Wednesday, April 01, 2020

COVID-19 Test Results: NEGATIVE

That word has never sounded so sweet.

The call came about thirty minutes ago.  The test indicated that I was negative for the COVID-19 virus.  Although the nurse emphasized that a "negative" now doesn't mean that a "positive" later is out of the question.

But for now, I'm choosing to  be elated.  Like I haven't been in a heap long time.

Self-isolation is not a fun thing.  Not at all.  Driving out to get tested two days ago was the only time since Sunday night that I've dared venture from the confines of my home (okay yeah well there was also taking Tammy on walks so she could "do her business" but you know what I mean).  Especially with yesterday being my birthday.  But some friends figured out some stuff and we were able to do something with a gimmick called Zoom.  Ever heard of Zoom?  All the cool kids are doing it now, I've heard.

Negative.  Nada.  No infection.

It's back to work in the morning and I think I've driven my poor supervisor crazy about wanting to return to the office.  In the meantime, I'm going to tempt fate and get a real meal - including chocolate milkshake - from the Chick-Fil-A drive-through.

Monday, March 30, 2020

I got tested for COVID-19

Remember way back in second grade, when you found that big book on Miss Hoppenleiger's classroom shelf.  You know, the one that was loaded with interesting facts and cool stuff and sometimes it was pretty gross.  Yeah, that book.  And you read how ancient Egyptians would make mummies by shoving a metal implement up corpse's nose to remove the brain through the nostrils.  Yeah well that's what happened to me about an hour ago.  Only it wasn't a metal hook.  It was something like those plastic coffee stirrers that you pull out of the utensils bin at a McDonald's.  And it was six inches long.  But it did go straight up my left nostril and if it didn't impinge on my brain then it came *$%#ing close.

But anyway...

Following my earlier report this morning about being instructed to self-isolate because of COVID-19-ish symptoms,  one of my co-workers texted me about coronavirus testing being done nearby.  Strictly for people like first responders and health care workers.  I headed straight out down the highway to get the test performed.

What happened when I got there?

Well, it's good to bear in mind that at no point did I leave the car.  It was all done absolutely within a closed-off track, going from one station to the next.  First up was a police cruiser manned by two of the town's finest (wearing face masks).  One of them marked a number on my driver-side window, then directed me to drive forward and stop at the sign that was flashing a phone number and some other info.  I called the number and it went to a statewide screening setup.  The nice lady asked me a series of questions about my symptoms and I answered as best I could (some of them seem a bit fuzzy at the moment).  She then asked for my name, birth date, address, phone number, all that kind of jazz.  After that she instructed me to "drive on further down the course to the next officer."

Now I was approaching the innards of a convention center.  Another cop, also wearing a mask.  He made me pause then waved me on through to inside the building.  Not far from the entrance there was what looked like a HAZMAT field lab, patrolled by four guys in full-body suits that looked like something out of a Resident Evil game.  They told me to stop the car and roll down the window.  I was hesitant at that but as the guy told me "don't worry I've got all this gear on."

He asked me if I knew what the test was going to be, and produced a long swab that was at least eight inches long.  I was expecting something like taking a sample from inside my cheek, or at most from the throat.  But that was not it at all.  "We're going to stick this up your nose and swab there."  Ehhhhhh...

I really, really don't want to have been hit with coronavirus.  But I don't care to have a glorified chopstick shoved into my nostrils either.  I had come this far for peace of mind and there really wasn't much of a choice.  Not if I wanted to be sure.  So I told him "let's do it" - like Gary Gilmore must have spoken before they shot him up in that prison cannery - and leaned forward in the driver's seat then tilted my head back.

"Gag-inducing" doesn't being to describe it.  Not when the reflex is for your nose to be the thing gagging and your brain feels like it's getting probed by some alien implement.  I couldn't tell you how far it went up into my nose, but it was quite a bit.  And he held it there for about three or four seconds before slowly retracting the swab.

And that was it.  Except that my left nostril has never felt so funky.  I was never the kid who shoved crayons up his nose but now, I feel like life ended up enlightening me about the sensation.

The lab results will be coming in tomorrow, or possibly the day after that.  Dear Lord, please be negative.  I'm going stark raving bonkers without the comfort of my office and all that "Weird Al" Yankovic music they let me get away with playing as I type up clinical notes.

Expect another report soon.

COVID-19? Nope, not kidding...

Well, this is an interesting turn of events.

Could mean nothing at all.  Then again, well...

The symptoms began yesterday.  Persistent coughing and a fever that may have been higher than I initially realized.  The coughing has diminished for the time being but it comes and goes.  No phlegm.  In the past few days I'd finally expelled the last of the mucous from a nasty sinus infection in January (my colleagues begged me to see a doctor but I had to "be a man" and all).

Now I've been evaluated by a screening and given instructions to self-isolate for what may be the next 72 hours.  So that's what's going to happen.  Fortunately the larder is stocked with plenty of food, lots of liquid in the refrigerator and there is an ample supply of toilet paper.  There is enough here to ride out a siege by an army of Cossacks if it comes to that.

Just have to wait and see what happens next.  And trying to keep from going full-tilt bonkers from wracking my brain about what might have been caught where and from whom.  Which, it could be any number of iterations.  My work is in the healthcare field.  In a realm of mental health specifically.  In a role that keeps me fairly out and about in the community.  There have been days when I've logged almost 200 miles while assisting clients.  To say nothing of all the people coming in and out of the office, staff and patients, on a daily basis.  Since last week our office has adopted special measures: screening everyone who comes in for care, and going to rotating shifts of in-office and working from home.

(I had to sign a contract stating that I would wear real pants if I did video conferencing with a client.)

It could be anything, acquired by a mathematically boggling number of possible routes.  But I guess, it is what it is and I'll have to sit tight and wait for a phone call.

But if it is coronavirus COVID-19, then I will do what I always do when an interesting situation comes about:

I'm going to blog the heck about it, with exuberant documentation.

More soon.

"One Shining Moment 2020"

"One Shining Moment" is the song that CBS uses in the final moments of their annual coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to recap the highlights of the road to the championship.  All well and good... except that there won't be an NCAA men's basketball tournament this year because of the coronavirus epidemic.

So I, foolish I, took it upon myself to address this curious situation...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

An imperfect solution to the coronavirus situation

I emphasize "imperfect" because there is not an absolutely perfect solution and there never will be.  COVID-19 is now such a pervasive element that it's as every reputable engineer will note: there is going to be a trade-off.  We won't be able to help one matter without it negatively impacting others.

But from where I sit...

- fast-track production of and widespread treatment with hydroxychloroquine IMMEDIATELY.  Especially in conjunction with zinc supplement, azithromycin and other medications being found to aggressively confront the symptoms of COVID-19.  Especially in light of research that has come out of France in recent days about the hydrozychloroquine/AZT regimen.  This could be our generation's "polio vaccine moment", if we attack coronavirus with something that almost with each passing hour is looking like a silver bullet against the illness.

- no-frills bare-bones economic stimulus of $2000 per U.S. citizen.  Two weeks ago I would have recommended $1000 or even $500 but the damage wrought to the economy since then has become enormous.  A reasonable amount of one-time fiscal injection into the public economy, and that's it.  Meaning no ridiculous and irresponsible riders to the bill.

- pull back on restrictions against public gatherings.  Which seems to be going backward on addressing coronavirus.  But I'm weighing the disease itself against the harm being done against the economy and against society as a whole.  And there is the matter of the United States Constitution: the freedom to assemble in peace and also freedom of of worship are sacred ones.  A lot of states and municipalities right now are arguably overstepping boundaries that were never meant to be crossed.  Expect that to be rigorously confronted in the courts during the months after coronavirus begins to wane.

There are two virtues I've seen that are qualities in general of the domestic reaction to COVID-19: responses are fairly localized and official actions are being delegated.  These are good.  It means that the response to coronavirus in South Dakota won't be the same as the response is in Brooklyn.  And it also means that bureaucracy knows when to get out of the way when those who know best how to rapidly manufacture and distribute ventilators are free to do so.

As for how to get more toilet paper onto the shelves: brother, you're on your own...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Scenes from a supermarket

Pics that I took tonight at a nearby grocery store...

I made sure to get the entire toilet paper section in one shot:

No more ground beef.  Rest of the meat section was also depleted:

See those bagels?  That is literally ALL that is left on the bread aisle:

Not even Chef Boyardee pizza is in plentiful supply:

Flour, frozen food, milk, chewing gum... there were shortages across the store.  Strangely the alcoholic beverages seemed well stocked.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus: Calling America to the Carpet

Some are almost rubbing their hands in glee at coronavirus: holding to the notion that this is an obvious sign of the Second Coming because Pestilence is loosed upon the land. Though adherent that I aspire to be, my eyes cannot but roll in disbelief. Pandemics are almost as reliable as Old Faithful and will remain so until the end of time. The average span between worldwide outbreaks is around a hundred years. And coronavirus is hot on the centennial of the Spanish Influenza.

No, it is not the time for overzealous fervor to grasp rational thought. But with respect to my fellow Christians, coronavirus is at last the “Come to Jesus” meeting that the United States is long overdue for.

Let’s consider what must certainly be the most serious issue about what coronavirus is now teaching us. We have a woeful, immoral and almost criminal over-reliance on China for our manufactured goods, and especially pharmaceuticals. The vast majority of medication consumed by Americans come from Chinese labs. Many of these facilities, incidentally, have been accused of utilizing manufacturing processes that defy safe and sanitary protocol. Even so, the drugs are being shipped into the U.S. and domestic drug companies care little. After all, it’s easier to charge nigh-unconscionable prices for vitally needed medication when it can be manufactured for pennies overseas. Even cheaply-manufactured medications such as acetaminophen and insulin are now supplied by China. Perhaps ninety percent of antibiotics like penicillin are sent to the U.S. from factories under the ultimate control of Beijing.

Profits are good. Profits drive innovation and research. But the drive for profit in defiance of ethical responsibility has inflicted a grievous wound upon the nation’s self-sufficiency and general integrity. It is a wound that politicians – on both sides of the aisle – have not looked past so much as pour harsh acid upon.

And now comes word that China is threatening to deny America access to drugs that could stem the coronavirus outbreak in our country. It is not an empty threat. Particularly not in the present environment of trade hostility that has already awoken the bear market. Right now the ChiComs are feeling pokey about the U.S.’ international response to the coronavirus pandemic. What happens in the event of a full-blown economic war between east and west? Should China choose to do so, it could cut the spigot off for all distribution of medications to the United States.

Pause and consider what this would mean to diabetics dependent upon their neighborhood drug stores being stocked with insulin, or medications commonly prescribed to address influenza: an illness that far more people each year perish from than will on account of coronavirus. People are now going full- blown paranoid about a shortage of toilet paper. But that can be rationed. With medication, not so much. I myself am now weighing the likelihood of medications running out that I use to manage having manic-depression. The number of Americans who have mental health conditions is enormous. Might a dire deficit of mood stabilizers lead to mass ideations of suicide or harm to others?

It is now clear that America has an over-reliance upon Chinese manufacturing of pharmaceuticals for too long. But our lack of autarky is betrayed again by a spectacle beheld by even the healthiest of citizens: the vast shelves of cheaply-produced goods at Walmart stores dotting across the fruited plain. And also readily available from online retailers. For decades American companies have parceled their industrial capacity to Chinese workers who are underpaid and overworked. We have enjoyed cheap clothing and kitchenware and collectible action figures and Blu-ray players. We have also compromised our economic independence. And though the policies set in motion during President Trump’s administration have yielded enormous rebirth of long-shuttered factories, America is still hurting from decades of job losses. Once the textiles industry in America was one of the mightiest of employers. It allowed families to grow and thrive and allowed countless young people to better their lives with college education. Today textile production in the United States has almost completely evaporated, particularly in the Southeast where it was once towered over all other industry.

If China can cut off medication for one key sector, it can cut off every medication. As well as every other product that comes from there to American ports. And what is America going to deny China in turn? Blockbuster action movies whose studio executives kowtow to mainland Chinese “sensibilities”? Clothing and medication are vital assets. Extravaganza entertainment is not.

The coronavirus outbreak, depending on who one chooses to listen to, is either the dread harbinger of the end times or a momentary blip upon medical history. Six to eight months from now we will likely be laughing about the coronavirus “plague” just as we did about Y2K. But the vulnerabilities it has exposed should be – as some activist leaders have coined the term – a teachable moment for America.

It is time to rediscover anew the virtue that American protectionism is a virtue and not a vice. We are obligated to look after the interests of our own people, and that is absolutely not to be taken to mean that we are a selfish or uncharitable nation. American greatness however has from its colonial beginnings meant looking to ourselves for production of food, goods, and medicine. We have been abundantly blessed with these and many more fruits of our labors. And when the fruits have been so bountiful, we have gladly allowed the people of other nations to enjoy much of our surplus. It is conceivable that World War III was staved off because the Soviet Union came to be dependent so greatly upon American grain production. Had domestic farming capacity during the Cold War been at depleted levels, the possibility would exist that Moscow would have been much more desperate and belligerent toward its western rival. The Politburo was wise enough to recognize its own weaknesses. Why then should the United States be any different?

America has been betrayed by politicians and lobbyists acting in the interest of foreign powers if not being outright paid for services rendered. We have been living on borrowed time and now the coronavirus threat has pulled back the curtain on our would-be industrial masters. Were our international situation a private business, the ones responsible would have long been chewed-out by the company honchoes. And most likely given a cardboard box and fifteen minutes to clean out their desks. Their incompetence would not be lauded and certainly not rewarded.

The attitude toward this land by too many entrenched politicians, corporate opportunists, and foreign sympathizers has gone far beyond incompetence and into the territory of treason. Perhaps the coronavirus will cast long-awaited light upon such treacheries. And perhaps the American people will have eyes opened at last to demand an end to over-reliance on international industry.

If so, in the greater scheme of things the coronavirus may prove to be less a blight and more a blessing.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

First draft of my first book is finished

Some of this blog's longtime readers may recall how I was writing a book about having bipolar disorder.  That was a project I'd been working on for some time, and then Dad passed.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, but I vowed to finish it someday.

Guess what?  It's still nowhere near finished.  The last time I committed a word to that endeavor was in winter of 2015.  And so much has transpired since then.  It will make more sense to write a new book drawing from the experiences of the past four years especially.

Someday I'll start to work on that.  In the meantime, I do get to rightfully proclaim that I have finished the manuscript of my first book.

The idea for it surfaced about ten years or so ago, and it's been percolating in my gray matter all this time.  Perhaps I needed to achieve some deeper understanding of the message I wanted to convey.  And then came the past two weeks and events on this side of the Intertubes.  And then I knew: it was time.

It's a children's book.  I visited the local Barnes & Noble's and studied products in the kiddie section to make sure I would have the page count right.  The average seems to be thirty pages for a picture book the primary audience of which is ages 5 to 9 or so.  And this manuscript packs in plenty with that amount of space to work with.

It's the book that I wish had been around when I was six years old.  Maybe I can contribute a little something to children who are likewise going through a hard time.  I like to think so.

So, the first draft is complete.  And there'll be some tinkering and having friends critique it and then perhaps sooner than later it'll get shopped around and hopefully an agent will like what he or she sees.  I will admit from the start however: I am NOT an artist.  So I'm praying that someone specializing in children's art is out there somewhere who can help bring this vision fully to life.  I think there is.  Whoever he or she is, I'll be looking forward to working with them.

Just as I look forward to posting about this again.

Friday, March 06, 2020


This blog has been operational for sixteen(!) years now, and it's covered a lot of territory.  Everything from pop culture to weird news to chronicling my run for political office and anything in between.  It's shown readers the inside of a nuclear power plant, to the ancient sanctity of Orthodox Christianity.

But it hasn't depicted everything about my life.  Though there have been times that I've shared glimpses of personal frustration and tragedy, most of what happens on this side of the screen has been shrouded from my audience.  It's been a common lament of mine: how it seems that everyone I know gets to display their blessings and joy over Facebook while I've come up empty in those regards.  And then I'm reminded that people only show the good things on social media, not the bad.  So if that's a crime, then I suppose I'm just as guilty.

However, there are exceptions.  The Being Bipolar series is no doubt the biggest of them.  Hard to believe it'll be ten years later next winter that I began that series, and there is still much more to write about it.  I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or manic depression) early in 2004.  By 2009 it had destroyed much of my personal life, including a marriage.  Being Bipolar began as an attempt to take it back.  On that note, it failed.  But I still ended up satisfied that it's documented my thoughts and experiences with a mental illness.

But it's not my only mental illness.

Early in 2018 came another diagnosis.  I now understand that I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The result of numerous horrible experiences across the span of my life, and especially things that happened during my childhood.  That's never really been written about on this blog.  My best friends and circle of close associates though have seen it only too often.  The times when I regress, and have flashbacks and am immobilized by the weight of memories that cannot and will not leave.  My therapists have helped me find a few strategies for dealing with episodes of PTSD: helping me get back into the moment instead of staying thrust toward the past.  And in vast part they do work.

But that's only addressing the symptoms, not the condition itself.

Yesterday I began what we are hoping may be an endeavor to stem the PTSD itself once and for all.  I had the initial appointment of what will be a series of sessions involving a fairly new therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing... or EMDR for short.  It came about during the Nineties as a result of investigations by psychologist Francine Shapiro.  It essentially means that via visual manipulation and use of other stimuli (including the use of a gimmick that I've dubbed "the Walkman") my brain is going to rewire itself to route around the parts of it that the PTSD chiefly operates in.  Or something like that.

Not really EMDR since Alex
can't move his eyeballs around
Yesterday's session was an orientation/familiarization with the technique.  And I'm already very much looking forward to beginning it proper.  EMDR has enjoyed great success in helping others address their own PTSD and we think it holds a lot of promise for my own case.

This was already an exceptional week in regard to my recovery.  I cannot discuss much of what transpired, however.  Maybe someday that will be possible.  Maybe, not ever.  The EMDR though, I can and will be talking about that as the treatment progresses.  So, stay tuned!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Chris finally watches THE THING (2011)

There is a tradition I never fail to keep: whenever I get snowed in and can't go anywhere, I turn down the lights and crank up the sound and watch the 1982 movie The Thing.  Maybe that says something about my baseline state of mind.

John Carpenter's now-classic film of horror and paranoia at an Antarctica research base might not be appropriate viewing for when one is tempting real-life cabin fever.  But if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then The Thing is the perfect wintertime follow-up.  And it's a darn nearly perfect movie in every other possible way: the story.  The casting.  The pacing.  The practical effects (which still hold their own against any CGI today).  The cinematography.  That score by Ennio Morricone.  And that building-up of tension as the men of Outpost 31 grow increasingly mistrustful of each other...

So yeah, I'm a huge fan of The Thing.  And I've read the original novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.  As well as watched 1951's The Thing from Another World.

And then there is the 2002 video game The Thing, which followed the events of the John Carpenter film and received both commercial and critical acclaim.  Partly because of the innovative "trust" element.  I'm going to always have fond memories of playing that game, and unfortunately it seems the physical release is the only one out there.  Maybe will have it for sale sooner than later.  Anyway...

I've seen and read and played just about everything Thing-ish.  But one item had been out of my zone of interest: 2011's The Thing.  Meant to be a prequel to the 1982 film, the 2011 entry was intended to reveal the story of the Norwegians who first discovered the alien vessel and its malevolent cargo.

Helmed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.and with a cast led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, The Thing '11 was an idea that I just didn't care about once the initial details started coming out.  And it wasn't just the notion of depicting the events of the Norwegian camp: something that was perhaps better left to the imagination (the "less is more" school of thought).  When MacReady and Copper begin exploring the burning ruins of the base, and then they come upon the radio operator who had slit his wrists, well... it's just like Copper said: "My God, what the hell happened here??"

"What?", indeed.  I first saw 1982's The Thing when I was ten years old, and every time I've watched it since my imagination gets sent reeling in wonder about how it went down among those poor scientists before they unleashed extraterrestrial death upon the most desolate wilderness on the planet.  What led up to the final survivors shooting at that dog from a helicopter laden with kerosene and grenades?

Did I really want or need to see that portrayed?

And then there was the casting.  It screamed "modern American film gore" with an emphasis on "American".  Look, we've had a Thing movie from an American perspective: it was The Thing of 1982.  A prequel about the Norwegian camp should have a cast of entirely Norwegians.  Having it headlined by an American actress with fellow English speakers: it just didn't seem right.

Then there were the effects.  Doubtless it was going to be largely accomplished by some CGI rendering engine pushing pixels.  I didn't doubt that the transition from the brilliant work in the 1982 film would be a jarring one.

Maybe it's the weather lately.  At this time of winter in this location, it should be at least one major snowstorm already this season.  Here in mid-February that's looking less likely.  So without a proper occasion upon which to watch 1982's The Thing, I thought that maybe... just maybe... I could give the 2011 film a fighting chance.  So that's what I did last night.

What did I think?

The Thing (2011) is a gruesome waste of a premise that had strong potential. There is so much that went wrong with this film.  In some ways it is admirably accurate to the 1982 film (the coda where we see the Norwegian helicopter flying off to track down the dog is especially good).  But other details are unforgivably ignored (didn't the boffins from Norway already use their explosive charges to blast away the ice from the alien ship?).  That's a bigger lingering plot problem than anything from The Rise of Skywalker... and that's sayin' something.

As I'd feared, The Thing 2011 edition tried too much to be a modern "American" horror.  Maybe the boys in marketing thought that a pretty young American female among all those Scandinavians would increase the commercial appeal.  Instead it distracts from the spirit of the 1982 "original".  There would have been nothing wrong with a cast completely comprised of Norwegians, Swedes, and Danish.  In fact, I would have preferred it that way.  And have the dialogue composed entirely of Norwegian (maybe with English subtitles... or not).  As it is the cast of Norwegian characters is woefully under-employed in this movie.  A tragedy because they seemed to be taking this project especially to heart.  One of the Norwegians is well played by Kristofer Hivju, who went on to portray Tormund Giantsbane in HBO's Game of Thrones.  Had I been the one in charge of the project, that's the approach I would have taken.

And it must be said: no modern CGI can outdo Rob Bottin's practical effects work in scaring the hell out of the viewer.  Even when the staff of Outpost 31 was looking at the remains of the creature, with it just laying there on the table, not moving at all: that static horror said it all.  That kind of slow appreciation of the monstrous isn't there in The Thing 2011.  There isn't a single creature in this movie that is as memorable as the Norris-thing.  It's all moving too fast and furious.  It all looks too shiny.  And going back to "if it was me making this movie" I would have tried to replicate the lighting and film grain of the 1982 film.  Yeah, film grain is important.  It needs to be consistent across a series.  It's one of my major complaints about the Star Wars prequel trilogy and it's a major complaint here.

 But most of all, I found myself incredibly disappointed with the failure to adequately arouse the kind of paranoia that made John Carpenter's 1982 movie such an enduring classic.  The sense of growing mistrust among the Norwegian base staff is so lacking that it seems almost tacked on.  There isn't a single scene that comes anywhere close to Blair (Wilford Brimley) going berzerk with that fire axe:

There is so much else that could be said.  This is definitely a prequel that became something we never needed.  Which I hate to say, because in other hands The Thing (2011) really could have been a very terrific movie.  Instead the film ended and I was just very, very disappointed.  It's going into the pile of other movies that were made but I'm going to pretend were never produced (Alien 3, anything past the final scene of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the inevitable sequel to Joker).

And so it is that whatever happened at that Norwegian camp will remain open to speculation.  Which is probably just as it should always be.  Besides, it's more fun that way.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Today's Google Doodle is one I can respect

Some of Google’s ”doodles” either fly over my head or make me cringe in disbelief.  A lot of them are about historical events and people that at best are extremely obscure or else make me wonder "What the hell are they smoking over there?"

But the one they have for today is as good as it gets and I recognized it immediately.  Give credit where credit is due: Google was really thoughtful about this one and how to convey it:

A depiction of the four North Carolina A&T students who sat down at the segregated lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro (the big city near where I’m from). That was sixty years ago today.

 This is how to SERIOUSLY protest a wrong. Peacefully and respectfully. Nobody was hurt, nobody was insulted, nobody was arrested because of violent behavior. These young men simply went in, sat at a whites-only lunch counter, and politely asked for service. They were denied.  So they just went back the next day and asked for lunch again.  And again.  And again.

The word spread, there were other such protests and it wasn't long before Woolworth’s ended its segregation policies. Other businesses soon followed.

We could learn a lot from the Greensboro Four, even still today.  Come to think of it, especially today.

\Well done Google, well done.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Various thoughts about the Trump impeachment

As I write this it's 1:35 a.m. and it's all over but the cryin'.  Sometime in the next eighteen hours will likely come the final vote on Impeachment 2020 and the end of this mess.  Donald John Trump will remain President of the United States for another year and quite possibly more than that.

I've never doubted the outcome.  Trump had this in the bag on a party-line vote alone.  But I never thought that the final days of this fiasco would be such a bewildering demonstration of both brilliance and ignorance.  This impeachment will be studied for generations to come about how not to impeach, as well as how to effectively counter one.

So, admitting that I only took time to watch the trial proceedings itself during the past few days, here are some sundry musings...

1.  "Abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" are not impeachable offenses.  I don't even know what the hell "obstruction of Congress" is supposed to mean in this context.

2.  There will be a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth in coming days and weeks about the issue of witnesses during the Senate trial phase.  Namely, about the House impeachment managers wanting John Bolton to testify.  They are forgetting that witnesses had already testified during the impeachment hearings.

3.  The trial is based on testimony and evidence already presented and entered into record during the House impeachment proceedings.  The Senate trial is absolutely not the place to introduce new witnesses and evidence.

4.  The House managers betrayed a lack of faith in their own case by demanding new witnesses this late in the game.

5.  The table at which the Trump counsel sat looked neat, dignified, corporate, razor-focused and serious.  Meanwhile the table of the House managers resembled a cram session of some college frat house, all that's missing are the boxes of cold pizza.

6.  Speaking of Trump's legal representation, any reputable law professor should make required viewing of the performance of Sekulow, Dershowitz, Philbin et al.  They have 10000% been the model of what competent attorneys should be in regard to the interest of the client.

7.  In stark contrast, the House managers' case has been very little apart from retread of the past three months, excruciatingly drawn out, absent any fresh or sound legal argument, and loaded with weary political rhetoric.

8.  Okay, this one sticks out like a sore thumb to me.  During this final day of Senate questioning I heard Adam Schiff and the other House managers insist that they want a "fair trial", hence more witnesses.  They were completely ignoring the basic underpinnings of how the trial process under United States law works and has always been intended to work.  The American courtroom is an adversarial arena, prosecutor versus defendant, and the onus is on the prosecutor to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant.  Schiff, Pelosi, Nadler and the rest of the managers have instead all along played this as if it's up to Trump himself to provide evidence and testimony that he's guilty.  Trump has not done this.  Neither is any other defendant under American law obligated to so testify against himself or herself.  I think during the second half of the impeachment trial when it became glaringly obvious that theirs was a lost cause, the managers dropped even a semblance of pretending they wanted a "fair trial" and began attempting to rig the game.  Hence, trying to bring John Bolton into the mix.  That alone screamed how much of a sham this impeachment has been from the beginning.

9.  The House managers should be really thankful that they didn't get witnesses during the Senate trial.  Not I, or any criminal law expert, or sane American for that matter, would not think for an iota of a moment that the Trump team would NOT pounce and begin calling witnesses of their own.  And it would be an unprecedented fiasco.  Indeed, potentially calling Hunter Biden to take the stand, and maybe even Adam Schiff himself, the "whistleblower", former Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden... the Trump counsel would find any and every reason to have them sworn and testify on the stand.  And the result would be a crippling blow to the Democrat Party from which it might never recover.

10.  I am chuckling at the ignorance many are radiating tonight, that in the event of a 50-50 tie on the witnesses issue, how Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will cast the deciding vote.  Roberts is not a member of the Senate.  He represents an entirely separate branch of government.  If fair is truly fair, then Vice President Pence will break the tie and some will say that Trump himself would be entitled to the vote.

11.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will go down as the conductor of the sloppiest, most mismanaged prosecution effort in the history of anything.  Had this been a criminal proceeding, the jury would have spent five minutes before returning a "not guilty" verdict.  She had her eyes on the prize but had no vision whatsoever of how to achieve it.

12.  I expect that this coming Tuesday night's State of the Union address is gonna be a LOT of fun to behold.

So much else that could come to mind, but it's late already.  Maybe better legal minds than mine can remark on whatever I've missed here.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Just came out of seeing 1917

George MacKay in 1917
This won't be so much a detailed review as it is a gut reaction to something barely prepared for.  1917 isn't a movie you'll want to read too much of warm.  Just go into the theater and for the next two hours be assaulted by the horrors of hell as few things have done in recent cinema history.

But it hit me on the drive back from the theater tonight: that the two most technically innovative films that I've seen over the course of the past year or so, have each been about World War I.  Maybe They Shall Not Grow Old will prove to have sparked a renaissance of interest in the Great War: an event that resonated harder than many might appreciate and indeed still resonates with us today (the ongoing morass in Iraq being but one example).  World War I has long been overshadowed at the cinema by its bloodier sequel, and that is unfortunate.

Sam Mendes and his team have done their part in rectifying that (if such a thing can be said) with 1917.  Shot and edited to be essentially one long continuous take, the film follows two young British soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) on the front lines in northern France, at the war's height in 1917.  They have been tasked with crossing the strife-torn landscape with a message that could mean life or death for more than sixteen hundred of their fellow soldiers.

This is a brutal, brootal motion picture.  1917 is an almost merciless meandering through the fog of war.  There are no clear edges or "episodic" flow in this movie.  There is rarely time to recover from one horror only to be assaulted by another.  And another.  And another.  This is war in all its horror, heartlessness and during at least one unforgettable moment, lack of honor.  It is a magnificent traipse through the fallen world's garden of malevolence.  It'll be a few days before I'm really "over" this one.  No doubt the many who saw it during the same screening will be the same.

Will definitely recommend catching 1917 during its theatrical run.  This is one of those movies that really does deserve getting beheld on the screen writ large and encompassing.  Expect loads of awards for this one as the season plays out.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

This is the way: "New Beskar Steel" wrapping for your iPhone!

Disclaimer: Adam Smith is a friend of mine.  He's not paying to advertise his product on The Knight Shift and I didn't ask for any compensation whatsoever either.  I'm only sharing this because... well, because it's kewl!  And sharing cool stuff is just how I roll on this blog.

Inspired by the hit Disney+ series Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Adam has forged the "New Beskar Steel" iPhone Case and Cover.  Imitating the much-coveted metal sought by the tribe and just about everybody else, the New Beskar Steel case looks like a real ingot of Mandalorian alloy.  And it will probably do just as well in protecting your iPhone from anything shy of an E-Web blaster cannon.  Complete with rich lustrous sheen and stamp indicating its previous imperialish possessor.  Admittedly it won't make for much of a full-metal pauldron but if you need a real pauldron anyway, you've got bigger problems.

The case is available for every model from the iPhone 4S on up through the latest iPhone 11.  Click here to visit the product page.  I have spoken.