Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, September 25, 2015

/rant mode: ON/

Item:  Would somebody please tell me why the hell Jeb Bush would "disagree" with the Pope about the existence of climate change?  I can see why Jeb doesn't want anything done to fight climate change--he might make less money, which of course would be a tragedy--but why would anyone "disagree" that climate change is happening?  Maybe Jeb should check in with some real scientists.  Like, say, the Pope, who has a degree in chemistry and worked as a chemist before becoming a priest.

Item:  Global warming aside, can anybody offer some suggestions about how in the bloody hell we're going to feed, clothe, house, educate and employ 11 billion people using just this planet?

Item: I'm 46 years old and I do hereby promise you that I will never, ever wax nostalgic (at least, not in public) about how great things were in the "good old days" or when I was a kid.  People who do that seem not to realize that the "good old days" weren't good for everybody.  They were good for rich white people.  Nobody else had civil rights, access to good education, high-paying jobs or the ability to get ahead. Go on, ask an elderly black man about how great things were in the 1950s when he was legally prevented from using the same water fountain as you in most of the Southern states.  Go on.  I dare you.

Item: This high school in Idaho has officially banned its cheerleaders from wearing their uniforms without leggings or sweat pants, allegedly because the short skirts exposed their butts on stairs and while sitting.  I, personally, have never before seen a cheerleader skirt that didn't also have some kind of bloomer stitched into it, but that aside, has it maybe occurred to the school that the cheerleaders' skirts ought to be a little bit longer?!  You know, a couple of inches more fabric between her butt and the outside world?  Seems like this one can be blamed on the school, not the students.

Item: John Boehner is resigning from Congress.  So the next time you want to laugh at some guy with an orange face who just can't seem to stop embarrassing himself in public, you'll just have to find yourself a puppet or something.

Item: A flight was delayed because a pet tarantula escaped from its enclosure in the cargo bay.  Look, I'm all for exotic pets, but in a world where an eighteen-month-old baby can be removed from an airplane for being on the no-fly list, I just don't think anything that has a number of legs divisible by eight should get a pass.  And while it may be true that not all terrorists are spiders, it is also true that the vast majority of spiders are terrorists.  The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Item: Presidential candidate and general asshole Mike Huckabee apparently has it in for rainbow-colored Doritos.  Evidently your choice of snack is now a political statement.  So if you're a Republican, you might want to stick to Cheetos.  Not only are they crunchier, they will turn your fingers orange.  You know, like John Boehner's.

That's about it for today.  I started a new job this week, and one of the things I'm going to have to do, a lot, is speak a little Spanish.  Luckily, I already speak that language, but I'm a little rusty.  I forget stupid words like "building" and "boat."  But looky here what just came in the mail:
I think these will help.  It's awesome to live with a librarian.

/rant mode: OFF/

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Stand With That Kid

By now you've probably heard of Ahmed Mohamad, the 14-year-old who was arrested for taking a homemade clock to school.  The police allegedly thought it was a "hoax bomb," even though Ahmed told anybody who'd listen that it was, in fact, a clock.  The school officials' idiotic behavior, which included suspending Ahmed for three days and calling the police, is probably grounds for a civil-rights lawsuit (among other things, the principal threatened to expel Ahmed if he didn't sign a statement; just for the record, students, like all American citizens and residents, don't lose their 5th Amendment rights when they walk into a school building).  The Internet exploded with outrage, most of it directed at the school officials.  Because would any of this have happened if Ahmed had been a white Christian boy named Chad?  Probably not. A new Twitter and Instagram hashtag reads, #IstandwithAhmed.  But this blog post isn't about Ahmed Mohamad.  Instead, it's about That Kid.

You know That Kid.  You've probably seen him at your child's school, standing a little apart from the others.  Maybe he's a friend of your kid's.  Maybe you know his mom, or work with his dad.  That Kid is the kid that just doesn't seem to fit in with the other kids.  Maybe he's a different race or a different religion.  Maybe he's very smart.  Maybe he's fascinated by insects or internal combustion engines or Nazi war planes or something else that grown-ups find creepy.  Maybe he just doesn't have the patience for the ever-growing list of soul-crushing bullshit rules that schools come up with in the name of "safety" and "good citizenship."  Regardless, he's the kid who's always in trouble, whether that's from his peers or from the school administration or both.  He's the nail that sticks up above the two-by-four, and everybody's on a relentless mission to pound him down.  You know.  That Kid.  Everybody knows That Kid.

I'm 46 years old, and I used to be That Kid.  My trek through elementary and middle school was particularly hellish because I was a. fat, b. very smart and c. the wrong religion.  Any one of these would be enough to make you a social outcast in the clannish, insular society where I grew up (Salt Lake City, Utah, in the early to mid-1970s).  But all three?  Forget it.  Not even your parents are going to back you up when you're all three.

My first brush with school administration bullshit in general happened when I was in kindergarten, or maybe first grade.  Something I was drawing upset one of my teachers.  I don't for the life of me remember what, but there was A Meeting.  You know those meetings; the ones where your parents talk to the teacher, you sit outside in the hallway in a chair, and you know that no matter what happens, you're going to catch hell when it's over.  After The Meeting, my mother suggested I try drawing flowers.  Flowers are nice.  So I started drawing flowers and everybody calmed down for a while.

The calm lasted, oh, for maybe a year.  Around then the school told my parents that I was "hyperactive" (the 1970s term for ADHD) and needed to be on medication.  (I like that; non-doctors telling other non-doctors that somebody needs medication.  I thought that was illegal.  Practicing medicine without a license or something.)  So my parents dutifully took me to a psychiatrist who gave me great big doses of a drug called Ritalin, which is a street drug in Canada, ground down and shot up like heroin.  All the stuff ever did was make me sleepy, but then the school isn't going to complain about a sleepy student, unless she nods off in the middle of math class.

So I was good to go, even though I had no friends, didn't really like any of the other students anyway and couldn't figure out why I even had to be around them at all, much less eight hours a day.  I would have been thrilled to just be left alone, but instead I became every bully's favorite target.  Don't think for a moment that discrimination against somebody because of his or her religion is a new thing; it dates back to approximately ancient Rome.  And I was Lutheran, for God's sake (!).  Not exactly the most controversial of faiths.  So there were more meetings with school officials.  And more meetings with school officials.  And why it never occurred to anybody I might do better at another school, or even no school at all, I have no earthly idea.

Anyway, it's a long story and very sad and it really doesn't turn around until I'm in high school, in the marching band, but that's not the point, anyway.  My point, and I do have one, is That Kid.  You probably know That Kid.  That Kid has probably grown up to be That Adult, somebody who's socially awkward at work or in your circle of friends.  So, since you know That Kid, how about giving him or her a break?   How about talking to him or her, getting past the social awkwardness and just hearing what he or she has to say, without worrying about what your friends might think?  You'd be doing That Kid a great favor (nothing facilitates normal interaction like interaction with normals) and who knows, you may even learn something.  Like how to build a clock from materials everybody has at home.  Cheers, y'all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mass Migration

You guys, I am sorry again about the lack of blogitude.  I'm going to try once again to get this thing back on schedule, which means, every Thursday (in case you haven't been hanging around here for a while).  There's been a lot going on (hence the lack of blogitude, among other things.)  Stuff tends to develop in my life faster than I can write it down, or type it, or whatever.  But it's Thursday, so here I am.

You'd think, with everything that's been happening in the news lately, I'd have a plethora of stuff to blog about. There was the clerk in Kentucky who wouldn't issue marriage licenses and got to be world famous for, well, basically being an asshole, as far as I can tell (and I doubt we're finished yet; let's check back on Monday and see).  There was the airplane that caught fire in Las Vegas, during which, miraculously, no one was hurt (and if it had been an American plane, the death toll would have been staggering; try evacuating an airplane in a hurry with the amount of space you have between rows these days).  There was Donald Trump saying whatever he's said lately.  Finally, there were something like 800,000 people pouring out of Syria and into Europe, the pitiful European response, the even more pitiful American response (we'll take 5,000 of them.  Next year.  Maybe.) and the great big mess that's going to remain no matter what happens in Europe (let's see a show of hands; how many think it's only a matter of time before Angela Merkel starts cramming refugees onto cruise ships and sending them over here to the States?  Yep, that's what I thought).

So let's talk about those people from Syria for a minute, if we may.

Mass migration of human beings is not something that's going to stop, people.  It's just getting started, in point of fact.  In the next 20-30 years, we're going to have to evacuate Kiribati due to rising sea levels. Throw in Vanuatu and Tuvalu (both Pacific island nations with a maximum elevation of about 4.2 meters) and that's about 360,000 more people that will need new homes.  And let's not forget about Bangladesh.  It'll be underwater pretty soon too, and that'll make the current European mess look pretty minor (unless all 156 million Bangladeshis can fit onto their one 1052-meter mountain peak).  Yes, I did say 156 million.  Give or take fifty thousand or so.  All we need to make the mass migration over a billion is to hit China with a once-in-a-hundred-years typhoon on its heavily populated east coast--something that's bound to happen sooner or later.

Where are we going to put everybody?  Where are we going to find enough food and jobs and a decent education for everybody? These are not rhetorical questions.  We just think we're not going to live to see it actually happen.  In all probability, we'll be reborn right in the middle of it.  Well, I will be, anyway.  Unless I get enlightened this time around and decide not to come back, which honestly, I can't see happening.

(A couple of months ago I did a blog post about the clash between Mormon and Buddhist views of the afterlife, and who would probably win.  Answer: Mormons.  Buddhists keep disappearing to be reborn.  Damned inconvenient, that.)

So ponder that, and get back to me when you have some ideas. Meanwhile, back here in the First World, I am once again looking for work.  It's a long story and not that interesting, but if you know anybody who needs a paralegal, I'm fine with anything except possibly litigation.  I might just be done with litigation forever.  I'd say I'm done with being a paralegal forever, but tuition at guitar-building school is around $10,000 and the unemployment rate is pretty high. Besides, I like things legal.  Just other things legal.  I'm thinking about bankruptcy, or maybe criminal law, or even finance as long as it's not mortgage lending.  Or heck, maybe I'll get a job at Starbucks.  I'm certainly spending enough time there, perusing the Internet in search of work and just incidentally writing blog posts.  And I've gotta get back to that first thing.  So cheers, y'all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

She's Ba--ack...

Try not blogging for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  Sooner or later  your blog editor calls you and tells you you have to go to the blog unemployment office, where they give you a check equal to about 60% of your blogging salary.  You stand in a line, and this lady with a clipboard comes down the line and says, "Did you blog this week?" (No.)  "Did you try to blog this week?"(No.)  "Okay, look, this is your last week on blogger unemployment.  Either you blog something this week, or we'll have to change your status."  And since I don't wanna be a vlogger, or worse, a YouTube sensation, here I am blogging.  Hello, everybody.  

Since the last time I blogged, the following things have happened:
  • I kept working.  In fact, I worked a lot.  In fact, a lot of the work I was doing was why I wasn't blogging, seeing as I didn't want to stare at a computer anymore after I finally got home. 
  • I went to some writing classes about being stuck and how to get unstuck.
  • As a result of the classes, I dug out a thing I was working on and started working on it again, and it's going really well, at the moment.  Which is cool.
  • I talked to my kind-of mentor, Rhett in Oklahoma, which always makes me feel better. 
  • I swam the Big Swim, the 2k race in which I always place dead last but consider myself fortunate to have finished at all.  My time was 1.03.27.  I also did the July Swim for Distance Month thing, but without the usual hype, just because of stuff and things.  I managed 17 miles in July.  I will still send a full $20 to my favorite charity, which happens to be Survivors of Torture International.  If you wanna donate after the fact, please do.  Your favorite charity could always use a little cash.  
  • I went to Utah to see my parents and my sister, and my brother-in-law came along but he was very sick the whole time and so we didn't get to see him much.
  • My brother-in-law's condition turned out to be terminal.  Which sucks.  A lot.  
If you've already heard about this, you can skip this paragraph, but what's basically happening to Mike is that his spine is pressing on the main artery that supplies blood to his brain.  So his brain isn't getting enough oxygen, and he's gradually losing function (like most of his right side) and speech and, you know, the important things you need. When the best neurosurgeon in the state says there's nothing he can do, you know you have a problem.  But even if there were a surgical fix, there's no guarantee it would bring back the lost function. And Mike's quality of life is pretty low right now. 

So, there's been a lot of crying around here, and a lot of long talks about this whole "quality of life" thing and what a "meaningful recovery" would mean to me, or to you, or to whomever.  And if I haven't gotten on this soapbox lately, I would just like to remind all of you over the age of eighteen that if you haven't done it yet, you need to MAKE OUT YOUR LIVING WILL. NOW.  It might be called an "advanced medical directive" or something similar in your state.  If you go to this web site, you will find all the forms and instructions for making out a living will in your state.  It is legal and legally binding in all 50 states, so please don't hesitate.  It is a great kindness to your family and also to yourself, and don't forget to give a copy to your doctor and whatever hospital you're most likely to be taken to in an emergency.  

I'm going to Las Vegas to see Mike and Kristen at some point, but I don't know exactly when because their lives are a little complicated right now (understandably).  besides visiting nurses and medical appointments, they're also selling their house and moving to a disabled-accessible apartment on a single level.  The big move is scheduled for next weekend.  Lots of friends are coming to help, including my dad, so they don't really need us (let's face it, I'm not built for carrying boxes anyway). But soon, I hope.  

Anyway, sorry about the lapse in blogging.  I will make a sincere effort to adhere more closely to the schedule. For one thing, my editor will get on my case if I don't.  For another, those 60% checks really don't do much to pay the mortgage, if you know what I mean.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Etiquette Advice

Far be it from me to offer advice on etiquette.  I'm blunt, crass and occasionally unreasonable.  I've improved quite a bit from my twenties, though ("Let's think about that a little more before we implement it" vs. "That's a really stupid idea", for example).  And occasionally I ask for advice, like I'm about to do.  Yes, believe it or not I really don't know everything.  That's not a job requirement for blogging.  Which is a good thing, or the number of blogs would soon plummet to zero and there wouldn't be anybody around to argue with.

Here's my issue.  Let's say you're at a lecture.  I'm not an engineer, but I'm going to say it was a lecture about engineering, and let's say you're an engineer.  It's a really good presentation and you're very interested until about halfway through, for no reason you can tell, the presenter says something that's completely wrong.

I'm not just talking about matter of opinion wrong.  I'm not even talking Wrong on the Internet, which is a whole nother thing.  I'm talking scientifically wrong.  I'm talking the equivalent of an engineering lecturer saying that, just incidentally, E does not equal MC squared, it equals RB cubed.  (RB cubed. RB cubed. Hm, I'm getting hungry.)  Or, to be a little less esoteric, let's say the engineering presenter just told everybody that sound travels faster than light.  Which is, by the way, completely untrue, and has been scientifically disproven any number of times.

(It's also obvious.  Try sending a friend of yours about a football field away with a pair of cymbals and have your friend play the cymbals.  If you're watching, you will clearly see that the cymbals come together a second or two before you hear the clash. Why? Because light, which involves things you can see, travels faster than sound, which involves things you can hear.  And if you have a friend that is good-natured enough to play cymbals on a football field with you just so you can prove a point, then, hang onto that person.  Such friends are rare.)

What's more is how the lecturer announced this piece of laws-of-physics-bending news.  Not merely "Here's a fact," but, "Here's a fact that everyone else on the planet (or at least all engineers) already know.  You people are the only people on earth who don't already know this, and I'm doing you the great favor of telling you, so be grateful, already."

Let's say that after you get over being surprised, you look around to see how your fellow engineers are taking this bit of news.  You expect that most of them will look skeptical or be frowning.  Instead, they're all earnestly writing this down.  Well, why not.  Somebody has just said that black is white, that freedom is slavery, that peace is war, and nobody knew this before.  What's worse, the guy to your left says, "Man, this is fascinating.  I never knew half this stuff."

Okay, end of hypothetical and time for the question.  What do you do?

Seriously, is it ever okay to interrupt a lecturer?  Should I have held up my hand, like a polite elementary-school student, and then, after being duly called on, should I have said, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you're wrong"?  Should I have brought up all the scientific evidence to the contrary (Google on a cell phone is a wonderful thing) and engaged her in a debate?  Should I have waited for a break, then approached the lectern (hopefully without getting tackled by security) and told her privately that she's mistaken and hope she corrects herself?  Or what, exactly?  What do you do?

I know what I did do, which is to say, nothing.  I sat there and watched my fellow engineers (okay, they weren't really engineers) take notes on this scientifically incorrect point and nod sagely as though they'd been handed a great truth. And I've been feeling bad about it ever since.  I mean, this is forty or fifty people that are now walking around with a completely incorrect concept about how the world works.  Who knows how much trouble it will cause them in the future? but on the other hand, I can pretty much guarantee that if  I had interrupted said lecturer, everybody there would remember nothing about sound being faster than light but everything about some fat chick interrupting the speaker about something scientific and, I don't know, a pair of cymbals and a football field.

Would that have been a good thing?  I have no clue.

So anyway, if there is a Miss Manners among us, or if some arcane book of etiquette actually covers this particular situation, I'd be golden if one of y'all would let me know.  In the meantime, I remain silent in the face of physics-changing factual errors.  Cheers.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Things That Go Boom At 2 A.M.

The author and Mr. Fishy.
A confession:  I am afraid of thunderstorms.  This wasn't any big deal when we lived in California and there was maybe one courtesy thunderclap per storm (and we got maybe a thunderstorm a year, give or take?) but it's become An Issue since we moved to North Texas about ten years ago.  There are plenty of thunderstorms here.  They're big, they're loud, they come with terrifying flashes of lightning, and they always seem to hit about 2 A.M.  Shaken from a sound sleep by the Crack o' Doom directly above my ceiling, I'm prone to getting up, running into Joan's room (yes, we sleep in separate rooms; there are reasons for that, mainly with regard to preferred temperature) and burrowing deep under the covers with Mr. Fishy, here.  Mr. Fishy being a stuffed animal, he never seems to mind.  And there I stay, at least until things calm down and the air is quiet again and Joan says, "Go back to bed, you're too hot." (Well.  Thank you.)

This year, in particular, it's been a challenge.  I mean, it always rains a lot in the spring, but this year is just getting ridiculous.  I mean we're not ducks, for God's sake.  My back yard has been under three inches of water for pretty much a solid month now, I have mushrooms growing all over creation, there are more mosquitoes than you can shake a can of Cutter at and I've lost count of how many times I've gotten up at two a.m. looked up at the steadily vibrating ceiling and told God to stop it.  (Not sure he can hear me over all the thunder, anyway, but it's worth a try.)

So it's 2:55 a.m., I've been up for an hour and I just polished off a bowl of cereal (another consequence of thunderstorms; cereal killing).  Caesar the Cat is keeping an eye on me, the other two are kind of roaming around the kitchen and I'm pretty sure that's hail banging against our chimney up there.  Can the tornado sirens be far behind?

Hopefully not, because this house is not designed for tornadoes.  Everything's above ground.  There's no shelter or anything (and let's face it, it'd be full of water if there was one).  The best we can do when the sirens go off is decamp to the hallway, shut all the doors behind us and hope that the worst we get is flying debris.  Flying debris is, by the way, your number one problem during most tornadoes; getting sucked up into a funnel cloud doesn't happen nearly as often as Hollywood makes it out, though I guess it is a possibility.  A couple of years ago a tornado went by about a mile and a half from here.  Plenty of noise and wind and general scaryness but nobody hurt.  I have this theory about tornadoes; I think they aim for trailer parks.  Why?  Because the first thing they do when they build a trailer park is get rid of all the trees.  This is stupid; trees deflect heat, and tornadoes seem to be particularly interested in heat.  Anyway, my house has been here for 58 years, and has never been hit by a tornado. One should never say never, but last time the sirens went off (a couple of days ago) I woke up, pondered their existence, and then went back to sleep.  Until the next thunderclap.

In California, there were frequent small earthquakes and a few big ones.  I grew up in earthquake country, mainly Utah, and I had plenty of instruction in what to do if an earthquake strikes.  Best advice, get under a desk or another heavy piece of furniture.  Doorways won't really do it for you if the building collapses, but desks--there was a school that collapsed in Mexico City in 1985, and what held up the roof and the two stories that fell was a row of standard student desks.  All the kids under the desks were fine.  Still, what I actually did during earthquakes was generally just stand there, like a fool, until they were over.  Unless it was the middle of the night, like it generally was, and then I'd wake up, look around, see if anything was falling off a shelf, and if not, I'd just go back to sleep.  I was there for Northridge in 1994 and I'm not sure I even woke up that time.

So if I can do it with earthquakes I can do it with thunderstorms, right? Wrong.  As long as these long lines of "low pressure disturbances" are going to rumble through Dallas in the middle of the night like this, scattering chaos and mayhem, I'm gonna be losing sleep.  And (leaning against the door with one ear to a glass) yep, there go the tornado sirens.  Cripes, I'm gonna be finishing this blog post in the hallway.  With Mr. Fishy.  Cheers, all.  I hope your evening continues not to suck.

PS. Would whoever gave us the gift subscription to Architectural Digest kindly fess up?   Thanks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Go Read This Blog Post.

Go read this blog post.

Seriously.  Go read it.  Click this link right here.  It is not often that I come across something that so completely encapsulates my thoughts on any subject, never mind abortion, but here one is.  

Yeah, I know all of you won't click the link.  That's okay.  The blogger (and for the life of me, I couldn't find out the author's name or how to contact her) is positing the sort of questions that the pollsters should be asking about this subject.  Never mind this whiny "Is it okay if a woman has an abortion if she's been raped?  If she's dying?  If she's ten years old?"  nonsense.  No, these are the real questions.  The hard questions.  The questions nobody wants to answer.

I'm'a'gonna give you an example.  This is risky, because I couldn't get ahold of the author (see above) to ask permission, but I'm thinking the "fair use" clause from the Copyright Act (17 u.s.c. § 101) will probably cover my butt. (I once had a two hour long conversation with a library director about the "fair use" clause, much to the annoyance of my boss, who hated the guy but was too polite to leave while I was still there talking to him).  Anyway, this is one of the questions that the author would ask, if she were a pollster:

1. Do you think it is acceptable to force a woman to carry a pregnancy and give birth against her will?
  • Yes, always
  • Yes, under some circumstances
  • No, never
2. If you answered “Yes, always,” what methods are acceptable to force the woman to continue her pregnancy?
  • Imprisonment until after birth
  • Mandatory subjection to monitoring of fetal well-being on a daily basis
  • Monitoring of the woman’s location, such as through an ankle bracelet
  • Provision of a chaperone to ascertain the woman’s whereabouts and actions
  • Monitoring of all communications to ascertain the woman is not planning to end the pregnancy
  • Other (please specify)
5. If certain methods are only acceptable for certain circumstances, please match the best method to each circumstance.  

Not so easy to answer, are they?  And here are a few I came up with all by myself:

If a woman is pregnant and continues to use illegal drugs, is it acceptable to imprison her until after birth?

What about legal drugs, like Ativan or Klonopin?

What about legal drugs, like OxyContin and Vicodin?

a.   Should she be incarcerated in an actual prison, or would a hospital be more appropriate?
   1.   If a hospital, should she be allowed to refuse medical procedures, such as a glucose tolerance test, or should she be declared incompetent to make her own decisions?
   2.   Should she be allowed to get a second opinion, or should she be required to do whatever her doctor says?
 b.   If a prison, should the state be required to provide her with medical care, or is that her problem?  

What about legal drugs, like something for depression, that might cause birth defects?

How about if she won't quit drinking?  Smoking?  Sky diving?  Rocky Mountain climbing?  Skiing?  

Should a woman ever be allowed to give birth at home?  Or should any woman attempting to give birth at home be arrested and taken immediately to the nearest hospital as soon as it becomes obvious that she's not going to go there of her own accord?  

Under what circumstances should a pregnant woman be reported to Child Protective Services for failure to follow doctor's orders?  

 Hyperbole, you say? Not at all.  Researchers found 413 cases  of forced medical interventiosn on pregnant women, ranging from mandatory C-sections  to actual imprisonment on the grounds of protecting the fetus.  You know, that critter that's evidently so much more important than the born woman walking around with it that women are being stripped of their civil rights, especially in states like Tennessee  and Alabama, on a regular basis.  Because when a fetus is considered more important than its mother, then its mother becomes a container.  Nothing else. 

In closing, one final question: If an adult woman is capable of making her own medical decisions, how does the implantation of an egg in her uterus change her mental capacity?

But I suspect you already know the answer to that.