We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead – A Blast From the Past from March 2013

*I was going to write about how you shouldn’t be depressed at our appalling candidates, because they’re all appalling, and we ain’t dead yet, then I remembered I had written about it before.  Isn’t that lucky? I’m working on Darkship Revenge and rather not take my head out of fiction just now.- SAH*

We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead – A Blast From the Past from March 2013

I am, by nature, a depressive.  This means that left to its own devices, what passes for my mind (it’s not much of one, but it suits my simple purposes) automatically picks out the darker tones of a painting, the darker notes of a melody, the worst possible signs in the surroundings.

You could blame it on my infant sleep being rocked to Fados, G-d’s way of keeping Portuguese from being irrationally exuberant (He has Brazilians for that) but there are signs this is innate and hereditary.  Some studies have shown it, and besides depression seems to run in dad’s maternal side.

I am aware of this, though, and I compensate.  It’s like when your car’s alignment is slightly off, and “pulls” to one side and you know it, you can compensate and still drive fine.  However, like the car pulling, it still trends a bit to that side, and ends up having to be given a sharp pull now and then.  So, most of the time I trend pessimistic, with occasional corrections that come with the tone of a two by four to the back of the head.

But even in the corrections… well, let’s put it this way – I’m lucky if I reach “normal.”  I’m the person who starts worrying about being broke when the reserve account dips below two month’s wages.  I’m the person who worries about a potential job loss six months ahead of time (unfortunately this time probably right.)  I’m the person who worries about the potential laydown on a book the day I deliver it.  I worry about the kids’ finals the day they enroll (even for the kid who tests well, I become terrified he will have a bad day.  Even though in 21 years it’s only happened once.)  And I think this is the first time in my career – partly because I’ve cut back to Baen and Indie – that I don’t feel like I’m running scared and standing at the edge of an abyss, which – of course – makes me feel like everything is about to go wrong, and makes me run scared again.

Taking that into account I wanted to let you know that even I – and I “pull” depressive most of the time – don’t think that the USA is dead.  Or lost.  Or hopeless.  Hell, we aren’t even close.

I don’t remember which Republican it was during the campaign (it might very well have been Romney) who was pounded by the right for saying that the fundamentals of the country were all right.

I’m not sure what he (whoever he was) meant, and of course if by fundamentals he meant the structures, the regulations and the convoluted mess of payola by the government we got ourselves into, he was wrong.

But if he was talking about the fundamental fundamentals, he was okay.  The American people are all right.

Yes, I know – I can hear you – shouting “Sarah, how can you say that?”  And “Sarah, do you read what you wrote two days ago?  Can’t you see our school system is collapsing?  How can we survive that?  How can we survive massive voter fraud?  How can we survive regulations that keep us starved of energy?”

Sometimes… you need a collapse.  If you’re having a fever dream, sometimes you need to fall off the bed and wake up.

No, I’m not ADVOCATING for a collapse, certainly not in the sense that both communists and large L Libertarians want it because both believe their preferred form of government will arise “spontaneously” out of it.

Heck, I don’t even believe my preferred form of government will arise spontaneously under ANY circumstances.  Within that too, I don’t even believe in one form of government in all circumstances, or everywhere, or in every association of humans.  For instance, it might interest you to know that this household is a dictatorship.  My husband and I are joint dictators, each with absolute power over SOME areas of the household.  (Though in a conflict of power and by mutual agreement, he wins, since I – voluntarily – promised to obey him in our wedding ceremony.  I did this because I know myself, and that was the only thing that would make me knuckle under.  And as for the necessity of knuckling under, in an emergency or an extreme situation, having SOMEONE make a decision is better than having two people argue over it.  No matter how bad the decision.  That vow of obedience saved my life in the one circumstance it was called up.)

It might also interest you to know that in Portugal I voted Monarchist.  Now, look, I don’t need you to tell me: the chances of Portugal restoring monarchy are about as high as of the US going pure Libertarian.

It was a quixotic vote, partly motivated by the fact that at the time the “right wing” by which you should read “not explicitly militant socialist” parties managed to hit me wrong on both fronts, economic and social.  They wanted to legislate Catholic rules of conduct, and they wanted to … well… legislate liberation theology in the form of soft socialism, too.  It was in fact like very young people here voting Libertarian because they don’t want to sully themselves and/or because they think we’re doomed either way otherwise.

However, I wouldn’t vote monarchist HERE, not even as a protest vote.  That is because the scale of the country, the fractured cultural nature of the states (if you think CA and CO are the same, even with us being part Californicated, you’ve never lived in both; and I’ve experienced greater culture shock visiting my inlaws in Ohio than visiting my family in Portugal.) but also because the United States is not FUNDAMENTALLY monarchist.  (No more than humanity is fundamentally monarchist.)

Portugal is a very odd country, culturally, both more law abiding than the US in some things, and incredibly more lawless in others.  It comes in part from a fractured European identity.  Being a very small country, it develops crushes on bigger/more important ones, and it hasn’t yet decided if it wants to be France or Germany when it grows up.  (England seems to be somewhat out of style as a model.)  It swerves between a passion for order and the certainty it can’t obtain it.  In theory Portuguese police are respected, for instance.  In fact, you don’t call them to the scene of an accident, because whoever pays the most graft is considered the aggrieved party.  In the same way, Portuguese heartily back laws, but each individual has a serene certainty the laws and regulations don’t apply to them.  (Even small ones, like what direction you should drive on the highway.)  It was the first country in Europe to forbid child labor and most of my generation in the village was taken out of school at ten to work in the textile mills.

It was my understanding of the country when I lived there – and I still feel that way, but I’m now a foreigner so my opinion is not really valid – that the only type of authority Portuguese were likely to recognize was tribal/familial.  So, a king fit that slot and might at least get the police to be a little cleaner.

Culture, you see, is a … tricky thing.  You’re going to tell me the culture in the US has changed too much.  We have too many immigrants.  We’re not teaching the kids the fundamentals of what it is to be American we—

Respectfully: bullsh*t.  I know it’s bullsh*t at a gut level, because my depressive self agrees with you, and my depressive self has a 100% wrong record.  (Ask my husband how often my career has been going to “for sure going to end.”  Yes, I’ve been right about his losing a job sometimes, but not about living under the bridge, in a box.  Okay, we came close twice, but hey, didn’t hit it.)  Another reason I know it’s bullsh*t is the Times headline about Obama’s second inaugural “fundamentally transforming America forever.”  (Oh, yeah, you and whose army, bucko?)  Which given the Times Magazine record for being right, makes me fully assured.

But the real reason I know it’s right is that I live here.

Yes, our education is beyond screwed up.  BUT here’s the thing, fundamentally they’re not transforming anything.  Fundamentally, the US is descended from or populated by people who said “I can’t take this anymore” and moved.  That is a completely different stock from those who stayed.

Even the Mexican immigrants who are simply walking over the border, are different from the ones who stay.  (In fact, our economy has caused a wave of returning immigrants who ARE fundamentally transforming Mexico – and good for them.)

I don’t think most Americans – or most colonials in general – FULLY realize how different.  The tendency of humans is to clan: to stay near family and childhood friends.  It’s also territorial.  You cleave to familiar landscapes.  The only way to get masses of people to move, normally, is famine or war.

Most of us and most of our ancestors (with exceptions) moved long before it got to that point.  That it wasn’t to that point is attested to by the fact that most of our/our ancestors’ relatives stayed behind.

I come from a country of immigrants.  I know the difference.  My own family – grandma stayed, granddad spent his entire working life abroad and only came back because grandma refused to move – splits half and half into those who leave and those who stay.

Those who leave are the ones who are willing to take responsibility for their own well being, their own future.  They are naturally more of the striver type.  They “contrive.”  And they are less likely to obey rules (which in Portugal, means they’re frighteningly unhinged.  Yes, I’m one who left.  What of it?)  But when they break rules, it tends to be purposeful and in the service of improving their own and the conditions of those who depend on them.

That is where we come from and who we are, and this is why we are so often called “ungovernable.”  It is also the only thing that explains stuff like my colleagues who are to the left of Lenin everywhere BUT their private life, where they are entrepreneurs who minimize their taxes and strive to make the most possible money.  Or the fact that we are DIY capital of the world. (My parents are still very puzzled I can paint and refinish stuff and don’t call in “experts.”) Or that we’re still functioning despite our incredibly screwed up institutions.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again – NONE of our large institutions, public or private is working.  What is happening in the publishing industry is a mirror of everything else, from large corporations to the government, to our teaching.

Part of this is (probably) intentional in that all of the commanding heights of power were taken by the hard left over the last sixty years or so.  (Some were taken later.)  As was the culture which made hard left the “accepted opinions to have.”  That accounts for none of them functioning.  But what makes their failure more obvious is that the technology is “fundamentally transforming America” and the world, in ways they didn’t anticipate, and can’t figure out how to fight.

Look, I’ll be honest.  If they’d managed this complete a control of press, government and every cultural and financial institution thirty years ago, they’d have succeeded in holding it for fifty years or so (or forty, in their crowing after the election!)

But it’s not thirty years ago.  When I tell us to build under, I’m only telling us to continue what tech and the American spirit has already started.  When the news got to the point that people were fleeing it in droves, blogs were there.  (No.  This is not universal.  I have yet to find a Portuguese equivalent to Instapundit.  The respect for credentials, you know?)

In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, the people are demonstrating for more benes.  Here we’re demonstrating to be left alone.  (For those abroad, the tea parties were not racist – they were economic.  In fact, in my local ones the majority race was Hispanic, as should be, given the composition of the electorate.  In the same way the Occupy Wall Street movement was not grassroots.  To the extent it wasn’t paid for – wanna bet? – it was formed by the children of the upper class.)

When the publishing industry got THAT bad, people found ways to escape.  Yes, the means were at hand, but the impetus came from how closed shop and ideologically driven the industry had gotten, and how it served neither writers nor readers anymore.  Because logically, yeah, writers would prefer not to have to worry about all that icky marketing stuff.  BUT once they were doing it because their traditional publishers weren’t, well… the step was small.

I told you before and I tell you again, education is on the way there.  I sympathize with my friend Dave Freer’s statements about how a country should guarantee education for all and provide it free or easy or…

However, right now our country isn’t doing that.  Saying that to end the Federal Education programs is to make sure some kids go without adequate education simply means you don’t know that schools in America have become.  Even if you consider sort-of-reading and reciting shibboleths by rote adequate education, places like Chicago, Detroit, and most other big cities are failing spectacularly at that PARTICULARLY for those kids at risk.  Right now, abolishing national education might result in a net gain. Oh, sure the kids with completely DISCONNECTED parents might never learn to read or write enough to survive in the world, but the truth is they’re not learning that now either.

AT LEAST it would release the kids (mostly minority, mostly poor) whose parents are desperately trying to put them in private/charter/other programs and who are being held captive in the horrible schools.

Yes, to an extent I agree with Dave that we should have something available and at least strong encouragement for the kids from the least promising backgrounds to learn the basics.  We don’t have that now.  And we’ll never have it in the sense Dave sees it – I know what he’s seeing, because I know about the Great British Education project that extended halfway across the world and is responsible for India’s current flourishing.

It’s impossible in the US due to the NATURE of the people in the US.  It might seem odd to say that the States are more different than Great Britain and India in the nineteenth century.  It would also be wrong.  We have a common language and a lot of similar ways of living, and our citizens move between states (even if some of us would like a moratorium on Californians.  Any minute now, please?) BUT we’re more different where it counts – in how we view the future and the aims of education.  And in holding on rather stubbornly to our differences.

My husband studied history in Maryland (his family having moved there from Connecticut when he was two) through fourth grade.  When his family moved to Ohio he had to re-study history, because he’d learned it in “the south” and their version was different, Ohio said.

We don’t all believe alike, so having a system that molds everyone to a common ground (beyond reading, writing and arithmetic) isn’t going to happen.  It just isn’t.  It’s not happening now.

Yes, if you throw education to local control and a patchwork of charters, religious schools, homeschooling, charity schools and what have you, you will have kids who don’t learn at all.  And?  This is different from what is now happening, why?

But can we provide a system-of-last resort the kids are supposed to attend if they don’t attend anything else?  Probably.  It will be unholy expensive, (but think of what we’ll save on the other kids) not very efficient and something to be avoided at all costs, but probably better than what we have now.

However – however – even with our utterly failing system, I’m not despairing of our youth.  For the same reason that even with our failing news, I’m not despairing of knowing what’s going on.

Americans are strivers.  We contrive.

I’ve already seen this – particularly with boys – with friends’ kids.  They come out of school appallingly educated.  And then they learn.  Now, they might learn only in their area of interest or they might learn strange stuff, but once the kids realize they need to know something to get somewhere, they set about to learn it.

It’s probably a shock to you but our system of libraries was unique to the US.  I went nuts on it, when I was first here: not just the free books, but SERIOUS books on the shelves.  Why, you could learn anything! NOWHERE else in the world was it thought necessary to provide specialized history books for public consumption, free of charge AND without having to prove you could understand it/had the prerequisites to understand it.  The last is the most telling.

Yes, I know of the state of the libraries.  But part of the reason for that now, is that the net has taken over.  People CAN use the net to surf for porn and watch videos of kittens.  All of us do some of the later.  (Hey, keep your hands off my videos of surprised kittens!) But what is amazing is how often most people – even kids – use it to learn.

I’ve seen even functionally illiterate kids improve over time.

What we are losing, of course, is the bottom of the economic range.  In that vein — How broken are our schools?  Dan and I, in a moment of quixotic spirit, called our local inner city school and offered to provide their “disadvantaged” students with computers. At the time Dan’s employer was getting rid of something like a hundred computers about two years old, fully functional because they were upgrading.  Giving them to students who didn’t otherwise have access would give the kids access to at least learning to use a computer and eventually to the net.  The school wouldn’t let us.  Why not?  The computers were PCs and NOT brand new.

That is diminishing, though, as computers becomes old tech that trickles down.  You can find computers on craigs for under fifty dollars. (We, ourselves, are downstream buyers, though not that far.)

We’re also losing the top range.  The people who go to elite colleges and are thoroughly indoctrinated to the point of being unable to think.  They are probably never going to be able to make up their educational deficiencies.  And that’s too bad.

HOWEVER the vast majority of people, once the “collapse” – by which I mean the system getting so bad that its not being there would be better – starts, start working on alternatives for themselves and for others.

We’re American.  We do for ourselves.

It’s already happened in news and in books.  It’s underway in cinema, though it’s the very early rumblings of change.  It’s underway in a big way in education.

Yes, I do believe our voting system is also broken and rigged – it’s the way the politicians act that gives THAT game away – but once that becomes obvious, something will be done about it too.

I’m not so sanguine on national defense.  I do think we need a federal government for that, and its not being there is going to cost us a city or maybe two.  But I also know that our country has the largest available army of combat-ready veterans and volunteers, practiced with guns that (possibly) the world has ever seen. And we’re Americans.  We’ll contrive.  Maybe not well enough not to lose anything, but well enough to survive.  And to come back.

This is the thing: the people now in control are very confident in the truth of the stuff they were taught – even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

They will careen forward bringing the new tech and the old “progressive” ways into conflict more and more.

The old “progressive” ways never worked anywhere.  But the new tech makes their failure more obvious.  They can’t say “this is the best we have and it still doesn’t work.”  We all know it’s not the best we have, and a cat high on catnip could do better.  (And yes, I do mean in all positions of power.)

It’s possible our leaders are so desperately bad, because that’s NOT where power is anymore.

We’re Americans.  We’ll manage it.

The Titanic of the blue state might have crashed, and yep, the Europeans (bless their hearts) are floating atop the grand piano and acting all superior.

But we are Americans, fergadssake.  The grand piano isn’t good enough, and those d*mn bureaucrats provided two few lifeboats.

Which is why, in the time left, a few of us are building a paddle boat out of the deck chairs, the bandstand, the chimney stack and the dining room chandelier.

Come on and lend a hand, or at least get out of the way.

We’re Americans.  We’ll survive this.  And what’s more, we’ll do it big and splashy.  American style.

Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

UPDATE: for writers, I put a post up about diagramming novels, at Mad Genius Club.

on the day I originally published this, but I put in a post about breaking into publication today.  The Velveteen Writer.

243 thoughts on “We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead – A Blast From the Past from March 2013

  1. By all means, given the selection of candidates available for president, ’tis best to focus your thoughts on Revenge.

  2. The most terrified I’ve ever been driving was on a Sunday in Nashville. California drivers are scary, especially in the snow, but damn.

    And yeah, I was more than a little surprised to find out my son had bought himself an electric guitar and was teaching himself to play it from watching youtube tutorials. When I asked him what possessed him to do so, he shrugged and said he was bored. With that kind of attitude, we’re going to keep doing amazing things, even if just by accident.

    1. The only danger to this is the ability to learn from the written word (and the potential loss of electronic data in a crisis situation). You may be able to use youtube to figure out how to rebuild an engine but you need to know how to change a tire or read and follow a shop manual for many things. Personally I’m a hands on learner but people must be able to do all three (see, read, do)

    2. worst driving ever for me was the DC beltway during rush hour when i had to go from Bethesda, MD back to Richmond.

      And i live in Los Angeles so that’s sayin something

  3. Going to various schools across the country, the largest hassle was English classes. Each school system used different books, and those books didn’t all agree on what “correct” English was, other than it was some artificial language not spoken wherever we were living, and often not in any of our other textbooks.

    When the media savaged Dan Quayle for “potatoe” I thought it was a joke at first; in Florida in the late sixties, that’s how we were taught to spell it. And “tomatoe” too, for that matter.

    As for schooling in general… while the German system Mann advocated might have had military benefits, in modern times, the school systems seem to be tuned to being state-paid daycare for nine months a year.

    We didn’t have gangs (other than the officially-sponsored athletic ones), security guards, metal detectors, video monitoring, or student ID cards when I went to high school in the 1970s, but we already had single-point-of-entry windowless blocks surrounded by tall fences with concertina wire; even then I realized how similar “school” was to prison.

    1. About that Dan Quayle “gaffe” — you do know he did not misspell the word, right? He used the spelling on the card provided for that exercise by the teacher. Whether or not he knew the proper spelling, he would have had every reason to believe the spelling on the card was the one taught to the student.

      Whether this was an example of teacher incompetence r malicious sabotage by a union member is irrelevant, as it gave the MSM (union members all) the opportunity to savage Quayle in a manner never suffered by Biden.

      “Not our kind, dear.” Deplorable.

      And yes, let there be no doubt, Posner is still a moron.

        1. Uhmmm, no, I was reinforcing your point:

          he would have had every reason to believe the spelling on the card was the one taught to the student.

          i.e., that the student had been taught</I? to spell it p-o-t-a-t-o-e. What was he supposed to do, call out the teacher on national media for a trivial spelling error? Then he would have been sandbagged as insufficiently supportive of union teachers.

          The MSM give the big government, big labor, progressives the kind of "homerism" that college football teams would love from their school newspapers.

          1. Sigh. As ought be apparent, that /I? subsequent to the “taught” ought be /I>

            I’m going away for a while to contemplate the errors of my ways.

            Yeah, that’s what I’ll be contemplating.

          1. I have the odd memory of erdapfel myself even though in my own head it is correct only in French; kartoffel being the proper German word for it.

            But for English I learned ‘potatoe’ as the proper pronunciation but dropping the e for spelling, unless British pronunciation was being used.

    2. The school(s) I went to in the 1970’s weren’t like that, but the one I recall best was built in the 1950’s and I’m not sure of the other – since converted to apartments. I do wish I had saved a few of the “dittos” for the hunter’s safety courses that were offered. They were well after school hours, but still held at the school building. Imagine a parent getting such a note nowadays that included the line, “and remember to bring your gun.”

      1. Now we have parents (and passing do-gooders) getting their knickers in a twist because the JROTC is working on formations and drills on the soccer field, using vaguely gun-shaped chunks of wood.

        1. In the 1970s, my school was the only one in the state with an ROTC drill team that had real, though DEWAT, rifles. The other schools made do with shaped wooden stakes.

          I’m not so sure they didn’t get the better end of the deal; a Springfield weighs around nine pounds and can pack a wallop when you miss a throw…

          I did fine in ROTC, which drove the “counselors” nuts, since I was such a problem to them in other classes. I signed up for ROTC voluntarily, with a fair idea of what I was getting into; otherwise, I was a prisoner of the school system for the crime of not being old enough to be an adult.

            1. Naw, they were 03s, not M1s. And the bolts were welded to the receivers to keep them from getting lost.

          1. Funny, the JROTC at my high school practiced with homemade wood or pipe facsimiles, but actually performed with decommissioned rifles. Only the firing pins had been removed.

      2. Ah, hunter safety courses (as part of gym class, as I recall). I remember a quiz where one of the questions was something along the lines of, “You and a friend are out hunting when someone fires on you, evidently mistaking you for a deer. What do you do?” We pretty much all agreed that “Drop prone and return fire” was the correct answer, but it seems it wasn’t.

        1. The probably assumed that the person firing on you was nearby. In that case you charge them.

            1. Perhaps, but perhaps not. Bayonets need to be illegal, after all, to cut down on drive-by bayonet charges, apparently very popular in inner-city gang culture right now…

          1. It probably was, but we were high school kids. It seemed like giving them warning would just let them get away…

          1. It was a long time ago, I don’t remember exactly. But it was something on the order of, “Shout, indicate that you’re human, make sure your blaze orange hunting wear is easily visible.” To us kids that seemed to mean, enhance your targetability. 😀

            1. I was on the wrong end one duck hunting season with a friend of mine, back in the early 70’s. Those hunters had forgotten the rule of making sure what was behind their target… we were on a field on the other side of the narrow river, behind some small trees and bushes (willow, mostly), and there was a horse corralled there too. The horse was panicky, and then we realized it was just not the bangs but there was something definitely hitting those trees and bushes too. Took a lot of yelling before they stopped. Shooting back might have made the point a lot faster… 😀 (Neither the horse or either one of us were hit. I think. I’m not completely sure of the horse, we didn’t even know which one of the people living in the area owned it, and it definitely was not in the mood to get inspected at that moment. But at least no blood was visible, it was just birdshot and the shooters were a fair distance away anyway).

      3. We were the first bunch for official hunter safety. It was taught by a game warden who knew enough of the class to offer letting us take the test and then cruise through the course, or take the course and then the test. We opted to take the course then the test, just in case. The best part was when we took up a collection and went to the dump for target practice and skeet.

        The school system had an unofficial course that covered not only hunting but boating safety. When that was replaced, they let everyone take texts home. They were really quite good, and went beyond safety into wildlife management.

        1. *Sigh* Dumps!

          Real dumps, where you can put the stuff you don’t want but don’t REALLY think is trash off to one side– and were you inevitably saw at least ONE thing worth climbing down into the pit to get…


        2. Didn’t get hunting safety in school, but one summer I went to “Conservation Camp”, which wasn’t what you would expect today. We did a lot of things like boat operation and safety, learning fishing – how to attach hooks and such, how to cast the line where you want it, etc., identifying plants, including trees, and hunting safety.

          I got one of the counselors confused whether he should yell at me or praise me, because I was careless enough to trip over a downed tree branch, but kept good control of my gun.

      4. When I was in high school, a lot of kids had gun racks in the back window of their pickups with guns in them. That was because those kids had gone hunting that morning before class. No one thought a thing about it. Now you can’t even have a gun rack on your vehicle.

          1. *chuckle* ’90s here- same thing. But I grew up in the back of beyond, where the last of the last generation’s traditions and habits go to die- and can get cussed stubborn about pushing off that last inch, too!

            1. I know my classmates kids going to good ol’ GCHS still hunt, so I bet there are guns in the pickups/cars, just hidden now, not on display in rifle racks attached to the back window…..

          2. Still saw a few trucks with (occupied!) gun racks in Arkansas in the early ’70s. I wanted a rack with an AK-47.

            Now I have a truck and several AK-47s, but I wouldn’t dare leave even a BB gun exposed to view without being able to keep an eye on it.

              1. You can still get, and install, *concealed* racks/gun storage for the car. I did a few of these back about ten years ago- console storage and roof clips were popular. Lots of places you can keep one that aren’t obvious, but are safely secured if necessary.

                1. You could buy a bench seat cover that had a holster on the front of the bench that would hold a rifle or shotgun. The only thing that showed it was there was seeing the butt when the door was open.

                    1. Oh, sure, *you* might not want to show your butt to people, but as for myself…well, ok, maybe I shouldn’t be showing my butt to other people, either….something about “crimes against humanity” or some such…

                2. From 1984 to 1987, some bright spark at the FBI managed to order some new Buicks for covery G-rides. Somehow, nobody noticed the “Grand National” box was ticked on the order forms.

                  So the cars showed up… glossy black, fancy aluminum wheels, spoilers, and the turbocharged V6 that made them serious muscle cars; for one model year, faster even than the Corvette.

                  ex-FBI cars can be identified by the two mystery clips near the tops of the B pillars. Those held a Remington 870 crosswise under the roof. Because, obviously, you can’t have a dashboard lock with the barrel sticking up in plain view in a surveillance car; it might tip someone off.

                  Which might have made sense if they had received the T-types instead of the GNs, which looked like something Darth Vader might have rolled up in… (well, the ’80s were pretty bland as far as styling, it didn’t take much to stand out…)

                1. Are you seriously putting a straight line like that out here? *grin*

                  Two words: Daisy Dukes.

                  Leaving aside such things as cast-iron morals, ability to cook a fine meal at the drop of a hat, unflinching loyalty to those that deserve it, good shots with rifle or shotgun, unfazed by what the rest of the country would think of as “poverty” and willing to work to make it better… I mean, come on. Country girls invented that look. What most red-blooded heterosexual males would *like* to put against country girls would fill a very small, thin volume. With earnest feeling, though!

                  Gotta admit, that got a full on belly laugh this time. Well done, sir.

    3. We didn’t have gangs (other than the officially-sponsored athletic ones), security guards, metal detectors, video monitoring, or student ID cards when I went to high school in the 1970s, but we already had single-point-of-entry windowless blocks surrounded by tall fences with concertina wire; even then I realized how similar “school” was to prison.

      We noticed our fence, too, and appended ” . . . of Correction and Rehabilitation” after our school name. According to my wife, that wasn’t far from the mark.

      1. When a new, different district, ultra-modern high school was built near the interstate in the 1980s, us kids from other schools saw instantly that it lacked windows and visible doors. We referred to it as the Randall State Penitentiary from day 1.

        1. There are two American institutions in which progress through them is based on “Time Served” rather than “Progress Made”.

    4. School as it is now is designed to turn out relatively similar worker drones. You do need to be able to self teach today because what the book says is outdated by 4-5 years already in all likelihood in any technical field. The fundamentals may be sound but the cutting edge or standard practices may be vastly different. (Five years ago the HDTV was still pretty new. IIRC It was about 400-500 for a Samsung 40″ LCD. Today its 300 for a Smart LED of same brand). But school serves to provide a money laundering scam for politicians and vote source.

  4. I agree, there are too many here (and probably even greater numbers elsewhere) who see a problem and say, “Somebody (the government probably) ought to fix that.” But we still have a great number who see a problem and say, “I’ll fix that, and I bet I can get someone to pay me for the effort!”

    1. Those are the ones that, as public schools fail beyond the point of obviousness, will create reading lists, commentaries, and Kindle-price textbooks so the poorer kids can have the same benefits as middle-class kids’ purchased home-schooling programs.

      1. My depressing thought this morning was that it’s the year 2768 AUC; Rome remains, but the Roman Republic died long before the western empire. I have the sick feeling that die was cast for us log before anyone here was born. Regardless of who gets elected, I fear we may be headed down the road to fascism in the original sense of the word, both the type of socialism and the view that the opposing factions in a nation must be forcibly bound together by a strong central government for the common good.

        Maybe I’m worried about nothing. But I’m thinking we’ve become so polarized because the role of states has diminished as that of the central government has increased. This raises the stakes in national elections. Except we’re are widely different. The original set-up, a union of separate states, at least served as circuit breakers by limiting how much damage idiots in one state could do in another. Without the circuit breakers, we may be headed for a central government forced to rule with an iron hand lest the states fling apart.

        Yeah, that’s a dystopia. But right now I wonder that when the Roman Empire climbed to the glories we think of as ancient Rome if anyone gave a wistful thought for the old Republic.

        That’s a nasty thought in of itself. Can a society of riches and contented citizens be a dystopia? Or did Aldous Huxley cover that?

        The only ray of sunshine I’m feeling right now is the delicious irony that the very ones who scream “fascist!” are those who seem intent on bringing it about.

        Sorry for being such a downer. Delete this if you wish.

        1. If you go by what you read in the media, things are pretty depressing. However, there are yet millions of Americans who are quietly going about their business. By my reading of the signs of the times, the fascists in Democrat’s clothing are just about ready to start taking bigger bites out of fundamental American liberties instead of just nibbling, and when they do, there will be people saying “enough is entirely too much”. Beware the anger of a patient man.

          1. Yesterday I laughed at a headline : STORM:1 STATE:0 – because a cyclone smashed into South Australia yesterday, and power was knocked out statewide. A tornado was there as well as hail and lightning storms and lots of flooding, and I have heard of exploding burning gum trees.

        2. I definitely agree on the Federalism aspect. But when the states fail and export those indoctrinated in the failing aspects of society (Californication) that just spreads them.

          As for the Positive dystopia, I’d put the world of the Giver in that aspect. Yes, no one wanted for anything but there was no free will. And life was worthless. Probably one book that has given me my (non-realpolitik) stance on abortion.

        3. Okay. I’m not going to slap you only because I ALREADY slapped someone on this shit this morning. The US is not Rome. The USSR was closer to Rome. We’re closer to what Rome IMAGINED itself. It’s complicated, okay?
          And reports of our death are greatly exaggerated. It’s 1913, is all. There will be a lot of shit before we’re through, but unlike in the 20th century the tech is going our way.
          The pain should be short — and violent — and many of us might fall, but we have a chance.
          Stop moping and come stand with me upon St. Crispin’s day eve.

          1. Furthermore, we have more information (and more current) than even the Tribune. *Ordinary citizens* have this information. Do you have any idea how revolutionary that is? Ignore the media. We can talk to each other all over the globe! Gaius Iulius would have cheerfully stabbed 47 senators for that ability!

            Sure the bozos are trying to restrict and to censor, but they aren’t very good at it because they, note well, can’t even secure their own email server. These people live surrounded by blinking “12:00” displays. Technology frightens and confuses them, and the people who know it aren’t sympathetic. (If there is any group that is inherently anarchist, it is IT 😀 )

            Romans are not us. We have had our deference glands removed.

            1. We’re sort of Rome, if you apply the template to a Christian Anglo-Saxon culture with an addiction to work and achievement.
              Rome WAS Latin. That thing about working particularly in menial capacities being bad? Yeah. Baked in the cake. Rome produced precious little, hence the need for an empire, and they sucked at innovating, because of that other side of Latin culture “Our grandfathers didn’t need this.” So, great inventions either were regionalized or died aborning. They were rather good at civil engineering. But that was a showy art. They were instinctively GOOD at showy.
              We? We’re a bunch of SOBs who work longer hours than almost everyone in the world, and inborn anarchists, who break rules just because they’re there.
              Screw Rome. The world ain’t seen nothing like us yet, and I maintain we’re at the edge of our finest hour. Because when the going gets weird, Americans are kings.

              1. “The reason the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis.” 😀

                1. One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine…

                  1. One of my favorite stories from WWII was in Eisenhower’s book (Crusade in Europe). Turns out at the heart of an Italian town was a strong house – very strong. The Americans couldn’t reduce it…. until…. someone notices a dead spot in the weapons, and they wheeled up an artillery piece (either a Long Tom (155) or the 203 or 240 howitzer) and decided to fire. The third round went through the building – completely through the building. The germans surrendered at that point – the German commander was quoted:

                    “When Americans start to use heavy artillery as a sniper rifle, it is time to surrender”

                    While the scariest thing to hear might be “here, hold my beer, I want to try something….” – it is also the scariest thing our ENEMIES have also heard.

                    I can’t tell you what will happen, or how it will happen – but I am willing to bet that at the end of it our kind of people (maybe not US, but people LIKE us) will be standing atop the heap again. Information and Knowledge I think has spread too far.


                    1. ….

                      Am I the only one who can’t see what, exactly, the problem is with that story?

                      I mean, it’s foolish of the Germans to leave that big of a hole in their coverage… but that’s not really an American issue….

                    2. I am also having difficulty seeing what the problem is. But then, Aussies and Americans both say the phrase, and with predictably scary results.

                      (Then again I live with a man whose greatest sadface was “Why did it boot up!!!? It’s supposed to explode!!”)

                    3. There’s a quote somewhere rattling around in my memory from a Wehrmacht officer after the war, basically saying that the Americans cheated: Basically when a US Army unit, no matter how large or small, hit a problem, they got on their radios and called in artillery or air to reduce the opposition instead of maneuvering infantry to assault a flank the way the Germans were taught.

                      I hope the interrogating officer’s response was along the lines of “And how did that work out for you?”

                2. “It is impossible to plan against the Americans because they
                  don’t follow their own doctrine.”

              2. Because when the going gets weird, Americans are kings.

                “The difficulty in planning against American doctrine is that Americans neither see fit to follow their doctrine nor even read their manuals.”
                — KGB Document

                This is false — many Americans read those manuals … then pick them apart for errors.

                “[T]he tragedy of war is always error and costly error at that, the side winning who makes the fewest and learns the most from them—and then doesn’t give up.”
                — Victor Davis Hanson

                Americans have traditionally been very very adept at learning from our errors. Except the Progressives, who already know everything except how to herd cats.

            2. Stab senators? Old Iulius would give his left ball for a tenth of what we have. And when you consider how much the bastard used BOTH his balls, that was more significant.

              1. A heart attack or kidney stone, or even dentistry or cataracts, and the difference in “quality of life” between Emperor of Rome and even a poor American becomes evident.

          2. It’s 1913, is all.

            Hm. This fits pretty well, really.

            Various gangs, riots and the “knockout game” for Indian raids, a few year’s wiggle room….

            (side note, the wiki for the 1911 raid is horribly biased; apparently it’s a BAD thing to kill murderers who mutilated the dead, and had human body parts on them when they were shot, if they’re the wrong race. I sort-of knew the sons of one of the murdered. http://www.heraldandnews.com/john-b-laxague-sr/article_03ed539c-5465-5544-a95a-798e942d572b.html )

          3. No, we aren’t Rome, and what may come might not be empire. Rome comes to mind only because Rome is still with us, and the Roman Republic passed away long before what we remember as the glories of Rome.

            I have various reasons for moping that are not serious but which makes politics more of a side-show. And while it’s a downer mood, it’s not depression, though I’m depressing to be around right now.

            Something that’s a chronic issue with me is that people today forget what once was, in this case liberty. Some years ago our oldest recited one of the most absurd definitions of the 10th Amendment I’d ever heard, one that not only prompted me to read the 10th from a copy of the US Constitution, but had me thinking of talking to their teacher. I was begged off, mollified somewhat with the possibility that they took down their notes wrong. They’d already learned to hide their history books, so I couldn’t see if that definition came from the text. But if it did come from the teacher, how many of their classmates swallowed it hook, line, and sinker?

            I was highly gratified that a few weeks ago, the oldest displayed a fully functioning BS detector by recognizing flaws and spin in a text book. That said, how many other students picked up on it?

            I have strong opinions how we got to this point, none of which I think you’d disagree with. But that doesn’t address restoration. If people don’t know how things like the Constitution were supposed to work, how can they want to try that for a change? It’s one thing to tell your own kids; how do you tell an entire nation? I’d really wish everyone would read Democracy in America, The Federalist Papers, and William Rawle’s book on the US Constitution, but that’s not likely to happen.

            In other words, how do we get that across to people?

            1. Rome is still with us in the sense that there’s continuity of tradition, mostly via (hah! Look, a good Roman word, if horribly mispronounced) the Church, and through the education influence of churchmen on both both nobility and common folks across Europe, the ideals of Rome were taken up by the folks that conquered their territory.

              In that process a lot of the stuff that the Soviets and the new Shirtless Tsar have embraced were tossed aside, though I’d argue that Moscow is really more the inheritor of Constantinople than Rome. And in the west there was more winnowing and pruning and shaping over the period from before the “Holy Roman Empire” through the 19th century.

              But even up through the 20th century, a well read individual was educated in both Roman and Greek civilization as well as western history, albeit with more emphasis on what was good about the theories and practices of government that are observed than the concentration on warts and dark sides that make up what passes for education these days.

              That’s the main point I take into any discussion of education: When you educate only what was wrong with the past, you leave the students with no ideals, set no bars which are challenging to surpass, and create no understanding of what did in fact work at that point, and why. Roman civilization is important not because it’s some template for how we will fall, or worse yet only a source of faults that the Arrow of History corrected, but because of the way those people faced their challenges, and how they set their own ideals, even if they fell short of meeting them in their day to day struggles with human nature.

              When I look at how the current generation is being sold so short, with no grounding at all in ancient history, no Western Civilization courses studying the lessons learned by the successors to Rome, and nothing but “evil white dudes” taken from 400 years of settlement and government on this continent carrying forward that tradition, I could be tempted to the sin of despair. But then I talk to the kids these days, and they are skeptical and hungry for knowledge as long as it does not come predigested.

              And that gives me hope.

            2. I have fixations on understanding and on explaining complicated ideas.

              I am confident there are simple ways to do so. A part of me is certain that if we rebuild our explanations from fresh thinking, we will be understood.

              (That said, I am nuts, and my convictions about communication may have no reality to them. I’ve also had an awful lot of time to think and brood.)

            3. [H]ow do we get that across to people?

              I have heard rumours that some folk are writing exciting, entertaining stories with that sort of messaging embedded. You know, stories about libertarian monster hunters or space colonies … or even stories about how a zombie plague nearly destroys civilization but an intrepid band of private citizens turns the tide.

              I am not sure there is much market for such stuff, but perhaps if they win some prestigious awards, like the Hugos or Nebulae …

            4. No, we’re not Rome. If we were, all of North America would be flying the flag. At the very least.

              The USA is unique in that it *bought* most of its territory instead of conquering it. And much of the rest joined up voluntarily, for various values of “voluntarily.”

        4. Yesterday I read a dystopian government arranged marriage AU fanfic. (It was actually okay, despite what I saw as massive flaws in the world building.) Before I went to sleep, I’d a rough outline for a kung fu/superhero/organized crime story in a dystopian setting, which is more or less my answer to a lot of things.

          At this point, we’ve won or lost, and the calculation of which is indeterminate. We can estimate for the past, but here and now we’d need to be able to measure the contents of everyone’s heart.

          Even if I am now disgruntled, and might wish I had other options, I committed myself to the long resistance, if need be, of thinking and living as an American.

            1. Well, street fighting in a Vancouver with strict arms control and a heavy admixture of Chinese colonists. At least before people start developing super-powers.

          1. Wrote one once that had government arranged marriage and drugs to keep it that way – until the dope ran out courtesy of factory problems. It wasn’t readily apparent it was a dystopia until you considered the government had the power to pick spouses.

            Maybe need to brush that one off. Kind of liked it.

        5. Of course a society with riches and contented citizens can be a dystopia – all you have to do is privilege your “citizens” and oppress your non-citizens classes (or do nothing for them – see Elysium). If the “citizens” are being entertained with bread and circuses, the fact dissidents and rebels are being killed as part of the show could be viewed as traditional – just pit them against lions, etc.

          Now, in the absence of the ability to make disfavored groups non-citizens and/or exclude them from the benefits of citizenship, I think dystopia suddenly becomes much less likely. You can still get there if the only way the citizens are happy is that they are drugged to the gills as it were and taking the drugs is mandatory, but it is harder, I think. Huxley’s Brave New World got there by selective breeding, sex and soma. The Time Traveller’s Eloi (both original and 1960 film) are happy, playful, well-fed and content when first met – the only hints of trouble are their fear of the dark and the Morlocks. The characters in Logan’s Run are happy/contented for the most part prior to LastDay.

  5. “I also know that our country has the largest available army of combat-ready veterans and volunteers, practiced with guns that (possibly) the world has ever seen. And we’re Americans. We’ll contrive. ” I must admit, I laughed out loud at this line. It was true before and it is even more true now. Some of the stats on this are a little out of date, but fun none the less:
    I particularly loved the statistic that Americans bought enough guns in 3 months back in 2015 to arm the entire Chinese and Russian standing armies.

    1. I seem to remember a quote stating that just the PA hunters outnumbered most if not all active armies. Only question becomes how many of those are double counted (in US military and hunters), and also why many would pick up the rifle in a case of a truly despotic government. I know a number who pledge allegiance to the government, not the country.

    2. No numbers seem to be available from before 1968, but “obsolete” or surplus weapons from all over the world have been swallowed up by the American consumer market. Most recently, entire arsenals from former Warsaw Pact countries were digested without a burp, or making any noticeable difference in sales of American-made arms.

      1. UNLESS it’s my friends. Then it’s: a riffle, a revolver and ooooooh look at this cool grenade launcher I built from three paperclips and a discarded cardboard box. which is why I love them.

        1. 🙂 Those are the best friends to have. I have a Marine for a husband. I won’t say what he’s contemplated doing with the blackpowder…

            1. Infantry. I don’t remember the exact designation. (I was army, Marine designations are not my strong points. I stuck with remembering to call them by full rank rather than the ‘sergeant’ abbreviation that the Army uses.)

          1. “I learned a thing or two from Charlie, don’t you know;
            you better stay away from Copperhead Road!”

        2. I was devastated to learn that “extreme gun owners” have 8 or more firearms. I’m behind!

            1. Now THAT is the kind of shopping I can do. Side trip to the hardware store?

              Yes. Somewhere, I think Insty, linked a report that “extreme gun owners” had between 8-150 guns. It made me feel like snow had been announced and I was down to one quart of milk and one roll of TP, you know?

              1. 150? I need to write a lot of books!
                Side trip to the hardware store and lumberyard ALWAYS in order.
                My brother, who is weirdly Freudian at times, took arumphing offense (disdain) at the fact I get very well along with both sons and informed me that sons who are close to their mothers and follow her around doing stuff together become effeminate.
                Robert overheard and brother made mistake of speaking English. “Yeah,” says older terror who was, I think, 14 at the time. “We do all sorts of things with mom. Go to the lumberyard; build balconies; learn to pour cement; lay hardwood floors. However, for car maintenance and plumbing, we do it with dad. You were saying?”

                1. Almost there here, though only two of them are mine the rest are the hubby’s. One of the signs my husband was a keeper. We weren’t even dating at the time and he got me a mosin. Then a 1911 after we were married. 🙂 If we count the ones we’re ‘holding’ for his family (flying the inherited gun collection to Japan with his older brother wasn’t in the cards.) we’re solidly over 8.

                    1. Yes, very sad, everything lost.
                      Out here in CA we have tragic boating accidents that lose everything in saltwater, very deep, so they are even worse.
                      Very very sad, those.

                    2. Nah, this is tornado ally… Took out the range, *sighs* just couldn’t get everything out in time. Not sure which county they got dropped in. *polishes halo*

              2. I read the news-release for that– the report isn’t out yet.

                It’s HILLARIOUS!

                The gal in charge of it was gushing about how wonderful it was that people would answer the questions, they didn’t get a single nasty letter back about how DARE you ask me thus and such. But when they went through the data, they found that there HAD to be a huge population of folks who had between 8 and hundreds of guns, because otherwise the numbers just didn’t work.

                *gets the giggles*

                Does ANYBODY know a gun owner who will tell folks exactly how many firearms they have?

                I know my folks won’t, and it’s not just because they aren’t entirely sure…..

                1. If I’m living with close family, who I have known for many years, I will speak to them about it honestly and in depth.

                2. With all the demonization of gun ownership and calls to ban, er for “reasonable restrictions” and “common sense” controls on guns, they think people will answer truthfully to a survey asking how many guns they have?!

                  1. Or put a giant flashing sign of “LOTZ O’ GUNZ HERE!!” by writing a nastygram to researchers who ask?

                    Hm. That, or “oh, no, gotta go– kids fell down the stairs!”

                    1. I could list my arsenal from various video games and ask them if that counts. 😉

                      (I will not say what I do or do not have in RL.)

                    2. I’ll gladly admit to stuff that is effectively knowable to anybody I’d be scared of knowing about it, anyways– no point to not doing that.

                      This doesn’t include being careless when I think someone might be listening who might convey it to someone who might take bad action… even if I can’t imagine my little 22 bolt action hunting rifle (had since I was 10) would be too much of a draw.

                    3. I’m still in the Land of Seattillites, where we make sure our unrepentantly murderous immigrants are registered and voting before they’re even filed for citizenship.

                      We’ve got the guns we bought from the Exchange, the ones after the “make it a felony transfer of a weapon to have your husband hold your purse if your gun is in it but we promise we won’t use it that way, cross our hearts” law was passed, and I think there’s the one my husband has registered with base security.

                      I think if you include the .22, that makes me SUPER!

                3. My Dad had a 12 gauge from before I was born. When I was 12 or so he bought a Marlin .22. But he didn’t much like guns, and if anyone had asked him, he would have said he didn’t have any guns in the house. The 12 gauge and the .22 were tools to him.

                  “No, we don’t have any guns. Those things in the hall closet? Well, they’re not *real* guns like on TV…”

            2. Too bad the supply of AK kits has mostly dried up. Since you have the DIY chromosome, you’d have no trouble riveting an AK together…

          1. Is that right? Gawd damn– I really need to write more books. I’ve wondered why I am not writing until I started looking at my meds side-effects. Damn I’ve had a headache for months– years even and the meds caused it. *sigh

              1. I started attempting to keep a log of my daily writing, and do a minimum of a hundred words a day. Goal was to eventually reach usable productivity, or to triage. I recently doubled my usual B12, and that might be doing something.

          2. I saw that and went to the closet. “OK, mine” moves a few, “Dad’s” moves a few more. “Mom’s plus that other one . . .Dang. We probably shouldn’t have left these alone together in the dark for so long.” I half-expected to move the ammo stack and find a littler of brand-new derringers.

            1. The long-running joke about Mosin rifles is that you buy one, and a couple of years later you have half a dozen, and no idea where the extras came from.

          3. I saw that and had to go look to see if they meant “of each type.”

            Note this survey was conducted from among people who had agreed to be paid to participate in web based online surveys, who decided to answer these gun questions. The researchers decided to run it this way because, for some reason they could not understand, randomized telephone surveys that asked people how many guns they owned tended to get “insufficient participation”.

            So with the selection bias of working in the pool of folks who have the time and need for cash to volunteer to take web surveys in return for renumeration, where only 4,000-ish of them didn’t bail on the survey once it was clear it was about how many guns they owned, absent some type of confirmation from something with a better methodology, you can consider this survey’s total numbers owned data as well as their characterization of the right hand tail of their curve to be very highly suspect.

            1. Only quoted for entertainment purposes. Of course the article/study was biased! But I need an excuse to go gun shopping. WORK with me here! 😀

              1. Watch your friends’ expressions when they find out the custom leather gear you were anxiously awaiting is a new rig for your carry gun…

              2. Excuses? We don’ need no steenking excuses!!

                Here in California, it’s “One Gun A Month – It’s Not Just A Good Idea, It’s The Law”.

            2. Google up “Kinsey Report” some time. It was supposed to be a comprehensive report about human sexuality, and was accepted as established fact for a long time.

              Over the decades the report’s conclusions have been disputed as more information has become available about how the phrasing of questions affects the results. The “meta” levels get pretty deep; the report is now accepted more as an example of questionnaire design than as anthropological data.

        3. “Hey, did you know that the alcohol you made with a still while you were trying to figure out how it works can be made into a REALLY AWESOME flamethrower/potato gun? WATCH!”

          *ball of fire arches away*

            1. First time I ever read about spud guns was Tucker Carlson in the Weekly Standard, circa 2002.

              EPIPHANIES are rarer in life than in literature. But they do occur, those moments when everything changes in an instant, when you know your understanding of the world will never be quite the same. I had one of those this summer, when I saw my first potato cannon.

              We were in Maine, visiting friends who live in a rural area up the coast. It was early evening, cocktail hour, and we were sitting on the back porch watching the kids play in the grass.

              “Hey,” said my friend, “want to shoot the potato cannon?”

              Minutes later he emerged from the barn with the thing in hand: four feet of white plastic PVC plumbing pipe, capped at one end. On the underside was a red button, an igniter taken from a gas barbecue. Using a ramrod, he forced a baking potato down the barrel. Then he unscrewed the back of the pipe, sprayed a shot of Aquanet hairspray into the combustion chamber, and closed it back up. He handed it to me. I pressed the button.

              As it turns out, Aquanet (like Right Guard underarm deodorant, and a number of other grooming products) is made with propane. Compressed and ignited, propane explodes. Like a 10. gauge shotgun. Flames leapt from the muzzle. The potato flew about half a mile before I lost sight of it. The report was tremendous. The dogs hid. I was in love.

              “That’s nothing,” said my friend. “Wait till it gets dark. We’ll cut open a lightstick and pour it on the potato. It’s like a tracer round.”


              A couple of Sundays ago, my kids and I decided to test our marksmanship. We made a bipod out of two-by-fours to steady our aim, and painted a target on a stump. The first one to hit the center with a potato got ice cream.

              I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t do well. My first shot missed entirely. So did my son’s. (I hit a tree, he knocked a hole in the fence.) Both of the girls did better, but it was our youngest, the 2-year-old, who prevailed.

              She hit the bull’s-eye dead on. The center of the stump disintegrated. She was thrilled, and so were we. In the end, we all got ice cream.
              — — —
              Yeah, you know you want to read the whole thang.

        4. Nah – not paperclips and a box. Too temporary and getting good-quality grenades is hard – and the grenades would be a dead giveaway as to what you are up to. For a deniable list of stuff you might have around the house, I’ll take a couple of lengths of pipe with the ability to close 1 end solid, a can of aquavelvet/propane/etc., a spark source, a supply of steel wool, a supply of appropriately sized aluminum cans which fit in the pipe, some plastic bags, and a couple of gallons of gasoline. If I’m feeling particularly vicious, add some household soap to the supply list. Fear the guy making multiple trips to the hardware store … 😉

        5. Improvised weapons are definitely one thing that would proliferate. I mean, ok, ball bearings (or even round rocks) fired from a piece of iron pipe wouldn’t have the velocity to be really deadly beyond a short range, since you can’t use as much explosive as in a cannon, but it would really work for harassing fire. Or homemade rockets with an equally homemade “bang sticks” (like they use for sharks) on the front end of them, or…

        6. You know, this is the reason why I have come to dislike the anti-2nd-amendment argument “we can’t allow BB-guns, because no one has the right to grenades and rocket launchers and fighter jets and nuclear bombs!”

          Look, if it’s cheap and easy to build, like grenades and rocket launchers, then there will be no shortage of Americans who know how to build it. The only reason why they aren’t used in crime is because they are too impractical to use effectively. Sure, terrorists might want them, but silly laws aren’t going to stop the terrorists to get them (as demonstrated adequately in France, among other places).

          Indeed, flame throwers are legal in most places, but you don’t hear of people using them to rob banks.

          If they are expensive and hard to build, like fighter jets and nuclear weapons, then anyone who has the money to get these things aren’t likely to use them negligently or maliciously — and if such a person really wishes to cause harm, piddly laws aren’t going to stop their destruction!

          So, yeah, I think arms laws in general are just posturing at best, and harmful at worst. If you really want to own and fire that bazooka, go knock yourself out (perhaps even literally!). Just make sure you don’t cause serious harm to property or people, because you WILL be held accountable for that.

  6. On Tuesday last week I hit my head in the car accident– and yes, I also have to work hard to be upbeat and happy. I consciously pick out the good details just to keep myself going. However after the hit, I slid from that into a dark place– Damn… as soon as I started to heal, my personality that I worked so hard on came back. It scares me that my underneath person is so dark… So yes, understood… Thankfully when I go there, I am usually too sick to do something about it–

    1. Pain’s distracting, and nevermind the bloody drugs and what they do. I had the same issue after surgery. Black moods, grouchy as anything, depressed… Stopped taking pain meds, got my unhappy arse off the couch, did some complicated plumbing, and got my “me” back.

      Whatever it takes to get your “me” back is worth it, I think. Not being yourself is scary.

    1. Could it be in part because a significant portion of the population is now not able to take a joke, they can’t even allow humor to be around– they’ve got to “correct” it to a rather nasty polemic?

      I finally figured it out after I started avoiding folks and couldn’t figure out why… absolutely NOTHING even slightly related to what they think is “political” could be allowed to go past in a joke without being “fixed.”

      1. And more and more things are considered political. I don’t want politics to taint every aspect of life.

        1. Some things don’t need to be political, which is why I nastily and vindictively set things straight, at length, whenever someone within thirty yards says anything even a thirty second part wrong.

          Seriously, I’d like to think I’m better than that, but I’m not convinced my track record supports that.

          1. I’m guessing that came from the same type of obnoxious busybodies who nag women that *they* think have too many children?

            1. It was a man. Who actually walked up and complemented by (admittedly ADORABLE) baby girl.

              And then accused me of wanting him to die off and make room because he saw I had five car seats……

                1. I went with the ‘give him a look that lets him know he’s being pathetic’ option.

                  Yes, overpopulation and the fact that it’s a myth were both mentioned.

                  1. No, Mr. Bond, I want you to die off because you presume to dictate to me what personal choices I am permitted.

                    1. Advantage of The Look is that I know I can do it, and it requires no eloquence.

                      It’s also harder to get pissy about a look without looking even more foolish.

                    2. Oh. I am not allowed to do “The Look” for reasons best not gone into here.

                      Let me just murmur “Evil-Eye Fleegle” and leave it at that.

          2. Well, given that California now requires kids to be in carseats until age 13 or so, it could just be that you’re one of the moms in charge of transporting the middle school soccer team…

            1. Washington requires that they be in the back seat (if possible) and in boosters until 13 or I can’t remember the weight/height thing.

              It’s basically impossible for me to follow unless I buy a carseat with an “or” in it, because my kids are all very long and very light, so they don’t hit the weight limits before they’re too big to safely ride in a seat……

            2. Alternatively: How is what I want any of your damn business?* Hell, even the Chinese are reversing their one-child policy and rewarding productive citizens.

              *Be prepared for idiotic arguments about property taxes, likely from somebody who doesn’t know what percentage of those go to schools, much less how much of that makes it into the classroom. Maybe he would want to look at eliminating teacher tenure after three years or reduce the pensions and benefits accruing to “public” employees.

      2. Counter-attack. Accuse them of cultural imperialism, of trying to force their morality on others and rac(sex)ism for assuming [“minority”] is incapable of taking a joke. Hold them guilty of violating their own standards.

  7. I get so depressed about the world in general, especially since I have been reading a lot about the period between WWI and WWII. The similarities and portents are scary. Thanks to all of you who help me to consider that in the long term we will win. Not concerned for myself, but for my grandchildren and the other young ones coming up. Shall listen to Vera Lynn which helps.

        1. Somebody needs to do a drawing of the nesting box of baby derringers. Peering over the side, hoping to go to good homes… 😀

          1. I doodled a couple of baby derringers on a pad paper, rough sketched with pen. Because this wouldn’t let me sleep:

            A squeak startled TXRed from her inventory. It came from the bottom of the closet, where boxes of ammunition were stacked. “Oh no, I hope that’s not a mouse hiding in there!”

            The soft squeaky mewling came not from the box with the live ammo, but the small plastic crate where the spent casings were kept, to save for future reloading. In there nestled five tiny baby derringers, in a cozy bed of spent brass. One bold fellow nudged his way up against the side of the box to peek up with an odd gleam of curious excitement. “Pick me up,” he seemed to say. “Take me and give me a good home and I will help keep you safe!” She was reminded of a puppy; and that puppies still can indeed draw blood.

            I’ll try to upload the picture later on my blog and link it here.

            1. “Well, it was easy to find the sire,” TXRed sighed to her friend over the phone later that day. “There were two pepperboxes in the litter, and only one of the shotguns was still in the case. What? Yeah. I left word at school and three have homes already, but pepperboxes? I’m tempted to just keep feeding them for a while and see if one will mature into a Judge. That I could find a home for. Oh, really? No, I hadn’t thought about that. yes, we have an Old West reenacting group.” She scrambled to find a pen and scratch paper. “I will drop them a line this evening. Excellent thought. ‘Preciate it, really do.”

              1. While I was drifting off to sleep last night my accursed brain tried to stay awake by wondering “What would they eat? Machine/gun oil for ‘milk’? Graduating to a mash made with black powder?” At that point I decked my internal chibi with the baka mallet and went to sleep. Well, for four hours anyway.

                1. A PI who always carries a signature revolver would work well as someone who is having his collection, and the collections of his friends, family, and associates overflowing storage with litters.

                  They can get by on cleaning, but really enjoy range time.

      1. She came by and invoked the laws of hospitality. How could we refuse her?
        (Although I’m still not sure whether she’s Clio, Calliope, Euterpe, or Thalia.)

        1. I have Melpomene. Sometimes she appears as a black dog in the early hours of the morning.

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