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unprovoked Posts

This ought to go well

Headlines that do not fill me with peaceful confidence:

Planning Commission OKs alcohol at site of proposed gun store

A local arms dealer is moving out of the city to an old factory site, a couple miles from a leading edge of suburban expansion, with an eye towards competing with Cabela’s/Scheels/Bass Pro. The dealer and his cohort—”nearly all” of whom are professionals!—have already been shooting outdoors, which is legal in the county. Neighbors include a mini-storage facility, and an in-home daycare.

Push all the paper

It shouldn’t be surprising that there is a substantial bureaucracy attached to Certified Organic products—the National Organic Program is administered by the Federal Government, after all. As an office clerk, I need not know the intricacies of  organic standards or the politics behind them. I’ve always been preoccupied by the intersection of public policy and our food system; what I want is to develop a useful self-educational way to explore its issues.

Not a good look

Last night, a sheriff’s deputy shot a motorist during a traffic stop, but nobody is explaining why. The vehicle apparently started moving again, and then:

Moments later, the deputy reported shots fired and called for medical crews, reporting that the motorist was down and didn’t have a pulse but that he was OK.

Dispatchers had asked that a medical helicopter be put on standby, but officials later canceled it. An update on the motorists condition wasn’t immediately available.

Cass County Sheriff’s Department is already referring questions to the county attorney, who has not been available for comment. The Omaha World Herald reported the motorist’s condition as grave, with no further update.

Baby steps

Last night I played my third complete game of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Not much happened of note; I flew a Scum & Villainy squad for the first time, and lost big (again—but no big deal; at the moment I’m just happy to be flying).

At one point late in the fight, I did manage to slide my clunky freighter between two (custom painted!) enemy ships. Still didn’t save my pilot from obliteration, but it was nice to have made a correct wild-assed guess about movement range.

Close-up photo of X-Wing Miniatures gameplay with three ships
Threading the needle with a HWK-290 at HobbyTown USA in Lincoln, Nebraska, September 6, 2016.

Notwithstanding the newbie losing streak, this is my all-time favorite learning curve. I’ve got at least one game lined up tonight.

Appetite for overconsumption

Someone has “reimagined” the lunch box as a $79.00 app-driven bento box with an “evolving library of recipes” and built-in calorie counting. “The Prepd Pack puts the app in bon appétit,” raves industrial design news aggretator Core77. Leaving aside the execrable tech trend of dropping vowels from a common word and calling that a brand name, let me just say that this is a flawlessly executed Kickstarter campaign—$1,439,098 pledged on a $25,000 goal—one that lands a direct hit on the Trendy Appropriation of an Existing Concept bingo square. (h/t Internet of Shit)

Who judges the judges?

Five years ago, local police stopped Leroy Duffie because he matched the “black male” part of the description of a so-called suspicious person.

A convenience store clerk called in a report of a passenger in a van holding what appeared to be a handgun and “acted like he was blowing smoke from the barrel.” The driver of the van—not the person holding the gun—was described as black, late teens or early 20s, with braids or short hair. Acting on this information, along with a rough description of the van, Lincoln police conducted a high-risk traffic stop on a bald 58-year-old double amputee:

Ordered out at gunpoint, Duffie fell to the ground as one of his prosthetic legs detached, he said. He knocked his teeth out and tore one of his rotator cuffs. Officers handcuffed Duffie as he lay on the ground and searched his car finding only a paintball gun Duffie said he planned to donate to a local charity. After several minutes, the officers seized the paintball gun and released Duffie.

[Riley Johnson, Lincoln Journal Star, August 25, 2016]

Duffie sued the officers and the city on constitutional grounds. In June of last year, citing qualified immunity for the officers, U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Kopf granted the city’s request for summary judgment. Kopf’s other career highlights include a full spectrum of good, bad, and ugly:

Last week, the summary judgment against Duffie was reversed on appeal; the 8th Circuit returned the case for further proceedings. It will be interesting to see whether the city waits for a federal trial or appeals directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s hoping that Duffie has better luck of the draw on justices next time.

A note on Judge Kopf’s 2014 blog post, which was a step on the road to shuttering the blog—a year later—when he was informed that a “great majority” of Eighth Circuit employees felt that it was an embarrassment to the Court. Kopf’s idea of “hyperbole and somewhat mordant tone” is to admit “I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about)” and then follow with this:

True story. Around these parts there is a wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties. She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.

The steaming bullshit of entitlement—I can’t even. I suppose that we should be happy that he doesn’t get horny for his daughters or for other young women about whom he cares deeply (despite waxing rhapsodic about his “tall, statuesque, and beautiful daughter” in the same blog post). Further classifying as sex objects all women who don’t fit either category is beyond artless; it’s disgusting.

Humanity’s exquisite corpse

One benefit of following speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo is getting the occasional lead on marvelous pieces of writing—most recently, a link to Exquisite Corpse, a haunting flash fiction piece by Caroline M. Yoachim. In just 900-odd words, Yoachim manages to capture the anxiety of precognition without context, and the head-spinning awe that comes from contemplating infinity. I compared it to lying on a hillside and trying to “fall” into the sky, something Carl Sagan used in Contact to frame childhood perceptions of the numinous. Yoachim deftly pushes those same buttons in her short work, and the effect is just as dizzying.

I have you now

After months of flirting—accumulating game pieces, reading rulebooks after dinner, playing walkthroughs against myself—I’m about ready to dive in to the X-Wing Miniatures game. It seems like the kind of tabletop game that I’d enjoy: a thoroughly play-tested rule set, spaceship models, diverse playing styles… all without the intense social interaction that comes with other role-playing games. If I didn’t have the stamina to be “in character” in a retail work setting, it’s unlikely that I would be able to spend eight hours dungeon crawling on a Sunday afternoon.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures tabletop gameplay
Players compete in a Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures tournament at Gauntlet Games, August 20, 2016

Light socializing during 45-minute rounds of turn-based play is much more my speed. Plus—did I mention spaceships?

Detail of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures gameplay
Detail of a Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures game at Gauntlet Games, August 20, 2016

I never got the fully operational X-Wing that I wanted when I was eight years old, and I don’t have $7,000 to buy a sit-down 1983 Star Wars environmental cockpit arcade game (which I still think is the best X-Wing flight simulator), so my thanks to Fantasy Flight Games for this engaging workaround.

Strange bedfellows

Later this morning, the state legislature’s Executive Board will meet to decide the fate of state Senator Bill Kintner (not representing my district, I’m relieved to say). Kintner used a state-owned computer to engage in extramarital cybersex, and apparently tried to elude responsibility by reporting “a potential internet scam” to the State Patrol—said scam being that the person on the receiving end of Kintner’s Skype stream immediately threatened to use the video against him. The Governor’s office got wind of it shortly thereafter, but only now, a year later, has the story burst into the public consciousness. Having called on Kintner to resign last year, Governor Pete Ricketts again urged Kintner to step down, while the Senator seems content to work out his penitence with God alone. Meanwhile, advocacy group Bold Nebraska is circulating a petition calling for Kintner’s resignation.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Kintner and want him out of public office, not least of which is the sputtering homophobia—e.g., writing on Facebook, “It is sad to see the City of Cincinnati promoting sin” in response to rainbow flag banners being hung during Pride. And I don’t object to pointing out the hypocrisy of a politician who prattles about family values and then gets caught [cyber]cheating. But some of the calls to resign have been tinged with sex shaming (cf. Bold Nebraska’s repeated use of the phrase cybersex scandal), and that’s not a path I have any interest in following. Senator Kintner has been fined $1,000 for the misuse of state property (though no one seemed to mind as much when he sported a gun rights coalition sticker on a state laptop some years ago). If Kintner resigns his seat, I won’t miss him, but if he’s to be pushed out of office—and recognizing my own naiveté while writing this—I’d prefer that it be for more substantive reasons.


While talking about [re]starting a backyard garden at our house, my wife said the words “coming to terms with the work.” I never had thought of that as a distinct step in a process—which explains an awful lot about how I approach time/task management (and my lifetime success rate).