At least it’s an answer

Back in February, I emailed our senators a simple question:

On Dec 24, 2016, I emailed you to ask if you agreed with the president’s tweet that we should restart the nuclear arms race.  You haven’t answered.

Now it appears that the president, in a private talk with Putin, has denigrated the limitations of the most recent START agreement.

If this proves to be the case, will you support a nuclear arms race?  If so, to what end?

Yesterday I received a reply from Johnny Isakson:

 Thank you for contacting me regarding North Korea. I appreciate hearing from you and I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.

Kim Jong-un has chosen to follow along the same destructive path as his father, Kim Jong-il. Kim has refused to comply with regional and international pressure to discontinue North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by carrying out a nuclear test and launching short and long-range missiles. In July 2017 alone, North Korea has conducted 2 missile tests, and 22 since November 2016.

It is clear that Kim Jong-un’s repeated, unacceptable and deplorable threats cannot be allowed to continue. I support the additional sanctions placed on North Korea through H.R.3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and urge the President to implement this law fully.

North Korea has continued to show a severely reckless attitude toward the welfare of its own citizens by committing serious human rights violations and by continuing to pour resources into nuclear weapons. We must continue to support our allies that live under constant threat from North Korea, and we also must urge China to place greater economic and political pressure on the Kim regime. North Korea has shown that it is a threat to the entire world, not just the United States. Without China participating in this negotiation, it is near impossible to hold North Korea accountable. Additionally, I am strongly in favor of increasing our missile defense capabilities and working to ensure that we are prepared for any missile threat.

We as a nation must keep all of our options available, including the use of force if necessary, to protect the American people and remove the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

(highlights mine)

At least I think he’s answering my nuclear arms race question.  Since none of my congresscritters have been at all responsive to my requests for position statements, I stopped tallying them over at the Easy Answers page.  I may have sent something specific to North Korea at some point, either via email or ResistBot.  Who can remember?  We’ll just pretend that this answers my nuclear arms race question.

Because it does.

The Trumpsters are hooting and flinging poo because their Current Embarrassment isn’t afraid to call North Korea’s unstable leader names, unlike his wussy predecessors who used sanctions and suasion to keep things calm-ish on the peninsula.  He’s not afraid to threaten nuclear annihilation to the madman who rules that country.  That’ll show him, crow the Trumpsters—USA! USA!

Neither they nor their Chief Poo Flinger ever think that they will also kill the 25 million humans who are trapped in the Hermit Kingdom, nor of the 51 million humans who live next door in our ally, South Korea, nor of the 127 million who live in Japan.  That’s not important. Showing Kim Jong-un who has the bigger club is what’s important.[1]

So if we need an analogy to help us understand the difference between the “Bomb them!” crowd and the deliberate approach pursued by sane politicians, I offer this video:

Obama, the Bushes, Clinton: they’re the English police dealing with a crazy man.  The Current Embarrassment: he’s the St. Louis police department.

I suppose it all boils down to which end result you’re after.

—————

[1] And by “club” I mean “penis.”

Social contract? Pffft. Not worth the paper it’s written on.

This came across my Twitter feed today:

Technically it was a screen-captured image of the original tweet retweeted by Gary Bernhardt which was then ‘liked’ by Akilah Hughes, whom I do follow.  Twitter can be complicated. Gary Bernhardt’s added comment was:

Yes, we could call it “taxes.”

And there you have the Great Divide in a nutshell: those who understand what the social contract means and those who are oblivious to the idea that if we all pull together then we all will survive.

Three thoughts about this:

1.

This is the same mindset that produces the whole conservative “Why should I pay for pregnancy expenses in my insurance if I’m a man?” shibboleth.  BECAUSE THAT’S HOW INSURANCE WORKS, KENNETH. The idea that we as a society are better off if we all chip in to provide a structure of support for all us—roads, schools, public safety, health care—is alien to these people.  I hesitate to attribute motives to them, but to me the whole thing smacks of sociopathy, and there’s a reason why.[1]

2.

Years ago I was at the State STAR Student banquet (I am the chair of the selection committee), and the speaker for the evening was someone from the business community.  The man stood at the podium and lectured a room full of educators that if we were able to ratchet up “the graduation rate in Georgia to [some number I’ve forgotten], it would add an extra [some number in the millions] to our state’s economy.” What I heard—and what every educator in the room heard—was that it would be worth it to the business community to hand over a huge sum of money to the schools to make that happen, but of course that’s not what the business leader meant at all.  He meant that we should hop to it and test the children harder until they graduated more betterer.  Again, the idea that all of society had a stake in the education of all of society’s children simply never occurred to him.

3.

These days the hummingbirds are fattening up for their flight to Mexico, and we have provided them with a feeder to assist them in their efforts. We actually provide two, one in the herb garden and one on the back porch, and our neighbor has one of her own, so that’s three feeders with four little flower outlets each.  Twelve little sipping stations, which should be more than enough for the six or eight hummingbirds residing in the hedge.  But hummingbirds are little assholes, and each feeder is dominated by one bully hummingbird who spends most of his time chasing away the other guys.  I watched one of the little buggers defend an empty feeder for a day (before I realized it was empty and refilled it).

To them, the feeders are a zero-sum game.  Chase everyone else away and you have All The Nectars for yourself.  To be fair, they’re birds, and there’s a reason we have the insult “bird brain,” but it’s instructive that birds do not rule the world: mammals do, and it’s largely because we evolved the capacity for empathy and altruism.

I do not understand why this truth, genetically implanted in us, eludes the conservative brain.[2]

—————

[1] Go read the article at that link.  It’s disturbing, and I didn’t know any of it until I went looking for a satirical take on conservatives’ lack of social consciousness about health insurance.

[2] Actually, I do know why: the conservative brain is hardwired to operate through fear.  I have repeatedly referred to them on this blog as “amygdala-based lifeforms.”  See here, here, and here.

New Cocktail: The Afterlife

The other night I was privileged to drop in to Barnes & Noble to a book signing by a former student, Blue Cole.

Blue, who is actually the son of a high school classmate, was one of those charming, good-looking teenagers who you feared might amount to nothing.  Dimples and blue eyes will only get you so far, after all.

However, Blue has grown up to be a fine upstanding citizen who is only a little worrisome when his wife takes him to big box stores and leaves him unattended.  This novel, Evil Upriver, is Blue’s third, unless I’ve lost count.

But Dale, I hear you musing, supernatural horror is not your thing.  You even write about it in the chapter on AUDIENCE in your own upcoming book, Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  Indeed it is not, but 1) I go to book signings for all former students; and 2) Blue personally invited me to come and asked me to wear my pearl earring, since that’s what the bartender named Lyles in the book wears.

How could I not invent a cocktail and take him a small box with said cocktail and other mini-bar accoutrements?

Actually, I was going to bring him the Smoky Topaz, which should be good enough for any normal purpose, but then my Lovely First Wife suggested that I invent a cocktail called The Afterlife because reasons.

It was a rush job, but I did it:

The Afterlife

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz Amaro Angostura
  • .25 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • dash 18•21 Havana & Hide Bitters

The idea was that it would be at first taste an interesting take on the Manhattan with a somewhat toasty finish (GET IT, KENNETH?), but however, and also too, I felt it was lacking.

So tonight, I futzed with it and now it’s pretty solid:

The Afterlife, redux

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz Amaro Angostura
  • .25 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • .25 oz 18•21 Blackberry Peppercorn Shrub
  • dash 18•21 Havana & Hide Bitters

Stir with ice, strain, serve on the rocks with an orange peel.

Rather more ingredients than I normally prefer, but it’s tasty. Quite tasty.

(Sorry, Blue, about the recipe I gave you last night.  Feel free to use it, but this is the recipe that will appear in my second book.)

The book

Yes, it’s true, I have written a book.

The title is Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, and yes I have a macro that types that out for me.  I was a little startled a couple of weeks ago when I started checking the blank spots in the text I needed to fill in and found that there were none.  I was, in essence, done.

Why haven’t you heard about this?  You have if you also read my other blog, Lichtenbergianism.com, where I have tended to shunt all my whining about creative work.  Even there, though, I haven’t really documented the travails of the process.[1]  It’s more of a marketing/social media tie-in for the book, the sales of which of course I expect to catapult me into the first ranks of Twitter like Austin Kleon and others.  Too much whining is not customer-friendly.

So why can’t you give me money this very moment?  Several reasons, and here you get to read me whine because THIS IS MY BLOG, KENNETH.

√ 1. I invited my fellow Lichtenbergians to proof and kibbitz the text along with a select few others.  Their input has been valuable, so thank you, guys!

√ 2. That necessitated—as it should—corrections and emendations of the text, and I’m about done with that.  I have two or three more sticky notes on my monitor to do, and then it’s on to…

3. I have to export the text from Scrivener, the most excellent authoring tool from Literature & Latte.  (If you are writing anything of any length, go buy this software and before you do anything go through the entire tutorial.  Pro tip: after the third time you’re thinking there must be an easier way to accomplish something in the program, take the tutorial again.)

4. I have to edit that Word file, applying styles to paragraphs and terms so that I’ll have a slightly easier time of it when…

5. I import the text file into InDesign to lay out the book.  I expect this to be an orgy of moaning and whining.  I’ve done a little work already, but I’m not really happy about any of it.  For one thing, the font I thought I was using for the main text doesn’t really work for me, so I switched to a simply sans serif font, and now I can’t find a contrasting font for headings and quotes that I like.  Ugh.

5a. I have to go back and make sure that all the images I’m using are at least 300 dpi for publishing purposes.

6. I have to design the cover.  Again, I’ve done some work but hate all of it.  (My placeholder design, which I’ve used as an image in several posts, doesn’t even have my name on it.)

7. I have to export all of that above and send it to my estimable publisher, fellow Lichtenbergian Jeff Bishop at Boll Weevil Press, where he will publish it via our Lichtenbergian Press imprint.[2]

Then you can give me money.  Two weeks, maybe?

—————

[1] Aren’t you glad I didn’t write “haven’t logged my slog”?  You’re welcome.

[2] Jeff’s most recent book, Agatahi, is a marvel: the Cherokee Removal, aka The Trail of Tears, told via first-person accounts of the Cherokees themselves.  Go buy it.  It is profoundly moving.

There’s a rule for that

I’m at the beach, not doing any editing or design on my soon-to-be-published Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, nor even on the placement map for Alchemy, just reading, doing crossword puzzles, and generally basking. The book I just finished is Jingo, one of Terry Pratchett‘s brilliant Discworld novels, and though it was written in 1997 its take on jingoism, war, and especially immigrant Others is disturbingly on point.

But that’s not why we’re here today.  This passage:

[The incompetent Lord Rust is speaking, about to lead his non-army into an epic Light Brigade blunder] “Glory awaits, gentlemen.  In the words of General Tacticus, let us take history by the scrotum.  Of course, he was not a very honorable fighter.”

…reminded me of a Bible verse.

Wait, where are you going?  I can explain myself.

The Talibaptists think gay people are squicky, and they will refer to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as their prooftexts.  In return, otherwise sane people will refer to equally outdated prohibitions about shrimp and tattoos. Very occasionally, the wryer among us will throw in Deuteronomy 25:11–12.  You’re not familiar with that particular rule?

Here:

 If two men are fighting with each other—a man and his fellow Israelite—and the wife of one of them gets into the fight, trying to save her husband from his attacker and does so by reaching out and grabbing his genitals, you must cut off her hand. Show no mercy.

I mean to say, wot?  It’s as if Rule 34 applied to the Holy Book.

Before we get to my main point, let me say that I did a little reading of some explanations of this bizarre dictum and it actually does make a kind of sense in context. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy there are rules about a man whose testicles have been damaged no longer being able to enter the Temple, i.e., he’s no longer One of Us.  His entire family would suffer.  So a woman who did that to a man would have committed a truly serious crime.[1]

Often, when confronted with examples like this of outrageous Old Testament “laws,” the Talibaptists will wiggle and wriggle and contort themselves into pretzels to “explain” them away.  If you’ve ever had to listen to them, it provides good exercise for your eyebrows and pursed lips. Surprisingly, though, I found an exegesis that was sensible; it would be a miracle indeed if the Talibaptists threw their main weight behind its argument, which is that the point of the rule was to prevent and/or punish anyone who made it impossible for a man to support his family.  That includes corporations not paying an appropriate wage.

I mean to say, wot?

Anyway, my main point is this: just how often did this happen that there had to be a rule for it?  It’s like the warning labels that infest our lives: Don’t use this hair dryer in the shower. This chef’s knife is not meant to be used as a screwdriver. That kind of thing. It’s a given Stand-Up Comic’s Take that these warnings exist because SOME IDIOT DID THE THING, KENNETH, so what was the deal in ancient Israel?  First of all, were the men always wrestling, and if so, why were their testicles even in evidence?[2]

And had it become a problem that wives would throw themselves into the arena to give their husbands an assist?  What was this, the Judean Federation of Wrestling?[3]  I mean to say…

This realization puts the prohibitions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus in a whole new light.  They’re just warning labels.  For stupid people.

You’re welcome.

—————

[1] That’s just context.  The entire mindset is stupid.

[2] …nudity also being a huge shanda for the Chosen People.

[3] Not to be confused with the Judean Wrestling Federation[4]

[4] You’re welcome.

Gin, Part II

You will recall that on Monday I began making gin.

Yesterday I finished making gin.  This is a true thing.

On Monday, I put some juniper berries in some vodka to soak for 24 hours.  On Tuesday, I added what we in the gin industry refer to as “botanicals”:

There’s angelica root, gentian root, star anise, lemongrass, lemon peel, black pepper, and lovage (which had survived in the garden enough to give me what I needed).  Based on cursory reading on the intertubes, I measured out two grams of everything and dumped it all in.  It steeped overnight.

Yesterday I began taste-testing it, and by lunchtime it was clear that the botanicals—the lovage in particular—were threatening to overwhelm the gin qua gin.  I strained everything out, doubled the amount of vodka to dilute it, put more juniper in, added some coriander, and let it ride until cocktail hour.  Then I strained it all out, bottled it, and began testing it.

Okay, so… it’s not a sippable gin.  This will never compete with Ayrer’s Single Malt Gin from Nuremberg, for example.  More work is required before I get to that point.

However:

Gin & tonic: quite delectable.

Negroni on the left; Bijou on the right.  Both were good; although I was apparently not in the mood for a Negroni, I finished the Bijou with relish.

And then…

The Smoky Topaz. Oh my.  My recipe calls for barrel-aged gin, but this gin added several other dimensions to this most fabulous of cocktails.  That which is a too-strong presence of lovage when you sip the gin straight becomes a fantastic lingering undertone in the Smoky Topaz.

And so…

The trick will be seeing if I can repeat it.

New friends

I went out to see if there any lovage in the herb garden and found that I had acquired some new friends:

Aren’t they beautiful?  They arrive every year to feast on the dill, which I do not begrudge them in the least.  There’s plenty to go around, after all.

We will not dwell on the fact that I never see any cocoons, which means that either they go somewhere else to do that or most of them are eaten by friendly birds.

Gin.

Oh, just making gin, as one does.

That’s the concoction on the right.  The stuff on the left is just your average lemongrass-infused vodka for a new cocktail I’ll work on for the beach this weekend.

The gin is in its first stage: juniper berries soaking in vodka.  What, you thought gin was something other than vodka with plants in it?  Pfft.

Of course there’s no one recipe for gin.  You can find tons on the intertubes—everyone has a different combination of botanicals they like to use—but they all start with soaking the juniper berries for 24 hours, then adding your other stuff for 36 hours.  That’s right, boys and girls, you can craft your own gin in two and a half days.  What’s not to like?

My original plan was to use lovage from the garden, but the lovage has been stupidly whiny this summer.  Maybe there’s enough to use anyway.  I’ll keep you posted.

Otherwise, here are the most likely additions:

Mine’s going to be more spicy/peppery than citrus.

I wonder if it’s going to be drinkable?

New mystery plant

I have not blogged regularly, mainly because the situation in our country is so grotesque that I can’t keep up and I don’t want to spend all my time with my readers picking at the scab that is our Current Embarrassment.

So here’s a post about out of control plants.

You may recall the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan and/or the Cardoon that Couldn’t Be Stopped.  Both are now gone, because I ripped them out of the ground and ruthlessly discarded them.

But oh so quietly last year, a delicate little vine sprang up in the side patch where the cardoon was.  I gave it a little frame to grow onto (to keep it from latching onto the shrubbery).

This year, of course, it has come back more determined, and so I’ve built it a large frame just to see how far it’s willing to go:

It has responded with enthusiasm:

…although it still seems to be looking for ways to devour the shrubbery.

Why am I allowing an obviously invasive plant to thrive in my garden?

It has these beautiful little flowers.  I want to see if I can create a tower of the feathery leaves and brilliant red blooms.

Stay tuned.

What am I not getting?

This is a serious question: what is the Current Embarrassment trying to pull?

I know, we could spend the rest of the night giving examples of his unprecedented lying, but let’s do just one: at last night’s rally in Phoenix, he enthused (via Twitter, of course) about a “beautiful turnout of 15,000 people” at his re-election rally.[1]  The fire marshal tells us that the venue’s limit is <5,000 people.

He lied.  Everyone who is paying attention can see for themselves that he lied.  He told the crowd that CNN was not covering his shockingly honest statements—which the rest of us watched on CNN. He told the crowd (of less than 5,000 people) that there were no protesters outside, which every major network was able to show immediately was not true.

Sure, he’s playing to his rapidly dwindling base of dyed-in-the-wool ragebunny amygdalas, but the rest of the nation—the rest of the world, KENNETH—can see that he’s lying.  We all know it. He’s lying.

So, again, my serious question: what is he trying to pull?

—————

[1] His re. election. rally.  He’s been in office seven months, and he’s running for re-election.[2]

[2] On the other hand, he could be attempting to govern.