Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Withdrawal Symptoms

 It's over.  After almost exactly twenty years, the Afghan War is over, ending with the withdrawal of over 120,000 human beings.  The seemingly endless grind, which claimed the lives of 2488 American military personnel, wounded 20,722 American military personnel, and claimed the lives of about 75,000 Afghan military and police personnel and 71,000 Afghan civilians, is over.  Done.  Finita.  The war was pretty much doomed from the start, initiated by an Iraq-intoxicated madman his pack of Project for a New American Century ghouls.  The initial objective, hunting down Al Qaeda members, especially Osama Bin Laden, was quite literally forgotten, or rather, discarded.  The full-scale invasion was foolish, an attempt to swat mosquitoes with a sledgehammer.

Biden, caught in a Catch-46 situation by Trump's disastrous peace deal with the Taliban, the release of over 5000 imprisoned Talibani, and the draw-down of US forces to 2,500 personnel, played the crappy hand he was dealt.  The right-wing propaganda industrial complex has already gone into overdrive to paint the remarkable mass evacuation as a disaster.  We will hear endless panegyrics to the thirteen American troops killed in last week's attack, while the names of their 2475 comrades will go unsaid.  We will hear endless bloviation about Biden gifting weapons to the Taliban, never mind that the finicky weapons preferred by American forces are too difficult to maintain and too resource-dependent to use for an irregular force which relies on uncomplicated AK-47s and Toyota pickup trucks.  The role of Trump and Pompeo in negotiating a 'bad deal' with the Taliban will be elided.  Any criticism from Trumpers for leaving Afghan women and children at the mercy of the Taliban is disingenuous, because the GOP is implementing Taliban-style policies wherever they can.

It's over.  Biden had the intestinal fortitude to see this thing through.  He will be criticized, mainly by shitty people, for the withdrawal, but it had to happen.  This war had to end.  It's a tragedy that thirteen young Americans (approximately the age of this war) lost their lives, but the death and maiming has ended.  The humanitarian crisis will be terrible, but it is the same humanitarian crisis that was extant twenty years ago, the same humanitarian crisis that we didn't solve at the muzzle of a gun.  It's over.  It's over.  It's over.  The decades of war that characterized this nation have finally ended.

Monday, August 30, 2021

They Grow up so Fast

I don't know anyone who doesn't instantly fall in love with barn swallows (Hirundo rustica).  They are attractive birds which eat flying insects and have a particularly aerobatic flying ability.  I enjoy watching them flitting about the property, admiring their athleticism and thinking of all the mosquitoes they must be eating.  As the evening draws near, there's a shift change, and the equally aerobatic bats take over the flying insectivore niche.

We have one particular building with an overhang, and the swallows love to build their nests underneath this structure, plastering their mud nurseries under the beams.  Whenever we check on this building in the course of our job duties, we are greeted by the enchanting young birds:

Soon, these little beauties will be joining their parents on the wing, zipping about in zig-zag fashion, gobbling up mosquitoes in a particularly balletic fashion.  They are sure to enchant me for a few more weeks, before flying south to Central or South America, and for that (and the pest control work), I am grateful.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Dr Jen, I Presume?

Today was a banner day, I got to hang out with Dr Jen W, who is a regular Wonkette commenter.  While on a Zoom hangout session, she mentioned that she would be flying in from Portland, OR, and asked, "When are we going to hang out?"  My reply was, "With my work schedule, I can take you to my workplace for an afternoon visit, or we could meet at Wo Hop in Chinatown at 2AM for some chow fun."  I guess the prospect of hanging out with a bunch of drunks and cops in the wee hours of the morning wasn't so appealing. 

We consulted the MTA Metro North schedule, and arranged to meet at the Tarrytown railroad station around 1:15PM, and I drove to one of my worksites, which is open to the public on a limited basis.  We were extraordinarily lucky, there being two bald eagles onsite as well as the usual coterie of wild turkeys and osprey.  I'm hoping that this is a mated pair looking to establish a nest... that would make me ecstatic.  The manager on duty, being even more bird-obsessed than I, brought a pair of binoculars to work, so we were in for quite a treat.  The weather was good for outdoor activity, slightly overcast and seasonally cool.

Our visit was a lovely one, of about two hours, then we went back to Tarrytown for a quick meal of mezédhes at the venerable Lefteris Gyro, before I had to go back to my workplace and clock in by 3:30PM.

The one boneheaded maneuver I pulled today was leaving my phone/camera in the car during our visit, so I didn't take any pictures.  Everything else went perfectly, the timing, the visit itself, the panoply of flora and fauna... I just don't have photographic evidence of it all.  I'd be willing to sign an affidavit to prove that it was a superfun day, though.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Thanksgiving Card Mode ACTIVATED

One of our sites is home to a sizable flock of wild turkeys (I have counted as many as twenty-one of the birds at one time), to the delight of staff and visitors both.  Yesterday, a large tom Meleagris gallopavo was in full Thanksgiving card mode, with his tail feathers spread out in a fan:

The effect is somewhat diminished because this is the turkeys' moulting season, so he is missing several tailfeathers.  It's great fun for the kids visiting the grounds, because the quills make wonderful, and free souvenirs.  I might grab one myself, there are online tutorials for making quill pens.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Antisocial Media

The craziest thing about the 1/6 insurrection is how much of the action was driven by social media, from Trump's tweeted invitation ("Be there, will be wild!") to the continuous livestreams by rioters in the Capitol.  While the riot occurred in 'meatspace', it was perpetrated by the chronically online, such as this dimbulb who might be sent back to jail because he has a synergistic addiction to both MAGA and being online.

The House committee investigating the insurrection is demanding records from a wide array of social media companies, ranging from fever swamps such as 4Chan and 8Kun, MAGA messaging apps Gab and Parler, and mainstream social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook.  This particular investigation seems to concentrate on the spread of misinformation about the 2020 election, the 'Big Lie', but I personally feel that much of their efforts should be aimed at the government agencies which ignored the clear indications that there would be some violent actions undertaken on 1/6.  The social media moderators messed up (or were complicit) by not stopping communications between extremists, but the sins (whether of omission or commission) by the DoJ and FBI are more egregious, and the rot goes all the way to the top of the Trump Maladministration.  Thankfully, the House committee is also looking into communications from government sources to the right-wing apparatchiks who implemented the Capitol attack.

I'm happy that the Hous committee on 1/6 is taking their responsibility seriously, but that's what happens when a committee is formed from people whose very lives were at risks due to MAGA malfeasance.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Horse Paste is Magic

 Via Wonkette's Robyn Pennachia, we have STOP READING THIS POST NOW IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, OR SQUAMOUS the tale of a Facebook ivermectin discussion page which is, frankly, both disgusting and disquieting.  If you've never heard of 'rope worms', you are in for an unpleasant surprise:

Put succinctly, these people are experiencing the sloughing off of damaged intestinal epithelial cells, and interpreting the grisly results as 'worms' expelled from the fundament.  As the thread continues, some old friends pop up, writers of prescriptions filled by a sketchy online pharmacy.

I had actually heard of the whole 'rope worms' thing years ago, in the context of THIS WILL MAKE YOU FEEL STABBY asshole parents who gave their children bleach enemas in order to kill 'autism-causing parasites' that breed during the full and new moon.  The resultant intestinal damage was interpreted as expelled parasites, the 'rope worms'.   Snake oil salespersons are obsessed with the idea that diseases are caused by parasites, even though some research suggests that a lack of parasites might be implicated in autoimmune syndromes.  It's safe to say, though, that parasitic worms cause neither autism nor COVID.

Ingesting horse dewormer does, however, cause unpleasant effects (MAKE AMERICA SHIT AGAIN).  Every time I feel sorry for these idiots, though, one of them shakes me out of any feeling of empathy:

Seriously, these people are getting what they deserve, and if they are harming their children with veterinary medicines, I hope they face the full wrath of the justice system, with especially harsh sentences given out to the grifters who are making bank off of the gullible. 

The post title is based off of a particular mental tic of mine... as a kid, I played enough Dungeons and Dragons that I can claim High Gygaxian as a second language, so every time I see the word 'dewormer' in print, for a second I read it as 'dweomer'.  Horse paste is magical, it makes your guts disappear.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Secret Scince Club Zoom Lecture Recap: Mind and Music

Tonight, my great and good friends of the Secret Science Club are presenting a Zoom lecture with neuroscientist Dr David Sulzer of the Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pharmacology departments of Columbia University Medical Center.  Dr Sulzer is also a musician and composer, and an early SSC lecturer (sadly, before I started blogging).  He is cofounder of the Thai Elephant Orchestra, and the author of Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music.

Dr Sulzer told us he would be asking two broad questions:  Do other species hear music like we do? Can other species play musical instruments?  First, though, we would have to get some math and physics out of the way.

Sound is a wave in the air.  The wavelength is the length of a wave from corresponding parts, amplitude is the height of the wave.  Molecules are pushed together and pulled apart (water can't be compressed, when squeezed, it's amplitude rises  air can be squeezed.  The speed of a recurring wave is the frequency.  Humans can hear sounds of a frquencye of about 20 Hertz (waves per second)  an elephant can hear sounds at 1 Hz.  Human teenagers can hear up to about 20000 Hz, while adults lose some hearing ability and hear up to 15,000 Hz).

Dr Sulzer illustrated waves in the air by describing the workings of a siren, originally a rotating, perforated wheel on which compressed air is blown.  He used the Audacity program to illustrate frequency, and the harmonics which 'spice' a sound.  He also used a piano to play notes corresponding with frequencies.  He also gave us an experiment to perform, setting up a speaker in a hallway, then walking toward it to hear the amplitude change of the waves as a change in volume.  

Musical notes and harmonics are whole note multiples of frequency.  Pythagoras (Dr Sulzer joked that he is Christ-like because he wrote no books but his followers did) opined that the universe should make sense.  The universe should be explainable in recurring series of multiples.  From the quantum level to the cosmic level, these recurrences exist.  An octave is twice the frequency of the lower octave.

Dr Sulzer displayed a photo of a replica of a swan-wingbone flute (35,000 years old) that employs a pentatonic scale.  He then returned to Audacity, to demonstrate that adding harmonics always produces a periodic wave.    He assured us that this was all leading to something.  He then played a dissonant note, which messes with the period wave.  Notes that aren't harmonic can make beats, using interference to alter amplitude, cancelling out sounds.

Dr Sulzer then moved on to the neuroscience of music, where we recognize consonance and dissonance.  Dr Wilder Penfield, a pioneer in the surgical treatment of epilepsy, also studied the cortical regions which determine muscle movements and sensory inputs.  Nima Mesgarani studies the role of the cortex in analyzing sound,  mapping where plosives, fricatives, and nasals are analyzed.  Even ferrets can distinguish these sounds in human speech.

Do other animals hear like we do?  The frequency ranges can be very different (bats can hear up to 200K Hz, elephants hear about an octave lower that humans), but noise and consonance are built on physics.

Can other species play musical instruments?  Caged zebra finches can trigger musical sounds, even with no training or reward.  Would wild birds play musical instruments?  Mockingbirds have a wide musical vocabulary, and might be more likely to do so than, say, pigeons.  Susan Savage-Rumbaugh has studied bonobos interacting with musical instruments.  He then featured the Thai Elephant Orchestra, noting that the instruments provided to the elephants were chosen due to their popularity among the locals, such as the marimba-like ranat ek.  He also noted that elephants love harmonicas.

Dr Sulzer ended his lecture with a note about Asian elephant conservation.  In 1900, there were 100,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand. They were working animals.  Now, the population is about 3,700, since the elephants are not needed for work.  Logging was banned in 1989, so tourism is the only work.  

What other species play musical instruments?  Some songbirds, bonobos, elephants, but we are only scratching the surface.  Instruments must be ergonomic for other species, and must produce attractive sounds for those species.  Bad instruments are not appealing. 

The lecture was followed with a Q&A session.  Dorian started the process by asking if animals began by playing sounds in their own voices- zebra finches did, but developed musical tastes, playing other songbirds songs, and human music (but they avoided canary sounds because canaries are big and scary).  Regarding the Thai elephants' taste, they prefer 'hillbilly' music, the pentatonic music of the Northern Thai musicians who use fiddles- this is the music of their mahouts and caretakers, and the elephants are used to it.  Elephants are social animals, and this is the music of social gatherings of both humans and elephants.  African elephants are no longer domesticated, but they once were, such as Hannibal's famous elephants, so their musical tastes are unknown.  Why is some music scary?  How does the Devil's Interval work?  In consonant music, the notes reinforce each other.  While some dissonance is acceptable, it can be resolved.  If the frequencies are divided exactly in half, an irrational number results- according to legend, the Pythagorians drowned the person who discover.

Some bastard in the audience asked about the neurology of audition among different animal lineages- the auditory cortex is pretty well known, but the areas of the brain that interpret sound need to be studied better.  Other animals with a cortex have similar auditory areas, even though their ears may be radically different (such as insects which have ears on their knees).  Even among insects and crustaceans. the mechanisms are similar Marta Novotny, Lisa Olson of Columbia study bush crickets and katydids.

Another question involved animals which hear low-frequency sounds, such as whales.  It is possible that fin whales, before the noise of mechanized shipping, could have heard each other from hundreds of miles away.  Certain animals, such as frogs, have limited frequency ranges at which they hear.  Hearing is really the detection of vibrations, so even moths can 'hear' each other moving.

Another question involved people who love dissonant music- people love to add noise to their music, overblowing saxophones, using guitar feedback, adding additional noisemakers to instruments.  Synth pioneers such as Wendy Carlos immediately set about finding ways to 'dirty up' synthesized sounds. 

Another questioner asked if animals sounds also followed pentatonic scales, Dr Sulzer recommended the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's sound analyzing Raven app, and said that some bird songs have the octaves built in, he urged her to study this topic herself.

Can elephants maintain a steady beat?  They tend to be better than humans at it, but we have to be careful about anthropomorphizing their behavior.  Also, is this spontaneously play or training?  It's a combination of both.  The zebra finches weren't trained at all, but learn their songs from their fathers, and the elephants were trained for about five minutes.

As an added bonus, SSC alum Dr Diana Reiss chimed in during the Q&A to note that a lot of dolphin 'hearing' takes place through the jawbone after lauding Dr Sulzer's lecture.  It was a fun instance of Secret Science Synergy in action.

Once again, the Secret Science Club delivered a fantastic lecture, and Dr Sulzer managed to sneak in math and physics along with the fun stuff about musical elephants, kinda like making us eat our vegetables before dessert.  He added musical flourishes to illustrate his

For a taste of the SSC experience, here's a video of Dr Sulzer talking about the subject of his book:

Pour yourself a nice beverage and soak in that SCIENCE!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Dragged Into the 21st Century

Today, the progressive state of New York has its first female governor, the lieutenant governor who ascended to the position (EXCELSIOR!) because her predecessor was a serial sex pest, not to mention an authoritarian and a micromanager who colluded with conservative Democrats to collaborate with Republicans in the state legislature to block genuine progressive policies.  

Kathy Hochul, our first female governor, was sworn in at midnight.  She's a conservative Democrat out of Buffalo, but she's never been embroiled in scandal, to the extent that she's largely a cipher to downstaters like myself.  Her first day was promising, though, as she named combating COVID-19 as her top priority, promising mask and vaccine mandates for our schools.  She also made continuing financial assistance a priority.  COVID-19 is the ONE ISSUE, on both a state and a national level, and her commitment to helping us fight the pandemic is heartening.

Governor Hochul also distanced herself from the former governor, and announced a new era of transparency and an overhaul of the state's sexual harassment laws:

“I'm directing an overhaul of state government policies on sexual harassment and ethics, starting with requiring that all training be done live instead of allowing people to click their way through a class.” 

It looks like a promising start to a term which, frankly, is long overdue.  Not only have the rumblings about Cuomo's misconduct gone on for too long, but on an existential note, New York has gone too goddamn long without a female governor.  It's just a shame that she had to ascend to the position in this manner, and that the progressive state had to be dragged into the 21st Century.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Tailor Made to Push My Buttons

Have you ever read an article which seems like it was written specifically to get a rise out of you, and perhaps you alone?  Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money, we have an article from the New York Times Magazine which concerns the development of herbicide resistance in a common weed:

A farmer in Kansas, Nicolet had plnned his season around the herbicide, planting his fields with soybeans that were genetically modified to survive being showered with the chemical. He was well aware of dicamba’s tendency to vaporize and drift from field to field, causing damage to crops and threatening nearby wildlife and trees, but he didn’t feel as if he had much of a choice: Dicamba was one of the last tools that provided some control over Palmer amaranth, an aggressive weed that would quickly go on to choke out his sorghum crop — and that threatened to overtake his soybeans too. “There was a little bit of a moment of panic there for a few hours,” Nicolet said; he was worried that a season without dicamba would mean devastation for his farm.

If there’s a plant perfectly suited to outcompete the farmers, researchers and chemical companies that collectively define industrial American agriculture, it’s Palmer amaranth. This pigweed (a catchall term that includes some plants in the amaranth family) can re-root itself after being yanked from the ground. It can grow three inches a day. And it has evolved resistance to many of the most common weed killers, continuing to reproduce in what ought to be the worst of circumstances: A three-day-old, herbicide-injured seedling, for example, can expend its last bit of energy to produce seeds before it withers up and dies. Unchecked, Palmer amaranth can suppress soybean yields by nearly 80 percent and corn yields by about 90 percent.

This topic pushes my buttons because it involves one of my obsessions, the use of herbicides to kill useful plants... Palmer amaranth is edible, leaves, stems and seeds.  It is somewhat toxic to livestock, though, which is one reason farmers might hate it.  Amaranth varieties were a staple among the Aztecs, and high end amaranth flour is available.  

The go-to guy for eating the weeds is Green Dean, who's mantra is 'Eat the Weeds':



Of course, a weed is a plant growing somewhere it isn't wanted, so the problem is that Palmer amaranth is unwanted, utility be damned.  In the comments, my favorite misanthrope, M. Bouffant, posted his typical misanthropy:  

You can all yak until you're blue in the face, but the only problem actually confronting this planet is seven billion idiot primates on the loose, who seem to think they have some "right" to eat everything. Until y'all face up to the necessity of sterilizing your entire species it's just gum flapping & misdirected outrage.

The problem is that we don't eat everything, there are plenty of plants we have forgotten to eat.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Hatches Battened

This far west of the eye of tropical storm Henri, we are experiencing a rain event with minimal winds, but the rain is pouring down like nobody's business.  I'm an old hand at navigating the streets in the area, so I know to avoid any of the major highways that abut a watercourse, which is most of them.  I took the NY State Thruway to work, and only experienced a couple of patches on local roads which had any degree of water retention (not really flooding hazards, but wet enough to create 'flume' effects). 

Having experienced tropical storms and hurricanes, I made sure to place sandbags in front of the basement doors of our main building, which can sometimes flood.  The watercourse onsite is flooded, but hasn't overtopped its banks... yet.  I'm not very concerned about it doing so, the rain isn't as torrential as it had been a couple of hours ago.  We have flash flood warnings in effect until about 9PM, but I'm pretty well situated even in this relatively low-lying locale.

Right now, things are tranquil, and the only thing I have to complain about is spotty wi-fi... it might be a night for playing a game, if web browsing isn't feasible.  I'll find something to occupy my time, though it seems like SOMEBODY is bored with being stuck inside:


Sweetie, you really don't want to go out there.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Bad Day for Righties

I've been on a Schadenfreude high since yesterday, because it was a very bad day for right-wing lunatics.  First up, we have the exposure of GhostEzra, a notorious troll who posed as a successor to 'Q', and used the messaging platform Telegram to promulgate some of the most heinous antisemitic material to MAGA dead-enders:

The article by the Logically team is a masterpiece of investigative work, involving the examination of unique photo uploads to pinpoint the asshole's location, and the use of image enhancers to match uploaded pictures to his social media. The cherry on top of this particular sundae is that the investigative team was able to narrow down the possible suspects due to a one-star review of a synagogue on Yelp:

Who even reviews houses of worship on Yelp? I mean, I could see a bubbeh leaving a one-star review if she felt her granddaughter's bat mitzvah were rushed, but even that is a longshot. This guy was so antisemitic, he even had to troll a Jewish organization using a semi-anonymous social media account.

Even more significantly is the announcement that Alex Jones protégé Owen Shroyer will be arrested for being in a restricted area on 1/6:

Shroyer also violated terms of a deferred prosecution deal by being on Capitol grounds, and he failed to perform community service imposed upon him as terms of his original charge of disrupting a government proceeding. 

Shroyer is a dimbulb whose main claim to 'fame' is being Alex Jone's street-theater 'operative', which basically meant he would ride around in an armored truck performing stupid MAGA tricks:

Like most performative tough guys (unlike myself, who is a tough guy pretending to be a performative tough guy to make fun of performative tough guys), Shroyer was pretty upset at the prospect of being held accountable for his actions. 

All told, yesterday was a great day, a banner day for those of us who like to see racist assholes get their comeuppance.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Motivation Is Not Yet Publicly Known, My Ass!

 Via , we have representative Mo Brooks' statement on the MAGA-obsessed wannabe truck bomber in DC:

Brooks is totally delusional, the perp streamed his entire escapade, and made it clear that he was engaged in an anti-Biden jihad, expressed in sub-literate MAGA fashion:

“It’s almost time…take a extra pair of civilians clothes for our heroes… who can carry arms in… BIDEN YOUR FIRED…NO ISN’T A OPTION…FLEE OUR LAND.”

I'd bet actual folding money that he's an 'English Only' advocate.

Brooks' feigned innocence is infuriated, especially combined with his sympathy for this MAGA terrorist. Brooks delivered an incendiary speech on 1/6, before the storming of the Capitol, the sort of stochastic terrorism, central to the MAGA movement, meant to stir up deranged individuals like the asshole who forced much of DC into lockdown.  Brooks needs to be censured, and preferably removed from office, for his irresponsible words and actions.  Let him share a cell with his acolyte, force him to live with the sort of death cultist he has wound up.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Palate Cleanser: The Weird Hit of the Summer

As luck would have it, Tengrain posted a palate cleanser featuring a lounge lizard reclining on a chaise longue, which gives me an excuse (we all need a palate cleanser this week) to post what I'm terming the utterly weird hit of the summer, Chaise Longue by Wet Leg, a band based on the Isle of Wight.  The hilariously clean-yet-dirty song is accompanied by a fantastic video with an off-kilter Little House on the Prairie aesthetic:

Somehow, lead singer Rhian Teasdale manages to be homely, alluring, and slightly minatory at the same time, and her deadpan delivery of double entendres (including one cribbed from the movie Mean Girls) is a marvel.  The song is an earworm, and a fantastic debut single from a band which I will be sure to watch in the coming years.

If you're interested in the band, here's an interview with Ms Teasdale, who has the most gorgeous speaking voice:


Older videos of the band, before they were signed to a label, have surfaced: 


It's been a while since I've found a band this fun.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

It's Been Two Months

 Today, with the triumphant return of my coworker Jim, I was able to take my first day off in exactly two months,  it's a bit weird not having any claim on my time.  Unfortunately. There isn't a lot to do with the COVID resurgence, not for a responsible lad.  I didn't realize how much of the structure of my life was imposed by the exigencies of understaffing.  

Frankly, I slept much of the day.  I shift from a couple of overnight shifts on weekdays to three afternoon-to-midnight shifts on the weekends, so today was acclimatization day.  Tomorrow is supposed to be  rainy day, so I will earmark it for housecleaning and perhaps podcast listening.  Yeah, excitement!  

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I love being on-site.  To be honest, the OT was also welcome, I paid off a car loan six months early.  Maybe I love being at work too much, because adjusting to having a day off was kinda weird.... you forget a lot in two months.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Watching coverage of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has been painful, and the thought of women, girls, secular individuals, and LGBTQ folk left to the mercies of the Taliban is upsetting.  That being said, the war in Afghanistan has been going on for twenty years, with no real progress in sight.

To his credit, President Biden is taking full responsibility for the pullout, even though this tragic moment is the culmination of decades of stupid foreign policy in the region:

I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

That’s why we were still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

President Biden inherited an unwinnable mess from his four immediate predecessors, a Catch-46 situation.  The Afghan War, originally meant as a police action to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and uproot Al Qaeda, suffered from unforgivable mission creep, until the US military was bogged down in a morass of ethnic conflicts, all the while trying to establish a central authority.  Well that central authority disintegrated, with the Afghan army, poorly paid and suffering abysmal morale, disbanded, and there are reports that deposed president Ghani absconded with a shitton of cash.  The real problem is that corrupt, venal American officials engaged with corrupt, venal Afghan officials in order to pilfer from the American treasury for two decades.

I would argue that our adventure in Afghanistan was doomed from the start, as the Bush Maladministration took their attention off of the conflict and concentrated on attacking Iraq, all the while letting our diplomatic corps languish.  To take it back even further, our adventure in Afghanistan was doomed by the fact that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were monsters of our own creation, as we armed the mujahideen who fought against the Soviet invasion.  Fun fact- that whole 'Black Hawk Down' incident was made possible by the fact that American military advisors taught the fighters in Afghanistan how to take down Soviet helicopters with RPGs.

In the short term, Biden was stymied by the Trump administration's peace deal with the Taliban, which involved the release of 5,000 Taliban members from prison, including Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is likely the next leader of Afghanistan.  Additionally, when Trump reduced the forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 personnel, he put his successor in a bind- withdraw with insufficient forces to ensure order, or engage in an unpopular escalation.  To compound matters, Trump's Pentagon blocked Biden's transition team from access to intelligence.  Again, Biden was in a Catch-46 situation, which Trump flat-out admitted he saddled Biden with:

The effect of the withdrawal on Biden's long-term standing remains to be seen- while he is being lambasted by political opponents who are busy scrubbing their social media feeds of posts in support of Trump's withdrawal plan, the war was largely forgotten by those whose families were untouched by it, and support for a continual drain on our coffers is unpopular.  The coverage of the situation in Afghanistan is painful but in six months, few people will even remember it.  Biden isn't concerned with his poll numbers here, and I'm not even sure he's looking to run for re-election.  He made a painful decision, he refused to let the situation fester for a successor to grapple with.  He was in a Catch-46 situation, which nobody could have handled in optimal fashion, but he had to guts to make a decision, for good or ill.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Happy Personal News on a Sad News Day

The international news today is very disheartening, the complete disintegration of the Afghan government, and the subsequent threat to the nation's women, children, and religious minorities are worrisome, though all-too-predictable.  I'll post my thoughts on that later.

Today, though, I have great personal news- my friend and coworker Jim was able to return to work today after being out for nearly two months.  It was good to see him, I have long valued his expertise, his ethics, and his friendship, and I genuinely missed the man.  He's still engaged in rehabilitation efforts, and he told me he would be taking his time performing the tasks attendant to the job... time is the one thing he has here.  If he needs a break, I'm more than happy enough to jump through hoops to give one to him.

It's nice to have a full roster in the department once again, and to have another set of eyes on the place, another mind to bounce ideas off of.  I'll even go so far to say that it's nice to think I'll be able to have a day off soon.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

In Your Face, Rochester!!!

The big hyperlocal story today is the City of Yonkers overtaking Rochester, to become New York State's third largest city.  The margin is razor-thin, with Yonkers' population exceeding that of Rochester by 241 people.  

I love my City of Y______, with its population of 211,569, it would be a major city anywhere else, but it abuts NYC to the south, so it's relegated to 'suburb' status, though it is also one of the many burghs which lays claim to 'sixth borough' status.  Still, our city lays claim to amazing parks, a nice museum with a planetarium, and a nature preserve.  It's a city of neighborhoods, with wealthy areas characterized by single-family homes, heavily urbanized areas with big apartment buildings, and working-to-middle class neighborhoods like my own with a mix of the two.  The downtown is full of mom-and-pop stores, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and a scenic, newly 'daylighted' river walk. It's a diverse city, with almost a third of residents being immigrants.  

 Not everybody has a love for Yonkers that I do:


But some people get it:


Personally,I'm bonkers for Yonkers, and I'm glad that the city is moving onward and upward... that's the New York way.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Sherman Variant

I seem to have recalled an earlier CNN headline about COVID-19 'burning through the South', but it seems to have been changed to a less fraught headline about the virus 'starting to look really ominous in the South'.  That being said, the COVID-19 map, once looking like a map of the Confederacy, isn't looking so great, even in the North.  In New York, community transmission is high, so I've been wearing my mask while in stores and eateries.  Across much of the US, the shortage of ICU beds is positively apocalyptic, especially given that we are still in the summer 'accident season'.  States such as Texas, and Arkansas are desperate to receive out-of-state staffing aid, but, in the case of Texas, the governor has prohibited a mask mandate, a terrible policy which has been fought on the local level.

The vaccination rate map is not ideal, with states lagging in full vaccination also broadly corresponding to the Confederate States of America.  Tengrain has a good rundown of this situation.  With the carnage that COVID-19 is now wreaking on the South, the Delta variant should be renamed the Sherman variant.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Once and Future Dumbass

This being August 13, today is the day when the Pillow Guy predicted the reinstatement of Trump as PotUS.  Lindell's big mistake was naming a specific date for this occurrence, it's always helpful to remain vague when one engages in prophecy.  The election wasn't 'pulled down', the Maricopa County election audit has been a sham since day one, the 'Cyber Symposium' was a farce, and there is no constitutional model for overturning elections, especially when there is no evidence of chicanery.

In the MAGA mind, Trump now occupies the same legendary status as King Arthur, only stupid... he's the Once and Future Dumbass who will swoop back into power to Make America Great Again in her hour of greatest need, even though, in actuality, he totally fucked up when American was at her hour of greatest need (for an entire year), with a goddamn plague ravaging the land, killing over a half-million Americans.  Some of Trump's dead-enders plan on returning to the Capitol in September for a pro-Trump, pro-insurrectionist rally.

Legends are legends, though, and I don't make the rules.  There are plenty of figures of myth and legend who are supposed to have a triumphant return, even though there's really no need for great men.  Hell, even if Arthur were a real historical figure, he probably wasn't so great... I mean, he certainly was no Macbeth.  I doubt any of these 'someday to return' heroes are any great shakes, with Former Guy being extra odious.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Sioux Falls Blue Balls

I have to confess that I have been watching Mike Lindell's three-day shitshow in South Dakota, that rapidly crashing-and-burning 'cyber symposium', which has been a farrago of incompetence and nincompoopery. There's a certain surreal quality to an event which is simultaneously a threat to democracy and a comedy of errors. I've noted before that Marx once noted that historic facts appear twice, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, but I'd posit that they repeat themselves a third time, as tragedy-cum-farce. The 'Cyber Symposium' has been one of these tragic farces, or farcical tragedies. The three-day symposium basically died last night when Lindell's prime 'cyber guy' admitted that the main evidence of Chinese tampering hinted at by the Pillow Guy was bogus: If you can't trust a guy named 'Spider', who can you trust? Things went further awry when a judged ruled that Dominion could proceed with defamation lawsuits against Lindell, and Trump's incompetent lawyers: The final day of the symposium, the day after Lindell was twice defeated, opened on a bizarre note, with Lindell claiming that he was attacked at his hotel (no details forthcoming): He also claimed that 'Antifa' was trying to infiltrate his circus: So far, my favorite claim by the Pillow Guy is a hilarious description of Dominion's equipment: "Serbian Technology with Chinese Characteristics" is Pure Comedy Gold. Late in the game, Lindell is trying to move the goalposts, having failed to deliver the goods: The best quote from this three day, three-ring circus came last night, from one of Lindell's minions- again, this is Pure Comedy Gold: Meanwhile, in the fever swamps of MAGAland, the natives are upset that the months of hype and false promises have left them unfulfilled:

The My Pillow Guy, with his promises of 'BOOMS' and the Restoration of Trump, was leading them on, just as 'Q' has kept them 'edging' for almost four years. Lindell didn't deliver a climax with his symposium, he just gave the MAGAs a case of Sioux Falls blue balls.  

ADDENDUM: How could I have omitted the 'Chinese Thing' bit?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Farewell, Failson

The big news here in New York State is the resignation of Governor Andrew CuomoI've always thought that Cuomo was an opportunist, unfit to fill his illustrious and beloved father's shoes.  Well, nepotism hires usually work out that way.

Before Attorney General Letitia James uncovered Cuomo's sexual misconduct, Cuomo's principal sin was conspiring with a coterie of right-of-center Democrats to collude with state Republicans to prevent the progressive Democrats from accomplishing anything legislatively.  Yeah, he was pretty much an 'I Can't Believe It's Not a Republican' official.

One particular schifo in Cuomo's response to the allegations against him was his claim that his grabassitude was due to his Italian-American heritage... I'm sure my very proper Ligurian-American grandfather would have punched him in the labanza for that merda.

Well, the failson is done, and New York State will get its first female governor, Kathy Hochul, who is running away from Cuomo as quickly as possible.  I have to confess that I don't know much about Hochul, who is a conservative Democrat from far-off, exotic Buffalo.  She's maintained a low profile in her tenure as Lieutenant Governor, and I really need to read up on her politics.  For me, the real good news is that Yonkers' own Andrea Stewart-Cousins, President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader of the State Senate, will become acting Lieutenant Governor until Hochul appoints one.  Stewart-Cousins has been my State Senator for a long time, and I have long been a fan of hers.

It's an all-too-late historic moment, having two women at the top executive spots in this not-quite-liberal-enough state, the sort of historic moment which can only happen when you get rid of a failson public figure.  Back in April, I railed against failsons, and a scant four months later we are getting rid of ours.  Personally, I hope to be able to vote for an all-woman ticket in the next election... well, except for this guy, but he's not a nepotism hire.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Cyber Ninnies

Today is the first day of the My Pillow Guy's 'cyber symposium', in which he claims that he is going to convene the finest 'cyber guys' (no word on whether or not Barron Trump is among them) to prove that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.  On the eve of this event, the worst cyber guy ever screwed up royally, the whistleblower he named is guilty of the election tampering which they accuse the Democrats, or China, or the Illuminati, or the J00s of perpetrating:

The crowning glory of it all is that dumbass Watkins fucked up the very thing he claimed he was going to do to protect the 'whistleblower's' identity: Now that the 'cyber symposium' has started in inauspicious fashion, Watkins is now claiming that it is under attack by nefarious forces: Meanwhile, Lindell the Pillow Guy is gaslighting his audience about things he said minutes before, a 'mathematician' cited as an expert on election fraud has been exposed as a swing-set installer. A genuine packet capture expert is in attendance, so at least there's some adult among the Cyber Ninnies. It's going to be an utter shitshow... even the hired security guards are a bunch of LARPers. Still, the Trump dead-enders will treat the foregone conclusions the symposium reaches as the gospel truth.

Monday, August 9, 2021

A-Hole Memory Hole

 The redoubtable Driftglass often says that the liberal superpower, and curse, is memory... we remember details from decades ago, which makes us particularly difficult to gaslight.  Movement Conservatives, however, love shoving inconvenient facts down the Memory Hole, to the extent that the Republican Party should change its symbol from an elephant to a mayfly.

Via Tengrain, we have a particularly grotesque example of this memory holing in action, as Vulgarmort attacks President Biden's COVID response (any failures of which are completely due to anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers):

Fuck, I was around in 2020, I know that over 500,000 people died on this asshole's watch.  Friends of mine died, other friends were laid up, sick, for over a month- one guy I know called 911 with a 103-degree fever and was told not to even bother going to the Emergency Room unless he had trouble breathing.

"Could you imagine if I were President right now and we had this massive attack from the Coronavirus?"  Imagine?  I was there, you were President, and you screwed up royally, and more than a half-million people died.  I'm not even sure this asshole is gaslighting the Fox audience, or if his brain has finally turned into mush, but this will probably be the most disgusting thing I'll read all week.

Who am I kidding?  It's early!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

International Cat Day 2021

My calendar indicates that today is International Cat Day, a day to celebrate those fuzzy little predators that first cozied up to us humans when we developed agriculture, and built mills and granaries.  At first, the relationship was probably viewed as commensalism, but humans are almost as smart as cats, so they recognized that those fuzzy guests were doing a good job fighting the foes of the farmers.  Our barn cats and bodega cats continue this grand tradition of mousing, which brings us to my precious Ginger.

As will be typical of weekends through October, I began my workday at 4PM at one site, helping the day shift close up shop after a day's visitation (three cohorts of prepaid visitors, 10-12, 12-2, 2-4, strictly outdoors except for the bathrooms).  It's a bit of running around, but nothing too arduous- then I drive to my principal site to work until midnight.  My first order of business is to feed Ginger, then we go on a tour of the facilities.  The rest of the afternoon is, well...


Life is tough!  For the occasion of International Cat Day, I bought Ginger a can of fancy cat food, and spent a good amount of time brushing her, bribing her with treats to stay still long enough to remove a decent amount of hair.  She doesn't look all that impressed, though:


That's what I get for making her work on an international holiday.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

A Crime Against Humanity

Today's infuriating news is the revelation that more than sixty-five thousand doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Alabama have expired while only about 35% of the population has been fully vaccinated.  These doses of vaccine would have been appreciated in the developing world.

To underscore the monstrousness of this waste, workers in developing countries, the very workers who make the consumer goods so beloved of Americans, are making terrible sacrifices to work in the COVID-plagued world:


I've had it with the anti-vaccine cohort in this country, and consider the authorities in Alabama who allowed this wasteful behavior to be guilty of a crime against humanity- they should have arranged an airlift of soon-to-expire doses to a more deserving people.

The crazy thing about these anti-vax right wingers is that they honestly believe they'd win the civil war that they so desperately yearn for.

Tip of the hat to Tengrain, who is so thorough in documenting this depravity.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Tourist-ish Season Begins

Today was the first day of our truncated tourist season- one of our sites is open for timed tours, three two-hour blocks per day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with visitors limited to outdoor areas of the site.  We are still understaffed, so I had to close down the open site at the end of the day, and then head over to my principal site in order to feed Ginger, and work until midnight.  

In the meantime, my coworker who has been out sick since June is pondering a return to work.  Our HR department is slow-walking his return because our boss is out, handling a family medical emergency.  It doesn't rain, but it pours.

I'm working on the assumption that the current staffing situation will hold for the rest of the month, but am certainly looking forward to a change in our short-staffing problem.  The day-to-day work is pretty low-key... while I had to be Johnny-on-the-spot regarding clearing the site of visitors and closing it, most of my time was occupied by welcoming back the seasonal, part-time workers who are the backbone of our daytime staff.  It's been WAY too long since I've seen them.  Tomorrow being Saturday, I imagine I will be busier, and the drive from Site A to Site B may be more of a pain, but that's a small price to pay for having other humans on site for the first time in months.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

World of Colors

Making the transition from graveyard shifts to afternoon/evening shifts has, so far, been fairly easy.  The real weird thing is being exposed to a world of colors, so different from the darkness of the post-midnight hours.  For instance, I am greeted with a profusion of flowers, such as these purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans (in the aftermath of an invasive species mitigation project, native wildflowers have been reintroduced to the site) planted by our landscaping staff:



In addition to the well-curated sections of the property, there are the less well-kempt areas, in which the unloved flowers which I have a fondness for thrive, such as this nascent thistle (edible for the adventurous) flower:


And the not-so-edible, but eaten, pokeweed, the pallid flowers of which will darken into jet black berries beloved by birds, but poisonous to mammals:


 This profusion of flowers is enough to make a person sing:


I'd be remiss if I didn't leave you with another splash of color, as Ginger languidly gazes out the door in a pre-dinner reverie:


Maybe there's something to be said for this whole 'daylight' thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Don't Wait, Walk!

Yesterday was a busy day for me, the last day of working the graveyard shift for a while. I had been working midnight to 7AM, but have pulled a switcheroo with my teammate becuase we have events coming up, and I will have to work afternoons locking up one site before moving to another site for the duration of the shift. The alternative would have been working ungodly split-shifts on the weekend. 

As luck would have it, I needed to get the oil in my car changed- it had hit the 5% lifespan level. I also needed a new tire, the treads of my front driver's side tire were starting to separate from the sidewalls. It's easier to bring to car to the shop at 8AM after you've finished the workday at 7 than it is to bring the car in before work. 

When I arrived, there were a couple of people already waiting outside the place, but I have an ace up my sleeve- I always give the crew enough of a gratuity to buy a couple of pizzas (I know the folks at the pizzeria too, so everybody wins). My car was first in the service bays. After about forty minutes, the manager called me (I was hanging out outside, on the phone with Mom while I waited)- I would need two tires, the other front tire was developing a bubble. It would take three hours for the tires to be sent from the warehouse. Three hours? I figured it would be just enough time to walk across the Tappan Zee Bridge (we won't be using the official name this week).  

The last time I had walked the bridge was just about a year ago, I met with friends at the Tarrytown train station, and we took a free shuttle bus to the Rockland County terminus of the span.  It was a festive walk around sundown, with the bridge gradually transitioning from a pedestrian suspension span to a brightly-lit gossamer miracle.  Still, the superstructure is a diaphanous beauty:


This time, the walk would be twice as long, with the regular truck traffic to and from New York City, the pace a little more steady, without the distraction of socializing.  There were fewer pedestrians, with most 'normies' being at work:


The scenery was, of course, magnificent, with the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse being a highlight.

The walk wasn't too arduous, even though I've had couch potato tendencies throughout much of the pandemic.  I figured I needed a good, seven mile walk before I have to start working events this weekend  That being said, my feet were sore enough that I took dos aspirinas when I finally got home.  As a beneficial side effect, a head cold and runny nose (only one nostril, though) that I had been nursing all week dried up- I don't know if it was slight dehydration or breathing in the fresh Thruway air that did the trick.

When I finished the walk, my car was just about ready, the oil change had been accomplished, the tires replaced, and the finishing touch of a re-alignment was being wrapped up.  I felt good about being active while the car was being worked on- I figure it was a sort of tune-up for both of us.

I finally got home around 2PM, having left the house around 11PM the preceding night.  I was pretty much wiped, but that doesn't really matter, my entire sleep/wake schedule is going to need an overhaul anyway.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Worst Cyber Guy EVER!!!

In the current pantheon of right-wing grifters, few are quite as odious as Ron Watkins, former 8Chan administrator and probable 'Q' shitposter, though not the originator of the whole kerfuffle. In the post November 2020 election period, Watkins has tried to pose as an internet security expert, large systems admin, and election fraud sleuth. This week, Watkins has hit a new low, an accomplishment for a dyed-in-the-wool scumbag such as he... his latest scam is a claim that he has found a Dominion voting systems whistleblower, or rather 'whisteblower: After hyping up this whistleblower claim, Watkins delivered a damp squib, rather than a bombshell, a one-minute-and-seventeen-second (17 is a number that looms large in QAnon mythology) video, which is underwhelming, being a series of cuts between publicly available testimony and a scroll through a publicly available Dominion manual: While most of the rubes were dissatisfied, some of the smarter ones noticed something unusual about the video download: Sure enough, the rubes got a little more than they bargained for: The marks, needless to say, were not happy: And that, dear readers, is MAGA and QAnon (they overlap a considerable amount) in a nutshell, all hype and predation, with the majority of the rubes being hyped up to be victimized by their leaders. The worst cyber guy EVER (or the greatest troll of all time) got them good, and the sad fact is that, in all probability, only a few of them will peel away from him, just as few of them peeled away from the worst President EVER.

Monday, August 2, 2021


Via Wonkette, we have the tale of Unjected, a dating app to match unvaccinated persons with each other for romanting liaisons and contagion.  The dating app was removed from the Apple store because it spread disinformation, a tragic development for undateable Trumpsters.

I find it odd that there would be a dating app which is pro-contagion, though most dating apps aren't exactly doing great fighting STDs.  Unjected comes across as more of an adult pox party than a... uhhhh... shot at a genuine love match.  With COVID-19 being a dangerous disease, killing some, but also posing a risk of impotence, Unjected poses an evolutionary threat to its users, who stand a risk of dying or being unable to pass on their genes.  It should be called Darwindate where you can select partners, because Nature won't.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

End Times Believer Seeks Long Term Position

 I have predicted that the 2022 GOP primaries are going to be a shitsow, with QAnon whackos running against 'insufficiently conservative' Tea Party Republicans.  Via Wonkette's Robyn Pennachia, we have the news that the big-haired wine mom made famous by claiming that Biden could not have won Michigan is now running for Congress, and boy, she does not disappoint:

If we're in the End Times, why would she seek a two-year assignment? I almost suspect this is a scam to fleece the rubes out of campign donations... especially given the fact that she doesn't live in the district, one which may be lost to redistricting post 2020 census. The entire Republican Party has degenerated into a scam.