Thoughts My Brain Made

Strategy is based on assumptions. Erroneous assumptions make bad strategy.

Also, keep your political disagreements separate from your personal disagreements. Your feeeeelz are not the proper subject for public policy debate.

The Music Might Change

So I went looking for a cloud storage option that could one day be fully privatized by being housed on a personal server at home, and NextCloud sounded good. So I found a hosted NextCloud account for trying-out purposes and it came with... extras.

Unlike my ak4mc.us host, which doesn’t support PHP and therefore limits my blogging options to plain HTML using a text editor, this host offers everything from Wordpress to... well, this. If you remember the days of early early Movable Type blogs (even I had one, briefly) before SQL became a part of the process, that’s essentially how this works. Given my output in recent years it shouldn’t be challenged much.

Assuming, of course, that I actually use it.

Even if I do, don’t expect me to open comments.

Update: Well okay, worst-case scenario is I revert to the old blog.

It’s Kind of a Drag

If Joe Biden had run for Governor of Georgia instead of for President, and if he had won that contest, his actions since the election leave me convinced that, by now, this would once again be our state flag:

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For those who don’t remember that fustercluck, Wikipedantry has the rundown here. When Republican Sonny Perdue defeated Democrat Roy Barnes for re-election as governor in 2002, Perdue pushed to replace Barnes’ “placemat” flag with the banner we fly today.

Biden’s handlers are so obsessed with undoing the legacy of his Republican predecessor that, if he were merely our governor instead of the president, he would have rolled back everything in Georgia to the way it was the last time one of his fellow Democrats was in charge.

Wouldn’t have been surprised to see him push for that anyway, while he was calling our modest new election reform law “Jim Crow on steroids.”

Cheney Fool

As the news has reported, Rep. Liz Cheney (S-Wyo) has been voted out of her position as House Republican Conference Chair, publicly because her ongoing, escalating war of words with former President Trump has been deemed divisive and contrary to her responsibility as a member of the House’s GOP leadership.

It’s interesting that those ranking above her in the leadership have had a change of heart since the first time House Republicans voted on whether to remove her as Conference Chair. Other than her continued rancorous exchanges with Trump, what could have been happening behind the scenes to cause this turnaround?

One possible contributor is the continuing dissatisfaction with her Trump feud at home in Wyoming. Perhaps Leader McCarthy and Whip Scalise have become sufficiently unsure of Cheney’s chances of winning re-nomination in Wyoming’s Republican primary in 2022. Or perhaps pro-Trump campaign donors have made more intimidating noises than their anti-Trump counterparts, after Cheney’s pro-impeachment vote failed to produce consequences the first time around.

Whatever the reason, this vote undermines one of Cheney’s stronger arguments for re-nomination: Clout. Many a gone-swamper member of Congress has parlayed a lifelong career out of the Clout card, especially lifers elected from small-population states. Alaska’s late Senator Ted Stevens was one such, who completely redefined his role from representing the views of his fellow Alaskans in Washington, to serving as Washington’s spokesman to those backward Alaskans. It was agony watching him get re-elected time and again, despite his complete loss of touch with his constituents, because defeating him would mean losing Clout.

You can be sure Liz Cheney would have used that same argument against those who want her recalled from Washington in favor of some other Wyomingite more in step with their way of thinking. Being a third-termer already elevated to a prime leadership post should have made her untouchable. Maybe she simply misjudged how untouchable it could really make her in a changing party.

Interest in next year’s congressional campaign in Wyoming was already on the rise. This vote will do nothing to tamp it down.

’Bye, Liz.

(Title reference explained here.)

Always Look on the Blight Side of Life

“A pessimist is never disappointed.”

How many times have you heard that crock? Tactical pessimists say it as if fate — or whatever disinterested cosmic entity decides what fresh hell awaits around the corner — wants only to know what they expect, so it can surprise them.

Amateurs.

Fate, karma, the universe, whatever you call it — doesn’t care what you’re expecting. It doesn’t give a damn about surprising you. It doesn’t care about you at all.

There is no capricious entity out there throwing random surprises at you just to keep you on your toes. To believe there is, is just about the most cockeyed optimistic thing you can do — and that fact makes liars out of every tactical pessimist you can ever meet.

If you want to see real pessimism, look for the guy who is always looking for a way to right the boat after it has capsized, who is always ready to keep fighting when all around him have declared defeat inevitable.

He doesn’t count on his victorious enemy to have mercy on him. He doesn’t waste time hoping the sharks just aren’t hungry today. He knows there is no one coming to his rescue, and it’s up to him and him alone.

Tactical pessimists sneer at his apparent optimism in trying to make a dire situation survivable, but he’s the one who has looked fate in the eye and seen that it is not his friend.

Police Encounter Survival 101

Aside from silly movies or bad TV shows where corrupt cops go out murdering just for fun, police officers do not want to have to fire their weapons. They do not want to kill anyone, and they sure don’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork required even when they don’t kill someone.

That even goes for “warning shots” fired into the air, because what goes up must come down, and can kill. That’s why firing a gun into the air is illegal pretty much anywhere (and abjectly stupid literally everywhere). Any cop who did it would be cashiered and, in the current climate if anyone got hurt, would likely face a felony charge.

So it doesn’t matter how justified you may think you were before the cop ordered you to drop your weapon: if you don’t comply, you are no longer in the right.

“Whoa-oo-who-o-o-o-oa, Listen to the Science”

Years ago a friend told me that when you’re talking to people in a group, the majority of them may not follow your words, but they will certainly “hear your music.” By this he meant that non-verbal cues would carry even if the substance of your comments doesn’t.

This effect becomes even more pronounced when most of the people you’re talking to don’t even have the basis for following your words even if they're paying rapt attention. Imagine, for example, being an epidemiologist interviewed on network news, encouraged to go into minute detail on how a virus infects a person, or how a vaccine promotes immunity.

People in the health-care sector might hear the substance of the epidemiologist’s words and find them accurate and valid.

You and I, however, would hear a lot of technobabble we can’t follow, and fall back on trusting the speaker's “music,” which may sound anxious because epidemiologists aren’t usually brilliant public speakers — especially if they’ve been selected by the network news to explain a complex medical concept.

And of course, when the science has finished speaking, the media chimes in, in the form of the interviewer, eyes wide and haunted, playing the song of fear — even if what the science just got through saying was that there was absolutely nothing to fear, and the virus/vaccine would only cause lollipops to spontaneously appear out of thin air at the exact moment you want them to.

This affords our media friends a perfect workaround for what Michael Crichton discussed when describing his “Gell-Mann Amnesia” effect, which would otherwise have medical professionals objecting to the lies the media would be putting in science’s mouth (while of course continuing to assume they’re getting everything else right). This way the knowledgeable are appeased while the rest remain subject to media fearmongering.

Maybe critical media-consumer skills should be taught to kindergarteners, and reinforced throughout the grades, and college, and as part of any continuing education that may be required for various occupations. Just to make sure it takes.

Same Old Song

Well, no. I mean, of course they’re not new songs, because I don’t listen to the radio — broadcast or satellite — these days, so I have no way of finding out about new music. Last time I heard a new (by my standards) song in the wild that ended up in my collection, it was an (actually older by her standards) Adele track I heard in the supermarket, back when supermarkets were playing actual songs for customers. Anyway, they’re new to my collection, but what has really changed is how I get reminded of an old favorite that I haven’t previously acquired.

See, it used to be that I’d read about a song or an artist on Dustbury, the much missed blog operated by the late Charles Hill, but when he passed away tragically in 2019 that memory jog ended. For a while after that I didn’t add much to my music collection. Once at a barbecue joint I heard a Brooks & Dunn tune I liked and decided to get, but 2020 happened and getting out to hear random songs, new or otherwise, became a rare thing.

That changed, though, because — well — 2020 happened. I started checking out music-related videos on YouTube, such as those posted by Rick Beato at first, and now also by Adam Reader, and Grady Smith.

Beato specializes in digging into the guts and gristle of great music and showing why it’s great. His lists don’t always match my opinions, but he always has good reasons to support his. Reader, as “Professor of Rock,” is more of a historian of the genre, and between him and Beato I’ve bought quite a lot of rock music (by my standards) in recent months. Grady Smith talks about country music, and actually spurred me to add to my already oversized Alan Jackson collection while also talking about a new strain of neotraditionalism in country music lately. If I can find an Atlanta-area station that plays the tunes he’s referring to, I may turn the radio on again.

However I find new music, or get reminded of old music, that I want to own, it still honors my late friend Charles, who first got me in the habit of raiding the digital music market to add to what I had already ripped from the CDs I bought in the 1990s. Others may be providing the hints now, but the original inspiration was his.

Twistin’ the Night Away

Mrs. McG being a weather service employee, we have weather news on by default — so we were aware all day yesterday of the tornado outbreak in Alabama. And Georgia being east of Alabama, our awareness was not purely academic.

Today being a work day for her, she chose not to try to stay up in case the storms didn’t dissipate before reaching us, but I stayed up a little longer and became aware of a new tornado warning in Alabama at about 10:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:00 p.m. CDT in Alabama) between Birmingham and Montgomery. I checked the weather radar app on my tablet and saw that the storm was in fact headed generally in our direction. I let Mrs. McG know, but didn’t worry much — severe weather in Alabama has a habit of losing energy as it crosses into Georgia. I kept watching, but only casually.

I shouldn’t have counted on the radar app to be fully up-to-date with storm warnings; just before 11:00 p.m. our time I noticed that the tornado warning associated with the storm was gone as it was still in Alabama. As a result, I went to bed. In fact, the warning was still active right up to the state line.

Both our phones erupted with alerts around 11:30 as the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for our area and declared a tornado emergency for Newnan. At the same time, county tornado sirens sounded. They’re not intended to be audible inside homes, but we’re unusually close to one. Over the next fifteen minutes the lightning, thunder, and rain intensified at our house, and the power was interrupted twice. Mrs. McG looked outside to see whether the predicted large hail materialized here, but she saw none.

Suddenly, around midnight, the tumult ended and an eerie silence descended. We listened hard for the sound of an approaching freight train (the nearest actual railroad tracks are some miles from here, so a train actually approaching our house would be exactly what you’re thinking), poised to seek shelter. Eventually I shook off the drama and... turned on the TV.

The Weather Channel was focused on Newnan at that moment, highlighting the unique radar signature of a tornado “debris ball” in the downtown area of Newnan, and clearly not a threat to our neighborhood. I texted “We’re safe” to my brother in California, who pays almost as much attention to our weather as we do, and we settled in to watch the coverage, which eventually fizzled out as the tornadic circulation vanished from the Doppler radar well to our east at around 1:00 a.m.

Downtown Newnan got hit hard by all accounts; last night the police department was strongly advising people to stay off the street while emergency and utility crews assessed the damage and got to work. That advice is still in place this morning, and Mrs. McG and I are content to comply today. The COVID panic increased her office’s willingness to allow people to work from home, and her shift today was so scheduled weeks in advance. I have somewhere to go tomorrow, which will involve crossing the tornado’s damage path, but not through downtown.

The high school, damaged months ago by a minor tornado spawned by the carcass of Hurricane Delta, was damaged again last night, and all schools in the county are closed today. One death in Newnan has been blamed on the tornado, but I don’t currently have details. UPDATE: Fox 5 Atlanta news item

We’ve lived at the extreme eastern end of “Dixie Alley” for over 20 years, and this is the closest we’ve come to tangling with a truly dangerous tornado.

I’m ready to move to Wyoming anytime. The supervolcano will give more warning.

Update: I should not have written that last sentence above. Many years ago, as I was struggling to finally complete my undergraduate degree in Sacramento, I had an on-campus job working for the alumni foundation that ran, among other things, the campus bookstore. One day — October 17, 1989 — my supervisor and I were called up to a foundation executive’s office to hang a picture for her. Normally, hanging a picture in an executive’s office involves piercing the drywall and hanging the picture on the nail or whatever. However, the wall the executive wanted her picture displayed on turned out to be load-bearing — reinforced concrete. Fortunately my supervisor knew the building (and the executives) and had come prepared. It took considerably more effort than I had expected, but we got that picture hung.

And I turned to the executive and joshed, “When The Big One hits, your picture will stay up.” She and my supervisor were suitably amused.

The reason I remember the exact date of this incident is, later that afternoon the National League Champion San Francisco Giants were to host the American League Champion Oakland A's at Candlestick Park for Game 3 of the “Bay Bridge” World Series. That game did not start as scheduled. I swore that evening never to make jokes about natural disasters ever again.