Workaround
Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Politics

So the new tax bill was written to deliberately mess over the states that lean Democrat. Particularly California and New York.

We have an ambitious politician here who’s challenging Diane Feinstein’s Senate seat who just came up with an answer to that: we can’t deduct state taxes now? Fine–what if we offer opting out of paying state taxes. Charitable contributions are still deductible, we’ll just set this up so… Quote: “Our hard-earned tax dollars should not be subject to double-taxation, especially not to line the pockets of the Trump family, hedge fund managers and private jet owners.” Alright then, he says. We’ll just finish writing up this bill, and then, you can donate to a state fund instead. We’ll make the contribution to the state funds 100% deductible on your state taxes–which means you can deduct it from your Federal.

Which will mess up their numbers. So sad.



Speed wreck
Thursday December 21st 2017, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Politics

Washing machines. So here’s what I’ve found so far.

There’s a reason the newer HE machines take an hour to clean your clothes: the enzymes in their detergents take up to an hour to clean away the soiled bits. If the machines work faster than that and your clothes come out still dirty, guess who gets the blame? Manufacturers don’t believe consumers pre-treat anything anymore and they build them on that assumption and if that means you get stuck waiting forever, oh well.

Speed Queen is the only brand still making machines with all-metal parts built to last decades; they wash the clothes, as the name implies, fairly quickly–and well–and with no electronics to go bad.

For about one more week. If you can find them. I found myself reading through pages and pages of discussion on the subject and stumbled across the statement by one reviewer that the government was requiring electronics by the end of the year.

Say what? How did that make sense?

So I called Speed Queen and got tossed to a technical-side guy there with a charming Midwestern accent who talked up the new model coming out and the electric parts behind the knobs now.

Electric? Are we meaning electronics here? I had to pin him down a bit: So are there going to be motherboards? (Having been quoted over $800 plus labor on a stove, on an oven, then on the other oven, all in upper-end major appliances under six years old. I am so done with that.)

He didn’t quite want to say yes, but, yes–and then he explained. You can set the machine to the size load you want, but the government doesn’t believe you won’t do anything but set it at extra large every time so they’re requiring sensors that automatically set the water level to match the level of the clothes. So, yes, he said, that reviewer was right: the old mechanical-only knob machines are only allowed to be sold through the end of this year.

If you can find one, he warned.

Suddenly my ability to face shelling out the kind of money those cost just shot way up. There’s a reason washing-machine sales are up so high and it ain’t quality in the other brands.

The rest of it is all still all-metal parts, he assured me.

I had one other question, the big sticking point for me: I needed a machine that could spin out hand washed woolens without spraying water on them; could theirs do that?

Only on one of the cycles, he said.

I only need one. Cool. Thank you so much.

Since I hung up the phone, I’ve had to wonder: Speed Queen had a twenty-year warranty on those all-mechanical machines a few years ago, while other manufacturers were cutting more and more corners and designing theirs to die at five or six years so you’d have to replace them. They were even discontinuing parts, said another person on that same thread, for not-much-older machines so you couldn’t keep fixing them.

I live in California. I know how to conserve water. Speed Queens were dunned for using too much, but someone in that thread actually measured the water going into the spray function of an HE machine and found it used about the same amount.

What I’m thinking is, someone doesn’t like the competition that comes when lots of people like me (and that’s probably most of us by now) want a machine without the stinking failing motherboards anymore. I wonder how much their CEOs donated to which members of Congress to shut down their competition?*

Because you know this Congress is absolutely capable of doing that.

Meantime, Speed Queen is putting their electronic ones through the ringer to try to make them as reliable as the old reliable. They have a reputation to maintain.

A klieg-light heads-up to the other major-appliance makers: you, too, could grab away a fanatically grateful share of the market if you made things that didn’t break down constantly. Like you used to.

 

*(Edited to add, turns out Rep. Upton of Michigan is an heir to the Whirlpool fortune. No surprise.)



Senator Jones
Tuesday December 12th 2017, 11:35 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Alabama voted for Democrat Doug Jones, a good and decent man, over the demented, angry child molester.

I really thought they would, but I’m still trying to take in the reality that they actually did it. They did it! They gave themselves a future to be proud of! (As one person aptly put it after looking over the vote totals, African-Americans, especially African-American women there, saved the white population from its worst self.)

I get to open more presents tomorrow, but that was already the best one.



What happened in Vegas stays in all of us
Monday October 02nd 2017, 10:41 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics

I know someone who loves someone who lost someone and I bet just about everybody else can say the same.

Clean, straighten, organize, laundry, clean sheets… When you can’t do anything you have to do something. One man. Nine rounds a second. Ten minutes.

Stanford Blood Center canceled a staff meeting and kept their doors open longer. Las Vegas didn’t need it from them yet but with over 500 people wounded it’s way too soon to tell. My thanks to all who have been the heroes–and Jimmy Kimmel is one.

I met one once…



For J and A with love
Monday August 14th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Lupus,Politics

There are times when I really, passionately regret and even resent that my lupus does not allow me to spend time in the sun, not even five minutes in the middle of a summer day.

Because I want to be one of the counter-protesters when they come here. They intend to come this weekend, these evil men who are trying to out-Westboro the Westboro idiots. Maybe they’ll see how many of their peers are being identified and arrested or fired after Charlottesville and do like Westboro does half the time these days: make lots of noise and threats and then stay home.


With so much going on that is so beyond words, I took comfort in reading accounts of good people who took care of others in Virginia, and in finishing this today, one of the softest things I have ever knit. In looking forward to seeing my friend’s face when I get to give it to her.

Knitting it was also my way of conveying to her immigrant husband how glad I am that he is here and that he is married to her: he’s a deeply good man. We are fortunate to have him here.



Mark her words
Sunday August 13th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life,Politics

Let me put the knitting down for a moment and show you where to see a photo.

Of first responders.

In Charlottesville. (Washington Post video. Warning: includes that car.)

The one overcome by grief, sunk down on his knee in the grass with a friend’s steadying hand on his shoulder, is the husband of my friend Chan, and that is her blog.

What happened in their town should never happen anywhere. Especially, absolutely, never in America. The actions of these few are a terrorist threat against everything our country aspires towards.

As Orrin Hatch put it, “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”



Healthcare bill
Tuesday July 25th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: History,Knitting a Gift,Lupus,Politics

Being the political junkie that I am, I got some good knitting time in while watching the Senate vote 50-50 today with Pence tipping the scales. Watched John McCain give the speech of his life after casting the vote that utterly mocked everything he would say immediately thereafter. He could have put a stop to it all right there, and it would have been over for good just like the version in April was. This was a vote to allow the bill to continue to the floor, and he promised not to vote in the future for that bill as it now stands. (Knowing full well that after amendments and arguments it would not be as it now stands, for better but also for worse.)

But that is pure hubris anyway. He might be in the hospital then, he might not even be alive.

I don’t know how many people know that the current Republican bill, among its many other problems, would allow employer-based health insurance to reach in and deny coverage to the chronically ill—lupus is specifically targeted, hey, it was nice knowing you all–coverage that the employees are paying for out of their paychecks, and with the ACA gone we patients would be unable to buy any anywhere else, either.

But hey, I got a lot of blanket knitted!

I called McConnell’s office, got through on the first ring, and told whichever intern answered the phone that McConnell is only pushing on that bill because my uncle the late and generally-right-wing Senator Bob Bennett of Utah is dead. Because McConnell wouldn’t have been able to look Bob in the eye.

Bob was a Republican, but he also believed American businesses could not compete as long as their workers knew they were one medical crisis away from losing everything. He had lived through losing his job and his insurance when he’d had a young family to support. He knew.

So he wrote, with Ron Wyden, a Democrat, the first draft of a bill. Romneycare had worked in Massachusetts, so…



You gotta hand it to those mannequins
Monday July 03rd 2017, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Blowing up mannequins on the Mall in DC as the traffic continues on by without a blink. Someone at the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a job that gets to be fun once a year: showing how not to be stupid with fireworks.

That bird (I’m guessing a pigeon) streaking past that blue canopy a split second early enough must have thought it had broken the sound barrier. Take *that*, raptors!

The full version beyond the gifs, here, from 2016. Watching the 2015 and 2017 versions (same demos), it’s amusing to watch the demo kitchen setup go from curtains on the window and potholders to potholders to, this year, oh forget it. Just the paper window.

Budget cuts.

Happy and safe Fourth-ing, everybody!



What a day
Wednesday June 14th 2017, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Politics

My thanks to the Muslims in Grenfell Tower who, observant of Ramadan, got up early to eat before the day’s fast and so were awake to alert their neighbors in that tower last night–which had no building-wide fire alarm and no sprinkler system–and saved many lives.

One building inspector in the US marveled that that place would have been out of code here as of 1920. (I confess I haven’t yet searched to see if his date holds up.)

Praying for a full recovery for Steve Scalise and the others shot at the Congressional Republicans’ baseball warmup this morning, and I am in awe of those who ran to stop the gunman who was far better armed than they. They are heroes, too.

I love that Steny Hoyer from my home state of Maryland told the cameras that Scalise was his good friend and he was praying for him. Full stop. There was no mention of how very different their politics are. That had no place.

In California, as of a few years ago, there is a law and a process whereby one can petition a court to have someone not be able to have a gun: someone convicted of domestic violence, someone who has proven a danger to others or themselves; there has to be a good reason. That petition if successful kicks in the equivalent of a restraining order against the person’s having a gun in their possession for a limited period of time. I believe it passed after the Santa Barbara mass shooter, who was mentally ill and whose parents begged everybody they could think of to intervene, to help them keep their kid from doing what he planned on doing but were told no because he hadn’t actually committed any crimes yet–he just wanted to. They were frantically driving up from LA to try to stop him but they were too late.

The new law has held up in court. It can be done. If you want this to be true in your state, too, you know what to do.

On a more cheerful note: I took a deep breath and took in my happy place a moment. Apple tree to the left, peach to the right, lemon out of sight to the far right, plum tree straight ahead. and all the others around.

And baby pictures. The Little Hunk. They change so fast.

 



Blink and you’ll miss it
Thursday June 08th 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Politics,Wildlife

While I watched the Comey hearing…(full YouTube video.) There is nothing like observing their faces along with their words and intonations. (What on earth was Cornyn doing with his hands the whole time he was talking?) I kept half-hoping someone would call John McCain an ambulance–he   s  p  o  k  e    in slow motion, made no sense, (the ex-FBI chief is not addressed as President) and looked like he was having a serious medical event like a transient ischemic attack or a diabetic crash.

So. Five (!) hawk sightings today, including one I got to see coming straight towards me, its neck not so white, its chest solid and buff: an adult.

However many there are in its young family, it rules, and the crows and ravens have disappeared from my end of the block as of late.

What’s completely new is a mockingbird that has suddenly decided that the larger scrub jay has no right to my back yard–and the surprise that the bossy overdressed blue corvid loses every time. After being the bully of the bird feeder forever, threatening the songbirds while stealing far more than it needs to or even can eat, it was quite surprised at getting its comeuppance and having to run for it, not casually but for real, with the smaller mocker twirling around in serious chase above the elephant ears. Not learning a thing, the jay had to dash for cover again and again, the other right at its back. A brilliantly-colored tanager on the other side of the fence took courage for the first time and gave it its own “And STAY out!” over there.

Tempted to name the mocker Comey.

Meantime, two days ago when the sun was safely low–the lupus/UV exposure thing–I knocked on the door of the little kids across the street so they could get a chance to come see the doves in the nest. I was sure if we waited a few more days the fledging would be over and I remember how much my kids loved to be lifted up to see the baby birds back in the day.

But the family was probably out in the back yard and didn’t hear me.

Yesterday we had those two doves side-by-side up there, the one no longer attempting to hide from me under momma’s wing, but again no one was home across the street till the sun had sunk altogether.

Today there was no one home on top of that ladder and no dove in sight.

Oh well. Next year.

I looked again shortly after, though, and there the two were, fluttering upwards in no particular alarm at my coming around the corner, rather as a matter of teaching the young What One Does while telling each other about me. (Old enough to fly: check. Good.) One stayed in sight about six feet past the young pear tree and I took its graduation portrait.

And when I blinked, like all good mourning doves it felt compelled to blink back. It’s one of the most charming things about them.



Blessed are the peacemakers
Tuesday June 06th 2017, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Politics,Wildlife

Two in sight, for the first time! (Wikipedia on mourning doves, here.) You can only see the two of them from this angle; the smaller one disappears from view in walking around to the other side (where there isn’t anything to step higher onto.)

Meantime…

I thought the concept of the collegiality of the Senate had gone extinct in the last ten years.

But here’s Al Franken, championing that phrase and the whole idea of it, reclaiming it for our common good. In trying to explain it to Trevor Noah as a real thing, he offers an example just past the 15 minute mark of being friends to and befriended in a big way by one’s political opposites.

The wife of then-Senator Jeff Sessions, whose nomination for Attorney General Franken voted against, had knitted a baby blanket for Franken’s new grandchild. He marveled at it: a baby blanket! It was clear he got what a labor of love that was, and he held up the thought to the whole world as an example of how it could be. It had taken time, it had taken thought, it had taken work, though he didn’t quite spell that out in long form.

A baby blanket as a symbol of peace. I’m sure the doves won’t mind having company.



45*
Tuesday May 16th 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Y’know, I really tried to come up with a good blog post for today, but President Trainwreck just kinda–I mean–every day he tops what he did the day before, but, wow.

Ross Douthat, a Republican writer at the New York Times and certainly no liberal, says it’s time for Article 25. Yes. Yes it is.



Turn a route is fare, pay
Tuesday April 11th 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Lupus,Politics

If you can stand another United story to go with all the others out there after they beat up a doctor for refusing to be bounced from a flight because he said he needed to see his patients in the hospital in the morning. Two days later he was still in the hospital himself. (United’s own carrier contract I am told says that once you’re boarded in your reserved seat it’s yours.)

“Because it arrived at the time you wanted.”

That was the excuse United gave me for what they’d done.

Remember that bit of a whine over the price of the airfare to San Diego for this past weekend? When I was booking tickets a month ago, I blinked at Southwest’s cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fare that was over twice the usual and googled to see what else might be out there.

United’s fare was better. Huh. Okay, so I typed in the specific airports I wanted to leave from and go to, SJC to SAN, and what time I wanted to get to San Diego by: the kids had wanted Grampa to see Parker’s 9:00 game. (Grandma here crashed on the couch for that, safely out of the sun and needing that nap and everybody understood.)

Top of the page their site took me to, it said San Jose to San Diego in big letters, with a list of flights below. Alright, then. Did I want to buy insurance against having to change or cancel my tickets? $40, but with my health, I had to say yes. (Southwest doesn’t charge you for changes or cancellations; they apply your fare to future flights if you’ve gone with the cheapest, non-refundable option. United stiffs you while reselling your seat unless you’ve shelled out that extra.)

I hit confirm to both and only then did it say I was booked for SNA. Orange County. Two hours away. That’s the same thing, right?

I got on the phone immediately and made them deal with my deafness and demanded that they refund that ticket instantly. This was so deceptive. This was an unbelievably bad user interface and why in this day and age hadn’t they fixed it? Right there at the top of the page in bold, it said I was booking for San Diego. Unbelievable.

They did refund me instantly but said I’d have to undo the insurance through a separate company. They, too, said they’d make good on it. Okay, but this should never have happened.

“Because it arrived at the time you wanted.” Never mind that the time to get set up with a rental car and then drive it south for two hours meant that there was no physical chance of getting off that flight and getting ourselves to San Diego by, y’know, the time we said we wanted to be there. I asked again why it offered me the wrong flight and they said because they didn’t have one directly to there at that time so they redirected me to one that did land at that time.

The mind, it boggles.

We flew Southwest.



And with that, March is over
Friday March 31st 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Finally got that car in today, now that I wasn’t waiting for repairmen or appointments.

Oil change, routine stuff, and… a cracked drive belt. Caught before it could leave us stranded on the side of the road. Good thing.

Oh and? My one request of the universe right now would be that it not be an April Fool’s joke–and he did post it March 31, not April 1: George Takei announced on his Facebook page that he just bought a house in Devin Nunes’ district to run against him next year.

May he live long so we’ll all prosper.



Gorsuch-and-such
Tuesday March 21st 2017, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit,Politics

As I clipped off the ties there was this vague sense that something was wrong, but it made no sense and I ignored it–at the time.

Oooh, man. All those hundreds of yards of wool and that compliant-looking hank was anything but: it was tangled, and tangled bad.

If you are winding yarn into a hank (race-track shaped, for the non knitters, for dyeing now and winding into a ball later) and get interrupted and come back to it and finish with the winding going the other way, you create loops against the loops instead of one big loop–and the yarn must be slowly carefully unwoven back through all those figure-eights. The ball, as it gets bigger and bigger, still has to fit through all those catch points every time around.

I started at about 10:30 this morning. I got interrupted by a few things, including a friend dropping by for an hour and a half, but still: it was 3:30 when I finally got that last yard onto that ball.

Which I emphatically did not knit. I was done with it for the day.

So while I fussed with all that, I had the second-day Neil Gorsuch hearings going to keep me occupied. (The Supreme Court nominee.)

He seems like a nice guy. We could definitely do worse, given who chose him.

And yet. Too often he’s sided with money over people. That Hobby Lobby judgment that he defended because of the owners’ “sincerely held beliefs”? A Senator said, Well, what if an owner is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to pay for employees’ medical insurance to cover blood donations? Where does this end? And what about the sincerely held beliefs of the 1300 employees, don’t they matter?

There were questions about a case involving a trucker, which Gorsuch dismissed as squabbling over a hole vs an opening in the floor of the truck. I wondered what that was all about, since he clearly seemed to be avoiding it, so I went looking.

What he refused to acknowledge was that by his dissent in that case, he was saying a man’s life was less important than corporate rules.

The brakes had failed on the guy’s trailer and he had called for help, was told it was coming, and fell asleep in his unheated truck. He woke up in the early stages of hypothermia and knew he would die if he stayed there. Rather than drive with a dangerous trailer he unhooked it, drove the truck to safety and warmth, and when that roadside help finally came, drove back to the trailer and dealt with it.

He was fired, and Gorsuch upheld that firing. The rules were he was to have stayed put, and he didn’t.

And this is the man who wants to make potentially life-and-death decisions for us all.

I can only pray we get the smiley Mr. Nice Guy he portrayed himself as. We have enough of a tangled mess at the top.