Friday, October 31, 2014

Economic Intreigue IN SPACE! : The bad guys plan to pull a Flanagan

[Note that when people say, "on the moon", or something like that, they really mean "on this moon" in the same way people on this planet mean "on earth" when they say, "on the planet".]


"So where is Natasha, anyway?" Vasilisa asked Anatole.

"Right here," Natasha said.

"You have trouble at FarmLTD?" Anatole asked.

"No," Natasha said.  "Dmitri is definitely pulling a Flanagan."

"You're sure?"

"You will be too when you see the numbers."

"What's a Flanagan?" Vasilisa asked.

"Sorry, I forget that you don't know the same terms," Anatole said.  "It must sound like inside baseball to you."

"Sure," Vasilisa said.  "Baseball."

"A Flanagan is when someone destroys something under the guise of saving it," Natasha explained.

"So like if someone knew moving an accident victim would kill the victim," Vasilisa said, "and then convinced everyone that the only way to save the victim was to move them--"

"Thus killing the victim," Natasha said.

"And was never suspected of murder because they looked like they were trying to help."

"Yes," Anatole said slowly.  "But it tends to be mildly less morbid and done to institutions rather than people."

"Institutions?" Vasilisa asked.

"You know: governments, agencies, businesses, non profits, charities, universities, museums, libraries, book clubs, that sort of thing," Anatole said.

"So how does it work there?" Vasilisa asked.

"Well... let's illustrate with the present example," Anatole said.  "Natasha, you've got the data?"

Natasha turned on a monitor, plugged a small portable drive into the main computer, and said, "Yes."

Anatole and Vasilisa turned to the monitor while Natasha punched commands into the computer.  Anatole briefly considered pointing out that the lightest touch would be just as effective as Natasha's banging style, but he knew it was an argument he'd never win.  Instead he decided to talk to Vasilisa:

"Dmitri is saying that the only way to save FLTD is with certain cuts.  If he is pulling a Flanagan then those cuts will actually--"

"Destroy the company," Vasilisa said.

"Exactly," Anatole said.

Five columns appeared on the screen.  The first listed various departments and programs at FarmLTD, the next three listed numbers, and the last seemed to be a smattering of random information.

"From right to left," Natasha said, "we have costs, revenue, and net profit or loss."

"And the last column?" Anatole asked.

"Other useful figures," Natasha said.  "But they're less important and we can get to them later."

Anatole looked at various things until he found a date: the fiscal year that had just ended.

"This says FLTD is profitable," Vasilisa said.

"It's not uncommon for someone to manufacture a crisis in order to pull a Flanagan," Anatole said.

"Because you can't convince people to amputate if they know there's nothing wrong," Vasilisa said.

"What is it with you and medical analogies?" Natasha asked.

"I go with what I know."

Anatole said, "The fact that the financial crisis isn't real doesn't mean he's pulling a Flanagan.  People make up crises to push through action for all kinds of reasons."

 "I agree," Natasha said.  "Now look at this."  New columns appeared on the screen.  "These are the programs Dmitri intends to cut."

"Definitely a Flanagan," Anatole said.

"I don't get it," Vasilisa said.  "You learn a profitable company is cutting programs and you're unconvinced.  You learn that the programs also happen to be profitable, which doesn't seem surprising since the company as a whole is profitable, and you're suddenly convinced."

"A better visual aid, perhaps," Natasha said to Anatole.

"Yup," Anatole said as he switched on two more monitors.

The first reverted to the original data.  "This," Anatole said as he gestured to the first monitor, "is the company as it exists today."  The second data set appeared on the second monitor.  "This, is what he's cutting."

"I've already seen this," Vasilisa said, "you know."

"Yeah," Anatole and Natasha said at once.

A new data-set appeared on the third monitor.  "This is the present company without the programs Dmitri plans to dispose of," Anatole said.

"Compare that to the original data," Natasha said.

"It does cut costs," Anatole said as he gestured to the costs column on the third monitor.

"but since the programs are profitable..." Natasha continued.

"it cuts revenue more," Anatole said gesturing to the revenue column.

"And the end result is that now the company really is in a financial crisis," Vasilisa said as she looked at the column that showed the net profit or loss, which had switched from profit to loss.

"Exactly," Natasha said.

"And that's assuming FLTD does as well next year as it did this year," Anatole said. "Customer loyalty is a thing, but a lot of people don't want to put their lives in the hands of a company that can't even manage its own checkbook."

"So," Vasilisa said, "they fake a financial crisis to create a real financial crisis."

"That's just the start," Natasha said.  "Remember the figures I said we'd get back to?"

Vasilisa and Anatole nodded.

"Third from the top is FLTD's reserves," Natasha said.

Vasilisa's eyes went wide.  "They're smaller than the shortfall."

"Which means that the company will have to borrow or sell assets to close the hole," Anatole said.

"And combined with the expected drop in their credit rating as a result of all this," Natasha said, loudly punching in a command that caused a figure in the fifth column to change, "They won't be able to reasonably borrow enough to undo Dmitri's cuts."

"Which means that even if they fire Dmitri and get someone at the helm who really does want to save the company--" Anatole said.

"FLTD gets locked in a death spiral and will be gone in three to five years even under the best possible conditions," Natasha said.

"Which would leave Xenosites the only manufacturer in the industry on the whole moon," Vasilisa said, finally catching up.

"And that," Anatole said, "is how you pull a Flanagan."

"I might be sick," Vasilisa said.

"That's a pretty common reaction to your first Flanagan," Anatole said, "but take some stomach meds or something because it gets worse."

"How could it possibly get worse?" Vasilisa asked.

Anatole turned to the main computer himself.  After a few quick commands a map of the system appeared on the center monitor.

"In theory," Anatole said, "anti-monopoly laws should prevent Xenosites from being the only supplier on our moon, but with FLTD out of the way these are the only other suppliers in the system."  Green dots lit up on the map.

"They're nowhere near us," Vasilisa said.

"Worse they're nowhere near the trade routes that lead to us," Anatole tapped in another command and lines appeared on the map connecting various planets and moons.  "Even the most efficient shipping routes," a few more tapped commands made some of the lines become highlighted in yellow, "would be indirect and make off-moon alternatives prohibitively expensive.

For a time the only sound was the quick quiet tapping of Anatole entering commands into the computer.  Then projected prices appeared on the right monitor.  "Xenosites could raise their prices six times over before it would be economical to buy from another company.

"The whole moon would be their captive consumers, with no choice but to buy from them."

"It gets better," Natasha said.

"And by 'better' I assume you mean 'worse'," Anatole said.

Natasha punched in a few commands and all three screens were taken up with information on Xenosites "exciting new venture".

"Xenosites Financing?" Anatole asked.

"If you can't afford their product then worry not, because Xenosites Financing, the latest addition to the Xenosites corporate family, will allow you to pay for it in just twelve easy installments.  For a modest interest, of course," Natasha said.

Natasha punched in another command and one screen showed a standard payment plan.  "It looks all nice and cozy now," she said, "but if you factor in how much they'll be able to raise their prices once they're the only supplier on the moon... all of a sudden,.." she punched in a command and the numbers changed.

"The average resident could barely make the minimum payment!" Vasilisa shouted.

Anatole agreed, and had a sinking feeling.  "How long would it take to pay off the loan, with those numbers, if you only made the minimum payment?" he asked even though he was quite sure he didn't want to know the answer.

Natasha punched in a few more commands and Vasilisa said, "That's longer than most people live," so quietly it seemed the life had fled from her.

Natasha nodded.

"That's their endgame," Anatole said.  "They get Dmitri to take out FLTD with a Flanagan, which leaves their hands clean.  They hike up prices once this entire moon is their captive market.  People have no choice but to go to their new financing division for help.  And--pretty soon--everyone on the moon owes them.  They get financial leverage over the whole population of this moon ... for generations."

Anatole found a chair and collapsed into it.

"So," Vasilisa asked, "what do we do about it?"

"I'm gonna need some time to think," Natasha said.

Anatole nodded.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Off my meds

There was a paperwork problem.  It hasn't been fixed yet.  As a result, I'm over a week off my medication (I think, time is sort of squishy right now) I'm back into depression and, I think, in withdrawal.  Life hurts.  Hope is extinct.  Everything sucks.

Just so you know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apparently being snubbed is the same as being happily talked to

Correction: Someone said it was the provost, it was in fact the executive director of public affairs Chris Quint.  Which makes more sense because I was pretty sure the reporter called him, "Chris," and the provost is named James.  I have corrected the following to reflect that.


I wasn't going to talk about my university today, I figure that everyone's been hearing enough about it.  That said, this one is sort of new for me.

At least three TV news stations were sharing equipment and a reporter.  This led to some unnaturally long pauses, especially when some of the stations had everything they wanted and others not so much.

That's not really a problem since nothing was live anyway.  But it does sort of leave people standing around not sure what to do while wires are being connected and disconnected, microphones being added, removed, or adjusted, and so forth.

So here's what happened:

There was a press conference.  It ended.  The executive director of public affairs unexpectedly gave an unscheduled interview.  That was on my way home so I stopped to watch.  Apart from the two cameramen, one reporter, and the PR guy there was no one there but me.  The interview got put on hold so that the equipment from various news agencies could be disentangled and one of the cameramen could go home.

After the interview was put on hold and the PR guy was left standing there looking like he had no idea what to do.  After a little bit of that, and when it became clear that it was going to take several minutes before the interview could resume, I asked him a question.

He responded, nicely enough, with mostly vacuous boilerplate but also a promise that he'd grant me an interview when he finished with the TV news.  He didn't say that he'd do it "happily", he said that he "would be happy to" but the post title really does sum up what happened.

So he went back to standing there looking like he had no idea what to do and things went back to silence.  There aren't crickets in that area, you see.  Other places I pass on my walk home there are all kinds of bug noise, but in that particular spot not a damn thing.

Every so often a leaf fell.  It is fall, after all.

I seriously wondered if he knew what it meant for an interview to be on hold while he did his befuddled mannequin impression.

Eventually everything was sorted out, the reporter resumed the interview, and it ended not long after.  He did a half turn, shot me a dirty look, turned the remaining ninety degrees, and walked away.

During the time after he promised me an interview but before the on-hold interview resumed, another spectator had shown up.  I mentioned to her that I didn't feel like I was being happily talked to.


I'm not surprised that he lied to me.  The words he said felt like something he had practiced a thousand times to the point that he didn't even attach meaning to the words but just saw it as a rote response.

That said, I was prepared to pull my notebook out of my bag (my pen was already out) and preform a legitimate interview.  It's probably been a decade since I interviewed anyone and that was done via email and about a game.  A good game, but still a game.  This would have been an interview with someone in power on the front lines of what is a national issue in the United States.  And, of course, now that I have Stealing Commas I actually have a place to publish an interview.

But it wasn't to be.  If there is one thing this administration has made clear, it is that they have no intention of being honest with students.  This just shows that they are, at least, consistently dishonest.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-shirt Tuesday: Austeritas Delenda Est

Latin for "Austerity must be destroyed," and a play on the famous line of Cato the Elder (who said that Carthage must be destroyed) it seemed a very sloganific thing.

Also appropriate as austerity measures are set to destroy the study of classics at my university.

So I put it on a T-shirt.  And a bumper sticker.  And a button.  And a magnet.  And so forth.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Personal Testimony: Me and my university

I've never done witnessing, never made an altar call, I'm not big into evangalism, but I'm told that telling your story is something you should do on occasion.

I came to the University of Southern Maine after a year spent doing nothing.  I don't mean a year spent relaxing.  I mean that I have clinical depression, it'd be almost a decade before we found a treatment that worked, I hadn't even met the psychiatrist who makes up the other part of that "we", and I did nothing.

If you've never done nothing, I highly recommend against it.

Depression sucks.  I remember a time when, for months, beyond eating, using the bathroom, and occasionally drinking water, I could not muster the energy to move.  I watched the Shawshank Redemption too many times to count because I couldn't mange the effort needed to stand up, cross the room, and change the DVD.

Pushing, "Play," on the remote every time it looped back to the main menu after the movie had finished was preferable to listening to the menu loop or having nothing going on at all.

And so my time was spent semi-supine on the couch during that period.

That was a not-so-bad time as these things go because there was something (the Shawshank Redemption) going on as opposed to nothing.

But then I managed to apply and then went to the University of Southern Maine as a math major.

I took Latin as an elective because I'd done it in high school and figured I'd keep on doing it.  I didn't know it but that choice landed me in a stellar program even though the university, even then, didn't acknowledge it.

At the time Peter Aicher was in charge but that passed back and forth between himself and Jeannine Diddle Uzzi.  Peter Aicher you know from TV.  If you missed him on the National Geographic Channel you probably saw him on Discovery, if you missed him there then probably The History Channel, if you missed that then Nova, and if you missed that then probably some other channel.

He is, quite simply, the world's foremost expert on Roman Aqueducts and he gets asked to speaking engagements around the world.  In addition his understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of Greek Mythology is incredible, and if you want to understand the architectural propaganda of Rome as the Romans understood it, you'll want to buy his latest book.  Plus, who else can make James Joyce make sense?

Jeannine doesn't have quite the same level of fame, but she is no less good at her work.  She realized that an incredibly important area of study had been overlooked by two thousand years of scholarship and, with her debut book, worked to fix that by writing what is still the definitive work on the subject.  She has advanced our understanding of childhood, both actual and symbolic, in the ancient world, particularly that of outsiders.

She's taught a class for Harvard via the Center for Hellenic Studies and done so in Greece on a trip that visited virtually every major archaeological site in Greece, Crete, and the Cyclades covering over three thousand years of history.

Her translation of Catullus, which is revolutionary, awesome, and, unlike so many, not diluted for the purposes of sanitizing, will be  published by Cambridge soon.  (I've had the good fortune of reading some of it pre-publication.)

Which is to say, when I chose to take Latin as an elective I stepped into an amazing program without realizing I had done so.

If I'd done some research I'd have found out that the University of Southern Maine had a stellar reputation.  Since then I've heard some say that the reputation has been tarnished.  That's inaccurate.  Tarnish is what happens to silver when it's allowed to age like a fine wine.  Plus a layer of tarnish forms a protective layer on the surface of an object preventing further degradation.

If one takes a whiff of my university's reputation now they'll quickly realize that what the reputation is coated in is not oxidation, it's been dragged through copious piles of excrement.  Despite popular rumor, excrement is apparently not corrosive, but it is toxic and it does tend to make things worse if not cleaned up.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For four years I showed up to classes every day, despite my still-untreated depression and the two hour walk to get to the university, kept my head down, and earned a degree.

Then my sister was going to start a business.  Though I was told I only had one class left to graduate I decided to take a semester off so that I might help her.

This was 2008.  The global economy collapsed before our eyes and the credit market froze.  The loan we would need to start the business became impossible.  (Since then someone else used the same idea and has been a great success.  Having an idea first means nothing if you don't reach the market first.  That said, I'm happy someone else did it because it fills a need that was previously unfilled.)

Inertia and depression took over.  I spent another year doing nothing.

When I returned with the plan of taking that one class it just felt weird to come for one class only, so I looked for an elective.  I'd never studied ancient Greek, beginning Greek was being offered, so I took that.

It turned out the one class I supposedly needed was just a computer error.  I could have graduated before the year I spent out of school.  I could drop all my classes, put in the forms, and gradate with no more effort if I wanted to.

I took the Greek anyway.

In getting ready to apply to graduate and receive the degree I had already earned I realized that, via electives, I had earned a classics minor.  All I had to do was declare.  While filling out that paperwork Peter pointed out that in another year I could turn that minor into a major and graduate with a double major in Math and Classics.

So I stayed.

At this point something needs to be explained.  I don't make friends well.  I get along with people at school well enough, but I've never been good at the transition between friends at school and actual friends who you see for reasons other than having the same class.  But because of seeing them a lot and small class sizes I got to know the classics students and the two professors very, very well.

They've become like a second family to me.

When the time came to graduate with a double major there were two things on the horizon, both of them tempting.  Peter gives a class in etymology that everyone who takes it raves about how good it is.  Jeannine specializes in art but I had never once taken an art focused class with her.  Peter was giving the class, Jeannine was teaching an art class.

I decided to stay around just one more year to take those two classes.

I am not good on buses.  (I'm getting better.)  Especially the kind of buses that a multi-city university would hire to run people between their different campuses.  People are crammed in like sardines, unfamiliar voices assault you from all sides, it's like chaos itself rammed through your senses assaulting your brain.  And above all it's uncomfortable.

The art class was on the distant campus.  The bus over was generally sparsely populated and thus not so bad.  The ride back was a level of Hell that is omitted from the Inferno simply because bus technology did not exist in the time of Dante.

Jeannine gave me a ride back to the Portland campus almost every class.

It was a hard time in her life, both personally and because she was chair of the Faculty Senate and this was the semester of the no-confidence vote against Selma Botman.  Controversy and attention she never wanted was dumped on top of her.

In spite of that she was able to help me, and I don't just mean with the ride.  My depression was still untreated.  At this point it wasn't because nothing tried worked, which has historically been the reason, but because nothing was being tried at all.  I'd fallen out of the system and wasn't even getting people trying to give me treatment.

Those rides, the talking done during them, and her support in other areas, made me better.  Being better is not the same thing as being cured, it is not even the same thing as being good.  It's less bad.  When everything is bad, less bad is something vitally important.

Indeed, sometimes I did actually leave a conversation with her in a state of actual good.  Mental wellness in a time when unwell wasn't just normal but almost, if not quite, uniform.

The rides between campuses might have been a one-semester only thing, but the support was not.  At times when I couldn't think, couldn't work, couldn't accomplish shit, Jeannine was there for me.  She was always supportive.  For the longest time she was the only person in my life without high level professional training in mental illness who had even an inkling of how destructive depression could be.

She showed me compassion when other people didn't give a shit.  She showed it consistently, and she did it regardless of how badly things were going in her own life.

She isn't just my teacher, she's my friend.

It wasn't too much later when I went to the university's Counseling Center (for the second time) and got on the road to getting not just better but getting well.

Two things happened before I got on a medication that worked.

One was that I looked into what staying around for longer could be used for and settled on getting two separate degrees instead of one degree with a double major.

The other was that I got laid very, very low by a depressive episode.  (Without getting into medical terminology too much, I have both chronic and acute depression.  Chronic makes everything bad forever, acute makes some things really, really, really bad for a while.)  I failed everything.

Right now what I really want to do is overwrite that period.  I can do that, I just have to retake the classes I failed.  For some reason the classes are scheduled such that I can't retake them in nearly as short a time as I failed them.  (It was possible to take them all at once before, that's how I failed them, but now their times conflict with each other.)

I've earned my two degrees.  I just want to replace that failure with success.  This isn't for GPA, though it will help with that, it's for myself and my mental health.

Since I started paying attention, the university has been claiming huge deficits (and then earning surpluses every year which always earns an, "Oops, we were wrong about the deficit, but this proves we're awesome and credit to us, not those who did the work," from the top but never gets a, "There seem to be systemic problems in our accounting mechanisms that are making us think we're running deficits when we're actually running surpluses year, after year, after year.  Maybe we should fix those problems.")  The solution offered is always the same, "Cut everything."

The cuts always, without fail, target profitable programs which makes no sense.  If you cut profits you lose money, not save it.  In previous years pointing that out was enough to stop the lion's share of the cuts.  This year not so much.  Two days ago I was at a Board of Trustees meeting.  After hours of citizen testimony, some from CEOs saying that they would find a way to pay for one of the programs because they needed it to train their employees (there had only been 18 days notice so no one had time to come up with a plan, you see), some from economists and accountants pointing out that cutting profitable programs would loose money, some from people saying that cutting French in the state with the second largest French speaking population, an extremely large boarder with Canada, important trade relations with France, and a steady stream of French speaking immigrants, was probably a bad idea, and so forth, the Board voted to cut the profitable programs and lose money.  Logic ("This will make you lose money, and is thus counterproductive") is no longer persuasive.

When they came for others, I spoke out;
When they came for others, I marched;
When they came for others, I demonstrated;
When they came for others, I stood up to be counted;
Now they're coming for my degree, my teachers, my friends.

In spite of snow and rain, in spite of blizzard conditions that sometimes, somehow, don't get school canceled, in spite of an ongoing stream of ephemeral administrations that don't care about me, in spite of once falling into an open manhole (the snow made it so you couldn't see it was open), in spite of the fact that I've worn holes in the soles of all of my shoes and now they let water in, in spite of the mismanagement at the top wearing a hole in my soul, I show up.  I come to school.  I walk two hours in and two hours out.  In eight years of attending (non-consecutive) I've missed only four days of classes (had a nervous breakdown; didn't set foot outside my house for a week.)

I've put more energy and effort into the University of Southern Maine than any of the bastards who make decisions.  I've certainly put in more money.

These days it's always a question where tuition will come from, in the beginning I put it in up front.  Believe me, I wish I still had that money.  The first two weeks of this semester I miscalculated and ran out of food two weeks before I had money to buy more.  I scoured my house and found peanut butter.

I lived on that for two weeks.  Not peanut butter sandwiches.  I didn't have bread.  Just peanut butter.

I happened to mention it to my teacher afterward, the teacher they want to fire, and she said that if anything like that ever happened to me again I should tell her.  She'd get me food.  That's Jeannine, she doesn't even know if she'll be fired (she'll find out on Halloween, which is strangely appropriate) and she's wishing she'd known that I needed help because she would have given it to me without hesitation.


If you would like to tell people not to set the university on fire:

The Board of Trustees (for the entire system, my university is USM):

The Chancellor (again, of the whole system):

The University of Southern Maine President (finally just my university):

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The state of my university

Things are fucked up.  The people in charge say things are fucked up.  The things which are fucked up are not the things the people in charge say are fucked up.  The primary thing that is fucked up is that the people in charge are saying things which are not fucked up are fucked up.

To wit:

In an ideal world the budget is a best guess as to expenses and revenue for the coming year and a plan on how to spend money such that money will not be lost.  Meaning that even if everything were perfect the budget would still not reflect reality.

The reality is that my university makes money.  My university system also makes money (individual universities in the system may lose money some years, but those loses are offset by the surpluses elsewhere.  That's the whole point of having a system instead of a bunch of isolated universities.)

The budget, every year, says that my university will lose a metric fuckton of money so we need to cut, cut, cut.

Thus the only real problem is that the budget is wrong, consistently, year after year, and always in the same direction.

If the administration didn't say that things were fucked up, nothing would be fucked up.  Their saying it is a self fulfilling prophecy.

While the deficits projected by the budgets are imaginary or fictitious (depending on whether you're betting on stupid or evil) the need to balance these budgets creates a very real deficit when it comes to spending money on things like salaries.  Since you need to slash spending by enough to make up for the fake deficit, real damage is done to the university.  What happens at the end of the fiscal year when actual legal reports need to be filed with non-fictitious numbers?  The money goes into the reserves.  That's how the reserves got so bloated.

The cuts do have an effect upon revenue.  A teacher who isn't at the university can't teach a class and so the university can't make money off the class.  So revenue is dropping.  It's just that so far it hasn't dropped enough for the university to stop making money.

The need to "fix" the projected-but-never-actual deficits means hard choices about who can stay and who must be let go but here, again, the administration does stupid things.  They get rid of profitable people.

Now it's important to remember that profit != value.  The university counseling center is of great value, but since the service is free (as it fucking should be) it doesn't make any money (and it's impossible to determine how much it retains by keeping student's we would otherwise lose.)

The reason for the focus on profit is that all of the things that don't pay for themselves need to be paid for, and since the deficits aren't actually real they are in fact being paid for.  What pays for them?  The things that make a profit.

By cutting profitable things, we have less money left to pay for the non-profitable things.  For example one program being slashed returns two dollars for every one dollar put in.  That makes for easy math.  Pay for one person and you get the money that you paid back, plus enough money to pay for a zero-revenue person with the same salary.

Flip that around and you see that if you get rid of one person in that program, you can afford one less zero-revenue person than you could before.

Now we're still in surplus territory.  They can already afford more zero-revenue people than they actually employ.  But once there start to be actual deficits the cuts to profitable programs will necessitate cuts to zero-revenue ones.

And that's when things will really go to shit.

The university is suffering enough when the horrific problems we face aren't actually real.  Once they are real it's going to get very, very bad.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cold and Wet

I'm trying to spread out posts.  The basic idea is that since I tend to not have enough content to fill up a week anyway, if I have three things to say in one day it's better to have the posts spread out over three days than to have them all on one day.

That's part of why I've had posts saying "On [two days ago]..."

Anyway, this is being written on Wednesday the 22nd.

I couldn't find my raincoat.  I think I know where my theoretically waterproof winter boots are but for some reason I didn't think to use them.

The coat I did use is in fact waterproof.  I didn't notice.  There's a surprising similarity between the feeling of cold and the feeling of wet and while the coat protected me from getting wet IT got wet (on the outside) and all of the cold of the rain went straight through it and into me.  My feet got hit harder.  My shoes and socks soaked through.

I didn't realize how badly things were going until I realized I was shivering.  I've been inside for an hour and forty minutes now, at least, I'm still cold.  Occasional shivers.

Weather.  I dislike you.

It should only be allowed to rain when it's warm.  There should be a law.

Rain gods of all stripes and genders should be forbidden from having cold rain.  (Except in places where the alternative is, say, drought.)  There are no extenuating circumstances here.  We have warm seasons, we have snow seasons, there is no call for rain when it is cold.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Skewed Slightly to the Left: You find someone to carry you

[This was written in a hurry, because I didn't have a lot of time at the time.  Originally posted at Slacktivist.  Cameron and Tsion crossed the border here, they got away cleanly and should theoretically have been able to fly away within 45 minutes of stealing a car but things didn't go to plan, they were discovered, and now they're being chased.  This begins with a phone call to Ken Ritz, their pilot waiting in their plane.]

[Do remember that Cairo was nuked.  Jerry Jenkins doesn't.]


"Hey, Cam, what's up?"

"Oh, the usual."

"So I'm guessing the troops massing here are your fault."


"What did you do this time?"

"It was just a minor difference of opinion on what you should have to declare when going through customs."

"Right," the sarcasm dripped from Ken's voice, and the static of the bad connection did nothing to lessen it.

"Honestly, I don't know what they're getting so worked up about."

Ken said nothing.

"Ok, so it was more about whether you should go through customs at all or just, you know, sneak through unannounced while you blow holes in the border fence with high explosives, but that's just details."

Ken sighed. "What do you need from me?"

"Nothing much," Cameron said.  "I just need you to commit treason, risk almost certain death, and have the plane ready for immediate take off."

"The usual, then."

"That's what I said from the start."

"Ok," Ken said.  "Don't get dead."

"Ditto," Cameron said, and then she cut the connection.  "Rabbi, we may need a plan."

"Do you always take refuge in understatements?" Tsion asked.

"No," Cameron said.  "It's just one of many tools I use to take the edge off in situations like this."

"This sort of thing happens to you a lot?" Tsion asked while gesturing to the growing number of Global Community cruisers behind them.

"Not a lot, but enough," Cameron said.  "This still isn't worse than Serbia."

"You mentioned a plan," Tsion said.

"Yes, do you have one?"

"Of course not."

"That makes two of us."

"What are we facing?"

"Global Community forces are massing at Arish; the plane will be ready, but we need to get to it somehow."

"How do they know we're going to Arish?"

"They're probably covering every transit hub in the area."

"What sort of plane?"

"A Lear jet.  Why?"

"After the bombing of Cairo it's likely that the airport is flooded with refugees.  If we offer them seats on your plane--"

"They might be able to get us there."


When the first shot rang out Cameron and Tsion both unbuckled and did their best to curl up on the floor, hoping to keep the engine between themselves and oncoming bullets.

Meeting the roadblock was announced by a horrible sound of warping, twisting, and ripping metal and a disturbance that smashed them into every part of the car around them.  They probably both ended up with concussions, at the least, but there was no time for that as the car was still moving, meaning they'd made it through the road block.

Cameron risked sticking her head up and saw how quickly they were approaching the crowd of refugees.

She tried slamming on the breaks and veering away.  The car rolled.

The good news was that the car didn't hit anyone.  The bad news was that Cameron was in so much pain she could barely move.  Tsion wasn't much better.

It looked like the plan would fail and when the door opened Cameron was prepared to be executed or arrested.  When a concerned question was asked in Arabic, Cameron looked up an saw a civilian.  Cameron responded, in Kurdish, that she didn't speak Arabic.

Tsion said, "He's asking if you're all right."

"No," Cameron said.  "Tell them that we have a Lear jet ready for take off, and we'll take as many with us as can fit if they get us to it, but trying might get them killed."

Cameron heard excited Arabic words exchanged outside of the car, and Tsion said, "They understood."

Cameron and Tsion were pulled from the wreckage and carried to the jet.  So many people packed in that there was no space to sit or even bend.  Ken took off, and a lack of anti-aircraft weaponry meant they were safe.  All local air-forces had been destroyed by the recent war.

Partly to keep her mind off the pain, Cameron reflected on the fact that she and Tsion had survived not through the grace of God but through the kindness of strangers.  When the car had wrecked the people had not known that helping might get them a flight.  They had simply known that a car had wrecked and thus whoever was in it would likely need help.  Then they had gone to provide that help even though it was clear that the people with the guns wanted whoever was in the car dead.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm afraid

You all already know that I don't have enough money.  I've only made it through the past few months with the help of people donating.  It's not supposed to be this way.  The non-monthly expenses may be irregular, but they're not unpredictable.  I've done the math, things add up well.  By no means should I have large excesses, income vs. expenses means that I should always be scraping by.  But the important part in the last sentence is not the scraping, it's the "by".

The surplus I should be putting into savings in months without irregular expenses should be enough to cover the months with irregular expenses.  Except tuition.  I always knew tuition would be a problem.  An ≈ $3,000 problem.  I had hoped to have a solution months ago.  No so much.

But the problem isn't primarily Tuition.  It's everything else.  All of the stuff that was supposed to be covered by built up reserves that never got built up.

I'm behind on utilities bills.  Property taxes are due next month to the tune of $646 dollars (and some change.)  I borrowed to be able to fill up the heating oil tank before prices went up for the winter.  Still need to pay $153 of that back.

$400 to become $600 with the changing of the month is owed on a payment plan for something else (Thankfully no late fees or interest on that.)

That's $1,399 that wasn't supposed to be covered by money in savings except that I don't have savings.  I was supposed to have savings.  They were supposed to be built up in the warm months when there wasn't a need for heating oil and such.  I don't have them.

Add to tuition and that's ≈ $4,000 I can't really afford in addition to usual monthly expenses.  Now ordinary monthly expenses don't take up all my income (which is were the savings were supposed to come from) so I can pay maybe a few hundred of that if I buy nothing (I probably need new winter clothes, quite possibly shoes too as I've worn out the sloes on almost all of mine and in winter you can't have cracks or holes in those because getting wet is downright dangerous.)

None of this is why I'm afraid.

On Monday when it came up that I can't pay the full installment of the property taxes next month, my house's actual owner (my mother) brought up selling the house.  Not as a distant hypothetical,  As a very real thing where the concern was not where I'll live* but the fact that the house's value has presumably dropped and is presumably dropping.

If I can't cover the house's expenses, of which property taxes are by far the most significant, my house will be sold, I will be without a home, and my primary options will be to move in with someone who is abusive (two of those) or be homeless.  (The money I get a month is NOT enough for an apartment.  And if I get housing assistance that's deducted from the amount that I get.)

So, like I said, I'm afraid.


* I can't move in with my mom, she's too distant, my sister and father have both been emotionally abusive to me, sometimes very much so, and an apartment is probably not happening.  I could become homeless.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

T-Shirt Tuesday: All right, then, I'll go to hell

By popular request (one person asked for it), here are shirts (light writing on dark, dark writing on light) that have Huckleberry Finn's famous declaration, "All right, then, I'll go to hell," except that CafePress seems to not like italics.  Other than that, exactly like it was in the book down to punctuation and capitalization.

Huckleberry Finn said it when he decided that he'd rather damn his immortal soul than betray a friend, which is exactly the kind of morality we need to see more of.  When God tells you to do something immoral, the appropriate response is to tell God where he can stick it.

(Also, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say, "Yes," but that's a different story entirely.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Speculation and Sanctification

Yesterday I bought food and books.  Expectations of volume were way off and after books there was no space in my backpack for the food (which was bought second as it was on the way home from books.)

Now they say never shop when you're hungry, but if you didn't then you'd never get new food.

The trek from food to home is 2.1 miles.  I never knew that before, but I just looked it up.

I'm going to take a random guess and say that I had hundreds of pounds of food because, honestly, that shit is heavy.

As I left the store I thought I heard thunder and soon after the rain started.

I didn't get too far before I dropped to my knees and prayed.  As I said, food is heavy and there was no space in the backpack.  My hands needed a break.

God, please give me the strength to make it through this, please don't let the books get water damaged, and please give me the patience to not go insane.
The rain turned to heavy rain.  Then downpour.  The torrential downpour.

Did I mention that I didn't have a coat?

Second prayer said while standing:
God, same stuff as before.  Also, a ride would be nice.  Amen.
Trudging on while getting soggy.  Dripping with sweat and rain.  Frequent stops needed to give my hands a break from carrying the bags.

Suddenly, a car.

Random person I don't know is offering me a ride.  (Thank you God.)  Estimate 1.6ish miles left.

The ride is quick.  The ride is dry.  She gives me napkins to dry my face.

As I get out, having been delivered home, she tells me that god loves me.  I agree.  I don't always agree, but prayer was answered.

When I thank her she tells me to thank god, for he told her to pick me up.  I don't know if this is figurative or literal.  Certainly there are people who hear voices.  On a certain level I envy the ones who hear the voice of god.

I'm well aware that that can lead to all kinds of trouble, hence the hedging of "on a certain level", and God (capitalized here because it's that particular god.) is a historically bad campaign adviser.  Also, if God tells you to invade Iraq ... go down the checklist of when it would be reasonable to invade if God hadn't said anything (note well, the checklist's answer is that it is almost NEVER a good idea to invade anywhere, but there is that "almost" usually reserved for cases of genocide) if the checklist says no, tell God that it's not a good time.

That said, I imagine that there's probably a certain sense of purpose and certainty that comes from God telling you to do something, and it seems like that might be a better feeling than being adrift.

I, myself, am unconvinced that any god chooses to speak directly to people in this day and age.  It seems to me that it would be too easily confused with a delusion.

Anyway, no idea if the woman who gave me a ride home meant that she literally heard god say, "Give that person a ride," or she meant it figuratively.  I didn't ask.

I do think that she's earned the good graces of her god either way.  While I didn't ask for specifics, based on where she's from, her accent, her race, and other such factors there's a pretty decent chance she's a Christian and was it not Jesus who said, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for when I, in the heavy rain, was walking a long distance with a heavy load you let me into your car and drove me to my destination"?

The details might be somewhat off, but I think he said something like that.  And the follow up is that whatever you did for the least of these, you did for him.

Now there is some confusion in this story because when I was praying to an all powerful benevolent god I was pretty sure she was female and it was a male god who told the woman to give me a ride.  Possibilities abound, of course.  Lonespark suggests that perhaps my god called in a favor with the driver's god.  Another is that god is genderfluid, which makes a certain amount of sense.  There are others too.

But all of this leaves me with a question.  How does one thank God?

I've already said, "Thank you," of course.  But it seems like there should be more to it.  I'm kind of focused on the idea of pouring a libation but the thing is, most gods like alcohol and I don't drink it and thus don't have it.

Lonespark suggests that gods tend to like the same beverages as people.

Having learned the hard way that transporting liquids will wreck your body I purchased several powders so that I might transform water into more interesting things and thus have:
  • Tang
  • Grape Kool-Aid
  • Tropical Punch Kool-Aid
  • Blue Raspberry Lemonade Kool-Aid
  • Orange Kool-Aid
  • Strawberry Kiwi Kool-Aid
Which do you think god(s), whichever god or gods was/were involved, would like?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baldr and Hel

Loki has had various children, sometimes as a mother, sometimes as a father.  One brood in particular is important.

Odin took these children from their parents (Loki and Angrboða) and banished each to a different place in a different realm.

Fenrir, the great wolf, they raised themselves, but, fearing him, they bound him, acting as if it were a game.  Twice they did this and he escaped.  The third time they used a special magical rope, promised they would free him if he could not free himself (they lied) and this time he did not escape.  Initially on good terms with the gods of Asgard he ended up understandably pissed off.  When the world ends it is foretold that he will kill Odin.

Jörmungandr, the great serpent, was cast into the oceans of Midgard (earth.)  He grew so large that he wrapped around the world and now grasps his own tail in his mouth.  It is said that when he lets go the world will end.  I can't find the source for the whole "When he lets go the world will end" thing, so I don't have the details, but I've always had the impression that the world has become, or has always been, unstable such that if too much time passed without Jörmungandr coiled around it, holding it together, it will simply fall apart.  Thor doesn't like Jörmungandr very much, and the two are fated to kill each other.

The third child from this brood was Hel.

She is the only daughter of Loki whose name we know.  Perhaps the only divine daughter of Loki.  Perhaps the only daughter of Loki period.

When Hel was born she already had the form of an old woman.  Odin cast her into the afterlife, but, unlike the others, he put her to work.  Hel is a ruler.  The place she rules is named after her (it is called Hel or Helheim.)  With with exceptions (looking at you Valhalla), the dead go there.  Even dead gods.  We'll get back to that.

Those that die of sickness or old age are sent there automatically.  Some of those that die in violence do as well.  That much is crystal clear.  What's cloudy bordering on opaque is exactly how the determination is made.  Obviously having your soul snatched by Odin or a Valkyrie is a get out of Hel free card, but is that the only way?  Not clear.

Baldr goes there when he dies.


Now the question of what Baldr does when he gets there is not even remotely close to being answered.  When Hel got there she set up a queendom and got the place named after her.  Of course she was under orders.  Like I said, Odin put her to work.  She was ordered by his high and mightiness to receive all that came to her and thus she had to create some kind of civilization with which to greet the dead.  (Presumably by, at least in part, organizing those dead who were there already.)

Baldr shows up and does ... what exactly?

So I was thinking about this, and talking it out with Lonespark, and it occurred to me that Baldr being in Hel's embrace for all this time might not be an accident.

Persephone and Hades eventually worked things out and Hades fucking kidnapped her.

Think about the whole story: A self fulfilling prophesy, wheels greased by Loki, sends the universe's most eligible bachelor to live with his daughter for eternity.

Does this sound like, "Fate sucks," or does it sound more like, "Dad, I've been dating someone and we really want to be together forever but the political ramifications of openly marrying could shake Yggdrasill to its foundations.  Plus, it's kind of hard for him to keep sneaking here unnoticed, it would be better if we could find some kind of reason for him to relocate here without letting people know why.  Can you help?" as said by Hel to Loki?

Doesn't the second one make more sense?  You can see how it goes from there.  Loki says he'll think about it then tells Baldr to start complaining about nightmares of dying.

One mistletoe spear later and Hel and Baldr are living happily together.  Sure, it'll bring about the end of the universe as we know it, but everything's gotta end sooner or later, right?


Since Lonespark and I talked about it she's pointed various things (including, most recently, a poem) my way by people who came to similar conclusions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Odin and LBJ

So, I was walking home one day and thinking about stuff.  It tends to happen when the walk is two hours and you don't have anything much to do.  I should probably get one of those walkity-man thingies so I could listen to music.  Of course then I'd need to have music.

So much work.  Ugh.

Anyway.  Walking.  Thinking.

In a conversation that happened before this point Lonespark and I had spoken about Marvel-Odin.  Lonespark is a Norse Pagan and so depictions of Odin matter to her in much the same way depictions of Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer matter to Christians.

I reached the conclusion that the problem was that Marvel-Odin is an asshole, where Mythological Odin is an asshole who makes up for it by being awesome.

He's probably not someone you want to have around for personal contact, but you totally want him on your side in general.  You can even admire him, provided it's done from a safe distance.  Think (Marvel Cinematic) Tony Stark, or Nick Fury before he thought evil incarnate was a good idea so long as Hydra didn't have their finger on the trigger.

Tony Stark is a good example of an asshole who scores points for awesome.  Nick Fury in The Avengers practically is Mythological-Odin incarnate.  Seriously, if it turns out that his helicarrier is the son of his blood-brother who comes from the land of our oft-times enemies then I think we can mark Avengers-Fury as totally Odin.  Because it seems like that's all he's missing.  (Well... rainbow bridge, golden apples, details.)

And this thinking led to the question of what are some non-fictional semi-contemporary, possibly American, analogues for Odin?

Now I don't really know that much about ass kicking male American warriors who occasionally take a few years off to be wandering female seers, so my attention turned to administrators.  Odin is a king, after all.

And thus... LBJ.

By all accounts Lyndon Baines Johnson was a complete and utter asshole in almost every possible respect.  And that "almost" is just me hedging.

The reason he took the job as Vice President in the first place was that he was playing the odds and noting that the number of vice presidents who didn't have to be elected was pretty high given the number of vice presidents there had been in total.  It wasn't a majority, by any means.  It was a little less than 20%.

He took the job of Vice President because he saw a 20% chance that JFK would be killed or otherwise die in office.  It happened.  He became President.

That is not a nice person.

After the assassination he made Bobby Kennedy, the dead President's brother, talk him through the procedure for taking over the country even though:
a) He already knew it
b) There was no fucking reason to ask Kennedy because literally anyone in that department could have done the job.
He was just rubbing salt in the wound.  And, again, the wound was that Kennedy's brother had just died.

This guy was a grade A, first class asshole.

He was also instrumental in getting civil rights legislation passed.

Which is to say, this asshole worked for good.

His feud with the Kennedys was personal and mutual, but his asshole powers could be used for more professional things and it was, in part, through the use of his massive unmitigated asshole powers that the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Which is sort of the best example I can think of of a case where someone is an asshole, but makes up for it by being awesome.

Civil Rights legislation wasn't going to pass.  The votes weren't there.  The support wasn't there.  Enter LBJ, asshole extraordinaire.  Everyone told him not to even try.  He'd lose.  It couldn't be done.  There was no point in trying something that was doomed to failure.  He did it anyway.

I cannot imagine an America without LBJ.  I've tried.  It just doesn't compute.

The Civil Rights movement was a combination of the powerless demanding they be treated better than shit and a specific subset of the powerful pushing the same onto a racist country that, by and large, didn't want to better itself.

Neither of those groups could have prevailed without the other.  Even with all of his asshole powers, arm twisting, and understanding of the legislative process there is no way in fucking Hell that he could have gotten Civil Rights legislation passed if not for the movement.

But at the same time, the movement wouldn't have gotten legislation if not for LBJ.  What would have happened then?  Richard "Southern Strategy" Nixon wouldn't have done it.  Ford?  Carter?  Certainly not Reagan.  Clinton?  The opposition shut down the government multiple times while he was in office.

Look at the Civil Rights movement and imagine if all of that effort, if all of that passion, had come to nothing.  What the fuck happens then?  How long can you keep a nonviolent movement going if nonviolence never yields results?

Would it have turned violent?  Would people have maintained their principles but had their hope crushed?  Would we still be fighting the fights of the sixties today with no discernible legislative progress?

I seriously have no clue where America would be today.  As I said, I can't imagine it.

Even beyond the civil rights the Civil Rights movement was concerned with, if all of that very visible work on the part of the people yielded no fruit, would we even still believe in the democratic process itself?

I was born 21 years after the Civil Rights Act passed.  An America without it defies my ability to imagine.  Not only do I have no idea who we would be, I have no idea who I would be.

And so the point comes to this:

LBJ = Raging Asshole + Incredibly important person who did immeasurable good for my country.

And that's sort of like Odin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

This is your regular reminder that I do, in fact, have a donate button on the blog (top right corner.)

Posts like this go some distance as to explaining why.

And now, about October.

First off, not Octember.  That's a Dr. Seuss book.

Second, as one of the number months (Octo = 8) it's kind of boring.

This is the ides of October.  October has been 31 days for as long as there has been an October.  As with all number months it was knocked 2 our of order when January and February were added to the start of the year (which is why the month with eight in the name comes tenth.)

That's about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

T-Shirt Tuesday: For Fred Clark

Fred Clark of Slacktivist once commented that he would like a T-shirt with, "Then I shall be a wicked Child, and the great God will be very angry with me," from Isaac Watts’ First Catechism (1730).

The exact quote is:
I absolutely want that answer on a T-shirt. 
Also business cards but I can't much help with those since they tend to be personalized.

The reason is that, while not intended to be such, it's very much like what Fred Clark considers to be "the greatest scene of salvation and redemption in literature":
All right, then, I'll go to Hell!
 Now it wasn't spesified how this statement was wanted on a T-shirt.  For whatever reason I prefer shorter lines that allow for bigger writing, so I'd break it up into four lines: "Then I shall be / a wicked Child, / and the great God will / be very angry with me." but that plays havoc with the integrity of the clauses.

Anyway, if you want the four line version, dark writing on light shirts is here, and light writing on dark shirts is here.

A more reasonable approach is to put it in two lines.  One would like to separate the two lines at the comma, but the size of the clauses makes it better to break after the "and"



You can see how reducing the number of lines makes the writing small and such.

The reason that those sections say "Latin Alphabet" is that I wanted to do it in Sherman's Gallifreyan as well, but it looks like I'm going to have to go through a process were I convince the people at Cafe Press that, seeing as how it belongs to Sherman, and Sherman has given people to use it as they see fit, the BBC will not in fact sue them if they let me make T-shirts with Sherman's Gallifreyan on them.  Maybe if I drop the word "Gallifreyan" and point out that it was originally developed as a way to write English that was not linked to any intellectual property...

Anyway, T-shirts.  T-shirts that it is likely no one will buy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

(Image Post) Mass and moment be released

It happened on Monday the fifth of October.

I don't know what it was.

I just know that when I walked in in the morning everything was normal, and when I walked home in the afternoon something had happened.

I didn't have my camera.  The next day I also forgot my camera.  Wednesday it rained.

You don't get a really good idea of the path here, but you sort of see it:

And if you want to see the path from the origin to the fence, I give you a reverse shot:

Or two:

The next day was dry.

It's more clear where the path ends on the lower road when the displaced dirt isn't wet, see:

This bar was never supposed to bend:

And if it looks like there's a sharp change in direction toward the far end of the bent portion,
your eyes are good:

And that's all for the moment.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sermonizing (Image Post)

That's me with the green notebook
All attempts to recover the audio recording I made of my speech have failed, that might be a good thing as it wasn't prepared.  I tried to prepare it but, as I told the people there, I ended up with maybe 16 beginnings, some number of middles, and no ending.

Thus what follows is not a transcript.  It's not even really an attempt to recreate the speech, it's more a shot at recapturing the impression.


We've been here before.  A new administration attempts to dazzle us with math that doesn't add up, economic models that don't model economics, and claims that aren't factual.  Then they tell us they have no choice but to cut, and their supposedly money saving cuts are to profitable programs.

All that's really different this time is the scale.  Fifty faculty being fired--you should know that when they claim that retirements would offset these firing they're lying.  If you want proof look at Jeannine Diddle Uzzi.  Peter Aicher is retiring and by this administration's own rules that means Jeannine doesn't get fired.  She's getting fired.

Why the lie?  An argument could be made that they're hoping to get rid of more people by convincing some to retire and then saying, "Too bad, we're firing the fifty anyway."  I don't think that's it.  I think it's something simpler.

By making the question, "Which fifty faculty have to go?" instead of, "Do fifty faculty have to go?" they can turn us against each other by default.  Because if we accept that framing then when I say, "Jeannine should keep her job," which is true, it becomes twisted to mean, "Some other teacher should be fired in her place."  We can't accept that framing.  We can't let it mean that.

We have to understand a truth as profound as it is simple: "We're all in this together," isn't a meaningless platitude, it's a universal and incontrovertible truth.  I was here, in a classics class, when I first read Martin Luther King Jr's words on the subject.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
When a physics teacher is cut it affects me, even though I've never taken a physics class here.  When they eliminate the language programs it effects you, even if you'd never have taken a language class anyway.

We all know this.  We're a university.  We aren't just caught in the network of mutuality, we embrace it.  We don't have a French University and a Physics University.  We don't have a Philosophy University and a Political Science University.  We don't have a Music University and a Math University.  We have the University of Southern Maine.

All of us under one roof, often in the same classroom.  One class I take is classics, art, and women and gender studies.  By having all three groups in the same class we all benefit because we're all looking at the same thing but we each see it from our own perspectives.

When we hear the others insights and their questions we grow because they see things we would never see and they ask things we would never think to ask.  The diversity of the university benefits us all and when it is lessened we're all diminished.

The idea that we're all responsible for each other, echoes through history.  This example is kind of heavy handed, but Genesis isn't known for subtlety.

When Cain asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?" he does it as the first murderer.  It's an example of how not to be.  Because we aren't supposed to need to ask.  We're supposed to know.  I am my sibling's keeper.  I am my classmate's keeper.  I am my colleague's keeper.  I am my student's keeper.  I am my teacher's keeper.  I am my program's keeper.  I am my university's keeper.

I was here last time even though no one I knew was being targeted then.  I was here because when they're unjustly firing people it matters to me even when I don't know them.  It affects me, even if only indirectly.

Last time this was tried we stopped it, and we can stop it again if we remember that my problems are your problems and your problems are my problems.  That everyone matters to each of us.

One last thing is that the very idea of a public university is based on a concept that the current administration doesn't seem to understand.  The idea is that the least of these should be entitled to as good an education as anyone else and not need to be rich and be shipped off to Boston.


Or something like that.  With the recording useless that's all from memory and without a prepared statement it was pretty scattered as it was being delivered.  I give you additional pictures, these ones taken by me:

Hooking up the microphone never worked so we started off with a megaphone.

Of course if you need to hands to handle your statement that can lead to awkwardness:

Then the megaphone died.

This might be when I spoke,

At events such as these you always need at least one economist,
because events such as these are caused by people doing bad things
and making false claims about economics to justify them.
Thus, economics person:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

(Image Post) All that remains

A week and a day ago I was sitting outside South Station in Boston when I saw this artifact:

It is, as near as I can tell, what remains of a bike after you have stolen everything that can be stolen including, but not limited to, the front wheel, the rear wheel, the chain, the seat, and the rubber grips on the handle bars.

It wasn't until the following Tuesday that I realized that this is the administration's vision for my university.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Austeritas delenda est!

I need to be writing an essay right now.  I can't.  My thoughts are elsewhere.

The state of Maine has financial problems, but the University of Maine System does not.  All of the bullshit about us needing to cut is just that, bullshit.  They're firing fifty teachers.  How many non-teacher staff get the ax is not yet known.

They're cutting profitable programs.

They're actually actively working to make the university lose money in the future.  They're trying to make it fail.  What no one really knows is why.  All of the theories that can explain things sound like conspiracy theories.  What does it say when the only plausible explanations are conspiracy theories?

Applied Medical Sciences: Cut in totality.
American and New England Studies: Cut in totality.
Arts and Humanities at the LAC campus: Cut in totality.
Communications and Media studies: 13% cut.
Community Planning and Development: Cut in totality
Computer Science: 40% cut
Criminology: 40% cut.
Economics: 44% cut.
Education: only 9% cut.
English: 28% cut.
Geoscience: Cut in totality.
History: 14% cut.
EVERY SINGLE FUCKING LANGUAGE: Cut in totality.  With them the Only Art historian, the entire classics program in the state of main comprising not just multiple campuses but four distinct UMaine universities.
Leadership and blah, blah. blah: 20% cut.
Music: 20% cut.
Natural and Applies Science: 33% cut.
Philosophy: 17% cut.
Physics: 40% cut.  (Physics is the poster child for this bullshit because it's massively profitable.)
Psychology: 25% cut.
Political Science: 20% cut.
Public Policy and Management: Cut in totality.
Social and Behavioral Science: 17% cut.
Sociology: 44% cut.
Technology: 33% cut.
Theatre: 17% cut.

The things that are actually losing money?  0% cut.

It is at times like these that one is tempted to fall back on the old standbys and utter the famous Anglo-Saxon tetragrammaton that starts with F and rhymes with luck, however perhapse a more elevated style is called for.

Ceterum autem censeo austeritatem esse delendam.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Internet, the near future, and stuff about the blog.

So I've talked to people and the going theory seems to be that I should have my internet back by now (I don't) but the person who really should know what is going on is out of the room when I talk to people.

That sounds nice except if it's true then I should have had it back on Monday.  I should have gotten it back again today.  I don't have it back.

If it isn't a simple fix (I really hope it is) then my best guess is that it's because I have a student plan.  I think it costs about half as much as for non-students, which is good, but as a student plan the fact that I'm late on my tuition payment might be a problem.  It's $2,779 and of that I can pay... nothing.  I think I'll make it through the month without losing my house, my power, my water, or my phone.  Tuition, not so much.

Being late doesn't really carry any major penalties (one time late fee, no interest charged) but one thing that it does do is put a hold on one's account and the effects of that I don't really understand.  If that's what's keeping my internet from being reactivated then I really am screwed.

This isn't a fundraising post.  There'll be one on the 15th like there is every month but I don't know how much difference it makes, really.  Some people have been able to chip in.  I got three donations in September and without them I wouldn't have been able to pay my bills.  I'd be without essentials and I have no idea how I'd be able to survive.

But I think everyone who might want to help is basically out of stuff to chip in now.  Relying on handouts was never a viable long term solution.

So, like I said, not a fundraising post.  Just time to face certain realities.  And to let you know about them.  If it does turn out that not paying tuition is the reason that my internet isn't being reactivated in spite of standard operating procedure saying it should have been done twice over by now, then, since I can't make that payment, the blog will go dark.

The way I'm online now isn't something I can sustain.  All I'm doing is buying a cheap item at a place with free wifi and using their connection, but even cheap things add up and I do not have the fucking money.  That means I'll be cut back to using the internet only at school.  (Or someone else's house.)

Functionally, for the blog at least, it'll be just like when I had no computer at all.

The coming weekend I'll be able to use someone else's internet.  I've taken a lot of random pictures, I'll see if I can turn them into image posts and schedule them so there'll be a while at least before things go dark.

I'll try to write, of course, but who knows how that'll go.

I want to cry.

I can see the blog slipping away from me and there's nothing that I can do.

My finances were supposed to be fixed after I survived last winter.  Instead everything is still fucked.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Narnia Index

Finally time for an index for this I think.  No telling if there will ever be more deconstructions and without them I might never write more of this stuff so... we'll see where things go.

Ongoing Story:
If the heroes did their job - A collection of fragments of a version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in which the heroes are heroic.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Narnia's Food Supply - Marmalade?
The White Witch, Regent of Aslan - Propaganda
He's a Son of Adam. She's a Daughter or Lilith. They fight crime! - It started as an exploration of the simultaneous patrelinial and matrilinal nature of human titles in Narnia and then sort of went sideways.
Aslanites are on the move - We are to assume, or rather take on faith, that Aslan with the enchanting name and the beavers who exhibit straight up racism, are good.  What if they were evil and the White Witch were good?
Work Against The Emperor's Magic? - This is probably my most popular Narnia based work.  In the book when Susan asks if there's anything that can be done Aslan asks the question rhetorically with a tone that indicated, "NO!", in this story he seriously considers it.
The kicked out of magic land ending in general, and Narnia in particular - No story here, just thoughts and observations.

Prince Caspian
The Return to Narnia, and defending Edmund - The children have a more meaningful emotional reaction to realizing everyone they know has probably died of old age.
Susan, Aslan, Peter, and the leaving of Narnia at the end of Prince Caspian - A fairly direct sequel to the previous which, with it, bookends the ... book.  Horrible pun is not intended.  The previous one tells how they came, this tells how they left.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Not Die Alone - What the Dragon thought.
Where the crowns came from, and the books Eustace read - Where did the dragon get those crowns?  What were the non-right books that Eustace read?
The disappearing cast of Narnia - In a well written story everyone exists always even though the reader only sees them a fraction of that time.  In fact, forgetting that being "off screen" doesn't stop a character from thinking, feeling, planning, plotting, and acting even for a moment can screw up an otherwise superb story.  In certain other stories the characters... well...
Grab bag of other things from the Serpent Scene - Various things.
Eustace and the Serpent - What does it mean to be a dragon, exactly?
The Midas pool versions:
1 Let us never speak of this again - Everyone is out of character and nothing makes sense, let's just move on.
2 If I could turn back time - The mouse saves the day.
3 If the heroes did their jobs - The story that started it all.
16 things in response to Ana's latest deconstruction - Flat worlds, girding lions (not a typo), how provisions run low, breaking the fourth wall, the borg, plowing as a hobby, trying not to notice, the downsides of LARPing, and more.
Lucy, meet Bella. - Sometimes all you need to be yourself is a time traveling extra-textual character to point out that you do have a choice.

The Horse and His Boy
Edmund and Susan in The Horse and His Boy - Edmund and Susan can't bear to read the lines Lewis wrote for them.

The Last Battle
The scene from The Last Battle if Edmund Got His Wish, Version 1 - You may recall that Edmund wished he were in America with Susan instead of in Narnia.  This is about Edmund being a loyal friend and brother.
The scene from The Last Battle if Edmund Got His Wish, Version 2 - As above but this is about Susan being an understanding and supportive sister.

Aslan instead of Reza Aslan - How the infamous Fox News interview might have gone if the Lion had been interviewed.