Category Archives: General

September 11, 2001 and Today

A solemn day, today, given the 9/11 anniversary.

I vividly recall being at home that morning, turning on the TV, and seeing the flaming tower, singular. I witnessed live the second plane hit, then watched in horror as the first building fell, then the second.

Horrible, horrible stuff, and sadly what followed wasn’t all that much better. We invaded Afghanistan, which made sense as Osama Bin Ladin was, the intelligence said, there. But it was also used, sadly, as an excuse to stage the Iraq invasion. Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s leader, had nothing to do with 9/11 but President George W. Bush and, I suspect especially, Vice President Cheney were eager to go after him. Hussein had, after all, tried to assassinate his father.

The world we live in today, sadly, still carries echoes of 9/11. We still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq -and much of the Middle East- remains a mess. The current President doesn’t inspire much hope for any sort of resolution.

Incredibly, 19 years have passed since that attack.

One hopes we’re in a far better place 19 years from now.

Coronavirus Diaries 21

First, sorry for the dearth of posts.

I enjoy writing these posts but sometimes, very honestly, it seems like there’s little to say.

In fact, that was what I was thinking about today specifically: What’s there to talk about?

I mean, I could go into politics what with the Democratic convention (virtual) going on. I’ve watched a little bit of it here and there but at this point its not really worth my while: I know whom I’m going to vote for (big surprise, if you’ve followed these posts) and there’s nothing that’s going to change my mind about that.

There are -shockingly!- sporting events going on, basketball, baseball, and hockey, but I’ve pretty much avoided all of them and from what I’m reading so too have most people. The ratings are very low.

There’s very little news regarding movies as well, given that most studios have paused productions and only now are starting certain productions up. On TV, we’re seeing much of the same, with new shows paused while other shows are trying to reinvent themselves in this current self-isolating situation we’re in.

For example, Guy Fieri over on the Food Network is doing a “at home” version of -I believe- Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives which has him at home talking to some five restaurant owners who have sent him packages of their latest/popular items and Fieri and his sons (nepotism is cool!) cook the food up as instructed and then try it out and guests fawn over their hosts and vice versa.

I know I sound pretty cynical in the later half of that paragraph but I have to give Fieri some credit in trying to help out restaurants and their owners by having these types of shows. While it isn’t advisable to go to a restaurant and eat in, most restaurants are open for take out food at the least, and keeping them in business is obviously helpful to the local economy.

I’ve noted articles regarding movie theaters that may re-open with films that are ready to go/be released, including the Christopher Nolan directed Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, the supposed last Daniel Craig Bond film No Time To Die, and other somewhat smaller films like The New Mutants.

Unfortunately, I also read a report -sorry, not sure where it was from- where it was being recommended you not go to theaters yet, regardless of how they deal with spacing. The fact of the matter is that being in an enclosed area with a bunch of strangers is not a good idea, especially if you’re there for some two hours and even if you are masked up.

The air within the closed up theater simply increases the odds of transmission of Covid-19, regardless of social distancing and using masks, etc.

Eager as I am to watch some of these films, I’m not willing to risk myself to go to a theater to see them.

In the time since the first shutdown toward the end of March, I’ve gone to and eaten in a restaurant exactly one time several weeks ago (perhaps even over a month and a half ago) and that was because my family was celebrating some birthdays and at that time they were allowing restaurants to reopen but with plenty of distancing. Since then the rules have changed and the only seats/tables available at local restaurants are outside in the open air.

Still, I wasn’t happy to go inside to eat, I have to admit. I felt paranoid sitting there and looking over not only my extended family -and wondering where they’d been- but also the few other patrons in the restaurant.

I felt even worse for the restaurant staff, who wore masks yet had to come to our table now and again to take our orders and serve us while we didn’t have masks. You truly cannot keep your mask on until you want to get a bite and then take it off, have your bite, then put the mask back on while you chew your food, then start the whole process up again.

I have ordered food from restaurants to pick up, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go with food until we have vaccines and/or more effective treatments for Covid-19.

The bottom line is that for me it feels like I’m going through some weird, pseudo-Groundog Day-type situation, going through the same motions through the week and doing some minor traveling to grocery stores and/or box stores like Costco or Target to pick up stuff we’ll need for the week.

We don’t spend all that much money and certainly don’t travel too terribly far nor want to risk ourselves around any groups.

Returning to our “old” lives, at this point, feels like something in the far future, perhaps not until sometime next year when most of the professionals have indicated we might get those treatments/vaccines.

Might.

I’ll keep working on my novel until its done -it will be soon- and then I’ll look around and figure out my next one. I’ll also keep working at the family business and trying to keep myself safe.

We’re all in this and we all should do our part. It pains me to see people walk around outside without masks but, at least locally, it seems like the police are beginning to stop people who are outside without them and issue fines.

It needs to be done. It needs to be reinforced.

I firmly believe we can knock this down quite a bit, but only if we’re smart about it.

Sadly, for too many people that’s a non-starter.

The 2020 Election…

Beware…

…Politics!…

As of yesterday, with the news that Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s pick for Vice President, means that we now have all the actors in place and can officially begin the 2020 Elections.

I know, I know, it began a while ago when Joe Biden secured the Democratic nomination, but now that we have his VP, we’re stepping into the next and last phase.

To come: Debates and countless commercials along with many, many phone calls from either the Democratic or Republican parties or any third party interested in swaying your vote. Oh, and mailers.

Lots of propaganda mailers.

What will be missing?

Seems like we’re not going to have many campaign stops/speeches. Given the COVID-19 situation, even “President” Trump, with his constant attempts to downplay the virus or outright ignore it, isn’t making all those appearances as before.

Since the pandemic began, I don’t believe Joe Biden has made a single appearance anywhere, other than with few people (reporters, usually) or perhaps Zoom-type over the internet meetings.

Will this be the election where we see much more of that?

Also, what will happen with the debates?

They’ll be interesting because from what I understand there will be no audience present during the debates.

My instinct is that this will hurt Trump more than Biden. Trump feeds off the crazy, and sometimes his most head-scratching/stupid lines are buried with cheers from his fans.

In this case, he’ll have to lay out his ideas (I could make a joke here, but, seriously, does he have any actual ideas other than cozying up to Putin?!) and do so in a clear, logical (HA!) way without anyone whooping it up around him.

Then, after doing so, he’ll face Biden’s ideas/retorts and… I dunno. It just doesn’t seem like it’ll be good for Trump.

Similarly, I wonder how VP Pence will fare against Ms. Harris.

She can be downright wicked when confronting others…

I’ll grant you here and now: I very much hope that Biden/Harris not only beat Trump/Pence but that the election is so lopsided that not only is there no doubt they won, but that the Democratic Party also regain control over the very dysfunctional Senate.

Yeah, I know there are those who feel the Biden/Harris ticket isn’t “liberal enough”, and that we’re seeing more centrism ala Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

I don’t think so.

Still, it will be an interesting few months before November and the election.

The Explosion in Beirut…

Don’t know if you saw it, but yesterday there was a terrifying explosion in Beirut. Truly, a horrifying event…

Over on CNN.com, they offer a fascinating before/after series of satellite photographs which show you what things looked like just before the explosion and the crater that was left -along with all the destruction- after the fact.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/05/world/satellite-images-beirut-explosion-before-after-trnd/index.html

At this point, there are at least 100 deaths, though I suspect that figure will rise dramatically, and over 2000 injured.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation but it appears, from early reports, that the same chemicals used in the Oklahoma terrorist bombing were present in the port that went up.

Needless to say, port employees/bosses are going to come under some very heavy scrutiny for allowing these volatile chemicals be stored so near a major city.

It’s yet another aching and incredibly sad thing to witness during this seemingly cursed year.

There’s So Precious Little To Laugh About These Days…

I mean, just a little while ago we found out the U.S. economy posted its worst drop on record and almost simultaneously our “beloved” “President” Trump, via twitter, mused about delaying the elections in spite of a) having absolutely no authority to do so and b) he’s been making it a point that his internal polling shows he’s doing wonderfully versus all those other -no doubt- “fake” polls which show him heading for a pretty big fall.

Which begs the question: If he was doing so well in his internal polling and all those other polls are wrong, surely he wouldn’t want to delay the election, given he’s heading for a win, amiright?

But let’s move past politics and the economy and focus on the truly important things, specifically this wonderful list I found at comiclists…

Seriously guys, you couldn’t think of a better place to put the balloon opening?

Within that link you’ll find fifteen examples of comic book based toys with mightily inappropriate …uh… elements.

A couple of my favorite examples (click the link to see the rest!):

Uh huh…

Then there’s this one…

Yup.

Seriously guys, you couldn’t think of a better place to put the balloon opening?

Coronavirus Diary 20

So over the weekend and at the behest of the wife, we headed down to the Florida Keys to a place her brother and his family were renting to go for a quick boat ride and have a mini-birthday party as several family members have their birthdays coming up.

We have all been religiously social isolating so there was no danger -at least I hope!- to interact between with their family for the day.

When we got there, they had already for the most part gotten their boat ready. Very soon, we headed out into the waters and our first stop was a sandbar very close to the place they were renting.

My brother-in-law noted the sandbar was pretty empty this early in the morning (10 am) but would get very crowded very quickly so we stopped there and swam.

Nearby -but far enough away, social distance-wise- arrived another boat, making it a whopping two boats in total on the sandbar at that hour.

These boaters had something which, during the course of the day, I’d see quite a bit of: Donald Trump flags. I didn’t take any pictures, but they kinda looked like this image, something I found via a Google search:

Hundreds of boats in 'Trumptilla' parade from Jupiter to Mar-a ...

We hung out there maybe an hour or so before taking off to another couple of places. For my wife, it was a trip down memory lane, revisiting homes/apartments that back in the 1980’s and as youngsters they visited on weekends.

The area, my wife noted, had changed considerably. There were far more homes and buildings now, something that is sadly predictable, but for me what was head-scratching was seeing all those Trump signs.

Mind you, it was not a universal thing, but it seemed this enclave/area sure does have some very vocal Trump supporters.

Perhaps the most ironic sign I spotted that day was this one, seen on the balcony of one of the homes we passed by (pardon the language):

Amazon.com : ERT Donald Trump Flag 3X5 Foot - 2020 Trump President ...

I mean, what do you say about something like this? We saw what appeared to be a the owners of that property, a kindly looking elderly couple who waved at us as we sailed by and I, being a soft-spoken liberal-type who respects others’ opinions wanted to do nothing more than to shout at the top of my lungs:

Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?! Is there anything that Trump says that ISN’T bullshit?!?!

…breathe deeply…

…breathe…

Ok, so we politely waved back.

I may vehemently disagree with their opinions but, hey, it’s a free country. At least so far.

Anyway, I point this out not to get too political but to show the power of messaging, something I’m going to get to right now.

When the day was done -and throughout the day we very strictly maintained our distance from everyone- and returned back to my brother-in-law’s place, we again passed by that sandbar we started on earlier and the scene had changed considerably.

Again, I didn’t take any pictures, but looking through some random pictures I’ve found via a Google search, the sandbar now looked something like this:

Restrictions on Boating Events in the Florida Keys Mulled

Very full, very crowded, with little social distancing and, again, plenty of Trump flags.

As I said, this, to me, is an example of the power of messaging.

In this case, the wrong messaging.

For months Donald Trump and his administration has been downplaying the danger of Covid-19 and, clearly, there are many folks down there in this part of the Keys who sure do seem to have taken that message to heart.

If I were an evil man, I’d say: The hell with them. If they get sick, its on them.

And yet…

The house my brother-in-law rented has a dock and is on the waterway. A beautiful house across the water from his, he told me, was owned by a 90 year old man who passed away very recently.

Cause of death? Covid-19.

Granted, the man lived a very long, hopefully full life, but the reality is his passing was due to this virus, a virus that many out there on the waterways seem to, based on what we saw them doing that day, simply refuse to believe it is a big deal.

The worst thing about it is that the consequences of these peoples’ actions not only affects them. If even one of boaters on that sandbar on that day had Covid-19 and spreads it to others there, when they leave the sandbars and return to their homes, they eventually will likely be interacting with family, large or small. They may go out shopping, perhaps for groceries, perhaps for other supplies, and they will be near strangers or friends.

Hopefully, when they do go out, they wear masks, but… what if they don’t?

And, further, what happens when they’re in their homes, among their family?

Scary times.

Scary indeed.

Please, please, please… Don’t just think about yourself and your own comfort.

Please think about others.

Coronavirus Diary 19

So over the past week I had to do some *gasp* flying.

Frankly, I wasn’t all that happy about doing it but, in this case, it kinda had to be done. My daughter, who lives in Texas, has been holed up in our home for the past 3-4 months, hoping to ride out the COVID-19 situation, but finally it was time for her to return.

We worried her car -unmoved in all that time- might need some care and, frankly, she had to be closer to her work. Granted, she now works at home as her work is on the computer, but still, she wanted to get back to her home rather than remain in ours.

I guess we could have rented a car and made the trip that way, but that would have taken at least two and more likely two and a half days of driving to get to her city. Too much versus the 2 and 1/2 hours it takes to make that trip by plane.

But, of course, we were quite worried about the whole flying situation.

To have a group of people locked into a sealed aircraft for that time… to walk through the airport and be around so many others who could conceivably give you the virus…

…truly, its a frightening thing.

Luckily, the trip to Texas proved a breeze. There were very few people on the flight and, luckily for us, the aircraft needed to balance out the passengers throughout the airplane and my daughter and I got an unexpected and very welcome bonus: We were upgraded to first class!

Everyone on the airplane, I’m happy to report, were wearing masks, though the lady to my right and past the aisle did bring a Wendy’s hamburger meal on board and ate it. Airlines I don’t believe serve any foods during these times, offering you a small “goodie” bag with pretzels, a small bottle of water, and a small hand-sanitizer package.

Anyway, the lady removed her mask to eat but otherwise kept it on during the trip.

No huge problem.

But on the way back…

The flight was much more filled and, as my incredible luck would have it, I managed to get seated next to an asshole (for there is no other way to describe him) who a) would wear his mask over his mouth but not nose now and again (not always) and, after I took a small nap, I awoke to find he had his mask completely off his face.

Originally he was seated in the middle seat while I had the window seat. No one took the seat by the aisle so he moved there before the flight took off so we had some distance between us but not the recommended 6 feet.

Frankly, when I saw him without the mask I was enraged. I thought maybe he just finished eating his in-flight snack and would put the mask back on (it was dangling from his ear) but, no, he didn’t put it back on while watching some movie on his smart phone.

Finally I had enough and told him to put his damn mask on. Thankfully, he didn’t argue the point and did so right away.

Still, for I don’t know how long I had this total stranger sitting near me without a mask.

How risky is it for me to catch Corona when I have a mask on and the person near me doesn’t? Check out this handy dandy chart:

Ladies and gentlemen, if that wonderful fellow passenger had COVID-19 and wasn’t wearing his fucking mask while relatively close to me and even if I did have my mask on, the possibility of transmitting the disease to me is listed as… high.

Now, the guy wasn’t coughing nor looked sick at all, so I’m hoping -and that’s all I can do- that he wasn’t sick nor transmitted anything to me, but it is infuriating to see people take this illness and the very real danger of catching it so damn cavalierly.

Which brings us to this wonderful article by Gino Spocchia and presented on the UK’s Independent:

Ted Cruz caught on commercial flight without mask

Here’s the evidence:

Ted Cruz, for those that don’t know, is a Senator from Texas. He’s another of those very hard right-wingers who, based on this image, thinks he is above everyone.

At least the fool who sat beside me came on the flight with a mask and put it on when I told him he needed to.

In that photograph, I don’t see Ted Cruz with any mask at all, even one dangling from his ear.

It will be a long while before I fly again.

Hopefully, by that time people will finally realize the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation and finally, finally begin to take proper precautions.

Not just for themselves, but for everyone around them.

Coronavirus Diaries 18

We’re in some kind of Sisyphus-type nightmare, aren’t we?

Seems like a couple of months ago we locked everything down and it seemed like we were getting a grip on the Covid-19 situation… to a degree.

The infection rate was stabilizing if not dropping and people seemed to be practicing social distancing. Masks, we found out a little later, were considered a great help in lowering the transmission rates and, as of the past couple of months, the wiser businesses have required any clients who step in their stores wear them.

Then things slipped.

The rates of infection are rising through the proverbial roof and the mighty United States, the envy of the civilized world, has shown itself to be far from ready to take on this particular fight.

As with so many things, the fault lies at the top.

I know, I know… its probably getting tiresome hearing me bemoan our “President”, but the reality is that Trump and his bizarre, uneducated, and irresponsible manners has for the past several weeks played down the COVID-19 situation and, sadly, so too have too many state governors.

When the states were “re-opened” there was this sense -incorrect, as it turned out- that perhaps we have turned the corner and could go back to normal.

Restaurants and bars opened in far too many places and without enough safeguards present.

In the end, too many people congregated too close to each other and, today, we keep seeing record numbers of infection rates. What follows, even more sadly, are deaths from this virus.

You can’t blame Trump for everything. I know that. I don’t blame him for this virus but I do blame him for his too blasé -bordering on criminal- attitude toward it.

He thought people wearing masks were dumb… and he even to this day refuses to wear one because, I can only guess, he feels it makes him look weak.

Or something.

This despite statistics and the professional immunologist advice that wearing a mask makes you less likely to contract the COVID-19 virus.

With someone as powerful as the President poo-pooing the notion of wearing masks, it was only nature that we’d see too many people doing the very same.

And they did.

And now we’re here, with the rates going through the proverbial roof with no end in sight.

I genuinely fear what’s coming next.

The economy has been severely hurt and if the rate of infection continues, it can only get worse. Europe is opening up but, given our infection rates, United States citizens aren’t allowed to travel there.

Can you imagine?

Our mighty country so far behind in dealing with this situation that we’re considered a danger for travel?

I don’t know what lies ahead but I genuinely wonder how much long responsible people in government are going to let this go on.

I also wonder how much longer regular citizens will have patience with this.

Are we in for another lockdown?

I have to admit, a part of me hopes this will happen.

But, once we do, will we again let our guard down and again open ourselves up too much and yet again find ourselves with far too many infections as before?

And so it goes…

This just can’t be…

I mean, please tell me this isn’t true.

Yes, tell me it’s “fake news”. Please!

Written by Bill Hutchinson and presented on abcnews.com…

Alabama students throwing “Covid Parties” to see who gets infected: Officials

The upshot of this article is even more frightening than the headline suggests. Read the whole thing, I urge you.

These are the first three paragraphs of the article:

Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing “COVID parties” as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.

I mean, come on! This has to be a joke, right?

Please…?!

While its tempting to simply blame youthful stupidity, the reality is that stupidity seems to be all too plentiful these days.

“President” Trump refusing to wear a mask and still (still!) saying he feels the pandemic will miraculously “disappear”… even as our rates of infection are back to where they were when everything was first shut down.

The congress -sadly mostly Republicans- keep their mouths shut instead of screaming from the top of their lungs while citizens day after day die from this deadly disease. Many refuse to go to meetings with masks on because… I dunno… I guess its more manly to risk infecting other people?!

Is it so fucking hard for people to get it through their heads that, yes, the disease exists and that, absolutely yes, it can be deadly? And, sometimes when its not deadly, it can leave you with medical issues you may have to deal with for the rest of your life?

Is it so hard to tell people to please, please wear a mask and social distance?

Is common sense in such a limited supply?

I just don’t know anymore.

Rough Night In Tulsa…

I really, really try not to get too political in these postings but it’s really tough lately.

“President” Trump, who, if you’ve come ’round these parts now and again, isn’t exactly on my list of favorite politicians. (Quick aside: Is it just me or have the Republican presidents been going from bad to incredibly terrible from Nixon on? I mean, even those who love the admittedly very charismatic Ronald Reagan have to admit his administration had plenty of problems, especially in the second term, and what he opened up lingers to this day…)

The other day he had the first of his rallies, intended to kick start his re-election and…

…the whole thing was a gigantic failure.

Kevin Liptak and Kaitlin Collins over at CNN write about…

Sick and empty seats: How Trump’s triumphant return to campaign trail went from bad to worse

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, the last few weeks (years, it seems!) have been full of protest following the death of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and it seems the Trump White House has no idea how to deal with it. Worse, they used the protest time to stage a very ill advised photo-op at a church which backfired spectacularly on them…

Nothing wrong with Trump's Bible-toting photo-op | Letter ...

Then, “President” Trump seemed to dig his grave even deeper with conspiracy theories regarding the police pushing -and subsequently lying- about Martin Gugino’s fall…

See the source image

There were more things that happened (I don’t even want to get into the botched firing of Geoffrey Berman or the release of John Bolton’s scathing book), but suffice to say the Trump re-election is, at this moment, on very shaky grounds.

In fact, in recent days (and we must bear in mind the election isn’t until November, so much can change) the odds of re-election have dropped pretty significantly, and I suspect “President” Trump, shrewd enough to realize this was the case, decided in the middle of this pandemic that it was time to start holding his rallies.

His first one was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state which overwhelmingly voted for him over Hillary Clinton in the previous election, as “safe” a state as one could find for Republicans and, by extension, Trump himself.

To Trump’s re-election campaign, things were looking really positive. There were a lot of requests for tickets and he was expecting the venue he was in, capable of fitting some 19,000 people, would be full to capacity and he would then go outside and give a speech to the overflow.

Only, things didn’t quite work out that way…

See the source image

Yikes! Want more?

See the source image
See the source image

Even official images, which had the sparse attendees crowded around Trump, revealed the emptiness…

See the source image
Check out the upper part of this photograph

Estimates were that only some 6200 people showed up for the event, less than half of the stadium’s capacity.

Even worse, reports came out that the Trump campaign tweeted during the event (one imagines, quite desperately) that there was still plenty of space available and for anyone interested in coming to please come on in!

Only, they didn’t.

The event was such a bust that the very few people by the outside platform were told to go into the convention center and the various staffers started dismantling that outside platform even as the main event was still going on.

“President” Trump was reportedly furious about the event and the lack of people who showed up and, in this case, I can totally understand.

This has to be concerning. A sitting President -even one as loathsome as I feel he is- should be able to get a decent turnout at any event and especially one that takes place in a voting stronghold for him.

The fact that so few people showed up has to be worrisome. If even his supporters aren’t that encouraged/motivated to come in to see him, how encouraged/motivated will they be to vote for him?

Again: The election is still a very long way away.

However, going by this alone, it seems his support is sagging.

Perhaps very badly.