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The Earth Is Round - Grid Corrections

So, while looking for something else, I found this article, Mysterious Detour While Driving? This is the phenomenon, frequently observed while driving in rural America, where the road comes to a T or makes a pair of 90-degree turns for no apparent reason. I learned that some of those curves are due to the fact that the Earth is round.

When the American and Canadian plains were laid out, the goal was to survey them into equal squares of land while running the north-south boundary lines parallel to the lines of longitude. Unfortunately, these lines of longitude get closer together the closer to the pole, which in North America means going north. In order to make the squares of land equal, every so often the surveyors had to shift the squares.

This may be an explanation for something I've experienced for years. Sometimes when driving to or from the Home Soil in Central Illinois, I take a state highway, Illinois 49. There are several big paired 90-degree curves in the road, only one of which has any apparent reason for existing.

You learn something every day.

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I have been accused in certain quarters of being in favor of unlimited immigration and open borders. I'm not; rather I'm in favor of humane immigration policies and effective border control. This is why last week's gun battle in Culiacán Mexico, in which the Mexican Army got their collective asses kicked, concerns me. As we've seen in places like Syria, a collapsed government will result in a flood of refugees.

I don't know whether or not the sequence of events in relayed in this post is accurate or rather the official story of poor planning is true, but any time the national army loses a gun battle on the streets of a major city, that's a problem. The author of the linked article is generally correct - Mexico has a very long and sad history of civil strife. It's incorrect to say that Mexico's many dictators resulted in orderly government - rather most of those dictators resulted in a civil war. Be that as it may, having 130 million people on our southern border shooting at each other will not be a good scene.

Several things concern me about the Culiacán battle. First, I don't get the read that very many people are paying enough attention to it. Second, I also don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling that the current administration has a clue what to do about the problem. Finally, I'm not seeing any indication that the current Mexican administration has much of a handle on things.

If anybody thinks a wall is going to stop people with truck-mounted 50 caliber machine guns from crashing the border, please call me - I have a special on beachfront property in Idaho. If we want to get serious about immigration, keeping the peace in Mexico needs to be a priority.

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Yet More Trump

I've said a lot about Trump as of late, but every time I think he hits bottom he keeps digging. At the moment I'm starting to be concerned about his mental health. To wit:

1) Regardless of the merits of our involvement in Syria, our rapid pullout and abandonment of our allies was stupid. Is he really all there mentally?

2) The letter he sent to Turkish president reads like schoolyard taunts from a not-very-bright fifth grader. This is not to mention that if he didn't want Turkey in Syria he could have just left the handful of US troops there and been done with it. Is he really all there mentally?

3) On the subject of said letter, who in their right mind would think releasing the letter was a good idea? Is he really all there mentally?

4) The wife of a US diplomat killed a British teenager in a car accident. Given the Britain has good courts and is a staunch ally, one would think it would be a no-brainer to order her back to Britain for a trial. Instead Trump tries to stage some cut-rate Jerry Springer reconciliation on camera. Is he really all there mentally?

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Yesterday, Trump's lawyers sent a letter to Congress regarding the impeachment process. On Sunday, Trump announced we were pulling out of Syria. I have thoughts.

On Impeachment

1) Trump's letter repeated the claim his call with the Ukrainians was "perfectly good." Yeah, not so much.

2) The letter demanded that the House follow various procedures, including giving subpoena power to the Republican minority. The thing is the only requirement of the House is to vote articles of impeachment to the Senate. How they get to that is up to them.

3) Regarding subpoena power - the former Republican House and the current Republican Senate had or have subpoena power. They didn't and aren't using it. Maybe they know the people they call aren't going to say what Trump would like them to say?

4) The letter basically dares Congress to vote on an inquiry. If they do, much of Trump's already-scanty legal cover goes away. Calmer heads would have just stuck with not cooperating. But Trump is not calm, and his followers really want a fight. It looks like they'll get one.

On Syria

1) I was not particularly in favor of our getting involved in Syria. However, once you get involved, just jumping out with no planning or notice is as bad or worse than jumping in.

2) Given Trump's economic interests, it's hard not to wonder if the pull-out was intended to help grease the skids on Trump Tower Turkey.

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On "Investigations"

Here in the USA, if you call the police and ask them to investigate your neighbor, very early in the conversation the police will ask "for what?" They will then quickly follow that up with "what evidence do you have?" Now, they're not looking for you to provide enough evidence to haul your neighbor in front of a judge, but you had better have more facts than "well my neighbor's got shifty eyes."

In the Land of Trump, Fox News and Modern Conservatives, (for whatever daylight exists between those entities) this basic evidentiary requirement gets waived. So despite the fact that there was no evidence Obama was born anywhere else than Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, we got treated to Trump personally demanding an investigation into his place of birth. In fact, I firmly believe the merciless if well-deserved mocking Trump got at a White House Correspondent's dinner over the subject is why Trump ran for President in the first place.

Now, Trump and Fellow Travelers are demanding investigations into the Bidens. Again, no evidence is required. In fact, the one "questionable" thing, Joe Biden's request that a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired, was backed at the time by Republicans in Congress.

But this attitude that no facts are required explains why Trump continues to demand foreign governments investigate Biden. In Trump's mind, he's doing nothing wrong. Biden must be dirty, and if efforts to produce the dirt fail that's not because he's clean but proof of a coverup. So now what we must decide is if we want as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States a man who will use his badge for personal benefit.

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I'ts better to be lucky than good, exhibit #3459

Herewith is exhibit number 3459 as to why it's better to be lucky than good.

Yesterday, my primary life mission was to drive my parents to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago for my Mom's post-operative visit. Mom's medical report was good and the drive down and back was uneventful, albeit involving heavy traffic coming home. (We left Northwestern at 3 PM, which means we hit rush hour.)

Last night, we went out to dinner. I drove. My car was a bit sluggish in starting after dinner but not terribly bad. The next morning it barely cranked at all, and when it did fire up I got several warning lights on my console. So I took it to the dealership, where to get it into the service bay they had to jump-start it. In the bay, they replaced the battery and applied a software update to clear a problem with the HVAC.

Obviously, had the battery died yesterday, things would have sucked. A dead battery in the morning would have meant me driving Dad's car downtown. A dead battery in the afternoon would have meant trying to get a jump in the parking lot. Possible but painful. Again, sheer luck.

Two side notes. First, my GM Onstar system did email me that I was having battery issues. Alas, the email came late last night and I missed it in my rush to get out in the morning. Second, when I posted a brief note about the battery on Twitter, the Sears Twitter-bot sent me a note offering a discount on a new battery. Too late, Sears - I posted to Twitter from the dealership.

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Windycon Schedule

Herewith is my draft schedule for Windycon, to be held November 15-17 at the Westin in Lombard IL.

Create Your World - Friday, 11-15-2019 - 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm - Lilac B
Although traditional Space Opera may cut the corners when it comes to planetary science, a sense of place is still a major part of it. From planning the environment of the planet to determining who or what lives there, it is always important. Our panelist discuss issues necessary to build your own exotic planet and what corners you can cut.

Strategies and Tactics in Space Battles - Friday, 11-15-2019 - 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Lilac D
Space battles are not just naval battles in space! There’s a lot to consider when writing or fighting battles in space. Lack of gravity, immense distances, the vacuum, and communications all have to be considered when you take your war off solid ground. Find out more from our panelists.

Readings - Saturday, 11-16-2019 - 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm - Mueller Grand Ballroom H
Half-hour readings by Windycon author attendees.

Writers Workshop - Sunday - Sunday, 11-17-2019 - 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - ISFiC Suite - Room 1612
For the nineteenth straight year, Windycon will be hosting a writers’ workshop. Get a little taste of what it’s like to attend Clarion in our manuscript critique session. Pros will read your story or novel chapter – up to 7,500 words – and offer constructive advice in a moderated three-hour session. The workshop sessions take place in the hotel, but away from the fray of regular convention activity. You must be a registered Windycon-goer to participate. A $20.00 fee is required to cover various costs. All manuscripts must be received by Friday, October 11. Please leave a comment below if you are interested in submitting.

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The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy called and said I had to write an article on impeachment. (BTW, I'm still waiting for the check for the last time they called.) So herewith, thoughts:

1) Regardless of what the Bidens did, it's an abuse of power for a sitting US President to call a foreign leader and press them to investigate US citizens. This is especially the case if those US citizens are not fugitives from justice or otherwise can't be tried in US courts.

2) Again regardless of what the Bidens did, it's an abuse of power to have your private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, work with the State Department to set up meetings to press said foreign power to conduct an investigation.

3) "But what about what they did?" is not an excuse. That excuse stopped working for me in first grade.

4) John Scalzi is on-point about the political calculus on why the Democrats were slow-walking impeachment. Basically, it's highly unlikely Pelosi will get enough Republican Senators to vote to remove Trump from office. But if the Senate doesn't vote to remove with these allegations, it will be clearly partisan politics.

5) Various alt-right types are cackling that the Democrats have "walked into an impeachment trap." Given that to them, Trump can literally do no wrong, I'm not sure I agree. The key point here is that this is not the Clinton impeachment. We're not trying to remove somebody for cheating on his wife. This is more like Nixon, where felonies were committed to fix an election.

6) Some have speculated that Trump either wants to be impeached and/or is playing some multi-dimensional chess game to manipulate events. I am dubious. I think he is a narcissist and engaged in classic gaslighting. This is learned but semi-conscious behavior aimed at getting what the gaslighter wants done in the moment. After all, there were dozens of more subtle and more importantly less traceable ways to get the message to the Ukrainians that they needed to find dirt on the Bidens if they wanted the money.

7) Finally, I think this whole process will be slow, messy as hell and unpleasant. I am looking forward to it with all the eagerness and joy I look forward to my next colonoscopy.

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Review of Ad Astra

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On GPS in cars...

I'm not a fan of my car's GPS system - rather I prefer to know where I'm going. But last night it saved my bacon. I was in lovely downtown Montgomery Illinois (the first town south of Aurora) for a Rotary event. My GPS sent me home via 75th Street.

In Naperville, the cops had my side of 75th street completely blocked off. No explanation, just "you must exit now." The exit was into a subdivision with dark, narrow and winding streets. There was no marked detour laid out, it was just "figure it out yourself, buster!"

Fortunately, I was using my car's GPS so it did the figuring out for me. It wasn't an entirely non frustrating trip - the GPS logically kept taking me to the next major road to tie back into 75th Street, except two of them were also blocked by cops. Fortunately, I did make it home.

Thanks, GPS!

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