Things To Do While Self-Isolating

The whole country is pretty much in a lockdown mode (and those areas that aren’t are going to be rather soon). People are being told to stay home, and keep away from other people as much as possible in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

This is most likely a new thing for many people, but it need not be a prison sentence. There are plenty of things that you can do to keep your self occupied.

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Movie Review: Swamp Thing (1982)

There’s a pitfall for amateur movie reviewers. We tend not to have much experience in criticism (i.e. critical writing), so there’s a tendency to think that pointing out mistakes and flubs and inconsistencies (like Cinema Sins) counts as valid criticism. It is not. While it is true that proper, professional critics do have to note such things, it is not the be-all and end-all of their review.

I fell into that trap when just after watching Swamp Thing. I focused on all the things that made no sense at all to me – from the violation of Conservation of Mass to why the federal government has stashed a supposedly secret lab someplace down in the bayous and mangrove swamps of the Deep South – and they’re not even doing military research there.

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Viral Response

Well, we’re in a mess.

To put it mildly.

Now, even if you’re not being directly or even indirectly impacted, it’s hard to escape the feeling of gloom and despair that has settled over much of the nation.

It’s times like these that we really could use a bit of entertainment to distract ourselves from everything. And the support that comes from keeping our social ties strong.

So what happens?

Communal entertainments (sports and the theater) are being suspended indefinitely. And we are being practically ordered to keep our distance from others. Just what we need…..

There are going to be a LOT of people wanting or needing therapy when this is all over.

Instead of being told to “socially distance” ourselves from each other (by barricading ourselves in fortresses of toilet paper and hand sanitizer), why aren’t we being told to wash our hands?

Soap conducts chemical warfare on the virus. The soap molecule (not a joke; there really is such a thing) is literally a dagger that hacks the virus to pieces. It has two parts – a “hilt” that is attracted to water, and a “blade” that is attracted to lipids (i.e. fats and oils). When soap mixes with water enough so that the hilts are firmly gripped, the blade cuts in to the outer membrane of the virus – which is made of lipids – and breaks it up as if it were a mere blob of grease on your dishes.

One can even do it in a lighthearted fashion, as they did in the state of Washington some years ago during the last flu outbreak:

Lord knows we could use any reason to smile these days…..

Hand Washing Music

The coronavirus – aka COVID-19 – has arrived here in the United States. It’s basically a type of influenza: it produces symptoms like the flu, it spreads like the flu…. And because of the way it spreads, the standard flu protocols are the way to respond to it.

There are three things everyone is stressing:

1. Masks won’t help protect you.

2. If you do come down with something, stay home.

3. Wash your $@#! hands.

The latter is the one that people really need to follow. Wash your hands often, with soap and water (hand sanitizer is OK – provided it’s at least 120 proof (60% alcohol)). And no light rinse; you’ve got to do it for at least twenty seconds.

So how can you time yourself for twenty seconds?

How about singing along?

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Rookies of the Year

A while back, I noted that the Mets and Astros were both going to wind up with the Cy Young Award winners and the Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues. This led to a nice (in my opinion) essay on how often that happened in the past. While doing the research for that essay, I naturally had to go over the list of Rookies of the Year. I kept seeing all-time greats, solid players whose names made me go “oh, yeah, that guy!”, and players where I went “Huh?”

I started musing. Whatever happened to the Rookies of the Year?

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Sign Stealing

It just won’t go away. In 2017, the Houston Astros came up with a scheme to tip their batters off as to what sort of pitch was on the way. Major League Baseball found out about it, and then everything went bonkers.

The team was heavily fined, people lost their jobs, other teams are implicated in similar schemes, no one knows what or who to believe. Commissioner Manfred fumbled the PR response; so did the Astros. Fans are outraged; some even calling for the team to have its World Series win that year vacated (whether the Dodgers get to be called World Champions is not mentioned). Many players are openly expressing their anger. There’s been talk of some sort of on-field retribution against certain suspect players.

But there’s one big question that very few people are asking.

Just how much does it help you to know what type of pitch is coming?

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BOOK REVIEW: Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense

Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy
Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Hanover Square Press
Copyright 2019 by the authors

Even after his failed campaign to retake the White House, Theodore Roosevelt was not one to retire quietly like other former presidents. Even when age kept him from the “strenuous life” that he had long championed, he was still writing and speaking out against corruption in government.

In 1914, Roosevelt came out in support of Harvey D. Hinman, a progressive Republican, for the governorship of New York. Party boss William Barnes Jr. supported his opponent, Charles Seymour Whitman. In July, Roosevelt published a screed where he accused – in no uncertain terms – Barnes and Tammany Hall boss Charles Francis Murphy of corruption and conspiring to thwart the will of the people.

Murphy let the attack go – either he was used to such criticism, or perhaps he felt discretion was the better part of valor given his opponent. Barnes, however, took the attack seriously. He sued Roosevelt for libel.

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Iowa

So now that the dust has cleared and the smoke has settled (for the most part), what can we gather from the Iowa Caucuses?

Well, obviously, Iowa needs to work on its ballot counting system. A few kinks should always be expected, since no system is perfect – especially because no matter how foolproof you make it, some fool isn’t going to follow the perfectly clear instructions and screw things up. But when you’re making such a major change, you probably should do a dress rehearsal field test before the big event.

The news media ought to have a bit of patience, too. In situations like this, you don’t need to have the results yesterday, if not sooner. Wait a bit and give them the chance to get it right. You can spend more time speculating about the outcome, too!

The other major complaint I’ve been reading about is from political junkies buffs complaining about how the Iowa Caucuses are so “undemocratic”. Seems they don’t like this rural, low diversity, low population state acting as a sort of “kingmaker” in the nominating process.

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The Gallifrey Conundrum

Anyone who’s more than a passing fan of Doctor Who knows that The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Over the decades, a substantial body of continuity has built up around them. When the new series was being launched, showrunner Russell T. Davies made it pretty clear that he wanted a completely fresh start, unburdened by all of that lore. He came up with the idea of a “Time War”, where the Time Lords and the Daleks, The Doctor’s greatest enemies, would have had a war so vast that they wound up destroying each other completely.

It didn’t work.

The Daleks quickly made an appearance, followed by Gallifrey. Things kept changing – Gallifrey was destroyed, then saved, then invaded and virtually destroyed, then saved again, then destroyed again. I’ve actually lost track…. And it’s not like we’re seeing the effects of the Time War as “reality” (as far as the series is concerned) changes around us.

It’s more like they cannot decide what to do with Gallifrey and the Time Lords.

Maybe if they stepped back a bit and first asked themselves “What do the Time Lords actually do, anyway?”

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Book Review: World War II (Series)

The World War II Series
Robert T. Elson, Roebrt Wernick, Leonard Mosley, et al.
Time-Life Books
1976-1983

Back in the late 50s, there were a couple of things every home just had to have to show off the status and erudition of the residents. A television set (presumably a nice 27″ console), a big hi-fi stereo, and a set of books.

Normally, the books would be a basic encyclopedia. In the days before the Internet, that’s where you went for quick information on any topic. Or you might have something like the Harvard Classics set of important works in the Western Canon (The Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Great Books” set if you wanted something more current), or even Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. Not that anyone would actually read all of them all the way through; they just looked neat on your bookshelves and let your guests think you were smarter than you really were.

In 1959, Time Inc., who published both Time and Life magazines, decided they should get in on this. They had access to top writers and editors around the world, and a truly humongous photo library. Time Life Books was born.

They’d publish dozens of book series over the next two decades or so, covering topics from folklore and home repair to the Civil War and world history. Quality varied, as should be expected. One of the more highly regarded series covered World War II.

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