Sunday, August 28, 2011

Let The Hurricane Roar

It's a quarter after noon as I start typing; I moved my ice reserves out of the freezers and into the coolers a couple hours ago, though now I highly doubt I'll need any of the water I bottled or bought. I still have electricity (obviously, else you wouldn't be reading this), but from what the TV says, that makes me a minority in Connecticut right now. The cities and towns on the coast and along the big rivers are getting slammed, but the little river under my street appears fine (by which I mean, I can still see my street rather than a river).

Most annoying thing so far has been the robo-calls from the city telling us where the shelters are in case we need to "self-evacuate" (which is what I was doing, in the bathroom, when one of the calls came). Second-most annoying was seeing that odious kiddie-diddler pimp Janet Napolitano on TV posing in front of the FEMA logo, and wondering what indignities she will inflict on East Coast Americans in the name of protecting us from this vast and scary threat. Perhaps people visiting the shelters need to have their genitalia fondled by TSA flunkies, just in case a terrorist is trying to smuggle a crotch bomb? America, being a mere 3,000 miles from coast to coast, is not big enough to simultaneously contain constitutional rights and Napolitano's fat ass (immune to TSA groping, by virtue of her position), and Napolitano clearly isn't leaving so it's the Constitution that has to go.

Apparently the worst of the winds have yet to hit us, so I might still lose power before this is over. Napolitano and FEMA will gain power, either way.

ADDENDUM: Looks like every church in the state has closed today, not just the staid, sensible Methodist and Episcopalian types, but even churches with names like the Jesus Christ Almighty Independent Freewill Baptist Rattlesnake Handlers. O ye of little faith.

SECOND ADDENDUM, 2:03 pm: Rain stopped, a little sun is visible, but the wind is blowing more furiously than ever. I still haven't ruled out a power loss.

THIRD ADDENDUM, 2:13: Lights just flickered twice, and went out long enough to reset the digital clocks. I'm going offline and unplugging my computer. Talk to y'all later.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Smashed Medicinal Boobs and Other Annoyances

As if preparing for the first major northeast hurricane hit of a lifetime didn't keep me busy enough today, I also had to keep a doctor appointment I made four months ago and they sent me to a nearby radiological center for a mammogram, which is where they stick your boob into a machine that smashes it down to roughly one-tenth of its actual size, then the machine goes WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM against the smashed boob before repeating the process with the other boob, which somehow confers medical benefits. It also left interesting red marks on my skin, which is much better than the purple-and-blue bruising I expected. A non-medical version of the machine is found in Mexican restaurants, where it converts dough balls into nice flat tortillas.

Hurricane Irene is still threatening to pound my section of Connecticut almost as flat (don't attempt segues like that unless you're a Professional Writer, like me), so after my medical pounding today I went shopping again, bought more bottled water and some six-packs of small juice bottles at prices that made my frugal soul scream, because I'm used to giant economy sizes with much lower unit costs. But there's a difference between being thrifty and being cheap, and the whole point of living frugally and setting aside every dollar you can is so you can afford what you need at times like this.

The freezer's stuffed with about four gallons of water frozen in big plastic bottles or boxes, and several smaller Ziploc bags filled with ice cubes. Once the storm hits, while the power's still on, I'll move the ice into my two coolers, leaving the chemical freezer-packs in the freezer to maybe save the food there. I also have small Ziploc bags of ice cubes to keep in the smaller cooler along with pre-chilled juices, so without power I should still have cold or at least cool drinks for three days, and hopefully won't be without power any longer than that. (Hopefully, the storm turns or weakens enough to ultimately make this post much ado about nothing.)

I've got lanterns, radios, a camera and a fan, and batteries to power them all. I've got food that requires no cooking at all, and small aluminum baking dishes to serve as disposable cooking pots for foods requiring only a little heat over a Sterno setup. I'm too high up and too far inland for storm surge to be any concern, though I do live at the bottom of a valley surrounded by hills, so flash flooding is always a possibility. At least I'm on the second floor of a sturdy building with high ceilings. I've got enough plastic containers to store another eight gallons of tapwater on the countertop, in case any of my neighbors neglected to plan ahead. (Not that I'm turning into a softy; I just figure lacking power and water will be annoying enough, without having to hear kids whine "Mommy, I'm thirsty.")

I'd rather face the hurricane here than in my childhood stomping grounds in Virginia, which has been featured on the Weather Channel all day. At least here, I don't live two inches above and six blocks inland from the Chesapeake Bay.

I still have ridiculous amounts of work to do before the storm hits. Wish me luck, if you don't hear from me in awhile.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Go On, Irene

Just a little reminder to those naive enough to think otherwise: Mother Nature is not your friend. Now, I am not going to make any of the Armageddon jokes that write themselves when the First Noticeable Earthquake In Over A Century rattles your unsafe-for-earthquakes brick building on the east coast, then as soon as the shaking stops the weathermen tell you to expect a hit from the First Category 3 Hurricane Strike Of Your Lifetime, too. (I don't need to make any of the Armageddon jokes such circumstances invite, because everyone else in Connecticut already has. I heard every one of them, while shopping for hurricane supplies yesterday.)

Yesterday morning I wasn't particularly concerned about Hurricane Irene but decided to buy bottled water and a few other supplies anyway, figuring, By the time you know for certain a storm'll hit, the stores have already sold out of everything. Indeed, almost half the shelves in my local supermarket's bottled-water aisle stood empty by one o'clock yesterday afternoon; there were still plenty of overpriced brands like Fiji water, but stocks of the store brand spring water ran low.

Still, "almost half the shelves empty" means "more than half the shelves full." I bought two small pallets of cheap store-brand water bottles, still doubting I'd actually have to drink them anytime soon, and by the time I got home and hauled the water, canned meats and assorted no-refrigeration snacks I'd bought into my kitchen, the weather reports had changed; instead of saying "chance Irene might hit" they all warned of a "SEVERE THREAT TO THE NORTHEAST." And the reports specifically cited Hartford and New York, and I live between those two cities in a valley that got slammed back during the infamous Flood of '55 (caused when the rains of a dying hurricane drenched already-soaked ground like the kind we have right now, here in Connecticut) and in fact -- although you'd never guess it, to look around my neighborhood -- I live only a few feet from the bank of a formerly aboveground river that had an entire residential neighborhood built over it sometime in the past century or so.

Vast is the difference between "an emergency kit you buy when you don't really expect anything to happen" and "the emergency kit you want when you think something actually will." So I went shopping again to negate the differential, and now I'm hustling to finish some writing assignments that aren't actually due until next week, but now I want them done and gone by Saturday, just in case I lose power the next day and don't regain it by deadline. I'm also turning sandwich bags into ice bags as fast as my three ice cube trays will let me.

Damned annoying hurricanes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Yikes! An earthquake just shook Washington, DC hard enough that I felt it very strongly here in central Connecticut (though the kids playing outside in the backyard next door didn't seem to notice).

I was on the living room sofa working on my laptop when suddenly the sofa started shaking so hard I couldn't possibly think, I must be imagining this. I heard the sounds of small things falling over, and the shaking continued long enough for me to remember "My building is unreinforced brick, the absolute worst kind to be in during a quake." So I finally got up and walked toward the back door, thinking I'd be safer on the building's outer wooden porch/stair structure -- and as I walked across the floor, it didn't seem to shake so much as vibrate -- but by the time I got the door open, everything had stopped.

On one wall in my living room there's a hanging shelf displaying a collection of miniature porcelain items. It has several narrow horizontal wooden shelves that fit snugly into slots on the vertical wood frame, and one shelf had shaken itself out of its right slot (and a few of the miniatures fell down, but by amazing good luck, none of them fell off, or broke). I can't find any actual damages, either to the building or anything in it, and I obviously haven't lost electricity or internet.

So I was completely unharmed, as was all my property, and I have nothing to complain about, but: that was damned scary. I've sat through some wild storms, both here and in cheap Southern college apartments where the storms blew much stronger on buildings much flimsier. Those are often frightening in their own right, but having a calm sky and perfectly still, quiet air while the rest of the world vibrates has its own unique creepiness.

INTENSELY IRRITATING UPDATE: In an email timed 2:39 pm EDT, my boyfriend gave the following eyewitness report:
I just witnessed a My9 reporter actually say it was a "mild earthquake just weeks before the 9/11 anniversary."

Unsettling Reflections Off An Iron Heart

(Warning: this post is chockful of spoilers for Harry Turtledove's novel The Man With The Iron Heart.)

For several years now I've been a fan of Harry Turtledove's alt-history books; not only do I find the stories entertaining, but they often inspire thoughtful reflection of my own views, how much they reflect my character versus merely reflecting the time and culture in which I live -- mental contamination by the zeitgeist, if you want to be pretentious about it. Back in 2006 I shared some ponderings inspired by Turtledove's Guns of the South; today it's The Man With The Iron Heart giving me food for thought and possible mental indigestion.

I read the book once when it first came out and I borrowed a library copy; I bought my own copy on vacation last week, and now I'm roughly halfway through my second reading. The point of divergence is, in our World War Two reality Czech partisans assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, their brutal Nazi/SS military governor; in Turtledove's version the attempt failed. So Heydrich was alive to see the German defeat at Stalingrad, realized Germany would lose the war, and started stockpiling men and weapons for a future partisan fight against the Allied occupation army.

Heydrich's "Werewolf" forces included many suicide bombers who gladly sacrificed their lives to bring down important targets. Basically, Turtledove took the real story of the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, gave the anti-occupation terrorists/partisans/fighters infinitely better resources plus almost two years' time for advance planning, and transposed it into the Allied occupation of postwar Germany. (Putting real history into other contexts is a common trick of Turtledove's; if you read his Confederate victory series, you can accurately predict many major plot developments if you're familiar with the real history of Germany's rise and militarization in World War Two and the decades before it.)

The book has a bad ending; American troops ultimately pull out of Germany and pretty much give up on Western Europe altogether, and at book's end the Nazis are rising again in Germany and Stalin's Red Army no longer content to stay behind their Iron Curtain confines of our history, and it's pretty likely World War Three (this time, with nukes!) will break out in a generation or less ... and the reason America gave up on Europe is because back home, opposition to the continued occupation grew too great.

Of course I, living in a world where both the Nazis and the Communists ultimately vanished from Europe, read the story thinking "No, fools! Stay the course! Don't pull out of the region" ... the exact opposite of my view on Iraq/Afghanistan.

If I were actually a character in the story, a 1940s-era version of my real self remaining stateside the whole time, which side would I take? Would I have attended the "US OUT OF GERMANY" and "BRING OUR TROOPS BACK HOME" rallies, or supported the continued anti-Nazi, anti-Communist "STAY THE COURSE" side?

I'm guessing/hoping I would prefer "Stay the course" on the grounds that I would have empathized more with the suffering concentration-camp and gulag victims than with the suffering US occupation soldiers, plus the more practical and obvious difference "The Nazis and Communists were actual proven threats invading and occupying multiple countries in addition to their own, and could easily conquer entire continents," which is not the case for the band of terrorist criminals in whose name Americans lose civil liberties and soldiers' lives in ever-increasing numbers today.

EDIT: Fixed an enormous typo which I blame not on myself, but on the freakin' earthquake which inspired me to hit "send" a bit sooner than I otherwise would have. Ahem. (Embarrassed throat-clearing.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

For security reasons I only blog about vacations in the past tense, because otherwise I may as well put up a blog post saying "My house is devoid of people and chock-full of stuff worth stealing!" (assuming a circa 1998 television set and pile of size-one bluejeans meet your definition of "worth stealing." There's also lots of battered paperbacks, and two jelly jars containing about $70 in nickels).

So I went to South Carolina, in August, where you can go outdoors, or you can be clean and non-stinky, but you can't do both. I opted to go outdoors, and if any South Carolinians reading this had problems getting a signal on their cell phones I sincerely apologize for that; the stink rays I emitted are probably what kept you from getting bars. (Bad enough dealing with swamp ass; I also had swamp boob, swamp scalp, swamp foot, and swamp everything that had fabric covering it. Bleah.)

On the off-chance any clothing designers are reading this, let me say: if it's hot enough to wear a sundress, it's too damned hot to wear rayon, polyester, or any other artificial fabric that does not "breathe," so why the hell do you use such fabric to make your sundresses? My theory: you are motivated by sheer hatred of your customers, a hatred so intense that if your IQ were a mere 50 points lower, you'd probably work for TSA.

Speaking of which: what would have been a three-hour flight to the Carolinas turned instead into a two-day drive, because I refuse to let some child-molesting waste of DNA feel my genitalia before I travel; dealing with vacation traffic on the I-95 corridor is vastly preferable to dealing with the TSA. (Side note: there will come a time when people say "TSA agent" the same way we now say "concentration-camp guard." I hope that time comes soon enough for me to benefit by it.)

We're fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the TSA's "We molest your children so you don't have to" mandatory groping policy. I honestly never believed it would last this long.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Normal People vs. Characters In Bad Novels

Advice for vanity-novel fiction writers who do NOT want to drive their editors-for-hire insane: go through your manuscript, search for every instance of dialogue where a character says "As you know" and delete the entire scene.

Here's how normal people talk: "I went to the store today. Christ, gas is expensive! Damn this economy."

Here's how characters in bad novels express the same concept: "I went to the store today and drove my car which, as you know, is a form of transport powered by an internal combustion engine fueled by a petroleum distillate called 'gasoline.' On this trip I went to a 'gas station,' a specialized fuel store where early twenty-first-century Americans like me are wont to fuel up our cars, and I was and am dismayed to report that gas is more expensive than usual, partially due to the effects of oil depletion but also due to the current economic crisis which, as you know, has its roots in the popping of the housing bubble of the last decade and the dot-com bubble before that...."

I don't believe in an afterlife but I still know Hell exists, as I'm posting this from Hell's own couch.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

In Praise Of Civilized Behavior (Mine)

"Shut the hell up or you'll never get Christmas presents again because I'll go to the North Pole and CUT OFF SANTA'S HEAD."

That's the sort of thing you will never ever ever hear me say to the eternally screeching kids next door, because I am a respectable well-behaved civilized sweet-tempered grown-up person who understands the importance of not inflicting psychological scars on the next generation, no matter how much the little hellions might deserve it this second. Kudos to me!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Bridal Bliss

Over at the Guardian, Kirsten Hansen has a piece discussing the lavish excesses of the overpriced-wedding industry, where $50,000 for a one-day party isn't unheard-of. I have nothing bad to say about the wedding industry, however; I fully encourage the growth of a profession based on persuading middle-class people to spend upwards of a whole year's post-tax take-home pay -- three or four percent of their entire adult professional lifetime earnings -- on a single day's party, because I believe letting fools keep hold of their money is a sin.

I also believe buying $300 sneakers for your still-growing child's feet is a very intelligent and well-thought-out thing to do, especially if you're a low-income parent wondering why you can't seem to ever get ahead in life.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Truly Isolated Incident

For the past several years, I've associated the phrase "another isolated incident" with journalist Radley Balko -- formerly of Reason magazine, now writing for the Huffington Post -- because Balko's beat focuses on abusive police conduct, prosecutorial malfeasance, and other incidents where agents of the law use their authority to terrorize, rather than defend, innocent people. (I've said more than once: if America were truly the free country we claim to be, Radley Balko's career would not exist.) And whenever Radley (or his colleagues) writes about policemen abusing their authority -- SWAT teams raiding the wrong home, cops shaking down business owners (after carefully destroying said businesses' surveillance cameras), any such legalized horrors -- police spokesmen always say the outrage is an "isolated incident." It's getting so you can't even fart in this country anymore without stinking up another isolated incident of police misconduct.

But yesterday I found a news story about a police-related incident that truly is isolated: an unnamed 18-year-old taking summer classes at the University of Cincinnati died of cardiac arrest after an unnamed cop Tasered him.

Not that there's anything isolated about death by cop, or even death by Taser -- Taser fatalities being sadly commonplace despite (or perhaps because of) the widespread police belief that Tasers are non-lethal weapons -- but here's what does make the story a truly isolated incident:
The department has suspended the use of stun guns until his cause of death is determined.
Cops kill people all the time in America, but death-by-cop stories ending with the department actually changing some aspect of its behavior -- which at least implies the possibility that police handled some matter improperly -- are quite rare, thus making the Taser death of some teenage college kid in Ohio (or at least the police department's response to it) a truly isolated incident.

Of course this is a university police department, not a regular city force, which might explain the relative reasonableness of the police behavior here. Tuition-paying students are statistically likely to have family or friends rich enough, or at least middle-class enough, to notice and make a stink when police kill someone they love. It's one thing if cops kill a middle-aged homeless schizophrenic like Kelly Thomas, but young college students are people with the potential to actually matter.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Buy This Man Some Hair Dye, Stat

Michelle Obama claims the gray strands in the hair of her 50-year-old husband prove he deserves a second presidential term.

In other news, my local Target sells black hair dye for less than $4 a dose. I figure less than $100 should keep Obama's hair maintained in all its ebony youthfulness long enough to get us through to the 2012 election, and if "gray hair" is the only thing keeping that corrupt SOB in the White House I'm willing to personally shell out the money it costs to keep it at bay.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Random Links (Nothing New Under The Sun Edition)

Nothing new on the TSA outrage front, though there's an old story in new packaging: TSA's "new" BDO/behavior detection officer program has been making headlines, though I wrote about the then-new program four years ago, for the Hartford Advocate. Time flies when civil liberties decay; TSA tells the same story over and over again, a little worse each time.

At the Guardian, where I've frequently discussed my beef with the anti-sexy woman strain of feminism, I wrote a new piece discussing the poisons of academic feminism, inspired by a hilariously bad academic piece I discovered via Reason Hit and Run. But that too is the same nonsense that's made feminism a misogynist's parody of itself since even before Andrea Dworkin's day.
FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from