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The Twilight Zone. No, Really.

A point of order: I've never watched an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE all the way through.  The ZONE, of course, is before my time--I was born in 1967, four years after the show went off the air--whereas many of my fandom contemporaries grew up watching the show on reruns.  Channel 50 out of Detroit was a favorite.  However, I grew up in middle-of-nowhere, Michigan.  We didn't have a syndication station up there.  I spent my childhood in blissful ignorance of Rod Serling, STAR TREK, and just about every other rerun show.  We did get Godzilla movies on Channel 5 once a year, though.

Anyway, I somehow limped along.  You can't spend as much time in the SF crowd as I have without picking up ZONE stuff by osmosis, and I became slowly aware of the more popular episodes: the one with the guy who liked to read; the Talky Tina doll; the aliens who served man; Rod Serling's over-the-top narration.  But I still never watched an entire episode.

I recently learned THE TWILIGHT ZONE original episodes are available on Netflix for streaming.  Well!  I added them to my queue and started in.  I've gotten halfway through first season and now I'm highly qualified for some commentary.

This is absolutely a period piece.  It's quite charming to watch 1959 brought to life (though I usually think to myself, "Goodness, I wonder how many of these actors are dead") and see the furniture, hairstyles (the men ALL have exactly the same haircut--barbers must have been bored out of their minds), the cars, even the food choices (nothing but hunks of meat, mashed potatoes, and pie, with occasional cake).  And wow!  Everybody smokes!  It's a little jarring looking at this from an age when smoking is a factor in an R rating.  People smoke in restaurants, in cars with their kids, in hospital beds, in alleys, and on sidewalks.  Men offer to light each other's cigarettes and hold each other's wrists to steady the match without a hint of homoeroticism (well, perhaps a hint).

Most of the material hasn't aged well, though.  Rod Serling was making social commentary, and the concerns of 1959 are quite different from those of 2016.  Yes, we worry about the government, but not in the way Serling did.  The ZONE also chews over mass destruction (nuclear war), whereas we seem preoccupied with death by zombies.  The magical stranger is another fixture--an odd individual who only one character can see or who manages to disappear before anyone else arrives on the scene.  A variation of this theme is the magical peddlar or tinker.  The ZONE has multiple episodes with the odd little man who carries around a suitcase and sells strange things or offers you oddities you probably don't want.

Another recurring theme is, "It's us all along!"  Many episodes put humans into strange situations, and the twist at the end is that they've been in familiar surroundings all along and didn't know it, or they turn out to be aliens, and we viewers have been duped into thinking they were human.

The show is so far very bleak.  No one gets a happy ending.  Protagonists come to an awful end.  Only rarely do we get a happy ending, and even those lean toward the mixed blessing variety.  As an example of the latter, a family escapes nuclear holocaust in a recently-developed space ship and we find out at the last minute that they're planning to live on Earth (surprise! aliens in human form!), with the implicit message that they're carrying the seeds of humanity's eventual destruction.  Mixed blessing.

The casual sexism is often painful to watch.  So far, only two episodes have had female protagonists, and both of those women were dreadfully passive.  The first is an aging actress who hides in her home theater because she can't face the fact that she's getting old.  She never manages to leave.  The second is a woman who drives cross-country and keeps encountering the same hitch-hiker.  She never does anything except drive away from him and beg for help from strangers.  (A strange man makes you nervous, so you go into hysterics and beg for help from OTHER strange men.  Huh.  Logic.)  Many episodes have no women in them whatsoever.  Other episodes have women who poke their noses in long enough to show us a nurse's uniform or a waitress's apron or a mother's serving fork.  These women take orders from the menfolk and vanish again.  In one arresting moment of hijkinks, a wife bops a bad guy with her car door in defense of her husband, but that's all the action the women get.

We do have two female villains.  A ballbusting wife relentlessly abuses her milqetoast husband because he likes to read (and there's a hint she's a man-hating lesbian).  Another woman is a murderous vixen.  So the women in the show do get short shrift, and you have to remind yourself that it's 1959 and you can't expect better from such unenlightened people, so let's go watch a rerun of a recent tape in which our president-elect says he can grab women by the pussy because he's famous.

I'm sure that when the show first aired, the many plot twists were exciting and brand new, but at this point I garner much amusement by seeing how fast I can call out the ending.  "They're on Earth already!" I shout.  Or, "The robot's going to die!"  Or, "He'll be forced to make a sales pitch to Death!"  Two flaws in the show (so far) are that they have no comic relief in them whatever to break the relentless bleakness (maybe we'll get some later as the show matures), and there are never any subplots.  (Yes, the show is only half an hour long, but FRIENDS manages to work in three stories per episode, as a counterexample.)  Some of the episodes draaaaaaaagggggggg.  Many scenes could be shortened, and the extra time used for a subplot or two.  Is this a matter of modern taste?  TV shows made in a time when life was slower have slower pacing?  Maybe.  But I find I can often pop the stream forward a few minutes and miss nothing important.

One interesting recurring theme is nostalgia.  A number of episodes use time travel to fling someone back to the past, or they have someone yearn for past events, and the past is always shown as a golden time.  Since this is 1959, "the past" is nearly 100 years ago for us modern folk.  (I'm waving at all the people from 2036 who are reading this.  Is 2016 nostalgic for you?  It was a sucky year for us.)

I found this both interesting and ironic.  In 2016, we find the 50s a nostalgic era.  (Certainly the right wing does.)  We live during a period when both the government and society are highly polarized and no one can seem to work together, when the fragile economic recovery seems poised to tank again, when police and African-Americans are at war in our streets, when a horrifying president-elect is making world-shattering mistakes with other world powers.  So we see 1959 as a delight!  A time when men and women knew their places, and black people didn't know what civil rights were.  When cops smiled at you and beat black people up only when no one could see it.  When every street was well-paved and shady, and kids skipped home from school down perfect sidewalks to mothers who awaited them with milk and cookies.  But the people of 1959 looked back to the 20s for exactly the same thing.  Their own time was filled with McCarthyism, war, and nuclear escalation.  The 20s were the era of carefree children and happy homes.  The above-mentioned actress character mentions the 1930s as a time of glitter and style, and never mind 25% unemployment, Hoovervilles, and people starving in the streets.

Weird, huh?

It's always fun to watch the end credits and see if a familiar name pops up.  Was Burgess Meredeth EVER a young man?  And is that really Jack Klugman?  And it's also fun to Google unfamiliar names to see what happened to the others.  This one retired from acting in the 60s and still sells real estate.  That one died of cancer back in the 80s.  This other dropped out of sight and no one knows where he is.

The show is itself a form of time travel.  I'm actually glad I'm watching it for the first time as an adult.  It's more fun to look at it through the lens of an historian and media person than as an SF fan, to tell the truth.


Surgery and Running

Yesterday I ran again for the first time since the operation.  The doctor told me to ease into it, but I didn't really need him to tell me that.  I haven't run in three weeks, and if I tried to do my usual run now, my heart would no doubt bolt out of my rib cage and flop to the floor.

I got on the treadmill, intending to do a lot of fast walking and maybe a little slow running, if I felt up to it, and I told myself it would be perfectly fine to stop at any point if I got too tired or winded.  I mean, two weeks after the operation, it was all I could do to walk from one end of the house to the other.  My first day back at work completely destroyed me--I should have stayed home another day.  At three weeks, I felt fine, but I hadn't gone above a walk even once in all that time, so slow and careful it would be.

But I surprised myself.  I fast-walked for several minutes and felt no real exertion, so I cranked up the speed a little more.  By the time I was halfway through the Jeopardy episode (I run to Jeopardy a lot), I was doing a reasonable, if slow, jog.  When the episode ended, I didn't feel like I'd worked out much at all.  Huh.  I queued up another episode, edged the speed up a tiny bit, and kept going.

My body gave me "Hey, watch it!" warnings at this point, so I didn't go any faster.  I managed to get nearly all the way through the second episode before things became more serious, and went for a cool-down and shower.

That was good news, really.  I had been afraid that after having my abdominal wall pierced in three places and a chunk of my body sliced out and then sitting around for three weeks, I'd be way out of shape.    But I did very well, considering.

So we're have to carefully increase until things are back to normal.


The End of Shopping?

Amazon is opening a new store:


They call it "grab and go."  You walk in, grab what you want off a shelf, and walk out.  Ta da!  No lines, no waiting.

No human beings.  No jobs.

It's not that simple, of course.  A chip in each item sends out a wifi signal that notices when an item is moved, which theoreticallhy prevents shoplifting.  The shopper stops at a subway-style exit area, scans a smartphone app which alerts the store to his or her credit card information, and a computer totals up the items the shopper is carrying.  The shopper's card is debited and a receipt comes by email.

So far it's one store, but you can see Wal-Mart hopping on this bandwagon, can't you just?  No cashiers or baggers to hire.  Just people stock shelves and be as unavailable as possible to customers who want to ask where the bananas are.

This spells the end of retail workers.  You can see this coming to store after store after store.  Retail jobs will be as dead as coal mining, and millions of jobs will vanish.

The conservatives I reluctantly follow are snarking that all the minimum wage workers who have been advocating for a $15 hourly wage are responsible for this.  Rather than pay a higher wage, you see, the stores have decided to develop technology that lets them avoid paying wages altogether.  So it's the fault of those bleeding-heart liberals.

No.  Not at all.

It's the fault of rapacious, unchecked capitalism and the lawmakers who allow it to continue.

Amazon (and McDonald's, which has put order kiosks in some restaurants) was working on this technology long before the $15 movement came to light.  And this would have happened with or without the $15 movement.  Ask a corporation this question: "Would you rather pay your workers A) $15 per hour, B) $7 per hour, or C) nothing?"  Which answer are you going to get every time?


This has nothing to do with raising the minimum wage and everything to do with CEOs wanting to increase their own salaries.

If you're in retail, get out now.  Unless you're the owner.  Then you're sitting fine.

Moana: Another Review

Over the weekend, I dragged Darwin to see MOANA.  Aran was working, so he wasn't able to see it with us.  Our verdict?


Moana, who is being groomed to become chieftain of her people, leaves her island to find a cure for the darkness which is ravaging the crops and killing the fish.  She finds the snarky demi-god Maui and the two of them team up with the ocean itself to save the world.

Okay, first the movie wasn't perfect.  (We'll get that out of the way first.)  The score has been lauded quite a lot elsewhere, but I didn't find myself humming the songs or even vaguely remembering any of them after the movie ended.  They're serviceable and they accomplish what they need to within the story, but they don't stick with you.  The pacing at the beginning drags as well.  Too much time spent lingering over island life.

That said, once we cross the barrier reef into Act II, the story snaps right along.  The best part?  Moana is her own self.  She doesn't need anyone else to become complete.  She's not even thinking about romance, and one isn't even mentioned anywhere in the movie.  This is a pure buddy pic, no romance need apply.

The woimen have most of the agency in this movie.  There's Moana herself, of course.  Her decisions drive the plot forward.  But she's advised and urged on by her impish grandmother, and the main plot revolves around rescuing a goddess.  The problems of Maui the demi-god aren't an afterhtought, but they're definitely secondary, and they serve Moana's story, not Maui's.

The lush setting is another delight.  We don't need explanations of Pacific Island culture thrown at us (such as what hula dancing stands for or how sailing works) because they're shown to us with firm skill that also assumes we, the audience, have the intelligence to keep up.  Oh!  And brown skins everywhere.  And no skinny minnies among the women!  Darwin and I saw a showing with a hugely multi-racial audience, and the brown-skinned children in the audience were thrilled about this.

I won't spoil the twist ending except to say that it delighted me no end.  This was not only because it's so hard to be surprised by any plot these days, but also because I was just saying to myself, "You know, this part of the story seems strangely forced" when FOOP!  It all snapped into a "why didn't I see that coming?" kind of place that was so DIFFERENT and SENSIBLE from any other fantasy movie I've seen.  Wonderful!

Highly recommended.


Do People Fall for This?

Stores routinely charge more for products marketed to women than the same product marketed to men, especially if it's a bath or beauty product.  Shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash--if it's pink, the price goes up.

Check this out. The Kroger where I shop has its Health and Beauty Aids section dividied into FOR HIM and FOR HER with little signs, as in "HAIR CARE for him" and "HAIR CARE for her" or "SKIN CARE for him" and "SKIN CARE for her."  They also have separate "SHAVING for him" and "SHAVING for her" sections.  In it are a variety of razors, including Kroger store brand razors.  These were in the "for her" section:

And these were in the "for him" section:

A $2.00 difference.  They're the same product with a slightly different shape.  Apparently, a different shape requires a $2 markup.

The body wash marketed for men cost about 2/3 the price of the body wash for women.  Same brand, same ingredients, but a higher price because the bottle was a different shape and was a soft beige instead of battleship gray.  (I didn't take photos.)

Do people fall for this?  Do they refuse to look at the other side of the aisle and end up paying more for exactly the same product?  I'm guessing they must, otherwise the company and the store wouldn't do it.

My advice?  Stop it!  A razor is a razor.  Shampoo is shampoo.  Soap is soap.  Color is meaningless.  Pink, blue, gray, orange--who cares?  Comparison shop.  Don't let them rip you off.  And the stores need to stop dividing us by gender.

The Great Surgical Journey

Monday at 6:00 AM found me at the hospital, no breakfast, ready to have my gall bladder removed.  Darwin drove me in and waited with me in the waiting area.

I was a little nervous, but not overly terrified or anything.  I was less than thrilled at the idea of anesthesia, since that was the biggest place something could go wrong.  A bunch of other people sat in the same room, all awaiting procedures of their own.  Every few minutes, a cheerful nurse plucked one up to be whisked away into the bowels of the hospital.

I was called up pretty quick.  I had to hand over everything to Darwin, including my cell phone, and Darwin was left behind.  I thought he'd be able to come back to the initial prep area with me, but nope--he was barred.

The prep area was more like an emergency room, with cubicles and curtains instead of rooms with doors.  A Very Nice Prep Nurse got me gowned and in the bed, with an IV in my hand.  My shoes and clothes were stashed under the bed, of all places.  Then she put inflatable felt boots on my feet and calves.  These were to massage my legs with pneumatic pumps in order to decrease the chances of a blood clot.

The Very Nice Prep Nurse said my stomach would need shaving.  Should they do the whole thing, or just the little spots where the incisions would be made?  I told her to do whichever would be best for the operation.

I briefly met two anesthesiologists, and I was surprised that they just asked me how much I weighed rather than actually weighing me.  Okay.  Then I met two more nurses who were (I think) assisting the surgeon in the OR.  Just after I met them, the very first nurse announced that she was injecting the Versed, the first anesthetic.  She did so.

I didn't feel it.  The nurses did a couple other things and a moment later, the surgical team started moving the bed out of the cubicle and down the hall.  That was when I finally blacked out.

Meanwhile, the hospital staff had given Darwin my case number and sent him to a waiting area with a monitor on the wall.  It listed patient condition and location by case number (no names), so he knew when I was in the operating room and when I had left it for recovery.  Darwin told me about one particular man, who I remembered from the registration waiting area.  The man became agitated at one point and grabbed Darwin's arm.  "That's my wife," he said, pointing to the screen.  "She's going to be okay.  They were operating on her hip, and she's going to be okay."

"I'm so happy for you," Darwin told him.

"She's going to be okay!" the man repeated, and rushed off to recovery.

I woke up in the recovery room.  The nurse on duty noticed and said my name aloud.  I felt awful.  The first thing I noticed was a chancre on the right side of my mouth.

"How do you feel?" asked the nurse.

"Tired," I said, "and I have a big sore inside my mouth. I must have been biting on it while I was asleep."

"What was that?" said another nurse, who was passing by.

The first nurse repeated what I said and the two of them exchanged a look I couldn't interpret.  I little later, when my mind cleared up, I realized that the sore had erupted not because I had bitten myself; it was from the intubation.  This realization made me unhappy.  I knew I would be intubated, but I didn't like the fact that the nurse didn't tell me the source of the sore, and was instead willing to let me think I had done it to myself, when both she and the other nurse knew better.

Only much later did I learn how the procedure actually works, and I don't know why the surgeon didn't explain it to me, though I did ask him questions.  He just wasn't very good at answering them.  First, they shave and disinfect everything remotely close to the operation site.  Then they make three incisions in the abdominal area--one for the camera and two for instruments--and use one incision to inflate the abdomen with C02 so there's room to work in there.  They tilt the table head-down so the internal organs above the liver flop down out of the way.  Then the surgeon inserts a camera into the second incision and uses the third incision for the actual cholecystectomy.

For some reason, the titling and the C02 bother me enormously.  A big part of it is that I didn't know about it in advance, and I would have wanted to.  People were doing things to me that I had no part of.  It bothers me even to write about it, and writing is one of the primary ways I process this sort of thing.

Darwin, alerted by my own case number, showed up in my recovery area not long after I woke up.  It took a fair amount of time for me to actually leave the hospital, though.  Darwin went down to the hospital pharmacy for my post-op pain killers, and the nurse went over recovery care with me.  She also gave me a folder of written information.

A volunteer wheeled me out of the recovery room and down to the pharmacy, where Darwin was still getting the medications.  The volunteer, an older man, kept banging the wheelchair against the walls, which jolted my incisions, and he apparently didn't know enough to set a wheelchair brake when he stopped it, so the chair kept rolling away.  I wanted to hit him.

Finally we got to the car and home.

I kept finding weird things about the operating over the next few days--how much they had shaved, disinfectant in strange places, the steri-strips covering the incisions.  Each discovery created a new spurt of dislike or unhappiness.  I feel that I should have known going in that this would be the result.  Being shaved while I was unconscious bothers me more than if it would have happened while I was awake, for example, because I don't know who did it or how they did it or who else was there.  My stomach gets all tight, and I'm unhappy about the entire event.

I know that the surgical team was there for a necessary operation to help me, but that's still the way I feel about it.  A great deal of this bad feeling could have been circumvented by clearer communication.  I don't like surprises, and I definitely don't like them in retrospect.  I'll mention this to the surgeon at my follow-up appointment.

I've spent the last several days lying around on pain meds, often times bored.  You can only read and watch the DVR for so long.  I don't have much stamina--a two-block walk is all I can handle right now.  I don't know how long it'll be before I'm able to run again.  But the pain is steadily fading.

Fantastic Beasts: A Review

(While Steven is unconscious from surgery, we will be providing a pre-approved blog for your comfort and convenience.)

Over the weekend, Darwin, Aran, and I went to see FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM.  Our verdict:


The moive deals with a 1920s New York divided between the no-maj (muggle) world and the wizarding world.  The no-maj's suspect there's a magical world, and they're gearing up to fight against it.  Meanwhile, the evil wizard Grindelwald has escaped custody and is expected to do Something Awful any minute.  Finally, Newt Scamander arrives in New York from England with a magic suitcase filled with magic creatures who keep escaping his custody.  If that sounds like a lot to keep track of, you're right.

Is there good stuff?  Sure.  It's fun to see the Harry Potter world in 1920s America.  The movie focuses on magical animals instead of spells and potions, a potentially fun new area to explore.  The effects are lovely.  Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski is a delight as the stand-in for the audience as he's accidentally thrust into a wizardling world he can barely understand but gamely does his best to master.


The movie has serious pacing problems.  Things take forever to get moving in the beginning. We  spend too much time dealing with unimportant issues, like the annoying niffler's thieving and the preparation of food in a witch's kitchen, and not enough time on actual plot points, like what the villain wants and how he intends to get it.  The latter is annoyingly muddled and confused.  Less time on special-effects creatures and more time on human character develoment would have been a better scripting choice.

Plot holes abounded.  There seem to be a gazillion witches and wizards in New York, and we see several times that they have the power to repair entire destroyed buildings and elevated train systems with a wand wave, but they can't seem to get their acts together in time to stop a single magic creature.  The reason Tina (Katharine Waterson) was disgraced as an auror makes no sense.  (I won't spoil it, but really--there was no reason for it to have happened.)  The American wizarding world apparently can have two people executed with no trial and no chance for the victims to say a word in their own defense, purely on the word of a single agent.  What on earth?

The characters are also dull and lifeless.  Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander as a hunched, stammering, bumbling idiot who spends most of his time staring at the floor.  At the end of the movie he says, "I've changed so much," and my instant response was, "How?"  He hadn't changed on tiny bit.  Tina, his female counterpart, is his exact match.  She's shy and stammering and wimpy and totally unable to stand up for herself or raise her voice above a murmur, even when lives are at stake.  Apparently at one point, it's supposed to be a major victory for her when Newt makes eye contact with her, and she gives a tiny hop of suppressed ecstasy.  Mysteriously, I didn't feel any of it.

Maybe it's an English thing.  JK Rowling herself wrote the script, and the Brits seem fascinated by the stammering, blithering, noodle-backed incompetent as a protagonist.  I've seen it in book after book, movie after movie, TV show after TV show.  It's almost as if the English are afraid of confidence and competence.  I wish they would stop it.

(This paragraph has mild spoilers in it.)  Mr. Kowalski, our muggle baker, is the only character of any interest in the movie.  Rowling (the screenwriter) wanders dangerous close to the bumbling fat man stereotype, but she barely swerves aside in time.  He's fun to watch, and we're rooting for him, especially with his unexpected romance.  And at the end of the movie, every bit of his adventure is utterly negated. I was disgusted.

Aran pointed out that the main characters are all outcasts, an over-used trope that he hates.

My main thought as I watched the movie was, "Man, this screenplay needs editing."  I rather suspect that Rowling wrote the thing and refused rewrites.  "I don't need the grief," Rowling says.  "Take it or leave it."

And the producer took it.

The animals had their own problems.  Admittedly, I've never much liked Rowling's mythical animals.  She rarely uses established fairy tale creatures and instead makes up her own entirely.  Rather than being refreshing, this comes across as hand-waving.  She can have literally anything she wants, anytime she wants, because--magic!  In this movie, it means Newt can whip a handy creature out of his case to meet any situation.  Animal ex machina.  Additionally, since I've never heard of nifflers or bowtruckles or squiddlemuffleticklebuddlepdiddlekumquats or whatevers, I don't CARE about them.  In this movie, we're supposed to care that these magical creatures are being exterminated, but we never see them be anything except destructive.  They maliciously break into bank vaults, smash windows, give human venemous bites, destroy zoos, and smash entire buildings, but we're supposed to worry that THEY'RE being hurt?  With one exception, the animals are annoying or dangerous, and are in no way sympathetic.  They're only pretty.

The movie was a disappointment for all three of us.  We were hoping for some cool historical urban fantasy and instead got a muddled storyline with unsympathetic characters.  Not recommended.


My Operation

On Monday I go in for a cholecystectomy.  That's removal of the gall bladder, for non-medical types.  See, when I went in for the physical that uncovered recent diabetes, they also found a nice gall stone.  I've had a fair number of pain attacks, but thought it was kidney stones, which I get regularly anyway.  (I'm a wreck!)  So it has to come out.

This kind of thing used to be Major Surgery, but thanks to the miracle of laproscopy, it's been reduced to get-the-hell-out-of-here surgery.  You go home the same day and sit around for a week while your body says, "What the hell just happened?"

I have to be at the hospital at 6:00 AM.  (I'm guessing I'll have to wait two or three hours before the actual operation.  This kind of thing always seems to happen that way.)  The prep will involve shaving.  This will be a long process, and I feel sorry for the nurse.

I'm really glad I have health insurance, and I'm thrilled we have the deductible paid off for this year.

I'm not looking forward to this, though, mostly because I have no idea what to expect afterward.  I've been under anesthesia before--once for an eye operation, and once to get my wisdom teeth out.  I didn't like either experience.  I hated the drugged-out, half-dead feeling, especially since people inexplicably kept telling me, "Don't sleep!"  My response was, "Then why the fuck did you pump me full of sleeping medication?"  It's been more than thirty years since I've been operated on, though, so I don't know I'll respond to the anesthesia now.  And I really have no clue what the post-op recovery will be like. I've read about it, of course, and none of the literature is helpful.  Basically, all of it says, "The day after surgery, you might be wrapped in a quilt with the cat and a big bottle of morphine, or your might be re-roofing the house.  What the hell do we know?"  I do know I'm nearly 50, and I don't bounce back like I did when I was thirty.  My arm still hurts a little from the fall I took last month at World Fantasy, for instance.

I'll be off work all week, of course, and two days of the following week  I deliberately scheduled this jaunt to happen just before Thanksgiving so I could minimize the time lost at work.  Was the district grateful?  Ha!  I had to fill out forms and get a special letter from the surgeon because I was going to be out before and after a holiday break (which is a no-no).  I had to coordinate with the building secretary and district secretary in charge of substitutes.  I had to get permission from the principal to be out.  (I wonder what would have happened if he had said, "No.")  Did anyone say, "Hey, that's nice of you!  You're wrecking your Thanksgiving holiday in order to be out when few teachers are off work, making it easier for us to get a substitute for you and minimizing the impact your absence will have on your students.  Thanks!"?  Ha!

I have a whole lot of TV stacked up on the DVR and a bunch of books on my Kindle for the recovery.  I've been running extra this week, since I won't be running next week.

And we'll see what happens.

The Appeal

I took Aran to his housing appeal last week.  The social worker, apparently one higher up on the scale than the previous one, said she would run Aran through the entire intake a second time to see what was what.

This took more than two grueling hours.  We went over every aspect of Aran's life and his ability.  I was forced to make him look as helpless as possible, emphasize what he couldn't do, minimize his accomplishments.  It was horrible.

Several times, the social worker said that Aran is in a gray area when it comes to state aid like this.  He can't function entirely on his own, but he's too high-functioning to be a shoo-in for help.

"We mostly deal with people who have severe mobility issues or who need help with daily hygiene," she said.

"Who will help Aran when I can't?" I countered.  "I can't do it forever.  Who will handle this when I'm not here?"

She acknowledged, not without kindness, that this was a problem.  "But our budget has been repeatedly cut," she added.  "And unfortunately, it's not likely to get better."

By this, she meant the recent election, of course.  Republicans don't fund housing programs for the handicapped.  They don't fund food stamps for such people.  They cut funds for social services when the handicapped need them most.  And we have the most conservative, Republican administration in long history.  Things will only get worse.  You can, by the way, imagine my fear and rage at the results of the latest election.  No one seems to care that it's putting my autistic son on the street.

In the end, the social worker checked the lists, ticked the boxes, and regretfully announced that Aran's appeal was denied.

"However, I can recommend him for Mental Health Services," she said.

"Do they help with housing?" I asked.

"Sometimes.  It requires another appointment and intake with a new agency."

"What's the source of housing funding?" I asked, more than a little unhappy that I knew to ask this question.  "Section 8?  Medicaid?"

"I honestly have no idea," she admitted.  "But they'll be able to tell you."

The new agency, it turned out, only accepts intake appointments between 10 AM and 1 PM on certain days of the week, meaning I would have to take an entire day off work to take Aran in.  I simply can't do that after losing an entire week of work to upcoming surgery.  I was forced to cast far ahead and make an appointment in late December, when I'm on winter break.

I'm trying to be hopeful about this and having a hard time of it.


Third Party

So I'm curious. Are all the third-party supporters now going to get off their butts and keep working to make a third party truly viable for 2020 or 2024?  Will the third party people demonstrate daily--or at least weekly--and donate money to third party offices and themselves run for local office as viable third party candidates or support local third party candidates with cash and votes and volunteer work?

Or will their demands for a third party vanish, destined to reappear only at the presidential elections, when it's too late to make anyone viable?

Third party people, what are =you= doing right now to get your party ready for the next election?



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