Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dog walk: 10/30/12

As I've noted  before, the basenjis are not enthusiastic about being walked in the rain (and for that matter, I'm not enthusiastic about walking them in the rain).  So when it comes to walking them during a hurricane, unenthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe it.  I thought I was done dealing with hurricanes when I left Newport, Rhode Island, but that turns out not to be the case, because Hurrican Sandy is due to make landfall in New Jersey today and crash through the Allegheny Mountains to drench Pittsburgh.

The rain is already here, so I decided to take the dogs to the Riverview Park dog park, which is the most businesslike of our usual haunts.  Since my current assignment from the temp agency involves working the 8 AM to 4 PM shift at a candy factory, I get up at six in the morning to give the dogs their first walk of the day.  6:20 found the three of us walking through the still-dark grounds surrounding the Allegheny Observatory.  We had circumnavigated the observatory, and were on our way back to the car, with me carrying a plastic shopping bag weighted down slightly with Klea's poop, when Louis' rain-slick leash slipped out of my cold-numbed hand, and he was instantly racing downhill towards the line of trees that marked the really steep part of the hill.

Clutching Klea's leash in one hand and the plastic bag in the other, I raced down the hill after him.  Klea was even more anxious to race downhill than I was, and she pulled me off balance, resulting in me falling on my back.  I got up, and with Klea still tugging at her leash, I made my way more slowly to the line of trees.

I stood calling for Louis, scanning downhill through the trees for any sign of him.  I saw a couple of shapes moving in the night, and recognized them as deer, which explained why Louis had taken off in the first place.  One horrible possibility I imagined was Louis chasing the deer through the park all morning, and me missing hours of work while looking for him.  An even more horrible possibility was the leash getting caught around a tree and Louis being unable to move, lost from sight.

I slowly paced along the belt of trees, calling and calling, and after an unbearably anxious couple of minutes, I heard a faint jingling coming from my left.  I turned, and was just able to make out Louis standing just outside the belt of trees.  I walked over, and operating mostly by touch, was able to confirm that he was still in his collar, and that his leash was still attached to it, trailing along the ground underneath him.  I got ahold of the leash's handle, and started leading the two dogs back up the hill to the observatory's access road, as happy as a man can be whose feet and back are soaking wet, which turns out to be pretty happy.

"Louis", I said to the basenji, "I'm going to assume that you took care of your business while you were out there, and bring you straight to the car."  But I was wrong.  Halfway up the hill, Louis paused and did his Looking For Just The Right Place To Poop routine.  I still had the plastic shopping bag, and in moments I had cleaned up Louis' poop.  We continued up the hill, got into the car, and drove home.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sobel Wiki: we are from France

You may have thought that you were done hearing about the Sobel Wiki after I finished posting the last of the For All Nails vignettes.  If so, then you thought wrong, because there's still plenty of work to be done on the wiki, and I mean to do it (alone if necessary), and what's more, I mean to inflict news of my progress on my hypothetical blogging audience.

This weekend has been a busy one, with a total of eight new articles now up at the Sobel Wiki.  First and foremost is an article on France, which has had a rather unhappy history in the Sobel Timeline.  I personally think this was Robert Sobel's way of getting back at Charles de Gaulle for being uppity in the 1960s.  There are also brief articles on 19th century French businessman Maurice Duforge and his Jeffersonian partner Jethro Baker,* and more substantial articles on King Louis XVI and his son and successor Louis XVII.  Finally, there are articles on the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, on the Viceroyalty of New Spain's Province of Tejas, and a brief article on the brief existence of the United States of America.

*Did Sobel name him after Jethro Bodine?  It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The conservative moral inversion

The conservative moral inversion can be summed up very simply:

1. Helping people is bad.
2. Making people suffer is good.

The roots of the conservative moral inversion go back to the 1960s, when white racists found their tax dollars being spent helping to lift black people out of poverty.  In order to prevent this from continuing, conservatives invented the "culture of dependency", the idea that helping people was actually bad for them.  It stood to reason, then, that if helping people was bad, then making people suffer, for instance by cutting social programs, was good.  And if cutting social programs was a good thing, then there was no need to pay taxes to support them, which was the whole point of the exercise.

The conservative moral inversion is no longer an excuse for white people to allow black people to remain poor.  It has expanded from its racist origins, and is now the conventional wisdom among political and media elites pretty much throughout the entire industrialized world, where its proponents are known as the Pain Caucus, or the austerians.  Reducing help for the needy (or, as Saint Ronald of Santa Barbara memorably put it, the "truly needy") has become an end in itself.  That's why the Europeans are determined to reduce countries like Greece and Spain to economic basket cases, and why President Obama has been determined to cut Social Security benefits pretty much from the day he entered office.

Monday, October 1, 2012

FAN #305: "The King's Justice" by Johnny Pez

Up today at the Sobel Wiki, the last remaining For All Nails vignettes have been posted.* First is #298: "Love Story" by Jonathan Edelstein, his last FAN vignette before posting #306: "Domestic Scene" on 16 January 2011.  "Love Story" is, well, a love story set in Numidia, a majority-Jewish state occupying the site of our own world's Libya.  Sobel briefly mentions that hundreds of thousands of Russian peasants, many of them Jews, crossed into the Ottoman Empire in the chaos of the 1880s, and that some eventually found their way to North Africa, where a large Russian community was formed by the turn of the century.  Jonathan turned this odd reference in Sobel, and an even briefer throwaway reference in M.G. Alderman's #21B: "... And Met With My Downfall", into the nation of Numidia.

Next is my own #305: "The King's Justice", a sequel to #303: "Buque Nights", that resolved the latter's cliffhanger ending and (possibly) the most important hanging plot thread from the For All Nails narrative: the fate of former Mexican Secretary of War Vincent Mercator.

"Love Story" was first posted to the soc.history.what-if newsgroup on 7 February 2005.  "The King's Justice" was never posted to shw-i, but was posted to this blog on 10 January 2011.  At the blog post, you will also find the vignette's original ending, and the comment by Noel Maurer that persuaded me to change it.

And thus concludes my quixotic project to create a complete online For All Nails archive after, good heavens, five months of steady work.  If anyone out there has actually been following this fit of madness, you have in equal measure my thanks and my pity.  Just in case anyone is worried about suffering from Sobel withdrawal, I remind you that the larger Sobel Wiki remains a work-in-progress, and will continue to be so, I daresay, for the indefinite future.  Meanwhile, the Johnny Pez blog will resume its former status as a repository for basenji anecdotesprophetic utterances, left-wing rants, and the occasional embedded music video.

*Sharp-eyed observers of the For All Nails archive page will notice that there are still two dead links in the archive.  These are #125: "I, Mercator (Part 4)" and #242: "Brothers", both by Carlos Yu, both unfinished and likely to remain so.