Lichtenbergian Goals, a quick review of 2018

Every year the Lichtenbergian Society holds its Annual Meeting on or before the Winter Solstice, and part of the Agenda for that meeting means confronting the projects you proposed to work on for the previous year.

Last year, I succeeded at every single one of my goals, one of which was the publication of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, and so, shockingly, I was stripped of my chairmanship.

This year I have done better, i.e., I have not accomplished a single Proposed Effort, as they are officially known. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Become a self-promoting whore

Following Turff’s lead in his successful goal to become a “corporate tool,” I was going to acquire the skills needed to sell the book and become a speaker/workshop leader all over the place, up to and including a TED Talk. I did not do this. In any way. Ugh.

Peter & the Starcatcher

Well, I did do this, but then again, how could I not?

Labyrinth fixes

I had — and still have — a short list of labor intensive projects that need to be taken care of in the labyrinth.  I did not get those done.

William Blake’s Inn

I was supposed to be pursuing a production of William Blake’s Inn for its world premiere.  It never happened.

new music?

Nothing. I wrote not a single note all year.

Ironically, I closed out last year’s post about these Proposed Efforts by bemoaning the fact all of these were so easily achievable that I was likely to be censured again. No chance of that this year!

Nor have I even begun to think about Proposed Efforts for 2019. Cras melior est.

It’s the ignorance, Kenneth.

::sigh::

This graphic has been floating around the FaceTubes for a couple of weeks:

Can you not feel the panic rising? Is your amygdala not entertained? Dogs and cats living together, etc etc. I for one am the outrage.

Here are the lies and the complete miscomprehension of basic truths.  Pass it on.

(1) DEAR RIGHTWING AMYGDALA-BASED LIFEFORM: WE CAPITALIZE CONGRESS AND CONSTITUTION. We generally spell out numbers lower than twenty, too. Thank you.

(2) That’s right. They were VOTED INTO CONGRESS. By voters. That’s how it works.

(3) It always comes as shocking news to the amygdala-based lifeforms [ABL], but the Bible is a holy text for Muslims too. Just as Christians revere the Old Testament but consider it to have been “superseded” by the New Testament, Muslims consider both Testaments to have been “corrected” and “superseded” by the Q’uran.  In other words, just as an ABL would just as soon not swear on a Torah, Muslims would rather use their own holy text.

(4) As usual, the ABLs have constructed a fictitious universe in which THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH can only be TT,TWT,ANBTT if the swearer puts his LEFT HAND ON THE BIBLE. Anything else completely invalidates the oath, right? Sadly, no: several Christian sects will not swear oaths (mainly because Jesus tells you not to), and even if you look at Presidential inaugurations, Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. Both John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce swore on a book of law, standing in for the Constitution. Lyndon B. Johnson used a Roman Catholic missal. No branch of government requires that anyone swear an oath on the Christian Bible, not even your podunk county courthouse. (The last few times I was on a jury, a Bible was not even offered to witnesses — they just raised their hand and swore — and that was some years ago here in Coweta County, GA.)

(5) Funny thing about “upholding our constitution [sic]”: Article 6, Clause 3 says, and I quote (in its entirety):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Let’s repeat that last part for the hard-of-thinking: no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

That’s right, Kenneth, not only is swearing on a Bible not required, such a requirement is prohibited by the Constitution. Which all duly elected members of Congress — Muslims or not — swear to uphold.

(6) Oh, ABLs. Your palpable fear is ridiculous. I will refrain from commenting on the obvious, and that is if we’re being destroyed within our own country, it’s by the rampant corruption, cruelty, and fecklessness of the current administration and those whose amygdalas salivate like so many Pavlov’s dogs at the sound of Dear Leader’s voice.

(7) I’m not sure how much of a Trojan horse two members of Congress constitute. I mean, what are they going to do, charge the chair and just take over Congress? Start issuing fatwas from the well? Whip out their scimitars and force the other 536 congresscritters to convert to Islam on the spot (which, by the way, the Q’uran explicitly forbids, no matter what its practitioners have done in history and don’t even get me started about imperialistic Christian missionaries over the last 500 years).

The whole tsimiss reminds me of those who are shocked by people who wear shorts to church, or who put sugar on their rice, or who don’t put a salad fork on the table: they somehow think that the world they’ve always felt safe in is actually objective reality. No, sweetie, it’s just the way you’ve done it. Dragging religion into it just elevates the stakes, and Jonathan Swift blew that whole idiotic mindset out of the water in Gulliver’s Travels with his spiteful, petty Lilliput, where the two kingdoms go to war over which end of a boiled egg to crack open. He was referring to the religious wars of the 17th century between Protestants and Catholics, but he would smirkingly recognize the ignorant amgydala-based lifeform who created this graphic as a dyed-in-the-wool Lilliputian.

Christians, a word, if you don’t mind…

Disclaimer right up front: #NotAllChristiansBlahBlahBlah and #ButButButShariaLawBlahBlahBlah and #DontWantToHearIt

In I, Claudius, the emperor Caligula survives a near-death illness. Afterwards, some toady senator is sucking up to him and avers passionately that he had prayed to the gods to take his life instead of Caligula’s — and Caligula levelly says, “Well, why are you still here then? I’m alive, and it seems wrong to me that both of us should be.” The senator is forced to commit suicide.

Caligula takes a statement at face value and pursues it to its excruciatingly logical conclusion. Albert Camus wrote an entire play about Caligula around this very concept.

Idea  — > Action

So, this happened.

Here’s the deal: I’m sure you’re horrified (as you should be) and condemnatory (as you should be) of what this young man did. I’m sure you’re grateful he didn’t get to go through with it.

But are you horrified and condemnatory of why he did it?

Of course he’s mentally ill. But is the basis for his actions unfamiliar to you? Were you surprised to find that he thinks that gay people and non-Christian people are “other”?  What does your religious environment teach you about those people?

I mean, if he had planned to bomb his school because he thought people who liked broccoli deserved to die, you would have shaken your head and thought, perhaps, “That’s just weird.”  But gay people and non-Christians — let’s face it, his position on those people is not something you’ve never heard before, is it? I know you condemn his actions, but do you agree with his premises? Is it OK for him to think like that, just not follow through? Is that what your church professes?

Before you reach into your pocket for your “Hate the sin, love the sinner” shibboleth, don’t. You’re still drawing a circle around “those people,” and I’m pretty sure — having survived a Baptist upbringing — that you’ve been given explicit instructions about that.

Idea  — > Action

It’s as simple as that.

Thanks. Glad we could chat.

A modest proposal

Voter turnout in the world’s greatest democracy[1] is, for some reason, an issue.

I have a solution.

No,  we can’t pass a law making voting mandatory because no one does that.[2]

Instead, let’s work with what we have: overwhelming campaign ads/begs/emails/commercials. Rather than trying to get money out of our elections,[3] let’s leverage the disgust and frustration most of us feel every time a new email pings our box.

Here’s how: We establish — by law — a national database. When you vote, you’re given a unique code. Using the code, you log into the database and confirm your info: any and all email accounts,  phone numbers, cable tv service, anything we can think of where we don’t want to hear from politicians. You click the box, and presto! the politicians are instructed to block their campaigns from contacting you.

Think about it. If you vote early, then you get to opt out for the rest of the campaign.

Turn, turn, kick, turn — yes, IT WILL WORK!

edited to add: I’m thinking the politicians will actually be in favor of this; once we’re off the table they can focus their limited resources on the people who haven’t voted yet.  It’s a perfect feedback loop: we get left alone, while the politicians will ratchet up their pressure on the nonvoters to go vote. The more people who vote, the more pressure on the remaining nonvoters. TTKT—YIWW!

edited to add also too: The law should also state that voting begins as soon as the campaign does.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] The United States, in case you were wondering.

[2] Lots of people do that.

[3]  Lots of people do that, too.

They’re lying, of course

The Republican party has been hard at work for years protecting the sanctity of your right to vote. At least that’s what they claim with straight faces in front of the camera.

Here’s how you know they’re lying.

Republicans want you to believe that your vote is under attack from fraudulent voters, hundreds, thousands, nay millions! of them. They want you to believe that not only do people vote who have no right to do so,[1] but that the Democrats are deliberately letting those people[1] into the country to tip the electoral scales in their favor.

This is a lie, of course. There is not any evidence of voting fraud in any state in the U.S. that has affected any election. Here’s a round-up of voter fraud studies from the Brennan Center for Justice, none of which I expect you to go read. Here’s the pertinent quote:

The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. [Ed: That’s between 3 to 25 votes out of 10,000.] Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

And if the data from multiple studies are not convincing, go look at the Heritage Foundation’s page on voter fraud. The Heritage Foundation is the conservative think tank that is source of much mischief in today’s politics, and — in an ironic twist, the source of key provisions in ObamaCare.[2]

See the number of PROVEN INSTANCES OF VOTER FRAUD, KENNETH? 1,165!!!!!1!! One thousand, one hundred and sixty-five FRAUDULENT VOTES! PROVEN!!!! Are you not concerned?

No, because you are a sane human being and recognize immediately that the number 1,165 is unaccompanied by any context. Is this in one election? Or is it across the country over a period of years out of hundreds of millions of votes? You can’t tell from their page, nor can you tell if you click on your state: all you get is a list of offenders without which elections they occurred in, nor what years. If you actually download the “report,” you get nothing more than a list of those 1,165 instances, separated out by state. There is no compilation or analysis of data, only dire warnings that this list is a “sampling” of the “many ways” voter fraud occurs.

In other words, complete and utter fuppery.

But let’s back up and pretend that the Republicans are genuinely concerned about voter fraud. Given that the amygdala-based lifeforms that make up the Republican Party need fear and anger to feed their brains, this is not an unreasonable assumption. However, this is not the case.  They’re lying.

Here’s how you know:

Example 1: Here in Georgia, leaving aside Sec. of State Kemp’s documented attempts to purge voters from the roles, we have the example of Randolph County, majority black population. A consultant hired by the county advised them to close seven out of nine[3] polling places in the county, based on the facts that some of them were underused and others were not ADA compliant.

Example 2: In North Dakota, the (Republican-controlled) legislature passed a “voter-identification law” that “requires that… IDs have street addresses printed on them and specifically bans using a P.O. Box.” And wouldn’t you know it, many Native Americans living on reservations do not have street addresses; they live so far out in the boonies that they have P.O. boxes instead. And in what is an amazing coincidence, Native Americans tend to vote Democratic.

Here’s a photo from our cross-country trip in 2013, taken in Monument Valley, which is not a national park but Navajo tribal land:

See those little white dots in the lower left? Those are trailers. Do they look as if they have street addresses?

So here’s the deal. Sometimes it occurs that after legislation is passed, the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in and problems that the lawmakers didn’t foresee crawl to the surface. You would hope that we elected smarter people to handle this, but here we are.

If the Republicans’[4] true concern was legitimate voting, if they had passed that law in good faith, they would react with dismay at the unintended consequences and would quickly and publicly fix the problem. “Oh no, let’s hurry up and get those voting places up to ADA code,” or “Goodness, how could we have missed that? Let’s amend the law to exclude the street address requirement from Native American reservations!”

But they don’t. Indeed, they fight tooth and nail to preserve those unintended consequences.

Because — and follow this closely — these are not unintended consequences. The Republicans pass these laws specifically to exclude certain voters[5] from voting.

They’re lying if they say otherwise.

Go vote.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] BROWN PEOPLE, KENNETH!

[2] The individual mandate was the Heritage Foundation’s response to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare proposal back in the 90s. They weren’t about to let all those poor people get free healthcare, so they put in the individual mandate so that everyone would have “skin in the game” (and still allow the insurance companies to feed off our healthcare). After Mittens Romney instituted the plan in Massachusetts and it worked, Barack Obama adapted it for the Affordable Care Act. Suddenly the idea was anathema to the weasels at Heritage because freedumz. Odd, that.

[3] Seven of Nine? Really, Republicans?

[4] It. Is. Always. Republicans.

[5] BROWN PEOPLE, KENNETH!

A simple proposal

I voted yesterday. Normally I don’t do early voting, but this year’s election has driven saner men than I to desperation.

In all the contested races I voted for the Democrat because oh my god have you seen those other guys? But what to do when an incumbent Republican is running unopposed?

Here’s what I did: I clicked on WRITE-IN and wrote in NONE OF THE ABOVE.[1]  Easy.

Does it count? No. But imagine if everyone who didn’t want the unopposed candidate wrote in NONE OF THE ABOVE — how wondrous would it be if an unopposed candidate got fewer votes than NONE OF THE ABOVE?

It might even make the Democratic Party decide they could run on progressive issues and take seats from these fuppers.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] Full disclosure: there were several unopposed Republican incumbents for whom I voted because I know they are not crazy right-wingers. But I still wish I had had a progressive candidate to vote for.[2]

[2] And no, it’s not going to be me, so don’t ask.

Colonies — what are they good for?

This popped up on Twitter this morning:

Dinesh D’Souza is of course the right-wing commentator (also convicted felon) who gets his ass handed to him regularly on Twitter by People Who Actually Know Things, but this tweet of his just kind of jumped out at me. (Ocasio-Cortez is the far left congressional candidate in New York, and she’s awfully good at smacking down idiots.)

Ocasio-Cortez’s second comment kind of sums up my reaction to D’Souza, but there’s more to it, I think. His entire attitude — and not just in this tweet — is Ayn Randian to the max: there are weak and there are strong, and the strong are good, vital, and important. The weak are there only to serve the strong.

Look at his language: ‘colony,’ ‘provide resources,’ ‘rule.’  Holy crap, people, it’s unvarnished colonialism, and he means it as a good thing. Remember the TV series V? D’Souza would have sided with the aliens.

That is not a strained metaphor. He is stating pointblank that if our “colony”[1] has nothing more to provide us — and that is clearly his rhetorical presumption — we should abandon them to their fate now that we’ve stripped them of what we needed. They are of no benefit to us; therefore let them die and decrease the surplus population.

This is a worldview that I cannot understand.  This is a worldview that I cannot “reach out to” or “have a meaningful discussion with.”

This is a worldview that I want to see exterminated.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] They are not our colony and never were. They were Spain’s colony; they are our territory, and that quasi-legal status is a whole other issue.

Italy — Pro Tips

Finally, we have my Pro Tips that I learned about traveling in Italy, especially on a guided bus tour.

Attire

You will read that Italians are snappy dressers, very fashion conscious, and this is true. Resist the urge to match them — they are merely strolling to lunch; you are on a forced march. Comfy shoes are a must; you will be on cobblestones most of the trip. Still, do better than most tourists I saw; there’s no point in being a slob.

Short shorts and bare shoulders are frowned upon — and in many cases forbidden — in the churches. Climate change has forced a moderation of that dress code as far as regular shorts go, but ladies should still expect to cover up. Most churches will sell paper shawls for one or two euros.  Buy one and keep it for next time.

Meals

There is a structure to Italian meals, and menus are arranged around it:

  • Antipasti: literally “before the meal”; appetizers. Do not fill up on them.
  • Primi piatti: “first dishes”; pasta. Do not fill up on it, although we realized at some level that this is the point — fill up your tummy with inexpensive pasta so that you don’t have to spend that much on meat to feed your family
  • Secondi piatti: meats, all kinds
  • Desserts: yum, but if you want my advice, skip it and hit the gelato shop down the street

Do not be afraid to skip one or more courses. Order as you would back home. Also, if you’re on a tour and are being served all the courses, do not be afraid to leave pasta on your plate. It’s not rude, and there’s no point in gorging yourself.

Ask for cacio e pepe, pasta with cheese and black pepper. You won’t regret it.

Order the house wine.

Floor numbering

We have first floor, second floor, etc., and basement — they start with 0 floor, then 1st floor, 2nd floor, etc., and basement is -1.

Write down your hotel room number in your Waste Book. That way you will avoid swiping your card over and over and wondering why the door isn’t opening when in fact you are on the wrong floor — 2nd floor was in Venice; Florence is 1st floor.

Italian

Learn the basics.  Almost every person you run into speaks English very well, which will make you feel stupid, but you can at least learn to say “Good morning,” “Good evening,” and “Thank you.”

You will hear your tour guide say the word “allor” a lot; it’s a filler word, meaning variously “well then,” “so, OK,” “moving on,” that kind of thing.

Museum tickets

Ask about timed tickets for museums you are interested in. You get to go to the happy line and to avoid the sad line.

Money

Italians will not make change. They have an irrational aversion to it. If all you have to pay for a €6 item is a five and a fifty, they will take the five rather than break a €50 bill.

Also, the concept of taking your €50 bill and trading you smaller bills for it is utterly alien to them. They will not do it, not at the hotel, not at a shop, probably not even at a bank, although we didn’t get the chance to test that one.

They are also skittish about tipping. They will never ask for it and will even refuse it. One reason is that they are paid a living wage; another is that a small service charge is usually built into the bill at restaurants. You can round up the bill and that’s fine, but otherwise they are really uncomfortable with the practice. I gave a €5 bill as a tip to a taxi driver (I was so tired I wasn’t thinking straight) and he just held it and stared at me incredulously until I took it back, apologized, and left him a €2 coin instead, which he accepted with a shake of his head. A waiter in Vico Equense ran all the way from the restaurant to the place where we were meeting the hotel shuttle to return an item one of us had left behind and point blank refused a tip for doing so.

Keep a list of your purchases in your Waste Book. That way you can fill out the customs form upon reentering the U.S. without being afraid of being caught out trying to sneak in items you completely forgot you had purchased. (Both last year and this year, Customs at Hartsfield-Jackson were willing to take our word for it that we were not bringing more than $800 worth of stuff, but it’s better if you’re prepared to be honest if necessary.)

The Sun

If you’re lucky enough to have good weather, you will need something to keep the sun out of your eyes. I bought an umbrella in Venice because it looked like rain, but I used it the rest of the trip as a parasol.

I purposely didn’t take a straw hat because I didn’t want to deal with it on the plane or to crush it in packing. However, hats are for sale everywhere — consider buying one.

Sunscreen is important: you will be out in the sun much of most days.

Random

Google “how to use a bidet in Italy.” The rest is on you.