Saturday, October 21, 2017

It's still Amateur Hour at the White House

Ever wonder what life would be like if Cliff Clavin got elected President? I thought not. Most of us don't waste much time fantasizing about could happen if an annoying character from a 1980's situation comedy wound up in a position of power. Maybe we should have, because that's basically what the American populace allowed to happen when Donald Trump made it into the White House.

For those of you who aren't up on American television trivia, Cliff was the know-it-all postman who was a permanent fixture at one end of the bar. Cliff was a font of trivia -- you name it, he was sure he knew all about it. And even if he didn't have a clue, he refused to change his mind. Once he'd said it, whatever came out of his mouth had to be true. Sound familiar?

Back in January I told a friend that I thought a major problem with The Donald was that he had no idea how government actually worked. Coming at it from the outside, he had the same misguided view of the role of the executive that most of the public does: he thought that being President of the United States was like being the CEO of a corporation. The CEO issues a directive; minions immediately scurry around making it happen. You know, like Picard at the helm of the Enterprise.

The reality, of course, is that the Presidency comes close to being a figurehead, someone who has to work closely with Congress if he (or someday she) wants to get anything done. Can't really fault Trump for not understanding that when he entered office because most Americans are equally naïve -- we attribute all sorts of power (and blame) to the President when most of the time we should be recognizing that Congress is responsible for whatever we're complaining about.

But it turned out The Donald's ignorance didn't end with simply no working knowledge of how the government actually functions or who's responsible for what. Nope. Turned out he's amazingly, astoundingly blissfully clueless about just about everything. After witnessing him thinking the U.S. Virgin Islands are a foreign country, I'd be willing to be that if you asked him to list the fifty states, he'd draw a blank after rattling off the ones that have Trump hotels or golf courses.

And then there's been this most recent debacle. This was the week when we learned for sure that The Donald has the people skills of a rock. Tone deaf is an understatement. How hard can it be to offer condolences when someone dies? The stock phrase, the one that every adult should know, is "I am sorry for your loss." Period. No embellishments. That's all he had to do -- tell the widow he was sorry her husband was dead. You'd think that would be impossible to screw up. You'd be wrong. How can someone who starred in a scripted reality show manage to not parrot a few simple platitudes is a mystery, but The Donald did it. Whatever he meant to say, the way it came out registered as remarkably insensitive.

And then instead of having the simple courage to admit he'd tripped over his own tongue, he declared war on the widow and her friends.

Okay. I was wrong. The American populace didn't elect Cliff Clavin. They elected the annoying barfly, the aging frat boy who runs his mouth constantly about how wonderful he is and is oblivious to everyone else, the armchair warrior who hangs out at the VFW cloaking himself in stolen valor by waxing nostalgic about risking his life in rice paddies in Vietnam when he actually spent his years in the Army manning a typewriter in Louisiana. You know the type -- the dude who manages to bluster his way into the chairmanship of the local Eagles club and then drives the rest of the membership away. The mediocre but loud woman who insists on being put in charge of the Parent Teacher Organization and succeeds in persuading the other parents that maybe their kids would be better off in a different school. First they bluff, then they bluster, and finally they rant and blame everyone else on the planet for whatever went wrong.

Anyone want to make book on how much longer General Kelly is going to last as chief of staff? It must be exhausting trying to work with the world's oldest toddler.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book review: The Red Line

Anyone who's ever wondered why their immigrant ancestors came to this country needs to read this book. I know quite a few third or fourth generation Finnish-Americans who have made the pilgrimage back to the old country, been blown away by what a lovely place Finland can be (especially if you're a tourist), and wondered why on earth their grandparents or great grandparents ever left. Track down an English translation of Punainen viiva (The Red Line) and it'll be crystal clear. When your kids are going barefoot in Finnish winters and you're surviving by mixing pulverized pine bark with flour, the uncertainties of the New World had to look like a much better deal than anything Finland had to offer at the time.

The Red Line is set in rural Finland right after the Finnish national assembly passed legislation in 1906 granting universal suffrage. There was a literacy test, but other than that all adults age 24 and above could vote -- men and women, landowner and tenant farmer, rich and poor. Finland was, in fact, the first country to give women the vote. The literacy test, incidentally, was not much of a bar to any adult voting. Even Finns living in abject poverty who tended to view newspapers as something primarily used to line walls for insulation were literate. They had to be. You couldn't get married if you weren't a church member, and you couldn't be a church member if you couldn't read the Lutheran catechism. Despite Finnish being an extremely difficult language for non-Finns to learn, it's actually pretty easy to read for a native speaker. Each letter has a unique sound. Once you've mastered an aapinen* you can read anything by sounding it out. You may not understand what the words mean, which becomes clear as the protagonists in The Red Line try to figure out just what an "agitator" is (they have no clue whether it's a good thing or a bad one), but you'll know what they sound like.

The first general election was scheduled for March 1907. The months leading up to the election witnessed party advocates fanning out across the country. A socialist party worked particularly hard at turning out the rural vote, getting the dirt-poor crofters and others at the bottom of the economic scale to buy into their campaign promises. Never having gone through a truly general election before, voters tended to be a bit . . . gullible. To them, the campaign promises sounded like magic: vote for the socialist candidate and the whole system that kept poor tenant farmers in rags while the rich dressed in silk and had coffee every day would be overthrown instantly. The characters in this book truly believe that things would change overnight. If they vote socialist, their lives will see an immediate improvement. Instead, after agonizing over whether or not to believe the agitator and vote against the monied interests, they draw the red line, go home, and slowly realize nothing has changed. If anything, things get worse -- Fate (or, more accurately, the author) has some nasty surprises to throw at them before the snow is gone.

The red line, incidentally, refers to the mark, a diagonal red line on the ballot, voters made and not to the socialist party.

I found The Red Line interesting, but I did have some quibbles. I think the author kind of went overboard in his descriptions of the desperate poverty of the crofters. Yes, I believe there were poor farmers who lived so close to starvation at least part of the year that they had to resort to pine flour** to survive. Famine was a recurring problem in a country that practiced slash and burn agriculture and had an astoundingly short growing season. On the other hand, in this book the farmers are practically starving and worrying about every bite when it's still more than a month until Christmas. They're also short on hay for their animals (a cow, a calf, and some sheep). It struck me as a bit unbelievable that the farmers would be running out of hay barely a month into winter.

I was also more than a bit skeptical about the descriptions of the farm house/hovel as being filthy. I'm not sure why so many authors seem to conflate dirt-poor and dirty, but it happens all the time. Don't have any money? Than obviously you also don't know how to use a broom or to wash the communal stew bowl occasionally.

On the other hand, the cockroaches living in the filth were amusing. They were better read than the humans, although one does lament the fact he can't read Latin.

I will not claim to have read this book in the original Finn, although I wish I could have. The author includes dialect (Finland has a bunch of regional dialects) and I'd love to read Finn well enough to be able to pick up on the way a Karelian accent gets rendered compared with an ordinary crofter's and the more educated characters in the novel.

*aapinen -- children's primer used to teach the alphabet

**pine flour -- literally made by drying and grinding the inner bark of pine trees. The S.O. remembers a Lutheran minister describing it to his catechism class back in the early 1960's. Many rural families survived by mixing pine flour with wheat, rye, or barley. It didn't provide any nutritional value because humans can't digest cellulose, but it stretched the grain flour supply and helped stave off hunger pangs. There were good reasons many Finnish immigrants never felt any nostalgia for the Old County.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Another day, another crap donation

Every so often someone will ask me if there's anything valuable in the museum. Well, it depends on how you define valuable, I guess, but if they're thinking in terms of something you could haul to a pawn shop and get Big Buck$ for, the answer is No. There are some nifty items in the museum, but in general we get the stuff that's left when the estate sale is over, the chipped Depression glass, the rusting kitchen utensils, the crap no one wanted to buy but, hey, it's old so of course the museum will love to have it. We get to dig through a lot of fertilizer in the hope of finding an occasional pony.

Anyway, yesterday the S.O. and I went to check out a possible donation of some old farm equipment. I should have known. It had been talked up lovingly in the email proposing the donation. When we got out to the now vacant farm to pick the stuff up I discovered that once again someone was attempting to stick the museum with the crap that didn't sell at the estate sale. Apparently not even scrap metal buyers were interested in a rusting hulk of mystery gears and wheels that had been described to me as a "plow." Yeah. Right. I could be wrong, but I tend to believe that for something to qualify as a "plow" there should be at least one visible mouldboard. You know, the thing that cuts into the soil and does the actual plowing? I have no idea what the pile of scrap iron was used for originally -- it had obviously been towed behind a tractor but there were no mouldboards or discs or harrows or anything else attached to it. I kept staring at it trying to figure out just what it might have been once upon a time, but despite having grown up in farm country and spent a lot of time around farm equipment, I had no clue. Neither did the S.O. In short, in terms of it being a useful museum piece, it wasn't.

Another donated item still had a price tag on it from the estate sale. When I say the museum gets the crap that doesn't sell, I'm not joking. I did recognize this particular piece of rusting metal-- it was a row cultivator, more or less. It, too, was missing pieces but at least was still recognizable. Not recognizable enough for me to want to toss it in the back of the truck, not with a bunch of parts missing and the wheel broken, but no mystery about what it had once been.

Allegedly there was a third piece of equipment lurking somewhere on the property, a riding dump hay rake, but we couldn't find it. We walked out into the field where it was supposedly parked but never spotted the thing. Which is probably just as well, considering what poor condition the first two pieces were in. No doubt if we had found the hay rake we'd have discovered the wheels were missing (those high metal wheels are real popular for incorporating into fences or to make gates with) or most of the teeth were gone from the rake.

On the positive side, it was a nice day so wandering around an old hay field looking for derelict farm equipment wasn't a bad way to spend part of the afternoon. We even stumbled across an actual wild crab apple tree. Never did see a hay rake, though.

The down side is I now get to write a note to the donor telling him in as polite a way as possible that it turns out the museum can't take his rusting pieces of scrap iron  valuable family heirlooms after all.

Moral of the story: never ever say yes to a donation, especially one that involves using a truck to move it, without inspecting it first.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cold water Tide, Granny panties, and life in general

I was doing laundry the other day, thinking it was probably the last time I'd be able to do laundry using the line dry option because October's almost here and we've usually started worrying about the hose from the pump freezing by now, and I found myself once again musing on the subject of women's underwear.

A year or two ago I mentioned the mystery of why my Joe Boxer panties have pockets in the crotch. I'm still wondering (to stash mad money? a spare car key? your phone set on vibrate?), but doing laundry got me to thinking about two other mysteries: why are the most commodious, the garments that include the most fabric, called "briefs?" Women's undies come in various forms ranging from butt floss (aka thongs) to hip huggers to briefs. Technically all underpants are briefs, but when you're looking at packaged unmentionables in the store "Briefs" is the label that gets used for the granny panties: undies that go all the way up to your waist and beyond and leave not a bit of ass exposed. They're on the opposite end of the scale from thongs -- thongs leave nothing to the imagination; granny panties leave everything. (They're also the undies one buys when one hits a certain age and decides comfort counts more than it did 20 or 30 years ago.)

But that wasn't the only one of life's great mysteries I was pondering Thursday. The other was what goes through underwear manufacturers' minds when they select fabrics for the aforementioned granny panties, or underwear in general. Being a cheap frugal person, I buy my underwear in packages of a half dozen or more. I tend to be particularly fond of the offers that tell you that two free bonus pairs are included, even though I know that those bonus pairs will be made from fabric that will be painful to the eye. Maybe the reasoning is that in most cases the only person paying much attention to the underwear is the person who puts it on so color and/or print don't really matter? Whatever the rationale, unless you buy a package that contains nothing but white unmentionables, it is guaranteed that in any multi-pack of underwear there will be at least one pair* that hurts your eyes to look at. The last time around I got treated to a pair that is glow in the dark traffic cone orange. I made the mistake of mentioning them to the Kid. She didn't really believe me. I whipped them out of the drawer to show her. She's been begging for brain bleach ever since.

This most recent laundry day was also the day I finally got around to test driving Cold Water Wash Tide. I'm really happy it was on sale and I had a coupon that cut the cost even more. My usual detergent of choice comes from Family Dollar and is not Tide. It works remarkably well, all things considered, but because I'm doing laundry using truly cold water (it's getting sucked out of the ground from an aquifer left by the glaciers and is one step away from forming ice cubes as it leaves the hose) I decided to try a product supposedly designed for cold water. Pshaw. False advertising. Tide apparently defines cold as cooler than what comes out of a hot water heater but not by much. It was a definite disappointment. Live and learn.

I am also rethinking the possibility that last Thursday was the last outdoor laundry day. The temperature here was hovering around 90 yesterday, and is supposed to be almost as warm today. It is supposed to start cooling down, but it's still supposed to be in the low 60s into October. No frost at all shown in the 10-day forecast so if it doesn't rain, I guess a few days from now I'll be line drying again.

*And why are pants, whether it's underwear or jeans, referred to as a pair when there's only one garment?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Michigan's highest and most crowded parking lot

Benchmark at the top of the hill
The S.O. and I finally got around to playing tourist in our own backyard. We went in search of the peak of Mount Arvon, Michigan's highest point. As state high points go, Mount Arvon kind of falls in the middle of the pack in terms of both height and difficulty of access. You know if you go looking for the highest point in a state like Florida you're not going to be scaling an alpine peak -- you'll be doing good to find something that actually qualifies as a hill.

On the other hand, if you're out in Colorado or Wyoming, it's a given there's going to be some serious climbing involved -- no short, easy hikes or driving up to paved a parking lot or discovering benches waiting for you at the top. Wikipedia notes that anyone planning to bag the Wyoming high point should plan on a 4 to 6 day hiking trip; it's considered a difficult ascent.

So where does Mount Arvon fall? Well, it's not as easy to get to as the state high points that are also state parks, like in Alabama. No nicely paved road culminating in a large, paved parking lot. Still, there is a road, sort of, that does end in a parking area.

Not that we were able to park in said lot: it was crammed full of ORVs. Those machines are like snowmobiles, apparently genetically engineers to always travel in packs. You know, I get the attraction of being the lead dog in one of those ORV caravans: you get to see the trail in all its splendor, you're the first one through the mudholes, you don't eat anyone's dust. But if you're the last in line when there are several dozen ORVS ahead of you, all kicking up rocks and splattering everyone with mud, what is the point? (Actually, I know what the point is -- ORV trails, just like snowmobile trails that often follow the same routes, are always conveniently located to loop past watering holes with malt beverages on tap. It's not the time on the trail people crave; it's the time at the bar.)

Back to Mount Arvon. The road is dirt, and the last 400 feet or so were not something I'd particularly want to go over in a low-clearance vehicle, but it is a road. You go from well-maintained two lane gravel to more like single lane gravel that winds a bit to something that's one step above a two track. The route ambles through mature hardwood forest, some of which is currently being harvested -- saw a  John Deere forwarder in action that has to be one of the niftiest machines I've seen in awhile (the rotating cab has to be one of the coolest features of all time) -- and is pretty typical U.P. backwoods, although no doubt more well traveled than most. There is a way to get to Mount Arvon from where we live that would involve only backwoods roads but we opted for the tourist brochure drive.

The route is clearly marked -- each time we were confronted with a choice of routes, there was signage to indicate turns. Dito when we got to the top of the mountain: there was a large sign in the parking area showing the layout: there's a short hiking trail that loops from the parking lot to the high point, from the high point down to an overlook that on a truly clear day would probably let you see right over Point Abbaye to the Keweenaw, and from the overlook back to the parking lot. There's a bench and picnic table at the high point; there's another bench at the overlook. There's also the obligatory logbook so you can record your name and the date.

I was never quite sure what to tell tourists when they asked at the museum about the drive out to Mount Arvon. Now I know: don't do it in low-slung car, at least not all the way. Watch for logging trucks. And if you're really lucky, you'll get to see something like this in action:


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

A friend asked me the other day why I hadn't done much with this blog lately. No matter what weirdness emanates from Washington and the Human Yam I've been silent. She was surprised I hadn't expressed an opinion on the current movement to remove Confederate monuments.

Well, to be honest, I really don't have one. Granted, most were erected for deplorable reasons -- if they were truly about honoring the bravery of the CSA soldiers and officers, we'd see statues of General James Longstreet all over the South -- but I tend to view them as a local issue. If the majority of residents of Richmond or Durham or Birmingham or wherever want to shuffle Bobby Lee off into the dustbin of history, I figure they should be free to do that without interference. Are they contributing elements to a cultural landscape that shouldn't be messed with? Nope. Culture changes; landscapes evolve. I've never been real keen on preserving anything just for the sake of preservation.

Plus, of course, we don't need large tacky oversized lawn ornaments to remind of us history. There are these things called "books."

I've also actually been far more bemused by the spectacle of young, well educated white guys whining about how oppressed they are. I can understand where some of the bitter old men are coming from -- they've finally had to confront the fact they're never going to be rich, never be famous, and never have a chance to buy a trophy wife -- but when you're a 20-something dude who's still in college? Where's your reason for feeling oppressed, dude? Didn't get rushed by the frat you fantasized about joining? Feeling butt hurt because you went from being the smartest kid in your calculus class back in Podunk and are now the mediocre student learning for the first time that all the other smartest kids in their high schools are now packed into the same college lecture hall as yourself? Not enough Solo cups to go around at the kegger? Can't get laid? It must be the fault of the Illuminati or black or brown people or some vast Zionist conspiracy. It can't possibly be because the dudes need to learn some social skills or maybe take a bath once in awhile.

The tiki torch bros in their white polo shirts, in fact, reminded me of a clueless doofus I knew in grad school. He'd hit the point where he was ABD (all but dissertation) so had begun the job search. He'd done a bit of schmoozing (aka "networking") when our department had guest speakers in for a seminar series so he felt like he had an "in" at one of the schools where he submitted his c.v. He was sure he was a shoo in. After all, his research fit in with what the target department was known for. If memory serves, he did make it past the first cut (preliminary phone interview, maybe) despite the remarkably thin resume (no published papers, no book contract, maybe one presentation at a professional conference, minimal involvement in progessional associations, no Ph.D. in hand yet).

And then the dream department, his sure thing, hired someone else. Even worse, they hired a woman. The doofus went around ranting loudly about affirmative action and tokenism and how terribly, terribly political correctness was running amok. There was no way in hell a mere woman would be better qualified than he was. A few of his fellow students made sympathetic noises, or at least they did until word came through the grapevine as to just who the "underqualified" woman was. She was a person who had (1) a Ph.D. in hand; (2) several publications in peer-reviewed journals; (3) a book in press; and (4) currently held a post-doctoral research fellowship at a top tier institution. Only in the mind of a poor deluded loser unwilling to admit he'd been beat out by a much better qualified candidate would anyone blame tokenism and the evils of affirmative action.

It goes without saying (but I'm saying it anyway) if the winning candidate had been male the loser's response would have been a resigned "Oh crap. No way I could top that dude's record."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Marketing genius

It's gotten to that time of year where we're harvesting new potatoes from the garden. We didn't actually plant any potatoes this year -- what we're digging up are from feral spuds, plants that sprouted from potatoes we missed when we cleaned out the garden last year. There aren't a huge number of plants, but that's okay. We don't eat as many potatoes as we used to because we're supposed to be watching out potassium (one of the joys of aging is you start having to worry about stuff that not many years earlier you were blissfully unaware could ever be a problem). Usually two-thirds of the garden is potato plants; this year we've got a large section that's planted in clover and is going to be fallow for a year or two.

Anyway, because we're just digging up a plant or two at a time, I'm basically picking everything that looks big enough to count as an actual potato. You know, tubers that are bigger than marbles, although in some cases not by much. Picking those midget potatoes, the tiny stuff that if this was a normal year and I'd planted potatoes on purpose I'd be tossing over the fence for the chipmunks to enjoy, reminded me of an example of marketing genius we spotted at Econo Foods a few weeks ago.

Anyone who's ever grown potatoes know the little ones are a fact of life. Doesn't matter what variety of spud you're trying to grow, there are going to be some midget tubers when harvest time rolls around. Those used to be the ones that got shunted to one side to be fed to the cows or marketed to companies that process spuds into instant potatoes. They did not get sent to the supermarket to be sold to ordinary consumers. The assumption for decades was that people wanted potatoes big enough to actually look like potatoes, not marbles.

Then some genius decided, hey, how about if we quadruple the price over what ordinary potatoes sell for and give them a cute name? End result: what used to be the reject potatoes, the ones that were culled from the production line before the spuds on the belt got to the baggers, are now the high dollar specialty potatoes, the gourmet "gemstones," "baby" potatoes that merit being sold for $5.99 a pound. Or maybe a little more. According to the Melissa's Produce website, that tiny one-and-a-half pound sack of infant tubers goes for $11.99 online. Plus shipping, no doubt.

As for just how large those gemstone spuds are, the first photo is of similarly sized babies I pulled out of our garden  the other day. Of course, the midgets were in the minority -- most of  our spuds were a respectable size instead of resembling dirt-covered marbles.

In any case, sheer genius on the part of Melissa, whoever she might be. Not only did her company figure out a way to use every single spud that came out of the ground no matter how tiny it might be, they figured out a way to charge more for what used to be the throwaways than for the normal sized potatoes. Only in America. . .

P. T. Barnum would be proud.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So much for good intentions

I had semi-vowed to start scaling back on doing stuff at the museum. I was going to focus a tad more on other stuff at home and a tad less elsewhere at anything that involved lots of time and effort. No ambitious plans, no applying for large amounts of grant money, just some gentle coasting for awhile.

Well, so much for that plan. The building has an exterior window that was put in because the original design for the museum included at some point tacking on an ell. The door into it would go through where the oversized unnecessary window currently is. Or so I'm told -- the skeptical part of me says, well, if they'd planned to put a door through there they really shouldn't have run the hot water heating system along the base of the wall or run electrical wiring through it, but that's the type of skeptical thought I generally keep to myself. (The window is in the area to the left behind the switchboard pictured below; you can see the natural light flowing in. We are going to lose a great view of The Lake when that window vanishes. Of course, if we really want to see The Lake, all we have to do is step outside.)

In any case, once we close for the season, more or less (at our last meeting we voted to stay open on Saturdays September through May), we're blocking that window. Closing it off will eliminate a source of unwanted natural light (something that a museum should have a minimum of) and provide another section of wall for displaying stuff. Simple project. No big deal. Just need to get enough bodies together to be able to lift the humongous window out and moved out of the way. Once the window is gone, it won't involve much time or effort to plug that hole.

Except, of course, if we're removing the window, we need to get all the stuff that's in the general area of the window moved. As it happens, that's the museum gift shop area. Well, if we need to get the gift shop items out of the way, we might as well relocate it all entirely. We'll move it to the traditional gift shop location in a museum: it'll become the last space you walk through before exiting the building. That is the classic placement: you amble through the exhibit spaces and then get spit out right by the souvenir racks.

Which in turn means moving the objects that are currently in the space where we're going to put the gift shop. Okay, if we're moving them, what do we do with them? Some will go into storage, no doubt, but if we're moving the rest, what's the most effective way to use them? At the moment, we have no actual dioramas in the museum. We have exhibits that are collections of stuff, but they tend to be a hodge podge. You know, our logging exhibit has a lot of tools and photos and models and whatnot, but it's not like a slice into logging camp life. It's bits and pieces. Ditto everything else. We'd tossed around the idea of editing the area where the Monarch wood-burning kitchen range sits to make it look more like an actual circa 1900 farm kitchen, but then a better idea hit me.

We have a really old switchboard that belonged to Baraga Telephone (photo above). Baraga Telephone began in a local family's front parlor. We could take that switchboard, dress a mannequin in  Edwardian era clothing, set her at the switchboard, and do a for real diorama that highlights an important piece of local history and incorporates a lot of the stuff that as it stands now is just kind of there, i.e., parlor furniture and knickknacks that always make me feel like the ladies who set it up 10 or 20 years ago were having a good time playing house more than they were thinking about historic preservation or educating the public. We have a living room/dining room set up that's no particular time period or place but does have some really pretty tea cups on the dining table. The nice thing about the time period when Baraga Telephone was first up and running was the typical middle class parlor was rather cluttered. We can disguise a vaguely-Victorian looking 1960s arm chair with an afghan, set out the Franklin Mint collectible tea cups, and in general get the feel for the era without being 100% accurate. The key thing will be positioning the switchboard so it's the piece most visible to visitors. The rest is just set dressing to emphasize Baraga Tel started out in someone's home.

Even better, we can set it up in a way that keeps visitors from touching anything. I could finally get the exhibit of my dreams: one that is totally hands off. I'm psyched.
S.O. putting up pegboard to block off view of the attic.

Okay. Moving on. Blocking a window, moving the gift shop, shuffling things to create a diorama. Well, if we're shuffling stuff, why not take the logical next step? Let's make the path visitors follow a true circle. Let's put a door in the hallway wall so no one ever has to back track. The museum has an awkward floor plan, the result of changes in design as they ran out of money 25 years ago. As things stand now, if people want to look at a display of historic photos they walk down a hall that they then either have to walk back up or cut through the office to get back to main exhibit area. Way too many people opt for cutting through the office. Not good. So we'll cut a doorway into the hallway wall. It would come through close to the corner shown above. Not a big deal.

Except, of course, then we run into having to shuffle more stuff around, including rearranging the photos on most of that wall. Rearranging the exhibit area space near the proposed opening wouldn't be bad -- there is a display case that will have to be moved, but that's a fairly minor issue. And now that I'm thinking about moving the display case, other things are occurring to me. One thing does indeed lead to another. . .

I think my first step had better be creating some empty space in the storage building. We're going to need it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Headline I did not want to see

"Sanders keeping door open on 2020"

What the hell is wrong with these aging politicians? Bernie Sanders makes some great progressive arguments, by why would anyone who is barely a month away from turning 76 imply that he's just fine with being a candidate three years from now? I have the same reaction to Sanders hinting coyly that he might okay with running again that I do with every other geezer in Washington who refuses to admit it's time to step aside. I am really thoroughly sick of seeing the country run by a bunch of wrinkled codgers who are so wrapped up in their own ego trips that they can't take the time to cultivate a younger generation to carry on after them.

After all, Bernie isn't exactly unique. Dianne Feinstein is 84, up for re-election in 2018, and is still dithering over whether or not to retire. It's like the remarkably evil Strom Thurmond set some sort of precedent and ever since then, when the man managed to stay in office long after he looked like he should have been in the ground instead of being wheeled out occasionally to prove to the voting public he was still breathing, they all want to go for way more terms in office than any sane person should aspire to. Whatever happened to the joys of being the elder statesman who went off to make a fortune as a figurehead for a lobbying firm and got paid ridiculous honorariums for spouting platitudes and sound bites on Sunday morning news shows?

 I don't care what your political affiliation might be -- left, right, somewhere in the middle -- but if you actually care about the ideologies you supposedly espouse, isn't there an obligation to ensure that there are people coming along behind you who will also support those policies or ideologies? What's the point in being in office forever if you're not mentoring anyone or promoting the next generation of leaders and policy makers? One of the reasons I despised (and still despise) Hillary Clinton is she was more interested in feeding her own ego than she was in cultivating a younger generation. Instead of promoting her own eventual candidacy when she lost in the primaries in 2008, she should have looked at the calendar, done the math, and tried to build a bench for 2016. Did she do that? Nope. End result? A remarkably weak Democratic field and eventually a Human Yam in the White House.

I'm not much of a fan of term limits. We've had them for awhile in Michigan and the consequences have not been good. I am, however, beginning to lean more and more toward the idea of mandatory maximum ages for candidates and mandatory retirement ages for the geezers already in office.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Life's little disappointments

I had the first round of cataract removal done Thursday afternoon. It was remarkably boring. You don't actually get to see much when you're strapped to a table with a surgical drape over your face. 

Oh, the flashing lights and weird psychedelic effects in the eye that was getting sliced and having a introcular artificial lens implanted were moderately entertaining, but overall the experience made a person feel more like one of those chocolate bonbons in an old "I Love Lucy" episode than anythng else. I was halfway hoping to hear some Beethoven as the nurses adjusted the eye speculum and got stuff ready in the operating room but, nope, nothing but idle chatter about what the weather's been like and how ridiculously expensive ground beef has become.

It really was an assembly line operation. Patients checked in, were parked in recliners in a holding pen, had their vitals taken, eye drops to cause dilation dropped into whichever eye was about to be sliced, and were handed a Valium to mellow them out. Every 10 or 15 minutes or the occupant of a recliner would be led into the OR, be gone for not much time at all, return to the relciner just long enough for a blood pressure check, and released back into a regular waiting room. None of the recliners stayed vacant long.

The Valium, incidentally, was the only sedation. I had a vague memory of the S.O. being given more drugs to mellow him out, but maybe not. I was relieved. I always dislike the rohypnol variety of sedation, the stuff that keeps you conscious at the time but leaves you with a blank space in your memory. Mellow, strapped down, but mentally present was fine with me. They dripped enough numbing material into the eyeball to block any pain that might be associated with the actual surgery, and that was the important part. For that matter, there may have an injection of something, too. If there, things were already numb enough that I didn't notice.

The S.O. netioned having some pain after his cataract removal, but about all I noticed was more of a dull ache, kind of like my eyelids were protesting having been forced wide open for longer than they would have liked. On the 1 to 10 pain scale, it was way over on the low end. An annoyance, not actual hurting, and it didn't last long. Now that it's been almost 48 hours, about the only thing I'm noticing is a vague dry, itchy feeling, which hopefully won't last much longer. I'm keeping the eye shield on 24 hours a day until that vague itchy feeling goes away. I got told to wear it while sleeping for two weeks, but I'm paranoid enough about accidentally rubbing the eye too soon that I'll live with it on all the time. I sprang for the high dollar intraocular replacement lens in the hope that I'll be able to do counted cross stitch without wearing glasses. I have no desire to screw that investment up.