Dear America

What we saw happen today is what we call a purge. It's what dictators do to consolidate power, punish disloyalty, and intimidate future opposition. The Republican party has been dismantled and rebuilt as a party of personal loyalty to Trump. A man who pardons war criminals and human-rights violators and fires anyone who speaks up.

We are in dangerous times. Even a cursory study of history makes that clear. If you like his politics that's one thing; but replacing everyone in the government with people who are personally loyal and obedient to a person rather than the principles of democracy can only end badly.

Please take a moment to reflect on how you would truly feel if you watched these events and the party labels attached to the participants were reversed.

--

Crossposted from Facebook.

Dear Mitt Romney

Thank you.

I was very pleased to see that one Republican has the integrity to say "wrong is wrong". I was saddened to see that only one Republican has that integrity.

I'm sorry that you are already being, and will continue to be, attacked and insulted for standing for justice. I'm saddened that the people that rallied behind your candidacy in 2012 have now gone so far astray that they can no longer even see you as a member of the party.

Any political party that is loyal to a person instead of an ideology rooted in pluralism is a danger to this country.

Your vote, taken at an unpredictably high cost to yourself, will be remembered as a stand for justice, fairness, and democracy.

Stay strong. "Do what is right, let the consequence follow."

--

Crossposted from Facebook.

The Show America Needed

This past week the TV show, "The Good Place" aired its series finale. It's not the kind of show that comes along very often and I think it was desperately needed.

It was a show that was unabashedly about ethics and moral philosophy. Actual, meaningful philosophical content presented in a format that was accessible to people that have never broached the subject before.

It wasn't another anti-hero, vigilantism, and vengeance story line. Those stories have been popular lately, and I've enjoyed watching them, but I think they are teaching audiences that you can do whatever you want so long as you say it's for the greater good (as defined by you). Their behavior is explicitly rationalized as the ends justifying any means. It can be satisfying to watch the Punisher ignore the laws in order to make the villains pay for their crimes. But it's not healthy for actual society to be filled with self-proclaimed vigilantes doing whatever they feel like and justifying it afterwards.

"The Good Place" was explicitly about coming to terms with what it means to act ethically. Considering the intent and outcome of our behavior in real terms and having at least an internal discussion about what is right; what is fair, what is just.

It was a comedy, so it was generally lighthearted and, at times, goofy. But it covered important ground in moral reasoning and I think it avoided coming across as preachy.

We should consider our actions and do our best. We will fail. And we can take time to reflect on our failures and shortcomings and then do better.

Spoilers in this paragraph! If there's some kind of existence beyond mortality, I'd like it to be something like the one exhibited at the show's end: An unbounded opportunity to learn, grow, and improve until we reach our full potential as moral beings; the ability to enjoy all that existence has to offer; and then, on our own terms, the chance to say, "I'm ready to move on."

If you didn't watch it, go and do so. I think seasons 1-3 are on Netflix currently. I don't know if Netflix will also get season 4 or if it will all move over to NBC's streaming service. The entire series will be available on blu-ray in May. Go find it and watch it. And consider what you can do that will make someone else feel that you've made their life better.

Christmas 2019

On the 16th we went to look at lights around town with friends. It was even a bit chilly.

Christmas Eve at home with cheese fondue with fresh bread and hot chocolate. And a couple of terrible, low-light pictures of the girls opening gifts to each other. Heather received a fossil dig kit and Corinne received 2 Magna-Tile plates (she ran around the house screaming she was so excited).

We added an alicorn and a narwhal to our Christmas lights this year. The alicorn immediately required replacement supports as it would fall over in a slight breeze and its lights are already having issues. So it may have to be returned. But the girls _loved_ it.

And I upgraded our "fire" with some flame-effect lights mounted on a board at the back of the fireplace. Surprisingly convincing in peripheral vision.

Christmas Morning!

I made another Bûche de Noël this year. Unlike last year I skipped all the hazelnut parts and went with a filling of dark-chocolate creme & chocolate-chips with dark-chocolate ganache frosting and chocolate chips for garnish. It was pretty good.

Thanksgiving 2019

We drove out to Utah to spend Thanksgiving with Erin's family this year. We arrived on Sunday night and stayed until Saturday morning.

On Tuesday we went to the Thanksgiving Point Natural History Museum.

Thursday was a busy day of baking 131 rolls, both baguette-style and soft-dinner-style, making cream puffs, eating food, and the girls playing in the snow.

I needed to make a lot of rolls, but the standard mixer bowl wasn't big enough. Turns out it works just fine to use another bowl of similar height and hold it yourself (and spin it around to help the mixing).

A whole gaggle of girls who had a ton of fun running around all week. Heather looks twice their size. I think it's mostly because she's all stretched out, but she's also tall.

On Friday we visited some friends that live in Lehi. Then we had to shovel 4 inches of snow off Erin's driveway to park the van. I don't miss shoveling snow!

We packed up Friday night planning for an early departure, but had to shovel more snow off the driveway in the morning in order to safely get to the street, which was not plowed.

We eventually got moving though had to head South due to the storm system coming through which also made I-80 across Donner Pass really dangerous with dozens of accidents and disabled vehicles. Shortly after we left, apparently a propane tanker overturned on I-15 around Lehi and had I-15 closed in both directions all day, but we avoided that.

The unicorn headband is also headphones!

Once we got out the bottom of Utah we had gotten ahead of the storm and the weather at least cleared up even if traffic didn't. We had hoped to get home in one day, which should have been possible with ~15 hours of traveling. Any dream of that happening though was shattered by the CA agricultural checkpoint which had traffic completely stopped for 27 miles.

We, and much of the rest of the highway, tried to stop for some food at the only town in existence for that stretch of road, Primm, just inside the Nevada border. We headed for a Taco Bell that Google thought existed, but did not. So we ended up at the busiest McDonald's I've ever seen. We grabbed some food to go and got back in the traffic jam. By the time we got up to the checkpoint they were closed for the day and you could just drive through, but it takes a long time for 27 miles of stopped traffic to start moving again.

We made it to Barstow and stayed the night there. When we got up in the morning, the checkpoint still had 5 miles of stopped traffic (according to Google Maps). We got moving again and made it back home after another 7 hours of driving. Patches of driving rain and poor visibility, heavy traffic, and incredibly unsafe drivers (gee, it's pouring rain, I can't see more than 2 cars in front of me, but this guy left 20 feet of space in front of him, I'm going to take it!). It was not a lot of fun.

At least a Raspberry Pi loaded with TV shows and Movies kept the girls entertained.