The day I’ll always remember

Only for my family it’s today, December 22nd, and not September 3rd.

Oct 25, 1949 - Dec 22, 1991

I am not sure how others may feel when losing a parent at a young age; for me, the absence is always there. In the beginning this was “standard” personal grief, five-stages stuff, but as I’ve grown older and become a father as well, it’s less overt. It strikes me more that I’m not just missing him, directly, but missing him in relation to everyone else I love. Things are subtly out of context because he’s not with us.

For example, my son has his Baba, my wife’s dad, and each loves the other dearly. It’s a blessing and a great joy. Watching them, sometimes, the absence will suddenly poke up from the background and make itself known: my son doesn’t have both Babas there. I have no doubt that Dad would have doted to distraction on The Lad, as he would have done to my sister’s son.

My father was not one to be uninvolved. I think he would have enjoyed talking shop with my wife’s father, chatting about families, retirement, politics. I picture him still drawing, only now putting the stuff up on Instagram; getting after me to write more; finding a part-time job somewhere to enjoy during his retirement. He’d be amazed if he came back now to learn that they made three more Star Trek series, five more Star Wars films, and that my Atari 2600 games had eventually morphed into near-photo-realistic experiences, influenced heavily by the mainstreaming of anime – which he only saw on the fringes of popular culture, or else in dumbed-down, highly-edited versions for children such as Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, or Speed Racer.

In our family he was the “everyday” cook – Mom handled holidays for the most part, and the rest of the time Dad was playing culinary Frankenstein, cadging ingredients into an impromptu family dinner. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that, and not just because all three of us kids are adults now.

He’d be stopping by during the season, jibing me for going over the top with holiday gift-giving while steadfastly forgetting that he’s the source of that habit of mine; in turn we’d tease him because his normal gruff baritone became a Michael McDonald falsetto whenever he sang. And he would laugh and sing anyway, because he loved music and it was nearly always playing in our home. He probably would have bought one of the earliest iPods and kept up with the technology the whole time, while figuring out a way to get all his albums, cassettes, and 8-tracks digitized – because why should you pay for it all twice?

I am now two years and several weeks older than he was when he passed away, twenty-five years ago today.

Here’s to you, Dad.

Talk about crazy

This “quick random observation” of Severian’s …

Anyway, back in grad school I observed that it’s the girls who are almost kinda sorta halfway cute, or who would be almost kinda sorta halfway cute if they exerted some effort, who were the craziest.

…got me thinking a bit about his conclusion:

I’m tempted to argue that you can sum up all of pop-feminism with “we think we’re cuter than we actually are, and we’re going to get the government to force you to agree.”

Is it that they think they’re cuter than they are, or is it that they realize they’re not cute enough to get by on cute  alone, so they are determined AT ANY COST to make “looks” a dirty word – or even a punishable offense? We’re talking about lasses who could work their way into the 5-6 range, right? Well, that means that, in college, their absolute best efforts would leave them behind at the quarter pole of life, though with diligence they could be in that second wave of ladies who settle down (emphasis on “settle” in their minds) in their late 20s or early 30s with guys whom they would have considered beneath them in school, but who are also the only ones left once all the good catches are made.

(Full disclosure – I married just short of age 35. Pretty sure it’s the single eyebrow.)

Like Sev said, there are absolute hellbeasts who truly don’t care, but then there’s this large set of ladies whom, it seems, care quite a lot – the old cisheteronormative drive to “compete for a mate and a home” is normative for a reason – and so their smartest strategy is to play up “looks aren’t everything” to gain some sort of a counter-edge against the ladies with more obvious advantages. If they do it right, then they can beat the curve, so to speak … find someone better, earlier, and share a happy life.

This is a time-honored pursuit, of course. There’s a cottage industry of popular music with lyrics like this, and that, in its own way, is a reflection of the truth. It’s kind of bizarre to a younger guy: who praises his beloved by saying “Nature didn’t give you such a beautiful face”? But baby, you got what it takes… and the older fellow that I’ve become understands it. Looks alone aren’t really “what it takes.” I’m reminded of when I was a younger guy, going out for a post-game meal with the guys, watching the 30-ish ladies “who still got it!” trawling the bar. Someone asked an older teammate why he wasn’t over there chatting one of them up, she was actually pretty hot… and he shook his head and said, “Somewhere out there is a string of guys my age who are all sick of her shit.”

Point taken. Sooner or later you’ve seen all there is to look at.

So what to make of those who ain’t a beauty, but hey, they’re all right? They should have a big advantage over ladies with looks who also turn out to be bananapants loony. For a long time, in fact, they did. But what they didn’t have was an edge on ladies with looks who also realized that after the looking was over, they had to have something to talk about. They worked on making themselves a complete package, and routed the field.

When feminists of my mother’s generation faced this problem they were fond of deriding such ladies with putdowns like “She only went to school for her MRS degree.” And that is the first hint I can see of the problem – the all-too-human impulse to refuse to admit one’s real place in the scheme of things. If you can turn that around and make it so that the scheme itself is the problem, then you A) can succeed in ways that were never possible before, and B) never have to change. That’s a terrible siren song to try to resist, and they weren’t up to it. They went ahead and amplified it instead, and convinced generations of their daughters that they were in it for themselves, just like the guys, and if the boys didn’t like it, that was their own fault.

They thought that they were doing this to get back at the boys, but it really looks more like they were doing it to get back at the other girls. Feminism isn’t really about “girl power” at all, it’s about “me power.” Wonder no more why feminists will straight-out savage women who are happy wives and mothers, and who praise their lives. If they were themselves happy with their choices they would have no need for this… they only betray their resentment that they don’t have those lives for themselves.

That brings us, in roundabout way, back to the Filipovics, Valentis, and Marcottes.

Over the years, they have both submitted to and in turn exerted a good deal of pressure on other women to not do what has come naturally to humanity for millennia, to “not play their game.” This has been the cause of a lot of misery over the years. They are unwilling (or perhaps incapable) of following the sensible advice of mothers since time immemorial, that you have to have something more substantial to keep the fella interested and happy – how bourgeois! Neither can they stand to see others of their own peer group follow that advice and succeed. So they flatter themselves that they’re above all that. They make themselves dumber, shriller, self-absorbed, and unpleasant. A guy like, say, 32-year-old me, won’t say “You know, she’s really fun to be with, has a great sense of humor, and can really hold a conversation… I’m interested.” I’m gone, if I have half a brain – and not because I’m being shallow, but because they are. They aren’t giving anyone a reason to take a second look. They are repulsive rather than interesting, for reasons that go far beyond appearance.

And though it’s impossible to quantify, I think there’s something to the thought that such behavior eventually does have an effect on the looks as well – sane, smart, happy people look better than crazy, priggish, humorless people. The happy people go from 6 to 7, and keep that 7 longer… the loons drop to 5 or 4 and decline rapidly.

The resulting accusation would be that “Guys think it’s all about them all the time,” and “How shallow! I’m living for myself, not for some man, maaaaan!” Those sound suspiciously like self-serving deceptions to rationalize being an awful person. Nor should they be taken in by the praise of fellow-travelers in this carny sideshow of crazy: that, too, is self-serving, because loons needs other loons around them to make themselves appear sane – that’s the only remaining strategy for landing some poor unfortunate chap who’s essentially got no other choice if he wants some constant company.

Because, you see, men aren’t the builders of this game, contrary to insane assumptions – we’re just fellow players. Just as there are plenty of women who can never land a Mr. Darcy, there are plenty of guys with no prayer of securing a Ms. Bennett. We all face this realization about our own status in life. I mean, do you think all men are equally handsome, equally ambitious, equally smart, equally accomplished? Plenty of us had to take stock while the top catches had their pick of our peer group, and quickly figure out what else could capture and hold someone’s interest. (Or, not so quickly. I was pretty much 35 years old when I got married – I’m not exactly Dr. Genius McQuarterback over here.)

Call them betas or gammas or whatever term is current… since we’re talking tradition here, I’m going with the traditional term: losers. And as a group, losers have few prospects, and have to work harder to cultivate them. It’s easier to take the lazy way and just scoff at the whole traditional idea – to be as equally-scornful of guys who get the girl, who are “only interested in one thing,” who are actually “awful, dumb, superficial jerks” and “why do women love morons?” That is just as anti-human as the reverse, and thus just as unappealing – not only to the fairer sex, but also to other guys. These losers are creeps whom nobody trusts and nobody likes.

The result is that their only shot at marrying (or at least bedding) someone, anyone, is among the distaff side of their cohort. It all becomes a cruel self-fulfilling irony – they “refuse to play the game” and lose by default, getting stuck with exactly the sorts of people they accuse everyone else of being: they play white-knight to the damsels, who hate them for that and demand to be thought of as strong, confident, and capable; in turn they crumble at the least hint of disapproval; smarmy “backrub boys” (the delightful epithet of Sheila O’Malley) and wearying harridans.

You can be a loser all your life or you can at least try to win a little. It is, believe it or not, possible to rise from this rank – the first and perhaps hardest step is to admit that you are, in fact, rank. Cleaning up and getting respectable starts with looking for the soap and water, to have at least that much respect for yourself and those around you. The effort may reveal hidden qualities you never bothered to look for, and just the effort involved is bound to develop whatever qualities you do have to their best.

Toronto beats Baltimore’s worst pitcher in an elimination baseball game because the save is an awful, awful stat that should perish in a radioactive fire

I mean, I could just make several rude jokes based on Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s name, but let’s cut to the chase. The save is atrocious. Bullpen usage is usually awful because of it. It may not be the worst stat in sports, but it’s on the short list. Even hockey’s +/- (drink!) hasn’t caused such misery as using the closer only in “save situations.”

Edwin Encarnacion may have still bombed one off of Zach Britton, of course. Ed is a great hitter, and Britton did give up that other homer… that one single solitary home run, against Boston, all the way back on April 11th. Strange things can happen. For that matter, Encarnacion may have just blooped in the winning run from third. In that situation, the home team only needs to be better or luckier on one pitch.

So, if that happens to your best pitcher, you say that they beat your best and they deserve it. Instead, Encarnacion got to face Ubaldo Jimenez, who was an all-star in 2010 and a bottom-rotation guy ever since. This is somebody whom Buck Showalter would not trust in the playoff rotation, so why would he trust him in a tie game, during extra innings, with runners on base, when a loss ends the season?

All because of the save. Instead of using your best pitchers in high-leverage situations – say, with the season-ending run standing on third base against the heart of the opponent batting order – it’s become necessary to only use them in a spot where a lesser pitcher could serve just as well.

How incomprehensible was this? Let me put it this way: my teammates and I were watching on TV before our own hockey game started. We went down to play just after the Toronto fan lobbed a beer can at a Baltimore fielder; we came back just in time for the TV announcers to show Encarnacion’s June 10th walkoff against the Orioles before watching him hit the next baseball halfway to Mars. (That’s every broadcaster’s dream – to show footage like that and then have it repeat itself live so they can look all smart and prophetic.)

I showered, went home, walked the dog, hit the hay… and only when I woke up this morning did I find that Baltimore kept its best reliever in the clubhouse the whole time. I assumed Jimenez was in because Britton had pitched already. Why wouldn’t he? If Baltimore wins, they have today off, so Britton would presumably be available to get three outs on Thursday.

Nope. Gotta save him for that SAVE SITUATION! Only now it will be in April. Hope he’s fresh.

Back at the Hive 1.0 I talked about reforming the save. (Item three here.) Do it, Mr. Manfred. It’s time to end our long national pastime nightmare.

PS – Maybe Wade Miley is worse after all. Maybe Buck was saving him for the twelfth inning. 

There is no content, only SNUL

My laptop has shuffled its mortal coil, and a replacement costs more than I’m budgeted for right now. Posting via mobile (like this) is something of a challenge – the app is fine, but typing on a phone or tablet is a bother, even a simple post… never mind a multi-part epic like my last bit on the Bill of Rights.

I’ll keep sending small updates like this one, as possible. Thanks for your patience.

The Amendment Story

People of my generation will be very familiar with this brilliancy from the writers of the Simpsons:

It would benefit the sitters-in of Congress to take a look, perhaps – no doubt they can lounge back on their pillows, watching on their smartphones while munching all the goodies provided them. For those few of us already here, however, it might help to take a look at the actual Bill of Rights all over again, to see why these principles are too important to trample over in a rush.

At this point, we’ll get an important retort out of the way – “Where were you when this was about the Patriot Act, huh?” The short answer is, I wasn’t blogging yet; I didn’t open Hive 1.0 until late September of 2004. (Post One, for what it’s worth.) The longer answer is, I was in favor of it at the time, though I opposed the Department of Homeland Security and TSA – feeling that those were needless duplications of functions better-handled by the Department of Defense – but as it turns out, the warnings about it look like they’re coming true. I also note, ruefully, that the very people so convinced then of the dangers of such surveillance and infringement are precisely the same people guilty of expanding those abuses; perhaps they knew they wouldn’t be able to control themselves if given such power? And perhaps that explains why they think no legal gun owner can be likewise trusted to his own defense?

To sum up – either you were wrong about PATRIOT, in which case you shouldn’t support this nonsense, or you were right about it, in which case this is exactly what you were warning us about. Now back to our story, below the fold…

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First things First

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Amendment One – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the grandaddy of them all, as Keith Jackson might have said in 1787. The Constitution proper outlines everything the citizen can expect his new central government to do; immediately following is a provision that broadly outlines the sorts of activities that a citizen can expect this government to protect and respect.

Note – not permit. There is no permission to be had. This is something a person can do merely by virtue of being a person. You have the right to worship as you please, and speak your mind, and print your ideas and distribute them, and gather with those of your own choosing, and you especially get to appeal to your new government when someone else forbids you any of those things – and especially if the new government is the one doing the forbidding.

That’s a lot to go over. All at once the State is made subordinate to the citizens – deriving their just powers from their consent, as you recall being quoted from the Declaration. Further, the will of the government as expressed in the law is not regarded as automatically superior to religious practice. The well-known “wall of separation” Jefferson referred to in his letters was not meant only to protect the State from any Church, but also the reverse. It was a guarantee that the government would not make laws interfering with the practices or particulars of any sect, nor to make one official over the others. (This reinforces the provision in Article VI of the Constitution proper that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”)

Regardless of faith or lack thereof, we also have the inherent right to speak our mind. I’ve spoken a lot about this in other contexts, especially when it comes to those who, while not bound by the First Amendment, unwisely decide to use social pressures and other tools to make sure that those whose ideas they dislike are never given a hearing. Such things are perhaps a necessary consequence of liberty, since obliging somebody to sit and listen to me is just as bad as obliging me to shut up already. Nobody is forced to give a platform to anyone else. But the habit of silencing leads too easily to the loud demands that somebody in charge take it upon themselves to do the silencing for you; we’ve seen it repeatedly with mobs attacking a political rally in San Jose, state universities permitting protests to shout down or drive off disfavored speakers, and official punishment to those who invited those speakers (but none to the silencers).

This is a dangerous road, and a good enough reason for us to be wary when a large social platform selectively punishes only certain viewpoints.

Finally, we tiresome free peoples have every right to bug our elected officials about doing the jobs we’ve delegated to them, in the manner we direct. We can *peaceably* assemble to tell them so. In fact we can peaceably assemble to do most anything else, too – play disc golf, have a large choreographed dance number, play human chess, set a record for the largest cookie ever cooked in Kankakee County… you name it. And that doesn’t sit well with the gatekeeper personality…

Just a Second

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Amendment Two – A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The bete noir of the moment, subject to all sorts of misconstruals and derision; but considered to be a fundamental and unalienable right of humanity. Why?

Well, it’s not the gun. One very foolish meme is that “I wish I had as many rights as a gun.” But of course the gun is a thing, and it has no more rights than a potato or a pine tree or a saltwater aquarium. Remember, we are the people, therefore we have the rights. One of those is the right to lawful self-defense. Hence, the gun.

It’s easy to bog down in debating what, exactly, is proportionate self-defense, but that’s an issue that must rely on the primary right, which is that we need not be passive targets. Just because you can’t shoot your neighbor when their yappy Yorkie piddles on your hyacinths, doesn’t mean that you have to sit helpless when some armed brigand tries to kick in your door. Long before there were any laws, governments to make them, or societies to require them, there was the simple fact – Ogg wants to club you and take your fire, your mate, and your bearskins. Unless you want to be unconscious, cold, lonely, and nude, you had better do something about it.

Beyond this, however, there is another consideration. We’re telling a story right now, and the first Amendment has set us up with a beautiful premise – we, the heroes, have all these rights, and we have a land we’ve set up specifically so that we promise that we will respect these things… not just from person-to-person, either, but when we exercise authority in the form of laws. Those laws will not infringe these rights.

People are, however, sneaky and greedy; they may well decide to ignore this respect and try to use the laws to get their way. After all, agreement or not, they’re in charge now. So they’re going to break up our pizza parties, close our dance clubs, outlaw our doctrines, burn our books, and we’re going to shut up and like it. What are the heroes going to do about it? It’s not like the bosses in charge are required to listen to our redress for grievances after doing all the rest, nor are they likely to act on those grievances.

Well, ultimately – and as strange as it sounds to our 21st-century ears – they had darned well better, because the right to self defense includes defending yourself against your own government. Logically, it must include this, or else the only thing preventing the destruction of your rights and the premature end to our story is if one group manages to get themselves into a public office.

And that’s how the right above comes into play. Because a free state requires a well-regulated Militia, your right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That doesn’t mean that you, the citizen, must submit to regulation of your rights, either. The Militia – the people assembled for their own defense – needs regulating. We don’t want a mere mob. But a disarmed Militia is no practical use either. Where law and order has broken down entirely and the local police are overwhelmed, we’re back to the land of Ogg… only this time there’s fifty of him and they’re looting and burning the entire town. That’s when the Militia – a well-armed and disciplined people – assemble, and in concert exercise the right of self-defense on behalf of themselves and the defenseless. Such an ability is inestimably valuable.