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April 18th, 2019

Between The Silver Lining And The Angry One…

Facebook helpfully provides me with Memories. That’s when you log in for the first time that day and Facebook offers to show you all the posts you made on that day, going all the way back to your Facebook beginnings.

Today’s memories hold two posts of interest to me. April 18, 2014…two years after The Crisis…whatever the hell it was…

I’m cutting off my Walt Disney World vacation early and driving home in tears. Had I come of age in a better world I’d have got this over and done with back in ’72 or ’73. Anyway…then this happens…

…So I decided to wander back home instead of staying at Disney World. But it’s been a torrent of rain all the way, so I can’t exactly get out of the car and look around anywhere with my cameras. Several big accidents on I-95 blocked traffic for miles. But the worst of it was the car complaining about things that…once again…should have already been taken care of by R&H Motors.

First I started getting messages to check the fuel filter. That was supposedly replaced at the 40k service, and R&H charged me about 450 bucks to do it since (they said) it was a dual filter and more expensive for the diesels. I could buy that…you really need to filter diesel oil…just look at a diesel pump nozzle if you doubt that. But I strongly doubt I’m only getting 16k out of a new set, when I got 40k out of the set that came with the car. So I start worrying the car is going to suddenly stall out on me because the fuel filter never got changed and now it’s all blocked up.

And of course it’s a holiday weekend so I doubt I can get any actual Mercedes service done on the car until Monday.

Then I started getting notices that I was running low on Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF). The DEF tank gets topped off every 10k and I only have 6.4k on the current tank. No way it’s almost empty now. If you run out of DEF the emissions system prevents the car from starting until you fill the tank again.

So I bought a gallon of some generic DEF at one of the truck stops along the way. DEF is supposed to be just a simple solution of about 35 percent (or thereabouts) synthetic urea and the rest distilled water. I checked the label that that is what I bought and hopefully the car accepts it even though it isn’t Genuine Mercedes-Benz DEF but I was in a panic.

I stopped for the night at South Of The Border because all their rooms have private covered car ports I could pull into and empty the trunk and fill the DEF tank with the gallon I bought. That stopped the complaining about low DEF. Hopefully the car won’t notice that it isn’t Genuine Mercedes-Benz DEF on the leg home tomorrow and stall out on me somewhere far from anything.

I began my trip home massively depressed. Now I am massively pissed off at R&H Motors. That seems better somehow. I guess every cloud has a silver lining, except the ones that have an angry lining. You work with what you get.

It’s amazing how a big dose of Anger can blow all the sadness in your life away. At least for as long as it persists. It gives you something else to focus on besides that knife in your heart. Maybe this accounts for the Fox News effect on us old people. Maybe this accounts for why that audience wants to be angry all the friggin’ time. Good thing I don’t watch much TV anymore. Besides that my bullshit buffer overflows the instant I see Tucker Carlson on a TV screen anywhere and it’s a good thing I don’t have a brick handy.

Anyway…riddle me this: how is a car dealership like a flirt who wants into your pants as long as their spouse doesn’t find out?

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
March 25th, 2019

Coincidence? I Think Not…

I subscribe to MeUndies. I like the fit and the material, and it’s one less thing I have to buy at the store. But mostly what I like about MeUndies is the fun, colorful new patterns they come up with every month. Raised in a gloomy Yankee Baptist household where disapproval at anything smacking of personal vanity was always in the air, nearly all my life since I left the nest I’ve been trying to give myself permission to…well…just be myself. I like color in my wardrobe, even the parts not generally visible in public. Well…except for my blue jeans. Blue jeans must be blue. It’s tradition. But I want color everywhere else. Ask me about the electric blue streak I sat in the chair for three and a half hours to get in my hair. Lately I’ve taken to wearing a bandanna hanging out a back pocket again, like I used to when I was a younger guy, only now I get ti-dyed bandannas, partly to confuse anyone who thinks I might be signalling something (ask me how much I Hate that damn hankie code!) , but mostly because I like the idea of tie-dyed bandannas. Next winter I swear I’m going to buy some new flannel shirts like I do every winter, but this time I’m going to bleach them white and then tie-dye them.

So…anyway…the Very Day before I got on my train to Florida and Walt Disney World, MeUndies sends me a new pair with their latest pattern… 

Llamas. They sent me Llama underwear. Well of course I wore it to my Biergarten dinner reservation.

 

 

Dude, it’s hilarious. You’re hilarious. Good thing you’re not reading my blog or this post might piss you off.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 21st, 2019

We Can Rise

There is a renewed effort to ban the practice of ex-gay therapy on kids. Adults it seems, will just have to take their own risks with this brutal quackery. But at least the movement to keep it away from kids has some momentum. In large measure, this is why…

Meet the Conversion Therapists Who Turned Against Conversion Therapy

Some of the most powerful voices against conversion therapy are those of ex-conversion therapists, who have now come out as LGBT and formed their own support group.

One of them, Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International, had this to say about his road to Damascus moment after leaving Exodus because he had fallen in love with another Exodus member…

At first, he wanted to heal in private: Bussee himself is gay, and had left to be in a relationship with Gary Cooper, a man who also belonged to the Christian-based organization known as Exodus International. Together, they tried to forget about Exodus, which went on to become one of the most influential conversion therapy organizations in the world until its 2013 closure.

But at some point in the 1980s, Bussee finally came to terms with what Exodus had done—and it nearly destroyed him.

“When the full extent of what Exodus had done to people hit me, I must have sobbed for days,” he told The Daily Beast. “It was just gut-wrenching. The guilt was overwhelming, crushing guilt. I thought, ‘How am I ever going to deal with this guilt?’”

Many have been deeply wounded by groups like Exodus and others of their kind. And not just the ones who submitted themselves to it, or were thrown into it like so much human garbage, but also the many who were simply collateral damage in the right wing culture war against the hated Other. Those of us who might have found love but for the brutalization of so many, and the lies told about us.  

I cannot forgive them for what they did to others, that is not my prerogative. But if you ever wondered what integrity is you are looking at it here. It isn’t the apology that costs you little or nothing. It is the acceptance of guilt, and a willingness to make amends even though many of those you have wronged will probably never forgive you. Because you had your road to Damascus moment and now you know, and now you must go on knowing, and so you must set things right. Because there is no other way. These men will probably have to walk through fire for the rest of their lives, but they want to put as much of it right as they can. I cannot help but admire them for it.

Because it is the ones among us who can admit they were wrong, and own the damage they caused, despite the costs to themselves, and do their best to make things right again, that are civilization’s final hope. Think of everything you have seen and heard in the last two years…all the cheating, all the excuses, the lies, the abject moral squalor, coming from the highest offices in the land. Some days it seems like the human gutter has overflowed and we are drowning in its depravities. Still, despite everything, there is a nobility to the human spirit, rough-hewn though it may be. We can rise from the fallen state. We can turn this around. 


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!

Atheism: Not What You Think It Is

A friend on Facebook shared this, from of all places Scientific American…

Atheism Is Inconsistent with the Scientific Method, Prizewinning Physicist Says

In conversation, the 2019 Templeton Prize winner does not pull punches on the limits of science, the value of humility and the irrationality of nonbelief

I had to do a double-take when I saw the direction this came from, but then again this man is a well respected physicist and the sciences are just as diverse as any other crowd. Marcelo Gleiser, a 60-year-old Brazil-born theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College and a science popularizer. The article’s headline is a tad sensationalistic…the body of the article is mostly about a need for humility in science, and his evolution as a physicist. But there is a passage about atheism where he says 

“I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.”…”

But this gets it entirely wrong.

This is mischaracterizing atheism as a positive declaration that there is no god. That’s a pretty common mistake and I suppose a lot of folks who call themselves atheists make it too. But then you’re boxed into the position of proving a negative and that’s how believers like to tie atheists in knots and how he gets to where he can say it’s inconsistent with the scientific method. But atheism is simply unbelief. And if declaring there is no god is unscientific then so is declaring there is when the evidence simply isn’t there.

I’ve written previously that in his book Science and Human Values Jacob Bronowski makes an excellent case for the moral values the practice of science teaches…that scientific method Mr.Gleiser says is atheism is inconsistent with. And it begins and ends with respect for what a fact is…

Theory and experiment alike become meaningless unless the scientist brings to them, and his fellows can assume in him, the respect of a lucid honesty with himself. The mathematician and philosopher W. K. Clifford said this forcibly at the end of his short life, nearly a hundred years ago.

If I steal money from any person, there may be no harm done by the mere transfer of possession; he may not feel the loss, or it may even prevent him from using the money badly. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself dishonest. What hurts society is not that it should loose it’s property, but that it should become a den of thieves; for then it must cease to be a society. This is why we ought not to do evil that good may come; for at any rate this great evil has come, that we have done evil and are made wicked thereby.

This is the scientist’s moral: that there is no distinction between ends and means. Clifford goes on to put this in terms of the scientist’s practice:

In like manner, if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous.

And the passion in Clifford’s tone shows that to him the word credulous had the same emotional force as ‘a den of thieves’

The fulcrum of Clifford’s ethic here, and mine, is the phrase ‘it may be true after all.’ Others may allow this to justify their conduct; the practice of science wholly rejects it. It does not admit the word ‘true’ can have this meaning. The test of truth is the known factual evidence, and no glib expediency nor reason of state can justify the smallest self-deception in that. Our work is of a piece, in the large and in the detail; so that if we silence one scruple about our means, we infect ourselves and our ends together.

-Jacob Bronowski “Science and Human Values” 1956

But in the end Carl Sagan said it best:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Science, as Richard Feynman once said, is just a way we have of not fooling ourselves. Where is the evidence for the existence of god? Where is the science? My atheism isn’t a reaction against religion. It’s one day I finally had to admit to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me. But I can be convinced. Perhaps one day I’ll find myself walking on Newton’s beach and pick up one of those prettier sea shells he spoke of and find God inside (oh…well there you are!). But at this point in my life I just don’t believe. I am not asserting a negative, I’m saying I don’t see the evidence and even the concept makes no sense to me anymore.

That isn’t unscientific. And more than that, it’s respecting my human identity and that of my neighbors. We are a thinking animal, we’ve benefited greatly in the struggle for survival from having minds capable of rational thought, and Bronowski also said that the state of mind and of society is of a piece, and when we discard the testing and verifying of facts, we discard along with that what it is to be human.

Your mileage may vary on the question and the evidence and that’s fine. And it’s true that some questions put to us can be frustratingly subjective. Details matter. Science can demonstrate that Pluto exists, but some folks might disagree as to whether or not it’s a planet. I happen to think “planet” fits little Pluto just fine but I’ll listen to arguments to the contrary…or at any rate Much Better ones than I’ve heard previously. What is God? What do we mean when we say we believe or not in God? What would William Jennings Bryan say? What would Albert Einstein? Frank Lloyd Wright had this wonderful saying, I believe in God but I spell it Nature. For a long time that was me, but at some point even that became untenable. It had just stopped making sense to me.

Maybe as the concept of God evolves and changes so does the concept of atheism. Maybe as atheists listen more to why believers believe, and to their understanding of God, atheists better understand what it means to not believe. Maybe some decide they’re actually agnostics. Maybe others eventually figure out that it isn’t actually about proving a negative, proving that there is no God, and that they really and simply just don’t believe.

And if even an eminently respected physicist says my atheism is contrary to the scientific method I think I’m rightly allowed to object. He needs to understand atheists a little better.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 10th, 2019

How Facebook Earns My Eyeball Time

It isn’t as often as I like, but Facebook does earn my eyeball time every now and then. I keep bigots and idiots off my “Friends” list, and I block in a heartbeat any homophobes and/or Tump morons I see in the comments, so I probably don’t get it as bad as some people. I’ve been wandering the social media landscape ever since the BBS days and I’ve learned how to keep the dogshit and chewing gum off my shoes. The advantage to social computer networking is the connections you and your online friends make to news and information you might otherwise have missed in the mainstream media conversations.

Like the other day, when a guy in my friends list posted a link to this blog post…

Motte and Bailey, Particle Physics Style

“Motte and bailey” is a rhetorical maneuver in which someone switches between an argument that does not support their conclusion but is easy to defend (the “motte”), and an argument that supports their conclusion but is hard to defend (the “bailey”). The purpose of this switch is to trick the listener into believing that the easy-to-defend argument suffices to support the conclusion.

This rhetorical trick is omnipresent in arguments that particle physicists currently make for building the next larger collider.

So the blog post is about arguments among particle physicists…which was a good read all by itself. But I have seen this little rhetorical sleight of hand over and over and Over in arguments about sexual orientation and gay equality and I never knew it had a name and a formal definition.

Here’s more about that…

Motte and bailey (MAB) is a combination of bait-and-switch and equivocation in which someone switches between a “motte” (an easy-to-defend and often common-sense statement, such as “culture shapes our experiences”) and a “bailey” (a hard-to-defend and more controversial statement, such as “cultural knowledge is just as valid as scientific knowledge”) in order to defend a viewpoint. Someone will argue the easy-to-defend position (motte) temporarily, to ward off critics, while the less-defensible position (bailey) remains the desired belief, yet is never actually defended.

In short: instead of defending a weak position (the “bailey”), the arguer retreats to a strong position (the “motte”), while acting as though the positions are equivalent. When the motte has been accepted (or found impenetrable) by an opponent, the arguer continues to believe (and perhaps promote) the bailey.

Note that the MAB works only if the motte and the bailey are sufficiently similar (at least superficially) that one can switch between them while pretending that they are equivalent.

Source: RationalWiki

Consider: As gay kids are starting to get more visibility in movies and TV aimed directly at a young audience, you hear complaining that The Media is sexualizing our kids. The argument there is portraying same sex crushes is a further example of the slide into sexual moral oblivion, pushing sex on kids too young to be exposed to that. A variant of that complaint is allowing transgender kids to even be visible in pop culture, let alone have crushes.

Now, you can argue that pitching products, whether they’re consumer goods or movies and TV shows to immature kids with blatantly sexual imagery isn’t helping them become mature adults. But I’m not sure going back to a 1950s set of broadcast standards is the right answer either. Sex is hard wired into us and at a certain age those hormones are going to start percolating and ignorance is never a good plan at any age. Plus, they’ve been doing that to teen and preteen girls since I was a kid, though granted it’s more blatant now. There’s a difference between teaching kids healthy attitudes toward sex and teaching them they’re only valuable as people to the degree they’re desirable.

And none of this is an argument for keeping gay kids invisible. The unspoken premise there is that treating their lives on screen the same as anyone else’s is sexualizing children, because sex is all there is to homosexuality. As Vito Russo wrote, “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” So the motte here, the easy argument to make, is media companies and advertisers shouldn’t be treating kids as sex objects and bombarding them with hyper-sexualized imagery. The more difficult argument, the bailey, is gay visibility in the media is all part of the militant homosexual agenda to sexualize children, the better to prey on them. And how it goes is you argue that gay kids have crushes too and need healthy role models too and the bigots argue that sexualizing kids is predatory and it might feel like you are arguing past each other but no…they’re avoiding your argument altogether and sticking to the one they know they can win, as if winning that argument also wins them the other. That is how they play the game.

I can think of others…how lowering moral standards leads to social decay and acceptance of homosexual behavior is a lowering of moral standards that only speeds the decay up (the fall of Rome and all that…). My experience arguing this stuff is it usually Begins with the bailey and segues into the motte as I try to pick apart the argument that letting us live our lives openly to the same degree as everyone else contributes to social decay. Sometimes the motte is random examples of heterosexuals behaving badly and gosh we don’t want any more of that do we so keep the gays in the closet please. More often it’s random examples of gay people, usually gay men, behaving badly. As Anne Frank put it in a different context,“What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews.” And so it goes. The easy argument is behaving badly is…well…bad. The hard argument to make is They’re All Alike, because that’s basically admitting you’re a bigot and bigots only own their cheapshit prejudices among themselves, or when resigned to the Lost Cause.

Sometimes the motte and bailey are about religion and homosexuality. The bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Religious freedom means I get to disapprove of homosexuality. Yes, but why should your religious beliefs govern everyone else’s lives? The bible says it…I believe it… And so on. We’re currently in this country arguing in the courts and in the public square that giving gay people and same sex couples equal access to goods and services, equal access to representation in the media, full equality in our civil rights laws, tramples the religious freedom of people opposed to…well…having to share the world with us. Arguing that people in a democracy have the right to follow their own religious convictions is the easy argument. Arguing that gay people and same sex couples must face barriers in their everyday lives that others don’t used to be an easy argument too back in the 1950s and 60s when we were dangerous sexual deviants and a cancer on society. Not so much anymore.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How Facebook Earns My Eyeball Time

He’ll Be Selling Them In His Hotel Any Day Now

Via Facebook friend John Becker…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on He’ll Be Selling Them In His Hotel Any Day Now
March 6th, 2019

Life As A Sequence Of Fine Dining And Lots Of Tequila

I’m going to start a gallery of foodie shots of every nice dinner I’ve had on March 6 since 2016…

…but first…

Afternoon of March 6, 2016.  One of the shots I took inside one of my favorite watering places in Walt Disney World (the other two are Tune-In Lounge and Jock Lindey’s Hanger Bar). The margarita before the storm. Plus chips and jalapeno and cheese dip. Hot? Ohhh Dios mío…the day is about to get hotter…

The Kobe beef steak I was having at the Brown Derby when I got scolded. In retrospect it would have sounded better in the original German…

Rocket to Venus 2017…their absolutely decadent pork steaks and garlic mashed potatoes. I’ve been mourning the loss of this item on their entrée menu for a long time…

Rocket to Venus 2018 (noticing a pattern here?). I forget what this one was but it was amazingly good, as always. I can’t recommend this Hampden, near The Avenue eatery enough.

And here I am drinking my margaritas every march 6 since 2016.

Probably heading out to Rocket to Venus again for dinner tonight. Because the food is great, the staff are nice, and one of the bartenders is very nice on the eyes, doesn’t mind my gawking at him in disbelief, and I can get drunk enough I can appreciate the sight of a beautiful guy and not feel any pain. Plus I can walk home stinking drunk and not be a hazard to everyone else on the highway. 

Prost!


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Life As A Sequence Of Fine Dining And Lots Of Tequila

No Pain, No Gain


Life goes on…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No Pain, No Gain
March 3rd, 2019

The Bidet…A Couple Weeks Later

So…the bidet… And if you think this is oversharing feel free to change the channel. But some people expressed interest in how well the thing actually works.

Just to recap, I bought one of those bidet toilet seat conversions when I saw a really nice one that Costco was selling for slightly better than half off. I’m assuming it’s an about to be discontinued model, because when I last checked they still have it listed on the manufacturer’s website.

It was a pretty simple and straightforward installation, but then I have a bunch of tools and a near lifetime of experience doing my own simple household repairs and improvements. Even growing up in a bunch of suburban garden apartments you found that fixing leaks yourself got the job done quicker than calling the landlord, plus it kept strangers out of your nest. The thing most people get wrong when replacing things like a toilet float, hoses and faucet washers is they over tighten the connections and then they leak. Hand tighten, and then just a tad more with the wrench will usually do it. (When changing an oil filter, Only hand tighten.) This time I had to go back and gently add some torque to a couple of the connections a day later when I noticed some minor drippage, but it was pretty simple otherwise. My bathroom had outlets nearby but I did have to run a power strip to the wall behind the toilet. The instructions said to use a surge protector.

Does it work? Well I can’t speak to how well it works on lady parts, but as to the part we all share…yes. Absolutely! Gets you spic and span. Much Much better and more hygienically than paper. But there are adjustments you need to tweak: water temperature, pressure, nozzle position and whether to turn on the aerator. The spray is timed for a minute and then automatically stops, or stops instantly if you get off the seat. Repeat as needed. My experience is adjusting the position of the nozzle back and forth while it’s working gives best results. I only use toilet paper now to dry myself and that’s cut down my use of it considerably, and counter intuitively it’s also cut down water consumption. That’s from flushing the paper down. Now I flush less often, so that’s less water down the drain. There’s an air dry function that’s timed for three minutes but I have no patience.

There’s a seat warmer which is nice, and is adjustable. There’s a fan that turns on and pulls air out of the bowl while you’re sitting on it, and out through a carbon filter to keep the bathroom stink free. It shines a soft blue light into the bowl which is nice for when your bladder insists in the middle of the night. I give it a thumbs up. Money well spent.

Except… Due to being needed at Goddard first thing Friday morning I rented a room in Greenbelt Thursday night. Shortly after I got there I realized that when I travel from now on I’m going to miss having that bidet whenever wherever I need to hit the john. All technology is a two edged sword.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Bidet…A Couple Weeks Later
March 2nd, 2019

Finished. Mostly…

 

Finished. Except for the last of the cleaning up. Also, when the weather gets warmer I need to bring the table saw upstairs and build a nicer shelf for the TV. And I need to take that artwork down, make a digital copy and put it in a decent frame. It probably needs a Very Careful cleaning too.

When you turn off the new TV the picture fades to white and collapses down to a narrow horizontal line that quickly fades away, mimicking what the old vacuum tube TVs did once upon a time. I find it oddly comforting.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Finished. Mostly…

This Didn’t Just Happen Overnight

GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol

Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.

One staff member was physically injured during the morning’s confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.

The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.

“‘Never forget’ – you said. . .” read a caption on the first picture. “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.

The article is about how some West Virginian republicans put up a poster in their statehouse with a picture of one of the Twin Towers being hit on 9/11 and below it a picture of Omar with the caption that she is proof we’ve forgotten 9/11. Something else at the end of the article caught my eye…

Another Republican delegate, Eric Porterfield, was hit with calls to resign last month after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Let me (be) very clear with my statement,” Porterfield told NBC News then. “The LGBTQ — not homosexuals — are the modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Well I’m glad he cleared that up.

All this has been a long time coming. And don’t just be blaming talk radio and Fox/Sinclair and all the open sewers deep in the dark corners of the Internet. It is still fresh in my memory how Jimmy Carter called out the Reagan campaign’s racist dog whistles and our liberal news media nearly crucified him for being so rude. And even now they’re still hanging on to their he said/she said both sides boilerplate. The republican speaker of the West Virginia house said We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state . . to invade our chamber in a way that makes me ashamed.” Cancer…maybe. Or a cesspool that nobody cared to shine a light on when it might have made a difference, because that would have been rude.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Didn’t Just Happen Overnight

Look What I Did Ma!

Got back home from Greenbelt yesterday at around 2PM. I’d rented a room for the night at the same Holiday Inn I usually use when I need to be at Goddard first thing in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed. For the past two days I’ve been participating in tests of the JWST ground control network…first in the Mission Operations Center at Hopkins, and then Friday at the backup MOC at Goddard. My job was Test Conductor, calling out steps in a test procedure over one of the NASA voice loops with Goddard and White Sands, and jotting down the results. We were linking the MOCs up with the spacecraft over a Deep Space Network link from White Sands, and sending what they call NoOp commands (Here’s a command, but don’t do anything just tell us you got it and then drop it on the floor). It’s just to test the network connectivity, not the spacecraft. Those tests are also in progress, but so far I haven’t been directly involved in any of them.

I’m also involved in other aspects of this mission and I can’t discuss details, but I cannot begin to tell you how cool it is to see myself, a kid who watched the first Mercury astronauts being launched into space, talking over a NASA voice loop, helping to birth a spacecraft, and watching it speak its first words. Mom lived to see me get this job, and it made her proud. I wasn’t expected to amount to much in some quarters of that side of the family. But there are times I really wish she could see what her boy has gotten himself into now.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Look What I Did Ma!
February 24th, 2019

Still Discovering Our Past

I’ve written previously on this life blog of the importance of uncloseting gay people in the history books, and especially uncloseting the history of anti-gay bigotry and persecution. And I’ve asked anyone dropping by this blog and those posts to consider how many times they’ve heard comparisons of the struggles of gay Americans and black Americans denounced because gays never were sold into slavery, never had to ride the back of the bus, never were denied the right to vote. Or comparisons with antisemitism denounced because gays were never herded into extermination camps. How many times have you heard the struggle for gay equality dismissed as the pastime of privileged rich white men. How often have we heard, and still hear, that laws protecting gay people from discrimination are unnecessary, are really just about seeking social approval.

The naked fear among bigots isn’t that homosexuality will be normalized, but that their crimes against so many innocent people will at long last get put under the spotlight of history and they will finally be seen for what they are, not righteous defenders of decency and morality, but predators, proudly ignorant, stunningly immune to any reflex of human sympathy, hungry, ravenously hungry to fill the empty void within them where a heart should have been, with the hearts of others, and all their hopes and all their dreams.

If you don’t have a gay history bookshelf at home, I strongly recommend you start one. Find a little corner somewhere in your nest, get a nice little bookcase from Ikea or some such, and prowl the second hand book stores for titles like And The Band Played On, The Celluloid Closet, A Glimpse Of Hell, The Verdict of You All, Anything But Straight. Or look for some titles more recently published and still in print. Loosing Matt Shepard, The Lavender Scare, Sex Crime Panic, Hoover’s War On Gays. No matter how well you think you know our history, every corner of the gay chronicles has something in it to stun. How did I not know this?? And if it makes you angry, so much the better. Put that anger to use in the voting booth, and in activism to make sure it is never closeted again, along with all of us.

Today I learned something new, courtesy of Peter Thatchell

Sodomy at the time was already a crime in Britain. Labouchere’s amendment to the law criminalized any sexual activity between men. This man’s work is why Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, and so many others went to prison. It has some resonance with one of the books I recommended above, The Verdict of You All by Rupert Croft-Cooke, who was arrested in his home in 1953 and charged with a “homosexual offense”.  

“Croft-Cooke was a homosexual, which brought him into conflict with the laws of his time. In 1953, at a time when the Home Office was seeking to clamp down on homosexuality, he was sent to prison for six months on conviction for acts of indecency. Croft-Cooke’s secretary and companion, Joseph Alexander, had met two Navy cooks, Harold Altoft and Ronald Charles Dennis, in the Fitzroy Tavern near Tottenham Court Road in London, and invited them to spend the weekend at Croft-Cooke’s house in Ticehurst, East Sussex. During the weekend, they consumed food and alcohol and had sex with both Croft-Cooke and his assistant. On their way home from the weekend, they got drunk and assaulted two men, one of whom was a policeman. They were arrested and agreed to testify against Croft-Cooke to get immunity from prosecution for the assault charges.” –Wikipedia

After Oscar Wilde was convicted, Labouchere expressed regret over the shortness of his two year sentence, which was actually the maximum but not the seven year maximum Labouchere had originally proposed.

This man’s evil remained on the books until 2003, and to this day remains on the books in many former British colonies around the world, where the U.S. religious right keeps itself busy inflaming religious passions against gay people who cannot speak out for themselves without risking a knock on the door and being disappeared. The sodomy laws not only erase us, and our history, they give bigots free rein to tell any filthy lie they can think of about us, without fear of the open sewer they call a conscience being exposed for what it is.

Those fears are now being realized, at least for some that still live. This is why they fight so fiercely against the teaching of this history in the schools, why they support maintaining sodomy laws still on the books, and dream of reestablishing them where they have been repealed. Labouchere is in the grave now, safe from the judgement of history, and one can wonder if karma ever came to visit him while he still lived. But that question is less meaningful for us today than how we remember the lives he managed to destroy for the sake of the emptiness within where a heart should have been, where their should have been kindness and sympathy and love, that no amount of feasting on the hopes and dreams of others can fill. Living our lives openly and proudly is only half the work. Our history must come out of the closet along with us. We must tell our stories, and also the stories of those who came before us, who could not speak openly of their lives while they lived.


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Still Discovering Our Past
February 19th, 2019

Oh We’re Not Getting You Wrong Mr. Wayne…

The day Brokeback Mountain got an Oscar nomination, and the stately senior members of the Screen Actors Guild, appalled, said that John Wayne was rolling in his grave, they knew who it was they were talking about…

John Wayne’s Racist and Homophobic Playboy Interview Resurfaces, Twitter Reacts

At the top of the interview, the then 63-year-old is complaining about the “perverted” movies currently being produced, when the interviewer asks him which films he means.

“Oh, ‘Easy Rider,’ ‘Midnight Cowboy’ — that kind of thing,” he horrifyingly replies. “Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ a story about two f–s, qualifies?

“But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex. It’s an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.”…

Go read all of it. None of this would have surprised anyone the day that Playboy interview was published. Wayne’s hard core right wing kookery was an public joke even back then. Except of course among his fellow Hollywood nutcases like Reagan, Linkletter, DeMille and various studio heads to the right of McCarthy and Nixon. Scratch a homophobe, find a racist…

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

None of this would have been surprising or controversial to Wayne’s associates in the industry. They would have been nodding their heads in agreement reading it, and telling themselves it was the communists, the New York Jews and all those dirty fucking hippies who were causing trouble with the coloreds. And outside of there, everyone just about knew where Wayne stood. He never made any bones about it. 

None of that registered on me when I was a kid watching raptly whatever was playing in the theaters that week. Back then movie theaters were Palaces where a schoolboy’s dreams and adventures came to life. I used to make a bee line for every new John Wayne flick that hit the theaters. They were Fun. Lots of things were back in those days.

Then I got a bit older, puberty switched on my hormones, and one day I found myself completely twitterpated by a classmate, a junior with long hair, dark eyes to drown in, a smile that made my knees weak, and long legs that moved his hips in ways that made me shiver every time we crossed paths. One day as we walked together out of school he put an arm around my shoulders and I didn’t come back to earth for hours, and when I did I knew something about myself. And also that movie stars I watched raptly on the silver screen, and Science-Fiction writers whose books I devoured, and rockers whose albums I bought and listened to over and over until I wore the groves out…all of them probably thought I was disgusting human garbage.

But I was in teenage love, and nothing had ever felt so healthy and thrilling and wonderful. And if you asked me to trade the good graces of the entire fucking world for just one smile from the guy I was crushing on, I’d have done it in an instant. And perhaps I did, the moment I realized it.

I am in my middle sixties and looking back on that summer crush I am magnitudes more likely to make that trade now. Nothing I ever felt before or since was more pure. I would do it all again. Roll in your fucking graves…all of you.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh We’re Not Getting You Wrong Mr. Wayne…

Adventures In Upgrading My TV…(continued)

As I said in our last episode…once I plugged in the new TV, almost the entire house of cards fell apart and I had to rebuild a lot of it, mostly how everything connects together. That isn’t just the TV and its specific peripherals, such as the BluRay player, it’s also the stereo. I have a very nice home stereo system I’ve been building and adding to since I was a teenage boy and it’s all old  (by today’s standards) components that all connect together with RCA cables. If all you’ve ever watched your TV with is the built-in TV speakers you are missing out on a lot of what’s there…not just in the background music but the sound effects.

The new TV wants HDMI inputs and only has one TosLink optical digital audio output jack to connect to a stereo with. So connecting everything back together was going to take not only a bunch of new cables but also some digital/analogue converter boxes. And not just to hook up the stereo either. The two VCRs and the Laserdisc player have analogue NTSC RCA outputs that I’m going to need converter boxes for so they can talk to the new TV. But one thing at a time…

Since I’m having to take apart nearly all the connections to the stereo and rearrange things, now is a good time to do something I’d been meaning to for a while. I’m not quite this fussy but I get frustrated easily while concentrating on a task and sudden roadblocks confuse me. So dealing with a potential source of frustration in advance can be rewarding later on. Everything is getting labelled so the wires all tell me which peripheral they came from.  And here’s why…

Lawd have mercy what have I got myself into. The power strip at the bottom is necessary because all this new stuff I need to add to make everything talk to everything else needs these dinky little power transformer things. The box above it is the new Ethernet switchbox I had to add because the TV and the Roku box both want to talk to the Internet tubes. The odd little box above it (I placed it further up on the wall to keep it from blocking the heat vents on the switch) is the TosLink to RCA converter that allows the TV to talk to the stereo. And boy howdy the sound coming out of the new TV is really nice!

First thing I did to test it out was fire up the Roku and tune to Radio Paradise and I spent the rest of the afternoon listening while working on putting everything back together and it was wonderful. Several years ago I bought a Roku 3 thinking it would be a simple upgrade over the Roku 1 I had. But unlike the Roku 1 the 3 only had the HDMI output. There were no RCA output jacks which everything else, including the Sony Trinitron needed. So I never bothered hooking it up, I just kept on using the Roku 1. With the new TV the Roku 3 finally made sense. And I don’t think I’m imagining it…it sounds better through the new TV connection than it did directly to the stereo through the old Roku box’s RCA outputs.

This is going to allow me to hook everything up to the TV via the HDMI cables and then back to the stereo through one set of cables, rather than having a bunch of things going directly to the preamp. Or trying to anyway. I had so much going back to the Dynaco I had to put in an RCA switch box to make it all work. I think I can get rid of that now.

Just to make it clear why I have to fuss with all this. Yes…that’s a cassette deck sitting on top of what is maybe a second generation CD player. I am not a Luddite obviously, but neither am I a buy the latest new think kinda guy. I need to see a need for the technology in my life. Once I can see it I will dig into it. But stuff that just keeps on working I’ll stick with. New CD and DVD and Blu-ray players are thin as the credit cards people buy them with these days. But these two components have never stopped working all the years I’ve had them, and I still have media for them, and so I reckon I’m keeping them.  I think now since I don’t need to connect any of the TV periperals to the stereo I have just enough inputs in the Dynaco to not need the RCA switchbox anymore.

But this raises a grip I’ve had more and more over the years. The CD player dates back to the DOS day’s. The cassette player to well before. Funny how, before Apple and Microsoft ruled our world hardware just kept on working and things just kept on working together regardless of who made what and what version of which operating system was part of the mix. This…

…is a proprietary Apple connector with a digital authentication chip in it to prevent third party equipment to connect to Apple products. They say the chip has now been cracked but I had to buy an adaptor from Apple to allow my iPhone 6s that connects with one of these, to connect to the stereo in my Mercedes because the Mercedes was built in 2011 and used the connector Apple was using back then which was the 30 pin docking connector. I had to buy the adaptor from Apple or otherwise the authentication chip would not allow the car stereo to access the iPod functionality in the iPhone. It was that, or buy a new car…preferably one that has Apple Carplay installed in it. 

Once upon a time all these things had standardized connectors and form factors and you could replace one thing from one company with something better from another and you didn’t break everything and have to buy all new stuff because it all still worked together because there was some sort of market standardization. Now that’s next to impossible. The new business model is lock your customers into your product line so they can’t escape. Kinda like how the old railroad tycoons would buy up land out west to keep competing railroads from laying track anywhere near the customers they wanted to monopolize.

The mindset never changes, only the buzzwords. 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Adventures In Upgrading My TV…(continued)
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