John Oliver on the false equivalency of Clinton and Trump scandals.

I’ve heard a lot of folks make the claim that Hillary Clinton is just as plagued by scandals as Donald Trump, but it’s just not true. John Oliver on Last Week Tonight decided to take a closer look at both candidates on this issue and here’s what he found:

Hillary isn’t my first choice for President, but she’s objectively a better candidate than Trump. She’ll be getting my vote in November.

Welcome to Autumn.

Yesterday was the fall equinox which means summer has officially ended. I used to mark the passings of the seasons with an annual post, but I’d fallen out of the habit. I’m a day late with this one, but better late than never, right?

Personally, I’m ready for fall as this summer has been somewhat brutal temperature-wise here in Michigan. Right on cue the forecast for the next week has us at 70° or under for highs and the lower 50s to upper 40s for evening temps, which’ll make for nice sleeping weather without the A/C going.

So in celebration of the new season I thought I’d dig through my pics for a nice autumn shot:

les-fall-2009

I really like this pic, but it’s from 2009 so it’s not really representative of how I currently look. Also shorter beard and less gray and also leaves haven’t started turning yet, but what the hell. I look good in it.

The only pics I have from around this time last year are a couple of shots from a fire drill at work that aren’t particularly autumn-ish. There’s also a pic of an autumn moon as I was leaving for work that is mostly darkness so we’ll have to make do with the above. Hard to believe that’s from seven years ago. I look so much older today:

What the hell happened to me?

What the hell happened to me?

Voting is important. Make sure you cast yours this November.

We Americans sure do love to holler about how patriotic we are. We slap bumper stickers on our cars with various slogans and apply images of the flag to every surface that can be printed on and we chant “USA! USA! USA!” at every opportunity. Yet nearly half of all eligible Americans don’t bother to do one of the most patriotic things possible: Voting.

If you’re eligible, but not registered to vote the folks at SaveTheDay.vote can help you with getting that done so you can exercise one of your fundamental rights as an American. In Michigan the deadline to register, either in person or by mail, is October 11th. That’s only a couple of weeks away. This is arguably one of the most important elections ever — certainly within my lifetime. Prove just how patriotic you are by casting your vote on November 8th.

Don’t do it just because you want to see Mark Ruffalo naked. Do it because it’s your civic duty.

Tonight the wife and I will go see the Liberal Redneck.

I’ve not been to a comedy club in years. It’s just not something I do on a regular basis, but every now and then someone comes along that I’ll venture out to see in person. Trae Crowder, also known as the Liberal Redneck, is one of those comedians. Trae exploded onto the scene some four months ago when one of his YouTube videos on the subject of transgenders and bathrooms went viral:

That caught my attention so I subscribed to his YouTube channel and since then he’s gone on to become very popular with us liberals for obvious reasons. He’s also doing a regular video for the New York Daily News.

Here’s another one from his YouTube channel:

Needless to say, his newfound attention has created new opportunities for him including a tour with a couple of his fellow southern liberals they’re calling the wellRED comedy tour. In addition to Trae we’ll be seeing Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester tonight at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. There’s still quite a few seats left so if you’re in the area and looking for something to do tonight you can still get in on this.

I often joke that I come from a long line of rednecks, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes worry about how little distance there is between me and my heritage. Trae makes me feel better about that as he shows that even rednecks can be liberals despite what the stereotype would have you believe.

Here’s one more just because:

I’m done with writing about September 11th.

Someone sent me an email asking why I hadn’t written anything marking the 15th anniversary of September 11th. The truth is I’m done with it and have been for awhile. I last wrote an entry about it back in 2008 and I’ve not written another one since. I figured seven years of talking about it every year was enough. My opinions haven’t changed much in the eight years since.

In fact I find the annual ritual to be nothing more than an exercise in false patriotism largely engaged in by folks who think they have to out-American everyone else as though it were a contest. “Look at me! I’m a great American ’cause I haven’t forgotten!” The same sort of folks who put those stupid magnetic ribbons on their SUVs that say “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS” and think they’ve actually done something supportive. The only exceptions are the folks who were directly impacted by the events that day. I do not begrudge them their time to reflect and remember every September, but the vast majority of people in this country that wave their flags and scream about “not forgetting” are not those people.

As Jim Wright wrote on his blog, we’ve had our revenge and then some. Not only did we smash the Taliban in Afghanistan, but we decided we might as well stomp all over Iraq while we were at it even though they didn’t have anything to do with 9/11. We inflicted a death toll far exceeding what happened to us on that fateful morning. Depending on who is doing the counting, the estimates are that between 151,000 to 1 million Iraqis have died as a direct result of our invasion of their country. Again, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Assuming it’s the conservative estimate of 151,000 then that’s a 4933% difference and that’s not even counting the 91,000 people killed in Afghanistan as a direct result of our war on that country. As a reminder: 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the rest were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. All countries we did nothing to.

In the course of exacting our revenge we sacrificed an additional 8,000 people to the cause — 166% more than died in New York on 9/11. We also sacrificed major chunks of our civil liberties, privacy, and moral high ground in the course of making ourselves “safer” without actually making ourselves any safer. But hey, at least we don’t have to worry about Iraqis or Afghans attacking us again, right?

Apparently it’s not enough that we’ve spilled an excessive amount of blood in retaliation for 9/11 while also laying the seeds for further terrorism against us. It seems we’re required to pick at the scab every year until it bleeds anew so we can feel justified in our ongoing hatred of others. No thanks, I’ve got better things to do.

I was not directly impacted by the events of 9/11. I didn’t lose any loved ones or close friends when the towers fell. All of my connections to the event in question are indirect and consist mainly of being an American who was alive when it happened and witnessed it unfold on TV in real time. I don’t need to be reminded of it because I will never forget it. The same way I haven’t forgotten where I was when President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. or when the space shuttle Challenger exploded or any of the other major events that have happened in my lifetime. I have sympathy for and empathy with all of those folks who have direct experience with those events, but eventually we have to move on. I have had loved ones I care deeply about that have passed away that I didn’t grieve for as long as we’ve grieved over 9/11.

It’s not healthy and I refuse to let it drive me to hatred and anger. I debated whether to even bother writing this much as it feels like I’m letting myself get dragged into it yet again. I’m pretty sure this will be the last thing I write on it. In the future I’ll just point folks to this entry when they ask why I haven’t engaged in the yearly self-flagellation ritual that is 9/11.

The Paulding Light shows how some folks just want to believe.

If you’re ever in the region of Paulding Michigan during the evening hours you can catch a glimpse at a supposedly supernatural local phenomenon known as the Paulding Light. At the end of the abandoned segment of US Highway 45 in a tiny speck of a town near the border with Wisconsin in the Upper Peninsula is where the mystery takes place.

The official legend says it’s the ghost of a railroad brakeman who is forever waving his lantern in an attempt to stave off the train accident that killed him, but other folks think it’s the ghost of a grandparent looking for a lost grandchild with a lantern that keeps going out. Still others think it’s UFOs. Swamp gas or maybe something to do with the northern lights.

Oddly enough the first reports of the light are from 1966 when local teenagers told the sheriff about it. Which is right around the time they finished rerouting U.S. Highway 45 in that area. You don’t suppose it could be the headlights of cars travelling along the highway, do you?

In 2010 electrical engineering grad student Jeremy Bos decided to find out. He got some of his buddies from the Society of Photo Optical Instrumentation Engineers club and made the trek up there with some equipment to put it to the test:

“When you tell them about how it’s a spooky ghost story, it got people really wanting to get involved,” said the 39-year-old, now an engineering professor at the school.

They brought a spectrograph and a telescope to the dead-end road, sent each other driving down the new highway while blinking their lights in a prearranged pattern, and recorded the results.

Every time the light appeared, one look through the telescope showed what sure looked like the headlights of oncoming cars, which could be seen clearly through the lens, sometimes with the distinct outline of the car coming down the road, which is about 8 miles away. The group even shot a video through the telescope so others could see, and posted it online. The flickering, they said, was caused when cars went over a hill.

Mystery solved, they announced.

via Mysterious light draws thrill seekers to a U.P. forest.

Science wins again, right? Here’s where it gets interesting. You see, one of the odd things about human beings is we like our mysteries and we want desperately to believe in the supernatural. There are a lot of folks up there who just don’t accept the findings of Jeremy Bos and his colleagues.

Bos still gets flak from people who refuse to give up their belief in the supernatural origin of the light. Some people say the light they’ve seen in the woods is too bright to be headlights. Some say it moves in ways no car can. And some, he’s found, don’t have a particular objection — they just want to keep believing.

“It’s the same with anything,” he said. “There is scientific evidence to disprove all sorts of things, and people still choose to believe the more fantastical, maybe because they view science as taking away the mystery of things and they want to hold onto some of that mystery.”

The human eye can see the light of a single candle up to 30 miles away if the observer is high enough to overcome the curvature of the horizon, but just because you can see the light doesn’t mean you have the ability to determine its source. Headlights 8 miles away are certainly bright enough to be seen, but it’d be difficult to judge their movement or the fact that they’re headlights at that distance.

Here’s a daytime pic of the spot you stand in to see the light:

pauldinglight

You can clearly see how this used to be part of the highway system and is now used as a run for powerlines. The light appears way down at the end of this line-of-sight. You know, where the U.S. Highway 45 currently runs by. So what does it look like? Here’s a YouTube video uploaded by Robert Wiegert in 2006:

If you watch it’ll look pretty impressive at first with a bright flare and then it changes colors and breaks into multiple lights and then you realize it’s cars. At least one person can be heard pointing out that it’s cars in the distance, but that does little to dampen the oohs and ahs of the folks who think it’s something spooky.

Here’s the video of the investigation by Jeremy Bos’ team:

It’s pretty clear those are lights from cars on the highway and that shouldn’t be a big surprise because just about any place in the country where you have a similar situation you’ll find a legend about a mystery light. A Google search for “ghost light” will turn up dozens of examples.

That won’t stop the True Believers™:

Even before the experiment was done, people from the area heard what the students were aiming to do. Some locals came by and angrily told the group this was a waste of government money — though, in reality, it was self-funded by the optics club. One woman kept bringing her photo albums featuring pictures she’d taken of the light over the years to show them her proof that it’s real. Others acknowledged that, yes, those were headlights in the lens of the telescope, but insisted that it wasn’t the actual Paulding Light.

{…} “People want to debunk this mystery and say it’s headlights,” Schulz said. “You might be able to see them from a distance. But when the real mystery light shows up, it’s a light of its own.”

There are a lot of people in this world who want to believe in fantasy rather than reality. Maybe reality is just too tough for them to deal with so imagining supernatural explanations for mundane things is a way to admit they have no real control over things. Maybe they just like the idea of the supernatural.

Regardless, there’s no arguing with folks who insist on clinging to their beliefs regardless of what the evidence shows. This is part of why religion is so tenacious. If you can’t convince folks about something everyone can actually see then convincing them about something no one has ever seen is not gonna happen.

As an aside, the Detroit Free Press — from which I took some of these quotes — made a trip up to see the light for themselves. Here’s what they captured on video:

I think my favorite part of this video is the two old guys talking about how there’s no way it could be headlights because it has a red color to it. Yeah, that’d be the taillights dumbass.

Mark Day’s hyperlapse of Burning Man 2016.

I have to admit that watching videos like this makes me wish I had a modicum of artistic ability. It’s really amazing to see what folks are doing out in the middle of a desert.

I’m also wowed by how low-power LED lights can add a new dimension to sculptures and other artworks.

Source: Mark Day’s YouTube Channel

Big breasted mannequins looking for good homes.

Retired electrician Mike Martin was a dedicated hobbyist and collector. What he collected were old department store mannequins which he restored and, um, enhanced. Specifically, he gave them boob jobs and then dressed them in various fashions and gave them names. Mike recently passed away and his amazingly tolerant wife is selling off his collection of 60 big breasted mannequins to anyone willing to take them:

Stingl: Retired electrician created mass of mannequins

“Some people are making fun of it online. But everybody collects something,” said Rich Ranft of Beloit Auction & Realty and a longtime neighbor of the Martins.

“Whenever he heard there was a mannequin for sale, he’d go get it. They had a small Ford or whatever it was, and he would strap them to the top or put them in the backseat, wherever he could put them,” Rich said.

Then Mike would rely on his skill in automotive body work to repair and paint the figures. He used Bondo, the fix for rusted-out fenders, to augment the mannequins’ breasts until they were the size of cantaloupes.

“If you’ve seen them, obviously you can tell he was very into big-busted women, to say the least,” Mike’s daughter, Lisa Erspamer of Wauwatosa, said with a laugh.

Here’s a sample of his work:

bbmannequins

If nothing else you have to admire his skill at making those breasts look like they were there from the beginning.

The news article linked above has quite a few more pictures if you’re curious. Mike was devoted to his unusual hobby:

Mike and Maxine granted an interview to the Beloit Daily News in 2007. They said the collection began about 10 years earlier. Mike said he preferred the hobby to watching television. He became an expert on the history of mannequins and could tell you where and when each one was made.

Each restoration took four or five days, Mike told reporter Julie Becker. Some were made to look like celebrities such as Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth and Elvira. Maxine said she was glad to see her husband busy, though he rarely asked for her fashion advice.

Now the natural inclination would be to make fun of this fellow for buying old mannequins and enlarging their breasts before dressing them up, but I find him to be a bit of a kindred spirit. Over the years I’ve collected clocks and hats and various anime related crap and otter figurines and video games and other total wastes of time and money. Hell, in some circles I’m sure Mike Martin would be considered an artist of sorts which is more than can be said for any of the stuff I’ve collected over the years. His family appears to have been tolerant of his quirky obsession and he clearly wasn’t harming anyone. If it brought a little bit of happiness into his life then all the better.

If you think owning one of these might bring a little happiness into your life then you’ll be happy to know the online auction runs for a couple more days yet, though you’ll have to drive to Beloit, WI to pick it up as they won’t ship them. Outfits and accessories will be shipped if you wish. Just imagine how one of these tastefully posed in your living room or den would act as a conversation starter at your next party!

I think the men’s room air freshener at work is trying to kill me.

I have an enemy at work in the form of a small plastic box that sits high on a wall in the men’s bathroom and I’m pretty sure it’s trying to kill me.

Behold! The form of your eventual downfall!

Behold the form of your eventual lavatory room death!

Every time I walk into the men’s room this little fucker shoots out a stinging cloud of “air freshener” that always immediately flies into my eyes causing them to sting and burn and leaving me to stumble around blindly risking death by accidental swirly. Every. Damned. Time.

OK, not really every time, but often enough that it certainly feels like every damned time. Definitely often enough that I’ve contemplated smashing it with whatever happened to be handy. Which, being I’m in a men’s room when this happens, isn’t much. Suppose I could use my fists, but I’m not keen on banging up my knuckles. Instead I curse silently under my breath (yeah, silently, sure thing) and hope there’s no one in the stall I’m about to fall into.

You win this round, men’s room air freshener, but watch your back! Someday I will have my revenge!

I am officially 49 years old today.

Today is my 49th birthday. Not nearly as big a milestone as next year’s birthday will be, but not entirely insignificant. I’m solidly into middle age now and can’t even pretend to be anything remotely close to young except in comparison to those who are significantly older than I am. The nice waitress at the restaurant we went to for dinner tried to claim I didn’t look a day over 35. Yeah, right. We gave her a good tip anyway.

What the hell happened to me?

What the hell happened to me? Click to embiggen.

This is me as of 3 minutes ago.I didn’t use to wear glasses. Then I started to wear them when I needed to read super-fine print. Next I started to wear them when I needed to read text on my computer monitor. Now if I take them off the letters on my keyboard are fuzzy as hell so I wear them most of the time now. These days if I need to read super-fine print I have to take a picture of it with my smartphone and zoom in on it.

There’s a shit load more grey in my beard than I remember there being last week. I have very fine, dirty dishwater blonde hair so it’s harder to notice it on my head when I let it grow out, but damn if it’s not easy to spot in my beard and mustache. I’ve got a good start on wrinkles too. Especially around the eyes. Probably why I can’t read fine print anymore.

Something I’ve noticed that’s a little more concerning has to do with my typing. I find that more and more I’m somehow substituting a word in a sentence with something other than the word I meant to type. Invariably I end up thinking something like “absolutely” and end up typing “abstinence” or some other word instead. I wasn’t even thinking of the word abstinence, but there it is. Sitting in the middle of my sentence causing it to make no goddamned sense.  Usually the wrong word will start with the same letter, but will have absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to say. I could blame it on autocorrect, but it’s not limited to my phone.

I’m still too fat and I still don’t get enough exercise, but I’m in decent health in spite of those facts. My right knee has been bothering me for the past half-year and I have a standing order from my doctor to get it x-rayed, but I’ve not gotten around to it yet. Think I might do it this Saturday.

Other than dinner out this evening, the day was pretty much like any other day. Went to work, dealt with a few minor irritations, had dinner, came home. Got lots of birthday wishes from friends, family, and coworkers which were all greatly appreciated. All in all, not a bad day to turn 49.