"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller
August 30th, 2008
OMG I've wanted to write these last few days but I've been busy, busy, busy. A lots gone on. Senator Hillary Clinton gave a bright orange speech and President Clinton had the crowds eating out his hands. Joe Biden spoke and won my vote then Obama spoke and while a great speech, I was more electrified by the average Joe American's speaking earlier in the day.
Now when Obama picked Biden I wasn't terribly impressed. As as so many analysts have agreed, the choice was to cover the criticism that Obama doesn't have enough experience and also, I think, to make the change Obama represents a little more neutral (which will get the vote of many on the fence) by bringing in someone that looks more like the stereotype of an American President (rich, white, six foot something, and a long political record). Me, being a Hillary fan, was a bit dissapointed in this arguably uncouragous choice, so I decided to take a look-see to learn who this Biden character was and found a site (http://www.ontheissues.org/senate/joe_biden.htm) which describes his voting record over the last several decades. I'll let you review the entire list at your leisure as I would simply like to focus on those aspects of his voting record that I disagree with and why:
Item 1: Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
This is an issue I agree with conservatives with, I believe that parents should always be notified if and when their child is wanting to get an abortion. I understand the concern by some that young girls might potentially be physically abused if their fathers discovered they were going to get an abortion (much less got pregnant), but this is the exception not the rule and I, for one, believe it's a terrible misuse of the law (and an example of bad logic) to create an unrelated law when others already apply: specifically, there are already laws against child abuse, creating a law to stem potential causes of such abuse is absolutely rediculous as such a parent will tend to be abusive regardless of whether or not they know their child wants an abortion. Call me silly, but I believe the laws in place are adequate and public schools need to teach children if they are under threat of physical abuse they need to seek legal protections starting with their school counselor, pastir, or seek out some other trusted adult. Children need protection but taking away all parents' ability to parent is not the way to do so.
My next problem with this is the law. A child under 18 years of age is not legally an adult. A child under 18 years of age is the legal responsibility of the parent. It's pretty black and white, folks, and while it's not Politically Correct for me to say this, from a legal standpoint parents "own" their children. For example, if a 15 year old decided to shop lift a six pack of Coors, steal a car, go on a joy ride, totals the car, then is apprehended, they might undergo some type of punishment but the parent, like it or not, becomes responsible for the financial damages incurred by their child. Parents are, in the eyes of the law, responsible for the actions of their children just as a naval captain is responsible for everything that occurs on their ship. Based on that legal responsibility it makes no legal sense to allow a child to, after engaging in sex behind their parent's back, to make a life changing experience like having an abortion. Likewise, ethically and morally all major choices a child makes are fundementally the choice of their parent who, ideally, has that child's best interests in mind. It is not the government's place to step in and referee a parent's decisions, especially in regard to a decision as big as whether or not to abort a fetus, excepting in those cases where the parent has a legal record of physical abuse--and then the government may only step in to protect the child from said abuse. I, for one, am strongly dissapointed in Biden's vote to take away my ability to parent my child as I feel fit.
Item 2: Civil unions ok; gay marriage is probably inevitable. (Apr 2007)
Item 3: Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
While I haven't heard him speak on the issue, item 2 seems to be in line with the more cowardly Democratic rhetoric. Instead of standing up firmly against homophobia some simply promote civil unions as a middle road solution and while I agree, all homosexuals should have the right to civil unions...damn, I just think it's the viewpoint of a coward. Discrimination is discrimination and one group (i.e. ignorant Christians with little to no understanding of the sociology of family structures throughout human history) simply want to push their ideals onto others with the rediculous argument that gays getting married is an attack on marriage when nothing could be further than the truth. Biden's inability to stand up for justice and fairness makes me wonder if he's equally weak on other social justice issues.
If you'd like to learn more about the dymanic history of marriage browse here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MarriageIn regard to item 3 I'm glad he did this. While he isn't standing up strong in this area, he is leaning in the right direction and I hope he finds the balls to protect the rights of gays to pursue happiness in the same ways every heterosexual American does.
Item 4: Voted YES on setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities & women. (Mar 1998)I'm all for helping minorities & women but I don't like how government takes money intended for one thing and uses it for something altogether different. That, in my humble opinion, is where budgets are misused. For example, when goverments tax tobacco and use the money to prop up a failing school system they're using a tax in a completely unrelated area which, frankly, propogates the underlying problem. On the other hand taxing gasoline to fund road construction and maintenance is a tax that makes sense as it's directly related to the thing it will be spent on.Should we help minorities & women? Absolutely. Should we take it out of highway funds? No. To me that's bad planning, terrible budgetting, fundementally ignores the underlying problems, and worste yet, makes it easier for future leaders to misappropriate funds.
Item 5: Take burden off corporations so jobs stay in US. (Jun 2007)
Last I heard U.S. corporations pay so little in taxes as to be an absolute joke and I'm not aware of a case where making it cheaper for a corporation to manufacture here actually keeps them here. Think about it, if a company made two million dollars more savings by staying in the states but still saved ten million by moving to India or China then they're not going to stay here. The solution is not to take a burden off them for staying, the solution is to create adequate burdens if/when they leave. In the past we've achieved this successfully through well balanced tariffs and taxes however in the recent history of our country the government has promoted "fair traid" by making it easy for those who run companies to move them abroad. And why would a CEO and company board choose to move their company overseas? The choice is simple for them, making that choice allows them to buy that vacation house in Bermuda the've been wanting and oh yeah, that yacht too. Take away that incentive that speaks to the greed inherent to the capitalistic system and they'll do the common sense thing and keep the jobs here.
It's as easy as that. Unfortuantely biden doesn't seem to get it. Take away the reward, solve the problem. Simple psychology even a six year old can understand.
Item 6: National ban on smoking would reduce chronic illnesses. (Sep 2007)
Well duh, this is obviously true, but it's also true that we'd have less chronic illness if fast food was illegal. However rediculous it may seem, it's not the job of the federal government to step in and tell us than we cannot do something that's clearly unhealthy and where would that stop? Could they one day outlaw highly processed foods like candy bars? Could they tell us it's illegal to watch a Hong Kong action flick? It is, in my view, a slipery sloap but one I've seen our over protective goverment engage in an as someone who is influenced by some Libertarian ideas I'm staunchly against the goverment legislating what we can and cannot do, especially when it does not directly effect others.
And let me be frank: banning something like this is absolutely un-American. Every American has the fundemental right, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, to the pursuit of happiness and happiness, folks, is subjective. If someone believes smoking makes them happy (and believe it or not most smokers love their cigarettes, many to point that they truly do not care that it may one day end their lives) then they should be able to make that choice, esp. if it's in the privacy of their own home. Should they pay for the consequences of smoking to their own health? Of course. Should they refrain from smoking around non-smokers and children (and arguably their animals--and yes I've known one cat that died from lung cancer due to a house smoker)? Absolutely. Should that choice be taken away from them by a micro-managing government? Fuck no. That's too close to George Orwell's 1984 for my comfort and it is not the American way.
Item 7: Absolutely do not lower drinking age from 21. (Sep 2007)
While I'm sympathetic to those who have lost loved ones due to drunk drivers, the solution to idiots of all ages driving under the influence is not keeping the drinking age 21. The solution to any problem is to look at the data and make rational decisions based on that data. Prohibition didn't work, folks, and neither does the legal drinking age of 21. What we need to do is look at the examples of other countries, how they do it, and adopt the policies that have been shown to work. Generally speaking, cultures where the drinking age is 16 or 18 and where families allow children to have a glass of wine at social occassions where they engage in the practice in a socially position fashion...call me crazy but when children learn to drink in a responsible fashion they grow up to be adults who generally drink responsibly. America fails our children in this regard, we teach our children that alcohol is to be feared and obstained from, that they should "just say no" and then they go to college and continue to say no when the reality is they will enter a social environment where partying hard is not only acceptable, it's something kids look forward to. My daughter, for instance, has been in environments where adults are drinking alcohol, sometimes hard liquer, to access--so it doesn't surprise me when she says she can't wait to get to an age where she can party until she drops.
I believe we should do what makes logical sense. We should allow our children to not only see us, as role models, drink in socially responsible settings, but also include them on occassions such as Thanksgiving. One glass of wine won't hurt them but it will give them the experience of drinking without, as so many of the youth in our society believe, drinking to get drunk. Or, as many seem to think is "rational", do we keep the completely away from alcohol so they won't be able to tell the difference between a mild buzz and being too intoxicated to drive. Call me crazy, but I'm fearly that my daughters first experience will be when she's 21, at a bar, and having no experience in this area she'll feel warm and fuzzy all over, get in the car, and next thing she knows is in the hospital learning that she's just killed her best friend.
That is not the future I want for her or any child in this country.
So my two cents: 1) Laws should never be based solely on emotional argument but 2) laws such as this should be based on psycholgy, sociology, cross cultural studies, and biological research, and finally 3) it is in the interests of our society to include our children in positive examples of responsible social drinking instead of relying on sermons of abstinence to combat a "party till you puke" culture.
If you still aren't convinced here are two examples of socially responsible drinking I experienced growing up. First, once I was confirmed in my church I could take communion and was allowed to have the alcoholic version of "the blood of Christ"; this did not make me want to drink but made me view alcohol as something deserving of my respect. Second, when I was 15 and visiting Australia my family and I visited another family and had a large joyful meal I was allowed half a glass of wine which taught me it could be enjoyed in moderation. And thirdly, at my sisters wedding I was allowed to have several cups of the alcoholic punch which was my first experience of having a warm buzz and be more relaxed at a celebratory event; since it was my first experience beomcing tipsy it also gave me the chance to see what that was like in an environment of adults who could watch out for me, tell me if I'd had enough, and keep the keys out of my hands if they felt I had. I felt fortunate to have all of these experiences as they taught me to respect alcohol, enjoy it in moderation, and also, if/when I have chosen to have enough to get a little tipsy, to regulate my behavior based on sound judgement.
Conversly, while in high school my brother, who was more influenced by popularity and peer pressure than I, went to a party, got shit faced, got in a car with a drunk, then almost lost his right arm. He wasn't 18. Indeed, he was more influenced by that aspect of our society that values alcohol as a social lubricant as an escape. Is that what you want for your children, for them to learn to be a responsible drinker around their peers, people who by definition are also not responsible drinkers? Doesn't it make more sense for our children to have their first experiences with alcohol around their elders, i.e. those of us who have learned how to drink responsibly, and not in environments where abuse is not only the norm, but highly encouraged?
Item 8: Increase penalties for dealing drugs near schools. (Sep 2007)
Last I checked, selling illegal drugs is, well, illegal. While I agree a punishment might be different depending on where a crime is committed, I think it should be of the same severity. I mean, it's sorta silly to me that the guy selling it to a kid at the shool is penalized harder than the guy who does it to the same kid behind the 7-11. What I believe is that a punishment should teach the person committing it as well as benefit those that it has been committed against. Perhaps it would be better to make it so that those caught selling or using drugs on school grounds should be made to do things like go door to door raising money for school programs or better yet, working in a bright orange shirt maintaining the school grounds. I know, maybe it sounds cruel to embarrass someone like this, but I think fewer children would be likely to buy and use if they their punishment were public and a little humbling like that.
So my two cents on this, punishment should always fit the crime, shouldn't be determined by place, and, I think, should teach those committing crimes, as well as those around, that they don't have a whole hell of a lot to gain by engaging in such activities.
Item 9: There needs to be performance-based pay for teachers. (Aug 2007)
As I've said before, while a teacher does have an effect on their students' grades a teacher cannot be held responsible for them and should not have the quality of their livelihood effected by something largely out of their control. Other factors, such as a child's upbringing, their psychological stated, parent's financial status, and the mental attitudes of the younger generation (they generall want more rewards for less--or even no--work) have more impact on a child's ability to perform in school than a teacher's desire to help them succeed. It's truly unfair to put this burden on teachers and expect miracles of them, especially in a culture where kids are addicted to gossip over text messaging and spending hundreds in shopping sprees. We do not live in a educationally minded society so it's rediculous to expect teachers to heal that rift in the one hour they have a child every day!!!
Item 10: Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996)
Abstinence education simply doesn't work and frankly, it's rediculous to think kids won't engage in something that's quite literally fucking fun and likewise can give people a sense of belonging and worth (something a lot of kids don't get from their family or peers). Granted, abstinence education does work for a small fraction of children but typically these children are brought up in families where sex is meant to be saved for marriage. Abstinence education has repeatedly been shown to be a failure, kids will continue to engage in one of the most enjoyable acts two (or more) human beings can experience together, and without the proper knowledge and education they will spread STD's, find themselves pregnant, and so on.
Biden just blew $75 million on a socially irresponsible and scientifically ignorant ideology. For shame.
Item 11: Voted YES on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)Hydrogen vehicles are an attempt by the oil industrustry to maintain a model that's similar to the one we have now, that is, where we go to a service station to fill our vehicles with fuel. The scientific data, though, says that we'll be lucky to get hydrogen vehicles to a point where only the upper middle class can affprd them and likewise it takes enormous amounts of energy to create the hydrogen in the first place thus propogating the energy problems we already have. Hydrogen IS NOT the answer and any politician that supports it is an ignoramous.
Item 12: Fought for Family and Medical Leave, up to 12 unpaid weeks. (Sep 2007)Well that's nice, families who are already struggling can take 12 weeks off that they can't afford. Hell, I have a really good job with great pay but even when I needed to take a month off for medical leave I could only take half days, four days a week, because my insurance only covered 60% of that cost. Other countries support paid leave and that's what people need when they have a baby or heart surgery. It's a band aide to offer anything less.
Item 13: Voted NO on limiting the President's power to impose economic sanctions. (Jul 1998)Economic sanctions, in my view, should be decided by both the office of the President and congress. Doing this insures that the sanctions we impose on other countries are a mutual decision between the two branches of government thus making it more likely that the decisions are accurately respresentive of the will of the American people. Likewise, I think it's irresponsible to put decisions that effect our relationship with other countries solely in the hands of the President. We don't do that with war, folks, the President may be the commander in cheif but the legislative branch decides how much funding is allotted. The same balanced decision making should be a part of our sanctioning policies.
Item 14: Voted YES on Strengthening of the trade embargo against Cuba. (Mar 1996)I'm personally against the sanctions we've pushed against Cuba. When they were aligned with Russia and importing nuclear warheads it made sense, but we can't continue to legislate antagonistic measures and expect to start working with other countries in a more positive fashion. It's long past time we start working with Cuba to establish a positive relationship and that time is now.
Item 15: Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections. (Jul 2007)
I was once a customer with Blockbuster Video and they didn't require photo ID. One day someone in Eugene decided to rent a movie using my name and a few months later I began getting letters by a company telling me I needed to not only pay for the movie, but almost a hundred dollars of late fees. Rightly upset, I wrote them telling them that in no way would I pay for someone renting in my name (and indicated how rediculous it would be for me to rent something in Eugene since I live in Portland) and given Blockbuster's unwillingness to resolve the problem with me cancelled my membership and went to their competitor, Hollywood Video.
Adults are required to have a photo ID to drive, why shouldn't they be required to do so for the most important right we have as citizens: voting. And frankly, I'm not interested in having my vote stolen because the government didn't have the where-with-all to ask for photo ID. It's just dumb.
Item 16: Cut $350B in military programs, from Star Wars to F-22's. (Dec 2007)While I'm not pro-war, I do think every country has an obligation to its citizens to provide adequate defense and likewise to fully fund the troups. While I agree Star Wars was a political red herring other things, like F-22's, are integral to defense. Likewise, our troups deserve to all have body armor and to be driving vehicles a little bit better than Hummers which are a joke, even by historical standards (could you imagine if in WWII we invaded Europe in Hummers instead of tanks?). I'm a fan of peace, not war, but if and when our leaders decide to engage in war our military must be adequately funded...just as our schools must be so we can compete in the economic world of the twenty first century.
Item 17: Voted YES on allowing another round of military base closures. (May 1999)This is an area I admit I wish I knew more about, but in general I'm for keeping our military bases if for no other reason than to insure our military is where it belongs most, here in the states where it can be armed and ready to protect our country if and when it becomes necessary. While we've been reletively lucky in our history in that most wars have not been faught on our soil, we need to be prepared for the eventuallity and I don't know about you, I think it's absolutely rediculous that a city as big as Portland, Oregon, is protected by only a few outdated F-15's (which would be blown out of the sky in minutes by any country that we'd really need to be worried about, such as China).
Item 18: Voted NO on cutting nuclear weapons below START levels. (May 1999)I don't know what the "START level" is, but our nuclear arsenal, as well as that of every other nation with one, should be lowered to one level: zero. That is the only way humanity will ever be truly safe from the possibility of total inihillation and it's time leaders around the world woke up and realized this is the only ethical and moral goal for us to be reaching towards and I'm pretty sad Biden made any vote that could be interpretted as pro-nuclear. It's time the world did away with every nuclear arsenal.
Item 19: Voted NO on declaring English as the official language of the US government. (Jun 2007)
America has always been a mixing pot but even a hundred years ago where we saw record numbers of immegrants entering the country there was an expectation that all people, wherever they came from, learned English. It's not racist to make English the common tongue, it's just common sense. It encourages everyone, regardless of national origin and language, to speak a language common to everyone and likewise, saves the government millions, if not billions, of dollars in the fiscially irreponsible and impossible attempt to respect all languages.
Before you judge me for my un-PC views please consider that I believe foreign language should be required by all public schools starting at first grade and should continue through high school graduation. I also believe children who don't speak english should be given support until they feel comfortable with the language so they can better succeed in our society. Likewise, I believe the FCC/goverment should provide incentives for radio and television providers to carry stations from Mexico, French Canada, Europe, Africa, and so on. We should respect other languages, learn them, and have broader access to them in both education and entertainment, but from a governmental standpoint we should stick to one because it just makes common sense (regardless of the "official" language).
Personally, I see his decision as a means for getting the immigrant vote. While representing a compassionate view, it's fiscally irreponsible.
Item 20: Voted YES on building a fence along the Mexican border. (Sep 2006)
I don't like this for a number of reasons. First, it's a waste of money. Fenses can be climbed, gone under, or cut through, and haven't really done much good on those sections of the border where they do exist. Second, the very act of building a fence on our border makes us look like the Soviet Union during the 50's and 60's when they put up that Wall in Berlin. How American is that?
Come on, Biden. I know Democrats need to look "tough" on immigration, but why not simply provide the border patrols the funds they need to enforce the existing laws, why not enforce the laws we have when illegal immegrants are found, and why not change current laws making it easier for skilled immigrants to enter the country LEGALLY? And why are so many politicians, and both sides of the political fence, afraid of simply upholding the law?
Item 21: Voted YES on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security. (May 2006)On some level I understand the argument that it's unfair that many illegal aliens pay taxes but at the same time, their inability to benefit from the taxes they pay is a direct consequence of their status: they are not legally working in the country. While some may think I'm being harsh, it is not my intention to be harsh but to speak rationally about the very legality of his vote. It's unfortunate that they are paying and won't benefit, but unless they've entered the country legally they shouldn't legally benefit from social security. That's how law works. Now should we make it easier for immigrants to enter the country, work, and benefit from the taxes they pay? Absolutely. Lets do that and stop attempting to circumvent the law.
Item 22: 1988: plagiarized law school paper, but not malevolently. (Jul 2007)What the fuck does "not malevolently" mean? Cheating is cheating, folks, and it's enormously troubling that a U.S. Senator would do so! I never cheated in college and it's just sick to think our leaders would at any point in their lives believe it was acceptable to do so.
Item 23: Knocked out of 1988 race due to plagiarizing a speech. (Oct 2005)See item 22. Also, how fucking hard is it to write a speech? I'll write one for you, Biden, if you're really that hard up for one, would be happy to esp. if you're paying, and frankly believe I could write something better than most speech writers too--and yes, probably need to take a humility pill now, lol.
Item 24: Regrets his war vote because Bush misused war authority. (Apr 2007)I, as many Americans, knew with absolute certainty what Bush planned to do once Congress gave him the thumbs up. His popularity was at an all time low and he had been talking about going into Iraq long before 9/11, long before attacking Afghanistan, and long before coming into office. Biden, you are a complete fool if you didn't see the obvious clues and likewise aren't taking responsibility for your vote if you in any way, shape, or form, blame Bush for something that a good fraction of the country already knew with absolute certainty. As my dad said to me weeks before he was elected, "If he gets elected one of the first things he'll do is declar war on Iraq."
Item 25: Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq. (Oct 2002)
See Item 24. Also, uh, what did Iraq have to do with 9/11? NOTHING!!! Did you look at the evidence? Did you hear Colon Powell speak to the U.N.? Did you hear how pathetically thin our intelligence was, how obviously biased it was towards a political ideology and not the facts? I can at least be sympathetic to a vote to allow force in Afghanistan, the Taliban was there! But I cannot forgive you getting on board to go into Iraq, a cowardly choice by many Democrats that was not based on the facts, the intelligence, and has wasted BILLIONS of American tax payers dollars that could better be used for:
- Health care
- Renewable energy resource
- Keeping families from loosing their homes
- Ad infinitum...
You, as so many politicians, put your tail between your legs and went along with an unjust war which has lead to the deaths of tends of thousands of innocents, military men and women, and hasn't in any way helped protect America or provided for the health of our economy, society, or anything else.
My fellow Americans, Senator Biden, I believe every American should watch the speech President Eisenhower gave on leaving office.
Having said that, I actually agree with most of Biden's voting record and now understand why Obama chose him as his running mate. Overall Biden seems like a good guy with a respectful voting record, someone who I believe will benefit the country greatly as our next Vice President.
For now, ta,
August 27th, 2008
As promised I've been watching the Democratic National Convention. Watched all of it Monday, from 5:30 to 8pm Tuesday, and started today when they began the vote roll call (which I've never seen before). It's wonderful to see democracy in action but I've gone one major gripe:
This ain't democracy folks.
Think about it, only a few months back Obama and Hillary were the only two Democrats in the running and they were really damn close in the number of delegates both had...and suddenly today, when each state was called upon to enter the votes of their delegates, only a small fraction of each state's votes went to Senator Hillary Clinton, while a substantial majority went to Obama. What happened in the last two months? Did the delegates in those states decide to give the finger to the people they represent, to say, "Sorry, Obama is obviously the nominee so lets all get on the bandwagon, who you voted for four months ago really isn't relevant anymore."
Is that democracy?
There were a few states, such as California, that actually "passed". They didn't enter their delegates' choices into the voting box but instead made a statement and while I can't presume to know what that statement was meant to be, it's my belief that they were making a stand and saying that the convention was no longer a democratic event but a coronation ceremony where peer pressure had overshadowed the fairly straight forward process of counting every vote. And if you had looked at the schedules ahead of time you would have found that's exactly what this convention was about. They weren't there to "elect" anyone as the Presidential nominee, but confirm the desire of an unconfirmed by vocal majority perception.
Did you observe that when each state voted the general response was something like, "and now we'd like to put so and so many votes in for the honored Senator Hillary Clinton--and so and so many votes in for our next President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama!!!" Hillary was always "Senator" while Obama was always the next President. Is it just me or don't the delegates who voted Hillary deserve respect and courtesy for their vote, shouldn't their votes count as much as an Obama vote, isn't it their responsible to represent them all in a professional and equal fashion?
Oh, and while I have been a Hillary supporter I have one major criticism of her. When Florida broke the Democratic rules their delegates gave up the right to be part of the nomination process--but Hillary made a big fuss about that, which made me wonder if she understood how democracy works (it's sort of a rule based methodology--and if the rules don't work, change them!). She did something similar during the convention, she asked that the rules be suspended, that they stop counting votes, and that they just elect Obama.
While I understand her reasoning...and call me crazy...but that seems like a way to quiet the voice of the people. I, for one, wanted to know what Oregon voted...and now I'll probably never know.
The media is not blameless either. It has been slammed lately for Obama bias (which, sadly, is true). Take for instance this screen shot I took during roll call. Do you see a picture of Hillary? Notice how her name and votes are in a significantly smaller font? Could you imagine seeing that during the Super Bowl? Man, there would be some pissed off people but the only pissed off people today were Hillary supporters and the consenus is they're just a bunch of whiners who need to move on.
If the news networks have already decided for us, what chance have we of engaging in a true Democracy? If we're criticised for supporting the underdog, what chance do we have of creating a truly democratic society?
As always I've got suggestions that I believe would improve things substantially:
- First, money should not be a factor in running. To this end, I believe any American legally capable of taking the job who has the vote of at least 1 delegate in any state should automatically be included in a conventions role call. This would allow all delegate views to count.
- Next, the first few days of the conventions should be devoted exclusively to allowing people to make their cases for possible nominees. Speech, debate, and discussion, should be the schedule, not a well choreographed sham of the democratic process.
- The third day should all be about the votes. Every possible nominee's votes should be heard, all votes should be counted, and the democratic process, not popularity, money, press, or any other factor, should determine the nominee.
- The last day should be for the elected presidential nominee for the party and his or her nominee to speak on their platform, plans, policies, etc.
That's democracy in action, folks, and if I'd been watching that the last few days I'd consider becoming a Democrat but as it stands I'm happy being an stubborn hybrid Independant-Green Party "think for myself" wanker type.
August 25th, 2008
Just finished watching the 2008 Democratic Convention. While I missed most of Senator Kennedy's speach (which I plan on watching here in a few minutes) I enjoyed the speakers and was incredibly impressed with Michelle Obama's oratory (which says a lot as this isn't my typical response to the spouses of politicians). She spoke with simplicity, honesty, compassion, and passion, and while Obama wasn't my first choice (I was hoping for our nation's first "First Gentleman"), based on what I know of her, her positive efforts in helping people throughout her career, her dedication to her family, and her ability to speak in an intelligent and articulate fashion, I would be honored to have her as my First Lady.
Having said that, I plan on watching as much of the convention as I can (though I will have to juggle parts of Tuesday and Wednesday nights due to previous commitments). And no, watching doesn't mean I'm an unthinking robot, that I agree with everything everyone says, or that I don't have criticisms of the Democratic party (like how much money is literally wasted to throw on a huge party--esp. when the candidate is not really "presumed"--when that money could be better spent on things like alternative energy research, education, or the homeless--and I'm fully within the bounds of logic to make a preemptive attack on the Republican Party for this same shameless waste). I watch and I listen and I judge and I ask myself what this means for the future of America, for my future, for my daughter's future.
Although I'd sooner press a power sander to my testicles than vote another Republican into the White House I also intend to watch the Republican Presidential Convention next week. Why, you ask? Am I interested in yelling profanities at my TV every time a conservative uses logical fallacies to screw with people's emotions? Am I interested in aquiring ammunition to protect myself from the war mongering right?
I'm going to engage myself in the Democratic process and that begins with being informed.
Sometimes while watching the news the "talking heads", as I calm them, start bantering back and forth, trying to create a virtual reality for me. Since I watch most of my news via downloaded podcasts I typically fast forward past the pundants to the real news. I mean, I've got a 160 IQ so I'm not a fucking idiot, point the cameras at the news and let me think for myself. And that's what most news is, a badly coordinated debate between two or more know-it-alls who generate a bunch of often unbased hooplah from assumptions made by reading (or creative story making) between the lines. I can get an opinion any time of night or day by turning to the nearest person and saying, "Who would you vote for and why? What do you think about Obama's position on X? What do you think of McCain's?" Boom, I've got an opinion. When I watch the news, though, I want the facts, I want to hear, with my own two ears, what someone says and see, with my own two eyes, what their body language communicates.
On that note I'm incredibly dissapointed in National Public Radio's coverage of the convention (and felt so strongly I just sent them a letter). While CNN.com was kind enough to allow me to stream the entire convention live, without interruption or talking heads, when I turned to NPR I didn't get to hear the speeches but a couple talking heads yacking non-stop about the speakers.
NPR, you have let me down this day and I am very, very dissapointed.
Having said that, next week I'll be tuning into the Republican convention. While I don't agree with many conservative views I believe it to be my responsibility as a voting member of this society to be informed regarding all points of view regardless of the source and likewise I believe that everyone has the right to voice their views (however rediculous I might believe them to be). I want to know who supports McCain and why. I want to know if they'll propose (logical, realistic) solutions to our nation's challenges. And I want to know how McCain, someone who I viewed as a bi-partisan politician, someone who's somehow lost that ability over the last 8 months, proposes to unify this country and bring about the positive change we need.
So yeah, watching both sides. And you should too. And you should encourage your friends to sit down and watch and your families too. Sit down, listen to the speeches, talk about them, debate each other, discuss what makes sense to you and why and what doesn't and why. Don't let the talking heads tell you what to think, don't let them fill your head with bullshit, don't allow them to earn their livings spreading opinions that are just as valid and substantial as yours and mine! Sit down with the people you know and love and talk with them, agree with them, disagree with them in a civil fashion, enjoy dinner, and say goodnight. It's a small world and we're all in it together.
Teach your children the same.
P.S. Sometimes surprised at how long it takes organizations to get their bloody video online. The Democratic Convention could have literally posted tonight's footage minutes after the event and had it available for free download but no, apparently copying a video is too complicated--while those nut jobs on Car Talk seem to be able to get their podcast up five minutes after the show has aired.
P.P.S. But then what do I know, I program computers for a living.
August 23rd, 2008
First and foremost, the news the Obama has chosen Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Not my first choice or my second...or my third or fourth...or so on. Not exactly sure what he was thinking. His platform is all about change but how does he propose doing that with a VP that's an old white guy that's been in Washington since 1972 but hey, what do I know, I wanted him to pick a pygmie hemaphroditic half-jew half-hispanic half-hippie running mate with a penchant for twinkies. A lot of Hillary supporters are gonna be pissed and Ralph Nader, who was one of the few without mud in his eyes, now has egg in his face. Sorry Ralph, reality hurts, n'est pas?
Second issue, finally stumbled upon a site I'd heard of plenty of times in the past: http://www.factcheck.org/. Heard about it before but never been and damn it all this takes care of "Projet Numero 16: Begin a grass roots organization focused on political justice" which was part of my previous reflection. Great organization, examines many of the advertisements and proclamaitions of both McCain and Obama and demonstrate just how equally honest both groups are...which is not terribly not. It's somewhat sad that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and the like, expend fairly little (in regard to money, time, or dare I say, effort) calling our leaders on their bullshit (shame on you, shame!) and I hope after reading this reflection you'll bookmark that link and use it as a regular news source. Granted, wish they'd do much more in regard to research (I'd like to know the truth about the politisized b.s. going on in Russia and Georgia right now).
One last thing in regard to Fact Check dot org, like so many other semi-technology savvy organizations they publish their vidcasts on iTunes--but nowhere on their site do they list how to get the fracking thing with any other podcast--because iTunes can only be used on iPods and iPhones, right? Anyway, for those of you who happen to use other podcasting clients and MP3 players here's the link to their vidcast: http://justthefacts.blip.tv/rss/itunes
Another site I stumbled on the other day can be found here: http://www.thoseshirts.com/anti-hillary-shirts.html
This page pretty much sums up why I don't have much tolerance for those of the conservative pursuasion (i.e. negativism, ad hominom attacks, unbased personal attacks, and the like). Granted, you'll find similar things on the liberal end of the spectrum but my experience has been with the exception of one member of PETA who had some major struggles when it came to appropriate behavior in regards to those she disagreed with that liberals tend to be enormously more accepting of people of other races, religious, political or sexual orientations except, generally, when others can't keep their racism, religious righteousness, political know-it-all-how, and homophobia to themselves but feel the need to legislate it against everyone else.
The only people I'm prejudice against are the prejudiced.
Oh, another good article at FactCheck.org called That Chain E-mail Your Friend Send You is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously. Been trying to tell people this for years, especially a few key people I know who have forwarded on a number of such letters (against Republicans--yes, I may not like the mind set but I'm a bigger fan of truth so there's that) and I keep saying, "Who's the source? Can you back this up? Don't you feel there's any ethical reason to determine the correctness of these statements before forwarding them to everyone on your contact list? Good article, worth reading (if you are in any way interested in learning how to spot lies and bullshit--and no, generally speaking most people's bullshit detectors generally aren't that good, esp. where new technologies are concered). Definitely an article worth passing along, hehe.
Back to politics, an article by Jack Cafferty called Commentary: Is McCain another George W. Bush? While I watch CNN often I'm not a huge fan of Cafferty's rants but this is the most intelligent summary of McCain as a candidate I've seen so far. For instance his now famous quote, "He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich," demonstrates, at least to me, that McCain is a fucking idiot. Not only would most American's consider a million dollars rich, but most of Americans barely earn above $50k a year (often per family) and are in debt up to their eyeballs and would sell their left testicals or breasts to have a million dollars to throw around. Sorry, McCain, that and your sudden brain fart when you weren't able to tell a reporter how many HOUSES you live in really demonstrates how clueless you have become about the day in and day out struggles of the average American.
But then again, you're so good at ad hominom attacks so why have empathy for people when you can strike fear into them? And yes, I check my tire pressure frequently, especially when I goto motorcycle rallies (good for gas savings and even nicer not to have a flat when I've only got two tires to rely on at 80mph around a corner on a cliff face).
Oh, and I do want to share something a little fun which so many have seen online already or heard about on NPR: Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. Hillarious! (would love it if they gave him a cameo appearance on the next Batman movie!)
Alrighty then, bedtime now.
August 19th, 2008
What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you buy a yacht, party like it was 1999, or buy ten vacation homes? Me, I sometimes wonder what I'd do if I had nearly unlimited financial resources and yes, while it's probably a pipe dream, I believe it's healthy to always challenge ourselves, to ask, "What if?", and plan for whatever the future might hold whether it be positive or negative, realistic or a PG rated wet dream.
So what would you do?
Here's my answer:
Projet Numero 1: Hire a really good lawyer
I hate to ruin my fantasy with reality but reality is those with lots of money attract sycophants, criminals, and old "friends" who haven't seen fit to give you a call in years but suddenly and ironically are incredibly interested in reestablishing a relationship. So my first step would sadly be to hire a very, very good attorney to protect me from those who lack the honor, integrity, and simple courtesy, to allow me to live in peace as I have (for the most part) been doing for years now.
Projet Numero 2: Give my six month notice at work
Strange, I know, most would probably give their two weeks notice and be out the door but truth is, I feel a sense of loyalty to my company and my coworkers and would not feel I had acted honorably if I'd just picked up and left. So I'd stay on, ask to work shorter weeks (4 day weeks would be ideal--would be interesting to see how that effects the psyche as it's what many European countries do), complete the improvements I've been working on over the years, and make sure my co-workers were trained to take up the reins after leaving.
Projet Numero 3: Work on home improvement projects
Weird as it may seem but after winning the lottery I'd continue to live in my present home. It's my first house and I have to admit I love the place. Also, since I have a commitment to my daughter I would continue to live there until such time she's graduated high school. That said, I'd work on home improvements which include but are not limited to the following:
- Redo the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms
- Replace the downstairs carpet with wood floors
- Replace the carpets in the upstairs
- Build a new banister for the staircase
- Install tiles in the kitchen
- Install a new stove and dish washer and cabinets in the kitchen
- Paint the house
- Re-shingle the house then install solar panels
- Install a new hot tub
- Take gardening classes and replant the gardens
- Install the newest energy efficient windows
- Install a security system (see item #1)
Projet Numero 4: Hire the best joint specialist in the U.S.
Lets face it, I'm tired of being in pain and I'm tired of specialists who treat me like I've just gone through the Jack in the Box drive through. I want a doctor who's educated (and caring) enough to make a correct diagnosis and take the correct action so I can live a life without pain (or with a lot less) and hopefully some day go jogging again.
Projet Numero 5: Purchase some much desired Star Wars toys
The geek in me could not live without a few Star Wars toys I've wanted since I was a child so first off I'd purchase a Storm Trooper uniform (then possibly join the 501st which does a lot of volunteer work in various communities) and second, I'd purchase the coolest R2-D2 of all time which you can see at: http://www.nikkor2d2.com/. Awesome!
Projet Numero 6: Purchase environmentally friendly vehicles
While I love my current vehicle and could afford the gas even after it gets to be $10 a gallon I have a strong desire to effect the environment in a positive way. While I love the Toyota Prius and could modify it to plug in to my home to recharge I think I'd go one step further and purchase a sexy little two seater called the Tesla Roadster which would become my around town vehicle. I'd then purchase the hybrid version of the Venture One (~100mpg), based on the Carver one, for longer trips. And why stop there? I want to start some kind of program that would encourage others to purchase energy efficient vehicles as well. How about this for an idea: every year a limited number of people can purchase an energy efficient car, such as a Prius, and I would cover half the cost if in return they volunteer for at least six months with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, enrolling in the Big Brother Big Sister program, or volunteering for hospice work.
Projet Numero 7: Help with college education
When I win I plan to pay for the college education of my daughter, nephew and nieces, a few other children who I've become close to over the years, and a few adult friends who I love and who have some pretty substantial educational debts. Likewise, I would create a scholarship program in my home town that would be given to three kids a year. One would be the best student in the school, the other would be an at risk kid, and the last would be given to a kid who wanted to make a career in areas such as social justice, environmental technologies, and so forth.
Projet Numero 8: Work on The Temple
Since I love writing I would continue to work on this site. In order to do that more effectively I would 1) hire a team of researchers to help me bring more substance to my Reflections (I would most likely hire those in need such as the unemployed, those with families who are economically challenged, and college students) and 2) purchase the domain name http:\\www.thetemple.com\. The site would continue to be accessible from the same address it's at now, of course.
Projet Numero 9: Hire a top notch communications therapist
While I know a great deal about communication there's much to be learned and likewise, I want to hire someone extraordinarily talented at what they do to help my partner and I evolve our relationship into the best one possible and I believe that begins and ends with good communication. Likewise, I think this will help me better relate to the world around me, making it easier for me to make consistent and more positive impacts on the lives of others.
Projet Numero 10: Buy my partner a new bike
Her bike is great but she's commented on how she wants something more comparable to mine so we can go on longer rides together and I have to admit when I win the lottery I'll want to do a few rides that take me as far as, say, Yellowstone National Park. As far as the bike I have now, I'd simply replace the rear gears with the best on the market and the front with one with 3 gearings instead of two (otherwise I love the bike as is...except that rock hard seat, of course!). Oh, and maybe if she'd be open to a motorcycle to enjoy trips together that way someday. Would you, love?
Projet Numero 11: Travel
As with most I'd want to travel for the obvious reasons: to see the world. But I want to travel for even bigger reasons: to learn more about the world, to learn more about myself, and to find ways/places where I can make a difference. That said, here are a few things I'd start out with:
- Three to six month motorcycle trip across the U.S. and Canada.
- Trip to Europe, especially Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, and Italy
- Trip to Australia to visit friends and family
- Trip to China, in particular to Hong Kong
- Trip to Tibet and India
- Trip to Iraq to see what it's really all about
- Trip to the International Space Station with my daughter (thanks to the Russian space program)
Projet Numero 12: Purchase a new wardrobe
My wardrobe has generally always had at least 50% hand-me-downs and while this okay, I've never worn the clothes I'd really like to wear and for once in my life I'd like to have the clothing that fits my rather eccentric personality--though to be honest, I might have to hire a professional tailor for much of it as some of the clothes have been out of style for a few hundred years and some of the clothes (say Crichton's leather jacket from Farscape) aren't exactly things you can pick up from the mall (and generally anything at a costume shop is going to be lower quality and less exact in style and fit).
Projet Numero 13: Finish and publish my book
I know, I know, this is something I can do now, but with time and money on my hands it would be much easier to setup a den that was comfortable enough to write for several hours a day and likewise, I could hire editors and writing professors to help me with style, language, and the like. For now, I merely rely on my own passion and desire to write (which hasn't been much as of late, at least in terms of my book) and my own stumbling inability with words. Oh, and I want to begin writing some children's books too (which, while fun, would really be educational morality plays).
Projet Numero 14: Full time hair guru
I have the most frizzy, hard to manage hair in the entire universe and it drives me nuts, especially when it's long (which is how I like it most). I've always said if I was a millionaire I'd hire a hair stylist to show up at my home every morning to wash and style it. What can I say? I like people (literally) playing with my head. It calms me.
Projet Numero 15: Invest in Eco-Friendly companies
As it says, I want to put some of those resources into supporting companies that are making meaningful, wise, intelligent, and future thinking products and technologies including wind power, solar power, electric cars, and the like.
Projet Numero 16: Begin a grass roots organization focused on political justice
As many American's I'm tired of the political corruption and games. I want to start a grass roots organization that has the following goals:
- To thoroughly research all issues in an unbiased and objective fashion and publish the results on a web site.
- To hold politicians accountable, whatever their party, when they lie, cheat, steal, cover things up for their buddies, waste tax payer money, or wage war to suit their own ends.
- To demonstrate to the mainstream media that the bias created by both money and the desire for ratings has corrupted them and the work can be better done on the grass roots level by people who are interested in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
- To promote proactive solutions to problems not the same-old, same-old.
- To promote social justice on all levels of society.
- To promote working out our problems and becoming closer to countries and societies throughout the world.
In other words, I'd try to fill the gap Nader made when he stopped working for positive change and started wasting his time running for president over and over and over again. I think America is sorely in need of a grass roots organization that has three primary goals: truth, justice, and positive change.
Projet Numero 17: Future home(s)
Once my daughter is off to the Air Force or college I may give my house to my parents or a family in need. At that point I want to get a new home, something both my partner and I would love. Since she loves that city, that's what I'm leaning toward, and given enough money I could easily afford almost anything, though in truth I think we would both be happiest with something modest in size and something older, as long as the neighborhood is green and close to cultural areas. Then when I'm an old fart (say 55) I want to retire in the country on a ranch (10 acres would be dandy), have a few horses, sheep, cows, a sheep dog, a hundred cats, and one goat. I want a large garden too and ideally would like a stream or river on the land where I can go rainbow trout fishing. And no, unlike so many that feel the need to have vacation homes I'll just camp, go to hotels, bed and breakfasts, and the like, while I'm abroad as it seems such a self-centered waste to have more than one home when so many have none!!! On that note...
Projet Numero 18: Contribute to housing programs
I've never been homeless but I've been close enough to have the shit scared out of me and it's no fun. Having said that, I'd contribute both time and money to programs like habitat for humanity and would likewise build housing for those in need (as long as I got something in return such as they'd volunteer for some noble program or they had careers that helped improve the overall well being of humankind in the long run).
Projet Numero 19: Research and invest in cures for Retinitus Pigmentosa
My dad has a disease called Retinitus Pigmentosa which has caused him to go blind. I've read that there's been much research in this area and they're getting closer and closer to a cure (especially using retro-viruses). If they're close, I'd want to get my dad enrolled in such a program. If not, I would invest so that they can have a cure ready before my nephew, who also has the disease, does not go blind later in life.
Projet Numero 20: Go to Disneyland
What can I say? I love the place. I don't know why, especially considering my disdain for some of Disney's practices, but Disneyland itself has always been magical for me and I love it and I wanna go back!
August 18th, 2008
What is it that brings you comfort? Is it always keeping busy at your job? Having a friend you can always call up? Eating your favourite food? Going out to a movie? Talking behind people's back? Preparing for the future by saving money? Gardening? Cooking? Writing in a journal? Comfort comes in many forms but one thing is true, all sentient beings seek a comfortable existence.
I remember, for instance, seeing two dogs in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia when I was fifteen. One of the dogs was small and one was large. The dogs were out in the street, the large one lying on the ground, the small lying on its back. I was told that they were typically seen in this fashion. They were comforting each other. This is an example of comfort resulting from a relationship or community.
Each of us seeks out comfort in our own unique ways based on both our nature and our past. Sometimes what we seek out can be positive, as was the case with these two dogs, and sometimes that comforting thing, when taken to the extreme, can cause us great pain. For instance, the dogs were most likely co-dependent and unable to emotionally cope with being apart from one another; likewise, when one of them died (I'm sure they've both passed by now) the other would probably be nearly incapable of comforting itself.
I woke up this morning with a massive headache which got progressively worse as they day went on. I couldn't help but think of my desire to feel more comfortable and that lead me to begin pondering what brings me comfort now and also how that's evolved over time.
There was a time, many years ago, where Depression brought me comfort. I know, I know, that concept might seem foreign to many, none the less it is true. Here's how it worked. If I perceived my life to be completely anathema to anything I had wanted to look like, instead of examining that picture and engaging in proactive behavior to change it I used negative thoughts and arguably twisted logic to wrap myself up in a warm blanket of self loathing. True, it didn't make me feel great, but it helped me get through many a lonely night where I didn't have enough money to heat whatever dump I was living in, it allowed me to deal with the fact that I didn't have friends (or at least didn't have any that cared that I was struggling). Comfort, for me, was a pack of smokes, a few glasses of wine, a warm bath, and a computer that would keep me company throughout the night. Comfort was a walk through Eugene at 2am. Comfort was the idea that someone out there would someday just love me for who I was. Comfort was building a one-sided life story, seeing others as incompetent and uncaring fools who cumulatively acted in such a way as to turn my heart and soul against itself. Comfort was the sense that even through all this I was doing my damnest to keep living. Comfort was going back to college again, loosing myself in my studies, and getting straight A's. Comfort was sitting at the computer playing against virtual foes and feeling a sense of power and control when I defeated them. Comfort was the random friendship or relationship that I beleived, contrary to all past experience, would turn out differently. But mostly, comfort was that dark but warm blanket Depression provided me in the dark, lonely, cold of night.
The seeming obvious is that many things that once made me comfortable were "negative"--however, one might also argue that they were positive as I wouldn't be around if I didn't have just the right mix of herbs and spices to keep hope alive. I digress, many ways we seek comfort are not in our greater interest.
So what makes something that comforts us positive or negative? Is it the end result on our lives? On the lives of others? Should we look at it in a quantitative fashion with logic and algorithms or should we examine the landscape qualitatively, asking ourselves how it makes us and others feel? I do not ask because I have or want to tell you the answers, but as an excercise I'd like you to think about.
Depression no longer brings me comfort. Indeed, I cannot truly be Depressed with a capital "D" if I'm always trying to see something from all sides--the two are not compatible with one another. And you know, it's hard sometimes, hard not to be able to jump into an old trustworthy habit and get completely lost in it--instead, when I feel at a loss I find myself feeling as if I've been hit on the side of the head, just existing in a state of blind wonder. True, when shit hits the fan an echo of it is there wanting to get in, but it's just not something that jives with my personality anymore. It is but an echo, a memory, a troubled existence that I only know to be mine from the clues in my mind and on my body.
As I progress forward in life I have looked at what has brought me comfort and have asked, "Does this work for me anymore?" The more I do this, the more I take a photograph of a past behavior for memories sake then leave whatever old strategy on the side of the road then continue up the highway of life so I might feel more alive and awake.
Examples of comforting behaviors from the last eight years of my life include but are not limited to the following:
- Binge eating (chips, fast food, candy, etc.).
- Spending all hours of the night meeting people on the internet and chatting with them.
- Smoking pack after pack of cigarettes.
- Drinking either wine or JD.
- Attempting to mold the world to my vision of how it "should" be.
- Manipulating my external appearance (such as having every colour of hair one could imagine)
- Spending money (lots and lots of money).
Those are, of course, many of the ones that have helped me through some major bumps but at the same time, don't do much for me now. The first one, for instance, is not something I do that much anymore but every blue moon I just want to eat sushi until I'm stuffed or go to a buffet and while my diet is constantly becoming healthier and healthier I allow myself to fudge sometimes. In regard to number two, I just don't have the emotional stamina or time to put myself out there anymore and I must admit, I'm in a place in life right now where I just need healing, especially around social interactions, and I can't do that in a space where I'm making myself vulnerable to people I don't know. Number three: smoking cigars on and off, definitely just need to stop without excuse: smoking is D*U*M*B. 4? I rarely drink anymore, usually only when I'm at a restaurant having dinner with someone (as I did this past Saturday night). And five...truth be told I'm not in this mindset the way I once was, it was just such a waste of time and energy and a great source of dissapointment and misery. If you'd like to get in on a personal secret, The Temple is one of only two places where I consciously choose to make a statement of how I think things "should" be (which helps me not engage in those behaviors in other areas of my life, especially socially or at work); the other place is in my parenting, as is the prerogative of any good parent. Oh, there is one more, I do feel I have a right to stand up for myself when I feel that boundary has been crossed (though on a karmic level I sometimes think I deserve to get stepped on from time to time given how much I've tried to make others, especially in the 90's, more closely conform to my mind's picture of how I felt a "good" person should behave). And number six. I'd like to think I've never been a terribly superficial person (except when choosing books based on their covers--see my first library experience as a seven year old!) and have always dressed how I liked to regardless of how anyone else did. Well, there were a few years where I just went wild with my hair, cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars to dye and cut and straighten and curl and what not--and while it's true there was a positive side to it, a sense of play and feeling good about myself, it wasn't the wisest thing to be doing with my money and likewise, it was sometimes easy to get lost in it with thoughts like, "If I do X, Y, and Z to my appearance I'll have more friends (because most people were superficial and were always judging me based on my looks...)"--and while sometimes this was true, the deeper truth is I want friends who will just see me for who I am, love me for who I am, except, of course, when I'm stepping on their feet at which point they'll say, "Stop it, Aslynn, you're stepping on my goddamn feet again--but I still love ya!" Oh, and finally, "Dave Ramsay, please save me!" (*grin*)
Today I am learning to find comfort in new, more healthy, ways. A weekend trip on my motorcycle (sometimes) brings me comfort. Cleaning the house (sometimes) brings me comfort. Reading a book (sometimes) brings me comfort. Cuddling with my partner (usually) brings me comfort. Discovering a solution to a problem that's been nagging me (almost always) brings me comfort. Working on the house (often) brings me comfort. Eating healthier is starting to bring me comfort though I admit there's generally a sense of cognitive dissonance that accompanies it. And going for a long bycicle ride invariably gives me a sense of comfort (though it can often bring enormous pain to my moody knee).
Yet I must admit I feel like a child learning to find comfort in healthy ways, especially considering the social, emotional, and physical challenges I have been confronted with as of late. I stumble. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. I often feel like I expend more energy discovering an oasis of comfort than I get back from it and all too often I make decisions that result in enormous uncomfortable (such as spending money I don't have--and then seeing my bank account at the end of the month). It is, I suppose, another one of those learning curves, a steep one, if you ask me, and I hope some day to have mastered it, to be able to find comfort just as much in adversity and difficulty as I would on those few occassions where I am not stressed or tired or feeling lost.
I must be careful, though, as there is something to be said for embracing and cherishing the uncomfortable, therein lies a wisdom that can be found nowhere else.
La dee da.
August 17th, 2008
1:47am. The thunder rolls gently over my house as lightening strikes the road which I was only riding upon minutes ago. A spattering of water hits the windows, the first that's fallen in weeks, and I sit here thinking it's time to cut my fingernails. Sometimes that is the nature of prayer.
I didn't think the day would turn out the way it did. I woke up a little after ten, took a shower, then had two cups of strong coffee while chatting with my sister and mom. After about an hour we all packed in my car, except my mom, seven of us in all crammed into my silver volvo V70 stationwagon, and drove up one of the windy back roads to downtown Portland then across the river to Omsi. There I found myself struggling with past memories--my last time there, though I wasn't aware of what it was, my kidney was giving birth to my first large kidneystone which was causing me an extravagant amount of pain. I remember trying to keep on a good face for my daughter and the daughter of a friend who had come with us only to receive the beligerant comments of my x-roomate for daring to express feelings of pain; I still do not understand it. Fortunately this time I was not in pain but still found myself facing new challenges, the challenge of helping coordinate and adapt to the needs, wants, and desires of two eleven year olds ready to run off randomly in every direction, a young teen more interested in calling friends on her cell than visiting with the people she was with, my sister and her husband, and my blind father. I must admit I find some relief when my sister is around, she takes my dad in hand and describes the sights to him, something that would normally be my undertaking, but today my thoughts were elsewhere and I had the freedom to sometimes wander off on my own.
Where that is I cannot tell you as I don't even know myself, there is no map pointing to or describing this place. I feel as if I am at a cross roads in my life, realizing more than ever before that I have the ability to make choices, to go left or right, or not to go anywhere at all. And yet I struggle with indecision. I don't want to move, I don't want to choose left or right because I already feel like I've been down both those roads and I want to be presented with a new choice, a fresh choice, a healthy choice that will mean the world of difference to me and everyone in my life.
So tonight when I got on my bike instead of riding the same way I've gone three other nights I went in the opposite direction, first towards the city, then out into the dark unlit streets of the country. This choice, I knew, was not a logical one as I knew it wouldn't be as safe riding out in the middle of nowhere when the drunks were leaving the bars, but something deeper inside impelled me to ride south then west then north again.
Near the end of my ride, on my last seven mile leg home, I began seeing lighting about ten miles off to my right. After riding for about fifteen minutes I stopped near an empty field, walked my bike to the side, laid it down, and pulled a drink out of my bag. I'd never done anything like this before and surely never at one in the morning, standing there, under the bright light of a full moon which lit up the backs of the clouds, making the windows of sky a daytime blue. No, normally I'd keep riding, gotta get home, keep my focus on the road...but something made me just stop, put the bike down, and just watch.
So I stood there listening to a podcast about Catholics who had left the fold, stood there listening to monks chanting within the deep warm halls of a church, glorious moon overhead, and red-white streams of lightening flashing against the hills to the south, one every thirty or forty seconds, and that's all there was for a little while, just me, the field, the moon, the clouds, and the lightening, chanting to one another in our own individual ways, all unique, all in harmony.
And the lightening followed me home.
August 14th, 2008
It's past bedtime so it's time to speed type.
First, I've published quite a bit of my old poetry and about five short stories, many of which I wrote about 12 years ago during a stint where I had tried to get published. No go. Anyway, in one of the stories I predicted a future where we'd be using table top computers and while it's not something many have, Microsoft recently introduced one.
Hmmm... What else?
I was listening to Think Out Loud today on OPB radio. The episode was about race issues in Oregon. A black woman on the show said she'd experienced plenty of racism here in Portland and her friends feel uncomfortable about visiting. Kinda surprised me, I thought most whites in Portland were more enlightened than to act uncomfortable when a black or hispanic person walks into a restaurant. So bizarre too, at least for me, I don't tend to care what colour or age or sex people are at a restaurant. Everyone needs to eat. Everyone needs to socialize. And I'll open the door for anyone if they're walking in. It seems odd to me, this seeming genetic tendency we have as human beings to "care" about things that don't really matter, to poke our noses where they don't belong. Leaving people be and do their own thing--as long as they aren't stepping on our feet--is a hell of a lot easier and damnit, we're Americans and we have a right to be lazy.
So why don't we start by renouncing racial stereotypes and hatred?
I know, I'm sorta rambling, but racism has always short circuited my logic gates and made me question the overall intelligence of our species.
Time for bed.
August 12th, 2008
Today I'm going to freewrite. About what you ask? Not a clue.
Or maybe I do.
I'm home now. It's nearly 6pm and I have a killer headache. I've been having these headacaches for about a week now and they've gotten worse since the weekend and I think it's from grinding my teeth almost none stop. I had a dentist appointment Monday and would have talked to my destist then about getting something to help but I cancelled due to the fact that I worked from 6pm to 3am Sunday evening/Monday morning. Oh well, gotta just try to walk around with my mouth wide open for awhile.
Went in for x-rays today. This time left knee and hip. I'd like to hope they'd find something but after the last few years I expect to get back an, "Everything's normal." Well, everything's not normal and if I sat here on the couch in shorts and looked at my bent knees the left kneecap lays there completely different from the right one and it didn't get like that until mid to late last year. Hmmmm, the last x-ray was taken a couple years back, so maybe someone will spot it.
My hair is really soft today. Used a lot of conditioner last night. Ho hum.
If you've looked around you may have noticed some changes to The Temple. I've been trying to organize it better both for your and my benefit. Also added quite a few poems and a couple short stories I've written over the years. Something to do. Something to keep my mind off things.
Head is freakin' killing me...
Not sure how I'm going to spend the evening. Lately it's been work and try to get to bed early. Maybe read. Maybe listen to C2C. But mainly, just want sleep, mainly, don't want to be feeling pain. Which reminds me, yesterday afternoon on about a dozen occassions I felt a stabbing pain in the lower left hand side of my back and this morning, the requisite bronze urine, indicating blood. Ah, I just love kidneystones, and if I keep this up I might as well change my name to Aslynn "Gatlin Gun" Meyers.
Here's a picture of my house from Google Street View, which I just learned about today. Shot must have been taken last year. Pretty wild. Stumbled onto it today while reading the Drudge Report, there was a news article about an unconscious guy laying on the side of the street after being shit faced--oh, now he's embarrassed. And my manager showed me a pic of a house on fire in Kansas or some such thing. Anyway, they need to turn this into a virtual driving program so one can drive through an unfamiliar city and get a feel for the streets. Some cools apps at that there Google.
I should probably get a bike ride in later...but not feeling up to it. Not feeling up to terribly, much, to be quite honest.
Cooking rice right now with cayanne and turmeric. I heard the latter is good for ones health. Maybe it is the answer to all my woes. Woohoo!
The house is a mess. Either tomorrow or Thursday I need to spend the entire evening cleaning. My parents are coming then with my nephew and neice. I was planning on taking them to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry but the free passes weren't available at work. Oh well, we'll figure out something, maybe a picnic or a hike.
There are some locally grown organic strawberries in the fridge, I should have them with my rice. Weird dinner, I know, but I've just been trying to eat healthy lately however bizarre the combination might at first seem.
I wish humans had bigger frontal lobes. Sure, we've got the biggest on the planet, but it seems like most people are controlled by their lower and middle brains. Ack! Ack! Ack! Says the climbing tree monkey. Okay, so maybe that's harsh to say, but it seems there are few disciplines created by our species that are focused on learning to use the frontal lobes better and having that in perfect balance with a healthy middle brain. Sure, there's Buddhism, for those that take it seriously, and a few other disciplines here and there, but it's not something the general person understands as being as valuable as, say, having a computer to vomitous on the internetus in the afternoon.
Why is it easier to judge than to see/listen/taste/touch/smell?
Seriously, why do you think that is?
Tomorrow is hump day, Wednesday. Created a little project for myself at work for when things haven't been as hectic. Sorta hate that, when it goes from crazy hectic where I can't get anything done fast enough to...omg, I'm sitting here with nothing to do, wtf? Feeling good about that so I'm hoping tomorrow I'll finish what I started today, get it implemented on the servers, and maybe even announced to those who can make use of it.
But I cannot share that with you, company secrets, use of VBScript, XML, and the XML DOM, and all, lol
Gotta pee...damn stone...brb...
So much to do around the house. Gotta clean the cat litter. Gotta sand the coffee table off that I've been refinishing--accidently put on wood conditioner last week instead of laquer. Stupid! Gotta break down some boxes to recycle. Gotta vaccume and do the dishes. Gotta clean up the art room so my parents can use it this weekend. Gotta do laundry.
I wish my body would stop hurting. I've gone past being frustrated with it to a sense of angry numbness. And it doesn't make sense. Some days I hurt a lot, like yesterday when I woke up and my back, both hips, and left leg was killing me throughout the day, and some days I hurt a little and have only a slight limp, like today. It doesn't make much sense. Never knows what tomorrow is going to feel like, only know that the only choice is to keep going onward and forward until I get better or until I find myself completely incapable of taking care of myself. Something I've learned in life is that things can seem pretty fucking rotten, but you are where you are, you can either get back up and climb the mountain or lay down and take a break, enjoy the daisies for awhile, or just give up. Right now, if you want to know, I'm trying to lay down and enjoy the daisies but damn, I've got a headach and there are ants all over the freakin' place. Stupid bugs.
I'm watching CNN news podcasts right now. Not sure why. The world has lost it's mind. Russia has gone to war with Georgia and all Obama and McCain and Bush can do is spout the "Peace" rhetoric--which disgusts me given the number of innocent civilians that we've killed in the "War on Terror". So let me get this straight, the United States government can wage war (though Congress hasn't declared it!) against two sovereign nations for reason that have been shown to be arguably vaccuous, but we can turn around and drop bombs on your ass!
Double standards make me sick.
So my opinion in two parts. First, our government needs to shut the fuck up and stop giving moralistic advice to Russia (until we get our shit together). Second, war should always be an absolute last resort: Russia should agree to Georgia's proposed cease fire and we should get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lets stop killing people, it really pisses off their relatives.
I have not watched the olympics since 1984. Mary Lou Retton and all. I don't plan to watch them again. Maybe I'll change my mind.
Not sure what else to write. Should probably stop and go get my rice. Yum, yum, yum.
August 9th, 2008
10:44pm. I don't feel like writing and I want to go to sleep but I can't sleep. I'm not tired.
One forest fire down today, one I'm trying to put out, and one to go.
My daughter and I drove down to watch part of the air show today. Had originally planned to ride our bikes but it rained this morning, wasn't sure if we'd get wet. We watched for about thirty minutes. Saw one F-16, a WWII Mustang, a Hercules, and a Korean War era Mig. If it's nicer out tomorrow we'll go again around noon.
Two days ago I had a strange feeling that I needed to find out why I haven't seen Teri Garr, an actress I've never particularly thought much about, in anything in a long, long time. I discovered she has been struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Yesterday I was listening to the news and they interviewed someone with MS. Today I heard a Coast to Coast AM pocast with someone with MS. I'm wondering if the universe is trying to tell me something but then, they have an MRI of my spine, they wouldn't miss something like that would they?
Don't have much more to say at the moment. After I water the Fuschia I'll be out of water. Will have to just start digging fire lines and hope for the best.
August 8th, 2008
A few days ago my daughter, who I've recently learned likes to read my Reflections from time to time, said to me, "Dad, you sure write a lot about politics on your web site." Not thinking too deeply on this I simply responded, "Well, a lot's going on in the political world right now which I think is important to the future of the world and I want to express my thoughts on it."
This, I later realized, was only a fraction of the truth.
On contemplating the reality further I couldn't help but recognize that I'm typically guilty of engaging in a behavior Randy Pausch, who gave The Last Lecture, called a "head fake". A head fake, according to Pausch, is a type of indirect learning (and also arguably a form of indirect teaching, at least in terms of my Reflections). In regard to parents engaging their children in extracurricular activities he said:"And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it's the first example of what I'm going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don't want our kids to learn football. ... we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera."
Having introduced one topic I'm going to introduce another by sharing that I'm a big fan of self-correcting systems. A self-correcting system is defined as, "automatically adjusting to or correcting mistakes, malfunctions, etc."
Science is, perhaps, one of the best examples of a self-correcting system invented by humankind. Per Wikipedia, "[The] Scientific method refers to the body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge." There are no "facts" in science, only theories that are tested and retested. Scientists come to the table with theories but these theories are not accepted simply because the scientist is well known, respected, or is well funded, their ideas must go through a process of systematic scrutiny by other scientists. Theories are documented, tested, and the outcomes give birth to even further theories which are likewise documented and tested. The process is ideally an open minded and critical one that leads us closer and closer to the truth behind things like physics, mathematics, chemistry, and so on.
In contract most religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are not good examples of self-correcting systems. Based on belief, faith, creed, and emotional arguments, any ideas that do not conform to the basic tenants of a given religion are typically ostracized. Take the example of Galileo who, when questioning the geocentric view of the universe (that the Earth is the center of the universe) and suggesting a heliocentristic one (where the Earth and all the planets orbit the sun) he was put under house arrest by the Catholic Inquisition, effectively silencing him (at least in the short term). It didn't matter whether or not his observations were carefully taken, thought out, or verifiable, only that they were contradictory to the preexisting beliefs of the Church (at that time). Martin Luther found himself up against a similar wall and was forced to create an offshoot of Christianity called Protestantism. So true, while religious institutions must adapt to survive in a constantly changing social and scientific world, they tend to be rigid systems closed to alternative points of view, regardless of the objective data supporting those views.
It's no wonder I got out when I turned 17.
Before I move on I must mention Buddhism. Though it's often considered a religious system, and some aspects of it are, the basic tenants of Buddhism have more in common with the scientific method, at least in how it can be applied to the self, than it does to faith based religions. Pure Buddhism, in my view, is an example of a self-correcting system providing for the betterment of oneself (and the world).
Speaking of the planet Earth, it too is a self-correcting system, something that is always attempting to be in a balanced state, or what in science is called homeostasis, which is defined as, "the tendency of a system, esp. the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function." The Gaia theory, that the earth is a living organism, is based on the idea of homeostasis on a global level. Unfortunately the industrial age has had us pushing so much toxic chemicals into our atmosphere and oceans than the planet can't keep up and return to it's "normal" equilibrium, the result is that plants and animals are dying out at record numbers. Fortunately, once all the pollution stops (we will run out of oil within the next 60 years) the planet will keep chugging along finding ways to dilute, recycle, and metabolize the high concentrations of pollutants being pumped into the environment, it will simply take a few hundred years, unchallenged, to return to balance. Will we survive through that as a race? Who knows. But the cockroaches have it made!
Perhaps the most anal self-correcting system invented by man is the source code compiler, a computer program that converts human readable computer language into computer language (1's and 0's). Take for instance the following C# code:MessageBox.Show("Hello World!");
Compiling the source then running it will cause a dialog box/window to be displayed on the monitor which says, "Hello World!". If I instead try to compile the following source:MessageBox.Show("Hello World!")
The software compiler bitches with, "error CS1002: ; expected".
The compiler doesn't understand what my intent, which must be absolutely unambiguous, is. All this because I forgot to include a trailing semi-colon after my statement, something that the C# language (as do C and C++) requires after every command. The compiler instantly spotted the syntax error, indicated that something was wrong, and pointed me, the programmer, directly at it. I then have a choice to recognize the error then make the appropriate modifications bringing it in line with my original desire or I can continue to compile the program unsuccesfully.
Unfortunately governments aren't typically self correcting. This was especially true of earlier historical systems based on religion or the rule of sovereigns like Kings and Queens. One of the intentions of Democracy, as it was seen by founding fathers of the United States, was to create a government that had the ability to correct itself. As written into the first Amendment of the U.S. Constitution every citizen has a right to, "petition the government for a redress of grievances." The Constitution does not say that those who disagree or want change will be tarred and feathered or have their head on the chopping block, as has been the norm for most societies throughout history, but instead legislates the right to self regulate. True, attempting to redress grievances in a bureaucracy can be painful, difficult, and slow, but it gives everyone in our society a voice and the power to promote change. At it's best, the U.S. government is highly successful in correcting itself as it has done by freeing the slaves, giving women the vote, insuring people cannot be discriminated against based on sex, age, ethnicity, or religion, and true, we have a long way to go, our government has a self-correcting system built in there, into our Constitution, and it is, I think, one of the most important contracts a government can make with its citizens.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, I'm incredibly attracted to self-correcting systems and the reasons are many. First and foremost, a self-correcting system allows for change. Second, such a system ideally takes in all data, examines it, and when necessary makes modifications based on the data. Three, I have some level of control over the outcomes in a self-correcting system. In contract, non self-correcting systems don't (easily) allow for change (if at all it's usually only a result of brute force), often ignore the data however clear or unambiguous but instead relies on emotionality and faith based arguments.
Maybe the entire human race would find peace if we all believed int he same things, had the same interests, desires, and so on, but in the real world everyone's values and priorities are different. Self-correcting social systems allow us to more closely align ourselves whether we're trying to learn a new skill like mathematics or painting, succesfully lead a group of people like a project at our workplace, and so on. It's in our best interest to be attentive and focused on the outcomes of our behavior and interactions, whatever our endevours, then use that wisdom to plan for the next iteration. The other choice, at least as far as I see it, is to make screeching sounds and throw sticks and stones at our challenges.
To concluce I'm going to hit F6 and hope this thing compiles.
August 7th, 2008
Let me tell you a little about my week...in reverse.
I rode into my driveway at 10:30 after another 24 mile night ride through Hillsboro. Called my daughter from the driveway and she opened the garage door (once I have some cash--pretty much broke right now--plan on purchasing a small garage door remote for my keychain). Talked with her for a bit about her night then wished her goodnight. I then stood out by the car a smoked a cigar. I know, I know, doesn't make a whole lot of sense to get on a bicycle, ride for nearly two hours, get off, then fill one's lungs with carcinogens. No, it isn't smart, but then, when nothing else in my life seems to be going right smoking is one of those things I can plan all the major and minor catasrophies around, something rediculously stupid I can look forward to for five or ten minutes, a moment to just let my mind relax and not feel like I'm falling short.
As to the ride, it went very much as it had the other night. The light I'd bought for my helmet lit up the road amazingly but was strange to have two lights, one attached to the handlebars, the other to my helmet, dancing back and forth in zig zags in my path. Ate a few insects, almost had a bird fly into my face (that woulda hurt!), and as last time had at least one renob in an SUV scream some profanity out their window at me. Felt like I was making really good time with an average speed of probably around 16 or 17 mph, oh, and the helmet light went dead after an hour and it's supposed to last four--guess next time I'll need to charge it overnight.
Left for the ride around 9 o'clock after getting home early from seeing a friend. I'd stopped for smokes, of course, as I really didn't care anymore, especially about something as rediculously unpredictable and seemingly unchangable as the continued and numerous health problems I'm dealing with...more on that later. Anyway, I'd planned on going for a longer ride earlier when that ended short when it had become abundantly clear that I am an unarbuably flawed human being who doesn't know how to adjust his biking helmet, properly lock up his bike, or that is apparently just plain paranoid for choosing to take easily stolen property off the bike when going into a store. I'm such an absolute jerk.
At least my headache was gone by that point, as I'd spent the hours from about noon to 6pm with a headache so absolutely huge I thought 1) I'd picked up a head cold my daugher had the other day, 2) I've been grinding my teeth too much from stress lately, or 3) among everything else I'm suffering from I've got a brain tumor (which would actually explain a lot) or was possibly experiencing a burst artery--or all of the above, something that lately I'd just shrug off with a sense of, "Whatever, can't be helped," attitude.
At noon the co-workers on my team and I went out for lunch at the Olive Garden in Beaverton. It was supposed to be at 11:30 so I showed up a few minutes before and waited and waited and waited. I hadn't smoked all day so sort of wished I had one, give me something to do, but I people watched then after about ten minutes went in to make sure they hadn't somehow beat me (I was aware I'd left before they did). Nope, none of them were there, but I only did a partial check of the restaurant as I feel like I'm being somewhat rude to just walk through a place where you're expected to wait to be seated. Went outside, waited another ten or so minutes then put together the courage to spy out every table in the restaurant before heading back to the parking lot again and running into my manager. We went in, signed up for a table, chatted for two or three minutes, then the waitress said, "Table for five," at the same moment our other comrades in arms walked in. Perfect timing.
Definitely feels like I'm the one that's "off" lately.
In contrast to the afternoon, my morning went incredibly quickly. There were plenty of things for me to take care of, not a moment to get bored. And it was good too, after the previous evening I needed something steady, intricate, and straight forward, to keep my mind off things.
So what happened is my daughter and I found ourselves in an arguably charged conversation/argument. I love her dearly and don't want to get into arguments with her, but we get into some complex challenges where I feel the line between parent and child gets blurred and she wants things to work on a more peer to peer level--and while I think it's important to listen to our children, as parents I think it's equally important to set expectations and be consistent (and hopefully fair and level) with them. One thing she said concerned me, though, she said something like, "You don't want me to be who I am, you just want me to be like you!" And you know, it made me pretty upset for two reasons. First, I could easily be considered a "non-comformist" from the day I was born, I've not rode along with a group just so I could fit in, have even from my earliest ages been a little eccentric, and feel it's incredibly important that all people express who they are truly deep down. Second, I don't want my daughter to be like me, I sincerely love her for who she is. On the other hand, I think there is some truth to her argument and I believe that's due to the fact that as parents we tend to (try to) instill in our children our morals and values. For me that includes a sense of what it means to have integrity, to be honest, to take responsibility for our behavior, and to stand up for ourselves (in particular to speak up when we want to be heard). True, there are times where I listen and then have to say, "Sorry you feel that way / want that, but I don't think you're ready"--there is such a thin line between setting expectations and boundaries and trying to make our children minature versions of ourselves. And that touches a sore spot for me as someone who doesn't like to be told how I should do something (especially when how I do something has a net-zero effect on anyone but me), so it's really, incredibly important to me that I do what I can, say what I can, to help my daughter hear me when I say I want her to express who she is as long as that expressions meets the expectations and boundaries I value as a father and also as a human being.
On that note I am a huge believer in karma, as I seem to constantly find myself experiencing situations, within days, from both karmic points of view, both sides of the fence. I sometimes feel like raising my fist up at the sky and going, "Okay, I fucking get it already, can we move on?!?"
I do admit I had gotten a little harsh in the conversation and I could have been more calm, taken a few more deep breaths, and counted to ten (ten times). Sorry all, I'm not perfect. At the same time I think I did pretty damn good and it wasn't just that the conversation itself was difficult, but also that I hadn't taken any of my pain meds all day, nearly every joint in my body hurt like hell and popped loudly whenever I moved, and I had a somewhat upsetting appointment with my doctor earlier in the day.
Now let me be make a disclaimer: my general practitioner is the best one I've had in my adult life. I found her earlier this year, after many terrible experiences with doctors, dentists, and specialists, but realized I needed to stop procrastinating and find someone that really cared about my health. So I went in, updated her on my status, and she sat diligently at the computer typing in notes and asking questions. I told her I'd had a kidney stone a few weeks ago, which may have contributed to much of my pain since April; she asked questions about my symptoms and asked who my urologist was, etc. I also said I'd gotten steroid injections in the lower muscles of my back around L5 around the same time and that also made me feel a little better. Still, while the back pain is appreciably better (much of the day), the hip, butt, knee (both now), and ankle pain has continued to increase. I expressed my frustration about physical therapy and going to the chiropractor, seems like I hit a plateau regarding the improvements they'd given me and frankly, I can't afford it anymore (esp. the chiro which costs me $43 a pop--actually, that's $43 for about 5 pops, lol). She said, "When are you going back to the bone and joint specialist," to which I said, "Well, when I was in last time it was a quick in-and-out fast food visit, he asked if I was better, I said no, he rolled up my shirt, gave me the shots, and said bye." "Well," she said, "You're obviously not much better so go back in and focus on the hip, butt, and legs." We also agreed I needed to make another appointment at the urologist, just to cover all the bases (I probably need another PET scan to see if this is something I need surgery for). Oh, I shared with her a diagnosis from the chiropractor, that he believed I might have burcitus of the hip, but, "The pain shouldn't be where you're experiencing it," she said, "I'm not aware of a bursa being there." So she tested me and said it didn't look like that. So what else? She asked if I considered if I had Fibromialsia but I said no, I know someone who has and it seems, from that and what I've read on the disease, that its focused on the muscles and can feel like constantly having the flue (chronic muscle pain, fatigue, and spaciness). In some ways, though, it would be nice to say, "Hey, that's what I got," but unfortunately...we're still picking at straws.
So I'll share the last part of the appointment with you, which I haven't shared with anyone until now for deeply personal reasons. While she was browsing my urologic records she read out loud and said I had diverticulosis. My jaw dropped and eyes widened. "What?" I said. She looked at me with a raised eyebrow, "You didn't know?" "No," I said shaking my head. I was beside myself with shock--and frankly fear. I've been to the urologist three times in the past two or three years, all for kidney stones, so have had several x-rays, urine tests, and one PET scan, but here, in my record, was a clear and unambiguous diagnosis (something I don't seem to be able to get for much lately) and my urologist had never seen fit to tell me about it. Not only that, this is the second time in as many months that a doctor read a diagnosis in my chart from a previous doctor who had somehow neglected to let me know about it. I was beside myself, angry, upset, and scared, and I think she saw that and was surprised herself as she said, "This is something we normally see in 60 year olds." Great, I'm thinking after she explained what it was, I have a condition associated with old age and nobody thought well enough to tell me about it so I could properly adjust my lifestyle to account for it--something that I've only been aware of because if I gain too much weight (for me, I'm really not that overweight, all things considered) I sometimes have pain in my abdomen and guess what, it's not simple indegistion. Thanks Dr. X (you fucker). Thanks a lot.
Anyhow, I'd gone to update her on my progress (or often lack off) and make sure we did what we needed to to adjust my care plan. And of course, didn't smoke that morning, as I don't many a morning, and didn't take any pain meds as I never want the edge of the pain to be dulled when a doctor's trying to determine, "Does it hurt when I do this?"
Got up early that morning. Drove to work. Wanted to ride in but didn't want to show up at the doctor's all sweaty and fresh. Work was a cyclical pattern of standing for ten minutes until my knees and ankles hurt too much, then sitting for five to ten until my butt hurt too much. Fun, fun, fun. Wished I'd rode in, wish I had like the day before. Did I mention I can now ride to my office in around ~15 minutes now? Should I mention that it typically takes me 7 to 15 to drive my car there (depending on traffic)? Heck, man, I'm getting faster.
If only I didn't feel like I'm pedalling backwards...
August 5th, 2008
Moody tonight, don't know why. Probably stemmed from my work day. Thought I'd stand up, voice some concerns I was having, and felt, well, felt like it was back to square one (working butt off, crossing fingers, and reacting to issues as best I could). Came home. Spent some time with my daughter. Made some soup. Watched part of a movie. Didn't have the patience to finish it. Got on the computer upstairs, checked in on work. Everything looks good and not so good, which is good and not so good. Tomorrow, hump day, doctor's appointment, and so on.
There are times, like the other day when I was writing on education, where I want to be a teacher. You could say it's in the blood. My parents were teachers. My uncle was. My brother is. And going back more than a hundred years my family, at least on my mom's side, is full of teachers and preachers. Given my predilection for being spiritually eccentric I couldn't exactly involve myself in the latter profession (which is something I wanted to do growing up), but there have been times where I have started to ask myself if I'd be happier teaching history, mathematics, and computer science, in the local high school. Pay isn't nearly as good so I couldn't do it without a winning lottery ticket or spouse who could help out, at least not if I wanted to keep my house, car, and motorcycle, but sometimes I wonder what I'd need to do, how much education I'd need to go back for, how much that would cost, and the like, so I could do something I'd probably enjoy, that is, teach kids.
Those who know me probably think that's pretty strange. I'm a fairly quiet sort, introverted by nature, and I much prefer the solitude of my cube at work where, if the fates are on my side, I can focus intently on whatever project I need to get done. At the same time, I want to help, encourage others, and feel like I'm making a difference. Also, what better way to challenge me to be more outgoing and social than a classroom full of crazy teenagers. Three month long summer breaks wouldn't hurt either, I could use the breather, definitely could use the breathers. Pay, not great, benefits are good, though, but truly, it always comes back to making a difference. I've been doing that in the life of a young girl for six or seven years now and I want to start doing that on a more regular basis, with more people, and with more of an impact.
For now, though, just feeling moody. Truth is, been feeling moody a lot in the evenings lately. Why? I think the primary reason is I've moved away from old habits of spending the last few hours of my day in front of a computer working or writing or watching Netflicks, instead I wander from one thing to another, a house project, a phone call, a little reading, or playing with the cats. It can be hard to change one's habits, ones routines, but I've been focused on that since April when I started experiencing serious health issues, when I decided I want to find more meaning in my endevours even if it's to lay outside in the hammock listening to NPR for a half hour.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, as they said on Seinfield. Time to stretch.
August 4th, 2008
It's about 11pm and I just got back from a late night ride. I honestly don't know what got into me. Got home, paid the bills, did a few things around the house, then considered doing my normal thing, that is: cleaning, writing, watching a documentary, ready, chatting on the phone--but something in me said, "Screw that, I need to get out!" So I got on my bike, new lighting gear all rigged up, and headed west towards North Plains, Oregon.
This was my second ride to North Plains since getting the red and white Le Monde seen in the photograph. Unlike my first ride, over a week ago, this time I was barely winded and didn't struggle up any of the hills. Once I got there that voice in my head continued to nag me so instead of doing a 360 I stopped for a thirty second break, then headed south towards downtown Hillsboro where I turned east, jumped onto TV Highway, and continued in a large loop back to my house. The total distance, I knew, would be much larger than any ride I'd ever been on and true enough, it was: 24 miles.
Probably a little more impressed with myself than I should be I jumped onto Google Maps and computed various rides around Oregon that I've wondered if I could make. The trip to Astoria, for instance, is about 80 miles and would, based on tonight's performance, take me 7 hours (non-stop--although to be realistic I'd need to pad on 3 or 4 for breaks and mountains). Wow, I thought, I could do that, just need a place to crash for the night. What about a trip to Central Oregon, where I grew up? 160 miles. Okay, that would take a couple days, so I could start early in the morning, camp on the mountain, and head the rest of the way the next day, stay a few days, then return. Maybe that's a year or two of training (and gathering of proper equipement) away. How about the ride a co-worker of mine does every year from Baker City to Hell's Canyon, the same one I ride every year on my motorcycle? Amazingly, it's about 60 or so miles from Baker City to Halfway, Oregon, and me, I'd be more than happy with myself to do that jaunt both ways in a day, especially considering some of the killer hills out there! But it's beautiful, maybe next year I'll have a bike rack on the car, take it out, get a motel in Baker, then spend Saturday doing the ride.
Truth is, I haven't been this excited about a sport since I used to jog and had hoped to train to run a marathon some day--but as you probably already know my knee got in the way of that one. Riding, however, is pretty low impact to my knees, especially with these clip on shoes, so as my stamina and muscle tone improves it becomes easier and easier to just keep a steady cadance, and like jogging I enjoy being outdoors and just going forward without too many, "Are we there yet?" thoughts. Now I just need time and motivation and maybe a rider or two to join me.
Anyway, I smell pretty fresh right now so it's time to jump in the shower and get to bed.
August 34rd, 2008
Last night I was sitting in bed with my partner. She was writing in her journal and I was reading an article in Newsweek about education when I turned to her and said, "Do you mind if I bitch for a moment?" She declined, which is something I love about our relationship, an openness to communication alongside a desire to respect where the other is at. Having said that, this Reflection will serve as my opporunity to bitch or, put another way, to express a strong view I have.
The article I was reading was about education in America. In particular, it was chastising Obama for his stance on public education system. I read the article and found myself cringing: it was yet another right wing rant about not only how teachers are paid too much, but that the teachers unions provide too many protections when its "obvious" our children are not being provided high quality educations. The basic theme of the article was that public schools should be treated like businesses, that is, that teachers should be hired, fired, and given raises, based on their performance.
My parents, for those of you who do not know, were both high school teachers and are even now passionately active members of the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon chapter of the teacher's union known as the NEA or National Education Association. The mission statement of the OEA is as follows:
OEA Mission, Goals, & History
The purpose of the Oregon Education Association is to assure quality public education for every student in Oregon by providing a strong, positive voice for school employees.
I: The top priority of the Oregon Education Association is to ensure that all students in Oregon receive a quality education. To meet this goal, OEA will pursue adequate and stable funding for public education.
II: Promote educational excellence for all students, and be a leader in establishing and evaluating decisions on education issues.
III: Build support for public education and education employees.
IV: Secure and expand personal, professional, legal, and human rights for all school employees.
V: Help members achieve professional excellence and meet the demands and stresses of their jobs.
VI: Pursue organizational excellence including systematic communications with members and involvement of members in decision-making.
To point out the obvious: The missions statement of the OEA is all about helping provide the highest quality education to children, not, I repeat, NOT to suck off the teet of the taxpayer.
Now I must admit it wasn't always the easiest thing to have my parents teaching in the same high school I attended but it did me an unique view of the experience of a teacher in the public education system.
Teaching had many perks. Their pay was decent, they had good benefits, and fairly long summer vacations. They also had numerous opportunities to make meaningful impacts to the lives of the students in their classrooms, something I think attracts most people to the educational field.
At the same time their jobs weren't as cozy as many a conservative would like you to believe. Most teachers, for example, do not work a 40 hour week week. Indeed, while I was in high school it was normal for us to show up at school several hours early (around 7am) and they usually didn't leave until five or six. Additionally their lunches were spent working, it was often required that they attend extracaricular activities in the evenings, and they spent nearly every weekday evening preparing for the next day's classes and/or grading papers. They probably worked, on average, ten or more hours a day.
The school day, especially for a high school teacher, is not as "easy" as some would suggest and anyone who has children, especially emotionally challenged ones, should know better. Specifically, imagine trying to teach a class of thirty wildly different children. Some come from families who value and encourage education and have taught them to listen and be polite while many come from struggling and broken families where their emotional needs aren't well cared for. Now imagine trying to teach all these kids who don't yet know who they are, as their hormones are screaming through them, as they are offered drugs in the hall, as they would rather text their friends and gossip, as they'd rather be at the mall shopping, as their being prescribed an historically record breaking numbers of anti-depressants and other legal mood altering drugs. Now imagine trying to teach a kid to appreciate literature when their only thinking about smoking pot with their friends, what sex is like, and would just die for the new iPhone.
Now me, I have one thirteen year old and she's a hand full, I couldn't possibly imagine trying to teach thirty children struggling with similar issues and regularly succeed in meeting my teaching goals. Yes, if I were a teacher I could do things to change my technique resulting in slightly better test scores, but when push comes to shove the grades my students earn are nearly exclusively a function of the other environments they exist in; they are a product of the values and emotional health of their family, friends, and culture at large.
It takes a village to raise a child, not one teacher who needs to cut corners so their student can score high on a national test or risk lost funding because that's what we do when we don't want to leave a child behind, we penalize them when they are.
So how fair is it, I have to ask, to determine whether or not a teacher should get a raise based on the grades of the students? Let me be frank, folks, we're not exactly a culture that values education and most children, these days, are brought up with a feeling of entitlement, that they deserve to have a new car (as a high schooler!), that they should be able to have a credit card and shop until they drop, they're not a generation of American's brought up to believe that we meet our goals through hard work so how is it even remotely ethical to believe even the best intentioned and hardest working teacher can consistently and effectively teach?
On top of all the stress of the zoo that is the public classroom teachers often cannot get students to focus on their students without potentially attracting threats and aggression from the students and teachers alike. All it takes is one child who's asked to, "Please be quiet and pay attention while you're in class," then it just takes one melodramatic complaint about this from a teenager (and what teenager isn't a bit melodramatic at times?) to get a parent to respond like a protective neanderthal and threaten a teacher with physical harm. Of course that would never happen in our "enlightened" culture, but truth is I lost count of the number of times my parents were threatened for doing things as simple as giving a child a D (sure, kid didn't ever hand in their homework and reguarly skipped class, but now they couldn't stay on the wrestling team! Wah!!!).
Put another way, could you imagine if your raises, benefits, and the like, were based largely on the work ethic of your co-workers, many of whom were slackers, didn't care, had emotional problems, or just didn't show up to work??? If that were true I would have NEVER gotten a raise when I worked at McDonald's or Dari Mart, my manager would have pulled me aside and said, "Sorry, while you work your ass off and even the owners of the store know you by first name, I can't give you a raise because Jim shows up thirty minutes every day and I'm really, truly sorry that you always have to make up for that too."
I can't imagine any of us seeing that as right, fair, just, or even remotely logical.
Now that's not to say teacher's don't have an impact on their kids and that there aren't shitty teachers out there. I can count at least half a dozen, over my high school years, that turned on the TV or otherwise had us socialize for the entire hour--and some of them admittedly because they only "taught" the class so they could coach the basketball team. The solution to that is not to go after all teachers, but for teachers to proactively go after those that are sitting on their asses and let them know that coaching extracaricular activities is not the right reason to be teaching and that those that do should find work elsewhere.
Another argument I hear about teachers, especially the unions, is that it's just there to give them lots of money, provide job security, and likewise make sure they have hopelessly unfair benefits packages. I don't even know where to start in my response so I'll just take it issue by issue:
Income - I'll be blunt: The income of your average public school teacher sucks balls. Personally I would love to change professions and become a full time high school teacher but the reality is I'd have to sell my house first and live in a shitty little apartment. If I did that I would, at my very best, be earning less than half of what I currently earn (and I'm nowhere near the top of my pay scale!); even while my parents both worked full time their combined income was about $20k less than I earn today! Given gas prices, housing costs, groceries, and the like, most teachers have to struggle just to get by and many can't even afford to live in the districts they teach. So before you believe teacher's are fat cats living large on the tax payers dime do the research, figure out how much the average teacher earns in your school district, and compare that to what teacher's in other first world countries do. What you'll find is that as a culture we do not education. Sure, they earn better than working at a convenience store, but last I checked they don't earn as much as most degree holding college graduates--and they gotta pay off those debts too.
Job Security - It's true, once most teachers are given full time jobs they generally can work those jobs for the rest of their lives. Now if you think about it thirty or forty years ago this was fairly common in all industries and once people graduated from college they more or less exepcted to be with the same employer for decades, if not for life. That, obviously, has changed, so when I hear people berate the teacher's unions for "just" trying to insure shitty teachers keep their jobs, I think it comes from a personal sense of envy because the world isn't like that for the rest of us anymore. Most of us (including myself) no longer live in the reality where we can expect to work anywhere for more than a few years at a time, most of us don't have long term job security, so the whole job security argument seems, at least to me, an argument based more on what the rest of us don't have than the unions trying to maintain an atmosphere of job security that most of has should have! For my part I think it's good that teachers don't have to spend their nights unable to sleep because they don't know if their jobs will be around in the morning, I think it's good that every year is another year to improve their job skills, and I think it's unrealistic to have them worried about their next paycheck after dealing with the stress of trying to teach some arguably crazy teenagers day in and day out. They need to be able to focus on teaching, not the politics and social climate that sometimes makes their output and devotion an absolute miracle. And frankly, given the stresses of the job and utter contempt so many in our culture have against teachers I'm amazed most teachers actually stick it out as long as they do, we don't need to add yet one more reason for them to switch occupations. Truth is, many of the best do and fewer and fewer are seeing any reason to go into the field except for things like job security...take that away and you've just chopped off an incentive that attracts and keeps most of the best teachers there.
Unfair Benefits - In most other first world countries a benefits package including full health care is viewed as a right, not a privelege, so it doesn't surprise me that in America, where so many of us must go without, hold it against teacher's for this perk. Yes, teacher's get good health care, but like most jobs where it's provided they do pay into it. Likewise, it's my firm belief that any mature and ethical society will provide these benefits to call working citizens whether they are a CEO, politician, teacher, or burger flipper at the local Jack'n'the Box. Forgive my french, but having we fucking lost our minds, is our solution to every problem to take away the benefits others have instead of finding ways to insure EVERYONE has them? We are the richest country on earth and if Jesus were to come down on Judgement Day I think he would see how we spend money in this country, how instead of focusing on making it better for EVERYONE we so often talk about ways on making life harder for others (like those fat cat teachers). That is not something that makes me proud to be an American and I hope that some day we will wake up and see the need to provide everyone benefits that will provide for their health and well being.
Anyway, I could go on and on. The truth is there are bad teachers out there and we've all had them but there are a lot of excellent teachers too and it is unfair to judge the good ones based on the output of a generation that knows more about Paris Hilton than what's on the next algebra test. We're already, quite frankly, paying them shit for the hard work and commitment they put in and stress received from the children, parents, and society at large, and the most committed of them really do work their asses off without the monetary benefits so many ignorantly believe they're cashing in on. Interview any college kid going after an educational degree and they'll afirm it for you: they ARE NOT going into it for the money. Many, quite frankly, won't survive a few years of the stress. Isn't it time we began valuing our teachers, as countries in Europe and Asia do? Lets get real, America, the reason our educational system sucks isn't because teacher's aren't being held accountable, it's because we do not fund our schools well, it's because our children are becoming more and more egocentric and emotionally volatile, it's because we value the football team more than the science lab or library, it's because when our child fails biology we blame the teacher instead of sitting down with our kids and say, "Why did you get that D and what can you do to bring it up next term?" It's time we started taking responsibility again, raising our children to value education, to respect and listen to their teachers, to do their best, and to work hard day in and day out. Those lessons can and often are taught in the classroom but its not practical or even logical to expect our teachers to suddenly get children to learn them if they are brought up in environments lacking the building blocks of learning. A child who has not been taught to learn, follow rules, listen, be thoughtful and respctful at home, will not suddenly become 7, realize learning is important, and begin getting straight A's in all of his or her classes. The seeds for that kind of work, folks, begins at home, they begin with what our children do, what they're allowed to watch on TV, play on the computer, and so on, and if we provide them with challenges and tools that help them become confident, curious, thoughtful, and so on, then and only then will our public schools succeed.
On another note, why do private schools typically have better performance?
1. They are better funded.
2. Parents who pay out of pocket for their childrens' educations are by definition invested in that education so are more likely to teach children the value of education.
3. Parents who send their children to private schools generally value education more highly than the general populace so are more likely to teach children the value of education.
3. Private school teachers have more control of their classrooms, that is, distruptive children can be dealt with without fear of reprisals from parents.
4. Private schools are just that: schools. They are viewed as centers of learning, not places to socialize, play on the football team, or send our kids while we're at work. Call it a crazy idea, but if an entire commuity is involved and treats a school as primarily a center for learning then those who attend are more likely to learn!
Anyway, just needed to bitch, to share my thoughts about education in America and my irritation with the ignorant who have little to no "education" about what members of organizations like the Oregon Education Association actually do. I felt a need to stand up and speak out against those who respond emotionally and irrationally to a group of people who, frankly, work their collective asses off in a society that quite frankly does not value their hard work, especially in comparison to most other countries around the world. Sure, it's easy to point the finger and blame the teacher and sure, there are things my daughter's teachers do that I don't like, but if I place the blame on them without taking responsibility for her home life, the values I teach her, the challenges and opportunities I set before her, if I don't regulate her use of the TV and internet from time to time so she can learn to value something like a Stephen King novel, then I am a thousand times more guilty than any one teacher she sees a few times a week ever could be.