The lagging lug nuts.

Spring-ish weather finally arrived, which is to say not warm enough for shirtsleeves, but the sun was out and it felt like a promise of better things to come. It was 57 at one point.

Monday’s high? 37 degrees. We’ll always have Sunday.

Thank god for this little warmish breath, though, because if we’d had another gloomy weekend, I might have sat inside all weekend reading Twitter, instead of just part of it. Are the wheels coming off? Finally? I’m hesitant to believe, because the wheels have been coming off for more than a year now, and there always seems to be one lug nut still hanging in there, doing its job. But this weekend — just this weekend! — we had the mop-up from the Tillerson fiasco and the will-he-or-won’t-he-fire-Mueller thing and then, on Saturday (Sunday if you’re a normal person and wait to read your Sunday paper), the Cambridge Analytica bombshell. And I’m probably forgetting a few.

Yeah, Comey and Putin and all the rest of it. Oh, and the nondisclosure agreements.

Truth be told, I’m halfway between horror at what’s happening and a secret thrill that I’m living through a period we’ll tell our grandchildren about. I just want to behave honorably through the course of it.

That’s the point of the first link up there, a column calling on the outgoing secretary of state to finally prove he was one of the adults in the room:

Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we’ve been assured — via well-placed anonymous sources — that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing. …Whatever their accomplishments, if from their privileged perches these people saw the president as a dangerous fool in need of babysitting, it’s now time for some of them to say so publicly.

Yes. We’re at a unique moment in history. Do you want to be one of the good guys? Better start talking.

Great comment discussion going the last few days, guys. Rock on, but I have some work to do.

Posted at 8:42 am in Current events | 72 Comments

Bedford Falls vs. Pottersville.

There’s been a great comment discussion the last couple of days, over small towns, large cities, and what we owe both of them. It made me think of 2001-02, when we were both miserable at work, and Alan had a promising job interview in Traverse City. I gave considerable thought to how we’d live and what I’d do there.

“You can freelance,” everybody told me. “After all, with the internet, it doesn’t matter where you live.”

This was a big article of faith with the head of our editorial page, who, truth be told, was a bit of a hermit. The internet meant anyone could work from anywhere, which meant…all sorts of things. Less traffic, fewer days spent in boring offices, and of course, the flowering of many charming towns for those who love them. You could have a house with a walkout deck overlooking a lovely valley, while behind you the world of work simmered away on your monitor, and you joined it when you liked.

Not 20 years later? That hasn’t happened.

It’s happened for a handful of lucky souls, sure, but for most of us? No. In fact, a lot of these towns don’t even have broadband. And didn’t Yahoo call a bunch of work-at-homes back to the office corral a while back? The aphorism I recall from that was, “if you want people to be productive, keep them apart. But if you want them to be creative, they have to be together.” Yahoo needed some creativity, so the roundup began.

Someone said on the thread yesterday that cities are the future. Well, duh. But cities can’t be everybody’s future; too much density isn’t good for anyone, and I for one don’t want to live in some slightly cleaner and less polluted version of Mexico City, or even Los Angeles. In the last six months, I’ve met two couples who’ve bought houses in Grosse Pointe because, get this, they were priced out of Detroit. Not all of Detroit, mind you — you can still find hundreds of houses for a pittance — but the good parts, yes. Not everyone can live close in, where the action is.

But everything some of you have been saying about small towns — and small cities — is true. This is a painful time for the U.S. economy, and everyone is right, at least in part. This is about a shift, and if you can’t shift, or at least adapt, you’re going to be left behind. Anyway, I’m glad I have some smart readers willing to bat this stuff around.

So. Today in other Chaos Reigns news:

Subpoenas for the Trump Organization.

The president admits lying to our closest neighbor and their very handsome prime minister.

A brand-new bridge falls from the sky in Florida. It was put up using something called Accelerated Bridge Construction Methods, which I’m going to bet maybe don’t come out of this smelling like a rose.

Oh, and Don Jr. and his wife are splitting. Five kids, these two have. As Philip Larkin said, they fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Boy, am I tired. Good weekend to all.

Posted at 9:02 pm in Current events | 72 Comments

Another Tuesday in Bizarroworld.

It’s a feature of chaos that you don’t know who your friends are, I expect. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, that sort of thing? And so it is you can be reading an analysis of the short and inglorious term of Rex Tillerson, described in the headline as “the worst secretary of state in living memory,” and find something like this:

The administration is not divided into people who are loyal to Trump and those who are not. Rather, it is divided between those who know how to manipulate his vanity, his hatreds, his sensitivities, and those who do not. It is divided between those who think he is their ticket to fame and fortune and those who hope to survive this episode with their reputations more or less intact. It is divided, at the most fundamental level, between those willing to sell their souls completely and at a discount in the service of a man who is doing great damage to American norms and institutions, and those who are trying to get something for their country in return for the slices of honor and integrity that every day they reluctantly consign to the flames.

So here is a plausible account of what Pompeo would do, if he replaces Tillerson. He will fire Tillerson’s cabal, shrink the Policy Planning staff, and return it to its more normal role of writing speeches and doing long-range thinking. He will ostentatiously drape an arm around the shoulders of the foreign service. He will bring journalists back onto his plane and schmooze them—in return getting more than his fair share of what Washington journalists sometimes call “beat-sweetener” stories. Unlike Tillerson, who seems in good corporate fashion to have decided that a 30 percent cut ordained by headquarters is the equivalent of a Czar’s ukase—unwelcome, perhaps, but not to be questioned—he will fight back. He will either bully OMB Director Mick Mulvaney or, more likely, smile sweetly at him, assure him of his complete support—and then end-run around him on Capitol Hill, letting angry senators do for him the dirty work of subverting the president’s budget. He will call in some of the retired senior diplomats—legendary ambassadors like Ryan Crocker who have been uncharacteristically public in their criticisms of Tillerson—and listen to them with at least the appearance of attentiveness. Above all, he will flatter the president shamelessly, praising his toughness and superlative insights while steering policy in a more or less sane (if, to be sure, tough-minded) direction. He will rattle some with hardline rhetoric, but at least he will articulate a coherent view of American foreign policy to the world, and that will be an advance.

And then you realize: We’re talking about Mike Pompeo here. This is not a good guy. None of this is normal. Stop making me feel so crazy, world.

I expect most of you will want to talk about the election in Pennsylvania. So far, it’s looking good for Conor Lamb. But don’t celebrate until the returns are certified.

The other day some of y’all were talking about the attitudes of rural/small town/red state Americans. I saw this interview on Vox tonight, with the author of a book called “The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America.” The interviewer is not listening politely:

Q. I’m still struggling to understand what exactly these people mean when they complain about the “moral decline” of America. At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?

A: It’s an interesting question. What does it mean for us to take that seriously? I guess my point is that she takes it seriously, even if we don’t or shouldn’t. Does she still spank her children? Probably. Is she just using that as an example of how the country is changing and how Washington is driving that change? Probably.

Now, I doubt she made this us up herself. She likely heard it at church or from her neighbors or from Fox News or talk radio. Again, what I kept hearing from people is a general fear that traditional moral rules were being wiped out by a government and a culture that doesn’t understand the people who still believe in these things.

A couple years ago, I saw a comment on a NYT story on this very subject, from a woman who described herself as the only Democrat in a small farm city in central Michigan. She said her neighbors were so angry and paranoid that they genuinely believe that if there’s a puddle in their driveway, that soon “the government” would be coming by to declare it a wetland and move them out. So I guess we have to take it seriously, at least on some level.

I’m going to check the returns from the Keystone State. Happy Wednesday, all. Discuss.

Posted at 9:27 pm in Current events | 53 Comments

The brooding report.

A friend of mine is going through a serious depression right now, so I don’t want to call what I had on Friday a dark night of the soul, or anything like that. Rather, it was more like a gray day of the soul, just a walking-around all-day funk, probably because I slept particularly badly the night before, the weather was indeed cold and gray, and so are the inch-long gray roots I’m sporting at the minute, having once again forgotten to make a hair appointment.

Which is to say, it was a day meant for gloomy brooding. So I did.

And I came to a few conclusions: One, that I think I’m done with journalism, at least the make-a-living-at-it model. It’s a shrinking field, and no employer has any use for a 60-year-old with all the wrong skills. I could sit in my home office and send out pitch after pitch to editor after editor, but my stomach for rejection after rejection just isn’t there anymore. And for all the talk of journalism being more important than ever, it seems like the whole industry is slipping into the sea, and we have no idea how to stop it. It’s plain what the chaos merchants in D.C. and St. Petersburg are up to – impugn every source as “fake news” until the public trusts no one, then step in with your own version of the quote-truth-unquote, and dare anyone to prove otherwise. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley sits on its vast mountains of money and says hey don’t blame us before they go back to working on building offshore tax havens or a drug that will allow Peter Thiel to live forever or whatever it is they’re up to.

So I’m kinda…bearish on journalism these days. I don’t think it can save us. Yes, there is outstanding work being done by a handful of well-funded and smartly staffed outlets, but there aren’t enough of them, and what’s being done at the local level – where most Americans get their news – is simply criminal.

What I’m saying is, there has to be a better way to help humanity. And even if journalism is it, I’ve lost my taste for it.

Immediately after I reached this conclusion, I heard from an editor responding affirmatively to a pitch I made a while back. So yeah, plans may change. But I doubt it.

That said, I’m still interested in how the field is evolving. Do any of you do newsletters? I’ve gotten into them lately, and sample them like items on a buffet. For all the shit people shovel on it, I do appreciate the Axios daily emails; I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in reading obligations, and appreciate their bullet-point summations. I subscribed to the Crooked Media newsletter. Tried TheSkimm, and unsubscribed — I’m just not a daffy enough young woman to get into that one, although I appreciate what they’re trying to do, i.e. make young women better informed.

I subscribed to Lenny, Lena Dunham’s newsletter, and will unsubscribe when I think of it, because not only is it worthless, I’m running cold on Lena Dunham these days. So.

Any suggestions for others, leave them in comments.

So that’s why I missed Friday. Brooding.

Today it’s sunny, Alan is out for a few hours and I think I may take Wendy to the dog park. I should go to the gym, but I’m thinking a need a day off from shoulds, and who will grant such a gift but me? So let it be written, so let it be done.

How about some Sunday reading?

Having just gone through a kitchen remodeling, I’m glad I didn’t read this beforehand, but it’s worth reading just the same: There is nothing wrong with your house, by Kate Wagner, who runs one of the best making-fun-of-McMansions blogs in existence. Funny and true.

Not funny at all, but even more true, and necessary to read in this era of #NeverAgain: What it’s like to survive being wounded in a mass shooting.

Rosemarie underwent nine surgeries in the three weeks after the shooting, and she spent nearly two months on life support while her organs healed.

But the woman who emerged from heavy sedation in November was not the same sunny, self-possessed person around whom the whole family once revolved.

A debilitating nausea set in. She has vomited almost every day since, and for months, doctors could not explain why. In February, after a short-lived attempt to bring her home ended with Steve taking her to the emergency room in an ambulance, the condition was diagnosed: Rosemarie has gastroparesis, meaning her damaged stomach muscles cannot push food through her system. She will need yet another surgery to treat the condition as well as to remove her gallbladder, which is infected.

The doctors must wait for her old injuries to heal before they can operate. But on Friday, her stomach wound reopened and became infected — another setback. So Rosemarie must remain at a rehab facility, dependent on an intravenous nutrient solution for sustenance and a daily dose of Ativan to keep her crushing anxiety at bay.

But hey: Freedom. And meanwhile, this is what the other side has been up to, at least one member of it:

Imagine being moved to do such a thing. They used to say that email was the problem, that being able to dash off a nastygram and hit “send” made for more of them. If you had to find pen and paper, write something down, fold it up, find an envelope and stamp and walk it to a mailbox, you were less likely to be this much of a shithead. But I guess not.

OK, it’s time to go outside. It’s 34 whole degrees. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 12:46 pm in Current events, Media | 76 Comments

Quite a hump to get over.

This week, in a nutshell:

And it’s only Wednesday.

Dragging a little today, to be sure. Kate returned from spring break very very early this morning, having gotten a lesson in the downside of super-cheap travel: While the outbound legs — and it’s always legs, plural, never leg — are an adventure because whee we’re on vacation and it’s so cheap! the ride home is a four-legged bitch. Of course she got sick along the way, so I picked up her and her companion from the Greyhound station at 6 a.m. to drive them back to Ann Arbor. The ride home was Budapest > Reykjavik > Chicago > Detroit, the last leg via bus and with many many layover hours between the other ones. I just hope whatever she brought home isn’t TB or something, because she was coughing pitifully all the way. However, she remembered to pick up a bottle of her parents’ favorite Japanese whiskey in the duty-free in Iceland, so I’m counting that as a parenting win.

They liked the old world, even though they stayed in “the only hostel in Budapest that welcomes alcoholics,” she said, and I gather the atmosphere was a little…tiring. The proprietors and guests were imbibing full-time, another idea that seems fun at first and becomes less so when all you want is a nap.

I’ll get a fuller debrief when the throat misery dies down, I hope.

Meanwhile, I was sitting outside the Greyhound station before sunrise, snow falling, bogarting the taxi lane because there was only one taxi even going for it, listening to NPR and scrolling Twitter, when an old man rolled his suitcase into the station and up to a line of chairs. Beard, black coat, black hat. He took off the hat, revealing a yarmulke underneath so OK, Orthodox here. Then he opened one of his bags and removed a prayer shawl and his tefillin, wrapped the former around his shoulders and the latter around arm and forehead, and proceeded to daven into his morning prayers. I don’t know if he was embarking on a trip or if this was a regular stop in some sort of quasi-missionary work or what, only that it was an odd sight to see on a cold morning, in a building where nine out of 10 occupants are African-American and bundled in layers of puffy coats and wool hats. A little surreal.

And then there was my coughing baby, so we set off for the west before the traffic got too heavy.

“There’s an old Jewish guy in there praying,” I said as she buckled her seat belt. Cough-cough-cough. Probably not the weirdest thing she saw in the last week.

So Richard Spencer was in Michigan this week, as part of his Let Me Speak So Fox News Can Get B-Roll of the Protests to Use in Their Campaign Against Higher Education tour. He was at Michigan State, which was on spring break, and booked into some ag building way over on the ag campus. Nevertheless, the usual suspects showed up, and there were the usual skirmishes, and there were arrests, and at the end of it all was this tweet:

Estimates of the crowd he drew to hear him speak range from 11 to 30. Free speech on campus will live another day. Here’s a dispatch from a local journalist for the gay alt-weekly. No autoplaying video, nice guy. He uses the word “melee” twice, but don’t hold that against him.

Time to get back to work and consider a shower. Or a nap.

Posted at 12:10 pm in Current events | 71 Comments

Warming up.

My new stove has a warming drawer. It’s genius. The drawer under the oven? Where you probably throw your pot lids and broiler pan and other hard-to-store items? The new thing now is to put a heating element on the bottom and lo, a warming drawer. I can find another place to store my pot lids, but I will give up this warming drawer when you pry it from my perfectly warm fingers.

Last night I was making dinner when Alan texted to say he wouldn’t be leaving the office until 8. That means he won’t be home until 8:40. I have to eat by 8 or I sleep badly.

That’s why we have a warming drawer, I replied. And I plated Alan’s chicken, rice and asparagus, put foil over it and stuck it in the warming drawer, on low, where it stayed for nearly an hour. Alan reports everything was delicious, and even the asparagus failed to shrivel.

People talk about when they felt they were truly an adult, or rich, or whatever. I always say that nothing made me feel that I was movin’ on up in the world like my first washer/dryer. Farewell, Solar Sudser laundromat, eater of one evening out of 10. Although I will say, it was the best people-watching in Fort Wayne. The clerk had trichotillomania (a compulsive disorder that caused her to pull out her hair) and a life that was a continuing series of disasters. I know because she discussed each one on the phone, loudly, while I sat eight feet away trying to read my new Spy or Vanity Fair.

I have a feeling my warming drawer will be another big lifestyle upgrade. I’m a simple woman, easy to please.

Friday: An ode to my incredibly quiet dishwasher, which shines a light on the floor to tell you it’s running, because you can barely hear it.

Not really.

Back when I was an equestrian, I boarded my horse at a barn with a fox hunter, a lawyer who basically lived for the sport — he didn’t work Tuesdays, because his hunt rode out twice a week, Saturdays and Tuesdays, and he didn’t miss. One day he debriefed me on their practices, and later on, when animal-rights groups made fox hunting a focus, and successfully banned it in England, of all places, I knew how much shit they were talking. Among the things I learned from my co-boarder:

The fox almost always “wins” the hunt, by going to ground (its burrow) before the hounds catch it. In the olden days, when fox were hunted because they were decimating the neighborhood henhouses, that’s when the terrier handlers would send in the Jack Russells, but no one does that anymore, because in the tradition of intelligent modern hunting, the hunter husbands the prey. Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited, with memberships primarily comprised of anglers and hunters, do more for habitat preservation than many environmental groups, because no habitat? No trout or ducks. There is no Fox Unlimited, but fox hunters go to great lengths to make sure they have fox to hunt. They lose far more hounds in the course of a season — to cars, of course — than fox; one or two (fox) a year was a typical casualty list. They only hunt in winter, because spring and summer is when the prey are raising kits. And so on.

Have I bored you to death yet? No? Well then, you might enjoy this lavishly illustrated Washington Post feature on modern fox hunting in the D.C. area, which is probably the center of the sport in the U.S. It’s such a beautiful sport, and every piece of that fancy clothing has a specific purpose. Especially the flask, ha ha.

What else? Hmm. Are self-driving cars on your local radar the way they are in Michigan? Perhaps not, but the technology is galloping ahead like a field of fox hunters, and as a lot of the research and testing is being done by the domestic auto industry, we’re seeing a certain amount of it here. There’s a driverless van shuttling around the University of Michigan north campus, and a big proving ground out that way. A lot of people — including the organization I work for — is trying to see into the future, because man, when self-driving reaches critical mass, there is going to be a revolution in the economy. Job loss, job creation, winners and losers and things we haven’t even thought about. Bloomberg hazards a scan of just a few things that will change as a result.

I like driving, except when I hate it.

Of course, there are a few bugs to be worked out. Contains shriek-worthy dash cam video of the crash in question.

Time to put the nose to the old grindstone. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:58 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments

Anger and fear.

Alex and I know a lot of the same people in Fort Wayne, and every so often we talk about them. “Why is X so angry?” a typical exchange might go, where X is a well-known right-wing – no, far right-wing – conservative. “They have everything they ever wanted — GOP supermajorities in the state legislature, control in both houses of Congress, a replacement for Scalia who’s even more hard-line and young enough he might sit on the Supreme Court for another generation. They have a president who’s only held back by his increasingly desperate staff, and Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen. And yet, they’re furious pretty much all the time.”

We rarely have an answer. This is just how we email and text back and forth.

I was thinking about this over the weekend, doing the drudgery of reassembling the kitchen and cleaning up the construction dust. And I thought about a woman I once knew a little, an online acquaintance, who said there were two primary emotions that drive us, love and fear, and she tried to choose love whenever possible. I made a case for anger, and she countered that anger was just a different form of fear. I thought she was full of shit, but now I think she was on to something. The debate over guns is shaping up to be a big fear festival.

Speaking of Indiana, here’s a typical story from the northernmost southern state, about an older gentleman, self-identified as a veteran and a member of something called the Oath Keepers, who has parked his heavily armed self outside one Fort Wayne high school, handgun and AR-15 at the ready, to keep the students safe. The school district knows he’s there, but he’s not on school grounds and there’s nothing they can do about him.

I don’t think it’s a wild stretch to speculate that this gentleman thinks of himself as a “sheepdog,” and in fact, when you google “oath keepers” + sheepdog, look what turns up? Yes, the O.K.s think of themselves as protectors of we dumb ol’ sheep, who think that going around unarmed is a sensible way to live your life.

So who lives in fear? Who spreads fear? I know lots of people like to refer to firearms as penis proxies, and maybe they are, but when the NRA talks about “hardening” American schools, they’re using fear to sell guns (which is maybe the only reason to buy a gun, when you think about it), and if its corollary, anger, works, then why not?

I don’t fear a mass shooting, except abstractly, the way I fear being flattened by a wrong-way driver on the freeway. I ride my bike through neighborhoods in Detroit that some of these Oath Keeper pussies wouldn’t enter in an armored car, and I’ve never felt threatened.

No wonder they’re angry all the time. Of course, they’re getting old, too. Nothing like the damp breath of the grave to send a chill down one’s spine. Especially when so many young people are showing no sign of giving a shit about you and your sheepdog posturing, so that you’re reduced to shaking your cane at them:

Very amusing, both of those. These kids will have their hearts broken by the pace of political change sooner or later, but they’ll still be trying.

So, what’s the bloggage?

Mona Charen, as rigid a right-winger as you could ask for, is booed at CPAC and leaves the hall with security. Why? Because she criticized the president.

CPAC was crazy top to bottom, but you guys have already been over that.

Alan is calling me downstairs for a consult on shelf placement in one of the three closets he rehabbed this weekend. The work just keeps on coming.

Good Monday, all.

Posted at 4:14 pm in Current events | 57 Comments

Who are these people?

If the aim of the Russian election interference was to sow chaos, to widen the gaps in American culture, to make us dislike and distrust one another even more than we already do, is it playing into their hands to believe the evidence in front of one’s own eyes? Just asking. I read David Brooks, oh boy:

So if you want to stop school shootings it’s not enough just to vent and march. It’s necessary to let people from Red America lead the way, and to show respect to gun owners at all points. There has to be trust and respect first. Then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns, and not some sacred cross in the culture war.

O, rly? Why do I have to show respect for gun owners who defend armor-piercing bullets, extra-capacity magazines, plastic guns? Who is being unreasonable here, anyway?

The people who defend gun rights believe that snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture. If we end up telling such people that they and their guns are despicable, they will just despise us back and dig in their heels.

If defending teflon-tipped bullets isn’t despicable, what is it? I’m seriously baffled. The rest of the column goes on to describe a program called Better Angels, aimed at bringing “red and blue tribes” together. But guess who’s the real tribe with the Sadz?

Doherty says that the Reds feel shamed by the Blues to a much greater degree than the Blues realize. Reds are very reluctant to enter into a conversation with Blues, for fear of further shaming, but they often come to the table when they are told that this will be a chance to “de-monsterize” themselves.

At that session one Blue said she was really grateful to hear a Red acknowledge the Republican history on race. When Blues are asked about the stereotypes thrown at them, they tend to list “against religion and morality,” “unpatriotic” and “against personal responsibility” among their responses. They, too, relish the chance to clear the air.

I have to put this stuff aside because it makes me crazy to think about it too deeply. It’s the ultimate both-sidesing and it can make a reasonable person feel like they’re being gaslit. I’m happy to de-monsterize anyone, but I’m not willing to ignore the evidence in front of my eyes. And…

Oh, well. Can’t do this now. Here, have a kitchen picture.

We’re in the homestretch now. They put in the backsplash yesterday.

Grout today, then the new appliances, then lights and finishing touches. All told, three weeks. Then I can start eating vegetables made by my own little hands. I’m hoping my abdominal bloat from three weeks’ worth of pizza and sandwiches will go down shortly thereafter.

Work meeting, then editing. Congrats to Sherri, our commenting-community celebrity of the week. Great story.

Posted at 9:05 am in Current events | 59 Comments

Meatballs for lunch.

For those of you who own Aeron chairs, a tip: Those mesh seats allow dust to fall through, and one day you will drop a pencil, bend down to pick it up and be so consumed with shame at the sight of its undercarriage caked in dust that you must stop what you’re doing this instant and clean that shit up.

I hate finding long-hidden dirt. When we took down the framed artwork in the kitchen, there were dust bunnies behind the frames. But who the hell cleans behind pictures? And needless to say, when we pulled the fridge out, there were horrors lying in wait.

No dead mice or anything, though. We are told that we’ll have a functioning kitchen by the end of the week. I’ll settle for a stove and running water. Alan has a plan to refit two closets, so most of Saturday was consumed with a trip to Ikea.

“The best thing about a trip to Ikea?” I said as we got into the car. “Swedish meatballs for lunch.”

And that was, indeed, the best thing about driving 45 minutes each way to get to goddamn Ikea — bland meat orbs in a powder-based gravy. That’s because they were out of the shelving we wanted, even though the website said they had nine sets in stock. “Uh, I guess the website hasn’t caught up,” the apologetic warehouse worker offered. We also got some silverware trays for our new kitchen drawers, but once we got them home, found they didn’t quite fit. So really, the meatballs were the best part of the day.

But lunch for two only cost $18. And we even split a dessert.

Hope springs eternal, and today Alan cobbled together another configuration of shelving, Ikea promised it was in stock, and he headed back out to get it, ill-fitting silverware trays in tow. I stayed home and cleaned up construction dust to the best of my ability.

To better weekends, once this is over.

In the meantime, there was some bloggage:

I am shocked, shocked to learn that Australians were involved in this:

A violent brawl that broke out on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship bound for Melbourne, forcing the vessel to dock early in NSW, may have been sparked by a dispute over a thong.

(That’s a flip-flop to some of you. We called them thongs when I was a kid.)

(A fellow passenger) said she believed the violence had all been instigated by one large family group of at least 20 people who “came onto the boat wanting to fight people” and were using any excuse to start trouble.

Travelling with her partner and another couple, she said their group became targeted two days ago after one member accidentally brushed past a member of the “violent” family.

I’ve known people like that, but they usually confine themselves to local taverns. The captain of the ship was quoted in another publication saying to a passenger who wanted the group put off the ship, “What do you want me to do? Throw them overboard?” In this case, I think that would have been a splendid remedy. And quite entertaining to watch.

In public discussions of higher ed, the comments swing wildly from “every child should have the opportunity to attend” to “not every child is suited for college, you know.” Both can be true, you know. Sarah Vowell strikes the right balance with this nice ode to Montana State, her alma mater, and land-grant colleges everywhere.

We are not fashion bloggers here, but we like fashion, so here’s a great shot of Helen Mirren, looking amazing.

Finally, I know the man is uncoachable, but can no one persuade him to stop doing this? Maybe by telling him it makes his hands look even smaller?

Onward into the week. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 5:42 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Ten firehoses.

Another Friday, another late post. Well, there’s always the weekend ahead.

Truth be told, we’re even more confined to the second floor of the house as this kitchen project lurches on, although I hope it’s better this weekend. Yesterday was the absolute worst, with the appliances being delivered (one of them, anyway) along with the cabinets, which together filled every inch of space in the living and dining room. The cabinets are being built and hung today, so some of the footprint is reduced, but I have a stove in my living room and pretty much everything is filthy now.

And so I am not a very happy person. I need order. I have chaos. They tell me relief will come next week. We shall see.

This is what my chaos looks like, in the meantime.

Another reason I’ve not been motivated to write: The news just keeps coming. The portrait unveilings, subject of the last post, feel like they happened in 2012, now that they’ve been eclipsed by the school shooting, the Playboy Trump mistress and the Russia indictments, all in 48 hours. I read the Playboy-mistress story at 5:30 this morning, and the Russian indictments dropped during the lunch hour. I feel dizzy.

That’s not even counting ancillary stories, like Scott Pruitt flying around the country in first class because someone was mean to him the last time he sat in coach, “mean” being “told him to stop ruining the environment.”

Does it seem like something in the air has finally changed, though? I’m wary of epistemic closure, and I try to pay attention to the other side, I really do, but it does seem we’re in a different place now, public opinion-wise, than we were a year ago. Every parent I know with a school-age child is incandescent with rage. But I don’t get out nearly enough to qualify as a public-opinion expert.

In the meantime, even though Jolene posted this already, I want to bring it to your attention again: Just because you agree with a particular organization doesn’t mean they’re playing by the rules. In this case, it’s Everytown for Gun Safety, and their oft-quoted statistic that there have been 18 school shootings this year. No there hasn’t:

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counts as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Which makes it not a school shooting, in my mind. The organization I work for now has a hashtag: #FactsMatter. They really do. You can’t build good policy on a weak foundation. Keep that in mind the next time the news blows up, which will probably be in…about eight minutes.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 5:46 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments