July 2019


Four Years-ish

Has it really only been four years (give or take half a week or so) since I resumed “serious” blogging, under the name “Ridin’ Fence” (which I changed to the current name a couple of years later)?

It probably seems longer to you because you have to read it — whereas I only have to write it.

What will the next four years bring? I’m not even sure about the next four weeks — but at least I know that, blogging or not, I won’t be going back on social media.

The other day I was reading some Reddit posts about why people have deleted their Facebook accounts (no, I’m not on Reddit; the AskReddit YouTube videos have become a guilty indulgence), and it brought to mind my own experience with that... platform.

When I first joined Facebook, I friended pretty much everyone whose name or handle looked familiar to me from the blog comment threads I was already frequenting. This was back when sites like JunkyardBlog, Ipse Dixit, Gut Rumbles, etc., were still going concerns, so there was a lot to work with. And since I’ve always used my own name in one form or another in blogdom, they recognized me and friended me back in turn. It was a heady time, and my “friend” count quickly rose into triple digits. In meatspace I would have had to reach back to my college, or possibly high school years, to get my total that high. And I don’t mean just during those years, I mean then and since, cumulatively.

I don’t remember what caused me to reconsider this pattern, but I decided that I wanted my Facebook circle limited to people I had actually met in meatspace. Only one of the hundreds of “friends” I unfriended at that point noticed, and asked about it, and even she accepted my reasoning. For the rest of the time I was on Facebook, I adhered to that rule (with only one well-deserved exception) for the remainder of my time on the platform, and it worked — until Facebook stopped letting me order my feed the way I wanted.

In retrospect it was a small reason to abandon the social media juggernaut, but I saw it as a warning of things to come, and my misgivings were prophetic.

The reality is, actual personal news — significant events of real interest to the people that genuinely care — doesn’t happen every day. If you’re lucky it doesn’t even happen every year. Wading through sharings of memes and of outrages-of-the-moment only serves to make me less interested in those pieces of actual news that might inadvertently get shared (and promptly buried under the deluge of trivia — maybe that was why I unfriended those people I only knew online, way back when).

I frankly wonder how it is Facebook’s algorithms can wade through all the pictures of restaurant food and fashion selfies shared so widely by people who don’t even know, haven’t even heard of, the original posters, to develop a useful profile of any Facebooker. That may be the saving grace of the chaos: its abysmal signal-to-noise ratio. It’s that same ratio that drives people like me away, people who don’t chase every ephemeral FOMO craze, thus also protecting us from being much more effectively catalogued.

If someone ever did perfect a social media platform that stayed securely in my signal-to-noise comfort zone, that characteristic would itself put it outside my comfort zone in a bigger way.

As for Twitter, it’s what I have in mind when I say that social media constitute a dystopic alternate reality that drives mad anyone not already insane. It takes Facebook’s noise and distills it, elevating the intensity to the pandæmonic. If you ever watched Joss Whedon’s Serenity and remember the scene where the heroes’ ship is sneaking past the Reavers, with the howls and screams from the Reavers’ fleet coming though the cockpit speakers, you know how Twitter sounds to me these days. If only it could be padlocked shut from the outside.

So, even if my blogging frequency were to subside to the point where whole months might pass between posts, don’t bother looking for me on those other platforms, nor on any new ones that may arise. If you don’t find me saying anything here, it’s because I literally have nothing to say. At least in public.

©   McGehee

“The Eagle Has Landed”

I don’t remember “watching” the landing itself, but I do remember sitting in front of the TV waiting what seemed like an eternity for the astronauts to finally leave the Lunar Excursion Module and set foot on the Moon.

Fifty years later, NASA describes the moment:

They reconfigured Eagle’s cabin for depressurization, donned their helmets, visors, and gloves, and then opened the valve that vented the cabin.

Aldrin opened Eagle’s forward hatch, which swung inward toward him, giving Armstrong access to the outside front porch. Aldrin added, “About ready to go down and get some Moon rock?” He helped Armstrong navigate through the narrow confines of Eagle’s hatch and onto the front porch. Once on the ladder, Armstrong pulled a lanyard that released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on the side of Eagle’s Descent Stage, on which was mounted a black and white TV camera, allowing hundreds of millions of viewers on Earth to see him descend the ladder down to the landing leg’s footpad.

As a precaution, he practiced the three-foot jump back up to the ladder’s first rung, made easier in the one-sixth lunar gravity. Once back down on the footpad, Armstrong described that the footpads had only sunk one or two inches into the lunar dust which he noted was fine-grained, almost powdery. Armstrong announced, “I’m going to step off the LM now.” And at 9:56 PM Houston time he did just that, firmly planting his left foot onto the lunar surface, proclaiming, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Of course, we all heard it — and still do on playback — without the indefinite article in the first clause, but apparently that was due to Armstrong’s Midwestern inflection.

I remember having a cardboard punch-out LEM model that I don’t think I succeeded at putting together, though I seem to recall that my older brother got his set up the way it was supposed to. (The link was selected because it includes a photo of the model put together.)

We sent six more missions to the Moon, of which five landed — the last in 1972. It’s scandalous that we haven’t landed anyone there or anywhere else since. There are people who weren’t even born yet in 1972, who are grandparents now. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had stopped experimenting with powered heavier-than-air flight in 1906, and in 1953 there were still no prospect of another such flight in the foreseeable future.


©   McGehee

Am I Ready for Some Football?

Just a bit over two weeks to go. The linked article is four months old, but there never seems to be a lot of news generated about this game, as such, before the Hall of Fame induction festivities actually begin.

The Atlanta Falcons will be the designated home team, “hosting” the Denver Broncos. It’s NFL pre-season football, so a step... below spring football, actually — though that could be because neither team holds any particular allegiance in this household.

Pre-season pro football is only an appetizer until college footbll begins on August 31, with Mrs. McG's alma mater, Mississippi State, visiting Louisiana-Lafayette. Wyoming’s hosting of Missouri (!) will begin before the Mississippi State game ends, but that’s what DVRs are for.

Update, July 30: 56 hours to go. Fading fast. May not make it.

Update, August 1: I made it! Mrs. McG learned that one of the Broncos’ players was from Mississippi State, so we’re cheered by Denver’s 14-10 victory.

©   McGehee

But This Is a New One

I do quote myself sometimes, and this will be one of those times.

Over at Instapundit, to a post by Ed Driscoll about the latest Nike idiocy, I commented:

Nike's target market consists of people who live in an alternate reality called "social media."

Sane people ought to avoid living there, it's past the point of dystopia.

First we closed all of the insane asylums, then Facebook and Twitter, et al, opened new ones.

©   McGehee

Free As Can Be

I posted the entire text of the Declaration of Independence last year (and the year before), and if you've a mind to read it again here (as opposed to, oh I don't know, any of the thousands of other places online you can find it), you can follow either of those links.

The state of our American union these days may be — and certainly ought to be — of profound concern to many of us, but the rest of the world is no better off. Americans remain more free even now than anyone else in the world. Some countries are dead set on getting worse; others want to get better. I think we’re one of the latter, The Most Busted Name in News™ and its fellow-travelers in the media and in public office to the contrary notwithstanding.

The next sixteen months, give or take a day, will show whether I’m right or wrong about that.

Me, I’ll be celebrating this day with some target practice. Because I can, and nincompoops in Congress can’t stop me.

Update: If you genuinely believe this flag is the equivalent of the Nazi swastika, you have the IQ of dirt.

'Nother update, July 5: A couple of well-timed webcam visits to Wyoming last night netted me these. The first, in black and white because nighttime, was in Evanston alongside Interstate 80. The second came from the Jackson Town Square webcam, which sees in color at all hours.

©   McGehee



July 2019


Original content and design © 2019 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.