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

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.   

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Collisions of the Faith: Mormons vs. Buddhists

I adore Mormons.  Yes, I lived in Salt Lake City for 13 years and they were not happy years, and yes, I still frick'n have PTSD as a result, but still, I adore Mormons.  How can you not?  They're so nice.  They make Texans look blunt and abrupt.  They're so pretty. Mostly of Scandinavian descent (ahem, ahem).  Plus, they love their families.  I mean, seriously.  They love their families.  You do, of course, know that the reason the whole anti-same-sex marriage thing is petering out is because the Mormons, the driving force behind it, realized they were on an unsustainable course with their own faith. Yes, of course they were.  They were out there attacking "the gays" and suddenly somebody said, "Wait a minute.  My son is gay."  Then somebody else said, "Oh my God.  I have a gay aunt."  And just like a soap bubble bursting on the nose of a curious cat, the whole thing began to fall apart. Because the family is paramount in Mormonism.  The family is everything.  You always defend and stand with members of your family, no matter what.  And when they realized they were in essence attacking their own family members, that was the end of it.  Now there's no one left to carry the anti-same-sex marriage banner but a couple of hardcore old Republican guys, and even their own Young Republicans are saying, "Dudes.  Knock it off or we'll give all our money to Rand Paul."  Oh, and I forgot to mention weddings.  Mormons love weddings more than Greeks and Mexicans combined.  So how can more weddings possibly be bad?

Besides all that, they dress well and send their kids off to preach the faith at a tender age.  Two of the nicest boys knocked on my door the other day and we chatted about Salt Lake City for at least 20 minutes. They wouldn't come inside because there was no man in the house, except Caesar the Cat, but I was still happy to see them.  Because they're so nice.  Did I mention they were nice?

The only thing about Mormons that I don't like is that there's a serious problem in the afterlife.  In fact, Mormons and Buddhists collide so violently in the hereafter that they cannot possibly both be right.  It's not like there's a Mormon heaven somewhere and a Buddhist heaven somewhere else.  If the Mormon heaven exists, then the Buddhist afterlife cannot, and vice versa.  It's like the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I get this mental picture of Joseph Smith and H.H. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama pounding the crap out of each other somewhere in outer space.  I don't know who's gonna win, but it's ugly.

Mormons, in case you did not know this, do this thing called "baptism by proxy" or, as it's more commonly known, "baptism of the dead".  Which is exactly what it sounds like.  You, the living person, voluntarily allow yourself to be baptized in the name of someone who has died (and considering the Mormons go for total immersion, this is no small thing.  I mean, people have drowned.)  The reason for doing this is historical.  Mormonism, or the Church of Latter-Day Saints as it's formally called, only came about in the 1800s.  Before that, we have some 10,000 years of human history, not counting the other 300,000 years when we were still getting used to being homo sapiens, in which there was no Mormonism.  Therefore, if you believe that yours is the One True Church (and Mormons do), there's scads and scads of predeceased humans who died without ever hearing the Good News.  And they're all burning in hell.  Which, if you ask me, is a terrible thing to happen to you just because you never got to hear the Good News.

So, what Mormons do is research their family histories (you were wondering why the did that, didn't you?) in their chain of genealogical libraries, which are the best in the world.  I don't know if you've ever tried to trace your family history, but I promise it is not easy.  Oh, sure, your grandparents and great-grandparents you probably know by name, but much farther than that and you're combing through old census records, baptismal records, marriage certificates and all kinds of stuff.  And when it comes to more distant relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) it gets even more complicated.  My mother does this (not, as far as I'm aware, to baptize dead people, though one never knows) and though she's put in considerable time and effort over several years, I don't even think she's past the 1700s yet, never mind out of America and back to the Old World.  I know I'm from Iceland, that part was easy, but other than that, the rumor is that we're English.  Or maybe Scotch-Irish.  I'd rather be Scotch-Irish, even if they did chase the Native Americans out of Appalachia.

Anyway, if you're a Mormon, this is a sacred duty.  You find out who your relatives are so you can be baptized in their names, thus giving them a get-out-of-hell-free card if they want to accept and embrace the true Church.  From what I understand, it's still a choice.  If they want to stay, say, Methodist, they can stay in hell. Without the baptism by proxy, though, there's no choice at all.  So you can see why somebody would want to be a proxy.  It's the Right Thing To Do.

Buddhists, you know, don't do the whole heaven thing.  They come back and live again, even, for the most part, if they become enlightened.  Once you're enlightened, see, you can choose to become a bodhisattva, which means you choose to come back even though you could skip it to teach the dharma to others "until even the grass is enlightened."  So if you come back, and go on to live another life, and you're, say, an eighth-grader in Beijing or something, what happens if somebody baptizes you by proxy in the name of the dead person you once were?  Do you suddenly get yanked out of your body and arrive in Mormon heaven?  And what happens to your body, if you decide to stay in Mormon heaven?  Does it just keep on going without you?  Without a soul and all that?

Imagine a world full of mostly-Asian people walking around without a soul.  Maybe it's already happened.  Maybe that's how you explain Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong, Junior.  Before anybody panics and suggests we wipe out Southeast Asia, though, let me point out that most psychopathic serial killers are not Asian.  So if anybody's walking around without a soul, it's non-Mormon Christian white guys.

Still, it bears being concerned about.  Because Buddhists don't kill things, right?  And so the very last thing you'd want to be as a Buddhist is a serial killer, see?  So that's why we're on this collision course with Mormons.  Only one can win.  So, I say be as nice to each other in this life as possible.  If the Mormons win, you'll get your chance to go to Mormon heaven sooner.  If the Buddhists win, you'll be more likely to be reincarnated as a Mormon.

Either way, behave, y'all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Formerly Known As

What do Buddhists and Catholic priests have in common?  No, that's not the beginning of an Irish dirty joke.  It's actually quite serious, and the answer is, they both believe in transmission.  Which has nothing at all to do with cars or electronic communications.

Seriously, Catholic priests believe in transmission.  In fact, if you ask one, he will tell you that he was ordained by a guy that was ordained by a guy that was ordained by a guy that...all the way back to Saint Peter, the first Pope, who was of course ordained by Jesus Himself.  Some of the nerdy types will even know what generation they're in as far as this getting-ordained-by-someone-who-was-ordained-by-someone-who-was...  I'm just guessing, but maybe forty?  forty-five?  A lot, anyway.  I mean, two thousand years is a long time.  And that whole unbroken-chain-of-transmission thing all the way back to the beginning is pretty cool, when you think about it.  Sort of like that time we all linked up in Hands Across America to fight homelessness.  I think that's what that was about.  I don't actually remember.  I watched it on TV, though.

Anyway, Buddhists also believe in transmission.  In fact, there is a thing called a transmission ceremony, in which a group of people, usually laypeople, get told the Five Precepts, or as they're called by my mentor, Thich Nhat Hanh, the "Five Mindfulness Trainings."  The idea is that you get these instructions from a dharma teacher who got these instructions from a dharma teacher who...all the way back to Buddha Himself.

What are the Five Mindfulness Trainings, you are no doubt wondering.  Well, Catholic priests have their Ten Commandments, and Buddhists have what I like to call the Five Really Excellent Suggestions. They're not commandments at all; they're advice on living a happy life by trying your best to do, or not to do, certain things.  If you want to see the full text of them (and they do go on), you can click here. Essentially, though, they come down to, don't kill things, don't steal things, don't fool around, don't say nasty things to or about people, and don't use drugs or alcohol.  Again, not mandates.  Just really good suggestions.  If you want to know the whys and wherefores, click on the link.

And there's a ceremony to transmit them from one generation to the next.  The thing about Buddhist ceremonies is that they are so Buddhist-y.  They're Serious but not Doctrinaire; every now and then something goes wrong, everybody laughs and there's a couple of seconds of levity before it goes back to being Serious again.  There's a lot of bowing and plenty of touching the earth (that's getting down on the ground and splaying oneself all over a mat, if you're not familiar with the term).  And of course plenty of chanting, in Sanskrit and English, and names that are about twenty-six letters long, none of them consonants.

And so it came to pass that, some 2500 years after Buddha, I, Jen, participated in a transmission ceremony Sunday evening.  I became the 50th generation removed from Buddha to get this information.  It involved a lot of sitting, a lot of standing, a lot of bowing, and--yeah.  Chanting.  But at the end of it I got a treat: A new name.

Deepening Mindfulness of the Source.

Yeah, I was hoping for Firebird or Starwind or something equally evocative that meant absolutely nothing.  Instead, Deepening Mindfulness of the Source.  Deep for short, I guess.

It's kinda Jedi, though, isn't it?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Even Later

Yes, okay, three weeks between blog posts is too long.  My screaming fans (both of them) demand regular content.  I'm sorry, you guys, but it's been a pretty interesting three weeks.  My boss's other paralegal quit and he doesn't want to hire anyone else because he's about to get the influx of Summer Interns (law students from the local schools that work for a ridiculously low amount of money to gain experience in writing and research so they can get jobs after they graduate).  So I am now managing 140 cases.  (Thank God it's not 180; we almost took on another big MDL litigation.)  Note that I said "managing."  That does not mean "working."  (Which is good.)  My assistant got promoted and I now have a Team.  My assistant, another paralegal and the office manager, who helps me find people (like interns) to do things that need doing.  So I find people to do the things that need doing, they do it, I make sure it gets done, and then it goes out the door.  My job, as it has sometimes been, is to keep track of it all.

Luckily, I'm a huge fan of maps and graphs and spreadsheets and stranger things.  The entire office is now revolving around one big spreadsheet that is tracking all the cases and what needs to be done for each.  If I ever misplace that spreadsheet, I'm toast.  We're having meetings once a week to reassign things depending on everybody's workload, I've got people using some software to track case notes and I'm starting to use fancy management words like "implementation" and "chaos theory."  I;m getting my work email on my phone now, though I've been warned that this is a one way ticket down a black hole.

I've even started dressing better.  Yes, that was a dress I wore on Wednesday. Even painted my nails to match. Electric blue.

So now that I'm Management, it of course makes perfect sense for me to sign up for another class, since the one I'm already taking in federal civil procedure isn't nearly enough, and going to OA meetings, getting together with my meditation group and swimming four days a week isn't taking up near enough of my time.  Okay, yes, I did sign up for another class.  But it's a writing class, so it's kosher.  It's about journal writing and spiritual development and it's actually really good, although we've only met once so far.  I'm reading my chapters and doing my little writing exercises like I'm supposed to.  (Though I'm not sure what chapter we're on for this week. If it's chapter five, I'm good to go.  If we're supposed to be up through chapter six, I'm a chapter behind.)

I also have three books I'm supposed to have read by next Saturday and one of them is this late-1800s novel that's like 500 pages long.  Sheesh.

Oh yeah, and I'm writing a book, too.  I think.

Imagine if I'd had kids.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Late and Heavily Medicated

Ye gods, two weeks without a blog post.  You'd think I'd run out of things to say.  But hey, with Teddy Cruz running for President and various state legislatures trying to pass the usual batch of wacky stuff, there's no chance of that.  Here in Texas, for example, first-time legislator Molly White introduced a bill that said if the Supreme Court decided that same-sex marriage had to be allowed, it just wouldn't apply in Texas.  Yes, she really did that.  I'm not sure how anybody who didn't pass high-school civics got elected to public office, but hey, this is Texas.  Remember Molly Brown?  As in "the unsinkable" Molly Brown?  Well, some of us on Facebook have decided that anybody named Molly should have a nautical nickname.  So she's "Shipwreck" Molly White from here on out.  And Ted?  Maybe we should call him "Cruz the Canuck."  O Canada, our home and native land...

No, the real reason there hasn't been a blog post in two weeks is that I'm just tired.  For the first time in my life, I managed to come down with a simple cold (it usually morphs into a sinus infection, or sometimes bronchitis, and once pneumonia, just for variety).  So far this cold is staying a cold.  The other thing it's doing, though, is staying around.  I've had it for almost three weeks now, and yes, I do feel better every day, mostly, but it ain't gone yet and I am more than ready for it to go.  Couple that with some of the most stressful days I've ever had at work in my life (besides the Trial from Hell; there's some small comfort in knowing that it'll never be that bad again) and I'm ready to crawl under a rock and never blog again.

Of course my screaming fans, both of them, wouldn't stand for that.  So here I am.  And I need to spew about something, so tonight I'm going to spew about prescription drug prices.  Yep, prescription drug prices. No, I promise, this isn't on C-Span.  I take, let me see here, seven prescription drugs every day.  There are also two I take occasionally.  It's a very good thing I have insurance, because one of these suckers runs $981 a month without it.  Some of the others clock in at $385, $425, and one (this one I can't figure out) is only $2.42.  But what I'm saying is, they're pricey.  In fact, without insurance, if I were to add all the prices together, the total would be more than my take home pay.

More than my take home pay.  I kid you not.  Without insurance, I could not afford to live.  Even with insurance, it tops out around $250 a month, which is more than my gas bill, my water bill, my electric bill and a week's worth of groceries combined. It used to be even more than that, but I finally had The Talk with my doctor where I told him, "I can afford two of the three of these.  Pick two and I'll take those two."  And it's not like what I've got is ever going to go away.  Yep, I'm one of those Americans with a Chronic Condition.  Two of them, actually.  And if I were straight, I'd probably need birth control pills, on top of all of that.

People, chronic conditions are expensive.  Besides the cost of the drugs, which is by far the largest share of my health care expenses, I gotta see my doctor every month (at $50.00 a pop) and sometimes another doctor ($90.00 a session, but not every week anymore, thank God).  My wife, on the other hand, is taking five drugs that together run about $100 a month--after she meets her $750 deductible.  So hers are a little cheaper.  But we still add up the whole big ugly total at tax time to see if any of it comes back to us.  Guess what.  This year we made too much money.

Yeah, yeah,  I know.  Some cancer drugs run $100,000 a month.  When a new drug comes out it's gotta pay back its development costs.  If prescription drugs weren't so expensive, the entire U.S. economy would fall down a well.  But I get tired of hearing that.  Nobody asks to have a condition like this.  It's just fate, DNA, the dancing radiation in the air.  You're not a bad person if you come down with cancer, have a stroke or a heart attack, You healthy people out there, beware.  You're one car accident away from monthly trips to the pill mill.  So have good insurance. And don't vote for Ted.  Who, ironically, signed up for Obamacare today.  No, it's true. I saw it on CNN.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Whiplash, Part II: Is This Any Way To Run A Music School?

Spoiler Alert: I will be talking about the outcome of Whiplash somewhere in this post.  Where, I can't really say, but I'm sure it'll come up.

In the last two weeks, I've missed three days of work due to inclement weather.  Namely ice storms, which is the Texas term for when the heavens open and dump tons of snow and sleet on the city, and then the temperature rattles down to way below freezing so that everything for miles around is evenly covered with a solid sheet of ice and it's basically impossible to leave your house without falling on the steps.  Now, I spent a goodly chunk of my formative years in Salt Lake City, where the whole valley fills up with clouds around about November 1 and just pretty much stays solidly socked in until March.  That's bad, too, but these Texas winters are just amazing.  The whole thing may sound like not so much if you live in Buffalo, New York or North Dakota or something, when you get seven feet of snow every time the governor sneezes, but when an ice storm like this hits, everything just grinds to a halt.  It has to.  You literally can't leave your house.

Fortunately, the power has stayed on the whole time (knock on Formica) and I have software that will let me load into my work computer, so I can get a few things done while I'm sitting in my kitchen.  Unfortunately, a lot of things I need to do my job are on my desk, or in the file room, or otherwise inaccessible.  So I end up working on stuff I need to do, but have been trying to avoid, like populating this table in Excel that lists and catalogs about 30,000 pages worth of documents generated by a certain business.  Or reading hundreds of pages of somebody's medical records and breaking them down into three talking points for a lawyer who's writing a complaint, Fun stuff like that.  All good, all important, all gotta be done, but not really the sort of thing I feel most proud of when somebody asks me why I do what I do.  Or whether or not a college degree really does any good in the long-term prospects for a job and a career.

Which brings us back to Whiplash (told you we'd get there), and the whole reason anybody goes to music school, vs. medical school or law school or guitar building school or any other old school, in the first place. (Like what I did there?)  About 2/3 of the way through Whiplash, after he's been thrown out of music school and Fletcher, the instructor, has been fired by the same music school, our protagonist meets up with Fletcher once again at a little jazz club where Fletcher is playing the piano.  Fletcher sees him, waves him over, buys him a drink, and there's some actual conversation, during which Fletcher explains himself, somewhat.  And what he has to say is actually very interesting.  He tells a few stories about legendary jazz artists and road blocks they hit along the way.  About how they screwed something up, made mistakes, were otherwise not at their best at this thing they were best at.  About how each one swore that whatever just happened would never happen again, and because of that, they became legendary jazz artists.  Fletcher says something like, "Do you know how Miles Davis got to be Miles Davis?  Because he never again let his horn be flat when he was playing with Dizzy Gillespie," or something like that (and yes, I know I just mixed up two eras, not to mention two instruments, but hey, jazz is not something I know a lot about, okay?)  Fletcher saw his role as a music teacher to be the obstacle, the guy everybody's afraid of, the guy who yells at you when you screw up so that you solemnly swear to yourself that it will never, ever happen again (and thus, later on, you achieve greatness).  He finishes his soliloquy by adding that the most ruinous words any music teacher ever speaks to a student are, "Good job."

And really, being on the receiving end of this speech, it sort of makes sense.  Does his classroom behavior discourage students?  Maybe, Fletcher says, "but Miles Davis wouldn't have been discouraged."  Maybe not, but we can't all be Miles Davis.  Still, as I mentioned in my last post on Whiplash, if you're not going to be Miles Davis, there's really no point in going to music school.  It's the non-Miles Davises among us who get kicked out of music school for failing piano.  Only the Miles Davises of the world are going to graduate, go into the performance world and get good jobs.  The rest of us are going to become music teachers.  Or lawyers or engineers or construction workers or whatever else pays the bills, and maybe play a little music on the side.  Is that fair? No. But lots of things aren't fair, and music school is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, we hear this speech, and sort of come to understand Fletcher a little, before we find out he's completely sociopathic and probably a little bit crazy.  The next thing we know, Fletcher's entered a major music contest with a new ensemble and then proceeds to throw the entire ensemble under the bus to get even with one guy.  Let me explain to you how often that Just. Doesn't. Happen. Music teachers live and die by the results of these contests and what Fletcher does here is, well, just crazy.  Yet the whole thing ends in a way nobody saw coming.  Well, I didn't see it coming, anyway, and I quit reading murder mysteries quite a few years ago when I realized I usually knew murderer, motive and method before anyone had even died yet.

So we're left with this question:  Is being an asshole ever justified?  Buddhist-y speaking, the answer is no.  Good behavior toward others is basically required as a condition of being human.  But, if being an asshole is what's required to fix a given situation, or to save a few lives we do it, and then we tell everybody we're sorry after the fact.  If, for example, the only way to get proper medical attention for your significant sweetie, after the pre-surgery unit has already screwed up three times and is about to do it for a fourth, is to raise your fist and yell about the standard of care and how they're not meeting it, then you do it.  (Not that that's ever happened to me, or anything.) And you come back afterward with a box of chocolates for the staff and explain you were "under duress" at the time and you're really a nice person and they're all just fine, fine doctors and nurses who were evidently having a very bad day.  And maybe they believe you. Or maybe they call security.  Anyway, it's a good way to avoid eating a box of chocolates by yourself.

In any case, I think most of us are nice people and are trying to do the right thing most of the time,  But then, some of us are Fletcher.  Maybe the important thing is to be able to tell the Fletchers of the planet for what they are, and if we can't beat them, find a way around them.  At least before you're part of the ensemble that gets thrown under the bus.

By the way, in case anybody missed my "adults only" post last week, here's a picture of a big, throbbing cock.

Cheers, all.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mini-Post: "Adult Content"

In case you missed it, Blogger has been cracking down on unrestricted blogs that have "adult content."  The email looks something like this:

We do allow adult content on Blogger, including images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity. If your blog contains adult content, please mark it as 'adult' in your Blogger settings. We may also mark blogs with adult content where the owners have not. All blogs marked as 'adult' will be placed behind an 'adult content' warning interstitial. If your blog has a warning interstitial, please do not attempt to circumvent or disable the interstitial - it is for everyone’s protection.

So just to be sure my blog makes the "adult content" cut, here is a steamy pick of a hot babe flashing some fine pussy.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.