Happy 108th!

Gram would have turned 108 today. Here she is, working with a small fishing rod at a lake with one of her daughters. If that’s her oldest, which I think it is due to the stern look on her face, then this would be the late 1930s.

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That fish was probably turned into a feast of great comfort. I take that back. Half that fish was probably turned into a feast of great comfort, and the other half was probably put in the freezer only to be baked into cookies or a “frittad” six months later.

Happy birthday!

Happy 118th!

I haven’t kept up with the blog very well over the last few years, but every year I make sure to post a tribute to my grandfather on his birthday. Which is today. So here he is with his car. At least I think that’s him– I’m typing this sans contacts– and I think that’s his car. If I’m wrong, corrections will come soon enough.

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Times have changed. That car probably topped out at fifty, got fifteen miles per gallon, sat ten, and caused 800 premature deaths via lead poisoning. I’m confident about three of those figures.

Grampa would’ve turned 118 today if he hadn’t died single-handedly stopping the mutant dinosaur rebellion.

Questionnaire 20.

The following attempt to break the writer’s block comes from this hyperlinked website right here.

1. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WAKE UP EVERY MORNING AND PRETEND THAT YOU AREN’T DYING? Pretty easy. I’ve been doing it several thousand mornings in a row.

2. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE DEATH PENALTY? Yes, given due process and metaphysical certitude. WHAT IF SOMEONE MURDERED YOUR MOTHER IN COLD BLOOD? Yes, unconditionally. WHAT IF SOMEONE MURDERED A STRANGER’S MOTHER, BUT SAVED YOUR LIFE THE MONTH BEFORE? Yes, of course. Saving a life doesn’t grant you a freebie. If it did, think what Norman Borlaug could’ve gotten away with.

3. IF YOU HAD A FRIEND WHO SPOKE TO YOU IN THE SAME WAY THAT YOU SOMETIMES SPEAK TO YOURSELF, HOW LONG WOULD YOU ALLOW THAT PERSON TO BE YOUR FRIEND? Not very long. I’ve seen the effect my voice has on others. Soporific. I wouldn’t tolerate it. I’d stick to emailing or texting myself.

4. WOULD YOU RATHER BE RICH AND PARALYZED FROM THE WAIST DOWN OR POOR AND ABLE BODIED? Tough call. Right now I’d have to say poor and able-bodied. I can always earn more money in the future, but I can’t overcome paralysis at a reasonable price yet. Ask me again after another decade or two of prosthetic technology development.

I must add that either answer seems subject to being interpreted as shallow. Either I value money over a basic human ability and experience, or I look down on the differently abled, even those with greater financial success than I have.

5. WHAT’S THE MOST EXPENSIVE GIFT YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED? IS IT THE BEST GIFT YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED? Probably my first car, which was my father’s before me and his father’s before him. It was a silver 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88. If memory serves, it was given to me in 1998. Bluebook probably wasn’t very high, but it was a car when I needed a car and couldn’t afford one. I had to put flat pieces of wooden molding along the ceiling to keep the fabric from falling on my head. It was a good car.

6. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LIED? Five minutes ago, in my answer to #3. IS IT POSSIBLE TO LIE WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL? Yes, it is possible to lie without saying anything because there are forms of communication other than speaking.

7. STEALING IS IMMORAL, RIGHT? Yes. BUT WHAT IF STEALING WAS THE ONLY WAY TO FEED A STARVING CHILD? If it were literally the only way to feed a starving child, I’d feed the starving child. Most systems of law and morality recognize this. However, we are fortunate live in a time and place in which it is virtually never the only way to feed a starving child.

8. IF I GAVE YOU $20, WHAT PERCENTAGE WOULD YOU – REALLY – SAVE? IF I GAVE YOU $200,000, WHAT PERCENTAGE WOULD YOU SAVE? SHOULD THERE BE A DIFFERENCE? I’d probably save none of the $20, and virtually all of the $200,000. More specifically, I’d use the $200K to pay off my mortgage. There is a difference between the two scenarios because we’re talking about drastically difference increases in income, and Econ tells us that as wealth increases, so do rates of saving. Furthermore, there is a cost to the act of saving. That act would chew up more of the value of the $20 than the $200K.

9. IF SOMEONE COULD TELL YOU THE EXACT DAY AND TIME THAT YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO TELL YOU? It would depend on how old I was at the time. Right now, the answer’s no. If you asked me again in, say, 2104, my answer might be different.

10. IF YOU FOUND OUT YOU WERE GOING TO DIE TODAY, WOULD YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS? Yes. WOULD YOU BE HAPPY WITH THE WAY YOU SPENT THE LAST 24 HOURS OF YOUR LIFE? Yes, though it could have been better. The wings could’ve gotten here a bit earlier. Lowe’s could’ve copied my key correctly the first time.

11. WHAT’S YOUR SINGLE GREATEST MOMENT OF PERSONAL FAILURE? I am not ready to share that. The wounds are too fresh, and too deep, and the next episode of TNG on Netflix is about to start. LOOKING BACK ON IT NOW, DID IT MAKE YOU WEAKER OR STRONGER? I don’t know. WHAT DID YOU LEARN? That The Rules always work.

12. DO THE WORDS ‘FREEDOM’ AND ‘LIBERTY’ MEAN NOT BEING PERSECUTED OR DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, OR DO THEY MEAN DOING WHATEVER YOU PLEASE? Generally, yes. A government that protects freedom and liberty shouldn’t discriminate against you on unreasonable grounds, shouldn’t persecute you at all, and should protect your right to do as you please without infringing on others rights. That’s about as succinctly as I can put it during the opening credits.

13. HAVE YOU EVER DISCRIMINATED AGAINST SOMEONE? There’s no good way to answer a loaded question such as this, so I’ll just go ahead and admit I hate the Swiss. “We’re sort of German, and we’re sort of French, and we’re sort of Italian, but we’re not actually any of those.” Make a damn call. IMAGINE THAT A STREET GANG NOTORIOUS FOR WEARING PURPLE SHIRTS HAS ROBBED AND MURDERED SEVERAL HUNDRED PEOPLE IN YOUR TOWN. IF A MAN WEARING A PURPLE SHIRT JUST RANG YOUR DOORBELL, WOULD YOU ANSWER IT? I’d answer it, but then, I’m better armed than the average door-answerer.

14. IS IT CRAZIER TO CHOOSE TO BE POOR OR TO SPEND 40 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE HATING 40 HOURS A WEEK? Neither is crazy, but the two are not mutually exclusive. How enjoyable or miserable is my job, assuming I have one, if I’m going to be poor? And how well does “hating 40 hours a week” pay?

15. DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME? Yes. HOW MANY HOURS A WEEK DO YOU SPEND WATCHING TV, OR PLAYING VIDEO GAMES, OR…? Not too many hours, but those aren’t the activities that chew up my time. School-related paperwork is what chews up my time.

16. DO YOU EVER CELEBRATE THE GREEN LIGHTS? Sometimes. I celebrate the green light at the exit off the beltway on my way home, because I hit it so rarely.

17. IF YOU COULD BE GIVEN ANOTHER TALENT OR ABILITY, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT IT TO BE? I’d want to be able to fly. HAVE YOU EVER – REALLY – TRIED TO PERFECT THIS ABILITY IN YOURSELF? …I didn’t realize that the first question was serious. Oh well. No, I have not tried to perfect my ability to fly.

18. NO MATTER HOW BAD THINGS GET, ARE YOU AWARE THAT SOMEONE ALWAYS HAS IT WORSE THAN YOU DO? Absolutely. Even when I’m at my worst, I’m pretty good at looking down on others.

19. WHEN YOU HELP SOMEONE, DO YOU EVER THINK, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” Yes. Not every time, but sometimes. Part of the reason is my econ training; I assume that everybody always acts to optimize net benefit. Thus whatever I do for others in part is also done for myself.

20. JOY IS FOUND WITH SIMPLE AWARENESS. WHAT DOES YOUR JOY LOOK LIKE TODAY? Today’s joy was a cool day in April.

21. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘LIVING’ AND ‘EXISTING?’ The former is a subset of the latter. If I ever die, I will still exist.

22. ARE YOU WILLING TO SACRIFICE THE LIFE OF YOUR CHILD OR LOVER TO SUPPORT A WAR? Not before my own. Even then, it would depend on the circumstances of the war. The cause would have to be just and the quarrel would have to be honorable. The Revolution? The Civil War? WWII? I’d have to. The Mexican-American War? The Aroostook War? The Monday Night War? Nope.

23. DO YOU ASK ENOUGH QUESTIONS, OR DO YOU SETTLE FOR WHAT YOU KNOW? I think I ask enough questions, but sometimes the econ training kicks in, and I recognize that it just isn’t worth the time or effort or agony to ask questions.

24. IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING? Yes.

You probably meant to ask a follow-up question.

25. IF YOUR LIFE WAS A NOVEL, WHAT WOULD BE THE TITLE AND HOW WOULD YOUR STORY END? I’d go simple. The novel would be called The Fictional Autobiography of Vincent D. Viscariello. It would end with the destruction of all spacetime outside the framework of the story so as to ruin the viability of prequels, sequels, and sidequels.

On the Potter’s Field Academy for Advanced Democracy.

My Kind of Town is building a new school atop 38,000 unmarked graves, which I’m sure will thrill whatever kiddies end up attending it. According to this article in the Tribune, the site is the final resting ground of paupers, and the insane, and Civil War vets, and victims of the Great Fire, and those who succumbed to the consumption. Now it’s slated to be a middle school, though some aldermen insist it’ll be a high school.

Whatever grades the Read Dunning School ends up serving, those 38,000 poor souls deserve better treatment than this. They are voters. They have come through for the likes of Big Bill Thompson, Jack Kennedy, the Daley Dynasty, you name it– and what’s their reward? To have America’s Future™ traipsing all over them 180 days a year. It’s disgraceful.

These people deserve respect. It’s bad enough that some politicians are demanding that they show photo ID before they vote. It’s bad enough that some politicians insist they be citizens before they vote. At least grant them the dignity of undisturbed slumber between elections.