Ravenclaws, Unite!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Do you love the Harry Potter stories? Do you love to read, and want to share reading with underserved children who may not otherwise have an opportunity to develop a love of reading?

Then this fundraiser is for you!

The Harry Potter Alliance, a charitable organization dedicated to encourage Harry Potter fans to be active in advocacy, is holding their Annual "Accio Books!" fundraiser in support of the Friends of the Apparating Library initiative. The purpose of the fundraiser is to provide books to underserved youngsters:
For millions of children across the world, basic access to books and literacy programs is hardly a given. The Harry Potter Alliance is engaged in a permanent campaign to balance the scales. Our ultimate goal is to raise 1 million books for schools, community centers, and literacy programs across the world. We also endeavor to build 25 permanent libraries in places that need them. Last year, we had our most successful Accio Books yet, with over 100,000 books raised for 50 literacy programs across the world and a new library established at a new school in Masaka, Uganda!

This year, we are partnering with Words Alive, an organization that provides literacy and education services to over 5,000 children and families in Southern California. HPA chapters and members will raise thousands of books for Words Alive, allowing the organization to provide quality books to students of all ages for many years to come. Many chapters outside the western United States will choose to donate books to schools and programs in their local communities. Overall, we expect to match last year’s incredible effort, with dozens of communities across the world transformed by the generosity of our members.
As you all know, libraries are a passion of mine, and while I love to work with and donate to my local Library District, my County is hardly underserved in this regard. So it's a good thing to support communities who may not have as many resources to share in encouraging a love of reading.

Reading is fundamental, y'all, and lifelong readers reap the following rewards:
  1. Reduces stress
  2. Improves conversations
  3. It may push back the effects of Alzheimer's disease
  4. Increases imagination
  5. Sharpens senses
  6. Improves sleep quality
  7. Boosts analytical thinking
  8. Grows brain cells
  9. Improves empathy
  10. Increases success in life
But kids can't enjoy these benefits unless they have access to books and are encouraged to read. 
Are you a Ravenclaw (like me)? A Gryffindor? A Hufflepuff? A Slytherin? Support the cause by donating to your House Team, and get a chance at neat prizes!

Link Me Up, Scotty - TFP Edition

Friday, March 24, 2017

A man who was so enamored of Trump that he quit paying his mortgage and sold his business' equipment to follow him all over the country during the campaign now feels betrayed. I want to be absolutely clear, here - no one feels more empathy for this father at the loss of his son to addiction than I do. No one. And yet I find I'm completely unsympathetic to his sense of betrayal. This is what happens when you put your faith in a serial, compulsive liar who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, and it's not like he didn't have plenty of data to draw from in making his decisions. 
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I find this article about how the Koch Brothers' are threatening incumbent Republicans to vote "no" on the new Health Care to be the scariest fucking thing I've read this week, in a week full of scary fucking things. You don't often see the money = votes dynamic of our political system so brazenly on display. But why shouldn't they be brazen? They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by being so.
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And speaking of scary fucking things, 45 has once again taken leave of any passing acquaintance he may have with facts to Tweet complete falsehoods about his Administration and government agencies following testimony by FBI Director Comey and NSA head Admiral Rogers to the House Intelligence Committee. I swear, the guy does not even live in the same universe as us. Check out this analysis for further research on the Liar, Liar Pants on Fire-in-Chief.
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Democrats are planning to filibuster Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. While this may be an emotionally satisfying tactical decision, I'm not sure that's it's the best strategic decision for Democrats at this time. A change in the rules on this issue is something BOTH parties will have to live with.
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Want to know why our political climate is so polarized? Don't look at the Internet.
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Get your cutes on with these photos of adopted pooches in their new digs. And it's National Puppy Day! And here are some sled dogs getting their mush on!
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We have met the enemy, and they're inside us. More than two thirds of all cancers may be caused by random DNA mutation during cell division. On the other hand, lifestyle choices that promote health are never a bad idea, because there's always that additional 29%.
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Am I the only one who's getting an increased number of solicitation calls on my cell phone these days? Well, the FCC wants to help block at least the Robo-calls. Since my cell number has been on the Federal Do Not Call list since 2011, the current regulations clearly aren't working. Also, note to outbound call center agents: I know how your technology works. So don't tell me you're "having a problem with your headset" when your autodialer doesn't connect you to a live answer right away. You're not having a problem with your headset, you're technology is just shitty.
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Libby Bakalar of One Hot Mess is at it again, this time with a confirmed study that the size of a dead fish correlates directly to the penis size of the man holding it. It's obviously true because SCIENCE.
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Today's sources:
  • The Washington Post: Mainstream media source with minimal bias and a high degree of factual reporting.  
  •  CNN: Mainstream media source without in-depth investigation and a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • Slate: Skews left with a high degree of factual reporting and in-depth news. 
  • Eternally Sunny: Media aggregator for positive stories. 
  • The Atlantic: Skews left with a high degree of factual reporting and in-depth news. 
  • The Boston Globe: Skews left with a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • One Hot Mess: The personal blog of Libby Bakalar.

News and Updates from the Big Brown House

Thursday, March 23, 2017

1. We ordered the new floors for the common areas on the main floor the other day. We decided on something called "deluxe vinyl" because it claims to be kid-proof, pet-proof, and has a lifetime warranty. Here's the sample:

"A De-Luxe Apartment in the Sky"
The chaos begins April 17th, and Miss Jackson Pi will be visiting the kennel/day care while it's being installed. Because nobody needs her help with this project - especially not me.

2. Spring is apparently here. All my trees and bushes are budding, and my flowers are starting to come up. Which means, of course, that we're expecting a snowstorm this evening into tomorrow. Because that's how we roll here in Colorado. In the meantime, I've ordered the first raised bed for our yard, and have my "How to Start a Vegetable Garden" pamphlet from the Farmer's Almanac. I intend to plant tomatoes, broccoli, peppers and zucchini. If it goes well, I might try flowers in the next one. 
Preparing for our dystopian future by growing our own food.

3. Miss Jackson Pi was admitted to our local animal hospital on Wednesday morning. She'd been refusing to eat, and when she started vomiting up her water, there was blood in it. So off we went, so she could get some IV fluids, an X-Ray, and an ultra-sound. They don't know specifically what's wrong with her, so are treating her symptomatically, and hopefully she'll be able to come home later today. She still feels pretty crappy, but we're hoping she's on the mend.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Healthcare Edition

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Business Insider reports on Direct Primary Care, This is a new trend in health care whereby the patient pays a set monthly fee and then sees their Primary Care Physician whenever they want, with no insurance, and no additional fees. Discounted prescriptions are included, but specialty medicine, hospital stays, etc. are not. I'm very intrigued by this idea, and if the restriction about using HSA funds to pay the monthly fee are removed, I might consider changing our plan to accommodate something like this.
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In case you missed it, here is one giant fucking chicken. Clever boy.
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National Geographic has launched a tool that allows you to print out detailed topographical maps. Maps (and information) want to be free!
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This entrepreneur has a company that's worth $100M, and it all started with a condescending douche. Well, at least they're good for something. 
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The NY Times on Comey's testimony and what it means for 45's administration now and in the future. And the implosion begins in five...four...three...two...
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Speaking of 45, here's a thought provoking piece about why some Trump supporters do not deserve our sympathy. When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. The money quote:
That makes it all the more a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving 'the poorly educated' who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.
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Oh, look - a local Colorado Republican who's long on conspiracy theories and short on facts asserted pretty vehemently in 2016 that only Democrats commit voter fraud has been charged by Weld County prosecutors with...wait for it...voter fraud. I hope they throw the book as this hypocritical motherfucker.
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Today's sources:
  • Business Insider: Left-center bias with a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • CNN: Mainstream media source without in-depth investigation and a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • PetaPixel: Leading blog about photography. 
  • The Hustle: Cooperative news aggregator.
  • New York Times: Mainstream media source with minimal bias and a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • New York Magazine: Left bias with a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • The Washington Post: Mainstream media source with minimal bias and a high degree of factual reporting. 

Link Me Up, Scotty - Self-Care Edition

Friday, March 17, 2017

Here's some practical advice about sustainable self-care that does not include spending money you may or may not have. I especially dig items 4 and 5.

H/T Mistress Tania
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My very own Colorado Rockies celebrate Pi Day with style.
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My favorite Christian Pastor on why he's not the same since the 2016 election. Yeah. This. This was the election where I finally lost my ability to "agree to disagree." There is nothing about this President or this Administration that I will agree with, now or ever. And yes, I do hold those who voted for him completely responsible for the next four years.
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Vanguard America, a White Supremacist group that lives right out there with the Neo-Nazis and other whackadoos, is putting up flyers on college campuses with racist messages. 1st Amendment, she tells herself, 1ST AMENDMENT. But by all means, let's not shield these racist fuckpops from the social consequences of their abhorrent points of view.
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A runner in Seattle fought off a sex offender who attacked her in a public bathroom, shouting "Not today, motherfucker!" as she pummeled her way to freedom. Bonus: She locked the reprobate in the bathroom until police arrived. Get on with your bad self, Kelly!
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The West Virginia Senate is voting to basically remove mine safety inspections. Because the mining industry in the Appalachians has proved to be so very responsible and self-correcting when it comes to the safety and health of their mine workers. Apparently.
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It's this kind of incident that makes me hope for the republic. Good on you, Tracey Tong. "I don't like the way you are treating her," indeed.
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Professional historian David gives an interesting take on life on the home front during WWII.
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Oh, good, 45's new 2018 budget (entitled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." I shit you not, that's the actual name of this piece of excrescence) sticks it to the arts, sciences, education, environmental protections, the State Department, and (of course!) the poor and elderly in the form of social programs that allow them to survive. This is the most immoral piece of crap I have seen come from my government in my lifetime. Apparently his plan is to strengthen an already strong military while simultaneously cutting domestic programs that will result in a grim, dystopian nightmare devoid of art, culture, an educated populace, clean air, and clean water. Oh, and we'll have the olds and the poor dying in the street, as well, so that'll be fun.
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Dogs in cars. Miss Jackson Pi loves the car, and is a good passenger. Unlike Boogie the Giant Schnauzer, who had an aversion to mechanical sounds and was convinced any car ride was taking him to his doom.
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My favorite Christian Pastor on white privilege and what to do about it. These concepts are sometimes very difficult to accept, but I think it helps to know that the issue isn't personal but systemic.
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A congressional staffer explains what answering the thousands of phone calls to their office is like in the age of 45. TL:DR: Keep dialing.
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Today's sources:
  • Continuum: The website for Continuum, a global think tank devoted to intentional, authentic, and interconnected feminism.
  • The Washington Post: Mainstream Media source with minimal partisan bias and highly factual reporting. 
  • Stuff That Needs to be Said: The personal blog of Pastor John Pavlovitz
  • The Huffington Post: Hyper partisan liberal publication with a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • Charleston Gazette-Mail: Left center bias with a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • 4 Quarters and 10 Dimes: The personal blog of David the Historian. 
  • Buzzfeed: Left Center bias with a mixed degree of factual reporting.


News and Updates from the Big Brown House

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I realize I haven't been writing much about, you know, my life since 45 won the election. Mostly it's just been Link Me Up posts pointing people to those who are far smarter and more qualified to discuss our current political climate than I. But this is my space, after all, so I thought I'd catch the world up on the goings-on here at the Big Brown House.

1. Yesterday was the twins' birthday. This day affects me weirdly now. On the one hand, it reminds me that my baby girl will never be older than 22, and I grieve anew for her loss. On the other hand, it's also the Smart Son's birthday, and he's grown into a fine human being, a man of good character, humor, honor, and curiosity. I'm hopelessly proud of him, and celebrate his time on this earth and am delighted he's my son. So, weird.

2. We're attending an "invitation only" sale this evening at our local flooring store. The carpet we bought when the house was built was the default option with no upgrades, and we basically hate it. It's separating at the seam to the hard wood floor and the hardwood is thoroughly scratched at the points where it overlays a thoroughfare. I suspect you can imagine the reason for that. (cough*Miss Jackson Pi*cough). So we're replacing the carpet and the wood floors in the main areas and halls (but not my office or the bedrooms). This was always the plan, but it will be expensive and a pain in the ass, to boot.

3. Miss Jackson Pi had an upset tummy over the weekend, and now I feel like I need to write a note to the Bissell Corporation thanking them for the efficacy of their SpotClean Pro™Portable Carpet Cleaner. This machine is the cat's pajamas, y'all.

4. From a leadership perspective, it's irksome that leaders have to spend 90% of their time on 10% of the people, leaving little time or room to actually accomplish goals. This was true when I was a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Navy, and it's true now.

5. The "March for Science" demonstrations are scheduled for April 22nd. That's Earth Day, for those of you keeping track at home. I'll be attending here in Denver with some science-loving friends, and I've been knitting "brain hats" for us to wear to the event. Here's an example:

Brainz...it's what's for dinner.
Once I'm done knitting the hats for our group, I may consider taking orders from long-time readers and friends for the cost of the yarn. These take longer than my usual projects, though, and the yarn is much more expensive.

6. I paid off my Fiat this month. So both my Jeep (for which I paid cash) and the Fiat are now free and clear. I figure I'll just keep driving them until I retire, and in the meantime save all that car payment money for my retirement transportation needs.

7. After finishing his general education courses at our local Community College, the Smart Son has been accepted into two of our state universities here in Colorado. I don't know which school he'll end up selecting, as his GI Bill allows him to go to any state school, anywhere, with tuition paid in full. Ah, to have so many choices!

8. I have been assigned a task at my day job that is incredibly tedious and will take a long time to complete. I think I'll have to pace myself, as I'm already so bored I want to take my eye out with a spork.

9. I like lipstick. This is not exactly "news," but as someone who smoked for many years, I have trouble finding a product that will not seep into the fine lines around my mouth and make me look like the Joker. But the new matte liquid lipsticks were made for me! My current faves are Tarte Tarteist Lip Paint and Revlon Colorstay Overtime Lipcolor. The Revlon has the advantage of coming with lip gloss in addition to the lip paint, which is convenient.

This counts as my once yearly public display of girliness, by the way.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Picking the Right Person for the Job Edition

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The big brains over at Outside the Beltway with commentary on 45's national security team. I firmly believe it is the career bureaucracy that keeps things going in times of transition and turmoil, but no level of institutional memory can supplement such a lack of planning and execution.
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Racial tensions heat up in a small Georgia town, but people decided to stand up and be counted rather than normalizing the return of the KKK to their community. #resist
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Steve King, the most ineffective member of Congress, is such a douchebag I can't even. I wonder if his district is the one of the ones that have hoards of White Militia hiding in the hills with their guns and canned goods.
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My favorite Christian Pastor is inventing a Church I could join with a clear conscience and an open heart: The Church of Not Being Horrible.
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As a promotional stunt, the folks over at Amazon launched a fake "radio station" called "Resistance Radio" to generate interest in the third season of their show The Man in the High Castle. So then 45 supporters came out of the woodwork claiming the station was unAmerican and whining about why those mean liberals are still so outspoken about 45 and his policies?

I find it very interesting, very interesting indeed, that 45's supporters assumed a promotional media event aimed directly at opposing Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan was aimed at them and their resident reprobate. This shows me that deep down, some of these bootlickers know they're on the wrong side of history, but are still trying to defend their untenable positions, probably to sooth their conscience at being such horrible people.
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The White House wants to know how the Affordable Care Act has affected you and your family.

Obamacare: Share Your Story

Obamacare has led to higher costs and fewer health insurance options for millions of Americans.
How has it impacted you? Share your story with the President.
So I shared my story. My story about how my veteran son was able to be covered on my health plan when he returned from his service, and how he was able to get affordable care through the Exchange after he aged out of the adult children provision in the ACA. Somehow I doubt that's what 45 wanted to hear, but hey - he really needs to get acquainted with the truth, and after working for 35 years in male-dominated fields, my inclination to coddle a man's ego and alternative reality is at an all-time low these days.

H/T Brother Nathan
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Oh, look - according to the CBO, 45's health care replacement would make the rich richer and kick 24 million people off the health insurance rolls. I'll bet you can guess 45's reaction to this non-partisan report. You guessed it, deny, deny, deny. As near as I can tell, the new plan basically takes us back to where we were before the ACA was enacted, with no benefit to non-wealthy Americans by any measure.
“The C.B.O. score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans’ repeal effort.”
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Today's sources:
  • Outside the Beltway: An online journal of politics and foreign affairs analysis written by a highly educated and ridiculously qualified staff. 
  • The Washington Post: Mainstream Media source with minimal partisan bias and a high degree of factual reporting. 
  • One Hot Mess: The personal blog of Libby Bakalar. 
  • Stuff That Needs to be Said: The personal blog of Pastor John Pavlovitz. 
  • WhiteHouse.gov: The official website of the President of the United States. 
  • The New York Times: Mainstream Media source with minimal partisan bias and a high degree of factual reporting.