Do You Have Any Change?

It seems as though change is inevitable, though never terribly welcome, despite it’s usefulness in the course of politics and business, and sometimes in our personal lives.  Let me give you a few examples.

The current political environment is in large part a confilict between those who are afraid of change to the point of trying to actively prevent it, and those who while not always completely ready for change are at least wiling to adapt to it.

In my career as an Information Technology worker, I’ve learned that change is frequently not appreciated, even by those whose lives it would improve. In many instances, those who stand to gain the most, will resist the most strongly, seeking to sabotage even the most modest of changes in hopes that they can avoid having to change at all.

Unfortunately, resistance to change starts young. My grandson, who still has to have his pants changed for him, screams bloody murder when he’s wet or poopy, but screams even louder during the diapering process. However, unlike some adults I know, he will at least calm down immediately after he adjusts to the new normal.

I’m in the process of making some changes myself going forward into the new year.  Although they are good changes and changes I pursued, there is still the anxiety of doing something different, though it is mixed with the excitement of new opportunities, new people, and new challenges.  I call it anxcitement.  While it is a good feeling, it does result in a lot of soul searching and second guessing as to whether you’ve made the right decision.  But I also think that sometimes it’s the mere fact that you’ve made the decision that counts the most.

The Few, The Proud, The Out of Tune

Like many a father, my Dad sat through any number of Christmas programs, chorus concerts, and band concerts.  My only regret is that I quit being involved in those types of things by the time I might have been capable enough to make attending them less of a chore.
I don’t wish to sound like I resent attending my son’s events now, far from it, but I do hold out hope that my son will stick with them longer than I managed to do.
I can tell he’s gotten better.  He plays trombone and his early efforts, while he was first learning to play, had a strong resemblance to a flatulent moose.  “Blarp! Blurrrrrrp!” followed by other noises which words have not been found to describe. I might have known them once, but they were lost in the Great Brain Cell Massacre my sophomore year of college.
Nowadays he merely sounds like a lovesick moose to the point that the smallest dog feels ccompelled to sing along in case he succeeds in calling anything, the smallest dog having delusions of grandeur of being a Mighty Hunter, at least Angry Bird toys.  He kills several every night.  Dog has a richer fantasy life than I do.  I’d settle for having all the bills paid and a little money left over once in a while.
But all in all the boy is improving to the point I can imagine myself going to one of his concerts and not cringing, which is, like I said, farther than I ever got.
And now, here I am, ready for the concert, appreciative of my Dad for sitting through all those concerts for the payoff that never came, and of my son, who is sticking to it longer than I ever did.

TV

I am not a big TV watcher.  I would much rather spend my time writing or reading.  However, my wife is an addict.  I’ve suggested unplugging and getting rid of the satellite bill a few times, and she started having panic attacks.

In fact, before we got married, she spent the entire 9 months of the engagement watching a show called “Wedding Story” on TLC or whatever.  After she got pregnant with our son, she watched nothing but “A Baby Story”.  Unfortunately for me, she’s watching nothing but “Divorce Court”

Her tastes tend to run toward whatever happens to be on.  So I get subjected to things like “Long Island Medium”, “Say Yes to the Dress”, “Chopped”, various paranormal investigation shows, and endless reruns of “Criminal Minds”.  I actually don’t mind “Chopped” that much, it’s semi entertaining, but the rest of them just drive me nuts.  “Say Yes to the Dress” is pretty much a no brainer, in that I don’t know a lot of guys that really enjoy watching any of the process of getting married.  Most guys I know would as soon elope or do a quickie at a Wedding Chapel or JP office somewhere.  Guys like being married, while I think women are more excited about the process.

The psychic and paranormal shows are the worst.  It’s not just that I’m a skeptic, it’s that they are so damn boring.  I don’t know how she can enjoy watching the same group of people talking aloud to empty rooms in night vision camera and then starting at any sound.  It’s the same thing each time, with a different location.

She doesn’t really understand my preferences either though.  When I do watch TV, I tend to like things like “Through the Wormhole” or “How It’s Made” or “Bizarre Foods”.  That last one is certainly a hold out from my time as an anthropology major in college, while “How It’s Made” just fascinates me because of the intricacies of making all of the products that I just take for granted every day.  “Through the Wormhole” is fascinating because I’m a science geek, and it’s got Morgan Freeman, which is all anybody really needs.

We have arguments about the TV, she complains I spend all my time on my phone and the laptop, while I complain that I wouldn’t be on the phone or the laptop if she didn’t spend all her time watching TV. It’s for the most part, a stand off.

But I have hopes that someday I will pry her away from the TV long enough to play a game of Scrabble, and she has hopes that some day she’ll pry me away from the computer long enough to do some of the little remodeling projects she wants done around the house.  I hope that we’re both right, and that electronics won’t become the third party of a not that romantic triangle.

Don’t Torture Me Bro!

I finished reading the Senate report on the CIAs “enhanced interrogation” techniques this week.  It was disturbing, to say the least.  I don’t know that I will ever understand the mindset of anyone who would willingly inflict mental or physical pain on another human being.  However, I have some suggestions for alternatives, which I don’t know about you, but just the threat of these would break me.

  • The Adam Sandler 24 hour film festival
  • The Early work of Jim Carey, esp. The Mask, and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (one of only two movies I’ve ever walked out on in the theater)
  • The oevre of Gwen Stefani’s solo act on auto repeat.  I can only take so much rythmic chanting before I start to develop a tic.
  • A 24 hour Reality TV channel featuring the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, the Shark Tank, Ghost Adventures, and the Long Island Medium.
  • Anything that comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth or keyboard.  How anyone can utter that much gibberish and still maintain any kind of credibility is beyond me. I fed one of her Facebook posts into a sentence diagrammer and my computer reported me for cruelty.
  • Being left in a room with nothing to read but Rod McKuen’s poetry and Harlequin Romance novels.
  • A menu of nothing but brains and eggs.  Probably the worst thing I have ever eaten.  Thanks Dad!
  • The Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Album we played at the Radio Shack I worked at for 4 Christmases straight.  I can still hear it in my sleep during the season.  One can only hear “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel” on a cheesy synthesizer before one becomes a Scrooge.

It’s Just Another Day- Doo doo doo doo doo doo

There’s a certain amount of dismay that comes with not knowing if you’ll ever get better when you’re sick.  Each day that comes without any improvement makes it harder and harder to believe that your existence will every be anything more than the discomfort of that day.

I am lucky enough to have a wife who, while not an unreasoning optimist, is at least willing to pretend to be when I need to generate a little hope.  It’s one of the things I value most about her.  I try to do the same for her when she’s feeling down or uncertain. We are a mutual encouragement society.

So now that I’m feeling better, there’s a certain amount of sameness that happens as you get used to the new normal.  Where before you spent the time wondering how bad it was going to be the next day, you now just get used to being able to ignore your body and spend your time on doing things that you used to not be able to do.

The hardest thing is getting yourself motivated to move out of that routine and take on something new.  When you[‘re not quite ready to believe that you’re really past the worst, you are caught between wanting to start taking chances to prove you’re ok and being afraid to in case you’re not.

So it’s just another day, but I keep hoping that it’s the start of a whole lot of better days.

Poe’s Law Keeps Getting Harder and Harder

I comment regularly in the letters section of my regional newspaper.  It’s probably as close to a social life as anything else I have, other than my regular Saturday night role playing game session on line.  It’s a good time, and I can usually work satire and parody in to my commentary and reactions to the commentary of others, which is half the fun, when I think about it.  Often that comes in the form of stating the opinions of various right wing religious god-botherers, gun-fondlers, and others in as ridiculous a form as I can think of, if for no other reason than to point out the silliness of their position.  Unfortunately, these people are often nearly impossible to parody.  Which brings me to Poe’s Law.

I am learning that I must include a sarcasm tag if I am going to indulge, as I have been mistaken for someone who really means the most ridiculous statements.  I have been told to think before I post, that I am a horible human being, and that I should have my computer taken away.

Poe’s Law states that “Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”

The sad thing is that I’ve been taken in myself by a group on Facebook that makes the Westboro Baptist Church look like a bunch of bleeding heart liberals.  It took me all of half an hour to look them up and figure out it was a hoax, but I was actually quite impressed by their attention to detail.

I’m not a big fan of fundamentalism.  Personally I think that the Christian Right is as big a threat to our democracy as anything ISIS can think of.

But in the long run, the only real defense against fanatacism of any kind is to find the chinks in its adherents armor of belief, at least to the point where their certainty conflicts with observable reality. That won’t help with the 27% that are completely nuts, but those are not the dangerous ones. It’s the ones that can be persuaded to vote with the nuts despite knowing better, because they they are willingly distracted by the shiny objects of tribalism, fear and anger.

Not to go all Godwin, but these are the same tactics used by fascist regimes of the past to take power. Get people to blame their troubles on a convenient scapegoat and profit. Any group can fit the bill, whether it be the poor, who are freeloading from the rest of us, the Muslims, who are all bloodthirsty terrorists, the LGBTs, who are out to recruit our children and force Godfearing people to perform wedding ceremonies, the illegal immigrants who are taking our jobs and soaking up welfare, or the liberals, who want to do whatever, the Right has lots and lots of paranoid fantasies which they use to scare and anger people from realizing they’re voting away the hardfought rights of the past that they no longer even value because they take them for granted.

The worst part is that mockery and satire don’t work like they used to. One must have a modicum of self awareness before that can happen, and many of the leading figures of the Tea Party and their ilk appear to either have none or can ill afford to admit that they are mockable, which means that being outraged at the most trivial of things, and a distinct lack of humor about having it pointed out, becomes their stock in trade.

So in the end, what’s left? All we can do is try to point out ridiculousness as we see it, and hope someday that the purveyors of this stuff will be laughed out of power. I’m not holding my breath on that,, but I’m doing my part.

My first best friend

My first best friend was a book, or if I’m really honest, any book. I loved to read, even to the exclusion of the things that normal kids do. I think it had something to do with my inability to understand my peers and feeling like they definitely didn’t understand me.

I think if I had been born 10 or 15 years later, I would have been just in time for the PC revolution, and my best friend would have been a computer instead. At this point, other than my wife and child, and the friends I have in my gaming group, the computer is my best friend, and my books have been shunted aside as my primary form of escape and recreation.  I tend to read primarily for the purposes of learning rather than for enjoyment.

We are in the process of downsizing our household and part of that process has been culling my book collection. I’ve done this a couple of times in my life, neither terribly willingly, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

The first time I had to cull my collection was when my first wife insisted that I get rid of the boxes of books that I had hauled along through multiple moves with my family and multiple moves as an adult. When she finally insisted, it was one of the major fights of our short marriage.  I finally gave in, perhaps because I decided I needed her more than I needed my books, but now that I look back on it, it was more of a power struggle than any real desire to downsize on her part.

I did it again when my current wife and I decided to downsize before we moved to our current home.  I’ve managed to refill my bookshelves though mostly with technical books.  Having a nook and a kindle app on my smartphone has been a godsend.  I now have a library of at least 100 books all in a 2″ X 5″ space.

My tastes in fiction have always tended toward genres, especially horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  I’ve even gone so far as to try to write some of each, though I struggle with the discipline to finish anything.  I have a novel in the works, and the beginnings of an RPG module if I can just get myself to just write instead of writing about writing.  There’s a lot to be said for just sitting down and pounding out the words.  Unfortunately, I’m inclined to try to write my final draft the first time out, not wanting to do the work required to fix my bad grammer, poor spelling, and lackluster plotting once I’ve gotten started.

The odd thing is, I can finish poetry, and I can write articles, but fiction never quite feels right.  I think I’ve been spoiled by reading so many great story tellers.  All I can think of when I write is “This isn’t as good as Asimov, King, Brown, Bloch, or de Camp.  Never mind all of them were masters of their craft by the time I started reading them.  I never saw their first fumbling attempts at storytelling, just their masterpieces.  Maybe beginning writers should only be allowed to read crap so they can find their own voices, while thinking “I may not be the best writer in the world, but I’m better than that!”  For me the first novel that brought that feeling was a book called “The Alien” at least that’s what I think it was called.  I’ve tried to forget it since, other than a vague memory that it was full of cliches, unnecessary gore, and dialog that sounded like something out of a 60’s Batman! episode.  Later, there were novels by James Patterson that gave me the same feeling.  “He’s churning this crap out and making millions.  Why can’t I do that?”

So I’m working on getting serious about writing again.  Below is the start of my fantasy novel.

Flight of the Pigasus

The laboratory smelled of sulfur and a hint of other things, preferably unknown, as the thought was likely to ruin one’s appetite.  Aladar leaned over a vat, his long beard dipping into the effluvia and coming back a good inch shorter and discolored at the end as though it had been burned off.  “Hmm..needs just a bit more grunberry, and a pinch of… fildric root!  That’s it!” He shuffled over to a shelf and pulled down several jars, inspecting the contents of each in turn before finding what he was looking for and tossing his discoveries into the vat, his leather apron protecting him from the back splash, which ate holes in the floor where it landed.

“Is it ready yet? Is it ready?” barked Grff happily, his wet nose shining in the lamplight, his tail making flickering shadows as it waved across the lamps.

“Not yet,” Aladar said, his rheumy eyes glowing wet behind the thick lenses that perched uneasily on his long narrow nose. “I think we need to give it just a bit more time.  Watch your tail Grff, you’ll knock over the alembics if you’re not more careful!”  He made one final inspection of the vat’s occupant and stepped back, satisfied. “This will take a bit and it’s time for supper.  Can I trust you to lock things up?”

“Oh yes!  Yes, I can do that!” Grff scampered about the room happily, pleased to be of service.  As Aladar left, he started to pick up glass beakers and crockery, putting each back in its carefully labeled place on the shelves.  He swept the floor and then pulled out the mop, wiping the bloodstains and other effluvia off the floor in great wet passes, like a dog’s tongue.

“Master likes the floor clean, yes he does!” Grff growdeled happily to himself.  It was low howling yodel combined with a growl.  Grff was prone to making the noise when Aladar told him he was a Good Boy or when the Master gave him new responsibilities.  He wanted to be a Good Boy.  Being a Good Boy had been all he had ever wanted, even before Master made The Change.  He continued his pass across the floor until he came to the sole window in the north wall.  What he saw in the yard caused him to pause and stick his head out the window.

“Grrrrrrruuufff!  Grrrrufffff! Grubbut! Grubbut!  Get out of my yard!  Grrrrrruffff!  Grrrrruffff!”  The grubbet froze, it’s green eyes shining in the darkness, and its long prehensile nose continued to sniff the ground, looking for the odd insect.

“I’ll show you, you old grrrrrrrubbet!” Grff squeezed through the window and ambled toward the grubbet, which scampered off into the twilight with Grff in close pursuit.

Back in the laboratory, the vat which contained Aladar’s latest experiment started to bubble.  First a snout rose above the turmoil, then a pair of pink ears, then a pair of leathery wings, which quickly started to flap, drying themselves as the rest of the creature arose from the morass.  When they were flightworthy, the creature hovered above the vat for a moment, gave a snort of surprise, and then flew out the window where Grff had gone, ready to experience the world outside.