirky, somewhat 'personal' ones end up being donated to the retiring President's nonprofit Presidential Library. A few very personal ones are taken with the retiring President, the "of nominal value" ones simply noted, the more valuable ones reimbursed to the nation at market rate.

I hereby prognosticate that in January of 2021 we will see the beginning of a tedious and annoying new process in Federal law as the cleanup gets underway and our overwhelmed and weary lawmakers grapple with the stupid and hitherto-unnecessary problem of restraining a kleptocrat in Presidential office. Of which hopefully we will never have another, but...

This is why we can't have nice things, right?


I have occasionally written here about my retired Marine Dad.

He did not serve very long, but he served long enough to become a Marine.

That is a thing it's hard for people who aren't family members or other Marines to understand.

Every one of our armed services has their particular culture and the comradeship and support they provide one another is lifelong. No disrespect at all to the other services.

Marines, though... there's an intensity to that identity that may have started out as deliberately cultivated to increase unit cohesion and maintain morale, but once it gets under the skin, inside the Marine, it takes on a life of its own.

Back in civilian life my Dad had difficulties settling into a job and couldn't really find a career path that worked for him more than a decade... when he started writing. Not the kind you get paid much for. When she was angry at him Mom would refer to him as "Peter Pan". I get that, but I can also see, now, from a distance, the things that contributed to his inability to settle into anything that would bring material success in the civilian world, and finally resulted in the divorce.

There were two responsibilities, however, that he never shirked. He never missed a birthday or Christmas with his kids, while he lived.

And he never missed the funeral of one of his Marine buddies, while he lived. No matter what it cost.

And sometimes it cost plenty. That was an element to him losing more than one job- whether he'd accrued paid time off or not, if there was a buddy being buried, my Dad told the employer he'd be back after the funeral, if the job was still there. Sometimes it wasn't.

He traveled to California, Texas, Nebraska, and South Carolina that I know of. In a beat-up car if he had one, on the Greyhound if he didn't.

He died of lung cancer before I was old enough to talk about it with him. I wish I could hear more from him about why it was so important to attend the funerals of those "losers" and "suckers"... the ones who served with him.

The armed forces of the United States of America are neither simple nor monolithic. They're a vast and complicated interlocking set of institutions with one purpose: To put themselves in harms way, when necessary, to keep not just their own families and communities safe, but to keep safe a nation organized around the idea that we all matter because we all matter.

They are not perfect saintly idealists, their leaders are not endowed with Higher Wisdom. They have many other reasons for being there- a job, a career, a desire for adventure, self-empowerment, interest in the technology, logistics, the institution itself. There are some not very admirable people in our armed forces, some whose choice to serve was influenced by not very admirable motivation.

But they all have in common one overriding awareness: They have made the commitment to place their skills, their well-being, their lives if necessary, at the call of their fellow-citizens in the person of our civilian government leadership.

I cannot imagine how they must be feeling right now, knowing that their civilian Commander-in-Chief thinks that those of their comrades who made that ultimate sacrifice are "losers" and "suckers."

I cannot imagine what my retired Marine Dad would say about it, to his other comrades, around the grave site of one of their buddies being laid to rest.

Oh, wait. Actually, I CAN imagine that...


All Good Things Must End...

I have successfully avoided the change from software to "apps" and from ownership to leechware for some time, but even good hardware has its limits, and my lovely Cruncher is finally failing.

The chipset and socket configuration that support my Windows 7 OS are no longer available on a motherboard compatible with the rest of my machine. I have a reconditioned version of my original motherboard on order, but it is the second replacement in a year, and they are getting more difficult to find and taking longer to ship. So for this and a number of other reasons, including that my usage patterns and needs have changed, this will be my last attempt to resuscitate the Cruncher.

The only purpose in the resuscitation is to provide me with the time and an orderly way to transfer as much capability and data as possible from the Cruncher to my still-hypothetical new machine.

I invested a lot of money in software that ran well in a Windows environment: Adobe Creative Suite 4, Windows Office Pro 2007 with Access Premium, even a lot of smaller programs like Quicken 2014 (the last version available before they went exclusively to leechware). Yes, I know they're all madly outdated, but the point is that THEY WORKED. They did everything I needed, they were paid for, they never broke or messed up my machine, they didn't fight with each other or the OS, they didn't require constant updates. They just quietly sat there and did what I needed, day after day, year after year.

Some things are replaceable without too much pain- Libre Office works fine for basic productivity and most of the files created in MS Office will still be usable.

Not the Access files, though. Bye-bye to a couple of sturdy little Access databases I have been using for years. I have no way to recreate or replace them, and even if I could, those years of data couldn't be ported into a different environment. Access is just too idiosyncratic. So much for phenology and garden tracking records. Gone. I'll do hardcopy outputs if I can resuscitate the Cruncher, but I doubt I'll ever have time to output everything into .csv flat files in the forlorn hope that they could be retconned into a new version.

Years of financial data- I have no idea how I'll ever replace it and/or reconfigure it, and even if I did-- into what? Are there any financial management programs anymore? As far as I can tell, leechware is the only option. I will probably have to succumb, on that one- the data is too valuable. I hate surrendering to greedy extortioners happy to monetize my need and invade my privacy and doubtless also someday betray my trust for their own profit, but that seems to be all that's left anymore.

How did we get here? Faster, cooler, shinier, more gadgets more doodads more options more bells whistles glitter galore, more convenient, looks cheap, we only take a drop of blood at a time...

I am not looking forward to the frustrations of learning how much real function and personal control I have lost, in return for shiny doodads that meet no need except to entice me to spend more money and fasten more leeches onto my system. But in the long run it will be cheaper and less effort than struggling against the overwhelming tide.

And it will be cheaper and less effort than trying to adapt to an entirely different OS with an entirely different environment that has no compatibility at all with my outdated but still-in-daily-use software library and the many thousands of files deriving therefrom. I no longer work as intensively in applications that would justify learning how to migrate everything to Linux or Apple, or the ongoing work to keep up with the evolution of those products. I'd like to have the option... but right now, it's a bridge too far for a wholesale commitment that might never recoup the cost in time and money.

I do know how to de-bloat and marginally unfuck some of Windows 10's worst excesses. Some things will transfer. Over the long haul I'll probably manage to replace most of what's really important for daily life. But I will have lost a lot, and I'm grieving it a bit.

And reaching out to y'all for support and helpful suggestions.

IS there an option other than leechware to transfer my Quicken files to? One that has similar functions and capabilities?

ARE there any database products that can translate and use Access files?

Is it even possible to obtain "software" versions of programs on media that I would own, anymore? Or is it all "apps" from "stores" that require "subscriptions" and keep sucking money and data from you?

Are there workarounds that don't take large amounts of time and learning and effort and commitment to implement?

That's the real kicker, I think.

Talk to me, people... I'm depressed, and not happy about this future.

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