I was minding my own business yesterday when someone I follow on Twitter linked to this article. Yes, it’s in that liberal satan-site Huffington Post, but here’s the Google search in case you want to find corroborative evidence.
For those of you who are not going to click on that, it’s about disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker and his statement that—and I quote—”Trump is a test whether you’re even saved,” he said in a clip going viral on Twitter. “Only saved people can love Trump.”
Let me state for the record that I don’t give a hoot about this or any other person’s theology. As far as I’m concerned, Jim Bakker can believe that if he worships Trump enough he’ll be rewarded with many turtles in Heaven. Who cares?
However, when a charlatan like Bakker can’t even adhere to the theology he’s grifting from, duty requires me to speak up.
Simply put, if the Holy Inquisition were still around Bakker would be burned at the stake as a heretic. Yes, we know that in their day you were required to practically worship your sovereign, since they were of course placed their by God himself, but the Church would have taken a dim view of any priest who began preaching that you must idolize Lorenzo di Medici or you’d be damned to hell.
In the article, Bakker contorts himself through some pretty Scholastic hoops to say that Christians must forgive—without saying exactly what the Christians might need to forgive in Trump—but even that is heresy: ‘one is not saved by works but by faith alone’ is a shibboleth that even Bakker would spout if there were time before the commercial.
None of this is anomalous for Bakker; he spouts crazy stuff every day, insane/Uncle Ted/streetcorner stuff. So here’s my question: why is he still on TV? Why does he still have sponsors? Why is he given a platform anywhere other than his own basement and aforementioned street corner?
Now its secrets will be revealed. This is a lighting fixture that I bought at Rare & Different, the fun store next to the CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE, KENNETH, on rue De Buade. It’s full of these bizarre lamps, all different shapes and colors, and all inexplicably beautiful and fascinating, and all made from the vinyl pieces you see above. If you’re from the area they will build your selection for you while you wait or shop, but if you’re from away you have to take the pieces home and build it yourself.
Here’s how it works: when you’re home and ready to assemble your lamp you email the address on the business card, including the receipt number of your purchase. They then send you the link to two videos: the first one explains the vocabulary they’ll be using (“right/left-leaning,” “rosettes,” etc.) and the mechanical strategies of assembly; the second is specific to the model you picked out. Both are very well done, narrated by Marie-Josée (MJ) Bouchard in a careful yet firm manner.
The concept is enough to make a math major drool: each piece slides into another, like so:
As you can imagine, the lamp is built in layers. My model is the “Saucer,” which MJ pronounces charmingly as “sow-ser.” Here’s the first layer of five pieces:
And flipped, ready for Step 2:
Here we are after Step 2:
You can see how fascinating the concept is. Imagine a store full of these things, all sizes and shapes—your brain really cannot distinguish which pattern is which or which one is going to be the most fascinating when you get it home.
In the video, MJ is working with alternating colors on each step so that you can see what goes where. This does not help those of us assembling a pure white Saucer; at Step 6 I got lost every single time. Step 5 was made up of alternating left- and right-leaning pieces, and Step 6 involved adding two pieces to every left-leaning piece. After starting over for the fourth time, I had a scathingly brilliant idea: add a colored paperclip to the left-leaning pieces. That way, I could tell a) which were the left-leaning pieces without peering intently at the things; and b) which piece I started with as I worked my way around.
I still got lost a couple more times before I got it right. Part of the problem is that as you start closing the top, the tension between pieces becomes greater and unfinished rosettes will come undone. That presents difficulties in recognizing where the next piece goes: does it just hook up with its neighbor, or were there supposed to be two “petals” already there?
Finally, though, I triumphed: Step 6, and the ultra-difficult Step 7 to close the top and install the lighting fixture.
In its natural habitat:
And a video:
No, I’m not leaving it out in the weather (although the shop maintains that the lamps are good for outside). I will store it inside and take it out to install it over the worktable whenever we’re out there of an evening.
So: great lamp, interesting assembly, 10/10 would do it again.
Forty years ago, give or take, my Lovely First Wife came home from shopping and handed me a little jar: it was moisturizer from Clinique, her preferred brand.
“Here,” she said. “You need to use this.”
Whatever, I thought, but I started using it and have used it every day since. Here’s the deal: everyone tells you to moisturize, but hardly any of us do it. I’ve done it, and although it’s primarily due to my mother’s genetic donation I am often mistaken for being much younger than I actually am.
This is not new. Until I was 35, I was often mistaken for being 16, which was pretty irritating. However, now that I am gray and officially old, it’s amusing to be taken for a 50-something. (Sidenote: when I started going gray, my hair stylist at the time asked if I were considering coloring my hair. Bah, I replied, now people will start taking me seriously. And lo, that’s exactly what happened.)
All this is prologue. I needed a new jar of moisturizer, so yesterday I headed to Belk’s Clinique counter. They have often not stocked the stuff, but this time they had it. The sales assistant alerted me that “it’s a new formulation,” as if that makes a difference. For the record, they “reformulate” the stuff every couple of years or so and change the color of the jar.
And here’s why I’m writing this. Curious about the “new formulation,” I actually read the blurbage on the box:
This addictively refreshing gel-cream instantly boosts hydration and rehydrates for 72 hours—even after washing your face. Auto-replenishing technology with activated aloe water helps skin create its own internal water source to deliver a superior level of hydration in a lightweight, oil-free texture.
Honey, please. Any verbiage describing any cosmetic or the benefits thereof is always pure puffery, but really, Clinique—auto-replenishing technology, activated aloe water, create its own internal water source? Suddenly my dermis has transformed into a fusion reactor? And what the hell is “activated aloe water”?
The latter is described by Clinique as “created to hold both positive and negative ionic charges,” which is supposed to “increase your skin’s affinity to [sic] water.” I have my doubts, especially since the only description/evaluation of “activated aloe water” I could find on the intertubes was Clinique’s own puffery. There is no scientific evaluation anywhere that I could find.
And what is this “auto-replenishing technology?” It seems that squeezing the entire description onto the tiny box (in multiple languages) created an editing situation. Here’s the same puffery from Clinique’s website:
This addictively refreshing gel-cream instantly boosts hydration and rehydrates for 72 hours—even after washing your face. Auto-Replenishing Technology with caffeine helps trigger skin’s own rehydration system. Hyaluronic Acid fragments and Activated Aloe Water infuse skin with moisture. A super-holding matrix of humectants and polymers help reduce water loss and seal in moisture.
Caffeine. Well, there we go. I’m smearing coffee on my skin to wake it up.
I’m good with that.
 Amazingly, “hyaluronic acid fragments” is not only a real thing, it’s an important part of our epidermis and is used to heal damaged skin. The More You Know™.
The company that hosts this blog and my email (prxy.com) has a really robust spam filter, so much so that I have to check it about once a week to make sure it hasn’t snagged anything I actually want. One of its features is that you can open any email without endangering yourself, if you’re really curious about what’s in it.
Somehow I’ve been getting emails from an outfit calling itself conservativewoman.com, and who cares? Let ’em spend their resources sending my spamhole their desperate pleas for attention. But this morning the subject heading LIBERAL CONSPIRACY AGAINST TRUMP caught my eye and, bored, I opened it.
The first four sentences are provable lies. Period.
No one lied about the whistleblower.
No one falsified a transcript. (The White House did release a deliberately misleading summary of the phone call; Adam Schiff mocked it, and that’s what they’re calling “falsifying a transcript.” Besides, how could the Democrats falsify a transcript released by the White House? This is your gentle reminder that THERE’S A REASON WE THINK YOU’RE STUPID.)
No one denied Trump “due process,” mainly because impeachment in the House is not a trial. (Not only that, but now that the hearings have moved into actual impeachment proceedings, Trump has declined to participate.)
“Falsely accusing” Trump? Sure, Jan.
Here’s the deal, little Trumpsters: they’re lying to you, they know they’re lying to you, and they do not care that they’re lying to you. They only care about your money. Give them your money. If you do, though, I’d ask for a full financials report to see if anyone actually did quintuple your donation. (Even their math is a lie: If you give $25, a 500% match would be $125, for a total “impact” of $150.)
And if this thing is from Rep. Steve Scalise, you should be aware that he is one of those people for whom the question “Stupid or evil” was invented.
So one of us decided that we needed to visit Quebec City in December. The official excuse was that there was a German-style Christmas Market, but I’m pretty sure it was to make me freeze.
Normally I blog about each day of our travel, but this was just a long weekend, plus I was out of commission for about a third of it, what with an injured ankle and some sleep issues. You are therefore getting just a summary of the adventure.
This was definitely one of those trips where I just packed my suitcase and got in the car; my Lovely First Wife made all the arrangements. I didn’t even research cocktail bars this time. So it was a great delight when we arrived at our lodgings, the Auberge du Trésor on Rue St-Anne, on the Place Armé right across from the Chateau Frontenac.
The hotel is located on the top floors; the bottom is the Bistro 1640, a really really good restaurant and bar. It is entirely possible to eat nowhere else your entire trip. Its name derives from the fact that the original building was built in 1640; parts of the foundation wall are still visible in the bar.
Here’s the view from our room:
If you’ve ever wanted to feel as if you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie, Quebec at Christmas is where you want to be. (You would be responsible for your own idiotic plot, and if you’re not a single woman with a successful career that you’re willing to abandon after a week, you’re probably out of luck.)
Besides the glorious holiday decorations everywhere, the highlight of the trip was our visit to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.
Dear reader, we walked there through the tundra.
The first thing you should understand is that one of the primary rules of my marriage is never, never, ever set out for any destination with my Lovely First Wife without an exact address. When we finally arrived at the spot she had circled on her Top Ten book’s map, there was no fine arts museum anywhere. If only we had a computer in our pocket oh wait… it was another fifteen minutes of walking away. Off we went.
Sculpture outside, the title of which I failed to record, but it was something like Event Horizon:
The highlight of the MNBAQ was the main exhibit, COZIC Over To You / From 1967 to Now. COZIC is an artistic collective, and their art has been consistently fun, interactive, and beautiful all at the same time.
In the entrance lobby, there was this piece:
You were encouraged/permitted to explore.
The entire exhibit was exhilarating—I’ll be blogging in more depth over at Lichtenbergianism.com in a few days.
After all that walking, my ankle had taken a beating, so we Ubered back to the hotel and I went to the bar to sample the local gins while everyone else went out to explore the Christmas market. The bartender was great: he explained the tenor of each of the five gins he had; I selected two, and he poured a shot into a glass so I could savor the gin’s flavor profile. He also provided me with ice and tonic water so I could then finish with a proper gin and tonic. The two I sampled were St.-Lawrent (flavored with seaweed from the St. Lawrence Seaway), very briny; and Menaud, reminiscent of the Desert Sage gin from Arizona.
While sitting at the bar, I was joined by a couple from New York, very chatty and friendly. Talk turned to Christmas decorations, and I commented that my Lovely First Wife had twenty-six (26 tubs, Kenneth!) of decorations. I said she was no longer allowed to mock me for my 12 tubs of camping equipment. They laughed and said they had whittled their camping equipment down to a manageable size because they go to Burning Man.
That’s right, a thousand miles from Alchemy I randomly meet burners while sitting in a bar. They were super-interested in the Georgia burn, so I gave them my 3 Old Men business card.
When the gang returned from the Christmas Market, we set out via Uber to L’Oncle Antoine, the oldest bar in North America, for dinner. Alas, on a Saturday night it was not possible to get in, so we set off on footback up the mountain, Kenneth, to find sustenance.
At least the walk was lovely:
But it was all uphill. Back at the summit, we popped into Chateau Frontenac to try to get into 1608 Wine & Cheese bar, but the “music was too loud,” so back we went across the square to Auberge du Trésor for dinner at 1640 Bistro.
The main hallway leading to 1608 at the Frontenac:
At least I got a great meal and a fabulous dessert (and more cocktails):
On Sunday, we set out to revisit parts of the Market and the Christmas Boutique—my Lovely First Wife needed more decorations, apparently. I found a SAQ store to buy my gin; after I left the store I realized that although Marie Brizard Parfait Amour (a floral liqueur used in classic cocktails) is very rare in the U.S., it was quite available in Canada. When we retraced our steps, I popped back into the store; they didn’t have it, but another store did. Everyone else headed back to the hotel while I trekked all the way down the mountain to the store that stocked it. (We will not speak of my ankle.)
When I finally rejoined the gang, they were seated at a table by the window in 1640, enjoying Caribou, a Canadian hot spiced wine concoction. They were waiting for the appearance of St. Nicholas, who would be visiting the Market that afternoon. Finally he appeared from the Frontenac, accompanied by three Krampuses, a couple of musicians, and an angel.
The photo does not convey the absolute delightfulness of this. Have a video:
Everyone had settled in for cocktails and dinner, but I went up the hill to the Frontenac to get a cocktail from 1608, a highly ranked cocktail bar. Here is the Genie in a Bottle, a sweeter variation on the Aviation:
The bartender said he preferred the original, and he was right. Still, a great little bar.
The hotel from the square:
The next morning, we made it to the airport.
So unlike our dear Hartsfield International. The ticketing desk didn’t even open until 10:30.
However, due to the storms pounding the rest of the continent, our flight — originally scheduled to depart at 12:25 — didn’t even arrive at the gate until after 2:00. We barely had time in Toronto to make through security and then customs before our flight to Atlanta boarded.
Still, it was a fun trip. Quebec is lovely, and we will go back. Perhaps in warmer weather.
Here’s my booze haul:
I got the Menaud gin, of course. The Madison Park, with its label of “Breakfast Gin,” amused and intrigued me, so I bought it. (It is distinctly floral with its use of bergamot—think Earl Grey tea—and makes a perfect Aviation.) And of course, the Parfait Amour, which had been on my shopping list for six months.
Also purchased, while my Lovely First Wife was in the Christmas Boutique:
I’m not going to tell you what this is. I’ll do another post when it’s ready to go in the labyrinth.
 No one seems sure what the plural of Krampus is; Wikipedia carefully avoids having to say.
We all know made-for-TV Christmas movies are dreck.
I rarely feel the need to dump on someone else’s creative work, at least not publicly like this.
Last night my Lovely First Wife and I chose to watch The Knight Before Christmas, a Netflix original. It looked to be nothing more than a typically flaccid, vapid holiday flick, and yet it was so much less. It was horrific. It was lazy. It was an offense to the human tradition of storytelling.
tl;dr: Sir Cole, a 14th-c. knight, is transported by a crone for no good reason to the present day to complete his “quest,” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. He is taken in by Brooke, a high school science teacher who nevertheless lives in a huge home WITH A GUEST HOUSE. I won’t spoil the ending for you.
We begin with Brooke confronting a student about her lackluster performance on a “midterm” and being told by the girl that her boyfriend dumped her and she’s been distraught. Oh, says Brooke, true love is a chimera and although they’ve been taught by society to look for a knight in shining armor to rescue them, that’s a fool’s errand.
Hold that thought.
One never expects historicity from these things, but you get the feeling that the scriptwriter and the producers deliberately avoided knowing anything about the 14th century, starting with Sir Cole in all probability not speaking a lick of English, and certainly not modern English, and especially certainly not with a plummy BBC Received Pronunciation accent.
Or glass windows in castles. Or Christmas trees being a 19th-c. fad. Or hogs in tubular steel pens.
Nor did they seem particularly interested in physics, for that matter: after Brooke runs into Sir Cole in her car, he simply bounces off into the snow with no injuries sustained either to him—or to his cuirass. Snow comes and goes depending on the exigencies of plot with no impact on the ensuing action. Cole whacks down a Christmas tree in one stroke, inspiring another, random man to do the same (never mind why Christmas trees are growing in the lot).
Logical human behavior is never a hallmark of these movies, but merciful heavens—within 24 hours of his arrival in 2019, Cole
knows how to wrap himself in a towel after asking for a bath
expresses no astonishment at anything he sees other than a couple of clumsy “where’s that music coming from” gags
is seen operating a TV remote the morning after his arrival
apparently picks up enough modern lingo during his one night of binge-watching TV to be able to understand Brooke’s 21st-c. code (like “binge-watching”)
does not think pants are odd
Brooke’s friends express mild concern about her taking in an oddly-dressed and clearly mentally ill man with no identification, but no one makes any effort to get help for him or to find out who he is or where he came from. (On the contrary, Brooke’s sister cheerfully provides him with a wardrobe from her “boutique” in the mall.)
Script failures littered the landscape:
Brooke’s cheating ex is seen in the background a couple of times, but vanishes from the script without even one snide scene
an icky neighbor is introduced, but is used only once to try to flirt unsuccessfully with Cole
the crone shows up once when Cole first arrives at the Christmas Village, but never again (although I think she’s in the background at the big charity event—maybe a victim of the cutting room floor?)
the girls who go outside in a blizzard to practice their “swordplay” who—after being warned to stick close to the house in a blizzard—nevertheless go all the way to a park with a not-quite-frozen lake
Brooke willingly gives Cole the keys to her car (presuming he “remembers” how to drive); he can put it into reverse and drive, but cannot manage to steer it into a wide-open parking space rather than onto the sidewalk
the whole premise that Cole has until midnight on Christmas Eve to “complete his quest” is completely lost; only the occasional date thrown on the screen reminds us that time is running out—for what?
the idea that Brooke assumes Cole has amnesia also vanishes; he’s just a cute man who lives in her guest house and meanders through her holiday chores
late insertion of David, the single dad who works two jobs to support his four kids, being the recipient of Cole’s (offscreen) fundraising despite being present at Brooke’s fupping Christmas Eve fundraiser the express purpose of which is to raise money for people like Dave
And most of all, the entire movie gives the lie to Brooke’s advice to her student at the opening. Indeed, Brooke backtracks on the advice near the end when her student bounces up to her and tells her that she told her boyfriend to take a hike.
All in all, the thing was a disaster. It was incoherent, even by the extremely low standards we have for these things, and it gave the feeling that it only took a week to film. The frankly amateurish quality of the script was appalling.
So could this movie have been saved? How about this:
clearly define Cole’s need for this “quest” and make it his paramount concern
define Cole’s chivalry as solidly of the 14th-c., with all the misogyny involved, i.e., he’s cute and he’s helpful, but there are limits to his sensibilities
play off Brooke’s culturally-ingrained “knight in shining armor” complex to create the romantic tension: she wants to love him, but…
embed Brooke’s crappy ex and David the single dad more into the plot, thus giving us three versions of what a man can/should be
end it with Cole returning to the 14th-c. and Brooke realizing that everything she actually values in a man is right there in David, the single dad
Here’s my point: if I can come up with a more interesting and still sappily romantic plot on the spot, why is Netflix greenlighting dreck like this without demanding that the entire team go back to the writing table?
 Or the bubonic plague. Or Sir Cole most assuredly being shorter than everyone in the modern world.
We have decamped to Fernandina Beach for the weekend with some dear friends and are having a great time so far.
Last night, I and two others strolled out the boardwalk to see the ocean. You know how some boardwalks have little benches built into them for some unknown reason?
Here’s a photo of one:
And here’s a photo of the one we sat in:
Yep, there was a creak and a groan, and we found ourselves flat on our backs. It’s pretty miraculous that none of us sustained even the least injury; I think it was because it gave way slowly at first and so we were already mostly down when it failed completely.
So other than a little spilled prosecco and a spell of hysterical laughter, no harm done. (We have alerted the property agent that they might want to do a structural integrity check.)
I was looking for a file on the laptop that does not seem to exist although I know I wrote it, when I came across a letter I wrote back in 2009. The context is that because of the crappy economy the school system was having to make even more budget cuts, and one of the strategems they were forced to employ was to eliminate the media center clerk position in every school.
Let me note that those employees were not fired; they were mostly shifted to other positions in the school. My beyond-excellent clerk, Robin, became a kindergarten classroom aide and is still there. But my letter explained how—in my media center at least—the reduction in staff would have serious consequences. I post it here because it is well-written and I liked it.
It was not against the law to be a lesbian in Victorian England.
Here’s why: when the Queen was presented with the legislation criminalizing homosexuality, she came to the part about lesbianism. She quite frankly did not believe such creatures existed, and so she struck that part of the law out.
Back when Newnan Crossing hit 1,000 students, I went to the SACS standards to see if I would be joined soon by a second professional media specialist. I was surprised to see that while the standards called for a second professional for high schools at that number, there was no such standard for elementary schools.
It finally dawned on me why: when the standards were written, no one could imagine anyone in their right mind building an elementary school with 1,000 students in it.
But people in their right minds have built elementary schools capable of holding 1,000 students. Your rationale has been that it’s more “cost efficient” to do so. The usual argument is “economy of scale,” which is generally taken as being cheaper to buy toilet paper.
The real economy, of course, is the salaries of those of us who serve the entire student population. Instead of two schools of 450, with two media specialists and two music teachers and two cafeteria staffs, you only have to pay one of each.
And that’s fine until you start actually serving the kids.
My circulation figures are running more than 30,000 checkouts a year. Yesterday, our circulation was nearly 300, and that’s a normal day. That’s 300 books to check out and 300 books to shelve every day, and that is my media clerk’s job. This means that 35% of our school walked in and out of the media center yesterday.
(I will also add that if this were at Elm Street, 35% would be fewer than 150 students, half the number I must serve. Even in good times, I am asked to do two jobs. Now, I’m being asked to do four? Without a lunch break? Once again, “economy of scale.”)
You perhaps imagine the media center as a place where classes arrive on some kind of schedule, do their checkout in a 20-minute slot, then leave, thus giving me time between classes to teach or to shelve. It is not. The media center is a constant flow of individual students arriving to check out books, to take AR tests, to do class research and projects, plus the classes scheduled for checkout and for instruction.
Next year, without a fully staffed media center, this will not be the case. In order to preserve the instructional program, I will shut down the foot traffic. Students will not be able to come to the media center on a needs basis, but only when their teacher has scheduled their class. The reading program will take a huge hit, but it’s all about limited resources—isn’t it?—and in this case the limited resource is my time.
How big a hit will this be? Out of the 300 checkouts yesterday, only 40 of them were from classes who actually signed up to be in there. That means around 200 students (estimating for multiple checkouts) were able to get a book when they needed one simply by getting a pass from their teacher and walking in. Next year, that’s a 1000 students a week who won’t get a book when they need one. How do you think that will impact reading at Newnan Crossing?
The really bad news is that study after study has shown that the single most important factor impacting student achievement that a school system has under its control is an appropriately staffed and funded media center. We lost funding this year, and next year we lose our staffing. I wonder, how much money will you spend on “programs” trying to boost achievement when you’ve gutted the one program that could save you?
As it happens, I was only there for another year and a half before I retired from Coweta County and went to the Dept. of Ed. to be the director of GHP, but believe you me I would have started compiling data in that third year to show exactly how the reading programs had been impacted.
Here’s a meal I whipped up last night. No photo, because we had eaten the meal by the time I thought I should preserve this recipe. But that’s how good it is: very subtle mixtures of pistachios, herbs, and textures.
shrimp (4–5 per person), shelled/deveined
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. chopped pistachios
4 tarragon leaves, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c. cream
1/2 tsp zataar seasoning
2 tsp lemon juice
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs/panko
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
4 tarragon leaves, chopped
Set the water to boil for the pasta.
Add the white wine, chopped pistachios, tarragon, and lemon juice to a small pan and boil to reduce by half. Add the cream and continue simmering until reduced. (This step always takes longer than you think. Start it first. You can even start this before you peel the shrimp or chop the herbs/pistachios.)
Put the shrimp in a bowl to marinate with the zataar, lemon juice, olive oil (enough to coat plus a little more), salt, and pepper.
When the sauce is nearly ready, cook the fettucine. (That’s usually about 9 minutes; check the package.)
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and marinade. Cook about 3 minutes per side.
Drain the pasta, add the sauce to it.
Finish the shrimp by adding the breadcrumbs, parsley, and tarragon. Stir until combined and the shrimp is coated.
Serve the pasta with the shrimp on top. Garnish with the whole pistachios and tarragon.