Monday, February 15, 2021


Happy birthday, Val


Valerie and Grandpa Pope. Note killer crib with the drop side in background. It's a miracle she survived infancy. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Upgrades coming to the Woman Cave

The Woman Cave experienced major trauma this past spring. Raccoons did a thorough number on trashing it, including chewing holes in the ceiling and turning my desk into a latrine. The Woman Cave wasn't much to brag about before the 'coons decided to mess with it; after cleaning out the crap it was clear we needed to do some serious DIY soon. Soon, of course, has always been a relative term with us. We know we have to take the damaged ceiling panels down but it didn't get done in the summer, and once cold weather arrived we decided to wait a bit. (I got lucky with the desk. The furry bastards dumped a bunch of books on it before starting to build a mountain of feces. It was disgusting, I wound up tossing about $300 worth of books, but the desk wasn't damaged. My dad made it so it has sentimental value.)(I also got lucky with my sewing and craft supplies. Trash pandas might be smart but they didn't open any drawers and apparently couldn't figure out how to open latched Sterlite totes.) 

We should probably invest in some throwaway coveralls and some N-95 masks before we start the ceiling removal part of the project. You know that when the ceiling paneling comes down it'll be accompanied by over 40 years of rodent droppings and squirrel souvenirs. I figure the squirrels in the ceiling were the original reason for the raccoons getting up there from the outside: those little red pine squirrels would be an attractive late winter snack to a trash panda. Then once the raccoons were in the ceiling, they decided to see what might be hiding beneath it. 

Anyway, we decided that as long as we're taking down a good section of the ceiling, we'll redo the insulation up there and maybe put in a new lighting fixture, something more recessed than what's there now. And if we're going to insulate part of the ceiling, we really should finish off the wall behind the stove, the one we've been meaning to finish for the past 40+ years but let slide because the wood stove was in the way. That gray stuff is a sheet of asbestos that broke into multiple pieces back in about 1976 and has been leaning there ever since. It's long past time to do something about it. If we're going to finish the wall, including insulating it better, then we're going to have to move the stove. If we're going to deal with moving that beast, we might as consider replacing it entirely.  

Of course, we've been talking about doing something about the woodstove since the '90's. I have blogged in the past about the joys of using that stove, the one that inhales wood the same way winos suck down Gallo. It is a rather crude box stove made from plate steel. It was a used stove when we acquired it. I can't recall its history, but it's gone through a couple owners before us. We got it in the 1970s and it had flaws then. The door has never hung quite right so the draft is hard to control, and the grates got eaten through ages ago. It has a water tank on the side toward the wall, which would be a handy feature if it actually held water. 

It is, in brief, a homemade box stove that would give any fire insurance agent heart failure. It is also the stove that was our primary source of heat for The Shoebox when we lived in it during one of the coldest winters on record, but that adventure has been documented elsewhere. And, yes, that is a brick on the front door. It's the draft control. Doesn't work real well when there's a half inch gap at the top of the door, but it's the thought that counts. On the other hand, when I fired it up the other day it got the Woman Cave from right above zero degrees Fahrenheit to almost 80 in less than an hour. 

I'd been kind of watching for a decent woodstove of about the right size to show up on the local buy/sell/trade page (aka Baraga County Shit Stuff for Sale). Last week I spotted a contender. A seller listed a "vintage" parlor stove. A parlor stove! Nifty. It wouldn't be just a source for heat -- it would be a decorative feature. The Woman Cave would have "decor." The big questions were (a) just how big was it (the Woman Cave has limited space) and (b) how badly was it rusted?

Turned out the size is just about perfect. It does have flaws, of course. Some of the mica in the door, the see-through one that lets you admire the fire, is missing, but mica is cheap. One of the pins for a door (it has two; one on the front and one on an end) is gone, but that's also a simple fix. And, yes, it's looking rather rusty but the S.O. has a sand blaster. When warmer weather approaches, he'll clean it up, we'll get some black stove paint, and the Woman Cave will acquire vaguely more style. 

I had been a little worried about how the new stove would line up with the chimney, such as it is, but turns out the answer is No Problem. 

This is how the stove should look cleaned up, except we don't have the nifty decorative top. 

Wondering if Republican voters will ever realize they're being conned

Believe it or not, this isn't a reference to the recent occupant of the White House who turned grifting into an art form. Nope, I'm thinking along more general lines, the big picture, the decades of self-labeled conservatives who have managed so deftly to get their base so fired up about empty symbolism that said base doesn't realize their representatives aren't doing a thing that actually affects their lives. You know, the right wing base continues to support Congress critters who indulge in bloviating about patriotism and flag waving while those same critters avoid doing substantive things like passing legislation to repair decaying roads or working on other programs that might create jobs or improve Americans' quality of life over all. Or, even worse, their supporters buy the symbolism and fail to notice the bloviating obscures the fact they're actually doing the exact opposite of what they've managed to convince the voters they're doing. You know, talking nonstop about supporting the troops while cutting funding for veterans' services.

What inspired this line of thought was a recent item in my news feed. The newly elected Republican Congress critter from Utah decided it would probably play well with the voters back home if he pushed the Judiciary Committee on which he serves to open each session with the pledge of allegiance. He basically accused the Democrats on the committee as being unpatriotic for not seeing a reason to do so. The fact the House as a whole begins every day when they're in session with the members present reciting the pledge was irrelevant. Apparently saying the pledge is akin with eating Lay's chips. You can't stop at just one. It's kind of like lining up a zillion American flags behind you for photo ops. If one flag is good, a dozen are better.  

There's been a lot of talk (as usual) about various divides. Rural vs. urban, elites vs. the ordinary working stiffs, progressive vs centrist, Trump supporters vs sane people, you name it, dichotomies are everywhere. I've been realizing the real divide is between the bloviators, the dudes who are skilled at talking loud and long about symbols, and the doers, the policy wonks who actually want to have the government accomplish something real occasionally. The right wing has become incredibly skilled at the bloviation part while studiously avoiding any actual action. They wave flags made in China while vowing to keep jobs in this country. They go on at length about being pro-life and protecting the unborn while slashing funding for food programs and health care that would help actual, breathing children.

I will note that it wasn't always this way. There was a time when Republicans were doers, too. And then came Newt Gingrich and the idea that the only goal of any member of the party should be to keep that party in power. Loyalty to the party became more important than loyalty to the country. End result? No matter what gets proposed by the other party, it must be opposed. And if you're opposing everything what to do to distract the voters? Wave a lot of symbols around and bloviate about how patriotic you are. 

I keep wondering if their supporters will ever wake up and realize just how thoroughly they've been conned. The S.O. finally gave up on telling his slightly crazy cousin to wake up and look at the flag-wavers actual voting record -- or lack of one. It's a tad unreal how many Congress critters, both representatives and Senators, play it safe by never introducing any legislation and never casting a vote on anything. You know, if someone keeps telling you that it's a gorgeous day but when you step outside you get smacked with gale force winds and pouring rain you'd figure out pretty fast that someone was full of shit. Oddly enough, though, no matter how often voters get smacked in the face with figurative rain, they never figure out they're collaborating in fucking themselves. 

I have heard that there are people out there who really don't care just how badly they're getting screwed as long as the other party, the dreaded liberals who are out to ruin America, are upset. I'd like to believe people really aren't that stupid, but I'd probably be wrong. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Six more weeks?


Seems a little odd to be predicting possible additional weeks of winter when Real Winter still hasn't gotten here. There isn't much snow on the ground, the snowmobile trails are more dirt than snow, and the predicted high for the day is above freezing. Ski resorts are hurting because even with snow making equipment it's hard to keep the runs in decent shape. For snowmaking to work, you need below freezing temperatures on a consistent basis. Usually the U.P. can count on lake effect snow, but that hasn't been happening. It's even warm in Canada. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

They should have listened to Bobby Jindal


Back when he was still the governor of Louisiana and contemplating running for President, Bobby Jindal opined that the Republican Party needed to stop being stupid. At about the same time another Republican who used to be relatively sane -- Lindsey Graham maybe? -- noted that thanks to changes in demographics sooner or later they were going to run out of their natural constituency, i.e., old white guys. The party needed to broaden its appeal.

And then along came The Donald. The Donald had a very narrow message, one that coincidentally was neatly crafted to appeal to what might accurately described as the dumbest slice of the U.S. populace: poorly educated bigots. You lost your job because the corporation that employed you decided to outsource the work to a sweatshop in Vietnam? Well, it has to be the fault of undocumented aliens, the brown people picking strawberries on the other side of the country. Then through a combination of factors, like Hillary Clinton running one of the worst campaigns of all time and the historical artefact that is the electoral college, Trump managed to win despite losing the popular vote by quite a few million votes. It was clear in 2016 that the majority of Americans did not like Trump. His supporters are fervent but they're a distinct minority in the country as a whole. 

It was even more clear last year that Trump's base was a minority. Although the Republicans managed to regain a few seats in the House of Representatives, they lost their majority in the Senate. Trump campaigned vigorously for the Georgia senate candidates, but instead of his support helping them, it had the opposite result. 

And then there's the effect of The Donald refusing to concede that he lost the election. Instead he persists in talking about nonexistent fraud and encouraging the craziest, the least tightly wrapped of his followers to keep on believing bizarre conspiracy theories. Instead of disavowing the looniest of the MAGAts, he talks about what fine people they are. The truly delusional ones are thrilled and keep right on sending Trump money; the saner ones are bolting from the Party. Voters are changing their registrations from Republican to unaffiliated or worse (Democratic). Wealthy donors are backing away, corporations are saying nope, not going to finance a party that was okay with a riot in the Capitol. At this point the rational, smart thing to do would be to take advantage of the Democrat's impeachment effort and use it to defang The Donald. Find the man guilty and punish him by saying he can't ever hold an elected office again.

Instead what we see are leaders in the Republican Party still sucking up to Trump. Granted, some of the folks who still support Trump are billionaires who shovel tons of money to the GOP, but getting a ton of money from the Mercers isn't going to help much when the number of people willing to vote for Trump-endorsed candidates is shrinking. Instead of broadening the GOP's appeal, they're working hard at narrowing it. 

Look at a map, dudes. The majority of the rural counties in the country might be red, but they're populated by cows. Cows don't vote. Every ten years when redistricting happens, the rural districts grow geographically bigger but yield less political power because there are fewer rural districts overall. There is a distinct limit on how many miracles even a hard-core Republic state legislature can pull off as urban populations expand and cow country loses people. Even a genius at gerrymandering can only do so much. 

My S.O. likes to say he looks forward to the Republicans becoming the Whigs of the 21st century. At the rate at which they're working on self-destructing, he might get his wish. (For you non-history buffs, the Whigs were the party of William Henry Harrison, elected as 9th president of the United States in 1840, but then destroyed themselves in the 1850's by splintering into different factions.)