Five Things: June 1, 2020

For the month of June I thought I would try something sort of new, sort of not: A brief daily write-up of five things I’m thinking about in one way or another for that day — could be news, could be personal things, could be a piece of entertainment, whatever (there’s that word). The point of it will be to a) be brief, and b) be daily. It’s not unlike the “various and sundry” pieces I’ve done from time to time, although a bit more formatted, for the simple reason that I think it’s probably easier to write to a format.

It doesn’t mean I won’t write longer pieces if I feel like it (honestly, I’ve never had a problem with that), but after a few months of feeling fairly disconnected to the world, I think it might be time to re-engage with a little more… after I’m done with my actual paid writing for the day, that is. Which is another reason to do a “Five Things” sort of column; if I’ve had a brain-draining creative session in the morning (which sometimes happens), then spieling out five things is less taxing than writing at length on a single subject. It’s all about me, folks!

When I say “daily” I’m gonna mean weekdays; I may do it on the weekend too, but if I do those will be bonus pieces. After the month of June, I’ll check to see how I feel about them. If I like the format, I may continue it. If I don’t (or find that contrary to expectation I’m spending too much time on it) then I won’t, or will amend it to better fit into my life. We’ll find out! It should be fun.

Also, generally speaking expect them later in the day than earlier.

With that as preamble: Five Things for June 1, 2020.

Trump wants to label “antifa” as a terrorist group: Well, except for the issue that “antifa” isn’t an actual group, it’s a descriptor and shorthand for “anti-fascist.” And while it would be, shall we say, bold for Trump to publicly say that being anti-fascist is terroristic, I think it’s more to the point to say that Trump and his administration are trying to use “antifa” as a general umbrella for “any left-wing group of people we don’t like for any reason.” Which is also bold, and stupid, and bound to make more headaches for this dim-witted administration than anything else.

As I noted on Twitter, I am personally and politically adamantly anti-fascist, and I think that not only is that a non-controversial thing to say, it should bluntly be a foundational part of any American’s political philosophy. Someone noted that no one says that they’re fascist; they call themselves “patriots” or “real Americans” or whatever. Which is true enough, but as in all things, the thing one keeps one eye on is not what people say but what they do. It’s not that hard to see who is leaning into their fascist tendencies these days, both in government and out of it.

Ants have invaded my home: On a much smaller scale than the item above, we found ants marching across the floorboard in the downstairs hall, on their way to the pantry. Despite living here for 19 years, this is a new one for us; we might get the occasional wayward ant but this is the first serious incursion I can remember. I wiped down the floorboards with soapy water to dissolve the pheromone trail, so we’ll see how that does before the next step. Of course people on Twitter have been very vocal about what to do next, from Windex to diatomaceous earth to nuking the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure. I’m pretty confident we’ll not do the last one.

Making My Phone See Me: I have face recognition on my Pixel 4 and I use it, so it’s been annoying for the last several days when the phone has decided to only see me intermittently. I dropped my phone fairly hard recently so I suspect I might have dislodged the part of the phone that “sees” me in some way, but if I did that I would think that it would not see me all the time, not just some of the time. That’s the thing that makes it especially aggravating, honestly. Either work or don’t, please! (It’s not the front-facing camera — or not just the camera, since there’s an infrared sensor in play too, to reveal depth.) I do wonder if it might have something to do with my quarantine look at the moment; it’s safe to say I’ve let myself go a bit, facial hair-wise, in the last few weeks.

Christo dead: For those for whom the name is not familiar, he was an artist who did very large scale art installations, some more memorable than others. The one that sticks out in my memory is when he installed very large umbrellas in the “Grapevine,” the mountain pass that connects Los Angeles County to the Central Valley region of California. I was in California when he installed them, and I had reason to go through the Grapevine during the time the display was there, and you know what — it was beautiful, and made me happy all the way through the drive. Near the end of the display, one of the massive umbrellas got loose and caused a fatality, unfortunately; I remember seeing the picture of Christo during the press conference for that and he looked grief-stricken. As well he should have been; it changed the tenor of the installation entirely. But I at least will remember the joy it gave me when I drove through it.

And Now, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on George Floyd: The link is to the LA Times, which is paywalled but which also should let you look at the article if you don’t visit all that often (I just checked; I could get at it fine on a browser I don’t have my LA Times account on). If all you know about Abdul-Jabbar is that he played for the Lakers way back, then I will update you by letting you know he is also a very fine writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and an incisive opinion writer. What he has to say on George Floyd and the current waves of protest is well worth reading and thinking about. So get to it.

49 Comments on “Five Things: June 1, 2020”

  1. I also got to see The Umbrellas during that time, and I really enjoyed it.

  2. Hoping the format satisfies you enough to keep it going. Your (final?) solution to the ants had me literally getting off my chair and laughing out loud. Nuke the bastards! Thanks Mr S, nice to have you back! Stay safe.

  3. Trump shenanigans: I can’t wait to see what could qualify as being a member of the so-called terrorist group. Owning a copy of works by Karl Marx or Hannah Arendt?

    Ants because of course more advice is warranted: Coffee and cinnamon also work for making them go away. It worked for the infestation I got a while back, although the catch is you either have to know where they’re coming from or be willing to sprinkle it in every doorway and window.

  4. As far as the ants go, I’m not too surprised. This is the start of the season where queens start flying to form new colonies. Recent expansion made your pantry a resource of choice, sounds like. Don’t mess around. Soap and water isn’t likely to stop them for long. Diatomaceous earth works for some bugs, but only slows down others. Call an exterminator and get them checking, get them spraying if they recommend it. Especially if they turn out to be carpenter ants! That’s something you want gone from your house ASAP.

    And thank you for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar article, I hadn’t seen that before. The man has a turn of phrase I find quite appealing, I’ll have to go looking for more of his work now.

  5. I stopped using face recognition when my Surface Book recognized my pants.

    In the old days, when things were flaky, I’d say “cable.” Pournelle’s law was something like “90% of all problems are cable.” But I have no idea the extent to which cables, even short ones, are used in smart phones. However, if it comes in and out, I’d still bet on a loose connector of whatever type.

  6. > If all you know about Abdul-Jabbar is that he played for the Lakers way back, then I will update you by letting you know he is also a very fine writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and an incisive opinion writer.

    He was also a co-pilot for Trans American Airlines, but used an alias.

  7. I had ants at my former condo. I tried all the home remedies (and used wood filler to patch some spots in the wood floor that I thought they were coming through) to no avail. At the end of the day I used a commercial ant spray (probably Raid but I don’t remember) and that finally did the trick. I was so reluctant to spray but in the end, it really works.

  8. Here at my house, when we see ants, we wipe down the entire area they have been seen with white vinegar (non-diluted). We use the stuff you can get by the gallon at Costco.

    Here’s my pseudo-scientific reason why I think it works. Ants follow other ant trails by sense of smell. Vinegar has a super strong smell. So spraying it liberally all around where I saw the ants means they won’t come back to that place, as the trails are all gone.

    We like vinegar because it’s natural, cheap, and besides the plastic it comes in, relatively low weight from a carbon perspective. The smell goes away pretty quickly, and isn’t really bad – at least from our point of view.

    Last thing. Christo’s death feels emblematic of the death of post-modernism. He represented a time when art and art culture was huge, and took up a big part of the zeitgeist. Today, I don’t think I can name a single “fine artist”; and certainly not in sculpture.

  9. It’s hard for Trump to (legally) designate Antifa as a “terrorist organization” given that this requires them to be a foreign terrorist organization. Even setting aside the “organization” problem, under the relevant law it must (i) be primarily based overseas; (ii) engage in terrorist activity; and (iii) the terrorist activit must be a threat to U.S. national security interests. E.g.,

  10. Thanks for the recommendation of the article by Kareem. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed by all of the information and opinions.

    First husband was a professional artist. I don’t know how I missed Christo. Thanks.

    And finally. PIC. In the little blue can. I have ants every year. I’ve tried them all. I can only find it on Amazon, these days.

  11. S.Chersis: I think I’d qualify. Back in my youth I was a member of an armed band that had a storied history of engaging in pitched battles with fascists. Those of us in the101st Airborne were quite proud of our predecessors who jumped into France the night before D-Day, The Netherlands in Operation Market Garden (the origin of “a bridge too far”), and held Bastogne.

  12. Antifa is just Emmanual Goldstein. Trump is trying to use it as a scary bogeyman to hide behind. Soon we’ll start hearing that Antifa started Covid-19.

  13. I went to NYC to walk through the gates and it was ‘otherworldly’ and incredibly beautiful. So, I will miss Christo and his artful wackiness. I, too, am engaged in a battle with tiny ants. This is the third year; they’ll be gone by the end of June. I confess to squashing a lot of them; I’ve tried to cajole/bribe/threaten the cats into doing something, but they look at me with loathing- ‘have you actually TRIED one of them?? NASTY!! So, that’s a hard nope.’ They will pursue flies, but mainly for the joy of knocking s**t off the bookshelves and tables.

  14. You might want to consider changing that one line, from, “pretty confident” to “fairly confident”. Remember, this is your first real incursion in 19 years.

  15. Ants here, as well. So far, Raid bait traps are helping. I won’t nuke them from orbit, but I might consider a flamethrower.

    Note: Cats are useless except for decorating window sills and leaving vomited hairballs all over the house. ;)

  16. Fantastic that you mentioned Christo. His art is different and may not appeal to everybody, but it really is awe-inspiring.

  17. We use Terro for various infestations of tiny ants and it has consistently worked (but it takes a couple of days, and it is kind of creepy seeing all the ants gather enthusiastically around Their Last Meal). Not sure if it’s safe to have out around cats, however.

    Re: phone: if things sometimes work and sometimes don’t and the problem started when it was dropped (or repaired, etc.): loose connector.

    I’d note that lots of entities have co-opted various terms over the course of history, and that some people on the street have difficulty determining the difference between being anti-fascist and anarchistic. And if a group called “Save the Kittens” starts up with its primary goal being to harass John Scalzi, then you are not necessarily against kittens, as kittens, if you are against that group.

    But yes. Being in reality anti-fascist is a good thing and (outside of potentially inaccurately labeled groups), should not be held up as a bogeyman! (neither should sharing; I do not understand how “those within a country paying money to make society work” keeps getting labeled “SOCIALIST!” or “COMMUNIST!” – all the more so on occasions when the community services in question have been done in the US well before Marx?)

  18. Ants are sometimes an indicator of a moisture problem, I am told, so make sure you haven’t got a leaky pipe or anything like that. As far as I can tell, Seattle ants like coffee — the place I most often see them is right where we frequently knock coffee grounds on the counter. Not sure about cinnamon, mint, and the other things people try. What’s worked for us is (a) Terro and (b) finding ant hills near the house and pouring boiling water down them. I have been told our neighborhood has had an ant population explosion in the last ten years or so, which fits with our experience. The kind we get are the tiny “odorous ants” that make a surprisingly huge smell when you squish one.

  19. Have any of you fighting ants tried spreading a THIN layer of Comet cleanser? It disrupts the ants’s scent trails. Only use it in dry spots, if it gets wet and sits long enough it can bleach whatever it’s sitting on.

    Terro works well, and as someone mentioned, you get to watch the Last Supper. 😈

  20. The one time I can recall an ant problem in the home of origin, when I was a kid, my mother successfully broke the scent trail with cinnamon. We also lucked out in that it was a very clear and obvious trail from the point of ingress into the kitchen. So we were able to patch the foundation where they were getting in.

  21. I kind of got dragged into seeing the Umbrellas but I was happy that I did. I hadn’t expected to like it or even find it interesting but somehow it really worked. And thanks for the shout-out to Kareem. Read it this morning and was really impressed.

  22. [Deleted because it engages the failure mode of clever. Chthulu, you’re doing the thing where you’re letting your persona get in the way of your coherency – JS]

  23. [Deleted because Chthulu still isn’t making sense at all. Sit out this particular thread, Chthulu – JS]

  24. Diatomaceous Earth worked like a charm for me, but requires repeated applications on non-rainy days. Over the course of a week, it totally annihilated the populations of several large ant hills in my front yard.

    But…I never would have used it with indoor/outdoor cats around. I don’t know if it would be serious, but the abrasive nature of the fine powder would probably be rather irritating to any animal that gets a snootfull (using the technical term). Good luck finding something that’s both effective and pet-safe.

  25. For ants I go for the pb&j solution. There are two main kinds of ants where I live – sugar ants and grease ants. A 50/50 borax/peanut butter mix gets rid of grease ants. A 50/50 borax/jelly (or Terro) gets rid of sugar ants. I had an infestation for over a year the exterminators couldn’t get rid of – turns out they were treating for sugar ants and I had grease ants. Once i did the peanut butter mix, the ants were here in spades for two days as they took the bait and then I never saw them again. Ever.

  26. Sorry if this gets repeated. Something happened and I got kicker out before finishing the comment.
    Trump has announced yesterday that he might send the army to stop the disturbances if local governments do not do it. Now this is a racially integrated force, not the one that under Douglas MacArtthur “cleaned up” the WWI veterans protesting their neglect by the government that were camping in the Washington D.C. Mall. I am concerned that things can get very nasty indeed if our unpredictable president were to try to involve the army..

  27. If Chris Shorb would like to look at their works, those of Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor certainly qualify as great modern sculpture. Given a bit more time (I’m just off to take my clunky car for service) I could name a dozen more.. Maybe I’ll do that later.. Not to diminish Christo, who was a Wonder of the Age…

  28. I grew up in northern California, and as a child my parents took me to see Christo’s Fence installation. My mom still has at least one patch of the fabric. He was an artistic Titan. He redefined what it is that we all call “Art”.

  29. I just hope that Christo had the time and presence of mind to design his burial shroud before he passed. Seems like the perfect way for him to go out.

  30. Of Christo: I’d always think, when I heard of a plan for a new installation, “that’s nuts”. Then when I’d see them (all except for one, only in print unfortunately—though some of them were so huge that it was the only way to really see them anyway), it would be “that’s amazing!”

    To all those suggesting Terro for ants—does that not make you a Terro-ist? [hoping that very bad puns do not come under “the failure mode of clever”]. I’m sure you wouldn’t nuke the place just to stop the ants, John, but after you’re declared an antifa terrorist, perhaps DJT might…

    @KC: Maybe “Sad Puppies” might have been a more apropos, hypothetical, organization. :-)

  31. What kind of ants are they? Red or black, little or big? It makes a difference, apparently, because of what they eat. We get red ants occasionally and my brother-in-law buys a commercial repellent that comes in little round white containers and sets them out near hotspots, and the ants are gone in 24 hours. But the store owner said it won’t work at all on black ants.

  32. It’s probably been said already somewhere, but Diatomaceous Earth would be a fantastic name for your next band.

  33. It’s true about ants and moisture, but since they’re heading to the pantry rather than a sink then probably not. Also, exterminators are evil and will happily spray everything, killing bees and other beneficials as well as the target. We just put out ant traps, which work best if you put them close to the entry point, and our pets don’t seem interested in them. Or borax/diatomaceous earth outside around the foundation, but I live in a state where you should wait till the home invaders invade the home before you are allowed to kill them. But mostly the ants are a seasonal thing. This too shall pass.

  34. George Will, for a change, is on fire this morning. this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath

    As I mentioned on the Twitter, I grew up across the street from a WW2 veteren, General Frank Clay. He was a lieutenant in Third Army from North Africa all the through, including liberating one of the camps. His father was General Lucius Clay, Commandant of Berlin during the airlift. There were several other veterans of various other wars and conflicts on the street.

    So on the street I grew up on it was just expected that you would be anti-fascist and anti-communist.

  35. Christo and Jeanne-Claude must have provided a wee bit of inspiration for Ivan MacDonald, public arts guy and virtuoso of pink rubberized concrete, in Charles Stross’s “Accelerando”: “He who rubberized the Reichstag… [with] the supercritical carbon-dioxide carrier and the dissolved polymethoxysilanes.”

  36. Christo’s Gates in Central Park gave me great joy. I ended up running around the park, through the gates, occasionally leaping into the air just…because. RIP.

  37. I’ve done what HelenS said and poured boiling water into the nest. Need to poke a hole into the top of it down to the egg layer(a bit hit and miss there) and go for a generous kettle worth. It’s safer than chemicals. Took a few goes with some nests.

  38. There is not, and has never been, any such thing as “ANTIFA” except in the fevered minds of right-wing conspiracy theorists, in order to sell their bullshit to aged FOX News watchers. This is how they make their living, scaring the shit out of old people about the demographic changes happening in our society while getting paid by their masters in order to keep Republicans in power so they can stay filthy rich.

    Couldn’t they at least think of something original? I mean, a left-wing terrorist organization that sounds like Arabs who forgot how to spell–And why do we keep falling for the same bullshit over and over?

  39. “Someone noted that no one says that they’re fascist; they call themselves “patriots” or “real Americans” or whatever.”
    It’s worth remembering A.A. Milne’s definition of a patriot: “Someone who thinks that other people are not patriots.”

  40. Doug: I hear the relief pilot had a drinking problem.

    John, good luck with the ant infestation: we have them too – inside and out. They seem to be constantly migrating outside, and find their way in far too often. :(

  41. I had the privilege of seeing Christo’s “Wrapped Walkways” in Kansas City’s Jacob Loose park, gorgeous, even though it brought to mind “Follow the yellow brick road!”.

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