Friday, February 24, 2017

Garden Show 2017

I'm at the NW Flower & Garden Show all week, which consumed my days off and leaves me working seemingly all the days in a row. As a result, I barely have time to sleep, let alone post here. So this short message will suffice.

It's my 13th year there, I think? I didn't do last year, and then I think I did every year back to 2005 but maybe 2004, and then I worked one shift in 2001, I believe it was? The book store has a booth there every year, so down I have gone. It's nice and relaxing, except this year it overlapped with our annual inventory, and also with an intense period of preparing things for the adoption of a new inventory and POS system at the store, so the Garden Show got less attention than it normally would, and while it's still going well, it's more fraught, and as this year I'm in charge, I'm really feeling it.

I've got only three more days to get through and then we go back to relatively normal for a month and change, so there's that.

What are you reading? The Adventures of Alyx, by Joanna Russ, who was my teacher for Introductory Short Story Writing in college. I had no idea who she was, and didn't do what she advised me in regard to a story I wrote that she rather liked. What can I say? It was before Google, so I just didn't know.

The weather? Some snow yesterday, that amounted to nothing really, but there's more coming. Winter is lingering.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thoughts on Presidents

It's President's Day, which means it is also load in day for the Garden Show as it has been for some years. In a couple of hours I go to build a mini book store inside the Washington State Convention Center, which I'll then run for a few days before we break it down and move on.

But it's also a day to think on the Presidents. When I was little, we still had Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday as distinct holidays a week or sometimes two weeks apart from one another. Sometime in the 90s, I think, we switched over to President's Day, taking the place of Washington's Birthday and banishing Lincoln's Birthday into the void. I feel bad for modern children, not having those two February holidays any longer, but then, they now get a midwinter break that lasts this entire week, so my sympathy is misplaced.

I'm reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose now; it's about President Jefferson, who is probably more consequential than Washington. It's hard to say though, with major presidents. Washington did one enormous thing: he stepped down. There was strong interest in having him as a lifetime ruler, and he could have done it, either as life president or as King; he did neither, and after two terms, he was done, which set a precedent unbroken until FDR, and now unbreakable due to amendment. But of Washington's other accomplishments, not much stands out. He did a fine job of steadying and uniting, and that is admirable, but it's subtle work, hard to measure. Lincoln, another great man, was made great by circumstance. He might have been a nobody of a president but for the Civil War, which gave him a chance to show his mettle, and his assassination, which gave him depth and pathos that forever make him "great". Jefferson, on the other hand, is great no matter how you look at him (with one exception, soon to be discussed.) He was brilliant and clever, he was educated and creative, he was driven and determined, he could be ruthless at need, he adapted well, he was charming and gracious. A driving force behind the creation of the country as it came to be, he orchestrated the expansion of the states and the purchase of a third of the country.

But of course as with all things of the early Union, there is slavery.

Washington was a slave owner, of hundreds of humans during his life time from the age of 11 onward. He was strict with them, meaning he was a terrible human being by any standard. The lash and other physical punishments, and the selling of slaves into the Indies, was common. He manumitted his slaves in his will, with a delay to wait upon his wife's death; she freed them before her death out of fear they might murder her. There isn't any real indication Washington wanted to do away with slavery, despite his long fight for liberty for white propertied Americans.
Lincoln was conflicted about slavery, generally wishing it abolished, but not committing to the fact until the Civil War had gone on more than a year, and even then only hesitantly. In the end, he did what was necessary to free them, and he had never owned slaves, but his commitment to the cause of Abolition was not until the crisis complete.
Jefferson, though. He owned slaves, masses of them; he perhaps never himself lashed them, but he certainly had them lashed; he sold them to the deep South cotton states; he took at least one as his mistress (and probably more) and had children with her, a thing that is occasionally romanticized but is nothing but a long and extended rape; he wished dearly that slavery would end for the corrupting influence it had on white men, but did nothing to make it happen in his life. And despite training up folk all about him to be slave owners, and never much speaking to them about Abolition, he assumed the next generation after his would eliminate slavery for some reason which cannot be fathomed.

Well. Presidents are, after all, human. They are far from angels, and have dark sides, perhaps more than those who are never driven by that level of ambition. Willful cruelty might serve well in a national leader, carefully shaped and aimed.

We have of course the lowest and most wretched man ever to occupy the office (not that we have a large sample) squatting in the White House even now. He is cruel, but it's not a shaped cruelty and serves no purpose. You can be certain he would own slaves, if they were legal; you can be certain he'd mumble a few pious words about how it's a terrible institution, and God willing, one day it would end, but not now, what could you do, anyway, they're not ready, the slaves, to be free. In that, he'd not be any worse than Jefferson, so there's a nice comparison for him to brag about: he's no worse than Thomas Jefferson, the man with the greatest claim to be the father of our country out of all our fathers.

I'm going to pick and choose with Presidents to honor today: yes to the first 5, yes to Lincoln, yes to both Roosevelts and to Eisenhower and to Carter (a man too good to be president) and LBJ and Grant and Polk. No to Jackson because fuck him; no to Buchanan and Pierce and both Bushes and Harding. I will grant Nixon the praise he deserved and the rasher of scorn he earns; I will damn Reagan for the multitude of sins while recognizing it could have been even worse, and admitting there were one or two things he did right. I will lament that I am honoring Barack Obama in his absence for the first time (I will lament that for many years, I suspect) as he is likely to be the greatest president of my lifetime. And the current incumbent, well, I hope he enjoys what one can hope will be his only year to be honored as the incumbent on this day. He's a shitstain on the office, and may he vanish from it before the next chance to ruminate upon the collection of men who have held it.

What are you reading? Are you daft? I said I'm reading Undaunted Courage. It's 21 years old now, so I'm a bit late to the party. Only in the early stages. It's a good read, though: brisk and with the right balance of factoid to action, hagiography to gritty detail.

How's the weather? Mild. Damp. It's normal Seattle. We're in that weird span of February, so common here, where the highs for a week or so approach 60 degrees. It's often followed by a few days of freezing weather, sometimes with snow. We don't need more snow. I hope we give that a pass this year.

How do you feel? My left knee is troublesome off and on; it aches a bit here and there but not in any way that seems particularly consistent. My pills do their job still. I don't need to mention that after this, I don't think, as I'm more than a month in and they seem to be steady. I haven't gotten bronchitis, which has afflicted at least three people at my work; this is about the sickest winter I can recall at the book store, full of affliction on all fronts.

What do you feel about The Cherry Orchard? Oh, yeah, I went to see The Cherry Orchard at ACT with the husband yesterday. It's a little goofy in places. I read that Chekhov meant it as a comedy, with elements of farce, and that the first staging of it was as a tragedy, and this conflict has been present every since. And I quite see that: it's ridiculous in many spots, with clear elements of clowning. There is a hint of tragedy, but that could be entirely turned into farce if the characters were played more broadly. Was that Chekhov's intent? We'll never know, as he died about the time the play premiered. They did a great thing, when the party is going on midway through, where all the cast was on stage dancing away while the play went on, and it was incredible: for fifteen minutes there's a string trio playing live music, and 8 to 10 people on stage dancing away, while two or three of them carry on with the dialogue, often while being dancers. The work that went into that must have been intense. I couldn't stop smiling more broadly the longer it went on, and I couldn't help being disappointed when the dance ended.

And with that, I'm off to go set up the Garden Show store booth.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Slow Motion Meltdown

It's like someone threw a bucket of water on the Trump administration, and it's started a slow dissolve. To be honest, there wasn't much there to begin with, but it was a nefarious nothing; callow emptiness has succeeded in the past in doing massive harm (see: The Third Reich) and could easily have done so again. I was genuinely concerned that when the crisis came, Trump and his people would just blithely continue onward, never acknowledging that they were liable to respond to the nation. They would ignore court, refuse to resign, pretend that public opprobrium didn't count for anything. And that would be the truest sign that we were headed to a grim future.

But no. For whatever reason they are vulnerable to outside interference. Flynn resigned. Puzder withdrew. It's descending into greater chaos than already existed. I can't figure out why that's happening--not that I can parse much about this administration. In this case though, I really had assumed that Flynn would stay, defended by Trump and others, and that they'd shout alternate facts--blatant lies--from the rooftops until some other problem loomed large enough that Flynn was forgotten. I assumed that Puzder would stay in the running, and when the vote was called for he'd be rejected but then he'd start doing the job anyway.

None of that, though. A good sign, I think. There is still vestigial responsiveness in the administration, and it seems to be growing. The only thing that seems to be growing. Otherwise, there are leaks and recriminations and people being refused spots on the chat shows and widening interest in Russian connections, and so many problems in less than a month that it is dizzying.

What are you reading? Some of Glen Cook's Garrett Files, which remain choppy, and which, in the latest, feature a fridging. I mean, it's a thematically appropriate fridging--the books are crime stories, and the detective found domestic bliss, and thus the woman must die, as is called for--but it's still bothersome. The book wasn't written in 1980, it was written in 2013. And there's a ton of casual homophobia, poofs and nancies and all that being thrown about, none of which is necessary. It's at least only casual? It fits the mini-genre well enough, and the author was 69 when it came out so I suppose that was what he knew, and there's casual sexism too, so...I don't know. I will have read the entire series when I'm done, and I don't think I'll need to read another if Cook manages to produce more in his last years. They're books for high school/college me to enjoy, and that was a long time ago.

Writing anything? I guess? We'll say yes. It's slow going, but it's going, which is something.

How's the weather? Goddamn there's rain. Inches in the last day or two. I have friends with flooding, sometimes over and over, as all this heavy rain pelts us in waves this winter. But it's getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, so that's nice.

Speak on Eclipse Phase: It's the current tabletop rpg I'm running. Centuries ahead Solar system spanning transhumanist space stuff. Excellent background and world building. Terrible, clunky, finicky rules system. I was warned about it but took a "how bad could it be" attitude. It's bad. Real bad. Piles and piles of crap bad. But we're managing, narrowly. I'm still thinking that I might change the rules but keep the setting, though I'm not sure how that would work at this point. My friend Matt has a Powered By The Apocalypse conversion he runs with, but I tend to hate PBTA games in practice, even if I like them in theory.

Anything big at work? Garden Show next week. Inventory next week. ECCC in two weeks. Independent Bookstore Day in two months. Entirely new inventory, pos and web systems in three months. There's a lot going on. But we have the summer to take it easy, at least at present, so I'm just aiming for that, and keeping it in mind, and trying to keep my goals prioritized and stuff.

That's about all, I guess, right now? Pills are fine, husband is fine, family is generally okay though with some grim happenings that aren't mine to talk about, and the world seems slightly less likely to dissolve into nothingness than was the case three weeks ago.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Pseudo-Theological Nonsense

If I were a religious person, I could spin this moment in history into the coming of the Antichrist. That event has been talked about so much, in the early Church when the Second Coming was a thing still expected daily by all people, in the Middle Ages with various Popes and Antipopes being burdened with the title by their rivals or enemies, and in the modern period, when former President Obama was the most recent figure to be called the Antichrist by various fringe figures.

President Trump though, he fits the profile pretty well. A charismatic deceiver, a man of lawlessness, the ruler of the (free) world, he's got most of the points down. You can look at the already burgeoning problems of his administration, the fact that he's gotten most fundamentalist Christians to back him despite being not at all religious and an awful human being, and you can see easily the ways in which he matches all the qualities that are supposed to figure in the Antichrist.

And of course, he's a defender of, perhaps a supporter of, Russia, which has in relatively modern times been identified with Gog and Magog, the destructive force that will help to end the world, and which came from beyond the Gates of Alexander (that is, the border fortresses set up in the Caucasus and in northern Persia to keep out raiders from the vast plains beyond.)

I could spin this case, and predict a three and a half year term for Trump before he dies, because that's how long the Antichrist is supposed to run the show before the Second Coming and his defeat.

But I don't believe in any of that stuff, so while it would be a comfort to suspect that he only had 3.5 years to mess things up, and that the mess would be swiftly cleaned up for the elect, that's not going to happen. We have 4 or 8 years of this guy (or his VP, if Trump ends up impeached as I suspect will happen at some point) and the damage from it will last for decades. We're well and truly screwed, even if we spend all our time resisting. It's a grimmer future, in some ways, than what the fables of Antichrist predict.

So, that's gloomy.

What am I reading? A couple of Glen Cook's Garrett Files books, which I greatly enjoyed the earlier ones of (especially books 1 and 4) and which continue to trickle out one every few years now, going on 30 years after they began. The writing has gotten choppier (I'd edit lots of one sentence "paragraphs" together into bigger ones) but they're still fun.

What's the weather? There was snow, several inches of it, a few days back, followed by rain, several inches of it, yesterday, that melted off the last of the snow, followed by winds, today, that will likely cause all sorts of downed trees. We lost power for a few hours from a downed tree in the snow, which was unusual. I got to try out my little solar powered radio/flashlight, using the hand crank to run it first, and then getting enough light through the clouds to keep the radio going. It doesn't take much power for that.

How's the pills? Reduced the dose back to the starting level, and my side effects went away, and I fedl good still. I think this will work. But I have to drink so much more water than I am; there's some dehydration going on that I need to adjust to.

Writing? Planning, really. I'm writing character sketches for the characters on a thing I want to write. It's not properly writing, but I'm doing something, so that's nice.

Hey, how's the job? Frantic. We were down a bunch of staff, but finally got to hire people who all are starting nowish, and that's great, because our annual inventory is in a couple weeks, and the Garden Show is in a couple weeks, and all this is troublesome and crazy to have happening at once along with getting ready for the new inventory system we're building. So much stuff going on all at once makes things difficult, but I'm managing, and the store hasn't burnt down yet. Yet.

Friday, February 3, 2017


I work a day off conventional schedules, so this is my Thursday. Not an exciting day, thusly. My work keeps throwing me curveballs, which makes me desperately long for the weekend, only it comes a day late. Still: it's Thursday, relative to my weekend, so there's that?

I can't even keep up with all the political nonsense now. Horrible people being nominated for everything, the President insulting various world leaders in various ways, Congress churning along with rotten bills (suddenly, they have time to legislate, something they hadn't managed for years before) and things just generally going to hell. Some bits of all this get turned back by protests and phone call campaigns and so on, which is a hopeful thing, but there's so much of it. In the end it's like using an umbrella in a Seattle rainstorm: you're just going to get wet anyway, but maybe you can keep little bits dry, so you give it a shot.

I'm not going to be able to watch the Oscars this year, another casualty of my workplace having to move our annual inventory from April to February. (Other casualties include my sanity and my health, but those will recover given time.) It's a sad thing; my husband and I have watched them every year since we got together. It's such a long show that I will never find interest to watch it other than live, too, so I'll miss most everything except the winners' list and any speeches that end up getting posted everywhere. Nothing to be done, though.

What am I reading? Finished The Oregon Trail, which was really enjoyable, a great combination of history and travelogue and memoir. I read an anthology called This Way To The End Of The World, full of stories of the apocalypse from the last century or so, which was mostly good (a few were, not even bad, just kind of dull.) And I've gone back to a book called 1917, which is about the Russian Revolution, and that I got half way through last year and now mean to finish.

Writing? Nope. Work craziness.

How's the pills? Full dose was too much for me, caused problems, so I'm dropping down to my first week induction does. That was already helping me, and I think I'll get help from it now, too, but without so much antsy feeling, and less headaches, and so on.

Weather: A little snow last night, heavy flurries, but it just made a pretty dusting of snow and then turned into rain overnight. So it's drippy now.