Friday, November 16, 2018

Brexit: An Uninformed Opinion

I'm continually astonished at the internal politics of the British Conservative Party. We here on this side of the Pond only think we've got rough and tumble politics. There are headlines for days when Cocaine Mitch McConnell raises his voice above a creaky growl or when Ted Cruz gets shouted at by some unemployed baristas while he's trying to eat human meat at the secret Lizard Person Restaurant in D.C. that everyone knows about but no wants to mention out loud in public.

Kids, I'm telling you, it ain't nothing on the internal politics of the British Conservative Party. Game of Thrones? Pshaw. Who needs it! Get yourself some popcorn and a live blog from The Guardian or the Beeb and you'll have entertainment for days... it is, I imagine, somewhat like being trapped in a burlap sack with three hundred and thirty feral cats, most of whom are in heat. Someone might have a good time in a situation like that, but it probably won't be the Head Cat in Charge.

Look, there are fundamental problems with the EU as it's currently set up. It does involve surrendering a certain amount of sovereignty in the name of greater political and economic cooperation- but it comes with a lot of conveniences and economic benefits that it seems like a lot of Europeans are willing to go along with- at least to a point. I don't think Brexit is an isolated thing. I think if you pop the hood on any given European country and rooted around a little bit, you'd probably find that people aren't all that thrilled by having dictates handed down to them by a bunch of faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. If strange women lying on their backs in ponds and handing out swords is no basis for a system of government, we can hardly be surprised when voters think the same things about the EU's distant, vaguely democratic governing structure.

So, yes, articles like this which want to save British democracy by 'taking back control'* aren't entirely wrong. But they all suffer from one fatal flaw: I don't think the Conservative Party under David Cameron called the referendum to actually give the voters a say in whether they wanted to Brexit or not. I think it was about shutting up the Eurosceptic wing of his party. I think it was about outflanking UKIP.** I don't for one second think that he actually thought the country would vote to leave...

And that's the flaming bag of dog shit that was handed to Theresa May and to be honest, she's done about as well you could expect for someone holding a bag of dog shit that's on fire. Granted, she illustrated why snap elections are never a good idea*** and thought she had a plan, which got laughed out of the room after Chequers and then managed to hammer out a deal with the EU which she presented to her Cabinet only to find out that as with such big, messy important things, the compromises necessary to produce anything at all please absolutely nobody.

To me, it was obvious that the politicians were only saying they wanted to Leave when they started negotiating with the EU to begin with. The British Government has been prairie-dogging this particular turd for months now, unsure if they want to shit or just get off the pot altogether. My preference would have been to shit from day one. (If you say you're going to do something, then do it. I don't really have an opinion on Brexit one way or the other. I can see why people wanted to Leave and I can for sure see why folks wanted to Remain.) Prepare for a No Deal Brexit. Send out your envoys to negotiate trade deals. Get some economic love going with the major Commonwealth countries. Figure out a deal with Ireland. And granted, I know, its far far more complicated than that. Undoing four decades of ties with Europe isn't something that one can do in a paragraph- but for crying out loud, you'd think that if they were committed to honoring this non-binding referendum of theirs that the Conservatives would have, I don't know, been ready to implement something with a modicum of competence on day one?

Preparing for a No Deal Brexit from Day One would have been a good start. Accepting that the EU was never going to give the UK a good deal from Day One would have been another. They don't want to give other member states ideas- it goes back to that fundamental problem with it's distant, vaguely democratic governing structure. People (he said, with no scientific basis for his assertion whatsoever) probably aren't crazy about having national governments be subject to some damn council somewhere else. They'll put up with it, because you know- EU passports, man. But I'm willing to bet they're not crazy about it. So they can't give the UK a nice pat on the back and an amicable divorce, because that would give voters in other countries ideas. And they can't be having that.

The bargaining chip for the UK should have been the divorce bill. The EU wants something like 39 billion pounds and any British Government coming to the table without a flaming bag of dog shit in its hand should have had the spine to say that not one pence would be paid until they get a deal they can live with.

So what now? Damned if I know. It's the greatest train wreck on planet Earth at the moment. Assuming Theresa May hasn't used up her nine lives by this point, I think she survives- if for no other reason than I don't think the Tories like Boris Johnson all that much and they probably like the thought of Jacob Reese-Mogg even less (I mean, I wasn't around when Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister. It might be a novel experience to see what Reese-Mogg would be like in 10 Downing Street. Like Back To The Future cosplay gone awry.) The irony of ironies of course is that Scotland is watching carefully. Northern Ireland doesn't seem thrilled the prospect of being a doorstop or a backstop  or whatever the hell they're supposed to be. After staving off a vote on Scottish independence, a botched Brexit could lead to just that- with a bonus possibility of a united Ireland to boot.

How's that for a Brexit no one saw coming?

*'Taking Back Control' sounds an awful lot like 'Make America Great Again' or that probably forgotten Howard Dean slogan from '04: 'We're Going To Take Our Country Back.' The latter always perplexed me a bit. I mean, where did America go? Did it move in with Mom? Was there a custody battle of some kind?

**UKIP is a ridiculous name for a political party. It makes me think of fish. "You kip?" "Yes, please, but only on toast." "You kip if you want too, this fish is not for turning. Unless it's done on that side and you need to add some lemon."

***Do Tory Prime Ministers not read history anymore? Edward Heath called a snap election back in the 70s by asking the somewhat unfortunate question, 'Who Governs Britain?' The voters, somewhat surprised by the question decided that whomever it was going to be, it wasn't going to be Edward Heath anymore.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Worth Putting Into Words

I think it was Monday when I noticed that #SurvivorDay was trending on Twitter. I figured out quickly what it was and read through Tweet after Tweet, recognizing the familiarity of the pain of those left behind by suicide. Then, I really thought about doing what I usually do- which is keep it to myself. Never share, except with those very closest to me. It's not something that I've ever thought I could put into words, but for whatever reason, between those Tweets yesterday and one strange, beautiful moment over the weekend, I thought that now might be a good time to try.

(Maybe it's the weather or something in the air, but we're on our second welfare check of the day already. It's entirely possible that I'll write this post, read it, delete it and decide once more that it's not something that I can put into words. If you're reading this paragraph, then you'll know I decided to post it anyway. Because maybe some things are worth putting into words.)

So, Survivor Day.

I felt a tornado go by me once. I was in the library downtown and my ears popped as it roared through, carving a path of destruction through the rest of downtown, up Iowa Avenue and then out to the northeast. They sounded the all clear and we stumbled out of the library into darkness. There was no power. There were no street lights. Power lines were down all throughout the city. Gas lines were ruptured and you could hear them hissing in the darkness as you picked your way through the debris. Trees were everywhere. It was goddamn natural disaster.

So yeah, Survivor Day seems like a pretty accurate way to describe it, because suicide is a natural disaster for the people left behind. You're left standing in the rubble. Numb. Bruised. Broken. And you're not at all sure what to do with yourself. You run on automatic for awhile and eventually you come back to life, but everything is ever so slightly askew. Your universe is out of balance and always will be. That's really the hardest part to come to grips with.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." You hear this so much, but it's true. It may not feel like it's ever going to get better, but it will. It may take weeks or months or years or finding the right combination of meds and therapy. You can be better though. It'll take time, but you can be better. So, if you're out there, reading this, please stay.

It's been a few years, so it's different now. The rubble has been cleared away, the house rebuilt. But it's different. You remember what it looked like before. It'll never look quite right to you again and the grief surprises you, often in ways you least expect.

We gave Kelvin a haircut over the weekend. His bangs were hanging over his eyes again and he was looking like a miniature version of Davy Jones from The Monkees. We took the plunge and gave him a buzz cut- because when you're in a house full of boys, you may as well keep it simple and just have shearing weekends every so often. As I was sitting there on the floor, looking up at him, holding the towel around his neck, so he wouldn't get too itchy we were laughing at him squirming and giggling when it tickled. As more and more of hair fell to the ground though, an extraordinary thing happened. For just a moment, one beautiful moment, I realized I was looking at my little brother.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sportsyball: Purple With Frustration

Gather round, kids and let me tell you the story of why I hate Northwestern so much. It all begins, some years ago when the Missus, The Quiet Man and I were stuck at one of those random tables you find at weddings. You know the ones: you're not family but you're not in the bridal party, so you sort of get categorized into the 'friends' category and then sit around and stare at each other until someone begins to make random, awkward conversation.

That's pretty much how it went at this wedding. We listened to them talk about how they had gone up to Door County and rented a cabin for the weekend. And how they played badminton on the beach with their friends, all of whom seemed to have obnoxious, upper class names like Mitchell (or Muffy). Eventually, the awkward small talk phase of the evening began with an inquiry on how we all knew the bride. The Quiet Man and I explained that we had gone to high school with her, which lead to the following exchange:

Mitchell (or Muffy): Oh, so you guys went to Iowa then?

Me: Yep.

Mitchel (or Muffy): Beaten you guys four out of the last five years in football! We put that in our family Christmas letter.

Instantly, kids, Northwestern went from the nerd school that I couldn't care less about to the one school I hated more than any in the conference. (Nebraska slots in just behind them solely for their moronic and ridiculous insistence on having a Black Friday game which inevitably throws a wrench into my Thanksgiving plans every other year.) Whenever we beat Northwestern, I always think of Mitchell (or Muffy) and how sad their Christmas letter is going to be this year. When we lose to Northwestern, my blood boils at the thought of Mitchell (or Muffy) gleeful crafting their Christmas letter on expensive boutique artisan paper and including the news that once more Northwestern has beaten Iowa and made us look like fools. (Mitchell (or Muffy), of course, write on their boutique artisan paper with a pen so expensive, it's rage inducing.)

Is all of this just a little petty?  Well, yes. But it's Northwestern versus Iowa. The legend goes that back in the 80s, when Pat Fitzgerald was a player, one of Hayden Fry's teams evaporated Northwestern by a bunch of points. After the game, Fry said something to the effect of 'Hope we didn't hurt your boys too much.' That one, off-handed remark seemed to encode levels of petty, gleeful rage into Northwestern football that has only grown with the decades. They seem to revel in beating Iowa. They get amped up for it. Every year, they seem to come down to the metaphorical gun fight with big, scary looking guns and it's only about halfway through the second quarter that we seem to realize that we're holding a butter knife because we left our six shooter in the team bus.

All of which brings me back around to this: I hate losing to Northwestern.

I think the biggest challenge facing the Iowa football program is probably how to manage Kirk's eventual exit/retirement. I don't know if we'll ever get another Coach to stay here twenty years like he has- and increasingly, tenure such as his seems to be the exception and not the rule, but knowing when to say goodbye is probably the hardest part- especially if you're still relatively young and you still feel like you've got gas left in the tank.

Perfectly competent and average football is nothing to be sneezed at. Plenty of programs have fired Coaches and in retrospect probably regretted it. (See: Minnesota and Glen Mason, Tennessee and well, the last ten years or so.) I'd like to think my expectations are somewhat realistic compared to other folks in the fan base. I don't expect to make the playoff every year. I'm not asking to compete for the 'natty. I also remember when it was pretty cool just to make a bowl game.

But when you begin to see diminishing returns on your baseline for success, it's time to step back and ask if we should be better than this. Maybe this question is premature. Maybe they get monumentally pissed off and unleash three games worth of frustration on Illinois and Nebraska and we finish 8-4. Or maybe we continue to be maddeningly middling and we finish 6-6. But for so long, Iowa's brand of football has been sold to fans as a bowl of Grape Nuts. It's not particularly exciting. It doesn't necessarily look all that great. But if you eat it long enough, you'll see the health benefits.  But the problem with eating Grape Nuts is that eventually you get sick of 'em- but they're also healthy enough for you that you can't really justify not eating them.

We lost to Northwestern. I hate losing to Northwestern. I'm not really sure I'm on the 'fire everybody' bandwagon just yet, but I know for damn sure I'm getting mighty sick of Grape Nuts.

Friday, November 9, 2018

NANOWRIMO: Nine Days In

I decided to actually roll up my sleeves and do NANOWRIMO this year on a whim, really. I always think about doing it and have for several years now, but one thing always seems to lead to another and I never actually get it off the ground. But this year, it seemed tailor made to beat the pile of words I already had for my third book into shape and so far, I couldn't be happier with how it's going.

Right now, nine days in and I'm flying...  I've taken a pile of words that I wasn't getting anywhere with and hopefully (hopefully) by the end of the month it's going to be the working draft of my third novel. Why the success?

First: outlining, outlining, outlining. I've done it before on other projects, but for whatever reason I didn't really sit down and do a full outline for this one. When I finally did, a week or so before the start of November, it was like everything clicked. I wasn't going to just drop the readers into the story as I had originally planned- I crafted a fresh start and slotted what was my start in at about Chapter Three. And it worked...  I'm actually surprised how well it worked. (For the record: I may reach 50,000 words well before the end of the month, but I plan on going well beyond that. I want to finish the damn thing this month not just get my winner's badge and quit.)

Second: if you've noticed that blogging is a little lighter than usual this month, well, this is why. I wanted to put my novel on the front burner and that meant slowing down the content generation on the blog side for a month or so. It's something I usually do anyway, because I like to stop and think about where the blog is an what I'm going to do with the blog in the next year or so. All this writing is nice, but if you're going to build a car, you can gain a great deal of pleasure from the act of doing so- yet at the same time, if you're going to go to all that trouble you want to take it somewhere, you know? That's the challenge of my blog- a challenge that I wanted to set aside to concentrate on this for awhile.

I've been sitting on six, seven chapters of a novel and have been curiously unsatisfied with it all since about late last year. Thirty days to kick it in the ass and bring some life back into it? A short, sharp shock seems to be exactly what it needed. I don't know what it's going to look like when it's done- but it's going to be done. That's the most important thing of all. Never underestimate the power of giving your writing a short, sharp shock- even a month long one seems to have done wonders for this book- and I'm only nine days into the actual month.

Third: taking one chunk at a time seems to have been the secret to a lot of my success as well. The whole point of NANOWRIMO is to just write write write and not worry about the quality until you've got a mountain of words at the other end of the month. Normally, I'd say I'd be more concerned about having it all feel right to me before moving along- but I think that's also where the outlining comes into play. If it makes sense on your outline, then it might be a lot easier to take it one chunk at a time and just keep on moving.

Would I do this again? You know, I think I would. It's always popped onto my radar and after making excuse after excuse finally doing it feels pretty awesome actually. I think the next challenge for NANOWRIMO is going to be outlining a novel and then just writing it cold from day one instead of using this as a platform to beat an existing pile of words into the shape of a novel. (It sort of feels like cheating a little, but I'm also on track to exceed 50K words well before the end of the month. My challenge with this isn't to reach 50K...  it's to end with a working draft of my third novel. So far, so good.)

Okay: back to writing. I just wanted to update y'all on what I'm doing and why blogging has been relatively light as of late.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Midterms: Let's Get Weird

I'm still scratching my head over this one, gang. Really and truly, there was weirdness all over the map last night and here in Iowa was no exception either.

The Weird: Nebraska, Utah and Idaho voted to expand Medicaid. Arkansas and Missouri voted to raise their minimum wage. Utah and Missouri voted in Medicinal Marijuana (Michigan legalized for recreational use, North Dakota did not). My favorite of the night was probably Florida, who elected a Republican Governor (and probably a Republican Senator) while passing amendments to require a 2/3 legislative majority to raise taxes AND another one to restore voting rights to millions of felons. All kinds of mixed messages all over the place last night. 

Glass Ceilings: Record numbers of women were elected to the House last night- I don't know if they'll  break 100 seats in the House, but they're pretty damn close at 95 seats so far. Iowa, who hadn't elected any women to anything before Senator Joni Ernst won in 2014, now has a woman for Governor (not that I'm pleased about that) and sent not one, but two women to the House last night. If you're about Representation for women in politics, well half of Iowa's Congressional delegation is now female. That's a good thing in my book. The first Muslim women, the first Native American women and a few women under 30 also won. 

The Beto Thing: Well, he didn't win. But, I think there's an argument to be made that his energy and his coattails were long enough to snag the Democrats some Congressional seats down in Texas. The fact that he made it an actual race is pretty damn impressive. 

Do I think he should run for President? To be honest, I don't. I would love it if he ran for Governor of Texas and won and then used that as a springboard for a Presidential run- but I think a candidate who hasn't managed to win an election in his home state might be a hard sell to voters.

But then I think about who's President and remember that before 2016, he hadn't run for a damn thing either, so who knows? I think up is down, black is white and we can't take conventional political wisdom as gospel anymore.The immediate lesson from Beto is probably the most important for 2020... he was upbeat, positive, talked about his vision for Texas and what he wanted to do for Texas. Tim Walz did a similar thing on his way to winning the Governor's race in Minnesota, with his vision for 'One Minnesota.' I think the appeal of Bernie Sanders was tied to a lot of the same themes-- a solid vision for the country with specific plans on how to improve people's lives delivered in a positive, unifying way? Democrats should be taking notes.

(It's also worth noting that President Trump with his 'Make American Great Again' could also qualify as one of these unifying messages- though I'd consider it to be more of a 'darkest timeline'/Star Trek Mirror Universe one at the moment.)

Oh, Let's Talk About Iowa Then: So, the Democrats flipped the 1st and 3rd Districts and made Steve King sweat it out in the 4th before he (unfortunately) pulled away. The real disappointment was probably the Governor's race, where it looked like Fred Hubbell was in position to eke out a narrow win, but as it turns out his lead kept shrinking throughout the night and Kim Reynolds caught him at the finish line to take it. Hubbell won where he was supposed to win, but Reynolds took the 'burbs and exurbs of Dallas County (right next door to Des Moines) and won comfortably in Pottawattamie and Woodbury Counties. (Council Bluffs and Sioux City respectively.) Hubbell probably needed to win Dallas County and keep the margins a lot closer in the other two to have had a realistic shot. 

It's easy to be bummed by the Hubbell loss, but I think it's important to note that in a state that went for Trump by nine points, we send three Democrats back to Congress and came within a whisker of getting another Governorship. Does this make Iowa more purple than red? I don't know- Democrats didn't flip either chamber of the State House, so the Republicans still have full control of the state government. It's kind of a muddle and I don't quite yet know what it means. In another wrinkle of weirdness, Hubbell posted similar numbers to Axne in the 3rd District (she managed to win there), but JD Scholten won in Woodbury, Webster, Boone, Cerro Gordo and Floyd Counties. Hubbell kept the margins decent in Cerro Gordo and Boone, but they weren't close anywhere else. Does this mean Hubbell was a bad candidate? No. It's a far cry from Jack Hatch's 98 county wipe out in 2014. It's also not like Hubbell was blown out either.

I have no idea what it all means. That's really where I'm at. The State Democratic Party has a pulse? Sort of? It's doing okay? It's got a foundation to build on for 2020? 

(An overlooked bright spot: Democrats won the State Auditor's Race. So that's good.)

What's It All Mean For 2020: I haven't the foggiest. I get the feeling that large portions of the county would prefer to have someone else as President (literally anyone else in some parts) but the economic indicators being what they are, they're not really in a 'throw the bums out' kind of a mood yet either. Activity at the state level like expanding Medicaid and legalization of marijuana and gerrymandering and redistricting reforms here and there advance what a lot of people would consider to be 'progressive' agenda items while keeping Republicans in charge. It's weeeeeeeeird. (I like this headline: In 2018, voters made US politics normal again. That's... kind of true.)

It's really kind of a mixed bag all over the place, depending on what you want to hang your hat on. Democrats regained ground in the Midwest, capturing Governorships in Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas, but losing them in Iowa and Ohio- yet the latter two states flipped two Democratic seats and re-elected a Democratic Senator respectively. I have no idea what to make of that. Progressive rock stars didn't do so well: Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O'Rourke lost their race, but not by much in the case of Mr. Gillum. (Abrams is also refusing to concede in Georgia as of this writing- I don't know if she can force a runoff, but if she can that's still on the table.)

The Democrats have begun to climb out of their hole on the state level. That's good. I'll be happy about that. But the weirdness of this election is just going sit with me for awhile I think. I have no idea what this is going to mean for 2020.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bookshot #113: Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons is one of those books that I've had kicking around on my shelf for years now, but I had never actually gotten around to reading. After finishing up our Roald Dahl books, I tried it with Austin for a chapter or two to see if maybe he would be interested in reading it next, but he didn't really click with it and we snagged Mossflower instead- but then I figured, if I had read a couple of chapters I might as well just keep reading it to see what it was all about.

The adventures of the children from two families during their summer vacation, Swallows and Amazons related the adventures of the Walker children, (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) who are staying at a farm in the Lake District and borrow a dinghy named Swallow to sail to an island in the lake near their home, which they name Wildcat Island. Their mother allows them to go and camp on the island and once there, they meet the Blackett Children (Nancy and Peggy) who sail in a dinghy named Amazon. They join forces against their common enemy, Captain Flint, who lives in a houseboat nearby.

Captain Flint is actually the Uncle of the Amazons, named Jim Turner. Normally, he's more of an ally to his nieces, but this summer, he's shutting himself away so he can attempt to write his memoirs and has become increasingly unfriendly to them. The Amazons go so far as to set off a firework on the houseboat roof, but it's the Swallows who get blamed for it- when John, the 'captain' of the Swallows goes to tell Jim that they had nothing to do with the firework on his houseboat and pass a warning they receive about burglars in the area, he doesn't listen to John and refuses to believe.

Joining forces with the Amazons, the children declare war against Captain Flint- but before they go to war, they have to determine who will lead the campaign, so they devise a contest between the two to see who can capture the others boat. This involves a dangerous crossing of the lake by night by the majority of the Swallows, which are cautioned against it by their mother, but they do it anyway. Titty, who stays behind to guard the island wins them the contest by capturing the Amazon, but also hears another boat go by- containing suspicious voices rowing from another nearby island. The next morning, while the Swallows celebrate their victory, it is revealed that Captain Flint's houseboat has been burgled. Turner initially blames the Walkers again, but is convinced of their innocence and realizes that he was wrong to distance himself from his nieces all summer. He apologizes to John for accusing him of being involved in the initial attack on his houseboat and agrees to give them one hell of a fight as 'Captain Flint' if they come to take his houseboat.

There's a mock battle between the children and Captain Flint the next day and the children take the houseboat, try him for his 'crimes' and make him walk the plank. Their conflict settled, they all agree to spend the next and final day of their holidays fishing and to have one final feast. Titty and Roger sail over to the nearby Cormorant Island (where Titty heard the mysterious voices coming from the night the Swallows captured the Amazon) in search of Captain Flint's missing trunk. She finds the trunk, the memoirs that Turner has been working on and is rewarded with custody of his green parrot.

A wild thunderstorm lets the know that the summer is over and it's time for them to head back to school. They sail back to their homes and both groups of children promise to see each other again, their adventures over- at least for now.

Overall, it's delightfully British. If you've read any Enid Blyton or any other 'adventure books' back in the day, then this will feel very familiar to you. I love that it's a throwback to a much simpler time when children had more freedom to explore and more importantly, to imagine adventures for themselves. It might feel a little dated against something like Harry Potter or more contemporary children's books, but it's still worth a read. Adventures are important for children of any age or era and Swallows and Amazons is a delightful reminder of the power of imagination and the magic of childhood. (Also: apparently it's a series of twelve books? That kind of blew my mind- so I guess there's more reading to do- even though my omnibus edition only contain Winter Holiday.) My Grade: **** out of ****

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sportsyball!: Wobbles and Wiggles

The Iowa Hawkeyes: I wish people would remember that football is just a game at the end of the day. Seriously now. We're 6-2. A lot of teams out there would love to be 6-2. Yes, Stanley had a bad game at Penn State- but it's not like we were taken to the woodshed either. We had a wobble. We had a wiggle. These things happen. I think both this and Wisconsin were winnable games for us- but the thing with Iowa that people tend to forget is that blowouts are rare. When we lose, it's usually by a touchdown- maybe two. And in those seasons where the margins are close, it's often down to getting the bounces to fall our way, which happens in some seasons (see: 2009) and not in others. Apparently, this wasn't one of those seasons.

But still large sections of the fanbase melted down on social media over this loss. Hey, remember when we were all just happy to go to a Bowl Game somewhere warm in December? Can we get back to that feeling?

So here's what's left:

Away vs Purdue
Home vs Northwestern
Away vs Illinois
Home vs Nebraska

I don't see us having a complete collapse down the stretch. The defense and special teams have been just too good lately. (Hey, remember when our special teams sucked? Look at em now!) I think 3-1 or 2-2 down the stretch are probably the most likely possibilities, which would put us at 9-3 or 8-4- again, not a bad season, y'all. But I also think 4-0 is on the table too. Either way, I'm confident in the notion that we're going to finish with a genuinely good season under our belts with the foundation for a really good 2019 in place.

Adopt-A-Team: Trabzonspor is doing well! They're fifth in the Turkish Superliga table. Let's see what they've been up to over the last month or so:

W vs Kasimpasa
W vs Akhisar
D vs Buyuksehir Belediya Erzurum 
D vs Antalyaspor

The win over Kasimpasa is a big one for points, as they're just ahead of Trabzonspor in the League Table. I'm guessing that the match against Buyuksehir was some kind of League Cup/FA Cup competition with a lower division team as I don't seem to see a Buyuksehir in the league table. (Also, this is probably the first time I've wished that I could speak Turkish.) They've got Fenerbahce and Besiktas in late November and mid-December respectively. They've already had a shot at the current league leader Basaksehir to start the season- they don't get them again until the end of January.

In short, I'm optimistic about these guys. They're doing great.

(Just as an aside: NEC Nimejen is sitting at 7th place in the Dutch 2nd Division table and last year's Adopt-A-Team Defensa y Justicia is at third in the Argentina Superliga table.)

Arsenal: Keep right on winning (or at the very least not losing.) Let's check it out:

W vs Brentford (League Cup)
W vs Watford
W vs Qarabag FK (Europa League)
W vs Fulham
W vs Leicester City
W vs Sporting (Europa League)
D vs Crystal Palace 

Here's what's on deck for them:

vs. Blackpool (League Cup)
vs. Liverpool
vs. Sporting (Europa League)
vs. Wolves
vs. Bournemouth 
vs. Vorskla (Europa League)

I love that this team is so fun to watch all of a sudden. I love that they're not satisfied and that Unai Emery is constantly looking for ways to improve. They're more entertaining. There's a lot of season left, so you can't predict anything- especially with transfer windows opening in January and contracts to be negotiated and injuries that might happen along the way. However, all that being said: I think Top Four and a return to the Champions League is very much on the table. So far, they've given me no reason to think that won't be possible.

Liverpool will be the interesting game to watch- if they can come away with points of some kind- any kind off of that game that could be big. Really big. But it'll be a tall order. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep enjoying this season.

Vikings: I feel like the preseason expectations have slacked off a little bit- they dropped a horrendous game to the Bills, lost a close one to the Rams and kind of shot themselves in the foot and lost to the Saints. But they also beat the Eagles, Cardinals and Jets. Super Bowl contenders? I don't know just quite yet. Playoff bound? I'm comfortable saying yes to that. We'll see how they do down the stretch though.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Netflix & Chill #53: Deadpool 2

Watched On: Redbox
Released: 2018
Directed By: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hidebrand, Jack Kesy
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Pick: Mine

Deadpool 2 picks up two years after the end of the first film- Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has had a fantastic run over the course of the past two years- taking down every target that has been placed in his path. But when he returns home for his anniversary and fails to kill one of his targets, it leads to tragedy, as shortly after he and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) decide to start a family, the missed target comes back and kills her. Wilson kills the man in revenge, but, blaming himself for her death, he attempts to commit suicide six weeks later by blowing himself up.

The pieces of his body are collected by Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), who puts Wilson back together and takes him to the X-Mansion to heal. Reluctantly, Deadpool agrees to join the X-Men and he Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) respond to a standoff at a Mutant Reeducation Center, masquerading as a 'orphanage.' Deadpool, realizing that the young mutant named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) has been abused by the staff, kills one of the staff members before being restrained by Colossus. He and Russell are taken into custody, fitted with collars that restrain their powers and taken to the Ice Box, an isolated prison for mutant criminals.

Meanwhile Cable (Josh Brolin), a cybernetic soldier from the future has traveled back in time to kill Russell before he starts his path to becoming the villain Firefist, who ends up killing cable's family. Breaking into the prison, attacking Collins. Deadpool's collar breaks in the melee and he attempts to defend Russell from Cable, though Cable takes Vanessa's skee ball token in the process. Near death trying to stop Cable, he has another vision of her urging him to protect Russell and stop Cable. He puts together a team called X-Force to stop Cable- members include Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Vanisher, Domino (Zazie Beetz) and Peter (Rob Delaney). Realizing that Cable will probably attack the convoy that Russell is being transported in, they launch an attack on it by parachute, but every member of the team except the lucky Domino is killed.

While they're fighting Cable, Russell frees the Juggernaut and they escape. Realizing that he should probably explain why he wants to kill a kid, Cable is talking into working with Deadpool and Domino to stop Russel's first murder and agrees to give Deadpool a chance to talk Russell down. Arriving at the orphanage, they're overpowered by Juggernaut while Russell attacks the headmaster- things aren't going so well until Colossus shows up to distract Juggernaut. Deadpool fails to talk Russell down and Cable shoots at him, intending to kill but Deadpool takes the bullet instead to reunite with Vanessa in the afterlife. Seeing his sacrifice, Russell decides not to kill the headmaster- and, his family saved, Cable uses the last charge on his time machine to go back and put Vanessa's skeeball token over Deadpool's heart, which saves his life and Russell still has a change of heart. Dopinder the Taxi Driver ends up running over the Headmaster and killing him.

This was a great sequel to the first Deadpool and the more I think about it, the more I actually like it better than the first one, which is probably what you should aim for if you're making a sequel. But here's the thing: this movie doesn't necessarily take the humor from the first one and dial it up to eleven, but what it does do is move beyond the usual formula for superhero movies-- this one is more complex, more well-rounded and has an explicitly stated theme of family, which actually holds up, albeit in a Deadpool kind of way.

The whole X-Force sequence is genius and the reference to Frozen will stick in your head for days, but this movie continues to get Colossus right and finally, finally gives The Juggernaut his due. Plus, the James Bond style opening with a Celine Dion song? Brilliant stuff.

Overall: An eminently worthy sequel, Deadpool ticks all the boxes: it's funny, it's profane, it's more complex, it makes the X-Universe better. Pass the chimichangas, please. My Grade: **** out of ****

Saturday, October 27, 2018

This Week In Vexillology #274

This Week In Vexillology, we're continuing our tour of the counties of England with the next two counties on deck: Sussex and Surrey.

Finding these two counties is remarkably simple: Find London on a map and head southwest until you spot Woking, Guildford or Epsom and you've found Surrey. Find London on a map and head dead south and when you get to Crawley you've reached the north of Sussex (or alternatively, just find Brighton.) As a nice alternative to both those things you can just Google them on your Google maps, but you should know by now that I enjoy maps as well as flags...

First up, the flag of Sussex:
(Technically speaking there's two parts to Sussex- a West Sussex and an East Sussex- but together they're traditionally seen as one county and that's what this flag represents.) Officially adopted on May 20 2011, it's named St. Richard's Flag, which was named after the patron Saint of the county, Saint Richard of Chichester and it's based on the traditional emblem of the county, six gold martlets on a blue field. (What are martlets you might ask? Well, that's a good question- they're a stylized bird similar to that of a swift or a house martin.)

There was some uncertainty as to where this symbol came from. It was used in 1611 to represent the Kingdom of the South Saxons by the cartographer John Speed- but there seems to be a firmer consensus that it's origins were from the Coat of Arms of the 14th Century Knight of the Shire, Sir John de Radynden.

Next up, the flag of Surrey:
Officially registered as a traditional design in 2014, the blue and gold checkered flag of Surrey has ancient roots that date back almost to the Norman Conquest of 1066. It's taken from a personal heraldic device used by the very first Earl of Surrey all the way back in 1088. Other references include the 13th Century Glover's Roll of Arms, which included an account of the siege of Caerlaverock Castle and described the Early of Surrey at the time having "his banner with gold and azure was nobly chequered."

Probably my favorite of the references described in the flag's wiki-page is from a poem written is 1627 about the Battle of Agincourt, which references a banner that the men of Surrey carried into battle: "The men of Surrey, checky blew and gold, (Which for brave Warren their first Earle they wore."

So yeah, that's Surrey. Blue. Gold. Checkered.

Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Midterms 2018: The Endorsements

Kids, to be honest, I was seriously considering not writing this post at all. It's so easy to be cynical and disillusioned in the times we live in, but it's even easier to be exhausted. The country and the world seem like it's going to hell in a hand basket- so why bother? Well, two things turned me around on the notion. The first was this article from The Atlantic, which contained this life-affirming quote: "the two-thirds of Americans who don't belong to either extreme constitute an "exhausted majority."

Holy shit. After nearly three decades in this country, I think I've found my political home. So that was awesome... and then, at the end of the day, I'm not going to sit out my Constitutional right to register my opinion on the four alarm dumpster fire that passes for our government in this glorious nation of ours. So, once more unto the breach dear friends, once more. (Assuming of course, I have enough forms of ID to be allowed to vote that is.)

MY BALLOT:

House of Representatives, 2nd District: Dave Loebsack (Kind of a wasted vote in a safe Democratic seat if you ask me, but I honestly have no strong objections to Dave and I've got a long list of strong objections to the current mess in Congress, so he gets the nod.)

Governor and Lieutenant Governor: Fred Hubbell/Rita R. Hart (I haven't broken down Democratic chances for the State House, but the past couple of years have only underlined the point that giving one party control of everything is a really, really bad idea. I don't do irresponsible radicalism or any kind of radicalism, really and Reynolds and the Republicans have given us nothing but that.)

Secretary of State: Deidre DeJear (The concept of Voter ID is an especially pernicious one, because it seems like common sense to a lot of people- but the reality, as we have seen, is that it's used as a tool of voter suppression. Anything or any party that wants to make it harder for you to vote doesn't get mine, so DeJear gets the nod here.)

Auditor of State: I'm honestly undecided here. I like the Mary Moisman is a CPA, I like that she stepped up and agreed to audit the State Medicare mess. But Rob Sand also helped investigate/audit the film tax credit mess. This one might be a coin flip.

Treasurer of State: Michael L. Fitzgerald (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)

Secretary of Agriculture: Rick Stewart (There's not a chance in hell that he gets it, but I appreciate the blunt honesty Stewart has about the fiscal sustainability of farm and ethanol subsidies- both of which are probably unsustainable in the long term, though until literally every other country stops subsidizing their own farmers in one way or another, we ain't going to stop anytime soon.)

Attorney General: Tom Miller (See: Treasurer of State, above.)

State Senator, District 43: Patrick Wronkiewicz (Any candidate that knocks on my door and introduces himself in person gets my vote just on general principle.)

State Representative, District 85: It irks me to no end that a lot of area representatives run unopposed year after year and cycle after cycle. Like the local Republicans can't be bothered to find a sacrificial lamb? There's not a Libertarian or a Green that wants to throw in? So no, Vicki Lensing isn't getting my vote. I'm writing someone in here.

Board of Supervisors (Two): Phil Hemingway and Janelle Rettig (Props to Phil Hemingway for running as a Republican for this position- and I liked the perspective he brought to the school board and I think it's good to have an 'outsider' perspective in office from time to time. I have absolutely no data on this race so assume that it'll probably be Heiden and Rettig by comfortable margins, but you never know.)

County Treasurer: Thomas L. Kriz

County Recorder: Kim Painter

County Attorney: Janet M. Lyness

Non-Partisan Offices: Well, I actually attempted to educate myself on the Soil and Water Conversation Commission and the County Agricultural Extension Council actually do and I know more than I did before, but I'm still not entirely clear on what all they do. So if you're a real person on this ballot, you're lucky, because I'm gonna vote for you.

Judges: This is another one I did research on and found a handed dandy Judicial Performance Review for 2018. Based on the evaluations, I'm going to vote to retain Chappell, Miller, Turner, Scott for District 6 and Mullins, Tabor and Vaithesawaran for the Court of Appeals.

OTHER RACES: If I still lived in Minnesota, I'd be voting for Tim Walz for Governor, Amy Klobuchar for Senator and Independence Party candidates wherever possible. (So take note, Minnesota peeps!)

PREDICTIONS: I think the Democrats take the House but not the Senate and pick up a good amount of Governorships ahead of 2020. As much as I'd like to think that Texas will vote for Beto O'Rourke, I'm pretty sure the Lizard People have this one all sewn up with Ted Cruz.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

This Week In Vexillology #273

This Week in Vexillology, we're continuing our tour of the counties of England with our next two counties on deck: Hampshire (the OG version that New Hampsire wishes it was) and the Isle of Wight. In terms of how to find them, well this time it's actually pretty easy: find a map of England and look for Southampton on the south coast, kind of south/southwest of London. Just north of it you're find Winchester, which is the seat of Hampshire (and a former capitol of England, way way back in the day) and south of there you'll see a smaller island just off the coast. That's the Isle of Wight.

First up, Hampshire:
This is technically the flag of the Hampshire County Council and not the actual county itself- which means I think we've come to the first instance of a county not having a flag all to itself. This one was adopted on July 13th, 1992 after the county was granted a coat of arms to mark the 100th Anniversary of the county council which actually happened in 1989. It's a banner of arms, so the use of the Royal Crown required permission from the Queen and an official royal warrant was issued for it. The crown and rose motif has been associated with it since the 18th Century or so. (This website has some good information on the flag- and also an interesting variant proposal on the flag which replaces the Royal crown with a Saxon crown in a nod to Winchester's role as Alfred the Great's capitol in ancient times.)

There doesn't seem to be much more than that to the Hampshire County Council flag...

Next up, The Isle of Wight:
Adopted in January of 2009, the flag depicts the shape of the island hovering over the ocean waves. The indentation at the top of the diamond represents the River Medina, which is the largest river on the island. There are a couple of other flags of the Isle of Wight floating around out there- the county council flag features a representation of Carlsbrooke Castle surrounded by three gold anchors on a field of blue. Carlsbrooke Castle was the historic seat of the Governors of the Island and the blue field and the three gold anchor stand for the Island's status and maritime history. There's also a tricolor of green-white-green that Islanders have taken to calling The Rebel Green Flag out there as well. 

The Isle of Wight might rank up there with Wiltshire as the most striking flag I've seen so far- in fact, I might go so far as to say it's my new favorite of all the counties in England I've seen. (I even like the fact there's a 'Rebel Green' flag for ornery folks that don't like the official one to fly.)

So there you have it, Hampshire and The Isle of Wight. Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Free Write Friday #3: Hoosier Diner

You are lost in the back-roads of Indiana when you drive past a lonely diner. Inside you find it packed with people, all seemingly from different time periods. You quickly realize that this diner exists independent of time.

I was heading southwest from the amusingly named town of French Lick, winding my way through the back roads that crossed the forested hills of the Hoosier National Forest. I was hungry and was annoyed that I hadn't bothered to eat breakfast back at the motel. I had given it some serious thought, but after four days in a row of desultory and pathetic looking continental breakfasts, I had decided that I couldn't bear the thought of looking at a sad, pathetic cheese danish on a tiny, cheap plastic plate with the cheapest and most terrible coffee imaginable in a slightly dirty mug to drink. So, I left early and hit the road. This was, I thought at the time, a good plan. I had to make my rendezvous near Uniontown by sunset and my contact had been very clear: the boat wouldn't wait forever.

But here's the thing: driving always makes you hungry. Your mind can only take in so much scenery before you start trying to distract yourself from the hunger gnawing at your belly and despite the rolling hills and the wooded forest around me, I found myself thinking of the perfect hot breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast and really really good coffee. Man, I thought, hash browns would be so good right now- and then, just like that, almost in response to my musings, a sign appeared on the side of the road:

HOOSIER DINER, it read. 500 FEET AHEAD.

Weird, I thought, but I was hungry and I figured 'roadside diner' would have exactly the kind of breakfast I was looking for. Soon enough, it came into view and I slowed down and, flipping on my indicator, pulled into the gravel parking lot. The diner was set at the edge of a valley that ran back into the heart of the hills. It was early morning, so the valley was still full of mist that seemed to creep to the edge of the back of the parking lot of the diner. I didn't think anything of it as I pulled into a parking space and turned my car off. I stepped out of the car and, shutting the door behind me, headed toward the front entrance. As I walked past the windows to the front door, I saw that the place was absolutely packed, which should have alerted me to something unusual about the place, given how empty the parking lot was. I paid it no mind however and merely walked to the front door, opened it and stepped in.

"Ah good sir," a booming bass voice echoed from the corner of the diner. "Welcome, you may seat yourself." I turned to see an old man with silver hair and a beard beaming at me from the corner where he was giving some customers their breakfast. "I shall be with you momentarily." Feeling a bit bemused at his formality, I found an empty table toward the far end of the diner and sat down. I grabbed a menu from where they were wedged in between the napkin holder and the ketchup and glanced over it. Sure enough, they had what I was looking for: "Hoosier Diner Breakfast," I said aloud. Eggs, sausage, hash browns, toast and coffee. Then I kept looking down the menu. Scrapple, hasty pudding and something called sofkee were all there along with an impressive selection of beers and ciders- though the cider was spelled 'cidre' and not the usual way. I opened it up and was surprised again: sapan, nokake, bird brain stew and something called akutaq were listed. Along with the traditional lunchtime sandwiches like the Reuben, the BLT and the Hoosier Trencher and the Belegde Broodje, whatever that was.

I looked around, somewhat confused as the man who had welcomed me came bustling over to my table. "Welcome good sir, my name is Benjamin Harrison and I am the owner and proprietor of this fine eating establishment, What may I get you today?"

"Benjamin Harrison," I asked. "Like the President?"

"No," he replied, a knowing smile on his face. "I was the President once upon a time. Until that bastard Cleveland beat me for re-election in 1892."

"That's not possible," I said. "It's not 1892. It's... 2018. You're...  well,  you're dead."

He sighed. "A long time ago, I would have agreed with you," he said. "I'm still not entirely sure how or why this place exists, but I do know that it exists outside of time. I thought I was on my deathbed you see and then suddenly... I was here."

"Does that mean I'm dead?" Looking around I could see that maybe he was right. There were a lot of different people crowded into the diner. There were Native Americans, tucking into bowls of what seemed like porridge. A man and a woman in colonial dress were eating what looked like a souffle. Harrison laughed. "Goodness know," he said. "People come and people go all the time." He pointed to the pictures behind the counter. "I've had all kinds of people come eat here. The funnyman, Red Skelton, Kurt Vonnegut, and hell, even Wendell Wilkie- in fact," Harrison pointed. "There is right over there." He raised his voice slightly. "How are you Wendell?"

"I'm on the wrong end of an electoral ass-kicking, Harrison," the man replied. "Roosevelt took thirty eight out of the forty eight states." He raised a stein of beer. "I managed to win good old Indiana though, bless her."

"You'll be wanting steak then?"

"You read my mind, Harrison."

"Coming up right up, Wendell," Harrison replied. "Right after I help this gentlemen."

"How is this possible?" I said again, knowing that I probably sounded incredibly stupid doing so.

"Never mind how it's possible," Harrison replied. "Just know that it is." He looked around and sighed. "I'll admit, I thought this was a bit of a step down from the Presidency and my law career, but after awhile, it began to grow on me. There's nothing quite like meeting people and feeding them and making sure they go on their way well fed and happy. It's almost relaxing after being President."

I wrestled with everything he had told me for an moment more and then shrugged my shoulders and just decided to go with it. Maybe I had gone off the road and I was actually dead. Maybe this was some kind of weird hallucination. Maybe I'd gone insane and just hadn't realized it yet. None of it really mattered, because when it came right down to it, I was still hungry.

"Is the food good?"

"You better believe it," Harrison replied.

"Well, in that case, I'll take The Hoosier Breakfast with rye toast and eggs sunny side up. And a pot of your best coffee."

Harrison scribbled it all down on his pad and then gave me a broad grin. "Coming right up!"

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Boozehound Unfiltered: Bushmills Red Bush

The other half of my birthday haul, Bushmills Red Bush was launched last year in the United States and has been a pretty constant presence on grocery and liquor store shelves ever since. It's aged in first fill bourbon barrels which helps add to the overall sweetness of the whiskey and (I'm just guessing here) probably has a lot to do with the beautiful amber/deep red color of the whiskey as well. (Their website has a pretty good ten minute video introducing Northern Ireland and it's food and whiskey scene.)

Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, Bushmills has been around and kicking for four hundred years or so. The 1608 on the label of the brand refers to the date when a royal license was granted to allow for distillation in the area- but the company really got going in 1784. Throughout it's history there have been various periods of closure, but it's been continuously running now since 1885 when it was rebuilt after a fire.

Bushmills has more or less convinced me at this point: I need to get into more blended whiskies, especially from over in Scotland or Ireland. My experience so far has been nothing but good and while I can appreciate the complexities or strengths of single malts or bourbons, I think it's time to spread my wings a little bit. (After my experience with Roknar Rye earlier this year, I also want to try more rye!)

So what did it taste like? Here's what I came up with for tasting notes:

Color: appropriately enough, it's amber in color, almost dark red. 

Nose: There's smokey aspect to it's that's hard to pin down- maybe brown sugar, but I'm not sure what it is. Weirdly, I also get a hint of bananas popping out here and there. Bananas and brown sugar with a little bit of a sweet smoke- like a cigar or pipe smoke.

Body: It's light- it sits so lightly on the tongue, it almost feels watery. There's a rush of the initial sweetness followed by spice- I want to say cinnamon here, but I can't pin it down.

Finish: It has a beautiful smooth finish. The warmth is gradual and then increases in intensity.

Overall: It's smooth, it's drinkable. I could drink this straight, on the rocks or use it as a mixer. Excellent, beautiful stuff from Bushmills. My Grade: **** out of ****

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Modest Proposal: Fixing The Senate

In the wake of the Kavanaugh Confirmation, my there were a couple of days in early October where I tripped and fell down a Twitter hole of complaints and/or evidence about 'unfair' the Senate actually is. Why, people were asking, should a state like Maine or North Dakota or Nebraska have just as much power as a big, important (and usually 'blue' state) like California or New York? It isn't fair, seemed to be the overall complaint. It's not democratic!

First of all, I have very little sympathy for complaints about the Senate- especially from the Left. The Democrats decided to 'reform' the filibuster to benefit them when they were in the majority, apparently thinking that they would stay in the majority in perpetuity, which obviously, didn't happen. Their strategic mistake then (and it ranks as probably the most idiotic thing seen in the Senate since Senator Brooks went after Senator Sumner with his damn cane) was assuming that, once back in power, the Republicans would continue to pretend that the Senate was nothing more than a genteel country club where there were rules and standards and norms. Well, apparently Cocaine Mitch has had enough of your shit and wasn't going to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules anymore and Democrats want to whine about it. You messed with the filibuster and just thought, what? The Republicans wouldn't? Come on now, y'all.*

Second of all, such complaints forget a few things about the Senate- namely the 17th Amendment. Before the 17th Amendment, which was only ratified in 1913, Senators weren't directly elected by the people, they were elected by the state legislatures. The Senate (in my admittedly limited understanding) was seen as a 'House of the States' while The House was a 'House of the People.' The Senate's original purpose (again, in my admittedly limited understanding) was to be a check against majoritarianism and give the individual states a voice and a stake in the Federal Government. So the 'undemocratic' aspects of the Senate have only been somewhat magnified since the introduction of direct elections for Senators little over a century ago.

So what do I want to do about it? Well, the complainers aren't wrong. The Senate could be better and oddly enough it was the German Bundesrat that sort of pointed me toward what I wanted to propose. (I spent sometime messing around with the Penrose Method and voting weights, but I fucked something up and the math didn't work out for me.) I was thinking about en bloc voting, but thought that would be too complicated- especially if your state had a mess of divided government. So I settled on a combination: the degressive proportionality of the German Bundesrat, combined with the popular elections we currently have. Does it make the Senate bigger? Unfortunately, yes it does. But I also think it makes it better and more important, more representative. Here's where I ended up:

1. I took roughly the same allocations that Germany has for seats. States with more than 7 million people get six seats apiece (2 elected by popular vote, 4 by state legislatures.) States with more than 2 million inhabitants gets four seats apiece (2 elected by popular vote, 4 by state legislatures). States with less than 2 million people get three seats apiece (2 elected by popular vote, 1 appointed by their governor.) Territories/States with less than a million people get 1 seat apiece, elected by popular vote. (Yes, in my timeline, our Territories get full voting rights, because there's no good reason for them not to have some meaningful representation.)

2. If your state legislature is controlled by the same party, then it's pretty easy. But if you have a split legislature, then you've got to appoint an even number of candidates from either party. So, if you have four 'state' seats, then it'd be two Republican and two Democratic seats. If you have two state seats, one from each party. In a non-first-past the post system, this rule would probably fall apart fairly quickly once you start adding more than two parties to the mix. If you only get one extra seat or have one chamber (Nebraska, I'm looking at you) then your Governor gets to pick and I'm assuming most of them will follow party lines when they do so- which may not be true. (Alaska has an independent Governor, but I included him and the other two independents under the Democratic tally since Sen. Sanders and Sen. King usually caucus with Democrats and Alaska's Governor joined forces with the Democratic candidate following the Republican Primary to run.)

3. The final tally it all produced: 130 Republican Seats, 100 Democratic seats for a total of 230 seats.

Here's what it looks like in table form:
State
SEATS
PV
ST
GOP
DEM
California
6
2
4
6
Texas
6
2
4
6
Florida
6
1
1
4
5
1
New York
6
2
2
2
2
4
Pennsylvania
6
1
1
4
5
1
Illinois
6
2
4
6
Ohio
6
1
1
4
5
1
Georgia
6
2
4
6
North Carolina
6
2
4
6
Michigan
6
2
4
4
2
New Jersey
6
2
4
6
Virginia
6
2
2
2
2
4
Washington
6
2
4
6
Arizona
6
2
4
6
Massachusetts
6
2
4
6
Tennessee
6
2
4
6
Indiana
6
1
1
4
5
1
Missouri
6
1
1
4
5
1
Maryland
6
2
4
6
Wisconsin
4
1
1
2
3
1
Colorado
4
1
1
1
1
2
2
Minnesota
4
2
2
2
2
South Carolina
4
2
2
4
Alabama
4
1
1
2
3
1
Louisiana
4
2
2
4
Kentucky
4
2
2
4
Oregon
4
2
2
4
Oklahoma
4
2
2
4
Connecticut
4
2
2
4
Puerto Rico
1




1
Iowa
4
2
2
4
Utah
4
2
2
4
Arkansas
4
2
2
4
Nevada
4
1
1
2
1
3
Mississippi
4
2
2
4
Kansas
4
2
2
4
New Mexico
4
2
2
4
Nebraska
3
2
1
3
West Virginia
3
1
1
1
2
1
Idaho
3
2
1
3
Hawaii
3
2
1
3
New Hampshire
3
2
1
1
2
Maine
3
1
1
1
2
1
Rhode Island
3
2
1
3
Montana
3
1
1
1
1
2
Delaware
3
2
1
3
South Dakota
3
2
1
3
North Dakota
3
1
1
1
2
1
Alaska
3
2
1
2
1
DC
1


1

1
Vermont
3
1
1
1
1
2
Wyoming
3
2
1
3
Guam
1




1
US Virgin Islands
1




1
American Samoa
1




1
Northern Marianas
1




1
TOTAL
230
130
100

Is it perfect? No. It's got some flaws... and would probably prove unworkable fairly quickly if we moved off a First Past The Post system like we have at the moment. But, for right now it is better and more representative than the current status quo. Most of the reform plans for the Senate I've seen usually involve repealing the 17th Amendment and going back to States elected Senators-which I don't think a lot of people would be okay with in this day and age. But, I like the notion of restoring some of the Senate's original role as a 'House of The States' because it suddenly makes having active and vibrant party infrastructure in all fifty states kind of important. If you snag a Governorship or a chamber of your State Legislature, you get a Senate seat- or two! I think if there's a failure of the Democratic Party worth talking about- and in general of Progressive thought across the board, it's that there's a stunning lack of faith in states. Now, I get where that's coming from. States can institute Romneycare and legalize weed, but in our history states are also responsible for Jim Crow Laws. I get why people are leery and I'm not advocating for a return to the Articles of the Confederation or anything like that- but a lot of big, Progressive ideas are simply not going to work the way they want in a country as big and as diverse as this- making the states the laboratories of our democracy once more can only provide proof of concept to take some of these ideas to the national or Federal level. If you can sell a state on an idea and implement it successfully, you should be able to do much the same on the Federal level.

 In general, I'm not sure why we've collectively abandoned the idea that we can't do anything about the state of our politics and our government. They suck and they suck an awful lot of the time. But the beautiful thing about the Constitution is that we can amend it whenever we want. I don't think we should go on a binge of Constitutional rewriting, but we forget that we can in fact, change things. (The hard part is just persuading enough people to agree with it.) I think it'd be good to get back to that. I think it'd be good to make a better America instead of being exhausted by America. That may be sappy and idealistic, but nerding out over PoliSci things like this brings me a little bit of joy in the dumpster fire of our politics. So, don't just bitch about things. Write 'em up. Make a modest proposal or two.

*Complaints about the Supreme Court and what to do about it are an entirely different post.