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November 4th, 2019

I Am Being Polite You Mentally Ill Abomination…

Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by Virginia Human Rights Commissioner Kenick El


This is why we need to stop giving men in dresses passes.


I have daughters and I won’t accept them sharing a restroom with a grown man suffering from this mental illness


Men trying to be women and women trying to be men is really confusing our children…


…and I’m tired of seeing this nonsense promoted to our children.


Homosexuality is a mental illness and should be treated as such.


Homosexuality is an abomination to the Human Race and it corrupts the hermetic principle of gender by interfering with the laws of nature just to gratify the lower self.


I felt like it was very important for me just to express my views on my page in a very sincere, polite manner.


Le Curtain…Applaus a vous…

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Am Being Polite You Mentally Ill Abomination…
October 30th, 2019

The Evil Homosexual Bad Guy Who Must Die To Avenge The Heterosexuality Of The Heroes…part the upteenth…

This post from the Hollywood Trade paper Variety came across my Facebook stream this morning…

‘Stargate’ at 25: How Roland Emmerich’s Sci-Fi Classic Overcame a Chaotic Birth

Where to I send the Condolences On The Birth Of Your Classic Evil Gay Who Must Die movie? I know lots of people like this one, I can see that fact every time it comes up, but it really stuns me how nobody notices the homophobia in the portrayal of the evil gender bending alien villain played by Jaye Davidson, just after his role in The Crying Game.

There’s a scene I particularly remember, where the Wimpy Nerd Who Needs To Learn How To Be A Real Man played by James Spader is ushered into the presence of Ra, who is seated on his glamorous bed behind a silken screen being attended to by his muscular nearly naked servants and young nearly naked boys. We see Ra behind the silken curtain slowly combing his long luxurious hair. Tell me this wasn’t meant to push the buttons of every teenage/young adult heterosexual male in the target audience. You know…the age group most responsible for violent gay bashings. Ra’s a godamned queer!! Ra must be destroyed!!!! Pass the popcorn…

I suppose it gets easier after you’ve made your first box office million or so injecting this poison into young males, to ignore the newspaper articles about violent gay bashings and murders. Vito Russo would have had a field day with this movie. God how I miss him.

Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Evil Homosexual Bad Guy Who Must Die To Avenge The Heterosexuality Of The Heroes…part the upteenth…

Throwback Thursday Only Wednesday

Facebook tossed this memory back at me earlier today…

This is the winter of 1971. I’m 17. The artist at work. 

I love this one, unruly hair, oversized canvas jacket that I thought was oh so stylish, and mismatched shirt collar though it is. It was taken by a friend with my camera for possible inclusion into the yearbook. In my senior year I was staff cartoonist for the student newspaper (The Advocate…really) and was also made staff photographer after the previous one had a tiff with the editors and quit. What I like about this shot is my friend actually managed a snap when, for an instant, I got into the drawing I was working on and was actually concentrating on it there for a moment. It’s not often I get to see my concentration face.

I’m posing at one of the art room desks, not pretending to draw but actually drawing one of my newspaper cartoons. Even though the shot had to be posed I insisted I would be working on something for real, not faking it. That has always been my photographic style. In this shot you can’t see my hand with the pen in it, but that’s the drawing on the board and paper in front of me. The tackle box also in front of me is typical. The artist’s tool boxes they sold in art stores were Expensive and I noticed they looked a lot like the tackle boxes they sold in the sporting goods section of most department stores, which were a lot cheaper. To this day I have a tackle box full of drawing stuff on my drafting table.

And this by the way is why to this day I draw on a horizontal surface and not with the drafting table top tilted at an angle like I see a lot of other artists do. All my grade school art rooms had tables like these and I just got used to drawing that way. And see the board I have the paper on. I still cut Masonite boards to use for drawing and tape the paper on them. Then I have the paper on a nice smooth solid surface I can turn this way and that while I’m working on it and even tilt if I really need to.

Posted In: Life Woodward
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Throwback Thursday Only Wednesday
October 24th, 2019

Dear Night Brain…

Dear night brain… I really do appreciate the vivid dream I had just now, of being back in the apartment with mom when I was a teenage boy and she overhears me thinking out loud about the guy I was crushing on in school and tells me it’s okay and she understands how it is to be seventeen and falling in love because she’d been there too. But these vivid dreams about mom are disturbing. Please stop. I miss her a lot. But she died almost two decades ago after the stent they put in her slipped.

Sigh. It wasn’t until just a couple months before she died she finally accepted it, and wished me the happiness I needed, if not the one she would have liked. I wish we could have talked more. She would have liked any one of the three I crushed madly on. I could have brought them all home to her in a better world. Mom…this is my boyfriend… They’d have got along great. But that didn’t happen. I couldn’t tell her anything back then. She knew, but didn’t want me to say it. I have her diaries. She agonized over it. Two months before she died she told me it was okay.

It took a lot for her to get there. We both missed so much because of the homophobia of her religion and upbringing. I’m sure that’s what these dreams are about. I suppose deep down inside all this will never be settled. That was a very nice dream but I wish they would stop.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dear Night Brain…
October 18th, 2019

My Little Heart Attack Diary

As they were wheeling me into the elevator to take me to the room where they put the heart stents in, the doctor told me I looked very calm for someone who’d just been told they’re having a heart attack. But until the moment I got the diagnosis I was full of all kinds of dire imaginings over what was happening. It just didn’t feel like I was told a heart attack was supposed to feel. It felt more like a massive heartburn, or damage to my throat because of all the wheezing and coughing I did after the flu I’d just had, or worse…damage from throat cancer maybe, from the cigars I like to smoke. But now I knew…I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t the fearful unknown anymore. And I was in the ER, surrounded by one of the best hospitals to be having a heart attack in on the east coast. I felt myself to be in good hands. And I was.

It sorta started on my Walt Disney World vacation last month. I’d taken two weeks this time because it was a milestone birthday. I would be old enough now to draw full Social Security benefits if I wanted to. Which I didn’t…my plan is to keep working at Space Telescope at least through launch of James Webb. If I can keep working until age 70 I’ll have a very good retirement package, and since my job isn’t very physical I reckoned that was possible. But in the second week of it I came down with a flu. After that I started feeling my age more than I’d expected. I had a really bad cough for weeks afterward, and I was fatigued beyond anything I had known before. In retrospect, that fatigue was probably a symptom of what was to come.

Back home, I checked in twice to a local walk-in clinic for the cough, which just wasn’t going away. They diagnosed me as having bronchitis, which so I’m told is basically you have a cough. They gave me some meds which took care of the cough, but then I started feeling heartburn, every night, in the middle of the night.

It would wake me up, and I would sit it out. At first it all seemed pretty routine. Sometimes I’d take a Tums for it, and it would go away. Daytimes I felt fine. But at night the heartburn kept coming back. And it was getting worse. I began to worry there was damage to my throat from all the coughing I’d done. Then I began to worry about something else. I am an occasional cigar smoker. And by “occasional” I mean I can go for months without smoking one, or I can get on a jag about it…usually because of some life stress…and smoke one every day for a while, usually at night after dinner. First week of my Walt Disney World vacation I was smoking them every night a the Sosa Cigar Company in Disney Springs. They have a nice little cigar lounge were you can smoke a nice one and watch the people go by. But while cigars aren’t likely to give you lung cancer (you don’t inhale the smoke), they can give you cancer of the esophagus. They also stress the heart and blood vessels, but I was more worried now about cancer.

For several days the night heartburn just kept getting worse and worse. Daytime was fine…except now I was getting severely out of breath walking to and from work. I figured it was an after effect of the bronchitis. Maybe I’d damaged my lungs in some way. Maybe the cigars Had given me a lung cancer. One of my coworkers recently died of it. Suddenly. She was a pretty heavy cigarette smoker, but I was stunned at how fast it took her from us. I’d run into her on The Avenue just the previous week and she looked fine. Then she was gone. I was starting to get a bit scared, but not of my heart. The stabbing chest pains I’d been told to expect in every Hollywood movie or TV show when somebody had a heart attack weren’t happening. It just felt like heartburn. Really really bad heartburn, and slightly above my heart, and just below my throat, in the center of my chest. But there was another factor, that caused me not to rule out the heart attack entirely: When the pain came on, I got noticeably numb at the tips of my fingers. In retrospect I should have paid closer attention to that.

Last Monday morning, in the wee hours. It woke me up again and it was really bad. I think I might have snarfed down half a bottle of Tums. It came and went…something else I didn’t think a heart attack did. When it was gone I felt fine. Great even. Then it would come on me again, a bit worse than before. What I failed to fully appreciate then was there is a stage before the actual heart attack comes on, when the blockage in one or more blood vessels is starting to cut off the flow of blood in a significant way and a patch of your heart stops getting enough blood. That’s when you need to take action to prevent the damage from happening. But I was 4/5ths certain it was damage to my throat I was feeling.

By the time morning came, I’d decided I needed to go to the ER to get it looked at. The pain was getting scary. I figured I’d get a ride to Union Memorial, which is nearby, in my network, and one of the best. I was trying to avoid the ambulance ride because of the possible expense. It’s the abysmal way we have healthcare set up in this country. Is the provider “in network” or not? How can I tell? It’s not like they wear their insurance company credentials on their lab coats or the ambulance doors like race cars wear their advertisers. I was sitting down composing an email to my coworkers and manager, telling them I was taking a sick day, when the pain came back pretty forcefully. It was now officially scary enough that I called 911.

When the EMT truck came the pain had gone away again. The EMTs gave me an EKG and saw nothing. But I’d told them about the numbness and they strongly suggested I go to the hospital. I agreed…I was going there anyway…and they strapped me in and away we went, sans lights since this didn’t seem to be an emergency.

By the time they wheeled me into the ER the pain was coming back. The ER techs took another EKG. The doctor sent back a request for another, but by then the pain had gone away way. He asked for a third and the pain was back. He came into the room and told me I was having a heart attack. Not had…having. And that I was going right away to get it taken care of. Stents, not a bypass, though I wouldn’t have been surprised about a bypass: two of my high school classmates have already had major bypass surgery. 

But for me it was the stents. Union Memorial is state of the art…I was to get them inserted through a major artery in my right arm, not the groin. The procedure was completely painless. I was laid out on a table, drugged up, oxygenated, my right arm strapped to a board flat and straight out, some sort of device hovering over me that I assume was a scanner that could see into my chest. It moved about here and there over me like a curious large bird, while the doctor and the technicians and nurses chatted. Occasionally they’d call out numbers which might have been related to the position of the device they were moving up my artery, or heart and blood data points. I felt very calm. That might have been the sedatives. And curious. But I played rag doll the entire time so they could do their jobs. It was over in just a few minutes. Or seemed to be anyway…that might also have been the sedatives. The chest pain was gone.

They moved me to the Cardio Unit, and kept me overnight for observation. Two stents had been put in, and a third was staged for insert, but determined to be unnecessary. I was wired up to an EKG machine and an automatic blood pressure tester. Eventually they hooked the wires up to a portable EKG device that talked wirelessly to the big one in my room, so I could take short walks around the unit, so they could see how my heart behaved. The next morning they gave my heart a sonogram. It was…interesting…to see it beating there on the screen. Sixty-six years and a few weeks it’s been beating without stop. It’s the one muscle in the body that never rests. Now mine had damage, because I’d let the chest pain go and tried to tough it out and maybe it’ll go away and it wasn’t what I thought it was. It was my heart telling me to take action.

But I was unreasonably, fantastically lucky all the same. I’d had the actual heart attack in the hospital, where I was surrounded by a first rate cardio care facility. Within minutes I’d had the blockage causing the attack cleared. When the head cardiologist talked to me before I was discharged, he was almost bubbling over with satisfaction at how little actual damage to my heart there was, because they were able to get me into care so quickly. He had a small group of intern trainees there with him, and I was his case study for them, probing me with his stethoscope, telling them here’s where you look for this sort of damage…but he doesn’t have it…and here’s where you look for this other sort of damage…but he doesn’t have it…

But I have damage. It’s the minimum amount of possible damage that could have happened, given the sort of heart attack I had. But now my heart has damage. I have heart disease. Now I have to deal with that fact.

But here’s one amazing thing about all of this. I have better blood flow now, because the blockage is gone. The fatigue is gone. Mostly. I’m feeling the after effects of the heart attack and that’s to be expected. For the next several weeks I will be on strict orders to take it easy. I won’t be allowed to walk to work like I normally do, possibly for months. No road trips for months probably, although I’ll be able to drive locally, and in fact driving is what they would prefer I do. I will have to be careful and not stress my body and heart. But I can see that if I follow doctor’s orders and get into a regular exercise routine I will end up feeling Much more energetic than before I had the heart attack. Much more. This is wonderful! And I think, one reason why so many people don’t follow instructions and stick to the plan after a heart attack. You have better blood flow, and the effect of it is really Really noticable. Hey…I’m feeling great…and that eggs Benedict is looking so very nice… But energy is the least amazing part of what I am now experiencing.

I haven’t had this level of mental alertness since I was a young man. It’s hard to describe it, and I never really noticed much how fuzzy the world around me was getting because it happened so gradually. When I did notice I just put it down to getting old. But when I take my brief morning walks around my block now, and moving about inside Casa del Garrett, the world around me just seems so much more…there…than before the heart attack. It’s a really striking difference. Like the difference between watching something on an old analog TV set and a new 4k digital. Really. Seriously. It is like that.

I Never want that to go away again if I can help it. Plus…I got lucky. Unreasonably, fantastically lucky, having the attack in the hospital where I could get immediate and high quality care. It would be churlish, disrespectful, not just tempting of fate, but laughing in its face, to just go on as before. It’s hilarious, but while I was waiting at the drugstore for my meds, the in house music system was playing Second Chance by 38 Special…

This heart needs a second chance…

Okay…I get the message. Really. I take pride in my common sense. 

One other thing. I was hearing that song in that drugstore because a coworker graciously picked me up from the hospital and took me straight to the drugstore to get my meds, and then to home. She also organized an email chain at work to get a group of my coworkers together to help me out with groceries and moving things while I was confined to quarters during recovery. That, and all the expressions of care and support I got this week from family and friends, online and off, really touched me deeply. I have never felt so loved.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
October 2nd, 2019

Killing Your Customer’s Trust, One Improvement At A Time

For decades…ever since I was a teenage boy…Kodak HC-110 has been my developer of choice for black & white film. I have used it to excellent results on Kodak films, and Fuji Neopan, and Agfa and Rollie films. I’ve used it for so long I know it instinctively.

No more. I’ve just been informed on one of the photography groups I follow, that Kodak is selling a “new and improved” formulation of HC-110. The big difference? They omit a step to remove water from the concentrate. This effectively nullifies one of the big advantages of that particular developer: the concentrate had an insane longevity so long as you didn’t open the bottle. Otherwise it is the same formula. You get the same developer you always did when you dilute the concentrate to working solutions.

They’re saying they did it out of “environmental concerns”. However, they’re still selling the original concentrate in Europe. So you have to suppose the environment in question was Wall Street, yet again. Dig it…Kodak degraded the longevity of a product that’s been favored by many photographers for generations, to move more product. And there goes my trust.

I’m still not feeling well, but I just now took an emergency walk over to Service Photo hoping to snatch up the last of the old concentrate, but Kodak beat me too it. The shelf there is full of the new, where before they only stocked one or two bottles at a time of the original. So I guess I’m done with it. I don’t care that it’s the same thing going into the tank. I care that Kodak doesn’t care about the quality of its products anymore if higher quality means fewer sales. Trust is gone, and with it my business.

I still have two bottles of the original concentrate left. Kodak ticked me off a few years ago when they started selling it only by the liter instead of the pint, which meant I ended up wasting a lot of it. I don’t want to risk separating the liter bottle into smaller ones because once you open that bottle it starts absorbing moisture from the air and that’s what kills its longevity. Water activates HC-110 concentrate. Stick an exposed piece of film into the concentrate and nothing happens. It needs water. But once it gets it in any amount the clock starts ticking. Well…ticking faster. Much faster.

Watching to see what the other photographers head to as substitutes.

Posted In: Photography
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Killing Your Customer’s Trust, One Improvement At A Time
September 29th, 2019


A comic book series I’m currently following, titled Second Coming is a comic take on both Christianity and Super Heroes. Jesus is sent back to earth to be mentored by a Superman clone, Sunstar, because God doesn’t think he’s manly enough. There’s a line of dialogue in issue 3 that really speaks to an issue I had with Christianity before I walked away from religion altogether. The scene is Jesus is confronted by a group of homophobes in front of an LGBTQ bar…

Phobe: I have to say I don’t think God is very happy with the choices you’re making.

Jesus: He never is.

Phobe: Were you to die now, you would go to Hell, where demons would stab your eyes out with forks, roast you over an open flame ns, I don’t know, feed you to goats or something. The scriptures are a little unclear…

As Paul says in First Corinthians…

Jesus: Who?

Phobe: The Apostle Paul.

Jesus: What?! I don’t know any Paul.

Phobe: Paul, the guy who wrote half the New Testament!

He spent his life spreading the word of Jesus Christ.

Jesus: I asked James to spread my word. I asked Peter to spread my word. I never even asked Paul to spread the jelly!

I laughed for hours after reading that. There’s an old joke about how Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Peter, and Evangelical Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Christ…

Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who?
August 19th, 2019

Seeing It For The First Time…

From Digby

I guess this really is one of those chicken or egg situations. I see people who love a lying asshole like Trump because he’s a “shit-talker” and it seems obvious to me that they really are deplorable. And the truth is that, for me, this is a relatively new thing. I impugned the motives of their leadership over the years and rightly so. But it’s only with the advent of Trump and the ecstatic reaction from GOP voters to his disgusting Nuremberg rallies that I realized how far gone they really were. 

Your gay and lesbian neighbors have seen this for decades. Under the respectable republican cloth coats, in the privacy of their own people, or when facing a hated minority and they think nobody else sees or hears it, they’re a bunch of shit talking thugs whose morals stink like an open sewer. I saw it for years on USENET. I heard it in the streets every time we marched. The pious perfume of godly righteousness sprayed over a cesspool overflow. What’s new is Trump has made them feel empowered to drop the pretense, and be in public, that which they always were.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Seeing It For The First Time…
August 10th, 2019

The Final Escape Hatch

I’m not saying it wasn’t arranged…those of us who came of age during the Nixon years understand perfectly well the futility of believing that there are limits to what powerful people in positions of power are capable of. They get that notion of godhood into their brains and it’s absolute power corrupting so on and so forth.

But consider Epstein until very recently had a life few people who have ever lived will ever grok. He had his own island, jets, a staff, socialized with billionaires and powerful men who considered him one of their own, lavish estates, and teenage girls at his beck and call. Also apparently well positioned people in the Administration, the Justice Department and the courts. He had more than enough reason to believe he was beyond the reach of the law. Until a few weeks ago.

Now he finds himself in a cell, looking at spending the rest of his life in prison, and so I’m told child molestors don’t do very well in prison. You might think of him all alone in a tiny cell where before he had his own island to enjoy, but he is not alone, and his companions are not the sort of people you find in the pages of The Robb Report or Elite Traveler. And he has to know it isn’t even rock bottom. Not yet. But rock bottom is coming.

It really isn’t surprising he would consider suicide as the only way forward. To assert it was impossible because he was on a suicide watch is to believe in a kind of prison bureaucratic infallibility I just can’t buy into. Say it would be very hard, sure. But Epstein was very smart, and so they say, affable. How do you think he got young girls to trust him? And…rich people with their money. He was a schemer and a manipulator and you don’t get to the heights he did without being good at it. Means and opportunity. A man like that could figure it out. After his near miss with the law last time he probably spent a lot of time thinking about it.

And knowing his suicide would throw grit into the machinery of justice, and even better, spawn a bazillion conspiracy theories to bedevil everyone who brought him down forever, might have actually given him some comfort on his way to oblivion.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Final Escape Hatch
August 5th, 2019

Lowest Common Denominator Politics

This came across my Twitter feed today…

Yeah…that. As a gay man having lived through the times I have, I’ve often read these manifestos to try and understand the mindset. But it always comes back to how stunningly alike they all are. You read the manifestos, the pamphlets, the long drawn out posts on various online social forums (I joke that I’ve done my time on USENET…) and such…even on their damn cars and trucks you can sometimes see the brain dump…and the one thing you’re struck by is their disturbing similarity, regardless of the specific target of hate.

Some years ago I was watching a documentary on the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown, beginning with the railroad’s importing large numbers of Chinese men to work on building the first transcontinental line. There was an editorial in one of the city newspapers concerning the “Chinese Problem”, and it recited a litany of things Chinese people did (so it claimed), that degraded city life. Drugs, crime, sexual predation, they were ignorant and lazy, but also clever and sly and took the jobs of decent white folk. What struck me about the editorial was how you could have replaced every usage of “Chinese” with a letter “X” and it could have been about any hated minority, then or now.

It’s as if this sort of blind reflexive hate is what you’re left with when you peel away the higher brain functions and we’re back to being east African plains apes that see everything that isn’t the tribe as either something to kill, something to fuck or something to eat. Australopithecus waving a gun, or a bible, howling into microphones on the TV, or throwing ink like it’s shit on the editorial page.

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lowest Common Denominator Politics
August 4th, 2019

Until He Opened Fire, The El Paso Shooter Was Perfectly Legal Walking Into WalMart With That Rifle

This came across my Twitter feed today…

I was walking to work at a Very early hour a few days ago, and as I walked through the Giant parking lot and passed by the doughnut shop, a young woman parked nearby, exited her car and walked inside. I noticed she was wearing a gun on her hip. For an instant I paused and looked more closely. She wasn’t in any sort of uniform, but this is Maryland and even in our (allegedly) crime and rat infested city the crooks don’t open carry. So I assumed she was either an off duty policewoman or a private security person of some sort, and I just walked on.

Here in Maryland, precisely because it’s a nearly impossible mountain to climb for a private citizen to get a concealed carry permit, let alone an open carry one, I can pretty reasonably make that assumption. If you’ve got it on your hip where everyone can see it then you’re licensed and you’ve passed numerous background checks and it’s more likely than not that you can be trusted with that weapon.

That’s not the case in “shall issue” “open carry” states, and people have been warning about this for years now. The El Paso shooter just walked into that WalMart with his rifle and Pierce is right; the police or any security personnel challenged him he could have sued. And that is exactly the sort of unassailable right the NRA republicans want to make it.

Here’s the problem with that: you can’t tell is someone is about to shoot someone in the store you’re in, let alone about to go on a crazed shooting spree, until they open fire, and even if there is a “good guy with a gun” nearby it’s going to take them a moment to react and grasp the situation and by then the shooter has killed dozens.

No. Just…no. It isn’t too much to ask that you need a license to carry, and that getting one requires a serious background check and the same sort of pertinent fitness testing that you need to get a driver’s license, plus a reasonably good rational for obtaining it. Plus whatever it is you carry it can’t be anything more than a defensive weapon. You want to walk around with a military style rifle go join the army.

But there is more going on here than just the completely expectible result of laws made to the specifications of gun fetishists. And to focus on the racial hate that motivated the shooter is important yes, but dig a little deeper. It’s not about guns specifically. On Twitter, David Roberts posts: 

Another reminder: an atmosphere in which random violence is always possible, in which catastrophic loss of healthcare is always possible, makes people fearful, anxious, & angry. They draw their circles of concern inward. They literally become *more conservative*.

To which Roy Edroso replies:

I’ve been saying this for years. Conservatives are anti-intellectual because they know educated people are less likely to be conservative. Similarly they want to arm everyone to promote social mistrust, which also promotes conservatism.

It’s more than they’re in the pocket of the NRA and it isn’t simply about guns or the right to own your own in a democracy. It’s precisely about breaking down the social bonds between Americans that were developing since the civil rights movement, because at a gut level the concept of neighbor doesn’t reach very far with them. They don’t even see those bonds. They think of America they think of other white folks just like them, who dress like they do, speak like they do, go to the same churches they do, read the same newspapers and listen to the same Fox News and Talk Radio they do. And when liberals speak of America in more encompassing terms they start yap yap yapping about socialism and communism because to them it’s taking Their America and giving to to all those horrible mostly not white others.

An armed society so they say, is a peaceful one. But here comes the evidence and it’s twofold. No it isn’t peaceful, it’s fearful, and yes, actually that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. They want us all to be afraid because, yes, that promotes conservativism. But more importantly they want their own kind, white, protestant, presentable and mannerly on the outside, simple and mean on the inside, to be afraid of everyone else. So the ranks hang together and vote as a block to keep the Others in their place. It actually is about promoting social mistrust. Because in a ghastly fundamental way, they are afraid of…well…damn near everything. It’s not so much a plan as a knee jerk reflex to undermine anything smacking of social progress because oh dear lord the darkies will be using our swimming pools next thing you know, and the wimmen folk will be wanting a say in their reproductive lives, and the homos good god almighty will be holding hands in public, and atheists will be teaching our children about evolution!

At some level I’m sure there are many conservatives that are genuinely horrified by these mass shootings, but also weary about liberal bellyaching about it, as if mass shootings were a bigger threat to the nation than universal healthcare, gay marriage, socialism, the Islamic hordes, antifa and…well…white replacement.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Until He Opened Fire, The El Paso Shooter Was Perfectly Legal Walking Into WalMart With That Rifle
July 29th, 2019

My Hellhole City…

Morning in my hell hole city…

I get up early these days, make some sandwiches for lunch, put food and fresh water out for the calico. Many street cats here in Baltimore like her have one ear tipped. It’s a sign that she’s been fixed and given at least an initial round of shots. The city would like it very much if you don’t bother the tipped ear cats. They keep the rodent population down, and also the street cat population since they can no longer breed.

I live where I can walk to work when the weather is nice. This morning I’m out the door just after 5am. I was up at 4. It’s my insomnia. I try to make it work for me. When it gets me up early enough, but not too early, I just stay up. Flex time means I get to go home early too, and maybe do some work at the drafting table before bed. The early morning summer dawn lights my way, but the street lights are still on. I go out the back door because I don’t want the calico following me.

The alley behind my little Baltimore rowhouse is still and quiet. Everyone here has done their backyard up a little differently. Some have big expansive gardens, others have put in parking pads or big outdoor decks with barbecues and deck furniture. Trees, probably planted decades ago, have grown taller than the utility wires strung down the alley, and have to be regularly trimmed. A couple dogs wander close to their fences as I pass by, but do not bark at me. I’m a familiar human. They will rise a hellacious din when an unknown human walks down the alley. Or a known human walking their dogs.

Or a squirrel. In the years I’ve lived here I’ve seen maybe a few hundred squirrels for every rat. Or maybe it’s just a couple squirrels and they just get around. Tree branches and utility wires are all the same to them. The street cats do their job keeping the rat population down. Also the city. You have to make a really big mess of your property for the city to complain about it, but a single rat sighting will get animal control knocking on your door faster than the speed of sound. But it’s not all just squirrels and rats and pigeons. I’ve seen deer and foxes, which probably come down the Jones Falls river (creek trickle stream) from the ‘burbs. Last winter I looked out my front bedroom window one night and saw a deer feasting on the ivy buried under some freshly fallen snow.

Deer in fact, were a frequent sight in my neighborhood, which is just a couple miles from the urban core. I’ve seen foxes too. One night I opened the front door to see if the Calico needed feeding and found a raccoon by the empty food dish giving me a look as if to say, well, where’s the food buddy!? You got a food dish here and it’s empty! What’s up with that!? Hawks, owls and falcons are regular visitors, especially around Wyman Park and Jones Falls. Snakes too, alas, but so far I have seen no venomous ones. But the empty lot at the end of my street where the wildlife used to gather has been turned into expensive luxury townhomes. Starting price was 350k and most of them sold for over 400k. The development was completed just last spring, and now the model home is the only one left unsold. A storage container factory that used to be located not far away was closed and the building demolished and they are building even more expensive townhomes on the site as I write this. Another empty lot behind the Giant Food grocery store a couple blocks away was turned into a luxury townhome development that was completed last fall.

On my way to work this morning I walk past the Giant. There are places in this city that are food deserts, but my neighborhood isn’t one of them. I live within a short walk of the Giant, and there is one of those trendy organic food stores in “The Rotunda”, a largish old building that was once the headquarters of some big insurance company, and is now a small city mall with stores and offices in it. What was the big parking lot behind it has been turned into a 400+ luxury apartment complex, with rents ranging from just under a thousand bucks a month to just over 3,800 for a space that’s still fewer square feet than my little Baltimore rowhouse. I have no idea who is paying that kind of money for those units or where they work, but they seem to be nearly all rented out now.

There is a Starbucks among the Rotunda shops that opens at 5:30am. I stop in for an ice coffee and danish to take with me as I walk to work. The Rotunda is a halfway point in my walk. A few delivery trucks are parked at the loading docks, but the morning is still very quiet. The day shift is just getting started. There is the Mom’s (that trendy organic grocery store…), the Starbucks, a drugstore, a barber shop, a UPS store, a couple restaurants and a dine-in movie theater here. The folks who live in the apartments above them probably have it even better than me when it comes to walkability, especially if they work in the Rotunda, as some of my coworkers do.

I go on my way, down 40th street to University Parkway. Now I am walking through what is probably Baltimore’s most upscale neighborhood: Roland Park. My path just gives it a glancing blow but even here the homes are big and lovely. There are large English style rowhomes, with slate shingle roofs and large patches of lawn and garages behind them, accessible through the alley. Even at the money I am making in my current job I could never afford one of these. They’re all old, solid, and beautiful. And they adjoin Wyman park, which itself adjoins the Johns Hopkins University, which is where I work. Not for Hopkins, but for AURA, the Association of Universities conducting Research in Astronomy.

We operate the Hubble Space Telescope here, and are working on the ground systems for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Hopkins graduate programs in Biological, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering (Biomedical, Electrical & Environmental), Human Development and Family Studies, Health Sciences, Humanities, Physical and Mathematical Sciences and International Affairs and Development, all rank among the top 10 of their respective disciplines. Students come here from all over the world. It’s a lovely campus to work at, and taking my lunchtime strolls I hear languages of the world spoken among the kids. But this is not an inexpensive university to attend. These kids, unless they got grant money, come from money. But it’s a different kind of atmosphere here, than one I suppose I might find at a Yale or a Harvard. These kids are here mostly to become scientists, researchers, astronomers, or engineers. Some days I walk among the carefully maintained greens between the campus buildings, or along the walkways of San Martin Drive with Wyman Park on one side and the University on the other, and I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Now I walk through Roland Park to University Parkway, and from there across a bridge over Wyman Park to San Martin Drive, which winds and bends between the university and the park. Tall trees and forest on one side of the road, I could imagine myself in one of the national parks, perhaps somewhere along Skyline Drive. I go past the Lacrosse field on the other, and the ROTC. Soon I am at my workplace. I have to use my key card to open the door as it is very early, and sign in at the security desk. Security is tighter here now, than when I first started working here, since we began building the Mission Operations Center for James Webb here. One of my key cards grants me access to the building, and I have access to several computer rooms configured on it. Two other cards on my strap grant me access to the James Webb MOC and to Goddard in Greenbelt Maryland.

I am but a mere integration and testing person, not a flight engineer, and I also write business software for progress tracking and reporting. So when my phase of the work is completed they’ll probably take away my MOC access. But I can say I was there, and was a part of it all. I have participated in testing James Webb’s optical and science instrument assembly (OTIS), and watched it speaking its first words on my telemetry screen as I helped capture data for later replaying and testing of the ground systems we’re developing here.

Here. In my hell hole rat infested city. Except it isn’t. It’s one of America’s vibrant, busy, energetic cities and there is lots more going on here than you might think if all you ever watched was The Wire or read Donald Trump’s and his peanut gallery’s tweets. I feel as though I lucked out unreasonably getting the job here I did, and the little Baltimore rowhouse I have within walking distance of that job, and the grocery stores, and the lovely bars and restaurants and shops that compass everything I might need on a day to day basis. The nightlife hub locally is called “The Avenue” and it’s become so popular most of the bigger places have valet parking now. But I can walk to it so that’s another perk of where I live.

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC. I thought I’d live in the ‘burbs all my life. Then I discovered what it’s like to have everything you need in walking distance. My city neighborhood is as safe as any suburban development I’ve ever lived in, and since we are all more tightly packed together here than in the ‘burbs we know each other perhaps a little better, and we can keep an eye on our neighborhood a little better. Diversity. It works. My neighborhood is largely white, but has a growing mix of black, Asian and Hispanic leavening it. But that’s just one part to diversity. My neighborhood also has a nice mix of older retired folk and younger professionals, and that means there is always someone here during the day keeping an eye on things, and at night not everyone keeps the same bedtime schedule. The neighborhood never really sleeps, it just gets quiet. Which is a relative term here in the city. The entire neighborhood doesn’t just empty out during business hours like some of the suburban apartment developments I’ve lived in. And older rowhouse neighborhoods like those here in the city, have Front Porches! This is something the new “luxury” townhouses are sadly leaving out. Front porches are places where people sit when the weather is nice, and chat with each other, and passing neighbors out for an evening stroll. People like me.

City life is Wonderful. Baltimore is wonderful. Yes, it has its problem zones, like all big cities do. And if Donald Trump and his constipated voter base think otherwise they can certainly help improve the livability of this and other American cities by staying out.

My thanks in advance!

Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on My Hellhole City…
June 9th, 2019

Responsibility: Yours Whether You Want It Or Not

So I’m told, once upon a time in the old west, some good folks decided executing criminals was an act they could not morally put upon another human. To make someone into an executioner, even if the sentence was arrived at in a completely legal and prudent way, was morally wrong. So they devised a system, whereby the condemned would be made to stand on a trap door, the noose around their neck, and their weight would cause a valve to open and water would drain out of a bucket until a lever dropped far enough the trap door would open and the sentence was carried out. There…no human hand pulled the lever, so nobody had that death on their hands. It was the condemned’s own weight that did it. Our hands are clean. We are not responsible.

One of my first jobs as a contract software developer was at my local utility company’s household appliances division, which sold and serviced everything from washing machines to central heating and air conditioning systems. A couple years into the work I was tasked with developing a work measurement reporting system for the field technicians, to work in conjunction with the new mobile data terminals they were installing in the field technician’s trucks. The idea, as it was told to me, was to treat each field technician as a “virtual business”. Track what the expenses were in terms of parts and labor, track the revenue in terms of billing and whether it was a warranty job.

The techs who were, luckily for them, unionized, forced considerations as to the difficulty of the work, and the skills of the technician. If you only did a few jobs that week, but they were among the most demanding, that was factored into the system. It took them 18 months to reach an agreement as to how the system should measure the profitability of the field technicians. I gave them a system that crunched the numbers from their mobile data terminals, the warranty system and the payroll system, just the way they spec’ed it out. But by then it was starting to make me a bit nervous. I was still pretty new at this trade, but I’d started at it by building my own computers from parts and teaching myself how to write programs, and I knew intuitively that there was nothing really all that special about them. They were machines, just with transistors instead of gears and motors. Bazillions of transistors that could do bazillions of calculations in a fraction of a second…but still machines. Tools, in other words. Helpful when used right, dangerous when used carelessly. 

Under all this was the utility company trying to prove that it wasn’t subsidising their household appliances division from the utility side of the company which was a protected monopoly. The appliance division technicians could also do utility side work when needed, or when they didn’t have any appliance work to do that week. All the independent contractors hated the big utility company for this because it gave the utility company a massive competitive advantage over them. Which of course, it denied.

Until they saw the first run of my reporting system. So I was told later, jaws dropped in the boardroom when they saw how much the utility side was actually subsidising the household appliances division. So plans were made to spin it off, before state regulators stepped in.

And then the layoffs came. And they used my reporting system to tell them who were the most costly and least productive field technicians to lay off. And I kept telling anyone who would listen that you can’t just blindly let a blind, deterministic, computer algorithm substitute for managerial judgement. But who listens to a little computer geek? So I saw a lot of good people get laid off, and a few not so good ones stay on board. One really nice guy, who always had a smile for me whenever we crossed paths in the hallways, died so I was told, when he had a heart attack just a couple days after being laid off. He was at the dinner table with the rest of his family and suddenly keeled over. I think about this. Lots.

This is Silicon Valley’s biggest blind spot. Well…this and libertarianism, which is so closely related they might as well be one and the same. Just get the algorithm right and everything magically takes care of itself.  It was my own hallucination back in my Ayn Rand days. We can reduce it all to just a few simple rules and presto…civilization just happens! But no. Computers can crunch the data, but then again garbage in garbage out. In my trade we say beware the hidden assumptions in a system. What do you know, and how do you know it? There are no substitutes for human judgement.

Or to put it another way: you can’t escape responsibility by off loading it onto a computer. Or a bucket of water.

Link to article Here.

Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Responsibility: Yours Whether You Want It Or Not

Maybe They Could Just Call It Traffic Hell Instead Of Baltimore-Washington

I really wanted to do the road trip thing later this month when I go down to Walt Disney World for the Disney Villains After Hours party at Magic Kingdom. I really did. But once again the traffic nightmare that is the Baltimore-Washington Beltways made me look at taking the train again.

Problem is, these ad hoc Disney trips are out of budget and I need to keep my expenses as low as possible. And overnight train fare can be expensive if you get a room. I am not doing overnight in coach. The annual pass means I don’t have to pay for park tickets or parking. So there’s that. And I got a very sweet deal on a hotel within walking distance to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island…). I figured if I took my car down I’d just have to buy fuel, food and motel rooms. Low budget road trip travel tests my willingness to avail myself of low budget motel rooms for the night, but I can deal with it if I must. Time was a trip down to Orlando would cost me two nights in a motel…one night there and one night back, a tank and a quarter each way, plus road snacks and dinner before bed. The biggest expense is always the motel rooms. 2-250 about for the round trip. Cost of fuel varies, but it’s never more than 120 round trip. On the flat coastal plains if I don’t drive with a heavy foot, Spirit, my Mercedes, gets in the low forties mpg. So maybe $400 for the round trip if I drive it myself.

But the traffic nightmare throws a wrench into all of this, and every year it gets a little worse, a little more hellish than I thought possible. When I started going down to Walt Disney World and Key West, starting back in 2007, I could do it with just one motel stop for the night on the way down, and just drive all the way home on the way back. Now, unless I’m willing to leave at 3 in the morning…which I’m not…getting around both beltways and to Richmond can take as long as four hours…five or more if there’s an accident or two. Or three. My alternative is a bridge that scares the hell out of me. It’s taking rt 301 through Waldorf and La Plata and cross the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge, also known as the Potomac River Bridge. Just look at this goddamned thing…

That’s two way traffic, one lane each way. Hell no. And even going this way is its own traffic nightmare anyway, what with all the traffic and traffic lights going through Waldorf and La Plata just to get to it, although once across the Potomac River it is actually a very nice drive. But that bridge. That bridge almost has as much No going for it as the Bay Bridge..

So the time delay built into getting past the traffic nightmare means that nowadays I usually have to stop for the night twice in each direction, which doubles the motel cost, and adds to the food costs. That’s what makes a train ticket, even with the added cost of getting a roomette, comparable. It’s about 6-700 bucks for the round trip if I do it all on the Silver Meteor, which has a dining car. About 200 bucks less if I do it all on the Silver Star which does not. (The difference for sleeper car passengers is your meals in the dining car are included, so on the train without one you get a discount). This is do-able. When the money’s there.

But the fly in the ointment here is the cost of renting a car when I get there. I could probably get by with a taxi or Lift to and from the hotel, and then take advantage of the Disney Parks busses. But I have no patience and waiting in the hot Florida sun for a bus isn’t my idea of a good time.  Plus, you do your own grocery shopping for breakfast and lunch and you save money for the nice places to eat dinner. So I want a car while I’m there.

I did the math and really didn’t want to have to spend that money. So taking the car seemed the best bet. If I could just do it…somehow…and avoid the two beltways traffic nightmare.

I have looked at all sorts of other routes down to Richmond from Baltimore and none of them really offer any advantages. You get off the Interstates and onto the secondary roads and highways and there is lots of local traffic to deal with, plus the added fun of all the traffic lights and uncontrolled intersections. So yesterday I decided to try an insane experiment: Baltimore to Richmond by way of Hagerstown.

Hear me out…I get on the Baltimore beltway and take I-70 west to Hagerstown. Then I pick up I-81 south. That’s the route I used to take to visit mom down in Hillsville and I know it well. Plus, when I’m going west and it’s too cold and snowy to take I-70 all the way I take I-81 to I-40 in Tennessee. So I know that stretch of I-81 through Virginia like the back of my hand. It’s very familiar territory. But this time instead, when I get to Staunton I take I-64 back east to Richmond, then get back on I-95 going south. Coming back hitting the Baltimore beltway where it connects to I-70 gets me past nearly all the bad traffic and it’s just a short hop to I-83 and home, which would be a Much better way to end a vacation. 

Yes…it’s Waaaay out of the way. But my theory was if I could just keep moving and not get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for hours the time difference might not be too much. And I could at least get past Richmond and not be all stressed out from traffic.

So yesterday morning I gave it a shot. Bright and early Spirit and I set out to see if this crazy detour around the two beltways might be a workable solution. I had a secondary motive in mind as well. I’ve not done a really big road trip in a while because I’ve been loving the train a lot. So I wanted to get myself re-acquainted with the road and its culture.

I settled back into it pretty nicely. And the journey was almost completely free of heavy traffic. But by the time I got to Richmond I was deciding against it. Yes the drive was lovely, but it was a couple hundred miles more than just taking a straight shot. Time-wise it was four and a half hours from Baltimore to Richmond, not counting the detour I took for fuel that morning.

But this was Saturday morning, and so I’m turning back north from Richmond and thinking to myself, let’s compare travel times now and see what it looks like. It’s Saturday, so the worst of it from Fredericksburg to the Mixing Bowl shouldn’t be that bad, and I can get a baseline of travel times based on ideal traffic conditions.

Hahahahahahaha… No.

It was gawd awful bumper to bumper almost all the way back to Baltimore. And I’m sitting there in atrociously heavy traffic on a Saturday afternoon thinking…what the hell…if this is Saturday I don’t even want to know what business hours are like here anymore.

It took me four and a half hours to get to Richmond, and three and a half hours to get from Richmond back to Baltimore. And it was ugly the whole way back. So now I’m thinking the crazy detour is viable after all. I’m not losing more than an hour of travel time going that way and it’s a nice relaxing drive the way these road trips used to be.

So I get back to my little Baltimore rowhouse all stressed out from just three and a half hours in traffic from Richmond and now I’m so tired and wrung out I’m thinking maybe for this next ad hoc vacation I’ll just take the train instead. But the expense. I really need this one to be inexpensive, because the next one is two weeks on my birthday and I’ve been saving for that one for months now. I didn’t want to have to use any of what I’ve saved for that one, for this one.

If it was just the train it would be do-able. But both the train and a week of car rental was more than I wanted to spend. Then I remembered something: I have a sh*tload of Amtrak points I’ve been accumulating for nearly three years now, including the bunches I got from those two big cross-country in deluxe bedroom trips. 

So when I got home I fired up one of the household computers and logged onto the Amtrak website, wondering if at this late stage are there any roomettes still available. I entered my travel dates and low and behold there Were rooms available on the Silver Meteor, both ways, which meant my food would be included. And I didn’t even use half the points I’d accumulated.

So the trip down and back is basically free and all I need to pay for is a rental car, which makes it even less expensive than driving it myself.

This is good, but for my birthday vacation I probably still need to take the car. Last year I took the AutoTrain and got stuck for a while in Disney World (not the worst place to get stuck) when a hurricane flooded most of South and North Carolina and even the trains stopped running. If I hadn’t had my car with me it could have been weeks before I was able to get back home. So…new rule of thumb: when going to Walt Disney World during hurricane season I have to drive it myself, or at least take the AutoTrain. 

And…I still want to keep doing road trips. Before I’m too old to do them any more.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Maybe They Could Just Call It Traffic Hell Instead Of Baltimore-Washington

Well I Guess That Wasn’t Shining Armor After All…

I tell myself that in a better world I’d have figured this out back in high school, had a good cry over it and moved on. But even in a better world back then I’d have still been a thoroughly twitterpated teenager with no life experience and no common sense, so probably not.


Sometimes, what the lover perceives as shining armor is actually a carefully woven, pretty little cocoon around a soul that never learned to love itself enough to laugh back at prejudice. And then one day you find yourself stunned, wondering how that could possibly really be fear and shame because loving them swept all yours away.

Oh well. Maybe LonerNoMore can post a comment here about how I’m still living in the past and that today is a gift and that’s why it’s called the present.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well I Guess That Wasn’t Shining Armor After All…
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