Tuesday, August 16, 2022

So what's new at the museum, you ask?

Well, no one is actually asking but I'm answering anyway. 

We're living in exciting times. I was finally able to erase one of the "action items" off the list on the white board in the office. Number one for the past several years has been "flagpole." A few seasons back one of the flag clips broke. We bought new clips and then discovered the method of fastening the clips to the lanyard was a tad fucked up. The lanyard is a metal cable; the clips were clumsily safety wired in place. I brilliantly figured out there had to be a better way of doing stuff. 

At about the same time, it struck me that the flagpole didn't look real good. The dominant color for the metal pipe was rust. So the museum manager made an executive decision that we wouldn't settle for just safety wiring a new clip in place: we would paint the pole and replace at least one of the pulleys that was twisted in an odd way. Flagpole went on to the action items list. Time marched on. 

Tank float or finial? Inquiring minds want to know.
At some point we noticed a strange object on the ground near the flagpole. The wind (which down in Baraga blows more or less constantly) had managed to dislodge the finial from the top of the pole. After first doing a 'holy wah, what a clever hack' when it sank in just what the finial had been, new finial got added to the flagpole's refurbishment supply list. I toyed briefly with going looking for a new copper toilet tank float, but then remembered the eagle in the storage building. If the wind had managed to dislodge the original tank float finial, sooner or later it would blow an equally lightweight replacement off the pole. Granted, the original hung in there for over 20 years, but still . . . The eagle, which appeared to be solid cast iron, was definitely not lightweight. If there is ever a wind strong enough to blow that eagle off, it will mean the museum is probably gone, too. 

Where the cast iron eagle came from to begin with is another one of those unknown provenance cases that the museum is rife with.We have absolutely no clue where the thing originated. The bird weighed a ton (well, at least 10 pounds, possibly 20), had peeling gray paint, and was mounted on a broken cast iron base. After I remembered the bird existed the S.O. removed the base, figured out what size pipe was needed to fit neatly inside the flagpole, and then tack welded the eagle to an appropriately sized 3-inch nipple. (And exactly why are short chunks of threaded pipe referred to as nipples? It's a gendered part because both ends are threaded as male, so why is it a nipple? Why isn't it a dick?) The eagle turned out to be perfectly proportioned for perching on the pole:not too big, not too small.

Long before we figured out the eagle would be the perfect finial, I started spritzing penetrating oil on the nuts on the bolts on the base for the flagpole on a regular basis. That can of penetrating oil lasted a remarkably long time, through at least three summers, and it's not empty yet. I figured penetrating oil was a good idea because the bolts, nuts, and washers had had a couple decades to rust solid in. Turned out it wasn't that bad. When the time finally came to remove the bolts, the nuts came loose without much effort. 

The flagpole is set up in what is probably the classic fashion: two very solid supporting metal posts on either side of the metal flag pole; a couple of long bolts going through all three. If we pulled the bottom bolt, the pole would pivot and we would paint it and fix the lanyard pulleys. The trick was just going to be lining up some muscle to pivot the pole: it's got to be twenty feet long, maybe longer, and is an iron pipe about 3 inches in diameter. It has, to say the least, a fair amount of mass. 

We got the muscle in July. That's when we discovered that whoever set up that flagpole was determined it wouldn't go anywhere. In addition to the two very obvious bolts, it turned out there was a third one at ground level that didn't show until we got the middle bolt out and nothing was happening. I tend to view that as overkill but it's also typical of the museum: the things that don't matter were over-engineered; the ones that count are half-ass or worse. (One of these days I'll do a rant about the wiring: the open junction boxes, switches that don't control anything, and the ceiling fans that can only be controlled by turning a circuit breaker on or off.) 

So now the flagpole is back in position, We painted the pole silver and jazzed up the eagle with gold so the pole is looking good. We can start flying an American flag again and hope that the spotlight on the side of the building really does illuminate the flag after the sun goes down.. The only question left is just how long the current flag will last. The same wind that rips toilet tank floats off the top of flag poles does a remarkably efficient job of shredding fabric.

Monday, August 8, 2022

When are we going to stop wasting our time?

The S.O. and I made a classic mistake (for us) last night. We decided to watch Real Time with Bill Maher. Once again we found ourselves being relieved we don't actually pay for HBO -- the S.O. has become quite adept at figuring out how to stream stuff free that is supposedly only available by subscription so the only cost was to our time. 

Maher really has crossed pretty far over the line into old-man-ranting-at-clouds-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn ridiculous geezer territory. Some of the shit that emerges from his mouth definitely falls into the totally out of touch moron category, some is flat out stupid, and some is. . . I don't know. Bizarre? I mean, one of the weirder things Maher did in his latest show was disagree with the idea that good comedy should punch up, not down. You know, have the balls to make people in power wince instead of attacking folks already being shit on by society. This was in reference to Dave Chappelle getting chastised for doing exactly that: punching down with transphobic jokes.

Of course, Maher himself is pretty transphobic. He's right there with the TERFs in saying that if you emerged into the world with a dick instead of a clit you can never be a "real" woman. He's jumped right on the right-wing bandwagon that is pushing for doing actual genital checks of female high school athletes to make sure the girls are really girls. Unreal. Why don't these concern trolls ever talk about doing similar checks in boys' locker rooms to make sure everyone claiming to be a dude actually has a penis? (Obvious answer: because the middle-aged male perverts who come up with these ideas have no interest in seeing dicks; they want an excuse to sexually abuse adolescent girls.) 

And then there's Maher's pet obsession. The man really hates fat people. All the troubles in the world apparently can be blamed on obesity. He does say some remarkably dumb stuff when it comes to obesity, like saying there are no fat 90-year-olds. Obviously, he's never worked in a nursing home. Hoyer lifts exist for a reason. There are a lot of nurse aides out there who suffer from bad backs because they've had to work with incredibly hefty old people. If your genetics want you to pack on poundage, it's damn hard not to even when you've lost most control over what you're fed.

Sometimes the people on the panel can make up for the fact that Bill Maher is a shit. Some pretty smart and witty people are still willing to go on his show. Unfortunately, this latest episode wasn't one of those nights. Matt Taibbi used to fall into the smart and witty category but last night he just wanted to do his pet rant about internet censorship. Lis Smith, also a smart person, fell into the same trap of just wanting to rant about one thing. And then there was Maher, who for some reason seemed to view Pete Buttigieg* as endangering the Democratic Party's mid-term election chances by being too openly, happily normal while gay. So basically the audience got treated to three separate monologues. Taibbi would do a couple sentences on his pet theme, Smith would talk about abortion being on the ballot in November (which it isn't, at least not in a literal sense), and Maher would shout at clouds.  

One of these years, maybe we'll learn. . .

*Speaking of Buttigieg, he's changed his residency to Michigan. I am going to be vaguely hopeful that one of these days he'll run for either Governor or Senator. He's smart, he's personable, and he manages to tell unpleasant truths in a way that doesn't piss most people off. Senator Stabenow is 72 now and has been in the Senate for over 20 years; she needs to concede that she's earned a rocking chair and retire gracefully. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

It was finally our turn

For the past couple of years we've been able to say No when asked about COVID: no personal infections, no contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID. There was always several degrees of separation between us and people we sort of knew who did get sick: you know, friends of friends of friends, people we used to see occasionally but haven't moved in the same circles with in years. That changed this week. 

Am I allowed to complain that it's been remarkably anti-climactic? Nine days ago we went to a small, belated birthday party at a cousin's summer cottage. There were only 9 people there, the S.O. and myself included. As of today, so far as I know, SARS-COV-2 has zapped maybe six of us, five for sure. Every person there has taken COVID seriously: vaccinations, boosters, masking, avoiding large public gatherings, the usual life in the plague years behavior. The virus slithered into our small circle anyway. The S.O.'s cousin messaged him Tuesday to say that four of the people at the cottage had positive rapid test results. The S.O. told me that he'd felt all day like he was coming down with a head cold so he dug out the box of rapid tests a generous government sent us several months ago. His test result? Positive. So I swabbed my nostrils, too. Good news, at least that day, for me: Negative.  

The S.O. turned into a snot mass production facility -- he went through an amazing amount of Kleenex in one evening -- and called his PCP at the V.A. clinic Wednesday morning. She emailed a prescription for Paxlovid to the closest pharmacy; I picked it up Wednesday afternoon. He took the first set of pills and, maybe it was a placebo effect, but snot production slowed rather quickly. He's basically back to normal now -- or as normal as he ever gets. I felt fine but kept testing, kept coming up negative. Then we ran out of rapid tests. 

Naturally, that's when I got sick. Felt fine most of the day then got hit in late afternoon with a massive wave of fatigue coupled with a vaguely feverish feeling and a whole lot of body aches. Crawled upstairs, napped, stumbled downstairs, checked my temperature (101), and mumbled a lot about bad timing: getting sick on a Friday afternoon is not ideal, especially when we'd used all the rapid test kits in the house. I decided that, well, I'll suck it up and if I'm sicker in the morning we'll drag my aching body to urgent care. I must not have been taking it all too seriously because I didn't bother telling the S.O. to call an ambulance if he noticed me turning blue in my sleep.

Except in the morning I wasn't sicker. Felt a little stuffed up and a little more tired than usual, but no fever, no aching. And that was it. It's like I just experienced the world's shortest case of the flu. Okay, I know there's no way to know if it was/is actually COVID (I am not curious enough to do the 45 mile drive to Walgreen to pick up test kits). If it was, the brevity of the feeling like shit must be a good sign the vaccinations worked. If it wasn't, maybe it was a new personal record in getting over a summer cold.

I am vaguely disappointed things didn't turn more dramatic, although I'm not sure why. The appropriate feeling should be relief. Life is strange.