So, today is the Autumnal Equinox, the official beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
Which usually feels much more momentous to me, but time has become a fog since the pandemic. I’ve been working from home full time since mid-February, and I have a very difficult time remembering what day of the week it is. The year seems to be whizzing by at breakneck speed, while individual workweeks drag like molasses in a Winnipeg winter storm.
Seriously, every Tuesday or Wednesday by midday I feel mentally exhausted as if I’d enduring ten days of overtime with no days off. It’s just weird.
Autumn (also known as Fall) has long been my favorite time of year. The coming of Autumn always makes me think of new projects or breathing new life into old projects. I assume the pattern was set by my years as a kid where Autumn meant the beginning of a new school year. But it might also be the fact that I have never been comfortable in warm weather, and the coming of cooler (but not yet cold) days after a sometimes grueling summer felt like another kind of renewal.
I had Monday off again (work has made changes to vacation policy forcing many of us to use some of it up or lose it). I had intended to use the day to sweep and tidy up the veranda, finally plant the spot color flowers I picked up just as the air quality was taking a turn for the worse, and try to get some writing done. I did basic sweeping, got the flowers planted, and working on this blog post. Only a subset of the goals, but progress is progress, right?
Now the smoke has cleared and it is raining again, I hope that it will start feeling like Autumn to me and will trigger some creative energy, because it’s been very difficult to muster any for some time now.
Meanwhile, only a few hundred miles south of us (where some friends and relatives live) the air quality was frequently “too bad for the sensors to measure.” So I was also feeling a lot of anxiety about their safety.
Despite closing up the house and changing the hepa filters in the air cleaners, I started coughing eight days ago (and had almost constant headaches and itchy eyes). After calling my doctor to verify that the inhaler he has me keep around for when I get bronchitis was okay to try to use for this, I began using it. I’m only supposed to use it four times a day, and each time it gave me relief from the coughing for about an hour at a time. Which isn’t much out of the day, but better than nothing.
My husband had headaches and a little bit of coughing during the same period, but nowhere near as bad as the symptoms I had. I blame past me. While I quit smoking 27 years ago, I did smoke for a number of years (which is why I tend to get bronchitis so often), whereas he never did. So I suspect part of the reason I reacted so badly is the damage done to my lungs back when I was a smoker.
It was not fun keeping all the doors and windows closed as much as possible, as things got uncomfortably warm and stuff on several days.
The good news is that we finally got real rain over both our state and Oregon for the last two and a half days. The Air Quality Index starting Saturday morning was all the way down in the Good range! I still have a bit of a cough but things are definitely improving.
Unfortunately, wildfires are still burning in Washington, Oregon, and California (not to mention many other parts of the world), so I’m not sure how long we’ll keep having good air quality.
In other news, I have a significant birthday coming up, and we have toyed with trying to do a virtual party, Unfortunately I don’t have a guarantee at this point that I won’t be called in to work despite having requested time off months ago because I’m the only Tech Writer that hasn’t quit, been laid off, or retired over the last few years in the entire division, and we have software releases this week.
I’m also still reeling from the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That has really done a number on my mood.
Still, we have to keep resisting, right?
It is once more time for a post in which I link to stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I composed the Friday Five, or are an update to a story I’ve linked to and
We’re going to start with sad (and for me, devastating) news first. I’ve already cried a few times over it: ‘Devastating loss’: Bay Area, state leaders react to Ginsburg’s death.
I know your first impulse is to despair. To say we’re fucked. To feel desperate and hopeless. I feel it. We all feel it.
But Notorious RBG would not have wanted us to lie down and accept defeat.
She’d have wanted us to fight like hell. And that’s what we’re going to do.
Call your house rep: Find them by Zipcode.
Script: “Hi, my name is ____ I am one of your constituents. I am calling to ask Congressperson ______ to go on the record saying they will respect Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wishes as well as the precedent set in 2016 to not nominate a new Justice until after a new president is installed. Thanks for your time.”
Call your senator: (202) 224-3121 Capitol Switchboard
Don’t know who your senator is? Find your senator.
Script: “Hi, my name is ________ and I live in (STATE). I am calling to ask Senator ______ to go on the record saying the Senate will not hold hearings on any potential replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after a new president is installed, per Justice Ginsburg’s last wishes and the precedent set in 2016. Thank you for your time.”
McConnell Vows Quick Vote on Trump Pick to Fill Ginsburg Seat. Because of course the ghoulish bastards are going to try.
Let’s move on…
I have been trapped in the house since last weekend, thanks to the Air Quality Index ranging from Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and not very far south of us sometimes Hazardous. When the haze first came in more than a week ago and they started forecasting worse to come, I replaced the Hepa filters and Charcoal filters in both of our air cleaners. Even so, by Saturday night I was coughing. We did our best to keep everything closed. I converted our two box fans to air cleaners (take a 20 inch Merv-13 rated furnace filter, bungy it to the back of the box fan, set up the fan somewhere in the middle of the room and let it run. Do not put the fan in a window. Keep the windows closed.).
I’ve been coughing all week. I started using an inhaler a few days ago and that helped a bit. But yesterday, finally, we got rain: Seattle Weekend Forecast: Less Smoke, More Rain – Rain showers this weekend should be enough to push out the rest of the smoke and keep it from returning. Here’s a look at what’s in store.
They had originally predicted thing would get better on Monday, but that was wrong for a variety of reasons: What makes smoke forecasts so hard to predict — and how tech could help. The fires themselves are not probabilistic, for one. Another is that the smoke itself changes the weather in ways that break our forecasting models.
We finally got enough rain over a wide enough part of the region to clean things out. I was so happy, after checking the Air Quality Index, to open our windows. It was too warm and stuffy inside!
And now to an old, old adversary...
911 Call From Intoxicated Jerry Falwell Jr.’s House Last Month Describes ‘A Lot Of Blood’ – Becki Falwell told the operator that her husband had cuts on his face from falling after he’d been drinking.
In case you need a reminder, I’ll just drop this hand sum-up I’ve referred to before:
Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other, and the man is the president of an evangelical Christian clown college and is friends with the pussy-grabbing authoritarian president of America, they get married and then they meet a 20-year-old pool boy named “Giancarlo” and they are like “Oh hey, Giancarlo, is that the Holy Bible in your pocket, or is it your boner?” and he is like “Oh it’s just my boner” and they are like “Good, we really aren’t into that Holy Bible shit when we aren’t profiting financially from it” and the pool boy is like “cool” and they are like “cool” and so they start having a sexual affair with the pool boy for years and years, where the lady does nakeds with the pool boy while the clown college Christian leader husband plays shadows puppets with his weener and watches in the corner, and they end up giving the pool boy SWEET business deals that kinda sorta look like payoffs, and fly him all over the country in their jet, and maybe there’s a similar arrangement with the hot jacked personal trainer, but we’re not sure yet, but anyway then everybody finds out and the man has to quit being a clown college Christian leader, WOMP WOMP.
And there are continuing developments:
When Falwell Junior finally was forced to resign and the university opened investigations into possible financial improprieties, certain commenters out there opined that this was either part of Falwell’s kink (the pool boy and the other pool boy situations seeming to be on the cuckold fetish spectrum) because many cucks like being humiliated publicly, or that he was slamming his fist on the self-destruct button because he is tired of pretending to be an evangelical leader.
I didn’t buy either of those scenarios at the time for a variety of reasons. Only one of them being that first drunk call Junior made to a conservative radio show a few days after the Instagram post with his arm around a woman who wasn’t his wife, with his pants on done and a glass of what he later claimed wasn’t alcohol, but “black water” in his other hand.
No, the reason why is because I’ve known men like Junior before. White straight men, often from a conservative southern background (though not required) who are used to “getting away with it” over and over. They think they are invincible. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They have always been able to lie their way out of it before, and they are confident that they will continue to do so.
Let me give a very personal example. Content Warning: I’m going to be discussing my dad’s physical abuse of more than one family member and the death of a pet.
There are no further news links, so if you want to stop reading, now’s the time.
Okay, mind the content warning…
I was nine years old, my alcoholic and abusive father was hung over, and he had yelled at my four-year-old sister several times to keep it quiet. But she was in a hyper mood (many years later when she was diagnosed as, among other thing, bipolar, we would refer to these days as one of her manic periods). Eventually, Dad snapped and he beat her viciously… and left her lying apparently unconscious on the floor of her bedroom.
When she roused it was clear that something was seriously wrong. On the drive to the hospital, Dad drilled us with the cover story that we were all to stick to: she was being rowdy and won’t settle down and she fell down the stairs.
Among her injuries was a fractured skull. At some point during her medical treatment, she apparently told the nurse that “after the third time Dad hit me everything went blurry, so I don’t remember what happened.”
About a week later a state patrol officer or a county deputy (I don’t remember which) and a man from Child Protective Services showed up at our house. The tiny town we were in didn’t have any state agency offices, and the guy had had to come out from a city somewhere.
Each of us was taken by the guy from CPS individually to a nearby park to tell our version of events. I had learned my lesson about never contradicting Dad’s version years ago, so I dutifully repeated that Dad had told her to settle down several times, but she kept running around singing and then fell down the stairs.
I assume that Mom, my sister, and Dad all told the same story.
There was a glaring problem with our story.
There were no stairs.
We lived in a three-bedroom mobile home. It was a fancy mobile home, with an Extandal (as they called it at the time) which made our living room twice as wide as the rest of the trailer. But it was a single-story home with no stairs.
The CPS guy never asked any of us to show him the stairs.
The CPS guy and the officer left. Dad was angry for days afterward, but also on his best behavior even when no one was around. Eventually he learned that there would be no charges and the investigation was closed. Dad was still angry about my sister breaking the rule and contradicting his story, but because he was afraid people were still watching, he couldn’t do his usual thing of punishing one of us and explaining to my sister that he was hurting me or Mom because sister had screwed up.
So, instead Dad killed the family cat in order the punish my sister for telling the truth.
He got away with it. And his job had us move a few months later, and there was an incident where I was the one who wound up in the hospital… and he got away with that. And continued to with each of my younger half siblings and the only time he ever faced consequences was when he slapped one of the grandkids hard enough that she wound up in urgent care… but even then, the only consequence was that for a time all of my younger siblings had restraining orders on him that he couldn’t be around his grandkids without supervision.
Anyway, to get back to Falwell Junior…
I don’t have any knowledge that Falwell Junior was ever abusive of his kids or his wife, and I’m not claiming that he is that kind of abuser. But we know that for the last several years he has done other things that should have had consequences (talking repeatedly at work about his personal sex life, sending pictures of his wife in fetish gear to a number of university employees who didn’t ask to see them, attending nightclubs and consuming alcohol in direct violation of the university rules which are supposed to apply to employees, the shady real estate deals that some former employees started talking about last year, the pool boy’s shady real estate deal that reporters contacted the university about years ago, et cetera). And I’m pretty sure that Junior has been getting away with various things like that his entire life.
I know I’m bringing some of my personal baggage into this, but every time I have seen Junior speak, I have recognized that cocky smirk and the look in his eyes that say he knows the rules don’t apply to him. Because I spent 15 years of my life being raised by a man who had that some smirk and the same glint in his eyes.
Now Junior’s finally facing consequences, and he doesn’t know how to handle that. Self-medicating by drinking heavily constantly is only the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.
First let’s start with some good news, since there seems to be precious little of that these days: Canada reports zero COVID-19 deaths for first time since March. At least some countries are handling this thing better than we are.
So, you may remember that some of us were sharing stories about how Malania Trump oversaw tearing up the White House Rose Garden that has for decades adhered the Jackie Kennedy’s design (including digging up a bunch of healthy crabapple trees and who knows what actually happened to them) and replaced it with something that was super ugly? Well… Three weeks after its unveiling, Melania’s rose garden is dying and needs emergency repairs.
But what else do we expect from people who are already known to never pay their subcontractors?
Speaking of the corrupt one… Donald Trump stole art pieces from the ambassador’s residence in France.
And this reaction to the “revelation” that Trump knew the pandemic was deadly but didn’t care is spot on: Oh, Come On. The Only Thing Trump Cared About ‘Panicking’ Was The Stock Market – We know Trump only cares about himself, and what affects him. Let’s stop pretending, shall we?
Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, I’m staying indoors, have the windows closed, have all the air cleaners going, and hope that the weather turns soon: Dangerous air quality as smoke from fires in California and Oregon pours into Western Washington.
Seattle air among world’s worst: How to check your town’s air quality and protect yourself from wildfire smoke – Saturday morning, air quality ranged from unhealthy for sensitive groups to very unhealthy in western Washington, according to AirNow.
Related, it would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous: ‘Antifa Arson’ Hoax Rumors Spread About Wildfires In Besieged West Coast Areas – Right wing extremists are doing all they can to pin the west coast wildfires on liberals, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa. The “proof”? Police scanner recording where rangers, firefighters, and various levels of police are exchanging information and refer to territory that is under control of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (a rather large swath of each of the western states) and “BLM land”. The idiot MAGA-boys think that forest rangers are talking about Black Lives Matter protestors whenever they refer to federal land. Oy!
And I’m just going to close with this:
Wildfires on US West Coast turn day into night | DW News:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Okay, not quite done. I decided the above meme needed a bit of Betty White, so I made this:
‘A tale of 2 recessions’: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles – The trend is on track to exacerbate dramatic wealth and income gaps in the U.S., where divides are already wider than any other nation in the G-7.
‘Conmen, grifters and criminals’: why is Trump’s circle so at odds with the law? – Apart from legal trouble, what Bannon, Manafort, Flynn, Cohen, Stone, Gates and Papadopoulos have in common is the president.
Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ – The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic..
I don’t have a funny exit line, and I’m just not up to ranting about it.
And as retail and other essential workers will all tell you, it’s not just that they don’t get a three-day weekend, most of them don’t get weekends. They get days of, but since they aren’t usually the same days that the rest of us think of a time when we could schedule fun activities with friends, it’s just not the same.
Thanks to the pandemic, and the huge number of us that are working from home, and all the school kids who are attending virtual classes from home, things get even more confounding.
So I think before I spiral down any rabbit holes, I will just repost this bit about what Labor Day is supposed to represent which I wrote a few years ago:
If you don’t know labor history, you’re doomed to repeat the bad parts
Originally post September 4, 2017Both of my grandfathers were life long union workers. Dad moved in and out of union and non-union portions of his industry. When Mom re-entered the work force after my parents’ divorce, she became a union member and other then a few stints in management, remained one until she retired. I, on the other hand, work in an industry that has fought to keep unions out, and for various social reasons, the same co-workers who complain loudest about how everyone is classified as “professional” and therefore exempt from overtime pay and the like, are also convinced that unions would be a disaster.
Which is really sad. Mostly I blame the decades-long war on unions waged by mostly the Republican party. They have managed, somehow, to convince people to believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that businesses have always given out wages and benefits out of the goodness of their hearts.
I don’t understand how anyone who has worked for any business larger than a mom-and-pop operation can believe that.
It’s not that profits are driving business decisions, it’s that maximizing benefit to business leaders while milking short-term profits without investing in workers and their skills for long-term benefits.
You can keep talking about the economic insecurities of angry white guys, but you have to recognize that the source of economic insecurity is not market forces, or immigrants, or equal opportunity laws. It’s the people in that top 1%. And somehow we’ve got to get those scared angry white guys to recognize that they are being duped.