More useless

I received an email this morning that wanted me to know that a link on a post I wrote six years ago linked to a Flash game and, in the interest of staying ahead of the Great Flash Doom of December 2020, gave me the link to a safe HTML5 version.

I had no memory of the post or the game — I was still in a post-GHP haze when I wrote it — but thanks, person!

Of course I had to try all the links in the post, and the first one goes to the source: The Useless Web.

Buckle up, because I’m going to waste time this morning.

Labyrinth update, 10/04/2020

I have not enthused about my labyrinth in a while, so let’s do that.

Last night we built a fire and had a quiet evening outside. It’s getting chilly now, so the fire was most welcome.

I decided to get photos of some of the points of interest, so take a walk with me. First up, the southpoint: the element for south is fire, so we have a sculpture representing the sun, by Richard Hill.

Isn’t this area lovely?

It’s the men’s loo.

Somehow I didn’t get a photo of Apollo. Hope he’s okay with that; you know how touchy he can get. I’ll have to get one tonight.

The nook…

… with the Green Man…

… and the bench, this time with angel and windchimes.

The westpoint: water is the element of the west. (Bowl by Montgomery artist Brooks Barrow.)

The northwest corner, with the Dancing Faun standing in for Dionysus. He was looking particularly fine last night.

The northpoint: earth is the element of the north. Here we’re looking at the earthwork from the bottom of the bank, a small grotto lined with stone and now covered with peacock moss.

And from the labyrinth, a standing stone.

A wide shot.

Another wide shot.

The new fence was installed in 2016, and it was only recently that I realized that someone — either the representative from the First Fence of Georgia who drew the plans, or the young man installing the fence — had taken the trouble to center the fence on the two trees at the westpoint. A warm letter of appreciation is in order.

Eventually the fire, which was glorious all night, was down to embers. With only the standing stone still lit, it was a quiet ending to a quiet night.

It’s simpler than you think

You may recall — if you even noticed it — that last week the CDC changed its guidelines on Covid-19 testing again. Short version: In August, the White House told the CDC to post that people who had been exposed to someone with the virus didn’t need to be tested. The whole world raised its eyebrows and pursed its lips at that one, and well it might; only someone grossly incompetent (::cough Jared Kushner cough::) would think that such an idiotic guideline wouldn’t spread the virus undetected.

Why would the White House do such a thing? It’s hard to say, but it occurs to me that it fits that administration’s modus operandi to sow disinformation, knowing that their base of amygdala-based lifeforms will never update their beliefs/knowledge about the pandemic once they’ve read something that fits their preconceived notion that the pandemic is no biggie. No worse than the flu. Not as bad as the “experts” tell us.

So, yes, the White House forces the CDC  to put this highly dangerous directive on its website, and even though it was finally taken down the damage has been done. “Nuh?UH,” cry the amygdala-based lifeforms, “the CDC says you don’t even need to get tested just because Grandma is lying there gasping out her last.”

Don’t believe me? Look at the whole “THE CDC SAYS ONLY 6% OF THE ‘COVID VICTIMS’ DIED OF COVID, KENNETH” mess. The amygdala-based lifeforms took that one to heart despite a) that’s not what the CDC’s report said; and b) everyone pushed back hard on the misconception. See here, here, and here, for starters, and note well who pushed the idea from QAnon to the mainstream via his Twitter account.

And now the CDC has retracted a post warning us that the virus is transmitted via aerosolization, i.e., tiny droplets that go further and linger longer than the drops spewed by coughs and sneezes. It is true that the research is not conclusive yet, but it’s pretty damn close; you might think the world’s greatest disease control center would at least acknowledge the possibility — if not probability — and advise people to take it into account when thinking about reopening schools, for example.

The question remains: Why is the current administration so determined to downplay the extent of the pandemic? Indeed, a reasonable person might look around for evidence that the amygdala-based lifeforms are right, that the threat of Covid-19 infection has been grossly overestimated and that we are fools not to resume our regular lives. People gonna get sick, what are ya gonna do, amirite?

But if a reasonable person looks around for evidence, all that evidence shows that we have just begun dealing with this disease, and that the United States has dealt with it so poorly that the rest of the world is looking on aghast as the Americans sink their own ship.

I’ll ask it again: Why is the current administration so determined to downplay the extent of the pandemic?

Amygdala-based lifeforms, be thinking about that. Hint: It’s simpler than you think.

Keep looking.

On Boing Boing yesterday, there was a blippet about the Troxler effect.

The Troxler effect, or Troxler’s fading, is a neurological effect, an evolutionary adaptation which allows us to tune out baseline information if it’s not relevant to our survival. Here’s the visual version:

If you stare at the center of this image long enough, the colors will fade away to nothing. Try it.

The effect is also why you can tune out the sound of rain after a while, or why you generally do not feel the clothing you’re wearing.

I bring this to your attention today because it occurs to me that we as a nation are at risk of allowing the constant firehose of corruption and anti-democracy statements on the part of our current administration to fade away, to become functionally irrelevant to our survival.

Do not allow it. Keep looking, shifting your focus. Keep the lies and the threats visible.

Pay attention. Help others pay attention.

Do not let it become background noise.

Impossible choices

Memo: Everybody

Re: Schools reopening

Stop it. Whatever it is you’re doing, however you’re reacting, stop it. There is no solution. The whole thing is impossible.

We can’t keep the schools closed, because parents need to go back to work, and the kids need to be in school for all the reasons you can go read about if you like.

We can’t open the schools, because it will create yet more epicenters of disease for all the reasons that should be obvious to anyone.

We can’t reopen; we can’t keep kids home — we must reopen; we must keep kids home. It’s impossible.

Here’s the deal, though. Overlooked in all the ranting and finger-pointing and sincere concern is the very simple, very awful, very unavoidable fact: we have to give up on the idea that students are going to make any kind of real educational progress this school year. (We even have an acronym for it: AYP, Adequate Yearly Progress. We test for it, and we punish for it.)

We have to abandon the concept of “yearly progress,” where we (still) think of education as an assembly line. In kindergarten we install the ABCs and counting to 100; in 1st grade, we install the reading bits; etc.

That is not happening this year, no matter whether we open the schools or not. Not in person (which is unlikely to continue for more than a couple of weeks in any case) and not online, which is problematic for all the socioeconomic and behavioral reasons you can go read about if you like.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t teach our children. On the contrary, we must continue to try all the impossible ways that have been forced on us. It’s just that no one should be allowed to think or say that by the end of the school year we’re going to be in the same place as we normally would be. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

We need to say this out loud and up front, because if we don’t, if we just pretend that whichever impossible choice we make we can still administer those fupping standardized tests in May[1] and emerge like some triumphal Soviet flag-waving poster, then I know what’s going to happen. This nation will rev itself up into the most disgusting, most outrageous display of Blame The Teachers you have ever seen.

And if that happens, I hope every educator in this country quits.

No, we need to be grateful for however much progress our students are able to make, no matter how much progress they might have made had this nation been led to contain the virus from the very beginning. We as a society need to support every effort to provide learning opportunities to every student; we must create ways that — impossible or not — let every child out there learn something.

What we must not do is hold those students and their teachers accountable for “Adequate Yearly Progress.” That is a criminal mindset.

And if you already know who the criminals with that mindset are, raise your hand.


[1] It occurs to me that after this is all over and we open the doors of our schools again for a normal school year, the standardized tests are going to be — how shall I put this? — fupping useless. Dare we hope that it wrecks that whole education-industrial complex for good?

Dishevelment update, 6/30/20

Let’s check in on my DISHEVELMENT, shall we?

For those of you just joining us, my last haircut was six months ago. I was due for one halfway through February, but because none of my friends had stepped up to claim the role of Adam in As You Like It I was forced to take on the octogenarian myself, and I thought the longer, more unkempt hair would be appropriate. After all, the morning after AYLI closed and we left  for Basel to cruise down the Rhine, surely I could get a haircut there, right?

Hahahahahahahahaha and also tee-hee.

Sure, Georgia Gov. Brian “The What Now?” Kemp opened up hair salons and tattoo parlors (and bowling alleys) sometime in the last 90 days, but do I look stupid? No, I look disheveled, and the basic reason is that I don’t intend to go into a hair salon until I feel safe in doing so.[1]

To my hair stylist, Sammie D., my apologies. I’m sure you’re doing the best you can, but you shouldn’t be responsible for keeping the virus out of my lungs. And as I’ve said before, I have always voted for the candidate most likely to institute universal healthcare and a social safety net that would have taken care of independent business owners and workers in crises like this one. Why should I feel guilty when it’s the rest of you who didn’t?

Anyway, all of this is to say that here is where I am:

It’s long enough to fall free into my face but not long enough to pull back into a ponytail, so I am now sporting a hairband when I can’t stand the annoyance any longer.

But Dale, I hear some of you cry, surely your wearing a hairband is a violation of societal expectations of gender roles too far? It’s a… girl thing!

Honey, please.

It is a utilitarian object, pure and simple. Society’s decision that it is necessarily or essentially feminine is without any kind of logical basis. My hair is long and keeps getting in my eyes. What does a woman with the same problem do? She wears a hairband. But I, because I am a man, am expected to forego that solution? I think not.

But Dale, you continue to whine, wouldn’t a manly headband do? Actually, no: I have a headband I wear while doing yardwork to keep the manly sweat from rolling into my manly eyes, but it does nothing to contain my luscious flowing locks. I’m good with my plastic hairband.

It all reminds me of the mid–late 60s when longer hair started coming (back) into fashion. My parents and their peers mocked the Beatles for their long hair — which was not that long, was it? — and many were the jokes about not being able to tell the boys from the girls. I remember thinking then that their concerns were without any kind of real foundation. Times change; fashion changes. And on the whole the changes — since the 60s at any rate —have been for greater personal freedom and greater personal choice.[2]

To say otherwise is to grant a single society’s prejudices a reality they do not actually possess and to grant that society unholy power over your comfort and style.

And do I look like the kind of guy who’s apt to grant society that kind of power?

Stay tuned.


[1] I’m not getting any of the tattoos I’d like to get, either. The fact that my Lovely First Wife has forbidden them is not relevant to this discussion.

[2] Whenever I pointed out how long General George Custer’s or Thomas Jefferson’s hair was, and my parents said, “Well the fashion was different then,” my incredulous response was, “Well, the fashion is different now; what is so hard about this?”

The solution exists, Kenneth

The novel coronavirus pandemic and our consequent Captivity have resulted in financial catastrophe both for regular workers and business owners, and no real solution has been proposed other than the vacuous “OPEN UP THE ECONOMY, KENNETH!”

Businesses can’t open, and workers cannot work. Paychecks evaporate. Rent vanishes. Choices have to be made between groceries and medicine. Layoffs, shutdowns, bankruptcies, evictions — and no real solution has been proposed.

Except one has, and not only has it been proposed, it’s in place and it works. I know this because it works for me: I am a retired educator, so I have a pension and I have Social Security and I have Medicare. I continue to buy groceries, get my meds, and order from Amazon, even while isolating (since March 12, thank you very much.)

But Dale, I hear the amygdala-based lifeforms whine, you earned that. No question: I worked 35 years educating your children, from kindergarten to the best and brightest the state has to offer.

However, that’s not the point.

The point is that through no fault of their own, our citizens are being crushed financially by forces beyond their control, and no real solution has been proposed, even though it’s pretty clear that a solution exists.

Not only does that solution exist for me as a retired educator here, it exists in one form or another all across western Europe and even immediately to our north, in Canada: a social services net that includes at the very minimum universal healthcare and, now, universal basic income. No one is going to go broke, go without groceries, lose their home, or not have access to their medication just because their job is on hold for the foreseeable future.

But Dale, I hear the amygdala-based lifeforms whine, SOCIALIAMIZM, KENNETH!

Dern tootin’ it’s socialism, Kenneth, and WERE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION WHEN I SAID IT WORKS?

But Dale, the amygdala-based lifeforms continue whining, YOU EARNED IT.

Yes I did, but your even putting that argument out there betrays your values as that of a social Darwinist: only the fittest survive,[1] and the rest of you undeserving poor should go ahead and die and decrease the surplus population.[2]

I reject that argument, that the citizens of the United States, supposedly the richest country in the world, cannot provide for all of us in times of trouble. Yes, our taxes will go up. Our taxes should go up; every corporation’s taxes should go up. The very rich should be taxed at a higher rate. We, like the rest of the world, need to pay for the society we want, a society that keeps the entire nation safe and afloat.

Because if we don’t, if we cling to the fallacious idea that the very rich and the corporations are “job creators,” that the wealth that they possess — and continue to snarf up — will magically “trickle down” to the rest of us,[3] then we will be faced with a complete breakdown of our economy, and with it our society and our democracy.

We’re nearly there now.


[1] A sadistic perversion and misapplication of the theory of evolution, by the way.

[2] Yes, that’s exactly what you sound like, because that’s exactly what you believe.

[3] As Will Rogers said, “Money trickles up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

Empty calendars, feelings about that

This morning, my to-do app presented me with today’s tasks, and one of them was to “email TCOs of the past two burns” — which means that I needed to open up the placement databases for Alchemy 2018 and Alchemy 2019 and send an email to the Theme Camp Organizers to let them know that registration for placement at Alchemy 2020 would soon be upon them.

Of course, that’s moot, because the burn is canceled —all burns are canceled — for 2020, so that depressed me.

But then my eye fell on a notebook on my shelf that I truly couldn’t remember being there; it was full of morning pages that I had started writing in September of 2013, right after I was retired from GHP by the vindictive Governor Nathan Deal (whose actual target was Dr. John Barge, Supt. of the DOE). All my pain and grief were there for me to revisit (along with some positive things like the cross country trip and the composition of Five Easier Pieces).

And there on one of the last pages I bothered to write (12/2/13) was this:

For some reason, I began thinking about Burning Man and what my cadre might have to offer.
Here’s the image that came to me:
Three Old Men — loin cloths — gas masks — large walking sticks — single file — in sync — slow motion dance with the walking sticks.


When I went back to my to-do list, suddenly the placement task was not so depressing, because unlike GHP, the burn will be back in my life. This is only temporary.

Sweetness and light

Meet Ed McGinty. He is a 71-year-old resident of The Villages, Florida’s most notorious retirement community. It is filled with Trumpsters and Magats, but Ed is not one of them. Go read real quick about Ed.

Recently Ed was physically attacked by a Magat. He is undeterred.

Here is a letter he received after that attack:

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Mr. McGinty,

Saw where you recently got your ass kicked in response to your misguided antics. Just remember there are some other red neck Trump supporters out and there and when they chase you down they too will be bringing an ass-kicking with them.

This may be because that you epitomize the democratic party—absolutely no class, devoid of common sense and common decency, and hate filled.

First of all, I’m not surprised by the garbled syntax. That just goes hand in hand with the Trumpster thought processes. I am surprised that this particular Magat failed to use the approved “Democrat party” shibboleth rather than the party’s official name.

And then there’s the problem of how a human brain can write that second paragraph after having written the first. I’m finding it hard to imagine how “absolutely no class, devoid of common sense and common decency, and hate filled” dovetails with “ass kicked,” “misguided antics,” and the threat of violence. And there’s that fourth paragraph, “Hopefully, the next time you have similar encounter, your opponent won’t be so gentle.” In what universe is that not “devoid of common decency” or “hate filled”?

Spoiler alert: In the Trumpster universe, that’s where. Their brains ain’t right. And that’s just common sense.