Friday, November 30, 2007

CNBC, Cockatrice, Carpool Conspecific, Pilgrims, Jane Austen, and Cthulu

The TV in the conference room at the office is perpetually tuned into CNBC, a so called business news network. It’s good for one thing only as far as I am concerned: it shows the DOW and S&P numbers and such like. Otherwise it’s just so much wasted air. Business journalism is, in a world where journalism has reached its nadir overall, the worst of the worst. The challenges are somewhat unique in that businesses carefully manage their image and try to control information. Oh wait, that’s not unique. It is a challenge, though, and business journalists are just not up to it.

Last night at choir practice, we ran through a version of “A Little Child Shall Lead Them”. The part where “the sucking child will play on the hole of the asp” and “the weaned child will place his hand in the cockatrice den” killed me. I couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes. Apparently, even in paradise, you will need to keep a close eye on your kids. I’m hoping that I will be able to sing this with a straight face when the time comes.

My carpool conspecific reckons that “they ought to outlaw commodity trading”. He blames speculators for high oil prices and the price of gasoline (we paid $3.30.9 the other day). We’ve been commuting together for three years, and my libertarian rants have apparently had little influence on him. I give up.

I’m reading Philbrick’s “The Mayflower”, about the settlement at Plymouth. I’m only a quarter through it and already realize that everything I ever learned about the Pilgrims was a crock. I shouldn’t be surprised since all my education in history from public schools has been more akin to mythology than to history.

I just finished two “annotated” works that I had already read before without annotations and found that the notes made them quite interesting. I liken the experience to watching a DVD with the special features and commentary. The first was “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen. Having a better understanding of the social order really adds to appreciation for the story.

The second book featured stories by HP Lovecraft, a favorite from my youth. The annotations in that book were more in the way of cross references to other Lovecraft stories or to other authors in the genre, but there were quotes from Lovecraft’s letters and some tidbits about edits in the pulp magazines in which the stories had been published. Rereading Lovecraft these many years later, I didn’t feel the same sense of the “eldritch” that I felt as a kid. Real life is way scarier than anything the Old Ones can unleash. I imagine that the Old Ones couldn’t do any worse at running things than the humans are doing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is America Ready for a New Gilligan's Island?

Jerry Van Dyke could have played the role of Gilligan but decided that he would rather star in “My Mother the Car”. The rest is history as we have experienced it. Imagine how different Gilligan’s Island might have been had Jerry taken the role. Imagine the ripple effect that this one small change would have had on the timeline.

I reckon a Broadway musical based on Gilligan’s Island is long overdue. Perhaps it would be best to start with a movie based on the TV show: Brian Doyle Murray could be the Skipper; Chris Elliott could be Gilligan, or if we had the budget Adam Sandler; Jennifer Love Hewitt could play Mary Ann while Ginger could be played by any number of actresses; let’s get Brent Spiner to play the Professor; the Howells could be Edward Herrmann and any number of actresses. Then we’d make the movie into a Broadway show, after which we’d make another movie based on the Broadway musical.

I Am Not Spam, Even Though I Appear So to Some Robots

JL Wilson is back and is embracing despair concerning political matters. I enjoyed his posting on music and sports, but I have to say that I don’t reckon that a college football championship is necessary or even desirable. So what if folks can disagree about which teams are better? That’s half the fun. Of course, everybody knows that the only real football is played in the SEC.

Back home when I was a kid, most men divided themselves up according to their favorite college football team and, despite never having attended college, would refer to themselves as an “Auburn man” or a “Tech man” as the case may have been. They were avid followers and partisans of their chosen teams. I could never figure out how these men selected their colleges, and there was no way that I could see to predict what any given man’s preference would be. I attended the University of Georgia for part of my college career, so I feel obliged to root for the Bulldogs. I lived in Gainesville, Florida for a while and grew to loathe the Gators. The same thing happened when I lived in Seattle. I grew to hate the “U-Dub” Huskies. I am an alumnus of Western Washington, so I would root for the Vikings if I were ever called upon to do so.

I have been associated with a number of mascots in my lifetime, and these provided practice for subsequent irrational collectivism. I started first grade as a “Ripple” at Valley Point Elementary. This was a riff on the high school mascot the “Green Wave” which was represented as a water wave apparently overcome with algae. The Ripple was not, as far as I can recall, ever represented pictorially. I then became a Brookwood “Beaver”. I don’t remember what City Park School’s mascot was. My junior high school featured the Dug Gap “Bisons”, chosen because of the school’s proximity to Ed King’s chicken ranch where he kept a small herd of bison. In high school, we had the Dalton High School “Catamounts” which was represented as a kind of lynx. Go Cats!

Dalton College had the “Roadrunners” based on the cartoon bird that eluded the coyote. Dalton had a fantastic basketball team back then. Then there was the University of Georgia “Bulldogs” and The American University “Eagles”. I later became a partisan of the WWU “Vikings” and, at last, the Columbia “Lions”. To sum up, I have had as associated mascots one inanimate object, a rodent, a large ruminant, two felines, a canine, two birds, and some medieval marauders. You’d think there would have been a Native American reference somewhere along the line.

Blogger’s robots decided my blog was spam for some reason, but they have now acknowledged that I am a human blogger and will allow me to post to this blog once again. Most of the spam I get is via e-mail, and 99% gets filtered through some magical program. The 1% that gets through relates to replica watches, hot stock tips, friendly warnings that my co-workers are talking about how fat I am behind my back, and lonely promiscuous women who want to meet me. These women obviously don’t talk to my co-workers. In any event, this quality post should convince any spam detector of my "humanity".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Romney to Deny Necrophilia; Rudy to Evade Questions About Platonic Friend

Is there any truth to the rumor that a certain GOP presidential candidate, whom we will just call “Rudy G.”, has been in a long time gay relationship with a Catholic priest? Or that another GOP candidate, whom we’ll call “Willard”, is a necrophiliac? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now that the rumors have been mentioned in the blogosphere by a source with no credibility whatsoever, the legitimate media should feel free to run with it. The story will be that the rumors exist (or do they?) not that they are credible or anything.

What Is Meant By Improved?

One of my conspecifics remarked at the water cooler that the war in Iraq is “improving”. He could not explain what that meant, however.

Has it suddenly become lawful? Is there an actual mission that can be described in human language? Is there a way to know when it has been “won”? Can the troops leave now? Are the Iraqi people secure in their persons and property? Is it going to cost less?

Getting Psyched to Look for a New Job!

I’ve been giving a little thought to my future career now that I am about to be unemployed. Frankly, I have become so reconciled to the good points of getting laid off at this point, that I’d be disappointed if it fell through. Firstly, although my boss is well-intentioned, good hearted man, he wants watching and wrangling way too much. Also, he is one of those guys who sincerely believes that he is always the smartest man in the room, and this makes it hard on those of us who really are. Secondly, the principal subject matter of my job, environmental matters and toxic torts, have begun to bore me. I know the sites and the litigation environment of the entities I serve like the back of my hand, and it’s starting to become same-old-same-old to a fault. I’m not learning anything at this point, and I’m not using my skills in problem solving or negotiation as much as I would like. If I didn’t do some work for the other operating companies, I wouldn’t be using them at all.

I will have two weeks at the end of the year to spend in thinking about what I ought to do and to polish up my CV. Then I’ll hit the bricks looking for new opportunities. I have my asinine interview question responses down cold:

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “In your boss’s job, firing you for asking stupid interview questions.”

“What is your greatest weakness?” “I am sometimes inhumanly productive and efficient, and this can make my co-workers feel inadequate.”

“What is your greatest strength?” “The ability to work with douchebags, which, if this interview is any indication, will come in handy here.”

“What are you looking for in a salary?” “I prefer to be grotesquely and comically overpaid, and I would like to make at least 50% more than you.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Save 71.5 Billion Bucks

If the Department of Education disappeared tomorrow, who, other than the 4,500 bureaucrats who work there, would miss it?

The financial aid departments of universities and other educational institutions would have to turn elsewhere to get money for students, and such institutions would likely have to trim tuition and improve services in order to attract students. I reckon that the additional costs of higher education have eaten up any benefit that students might have gained from access to loans.

Consultants and administrative bureaucrats in school districts all over America would find themselves out of work since the byzantine system of the federal DOE would no longer be around to mystify the laity. Luckily, these are highly intelligent folks who will be able to turn to more productive work.

Would the professionals in school districts find themselves paralyzed by a lack of guidance from Washington? I reckon that they would celebrate the demise of their heavy handed federal overlords.

We’d all get about $200 each if the 71.5 billion smackers that the DOE spends were returned to us. I’d rather have the $200 than the DOE.

Love and Radishes

In the last few weeks, the theme at church has been “radical love”, and I have been gratified by this move even further from legalism and exclusionism. It is supposed that the word “radical” is etymologically related to “radish” and that radicalism involves getting back to root values. Get it? Radishes are roots. I would suggest that radicalism involves striking at the root and replacing it rather than reaffirming old core values. The core values of most churches I have encountered have had little to do with radical love, and embracing this concept will likely require a significant rethinking of core values by most of the congregation, at least if they are much like me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Won't Go to Mars, So Don't Even Ask Me

I have been enjoying the series “Mars Rising” and had long thought that I would jump at the chance to join the crew of a mission to Mars. After last night’s episode on the hardships of the undertaking and the psychological and social problems that would have to be overcome, I am withdrawing my application. The clincher was the part about drinking my recycled urine, but the other complaints of veterans of long term missions had already weakened my resolve.

Apparently, bathing is out of the question, so everybody on board is going to reek. And for some reason it is hard to sleep well in space, so everybody is going to be irritable and on edge. All your fellow cosmonauts will be slowly going mad, as will you, and you will ultimately have to kill them all before they kill you. The diet will soon become monotonous beyond toleration, and the society of your crewmates will become tiresome.

Even if it doesn’t get that bad, even one asshole or douchebag among the crew will make for a miserable journey. It will take months to get to Mars, and you’ll have to hang out on Mars for almost a year before you can return. You will either love or despise your crewmates. In the best case scenario, it will be like the “Breakfast Club”, only longer.

The main problem, as I see it, is that crewmembers are going to have to be geeks with the ability to troubleshoot all the gear, yet, at the same time, they will have to be socially adept and empathetic. How often does that combination occur in nature?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What b psycho Said

bpsycho says it better than I ever could:

“Whether or not something that spends a decent chunk of time being microscopic & cannot yet live outside of its host is equivalent to you or me is in no way whatsoever as obvious as whether or not ones skin color makes them less human.”

Violent Radicalization Worries Congress

Congress is so worried about “Violent Radicalization” that the House of Reprehensibles has passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.

What the hell is violet radicalization? “The term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” The War on Drugs would fit the definition as far as I am concerned. Or military recruiting.

Why is this such a concern now? “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.” I bet they are talking about TownHall, Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs. The GOP has an internet presence as does the White House.

What’s to keep the Commission created by this law from trampling on civil liberties? “In General- The Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism as described herein shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.” Whew! That’s a relief. Congress has left a convenient reminder for the Commission right in the legislation to reign in any despotic impulses.

Here's the thing. Will the Commission consider political advocacy as promoting ideologically based violence? Politics is all about force; therefore, any political advocacy is the advocacy of force. Is this bill designed to squelch dissent from the "mainstream" as espoused by the two ideologically indistuinguishable major parties? I'm going to assume that it is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Personal Economy is in Recession

It finally happened. As I feared, the latest imbecilic transaction dreamt up by upper management in Europe has resulted in my getting canned. At least I got a month’s notice. I suppose it could have been worse. I might have gotten hired by the wankers who bought the entity that employs me. I reckon that it is infinitely preferable to work for imbeciles than for wankers, and I hope that I will be able to find another situation working for an equally imbecilic organization.

The most ironic aspect of the event is that the reason for carrying out the transaction became moot some time ago, so there was no reason to go forward with it. But certain Europeans have not grasped the concept of having a Plan B. They also don’t seem to realize that this makes them susceptible to getting taken. So I have spent much of the last several months digging my own grave so to speak, and I will doubtless spend the next four weeks helping with “the transition”. You can imagine how helpful I will be. Or any of us. All of us got the heave ho.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lazy Jihadists Are Here

John Amato at C&L posts about a Tancredo ad that problematizes open borders. A taste:

“There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs. Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil, Jihadists who froth with hate here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia.

The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.”

These must be the laziest or most inept Islamist terrorists ever. They freely roam US soil and yet commit no terrorist acts! Seriously, the potential targets and opportunities to spread terror abound if you are really interested in scaring Americans. Even minor annoyances, such as felling trees across roads would turn a sizeable number of Americans into bedwetters. Threats alone might do the trick and with little chance of repercussions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Express Opinions

If I want to take the nucleus of one of my cells and put it in an ovum and implant this product in a womb and have someone give birth to it, it’s nobody’s business. I don’t care if you do the same. The result will be a copy of me or you, not some monster, unless we manipulate the genes to promote monsterism. Even that’s nobody’s business as long as our monsters don’t go on rampages.

Does genocide work? I’ll say! If you want to solve the problems presented by an inconvenient ethnic category, there’s nothing more final and complete in the way of a solution than killing every last one of them. Why don’t we use it more frequently in view of its effectiveness? I reckon the main objection is that it’s evil. Just like torture. It doesn’t matter if it works because you don’t even want to go there morally. Unless you’re evil, you won’t even make allowances for the possibility of using genocide (or torture).

Global warming really is happening, and humans are contributing to it. It won’t be the first time that living things have had a spectacular impact on global climate. It is the first time that any living thing has had the capability in principle to mitigate the consequences. We won’t, though. Lucky for me I’ll be dead by the time the world gets really unlivable. I understand the global warming deniers. As long as we’re too stupid to do anything about it, we might as well pretend it isn’t happening.

I wish it were legal to possess and consume pot. Then it would be easy for me to find it and buy it without worrying about some jackbooted thugs invading my home. In that case, I would smoke pot every evening and pretty much the whole weekend. Not enough to be really baked but just enough to be a little high. If everyone were smoking weed, it would be a far better world.

I can’t help feeling that I would be a lot happier if I could afford servants to clean my house, do laundry and such, do the routine yard work and run errands for me. It would be even better if I didn’t have to work and could enjoy the clean house and well kept yard for a lot of each day.

I Don't Want to Be Divisive, But...

On Sunday, the pastor emeritus preached on the value of unity and diversity. We should celebrate that we are one but acknowledge that we aren’t always going to agree on everything. We shouldn’t let these disagreements become occasions for divisiveness; rather, we should embrace the opportunity to engage in discussion in community. We should welcome those who differ to the table.

It is difficult for many people of faith to adhere to this ideal for they take the view that they are right, everyone else is wrong, and there is no basis for compromise. “God said it, they believe it, and that settles it.” They lack the capacity to imagine that they might be mistaken, that they don’t know the whole circumstances of others whom they condemn, and that Christian love entails a high degree of tolerance for differences of opinion.

On the other hand, I am challenged by impatience with some of my more legalistic and judgmental co-religionists. It is difficult for me to tolerate their opinions because their opinions include insisting on the adoption of their views and disrespect and condemnation for those who dissent. Perhaps I can find a way to be tolerant of the underlying views while ignoring the requirement that they be applied to everyone and ignoring the divisive aspects. There won’t be any way to keep them from leaving and setting up their own shop, but at least I can try to be loving toward them while they are taking their leave.

Then again, what happens if a legalistic and judgmental faction takes control and closes the tent flaps, so to speak? Am I obliged in the interests of unity to go along with such a program? I would not be welcome, I think, in such a church since my beliefs are strongly anti-legalist.

I think the legalists are wrong and that I am right, but I acknowledge that there is no way to resolve the difference because both beliefs are irrational and predicated on metaphysical assumptions that are beyond debate. I can try to understand how a legalist might feel and acknowledge that he is coming from a position of faith, but I would like for the legalist to show me the same courtesy, an event that has so far never transpired in all my dealings with individuals of the legalistic ilk.

It is a conundrum.

Are We Desperate for Public Intellectuals?

We subscribe to the Atlantic Monthly, but it’s not because they sometimes feature Andrew Sullivan’s writings. In fact, I reckon Sullivan is a wanker whose views on matters are hardly worth considering. Take his most recent work in The Atlantic in which he writes about Senator Obama.

Sullivan thinks that America is facing a most “lethal enemy” in the troglodytes of Al Qaeda at the same time that it is bitterly divided in an unprecedented way by haters on both the left and right. Obama is a possible savior:

“At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.”

Seriously, Sullivan sees America this way? And he sees Al Qaeda as such a monumental threat? What is his evidence?

“ The traces of our long journey to this juncture can be found all around us. Its most obvious manifestation is political rhetoric. The high temperature—Bill O’Reilly’s nightly screeds against anti-Americans on one channel, Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” on the other;’s “General Betray Us” on the one side, Ann Coulter’s Treason on the other; Michael Moore’s accusation of treason at the core of the Iraq War, Sean Hannity’s assertion of treason in the opposition to it—is particularly striking when you examine the generally minor policy choices on the table. Something deeper and more powerful than the actual decisions we face is driving the tone of the debate.”

The posturing Of Bill O and Hannity and Coulter are not comparable to the examples on the left. MoveOn and Olbermann and Moore are at least thoughtful and resort to reason while the right wingers are just plain hateful. The left isn’t calling for mass murder or detentions of dissenters. Bill O, Hannity and Coulter are clowns, and they speak for only the wingnut minority of hard core authoritarians. You can’t seriously hold them up as evidence of anything other than a kind of twisted form of entertainment for yahoos.

Who is to blame for this unprecedented division? Baby Boomers, of course:

“The answer lies mainly with the biggest and most influential generation in America: the Baby Boomers. The divide is still—amazingly—between those who fought in Vietnam and those who didn’t, and between those who fought and dissented and those who fought but never dissented at all. By defining the contours of the Boomer generation, it lasted decades. And with time came a strange intensity.”

Really? This is how the Boomers divide themselves? I’m a Boomer. I was too young to fight in Vietnam or even to have much in the way of an opinion about it. There are millions of Boomers in my position, so we are presumably not engaged in the non-violent civil war in Sullivan’s imagination. Most Boomers did not fight in the Vietnam War, and many who did were conscripts. Many protested, but most people jut tried to get on with their lives in the hope that the government wouldn’t get them killed. Women mostly didn't have to fret about serving against their will.

And look at the Boomer leaders of the right who ought by Sullivan’s reckoning to come down on the non-fighting side: Bush and Cheney fought not. Most of the wingnut punditry sat out Vietnam. The neo-con cabal never served in Vietnam. For crying out loud, does Sullivan just pull this stiff out of his ass?

GW Bush has his chance to set things right after 9/11:

“With 9/11, Bush had a reset moment—a chance to reunite the country in a way that would marginalize the extreme haters on both sides and forge a national consensus. He chose not to do so. It wasn’t entirely his fault. On the left, the truest believers were unprepared to give the president the benefit of any doubt in the wake of the 2000 election, and they even judged the 9/11 attacks to be a legitimate response to decades of U.S. foreign policy.”

I can’t think of a single person on the left (other than arguably Ward Churchill) who ever opined that the attack on the World Trade Center was “legitimate”. It was “understandable” in light of American foreign policy but not “legitimate”. Frankly, there aren’t haters on the left that come close to the haters on the right. That’s why the left is so susceptible to the right’s maneuvering and manipulations and why the left even now is unable to to do much. The left aims to be inclusive, to have dialogues, and what have you. The right just wants to win.

I have not read any cultural analysis ever that was so far off the mark as this article by Sullivan.

More on Corn Farming

Sunni had some questions about my post on corn farming. I claimed that cheap corn contributed to obesity. This is my own opinion based on the assumption that the cheaper food is, the more folks can afford to eat. And corn based processed foods are high in calories. Also, less expensive chicken and beef means that more Americans can afford to eat meat every day, even at every meal. The corn I was discussing is commodity corn, not the stuff we eat qua corn. It’s the stuff that goes into animal feed and other products such as high fructose corn syrup. Of course, I can’t really prove that cheap food contributes to obesity, and I concede that the problem is overdetermined, but it stands to reason.

Until recently, when there has been a spike in prices fueled by demand for ethanol production, corn prices have been lower than the cost to produce corn with the result that farmers had to receive federal subsidies to make up the difference. In the case of smaller farms, these subsidies are inadequate to insure an income level sufficient to sustain farmers and their families. Smaller operators tend to support farm programs that guarantee income levels rather than price assurances. The recent price increases will doubtless be a short term boon to farmers, but the increased cost of oil will in short order add substantially to the costs of production.

Farmers in the corn belt are not readily able to retool and change crops, but are prone to sustain losses over a number of seasons in the hope that prices will increase. The only market is for corn and soybeans, so that is what they have to grow. If they switched to broccoli, they’d have no way to sell it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Omnivore's Dilemma

I picked up Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivores Dilemma” in the Minneapolis airport last week. I passed it on the Mrs Vache Folle because I knew she was between books and would like it, so I haven’t been able to finish it yet. I only got halfway through it and loved it, and Mrs VF gives it a rave review.

The book is a fascinating in depth look at our food supply. Pollan starts with the industrial food chain and follows corn from the field to the hoof or foot or what have you to the consumer. The biggest lesson I learned was that when we eat corn, we are pretty much eating petroleum. It takes a lot of oil to make corn. In fact, it costs more to grow corn than farmers can get when they sell it. Even the federal subsidy doesn’t cover it, so farmers strive to get more yield and drive the prices down even further. They lose money on every bushel but make up for it in volume. Federal policy in corn is to promote cheap food. The obesity epidemic is one outcome.

Another lesson I learned was that cattle in feedlots get very sick because they aren’t designed to gorge on corn all day. The corn makes them ill, so they have to have massive doses of antibiotics. They wallow around in their own shit much of the time, and the shit becomes a pollutant rather than a fertilizer. E coli abounds in the feedlot environment, and the cattle’s rumen is unable to deal with it because of changes in the pH arising from the corn diet.

The second part of the book deals with the organic industry and sustainable farming. It turns out that the “organic” label is no guarantee that the food is not the product of an enormous factory farm. Also, the terms “free range” or “cage free” don’t necessarily entail green pastures and wide open spaces. Even Whole Foods buys from the bigger farms, and I’m looking for products that are raised in a sustainable manner, even if the farmer uses some chemicals. It’s the structure and organization of farming that I’m most interested in, not the fact that the food meets certain rather loosy goosy federal standards so as to get the “organic” label. Anyway, I didn’t finish that part yet so I’ll probably learn some more lessons.

The last part concerns foraging.

I heartily recommend this book and aim to finish it.

The Mall is Scarier than Ever

Al Qaeda is lurking in the mall according to a source with low credibility. I reckon that’s one more reason for me to stay home on Black Friday.

Then again, Christmas shopping is punishment enough in itself and is terrifying. I freak out at the mall during the holidays. There’s just too much noise, too much light and too many people for my comfort. I am thankful that we have pretty much given up exchanging gifts at Christmas.

One year I worked at a department store in Seattle over the holidays. I nearly lost my mind. The first day, I refolded sweaters after shoppers looked at them. I must have done it a thousand times, and the next day I could hardly move my sweater folding muscle system and had to be transferred upstairs to fancy foods. I sold fruitcakes and bottles of olive oil with herbs in them and fancy cookies and such like. These made great last minute thoughtless gifts if you couldn’t make it to the Bath and Body Works store or Yankee Candle. Anyway, it was hard to keep up a Christmas spirit while serving so many customers, some of whom were pretty rude.

I might have welcomed a terrorist attack if it would have silenced the annoying brass ensemble that kept playing the same three or four carols incessantly. Or if it would have stopped people from buying that stupid hot dog cooker as gifts. Who has the counter space for a device that just cooks hot dogs? And nobody is ever going to use that yogurt maker.

My hometown of Dalton, Georgia closed its mall on September 11, 2001 figuring that after the WTC attack the Dalton mall would be next on the terrorists' list of targets. Now that this incredible and unsubstantiated threat is out there, will Daltonians have the courage to shop?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Random Opinions and Observations About Stuff

I don’t like the expression “comparing apples and oranges” because I reckon that, to a close approximation, they are pretty much the same thing. Now, if I compared apples and pulsars, that would be nuts.

My candidate for highway superintendent lost by 400 votes, so I need not have wasted the time voting on Tuesday. I voted for the only legitimate reason I recognize: spite. I voted a straight Democrat ticket just because I am so pissed off at the GOP. It’s not that I admire Democrats. I reckon they are spineless, worthless varmints, but I aim to vote for them until I get the bile out of my system over the way the GOP has acted the last decade or so. If you continue to identify yourself as a Republican, then I am not going to vote for you unless you explicitly repudiate your party’s evil agenda. Of course, if the Democrats keep going the way they are going, I am liable to give up voting altogether.

On Bill Maher a couple of weeks ago, one of the guests said that Senator Clinton was “Cheney in a pantsuit”. Cheney wears pantsuits when he wears a suit, so I reckon Cheney is Cheney in a pantsuit.

I have been stopping at McDonalds almost every day on the way to work so I can get a sausage and egg biscuit and a hash brown. This is not helping me lose weight, and I know that this goes against my values when it comes to eating industrial food. I just can’t stop eating those damned sandwiches.

I am astonished that my conspecifics who have stay at home wives don’t have their supper ready when they get home. And they have to help with the housecleaning which has not been done at all during the day. What do their wives do all day, for crying out loud? Do they really have to spend every waking moment entertaining the children? If I stayed at home all day, I’d do all the housework and cooking and errands.

When I was a kid, I imagined that I would one day be a person of consequence. Luckily, a combination of sloth and weak character prevented this from happening. The only way I could have been someone important is if my father had been consequential. He was not. Thanks, Dad. I still resent him for not being rich and setting me up with an inheritance.

I really hate my job sometimes, but where else can I find a position that pays what this one does and expects me to do so little? I should just count my blessings. I could be working somewhere where I would be accountable.

I would be mortified if Pat Robertson endorsed me for anything.

How do they get chicken nuggets into dinosaur shapes? Do they make a chicken slurry and squirt it into molds?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chuck Schumer Sucks

Chuck Schumer is dead to me. His vote on Mukasey was the last straw. He's not my Senator. I renounce him.


I got into a conversation the other day with an African American acquaintance in which she remarked that some preference of hers was the product of her “culture” and that it related back to her African ancestors. I have always been skeptical about such claims about Africanisms ever since I encountered my first pan-Africanist friend in high school. Of course, it’s not just pan-Africanists that look for Africanisms. It used to be a highly respected activity of anthropologists who specialized in the West Indies and urban anthropologists who found the ghettos a rich source of supposed Africanisms.

The idea is that African Americans today are vessels of and driven by African cultural strains that have persisted for centuries despite the upheavals of slavery, industrialization, and urbanization. Some claim that African matrilineal kinship systems persist into the present day African American community. That’s why there are so many father-free households in the African American community, it is said.

I concede that Africans who were imported as slaves to the New World brought with them rich cultural traditions, but I would like to credit them with the ability to adapt and adjust to their circumstances just like all humans do. Household structure is governed predominately by present circumstances and strategies suited to the world in which the members of the household live. If the strategy results in something that resembles some African cultural phenomenon, it is probably a coincidence rather than a “survival”.

I can sympathize with an interest in and pride in one’s heritage. But that does not entail adopting preferences that were suited to the ancestors if these are inconsistent with one’s aims in the present. Some have said that we of Scots-Irish descent are inherently belligerent and boastful, but I doubt this, and I certainly don’t feel obliged to act the cracker in order to fulfill my Scots-Irish destiny. If our forebears were scrappers back in the day, they had reason to be. They weren’t genetically or culturally predisposed to scrappiness, and their descendants aren’t simply vessels of “culture”. Rather, we adapt to our circumstances. “Culture” is made up of tools that we employ, and we are free to pick and choose and engage in the practice of bricolage. We make culture even as culture makes us.

African Americans are as gifted as any people when it comes to invention and re-imagining. Their preferences and values are not determined by what their ancestors did or believed, and I don’t reckon that there is any need to justify them on the basis that these are holdovers from Africa.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Carpool Companion Can be a Dumbass

My carpool companion repeated some nonsense his Naval officer brother told him to the effect that the biggest beef of military personnel about Iraq is that the media doesn't report all the good news from there, such as schools reopening and bombs that don't explode. This is some dumbassery that I don't even bother to respond. If everything is supposed to happen, then it isn't news. If I go to the market and come home, nobody cares, but if I get mugged in the parking lot there's a story. Schools are supposed to reopen. Bombs are supposed to be disarmed without casualties. Of course, Mr Navy guy wants the war to go on forever. It's good for his career. I've never met the guy, but I can tell he's a wanker.

Then my carpool companion announced that he was leaning toward supporting Fred Thompson because Thompson was for "smaller government". How does he know this? Thompson said so in a campaign speech that my companion caught on AOL.

After all this time exposed to my wisdom, this is how my carpool companion thinks.

Monday, November 05, 2007

No Assholes or Douchebags, Please

I’m reading a business book entitled “The No Asshole Rule”, the premise of which is that assholery costs businesses big time and that if companies calculated the costs that assholes represented they would reform them or show them the door. I’ve had the misfortune to work with and for many assholes in my career (they are everywhere), and the book makes perfect sense to me.

I once worked for a company in which the CEO regarded being an asshole as a critical part of good management. If the people under you were happy, then you weren’t doing your job. Fear was the great motivator in his view, and there were none in the organization to gainsay him since he surrounded himself mainly with sycophants. I didn’t last long because I couldn’t stand the Great Business Genius and his fawning aides. I could see that his style resulted in high turnover and lower productivity and an increase in theft. He could not. The company ended up in Chapter 11, thanks in large part to the Genius.

The book defines asshole a little narrowly for my tastes and limits it to overt hostility. I reckon that passive-aggressive managers are just as difficult and costly as regular assholes, although they might more properly be labeled douchebags. Perhaps a sequel “The No Douchebag Rule” would be in order. I am talking about bosses who won’t outright call you an idiot to your face but who, by their actions, let it be known that that is exactly what they think. You know the ones who undermine everything you do and micromanage you to death. The ones who call up someone else right in front of you to check whether your suggestion or statement is on target. The ones who are unnecessarily secretive and withhold information that you need to do your job.

The douchebags are worse than assholes in many ways because they can fall back on plausible deniability.

Friday, November 02, 2007

In Christ There is No Straight or Gay

Last Sunday, our pastor preached on Paul’s writing that in Christ there is no slave or free, Greek or Jew, male or female. We are all one in Christ. There is no need to add to the Gospel, he preached. It’s not Jesus Christ AND some other requirement. It’s just Jesus, and we must focus on Him who unites us and set aside the things that divide us. It’s not Jesus Christ AND no praying to saints, as one anti-Catholic acquaintance of the pastor had it. I reckon that it’s not Jesus Christ AND adult baptism only or Jesus Christ AND predestination or any such formulation.

I was pleasantly surprised when the pastor extended the reasoning of the sermon and the passage to homosexuality and related how the church had dealt with this divisive issue in the past. It’s not Jesus Christ AND you must hate the gays. I wasn’t sure that we would ever get to the point where the pastor could broach such a subject. There are a lot of staunch conservatives in the congregation, and I had assumed that this kind of preaching would be too politically dangerous for the pastor. It may turn out that I’m right. For all I know, we’re looking ahead to a shit storm (I’ve been out of town all week and wouldn’t have heard anything). I hope not. I hope that the pastor has the consistory in his camp and that would be dividers will fail.