Fables of the Reconstruction: Tom Petty Edition

Posted December 10, 2014 by Tom
Categories: The Way We Live Now

Tags:

It’s been a while I know, and in the meantime real life has been so agonizingly real that the problems of three (or more) little kitchen appliances don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But it’s getting on for evening, and in our house the sun has definitely passed over the yardarm, so perhaps a little renovation schadenfreude might suit y’all just fine.

So here’s the current look:

IMG_1986

 

Those of you familiar with the renovation rhythm will recognize this phase.  We’re really in the end game.  The cabinets are in and … wait for it … almost all the trim has been fitted.  The appliances (all but one)  have been placed — not hooked up, mostly — but placed.  The painters are doing their thing, the electrician is scheduled and … you get the drill.

And yet, inevitably, what I blithely label an ending is not a matter of the number of actual days the different crafts have to do to complete the project.  It is, of course, the number of weeks it will take to get the guys in for the day here and the day there to do all the bits and pieces.

We’ve already been hammered by that.  The key, as everyone who’s done this kind of thing knows deep in the bone, is that first stumble off the neat center line of the project.  Or, to put it into the SNAFU military frame familiar to many here, every renovation reaffirms the eternal truth: no plan survives first contact with the enemy.   That enemy, in these cases, is, of course, the effrontery of wood and stone and flooring and all the other bits that don’t miraculously assemble themselves.

As late as November 5th or so, everyone involved thought we had a reasonable shot at a working kitchen by Thanksgiving.  Now, today, we got a sink plumbed, with the dispose-all to be hooked up Friday, maybe.  As for the rest…

It’ll come.  It’ll all happen.  We’ll likely have ovens on Friday too.  The stove will take longer, as we have a little code problem that will take a bit of carpentry to fix (don’t ask).  And….

Never mind.  Everyone who’s entered renovation hell knows this story, and it’s never an interesting one, no matter how often it can be retold.  This job will likely be actually done, no one coming back, everything in and working, by sometime in January.  Could be February — wouldn’t surprise me.  It’s a minimum of a 50% schedule fail on a four month job.  Par for the course.

When it’s all done, we’ll be able as a family to do what we truly love:   cook and cook and cook and cook for friends and friends and friends and friends.  If in the meantime y’all get a bit of vicarious pleasure at knowing that the eternal verities of construction remain true…so much the better.

Last — and I mean last:  we’ve been pretty good this going-on-for-half-a-year at cooking interesting, enjoyable meals on a hot plate, an electric frying pan, and a gas grill. But we’ve been beaten down.  Tonight was supposed to be spatchcocked chicken roasted on the grill, but it’s pissing down with a steady, penetrating drizzle and it’s cold and it’s late, and f**k it sideways.  We give up:  pizza is on its way.

And I’m not ashamed.

So there.

And really last (no I’m not joking) — the obligatory soundtrack to a post about attending on the arrival of Godot’s scullion:

Eric Garner’s Killer Won’t Be Indicted

Posted December 3, 2014 by Tom
Categories: quis custodiet ipsos custodes, Race

Tags:

Another grand jury somehow manages to avoid indicting a cop who put an unarmed man in an illegal chokehold and, ignoring his pleas (“I can’t breathe!”), strangled him to death.   Eric Garner’s crime was peddling untaxed cigarettes on the sidewalk.  He was a husband and the father of six.  And he was a black man.  I hope I may be forgiven for believing that last fact to be germane, both to the confrontation in which he died and the fact that his (white) killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, now escapes any scrutiny of law.

Hans_Memling_057

Another district attorney somehow managed to avoid gaining an indictment within a grand jury process he entirely controlled.  It is said that any competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what’s desired on the day.  I hope I may be forgiven for believing that Staten Island DA Daniel M. Donovan Jr. had no intention of putting a cop on trial.  Never mind that Officer Pantaleo was captured on video tape performing an illegal act that led to the death of a human being who’s threat to society consisted of dodging local tobacco taxes, cancer stick by stick.

I got nothing.  This is not a justice system.  This is not policing in any form that I understand.  This is how law serves as cover for power when the forms but not the substance of civil society are all that is left.

I got nothing at all.

Image:  Hans Memling, Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, (detail), 1480.

 

 

Because I Love You

Posted December 3, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Music, pop culture, The Way We Live Now

Tags:

Working on a bunch of stuff, so almost no time to blog, but in eavesdropping on a Twitter conversation about the various awesomenesses of the Scots, combined with the lethal power of bagpipes, I came across this:

It seems to me we could use — certainlly can — a daily leaven of the absurd to help confront the weight of all the stupid/evil that so dominates the rap, Jack, these days.

You can thank me later.

 

Asked and Answered In Ferguson — A Tale of Two Times Stories

Posted November 26, 2014 by Tom
Categories: quis custodiet ipsos custodes, Race

Tags: , ,

Here’s a fact The New York Times seeks to explore in the wake of the decision to let the killer of an unarmed youth go free:

A nation with an African-American president and a significant, if struggling, black middle class remains as deeply divided about the justice system as it was decades ago. A Huffington Post-YouGov poll of 1,000 adults released this week found that 62 percent of African-Americans believed Officer Wilson was at fault in the shooting of Mr. Brown, while only 22 percent of whites took that position.

The Times notes that this divide is nothing new:

In 1992, a Washington Post-ABC News pollfound that 92 percent of blacks — and 64 percent of whites  — disagreed with the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers involved in the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King.

“What’s striking is just how constant these attitudes have been,” said Carroll Doherty, the director of political research for the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington.

This particular article doesn’t go into much depth on who might be right — the white majority that sees justice being done from King to Brown, or the African American majority that sees culpable killers go free, but it does make clear that the experience of everyday life is … well, it’s the great grey lady (formerly) of 43rd Street, so this is how the sociology passage begins:

That whites and blacks disagree so deeply on the justice system, even as some other racial gulfs show signs of closing, is perhaps not as odd as it seems.

Not odd at all, as it happens, on the evidence of another long analysis piece in today’s paper the Ferguson decision:

But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.

William_Hogarth_004

And what might have prompted such unpleasant suspicions about an upstanding public servant?  Perhaps this:

Officer Wilson, in his testimony, described the encounter in terms that dovetailed with a state law authorizing an officer’s use of deadly force …

In some cases the questions seemed designed to help Officer Wilson meet the conditions for self-defense, with a prosecutor telling him at one point: “You felt like your life was in jeopardy” followed by the question, “And use of deadly force was justified at that point in your opinion?”

Might as well have just used cue cards.

Defense witnesses — which is to say that those witnesses with testimony to exculpate the voiceless dead against the charge of he had it coming — did not receive such helpful guidance:

Though the prosecutors did not press Officer Wilson and other law enforcement officials about some contradictions in their testimony, they did challenge other witnesses about why their accounts had varied.

Prosecutors did not seem to shy from pointing out the discrepancies between multiple interviews of a single witness, or at some points exploring the criminal history of some witnesses, including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Brown’s friend.

And you know something:  priming works.  This was a prosecutor/cop defense attorney who knew exactly what he was doing:

Over the months, the jurors seemed to focus intently on the final movement that Mr. Brown may have made toward Officer Wilson, after a brief chase. The prosecutor asked witness after witness if it seemed as if Mr. Brown were reaching for a weapon, though few said they saw anything like that. Mr. Brown was found to be unarmed.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Or rather, this is an answer to the question implied in its companion article.  If blacks and whites view the criminal justice system differently, then, obviously, as the Ferguson trial of that dastardly murderee, Michael Brown, shows so clearly, that’s because it is different for white and black.  Or more precisely to the point made brutally clear in the sorry history of the Ferguson grand jury, both black victims and those African Americans accused of crimes cannot expect the abstract ideal of the rule of law to reach them.

The single essential requirement for justice within a justice system is that the institutions and individuals involved receive genuinely equal treatment.   As we can see from the top level decisions made in this case down to the fine grain of particular questions and answers, Darren Wilson benefited at every stage from the unequal approach prosecutor McCullough chose to employ.  (Take a look at this New Yorker piece by Jeffrey Toobin for a fine account of just how thoroughly the fix was in from the moment McCullough chose to go the grand jury route.)   Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address pondered out loud the mystery that two sides, each believing in the same God and in their claim on the blessings of heaven were still locked in an utterly destructive struggle.  How could that be so?  Perhaps, he said, in what seems to me to be the most devastatingly honest utterance by any American president ever:

The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The offenses still come.  It’s a good thing that in twenty first century America a child can no longer be sold away from its parents.  It’s a step in the right direction that the act of looking at a white woman whilst being a black youth is not still a capital offense.

But a century and a half after a president counseled his war-riven nation, the offenses still come.

The death of a teenager who, we are told, it was OK to kill, simply adds this latest harvest of blood to the debt that Abraham Lincoln sought to settle so long ago.

Image: William Hogarth, The Court, c. 1758.

Life is Short

Posted November 21, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Uncategorized

Eat dessert first…

(h/t Tastefully Offensive)

I grew up with golden retrievers — my mum bred them for a while.  They were and are great dogs, sweet, fun, nothing but lovely.

(As always, avoid puppy mills and look for any signs of overbreeding that yields hip problems and the like…but a good golden is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.)

I have to say, though, that the video above caught the true essence of golden-hood.  They’re goofs.

Happy Friday, all.

 

What Not To Wear To A Comet Landing

Posted November 12, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Science, Who thought that was a good idea?

Tags: , ,

Amidst all the (justified) celebration of Rosetta and Phylae today — it really is a big deal when a ten year mission ends with the first landing on a comet evah!) — there  was one truly sour note.  This:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.59.54 PM

That’s Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist.  If you read the profile at (where else) The Daily Mail, you’ll get two impressions. One, that Dr. Taylor really loves his job, his science and this mission — all of which is great.  But two:  he and his interviewer are oblivious about what it might mean to stand in front of millions of science fans, wearing that schmatte.

Nah, this is just dudebro fun, no worries, no-harm-no-foul, why don’t you have a sense of humor stuff.

But it’s not.  There’s not a lot to say that isn’t f**king obvious.  This was and is a truly special occasion.  Lots of people thrilled to watch human reason and ingenuity reach towards the stars have been playing really close attention. Many of them are women.  Some, lots, are girls who might be thinking science could be a really fine life’s work.  That shirt tells them, pretty explicitly:  science ain’t no crap-free zone.

We’ve ample evidence that’s true, sadly.  But damn, way to drive the message home, Matt!

I’ve had friends, women in science, contact me today, asking when this shit will ever stop.  I don’t know.  Not soon enough.

My son is taking his first high school physics class this year.  Last night I was helping him with his homework on momentum, impulse and collisions — kind of relevant to today’s events.  I don’t know if his teachers broke with the curriculum today to watch the Rosetta live feed — but now I’m almost hoping they didn’t.  The girls — and the boys too, dammit — in that class deserve better.

I’ve never met Taylor.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s against discrimination in science (or anywhere else),  one who would defend any woman on his team.  I don’t know.

Maybe he’s just clueless stem to stern, with no idea how what he might say or do affects anyone around him.  Or, in fact, he could be a sexist asshole.  Still don’t know.  I generally, perhaps naively, default to that “clueless” rather than “f*cked-up” explanation, until I have affirmative evidence to the contrary.

But as we’ve learned over and over again in issues of race, of gender discrimination, of same-sex rights, it’s not what you believe that matters.  It’s what you do — and Taylor chose to wear this shirt in front of the largest audience he’s ever likely confront.  He may or many not be a sexist guy; he did a sexist thing, one with real world implications.

Repair work is needed.  The ESA/Rosetta folks should to do some, and so should Matt Taylor, however much of a goof he thought he was having.

Oh, and just in case he might accept some fashion advice, here’s Skepchik’s Dr. Rubidium with some very good natured suggestions.  A possible path to repair lies there, Dr. Taylor.

Randall Munroe Is On The Case

Posted November 12, 2014 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, Science

Tags:

Just to add to the deliciousness of the day, xkcd is more or less live-cartooning the Rosetta landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.* (h/t @edyong209)

Nothing in my day promises to be as challenging/exciting as what that craft (and its controllers) are doing.  You?

Robert_Salmon_-_South_Sea_Whale_Fishing_II

*That link is a little wonky.  If the cartoon (number 1446) doesn’t come up, click on the random button at the top, and then click again on the xkcd logo.  Sorry.)

Image:  Robert Salmon (how cool is it that a whale-fishery artist goes by the name Salmon?), South Sea Whale Fishing II, 1831.  Connection to this post made obvious at the xkcd link, btw.

 


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