Saturday, August 17, 2019

Casting My Eyes Westward

I haven't been to Portland, Oregon in twenty-six years, when I stopped in the city while on a three month road-trip with some college roommates throughout the United States. We stayed with my roommate Pete's old high school friend, who was a student at famously lefty Reed College. It was a great stay, we went to a local punk club one night and visited the 24 Hour Church of Elvis. I spent an afternoon at Powell's Books, and had a great conversation with one of the clerks about the oeuvre of Portland native Beverly Cleary, who is still with us at the age of 103. I loved Portland- it was quirky and lively, though it wasn't perfect. As a Northeasterner, it was a bit disconcerting to see panhandlers my age on the street, but then again, I was the product of a stable middle-class family, so there weren't too many kids who had to flee abusive homes in my circle. I pretty much had my eyes open in my mid-twenties, when I worked a job which took me to some of the less desirable zip codes in New York City.

It pains me that Portland has become an obsession for violent right-wingers, for reasons which Arun Gupta has articulated in this article. Put succinctly, it's a liberal city which happens to be overwhelmingly white, and white supremacists tend to see overwhelmingly white communities as fertile grounds for recruitment. Today's right-wing rally was promoted by an Infowars asshole who loves to threaten violence but has a bad track record when it comes to facing pushback. Thankfully, this invasion of Portland was already a shitshow before it began, with the arrest of several PNW righties, attendees being 'catfished' into revealing their lodgings, and dissension among participants. Thankfully, there weren't any major incidents during the various demonstrations in the city, which lasted under ninety minutes. There are, though, attempts to frame the narrative through deceptive editing of footage, largely courtesy of the individual dubbed by Arun Gupta (who is on fire!) "America's Most Dangerous Grifter".

While it looks like the right-wing rally was pretty much a big bust, my instincts tell me that the dangerous time is now, when a bunch of raging assholes whose sometimes long-distance travel to engage in violence was frustrated, will be roaming the city looking for vulnerable individuals to assault, such as young people of color or perceived LGBTQ people. This sentiment is echoed by observers on the ground. These assholes didn't pay hundreds of dollars not to engage in violence.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Batrachian Identity Crisis...

I figured I needed a break from political content, and I had a fortuitous encounter which gave me some material to work with. While walking across a meadow adjacent to one of our on-site parking lots, I caught a glimpse of a rapid movement on the ground out of the corner of my eye. An inspection of the area revealed this handsome critter:

My typical rule of thumb is that the best way to learn exactly what you're looking at is to know generally what you are looking at. I'm a pretty good judge of local amphibians, and the question that I faced was is this a species of leopard frog or is it a pickerel frog? Both are in the genus Lithobates, but that encompasses all North American 'true frogs', including this chunky guy. I'm leaning toward identifying it as a pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris), given the shape and configuration of its back spots (leopard frogs tend to have some random spots, and rounder spots. I totally muffed the 100% identification, because I didn't flip the frog over to check out the color of its thighs and groin. Hey, I had just undergone a training session a couple of days ago, so I can't be going around checking out the groin of a co-worker who's in the Groundskeeping Department, Insect Control Division. The other way I could have determined which of the two frog types it was would have been to lick it, but that wouldn't even have resulted in a high, so I took a pass.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Beware the Idiots of August

It's not technically the Ides of August, so I had to subtly change the title of this August 15th post. Today's fresh hell is the brigading of the Supreme Court switchboard by idiots who are convinced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and are demanding 'proof of life':

This particular subset of troglodytes can never be satisfied, even if they saw RBG in person, they'd be convinced that they are seeing a 'body double' or a 'clone'. Apparently they have been calling the Supreme Court all day and have often been directed to call their congressional representative or senator.

The 'RBG is Dead' trope is based on wishful thinking by awful people, but it received a big boost last January, when Fox displayed a graphic announcing that the justice had died. It's a horrible trope pushed by horrible people, and I feel sorry for the dedicated public servants who had to deal with these idiots.

Sadly, I don't think things are going to get better anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Product of Violence and Inbreeding

One of the axioms of political life is that Steve King (R- Idiots Out Wandering Around) is the Worst Person in the World. He’s even worse than Louie Gohmert, because he is slightly more intelligent. At any rate, King let slip a Freudian ‘tell’ at a recent Con convo- he stated that much of the human population is the product of rape and incest. I guess when people talk of inbred royalty, they are talking about Kings. I’m not a ‘Quilette’ style phrenologist, though I have had a phrenological evaluation, but I can see that Steve King’s physiognomy indicates that he is the product of generations of inbreeding by violent deviants.

Steve King is like a character from Stephen King, a creepy ‘child of the corn’ or a malevolent, alien clown. He wanted to attack women’s rights, and he did it by attacking the entire human species. He needs to be wished into the cornfield in 2020.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sensitivity Training

This morning, I attended, along with about forty coworkers, a mandatory training session on harassment and discrimination. After a continental breakfast, we were given a primer on the sometimes subtle distinctions among harassment, discrimination, and bullying. There were video presentations regarding different scenarios which could be considered harassment or discrimination- hilariously, the toxic ‘bro’ in the videos shared a name with one of our IT guys... he’s going to love that. Interestingly, the issue of transgender identity featured prominently in several of the videos, a welcome topic which I doubt would have been covered even five years ago. It’s nice to see progress in social mores, even though things sometimes look like they are deteriorating. We were also cautioned about unconscious biases, which can sometimes lead to inadvertent discrimination.

We had a short break to stretch our legs and top off our coffee cups. During the break, I jocularly apologized to one of the weekend crew: “I’m sorry I called you a hikikomori when you’re really a standard otaku.” She got a laugh out of that, but I have to confess, she’s not just a standard otaku, she’s a really gifted artist.

After the break, we were presented with different scenarios, and asked to determine whether harassment or discrimination were occurring. We all had a good sense for what was going on in each case. I remembered a rule of thumb that a mentor of mine used as his gold standard: “Treat everyone the way you’d want your mother to be treated.” I’d add a personal addendum: “Don’t bring shame upon your dojo.”

After the presentation, our head of HR gave us some statistics for the organization: our workforce is 71% female, with an average age of 54. The backbone of our staff is made up of women who have retired from previous careers. Some of them had stories, un fathomable to myself, of being pressured to quit jobs because of pregnancies. While the training itself was fairly basic stuff (the cliched ‘you should have learned this in kindergarten’), the stories from my older coworkers were eye-opening.

All told, it was a worthwhile way to spend a morning, though I do feel sorry for that guy in IT.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Big Bug Summer Continues

A few days ago, I ran into a Stag Beetle (Lucanus capreolus) while arriving to work the graveyard shift. The beetle was similar to one I'd photographed a few years ago. I took a picture, but it didn't compare to a photo snapped by the co-worker I was relieving, who found the beetle on its back and flipped it over with a stick. Check out the mandibles on this critter!

Don't let that mouth fool you, the adults feed on tree sap, and the males use their mandibles to wrestle with other males during the breeding season, like the stags from which they derive their popular name (which refers to their 'antlerlike' antennae).

Once again, this has proven to be a banner season for big bugs... and it only promises to get better!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Horrible End to a Horrible Life

I'm going to preface this post with an assertion that I am against the death penalty. That being said, if anyone deserved the death penalty, Jeff Epstein would have been a contender... he ruined hundreds of lives for personal gain, for the sating of his base appetites, for the power trip that a sociopath feels when destroying a helpless victim. Epstein was a monster, and he never should have seen the light of day again, but a society's support for capital punishment is a reflection not on the morality of the criminal, but on the morality of the society.

Okay, with that preamble out of the way, I certainly cannot mourn the death of Jeffrey Epstein, purportedly by suicide. While the world is a better place without him, the very idea that such a high profile prisoner (who reportedly tried to kill himself previously) would be able to end his life is appalling... it reeks of either incompetence or corruption. I would have preferred seeing Epstein go on trial, to see his web of connections to the rich and powerful unraveled. Epstein was an acquaintance of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. He was rumored to have served as a pimp for Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Early in his career, he was a protégé of Bill Barr's father. With his death, a thousand conspiracy theories were launched. Righties will claim that the Clintons had him killed, lefties will claim that Trump had him killed. The more outré elements of the conspiracy theory fever swamp will claim that his death was faked, and he was whisked off to have extensive plastic surgery so he could pursue a new life. Trump himself is disseminating conspiracy theories regarding the death of Epstein.

Thankfully, Epstein's death means that the search warrants for his abodes won't be challenged in court, so hopefully the extent of his sex trafficking will ultimately be revealed. I'm not holding my breath, though, the ultra-powerful tend to cover for each other. It's up to the public to make sure this story doesn't disappear. Throughout this whole horrorshow, the one consistent heroine has been Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald, who was unrelenting in her search for the truth. Hopefully, she will ensure that Epstein's sizable estate will be liquidated in order to pay some restitution to his victims.

It's a gorgeous day, and I think I need to log off for a while in order to clear my head of this whole sickening business. Last weekend, I had a couple of New Agey bros (nice guys, but a bit loopy) tell me that my workplace had 'positive energy'. I think I'm going to bask in it for psychic cleanse.