Thursday, December 31, 2020

I Did Something I Pretty Much Swore I'd Never Do

I subscribed to the Disney+ streaming service.

The immediate reason: Some time back, Tamara and I were called away on an emergency right in the middle of Avengers: Infinity War. I had already seen the movie. She hadn't. I've also seen Endgame, but she hadn't, and she also thought she had missed the Winter Soldier and Civil War installments of the Captain America storyline (when I started those two, she immediately realized she'd seen both of them after all).

All that stuff moved behind the Disney+ paywall a little while back, and renting those four movies, or even two of them, would have cost as much as or more than a month of the full service.

So, the weekend before Christmas, I was over at my mechanic's house doing unskilled things in facilitation of his repairs to our family car, and he was re-watching the season finale of The Mandalorian. I tried to make myself not notice, because I didn't want to get hooked on a show I'd have to pay extra to watch.

I don't know if I'll bother watching that show, but it got me thinking: A Disney+ subscription would let me re-watch all the Star Wars movies, and all the X-Men movies, and all the Avengers movies. And I could watch all that stuff in a couple of months, which would be $13.98 in subscription fees.

So that's what I'm doing. We watched the end of Infinity War. Then we watched Endgame. Now we've watched the first three (in story order) Star Wars flicks and will likely watch the other six in the next couple of weeks. And so on, and so forth.

Heck, I even watched the latest version of Mulan just because I could and because they were charging non-Disney+-subscribers something like $20 for it last time I noticed. Not my kind of thing, really, but not terrible.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

I Was Just Looking ...

 ... at my Microsoft Rewards redemption history (not an affiliate link).

By using Bing as my default search engine (works fairly well for most quick searches -- I go elsewhere if necessary), I rack up points that I can redeem for Amazon gift cards (or other things).

On a quick glance, it looks like I've cashed in to the tune of about $200 over the last few years.

If you do a lot of casual searching (e.g. just typing something you're thinking about into the browser's URL bar), it's a way to treat yourself to some extras.

You're welcome.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

What Endures?

Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:

Can you recite 20 consecutive lines of poetry written by an American in the past 20 years, or name 20 living American poets of any consequence? There is a reason for that. Messiah, composed in 1741, is going on 300 years old. Is there a single musical work by a North American in our time that we expect to be so nearly universally recognizable in the year 2299?

I guess that's an interesting question, but another interesting question is "how could we possibly know -- did anyone expect or predict Messiah to be popular, or considered important, for 300 years?" It apparently got a cool reception in London early on.

While I suspect that Williamson is correct in his specific prediction -- that shoehorning current "identity politics" fads  into old musical/theatrical forms isn't likely to produce much new art of lasting impact -- I also suspect that there will be composers and poets from our era who are as well-remembered 300 years from now as George Frideric Handel (and, say, William Blake) are today.

If I had to pick two such, I guess I'd go with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.

Friday, December 25, 2020

My Top Two "First Reaction" Guesses About the Nashville Bombing

First "first reaction" guess: The bombers were trying to send an anti-COVID-lockdown message.

Second "first reaction" guess: The bombers want people to think they were trying to send an anti-COVID-lockdown message, but are actually hoping to provoke/justify a crackdown on anti-COVID-lockdown protests.

Of course, I could be wrong. But if I was guessing, I'd guess that within 24 hours "anti-lockdown" people will be getting the blame whether we deserve it or not.

Book Recommendation: Bleachers

If you're not a fan of John Grisham or legal thrillers or football, read Bleachers anyway (that's not an affiliate link).

I happen to be a fan of John Grisham and of legal thrillers (his legal thrillers, anyway, even though over the years they've become more formulaic). Not so much a fan of football, although the Chiefs are finally giving me a reason to be so again.

It's just a fantastic little novel.

I resisted reading it for years, then picked it up yesterday at the "little free library" a couple of miles from my house (I've got a program going of dropping off two or three books and picking up one, in the forlorn hope of keeping our book collection from running us out of the house).

It's not Christmas-y in any way, shape, manner, or form -- it's a book about a dying high school football coach and generations of players who aren't really sure whether they love or hate him -- but I thought it made a pretty good Christmas story.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2000 = 2024?

I don't really care whether the next round of "stimulus" checks are for $600 or $2,000.

For one thing, I don't get those checks (at least I didn't the first time around, and don't expect to the second time).

For another, it's not really free magic money. It's just money the government is borrowing, on a promise to beat it out of taxpayers' hides, with interest, later.

But I do find it interesting that Donald Trump is publicly posturing as if he may veto the $600 per person "stimulus" and try to force a $2,000 per person payout.

My assumption is that he's doing so as a faux-populist play for votes in 2024, in the event he decides to run for president again, and if that's the case it's a win-win proposition for him.

If Congress says uncle, voters will remember that Trump got them "an extra $1,400."

If Congress says no, voters will remember that Trump tried to get them "an extra $1,400."

Since the money's not coming out of his pocket, it's no skin off his nose either way, and some people will remember him fondly for it whether he runs again or not.

Ronald Reagan said "there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit."

But the next time the folks in the White House and on Capitol Hill don't care who gets credit for anything will be the first time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Can There Really Be Any Such Thing As ...

Responsible Statecraft?

I do enjoy some of the publication's articles and like some of the arguments it entertains, but "responsible statecraft" sounds a lot like "corrective rape" or "benevolent murder." That is, meaningless in a somewhat offensive way.

States are organized crime syndicates with a quasi-religious component. The idea that they could be "responsible" for anything except maximizing their own power at everyone else's expense is, well, dumb.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Other Race Issue

Congress races to clinch coronavirus deal as shutdown looms ... Congress Races to Approve Virus-Relief Package ... Congress Races to Pass Stimulus Deal as Leaders Reach Agreement, Face Another Funding Deadline ...

A bunch of guys sitting around arguing about the details of something they 1) don't have to do at all, let alone 2) have to do in some pre-set period of time, rather than merely facing deadlines they imposed on themselves and can change at will, are not "racing." They're just sitting around arguing about the details of something they 1) don't have to do at all, let alone 2) have to do in some pre-set period of time, rather than merely facing deadlines they imposed on themselves and can change at will.

Yet the media consistently cooperate in the pretense that this is high drama of some kind, rather than just a bunch of guys yammering at each other and at us.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Well, I EXPECTED to Blog a Lot This Month ...

... but so far I haven't.


It's not writer's block. I'm writing well when something strikes me as worth writing about It's ... well ... boredom with what there is to write about.

I tend to write about matters that are in the news, and really the news has become so repetitive and predictable lately that there's not much worth writing about, and what little there is ends up at the Garrison Center because producing three columns a week there is my top writing priority.

I haven't forgotten y'all. I just don't think it would be nice to inflict my boredom on you by writing boring blog posts.

Frankly, what I'm doing this month is mostly 1) futzing with musical instruments and 2) watching TV.

My banjo ukulele arrived the other day. I'm not that impressed with it -- the action is higher than I'd like, etc. -- yet, but I'm still in the "getting strings stretched so it stays in tune" phase, so maybe it will end up being one of my favorite instruments.

On the TV front, we finished the first three seasons of Game of Thrones that I found on Blu-Ray for five bucks at a garage sale, and I'm waiting for the remaining seasons to show up at a good sale price. I bought the first two seasons of American Gods on sale for $5 each or something like that, and am mostly through the first season. And we're doing a family re-watch of the Lord of the Rings films.

Oh, and Tamara's car is being troublesome. Just had to have the heater core replaced and there's still a misfire issue that seems to have to do with the computer in the vehicle. I long for the days when cars weren't controlled by computers and you could adjust the carburetor with a screwdriver, etc. These days, pretty much everything requires a professional mechanic's skills, and I'm not a professional mechanic. But I have a friend who is, and who works for very reasonable rates, especially if I'm willing to be his go-fer while he's doing it. So yesterday was 11 hours of that.

See what I mean? Boring. I'm boring you. So I'll stop that now and be back when I have something interesting to say.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Special Counsel for the "Hunter Biden Affair?" Sure, Why Not?

When the "Hunter Biden laptop" story broke, the only thing I found interesting about it was that the "mainstream media" soft-peddled it and that social media companies tried to suppress it.

See here and here for why I otherwise considered it a nothingburger.

My opinion hasn't changed.

Are the Bidens corrupt influence peddlers, or at the very least a father/son pair in which the son is more than happy to leverage his dad's name for "job opportunities" that he wouldn't get, and wouldn't get paid as much for, and in which the father either 1) doesn't care, or 2) can't bring himself to put his foot down over, or 3) actively encourages? Yep.

Did anyone who cared not already know that long before "the story broke?" Nope.

So Donald Trump wants a special counsel on the Hunter Biden job, and the usual suspects are lining up behind him on the idea.*

Well, OK. Sure. Why not?

But let's be clear that the purpose of a special counsel investigation of Hunter Biden's finances, etc., would be just like the "Russiagate" probe. That is, its purpose would not be to accomplish "justice," but rather to energize one party's base against another party's president. Which is fine, if you like bad dinner theater.

*That Fox News headline says that media are "downplaying" and "ignoring" the whole thing.  Apparently the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, US News & World Report, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, The Hill, et al. aren't "media."

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

This is Something That Can't Be Had Both Ways

Camera One: Donald Trump still insists he won the 2020 presidential election.

Camera Two: In fundraising emails, the Trump campaign asks "Should President Trump run in 2024?"

If he's correct on the former point, he's ineligible pursue the latter course:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice -- 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution

 If Camera One is his story, he doesn't seem to be sticking to it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Finally Found a Brass Slide I Like ...

I have a Dunlop brass slide. Don't like the fit, don't like the sound. Not sure why. I seem to get a deadened sound instead of the tone I expected from brass.

Thanks to Shane Speal's (not an affiliate link) and New Orleans artist Ron Hall for coming up with The Preacher.

Including shipping it cost about $5 more than the Dunlop, but there's a world of difference in the comfort of the fit and the brightness of the tone. Here's Shane demonstrating it:

From now on I'll spend the extra couple of bucks to buy a quality slide from Shane (and the slide guitar lovers who make them for him) instead of grabbing whatever I see cheap at Amazon or Guitar Center.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Word PSA

Radical, a. 1. Of or pertaining to the root; proceeding directly from the root. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence: Of or pertaining to the root or origin; reaching to the center, to the foundation, to the ultimate sources, to the principles, or the like; original; fundamental; thorough-going; unsparing; extreme; as, radical evils; radical reform; a radical party. [1913 Webster]

I often see the word "radical" mis-used to mean "extreme" or even "knee-jerk contrarian," including by libertarians who complain that this or or that person or organization in the libertarian movement isn't "radical" enough.

For example, this morning at the Libertarian Institute, Peter Quinones argues that libertarians should be against not just mask mandates, but against mask-wearing as such.

His argument is not that masks are ineffective (which is not a question libertarianism could be expected to address), but rather that anything "the enemy" is for, libertarians should be against. Otherwise we're just playing respectability politics. After all, "the ideology of libertarianism you promote is radical to the normie to say the least. Or it should be! Do you want to be democrat or republican lite?"

Libertarianism is inherently radical insofar as it addresses all issues from one root holding: The unacceptability of aggression. Everything else is irrelevant to, or at most orthogonal to, libertarianism. 

"The libertarian position" on masks is that unless wearing one or not wearing one would constitute an initiation of force, it's impermissible to either require or forbid wearing one.

Any problem vis a vis libertarianism with "the enemy's" position on mask mandates has nothing to do with masks and everything to do with mandates. Being against masks because "the enemy" is for them isn't "radical," it's just dumb.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Assuming the Correctness of the Simulation Hypothesis and the Truth of the Bible ...

... that there YHVH is one heck of a programmer. Six days to code an entire open-world game, complete with either astonishingly complex non-player characters, or one heck of a pair of autonomously self-reproducing-by-pairing AIs, or both.

Always with the Masks, These Guys ...

"On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask -- not forever, just 100 days." -- Joe Biden

How many days of mask-wearing, in how many places, have we had? I've yet to see (and I've ASKED, and looked at people's answers) a published, peer-reviewed study that finds a significant reduction in transmission of COVID-19 or any other virus from masking. One study in St. Louis asserted a reduction in case numbers versus nearby cities after a mask mandate, but it didn't seem to control for other measures or spread factors in either St. Louis or those other cities.

Yes, I wear a mask because it feels like "common sense," because I don't want to discomfit the people around me, and because some businesses require it (theoretically my county does, but some businesses make it very clear that it's not their job to enforce county orders), but I don't see any reason to believe that it does much beyond what Dr. Anthony Fauci said in March: Make some people feel better.

Spending My Inheritance

I recently received a check for a few hundred dollars -- my share of what was left in my mom's bank account after she died and the bills were settled. Instead of just blowing it or paying bills with it, I wanted to purchase something durable to remember her by with it.

When I purchase something durable for leisure or sentimental purposes, the word "guitar" is usually involved. In this particular case, I deem that even more appropriate: Mom didn't play, but she did love music. And my inheritance from my dad was his guitar -- an Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II in cherry sunburst.

I had something somewhat similar, but not identical, in mind. And something that could be modified/personalized. I thought about building a cigar box guitar, but frankly I'm just not that great at it. I thought about having a cigar box guitar custom-built, but that didn't seem right either since I'm kind of matching it with the Epiphone.

After a lot of deliberation, I settled on an Ibanez Artcore AS53 (a nice "vintage look" riff  on the old Gibson ES-335), in flat tobacco finish:

My plan is to select an old black and white photo or two from mom's side of the family and reproduce them as "dry transfers" that can be rubbed onto the body of the guitar.

Unfortunately, the guitar was on back order at my preferred vendor (Musician's Friend), and at Sweetwater (I've never bought from them but have heard great things about them) as well.

I found one at at New Jersey music store via Reverb (that's a referral link -- $10 off your first purchase, and when you've spent $50 or more I get $10). I also ordered a hard-shell case for it from Musician's Friend -- for most of my guitars a soft "gig bag" is sufficient, but for Dad's and "Mom's" I want good storage/protection.

On the way, total cost under $400 (Probably another $20 or so for the graphics I have in mind). Which is a lot more than I usually spend on a guitar, but this is special and didn't break the inheritance "bank."

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A Quick Swing Back to the Election Results

I only meant to wait a few days (for Politico's election "calls") to finalize updates on my "Election Night Open Thread w/Prediction vs. Reality Goodness" post. Then I decided to wait on some of the recount/litigation stuff. Then I got distracted. So I just wrapped that up.

Result: For the third presidential election in a row, I correctly predicted the outcomes in 48 states. That's 48 of 50 in 2016 and this year, 48 of 48 in 2012 (I didn't try to predict Florida or North Carolina that year).

Which states did I get wrong? Florida and Georgia.

Why? Well, if I knew for sure, I wouldn't have called them incorrectly, would I? But I do have some thoughts.

First, let's look at Florida on the "legit" side.

Based on my (admittedly limited) travels around rural Alachua and Levy Counties, I thought I detected less enthusiasm for Trump than in 2016. That did change as the election got very close, but I still guessed that Trump wouldn't do as well this year.

I guessed wrong.

In Alachua County in 2016, Trump racked up 46,584 votes (he lost the county to Clinton due to the Gainesville vote). In 2020, 50,972 votes. Biden did beat him by a bigger percentage than Clinton in 2016, but he did get his own turnout up.

In Levy County (no big towns there), Trump whipped Clinton 71% to 26.3%, 13,758 votes to 5,091. This year, he beat Biden 72.4% to 26.8% -- 16,749 votes to 6,205.

In Pasco County, which the political odds-makers seem to consider a good proxy for "suburban/rural GOP-leaning Florida" in general, Trump went from 58.9% in 2016 to 59.5% in 2020.

Now let's look at the "illegitimate" side -- rigging and cheating -- in both Florida and Georgia.

In the absence of good reasons to suspect otherwise, I model that stuff as a wash in each state. That is, the Republicans will get up to their usual games of making it hard for black people to vote, etc., and the Democrats will get up to their usual games of manufacturing votes that weren't actually cast, and that both things will have the same effects they usually do.

So, I assumed that in Georgia the Republicans would continue to do well at making it hard for Democrats to vote, and that the Democrats would continue to not be able to overcome that with urban vote-stuffing. My guess is that I assumed wrong. I don't think that the usual Republican efforts went any worse than expected. I think that the continuing population shift into the urban Atlanta core caused the Democratic efforts to go better than expected (and it was pretty close in 2018).

In Florida, I thought I did have good reasons to expect a change in the rigging/cheating picture.

In 2018, Florida's voters amended the state constitution to allow former felons to vote. The GOP legislature and governor did all they could to reverse the voters' will by e.g. re-defining what "completion of sentence" means, but while they had some success in the courts, I expected that former felons would succeed in registering in the six-figure range anyway, and that their votes would lean Democrat.

I also expected Democratic vote-stuffing in e.g. Miami-Dade County to go on steroids after the 2016 debacle.

I think I got both of those wrong.

In addition, I suspect that the GOP may have turned to Democrat-style vote-stuffing tactics in Cuban-American communities in e.g. Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

On the "illegitimate" side, I think expected the situation to change in Florida and it didn't; while in Georgia, I expected the usual situation to continue and it changed.

But I'm not sure that the "illegitimate" stuff changed the outcome in either state, and if it did so it more likely did so in Georgia than in Florida.

Either way, I got those two states wrong, and will be looking for ways to not get them wrong next time.

Thanks For Asking! -- 12/02/20

OK, so I slacked off toward the end of November. No excuses -- I just didn't find anything that excited me enough to blog about, and wasn't willing to resort to "filler" material to up the post count. I'm still past the 200-post mark for the year. I'm not going to make my "average at least one post per day" goal, but I'll see if I can't up the content pace some for December ...

... starting with the monthly AMA thread. Ask me anything (in the comment section below this post) and I'll answer (in comments, in a stand-alone post, or elsewhere).