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Obstructionist Husband

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I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, offer applicable only in certain countries. [Nov. 26th, 2016|11:26 am]
Obstructionist Husband
My wife worked Saturday/Sunday, thus had to sleep Monday, but I was able to keep the dog from disturbing her so we left home (after watching the latest episode of HBO's Westworld) around 4pm. We stopped in Las Cruces for a small dinner (salmon salad and hummus!) and got to Phoenix around 3am. Russet drove the entire way! We listened to a podcast or two and part of an audiobook and then she wanted nothing and cogitated the remainder of the way, plotting for the stories that she's working on for Yuletide.

I was quite bummed and in a bad emotional state -- my dad was in the hospital, taken to the ER earlier Monday morning. Side-effects from industrial-stregth pain killers. I'd tried getting him signed up so he could get medical marijuana, but he didn't want to pay $150 for the permit. I'm hoping he'll change his toon. But I'll talk more about that in another post. We'll leave that with him getting out of the hospital late Wednesday afternoon, he's been home since and resting/watching TV/catching up on email and sending out crap.

We originally had plans to go to a local restaurant for dinner. They had a special for $161 that gave you a full bird, all the fixings, and a pie. AND you took ALL leftovers home with you! I naively thought that since they were oriented towards sending things home with you that you could get the whole thing to do. Silly me. We cancelled the reservation, Mom pulled a brisket out of the freezer, I picked up two pies from Village Inn (country apple and a chocolate peanut butter) and my wife and I made sides: butternut squash soup, orange-scented green beans, German potato salad, and glazed carrots (made with butter and gingerale!)

Everything was quite good, though my brother just fixed a plate of meat and potatoes and went out back to his shop, probably to talk on his phone or watch videos through it. He's becoming quite a curmudgeon.

My two oldest nieces have jobs hostessing at restaurants and had to work all day, my sister and youngest niece had plans to go to California for the weekend. My sister needs a break: she found out her husband has been sexting girls half his age, so a divorce is in progress.

We didn't do any Black Friday mob fighting, though I did buy a new pair of shoes and a low-end graphics card for one of my PCs. My iMac died the final death and I'm having to fall back on a pair of older Dell GX960s running Windows. Fortunately I got a license for Windows 7 Pro, which lets me use more memory. The graphics card will help quite a bit.

So LOTS of good grub! The carrots were excellent, the soup was chilled, the potatoes biting, and the brisket moist.

We'll be heading home Tuesday night or Wednesday (most likely another night drive through the Caucuses), Russet is working this weekend and we don't have a huge supply of food for the poodle. Friday night we had excellent pizza with friends (they kept threatening to take us out for dinner for me slipping them copies of Ash vs Evil Dead, and now helping Karyn with a web design/HTML coding class) and we plundered Trader Joes a bit. Sadly the ginger/mango crisps are no more, but they have a pistachio/pomegranate crisp that we bought and a fig/date that we did not as I don't care for dates or figs. It was sort of a preliminary plunder run to get munchies for now, we'll do a full plunder run probably Monday or Tuesday: we brought the big ice chest as we drove the Outback and had the room for it.

I would like to be with my parents for Christmas, but that's not going to happen. Russet is working both Christmas and New Year's Eve with a break inbetween, which means lots of opportunity for yummy cooking and games! And maybe some snow photography, there's no telling what the weather will be like then. We'll be doing a somewhat traditional Christmas dinner, perhaps with a turducken, and I'm planning on doing a taco bar for NYE! Should be a lot of fun, though unfortunately two of my favorite gaming astronomers are going to be away for both holidays.
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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them [Nov. 18th, 2016|01:19 am]
Obstructionist Husband

We got home about an hour ago from seeing a Thursday sneak, and it was quite good. It was a nice departure from the Potter series because it was not based on YA material. I enjoyed the Potter series, both movies and books, but they hold little re-view/read value for me. Fantastic Beasts, on the other hand, I liked quite a bit more. And fortunately my wife is a major Potter geek and she was able to fill in the things that I didn't recall precisely.

Casting was excellent, as were the production values, though there were a couple of shots that felt a little distorted to me. We were on the far right edge: I'll definitely see it again, and this time I'll sit more in the center and see if it still feels distorted to me. The depiction of NYC felt very good for a mid-1924 setting, and it was fantastic seeing the different way that the American magic organization differs from England's. We don't see the American equivalent of Hogwarts, at least in this film, perhaps it'll be seen later.

Apparently it is currently being planned as a five movie arc to be released every other year, which means they have to be in pre-production for #2 right now and the stars traveling promoting the movie will probably be back to work within a couple of months to get the next one out.

My wife felt that a couple of songs in the movie had a very 'Rowlingesque' feel to them, I can't really comment on that. We were speculating how much input Rowling had: she's listed as an Executive Producer, and clearly had a large amount of control over script production, but I'm sure they had someone capable of overriding her who was more of an expert in the art and science of film production.

Oh, and the opening did a fantastic job of framing the movie. I'm looking forward to getting it on DVD to freeze-frame it and see what else I can gleen.

Definitely recommended if you liked the Potter series of books and movies. I think it's a good film in its own regard, I also think that you could take someone who doesn't know boo about Potter, sit them down in front of this one, and they'd enjoy it.
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One of these days, Mac! POW! Right in the kisser! [Nov. 17th, 2016|08:22 pm]
Obstructionist Husband

My iMac died.


It's had a bad display for probably around a year now, and at $800 for a new LCD, it just isn't worth it. For 50-75% more, I can get a new(er) refurb model from Apple. Well, last weekend it crashed BIG TIME. It got in to a reboot loop, and since I don't have a wired Apple keyboard, I can't do the suggested trouble-shooting things.

I rebooted it in verbose mode, and I saw a fleeting error that could indicate a hard drive problem, which would suck because I had the drive replaced during the summer. So Monday I get to shlep it to Phoenix to take it to my repair guy: if the drive failed, they'll replace it. If it's more serious, then I guess it's time for it to go away. I guess I might be able to sell it to the repair guys for parts, after they give me back the few months old HD.

That leaves me with my MacBook Pro laptop, which is working OK. But it's not a desktop, and I need a desktop. So I dug out my two Dell desktops that I bought in January. The school that I worked for buys all their computers from an outfit that refurbs older Dells (and other brands) and sells them at pretty good discounts. They had a special, two desktops for $200 with Win 7 Pro. And when my monitor on the iMac started going bad, I bought a 28" Viewsonic. Its colors aren't as good as an iMac's, obviously, but it was fairly inexpensive.

And I left the power cable in Phoenix at a friend's house. And she can't find it.

And the bastards at Viewsonic don't use a standard power cable for this model! It's called a Mickey Mouse connector. So a new cable had to be ordered and should arrive tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I've been using a 15" CRT display! It's an amazing culture shock to go from a 27" iMac to Windows 10 on a 15" SVGA monitor. Even my 15" laptop has higher resolution!
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Just gutted. [Nov. 9th, 2016|07:58 am]
Obstructionist Husband

My wife was sobbing last night and had to take meds to get to sleep. Her job relies on university education being funded. So that's in jeopardy. My life literally depends on medication: I have an immune disorder and require weekly infusions of immuneglobin. So that's in jeopardy if The Supreme Trump guts the Affordable Care Act, as promised. Foreign stock and currency markets took an immediate hit last night when it became obvious that The Supreme Trump was going to win, even worse than when Brexit passed. Very bad. YUUUGE deal.

And the United States of America is revealed to be the most racist and misogynistic country in the world. To channel the late and still very great Robin Williams, 'South Africa called this morning and said 'You've really got to tone that shit down!''

My best friend emailed last night and said "I have no doubt that if the Republicans win the White House this night, that thousands of women across this country will be raped and beaten in celebration of that win." My wife fears that there will not be another woman nominated for the presidency in our lifetime. She said last night 'So do we stop reading the news for the next four years?' Without insurance, my meds could easily run $4,000 a month. EVERY month for the rest of my life. Theoretically Blue Cross cannot make a change to the coverage until it comes up for renewal next June. The Affordable Care Act is the only thing that gave us the chance to look for jobs elsewhere because of the portability and no preexisting condition clauses. Thus, the Democrats losing the election last night might literally kill me.

Time will tell what happens.
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Final thoughts on this rather putrid election cycle [Nov. 8th, 2016|09:18 am]
Obstructionist Husband
My wife and I voted two weeks ago, and today we are running away to El Paso. Russet's new MacBook Pro has a faulty return key, and that needs to be fixed. And we have some other targeted retail therapy that we need to engage in. Sadly, a movie is probably not possible as she has a phone con at 9pm that we need to be back for.

Anyway, the election.

Regardless of who wins, it is probably not the end of the world. Many people have said that in private, Donald Trump is nothing like his public campaign persona. Maybe that's true, the problem is that it is the only persona that 99% of the public have seen. And even if I accept that, over the weekend I read a Forbes article where the reporter talked about meeting Trump and family about ten years ago for a video shoot, and he acted like a total plutocrat. The people there for the shoot had no opinion worth his consideration, he wouldn't even exchange handshakes and pleasantries with them. This reinforces the public campaign persona perception that he is as he appears to be.

But let's dismiss that. We'll also dismiss dismiss the wall, sexism, racism, incitement to violence at rallies, and hatred of the press and the freedom they should embody and exercise. At the same time, we'll dismiss emails, Benghazi, Whitewater, deplorables. Many investigations, but no convictions -- gone from consideration.

I'm reducing the election down to the two main candidates. They're about the same age, opposite genders. One started with a huge amount of money, and as far as we know, has about the same amount. He's spent his entire life constructing buildings and smearing his name across them all. There's no evidence that he's ever seriously contributed his own money to charity or done much to support those in dire straits. Maybe he's so private that there's no way we could trace the millions that he's given to charities, but we'll never know. Considering the way his name is plastered all over the place, I really can't see him doing something secretively good and humble.

His opponent comes from very humble middle class background. She got a law degree, worked as a public defender, spent pretty much her entire life working for non-profits and government, trying to do something good. And frequently succeeding.

One person has spent their life working for the government, the other working for profit. I have spent most of my working life in government, I've also worked in the for-profit commercial/retail sector. Government does not work like non-government. You cannot rule by fiat, you have to work within laws and regulations. You have to make your budget work or hit your rainy day fund, in the private sector your budget is much more flexible.

But it's the motivation between the two that interests me. Can someone Make America Great Again when the stock market for the last eight years has been outperforming the previous eight years? Unemployment has been shrinking, albeit slower than we might like. The overall indicators are that America is a pretty great country, although probably the only things that we're truly number one in are the size of our military and our prison population. But we're pretty good, otherwise most foreign governments wouldn't buy American government securities. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Why does a country like this have so many children getting free or subsidized school breakfasts and lunch? Meanwhile, we have some of the poorest performing high school graduates in the world. Why do we have among the slowest internet access in the world and pay the most for it?

There's LOTS of room for improvement, but we're still a fairly great country. And it's impossible for a single country to be the best at everything: there's always compromises that must be made.

The result of the election is that it's going to be a mess. This morning, a friend sent me a text message that said "My greatest fear is that today, someone will win the election." Regardless of who wins, approximately half the country is going to feel alienated and possibly antagonistic. And one candidate has been a whiny little bitch, claiming in advance that the election is rigged while he won most primary elections. I'm not quite sure how that parses. So if he loses, the election was rigged against him. But if he wins, that means the election was rigged for him.


My expectation is that after today there will be states that will require recounts, and unless it's a landslide for one candidate or the other, we won't really know anything until the Electoral College convenes in one month. I also expect there to be law suits challenging results. In other words, a royal shit soup.

I hope Hillary wins. I hope she wins by a huge landslide and absolutely buries Trump and his brand. And we'll survive four or eight years of her presidency. There will be ups and downs. And if Trump wins? We'll probably survive it. We survived 8 years of Dubya and 12 years of Reagan/Bush, we'll survive. Regardless of how he appears, he is not an idiot, but he is hugely arrogant and I don't think he's as smart as he thinks he is. Neither candidate will have a fully-cooperative Congress, witness Republican Senators proclaiming right now that they will never approve a Supreme Court Justice nominated by Hillary. That is a perfect illustration of how broken our political process is. They think Trump nominees will be better?


My expectation of a Trump presidency is that he would tank the economy through his alleged tax reform and ruin the health care insurance system, which is critical in me remaining alive. And I don't think he would serve a second term. But that's speculation. My expectation of a Hillary presidency is not a huge amount of improvement in the economy, perhaps some improvement in the Affordable Care Act, and some movement towards rational gun regulation and campaign finance reform.

What will we see? We'll begin getting some clues, starting tomorrow.
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Some thoughts on what the American political process has become [Oct. 16th, 2016|11:03 am]
Obstructionist Husband
Politics in this country has become a zero-sum game: it's not enough that I win, but you MUST lose, and big-time. We've developed scorched-earth standards for what should be reasoned discourse. It used to be that in a negotiation that both sides should NOT come away with everything that they wanted, that there had to be give and take. Neither party should be 100% satisfied, nor should either party be 100% dissatisfied. And this makes it nigh impossible for political parties to cooperate to get things done. They can only work their agenda, and if they have to work on the opposition's agenda, then they must slip as many of their little stuff in the bill as possible.

People now seem to be incapable of holding two conflicting thoughts in their head and acknowledging that the arguments of the other side may have merit.

I blame clowns like Trump, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the T.E.A. Party, the "Moral Majority" and all their evil spawn, etc. Basically the counter-factual people who were given far too much voice, and thus power, in the national media. Did you know that the Tea Party is an acronym? It stands for Taxed Enough Already. Do they acknowledge that other nations tax their people at higher rates? Of course not, it would be against their narrative. The difference is that in those countries the government actually provides good service to their people with that money and everyone lives a little better and easier and more peacefully.

A documentary film maker went to a Tea Party rally in New Jersey on the Shore just after that hurricane hit a few years ago. She asked them "What do you want?" Answer: "Smaller government! Lower taxes!" So should we cut back on Defense? NO! Cut back on Education? NO! Medicare and Social Security? NO! Foreign development? NO! Veteran's Benefits? NO! The truth is that we don't have absolute control over what the taxes that we pay are used for. If we did, I would dial down the amount of my money that goes to Defense by probably 90% and increase it by a similar amount to social and medical services. But we can't do that. We are a representative democratic republic: a nation of laws where everyone (except the disenfranchised, which is another story) gets a vote, and thus a say in how government money is spent. EVERYONE benefits from some government services, but not necessarily the same ones that you get or want. So you feel put out that they get some of your money that you don't get back. But at the same time, you probably get some services that they don't. For the first time in my 35+ year working career, I'm applying for unemployment benefits. And I hate doing it, but the extra money would be very useful. Me losing my job unexpectedly, plus an equally unexpected $4,000 tax bill earlier this year, made us a paycheck-to-paycheck family. And that sucks. And I've paid in to that fund for my entire work life, so now I'll get some benefit from that.

There is a famous New York politician, not Quomo, maybe Bloomberg, who famously said on television "When I was on unemployment benefits and food stamps, where was the government to help me?" And he said it with a straight face.

The RNC want a time machine that will take the country back to a mythical '50s era, and that isn't going to happen. We move forward in time at a rate of one second per second. That era doesn't exist and never truly did. There were gay people in the '50s, there were drug users and abusers, there were people having extra-marital affairs, there was child and parent abuse, there were any number of things that some people would like to just not think about and stick their fingers in their ears and go LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.

Trump wants to Make America Great Again, a campaign slogan that he lifted from Reagan/Bush, in an announcement where he paid actors to make up a cheering crowd. America is a great country. Period. We're not #1 in anything except military strength, which is not what I'd like to see. He wants manufacturing jobs to come back. The problem is that those jobs started leaving 30 years ago during Saint Reagan's rule. And while many manufacturing jobs have come back to this country, with increases in automation they will never employ as many people in a steel mill or automobile plant as were needed 30 years ago. Those jobs are gone FOREVER, unless you want a Luddite Sabotage revolution destroying computers everywhere. That would work well.

Speaking of the military, obviously the military makes a lot of stupid budget requests for systems that they may or may not need. We all work from imperfect information, so we don't know the full details, we have to accept the information fed to us and research it further if we want more details. But sometimes Congress is the culprit. For example, the Army keeps getting M-1 Abrams battle tanks. And as the new tanks arrive, they are shipped off to a bone yard in the California desert. They have more than they need, including spare parts, but Congress keeps building them because the factories are in someone's district and their lobbyists are very good. The F-35 debacle of an airplane was very cleverly done: the prime contractor put plants in every major Congressional district, so that terminating the plane would directly hit jobs in a number of different districts. Good way to keep a contract alive!

We, as a nation, are screwed. If somehow Trump wins, we'll have four years of a capricious, reality-denying, megalomaniac (possibly sociopath). We can hope that Congress could put the brakes on any legislative agenda that he might hatch, but who knows what Congress will do. The President can do a lot by fiat and can easily destroy relationships with other countries. He may or may not be able to declare war: technically the Constitution (a useful document, much ignored by the Republican candidate) requires the consent of Congress to declare war, but the way Congress granted carte blanche to Bush 2, there's no telling what kind of a mess Trump could get us in. If Hillary gets elected, we'll have the Trump supporters screaming and parroting the Trump line that the election was rigged. A survey of Trump supporters a month or so ago showed that only 12% believed that if Hillary is elected that it would be a fair election. And Trump has further egged them on with lines like "You Second Amendment people have ways of dealing with that", which is a flat-out call for armed insurrection.

We are screwed.

We are just over three weeks from the election, and while there's no doubt that Hillary is ascending, there is still a non-zero chance that Trump could win. The Republicans pulled off something in the 2008/2010 elections called Operation Redmap. In doing so, in addition to taking control of many state legislative houses, they gerrymandered voting districts in to such convoluted geometric shapes as to all but guarantee control of the United States House of Representatives for the next decade. And the Democratic party has shown little effort in trying to put a similar strategy in to play to try to kick out the Republicans and try to bring some sanity back in to district boundaries. So we may be screwed for another decade. The reason why 2010 and 2020 are so important is because that is when the national census takes place and districts are redrawn to account for population changes. The districts are so skewed that there were states that voted 3 to 1 for Obama in the popular vote yet the state went to Romney. It's a true perversion of American politics, and the Republicans are proud that they get to cram their ideology down everyone's throats. Yes, the Democratic party has done similar things in the past, but never to this scale. Meanwhile, a conservative congress has cut the funding to election commissions and the Supreme Court has unlocked unfathomable money to flow in to election funding.

We are so screwed.

So there, in my ever so humble opinion, you have it. I needed to vent, long-form. A friend of mine wrote this morning that she is afraid that everything she writes in email (she has no other social media presence) will be used against her if Trump gets elected. I just hope that doesn't happen. And I apologise in advance for the lack of a cut to hide some of this, I don't remember the code off-hand.
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Getting up yeserday was interesting [Sep. 29th, 2016|02:05 pm]
Obstructionist Husband
I have a history of sleepwalking. No big deal, it happened a fair amount as a kid and not much as an adult. Nowadays I may wake up wearing/not wearing a t-shirt that I wasn't/was wearing when I went to bed. No big deal.

Yesterday was interesting. I woke up wearing my watch. On my left wrist. Right off the bat this was weird because I always take my watch off when I go to bed. On top of that, most people who wear a watch wear it on their opposite hand, and I always wear mine on my right wrist. And my watch currently has a metal band and my left hand is larger than my right, so I had to wriggle it on and secure the clasp, while remaining deep asleep.

Weird. I blame it on Trump. At first I suspected the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but they lack motive.

(name the movie the previous sentence came from for bonus points)
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"The Google just came out"??! [Sep. 29th, 2016|10:54 am]
Obstructionist Husband

"The Google just came out, and it was the first big post-debate poll, and we're doing very well."
—Donald Trump

I've never understood Trump's linguistic ability. I've heard analysts say that he speaks at a 5th or 6th grade level, that seems optimistic to me.

But what do I know.

I've also heard that people who really know him but aren't employed by him say that there are two Donald Trumps, and the one that we see running for President is not the real Trump. I'm not sure what to think about that one.

My wife and I watched the debate Monday night, it was rather strange. I would say that Hillary smiled too much, but I don't consider that a problem. Trump did not look well, and his constant snorting and occasional coughs made me wonder if he was (A) sick or (B) a cocaine user. Considering he claims that he gets by on three hours of sleep a night, maybe B?

Online polls, which have no statistical rigor applied and are easily manipulated by bots, show Trump winning the debate. The polls conducted by professional polling companies show Clinton winning the debate, usually by 10-30%. So whatever. But what I did find amusing was The Donald calling in to a Fox show saying 'Even the CBS poll had me winning!' Which is quite amusing considering that CBS did not conduct a poll.

Personally I think we're screwed regardless of which candidate wins. If Trump wins, I think we'll see cronyism like never before and the USA will sink like a stone in terms of the respect of the rest of the world. If Clinton wins, upwards of 90% of Trump supporters believe that the election will be rigged, which will make for a large number of very angry people. So we're screwed either way.
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Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk -- This Saturday, October 1! [Sep. 28th, 2016|01:13 pm]
Obstructionist Husband

This is a really cool event for anyone interested in photography. It doesn't matter how good your equipment is, I've seen lots of people with cell phone cameras and point and shoots, in addition to $3,000 Nikons and Canons. It's an opportunity to walk around an area that you may not have been to before with people also interested in photography, it gives you an opportunity to expand how you view the world.

It is truly world-wide. Enter your city name, or where you want to go, and everything is pinned via Google Maps. And it's free, though donations are appreciated and t-shirts are available that support the charity of the year.

This will be my third year doing it, and this year I'm going to Las Cruces instead of El Paso. I'm looking forward to it.

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I got to see Blazing Saddles in a movie theater tonight! [Sep. 10th, 2016|01:27 am]
Obstructionist Husband

I didn't see it during its original run in 1974 as I was all of 12 years old or so, and my parents weren't huge movie goers, but I have managed to see it on big screens on a couple of occasions. And tonight was great. They were showing a double-feature of BS and Willy Wonka, so clearly some sort of Gene Wilder tribute. This particular theater chain, Harkins, is a reliable source of foreign and art house films. I remember seeing Akira Kurosawa's Dreams at it when it was first released. I also got to see The Big Lebowski a few years ago at one of their theaters, that was quite a treat.

Blazing Saddles is such an amazing movie with so many wonderful stories behind it, it was a genuine treat to see it again on a big screen. It was sad that the house wasn't packed, but I guess that's to be expected for a 40 year old movie that isn't something like Casablanca. It did an amazing job of ridiculing many forms of racism, and there is no way a film like this could ever be made today.

But we don't need a film like this to be made today: we have Blazing Saddles, and its message is perfectly clear.
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