A political recap of the 21st century

I chanced upon a particularly interesting item, recently, by one Thomas E. Ricks, published at Politico. Entitled “Why Am I Moving Left?”, the author muses on how it should be that he finds himself “moving steadily leftward” in successful middle age.

It struck a chord with me because his eight-point summary of, one might say, “How I Learned to Start Worrying and Turn Leftist,” reads very much like a recap of my own political reevaluations since adolescence.

As recently as 15 years ago, I still considered myself more or less a conservative Republican. Today, I’m a self-employed professional and at least modestly successful. Yet I would have to say that I am very liberal by typical American standards, and about as likely to vote Republican as I am to get my eyeballs replaced with cherry tomatoes; how does this add up? Mostly, the things on Mr. Ricks’s list. More than a dozen years of basically constant spying, torture and murder by the military-surveillance complex, with little substantive dissent from elected officials of either major party, has been a disturbing but persuasive argument for its dismantling. Likewise the concentration of more and more money in fewer hands, and the growing corruption and arrogance of elites in business and politics alike.

All in all his list offers a close and eloquent summary of my own. I can’t say that gun violence would make my own personal list of warning signs; I absolutely support gun-control measures, but as a danger I think that being shot by an armed nut is (rather like that of terrorism) much exaggerated by emotional reactions relative to its real statistical threat. (I’m also skeptical of how much can be accomplished in a vast nation with about a zillion guns already in circulation and a large number of people fanatically devoted to keeping them.)

I would probably add one or two further reasons, meanwhile, in a list of my own.* Read More →

Lost and Found Files of Sherlock Holmes

I have been accumulating comic books for nigh on a quarter-century, at this point. Strangely, though, it occurs to me today that while I generally think of “my comic book collection,” it may be that I’ve never really approached its assembly as collecting, per se. I’ve rarely emphasized completion for its own sake, and I’ve also felt very little instinct to show off my holdings… It was this latter point that really got me thinking about what makes a collection vs not, because I’ve realized that by contrast I do like the idea of showing off my nascent Sherlock Holmes collection a bit.

Sherlock Holmes book and two video games

Items 39-41

I think this could well be a semi-regular topic for this blog, in fact. We’ll see. For now, my three most recent acquisitions.

Read More →

New hat! New hat!

Same hat! Same hat! No, wait, it really is a new hat:

Me in Panama hat.

Yes, this is me. Hi.

I received this lovely new Panama hat for my upcoming birthday. Just the thing for summertime and a balding man who feels some small desire to raise the bar sartorially, at least personally, above logo shirts and ballcaps. (At least, on those rare occasions when I go outside.)

Same old me, though.

Bad Politics Depends on Bad Voting

I can't recall where I found this, but tl:dr answer is "get out a pencil and draw another option."

I can’t recall where I found this, but tl:dr answer is “get out a pencil and draw another option.”

Yesterday, a friend asked me this question about voting:

So, if you reject the ‘lesser of 2 bought and paid for evils,’ what do you do?”

I admit this seems somehow fake, at least to me; even with the context that led to it, the innocence of this question took me by surprise. But I assure you that this is a direct quote. I suppose that even in this day and age, not everyone keeps his or her mask of cynicism up all the time, and occasionally someone will still ask an honest philosophical question that isn’t accompanied by sneering or part of a set-up etc.

This was my answer(1):

First of all, per the old saying “I wouldn’t start from here,” I advise not beginning at the general election ballot. We have a sort-of-kind-of run-off system in America, via primaries, though this system is to a proper run-off system kind of what the ACA is to single-payer.(2) But it’s what we have, and more people should take part in it rather than just waiting until November to consider who “they” chose for you.(3)

Second, if (and often when) primaries result in both major parties running bought-and-paid-for pod people anyway, look down-ballot. There is often at least some alternative.(4) If there isn’t… or if all of them appear genuinely as bad or worse than tweedle-D and tweedle-R… well, go fish. Many times life is, indeed, a menu of only bad options… but it still isn’t as narrow a menu, as frequently, as most people take for granted.

Elaborating on a few points… Read More →

Popcorn

A few months ago I made popcorn all by myself, and I’m still proud of what I accomplished.

Yes, I’m nearly 36 years old. And yes, I have made popcorn before. But I think that up until this year I really have, indeed, always had “help” of some kind or other.

Through my entire adult life I’m pretty certain that I’ve never made popcorn that didn’t come from a prepackaged envelope heated in a microwave. I think microwave popcorn probably goes back pretty far into my childhood, too. I vaguely remember the microwave oven first arriving in our home, and I know that we employed a couple of other gadgets before just giving into the convenience of Act II et al. We had an air-popper for a while, I’m sure. We also had a low-tech popcorn popper for a number of years; it was something like this except the crank was on top. This simple device got quite a bit of use, though I can’t recall how many times I put it to work by myself. As noted, despite its elegance it eventually went into a cabinet and stayed there as microwave popcorn took over.

Still, I think the memory was nonetheless useful, all these years later. While certainly a gadget, and a “unitasker” at that, making popcorn with ye old popcorn popper didn’t really involve anything that couldn’t be approximated using ordinary household objects. You put popcorn kernels into a covered pan and place over heat, keeping the kernels moving around a bit; a crank-and-blade system can accomplish the latter but you could just move the pan around. I knew that this basic formula worked, not only theoretically but in practice. I had seen it happen once upon a time.

That, I think, helped give me the courage to try it myself without any kind of specialty tools whatsoever.

Which I did a few months ago. I’m not sure precisely what inspired me. I haven’t gone through any kind of DIY revolution. I suppose that maybe in recent years one could see a bit of a gradual and very modest trend… In any event, I was out of popcorn and for whatever reason thought “why don’t I just buy some popcorn? How hard can this be? Dammit, I am going to find out!”

So I did. Perhaps amusingly I ended up buying Jiffy Time, but it’s just popcorn kernels in a plastic bag with their logo. When I finally got around to trying this wacky experiment, it couldn’t have been much more basic. Read More →