Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cow 1, Sebastian 0


"Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!"  - Troy McClure

Fact: Cows are not bright.

Fact: Cows smell bad.

Fact: Cows like holes in the ground. 


Wait, what? What kind of nonsense is that?

Before 1997, someone mentioned this to me in passing and I just laughed at them. I know I may not be the brightest bulb in the basket, but no one is going to fool me with that ridiculous line.

Am I some sort of moron?

In 1997, I had the pleasure of going out on an archaeological dig. I lived for a few months in a small town near the Romanian border in Ukraine. The people were nice enough, the experience was fun, the food downright sucked, but the experience was still fun. I may not have enjoyed it all too well at the time, but looking back on it, it made for some good memories. I won't even get into the run-ins with the Russian mafia.

That summer, our crew had two sites we were working on: the backyard of a house that local architects thought contained an older structure, and a small plaza within an abandoned church that was at one time a bazaar and also a cemetery. Now, because I may have rubbed some people the wrong way, or because I had a disdain for working with bones, I never got the chance to work in the church. Instead, I spent the whole summer working in the backyard, usually alone with people who only spoke Ukrainian and no English. But we got along, we were able to communicate, and I got to be in charge.

Around the same time, a local boy was hanging around the area tending to his one horse and his one cow. What he did with those two animals I have no clue, but he'd herd them around town and they would mind their own merry business and leave us alone.

One day, the boy was not doing his job, and the cow decided she was curious about what I was doing in the backyard of the house.
For those who don't know what archaeology is, it is the study of past human civilizations. In order to get at the past and find the remains these people have left behind, we sometimes have to dig down into the ground and bring things up to the surface. This means we have to dig a hole in the ground, a fact my new best friend was all too happy to learn.

The cow leaves her group and heads towards me, and her eyes widened upon seeing my square (geek talk for hole in the ground). And lo and behold, that one little tidbit someone told me years ago was actually true. This cow decided it was her mission in life to get into my hole (insert joke here).

I saw this and I couldn't believe my eyes! I wasn't sure what I should do about this, but the one thing I knew was that I couldn't let a cow get down into my square! If she got in, we couldn't work. If she got in, how do we get her out? If she got in, I would never hear the end of it! "How'd you let a freakin' cow in your square?!?!?!" I had to man up and throw up resistance!

I grabbed the closest thing to me, a shovel. Now I know in other countries they are not as gentle with their animals the way Americans are, but I could not bring myself to doing any harm to a dumb animal who just wanted to get down and dirty. I took the shovel, I held it with both hands, and I held my ground. The cow began taking steps into the square, knocking down my perfectly straight walls (very important for us dirt playin' fools). This could not be happening!

I get in the cow's way. She goes left, I move left and block her. She turns and tries to go right, but Betsy is none too quick, so I block her again. But Betsy is none all too bright either, so she tries left and right a few more times, only to be turned back by the shovel-armed sentry.

Finally, she can't take it anymore. She knows she can't get by me. She knows her dreams have been dashed. Betsy wisens up, and starts walking away. I keep my position, in case she decides to try one last quick sneak attack. 

As she walks away, her backside is directly facing me, her head the opposite direction. But only a few feet away from me, she stops, turns her head, and with the look of disdain I have never seen from any animal or person before or since, she looks straight into my eyes and deep down into my soul. 

There is nothing in the world at that moment aside from the cow and me.

All that matters is that look. 

The only important thing is what she is thinking.

And at our most perfect moment, at the opportune time, with her eyes constantly gazing upon mine, with me still holding the shovel in both hands and a stupid smirk on my face, she lets me know what she really thinks of me. 

She drops the biggest pile of shit I have ever seen.

She drops it only about 5 feet away from me.

And her eyes never leave mine for a second.

Point made, the cow turns and walks away, leaving me with her gift. 

Still with a dumb smirk on my face, and a pile of shit on the ground. The cow sent her message loud and clear. She did not mix words.

Since I still had the shovel, I put it to good use, moved the shit and covered it up. 

But it took me a few minutes to come out of the shock of being shat at by a cow. By a cow who only wanted to climb down into a hole in the ground.

From that moment on, I realized I could not take cows lightly anymore. But I also came to another conclusion that is still with me today. 

I fucking hate cows.

Now please pass the ketchup.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Straight out of Star Wars

As a fiction writer, I'm acutely aware of the palette of plotlines used time and again to create the novels and stories we have come to know and love over the course of time. Some will say there's nothing original to write about anymore. As an author, all one can do is try to tell an old story in a new way. Put your own spin on it if you will. One of my favorite bits exemplifying this comes (not surprisingly) from a TV show where Stewie, in Family Guy says ... Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah?

We all know that art imitates life, and that quite often real life can be much more entertaining than anything even the best of story tellers can make up. Take for instance the news surrounding Tom Ridge, former Secretary of the already ambiguous Department of Homeland Security, and the revelations he reveals in his upcoming book "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege ... and How We Can Be Safe Again," due to be released on September 1. In it he claims he was pressured by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft to raise the terror alert shortly before the 2004 presidential election. Subsequently, then President Bush's approval rating demonstrated a significant increase. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that a major contributing factor to Dubyah's reelection was the nation's unease in the area of national security. Now let's think, where have we heard this story before? Oh yeah, Star Wars. Remember Senator Palpatine (who,in case no one has noticed looks a hell of a lot like Joe Lieberman), whose rise to Ruler of the Galactic Empire was orchestrated by the perceived threat from the evil Trade Alliance?

I admit, it's hard to come up with a good original story, but good god, you'd think these old white guys who've been in the game for so long could come up with something a little more original.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who let the dogs in?

Pop quiz. What do you call a gay man who pretends to be a straight man in public? Closeted. What do you call a politician who pretends to be something he or she is not in public? A blue dog Democrat.

That's right, I'm taking on my own, something you apparently, if Sarah Palin's approval numbers among the faithful are to be believed, will never see from a Republican. The fact is, the Blue Dogs must figure out who they are, or we need to do it for them.

I understand there is a variety of beliefs in the Democratic party. In another differentiation from Republicans, we do not seek to "purify" our party on ideological grounds. There truly is a big tent. But sometimes, disputes within the party have to be settled within the party, and must not end up serving the needs of the opponent.

Case in point, health care reform. I do not expect Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Claire McCaskill et al to just roll over and become liberal. But they can't use the party's name and funds to win elections, and then revert to joining the Republican party in opposition to their own party. I get that they are not deeply blue (despite the name), perhaps, as a friend puts it, they're a bit purple. But shouldn't they be endeavoring to find a compromise between the purple and the blue, not between the purple and the red? That's what's happening. They wish to drag their entire party over into compromising between the center and the far right, and even that may not be enough. And they are using parliamentary procedure to do so, lacking the majority, even in concert with Republicans. They are in effect stalling the will of the majority to the default victory of their supposed opponent.

Here's the deal dogs. We don't expect you to agree with the left completely. But you must show some party affiliation, if not loyalty, by negotiating in good faith between your position and the prevailing views of the party. If you cannot be satisfied with the result, fine, we won't expect you to vote for it. But what you better do, what you are compelled by all decency to do, is simply the right thing: Vote down any filibuster, which the size of the Republican Minority does not entitle them to. Then vote against the measure in an up and down vote.

There, you've covered all your bases. You've negotiated in good faith, giving up neither principle nor party integrity. You have not allowed your opponent to use you to deny the measure a vote. You have gone on the record as being against the measure, thus displaying your courage and beliefs. And most of all, you have allowed the majority to prevail, which is as it should be.

If you can't do this much, then quite frankly, will the last one of you shut the door on your way out? If you're going to do the work of the red, you have no business draped in blue.

This isn't "goodbye," it's "see you soon."

She was always a dependable one. There to comfort me when a man wasn't around, yet never hesitated to treat a boyfriend like he, too, was a long-time friend. She never complained about being a third wheel, nor did she feel left out when my man and I decided to go it alone. They always loved her company as well, and if I didn't know any better I might've suspected they were sneaking off and hanging out without me. Not that I would even mind that.

She was just as crazy and adventurous as I was; even moreso if I'm being honest. She always had something new and exciting to share with me. Whatever mood I was in, she knew the best way to entertain me.

But with all her good, there was also the bad. You see, she was a promiscuous one. She tried it all, and with many different partners. Sometimes multiple partners a night, or even at a time. I guess you never really think it could happen to you, but it can, and it did for her. She contracted a virus.

Most would deem their life to be over after a bombshell such as this, but she's a fighter. Whatever treatment it takes, I'll do it. For her. Even if it takes professional help. After all, I was her friend; I should have looked out for her the way she's done for me all these years. How could she know to protect herself? That's not her role. Her job is to be fun and exciting. Looking out for her was my responsibility.

I've failed her, so now I must face the consequences. I will save her, and she will go on. But I'm afraid that she'll never be the same again. I will promise her this, though. She will build up that bank of memories again over time. One day we'll look back on this and laugh as she tells me new stories, and shows me new things I've never seen before.

You mean the world to me, Porn Laptop. I will fix you, and promise to never let you go unprotected again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No game is any good without officials

There are two types of true fiscal conservative: The tiny minority of individuals who, through privileged accident of birth and a surfeit of that most basic of human flaws, pure selfish greed, actually personally benefit from unfettered, rapacious, deregulated Darwinism; and the rest who, despite suffering at the hands of the first group, romanticize the idea that they too could be a “master of the universe”, primarily because like sheep, they’ve been cleverly sold this concept co-mingled with some combination of their deeply-held social bigotries. It is the staggering effectiveness of such selling-the-disease-to-the-afflicted that causes me to acknowledge the genius of Ronald Reagan, or at least that of his political handlers. It is fairly easy to sell the idea of a cure to the sick, but to convince them that their salvation lies in more people contracting their dread illness? That’s impressive, and more than a little heartbreaking.


Selfish greed and decency are both human nature and politically colorblind. Really.
The problem is defining greed and decency. Is it selfish greed to pay $10.00 for coffee and cigarettes or whiskey, or any of the unnecessary indulgences that we take for granted? Most would say no (certainly by our actions) because we work hard and deserve simple pleasures. But if we took 10 bucks from a homeless man to spend in that way it would cross beyond selfish greed entering into inhuman cruelty. That is the choice we make with every silly purchase and wasteful indulgence. That is the human opportunity cost that fills our lives.

Giving that money to a person who needs it seems like a decent thing to do, but is it? What assurance do we have that giving that $10 to the homeless man doesn't do more harm than good in furtherance of an addiction? Perhaps the decent thing to do for a homeless person is to show them kindness and move them into the extra bedroom that many have. But that isn't an answer, because the problems with the homeless don't begin nor end with greed and aren't solved with decency. I don't have the answers because there are none, or if there are there are still huge areas of gray in between. Or purple. Most can read a specific set of circumstances and decide what is greed or decency, it is just impossile to extrapolate that to the populace.

I believe in the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in whatever form that takes for each and every individual. On that basis the only role of goverment is to enforce the laws necessary to protect our health, wealth and personal freedoms. Anything else does not interest me and should never fall under the umbrella of government. Sexuality, race, gender, Nationality, religion and what we put into our bodies are all areas for societal debate, not legislative.

'Greed is bad' seems easy enough in the microview. But you don't have to go too far to realize that every important discovery, invention and improvement to society is in some part due to greed. We happily purchase the products sold by the very greedy bastards we condemn. We all pass right by the very broken wretch that we profess to care about. If you want to embrace either side or condemn either side that is a matter of perspective and personal fulfillment, not right and wrong. Red and Blue are just the uniforms used to identify the enemy no matter how much alike we are in practice. Shades of purple define us more than red or blue, my friends.

Convenient you had that swastika lying around

So the right wing nut jobs wish to infuse fascism into the discussion, Nazi German fascism in particular? What exactly were the hallmarks of German Fascism?

Intense nationalism.
Aggressive, warlike militarism.
Empire building.
The total cooperation of government and corporate profiteers.
The right of the government to hold people without charge on the suspicion that they are "the enemy"
The cleansing of the homeland of all "illegitimate" outsiders, including gays, Jews, non-whites, liberals, intellectuals.
The adherence of all to one majority, white supremacist dogma.

Sound familiar? Careful painting that swastika folks, lest you tar yourself with your own brush.

Call it what it is

The newest phenomenon in our public "discourse" seems to be the need for some to show up armed. It started out as one guy, and has since escalated both in number of people and the firepower they are carrying. What is the message? Is there any doubt that a guy showing up with a gun and a sign declaring "It's time to water the tree of liberty" is not just demonstrating a right to carry a gun? Isn't it pretty clear what he's quite plainly calling for?

We've been hearing of late that the guns are just symbology for rights, and that the healthcare reform opponents (the only people showing up armed) are merely using the display of one right to call for protection of others.

This is, quite simply, bullshit. They know it, we know it, and we know that they know that we know it. This has nothing to do with rights. If that were the case, utilizing the right of free speech (including odious, hateful signs) certainly gets the message across. You don't see these people showing up with guns at rallies protesting every other legislative action they feel reduces their freedoms. Besides, you don't show up with a beer at a rally protesting abortion, because one's got nothing to do with each other. The symbology is all wrong.

Let's call it what it is. These people are showing up for one reason and one reason only, and it's quite telling that they are only bringing their guns to meeting hosted by the (black) president, not the ones by the people who must actually pass the legislation. This is intimidation, pure and simple. Just as hanging a person in effigy is symbolic lynching, this is a symbolic assassination. Nothing more, nothing less.

Far from being brave patriots who stand for freedom, these are instead cowards who choose to display their impotence and rage through an act of pseudo-macho aggression and threat. How long before one of them actually gets the guts to try to do what they are all pantomiming?

Meet your grass-roots health care reform opponent

So you've read about the people who protest the government wanting to take over their medicare. Now meet Dan Hornback. He lives in a camper, and makes 5-8,00 per year. He is protesting the government wanting to take over healthcare. His logic is, as with the birthers and deathers of all stripes, impeccable.

"He said he hurt himself a few years back and was treated in an emergency room for free. "That's the way it should be. Why do we need some big government program?" he asked, adding that people should take care of their own families, "like they do in Japan." I noted that Japan had universal health care. "Still ...," he said."

Yup, Dan wants to get free treatment at the emergency room, so he's fine with someone else paying for his treatment. He just doesn't want that someone to be the government, since it might, apparently, come out of the taxes he doesn't pay (given his income level). And of course, he has the usual cosmopolitan grasp of the world that all such people show...

You can read the rest of Dan's story at http://www.miller-mccune.com/politics/pondering-free-speech-at-a-decorous-town-hall-1434

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fitting In vs. Fitting Out

It's common knowledge that being in the company of others is a valuable experience. Something to treasure, memorize, replicate, and enjoy. Family members, co-workers, classmates, and childhood friends all share a collective desire to bond and build stronger connections with each passing day. Some with the ultimate goal to "grow old together" and hopefully celebrate each others successes. Aware that there will likely be frustrations, life-altering events, unseen occurrences that result in heartbreak and disappointment that will test the DNA of each relationship-- most seem to find a way to make room for the good and bad that comes with these connections. Simply put, they do it for the love. Unfortunately, there are many who struggle to find people whom they can relate to long enough to establish such an important life asset.

If having friends or belonging to a certain group/organization is fitting in, then being lonely (not to be confused with being single) is fitting out.

Even as a child, fitting in isn't "all it's cracked up to be" and in some cases, can be a traumatizing experience. The process doesn't get any easier as an adult. Does everyone eventually find someone else or a group of someone elses' to grow and change with? What of the ones that don't and have no such no luck of ever feeling like they "fit" in? Is there really a fence to straddle in that regard?

How about the "no friendless person left out or behind" act? Communication plays one of the biggest roles in this "conundrum" and there's no doubt that technology has changed how groups are formed.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tales from Retail Eyeglass Shopping

This was written back in March, but I felt it was a good idea to warn you all of the dangers of leaving the well-being of your eyeballs in the hands of mall employees.


Because I have been having migraines and the fact that my eyeglass prescription is over two years old, I decided to stop by LensCrafters the other day. I’m an instant gratification type of gal, so the “ready in an hour” sales pitch appealed to me. My appointment was at 5:20 and I arrived a little early. Appointments never start on time so I wandered around browsing the selection in search of my new frames. There were only two cases to look through, and it was at least 20 minutes before I was seen, so I probably walked back and forth from each case a hundred times. I was already regretting making this appointment knowing that I’d have to settle for some shitty style, but for some reason I stuck it out.

Finally a sales guy helped me, and then it was too late to run. From the get go, he was acting all kinds of creepy and abrasive towards me. His opening line was “have you gotten a prescription recently because if you did I don’t want to waste my time.” I said no, it’s been a while. He didn’t believe me (because I often lie about my optical exams) so he checked the computer anyway, and of course I was right. He gave me all the forms to fill out and I didn’t check mark any of the “what diseases does your family have?” because I honestly didn’t know and for the most part we’re a healthy bunch. Again, he didn’t believe me so he interrogated me and insisted on going over every single question again to confirm my answer. Once he was convinced that I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one on him, hiding a family history of asthma, he moved on. But not to the preliminary eye tests like he should have.

Instead, he asked me if I was Filipino, and then spouted off all of the tagalog words for genitals that he could think of. He obviously knew what they meant, but wanted me to translate anyway because he is a sick fuck who would get off on me saying the words penis and vagina. He then said “sip sip ti ti mo” (loosely means “suck your dick”), and asked me to translate again. I refused again. He gathered copies of the paperwork I filled out and handed them to me, then said some strange comment like “I like to put those near my toilet so I can read them while I go to the bathroom.” I made a face at him, then he laughed at me and smacked me on the back- rather hard- like we were old mates. At that point I was too shocked to react properly and just wanted to finish the damn eye exam so I could get the hell out of there.

Finally, he fitted me with an eye patch and had me rest my chin on a jaw support to do that periphery test. You know, the one where you focus one eyeball on a dot and then press a button anytime you see any movement? Instead of letting me concentrate on my test in peace, he insisted on making conversation and socializing, expecting me to respond to his asinine questions while my jaw was held shut. The line of questioning was all personal stuff– am I married, do I have a boyfriend, do I live alone, do my parents help me pay my rent, do I make a lot of money… umm yeah. Clearly appropriate conversation with a customer that you just met 20 minutes ago.

After the tests were done I sat around some more while he basically just stared at me, waiting for the test results to print out. He then leaned in real close, clearly entering my personal space, and asked me if I wanted any special discounts, all dodgy-like. I asked him to clarify, and he thought it over for a moment, possibly debating internally whether or not to ask me to blow him under the eyeball air poof machine for a free polycarbonate lens upgrade. I might not be too far off because he ultimately decided against offering it, saying “Nahhh I’m too scared… I might get caught.” I didn’t bother to ask what he meant. At last, it was time to see the REAL eye doctor. An eye doctor who apparently hates his life because he was the most miserable man I had ever met. While I was reading off letters projected onto the wall, another employee came in to get some things out of a cabinet, and was completely blocking my view. It was a good 30 seconds before the doctor even said anything to the employee. Strange, strange, strange.

The exam was all done and it was time to dilate my pupils. He dropped the solution in my eyes causing my retinas to burn like a mother bitch. I was supposed to see the doctor again after paying for my glasses and all that, but that never happened, so I was finally cleared to leave. I had tossed my contacts and didn’t have my eyeglasses on me, so walking out into the dark parking lot was quite difficult. First off, I couldn’t even find my car. Then I realized I had exited the opposite side of the building. Even in the correct lot, it was still impossible to find my car. Once I found it, I had the daunting task of actually driving home… in the dark… in traffic… with my eyes burning and blurry… barely even able to keep them open. Thank god I only lived a couple miles from the place. Definitely never doing that again.

That was Monday, it is now Thursday, and I still haven’t gone back to see the doc again or even pick up my “ready in an hour” eyeglasses. I am putting it off for as long as I possibly can; that’s how bad I DON’T want to go back. I wish they could just pop them in the mail. I just really don’t want to see that dude again. Maybe I’ll go Saturday morning and hope he’s not working. All I know is I am never, ever going back to that place again for my future optical needs.


August 16, 2009 update: I never did go back to get my glasses. They also never bothered to call to see if I was still alive.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Clear Cut

If you saw down new ideas

To better view the known

A stumpy, vacant prairie

Is all that you will own

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Least Favorite People

Today's honorary title will have to be split among two people, whom I will not name, the better to deny them any publicity.

1. The numbskull who showed up to President Obama's town hall meeting in NH wearing a gun, and carrying a sign referring to Jefferson's famous quote:"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." What do you suppose his message meant? To top it off, he was standing on the property of a church across the street from where the meeting was held, which gave him permission to do so. I wonder what type of church endorses such behavior. I was reminded of the Southern churches that used to harbor, extoll, and exhort the members of the KKK when they set about to "protesting" the civil rights movement. Of course, he got his wish and received numerous television interviews, where at no time would he explain the need for the gun, nor the exact nature of his gripe.

2. The idiot doctor who, in an online debate over health reform, weighed in with the idea that health care was not a right. He was representing a coalition of doctors against health reform. This is of course a lot like a group of trial lawyers opposing tort reform. But really, a doctor thinks health care isn't a right? We are a nation that requires our children to receive an education, but a more basic need is not a right, but rather a privilege. Ironic and sad that most people who seem to be opposing health care reform also didn't seem to think much of education either.

By the numbers

So here are some basic numbers:

Roughly 80% of Americans have some sort of health insurance.

Of those, approximately 73% like their coverage.

This means that 58% of Americans like their health care coverage.

Of course, of that 58%, how many would feel that way if they got a really bad illness and got kicked off their coverage, as has become a common practice these days among the insurance companies?

Setting all that aside, there hasn't been a protester at one of the town halls yet who has claimed to be uninsured. Could much of this simply be a case of those in the boat being unwilling to pay for those in the water to have a chance to be in the boat? Sounds a bit like immigration, doesn't it?

Economics 666

There are two types of fiscal conservative: The tiny minority of individuals who, through privileged accident of birth and a surfeit of that most basic of human flaws, pure selfish greed, actually personally benefit from unfettered, rapacious, deregulated Darwinism; and the rest who, despite suffering at the hands of the first group, romanticize the idea that they too could be a “master of the universe”, primarily because like sheep, they’ve been cleverly sold this concept co-mingled with some combination of their deeply-held social bigotries. It is the staggering effectiveness of such selling-the-disease-to-the-afflicted that causes me to acknowledge the genius of Ronald Reagan, or at least that of his political handlers. It is fairly easy to sell the idea of a cure to the sick, but to convince them that their salvation lies in more people contracting their dread illness? That’s impressive, and more than a little heartbreaking.

Beginning Anew

I don't know about everyone else, but I got busy, then I somehow got locked out of the blog. It would seem there are things to be said, and I have solved the pesky password issue, so let the fun begin anew.
The less and less I'm included in things, the more and more I get left out.

Wait, I think I worded that incorrectly....