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Beer for COVID-19 shots

I know and work with somebody who is very good at their job. They seem to have some problems with general non-job-related tasks. For example, they have been driving a car for several months with expired tags.

I am not surprised to report that they have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Reaching people like that should be (and appears to be) our next focus, as opposed to arguing with The New Millerites. Reaching some of those people will be a matter of incentives, like the "shot and a beer" promotions being ran in many areas. For others, it will be a matter of convenience. The easier it is for them to get shot up, the more likely for that to happen.

Alas, this means the pace of vaccinations will slow. That's just the way the cookie will crumble.

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Eviction Ban Banned

Comes news today that a Federal judge overturned the CDC's national ban on evictions. Now, I think a ban on evictions during a pandemic in which we order people to stay at home is a good idea. However, I think the decision was (sadly) inevitable and probably right.

First, landlords, be they giant corporations or Small-time Joe / Jane, have bills, most notably the mortgage on the property. No rent and no way to get somebody in to pay rent unfairly puts the landlord in a financial bind. Second, I'm not at all clear where the CDC gets to impose a ban for now a year and change. A short-term, 30 or 60 day ban? Maybe.

What really should have happened was that Congress bestir itself and pass legislation that protected both tenants and landlords. A simple, logical and relatively low-cost way to do this would have been to pass legislation deferring evictions and foreclosures for a period of time. The mortgage notes would have been extended by the number of months of the emergency, with the payments tacked on at the end.

Alas, anything that requires a Republican-controlled Congress to bestir itself has a snowball's chance in hell of happening. So now we get the worst of both worlds - bankrupt landlords evicting people in the tail end of a pandemic.

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Stowaway, 2021's The Cold Equations

I recently watched Stowaway, a 2021 film that is being compared to the 1954 story "The Cold Equations." It's an apt comparison, and frankly a better story than the 1954 original.

In the 2021 movie, three astronauts fly to an Earth-Mars cycler. (From Wikipedia, a cycler is "spacecraft on a closed transfer orbit that would pass close to two celestial bodies at regular intervals.") In other words, it just flies by and doesn't (can't) stop. Our intrepid astronauts, hours after arriving at the cycler, discover somebody had accidentally stowed away on their ship that made the rendezvous from Earth. The cycler, for convenience of plot, was intended to have a crew of three. Alas, the stowaway inadvertently damaged a CO2 scrubber, meaning the ship can't support even three people, let alone the four now onboard.

The rest of the story is a very-well-done tale of how the four people on board cope with the problem. Several things, in my view, make it a better story than the original. They are:

1) Morality - our stowaway is inadvertent, and nobody is forcing him into an airlock.

2) Technology - there were reasonable safety margins on the flight; however not reasonable enough.

3) Sacrifice - Collapse )

Overall, I highly recommend it.

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The C Word, or Love During a Pandemic

The C WordThe C Word by Mindy Klasky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I am not usually a reader of romance novels, but when I heard of the concept of Mindy Klasy's novel "The C Word" I decided to give it a shot. I'm glad I did - it made a masked-because-of-COVID-airline flight go quickly and painlessly.

Katie McIntyre is a sportswriter, and Jason Price is a star baseball pitcher. They have a passionate hookup which was supposed to be a one-and-done thing. Alas, it's mid-March 2020 and COVID has other ideas. (Also, it's a romance novel, not a short story!) For a variety of plausible reasons, the two end up in a long-distance but fake relationship. They also tell each other a lie about themselves, which of course ends up biting both in the butt.

The hows and whys of their story are interesting reading, and a reminder of what everybody just went through. About 50 pages before the end, I thought I knew how the author was going to conclude the book. I was wrong - she did something different and really very good. Overall, I highly recommend the book.



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Report from Lost Wages AKA Las Vegas NV

I arrived back in Darien last night after a four-night, three day visit to Lost Wages, also known as Las Vegas, NV. It's the first time I've been there in at least five years. Herewith is a long report on the same.

Flying in the (hopefully) tail-end of a pandemic

I flew out of Midway Airport on mid-day Thursday and back in on Sunday afternoon. On my admittedly non-peak outbound flight, the airport felt eerily empty - maybe 35% of normal capacity. Only about half of the normal stores and bars were open. The flight (Southwest Airlines) was full, so I assume Southwest has reduced the number of flights to accommodate the reduced travel demand.

Facemasks were required everywhere, including on the plane, except when "actively eating or drinking." They were polite but insistent - the rule was lift your mask, take a sip, put mask back down. McCarran in Los Vegas felt busier and everything was open. How much of that was an illusion due the the million slot machines everywhere I don't know.

Los Vegas proper

I stayed at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino. This was my first time staying in downtown Vegas. I'm a blackjack player, and downtown used to be known as the home of cheap blackjack tables. Whether due to the 50% capacity restrictions or trends since my previous visit, that is no more. $10 tables were the standard, with the only $5 tables being one or two at my hotel. Also, it was eerie seeing a bunch of tables empty (no dealers) on a Friday or Saturday night. Lastly, table games followed the same mask rules as the airlines.

The hotel itself was nice - a newer property with freshly-renovated rooms. I ate dinner twice at their steakhouse, the Triple George Grill. I highly recommend the pork chop. As far as the "Fremont Street Experience" - the light show is nice, the crowds not-so-nice.

The Mob Museum

The Mob Museum was less than a block from my hotel, so as a history geek I visited. Although all the marketing says "Mob Museum" the official name of the place is the "National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement" and the story told by the museum is from the law enforcement perspective. If you're downtown, it's worth a visit.

The museum is the converted county courthouse. The highlight of the visit for me was their Underground Speakeasy. It's in the basement (duh!) and aims to explain what speakeasys were. Part of that explanation is selling various cocktails of the era. Try a Bees Knees (gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey, served shaken and chilled). Also, the liquor for their Old Fashioned comes in a fake book. It was a nice way to spend a few hours.

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Review of Invisible Women

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for MenInvisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a fascinating, dense and at times infuriating book. The author Caroline Criado Perez, bombards the reader with statistic after statistic showing that, not only is the modern world built for men, much of the data we collect about that world either ignores or discounts the differences between men and women. Every paragraph, it seems, has a concrete example, such as, there are no female crash test dummies. Sometimes, scaled-down male dummies are used, but given women's different bone density and muscle distribution, even that's not helpful. Nor are there any pregnant crash test dummies, yet car accidents are the leading cause of fetal death.

In many of the instances Perez cites, sex-specific data isn't gathered. One of the outcomes is that problems, such as heart attacks in females, are described as having "atypical symptoms." Except since females are 50% of the population, there's nothing "atypical" about that. Mind-blowing and infuriating stuff like that flows like water out of a firehose through the pages of this book.

I said the book is dense - it's more textbook than beach read. However, it's an important and eye-opening read for both sexes.



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Promising Young Woman

Last night I watched the new movie Promising Young Woman on pay-per-view. I did so because the star, Carey Mulligan, was on CBS Sunday Morning this week. She said the movie had been criticized because her character was too harsh. I watched the movie and disagree, but I understand why the statement was made.

Promising Young Woman is a basic revenge plot. As such plots go, the body count is very low. The revenge is (mostly) mental and morally justified. What's interesting about the movie is what it's not. It's not a standard B-movie. It's intended to take a serious look at a problem (date rape). It's also shot in very bright and well-lit scenes - again the exact opposite of the B-movie convention.

I think by avoiding the cartoonish violence levels of the typical revenge movie it forced a deeper examination of justice vs. revenge. I highly recommend the movie.

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Outlander, and Why I Bounced off of it

In yesterday's post, I said I would discuss the series Outlander and my reaction to it.

For those not familiar, Outlander involves Claire, a British woman who, in 1946, is magically transported to the year 1743. Adventures and some hot sex follow. If, as discussed yesterday, Fifty Shades of Grey is an adult Cinderella story, then Outlander is an adult and female version of A Boy's Own Adventure. Claire was a nurse in WWII, and her medical skills are of great use in 1743. In the male version of the story, Cliff, our hero, would be a historian with great skills in using weapons of the period.

Looking at it through this light, I completely understand the attraction. Where the story fell down for me was not the adventure but Claire's decision to not go back to 1946, thus ditching her modern husband Frank. Now, IIRC, the relationship between the two moderns is painted as fading, but still, from Frank's point of view she's just disappeared. In more traditional Boy's Own stories, the boy is unencumbered.

But here, with Claire's decision to ditch Frank, I think we also see a more adult interest. For many adults, there's always a question about the path not taken. What would have happened if I'd done X instead of Y? Here, author Diana Gabaldon gets to explore some of that.

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On the attraction of "Fifty Shades of Grey"

It's been said of the book and movies Fifty Shades of Grey that, if Christian Grey lived in a double-wide trailer instead of a mansion, the book would be about fighting off stalkers. This is definitely true and caused me to bounce off of the story. However, I've found myself wondering what the attraction is of this and similar works. (See 365 Dni, a recent work in the same vein.)

Then it hit me - these are Cinderella stories for adults. In Cinderella, a rich and handsome prince rides into town and sweeps a young woman off her feet and into his palace. In the version that we all learn as kids, they "live happily ever after." In the adult version, well, that "happiness" is more explicitly defined.

This desire to be swept away is clearly not universal, but common enough that one can make a lot of money catering to it. Tomorrow, my thoughts on another story I bounced hard off of, Diana Gabaldon's series Outlander.

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Qanon and Millerites, the Neverending Saga

On one of the right-wing blogs I read (carefully, lest the smell get on me) I learn that another "organization" has the goods on the Election That Was. It's your typical stuff - statistics, sworn statements, threats to unveil everything unless people do the right thing, Random Acts of Capitalization.

I've been wondering how the New Millerites movement that is Trump Won (tm) will end. Apparently, the answer is that it will become another "fact" like the "fact" that Vince Foster was murdered.

Unfortunately, this concept will make it harder for Republicans to win elections, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will also create more foot soldiers for assaults on democracy like what we saw on January 6th.

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