Monday, December 31, 2007

Horns of a Dilemma

I'm struggling with an ethical dilemma at the moment. The company that bought my employer and had me canned has arranged for me to perform consulting services. All of us have been brought on as part time consultants. If I were to do a good job as a consultant, I would inform my new client how it could save money and achieve maximum efficiency. This information would, however, if taken to heart, result in one of my former co-workers' being cut loose from his or her consulting contract.

I don't yet know whether the folks at the client company are bigger douchebags than my former colleague, so there is no help there. It is inevitable that the client will become aware of the situation, but I don't know whether they will blame me for not telling them and whether this will have an impact on any career opportunities I might have with them. This may take some time because the client company's personnel are not really able to imagine a scenario in which there is no accountability whatsoever, so they cannot imagine that the selling company tolerated as much useless expense and incompetence as I know that it did.

In either case, I would be betraying someone, either the client or my former colleague. My former colleague made life miserable at work in many ways, but I sort of admired him or her for sticking it to the man by drawing a salary for decades while adding negative value to the organization. That was subversive, but I am pretty sure that he or she didn't know that he or she was being subversive. He or she thought that he or she was indispensable, something that made him or her a source of much amusement and frustration. The new people are just corporate tools, and they appear to be competent. I don't yet know whether they have integrity, but I reckon that their goals and behaviors should be predictable and geared at least ostensibly toward making a profit.

My former colleague would throw me under the bus in a second.

What to do, what to do.

My Single Resolution

Mr Scott eschews New Year’s Resolutions so he won’t be disappointed. This may work for him, but I found out that no matter how low I set the bar I can still find reasons for self loathing and disappointment. So this year I am going to set the bar high so that when I fail I will have failed at something worth failing at. Nothing short of physical, spiritual, intellectual and social perfection will do, and that’s what I’ll be aiming for.

I’m not totally unreasonable. I don’t expect to be perfect on the first day or even the first month. I just want to be perfect in every way by this time next year, and I want there to be clear manifestations that I am approaching perfection by Easter or thereabouts.

Also, I realize that perfection is a relative term. I’m not looking to become a being of pure energy or anything like that, just to realize my full potential as a human being.

This will not be easy, I know. Perfection is something that eludes even people with strong character and personal courage, so you can imagine how much harder it will be for me. Then again, the accomplishment will be so much sweeter because it was done without resort to such resources.

Our Trip to Cooperstown

Mrs Vache Folle and I went to Cooperstown on Thursday where we met one of our old friends and neighbors from Seattle. He was out visting his in-laws in Pennsylvania, but he deprived himself of their company for a couple of days to see us and to worship at the Temple of Baseball. We drove through a blizzard to get there, but the weather settled down during our two day stay.

We visited the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on the afternoon that we arrived. This consists of a more or less chronological journey through the history of baseball ending in a literal hall where the legendary players and other particpants in baseball are memorialized. The origins of baseball are obscure, and even the BHOFAM acknowledges that the claim that it was invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown was a complete myth. Old time baseball looked to me to be a more leisurely game, one that you could play while getting drunk. Pitchers finsihed their games and even pitched both ends of double headers, so how hard could they have been throwing? Homers were all but non-existent before the Babe came along and made them de reigeur.

The funny thing about the BHOFAM is that it consists almost entirely of baseballs, bats, gloves and photos. And yet each is more fascinating than the next. There was THE VERY BALL that Roger Maris hit to break the Babe's record. There was THE VERY BAT that slugger so and so used for his 3,000th hot, Ohmigawd!

I learned a lot. Did you know that the Pittsburgh Pirates were known, for a season, as the Pittsburgh Innocents? That the Yankees were the Baltimore Orioles before they were the New York Highlanders? That there was a Negro League player whose nickname was "Cum"? All this and more awaits the visitor to the BHOFAM at Cooperstown.

And if you want baseball related souvenirs, there are plenty of folks on Main Street who would love to sell them to you. There are also some pretty good restaurants.

But Cooperstown isn't just about baseball. There's also the Farming Museum and the James Fenimore Cooper Art Museum, both of which are on my must do list for our next pilgrimage to the Leatherstocking Region, as it is apparently known. There is also the Cooperstown Beverage Trail which consists of a cider house, two breweries, and a winery. The cider house was closed for the season, but we were able to take in a tour and tasting at the Ommegang brewery. Ommegang is devoted to Belgian style ales which are quite delicious but which are, at least to me, a potent soporific. We didn't get to the other stops on the beverage trail. We bought a mixed case of 750 ml bottles because we enjoyed the tasting so much. One ale had been aged in the Howe caverns, and you could really tell the difference between the cave aged stuff and the same product that was not cave aged.

We drove home through the Catskills on Route 28 and settled in to our cozy cabin and a couple of bottles of good ale each with a dog for company.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Born in the USA Not Necessarily Enough?

I found a copy of Mrs Vache Folle's grandfather's passport application from 1923. Even though Aksentyj was born in Jersey City in 1904 or thereabouts, his family had migrated back to the Carpathians shortly thereafter, and he was required by the State Department to establish that he had not manifested an intent to abandon his US citizenship by leaving the country. Aksentyj pointed out that he had not had a choice in the matter, having been an infant when the family left the US and that he had had to wait until his younger brother was old enough to help out on the farm before leaving the family.

To bolster his argument, Aksentyj reported that his father Ambrozy had lived in the US for fifteen years. This was not true. The family spent only about five years in the states. But this does not seem to have an impact on the decision to grant him a passport.

Aksentyj returned to America, settled in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and lived the American dream by working as a coal miner and dying before the age of 60 from lung disease. Had he stayed in the Carpathians, he might have been enslaved by the Nazis like his younger siblings or deported in the Polish Communists' campaign of ethnic cleansing following WW2.

Aksentyj had a bunch of children who now live all across the USA. Some are successful; some are loons. His brothers' descendants still live in Poland, some of them in the same village where the Madzula family has lived for centuries. Mrs VF and I visited them a couple of years ago, and she still keeps in touch with her cousin. They are lovely people.

I wonder. Would a child born in America and having an American birth certificate have difficulty getting a passport today?

Skill Inventory

I’m gradually starting to think about what I want to do when I grow up, and I have been assessing my skills and interests. It turns out that there are a number of areas in which I both excel and which I enjoy.

I am an outstanding editor and am far better at it than I am at writing. I enjoy helping writers tighten up their work, and I used to earn extra cash by editing dissertations and articles here and there. I am especially good at sticking with the writer’s own style and at leaving stuff alone when it suffices. I never make changes solely for the sake of flexing editorial muscles.

I am a highly skilled negotiator, and I enjoy collaborating on complex transactions with other skilled individuals. Nobody drafts contracts better than I do. I prefer plain language and eschew the use of mystifying legal jargon whenever possible. I love to solve problems in the context of negotiating and drafting contracts.

I am a skilled mediator of disputes, and I enjoy the process. I also enjoy coming up with ways to manage ongoing conflict.

I have good investigative skills and know how to get to the bottom of things. I might make a good inspector general or ombudsman or some such thing. This skill also puts me in good stead when working on the due diligence phase of mergers and acquisitions.

I can teach. I don’t like children very much, but I enjoy teaching/training adults. I don’t have any problem speaking in public or speaking extemporaneously. I love to hear myself talk, as a matter of fact.

It also turns out that I have some weak points as well due to my personal preferences. I don’t want to work long hours or travel more than a quarter of the time. I don’t want to be anyone’s boss. I don’t want to work for a douchebag or to do anything cheney and risk eternal damnation.

Christmas Spirit

I had a most enjoyable Christmas and days leading up to it. On Saturday night, we went to the city and saw “The Seafarer” at the Booth Theatre. This play takes place on Christmas Eve in the home of two brothers, Richard and Sharkey (played by Jim Norton and David Morse, respectively) who live outside Dublin. With friends Ivan and Nick and a visitor, Mr Lockhart (Ciaran Hinds), they play in an all night poker game. Mr Lockhart, it turns out, is the devil, and Sharkey’s soul is at stake. The ensemble pulled off the roles of drunken Irishmen most credibly, and the performance of Norton as Richard was priceless.

I was moved by the theological undertones of the play. The devil envied humanity because of God’s love for us. He even envied the broken and desperate sots at the card game. He resented the promise of redemption held out to them. Meanwhile, the men at the card game were unaware of the gifts of grace, love and redemption and sought peace at the bottom of a glass of whiskey. Mr Lockhart’s unstinting description of hell was profoundly disturbing.

In keeping with the theological theme of the weekend and holidays, Sunday and Monday were filled with church doings. I sang at two services on Christmas Eve, and played in recorder ensembles as well. On Christmas, we visited some friends and had a lovely dinner at their house. I got all four seasons of “Blackadder” on DVD and some certificates for massages. Mrs Vache Folle got horseback riding lessons. In addition, we received gifts of love, hope, joy, light, peace and life.

If only we could keep up the spirit of the season all year round. I sometimes despair of this, especially when some of my co-religionists suggest that these are matters that can be compartmentalized and kept away from life outside the church. I had a frustrating discussion with a fellow chorister who reckoned that the church was getting too “political”. How so? All this emphasis on peace and justice seemed to her to infringe on the political sphere. She simply could not imagine the concept of waging peace or doing justice outside of the apparatus of the state, and she supposed that the church ought not to interfere with the state.

I agree that the church should have no truck with the state at all, and I reckon that love and peace and justice and mercy are attributes that are utterly alien to the state. The state is an impediment to these things, not a means to achieving them.

I was gratified that our pastor felt comfortable enough on Sunday to take a more nuanced approach to prophecy. Isaiah wasn’t predicting the coming of Jesus centuries in the future; he was talking about his own times and proclaiming that God had not abandoned the Israelites. He described the vision of perfect peace that would come with the kingdom of heaven on earth and did so in metaphors involving predators and prey dwelling together. The writers of the Gospels weren’t so much claiming that Jesus was the subject of ancient prophecy as they were pointing out that the coming of Jesus was like what Isaiah wrote about back in the day.

And Christmas has just begun.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


The dude at Death Wore a Feathered Mullet has close to the right idea about animal rights, and he posts a picture of Eva Mendes in the buff.

I won’t wear fur, but I don’t seem to have a problem with leather. The leather comes from cows that were dead anyway since we ate them, but the fur comes from cute little critters who are skinned gratuitously. I suppose rabbit fur would be OK as long as you also ate the rabbit. Anyway. I find fur distasteful, but I’m not going to throw blood on you if you wear a fur coat unless it’s made from an endangered species or hairy third world urchins. Even then, I probably wouldn’t throw blood.

It would really bother me if you had a fur coat made from puppies or kittens. A coat made of mouse fur would be OK except for the enormity of the slaughter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Child Visitation Redux

Commenter Zeph called me to task in my post about the drunk who reckons that he “deserves” unsupervised time with his kids. The commenter took from my post the idea that I advocated forcible removal of the man’s children from him. I do not.

I have written in the past on this blog that my preferred way of dealing with child custody and visitation issues is to minimize the involvement of the state. I have determined that the best way to accomplish this would be to have a presumption in favor of the mother’s having full custody and control over visitation with the father. Some fathers would get screwed by this system to be sure, but why should this become everyone else’s problem? Most folks will work out a more or less equitable arrangement based on their own needs and circumstances. That some will not is pitiable but hardly a basis for saddling society with the expense and intrusiveness of a child welfare apparatus.

Why the mother? Frankly, mothers provide far and away most of the child care, and, despite a lot of pissing and moaning from non-custodial fathers, fathers often do next to nothing for their kids. This is a social fact that we have to contend with if we want to design an efficient system with minimal state involvement.

On the other hand, I would abolish mandatory child support payments except those agreed upon between the parents. Most fathers will happily provide for their children. Some will not, and this will mean a hardship for some mothers and their children. I reckon some charitable folks will step up to the plate in such cases, and folks will be a lot choosier about whom they reproduce with. Anyway, not much can be done about deadbeat dads without inconveniencing the rest of us with an expensive and intrusive enforcement apparatus.

In the case at point, I reckon that it should be up to the drunk’s ex-wife to decide what visitation he gets based, it is hoped, on the welfare of the children. Instead, he has used the state to compel her to give him access which she may well regard as unwarranted. After, all she knows him better than any judge. He has initiated force in this instance to override the judgment of the mother.

The situation is a bit more complicated in this case, however, because the father is compelled to pay child support. He claims that he does so willingly out of love for his children, but the threat of force doubtless played a part in his decision- making. Also, if they were voluntary, he could use support payments as an inducement to provide more access to the children.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Don't Get a Cookie for Staying in Recovery

I had a strange and uncomfortable conversation the other day about a child custody and visitation dispute. The father, an alcoholic who went on a bender that lasted several years, had had supervised visitation with no overnights until recently when he had shown that he had been clean and sober for an entire year. The individual, a partisan pf the father, claimed that he “deserved” unsupervised visits and that it had been wrong of the mother to “punish” the father because of his “disease”. The individual wanted me to join the hooray for Father club, but I would not.

Child custody and visitation proceedings aren’t about justice. They’re ostensibly about the best interests of the children. Frankly, the father had been an outright danger to the children when he would drink until he passed out while they were under his care. They might just as well have been home alone. They might have been safer home alone than with Drunky McNojudgement. The mother, who was incredibly inconvenienced by not having much of a break from the kids, would have been irresponsible if she had not sought to curtail the father’s access to the children. And it was up to him to establish that it would be safe for the kids to be alone with him.

Given the rate of recidivism of severe alcoholics, it only made sense to wait at least a year to see if the father was going to keep his act together. Nobody was punishing him. In fact, the rest of the family suffered because of his untrustworthiness and irresponsibility. The mother was burdened with unceasing responsibility for the kids with little break and lots of anxiety, the father’s family was burdened with having to supervise him and his visits, and the kids were burdened with the whole stupid situation, a situation created entirely by the father.

Perhaps the situation was due to a disease, but it still inconvenienced and harmed a lot of people who have every right to be angry and skeptical about Mr Imallbetternowanditwasntmyfaultbecauseihadadisease.

What really gets my goat is that, while it’s a truly wonderful thing that the father is in recovery, he seems to think that he deserves a frakking medal for not being on a bender. And his partisans are so thrilled that he appears to be getting his act together that they heap praise on him as though he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Give me a break! You’re supposed to stay sober enough to maintain consciousness, so you don’t get a cookie for not drinking yourself into oblivion. I am happy that the father is on the mend, but I don’t think he has anything to be proud of. And he doesn’t “deserve” any concessions when it comes to his kids. A lot of us expect him to frak up once he gets what he wants, and we are worried sick about the kids.

Stuff About Me

We had an ice storm, so the lovely snow is coated with a crust of slippery ice that even the dogs can’t negotiate. The deer are falling all over the place and can’t get to much in the way of forage. The driveway, though plowed, is a glacier, and I fear that my neighbor, who is supposed to let the dogs out, will kill herself getting to my house. I busted the windshield wipers on the Civic, and I had to replace the battery so the cold starts would not be so dicey. The wind makes it feel even colder than it is. Winter, which is not even officially here yet, sucks so far.

On the plus side, I am now an independent contractor. Even though I am doing many of the same things I did as an employee, it’s way different. I come and go as I please and answer only for my work product. I don’t have to sign in and out or ask permission to leave early. I don’t get any benefits, but I can get these through Mrs Vache Folle. If I get snowed in, I don’t have to explain my absence to anyone.

I am still getting booty from some vendors. I put most stuff in the kitchen to share with others, but I keep any booze or meat or cheese for myself. I’ll let the vendors know after the holidays about my new situation lest the flow of booty be disrupted.

I am allowing my facial hair to grow. We’ll see whether I have the testosterone to pull it off.

Mrs VF, liberal democrat, gave $100 to Ron Paul. The craven Democratic Party is just about dead to her.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I must have been doing the backstroke wrong all these years, because it doesn’t feel as though I’ve been waterboarded.

The way to a man’s heart is through his sternum. You can get there through his stomach, but it’s a much more indirect path.

I love this time of year because kids are especially susceptible to the Santa Claus ruse. They think that they have to be good lest their loot be diminished. My carpool companion claims to have Santa on speed dial and gets pretty good results. Too bad this trick doesn’t work all year round. Then again, if kids weren’t so stupid that they forget about Christmas as soon as it’s over, they wouldn’t fall for the Santa Claus flimflam in the first place. Maybe the groundhog could be endowed with boon bestowing characteristics so that kids could be controlled through January.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Miami Dolphins went 0-16 so as to complement their perfect season from the 1970s? If the Patriots go 18-0 and then lose the Super Bowl, will they be considered better than the 17-0 Dolphins of yore?

Mrs Vache Folle’s train friend lent her “The Biggest Secret” by some lunatic. I’m reading it now, and it reminds me of the stuff one of the nutjobs in Lafayette Park used to scrawl in block letters on pieces of cardboard. If it’s true that the world is run by reptilian space aliens posing as humans, you need a better writer to make the case. This guy’s paragraph divisions are entirely arbitrary and what he cites as evidence consists of supposition piled on supposition. If I were a reptilian space alien who wanted to discredit the idea that reptilian space aliens ruled the world, I’d commission this guy to write the book exposing our conspiracy so it’d be totally unbelievable.

I used to eat lunch in Lafayette Park across from the White House and sometimes share food with a bag lady I often saw there. She claimed that she was keeping an eye on the Reagans to make sure that Ron didn’t get taken over by one of what she called the “Mayo moles”, space aliens working through the Mayo Clinic. Nancy, she said, had already been replaced but as long as she kept watch, Ron would be safe. At the time I figured she was crazy, like all the regular denizens of the park, but looking back it would explain a lot.

It snowed like hell yesterday, and it took hours to get home. It sure is beautiful though, except the part I have to shovel. I never did get around to raking the leaves, but now they are hidden by snow. The dogs love the newly fallen snow. We all hate the snow once the top layer melts and then refreezes into a crust of ice too weak to hold your weight but too strong to walk through easily.

Soon I Will Be Done-a With the Troubles of the Corporate World

Today is my last day as a corporate tool. I am actually excited about the situation since I got a consulting contract that will help to ease the transition to a new position. I won’t have to take the first thing that comes my way.

One of the best things about leaving a job is that you can look forward to losing your boss who, in most cases, is a wanker. One of my recent bosses was outwardly an amiable and kindhearted man, but he had some form of Asperger’s syndrome or something and lacked the capacity to consider the feelings of others or to recognize his own situation. He was a complete impostor who managed, against all odds, to prosper in the corporate bureaucracy while not knowing his ass from a hole in the ground. He didn’t even know that he didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

I am inspired by him and by men such as former Attorney General Gonzo to reach for the stars. I used to think that my bad character and laziness would keep me from the highest echelons in my profession, but they have shown that anything is possible no matter how ineffectual you are.

Anyway, I aim to take a couple of months to ponder what I want to do when I grow up. I am going to Peru in late January to build houses where the big earthquake hit a couple of months ago. I could never get away to go on these mission trips before, so getting canned has opened an opportunity for me to serve my conspecifics in need. Perhaps that experience will be helpful in examining my options and goals.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Koala Tea of Mercy is Not Strained

My radio show this morning featured audio from a video of a Brooklyn man “going postal” and making an ass of himself in a post office. I can imagine how uncomfortable everyone else in line must have been, and I wonder that nobody pulled him aside and said “just let it go, man” or some such thing. Maybe they figured that he might get violent or something. Anyway, he verbally abused the postal clerks for what seemed like forever.

I used to have anger issues, especially when driving, but I am much more forgiving now. There’s no use getting mad at bad drivers or incompetent clerks because they are probably just doing the best they can. Inconsiderate assholes, like the ones who park their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle or who make you wait in line while they organize their pocketbooks after a transaction, don’t bother me as much anymore. I simply remember that they probably don’t realize that they are being inconsiderate. They just don’t have it in them to think about others around them. I feel sorry for them.

New Years Eve 1985, Mrs Vache Folle and I went to a ski resort in West Virginia for a New Years extravaganza that included a hotel room, dinner, champagne, dancing, and at the end of it all a snack of pastries. We enjoyed the dinner, the room, the hot tub and pool, the party and the booze, but the pastries never materialized. I don’t know why, but this made me very irate, and I made an ass of myself over the pastries. I had been promised a Danish, and by Jove, I was going to get a Danish. I took my complaint to the highest levels of management and made quite a fuss. I even reiterated my complaint the next morning as we checked out (while I was sober). Looking back, I am ashamed but able to laugh at myself for being such a prick over nothing. There was no reasoning with me.

Something else was obviously at issue with me when I went on a rampage over pastry. I was angry at the whole universe because it did not seem just. Now I know that I much prefer mercy to justice, and I am more apt to be merciful. I have been so transformed that I actually find inept service workers amusing rather than irritating, and I try to have fun with the situation rather than getting hot under the collar.

Today, if you mistreat a service worker, even an incompetent one, I am going to consider it a flaw in your character and steer clear of you socially. If you abuse a food service worker, I am not going to eat out with you if I can help it. I don’t want saliva or worse in my food, thank you very much. Have mercy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Congress to Declare Christmas Important

Finally, Christmas will be recognized as significant thanks to Congessscritter Steve King. Nothing really matters, you know, until Congress acknowledges that it does. King’s resolution goes one better and specifies that Congress “recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world”. It’s about time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who "Deserves" a Government that Works?

I don’t watch CNN, but I sometimes see ads on other networks for CNN programming. One ad show the insufferable Lou Dobbs surrounded by fawning sycophants hanging on his every rant. I have never seen his show, but the ad is enough to permit me to surmise that he is a douchebag.

He ends the ad with a rhetorical question: “Doesn’t anyone deserve a government that works?”

What would “a government that works” look like? We have to know that before we can determine whether anyone “deserves” to be so governed. A working government would keep its subjects under surveillance and control and extract as much booty from them as it could at the lowest possible cost in order to enrich the ruling elites. Perhaps there are some whose character is so debased that they can be said to “deserve” such a government, but I am going to have to say that the vast majority of us “deserve” no such thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Loving the Children of Israel Does not Entail Love of the State of Israel

I have an acquaintance, a co-religionist who seems amiable and completely sane, yet he is a staunch supporter of Rudy Giuliani and the GOP. It is really hard to get past this and his saying things like “As a Baptist growing up I learned to support the state of Israel”. I grew up as a Baptist and learned to love the “Children of Israel”. The “State of Israel” was not an object of reverence except for those oddballs who subscribed to the belief that there would be a Rapture and Seven Years of Tribulation and that this would happen any day now. And they loved the State of Israel only because they reckoned that it would trigger the Apocalypse and bring about the deaths of all but 144,000 of the Jews. With friends like them, who needs Anti-Semites?

I cannot in good conscience support the State of Israel. I don’t support any state, but I especially disdain states with governments that are racist and oppressive and violent. Israel’s government is all these things. May God bless the Jews, but I doubt that the State of Israel is a blessing to Jews or the world. The State of Israel, being predicated on violence and coercion as all states are, will not be the shining example of peace coming out of Jerusalem that the prophet foretold. On the contrary, the State of Israel will doubtless be an impediment to peace. It is something to be overcome, not something to celebrate.

May the Jews thrive and prosper. May they do justice, love mercy and walk in peace with their God. None of these things will be accomplished via the State of Israel but will be accomplished one heart and mind at a time.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Kids Today Don't Know What Fun Is

WaPo has a list of “Toys to Avoid” because they’re dangerous. Some of these involved pieces that stupid children swallowed. Others, such as lawn darts, were banned because some evil children threw them at their playmates and killed or maimed them. Mostly the list makes me think that kids today are a bunch of coddled pussies.

In my day, we laughed at danger. We didn’t need lawn darts to enjoy playing with deadly projectiles. We made them from sticks and rocks and whipped them at each other at high velocities. Farm implements made excellent toys for kids with active imaginations.

Some of the best toys from my youth would probably be outlawed today. The click-clack, for example, consisted of two glass balls on either end of a thick string. You’d hold the string in the middle and make the balls smash into one another to create a really annoying clacking noise. Lots of fun. As a bonus, sometimes the glass balls would shatter and eject bits of glass into your face.

Lots of our toys involved high temperatures, something kids today are just too stupid to handle. My sister had a little oven that reached the temperature of the surface of the sun. We had a Thingmaker, too, a device for making rubber spiders and such like in molds. I also had a kit for embedding objects in epoxy to use as paperweights and what not. It involved a catalyst that made the epoxy get boiling hot.

I also had a chemistry set with real chemicals and once made cyanide gas. I had an air rifle when I was five years old and a shotgun when I was twelve. We put together model cars and planes and never once choked to death on the pieces or fried our brains inhaling the glue (we inhaled, just didn’t overdo it). We had board games with pieces that might have choked us if we had decided to eat them for some reason.

Even our school supplies were dangerous by today’s standards. I had a ruler with a razor sharp metal edge and a protractor with a stiletto blade several inches long.

Playgrounds had cement surfaces, not soft fall cushioning substances or wood chips. The monkey bars were cold steel, and we played in and on concrete pipes. There was nothing more fun than a discarded spool from the phone company. We’d curl up in the middle and roll down a hill until we crashed into something. For extra fun, there’d be nails and staples poking into your body. Abandoned refrigerators were more readily available back then as well. These made great hiding places.

Kids today don’t know what fun is.

Frak Busybodies

A lot of our choices are restricted, not by laws, but by the fact that we have been conditioned to believe that our choices are limited to the conventional. We are given a choice between A and B, and C through Z don’t even get considered. Also, tradition and convention cause us to avoid unusual choices. We don’t want to have to explain ourselves.

An example from my own life that comes to mind involves the marital sleeping arrangements chez nous. When Mrs Vache Folle and I wed, we shared a bed for many years. Even after it became clear that we were utterly incompatible when it came to sleeping habits, it did not occur to us to do anything except try to compromise (and by compromise I mean do exactly what Mrs VF demands). I like to read in bed a good long time. Also, I toss and turn a lot and turn the covers into a twisted lump in the middle of the bed. Mrs VF likes to turn out the lights pretty much right away and requires complete stillness and silence to sleep. At one point she gradually and secretly reduced the wattage of the bulb in my reading lamp so I’d tire earlier.

We finally hit on the idea of having separate bedrooms about 7 years ago, and this has been a lifesaver. At first, we didn’t tell people that we had such an arrangement because we were concerned about what folks might think. Eventually, I revealed that Mrs VF and I slept apart, and I got the expected reaction. Were we on the outs? Didn’t we love one another? How weird!

Frak them. I realized that I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone, and I decided that I would give folks a hard time for sleeping with their spouses. “Are you some kind of freak?” I would ask. “Who in their right mind would try to sleep in the same bed with their spouse if they could afford their own room?” Seriously, it’s not as if they’re going to miss out on all that spontaneous middle of the night sex that is so much a part of the lives of long time married couples.

To tell the truth, I would much prefer for folks to live as they please without let or hindrance instead of their trying to justify their choices by characterizing them as virtues. But so many people treat their own choices as righteous that it becomes necessary at times to counter their assertions by acting as if I believed that their entirely conventional choices are immoral. To those who chide me for my happily childfree lifestyle, I wonder that they have so few children. Why not ten? If having children is righteous, then isn’t it even more righteous to maximize your output? With fertility drugs, they could have large litters, so it’s an outrage that they don’t take advantage of the technology!

In a perfect world, you’d have kids if you wanted to and would be childfree if you wanted to, and nobody would question your choice. You’d sleep with your spouse if you pleased, or not, and nobody would look askance. You’d do as you pleased, and you’d be free from meddling busybodies.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Golden Tablets

I once found some golden tablets in a cave, and I translated them with the help of a solicitous angel. They were additional books that belong in the Bible. The angel told me that I was chosen as a Prophet to lead the faithful who would follow the new scriptures.

Nobody would believe me, though, when I told them about it. That I had lost the tablets really seemed to make me seem less credible.

Enough With the Parades Already

Dear World War Two Veteran:

Once and for all, thanks for fighting in the Big One. Now could you stop it with the parades and dodder with some dignity for a change? At least be truthful about the war. It sucked. You were afraid. You missed your family. You saw a lot of bad things, and you maybe did some things you weren’t too proud of.

Stop prancing around acting like it was all about honor and glory. Some impressionable young men are going to see your zillionth stupid parade and get the idea that they ought to enlist in the armed forces. It will be partly your fault when they get killed for no good reason. You were in a war and should know better.

Again, thank you for your service.


The Second Greatest Generation

Let's Hope for the Least Evil and Insane Candidate to Be Nominated by Each Party

Mrs Vache Folle reckons that a nominee from one of the two major parties will be the next President. History is on her side. This is not just a display of Mrs VF’s mastery of the obvious. She has an important point, to wit that you don’t want the nominee of either party to be batshit crazy or an asshole of monumental proportions. Even though the GOP has demonstrated that it is incapable of governing and that its ranks are full of frak-ups, crooks and nutjobs, the American electorate has shown that it is capable of voting in large numbers for a ticket unfit for any office.

You want the least crazy and irresponsible candidate to get the nomination in each party. Some partisans will argue that it is good to have an opponent who is too crazy or tainted by scandal to be elected, but Mrs VF knows that there is no such thing as an unelectable candidate. The GOP could nominate Charles Manson, and if some disaster turns enough Americans into cringing bedwetters, he could get elected.

In a perfect world, Ron Paul would get the GOP nomination. (Actually, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be a presidency at all). Let’s hope it happens. If not, we definitely don’t want there to be any chance that Mike Huckabee could become President. He’s a crazy person and an ignoramus. He is a clergyman who, despite professing to follow the Prince of Peace, is an advocate of war and authoritarianism. We don’t want Rudy because he’s the archetypal douchebag with a swirl.

I could live with the creepy Romney or even career frak-up McCain, although both are loathsome in so many ways. They are the least evil and/or crazy of the GOP contenders, so let’s hope one of them gets the nomination if Paul doesn’t pull off a miracle.

I don’t really have nightmares about any of the Democratic candidates, and I don’t worry that any of them would bring about the apocalypse through incompetence or evil.

I have mixed feelings about Clinton. She’s too much like a neo-con for my tastes, but I derive so much joy from the way her success and prosperity piss off wingnuts. It would be worth it to have her as President just to see Sean Hannity’s head explode. I would love it if she achieved greatness and won the Nobel Prize because it would produce an epidemic of apoplexy in people I find it challenging to love.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I am Connected

I know a guy who knows a guy who knows President Bush. The same guy knows all the high up asshats in the government, so I am only two degrees of separation from them. Bush knows Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, so I’m only three degrees from them. Queen Elizabeth knows lots of quality folks, so I’m four degrees from a ton of aristocrats.

It’s possible that one of my quips at a cocktail party will be repeated in the Vatican or the Kremlin or Balmoral, only they won’t know it was me that passed the joke along. “How do you get a London School of Economics graduate to leave your porch? Pay him for the pizza!”

I am much further removed from entertainment celebrities and professional athletes. I can’t think of any way to link with Paris Hilton or Britney Spears unless maybe the Bush twins have partied with them or been in rehab with them. But wait, Bush owned the Texas Rangers and knows some baseball folks! That gets me linked to scads of players, coaches, executives and agents. Some of them may have slept with Paris Hilton!

My Weapons Program is on Hold... For Now

I abandoned my program to develop nuclear weapons for personal home use many years ago. The program was inspired by my desire to harness nuclear energy for home heating and air-conditioning. I explored cold fusion but found that I could not bring it off. I knew I would have to settle for plain old fission.

I figured that if I was going to go to the expense of enriching uranium and running a nuclear power plant in my basement that I might as well produce some nuclear weapons while I was at it. That would be the ultimate in home security.

It turns out that starting a nuclear power plant and a weapons program takes a lot of money and know-how, both of which are in short supply chez nous. So I gave up on the program.

Who’s to say I won’t start it up again in the future?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Would Amanda Marcotte Kill to Keep a Child from Buying a Twinkie at School?

Amanda Marcotte reckons that it’s silly to complain about the “nanny state” in cases where the government is just doing its job and exercising its right to raise people’s children.

“But whining about the “nanny state” when you’re talking about the bona fide child care duties of the state—i.e. the right of the state to restrict the foods brought into the school to be sold or served the children—is puzzling.”

Given Amanda’s view that the state is “in loco parentis” when kids are in its clutches and that the state has “rights”, it is not surprising that she would be puzzled by libertarian objections. Once again, a statist jumps to the conclusion that libertarians object to the point of a law or program rather than to the coercive manner in which it is to be accomplished.

I agree that children in schools should be offered healthy snacks rather than unhealthy ones. I disagree that the federal government should mandate this and use compulsion to bring it about. Let’s review for Amanda. Healthy snacks good. Coercion bad.

I would argue that the issue of what snacks should be available in schools is better decided by parents and the local authorities rather than the Imperial government in Washington. Healthy snacks good. Usurpation of power by the central government bad.

I would go even further and argue that government, even though it is in the business of running schools, should stay its hand when it comes to such matters as snack offerings. Is there no limit to the reach of the state? Is nothing so trivial or personal that the state ought not to interpose itself? Is it really necessary or desirable to manage the issue of school snack offerings with the threat of force?
Healthy snacks good. State thuggery bad.

Let’s run the issue through may patented test of when government action is appropriate. Am I so concerned about what some other people’s children might get from a vending machine at school that I would be willing to send in goons to rough people up to make sure that my will is done? I have to say no. Then again, that’s me. Perhaps it is that important for Amanda. I hope not. I would like to think that she is not a douchebag and that she is simply a victim of the false consciousness that forms the basis for statism.

Monday, December 03, 2007

How Do I Tell My Children....

I watched Louis CK’s most recent HBO comedy special this weekend. He had, among many extremely funny observations, good points about homosexuality and gay marriage. Why, he asked, would homophobes get so worked up about something that had no impact whatsoever on their lives? It’s not as if gangs of gay people are running around forcing themselves sexually on others. And if two gay men married, what would that be to anyone but them and their families? Louis addressed the slippery slope argument brilliantly. If gay folks can marry, then some guy might marry his dog! Good for him, said Louis. Again, it does not affect anyone but the man and the dog and their immediate associates.

I especially appreciated his treatment of the “how do I tell my children” argument. It’s not anybody’s problem but the annoying parent who is posing the question. The whole world has to organize itself in a particular way because some parent wants to avoid a conversation with his child? Thank you, Louis CK.