In Praise of Broken — A blast from the Past from June 2012

I woke up with all symptoms of a bad cold. I still have to put DSR up for pre-order. BUT there will be a nap before it. (I’m not sure if it’s a cold or allergy, but I suspect a cold because I feel exhausted and allergy doesn’t do that.) So I thought I’d do a blast from the past. I hope that’s okay.

In Praise of Broken — A blast from the Past from June 2012

If I had a dime for every time I’ve read that “every baby should be planned” and that “every puppy should be wanted” and that “everyone should have a fulfilling occupation” I’d have too many dimes to be contained in the universe.  But the question is: would every dime be shiny?

What are you getting at Sarah?

What I am getting at is that many people seem to have completely lost track of the distinction between ideal and actual.  Let me spell it out for you: ideal exists only as a perfect thing in your mind.  Like the battle plan not surviving contact with the enemy, it will never survive contact with reality.

That perfectly planned child will suddenly become unplanned when it turns out to be a girl, rather than a boy, or a boy rather than a girl.  Or when he/she turns out to have a personality completely different from what his parents’ expected.  While IQ might be broadly inheritable, at least in components (mostly from the mother, interestingly enough) the way it’s expressed isn’t necessarily.  So you’ll have the bookish parents with the mechanically gifted child, or vice-versa.  Planned?  Who told you you could plan a chaotic system?  It’s sort of like planning your day tomorrow – you’d best have three layers of plans in case it rains, in case a wildfire comes through, in case it’s fine and beautiful.  And even then, it will find a way to surprise you.

And the puppy who was so wanted?  The family that adopted him will get sick and have to give him away.  They’ll unexpectedly lose their jobs.  The puppy will turn out to have a condition that’s not fatal but is a life-long drain and expense.  Or something else will happen you can’t predict.

But, Sarah, you say, shouldn’t we PLAN for the ideal?  Then we just adapt to less than ideal.

It depends on the plan.  There is a type of positive planning, in which you leave the route open to the wonder of the broken (yes, I’ll explain) and the negative planning, where you won’t take anything less than absolute perfection.  The negative planning is usually what you get when government bureucrats or do-gooding busybodies get involved.

It concentrates on NOT LETTING the less than ideal happen.  These are the people who think you should be licensed to have children, after you pass classes that say you’re an ideal parent in THEIR WAY.  The people who think every unplanned baby should be aborted or killed up to three months after birth (you only think I’m joking.)  These are the people who post on craigslist screaming at people giving away puppies and kittens that they are terrible people and should have had their animal spayed.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that I think overpopulation is lies, damn lies and statistics and that in fact the current worldwide crisis is caused by population ALREADY falling.  (I confess the evidence is circumstantial and thin, but there is some and – more importantly – the evidence on the other side is dubious and suffers from wrong-process.)  That’s the subject for a whole post and one I don’t have the energy to write right now.  Let’s leave aside the fact that I think our obsession with spaying and neutering in fact can act (is acting?) as a sort of reverse selective breeding, pushing cats and dogs back to non-domesticated (no?  We keep the cutest/friendliest from reproducing.)  And also that in some areas of the country – here – you either buy a breed dog, adopt a dog who turned out less than ideal for someone else, or … adopt a puppy imported from elsewhere.  In Colorado puppies seem to come from Texas.  But in some places they come from abroad.  Cats are more abundant because… they’re cats and harder to catch and confine.

Let’s instead look at the other side of the coin, and why negative planning for the ideal and temper tantrums at people who don’t follow your version of ideal, are stupid: because broken plans and broken ideals often come as a blessing.

Sorry to use the religious term, but I don’t know how else to express it.  Sometimes the crisis-unplanned turns out to be the best thing you ever got.

Right after our cat Pete died, we found ourselves adopting Euclid because otherwise he was going to be euthanized because he had an uti and our humane society euthanizes those, so it doesn’t spread throughout the pens.  We had about twenty minutes in which to decide.  We had – G-d knows – enough cats.  But he would have died otherwise.  We adopted him.

Yes, Euclid is broken in interesting ways.  My son calls him a feline Woody Allen.  Only Woody Allen isn’t into extreme body modification, while Euclid chews off his leg hair and gives himself a poodle cut.  Also, some right b*stard trained Euclid to fabric before we got him, which is why we can’t have rugs on our floors, not till Euclid departs this vale of tears. (On the good side, Euclid doesn’t show any propensity to love on adopted daughters.  Of course, he doesn’t have any.  Um…)

But in the days after 9/11, when it seemed I could not stop crying, he was the cat who came and loved on me.  He’s the one who sits on you when you’re sick or worried, and purrs and reassures you all is well in the world.  And sometimes that purr is your only connection to happiness.

Or let’s look at how many not only unplanned but disastrously unplanned children go on and make the world a better place.  Right now it’s early morning and only Leonardo DaVinci – unplanned, illegitimate, broken in interesting ways – comes to mind, but I know there are scores of others.  (Yes, there’s also people like Hitler – but there is no indication that it was the fact they were unplanned that sent them spinning towards evil.)

A friend who had a terrible childhood once told me that she supported abortion unconditionally, because it would have been much better to be aborted than to be abused.  What she was missing was that her parents would never have aborted her.  She WAS planned and needed in the family: as a scape goat.  The kids that get aborted in that type of calculus are the ones whose parents are afraid they can’t give them the very best – just like the animals who get spayed are those whose owners fear that they can’t find good enough homes for the litters – not those that are born to be mistreated.

Part of this, I think, is that our life has become so good compared to that of our ancestors that we think we can push it just a little further and make it ideal.

Every baby will be wanted!  Every pet will be loved!  And there shall be no more tears and suffering!

Never works.  Ever.  There will always be people who need a kid as a scape goat.  And even if you certified parents there will be parents who are fine young, and then get some illness or some other problem and – there you have it.  Less than ideal.  And before you say “but then the kids can be taken away” think of strangers evaluating and deciding family life from the outside.

I was a disastrously unplanned child, born premature with all the problems that implies.  I had the world’s sickliest childhood.  Mom has health problems that make her less than an ideal parent.  (She knows this.  She never wanted children.  She ended up with two of us by accident.)  Were there rough patches?  Oh, sure.  Aren’t there in everyone’s life?  But my family has a shared sense of humor, which helped.  And I got to live and write, and marry and have kids of my own.  Would it be better if I never existed because I wasn’t wanted?  Or even because I would, of necessity, always be at least partly broken?

Some of the best pets I’ve had have been mutts or even feral babies whom I tamed.  Right now we have Havey-cat whom we found on a mini-golf course, starved and covered in grease, and with a broken tail.  He now presents and behaves as a Turkish van.  Is he?  At least partially, probably.  But he’s not less loved because he came to us when we were maxed out on cats and definitely not in the market for one who is a fuzz machine (we’re all mildly allergic to cats.)  And he is, again, one of those animals who can lift your mood, because he’s a born clown and still kitten-like after three years.

Oh, yeah, and through no fault of anyone, I never fit in Portugal.  But my askew childhood and youth – difficult as they were in living them – resulted in my falling in love with a stranger from a strange land, and finding home that way.

Will some percentage of children you give up for adoption be abused?  Inevitable.  A controlling system can’t prevent that.  No system can.  What it can do is keep children trapped in foster care or convince people to abort rather than put the kids up for adoption.  Will some percentage of kittens given away end up as snake food?  Inevitable.  No system can prevent that.  I doubt it’s as many as we’ve been led to believe, though.  Most cats throughout history have been pets and not snake food.  Most humans are predisposed to at least not mistreat pets.  Call it co-evolution.

Look at your lives: really look.  Could you have planned everything that happened?  Would your ideal life have been REALLY better?

Take my career: did I intend to have my first trilogy tank, trapping me in ten years of midlist hell?  Well, no.  But let’s imagine it had succeeded.  I’d now be stuck in the “literary fantasy” niche, which btw pays lousily and where they expect only one book every two years.  Worse, I found by my third book that while I can do it and even enjoy it to an extent, if I do nothing but that I become horribly depressed.

But the trilogy failed, and I was broke, and we were paying on two houses and I was fixing the “old” house for sale, and I couldn’t find a day job.  Then Jim Baen offered me money.  Then Berkley paid me to write Plain Jane.  My heart was broken, I didn’t want to write anymore.  The dream was gone.

But I needed money, and so I wrote, and even through the hell of six-books-a-year the dream came back.  And now I’m facing the chance for a better career than I hoped for AND I have the skills of incredible amounts of practice under pressure.

Would I have chosen this route?  No.  Was it rough as heck at times?  Yep.  Would I wish it undone?  No.  I wouldn’t wish any of the books unwritten.  I wouldn’t wish what I learned unlearned.

There is no perfect upbringing – for man or beast.  There is no ideal situation that can’t be reversed.  There isn’t any reason to believe that wanted – animals or humans – are better.  There isn’t any reason to believe the most peaceful places or eras are better.  Yes, the fourteenth century was a terrible time, but it gave us the renaissance and, eventually, the enlightenment.

Taking the broken and doing the best we can with it is all we can do.

And sometimes it’s much better than the ideal could have been.

107 thoughts on “In Praise of Broken — A blast from the Past from June 2012

  1. Another way of stating much the same thing is that Life(tm) is more complicated than any individual or group is capable of solving. And if they could then conditions would still change, and also include the complication of the life-solver.

    When you can’t just solve for X, you have to iterate and adapt.

    1. “You intend to micromanage the lives of three hundred and twenty million people. I know I’m not smart enough to do that. You are stupid enough to believe you can.”

      1. They’re all pretty much the same thing, so it’s not a problem.

        He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder. — Adam Smith

        Fancy what a game of chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but a little uncertain also about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly; if your bishop, at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deductive reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be especially likely to be beaten, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt. Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments. — George Eliot

        1. There is a meme which shows King and Queen chess pieces leaning against the wall of a dungeon.

          “Things changed fast once the Pawns were given guns ”

          Says it all right there. They may THINK we’re Pawns but we only play for so long.

  2. Last night on the news I saw some left-wing dingbat calling for a ‘sex strike’ to prevent men from eating meat. This morning I know what disturbed me about the proposition. I would like to sit that dingbat down and say:

    “That’s a peculiar form of prostitution.”

    After all the outrage and denials die down, I would ask:

    “You’re going to exchange sex for something you want. What else would you call it?”

    More outrage and denials, of course.

    “Not demanding actual money doesn’t make you any less a whore. It just makes you a dishonest whore.”

    “Yep, that’s right, I’m an Eeevul White Male Supremacist for noticing what you’re doing. Doesn’t make it untrue, though.”

    1. That’s evil! (I love it.) Punchline to an old joke: “We’ve already determined what you are; now we’re just negotiating price.” 🙂

    2. That’s conversation probably has a more long lasting effect that just going with the Gene Wilder Willie Wonka “no. don’t. stop.” meme

  3. As IIRC Confucius said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Benjamin Franklin was the 8th child of his mother (15th of his widowed father). You can’t plan for everything, but you can train to be resilient.

    As to your wish-I’d-been-aborted friend, the best revenge is to get a life. My mother was adopted and never knew her birth parents so might well have been aborted if it had been legal. My wife’s father was physically (though not sexually) abusive and mother was borderline crazy (eventually conserved by the county for her and everybody else’s safety), and flatly told my wife that she would have aborted her if it had been legal at the time. Did that make for a great life for my wife? Not health-wise, but she was a joy and a light to everyone who got to know her and had many students consider the best teacher they ever had. Her teaching career was an accident BTW. She was on her way to a PhD and a career as a scientist, when she refused to lie about her work to help her dissertation advisor justify his defrauding a sponsor of his research. When the University told her to not cause trouble because her advisor was up for tenure, she ended up leaving with only her MS, and that made teaching at the community college level available to her.

  4. My kids are MY kids. Anyone who tried to take them away, would have ended up being treated as a kidnapper caught in the act. Sure, I may have ended up dead afterwards, but I’d have taken a nice honor guard with me.

    Live free or die, death is not the worst of evils.

    1. And yes, my raising my kids is more likely to increase their chances of love, success, and life than being wards of the State. Ergo, preventing them from becoming wards of the State is a moral act.

    2. “…treated as a kidnapper caught in the act”

      That would be correct IMHO; according to dictionary dot com, kidnap is defined as “to steal, carry off, or abduct by force or fraud, especially [ed: not “only”] for use as a hostage or to extract ransom.”

      Note that no exception is made for “official” kidnapping, which is inherently done “by force” (although I’m sure Child Destructive Services would disagree that it applies)… 😦

  5. Vader was the one that always came and sat with me when I was upset. His mother was feral, and died somehow, so he and his brother survived on garbage because they were too young to hunt. He loved green beans. He’d eat potatoes if they had pepper on them. He became an indoor cat when he went blind at 18, and died at 25. He was a caretaker. Whenever there were kids in the yard he was right there, making sure they didn’t get too close to the street.

    The problem with their perfect would is that even if every child was “wanted” you would still end up with spina bifida and triplets, allergies and cancer. Even if perfect was possible at the beginning, it would quickly become something else. The first time Mom gets vomit all over her on date night, does that child become unwanted? When Dad has to change a dirty diaper, or help with homework, is that child no longer wanted?

    People are, by nature and design, imperfect. By trying to perfect human beings, those human beings move ever closer to being disposable.

    1. Oldest one of our cats have lived to be, so far, was almost 22. We’ve lost 3 at ages 1, 3, and 5. Last two to sudden onset cancer/illness, the first was still semi-feral and not in the house, yet (his sister died at age 15). We currently have 4 (one 9, two are 3, one is 2, this next spring). We have 11 cats, and 3 dogs, waiting for us on the Rainbow Bridge (not counting our childhood pets).

      1. Two cats for me when I was single, then four dogs. Two passed at age 12, one at 15, and Sara the sweetheart kept an eye on me while I was recovering, though she was dealing with pancreatitis. After I was healed enough, she figured her work was done and let go. Just short of 17 years old.

        Though she was the last to leave us, I figure she’ll be the boss herder at the Bridge for our guys.

        1. Gah. I half remember a story I heard about, but probably didn’t read or watch, where the dog reincarnates multiple times throughout his master’s life and watches over him.

  6. +10 on everything you wrote here. There’s a very old engineering maxim, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”; eventually you have to stop “improving” the design and build the thing. Learning that deep down and fully internalizing it is what separates a competent engineer from a dilettante with a degree.

    1. The common saying where I worked at HP, “No project is finished; it’s shipped.” I had to try to beat that into a guy who kept trying to make his IC just a bit smaller. Once he realized that the 2 micron change he was pushing for wouldn’t make the die fit the next 10 micrometer smaller size, a light went on in his head. Not a bright light; he changed his career from IC designer to dentist. (I figured he’d be like the one in Little Shop of Horrors.)

      1. I think it’s a common trait in people who tend toward engineering: “I can make it just a little bit (better, smaller, faster)”. The management/marketing equivalent is …cheaper/ prettier”. 🙂

        1. This writer who wanted to be a mechanical engineer when she was very young has the same issue. In retrospect though I think I beat up Darkship renegades into better shape. Yes, I could do it better now, but you know, that wouldn’t work for younger and less experienced Sarah. So I’ll write new things. Onward.

          1. Cleanup and improvement is part of the normal design process, whether as an author or an engineer. Even redesign isn’t a problem if there’s a valid reason. The problem is when it becomes an obsession such that nothing ever gets released because “just this one little fix, then it’s good to go”. That’s a quest for perfection, which we all know just drives the perpetrator insane.

              1. Sounds like you found a solution. I had the same tendency to want perfection when I first worked as an engineer; it took a few years to learn better, with “encouragement” from older and more experienced members of the team. 🙂

                1. I did not have older more experienced engineers/programmers encouraging me otherwise. OTOH My job starting in 1990 was so far behind the day I started, I learned I was never going to have perfect code. That me, myself, and I, could not think of everything. At some point I had to turn it over to the alpha/beta testers … in this case, internal clients, and start working on the next project. By the time 6 full years had passed, I had the process down. Next job, also started behind (technically stayed behind … stupid Marketing; Engineering – no we can’t meet that deadline, quit telling the CEO engineering can). Did have other engineers, embedded engineers, not working on what I was on. They had the same process. Only company actually had a testing process, internal alpha, beta clients, before everything went out into the market. The last job was back to releasing directly to the clients. Most the changes, not all, worked out okay that way (add this new selection criteria, or sorting option, new detail on forms, etc.). Make the change, quick test, ship it, notify. Generally took longer for client’s IT to install it. Some changes, not near as fast, especially the “is this what you mean” categories. Same process learned from 1990 still worked, all the way through 2016.

      2. It’s true in almost every field I’ve ever worked in. When I was in science, we always made it a policy to submit to conferences rather than journals because the conferences had a firm deadline, so you just had to submit whatever you had on September 30 rather than spending the next six months carefully refining every result.

        In writing, I can invent entire worlds. Inventing an excuse for why I absolutely must polish this particular novel for another two weeks/months/years is trivial. One big plus of doing a pre-order page on Amazon is that it FORCES you into a deadline.

      3. When I worked at IP, I always figured three phases to the project — Startup, Intense focus, and finally Wrap up. Back to back projects the Startup and Wrap up of the two projects overlapped. Wrap up was two parts “Why would they do that? Prevention. And Tweaks/Project Additions/Training.” One case was forever because always proving the program was working. Then too the person using the program (not the one requesting, that was the new boss), had earned a lot of overtime doing it manually; the program eliminated all of that overtime. Tried to sabotage but couldn’t without it being obvious it was sabotage. Didn’t help their case that I’d already done 2 difficult successful projects for said boss, who was not known to be easy to work with on software projects. Solution? Easy. Said employee retired and was replace. Training new person. Problem solved.

        Percon/PSC by the time it was released for sale, it was that code until the next official release. Luckily we did have official testers.

        My last job? Did it do what the client wanted for the request made, without breaking? Ship it (no other testing). Program was going to get worked on again for another request anyway. No size consideration. I was aware of some speed issues and made switch available, once, to only turn on that “feature” if really needed it. (If sum(cost * %) <> sum(sum(cost) * %) by a lot, then turn on the switch. One client definitely needed it. Others, IDK.)

        My programming full release trigger was, I don’t want to have to work on this again, unless requirement changes. Even then, depending on the change, I was not above pushing back when I knew the client would be coming back to switch it back. In retrospect I wonder if that is why, after I left, the new hires didn’t work out long term. There were a few clients that they were intermediaries and didn’t know what was needed, not really, then it was your fault if you got it right to their explicit instructions, but they were wrong. Every, single, time. It is possible to deal and get it right for their end user, but there is a definite dance. A couple were particularly bad. Others were, um, trainable, eventually.

        1. Startup, Intense focus, and finally Wrap up

          How about Startup, Focus, Wrapup & Crash?

          My last big project was entertaining, though the last month was a headache. Kicked off the project in Dec 2001, and I had usable code for the first part in March. Their system didn’t work as well as they thought [insert unkind comments on German Engineering and Engineers here], and I almost got fired for making a bleak joke about it. Mercifully, the customer had a similar sense of (gallows) humor, so they didn’t complain and I avoided that pit.

          We got the second part more or less done the end of August, 2002, but spent September futilely/frantically chasing a problem–the calibration didn’t quite work out. Finally, at the end of the month, the people who did the standard’s numbers realized that they made an error. Redid the standard’s numbers and done. Problem fixed. Unfortunately, at the same time, the customer went bankrupt, in time to prevent any payout for the hours worked in September. (Not sure if any claim would have stood; multinational bankruptcy was well beyond my knowledge, and it wasn’t enough money to hire a lawyer to find out.) As it was, the paid months did wonders at paying for the renovation.

          A year later, we left the remodeled house in San Jose for Flyover County in Oregon. Haven’t done any paid programming since.

          1. My last job the system was bought, with X hours of custom programming, training, and support, and then yearly required annual payments (with X hours of training/programming). Only one client was lost, in the 12 years I was there. The county could not afford the annual payments. One client did stop for almost a year, then they failed a Federal Audit. Oops. They paid their annual fee and frantically got 11 months of data entered, and reports done (lot of hours helping ensure things were balancing, not data entry). Note, in no way were either of the X hours ever tracked. In general, all payments were up front. ALL government contracts. (It wasn’t until after I retired that finger prints and back ground checks were required. IDK if that was a new requirement from the government or because of the new owner, or both.)

            Essentially requests/training were take the call, make a judgement on whether just add to list, latter Ticket system, or take to boss on whether to “bid” for cost. Rarely did I go and say “um, you should know, so and so, is calling a lot …” A sign he needed to call about them to pay for onsite training. Always meant new employee. Occasionally, rarely, the new employee just needed a basic run through, with this is why, and done. One client was particularly bad about running through employees … Guessed it. Their boss was the problem. When I retired, the client was between employees. The client supervisor/boss (who’d been on the system longer than I had ….) still wasn’t “getting it”. Note, when I started, I learned more about the system from clients than I did my boss (on the road training/selling) and coworkers (too busy). Think about that one client … AND this wasn’t the “worse” client.

            Oh. The State and Federal auditors “Loved” the system. The departments that had the system had auditors there a day, maybe two. The ones who didn’t? A week or two. System was originally written with input from California Auditors, late ’80s through ’90s. Client with auditors onsite with a question or a problem? Stop what you were working on and solve it, Now. Boss was an accountant.

  7. How can imperfect people create a Perfect World?

    How could imperfect people live in a Perfect World?

    To those obsessed with creating a Perfect World, the answer is obvious. They have to eliminate all those imperfect people who don’t fit in it. Next stop, Gulags and mass graves.

    OK, all the Perfect People, raise your hands.

    Now keep them up, so we know who to shoot.

        1. I recently did post an essay on another website that included some detailed reasoning on why favoring war/extermination in Europe could possibly be in our national interest. Albeit with a bunch of caveats.

          (Spoilers: The reasoning that I shared may have been a little bit batshit insane.)

          But, probably, forcing the Russians to terms may be the only hope for peace in Europe anyway.

          Any model of recent events that explains things in terms of subtle US manipulations does not change the fact that Putin did start this mess, his plans failed catastrophically, and that most of the reasons for that are under his oversight. Nor the apparent pattern that the Russians are nuts, Russian intel has some pretty paranoid biases, and Russians may have never really been capable of reciprocally civilized behavior with foreign powers.

          1. We don’t have any good options for Russia that we can forecast using theory.

            I actually think that nuclear war may be the best of the theoretically forecastable options, and in current circumstances that is an absolutely terrible option.

            Some times the right answer is a) do physical planning for some foreseeable contingencies /without/ committing to anything b) pray to be surprised by better options.

            Russia can be bad, and at the same time, if America has compelling reason to act, the first step may be violently removing certain US politicians from office.

                1. Eaaahh…killing everybody on the trolley strikes me as a suboptimal solution.

                  Strangling the asshole that put you in that situation has some appeal, though… 😮

  8. Great post, Sarah.

    Both my parents were only children. It wasn’t until a few years with a good therapist that I understood my mother didn’t hate me–that wasn’t the reason she bullied and shamed me all the time, especially in public, and most especially at family gatherings that I was bullied/forced to go to. She was afraid to talk to me–our personalities are very different. Plus, as soon as Papa delighted a bit too much in his first little girl, the Mama destroyed my spirit in such a way that I never knew either Mom or Dad as people. She made me despise him, when I didn’t really. But it was death to disagree.

    My sister and I were forbidden children; she’s 51 with a husband who wanted kids. They just got a neato chihuahua named Woody. I had the chance for kids three times, and didn’t.

    So, my sissy and I get some great therapy, and now we understand (more or less) what happened. We’re committed to creating a great life for this last season. Yes, the memories come way too often and are painful.

    But now we get a chance to create a great life, however that looks to us.

    (And that includes lots and lots of cats, puppies, and hopefully goats. And chickens.)

  9. I have heard of people who say that if a woman realizes she wants a baby when she finds herself accidentally pregnant, she should have an abortion and then set out to intentionally conceive.

    Sadly, all too plausible

    1. No mention there of how the abortion might make conceiving later harder or even impossible due to scarring or – as I think Steinberg vs. Carhart mentioned – baby parts remaining in the mother’s body…

    2. The type of person who would say something like that is the type for whom I believe a very late-term abortion (which they seem to generally favor) is warranted; damaged beyond any hope of recovery.

      1. Because sociopathy and psychopathy are endemic among certain groups, and they never miss a chance to “do bad”? 😦

    3. Well, I know a bunch of women who had been convinced to have abortions earlier in their lives, who later chose to have children. Almost every one of them admitted to guilt and regret for having killed the earlier one.

  10. Quite OK with me, as though it matters (your house). I’ll even have to read this later myself; I’m not sure whether the cold from Thursday let a flu in, or it was just a while before I actually developed a fever to fight the bug (woke up at ~2 AM shivering like mad).

    Take care, drink your fluids, eat your soup, do only what you feel you must. There are times that “mañana” or “as God wills it” are the only intelligent responses.

    1. Yep; nothing new is ever learned from success. My Usenet sig notes this:

      “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’ ” – Isaac Asimov

    2. In government and bureaucracy, anything that doesn’t go according to plan means trouble. Somebody might have to actually work, or even (shudder) THINK.
      The one thing we need more of from the government is LESS!!

      1. …which means they have to hire a consultant, since they’re generally capable of neither working nor thinking. No guarantee the consultant can, either, but that’s not their problem; they Followed The Rulebook, and thus Their A** Is Covered.

        (Me, cynical?!? Inconceivable!) 🙂

  11. We’ve never gone to a shelter, or rescue, to pay, to adopt a kitten. Technically we can’t, as we refuse to sign that they will be inside only. Have no problem spaying and neutering cats, we’ll find a kitten (or kitten will find us, it is a toss up), or two, for them to parent, somewhere, along the line. Only had one cat (current 9 year old) who is not enthused with the idea. Have gone to a rescue for our last two dogs, first one was through our veterinarian, no way did the adoption “fee” cover the medical expenses she incurred before she was released for adoption. Our current dog was brought up from “California” with mom and siblings. Her adoption fee was $350, more than enough to pay for the puppy shots through the low cost spay/neuter clinic, and required spaying (gotta “help” pay for the older dogs and puppies being adopted whose fees won’t pay the medical treatment, shots, and spay/neutering, don’t you know?) Fees for puppies have shot up. The low cost spay/neuter clinic has gone away. FYI. Kittens not so much, but puppies are work, even with mamma around to do a good portion of that. We could not have a cat or dog having babies, just like we can’t foster … We would never be able to give them away.

    Interestingly enough. People who are going to flat out abuse pets, VS neglect, are not going to have pets. They are going to steal them. For the most part. Even dog fighting rings, the bait animals are more often than not, stolen.

    Regarding the path taken that came out of no where. Mine. I started out in Forestry. I had an almost 35 year career in Software/Programming. Some youngster in college now would say, “how is that ‘out of no where’?” Sure. Now. That is often a double major or major/minor combination. But trust me, in the mid-’70s, the two were not on the same radar (for most). In fact, during my ’75 required computer class, should anyone else had been paying attention, I would have been overheard stating how much I hated/despised/loathed that class. I remember laughing at the community college advisor to think about computer programming as a new career because of my math background (note, 1. had to take more math when moved on to computer design; 2. I was there for accounting/bookkeeping, might as well do something “easy”). I also remember the interior switch during the class on programming the college required regardless (not only was it fun, I was very good at it) … never looked back. In fact it is kind of a joke my husband I play on newer acquaintances when friendships get to the stage of “what do you do?”. Hubby answers his job. I answer “Oh, I write/wrote software.” Every single time we get “the look”, you know they are holding back saying “something”. Hubby’s response is “I know! Right?” I’ve said it before, I never/rarely approached software mathematically, I see how the pieces fit together. I see the patterns of how the problems manifested when pointed in that direction. Takes people by surprise. Of coarse it is a double whammy. No one knows what a Log Scaler does.

    1. It’s a widget that puts a data series on a logarithmic scale?

      (Actually, I do know what a log scaler is, because I go off on tangents like “where does dimensional lumber come from?”)

        1. It is carp worthy, isn’t it.

          Someone else who knows what a Log Scaler does …

          Two, wow, that is more than we normally run into.

          1. /laugh

            This bunch (even though some of us tend toward libertarian) pretty much puts the lie to the entire Progressive Left narrative of conservatives being bigoted, ignorant, uneducated, white patriarchy.

            Add in a love of words, being well read, and having enough functional brain cells to understand things in context; yeah, I’m not surprised.

            1. I’d be surprised if there’s something that the Hun Collective doesn’t know, even if just by reading about it. It might take a while for the right person to pipe up, but eventually the knowledge will appear. Or the bad pun be carped.

                1. Alcubierre drive ( is at least theoretically possible without ticking off Saint Albert. Last I heard power requirements were down from “convert Jupiter directly to energy” to “convert Earths Moon directly to energy” Its an improvement but we still need many orders of power reduction to make it feasible. Oh yeah and several different types of unobtanium to make it work. But hey at least there is a theoretical possibility (albeit a slim one…).

                  1. I think we have parts of the solution. Alcubierre has the theory. Extended Heim theory and Walter Dröscher’s and Jochem Hauser’s hypothetical designs provide at least a framework that could be experimentally tested. I don’t have the money, the mechanical expertise or facilities to work with hydrogen saturated palladium rotating at 10,000 rpm at superconducting temperatures.

                    1. Haven’t found any star gates buried under my property. I figure if there were such devices buried around the world, they’d have shown up on gravitometers.

                    2. I fear ANY teleportation skates REAL close to violating basic laws of thermodynamics (C.F. Nivens, ” Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation”). Of course that didn’t stop him from using teleportation left right and center in the later parts of Known Space. I love the Starman Jones model, but if you get lost be sure to do it with someone that has perfect memory of the tables of the Navigators Guild. My own favorite is (naturally) the Begenholm model of Lensmen. 60-90 Parsec/Hour drives put large swaths of the Milky Way in range. Sadly they make as much physical sense as Lightsabers or the Force. I’d settle for B5 or Honor Harrington Hyperdrives :-).

                    3. Actually, I can see a way the Bergenholm could be possible. We all know mass distorts the space around it, a phenomenon we experience as gravity. Mass also exhibits inertia and momentum. What if they all stem from the same cause?

                      What if the reason energy is required to accelerate objects is not because of mass itself, but because you’re pushing that space-time ripple along with it? Might it be possible to ‘iron out’ space-time, flatten the ripple, and move objects without the effects of inertia? Some sort of null-gravity field, adjusted to precisely counteract the space-time distortion caused by a starship’s mass. Accelerating the starship would then require no energy, or very little. The light-speed barrier is a result of the energy used for acceleration accumulating in an object until it’s equivalent to a near-infinite mass. Nullifying the effects of mass avoids that issue, too.
                      At my house, the ‘things that go bump in the night’ are cats.

                  2. Oh yeah and several different types of unobtanium to make it work

                    We’re Americans. The merely difficult we do right away. The impossible takes a little longer.

            2. What is worse technically we are in “timber country”. Sigh.

              To be fair the job is way, way, down in numbers. 1979, after all the hiring was completed, the company we went to work (one of 4, not counting timber company log scalers) for (hubby stayed on longer) had 279 log scalers, a dozen supervisors/check-scalers, 4 region managers. In 1981, they cut down to 150. Hubby was the last one hired back. There were 3 ahead of me (he started, two weeks before me, I had finals to finish), and a couple of dozen below me (a lot of people above hubby in seniority did not come back, we were lucky). Company got as low as 30 to 40 log scalers, finally bouncing between 50 to 60 by the time hubby worked to the top of the seniority list and retirement, and even now. If the states (OR/WA/ID) had pushed through a requirement of all logs had to be scaled by third party scalers, for tax purposes, the job attrition wouldn’t have happened. Blip on the radar. Got quashed. St Helen, and the owl, didn’t help.

      1. ;-}

        Now you know why my job was limited to the PNW and not the larger cities. Portland would have been semi-okay. Seattle area impossible.

    2. The two shelter dogs we got were both puppies. The local shelter insists that they be spayed or neutered before adoption is complete. Sara the Lab/Aussie was 8-1/2 weeks old and the evening after we got her from our vet (at that time, the local vets would do the spay/neuter at low cost for adoptions), she broke a stitch. One frantic phone call and an overly fast drive to the clinic, and the vet and assistant got her restitched. No lasting ill effects, but we were wary of too-young shelter pups afterward. Angie the Border Collie was at least 12 weeks old (She had been neglected with her littermates until some kind soul offered to take them to the shelter in our county. The flaming idiot breeder wanted to sell the pups as workers, but didn’t train, and was ready to shoot them before they were rescued. Not sure why, but she freaked out over loud noises and telephone ringers all her life.)

      Kat the border collie came from a family who had a litter of 10 puppies. Mama was a retired working girl; don’t know dad’s background, but both were sweet. Our vet (different practice, since the first guy retired and his partner got overwhelmed by business and Covidiocy) recommended we wait; she was spayed at 11 months. Not a happy girl for a couple of weeks, but no complications.

      I had exposure to programming in HS and college; HS was late ’60s advanced assembler (NCR NEAT/3), while CS101 was mostly Fortran IV, and another course had us do a project in Fortan II. (Really old computer, not fully retired because US Government contract.)

      My first two years in the industry had zero programming, but the next job got me doing test programming, continuing with both more and less sophisticated machines. I ended up doing test programming in C, with some reasonably complicated projects, before retirement.

      1. My German Shepard I got at 8 months, she was immediately spayed (more than I could afford but needs must).

        T came to us spayed from our veterinarian, she was surrendered to the clinic in place of payment when she lost her ($6k/each) first liter of puppies. She was 28 months.

        Pepper we got through a rescue that “Foster to Adopt”. This allows them to keep ownership, if not custody, until pup is spayed at 6 months. Spaying/neutering before adoption, too young, is a problem with the local shelter, and all local cat rescues; I don’t know about other local rescues. It was something I was prepared to plea our “resume” with to prevent. Both rescue head, and her foster mother, didn’t give me a chance to provide the speech.

        We’ve had one animal go into heat in our custody. This is the latest cat to “fall into our laps” and only because she was older than the original emergency veterinarian who checked her out when the inlaws rescued her stated her age at 3 or 4 months. Our veterinarian said she was adolescent, over 6 months (scheduled ASAP). Inlaws were going to keep her, but the elderly cat they inherited when her dad died took extreme (killing) exception to sharing their 5th wheel space. Sweet cat. SIL is devastated that she is stranger averse (anyone that does not live here is a stranger) and hides when they come over.

  12. I was just reviewing the first reading for Mass this coming Sunday and found it kind of disjointed, because it is. So the prophet Habakkuk is bitching about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and the LORD isn’t doing anything about it (Hab 1:2-4). He goes on about he terror of his times, the Chaldeans and how awful they are (talk about introducing and element of chaos in the mix). All of which I can definitely relate to, just swap out the wicked and the stupid in our own time for the Chaldeans, who are now dust, BTW.

    Then chapter two opens with this, which really struck me:

    I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
    and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

    So instead of awfulizing things as I am wont to do, and drive myself into hole of despair, maybe I should deliberately choose to simply stand and observe the situation, wait for it to clarify, then when the moment seems right, do that thing that is fitting.

    Huh. Standing on the watchtower. Who knew?

  13. To agree with Writing Observer, sure it’s OK. Whose blog/site is this, anyway? Yours! Free ice cream is free ice cream, be it fresh or classic.

  14. Hey you all. Rode out Ian but please send donations for the worst hit Fort Myers area. I wasn’t in the center luckily Thx

  15. One of my college roommates bought a cat. The owner told her the cat was a three-year-old Persian with no problems. The cage should have been a clue, but hpshe paid cash and she had the interesting experience of hauling a large, furry cat home in her arms in Florida weather. As soon as we got home the cat disappeared under the sofa.
    Turned out she was about 7, with a kidney infection which took two courses of medication to clear up. And then we had to wash her to get rid of the smell. Twice. It was all hands on deck, including the AF ROTC guys from four doors down to get this done, mostly because Dee insisted on blow-drying her. Much blood. (The humans tended to look like they’d made unsuccessful suicide attempts, what with the wrist to elbow scratches).
    But what I remember is spending all weekend in bed with the Gainesville Grippe and realizing Dulcinea was on the bed with me the whole time. She never got affectionate, but she was there.

    1. Never had a problem washing a cat.
      You have to properly scruff them, and you have to make sure you don’t put appendages where kitty can grab on them.
      And you have to speak kindly and keep telling them what a good kitty they are.

      1. Put the cat in the dry shower. Close the door. Get a tall footstool and turn the water on from above. If you have a shower head on a hose, shower the cat. If you don’t, get out of the way because that cat will scale the smooth glass door to get away.

  16. We’ve a feral that sleeps on our screen porch most nights, she’s a whirlwind, will go though ArmChaps and heavy motorcycle gloves. Not worth the effort to wash her.

      1. Welding gloves are ideal. I’ve had rats, squirrels, feral cats, muskrats etc. all try to chow down on me to no avail when I’m wearing them. However, I wouldn’t recommend them against beavers or large snapping turtles as they’re likely to shear right through them. And you probably want some padded/insulated winter welding gloves for larger carnivores because while they might not cut through the material, their jaw strength can cause crushing injuries.

      2. I use my welding gauntlets for, well, welding, don’t really want to introduce steel and aluminum to the cats digestive system. Though, thinking about it, the armor plating might be helpful

  17. When I lived in Denver, I would often imagine an alternate life when I saw the Regis College exit off the interstate. I was accepted there, but went to UW-Madison, instead.

    I was a horrible fit – from a small Catholic high school (graduating class of 104) to classes with more people than that. I didn’t do well, which led to changing plans (Air Force), which led to my current job (by a very circuitous route).

    My latest “plan what you can” project is my breezeway; it’s hallway-esque. The side walls and ceiling are nearly done, but I have no idea what I’m going to do with the ends (one is door and one is a window). Once the rest of it is remodeled, I’ll see what works.

    My motto, which is not in any signature, Usenet or otherwise, is “make no decision until it is necessary.” One should be prepared to make it, but there is no reason to commit to it until commitment is required, for whatever reason.

    I don’t need to finish the ends of my breezeway, so I’ll just let the space evolve and see what happens. (Replacing the shop-light-esque fluorescent was needed; the replacements were “oh, look, pendant lights on sale!”)

    1. Heh. My decision making usually consists of “Do I have to do it now, or can I wait until later?”

      Often followed by, “Honey, you need to plow the driveway so I can get to work.”

    1. Both of my parents were unplanned pregnancies (although in Mom’s case, at least WANTED). That raises some rather interesting questions for the fate of the 9 children, 24 grandchildren and 4 great-grand children that resulted to date.

        1. /laugh
          Nope. Full term. and 9 figgin’ pounds for a 4′ 11″ mom.
          My younger brother is the impatient one. He got delivered in the parking lot.

          1. Sorry, I thought the sarcasm was implicit.

            My brother didn’t get delivered in the parking lot, but only by about 5 minutes. They got there, the doctor said come back in 12 hours, Mom said “NO, this baby is coming NOW!” And there he was. He wasn’t impatient though, by definition–he was over 10 months.

            1. I was premature, though not absolutely sure how much (mom sucks at arithmetic. No. She’s actually good with kitchen math. But she’s ADHD AF so she sucks at counting days or months.) Both my kids were overdue. One was induced at 3 days late (in retrospect should have had caeserean a month earlier. Eclampsia.) The other was 23 days late. Eh. FIL was due on Thanksgiving and born on Christmas, so Hoyts are slow to birth.

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