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captainsblog
Today promised to be a long and early-started one, but by the time I ended my workday I was pleased with what I had accomplished. Everybody was (more or less) where they were expected to be with (more or less) what I expected them to have with them; and I made all my connections, got my major drafting project completed on time, avoided a fight over a bullshit issue, and got back home just in time for how I planned to end my day in way that would be efficient for me and fun for the dog.

As I mentioned the other day, our mechanic's new location is about three blocks from the dog park that I take Ebony to every Sunday.  I made an appointment for this afternoon to get my car inspected, and if I got there in time and there were no issues, I could take it home tonight without needing two rides from Eleanor tonight and tomorrow, plus I'd while away the hour by taking Ebony to the PARP!

(Btw, if you don't understand why I call it that-



- you need to read this immediately.)

My dog day wasn't nearly as efficient or productive as the workday had been. For one thing, as soon as my tires hit the 290, it started to rain for the first time all day.  I debated just driving straight to Erin's and waiting in the waiting room for the hour, but I'd brought nothing to read and it looked to be turning snowy. Ebony's a lab-mix- she lurves her Canadian white stuff.  So I went home, changed into sneakers, and got her in the back seat, and we drove the usual way to the bark parp before detouring just short of it....

whereupon she proceeded to poop the instant she got in the mechanic's waiting room.

Granted, she'd been home inside all day, had never been to this place before, and I suspect she mistook it for the vet, where she tends to lose control of her temper as well as her rear.  So I apologized, cleaned, left my key and we took the short walk to and across the Boulevard- with a wide assortment of additional poops arriving and departing into my remaining Wegmans bags along the way.

By the time we got to the entrance, the rain had not snowified but was basically just a freezing pelt- soon it would turn to hail briefly- and we were both soaked and I had a pawful of poop to dispose of.  But that is when karma proved that it has a sick and effective sense of humor- for here is what greeted my near-frozen eyeballs when I opened the first tote inside the airlock gate:



Let the record reflect: I did not remove that sign and consign it to such a poopy demise. But- I am pleased to say that I am responsible for depositing the Wegmans bag at the top center of the photo.

Here's looking at U, Mister Not My President:P

----

The hail stopped, we mostly dried out during two trips round, seeing a few other hardy souls there at the end of the day (though we were, I think, the last ones out).  As soon as we crossed the bridge to get back to two-legged civilization, it started to rain again, and we were again pretty soaked by the time we returned to my newly-stickered car.  One towel and ten minutes later, we were home, safe and sound....

except she had to run out to the back yard again.  Hopefully she pointed her business at the Drumpf supporters next door:P
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captainsblog
Nothing like getting things rolling bright and early on a Monday.

One of my co-workers in Buffalo came in to my office this morning. She'd had a tough day Friday- multiple trips out of the office on purpose, then two long detours for things she forgot in one place or another late in the day.

(I can totally relate to this.)

Anyway: she just wanted to make sure she wasn't misunderstanding something: the "thing" being that sign we have out front that says "Law Offices."  For on her voicemail first thing today was a call from a client who'd just purchased a home.  The message wasn't about mortgage payments, or escrow items, or unresolved repairs. (Those calls, which we are marginally licensed and trained to deal with, usually don't come in for years after the closing.)  No, this was because there was a windstorm Friday night, which blew the cover off the client's backyard pool and then resulted in rain filling in to it above the acceptable water line.

What do I do?

Well, OF COURSE you call your lawyer about that.  Because we all loaded up our trucks and moved to Beverly. (Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools. Movie stars.)

It did get me thinking, though. Maybe we are being a little too snobby about limiting our ranges of service.  We are, after all, allowed under ethical rules to enter into partnerships with non-lawyers rendering non-legal services as long as we don't cut in any of the un-Barred on our precious legal fees.

So I got right on it.  By luck of the draw, our senior real estate paralegal is now in charge of opening and closing the pools.

Just as obvious was my gig: I'm the house dick. Let me rephrase that. I am in charge of finding all the people and things that cannot be, and possibly do not want to be, found.  This included, just this week, an absolutely impossible-to-find title search and survey for one of my real-estating ventures, which I found last week and laid hands on today just by deciphering a sekrit code on a deed recording from ten years ago; and, also this very day, getting a missing employee to call in when he was AWOL by tracking his Facebook and figuring out who could get in touch with him when his phone was off.

He will now be in charge of making sure everybody's phone is on and charged at all times.

Now I was on a roll. Our second-chair real-estate paralegal just happened to be working her nails with an emery board while I was handing out assignments. BOOM! You're doing the mani-pedi's.  We may be on the only block in our entire town that doesn't have a nail salon, so it'll fit right in.

The attorney at the far end? Hmmmmm.... oh yeah. She drives a really cool Mini Cooper.  So she'll get to do the Uber runs, assuming our benevolent legislators ever allow us rubes to have such a service.

Still working on the last person, but we've got some ideas kicking around the water cooler.

And the name for it? What else but the long-forgotten trade name used by Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl when they were introduced in the second episode of Newhart:

"Anything for a Buck."



Now all we need is a catchy phone number with just one repeating digit.

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captainsblog
Some unknown time this month, our dog Ebony will celebrate her 14th birthday.  That's pretty good for an old broad of her breeds. I went and looked just now in the waybacks of her records, and the earliest sign is that she was turned over to her rescue group on January 7 of 2013.  (Susan worked out a deal with the nearby rez, where they had less humane methods of getting rid of puppies than arranging adoptions.)

It would be well over three years later that Emily wrote about our meeting and adopting her on that January day a month after she came into the world. It was for a school project early in ninth grade, and her words still ring true all these years later:

Black Wood Collapse )

She's grown from a tiny puppy who came home in a cat carrier to a full-grown lab mix who outweighed her big sister for many years.  Ebony has known every one of the other animals who ever lived here, has witnessed the passing of, now, five of them including her beloved Tasha, and has never known anything but love and kindness in her life, which surely helped get her to this pretty advanced age.

This morning, we went, as we almost always do, to the nearby dog park with friends.  They started calling it "Dog Church" as something of a gag, but it's really become that missing Sunday morning part of my life that our old congregation wasn't fulfilling anymore and my experiments with other things weren't hitting close to heart, either.  Here, surrounded by nature and mostly quiet, we talk among the friends we know and lovingly greet those- biped and quadreped- that we don't.  We mourn the ones who we don't see anymore and pardon the occasional jumps from the n00bs.  There are people of all stripes, faiths and even politics- yes, I've seen Trumperstickers on some of the cars in the lot- but here we do not speak of these things. We may not all believe in God, but we faithfully believe in Dog.

One new one we met this morning was Oreo, shown here to her right, who reminded Ebony there's someone out there bigger than her:



I mistook that coat for a saddle at first. This dog doesn't walk; he canters.

----

After taking her home and taking in a workout, I made a brief and relatively painless venture into December Retail.  I'd waited for the paper to arrive with the headline-



- and, more importantly, the coupon for Penney's, so I could stock up on my go-to brand of underwear. Such things never get outgrown or worn out around here- no, they are simply treats on the dog's buffet:P So I stocked up to replace most of her recent kills, and will hopefully be set until the arrival of the next coupon.

----

Ebony gets a final extra treat, not involving dietary fiber, day after tomorrow. My car's due for inspection, and our mechanic moved a couple of years ago to a location that's barely three blocks from the dog park. So, as long as it's not pelting down snow, my plan is to drop off the car mid-afternoon and just walk her over while they do the checking. Eleanor won't need to come get me as long as they finish by 5. Plus, she'll likely meet a whole different bunch of dogs who come at a different time.

It may not be Sunday, but it'll still kinda be like church. We have communion at the end- passing round treats- and no visit is complete without the passing of the pees.
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captainsblog

My one day this week with no court- indeed, one where I postponed my one appearance on Monday of next week- wound up full of all of the above. In more-or-less reverse order of occurrence:

- The unexpected: I came across two instances of governments backing off from recent stupid ideas.  One,  I witnessed the backoff with my own eyes.

Across the state, beginning this past summer, if you drove on the 90, or any other expressways upstate, you probably saw the signs. Big blue advertisements for New York tourism, food, historic sites and such. Each set- and they grew like topsy in my travels between here, east to Rochester and west/south to Erie- began with what they called a "motherboard"-



-followed by specific ones for each of the four components. All of them pimping the state tourism website and the I♥NY app- you know, computer things you're not supposed to be accessing when you're driving.

 They put over 500 of these suckers up over the summer, and every one of them is now coming down, because the federal highway people consider them to be illegal roadside advertising. I just saw my first road gang starting the rip down around Thruway exit 47. One set still remained on my westbound drive home, but they seem doomed to the scrap heap, as well.

Oh, and of course the signs themselves were mostly manufactured in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, on arrival in Rochester, I discovered that the city's recently elected mayor has ended an evil corporate experiment to raise revenue: red light cameras.  Downstate has had them for years, but upstate cities (and only cities) were given the green light to pass laws enabling them a few years ago. Buffalo never got them, after the city was caught proposing to put them mainly at intersections near suburban borders, earning them the epithet of "honky cams." Rochester did implement them, but their experience turned out to be the opposite: "the ZIP codes that have the city's highest poverty rates, like 14605, 14609 and 14621 generated the highest numbers of red-light camera tickets."

It also didn't help that the program was one of those lovely "public-pirate private partnerships" our new Dear Leader is so fond of. The Arizona company Redflex, which has cornered the market on these red-light gestapos and which profits only from ticket revenues over a certain level, is notorious for shortening yellow light intervals to catch the unsuspecting.  In the years since they went in to city intersections, I always heeded the warning signs and never got one- and once they go dark at the end of this month, I never will.

----

-The weird: There are, of course, worse things that can happen in Rochester.

One business there, in particular, has had a bad and weird couple of weeks. My office there represents most of the major pizzeria chains in town, with the exception of one of the oldest, which I've sued in the past.  First, they lost one of their locations temporarily (as did a beloved chicken wing business which we do represent) when a fire in a Chinese restaurant in the same plaza caused smoke and water damage and loss of power to the entire strip of stores.  Not to be outdone, though, fate struck even closer to our office at the closest of this Not Our Client's locations:

Monroe County Sheriff's deputies found a man stuck in a vent early Friday morning, in what they say was an attempted break-in of a Penfield pizzeria.

Sheriff's deputies responded to Pontillo's Pizzeria at 1811 Penfield Road about 3:45 a.m., said Cpl. John Helfer of the Sheriff's Office.

"They heard some yells. The guy was stuck in a vent," Helfer said.

Penfield firefighters removed the man and took him to Strong Memorial Hospital. Richard Graham, 53, of Saratoga Street in Rochester, was treated and released, Helfer said in a news release.

"He was as far down as he could go without coming out on top of an oven." said Earl Lubanski, Penfield assistant fire chief. "The ductwork got narrower as you get down closer to the kitchen."

Graham was arraigned in Penfield Town Court on charges of third-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools. He is being held without bail in the Monroe County Jail....

Pro tip: ductwork is never as wide or as easy to escape through as it always seems to in movies.

----

-That brings us to the new- to me at least.  The remainder of my workday there was mainly useless- didn't close the deal I hoped to close, didn't see the client who promised to see me- but it was okay, since this afternoon was one of our occasional Firm Outings that I, for once, got to attend.

Remember laser tag? I do, vaguely- from the 80s.  The first commercial fun places for them date to 1984, and I think the one we have in our town, near its original Wegmans, dates to around then.  I never visited that one, or their Rochester locations, before today, and it turned out to be a fair amount of fun.

Lasertron is basically Chuckie Cheese for grownups. You book your group for a morning or afternoon, and it gets you two competitive games where your workers divide up (ours were legal versus administrative four-on-four) for about half an hour at a time.  First, we did a game that is a mishmash of bumper cars, lacrosse and basketball.  Once I got the hang of the joystick and overcame the fear that the car could tip over, I did pretty well at it, and the four of us bested the back-office peeps after three rounds.

Then, foodage, which was actually pretty good compared to, say, the gas-station-quality hot dogs on offer for three times the price at the cinema one plaza over. Also, craft beer (and non-craft and non-beer).

Finally, it was into the arena for the actual shooting at each other. We donned the vests, charged the phasers, and had at it for four six-minute rounds of seeking and destroying the very people we depend on 40-odd hours a week.  Again, it took some getting the hang of the controls and the rules, but I did the Green Team just proud enough and we took home the bragging rights until we all forget what there was to brag about.

They also have video games and claw machines and tacky prizes, but we stuck to the main events and the late lunch and I was home at a decent hour.  I have nothing to do tomorrow, plans for dog park and workout Sunday, and a car inspection on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  All signs are good- at least the ones that are still standing;)

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captainsblog
The past couple of days have been full of medical revelations. Some more profound than others, some just more yucky.

I didn't even realize, until I saw it all written down, that I had four straight days of court appearances this week. Absolutely no mental energy went into any one of them, but they still required travel and waiting and the occasional genuflecting.  Somewhere in the middle of them earlier this week, I saw a post on Facebook from glenmarshall, which might just have helped explain one of the major annoyances in my life.  He reported on a doctor's visit, which mentioned his blood pressure; one comment led to another, and someone mentioned that a very commonly-prescribed BP med has a track record of an unfortunate side effect:

A persistent, long-term, hacking cough.

Hel-lo!

I first visited my own (now-former) doc in late September about my BP being out of range despite a long-term Rx to keep it down. His first response was to switch it from Generico 20mg to GenericoPlusShit 32.5mg- the "plus shit" being a dieutetic component that is supposed to help clear even moar things out of the bloodstream.

It worked- somewhat.  Random checks showed the readings going lower, but still registering higher than normal on occasion. But- three days after that appointment and change, I awoke to a sore throat, followed by several days of what I thought was a cold, which included a cough.  The other symptoms eventually went away, but the cough never did. When I switched docs in early November, I was kept on GenericoPlus for the mornings but also got an afternoon BP med added. This got me out of the high range, but the cough never completely left and after a brief break returned to be a near-daily and much-nightly experience.

Turns out, GenericoPlus has a reputation as an "ACE inhibitor [that] can cause a bad cough." After seeing Glen's friend's post about it yesterday, I switched back to the GenericoNotPlus version that I was originally on (I had several pills left) without incident, plus taking the new afternoon med- and as of tonight, the cough is better. Not gone, but far fewer incidents.  If it's gone by next week, I will check in with New Doc to report the results and see if my own jerry-rigged combination is likely to do the trick.

----

Then there was this afternoon at another doc's office, where they understandably couldn't help me. Here was the patient they were there to see:



Well, Zoey and her annoying sister Michelle- both were due for shots and checkups.  They're now done, and they're both fine. Me, though?

After we dragged Michelle out of her crate, kicking and MEOWWWing and they finished checking and injecting her, I noticed that my right nostril had begun bleeding. A lot.  Neither of the kittehs had whacked me or otherwise started it- I just suddenly was channeling my two-year-old December self where I broke my sister's nose under the Christmas tree and invoked the immortal family phrase, Mommy, Mommy, there's Hi-C juice coming from Donna's nose!

Only in this case it was Raymond's nose, and it wasn't stopping no matter how many tissues or paper towels I put in to stanch it.  The vet in the room (new, our first time with her, fine with the animals at least) seemed the least able to deal with it.  One of the techs checked with one of the down-the-hall techs who recommended I pinch my nose shut to stem it, and within a minute or so, this actually worked. Other than some nasty bloodstains on my white workshirt (since pretreated by Eleanor and removed by Sears and Roebuck),  it's all fine now.

Hopefully this won't affect my blood pressure one way or the other;)
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captainsblog
* My co-walker from last week posted a couple actual pictures of me with a running bib.  Here near the start with our carpool bud Ellen:



And then, at the halfway mark, pointing the way with my oversized water bottle:




* I've been back to several scenes of recent court appearances, which wound up being less amusing than the previous ones posted about here. Another civil court appearance after a long criminal docket in downtown Buffalo, mostly consisting of the DA adjourning case after case after case. The judge was clearly losing patience after a point, even hitting him with a rather bizarre Perry Mason joke from the bench at one point (and making me wonder if the 30-something prosecutor even knew (a) who Raymond Burr was and (b) if he did, whether he was wondering what Ironside had to do with anything).  No night court this week, but a butt-early appearance in a town court north of here. The case went fine, but the Niagara County ambience can be a little scary. 

As you drive "up the Transit" and cross the county line, within a mile or so you come to a car dealership sporting dozens of flags on poles above the cars.  Stars and Stripes are never uncommon for dealerships, but this one alternated them with that Teabagger favorite, the Gadsden flag:



And that tread comes with a 3 month, 3,000 mile warranty!

Court itself led to more spookiness.  In 30-plus years, I've appeared in dozens of courts in almost as many cities and towns, many smaller than this one- and I have never, once, been asked to commence a session of open court by joining in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Until now.  The judge was anything but authoritarian- very nice in the case itself, didn't even bother to command an "all rise!" when he came in- but this kind of mandated patriotism just creeped me.

* Speaking of mandated patriotism:  our Generalissimo-Elect continues to scare me.  My weekend post about the election-result recount ended with a copy of his expressed disgust about the process- but it was measured disgust.  By the time he got to his usual Twittering,  though, all measure had gone out the window:



Never mind that this has no factual support whatsoever outside the Tin Foil conspiracyland of nuts like Alex Jones. Never mind, also, that he WON the damn thing by the rules (at least so far), but that's not enough for him.

* Nor is any other kind of dissent: lookie what came out of his Twitterhole at his usual 3 a.m. tantrumtime:



Now, in fairness, he hasn't tweeted this. Yet:



Three more hours of work.  And a lot for all of us to work at to overcome this crap.
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captainsblog
....randomly spoken, while I was barely paying attention, opened a bizarre little rabbit hole in my brain that took me back almost 50 years, then forward to last summer, to a totally different (but even more familiar) time and place.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon erranding round the house- emptying catboxes, cleaning the fish tank, splitting BigAss™ bags of shredded cheese into eight-ounce ziplocs.  For most of it, I had the Bills game on the radio through headphones- and out of all the chatter that came from those three hours of generally ugly-sounding football, either Murph or Mark mentioned two words that come up occasionally in the sport, which I'd no doubt heard dozens of times in my 35 autumns of following this team and however many of the Jets before them:

"Off Tackle."

Somehow, that phrase instantly triggered a memory that probably was dormant since the early 1970s- a Platform 9¾ that suddenly opened to me and transported me to a friend's house in a simpler time and to a game older even than PacMan or Pong:

Electric football.

----

I've posted here before about the nerdy games that friends and I either played or made up in those years- variants on Stratomatic ancestors of current fantasy sports leagues, but this was a real game with a real plug that went into a real wall.  Mike, my friend from church on the other side of East Meadow, got one and I came over to learn how it worked. 

What I remember of it is, well, not much.  The game board was maybe five feet across by three feet wide.  You placed your eleven players on a plugged-in metal board, and your opponent lined his eleven up against you. Then you'd run your play, by pushing one of four secret buttons that supposedly your opponent couldn't see from five feet away (his side having the identical four buttons in the identical order).  Pushing down would complete the circuit, the board would vibrate, and your players would begin to move, more or less toward the opposite end of the field.  The four choices, in theory, would cause slightly different vibration of the board and a slightly different result.  Plain as day, I can remember that the second of the four, left to right, was a call for "OFF TACKLE" (the play, or move-in-a-play, that opened this whole can of memories for me); just as plainly, I can remember that the rightmost of the buttons said "TRICK PLAY." 

I have no idea whatsoever what the first or third ones said or did.  Must've sucked at those.

Everything else from here is either pure speculation or the result of my having looked into this in the past day:  Presumably, the idea was to get one designated "player" to vibrate his way across the opposite goal line, or pass or kick the "ball" (likely a piece of felt- this shit predated the common use of Velcro), which you were allowed to manipulate by hand into the hand or in front of the foot of a player once the vibration got going.  Your opponent picked one of his four buttons to make his players move toward your players and your goal in order to slow down your forward progress.

If it worked like our other geekouts did, we would have named the teams and the players, called our own penalties, kept score and had extended standings.  I remember absolutely nothing of any of that.

Also, if it worked like other shit we did, we likely got bored of it, or the board broke.  It disappeared completely from my consciousness until somebody on the Bills went "off tackle" yesterday and either Murph or Kelso used the words.

But, as the late but still-legendary Bills broadcaster Van Miller always put it after the second quarter, "That's only the half of it!"

----

As the above shows, I remember nothing of the details other than those two out of four plays- the game name, manufacturer, even the words "electric football" were completely absent from my brain. My best guess was that "electronic football" would have been the generic, but that was likely anachronistic for the early 1970s- we still spoke of "transistors" and "solid-state" when referring to space-age stuff back then, and "electronic," in its early etymology, referred mainly to electrons- how electrons behave in vacuums, gas, semi-conductors, etc.

Still. It was close enough for Google to educate me, and I started finding familiar and unfamilar brand names for "electric" football, as it was christened even back in its earliest incarnations in the 1940s. Coleco was the only name I recognized, mainly for later Christmas-craze toys they manufactured; there was also Gotham, and Eagle from Canada, but the granddaddy was a company called Tudor, which still exists and will still sell you metal boards with tiny players and, from the look of it, somewhat more sophisticated controls than our four stupid buttons.

Most of these memories led to one site: theunforgettablebuzz.com.  And it was through their posts that I discovered a later, further and yet much closer-to-now-home connection to this game- residing in the annals of ESPN sports and the basement of a family in the northern reaches of the City of Rochester, New York.

----

Even if you don't do any sportsing, ESPN's "30 for 30" documentaries are amazing and worthy of viewing.  They have given Oscar and Emmy-award winning directors the chance to look at unusual angles of games, athletes and contests, old and new.  I've never watched as many as I should, but some I have include one about Goats in Baseball- how Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman became hated figures connected with the two oldest curses on MLB teams and how Buckner found redemption after the Red Sox broke the curse. (It may produce an update on Bartman now that the Cubs have slain their goat of a curse.) Another, focusing on this same era of my youth, was about the American Basketball Association's ultimate merger into the NBA and how a owners of a single franchise took the Lords of Hoops to the cleaners over the ensuing almost 40 years.  Yet another close-to-former-home one was about the New York Islanders, and how a con man became an NHL owner with no due diligence, no money, and no prospects.

The one relevant to this, I missed completely. It's from last June, and was done by Errol Morris, a much-decorated documentarian probably most famous for The Thin Blue Line, the true tale of a wrongly-accused defendant which is now the most common term for the silence and conspiratorial acts of law enforcement when they're determined to "get their man."  These few minutes are much lighter: they literally go into the basement, or as the title of the episode terms it, to the Subterranean Stadium, where a group of guys have been playing these games in league format since the early 1980s....

in Charlotte, New York.

That's pronounced Char-LOT, thank you very much. Once a separate village on Lake Ontario's shore where the Genesee finishes its south-to-north route, it was long ago annexed by the once-smaller and still-souther City of Rochester, where it still retains some of its own identity through its pier, custard shop and watering holes.  It's also the home to the DiCarlos, where father, son and grandson still carry on the metal-board tradition- and then some.

This is a mancave on steroids.  John, his relatives and longtime friends not only play these games and keep score, but painstakingly paint the generic players from the board boxes into "real" player jerseys and uniform numbers, and gather all kinds of merch for both their "teams" and the CEFL- the Charlotte Electric Football League.

Words do not do any of this justice. Watch, on the ESPN site.  But I'll end with two sidenotes that take this as close to home (or rather work) as anything ever could:

Just short of eight minutes in, we meet the grieving football widow. She turns out to own a place called Skip's Meat Market, as much an institution in modern Rochester as the Amerks or the garbage plate.  Heard of it, never met her in my life. But still on the subject of meat, a few moments later, Morris introduces another member of the League of Extraordinarily Nerdy Gentleman: Peter "The Hotman" Dietz, a high school friend of her husband who's still at this game.  The name originally got tagged to him because he "used to always get hot under the collar," but he turned it around into the plural of "hot"- another Rochester tradition of street meat, red hots and white hots, almost always Zweigles brand, sold from street carts throughout downtown and in other high-traffic areas.

His is in front of the state courthouse in downtown Rochester.  I've passed him literally hundreds of times in my comings and goings there.  I recognized him when he showed up on the ESPN screen:



And next time I head over there for court at or near lunchtime, I am going to give him a copy of this post- and ask him to PLEASE tell me what the other two buttons were.
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captainsblog
It's getting exciting out there. Come tomorrow, it will be just three weeks until Election Day for our presidency.

What, you thought that was three weeks ago? Pish. That was essentially just a non-binding preference poll. The only voting that matters occurs in state capitals and the District of Columbia on December 19th. The Constitution is quite clear about that:


The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;--The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;--the person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed....

Since the wee smalls of November 9th, everybody has assumed that will go just as the Election Night returns told us it would: that the Orange Numpty, having pulled off the incredible upset of narrowly defeating his opponent in all four crucial "firewall" states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and probably Michigan), would get all the electors from those states assigned to him- and that they would vote in lockstep (goosestep might be more appropriate) to complete his unexpected coronation.  He's certainly acted accordingly ever since- naming truly horrible Cabinet members, putting a white supremacist near the top of his White Trump House staff, and continuing his stream of 3 a.m. tweets about everything from Fidel Castro's death to reviewing a Hamilton performance.

Now we're closing in on the midpoint- three weeks since the popular voting (which Hillary continues to lead in by historically large and growing numbers) and three until the real one- and something is starting to happen that's only slightly more improbable that this loon getting access to the nuclear codes in the first place:

People are actually talking about December 19th's outcome being different.

----

There are two ways this could happen. Neither is even remotely likely to happen, but, as anyone on the right will gleefully tell you, this is the year that broke all the rules already.

In the first scenario, the electors go to their state capitols on December 19th with Hillary Rodham Clinton commanding more than 270 of them as a matter of pledging.  That's not what anyone assumed. But, as we all know,....



The focus right now is on three of those four battlegrounds: Michigan, which has not yet been certified but has been leaning red in the preliminary counts since the Morning After; and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which were certified to Herr Pussygrabber but were each extremely close. The commonly-cited totals as of today show Herr P with 290 of the votes that count, counting the 30 from WI and PA, and Hillary with 232; Michigan's 16 have yet to be assigned:






Clicking on that map on the CNN site, you'll see the unofficial totals in PA putting Clinton less than 70,000 votes behind out of close to 5.8 million cast; WI, she's within 28,000 of He, Trump's total out of close to 2.8 million.

This is not horseshoes, or a "neighborhood play" at second base.  "Close enough" shouldn't determine the fate of the nation with such extremes at stake.  All three states have recount procedures, and while Hillary didn't directly jump in to take advantage of them, her Green Party opponent suddenly realized, um, gee, maybe Clinton's NOT "just as bad" like I've been telling my voters all year, and began both the filing and the funding steps necessary to conduct vote audits in all three states.


On their face, these numbers are close enough to justify the effort. But then the past week began to bring in reports of outright evidence of possible Russian hacking of the Election Night results. Emphasis, I emphasize, is on "possible," but as a leading researcher of such efforts stated after media reports started circulating with quotes from him,

The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.

So, just in time, the Green effort got under way to do just that, and after word started getting out about it, the Clinton campaign kept mostly mum, but by yesterday was sending out signals that it would join in the effort.

His Majesty was not pleased:

“This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than one percent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount,” Trump said in a statement released by his transition team. "This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded, and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing."

The Numpty doth protest too much, methinks. His minions have already been far less measured in pointing this effort directly at the only candidate who could benefit from it, renewing the "Lock Her Up!" calls and other invective because somebody dared demand a count of actual votes.

So it's on- and before December 19th, we will know how many electors will be voting and to whom they will be pledged.

Yet even that might not be the end of the story in this craziest of years.

----

Let's hypothesize: Michigan's 16 votes go for Hillary once they're all counted (she's down about 11,000 at last count). Then let's move the smaller of the other two: Wisconsin's ten. That would put her at 258 versus You Know Who being down to 280. So she still loses, right?

Maybe.

Quietly, some say subversively, Democrats have been contacting red-pledged electors and have been trying to get them to change their votes on Real Election Day.  Nothing in the Constitution requires electors to vote for the candidates to whom they are pledged, and according to this long-shot-but-why-not analysis, there have been votes cast by so-called "faithless electors" in more than half of the past seventeen elections. None came close to influencing an outcome, were considered little more than protests, but did result in several states passing legislation to require electors to vote for the pledged candidate- with Minnesota, the last to experience such faithlessness, going as far as to declare an elector's vote for anyone else to be void and a replacement elector to be appointed. It, and of all things Michigan, are the only ones with statutes, never enforced, to void the vote of the faithless one.

So it's possible. And it has been contemplated on at least three occasions in my lifetime- attempts to end-run the electors' choosing the duly-elected Democrat:

In 1960, an extensive effort was undertaken within the Electoral College to persuade fellow members to change their votes. Many Southern Democrat electors were looking for an alternative to John F. Kennedy and could not stomach Richard Nixon.

They hatched a plan to deny an Electoral College majority to either candidate and hoped to throw the election to Virginia Senator Harry Byrd. Although some party officials were interested in the idea, they ultimately thought it would be too damaging to the party to follow through with it. Still, one elector, Henry Irwin, a Republican from Oklahoma, cast his vote for Byrd.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter won a razor-thin victory over Gerald Ford. A change in just over 5,000 votes in Ohio and 3,000 votes in Hawaii would have given the election to Ford with 270 electoral votes. Testifying to a Senate committee in the aftermath of the election, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Bob Dole indicated the Ford-Dole campaign was actively seeking to influence Democrat electors to switch to their ticket. "We were shopping -- not shopping, excuse me -- looking around for electors," Dole said. "It just seems to me that the temptation is there for that elector in a very tight race to really negotiate quite a bunch."

The third time, it never happened, but there were plans for it, when Dubya's strategists predicted the completely wrong outcome:

In 2000, expecting a popular vote win and an Electoral College loss, the Bush-Cheney team drafted plans to demand a public outcry if such an occasion were to occur. "Democrats for Democracy" was one slogan that was suggested if such a campaign were to emerge. Such an insurrection was wholly aimed at persuading Democrat electors to change their votes if Bush had won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College vote.

Of course, the opposite happened. And in the aftermath, an intense lobbying campaign unfolded to persuade Republican electors to vote for the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, over George W. Bush. In my surveys of the 2000 electors, I found that many received great pressure to change their votes and some even reported receiving death threats.

Can you imagine if we woke up three weeks from Tuesday to find that Hillary Clinton was President, after all?  As far-fetched as it is, I can only conclude that it would be (a) completely legal, (b) not without precedent, but (c) would cause a right-wing shitstorm the likes of which would make the worst of the past month's "Not My President" protests seem like an ice cream social.

For one thing, I fully expect that Congress would refuse to certify the outcome- leading to either an attempt to invoke the rest of the 12th Amendment to let the House decide the result, or an outright breakdown of constitutional governance for the first time in our history.

I also expect that the electors- all of them, since the faithless ones may not be known outside states requiring their votes to be public- will be the subject of death threats and quite possibly attempts.  If you thought millennials and whiny-baby liberals were upset about the preliminary results?  That will be nothing in comparison.

Finally, it may lead to the most interesting first two weeks of 2017 we've ever seen. Because there's this weird but wonderful stagger in the start of the federal terms determined at the 2016 elections. All 435 House members, and all the new or re-elected Senators (now 51 R to 48 D/I, with one likely R seat to be added in a Louisiana runoff next month), take their seats on January 3rd- but Barack Obama and Joe Biden remain in office until the 20th.  Biden, for those weeks, could become the more relevant of the two as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. It would take just two defecting Republicans to vote with the Democratic bloc on anything- from new legislation affecting the presidential outcome if still then in doubt, to the still-pending SCOTUS appointment, to the rules of the Senate itself.

The old Asian curse comes to mind: "May you live in interesting times."
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captainsblog

Karma's a funny little imp.  When you're doing well, it pokes at you, but when things seem to be heading straight for the shitter, it brings you right back up out of it.

Last night/this morning, for instance.

Our Thanksgiving was nice, all in all, and we sent the kids off yesterday morning with some good ideas about some things they need or want to accomplish. I basically vegged for a whole day, and when Eleanor got home, we relaxed, laid in Chinese for dinner, and finished watching Princess Mononoke, a late 90s anime by a beloved Japanese director of such.

Well, sort-of finished- which is where the imp made its first appearance.

----

Near the climactic closing scenes of the film, the DVD crapped out; it had hiccuped a few times before that, but this time was complete hang-up. I switched to an alternate player, which wouldn't even read the disk; then, I sought out and found an online version of it, connected the tv screen to the VGA port on this computer, and went to plug in the RCA-jack connector into the headphone port so we could hear the final 15 minutes through our speakers.

No connector.  It usually resides next to the CD/tuner/sound input control next to the television, but in 10 good minutes of searching around and behind things with flashlight in hand, I could not find it.  Nor could I get the bluetooth on this computer to play it through the separate speaker we have for that. So we watched those final moments with what little sound we could actually hear through the PC's tiny speaker (i.e., hardly any of the unsubtitled dialogue).  It was still beautiful to watch, and we headed off to sleep soon after- but not without a second shot of imp:

My mouth guard was missing. 

----

I've worn one for several years to stop the grinding and occasional breakage of teeth that comes to me during the night; my dentist could custom-make one, but he suggested I first try an over-the-line-of-scrimmage one from the football player section at Dick's Sporting Goods, and several iterations of it have worked fine. A few, however, have met their demise from me spitting them out overnight and the dog getting a hold of them. Blue poop for days.

That was my biggest concern; they run a mere 20 bucks new, and take only about 20 minutes to boil-and-cool to set them to your teeth, but the dog had been off her feed the day before and I began to worry that she'd swallowed the thing and we'd be finding blue poop any time now.

Again with the flashlight and the looking in nooks and crannies, again no success. By now, Eleanor was bed-destined for sure, and I gave up trying. During these coughing jags of recent weeks, I've been leaving it out most nights anyway, since it aggravates whatever gag reflex is causing the coughs.  Within minutes, I was asleep, until I wasn't about three hours later:

The Idiots Next Door had returned.

----

They woke Eleanor first: Mrs. I yapping at top volume on her cell phone while she splooshed around in their hot tub with the heater and whirlpool motor running full blast.  It got Eleanor to go out and let them know they'd awakened her and were keeping her awake.  Not surprisingly, Mr. I didn't give a shit. Words were exchanged. By the time I got out there, he was going full High School Bully on both of us. I'm not going to dignify any of it with requoting other than these two: that they had voted for Trump and so, poor us; and that his lawyer was "seventeen times better" than I was.

Heh. I'm still friends with his lawyer; he's more of a Trump-hater than even we are, and that takes doing.

In time- and a short time objectively, though it seemed an eternity at the time- we were both back in our houses. Eleanor was writing feverishly about the whole thing, and I found nothing I could say or do that would help her, so I just resolved to fix what the imp had broken.  First, I found the mouth guard, somehow kicked to the foot of the bed and remarkably still in good shape.  Once I hosed the dog hair off it, I felt I was on a roll, and headed back to the living room, and in under a minute found the cord to connect the computer to the sound system. It had fallen into a recessed shelf from where our doorbell chimes hang from the wall, inches from where the cord usually hangs out. Just ever so slightly out of sight, in a place not exactly where'd you expect it.

And with that, I re-cued the stream of the movie, plugged in monitor and sound, and at 12:30 in the morning we watched AND heard those final 15 minutes of Princess Mononoke. Which portray a scene of hate and devestation, but one which quickly turns into one of greenery, of good triumphing over evil, of reconciliation, and of peace.

I'm not saying we'll ever get there with those two next door; I'd bet heavily against it, in fact.  But it still let us end the day with remembering that those qualities will always endure, and overcome, no matter how close or how bad idiocy may seem to be.

----

Now I'm off to find another copy of the movie.

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captainsblog
Black Friday, my ass.  I spent under 30 minutes in all forms of retail today: maybe 10 each in Wegmans and Timmy's, five apiece at a gas station and a bank (after going in to get mail, including The Check and several others that arrived because today is not a postal holiday). 

None of these places was especially busy- although the bank took longer than it should have when the drive-thru customer ahead of me decided to pick an extended fight with the teller over some perceived slight. TAKE IT INSIDE, YO.

Then, while Eleanor finished her roughly normal Friday work schedule, I spent the afternoon watching a cheesy action movie I'd never seen full through, clearing more leaves out to the curb, and taking the obligatory Thanksgiving-weekend nap.  I'd worried when I first awoke  this morning that my illness had come full circle and I was going to be down with a sore throat and cold again, but I suspect that was just from talking more than usual (in general and outside) yesterday. Nothing has blossomed from it yet, and the cough has been better than it's been in quite some time. Not working all day, or being stressed for most of it, suggest there's an emotional component to the thing.

When Eleanor got home, dinner was courtesy of a Chinese place in the plaza next to her store- too-cleverly named "Wok and Roll"- but the food is very good, the veggies fresh and not boiled in oil, and the combinations interesting. With it, we finished re-watching Princess Mononoke, a 90s film by Japanese anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. Our DVD crapped out with 15 minutes to go, but I found a streaming replacement for it online and we more-or-less got how it ended.

Back to normal (or what passes for it here) starting tomorrow.
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captainsblog

We've rarely, if ever, done the Big Table Big Family Gathering Thanksgiving Thing, in our married life or that I can remember from our upbringings. Most years Eleanor's done full turkey, or poultry variations, or a few times we've gone out for utterly unremarkable meals done by someone else.

This year it's home for homemade pizzas- and I just saw a post from a friend in NYC who's doing the same thing:)

Yet somehow I find ties that bind, often to strangers or longlost voices, on this day through things that have become traditions without my even especially noticing it.

----

This morning was Buffalo's 121st running of the Turkey Trot- the oldest continuously sponsored Thanksgiving Day race in the country. "Running" is a bit of a stretch, since two-thirds of the field runs the five miles in over an hour, a threshold I came close to breaking in the previous three years that I sort-of-ran.

This year was a walk all the way, as I was accompanying a friend who could only do it at a walking pace- and we finished, well, in about what it says on the stopwatch:



Our official times were a couple of seconds shorter; takes an instant to hit the button at the end. But it was the usual mix of sights, laughter and just enough challenge.



Above: my carpool companions Ann (purple top in the foreground) and Ellen (orange top on her right) at one of the meetup points near the start.


Next, the first of the dinosaurs we would encounter throughout our travels:



Those of his species were running more seriously than we were, so we lost sight of him until the after-party.

Around mile one, we made our first stop to visit with a regular observer- a friend of Ann's who has always brought his various St. Bernards to the edge of Delaware Park to watch the parade go by.  This year he has a new one; meet Walter:



We pressed on into further signs of extinction; these two were neck-and-tail with us for most of the five miles:



Soon the halfway point was behind us, the street started its mostly downward droop around Allentown, and we made it into the after-party without any injury or significant rain on us.  The faster t-rexes had already gotten there:




And I saw a bunch of team members hanging around the fruit table with this cogent observation:



Mind, this doesn't take the free beer into account. I only had one. The carpool reformed and I was back headin' home right at noon, which was perfect timing for the second of my recently reinforced Thanksgiving traditions.

----

I've known of "Alice's Restaurant" since high school. I can even recite most of it from memory. But it didn't become a tradition to listen to it on Thanksgiving proper until my first T-Day with Eleanor in 1986; she had it on at her parents' home on the radio station there that still plays it, on the same midday show hosted by the same guy, all these years later.

I've made a point of finding them online and streaming it through the WCMF site for the past several years.  I don't have to; I've had the CD of it for ages and it's played in its entirety on at least one station here during the day. But there's something about connecting to the signal, and intro voice, that I will always connect with the first Thanksgiving we shared together.

Maybe I should take selfies of me while listening to it next year. Twenty-seven 8x10 color glossy pictures....

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captainsblog
It's been a pretty frantic but productive 18 hours or so since I last put words onto this page.  Wrapping up some of the ends left loose previously:

* The check is in the mail. To the right address.  This was not without some final mucking about- as the two parties on the "other side" (both of whom I'd called and/or emailed) talked again and worked out a simple solution to how to approve them mailing a check to me at a correct address rather than a plainly incorrect one, but nobody bothered to tell me what that was. Until I called one of them again this morning, that is. Then, it took less than five minutes to do, it's done, and it's resolved.

* I got one of my other weird deals of the day from yesterday wrapped up first thing this morning, and between that and a bizarre trip to Night Court at the end of the day, I am about to bill more for the past 18 hours than I have in most of the past two weeks.

* Ah, Night Court, or as Eleanor remembered it for, smoke 'em if you gottem....



I don't do many traffic court appearances, and always tell the client that I will get them the exact same plea deal they'd have gotten themselves, but since most courts take the attorneys first, I will get it for them a lot faster.  This one came in last-minute, and was in a court I know to have ridiculous security lines for their 5:30 p.m. cattle calls. So I told the guy to be there by 5- which he was, and I was. Unfortunately, the prosecutor didn't get there until right at 5:30, so just before that, they sent out one of the deputies to essentially warm up the room like a standup comic before a game show.

He was hilarious. One of the older guys still on the court payroll (the larger and burlier ones having had their senses of humor surgically removed a a secret undisclosed TSA location), he cracked wise about how they've been there all day and he knew we had been working, or at school, or ::shrugs:: whatever all day and if we all did like he said we'd all get out sooner.  Stand here for this, over there for that. I know, rules rules rules. 

I will now forever think of him as Shecky.

Anyway: my guy was the first one up and the first one out, and since there were two things resolved as a part of it, it was a productive evening for moi.

* Eleanor works tomorrow morning. I will also be up around the same time, joining some friends for my fourth Turkey Trot in five years.  It will be more of a walk than a run, but half the fun of the thing is the people-watching, anyway.

* Everybody east and south of here sounds like they're dug out of the snow they got and we didn't- and none is in our forecast anytime soon.

Right. Back to it.
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captainsblog
Nothing really horrible has happened today. Yet.

On the other hand, not a single thing has yet to go completely right, and the day has been full of near-misses, delays, delusions and one particular fustercluck of bureaucracy.

I'll save that last one for last- in part because there's still hope at the bottom of that box.

Much of this is because I'm real-estating a lot this week. More than I swore I'd ever do before. But they're relatively straightforward matters that I'm guaranteed a reasonable and prompt fee on.  In one of them, I was specifically asked to pinch-hit for the client's previous lawyer as a favor to a very good client source.  Client is asking for things not supported by the papers I've reviewed. Maybe there are others I haven't seen; we'll see.

Then I've got several games of chicken going. One kept me here late last night so I could receive documents to record so a client can refinance a house. The deliverer of such papers insisted in writing that I hold them until the refinance took place; the refinancing bank has insisted in writing that I record them before the refinance will take place. So I've sent a clarifying letter to Mr. Immovable Object, telling him that Irresistible Force Bank (member FDIC and NSF) needs the recording if he wants to get paid in a week or so.  In another, a bank absolutely positively won't even schedule a closing until an appraiser does a final check on Monday of next week, but the seller absolutely positively won't close on any day other than Tuesday of next week.  You can't take Tuesday from Monday, Monday is less than Tuesday, so you look for the four in the tens place. Or something.

Now I'm remembering why I swore not to do this shit anymore.

Ah, but then there's the best, which is to say the worst.  In which the best-laid plans get done in by the post office.

----

Stick to bankruptcies, Ray, the voices in my head cry. You know how THAT works.

Yeah, you'd think.

In August, I got word that a case from 2003 was finally resolving itself. Yay!  And that my client and I would both receive a nice payment for having waited this long.  Yayer! These papers came to me, as most federal-courty things do, by email, but they showed an address for mailing of the actual payment that which I'd used when I filed the client's papers in the Days of Yore- one that was two address changes ago for me.  Unlike the last one I just made last year (where I still regularly get mail but it gets rerouted pretty quickly and they call me if they see something looking important), this one took place over a decade ago. And I notified the people needing notifying at the court that I'd changed it- twice. My correct physical address is on the every one of my current and past cases, as well as appearing specifically on the docket of this case itself.

Still, just to be sure, I mailed the trustee sending the checks out to remind him of the change. In August. Wheels turned, and eventually the case came on for final approval of all matters in late October.  I wouldn't have made a special trip to this remote courthouse just for that, but I was there for another case, and I appeared before the judge and noted my new address on the record.  Even handed the trustee another copy of my card in the judge's presence.

Usually, the checks go out very quickly after that approval.  As of two weeks ago, when I didn't get anything, I called. Turns out their practice is to wait; in an abundance of caution, they make sure nobody appeals the distribution order (which I might have seen happen once in literally dozens of cases in the 30-plus years I've been at this).  Whatever. I advanced the file until this past week. Still nothing.

Yesterday, I found out that the trustee hadn't been in to sign the checks; he'd do that today. But, they said, he needed to talk to me about it.  About what, I wondered.  When we finally spoke, he'd apparently checked with his boss (not the judge, who's on a different food chain from all of us), who said he had to send the check to the address on the original claim. Worse, he'd already sent it to the original, wrong, address. Before even telling me.

This isn't an issue of competing lawyers' claims to the check. The firm I was with at the time of that filing no longer exists. The office we used to be in consists entirely of a brokerage firm.  There is virtually no chance they will know to call me, or anyone else formerly associated with that long-deceased operation, if the post office even attempts to deliver it there.

Thanks, Obama!

But,.... Remember that hope in the box? That came within an hour- when the trustee called back. His assistant was apparently unsure if he meant to send a check on purpose to a plainly wrong address, so she brought it back to him. We are now awaiting word from on high as to whether his boss is really going to make him send something to the wrong place despite multiple efforts to ensure it is sent to the right one.

No word yet. I was promised an answer by the end of the day- by the guy who didn't give a second thought to misdirecting the thing in the first place.

Maybe I should swear off this business instead. At least with real estate, houses don't fucking move.
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captainsblog
Or just drive a few miles.

This was our back yard early yesterday afternoon after the dusting of snow we got two nights ago. It was also after I'd slogged away about a half dozen cans of pin oak leaves:



Never mind a leaf blower, I commented at the time, what I really need back here is a zamboni.

This morning dawned much colder and windier than it had been while clearing that, but there was no new snow to reckon with.  Yet just over an hour away closer to where the kids are, the story was different. Here's a shot a Rochester TV viewer sent in from her yard one town over from Palmyra, which got some of the heaviest accumulations:



Emily said their apartment plow guys gave up halfway through their parking lot.  Needless to say, Cameron got the day off from working outside.  There are still plenty of people without power near there, and I think my office there closed as well, since I never heard a peep out of them.   Last I heard, it was bearing down on Binghamton, so when I finish this I'm going to check in with my sister and see how she's doing with it all.

Despite the lack of any of that here, it was still relatively quiet in my office today, as I think a bunch of people are taking the whole week off from work.

I am staying late myself tonight (hence the dinner-hour posting), waiting for documents for a closing, and I picked up a last-minute traffic court appearance for tomorrow night that is relatively quick and easy work, but that will keep me out until past 6 as well.  Wednesday, though, we are closing early and I am determined to stay away for the rest of the week after that.

----

Yesterday, I came in to get work done on one of those backlogged bankruptcies, and listened to the Bills game the whole time.  They wound up winning a fairly ugly-sounding contest with a lot of miscues and injuries, and I didn't miss a damn thing by not getting to see any of it on the TV.

Tonight, we hope to finish the DVD of Swiss Army Man, because when all else fails, there are farting wizards to lift your spirits. Among other things.

----

The latest plan (weather permitting, he reminds himself to say this time of year) is that the kids will be home with us for Thanksgiving night, going to see Cam's dad on Friday.  His mom has announced no plans and their intention is not to enable her by letting her coerce them into something last-minute.

We'll be keeping things much simpler than the Standard United Statesian Food and Football Orgasm™ that Eleanor has been witnessing from the store side of things for much of the past month and will have to endure well into the holiday itself.

Me? I'll be shoveling. Whether it'll be leaves or snow remains to be seen.
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captainsblog
Wowzers. Two posts in under 24 hours.  And a pretty good batch of hours at that.

Last night, we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of five-promised one-offs from the Harry Potterverse- this one written for the screen by JKR herself, directed by David Yates (who did the last several), and introducing a mostly-new cast of mostly-unheralded actors; other than Eddie Redmayne in the lead role and Two Guys You've Heard Of in villain turns (spoilers, sweetie), most of the rest of the cast were new-to-me's. Including the female lead played by Katherine Waterston, as in one of Sam's kids.  I wonder if that will lead up to a guest wizarding appearance by Dad sometime later in the series.

I did have some trouble with Wizard Math, though.  Not really spoilers in this, at least not in terms of anything important to the story, but I'll cut it anyway in case it's boring:

You can"t take 1980 from 1926, 1926 is less than 1980...Collapse )

----

Some snow finally arrived here in the night; we were spared all of what hit as near as Rochester a few weeks ago, and this dusting was nothing compared to what points south got.  Still, it got Ebony excited enough to go rolling in it when I let her out first thing, and she then got even more happies when not only I but Eleanor accompanied her to the dog park at 8 this morning.

A nice time, if chilly; Ann and her Ursula caught up with us quickly and we took one lap around before heading home. I may take some more swings at clearing a massive leaf pile out of our back yard; the pin oak finally dropped its load last week, and Stupidhead here didn't get to it when it was 70F on Friday or even upper 50s yesterday morning.  Plus, we only have one can to haul it out to the curb, since we've loaned all our other extra cans to our neighbor's niece and nephew to help in the decluttering of Betty's house.  (One of their kids may move in for the winter, just to keep the place up and running.)

Meanwhile, if anyone's got an extra wand laying around that works on leaves,...
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captainsblog

Okay, I haven't been away as long as this guy was-



- but it must seem that way.  I even got a distressed voicemail from my sister this morning wondering where I'd gone.

Noplace, really. Just been busy. And still sick. And, of course, depressed about He Who Must Not Be Named Inaugurated.

Going over those in order:

The workweek wasn't that bad. Three court appearances, Monday/Tuesday/Thursday, which is maybe a smidge above average.  Yet each of them was more interesting than the run of the mill ones.

First was a routine civil motion, but which got stuck behind an almost hour-long criminal docket in Buffalo City Court.  While I'd never touch one of these cases, I got quite an education in how to succeed in criminal court, or, more to the point, how to fail:


  • - Don't put your entire life on your cell phone, because when you get arrested and the jail confiscates your cell phone, you're not going to have any contact information in your brain to tell the judge and you're going back to the jail.  Especially if you're a Vietnamese immigrant residing in Iowa, speak no English and thus can't give the judge (or even your interpreter) the name of any contact within this area code who possibly could bail you out.


  • - And if you're the next defendant called after that poor guy, and you've just been arrested for three violent felonies, it doesn't matter how nicely you dressed up, how many of your family show up, or how high- powered a lawyer you have with you. If you also have no fixed local address and you tell the judge you now live in North Carolina, you're going to have to make bail too, and they will pop the handcuffs on you while you stand just to make the point.


  • - For gods' sake, show up for your court date or there will be an arrest warrant out for you:

     Defense lawyer: Sorry, your honor, I have no idea of my client's whereabouts.
     Judge (handing the freshly-signed bench warrant to the deputy): Don't worry about it, counselor. We'll tell you where she is.

  • - When you're about to take a favorable guilty plea, and the judge asks you to tell him in your own words what happened, do not testify to the police conducting an illegal search of your car. It tends to mess things up. You will, however, probably get sentenced to just time served.


  • - And finally, when you hire the most high–power defense lawyer in town, who gets you a very good plea to disorderly conduct, don't show up for court high.  It ain't going down.  And please don't get in a fight with your family about showing up high in the corridor; it bothers the deputies and, hell bro, you're lucky he still let you out on bail.


The next day was a court conference in Rochester.  My co-worker there actually accompanied me. In a tie. Smelling salts were administered all around.  It wound up being a relatively civil and productive session, but there are a lot of emotions between the parties and some of them spilled out during, and more in the day or so after, we were there.

Finally, Thursday was another routine civil motion, this time in Rochester City Court. No criminal cases here, but there was a criminal case which delayed things.  This court has been a judge short for months, requiring them to import judges from neighboring towns and villages to handle things day to day.

Death? Illness? Or just plain stupidity?  The latter, and plenty of it:  the newest member of that bench was busted for DWI back in February; she refused a breathalyzer, hired the highest-power DWI lawyer in town, and eventually was tried in a neighboring city for the offense and was found guilty in a bench trial.  Then, this past week, word came out that she had violated her sentence by drinking- an interlock device on her car caught her, and she allegedly had her underage kid blow into the device to get it started.  Then when the sentencing judge extended her term for the violation, she admitted that she'd never read the terms and conditions of the sentence. She was too upset about having been convicted.

And yes, she's still on the state payroll, stuck in the back hallway doing "chambers work." She is also subject to removal by a state judicial conduct committee, which in over a dozen drunk-driving cases has only voted to remove one state judge- and he got that overturned by a higher court.

But I won my motion.

----

Also contributing to the basket of busy? Since the day after the election, inquiries about bankruptcy cases have gone through the roof.  Two that day, another first appointment the following day (that one was booked right before the election), three more calls from a referral source last week (of whom I've already met with two), a finally-gonna-do-it call from a guy I first talked to about it last year, and at least one new client wanting a second opinion about how her case is being handled.

This part of my practice has always been cyclical- I filed (or assisted my coworker in filing) 18 cases in the first six months of this year, and only one since.  But there are several backlogged where clients started paperwork, and I could match that 18 total if all of them, and all of these new ones, come to pass.

----

So that-all's the busy. (Plus way more real-estating than I ever said I'd let myself do anymore, plus an urgent referral from a friend which I wrapped up late Friday, plus some bankruptcy creditor work, and so and so and so and so and so and so and so.)

The Cough Cou-ntinues. Two doctors, several medications, lots of hydration- nothin' has kicked it. It seems better at times, and at least it doesn't seem to be keeping me awake, but when it's bad, it scares anyone within 100 feet of me.

As for the depressed, well, read the news- and the predictions of news.  I still am not up to a full analysis of what went wrong or what could be done to minimize the damage from the upcoming four years of hell. I just know that there is still a majority of Americans who are kind, and decent, and will hopefully find ways to resist the worst of what's coming- whether that is by using the Senate, or the courts, or just the power of public opinion.  Drumpf is such a narcissist, I cling to the belief that he will try to please as many people as possible so that they will still like him.

Instead, I just try to find as much humor in as many situations as I can- including last night, when his heir apparent Mike Pence showed up at a Hamilton performance.

First, he got roundly booed. (The house told the audience to stop.)

Then, the audience roared at some of the worst-for-Pence lines in the whole performance, including King George singing "when people say they hate you” and “do you know how hard it is to lead?" and, of course, “immigrants we get the job done.”

The cast then addressed their special guest at the end:

We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.

El Caudillo de Mar-a-Lago
got on the Twitter after hearing about that, and demanded an apology:

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen! ...    The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

Huh. And I thought "safe spaces" were for pussies.

But the best was yet to come.  Ever since, wags have been tweeting the names of even more musicals that can be corrupted by our new Dear Leaders:

    Bigot and the Beast  

    Annie Get Your IUD (before Jan 20)

    Annie Get Your Gun Without A Background Check

    Little Shop That Won’t Sell To LGBT People Because They Think It Violates Their Misguided Religious Beliefs

    How To Succeed In Winning An Election Without Having A Majority Of The Votes

    Kiss Me, Straight

Joseph Isn’t Allowed To Wear His Technicolor Dreamcoat In Public Anymore

    Deport Miss Saigon

Don’t Dream, Girls

    Les Deplorables

    The Lyin’ King

    An American In Paris Cause He Needed Healthcare

    The Grand Wizard of Oz

    Willy Wonka and the White Chocolate Factory That’s In China

There are more, but this one's my favourite:
    Oklahomophobia

So I'm back.  Hopefully in 2021, we'll all still be here.

ETA. Finally came up with a few entries of mine own:

Grab Them By The Cats

I Hate Islamalot

Orange Hairspray

La Cage Aux Mexicans

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captainsblog
Usually, my Sundays begin with walking Ebony with some dog friends and their mommies/daddies at the Bark Park near here. It got postponed today, because Ursula's mom threw her back out a couple of days ago and wasn't up to the trail at 8 a.m.  By this afternoon, though, she was sufficiently up to the task (thanks in part to a remedy of painkillers and bourbon), but she and the doggie needed a ride.

I picked them up and we were there for about an hour.  Lots more pups running about in the late afternoon, even as the moon rose and the place eventually got dark.  We left to the sight of the almost-full Supermoon coming up:


Ebony is such a creature of habit. Because it was nighttime, she whined the whole way home, I suspect because she associates rides in the dark with the V-word.  Also, she's off her feed again (as she was for the day after we got home Thursday).  She had a good time, though.

----

Speaking of vets: I mentioned the other day being stood up for two late-day client appointments. I didn't mention where the second of them was:



This restaurant is right off the 90 in Batavia, and thus makes an easily recognizable landmark for meeting people halfway between Buffalo and Rochester. I waited a good 45 minutes before the absent and nonresponsive client never showed, and the waitress, who was also very busy with veterans taking advantage of The Deal, was very kind about checking up on me, so I didn't want to leave the table un-turned.  Fortunately, this place has an entire menu of pies for your consideration.

Remember the scene in the first Men in Black, where Kay needs to explain everything to Jay so he doesn't think he's going completely crazy about everything he has and is about to witness?  I've been feeling a lot of that since Tuesday night, so I ultimately decided to take Kay's sage advice:



And not just any pie, mind, but two boxes of this almond cheesecake heart attack:



We had them tonight- there was still birthday cake to be finished first- and they accompanied our return to the world of Blunt Talk, Patrick Stewart's Engage!-ing series playing a Piers Morganesque British news host on US cable.  Six have aired so far, and we caught up with half of them tonight; the remaining three are ours anytime, then we can watch the final four as they air between now and 11 December.  This season's storylines have been a bit sweeter and have developed many of the secondary characters quite nicely.  So if you're looking for something different, this might just Make It So:)
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captainsblog
I haven't denied Christ three times, but as we all know, two outta three ain't bad.

I'm still pretty numb over the results of the past week, but I've pressed on. Thursday afternoon, I was back to work, on a day that proved to be a circular firing squad of the finest order. Yesterday was a little better, if only because it was quiet due to the holiday and quieter still because two late-day appointments both stood me up.

But today, something significant didn't happen. For the second time, I have let my credentials lapse as a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church.

I first acquired them in high school. Our minister suffered a heart attack, and while he recovered, the laity essentially took over the pulpit. Several of us, including me and one or two others of tender age, took a semester's worth of Saturday morning classes at a church out in the adjacent county to get our licenses to preach anywhere a UMC congregation would have us.  I took maybe three or four turns in my remaining years before going off to Cornell- where my credentials, as well as my active interest in religion in total, took a seven-year break while I got me my larnin.

It was as much coincidence as anything that I even went back when I got to Rochester. There just happened to be a church of that flavour at the end of my block, and it just happened to be a vibrant and welcoming place where, for a decade, I participated in services, studies, classes, and met Eleanor. It became the home of our wedding, and later of Emily's christening.  When we moved here, it was to something much smaller and never as connecting- although we tried.  Each of us fell off for years at a time, me eventually returning to more active status when Emily got involved in confirmation.  I connected particularly with one or two of the ministers assigned to us maybe a decade ago, and through that resumed taking extended study classes, participating as a liturgist, mentoring confirmands, and eventually hearing the call to do the Lay Speaking Thing all over again.

Fewer classes and shorter drives this time, although it was now split over two years with a since-the-70s distinction between Basic and Certified lay speakery.  The first entitled you only to serve and preach within your own congregation; the second gave you what I'd had decades before as a conference-wide allowance.  I led one or two services from our own pulpit and a few pinch-hits elsewhere.  Then the denomination decided in 2012 that they wanted to encourage those with speaking talents to take the extra step to become actual licensed pastors, and essentially eviscerated the post I'd achieved twice.  I was now a Lay Servant, a post of rather vague abilities and responsibilities but one which did not automatically extend to conducting a service anywhere. For that, you'd need to take at least six additional courses, which might or might not ever be offered anywhere near you, on subjects that sounded remarkably similar to a first-year seminary courseload.

As Jesus Himself once said, "Fuck That."

Still, I pressed on with maintaining whatever the hell I did have. Through most of last year, I did monthly assignments as a liturgist, attended some committees and even led one for a time, and met regularly with our one remaining minister for really only one reason: to use whatever influence I had to encourage at least our congregation, and in time join the groundswell within the UMC, to extend full rights to members and clergy who are LGBT.  (Eleanor came back to attending for a bit, too, but as she began seeing more and more of these so-called Christians wearing their truer colours while she was encountering them at work, she became disaffected enough to stop going and eventually to embrace a completely different belief system altogether.)  I pressed on, though, even attending an after-church meeting earlier this year with the Reconciling Ministries coordinator for most of this part of the country. Her presentation, and its reception from most of those who stayed for it, gave me some hope that this little band of Methodists might somehow come around to taking action to doing the right thing.

As if.

Previous posts of mine here have discussed my frustration with this particular church's being paralyzed by Committee Creep and Survey Sickness; and at higher levels, the denomination and our own Bishop reaffirmed this year their opposition to the opening of our hearts, minds and doors to LGBT persons- although this year's quadrennial gathering of our entire denomination did officially kick the can down a possibly shorter road, appointed a commission, and might, MIGHT!, change our homophobic doctrine as soon as 2019.

And Donald Trump could never be elected President.

----

With there being no change in either our own church or the body to which it belongs, I essentially dropped out this year.  They stopped calling me to assist in services and I didn't volunteer.  Our longtime latest minister got reassigned, and the replacements- yes, plural- are a younger couple who show promise but who haven't really reached out to me either for me to serve or for them to understand my frustration with where this "faith" is going.  I've checked out other alternatives- from returning long-distance to our onetime UMC home in Rochester, to a different and more inclusive church community, to even tossing the lot and doing the Buddhist thing.

Meanwhile, The Church did what it does: I got emails asking for my annual Lay Servant Report, due earlier this week.  Mine would have been essentially blank: I assisted in no services, attended no committees, took no classes, and only showed up on Sundays a handful of times because I missed seeing friends.  That missing report will be not approved at an annual meeting with the denomination's poobah that was scheduled for this morning, and my name will no longer be among those certified to do whatever I've been certified to do since 2012.

The only thing left is to let my actual membership terminate.  This is a surprisingly difficult thing to do, as you can only achieve it by (1) dying (though it's sometimes hard to tell), (2) transferring to another church, (3) affirmatively resigning (which may not even be accepted), (4) being excommunicated (more difficult than over at Holy Mother RC but it can be done) or (5) having your name read at three successive Charge Conferences before it is expunged.

Given how everything has (not) progressed that's connected with what I've needed out of this faith in the past several years, I think I'll just go with the fifth alternative.  God knows they've already got an oversupply of the molasses:P
 
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captainsblog

This afternoon, I received a thank-you email from the lawyer organization which set up the Voter Protection effort I joined in earlier this week.  Its contents resonated with a lot of what I've been feeling about how it all went (some identifying information is omitted):

On behalf of the Voter Protection Action Committee (VPAC), we want to thank you for signing up to participate on Election Day.

While Tuesday’s results may make you weary as a lawyer, know that your efforts to protect the vote were noticed. On Tuesday, you volunteered to stand up for our most fundamental right, and millions of Americans exercised their vote with your help. Our lawyers proudly served the electorate all over the country by working as poll monitors, hotline volunteers, election rovers, and in other important capacities.

Congratulations, your contributions were instrumental to the voting process.

With that said, we know there were setbacks with the volunteer process. Many of you experienced delays in getting assignments and training, and some of you were not assigned at all. Unfortunately, AAJ relies almost exclusively on national campaigns and organizations to facilitate the placement of our attorney volunteers in the states. It is designed to be a streamlined approach so people are not only placed where needed (i.e., battleground polling locations & states), but also so that they are not double and triple booked which causes confusion and uncertainty. Please know that we did everything in our power to provide our partners with the necessary volunteer information well in advance of Election Day. Unfortunately, the process did not go as planned. As a result, a lot of you were forced to sit on the sidelines when you wanted to be in the game. Trust us, we wanted you in the game, too.

I felt a lot of that frustration, but I at least did get both training and an assignment, although the former came very late and the latter may have been a misplacement of my effort (my assignment was to a historically low-turnout polling place in a county that traditionally went for Democrats and did this year as well).

We take full responsibility for the flaws in our volunteer system. We are truly sorry if you had a negative experience with VPAC and promise to have better systems in place for the next election. We ask that you not let your experience this year deter your participation in the future. We will need you next cycle, and your help is so vital to making sure everyone is afforded the right to vote. As we saw this year, voter suppression is an ever constant issue, and lawyers truly make a difference. Please give us another shot.

I hope to.  And despite the result and the seeming futility of my effort, I got to see things that gave me hope. The number of voters bringing their kids in with them throughout the day- as my parents did with me and we did with Emily. Seeing them getting their own I VOTED stickers (even though they didn't) helped build their respect for the importance of this civic duty. It may even help, in the long run, in beating back further efforts to suppress the exercise of that duty among the lowest and the different.  Also, seeing the number of mixed-race and mixed-ethnicity families coming and going. White supremacists may have enabled this victory, but to a meaningful extent they have already lost, just because the world has changed and no wall, no court, and no executive order can undo what the past several years of progress have brought to us.

In the end, the good news is that our national partners were able to make good on hundreds of connections, and our lawyers did indeed help protect the vote. Hundreds of you were there to help solve problems as they arose, to assist voters find correct polling locations, to challenge the handing out of provisional ballots, and to support voters when they were turned away and said to be in the wrong polling place. You were a voice for those when it counted. You made a difference when it mattered.

Thank you again for volunteering your time and energy to help protect the vote. And thank you for your continued commitment to the civil justice system.

You're welcome.

Know who I haven't heard a peep from? Hillary herself.  Her campaign apparatchiks were the ones who coordinated the actual assignments, provided the materials, and kept in constant contact with us throughout Election Day.  Our last word from HQ was when we sent our final check-ins right before 8 that night, and ever since, not a word of thanks or encouragement has come from "Victory Counsel." 

I never saw her election as a fait accompli either before or after her nomination- and while it will take at least four years before a woman finally shatters the glass ceiling of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the woman who does will almost certainly do it with her own maiden name, her own record, and without any baggage coming from the men in her life (one husband, one sexting relation of an employee).  It will be worth the wait.

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captainsblog
I'm not going to get political here. At least not yet. I shared some cogent, measured ideas about Where We Go From Here on Facebook that were very well received and reshared by people of all political stripes. It's one of my rare public posts there and you can read it here.

I worked yesterday until a little after 2. I got dozens of kind birthday wishes, mostly cast in terms of "happy birthday anyway," or "make the best of it" and similar things.  Cupcakes were served.  Life went on.

Then, I came home, picked up my beloved, and I repeated my day-earlier drive down the 90 to Erie, PA.  After checking into our hotel room and settling on Friday's for dinner, we got to this city's historic showplace:

See? Historic, Showplace- says so on the tin

Like so many of its era, this landmark had to struggle to survive the demise of vaudeville halls and downtown movie palaces.  It's sick and sad how many were knocked down (as were all of Rochester's except the Little- which was, you know, little and thus not suitable to roadshow companies), butchered into multi-screen movie theaters (as Toronto's Pantages was), or just left to rot up to or beyond the point of salvage.  Shea's Buffalo was lucky to just miss that cut; Ithaca's Strand tried to come back but finally got demolished in the 90s.

Here, they did a gorgeous job of restoration, and the Warner now hosts traveling companies as well as Erie's orchestra.

The chandelier and windows:


Even the restrooms exude class, as seen by this fireplace in the foyer of the mens' loo:



Eleanor took plenty herself, which I'm sure she'll share.

----

As for the marquee of the evening:


I dropped Eleanor under the sign and went to park.  On-street was hopeless, and the line into a round-the-corner parking garage was 20-deep, so I saw a guy waving people in to a private lot. Around Shea's in downtown B-lo, you can expect this to run you at least a twenty, and for bigger shows way more.  Here? Four bucks.  I felt guilty taking back change from a ten.

That got us to our seats. I expected fourth row. Rows in this place, however, are weird. We wound up in the center of the actual first permanent row of seating, with only a row in the orchestra pit in front of us (Rent has a band in a back corner of the stage):



Yeah. That close. That's from intermission, but I could've practically handed drinks to the actors when they came to stage front.

This was the company's only night in Erie on their traveling celebration of the show's 20th anniversary. I'm sure some of them weren't even born when Rent was winning Tony awards, and I doubt if any of them had gotten much beyond kindergarten.  They were on pitch, on pointe, and on their game all the way.  The songs we know so well, the stories we've come to share- all unfolding hundreds of inches in front of us.

A magical way to end a generally suckstarter of a birthday:)

----

Both of us still have our coughs, but between fatigue and extra medications, we slept reasonably well on the road last night, checked out around 8:30 and even with a gas-and-Timmy's stop were home by 10 a.m.

The animals yawned.  Our friend Ann was a total sweetheart- not only feeding them and letting Ebony out last night and this morning, but taking her for walks both times. She even asked Eleanor if we needed her to feed the fish.  They seemed a little skittish, seeing how we haven't left them alone in the house overnight in years, but they seem more settled down now.

I'm working this afternoon here and in Rochester tomorrow, and things will be busy most of next week.  But these were just under a day of birthday that I will always remember:)
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