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Seventeen years…

And I’m still so angry I could spit nails.

‘Nuff said.

 

Of SCOTUS and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, effective July 31 of this year. The implications are profound. First, for the potentially good one.

It is possible, though not guaranteed, that President Trump will nominate and the U.S. Senate will confirm a person who has a due regard for the Constitution. That would be great. Here’s the problem: it seems a virtual guarantee, given the current Republican majority in the Senate, that whoever he nominates will be confirmed — even if that person is a less than enthusiastic supporter of the Constitution. So, if you are a conservative (or a libertarian for that matter), I would not recommend assuming this is a done deal.

Now, on to the less good.

When Barack Obama was President of the United States, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to institute the “nuclear option.” Back in 2016, CNN put it this way:

Senate Democrats are eager to make Donald Trump pay a political price for nominating staunch conservatives to fill out his Cabinet, hoping to exact revenge for the GOP’s stubborn opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominees.

But there is little they can do about it — and some top Democrats are now coming to regret it.

That’s because Senate Democrats muscled through an unprecedented rules change in 2013 to weaken the power of the minority party to filibuster Cabinet-level appointees and most judicial nominees, now setting the threshold at 51 votes — rather than 60 — to overcome tactics aimed at derailing nominations.

With the Senate GOP poised to hold 52 seats next Congress, some Democrats now say they should have thought twice before making the rules change — known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option.”

“I do regret that,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat who voted for the rules change three years ago. “I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency break [sic], to have in our system to slow down nominees.”

I’m sorry. How did no one see this coming? Well, one person did. I don’t like him, but it appears Chuck Schumer lobbied against the change.

Here is my concern. It is a fact that no party stays in power forever. This means that any precedent established, any policy set, any law passed, will at some point in the future be applied and/or enforced by those with whom disagree — often those with whom you disagree profoundly and on a fundamental level. It seems clear to me, as we contemplate the replacement for Justice Kennedy, that this idea is alien to many politicians and to many Americans (“the People”) in general. As a nation of citizens, seemingly unable to think more than 2 weeks ahead, we have largely elected politicians who suffer from the same deficiency. While I have hopes re: the nomination of a Constitutional absolutist, I have far less hope regarding our willingness to abandon our focus on short-term gain and our tendency to elect those who both pander to it and who have the same short-term focus. Shortsightedness is not good.

Note: I should add that I can easily see the same thing happening if the Democratic and Republican balances in the Senate had been reversed over the last 20-30 years. The vast majority of them are short-sighted idealogues, regardless of party. Charles Krauthammer was correct: “Whenever you’re faced with an explanation of what’s going on in Washington, the choice between incompetence and conspiracy, always choose incompetence.”

The U.S. Army…

is 243 years old, today. Happy Birthday to all of you, past and present. You have upheld a fine tradition of service.

Alas for my bok choy

A few nights ago we had what can only be termed a “significant” thunderstorm here in our small West Texas city (bear in mind that “small” is a relative term and I tend to favor towns in which the population falls somewhere between four and five digits). It decimated my bok choy cabbage, which is a bummer. I had very specific plans for it. Specifically, I was going to make my initial efforts at making kimchi with bok choy, rather than the traditional Napa cabbage. Sadly, such a thing was not to be.

Fear not! All is not lost.

Enter Napa cabbage.

bok choy

I actually used two of them. Yummy looking, yes? They got chopped into pieces about two inches wide.

Then, of course, we needed the daikon radish.

daikon radish

If you are used to the small red radish that we typically see here in the US, the daikon is a little different. Other than the fact that it is not red, there are two other differences. First, it is a lot bigger (the one I used weight right at one pound). Second, it is very mild in comparison to many red radishes. These also got chopped, though into much smaller pieces than the cabbage.

All the other goodies.

kimchi ingredients

Garlic…I used about six cloves. I peeled a piece of ginger about two inches long. I chopped the entire bunch of scallions into pieces about one inch long. The garlic, ginger,  and about 1/3 cup of the sambal oelek went into the blender to make a paste. The cabbage, daikon and scallions went into a food grade plastic bucket along with about four tbsp of kosher salt. The veggies and salt were mixed by hand and then allow to sit for two hours or so. Although I didn’t take a picture, after two hours the salt had pulled so much water out of the veggies that they occupied a much smaller space.

I pulled the veggies from the bucked, placed them in a glass bowl (now that they would fit) and with gloved hands mixed them with the paste. Then, into the canning jars they went. That was yesterday. According to the recipe I used, they need to be opened every day to allow the gases that are a by-product of fermentation to escape. The recipe was right! After less than 24 hours, the lids on the canning jars were bulging. The mixture should sit one more day before I taste it to see if it’s ready. Still, it already looks like the yumminess that is kimchi.

kimchi

Tomorrow, we’ll see if it is ready for the refrigerator or if it needs to ferment another day at room temp.

Of gardens, life and depression

I have mentioned previously my battle with depression. In the (not) words of Yoda, “a part of life, it is, hmm?” In my case, a garden is one of the best things I can do to make my life better. My last garden was a spring garden, two years ago. Between working out of town and depression, I did not plant one last year (and foolishly deprived myself of the anti-depressant benefits I get from working a garden). So, this year’s spring garden required a fair bit of work.

While I neglected to take pictures of the initial ground/weed clearing, I eventually wound up with this picture:

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Not pretty, but it was better than the weeds that had been there, before.

I had decided I wanted to try raised beds, this year. I priced treated lumber, but Lowes and Home Depot are both inordinately proud of their treated lumber. Instead, I opted for untreated lumber. I had some in my garage. The rest I bought from Lowes, who happily took my money!

I opted for 4′ x 10′ beds to reduce the amount of sawing I’d need to do.

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This one is typical of what I built using 2″ x 10″ x 10′ lumber. The two pieces of scrap on the diagonal are there to make it more rigid for moving. I took them off once I had the various beds in place.

I had to make several beds.

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Feel free to ignore the mess in the background!

Then, the beds had to be placed. It took awhile, but doing it by myself meant I could only blame one person if it turned out wrong. Besides, it’s my project, anyway!

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Woo-hoo! They are placed. Now, all I need are seedlings to plant…

plants to be planted

Above, we have a sampling of said seedlings. There were more, plus the plants I sowed directly as seeds.

Not everything happened in the garden itself, though.

flowers

These bloomed early on. Pretty, yes?

Eventually, things started to grow.

potatoes baby

Potatoes in a barrel (and a finger on the lens).

We have plums

Plums! Now, if I can only keep the birds away from them.

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There is stuff behind the tomatoes, I swear!

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Like salad goodies

green beans

And green beans

There’s other stuff, too, but the pix came out worse than my green beans pic, so apparently even I have standards!

Anyway, the point of all this is really to help me look at my garden now and remember what it was when I started it. It’s a good cure for those times I’m tempted to say I don’t have the energy to work on it. Everyone is different, of course, but my experience with depression has been this: When I force myself to do the very thing I simply do not feel like doing, things get better. I have more energy, my aches and pains subside and my outlook improves. For me, the garden is a great way of doing “the thing” that makes life better. I don’t know what it will be for you, but I encourage you to find your thing. Don’t stay locked away inside your home, secluded and alone. That will not make life better. Doing the thing makes it better.

Go do the thing.

 

 

 

 

Risk assessment

Not too long ago, I wrote about the possibility that collectivists and individualists differ in the kinds of risk assessments they make. Now that I look at it, the post could have been fleshed out a bit more, but I think I’ll leave it as is. How convenient, then, that someone shared with me an article from Medium.com. Entitled “The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper,” I would have likely not read it due to the title. Fortunately, it was recommended to me by a person whose opinion I respect. He suggested I read it, though he said I would likely not find it comforting. While it was not comforting, it did tend to reinforce some things I already thought, but without any “the sky is falling” sorts of statements.

The author, BJ Campbell, is a stormwater hydrologist whose professional concern includes things like determining the risk of a given area flooding. He applies the same sort of mathematical analysis to determine, in this case, the risk of what I will call “significant social upheaval.” His conclusion? The risk of such an event during an average lifetime is greater than that of floods for some people living in floodplains. I encourage you to read the article for yourself.

One of the things that interests me about people, far more than the math of their risk assessments, is the sorts of assumptions they make. Campbell deals with some of these as they pertain to mass shooting incidents. He suggests that in the aftermath of a mass shooting, discussions and conversations about guns and gun control policies end up in “three buckets.”

There’s the “tyranny can never happen here” bucket, which the left has mostly abdicated in the wake of Trump winning after they called (and still call) him a tyrant. There’s the “you can’t fight the army with small arms” bucket, which is increasingly unsound given our ongoing decade-and-a-half war with Afghani tribal goat herders. And there’s the “what the hell do you need an AR-15 for anyway?” bucket, which, by its very language, eschews a fundamental lack of understanding of what those people are thinking.

I find the last of his comments about buckets most refreshing because it addresses the fundamental lack of understanding on the part of many people. Preparedness is not about getting ready to overthrow the US government. It’s about being prepared (in such an event) should others attempt to do so. More than that, it is about taking steps, should things reach the point of well and truly sucking, to help ensure that for you and yours they don’t suck quite as much. Under the heading of “Prepping is Just Disaster Planning,” he writes the following:

“But if one of these things happens, you’re screwed anyway!” Well, sure. The point of disaster planning for a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or wildfire, is not to be “not-screwed.” It’s to be notably less screwed.

What I find really interesting, given that Campbell specifically says he is not a prepper, is that he touches on the sorts of things that some preppers find concerning.

It’s an interesting read and I highly recommend it.

Note: Just before I published this thing I realized Bayou Renaissance Man had devoted space to it on his blog. I encourage you to read his words. They’re much more coherent than mine.

King of the punsters?

Edwin Newman was a broadcast journalist who began his career in the wire services before transitioning to radio and eventually to television. He may have also been one of the greatest punsters of all time. This is frequently attributed to him. I reproduce it here for your dubious benefit and with no apologies for the pain it may cause. I should note, it does require some familiarity with the 1970s.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“Out walking the dog,” he said, “looking for the old familiar feces.”

“Your shoes are wet,” she observed.

“Naturally,” he said, “nobody knows the puddles I’ve seen. That is why I am standing on these newspapers. These are the Times that dry men’s soles.” He took off his jacket and tossed it aside. “This”, he said, “is so sodden.”

“I’ll never forget the time they brought you in frozen stiff,” she said,

“I was afraid you’d never come out of it.”

He shrugged. “I thawed, therefore I am.”

“I believe the dog has distemper or worms or something,” she said.

“Maybe so,” he replied, “but his bark is worse than his blight. By the way, I’m thinking of giving him to the Longshoremen’s Union as a mascot.”

“What kind of dog do they want?”

“A dockshund.”

“I’m lonely,” she said, and pointed to a button she was wearing that bore the words “Kiss me. I’m Irish.”

“I’m hungry,” he said. Quiche me. I’m French.”

She gave him instead a pastry consisting of thin layers of puff paste interlaid with a cream filling. He cut off a corner and ate it. “Very good,” he said. “Also the first square mille feuille I’ve had all day.”

“Your French is getting better, she said. “I can remember when you thought the French for throw out the bag was cul-de-sac.”

“O solecism mio,” he said. “And I can remember when you thought a porte-cochere was the entrance to a Jewish restaurant.”

There was a moment’s pause. Then:

“I had an apprentice French hairdresser once,” she said.

“What did he have to say for himself?”

“Je ne sais coif.”

“Having a man around the house does make a vas deferens,” she continued.

“And a woman around, too,” he said gallantly. “You’re a wonderful housekeeper. You keep everything polished.”

“Maybe so,” she said, “but I wish I could chamois like my sister Kate.

I meant to ask you, did you watch the space shot at the office?”

“No,” he replied, “To me the space program is a mere shirrade. I decided to go to a movie instead, the one in which Montgomery Clift plays the founder of psychoanalysis.”

“What was his name again?”

“Pretty Boy Freud.”

“I notice that in the early days of photography he had his picture taken with his coat on and looking furtive. Any idea why?”

“He must have been a cloak and daguerreotype.”

She changed the subject. “I’m glad we’re out of Vietnam.”

“So am I. It was time to let Saigon be Saigon’s.”

“What do you make of the situation between the Russians and the Chinese?” she asked.

“Dogma eat dogma”.

“You said a Maouthful.”

“Tell me, how was your trip to Washington?”

“All right,” she said, “but the taxi driver insisted on talking. I felt that I was a cabtive audience.”

“What was it you had to do there?”

“Deliver two messages.”

“To whom?” he asked.

“One was to the junior senator from Mississippi.”

“Any trouble?”

“No. I was directed to a room where the Armed Services Committee was meeting, and I simply went in and asked, `Stennis, anyone?'”.

“What was the message, by the way?”

“Just what you’d wish on any politician during the festive season: a Merry Charisma and a Happy New Year.”

“And the other?” he asked.

“That was more difficult,” she said. “The nonferrous metals industry was holding a meeting and I had to find the one ferrous metals man who was there. Luckily I was able to go into the ladies’ room and say,

`Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the ferrous one of all?'”

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” she said.

“What did you do about lunch?” he wanted to know.

“I had Chinese,” she said.

“Not Korean?”

“No, though I do like Seoul food.”

“Was the Chinese any good?”

“Not really. I sent back the soup.”

“Any reason?”

“I told the waiter it had been tried and found Won Ton.”

“You’ve done better.”

“When?”

“That cold day at the Four Seasons when you didn’t like the cooking and you told the head waiter, `Now is the winter of our discontent.’ But what happened after you sent back the Won Ton?”

“They brought me some consommi.”

“How was it?”

“Much better. It was a consommi devoutly to be wished.”

“I’d like to have a Chinese meal in Alaska someday,” he said musingly.

“Why is that?”

“I’d like to try lo mein on a totem pole.”

She was lost in thought for a moment, then blushed lightly. “I don’t think I’ve every told you that I originally intended to marry a clergyman.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because,” she said, humming softly, “I picked a layman in the garden of love when I found you.”

I was his turn to hum.

“What are you humming?” she asked.

“The volcano’s torch song,” he said. “Lava, come back to me.”

She pouted.

“This time of year seems to bring out the worst in you.” he said.

“I know,” she replied. “I’m often jejune in January.”

“Sometimes I think you’ve never got over your regret at not being born a blond.”

“Not quite true. Actually, I dream a genealogy with the light brown hair. Wasn’t it a shame about Father O’Reilly being mugged the other night after the ecumenical meeting?”

“He can’t say he wasn’t warned. Rabbi Goldstein was most explicit.”

“What did he say?”

“Do not go, gentile, into the good night.”

“And that did not stop Father O’Reilly?”

“I’m afraid not. He left without further adieu.”

“Do they know who did it?”

“No, but they do know that the muggers were young and were laughing as they left.”

“Jubilant delinquents?”

“Exactly.”

“I bought a book of British seafood recipes today.”

“May I guess the title?”

“Please.”

“What Hath Cod Wrought?”

“No. It’s Cod et Mon Droit.”

“By the way, the cod war between Britain and Iceland did end, did it not?”

“Yes, it was followed by the cod peace.”

A sweet voice came from the kitchen. “Would you like some tea, Daddy?”

“Yes, my darjeeling daughter.” He turned back. “She sounds so sad these days. You’d think a girl pretty enough to be a model would be happy.”

“It’s the modeling that’s done it. It’s turned her into a mannequin-depressive.”

The sweet voice rose in anger. “It isn’t. It’s these hot, cross puns.

Will you two ever stop?”

They did.

Like I said, no apologies.