June 28, 2014

Manipulation, Informed Consent and Facebook

A lot of web folk responded virulently against Facebook scientists' paper which revealed they'd manipulated people's timelines to show posts that were either more positive or more negative to see if that in turn made that user either more positive or more negative. (AV Club article breaking the story.)

The immediate backlash I saw in my Twitter timeline was intense, angry -- some horrified, some resigned. This morning, the chatter was becoming more nuanced. Some still quite angry ... others pointing out that emotional manipulation is what design is all about.

That's true up to a point. The purpose of a good design is often to make someone want to buy something, want to follow a link, to interact, read more. Everyone in web development knows about the A/B test -- will more people click this link if it looks like this or if it looks like that? What about the microcopy? Should it say this or should it say that?

The thing is, in web design it's not necessarily flat-out manipulation, it's often simply creating a more clear context for the user. Is it simply now more understandable or obvious? It is rarely completely manipulating a person's state of being. Instead it's a "micro-manipulation" of a specific instance. Buy this product, read this article (and look at these nifty ads), follow this link to another page.

A non-web example of "micro-manipulation" might be signs posted in a parking: Secure Your Vehicle Management Is Not Responsible For Stolen Items.
This is not necessarily a legal truth. It is a manipulation: perhaps people won't sue us if their car is broken into even though this parking lot is completely dark and kind of hidden and easy prey for burglars. We posted a sign. So, we're free of any liability.
It's not necessarily true, but it might keep some people from suing. It's manipulation of a particular situation -- not a manipulation of a person's state of being.

Web A/B testing is the same. Manipulation of a situation, not a person's state of being.

With the Facebook manipulation of people's timelines, however, we have multiple issues and the first and most important is psychological experimentation going on without the users' knowledge. Yes, Facebook claims that they got that permission in their Terms of Service, but there was no explicit permission -- no informed consent -- given for such a blatant experiment. I truly hope they come up on a class action suit for this, although I'm sure they won't.

They manipulated someone's timeline to use a higher number of negative terms to see if that made the person post more negative things. What if they'd done that to someone suffering from depression? What if they made them worse?

This is tinkering far beyond the colours of buttons, beyond the feel-good of using nice pictures.

It is not actually hyperbole to say they were manipulating people's lives in this case. What if you were one of the people who got the negative timeline for three months and you couldn't figure out why you were in such a crappy mood? You snapped at people at home, at work. You just couldn't quite pull yourself out of a funk. Maybe there were repercussions, a demotion at work, a spouse insisting on counseling or even a separation.

Facebook manipulated people without thinking about the consequences on actual lives for those in the negative group.

There was no informed consent and these people were not volunteers for this particular experiment.

Don't get me wrong. As humans we are endlessly manipulating our environment and everyone around us in small and large ways. While many of us try to live authentically and be honest about those manipulations (i.e., bluntly saying "I want this" instead of hiding the desire and trying to bring about the outcome in a more indirect way), many of us are more indirect and even dishonest about what we want.

As Twitter user @ZLeeily stated, the "key issue is they moved beyond tests for product design & into psych research without adapting ethical procedures to suit context."

Relatedly, this was a formal experiment. Facebook didn't just kinda test something: they wrote a scientific paper about it after their experiment. The purpose, then, was the experiment in and of itself, not just making Facebook a better product (as ZLeeily also stated). There are distinct rules about such experimentation and Facebook equating their broad and large Terms of Service as "informed consent" is simply ludicrous.

This was willful experimentation on people who did not know they were part of a psych test. It's unethical. It's shameful.


Update: Apparently, Cornell University was at least partially behind this experiment as well. The last paragraph also states that the Army Research Office in part funded this experiment as well as the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:58 AM | Comments (0) | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 24, 2014

The Guerrilla Revolutions

Through most of Western history in particular, we've seen a very broad, general trend. As a government becomes entrenched, it swings in favour of the type of people who make up the government and punishes those who are different. After all, as George W. Bush once proclaimed, we need bus drivers, too. And janitors. And plumbers. Coal workers. Salt of the land.

The founding fathers of the U.S. specifically designed a type of government that they hoped would interrupt that model. By disrupting who is in power every 2-4 years (depending on the governmental role), by developing checks and balances between Congress, President and Supreme Court, they thought they'd built something that could create little revolutions and thus avoid the need for a larger revolution.

Unfortunately, we've seen the rise of a political class instead of something like the English aristocracy, but it truly amounts to the same thing. Hence we have these families which keep popping up on both sides of the fence: Bush, Kennedy. It's not a Democrat or Republican issue at all: the ruling class of politicians has forgotten what it's like to not Have.

In the meantime, we have decades and decades of hearing Horatio Alger-like stories. We have this amazing mythical American pie where everyone can have a larger slice of the pie than everyone else. We have this disconnect from reality ... this belief that we are owed a large slice of the pie like those privileged families have — without working for it. And we also have this Puritan belief that idle hands are the devil's plaything — and we should work. Just look at any chart of world vacation time and while most U.S. employers offer 1-2 weeks as a benefit (and that may increase depending on years of service), it's not a requirement.

In the 1970s, we also began to see a rise in concern with children's self-esteem. This trend began spiraling out of control by the mid-80s and into a horrible pendulum swing away from anything rational from the 80s through the last few years. Children were fed a mixture of "you can be anything you want to be" along with an unhealthy dose of little to no consequences.

From Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (no, not the movie, the Hugo-winning novel):

He had singled me out again. "Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house ... and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken — whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?"
"Why ... that's the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!"

Here Heinlein is talking about the "juvenile delinquents of the 20th century," and while I don't agree with all of his points, there is more than a grain of truth to this — this way that we've been raising children since at least the 70s*. When a child refuses to do schoolwork and a teacher is mandated to let him take as long as he wants with no punishment, we are performing this exact method of puppy raising. When you combine that with telling children they can be anything they want, that they deserve everything they want — without also teaching consequences and responsibility alongside, without emphasizing the amount of work it can take to achieve what they want ... we are setting our children up for failure.

When you combine the emphasis on independence (we can do anything we want to, we're Americans and that's in the Constitution ... somewhere) with being raised with a lack of consequences and with the expectation that we deserve a larger piece of the pie than anyone else with the very Western thought that "if they're different from us, they don't matter as much" and then combine that with the gun culture in the United States ....

Well. Then you get something like Columbine. The Murrah building. Sandy Hook.

And if you can stomach the six minute video from Elliot Rodger's "Retribution" video on YouTube** — if you can watch him and listen to his inflections, his posing ... you can see this ... his detachment from reality is where all of these American myths are leading. He deserved a girl. Affection. Sex. But as you listen to the overblown phrases that sound like a B-movie villain, you can also see that the line between reality and fantasy is mostly nonexistent. He thinks he's owed these things, not that he has to work for them. He thinks they're being willfully withheld from him. The most chilling thing to me in that video is the "evil chuckle" not because it's scary, but because it's so obviously taken from the movies and so obviously put on as if he's supposed to have that. He might have been 22 when he recorded it, but he sounds as if he's 12 and acting out a part. I'm not sure even he truly believed most of what he said. You could hear the hitch in his voice, see a look of doubt and then he'd almost shake himself and plow on again.

He killed six people the next day. And himself (regardless if he pulled the trigger to end his life or if you consider it suicide-by-cop). Seven others were wounded, some severely.

And it occurs to me that we are in the midst of the type revolution the founding fathers had tried to avoid. It's not the French Revolution, by any means. We have not organized and revolted, although with the upswing of the Occupy movement, there is a motion in that direction. But if you look at the rise of mass shootings, there is an unorganized guerrilla movement that's been in process in the U.S. for quite some time, it simply reflects the mantra that we've drilled into the mythos of America for decades: the individual is supreme; we deserve a bigger piece of the pie; "those people" are different; and violence is a time-honoured solution.

I don't know how we undo the damage this type of upbringing has caused. I do know, however, if we don't start listening to our children, start imposing reasonable consequences, start addressing the issue of violence, and start emphasizing responsibility and a balance of personal need and community need/responsibility and mental health ... we are only going to see more and more lone revolutions.

Pointless, destructive and ridiculously dramatic gestures which serve no purpose and only result in more pain and more anger.


* Heinlein, of course, would argue that this had been going on even longer — Starship Troopers was published in 1959.
** I'm not linking to it as I'm sure YouTube will be spending the next few weeks pulling it down. Repeatedly. As other folks continue to re-upload it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 2, 2013

Middle America

The high cost of health care is sooooo in the news lately. As if this is suddenly some kind of revelation. I saw a headline and a tweet today that claims - as if this is news to anyone in the real world - an ER visit costs more than a month's rent.

No shit, Sherlock. Where have you been for the last 5-10 years (at a minimum), Captain Obvious?

And the answer I've heard repeatedly from well-intentioned, well-off folk with fancy insurance benefits is a saccharine, "Can you really put a price on your health?"

As if that is the end-all, be-all of health care. You SHOULD pay a lot because it's obviously WORTH a lot.

Yet these are the same assholes who think education is over-funded and under-performing. But can you really put a price on education? 

Particularly when we are asking teachers to do more and more with less and less. When we insist they don't need much money because they love what they do and besides, they only work 9 months of the year. (They don't, by the way, only work for 9 months. They just spend 9 months with your kids.)

And with all of that free time, you know, they should take more classes so they can get better at their job. What? Well of course we shouldn't pay for that through taxes. They can pay for it. In fact, they can pay for school supplies, too. I mean, after all, it was their bright idea to need crayons and glue and paper. Ridiculous to make regular people pay for that artsy-fartsy crap.

Back to health care. Don't you know that doctors have even more debt than teachers do? I mean they go to school WAY longer and med school is even more expensive. We SHOULD pay them more so they can pay their debt off faster and then go hit the links.

And you know what else? The days of the old country doctor are over. Maybe back in the late 1800s a doctor could afford to spend some time with a client and really puzzle out what's wrong, but that's only because towns were small and those doctors didn't have good business managers to make this work the American way - show me the money, baby. Screw Grand Junction, Colorado.

No, today, you need a good business manager to make sure that the doctor doesn't spend more than 15 minutes with any one client. There's staff to pay, you know. 


Not all doctors believe this, of course. Not all business managers for doctors are soulless money-grubbers, either.

But what I'm experiencing more and more is exactly those scenarios. Complete disdain for teachers from preschool through university and complete kowtowing to doctors despite their shorter office visits. And the doctors are screwed because they have to kowtow to the insurance "collectives" in their area because no one can afford to go without the health insurance.

So who is running our health care system? First, we have no "system" - we have a chaos of capitalism. Beyond that, as far as I can tell, it's the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. And despite noises about how much they give away or provide at a lower cost, it quite often does NOT reach the people it needs to reach.

For example, in 2001, if I had not just received health insurance the previous September, I would not have received the bone marrow transplant I needed. There was no way I could have gathered the money for the 18 day hospital stay, much less any of the treatment. I was damned lucky in 1999 when a semi-retired doctor at a "doc-in-the-box" clinic realized I was not just a little sick again. I was lucky that I was assigned to a compassionate doctor who treated me knowing damn good and well that I would not be able to pay my medical bills. If the 1999 doctor had insisted on payment up front for each treatment, I would have died. I never would have gone in for the next round of chemo. And the bone marrow transplant? They wouldn't even TALK to me at the hospital until they not only found out what insurance I had, but they had spoken with them and made sure that I was covered.

If I hadn't been incredibly lucky, I would be dead right now.

And who is running our education system? 

No one. There is no system for education either. There's a loose conglomerate of state minimums which are a constantly moving target. And even that changes from school system to school system and even smaller, from school to school.

If you know the Meyers-Briggs test, I am an INTJ. I mention this because INTJs are referred to as system builders. I began puzzling out school systems, designing my own, in junior high. How can you balance what needs to happen (learning particular skills, facts or ways of thinking) with developmental stages, with shifting cultural norms, with different styles of learning ... and doing this with a minimum of 30 kids who are diverse and wildly different in an hour?

You sure can't do it through standardized testing of students or teachers. Not even standardized observation of the teacher in the classroom tells a true picture.

When I was in high school, our district had begun this classroom observation crap. What happened is that the best teachers had a "reserve" lesson plan that they practiced at home and whipped out on the day of the observation because they wanted to do well. It was a lesson plan that hit everything they were to be evaluated on.

You know what the shitty teachers did? The same bullshit they did every day except they weren't blatantly rude to us.

So it disrupted the learning process in classes with good teachers, with conscientious and diligent teachers, the ones who were creative and effective ... and did not a damn thing in the other classrooms.

You cannot actually standardize good teaching.

There are some shitty teachers out there. I can rattle off name after name in my own experience. But I can also rattle off a bunch who truly cared, who were good, who tried. Some of them I didn't mesh with, but they were still good teachers. Mrs. Scarr was a darn good government teacher, but she and I clashed more than once and quite frankly, she was a jackass to me. But her teaching was good even if her "bedside manner," so to speak, was not. Mrs. Deterly, on the other hand, was both a jackass and a horrible teacher. I know from extremely painful experience that whilst some of my students loved my class (inasmuch as they're going to love a required freshmen writing class), but some of them consider me a Mrs. Scarr or worse, a Mrs. Deterly and they never even saw the effort I put into making that class helpful, valuable and fun. (And yes, thanks for noticing. I did NOT use the Oxford comma there because I find it ridiculously unnecessary - so maybe that did make me a horrible writing teacher after all.)

And I think that much of our current attitude toward teachers comes from people remembering their worst teachers and forgetting the good ones. I think we're letting the bad experiences overshadow the good so much that as a culture, we're painting an entire profession with tar and feathers.

Despite being a system builder, I don't have all the answers to either health care or education.

But I do know that it's time to stop tearing each other apart. It's time to stop blaming doctors for being money-grubbers and teachers for being idiots.

I truly believe that if we continue to go down the path that we are on, continue to tear each other to shreds, continue to believe only "X is right and if you don't like it, you can leave" ... 

if we continue to divide ourselves into smaller and smaller camps, we will implode every bit as much as the Soviet Union did.

Democracy should not be about Republican or Democrat. It should not be Tea Party extremism. 

We should be working together to find the compromises that we hate the least. And the more we work together to find those compromises, the less we'll hate them.

And the more we stand our ground and insist on getting exactly what we want...

...well, the more divided we'll become.

United we stand

Divided we fall.

It really is as easy as that. Let's please, please find ways to work together. To take responsibility for things larger than our selves, to agree to take on responsibility for each other without turning everything into an us and them situation.

Let's find some middle ground again and build outward from there.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:02 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 24, 2012

Take a Stand

I'm not afraid (I'm not afraid) to take a stand (to take a stand)
Everybody (everybody) come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let'n you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road

Yeah, it's been a ride...
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one
Now some of you might still be in that place
If you're trying to get out, just follow me
I'll get you there
—Eminem "I'm Not Afraid"

The summer I was seven, we went to Disney World, back in the day of coupon books. I saved two coupons for the most important things I could think of. One was for Space Mountain, the other was for the Hall of Presidents. Yes, I have always been that much of a nerd. I wanted to see the robotic Abraham Lincoln, the man I thought was the coolest president the U.S. had ever seen.

No one else, not Grandma, not Grandpa, not Mom, not baby sister, wanted to waste a ticket on the Hall of Presidents and after much pestering, my extremely overprotective mother told handed me a map of the park, showed me where it was and sent me off alone.

I admit I was somewhat terrified to be going alone through this big park. It was the height of Stranger DANGER! and my mother was always going on about how we had to be careful to not get kidnapped.

But hey. Sometimes you have to take a stand and just decide not to be afraid. After all, Abraham Lincoln did it. He stood up and was not afraid and he freed the slaves. All I had to do was walk across Disney World by myself. Piece of cake.

Outside of Hall of Presidents

I found the pavilion with robotic presidents and slid out of the Florida heat into the air conditioning. I was stunned that hardly anyone was there. I took a seat in the back half of the theatre, but close enough that I could get a good look at these robots.

And I waited.

It was kind of scary being there all alone. I had too much time to think. But I was tough. No one would bother me. I sat up a little straighter.

A rustling behind me. I slumped down, scared all over again. Looked behind me. It was a 20-something young couple. Black. I froze.

You see, my father is a horrible bigot, a terrible racist. Big proponent of the Klan.
And my mother was always terrified of anyone who was different. Well-known for locking her car door when a black man stood across the street as she drove.

And both the young man and the young woman smiled at me. That's all. They didn't say a word. They didn't make a motion. They smiled.

And I relaxed completely. I was here to see President Lincoln, after all. The man who freed the slaves. The man who told all of the U.S. that people are people regardless of colour. I was not afraid of a young couple just because their skin was dark and mine so white it practically glows in the dark.

I smiled back at them. We all settled in to watch the show.

They were gone by the time the show was over. I never did have an opportunity to speak to them.

And all this week, I've been thinking about Trayvon Martin. And I desperately want the chance to smile at him. To tell him he has nothing to fear from people whose skin is different than his any more than I did.

Except we all know that's not true.

I want to tell Trayvon Martin that wearing a hoodie shouldn't be a scary thing to anyone. It's a fucking lightweight jacket, for crying out loud. Where's the harm in a piece of clothing?

I am sick that anyone thinks they can kill someone else for wearing the wrong clothes. I don't care if that's a yarmulke, a hijab, a hoodie, a short skirt, or a Notre Dame jacket.

I am sick that any 250lb man in Florida can claim that he was so scared of the threat posed by a 140lb lanky boy just because he wore a hoodie and had darker skin that he thought he was within his rights to pull a gun and kill the boy.

I am sick that he might not be put in jail for this murder.

I am sick that people defend George Zimmerman's actions. There is no defense for that even if the stand your ground law might protect him from jail time.

I am sick when I think if a 17 year old black boy had pulled a gun on a 28 year old possibly Hispanic dude with a rather anglo last name, he'd have been tossed in jail regardless of what reasons he had for pulling the gun, up to and including self-defense. It would have been beat and arrest first, prove your innocence or extenuating circumstances later.

This whole damn mess makes me sick.

And the jackasses who claim there's no racial component to any of this? Pull your head out of the sand and look around.

Really look at what the Tea Party is proclaiming. Really look at what the FOX News drones are doing with their language and have been for years.

Really look at the mess we are in.

Really open yourself to what H. Samy Alim has to say.

It shouldn't be this way. It just shouldn't.


I'm really sorry the comments are still off. Still haven't been able to find a non-captcha way of dealing with the spam. I'll keep looking. (Seriously, over 500 spam comments in less than 8 hours was bad. Was 14 hours before I realized it and could get them turned off and I had to delete well over 1500 comments from the database.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:35 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 16, 2010

Terror and Safety

I have no lead-in to this post. No build up to ease you in.

Because there was no lead-in for me. No easing into it.

I was sexually assaulted from the time I was five until I moved out of the house. At times, photographed.

It's taken me years of hard work to come to terms with what happened, but I have and I'm at peace with it. It shaped who I am and how I see the world ... but maybe not in the ways you think.

What I learned is that no matter what you do, how many precautions you take, no one is guaranteed safety in this life. This could be a really sad statement, but it's not. It's not that no one is safe, exactly, it's that we're not guaranteed safety.

There is being smart.
There is being stupid.
And there is being so damn afraid that you are no longer living.

And NONE of those guarantees safety.

I choose to live.

There are times when I don't take enough risk. But I try to be smart about it. Make sure that I'm living my life with a reasonable attempt at safety and risk and life.

And that is why I'm calling out the TSA screenings for what they are. Total bullshit. Security theatre. All for show.

People who want to blow up planes or buildings or shoot each other ... they will find ways to do so.

But there is a balance between how we protect ourselves and how we live.

Using millimeter wave to "photograph" our nekkid bodies is not guaranteed to keep us safe. There are ways to take a plane down that could bypass these screenings.

Using an invasive pat-down is not guaranteed to keep us safe.

I, personally, will not submit to the extra radiation of the scanners. One, after all the cancer tests I've been through, I don't need any extra radiation if I can avoid it. Two, I don't care how grainy or "not personally identifiable" the "photographs" are - I've been photographed nude against my will before and I will not do it again.

And the "enhanced" pat-down? I'm done with flashbacks now. Finally. I'm living a pretty normal life. And I'll be damned if I allow some stranger to touch me there for no damned reason. Feeling trapped, like I have no choice, but have to be fondled?

I know that to keep me, personally, safe, I can't submit to either the scanner or the pat-down.

And, since I'm "randomly" selected for "special" screening every time I go on any plane bigger than a puddle-jumper, I know that I can not fly until this blows over.

Until we as a nation come to our senses and remember that there is being smart, there is being stupid, and there is living.

I aim to live.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:46 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 28, 2010

Those People

"So you didn't go because of all those gay people?" Pause. Repeat. "Because of all those gay people?"

I stopped dead in the hallway at work this morning. I was hoping for context for this conversation spoken overly loud in order to carry over several cubicles to reach its intended recipient.

I saw the older man who said it. I saw another older man to whom the conversation was directed. Maybe there is context in which this was benign. Maybe there is a long-standing and familiar joke between these two which I am missing.

And truthfully, I would have ground to a halt and turned back and stared in disbelief had any number of words been substituted for the one I heard. Fat, retarded, pick-a-skin-colour, pick-a-nationality, pick-a-religion. The key to the phrasing was "those people." Whoever those people are.

You see, those people are my friends. They are my family. They are people about whom I care.

This is not about some state-mandated political correctness. This is about respect for the people around you.

You see, you don't know when a gay co-worker might be walking by. Or the father of a child with Down's Syndrome. Or the brother of a Jehovah's Witness. Or the aunt of a bi-racial child.

And your off-hand talk about how "that is so gay" or "geez, that policy is so retarded" when you don't mean disrespect to gays or those with mental disabilities affects people despite your intent.

Sure, people can be overly sensitive. I was once told I could not call my cat "special" or retarded despite the fact that he did have a vet's diagnosis of mental retardation/brain damage &endash; because a relative knew people who had that for real. No amount of explaining could make him see that I was using the word clinically, the same as I did for the cat who had cancer. I think that was a little over-sensitive of him &endash; but because I respect him, I simply don't refer to that cat's problems around that relative. Out of respect.

But all too often we don't think before we speak or tweet or write. We just mouth off and then act shocked when someone "decides" to take offense when we are not respectful.

I didn't take offense this morning. But that phrasing has haunted me all day, nonetheless. I didn't choose for it to do so, but it generates so very many questions. Is this someone who might become violent around people who are different? Or worse, someone who just snipes behind the back, trying to undermine everyone else's opinions of anyone he thinks might be gay? It's so easy to fire someone just for being gay. It's not like marital status or skin colour or religion. Your employer has to come up with a better reason than those things if he wants to fire you. But if you're gay? Hey, we don't like "those people" here. Don't bother coming back.

Given the tiny bit of context I had, this is probably nothing to worry about. Probably.

But the uncertainty remains.

Those people.


And before I could hit publish, the ineffable Angie had posted a story which, quite honestly, was so related, I had to link to it here. Gay Cupcakes Are So Gay.

And, disturbingly, others on Twitter started pointing out multiple similar stories or issues with morons having issues with "Teh Gays."

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:39 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 19, 2010

Avoiding Responsibility

Recently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he thought, "Young people may one day have to change their names in order to escape their previous online activity." (BBC link)

Honestly, this is the most asinine comment to come out of Schmidt's mouth yet.

First, legally changing your name to avoid your past does NOT fricking work. Most employers for anything better than a minimum wage job run a background check. This will automatically bring up any previous names. And, quite frankly, I can see where if this did become a trend, many companies just noting a name change and assuming the person had something to hide, or had been irresponsible and was therefore a risk to hire - without doing the research to determine if this was true or not.

In essence, it could easily become the second line of tossing out resumes - the first being errors in the resume or cover letter.

Secondly, what does this teach people about personal responsibility? Oh, okay, what you do as a juvenile doesn't matter at all. You are free of any consequences ....

STUPID! That kind of bullshit thinking has been leading us down a very nasty little path for quite some time now. Now, I'm not saying that everything you do as a child should haunt you for the rest of your life, because it shouldn't. You have to make mistakes to learn and you really do need to do some stupid shit to learn sometimes. Often, that can make you a better person. But it brings about change in someone because there are consequences, sometimes quite long-reaching ones.

If we were to ever put a system in place upon which you became a "new" person without researchable history at 18 or 21, I think the consequences on society would be alarming.

Why not be proactive? Why not TEACH children and young people today what is and isn't good to share with the world? Why shouldn't adults be teaching younger people this now?

Lame, Mr. Schmidt. Short-sighted and LAME.

But any more, I don't expect much from the CEO of Google. It seems once a company reaches a certain "tipping point" in size, estimated worth and popularity (of use, not how much people "like" it) ... it becomes short-sighted, somewhat stupid ... and generally speaking, somewhere between evil and short on concern for the people they claim to serve/service.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:46 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 13, 2010


So, someone who'd once worked at the company where I am now moved to Korea. I believe it was supposed to be a one or two year deal (maybe a teaching gig), but they've decided they like it there. Anyhow, this guy came to visit and brought a slew of funny Korean foods.

Now by funny, I don't mean, "Oh look what weird shit they eat," instead I mean the packaging. There were dick sticks, for instance. Also, nude balls. Then there was fun stuff like coffee gum.

I tried one of the sticks. They weren't bad and most everyone was munching on them, but I'd expected savory, not sweet - and nothing trips my Asperger's-like tendencies faster than tasting something sweet when I expect savory. Then my co-worker said there were cheese sticks. I was excited - that would get the sweet taste out of my mouth!

The Supposed Cheese StickSo, I happily went over and snagged a cheese stick. I thought maybe it would be kind of spicy, but was preparing myself for mild and perhaps sweet. It looked like the small version of one of those Kraft cheese tube things - or Hickory Farms makes them too. It seemed a little soft, but the Kraft squeeze cheese I remember from when I was little was actually squirted out of one of those tubes, so I wasn't too surprised. I squished a little bit out, seemed okay ... and then I tried it.


That was the nastiest, vilest - UGH. I couldn't quite place the taste and decided there was soy in it. Well, there was soy, true. It was fish cheese.


Lest you think I am joking, another co-worker found this:

Korean Fish Cheese Tubes Ingredients


I'm gagging just thinking about it again.

Apparently some people in Korea use these on their iPhones instead of a stylus since many of them wear gloves all the time.

Remind me to NEVER EVER use someone's touch screen in Korea ... blergh!

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:44 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 10, 2010

hOily Whale - desktops

By popular request, I have two sizes of computer desktop version of the poor beleaguered Fail Whale for those who are interested.

Some have asked, and there are various discussions about t-shirts as well. If you are interested in a t-shirt, please leave a comment below.

BP killed the Twitter Fail Whale!

1680x1050 Desktop
1280x1024 Desktop

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:34 PM | Design | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 27, 2010

California, Gizmodo, Bloggers ... and Theft

The story goes like this: dude leaves his cell phone in a bar. Guy on the next seat over sees it laying there. Whacks the dude on the stool next to it and says, "Hey, your buddy left his phone." Second dude wasn't there with the guy who left the phone, but he picks it up anyway and begins fiddling with it. He doesn't turn it in to the bartender, which, to be honest, would have been my first thought. It's a so-called smartphone, so he starts messing with it. Takes it home with him. Laughs at the guy's Facebook page, etc, etc, etc.

Now the deal is, in California, it's illegal to just make off with found items. You are supposed to hand things you find over to the cops. If, within three years the owner hasn't claimed it, then maybe you have a claim. In a state heavy with small and expensive prototypes ... this seems quite reasonable to me. Honestly, most places could do with a law like that, but of course, the cops are crazy-overburdened most places and don't have time with every Dick and Jane who can't keep track of their damn Crackberries.

Actually, to be even more honest, such a law shouldn't even be freaking necessary because if it's not yours and you find it ... it's still not yours.

So anyhow, little Mr. Second Dude takes this nifty new phone home with him. Maybe he's always wanted one and he just assumes he'll be able to register it with another cell provider and use it even though this phone is pretty famously locked into one provider. Maybe he's mostly good intentioned and he just wants to play with it before contacting the guy and returning it. You know, keep it a couple of days, rack up some calls and some games, have a little fun ... teach the guy a lesson.

But when he gets up the next morning, it's bricked. Huh. Weird. It's been remotely disabled. Gee, that's what my partner did when she lost her cell phone on the ski slopes - called the provider and had it disabled and then registered as lost/stolen so that no one could re-activate it.

Dude does more investigation. Decides that he has a prototype phone. Worth some bucks. So he starts contacting ... well, we know he contacted two tech blogs. One turned him down. This, to me, seems the ethical response. Having possession of this phone is not the same as a few surreptitious photos. There are legal considerations in California ... and certainly paying the mysterious dude who "found" the prototype could be construed as illegal even if your ethics are shaky.

The other blog bought it for $5000. Bragged about buying it. Took the phone apart, filmed everything and then, knowing at this point that they had a genuine prototype (unless someone was punking them), they published everything in a rather flamboyant, gloating ... and completely unprofessional manner.

Apple requested their item back. Gizmodo gave it back. They'd published the name of the dude who lost the phone. They made fun of him. They "defended" him and asked Apple not to fire him ... but they did it in a way to put the guy in the worst possible light.

There have been claims that they tried to return the phone ... but the beer garden where it was found was never contacted. Instead, they supposedly called the Apple switchboard. Smallest amount of ass-covering they could do that would buy them the time they needed to tear the toy apart.

The deal is, this is not journalism no matter what Gizmodo thinks. Perhaps if they'd stuck to the pertinent facts: the tech details only ... maybe. There's still some sticking points of California law, but maybe they'd be able to play the journalism card.

No, instead they acted like a gloating junior high bully - "Well, lookit what we found. And you can't do nothing about it because we took it apart and photographed it and where's your secrecy now, dork?" And to further add to their gloating bully routine, they then made fun of the guy who lost it. They published his name, they used pictures from his Flickr stream and talked about his Facebook account.

They pulled a Nelson and gleefully shouted, "HA, HA," at Apple, at Gray Powell ... and at California law. Because they thought they qualified as journalists and could do such things.

Now, the police have gone into the blogger's home, removed computers, servers, USB disks, etc, etc, etc, because they suspect a felony has occurred. Gizmodo bragging they paid $5000 for the device made this a felony since it's over $990 in value.

There are complaints that Apple is behind this. That somehow Apple is picking on a poor journalistic blogger.

I call bullshit on that.

1) I don't care if Apple did ask the police (or request the special agency) to investigate. Their prototype went missing. By California law, it is still theirs for three years. There is no finders, keepers playground rule here. No one had the right to sell the prototype. At the very least, a crime was committed when the phone was sold.
2) Gizmodo bought a device from someone whom they knew had no right to sell it - if it was legitimately an Apple prototype.
3) Gizmodo bought a device from someone whom they knew had no right to sell it - based on the story they were told. Either it was an iPhone that didn't belong to "Mr. Second Dude" or it was a prototype. Either way, it as not his to sell. Or Gizmodo's to purchase. It comes dangerously close to buying stolen property.
4) After having bought the phone, they took it apart in order to verify that it was, in fact, Apple's prototype and then publish all the proprietary information.

This is not a journalist protecting a source. This is purchasing something they had no right to purchase. This is not purchasing information. This is purchasing a lost/stolen item.

If this had happened to Microsoft, whom I cannot stand, I would probably not be as ticked, I'll be honest. But I would also hope that Gizmodo would be still be under investigation. That the police would be looking for the dishonest and greedy jerk who walked off with the prototype.

Look, if the phone was on the floor and in pieces and no one remembered who sat there, I might be sympathetic to Gizmodo publishing pictures. It's still illegal. It's still wrong, but it's a little more understandable.

But knowing who owned the phone (the Apple engineer's name even) ... and NOT returning it ... and then paying five grand for it and STILL not returning it.

That's not journalism. Gizmodo has done nothing but prove that bloggers aren't necessarily journalists. And in this case, Gizmodo has proven they are unethical, amoral bullies. To now cry because the police have "broken down their doors" - what did you expect when you broke the law and gloated about it? It's time to man up and admit what you did was wrong. Take responsibility for your shady shenanigans and then shut up.


(Disclaimer: there are plenty of bloggers with the ethics and practices of good journalists ... I am NOT painting all bloggers with Gizmodo's brush. But I think this does show that as a category bloggers does not automatically equal journalist.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:37 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 19, 2010


I lived most of my life in Texas and spent summers visiting my grandparents in Oklahoma. For a short while, we lived in Oklahoma City near my grandparents. As a Texan, I am bound by law to make fun of Okies - particularly my sister since she was born in Oklahoma City.

Founders Tower in Oklahoma City

I was fascinated by Founders Tower downtown and often begged Grandma to take me there just because I thought the building was so interesting. I don't recall the Murrah Building, although it was built in 1977, before my grandparents moved out to the Talequah area.

In 1995, I was walking through the student union. I'd moved to a state "up north" for graduate school and I'd been there - and regretting it - for 8 months.

I never felt so out of place as looking at the familiar landscape of Oklahoma City as I did walking by that big screen in the student union fifteen years ago today. That was one of my cities. A place where I had lived. The place my grandparents had lived. The place my little sister was born. And some dirtbag had blown a building up.

This was the city where I took a magic class. Where I learned about Zotz candies and where I got to be in the audience for a TV show and was shown the engineers' booth.

WTF just happened?

I remember a moment of wanting to rush forward to help.

And then remembering that I was some 800 miles away. I could only watch. Feel helpless.

9:02 a.m.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:17 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 12, 2010

iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Flash

I've really grown sick of the constant whinging about Apple's iPhone OS not supporting Flash. There are actual real reasons that don't have to do with some spat with Adobe (who now makes the Flash program) or making cold, hard cash.

Think about the websites which are currently built in Flash. Many of them rely on a programming event "mouseover." On a touchscreen, where is your mouse? Can you hover over something with your mouse on a touchscreen? How sensitive does the touchscreen have to be in order to differentiate between hovering your finger lightly over something and pressing down for a button action?

Touchscreens are an awesome thing to me, but they are still a fairly young technology and simply don't have all the capability that we have via a computer. It's not so much a fundamental flaw of the modern touchscreen as it is a developing tech - we're just not there yet. (And should we be or should we be searching out new paradigms?)

Now, what would be more frustrating to you as a user? Seeing a little brick icon on a bunch of sites because they use Flash or attempting to interact with a site, but not being able to make it work - and having no idea WHY it wasn't working? Frankly, I like Apple's solution once I thought about it.

Maybe I get this because I'm a web designer who knows Flash. I'm no great ActionScript programmer, but I know the basics and have made my share of animated Flash banners using ActionScript rather than keyframes. But I've heard a lot of grousing from other web folk who really ought to know better.

All of the grousing that iPhone doesn't support Flash, the iPad's mere existence on the face of the planet, Adobe's premature development of a Flash to iPhone conversion ...

... it all sounds like sour grapes from people who couldn't tell the difference between a shriveled, sour grape and a plump, sweet grape if the good grape ran off the vine, onto the table and did a dance routine right in front of them.

Instead, they'd complain that now even grapes want their fifteen minutes on So You Think You Can Dance and begin naming all the reasons why the grape should be smashed and made to feel inferior instead of marveling at the fact that the grape is freaking dancing in front of them.

Thoughtful criticism is an important part of life.

Constant complaining because every little thing doesn't suit your every little need shouldn't be a part of our lives at all.

Criticizing the iPad for not being "as good as a netbook" is lame. It's not a netbook. It's an iPad. It's not really an e-book reader; it's not really a computer or laptop or netbook; it's kind of but not really an overgrown iPod touch. It's a new thing. There's not exactly a comparison for it just yet. Relax. What does it matter to you if this product fails or becomes the new big thing? Why the hatred?

Why snap to instant judgments?

That said, I'm also sick of Adobe's attitude. (For the non-designers, Adobe makes the Flash program)

When Apple first launched OS X, they did it in a way that really impressed me because it offered both users and developers time to get used to the OS before requiring upgrades to all of your programs. There were three ways to develop a program - but at first, this didn't impact users at all. You could load a program in "Classic" mode and continue to use all of your old programs you'd already bought and paid for. Developers could use an intermediate way of producing code that would make a program work in OS X without relying on Classic. And finally, developers could write a program "native" to the new operating system. The best choice would be a native program because those would run the most smoothly. Classic programs would have to be "translated" to run and like a kid's game of "Telephone," that usually leads to odd snags. The same with the intermediate solution.

But Adobe waited forever before finally writing their software native to OS X.

The iPhone OS / Flash debacle is honestly more of the same. Adobe seems to believe that "translation" is a good and acceptable way to code rather than writing programs in native languages. Personally, I feel that's a flawed way to code.

Let's put it this way - all computers speak machine language, a series of 0s and 1s indicating "on" and "off." A particular type of computer uses a language optimized to the hardware to translate from human coding to machine language. So, we have human thought to programming language to machine language to action. Plenty of room for translation mistakes already. But if you choose to write your program in a format not native to that machine and its hardware, you're introducing yet another translation to the equation and increasing the likelihood of mistranslations and errors ... or just slow-downs as the machine tries to translate so many levels.

So Adobe thinking that a Flash to iPhone export option was a good idea was, in my opinion, a fundamentally flawed thinking process. At best, it would create a flood of mostly-functional apps for the iPhone (and iPod touch and iPad). More likely, it would flood the marketplace with bug-laden, slow apps which did not please the customer, partly due to the translation issues and partly due to the number of additional non-programmers who would have access to a fairly easy way to slap some pieces of programming together and calling it an app.

Is Apple's move about the bottom line? Yeah, it's about money. Is it about some long-standing dispute with Adobe? I don't think it is, at least not in the way that some think. It might be a reaction to Adobe's perceived programming philosophy, but I think that's rooted in bringing about Apple's tag line ... "it just works."

And you can't say, "it just works" if the software is terribly buggy and mistranslated ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:37 AM | Design | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 5, 2010

Suffer Little Children

I was raised Catholic. My mother is still devoutly Catholic. My aunt is still devoutly Catholic and the chair of the religious studies department of a large Catholic university to boot. My sister and my cousins, all Catholic. I am the only oddball in the family to leave the church.

The others make assumptions as to why, although no one has been brave enough to ask. As far as I can tell, they make two general assumptions: 1) I left because I'm gay and the Church has no love for the queers. 2) I left because while not abused by any clergy, I was abused and probably don't like how the Church is handling abuse claims today.

Both assumptions are incorrect.

I was a child of questions. "Don't do X" was immediately followed with why not? If that wasn't actually explained to me, I did "X" anyway, largely to find out what the problem was. If an adult or child couldn't explain something to me, then it didn't exist to me. I can remember being at a friend's house in grade school and asking where her kitten was. No answer. A little later I asked again. And again. And again, until one of the other kids took me aside and explained that the kitten had feline leukemia and was dead. I couldn't seem to pick up on the social cues that everyone else had picked up on ... and I had to have an answer.

My mother learned quickly NOT to tell me, "you can't do X," because I would promptly do X just to show that I could too so do it. She also learned to quit telling me "you can't say X" for the same reason.

The Catholicism I grew up with was largely built of "you can't" without explanations. I drove my CCD (Catholic "Sunday" School) teachers crazy with my questions.

The lunchbox church I attended in jr high and high school

"You have to go to church every Sunday."

"But what if you live too far away from a church? Can't you just read the Bible all day long on Sunday and have that count?"

I was planning, you see, on moving to the middle of nowhere, totally off the grid, in a log cabin house I somehow miraculously built myself with an ingenious water trough system that would give me electricity (in some magical fashion - I couldn't be bothered with the minute details just yet).

"No, that's not enough, you have to attend Mass with a priest."

"But if you live in the middle of nowhere and can't get to a church, I mean. Is it still a sin."


"But why?"

"Because you chose to live away from the Church."

Oh well, for Pete's freaking sake. Nothing the teacher said would make me believe that God would be so petty as insist we drive 10 hours to find a Catholic Church just to hear some priest ramble about giving money to the church during his ten minute sermon. Seemed to me that the priests I knew were too boring to count as really going to church and we'd obviously be better served by doing something active for God instead. Reading the Bible, doing good works, something.

In fact, failing to get a good answer (or the answer I wanted, you can interpret that either way), I began taking a hard look at my church. For a long time, I assumed that the problem was with my specific parish. I remembered kind of liking church in Austin, but the Monsignor who ran our church seemed a bitter old man who simply wanted his parishioners' cash.

It was, of course, a bit more complex than that, but at 12 or so, I couldn't see it yet.

There was no youth group ... every time a young "helper" priest was assigned to Most Blessed Sacrament, the Monsignor ran him off in a matter of months. Youth groups were started and fell by the wayside with each one. There was no way to engage with the church at the time. I couldn't serve at the altar. I was too little to be a reader. Too little to be a Eucharistic minister. The only thing I could "do" was sit and listen.

Being passive has never been a strong point for me. And yet, that was all that was being asked.

I wanted to be part of things. Discussion, activity, mission work ... something to demonstrate the faith I was being told to believe. It wasn't enough to talk about the Good Samaritan, where was my chance to act that way? To help someone?

By the time Confirmation rolled around, I already knew I was not, in my heart, Catholic anymore. I disagreed with far too many tenets of the faith. I was not a docile lamb to be led. I needed discussion, activity, challenges and I was not getting them. I didn't really believe in the infallibility of priests or the Pope.

But I couldn't figure out how to tell my family that.

I read Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man ... and as Stephen said, I wasn't Catholic, but I sure wasn't Protestant, either. After reading several novels by Chaim Potok, I contemplated converting to Judaism ... but there were several issues there.

Then came my first year in college ... and I was just about ready to tell Mom my big secret ... that I just couldn't pretend to be Catholic any more ...

... and some idjit called the house to tell Mom I was gay. So of course that was a whole different trauma, and to be honest, Mom just assumed that I was no longer Catholic because of it. That phone call set off a whole avalanche of events - I was kicked out (although I already had a lease signed to move out within about 6 weeks anyway); Mom divorced Dad within about 12 weeks of that phone call; Mom moved an hour away. Best though - I was no longer expected to go to a church in which I no longer believed.

Let me make this clear: I do not hate the Catholic Church. I just don't believe in the hierarchy. I don't think any less of my family for continuing as Catholics. I admire them, particularly my aunt and cousins who are very active in their churches and have found ways to disagree with some tenets and yet still retain faith not just in God, but in the Catholic Church. Much of what led me to early disgruntlement with the church had more to do with a specific priest ill-suited for the congregation he found himself in and some not very thorough CCD teachers. Had the early foundation been more strong, I might have felt more comfortable working within the Catholic church instead of having to find my way out.

The Vatican

So when I say that I am DISGUSTED with the current pope and the sexual abuse disaster, please understand that it is not some kind of uninformed and misdirected emotion.

The vatican has made it pretty clear to me that they prefer to push off blame. First, they tried insinuating (or, in some cases downright saying) that if they could just clear the queers out of the priesthood, the problem would be over. Of course, this completely ignores the girls and women who've been abused by priests. It also ignores the fact that most of these priests committing abuse are not necessarily gay. They are pedophiles and pederasts (men who are attracted to adolescent young men). In other words, the church would begin a crackdown on queers in the priesthood and obviously this kind of crap would become a thing of the past. Move along, nothing to see here.

This ignores the good homosexual priests who've remained celibate. (The homosexual issue is separate from the abuse issue - and besides, if the priest is celibate and only the homosexual sex act is actually a sin, then why care if they are priests????)
It ignores the heterosexual priests who have abused their position.
It ignores the heterosexual priests who are sexually stunted and don't know how to help their parishioners when they come for advice.

I am not going to get into whether or not celibacy "causes" the kinds of problems the Catholic Church is facing right now. I think it's far more complex than a simple answer like that.

I am furious that the way the church has handled the issue up until now is through silence and secrecy, the very things that abusers instill in their victims and perhaps the hardest barriers to getting those victims turned into strong survivors. I know ... it took me a number of years to be able to admit to myself what had happened to me. And it took a seemingly ridiculous number of additional years to be able to physically write or utter the words, much less tell someone else.

For the church, which is supposed to be a place of refuge, solace and safety to essentially tell people "forgive and most of all forget," and insist on reinforcing secrecy, shame and silence is, to me, completely unforgivable.

Catholics are to obey the hierarchy. I understand this. It is the main problem I had with Catholicism ... and the reason why is being played out so publicly right now.

How can any person of conscience keep silent about the types of things that they knew were happening? There are documents of bishops, local priests, etc, begging the next person up in the hierarchy to do SOMETHING about some priest who'd done something horribly wrong. How could they in good conscience keep those secrets just because their bishop or cardinal told them to do so?

Why did any member of the church think this was a healthy and healing way to handle the problem?

From paperwork now coming out, it looks like now Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, knew about at least some of these cases. Some of the truly heinous cases ... and did nothing.

The church claims he tried to fast-track some of these cases, but the facts seem to indicate otherwise. (I'm thinking particularly about the Wisconsin case with the school for the deaf.) At the very least, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he either knew about such cases or was woefully negligent in his duties. After all, the Wisconsin case involved the highest priority - a priest accused of molesting in the confessional, sullying the sacrament of confession - and accused of molesting an absolutely insane number of boys.

One case in Germany seems to sum up the reaction of the Catholic church:

A German man who after many, many years finally was able to physically say that he'd been abused, was first disowned by family who refused to believe him. Then he reported the men who'd abused him to the church. He was offered a smallish sum of money ... on the legal condition that he never speak of it again. This made him angry, and rightfully so. He'd worked so hard to finally be able to speak and break his silence.

He wrote to the Pope - at that time John Paul II - asking for help, and received a letter from Rome.
It contained no apology. Instead, a Vatican official wrote that the Pope would pray for him and encouraged him to return to the family of the Church.
(source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8564378.stm retrieved 4/5/2010)

Other news sources report that Pope John Paul II knew about other cases as well ... and did nothing. That Ratzinger knew or should have known about cases ... and did nothing. (Or moved with glacial speed.)

I don't know for sure. I do know that the church's reaction to this now is what has me both incensed and more likely to believe the worst. One cardinal said this is all "petty gossip." The pope's personal priest attempted to read a passage from a Jewish friend's letter and seemed to indicate that the "persecution" the church was experiencing was just like anti-Semitism.

Another article points out a cardinal who's had to deal with the aftermath of a pedophile, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Groer's successor, criticised the handling of that scandal [Groer is believed to have abused some 2,000 boys] and other abuse cases last week after holding a special service in St Stephen's cathedral, Vienna, entitled "Admitting our guilt".
Schönborn condemned the "sinful structures" within the church and the patterns of "silencing" victims and "looking away".
(source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7086738.ece retrieved 4/5/2010)

Schönborn and others seem to be insisting that Cardinal Ratzinger tried to do the right thing, but that Pope John Paul II is the one to blame.

They all miss the point.

A true person of conscience, once they know about such heinous abuses had a moral duty to STOP IT. If they could not do that from within the system, they should have, in the spirit of Jesus, gone outside the Vatican's system.

While the survivors and victims' families may want to place blame precisely where blame is due ... those less directly affected just want the church to 'fess up.

I don't care if it was Ratzinger's fault or John Paul's fault that Father Murphy wasn't instantly removed and laicized. I really don't. I want Pope Benedict to say, "We should have removed him sooner. We should have had a better process, a faster process by which to determine guilt and then laicize him from the priesthood. We messed up, but we're looking at what went wrong and using that to better our process and our system so this doesn't happen again."

I have heard of a document supposedly kept under lock and key in which bishops were told to NOT go to the authorities in abuse allegations, but to keep the parishioner quiet and send the info along to the Vatican so the priest could be moved somewhere else.

Those who are speaking out about this, seem to want to blame John Paul II. I don't know if they're simply pushing this off on a dead man who can't defend himself ... or if John Paul II was truly to blame. I don't really care. Pope Benedict is in charge now and he's got a lot of work to do to earn back the trust of so many who feel the Church as a whole has been lying, has been concealing, has been betraying the very people they are supposed to shepherd.

It's not about blame. It's about taking responsibility.

Claiming the church is being persecuted, that people are engaging in "petty gossip," these are not the responses representative of a loving God. They're the responses of a child with a hand in the cookie jar and crumbs all over their shirt.

(Title of post from Matthew 19:14 (King James Version)
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:15 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 9, 2009

The Man Who Knew Cliff

September of 1990 ... I'm taking a sophomore English lit class that I'd been excited about prior to the semester's start. I'd checked out the books in the bookstore for the class and we weren't using an anthology - and I had not read all of the books on the shelf. Hey, I was an English major after I realized I didn't have enough time to work full-time and be a drama major.

First day of class, no teacher.

In walks the department secretary. Oh hell.

For a moment after she spoke, I thought we'd lucked out. Our professor had gotten some kind of award and would be in England for the semester, but they weren't going to cancel the class. They'd have an instructor for us by the next class.

He wound up being literally the worst teacher I have EVER had the misfortune of having. In fact, as far as teaching his students anything, I think he is easily in the running for worst teacher ever. Oh, the stories I could tell (and will at some point) about this man.

But in September, he told us he would not be in town for our first exam as he'd scheduled an out of town vacation before he landed the teaching gig. Okay. Fair enough.

Before he left, he tells us ... there will be four questions on the test. Pick one of the questions and write your essay on that. Fine. Typical English exam.

Day of the test shows up. Secretary comes in and hands us the test and says ... answer all four questions.

Excuse me? WTF? We protest. She goes off to call him in Nova Scotia or wherever the hell he was fishing. Comes back. Yes. Answer all four.

I have had it with this man at this point. I decide to write technically correct paragraphs, but ridiculous ones to turn in on a college exam.

He hands the exams back (eventually, obviously I'm skipping some things here - and be glad I'm not making you live through all of it). I fully expect a D or an F on this exam because I literally wrote a single shitty paragraph for each of the "other" three exam questions.


Very nicely written


Now the first essay question I answered was a good five paragraphs long. It was a decent delving into the material for an hour long exam. I got one comment on that answer - correcting a switch in verb tense. (During a timed test ... yeah, I wasn't looking for grammar details, I thought it was a lit content exam, silly me.)

Second test question: With reference to incidents, in Beowulf, describe some of the violent action.

My answer, tongue firmly in cheek:

Beowulf is full of violent action. Beowulf pulled Grendel's arm off to kill him. As Beowulf fought Grendel's mother, monsters tore at his legs. When Beowulf killed Grendel's mom, the waters boiled with blood. Beowulf chopped off Grendel's head for spite after he discovered Grendel's corpse. When fighting the dragon, heads melted. In short, there was more violent action in Beowulf than in professional hockey.

Wow. For a college sophomore English class. UGH!

Third test question: Write a short essay describing the "somber grandeur" of Beowulf.

My answer, tongue still firmly in cheek and still peeved:

Beowulf is characterized by its somber grandeur. For example, nearly everyone dies. Death is certainly somber. As for the grandeur, the use of language and heroic ideal is exquisite. Beowulf doesn't wear armour, he wears his "war-garment." He doesn't cross the sea, he travels across the "whale-way." It is this beautiful use of kennings and exquisite language that makes Beowulf something to study long after its creation.

TRIPE! Pure and utter sycophantic GARBAGE. It says NOTHING.

He wrote "very good" next to that paragraph. I shit you not, people.

Very good if I was a junior high student, maybe.

To this day, I still shake my head in disbelief over that class.

Oh, and the title of this piece? Yeah, this dude claimed he went to school with Cliff. You know, Cliff. The guy who started Cliff's Notes.

Now THAT doesn't surprise me. *sigh*

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:41 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 20, 2009

There Is No System

This is part three. For part one, please read "When I Was 30."

Sorry, folks, didn't mean to leave you hanging for a week for the next post, but it's been a crazy week. I probably shouldn't take time out to write this post ... but you've been waiting long enough.

I am good at getting by. I should probably be grateful for that talent, skill ... luck, whatever it is. But I'm not. I'm tired of it.

You see, that skill at getting by was what kept me going with cancer for two years before the diagnosis. Perhaps if I'd not been able to get by, my doctor would have run a simple CBC and questioned my hemoglobin count. Perhaps the cancer would have been caught earlier. Perhaps if I had just quit my job when the welfare worker told me to, I would not have had mounds of bills that I worried about paying even more than I worried about the cancer killing me.

And that skill at getting by started when I was much younger. It kept me from getting help in numerous situations as a child - learning disabilities, problems at home, problems with bullies at school. I saw the look on whatever tired adult's face and knew they did not want to deal with the issue if I could manage to deal with it. Not wanting to disappoint an adult or make them feel like I couldn't handle something ... I always found a way to handle it. Even if it meant that I simply suffered in silence.

Here I had done what I thought were the right things - got a recommendation of a doctor from a friend. A good doctor, supposedly. When I started getting sick I went to the doctor. And things fell apart because he knew I had no insurance. He assumed that I would be unable to pay for the simplest blood test. It wasn't true, but he didn't ask and I didn't know what to ask for.

At any rate, I lucked out and was given treatments. I was looking at a mountain of expenses from the chemo treatments themselves to the nearly week-long hospital stay complete with biopsy surgery, anesthesiologist and X-ray bills, CT scans, a PET scan.

After it was all over, I was hired for a full-time teaching gig - with health insurance. I was making more money than I had ever made, though it still wasn't much. I now had to figure out how I was going to pay off my college debt, pay off the debt I'd run up just living and working minimum wage jobs, trying to buy my books cheaply, fixing my clunker car so I could get to chemo treatments ...

It wasn't going to happen.

I tried to rearrange reality for a while - "I reject your reality and substitute my own" (you have to say this in Mythbusters' Adam Savage voice - but it just wasn't working.

And to be honest, I was tired of trying to make everything work by myself.

I had paid for college myself, mostly. I'd moved out at 19 and began working full time whilst I went to school. Seven years of working full time and going to school. Putting semesters on charge cards because I had no other way to pay and a belief in my future. Car repairs on the charge card because I made just enough to cover bills and have $20 every two weeks for spending money. Then there was the 1000 mile move from Texas to go to graduate school. I sold much of my furniture in an attempt to both reduce stuff I needed to move and fund the gas money and U-Haul rental.

I was doing what I had gone to school to do and was surprised to discover that despite what we'd been told, getting a full-time teaching gig was not going to be a piece of cake as the baby-boomers weren't quite ready to retire and certainly weren't retiring in the droves we'd been told to expect. So despite now having a full-time teaching gig and health insurance, we were a dime a dozen and paid accordingly.

I did what I had to do with a great deal of soul-searching ... a great deal of self-flagellation ... a great deal of telling myself that this was one of those hard choices that adults just have to make sometimes.

I declared bankruptcy. I, who had never missed any bill payment before this. I, who had rarely if ever had a bill paid late (and if so, was probably only by a day or so). I, who was paranoid about making sure there was enough money for bills.

My credit was now toast. I was out from under the ridiculous mound of bills from the chemotherapy, the hospital, surgery ... and from my college bills. And all I could think about was the fact that I shirked my responsibilities. I had meant to find a way to pay for all of those things during college. And if I hadn't gotten sick, I would have paid it all off. I felt horrible for agreeing to treatment, to the hospital, to the doctors, and knowing that there was just such a slim chance that I could pay.

But what choice did I have, in the end? Die or live?

No one should have to make that choice.

No one should skip regular doctor visits because they don't think they can afford to pay the doctor, or for the medicine or treatments if necessary.

And the doctors deserve to get paid for the work that they do.

I do not want to trust my life to an insurance company whose focus is the bottom line and how much money they can give their shareholders and their executives.

I do not trust the office manager who told another doctor (not the idiot I described earlier) that she could not spend more than 10 minutes per patient because it was not cost-effective.

I do not trust the drug companies who wine and dine doctors, nurses and support staff with awesome free lunches and swag so that the doctors will prescribe their particular drug.

I do not trust the drug companies or insurance companies who lobby congress to maintain their status quo and fatten their bottom lines.

I do not know what the answer is. I only know that we are broken right now. Change is frightening.

But dying because you're scared you can't afford treatment just shouldn't be a concern. For any of us.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:21 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 22, 2009

Puppies Chew Things

Puppies are fun. They're cute. They can be snuggly. They ADORE you.

They also make messes and, if they are dachshund puppies, they are adorably curious about everything.

Including my very happy Panasonic Slimz headphones that I use to listen to my Sleepmaker Storms app to go to sleep at night because they're very low profile and great quality. Tieg the dachshund puppy is very curious about these weird things I put over my ears and especially that interesting looking thing at the end that goes into that black glassy thing.

He chewed the headphone plug off.

Had he chewed the cord in half, I could have just spliced it together. But nooooo, he had to chew the plug freaking off.

So, with a little help from Chris Metcalf, I decided to salvage my relatively expensive headphones.

I snagged the soldering iron, headed out to Radio Shack for a gold headphone plug and began my task early this afternoon.

The freaking wires would NOT stay where I put them, the soldering iron had a tip way too wide for working with electronics ... but a ridiculous amount of time later I have functioning headphones again. I will probably get another headphone plug and a soldering iron with a very fine tip to it and do it again.

For now, I'll remember to pick up the headphones ... and keep a closer eye on the Wee Dangerous Tieg's whereabouts.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:44 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 22, 2009

Debt Paid, But Beware the Hidden Fees

On first blush, this sounds like a good local law: "prohibit those who have sexually abused minors from living within 2,500 ft of anywhere where children congregate, such as schools, libraries and parks." (BBC article) In fact, this sounds like common sense. Most pedophiles seem to be repeat offenders operating under compulsion - so just remove the temptation, as much as possible. This Miami law sounds like it's a good thing, right?

Before I go any further, let me point out one fact: I am a survivor. I know first-hand the types of things some of these offenders have done and the pain and long-term effects those actions can have.

That said, the law in Miami which forbids these convicted offenders from living within 2500 feet of anyplace kids might congregate means these folks are living in a tent city under a bridge, because there is nowhere in Miami for them to live otherwise. They are literally being dropped off by Florida's correctional system at the bridge with no money, no water, no food ... no toilet facilities ... they are being issued driver's licenses which list the bridge as their "home" address.

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer of Florida International University (Dean of Humanities, Health and Society) says "This is the stupidest damn law I have ever seen and it's purely mandated by revenge without any consideration for the well-being of these people - who deserve better despite the severity of their crimes."

I agree.

Yes. That's what I said. It is one thing if our justice system were able to sentence someone to a life in a tent city for their crimes - some kind of Coventry area. However, we don't do that. We sentence people to time in jail - and I will certainly be the first to say we often don't sentence them long enough for the things they've done. But that's the way the system is currently. We sentence them to time served and then we say they've paid their debt to society and we set them free. Their rights are curtailed. They are going to find it difficult to find employment.

Their lives are not going to be easy. Perhaps they will be easier than the lives of the children they violated, but that is not the issue. Our justice system is not really built on "an eye for an eye" in a strict, literal fashion. We have instead opted to say that murder is equal to twenty years to life in prison, for example. We have opted to say that a rape equals, on average in the U.S., a sentence of 11.8 years, with an actual time served being more like five and half years. (source, source) We have, in some states, opted to say that aggravated rape is equal to the death penalty (Louisiana). Some states offer to reduce sentences if the convicted will undergo chemical castration - that's another controversy/issue altogether. But our justice system is based on: serve time, pay your debt, rejoin society, debt paid.

These consequences are all things that most Americans know about our justice system and our society. You commit a serious crime, you're going to do time and then you are going to have a difficult time getting a job when you get out. As a registered sex offender, you're going to be required to also tell the system where you're living. In many areas, you are going to have to live a certain distance from schools, et cetera.

But Miami's law goes too far and in my opinion becomes cruel and unusual punishment. What's worse is this punishment occurs after we claim these folks have paid their debt to society. If we want to punish sex offenders more severely, we need to change the laws about their incarceration times because that is how we handle crime and punishment in the U.S.

To condemn these people to a tent city AFTER their time in jail is to, in essence, sink to the level of their crime. The city of Miami is violating people who are already vulnerable.

Think about it apart from their crime: dropped off at a bridge. Under the bridge, you have huts and tents. People living in squalor with no running water, no sanitary facilities ... people with little hope of living any kind of normal life again. Really think about this ... drop off people in an area where they are deprived of everything, an area which is actually worse than prison because now they don't have a guarantee of shelter or food ... or even basic sanitation. Where is their motivation to behave? Where is their motivation to become productive members of society again? It seems to me they have only two intelligent choices: leave Miami (if the terms of their sentence allow it and they can afford to leave, that is), or commit another serious crime and go back to prison where they are guaranteed shelter, food and sanitation. They lose freedom, but gain some security.

We know, from studying modern correctional facilities that many inmates aren't rehabilitated in the typical prison, that instead, many of them learn new skills in illegal activities because they learn from each other.

Let's think about that a moment, shall we?

Is it wise to turn some 70 pedophiles loose together in a tent town where they have no real hope of ever being a part of normal society again? Don't you think at least some of them are going to plan more offenses together and maybe learn from each others' mistakes?

I mean if we're not going to consider the humanity of these folks - which I think is a cruel and petty way to be - at least can we look at consequences of this kind of petty punishment?

In my own petty hours when I really think of what I was forced to go through ... how my entire life was shaped and warped by events over which I had no control at all ... yes, I want petty punishments for those responsible. But I am bigger than my id. Instead I would prefer things like mandatory counseling, stiffer prison sentences, making them pay for the victim's counseling ... up front "fees" that are in line with our justice system's precedents.

It's not right to hold these folks in a kind of double-jeopardy punishment where the sentence served is only the smallest part of their true punishment.

While I would love to see the punishment of sex offenders in general intensified, this is not the way to do it - to tell them they've paid their debt, but now there's all of these hidden fees to pay which total quite a bit more than the original bill ....

And oh, how ironic is it that I write this post as Father's Day 2009 slips away?

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:02 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 21, 2009

Eleven Seconds

Cops have a difficult job, there are no two ways about that. We all know they put their lives on the line for us every day, but even knowing that, it's easy to get caught up in the frustration of getting a speeding ticket or grousing about a cop speeding through town without lights or siren. And it can be easy to get caught up in the cynicism of corrupt cops and power-hungry cops who are out to get the common person, particularly since everyone has a camera or video camera now.

There was the recent case in Dallas of a young cop, on the job just three years, who attempted to pull over an SUV near the hospital after it slowed down for a red light, was waved on by someone who had a green light and then went through the intersection. The cop lit up his rack and pursued. The SUV slowed, but continued on. To the hospital. To the emergency entrance.

Now I understand that it is freaking scary to a cop to chase someone even in a low speed pursuit and then have people boiling out of the vehicle when it finally stops. But come on, it's a HOSPITAL. Maybe someone inside is hurt and needs attention. This young cop didn't care. By golly, that driver ran a red light and NEEDED a ticket. You can't have private citizens just running red lights (whilst watching to make sure he's not going to hit anyone) willy nilly. That would be anarchy.

Turns out, a family member was in the hospital, dying. The hospital had called the family and told them to hurry, as she was slipping away quickly.

The cop kept the driver (tried to keep them all, despite the fact that the hospital staff came out repeatedly to tell the cop the mother was dying), he kept the driver for 15 full minutes after knowing the situation. The driver was not there when his mother-in-law died. His wife was finally "allowed" to go (actually, she just ignored his dumb ass and ran in with the hospital staff).

This only made the news, I feel certain, because the man who ran the red light and who actually handled a highly stressful situation pretty well, was an NFL player. He never once used that as a way to try to get out of the situation, so it's doubtful the cop knew he was walking into a story likely to hit the news. His dash cam shows 15 minutes of him throwing his weight around and being, in general, a dick. Another officer tries to gently talk the kid out of pursuing the ticket, pointing out they just wanted to be with the dying woman.

Luckily, the driver kept his head and was not thrown in jail - which the cop kept threatening - and the city has since vacated the ticket.

And it's easy for us to get caught up in the stupidity of that cop. Not everything is black and white - not even their cars anymore. There are extenuating circumstances and they ought to have the ability to make that judgment call - which is what the Dallas police chief said upon viewing the dash cam tape.

Most cops, do an exemplary job - or at least they do a good job. They don't throw their weight around. They don't take bribes, they aren't corrupt. And they rarely make the news. They do their very dangerous, very stressful job and they do it, for the most part, on camera and with a fair amount of review.

But private citizens also have to understand that they are human and they are doing a job that jacks up their adrenaline to ungodly levels on a fairly regular basis.

I am appalled at the story coming out of Birmingham this week. A high speed chase ... an officer knocked to the ground by the insane driver of a van ... the cops chasing the guy were doing it by the book - no one had actually been hurt as they tried to stop this idiot.

By all accounts, they'd done an absolutely exemplary job in a tough situation.

But, their adrenaline was high.

When the van was finally stopped, it bounced off the road and rolled, ejecting the driver. He looked like a doll, tossed from the van. Even knowing what was coming when I viewed the video, I admit I was shocked. The man looked like a limp rag doll tossed from his van. He lay there in the ditch, motionless.

The cops begin rushing up.

As the mayor of Birmingham puts it, the next 11 seconds are unforgivable.

I understand their adrenaline was going. I understand they were pissed and scared that one of their own was knocked to the ground. But it took them several seconds to reach the limp, unmoving driver. It should have been enough time to recognize he was not moving.

Instead, they approached, batons out and began beating the shit out of the man.

Five officers, in a moment of adrenaline overload, fifty years of police experience between them ... and they did the stupidest thing they'd ever done on the job, costing them their jobs.

There is no excuse for what they did. There are some mitigating circumstances - the adrenaline overload I keep talking about - but police officers are supposed to be trained to handle that overload and make more reasonable decisions than the average joe despite the adrenaline.

Eleven seconds of allowing themselves to get caught up in the moment ... and they've destroyed their careers.

It's not so much that we need to vilify cops - even with this reprehensible behaviour I also find that I have sympathy for them. We need to spend more time and invest more money in making sure that they are not overworked and undertrained. Yes, this is their fault. They must accept responsibility for their actions and they are going to have to live with some less than happy circumstances due to their actions.

But we also must take responsibility. How many cities are feeling this economy's bite and are cutting back on pay, letting officers go because there is no money? Training goes by the wayside. Equipment.

Even in a good economy, we bitch about the taxes that pay a cop's salary. We get holier-than-thou and think we can boss a cop because "we pay your salary."

We also bitch about the state of education in the U.S. ... but teachers are expected now to be counselor, babysitter, parent to a growing number of children. And we bitch about paying them more than $20 or $30,000 a year.

Nothing is cheap, folks. TANSTAAFL

We run a better chance of police officers who are better prepared and more balanced if we spend more money on training them, equipping them and making sure they earn a decent living instead of scraping by. We run a better chance of improving the education system if we pay teachers a decent living.

We can either pay the cost in our taxes ...

or we can pay the cost in eleven poorly executed seconds.

The choice is ours.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:26 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 9, 2009


Joan of Arcadia ... Bionic Woman ... Tru Calling ... Firefly ... Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles ...

Honestly, I apparently only like failing network shows. The only network shows that I will drop everything to watch are the ones that get canceled. Joan of Arcadia (CBS) was ended far too soon while the writers were building to a really interesting set of questions about what we believe. It was intriguing, it made me think. And, it was quite obvious toward the end of the final season (season two *sigh*), that the writers were really building to something fascinating for exploration in season three...

And of course, season three didn't happen.

Bionic Woman (NBC) was a show I thought I would hate because I'm a bit tired of all these stupid re-makes. But, the main idea of the show was actually pretty different from the original - I was surprised at how rich the show was. It really started getting interesting ... and then the writer's strike happened and sadly, Bionic Woman was made into a sacrificial lamb. I support the writers and what they needed to do ... but I mourn the loss of a damn good show. One that was complex and thoughtful.

Tru Calling (FOX) was a fascinating premise with some wonderful actors. I would go to turn it on ... and there'd be something else on instead. It seemed to move around ... and then it was suddenly gone.

Dark Angel ... holy shit did FOX ruin that show. Things out of order, ran previews for it all week and I'd turn on the TV with eager anticipation only to find something about St. Jude's Children's hospital ... the same show several weeks in a row instead of Dark Angel. There also started to be a bit of a buzz that the network was pushing the writers into some plot bits that well, wasn't what they had intended ... and the result was a very messy second season that really wasn't as good as the first - still potential, still interesting, still made you think...
So of course, they cancelled that.

Firefly ... don't even get me started on the IDIOCY that FOX displayed with that show. If they'd just aired the damned thing in order, first of all, and then not moved the program around, the ratings might have been more stable. And gee, look how well the movie did ... they really really blew it with that show. I mean, seriously, how fascinating a concept is it to have a Wild West- Sci Fi show starring "Han Solo" with a Western style ... and then have "Han" turn out to be a minor military officer of the losing side trying to be a hardass, but living in essentially poverty because he can't take jobs that are too dishonest. And a preacher who is all about love and peace ... but it seems likely he was once a government agent, possibly an assassin. Or the goody-two-shoes perfect young genius doctor who throws everything away and becomes a fugitive and smuggler himself and yet lectures Cap'n Mal for his sometimes slippery ethics?
Seriously, Firefly had me at the intelligent blending of good SciFi and western. Well, actually, Firefly had me at Joss ....

Now it's looking like the only two network shows that I'm really rabid about are also about to go under.

I have never seen a single Terminator movie. Mostly because I'm very particular about action flicks and I prefer my SciFi to be more SciFi than special effects & action. And I hate Schwarzenegger as an actor. (And his politics, frankly, but I hated his acting first.) But a friend got me to watch the tv show and I find it fascinating. It's got some really good actors playing some really interesting characters. It's just now built to the point where I really hate it when I get to the end of that week's episode and have to wait another whole week to find out what happens next. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has more than piqued my interest, it managed to capture my undivided attention (which isn't particularly easy - most tv is so boring I can only watch it while I'm doing something else). So of course, FOX moved it to Friday night ... its death spot.

So, of course, there may not be a next episode now ....

And the one show that has really built and exploded all season has been Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Guess what, that's another show on FOX. Guess what? It's another show that has some strong characterizations, some complex plots, tackles the big questions ... and guess what else? It's on the bubble along with Sarah Connor. Probably canceled, but we don't know for sure yet.

Dollhouse has a great concept and some wonderful actors. The season finale was mind-blowing - but of course, it aired the same night that most of the typical Dollhouse viewers were out to catch the opening of the new Star Trek flick. Brilliant planning on FOX's part. Let's blame low ratings on the finale on the fact that people aren't watching ... instead of the fact that it's a freaking Friday night and people are actually out of the house doing something. Not to mention, it was the weekend of the Star Trek opening.
The stupidity of FOX will NEVER EVER cease to amaze me.

So here's what I've concluded.
1) Despite being a prime demographic for advertisers, I'm not in FOX's demographic lights.
2) Despite the fact that FOX is more likely to pick up "risky" or Sci-Fi shows than most other networks, they want all of those shows to be X-Files.
3) FOX ruins most live-action shows it has.
4) I hate the FOX network for repeatedly teasing me into getting involved in a show, and then like Lucy with Charlie Brown, whipping the excellent show away from me. In fact, I think that's how FOX actually feels about viewers who begin watching things like Dark Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Tru Calling and Sarah Connor. They're doing it on purpose just so they can take them away again. "Oh looky, we fooled those stupid nerds again."
5) I am no longer watching ANY new network television shows and getting invested in them. I will wait until the end of the first season and get the show on Netflix or maybe Hulu (if streaming didn't constantly get interrupted, I might be more willing to do Hulu more often). At least by waiting until the DVD is released, I know if the show is going on to a second season and if it's worthy my time to get invested in the characters.


FOX, pull your collective heads out of your ass and let Joss have a second season of Dollhouse. Please.


Posted by Red Monkey at 2:36 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 21, 2009

It Does Not Follow

You know what? I haven't had a really good rant in quite some time.

I noticed way back in oh, 5th or 6th grade, that there was a pattern to the history of New York. A wave of immigrants came to town and they were considered evil, bad guys who only wanted to kill, rape and pillage and basically they were going to destroy the moral fabric of this great nation.

Until the next wave of immigrants came in. And then the previous batch said that THESE guys were evil, bad guys who only wanted to kill, rape and pillage and destroy the moral fabric of this great nation.

Until the next wave of immigrants came in. And then the previous batch said that THESE guys were evil, bad guys who only wanted to kill, rape and pillage and destroy the moral fabric of this great nation.

And so on.

Now, maybe this meant something more to me since I grew up in Texas and constantly heard about people who didn't dry their backs after a bath (which is what I *thought* they meant when I was younger) and n-words. My best friend was half-Mexican - and I just thought she had a good tan until my mother explained that her dad was shhhh, whisper it, Mexican. I didn't get it. People are people. They're not bad because they're Catholic or black or Mexican or Italian or Irish or Baptist or a Jehovah's Witness. People stand and rise on their own, not because of birthplace or ethnicity or religion.

I have seen people who claimed to be Catholic who were as evil as they come and people who were Catholic and were delightful, thoughtful, brilliant people. Same for every other group I listed up there.

My recent outrage, though, is a little less socially controversial than race or religion.

Comics have now become graphic novels and since Maus and several other seminal works, have gained a credibility and standing as actual "good reading material." Comics/Graphic novels are not necessarily the new immigrants on the chopping block any more. At one time it was science fiction and fantasy that was the pulp fiction equivalent of the new immigrants. Today a SciFi writer can win a Pulitzer (SciFi, dammit, not this SyFy bullshit). To be perfectly honest, I can remember when I looked down my nose at "series Sci Fi," that is novelizations of movies and the massive spawn of paperbacks continuing to explore that world - Star Trek, Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, and many others. And then I tried a couple of Star Wars books and discovered that whilst some of them are what I call "rent payment" books, there are long story arcs stretching out over many many books that are nothing short of stunning. (If you like SF at all, the New Jedi Order segment of Star Wars books is quite stunning and complex. The young adults' series about some of the kids at the Jedi Academy were also really nice children's books that had enough meat for adults to read as well.)

So I've pretty much learned my lesson over the years. You can't judge a book by its cover nor a person by his religion or her ethnicity or place of birth.

I'm saying that I do not buy into the idea that people who give their content away for free on the web - or via Kindle or the Apple Apps store even, are second rate. There are plenty of good bloggers out there who have wonderful things to say, important things to say, meaningful. The "established" media should fear the fact that talented people are gaining attention because it shines a spotlight on just how staid and in many cases, stupid, the "established" media have become. These talented folks gaining attention on the web are proving that there is a demand for intellectual, factual news. (And, to be honest, of course there's also apparently a LOT of demand for stupid shite as well.) But again, individual sites stand and fall on their own. Websites are not inherently bad nor are they to be inherently distrusted.

For example, Wikipedia is the first place I turn to learn something new. A co-worker's sister was diagnosed with Moya Moya disease and the first place I hit was Wikipedia because I thought the description might be more understandable to me than say, the Mayo Clinic. Did I worry that because it was a wiki the facts might be wrong? I didn't worry about that any more than I used to worry about going to a physical encyclopedia when I was a kid. Did I use that as my only source? No. It was a starting point. Now I had some idea what it was and I knew the correct spelling - I could investigate further with more specific and "authoritative" sources.

I didn't pay to use Wikipedia. Free to use does not mean zero worth.

And this brings me to the reason for today's rant.

Just WTF is wrong with the "established" newspaper comic artists who see webcomics as the new immigrants in town? It reminds me of when I first realized I was gay ... and one of my first thoughts was - Well, at least there won't be any gay racists (because being gay meant they knew all about prejudice and of course wouldn't turn that around on someone else). I couldn't have been more wrong. Here I thought that people who knew about prejudice wouldn't be prejudiced against someone else because they knew what it was like.

As Nelson says: Ha, ha.

There's been a bit of a flare-up between some "established," paid, syndicated comic strip artists and the webcomics folk. In fact, Wiley Miller of Non Sequitur posted this:

Non Sequitur comic

The bit I had to clip off because I still haven't gotten around to changing my blog layout is a large text square stating: Publishing's sin of omission.

Jules at Marsh Rocket has an excellent little rant about this as well.

My point is that there is ALWAYS another wave of immigrants whether they be from another country, religion or simply have a different idea about how to do things. The new guy is not always bad, is not always wrong, is not always stupid as Miller seems to think here. Different isn't bad ... it's just different. Time may eventually point out that the failing newspaper model wasn't the best business model for a comic artist. Time may eventually say the same thing about webcomics. Either way, that doesn't make the newspaper artist or the web artist stupid - just different.

Can we all just please quit berating those who are different from us? Have a little respect and common decency? Please?

Meanwhile, I'm going to go read one of my dumb Star Wars books.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:11 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 1, 2009

Everything is amazing - and nobody's happy

Via David Airey, via swissmiss. Seriously, listen to this ... give it a think:

He's got more than just a little point here. We can do absolutely amazing things today and it hasn't made us as a society any happier ... it's just made us demand more and demand that things work constantly and without interruption at the same time wanting services and products to be cheap. And fast, can't forget it has to be fast. We don't want to wait any more than we absolutely have to ...

And that's led to a lot of problems.

Take a dear friend of mine as an example. I'll call her "Donna." Donna owns her own small business, doing what she loves. Unlike most people, this means she has some flexibility in work hours, vacation time and so forth. It also means that she can't really take a sick day without serious consequences. So, when she started feeling badly, she put off going to the doctor ... not just because taking a sick day means losing a day's business completely (and trying to reschedule clients' missed appointments means working long, long hours before she feels 100% better) ... but because she also can't afford health insurance since she owns her own very small business.

She got quite ill with a staph infection, was forced to take some time off work and then got better slowly. And then had what she thought was a relapse. She could feel pressure in her head, just behind her left ear and the doctor told her there was nothing there. It built up and built up and still the doctor did nothing and insisted nothing was wrong.

The doctor did this partly because the symptoms she described didn't make sense and partly because the doctor assumed that without health insurance Donna would not want to run expensive tests (that the doctor was sure would all be pointless anyway). Obviously, Donna was just a whiner.

Let me tell you now, Donna's tolerance for pain rivals mine (remember I broke both bones in the lower half of my leg and I thought it was "just a sprain"?). A whiner and hypochondriac she ain't.

Two years go by. TWO YEARS. Constant pain, headaches, neckaches. It's all she can do to force herself to go to work and yet she also takes on a part-time job to try to help pay for all these pointless doctor visits.

How does this relate to our need to demand more, demand things work constantly without interruption, cheaply and fast?

Because we have become a culture of speed and results, we tend to only look at symptoms and not causes. The battery on your car went out? We'll just replace it. Why did it go out? Eh, who knows, just replace it and look it works. But then it goes out again a few months later. Eh, just replace it.

If you take the time to find out why it keeps going out, you will fix the car for a longer amount of time and probably save yourself a serious breakdown issue later on.

It turns out that because the doctors ... there were several over the course of the past two years, many of them specialists of one kind or another ... someone finally listened to everything she said. Instead of focusing on "my head hurts and it's debilitating," the doctor asked a series of questions and Donna gave out the same symptoms she'd been giving out but now thought couldn't be related since no other doctor had put them together. Each doctor she'd been to prolonged the diagnostic process because they only heard selected bits and tried to treat a couple of symptoms.

Had they really taken the time to look and listen to her, they'd have quickly discovered the discs in her neck were screwed up. (If I remember correctly, one is blown and another is bulging.) Bad discs in the neck are well-known to cause headaches. Just think about a time when you've had a lot of tension in your neck ... the muscles tighten and tighten and the pain eventually travels up to the head.

However the first doctor was positive that since she'd had a sinus infection which caused a headache once before, obviously that was the problem ... the fastest diagnosis based on symptom.

But that is so incredibly short-sighted.

Yes, we do live in incredible times where we can get from New York to California in a day when it used to take three or four months.

But we're so used to the speed now that I'm not sure we take the time to marvel at that fact instead of the fact that we're about to miss the mixer for our 20 year high school reunion. (Okay, so that's my dig at myself.) We're so caught up in the N O W ... that we forget the good things about waiting and about taking our time.

Sure, if I'm in a car wreck, I want the fastest ambulance to come and help me. But would I rather wait for the mechanic to truly fix my car ... or just getting it running so I can make it to work almost on time? Why should I waste materials getting battery after battery installed in my car? Doesn't it make more sense to discover that the alternator needs repair in order to keep the battery charged? Yes, it's more expensive to fix the alternator than to buy a single new battery. Yes, it will take more time than swinging by Auto Zone and snagging a new battery. But it will actually fix the problem instead of patching up the symptom.
(Yes, that's a simplistic car issue. Yes, it could be other things. Work with me here, you get the idea, right?)

This applies to so many things in our lives. Take some time today to marvel at what we can do. Just arriving at work is a marvel for many of us. And what we do for a living? Think about how awesome it is to use email to communicate with someone who used to be 90 days away from you.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:21 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 15, 2009

U.S. Immigration issues ...

I adore BBC news online. One, I get better news coverage about the world than from the local news or CNN. And two, we get beautiful things like this:

Popular Stories

I was actually quite concerned at first, but the article about the Border Patrol's CD is actually quite nice. Apparently the Border Patrol hired a latino advertising agency called Elevacion who is handling the entire campaign. Turns out, the agency has the right idea and the Border Patrol has let them just address the project as needed.

Of course, I still have issue with the whole speeded up process for citizenship if an immigrant agrees to sign up with the armed forces ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:10 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 30, 2009

Yesterday, Today and ... Facebook

There are numerous people from "back in the day," as we say, with whom I would love to catch up. Some of them I need to apologize to for being, well, for being a kid, but still ... it's important to me that they know I'm sorry I was a dork. (Or, in some cases, a total jerk.)

Take, for example, someone I'll call Lana. Now, in the fifth grade, Lana liked to keep all of her duckies in a row. Each textbook was neatly stacked on the one below it in perfect order. Her pencils and pens were neatly arrayed across the top, in descending order of height, with her eraser finalizing the deal.

It drove me crazy.

So, like the chaotic thing that I was (am?), I would move a book 10 degrees when she wasn't looking. Or I would put a short pencil in the middle of the pens. Anything to disrupt poor Lana's perfect order. And then I would giggle like a mad thing when she discovered the disarray and set about correcting it.

What a jerk I was.

Today, we'd probably both be diagnosed with something or another. Me with something oppositional and Lana perhaps with OCD. The truth of the matter is that I could no more help messing up Lana's order than she could help needing to impose it. Today, if I sat next to her in class, I hope I have learned to restrain my impish self somewhat ... and I feel bad for just having to poke that button way back then. I'd like the opportunity to - well, taking it back is beyond what could happen, but I'd like to at least let Lana know that I'm sorry I was a jerk about it.

Sure it was a relatively small thing in the scheme of humans picking on each other. But it bugs me to this day.

Then there was ... I'll call her Ender S, since back in the day we shared the same first name. (Do you remember back in elementary school when kids were punctuated by the first letter of your last name? Poor Tim Eddlemon made the mistake of writing his E too close to his Tim and we all called him Time. To this day I can barely spell Tim without wanting to add an E at the end ....)

Anyhow, Ender S. was someone I admired ... but who confused me. It was like she got this whole being human thing better than I did. Of course, that says a LOT more about me as a kid than it does her. I can remember wanting to understand her, but never ever getting close to it. I was confused when I upset her and always felt like I was a kindergartner trying to run with sixth graders when I was around her.

At the same time, Ender S. was someone who was easily swayed by a strong personality and I just didn't get it. How could someone I admire be so easily swayed by someone through whom I could see so easily? Ultimately, I fell prey to my usual flaw - I couldn't understand what was going on, so I gave up. I let Tabitha "win." I stopped fighting Tabitha and let whatever she said, stand as truth because I didn't understand how people could believe her. Particularly Ender S, who knew me better than that, I thought.

But then, we were in perhaps fifth grade and maybe I was too logical. What Tabitha was good at was exactly the thing I didn't understand at all - emotion. Tabitha knew how to manipulate phrasing and a look to gain maximum sympathy. And me? Well, I was a lot like the character of Temperance Brennan on the TV show Bones. Actually, I was probably more like Zack. Emotions were illogical and therefore didn't matter and I honestly couldn't understand how so many of my classmates - and to be honest, teachers - were so easily affected by emotional manipulation.

Today were I to meet up with Ender S., I'd let her know what I felt back then, which was simply that I thought she made a better friend than Tabitha, but that I was terribly confused as to just how to be a friend back.

There are countless others through elementary school and junior and senior high with whom I would also like to ... if not make amends, at least explain what was going through what passed for my brain back then. I don't know if this is a factor of growing up the child of an alcoholic, or having Asperger's (or skirting the near edges of it - who knows which) or something else entirely ... but there are people who were very important to me back then whom I would love to know are doing well now. I'd like to tell them I'm sorry for the stupid things, the things I didn't understand ... and at the same time, I'd like to make sure they pursued the things that were so important to them back in the day. Even if they only pursued it for a while before discovering that it wasn't their thing after all ....

I'm not sure I'm expressing any of this well at all.

Let's just say that there are a slew of people I recall fondly. And I hope that they are doing well. More than that, I hope they've found peace and happiness. I hope I didn't cause much pain, but that in some small, inconsequential way, they remember me fondly as well.

Let's just say that there are also those folks whom I recall fondly and hope that I did not impede them or aggravate them too much. I looked at my junior high yearbooks not long ago and I was appalled at the good friend who told me they were glad they knew me even if I "drove them crazy" sometimes. That's not the memory I want to leave behind.


I had a specific goal in mind when I started this post ... but I think I've strayed away from it. Maybe I'll be able to get it back another day.

Until then, remember this - the person you friend on Facebook is quite likely NOT the person you knew back in the day. Some of us are smarter now than then. Some of us only wish to make amends. Some of us only wish the best for those they recall.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:37 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 27, 2009

Hell Hath Frozen Over

I have always been accused of having a sick sense of humour and I've never denied it. I am, undoubtedly, a bit warped. I've found Despair funny since my teaching days. In 2006, I discovered this little t-shirt place which made me guffaw at damn near every shirt. It's one of those places that does social commentary that hurts and it's only for those who have a warped sense of humour.

I mean, you can take "Arrest Black Babies Before They Become Criminals" one of two ways. Either the person saying such a thing is a freaking racist dumbass ... or they're making fun of the freaking racist dumbass idiots who think that statement isn't too far off the mark.

Of course, I found the "Don't Mess with Texas ... it's not nice to pick on retards" offensive (no, not really, just cringe-worthy) because there's just no truth to that one at all, and I got sick of some of the drinking/sex shirts. But that's just me, those aren't my taste.

"Slavery Gets Shit Done"
Pezbians (you have to see the image on that one)
"This T-Shirt is 100% Organic"
"You Can't Have Manslaughter Without Laughter"
"White Flour" (I still snort every time I see this one. No, not snort the white flour OR the white powder. Sheesh.)
"I Put the Syn in Synagogue"

These are just a few of the ones that make me snort, guffaw and chuckle.

Of course, skating the knife edge of satire means that some folks just don't get it. My mom, for example, would be highly offended (or think she should be offended - there's a difference) by most of the shirts at T-shirt Hell. Some folks are looking to be offended. Some are born without a funny bone ... and some just honestly don't see the black humour as funny.

Unsurprisingly, people who don't get it have to bitch about it. "We're not going to buy your shirts and we're gonna tell our friends not to buy your shirts." Uhh, fine. You're not the target audience anyway.

Apparently, though, some folks took their little whine-fest threats further. The owner of T-shirt Hell is sick of the idiots. Sunshine Megatron (really? Please tell me that's a screen name. Or that Sunshine's mom was the hippy from hell) has announced the closing of T-shirt Hell.

I'm done. I'm finished. I can't take the stupidity anymore, so I'm leaving and I'm taking my website with me. As of Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009, T-Shirt Hell will be no more.

Most of my longtime readers (I know, there's like one of you and even my best friend from high school quit reading this blog a long time ago), know that I'm gay. A queer. One of "those" people. My other half, in my opinion, often is a little too quick to be offended by something she thinks is directed at gay folk. But apparently, the straw that finally broke Sunshine Megatron's happy centered around a t-shirt that made me and my other half guffaw:

I just don't feel like dealing with idiots anymore. I'll give you an example of the kind of misguided morons we deal with on a regular basis at T-Shirt Hell. We released a new shirt a couple weeks ago that says "It's not gay if you beat them up afterwards". I will not explain the irony or the social commentary of the slogan because anyone with half a brain should be able to handle that on their own. Problem is, we've been besieged with emails from angry people complaining about the "fact" that the shirt is hate speech or that we're promoting gay bashing and should take it down immediately. ...
Now, I can't say I'm surprised we're getting hate mail from people who have nothing better to do than to start half-assed campaigns because of their lazy, just enough passion for an email, ideals towards a misguided cause. It happened when we did our first really controversial shirt, "The School Shootings Tour", it happened when we did our "What About All The Good Things Hitler Did" shirt, it happened when we did our "Arrest Black Babies Before They Become Criminals" shirt (boy did it happen then). It used to happen all the time when we did more social commentary and didn't give a fuck about what anyone thought and did shirts that did not leave anyone out. Unfortunately, as a concern for the safety of my employees, we don't push the envelope as much anymore...and I can't say I feel good about having caved in.

And so, if you want any shirts from T-shirt Hell, you've got a very limited time to get there.

And that makes me sad. The world needs more funny. Even warped, biting funny. Hell, especially warped, biting funny that reminds us what effed up critters we really are as a species.

Things like losing T-shirt Hell makes the economic downturn even more depressing.

The world just got a little colder.

(Full disclosure - yeah, that's an affiliate link (most of the time) when I'm talking about T-Shirt Hell. If you click thru any link except the one to Pezbians, and then you buy a shirt, I get $4. Well, I only get $4 per shirt if four more shirts get sold before they close. Yeah, I suck. In three years of being an affiliate, only 9 shirts sold through my links. That's $36. They pay out at $50. I sooooo suck.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:31 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 19, 2009

At Least Something Made Me Laugh Today

Ahhhhh, you just gotta laugh at the spammers sometimes. And just LOVE that last bit - don't communicate with the impostors, now, ya hear?

Attn: Beneficiary,

This is to Officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly Investigated with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you are having an illegal Transaction with Impostors claiming to be Prof. Charles C. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Mr Frank Nweke, none officials of Oceanic Bank, Zenith Banks, kelvin Young of HSBC, Ben of Fedex, Ibrahim Sule,Larry Christopher, Puppy Scammers are impostors claiming to be the Federal Bureau Of Investigation. During our Investigation, we noticed that the reason why you have not received your payment is because you have not fulfilled your Financial Obligation given to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment.

Therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry Of Finance on your behalf and they have brought a solution to your problem by cordinating your payment in total USD$11,000.000.00 in an ATM CARD which you can use to withdraw money from any ATM MACHINE CENTER anywhere in the world with a maximum of $4000 to $5000 United States Dollars daily. You now have the lawful right to claim your fund in an ATM CARD.

Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in this transaction, you have to be rest assured for this is 100% risk free it is our duty to protect the American Citizens. All I want you to do is to contact the ATM CARD CENTER via email for their requirements to proceed and procure your Approval Slip on your behalf which will cost you $180.00 only and note that your Approval Slip which contains details of the agent who will process your transaction.

NAME: Kelvin Williams
EMAIL: williamskelvin227@gmail.com
Telephone Numbers: +234-702-958-3788

Do contact Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTRE with your details:


So your files would be updated after which he will send the payment informations which you'll use in making payment of $180.00 via Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram Transfer for the procurement of your Approval Slip after which the delivery of your ATM CARD will be effected to your designated home address without any further delay.

We order you get back to this office after you have contacted the ATM SWIFT CARD CENTER and we do await your response so we can move on with our Investigation and make sure your ATM SWIFT CARD gets to you.

Thanks and hope to read from you soon.

FBI Director Robert S.Mueller III.

Note: Do disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possesion of your ATM CARD, you are hereby adviced only to be in contact with Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTRE who is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your ATM CARD PAYMENT and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could act upon and commence investigation.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:57 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 18, 2009

Wrong Planet

I have often been accused of being an alien creature. Kids in elementary school often didn't quite know what to do with me, and, I admit, I really didn't quite know what to do with them either. I can remember the summer before oh, probably eighth or ninth grade when I spent time with my much beloved aunt and uncle who lived in Milwaukee.

I saw the old Brewer's logo for the first time. A baseball glove made up of an m and a b ... with the baseball the negative space inside the lowercase b. I was completely enthralled. (Check it out in desktop size here.)

I loved things that were made from ... well, from themselves. Milwaukee Brewers ... m b ... in the shape of a baseball glove and baseball. It just struck my symmetry bone, I guess.

This conversation all comes about because of the logo of the Minnesota Wild - a bear's head logo that's a nature scene (check it out here) ... the mouth of the bear is a river ... the eye is a star (yanno, their old hockey team was the Stars). These kinds of double meaning logos just utterly enthrall me.

And all of this reminds me that not everyone is fascinated with what I'm fascinated with. I no longer always think that makes me an alien ... but this particular instance I'm about to relate ... well, it certainly made the sales clerk think I was at least "special."

Mom and I were in some stupid girly store that I wanted to leave as quickly as possible. High end this and that which I cared nothing about. We go over to the sales counter to check out and there's a little display of girly jewelry. Including necklaces similar to this:

Gold Leaf Necklace from Dreaming Dragonflies dot com

I instantly began giggling like a mad thing. I could barely stand upright. Finally, I managed to weakly whisper, "Gold leaf" and then immediately collapsed in a fit of guffaws the likes of which the poor sales lady had apparently never seen before.

I, on the other hand, could not only not stop laughing, I could not understand why everyone who saw a necklace representing a gold leaf and which was made out of something similar to gold leaf (think old leather books embossed in gold - that stuff was called gold leaf), I could not understand why everyone who saw that necklace did not see the humour inherent in it.

My mother, luckily, chose that moment to listen and understand me. She smiled and tried to explain to the saleslady that I was laughing because the gold leaf was made of gold leaf, but the sales clerk just gave mom that "oh you poor thing having to deal with a special child" look. Which both offended me and made me laugh harder.

Oh my, but I was rather a child from another planet. Good thing I've always enjoyed being that way.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:03 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 11, 2009

AT&T Works on Sunday?

Colour me stunned.

After the crappy service I had last week during the DSL outage and general landline intense static, I received a phone call from AT&T yesterday afternoon around 4. A very sympathetic AT&T employee asked how I was doing.

"Cranky," I replied ... not nastily ... after all, this woman did not come out to the house and sever my landline. It's not her fault my DSL is down. Of course, being cranky meant my tone of voice was off, I'm sure. But I tried.

She was sympathetic some more. First, she let me know that the tech who'd been out Friday had been turned in to his supervisor. One, because the dude was supposed to call me and he didn't. She even sounded rather outraged. "It was in your file. The phone number and that you could be there in 15 minutes." Next, she was a bit miffed because he hadn't fixed the problem - their remote test could still hear noise on the line even if it was more sporadic than before. And because the tech had closed out the trouble ticket as if he'd fixed everything.

Now, I don't know. Maybe the dude had a bad day. It was a Friday and it was snowing. Freaking cold. Windy. But, to be honest, his job is to be out in that weather and repair phone lines. He knows there's gonna be bad days like that. Still, everyone has an off day. Like when I started a design for a site and forgot to make sure it would fit in a 1024x768 screen and made it too damned big. Argh.

At any rate, this woman cautiously asked if I was going to be home Sunday morning. Honestly, I had been planning on going to church since we were having our annual congregational meeting and voting on this year's budget ... but hey, if they would come out on a Sunday, then I wouldn't have to miss a day of work to make sure this thing was fixed. "Yes, I'll be home." She scheduled the tech to arrive between 8 a.m. and noon, apologized for the problems and issues.

Now see, here's the thing. That's all I wanted. I'm really not all that hard to please. A little common courtesy and to feel like I've been heard. It's all most of us want, really. And it seems like between the "hypochondriac" and "DEAL WITH ME NOW" folks who don't really need help right away ... and the business "bottom line" ... so very many companies have just tried to outsource customer service, if not do away with it all together. In my opinion, help desk work is customer service work and outsourcing that work to anyone with any kind of thick accent is bad news.

I know, that was a bit of a leap, wasn't it? Bear with me.

I'm not going to get into the whole sending jobs away from Americans and to people in India or Pakistan. That's a whole different issue than what I want to deal with. Honestly, if a customer service/help desk rep has a thick Boston accent OR a thick Pakistani accent ... how helpful are they going to be over the phone? That person may have superior knowledge and be able to really help out ... but if I'm already an annoyed customer with whatever service ... I don't want to have to decipher an accent AND the tech issue I'm having.

The help desk person I spoke with Friday night seemed like she was reading a script. She went through a litany of common problems despite the fact that I mentioned I'd been through them all already. I could practically hear her clicking keyboard keys to check off the radio boxes of things she was supposed to ask. These, by the way, are also on AT&T's website ... and I'd been through everything already. A couple of times. Their little boxes did not cover our actual problem.

Between my having to strain to hear over the static-y phone line, strain to decipher her accent (I'm not going to say if it was an American regional accent or a foreign accent ...) and to get through the tech - which I understand but was getting stressed out by - I was ready to scream. The fact that using the phone line made the DSL come back up was irrelevant to the help desk worker. Instead, she could tick off the radio button that said "All better" and chalk up another victory for herself.

Frustrated, I sent an email to AT&T listing out all of the issues. The things I'd tried, the fact that as a web designer I was pretty "cheesed off" (I said pissed off, but the email bounced back and said we don't accept email with profanity in it - I had to extemporize) that I'd been without internet service for a full week. That's a LOT of lost work time that I couldn't really afford to lose. That email is what caused the sympathetic response and the promise of a tech's arrival on a Sunday morning.

It shouldn't require - from any company - an irritated email after already filing two trouble tickets to get a reasonable response about service.

This DSL saga seems to have a good ending, though. The tech called around 10 a.m. and came over soon after that. He started outside the house at the box, got something squared away there and then went out to the pole. Then came to the door to say he knew my line wasn't fixed, but not to worry - he was driving down a few blocks to another pole where he thought there was some more noise on the line.

Turns out there was noise at the box outside the house, more noise at the closest pole and some more noise a few poles down.

AND there was one jack in the basement which had gotten corroded and ucky.

Apparently all the first tech did was come out, look at the box, probably cleared a little bit of noise out of there ... and called it good enough.

Luckily, the tech today was quite thorough despite the snow, the cold and the fact that it was Sunday morning.

Now I have a crap-load of work to catch up on this week.

But at least the DSL seems to work whether we use the landline or not!

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:25 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 10, 2009

AT&T Sucks Some More - Or Not...

Continuing the saga ...

The DSL keeps going out. I pick up the phone, call my cell ... wait about 15 seconds, hang up. Voila! The DSL goes green again.

I head over to AT&T's site to get some answers. First off, they want MORE money to help with high speed internet. Really? Because the ridiculous amount I spend every month doesn't cover that? Great good gods, you greedy little assholes. Fine, I sign up for their account manager program. Dink around trying to figure out how to update my ticket. I can't change the type of ticket. It has assumed I have no dial tone. There is NO OPTION TO CHANGE IT! That's not the issue and that's never been the issue. Where did they get that???

Rather than fill out a ticket that says I have no dial tone - because I know this literal-minded jerks and they will damn well run a test that says yes, you do have a dial tone and then they will pat themselves on the back for fixing the issue - I backed out of that page and hunted around for another option. Nothing.

Fine. I replied to the trouble email from the seventh instead. I have listed all the issues, what DSL modem/router I have, the number of machines and operating system, the phone issue, the call the cell phone issue, the static ... and I pointed out that "I have turned the modem off and on and no, that didn't do a damn thing" only to have AT&T send the email back to me telling me their system automatically rejects email with profanity in it.

You know, if you people at AT&T would actually engage in some customer SERVICE and actually attempt to help people with their issues with the "service" you offer, you might not have so many profanity-laden emails being sent to you. Just a thought.

I'm curious to see what the next step in the saga will be. I'm assuming a phone call to the static-y landline will be next. Then they'll point out that the issue is in the house and they can't do anything unless I pay for their in-home service repair. Since I do already subscribe to that, I will point that out and they will say oh. Eventually they'll tell me to take an entire day off of work so they can come out and take a look.

My guess? It's the same issue we had about four years ago. Where the line comes into the basement ... something happened there and the jack got damp and we had static on the line. I'm betting it's the same thing now.

The better question is how to prevent it from ever happening again.

Great. The DSL went out and I just tried the call my cell trick. The router is blinking orange at me. Mocking me.


UPDATE 6:15 p.m.
Well, I tricked the DSL into working for a while and then it up and died a hard death until just now. In the meantime, someone from AT&T called ... very apologetic and a little miffed that the tech didn't call me Friday. Long story short, they are sending someone out tomorrow morning.

I am mollified. Frustrated, to be sure, but this was actually some nice and coherent customer service this afternoon. Now, hopefully, all of the DSL and phone line problems will be completely fixed by noon tomorrow.

I hope, I hope.

Maybe I don't hate AT&T so much.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:52 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

Why I Hate AT&T

And I do, I really, really, really hate them.

We left for Ohio last Friday in something of a rush. After returning home Sunday afternoon, the DSL modem/router glared its evil red middle eye upon us. In addition, the land line was intolerably static-y. Like to the point where you'd never be able to hear someone, should someone actually call us.

Also, let me point out that me without internet is a scary, scary thing. I am online constantly. It doesn't matter if I'm processing photos in Photoshop or reading a book ... the internet is my constant companion in the background. Without the ability to check IM or email or Twitter ... my brain begins to shut down, cut off from the world.

So I went to an undisclosed location, logged into the internet and attempted to file a trouble report. But AT&T wants you to do so from your home line. Ummm. Can't. Can't hear on the landline. Can't get internet. I dinked around on their wretched help site which kept sending me back to a page which was supposed to help diagnose my DSL ... assuming that I was doing this from my DSL. Umm, if your DSL is DOWN and NOT WORKING, then your stupid ass web page won't help! Good lord.

I finally found a "generic question" form which let me post our landline & DSL problems. I told them I could pick up email between 8 and 5, but to PLEASE call my cell number after 5 eastern time, because I could NOT get internet after 5 because THEIR damn DSL service was DOWN.

They emailed me at 5:15 p.m., so of course, I didn't get the email until Tuesday. Grr. All it said was we'll send a tech out by the ninth at 8 p.m. Wednesday there was a message on the answering machine which said we'll be there between 8 and 5 on the 9th. Way to leave it until the last minute, AT&T. I emailed them back and reiterated that the tech was to call me on my cell if he needed access to the house and I would be there within 15 minutes. (They thought the problem was outside the house, but I wanted this FIXED.)

Oddly enough, after attempting to use the landline Thursday night (someone called the house), the DSL miraculously started working. WOOHOO! Of course, the landline was still screwed up and needed repair and I wanted to make sure that the line was properly fixed so the DSL stayed up and running.

I eventually got a cell call Friday that I thought might be AT&T, but when I picked up, the person on the other end was speaking in Spanish. And it was a recording. Definitely not an AT&T technician telling me he needed access to the house. I get ready to leave for home after work and called the other half.

"You're gonna be pissed," she announces. "The DSL is out again and I've been home since 2. I can see that someone pulled into the driveway, what with all this snow, and they walked around the house to the back. So I guess they were here. But they didn't leave a note or anything."

The entire way home I began plotting my call to AT&T. It began with "Let me talk to your supervisor because I doubt they pay you enough to deal with me right now." It rapidly went downhill from there. A week without internet at home does not do good things to me.

I get home, picked up the landline - the static wasn't completely gone, but it was somewhat better. Hmm. I turned around, walked back to the living room (that's like three steps from the phone line) and went to glare at the eVile red glowing eye on the...

Three green lights.

WOOHOO! The internet was back.

A few hours later, in the middle of attempting to fix the mess I'd made of the blog configuration and database, it went out again. I called AT&T.

Have you ever seen The IT Crowd? Practically the first words out of the Help Desk woman's mouth were: "Have you tried turning it on and off again?" Grrrrr. Yes, that didn't help. It's been out for a week. The phone line is effed up as well and is probably screwing up the signal. It came up Thursday for no apparent reason, but went out during the day Friday.

In the course of her going through the questions they have to ask according to their scripts but which I had already dealt with (is it within 5 feet of your DISH receiver? No, the DISH receiver is in the basement. So that's more than 5 feet away from the DSL modem? YES! The receiver is in the BASEMENT, which is FAR away from here. - yes I was a bit testy.), the damn green light came back on.

So of course, after I say that, she says, Our tests indicate you are getting a weak DSL signal now.

Here's the deal. I don't pay an exorbitant monthly fee for a service that is giving me a weak signal. I want the damn thing to WORK. The lady hems and haws around for a while and finally says "I'll put a trouble ticket in and the techs will run a remote test tonight."

Of course it was working then. Of course they want to close out the ticket.

So, I'm attempting to download a copy of my blog's database (something I do not do often enough, stupid me), and at 185 mb of a 200mb DB, the DSL goes out again. Download is destroyed. Crap, crap, crap.

Thinking I might sense a pattern now, I pick up the landline and call my cell phone. Sure enough, within about 10-15 minutes of making that 15 second call, the DSL is up again. Intriguing issue.

I start the download again and go to bed. Upon getting up? No middle light (at least it wasn't red again). Luckily the DSL crapped out AFTER the download was done, so I do have a good backup of the db. (Of course, I now know that it's a corrupted db and that's why the blog was screwed up, so I have to delete it anyway ... but that's another long story). I call my cell phone again. Other half points out the internet is still down and tell her to wait about 10-15 minutes.

What do you know? The internet comes back up within that time frame. It appears that using the landline somehow "activates" the line enough that the DSL picks up a signal again. I have no idea why or if that's what's really happening. Maybe it's a coincidence, I don't know.

At any rate, I'm going out today to pick up a cheap wired phone to see if perhaps the cordless phone is somehow sending out interference now. (It's worked fine for the last 5 or 6 years since we've lived here. Maybe it's just degraded, who knows?)

In the course of writing this post? DSL went out, I used the landline ... it came back. After I get a new phone and make sure the cordless is not the issue, hopefully I'll be able to keep the DSL up long enough to file an update to the trouble ticket at AT&T and let them know what I think of their "fix" this week ... and crappy service.

By the way, if you're a Help Desk employee somewhere, don't ask me to give you a good survey review about your service calling yourself excellent ... that's kinda presumptuous. The woman who read her script with me was good, a little attached to her script, but good. Until she ended the phone call with "God Bless." Umm, you do not know my faith belief so let's not get a bit ahead of ourselves, okay?
(I don't know why that always bugs me, but it does.)

So, anyhow, I'm kinda back online. And apparently the blog is fixed now.


Posted by Red Monkey at 8:57 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 16, 2008

MS Recommends Using Another Browser

(Well, duh. I've been saying THAT for years. Nice of you to jump on the bandwagon, Microsloth.)

Mention Internet Explorer to any web designer and watch that person begin ranting, gnashing their teeth and wailing.

There's nothing worse than fine-tuning the code of a website to match your design ... only to realize that YET AGAIN, the non-compliant Internet Explorer has totally bolloxed the whole thing up. Works fine in Firefox. Looks sharp in Opera and Konquerer and Safari. You're a frigging genius of the ether ...

... and it looks like pants in every version of Internet Explorer. And we're not talking some Red Monkey Jeans hip pants that all the cool kids are spending $300 a pop to look just as cool as everyone else kind of pants. No. We're talking hideous 1970s plaid pants from Herb Tarlek at WKRP kind of pants.

And. Every. Single. Version. of. IE. Has. A. Different. Problem.

Every. Single. One.

It's enough to make me go utterly stark-raving mad.

So the fact that today the BBC has an article wherein apparently Microsoft has discovered a security flaw so bad they have not yet released one of their crappy-ass half-complete updates, makes me laugh.

Instead, Microsoft suggests that you download and use another browser.

Lemme tell you something. Once you download Firefox, just keep using it. Please. Don't go back to IE. Import all of your bookmarks and preferences and passwords and all that good stuff.

And then just delete IE from your computer and never use it again. Please. PLEASE? I'm begging you. Do it for the children. Do it for the good of standards-compliant browsers around the world.

Do it before I go bald trying to write a new stylesheet for EVERY SINGLE VERSION of IE instead of writing just one stylesheet that works for all browsers the way Los Interwebz intended.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:43 AM | Blog | Design | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 9, 2008

Interesting Times

Tracy complained. Frequently. At least that's my recollection. She would go up to the teachers and complain about seating arrangements. Or a particular student being noisy. And the teacher would "take care of it."

I would go up to the teacher and complain and be told to "deal with it."


When I queried various teachers over the years about this phenomenon which seemed so vastly unfair to my little elementary school self, I was told things like:

"You're stronger than so-and-so."
"I put Chris next to you because you listen to him - and that keeps him quiet. He doesn't act up when he sits next to you."
"You're smart enough to do your work correctly even when you can't hear my lesson."

And, of course, So-and-so complains all the time - I do what she asks to shut her up.

In other words, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

So, I tried to be assertive and squeak. I was told to quit being a brat.


It has always seemed to me that there were kids, adults, co-workers who nearly always got their way ... and those who pretty much never did. And then the rest of us, of course, fell somewhere in between.

I found out years later that one of the kids who used to squeak enough to deserve an entire factory of WD-40 devoted to him, was given leeway because of "his family life." His mom was an alcoholic.

Interesting. Out of a group of four in elementary school, at least three of us had an alcoholic parent and I didn't see great exceptions made for us. Well, for some of us.

What scares me a great deal about the way the current economic bailouts are going is that I'm seeing the same damn pattern. I see businesses and individuals who made stupid decisions, who should have known better, who shouldn't have done such risky things ... getting bailed out.

And folks and businesses who tried to be responsible and do the right thing ... be passed over.

Of course, we're so screwed at this point that I certainly do not have the ability to filter through all of the information and make any kind of decision over who should and who should not be bailed out. After all, if the big three auto makers finally collapse, this country is going to be in a LOT of pain for quite a while. But maybe it needs to happen if the damn CEOs can't pare down their lifestyles. I don't know. Maybe someone else will come in and buy up one of those companies and be able to fix things with reasonable wages for all.

I do know that a lot of what's going on economically right has a hell of a lot to do with greed and wanting to avoid consequences. "Sure, let's extend credit aggressively. The more we extend, the more money we'll make off interest because you know these dumbasses will spend more than they can really afford. And then we'll up their interest rate AND their limit so they can buy more. They'll be paying us interest forever and we'll have a steady stream of income."

Except there's that nagging little detail ... if those "dumbasses" spend more than they can afford, won't they eventually NOT be able to make the payments?

Oh, no problem. They can use a different credit card to pay us.

Yeah. That'll work.

And of course, that's just a tiny piece of the current mess.

We're in a bad situation, no doubt. If we were ... if our government were to let every company take the consequences of their actions in order for them to learn the lessons they need to learn ... I don't think we'd be saying recession. I think we'd be saying the 2000s and 2010s were the time of the GigaDepression. Maybe TerraDepression.

On the personal level, however, it's disheartening at the very least to see these CEOs in their fancy cars and ridiculously expensive clothes asking for government cheese. It's not earning them any popularity with the populous.

And then I hear about the family with the autistic and blind son who had their house rebuilt by Extreme Makeover ... and are now in foreclosure ... Dad worked for the auto industry in Detroit ... laid off ... had to take out either a second mortgage or a new mortgage on the house after being laid off ... after the show had already been through ... after his property taxes went up by $1000.

From the extreme gratitude and hope generated by the show ... to slapped back down to "their place." What right do the masses have to be happy and to hope for a better future? That's for the chosen few.

Not every squeaky wheel gets their own WD-40 factory, it seems.

Too many individuals are slipping through the myriad of cracks opening up in our economy and society. And the cracks are opening up far wider and with more frequency than we can comprehend, much less handle.

And all of this? This is why "May you live in interesting times" is a terrible freaking curse.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:51 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 2, 2008

Respect Others

Here's what I don't get: in a time of year when so many people are focusing on making others happy ... people do so much harm to each other.

First, I don't get what the freaking problem is with a retail outlet saying, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Here's a news flash: Not everyone is a Christian and not every Christian celebrates Christmas in a big consumer-istic fetish kinda way.
By saying "Happy Holidays" someone, retailer or otherwise, is acknowledging that culturally, many people do either mark this time of year in thought ... or mark it with retail bliss. (Umm, I originally typo'd that as retail bills ... whatever works.) It does not assume that every person believes in the exact same thing. It is respectful.

Now, if we're talking about a Christian bookstore, then yeah, I think they can safely assume "Merry Christmas" is respecting their customers.

If you're chatting with a customer and they say something about Christmas or Channukah then you can respect them and respond in kind.

Secondly, again, during a time of year when most of us are supposedly thinking of others ... how in the freaking HELL do you get so focused on "the deal" that you pop the doors off the hinges at a retail store and then trample a clerk???

Seriously? I mean, really. HOW IS THIS THINKING OF OTHERS?

And then lastly ... I noticed several online sites attempting to be respectful with their "Happy Holidays" promotions. All fine and good - a lot of people do enjoy buying for others this time of year and I have no problem with a retail outlet trying to get their fair share of that.

But if you say "Happy Holidays" then umm, I'm just saying that "order by x date to receive by Christmas" is kinda blowing it.

Of course, as a web professional, I know I don't want to give up the site real estate to say "order by X to receive by December 22 or by Y to receive by December 25 or by Z to receive by December 26."

Still ... it's a little tacky. I don't have a good solution, by the way, and if I had to add a date to a website, I'd probably settle on the 25th as well - at least it's a good reference point for everything else.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:12 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 13, 2008

Oh. Wow.

Other half's alarms begin going off around 3:10 a.m. Her "Oh Shit" alarm (on MY alarm clock, so 'tis impossible for me to ignore it) goes off at 3:45 a.m.

I leave for work at 7:20 a.m.

Yes. I have four hours between getting up and going to work.

Other half leaves at 4:30 a.m. I can only "nap" in 2 hour segments, which means that I would have to fall asleep instantly the moment she leaves in order to be up in time to get ready for work myself. Except she talks loudly and constantly and narrates everything that is happening (either to me or if i tell her to hush, she talks just as loudly to the dogs - without even realizing what she's doing). Hence, falling back asleep instantly is impossible.

This means I have to go to bed by 7:30 p.m. at the latest in order to get the requisite eight hours of sleep I need to be a functioning human being.

Damn. I forgot how complicated this having a job thing was.

So yeah. I'm exhausted and my body hates me.

I know. Scintillating blog fodder, isn't it? Hmph. Bite me. I'm tired and cranky and I just want some freaking SILENCE and SLEEP.

/me crawls off to bed and contemplates making myself deaf so I can have some peace.

(no, not really. geez. I'm just tired and fussy.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:47 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 27, 2008

Why I Belong In Texas

Freaking Snow

Yes, we got snow tonight. Snow the weatherfolk SWORE would not stick on the ground because it was too warm outside still.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:44 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 14, 2008

The Writing Paradox

Despite the fact that English was one of my favourite school subjects, that I taught college writing classes for nine years, that I've had a blog for a bit over 3 years ... I shocked some friends last week by announcing that I hate writing and would not like to make a career in copywriting. (Oddly enough, technical writing is more interesting.)

I hated writing essays in school, and I think that was one of the things that made me an excellent writing teacher. I remembered where I used to get hung up, frustrated and what caused me to pull my hair out - and I did my damnedest to help my students find ways around those problems - or through them in a less painful manner.

The writing I enjoy is the writing I do for myself. This blog, the large directory on my hard drive called "Thinking" and writing stories.

I confused the hell out of who knows how many teachers in elementary school who knew how creative I could be ... until a creative writing assignment came up. One teacher told me years later that my first creative writing assignment for her just shocked her. Instead of the involved and creative story she had suspected I would write ... she got a typical elementary school paragraph of blah.

I just laughed ... there's a huge difference between making up your very own story ... and being given a paragraph of "starter story" and told to finish it.

It's the same in copywriting. There's a huge difference between writing a novel about a comic book writer and a video game developer who become self-appointed agents of karma ... and cobbling together the disparate ideas of the president and vice president of a start-up company (who, by the way, each has a different idea about the company's direction - president wants to market to average joe and veep wants to market to the already converted & knowledgeable audience).

Later on in elementary school, our language arts teachers began to give us more leeway on picking what to write about and only used writing prompts when we got stuck. My favourite project was also one that got me into the most trouble.

In sixth grade, I had Miss Bailey - the teacher we all loved and adored. (At the time, years later was a different story.) Every Thursday was creative writing day. But one week, on a Monday or Tuesday, she gathered us around for a new creative writing assignment.

"Since I will be gone on Thursday, I'm giving you your creative writing assignment now."

With those words, my fate was sealed.

You see, I was determined to do everything "right."

She went on, describing the project, which was due on Friday as usual. We'd have our standard amount of class time to work on it Thursday and a bit of bonus time to work on it the day she assigned it because it was a bigger assignment than normal.

We spent the next little while searching through newspapers for an article - we were to use the article we selected to write a "book" with at least two or three illustrations. I was excited - and I settled on a story about a plane crash. (What can I say, tragedy always makes for a great story! Actually, all of my early stories were about tragedy befalling kids - and kids pulling out of it despite the incompetent adults around them. But that's another story for another day.)

I dutifully cut out the article like we were told. I worked on the project during the time allotted on Monday. And then I didn't work on it again until Thursday's class. Now, I suddenly had to write a story, re-write it onto my booklet paper, illustrate it - and because I was as interested in realism and crafts as possible, create a cover cut from posterboard and then freaking SEW the thing together. (My idea. Damn over-achiever.)

Yeah, I didn't get close to finished in class. And so many of my friends told me they'd been working on it since it was assigned on Monday. I was shocked.

Thursday was creative writing day. Not Monday. Not Tuesday. They were all cheating! They started EARLY! That was cheating!

I was horrified.

I was even more depressed that evening as I stayed up later than ever before, frantically trying to complete the project to the specifications I had set myself. My mom asked why I hadn't started the project earlier in the week and I responded that we'd been assigned the project on Thursday and it was due Friday. It wasn't a lie - it was how I'd interpreted the week, since Miss Bailey claimed we were getting the assignment on Monday since she wouldn't be there Thursday.

I thought that like most teachers, she simply didn't think the substitute teacher would be able to explain the assignment adequately and address our questions. Hence, she gave us the assignment early, but we were not to start until Thursday as usual.

My mother was rather irked at Miss Bailey for assigning such a project in such a short amount of time.

And, when I was dragging and sleepy the next day, Miss Bailey asked what was wrong. I explained that I'd stayed up late - and confessed that mom was upset with me for staying up late and had asked why I hadn't started the assignment sooner. When I then added that we'd been given the assignment on Thursday and it was due Friday - Miss Bailey gave me that terribly disappointed look and tone as she said my name. We didn't speak of it further.

I was terribly confused and hurt.

I had done everything exactly right according to the rules and I had still gotten "in trouble" for doing things wrong. Everyone else in the class had cheated by starting early and here I was the one getting fussed at.

Today, were I taking a class where this happened, I would still assume the same thing. But, I would now ask the teacher "are we supposed to start on it now or on Thursday?"

I suppose this is another example of "rigid thinking." Despite the fact that I'm creative and very much a think-outside-the-box kind of person most of the time, there's a certain rigidity of thought that creeps into my life in strange ways. It's the same rigidity of thought which caused me to not study for the SAT exams - the SAT was supposed to measure what you already knew ... therefore, studying was cheating. Yeah, I know. I'm a dork.

Oh and the novel about the comic book writer and video game developer who become self-appointed agents of karma? Yeah, I've been working on that sucker since '04, so no stealing my grand concept, k?

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:19 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 9, 2008

It Ain't About the Cash

This is not, despite what it will seem like at first, a political post about McCain - it's about artists' rights management.

As an artist and writer, I've been highly surprised by the amount of - for now let's call it copyright infringement - by the McCain campaign. (Obama's campaign, apparently is not completely innocent, but it's only happened once that I've heard of.)

I first heard about this issue much earlier this year when John Mellencamp asked McCain to stop using his music at McCain rallies. It stuck in my head because it seemed 1) stupid for McCain's campaign to use music without permission and 2) particularly stupid for McCain's people to use John Mellencamp's music. I can't imagine Mellencamp backing McCain.

Later, we all heard about the use of the song "Barracuda" during the Republican National Convention and Heart members requesting that the McCain campaign not use their song. Jackson Browne actually filed a lawsuit claiming damages agains the McCain campaign for using his song, "Running on Empty." Now the Foo Fighters are livid over the McCain campaign using their song "Our Country."

Either the McCain campaign doesn't give a rat's ass about copyright law or ... something else is going on.

I suspect it's something else. It's happened too many times and been too public ... and not a little embarrassing ... for this to be completely intentional flouting of copyright.

I suspect it's the method in which performance licensing is sold.

Check this out - bmi.com - go on, I'll wait. Leave it open a sec and check out that bottom area of the site. The grey box down there at the bottom. The second column there says Licensing. And the first entry under that is "Need a license?"

Ahhh, I bet our problem lies here. In fact, you might just look at this as well.

You see, if you want to use a particular recording artist's music, you don't go talk to his people. You start with a company like BMI. (Commenter R.E. Wolf points out that ASCAP is the other one - thanks, I can't believe I forgot that one.) You go apply for a license, pay the fee - and BMI pays the artist.

It works great most of the time.

Until you as the artist discover your work being used to represent or endorse someone or something you disagree with.

My guess is that the artists and the McCain campaign have fallen victim to a system which has grown too large and complacent to adequately represent its artists' needs any more. Either big-name groups like Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, Heart and Jackson Browne simply get too many requests for performance rights for BMI or ASCAP to do more than rubber stamp requests which pay up in full without the artist even knowing who bought the rights - or perhaps these artists are not following up on the paperwork quickly enough to realize that the rights have been sold to someone they don't want having the rights.

To me, this is another reason why getting too big is just not a good thing. Sure, we tend to think bigger is better (I'm from Texas, remember), but having a lot doesn't mean you have a lot of quality. Just look at how many burgers McDonald's has sold. Loads of quantity, crap for quality. Sure, they have made loads of money ... but they've also helped lower our expectations for good and healthy food. (Yes, we are still ultimately responsible for what we choose to put into our bodies - Mickey-D's has not forced us to become fat and unhealthy.)

Having the most does not mean we win. And I think we're seeing that culture of greed play out in the stock market and the mortgage market right now.

When I bought my car three years ago, Capital One offered me a loan of up to $29,000 for a new car. Great good gods, people, I could not afford the car payment on $29,000! That's a freaking small HOUSE! (Okay, a small house in a depressed area, but still.) Instead, I sat down and figured out what I could make as a car payment and then figured out how much money that meant I could borrow.

If I had taken them up on the full amount of that loan, I would be car-less now. I have been able to meet all of my bills despite losing my job 15 months ago. A $29,000 car would have been repossessed by now. The loaner would have lost money because they offered me far more than I could afford. Yes, they stood to make more money by offering me more - more interest for them.

But that's what I mean ... it's not smart to offer someone a loan they probably can't pay back. It might pay off big, but likely it will blow up in your face instead.

And, it's not smart for any licensing company to sell the rights to pieces to any political campaign or a group involved with a controversial issue without first checking with the artist - even if that's not SOP for the average Joe. It's not about the cash.

It's about being ethical.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:21 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 17, 2008

MixED meSSaGe

The scene:
You're back in fourth grade again. Ten years old. Good kid, never been in trouble before ... but your pencil sharpener breaks one evening at home. Knowing you'll need to sharpen your pencil tomorrow, you shove the pieces back in your pencilbox and don't think much of it.

School the next day, sure enough, your stupid pencil lead breaks. You pull out the broken pencil sharpener - which at this point, is essentially, a small razor blade.

End result?

Suspension "for at least two days and [he] could face further disciplinary action."
District spokesman Randy Wall said "We're always going to do something to make sure the child understands the seriousness of having something that could potentially harm another student, but we're going to be reasonable."

Original Story
The school's letter

There is a very fine balance between encouraging kids to learn and bashing them over the head with lead pipes. Most of our school districts are doing a crappy job of managing this balance. We have school districts like Dallas who are teaching our students that paying attention to the rules doesn't matter. After all, if the teacher says your homework is due Tuesday, you no longer get a zero for not turning it in - you get to turn it in for credit at any time.

And then we have these ridiculous zero tolerance policies which mean that a broken pencil sharpener - admittedly this is a blade now - means a two day suspension.

This reminds me of reading Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (NO, NOT like the movie). In one of the many "lectures" throughout the book, a teacher talks about how the twentieth century dealt with "juvenile delinquents" - and compared the method to housebreaking a dog. The character claimed that the juvenile justice system was akin to sometimes telling the dog, "naughty puppy," when he messed in the house ... sometimes saying nothing ... sometimes cuddling the dog ... sometimes locking the dog up for a while. Then, when the dog was an adult and peed in the house, taking the dog out back and shooting him.

There's a bit of truth in that description. Some kids get millions of second chances as a juvenile (oh, you can turn your homework in later ... oh, she's a good kid, we'll let "it" slide this time). Others get no chances and are locked up, where, we know from plenty of criminal justice research, they simply learn better ways to commit crimes and rarely get the chance to become "good, upstanding citizens." Then, suddenly they're introduced to the adult system.

And when I think of the mixed messages we are sending by "bolstering students' self-esteem" by not "allowing" them to fail ... and the suspension of a ten year old for not realizing that the blade from his busted piece of plastic pencil sharpener was an "illegal" blade ... I have to wonder what the hell it is we're doing to these kids.

Of course I don't want any kids thinking it's a good thing to bring razor blades to school. But you have to treat these things according to the particular situation. It's subjective, not an absolute, computer driven if/then proposition.

Life is NOT an if/then proposition. It's messy. It is often unfair and I don't think that we ever get it completely, totally, consistently right.

But we have to keep trying, keep thinking of ways to improve upon what we have.

Frankly, a ten-year-old boy who has never been in trouble before and who bursts into tears when the gravity of his situation is suddenly slammed home is probably not a kid who needs suspension and counseling. He bears further watching by the teachers - let's make sure this isn't an early start to a pattern of trying to slip things past the rules. Make him write a paper on what he did wrong and what he should have done.

If we're talking a ten-year-old who often opposes the teachers, who defies authority, who has been known to be aggressive or angry (as a pattern, not as an occasional situation) to her peers ... well, then we need some kind of intervention.

We have a serious problem in our schools across the United States. Too lax in some areas, rules too rigid in others ... I'm afraid the mixed messages we're sending these kids are going to haunt us for generations to come as they realize that deadlines do matter, that all actions have some kind of consequences ... and as they become angry with us for not giving them chances when they needed them and for being too lax when they needed structure.

Our teachers are too overworked, too pressured, to make the difference that so many of them thought they would make. Low pay, long hours and too many hassles with school officials who are too concerned about schools looking good so the district can score more federal funds ... administrators who have forgotten what it's like to sit in the classroom and don't connect with the children in their schools ... schools so large that children slip through the cracks like water through a sieve.

Really, it's amazing that we have any people who stick with teaching for more than a couple of years. I mean, we tell them that the work they are doing is the most important work - and yet we pay them one of the lowest professional salaries (same as with cops and firefighters). Then, we give the power to the parents and the students and distrust "them there ivory tower teacher types" when they dare to exert their professional opinions.

Is it any wonder some teachers would like to drug our kids into submission? Is it any wonder they prefer to develop absolute rules and zero tolerance policies so they can try to cram as many through the system as possible and still escape with some shred of energy for themselves?

Yeah. I gotta wonder. What messages are we sending our children?

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:11 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 13, 2008

It's Official - Ike & Tina Are Back Together

KHOU news in Houston - Tracking Ike and Win Tina Tickets

More news outlets should really take a good look at their homepages ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:39 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 12, 2008

But Officer, We're Gonna Be Late for SCHOOL!

It's true.

A 17 year old female student in the Crown Point school system (around the Merrillville, Indiana area) was just DESPERATE to get to school Wednesday morning.

At 6:30 a.m.

You see, Tuesday night was a big deal but Wednesday morning was important too. So ... we'll call her Natalie ... and her three male buddies had to go out Tuesday night and blow off some steam. And, of course, get drunk off their arses. Okay, so I don't know they got drunk off their arses, but considering that they were still testing positive for alcohol at 6:30 a.m., I feel reasonably certain that there was some overindulgence going on.

So, Natalie decides to rush everyone home so that they can all get ready to go to school. School is important you know.

She was clocked at 117 miles an hour.

So she could get to school on time.

And the sad thing is, I can somehow just feel that intoxicated "but we HAVE to be at school on time" obsession and panic. I can even just hear young Miss Natalie trying to explain to the ociffer that they were going to be LATE and they couldn't be LATE, I mean, this is SCHOOL and we're gonna get in trouble if we're LATE.

Inebriated and driving 117 miles an hour.

At 17 years of age.

And university presidents want to lower the drinking age.

Great googly moogly WHAT are they thinking??

The problem with the drinking age is not that it's 21. It's not that it's not 18.

The problem is a culture of over-indulgence and a refusal to comprehend moderation in anything. I mean, do we really need to ban fast food? No. We need to learn moderation - it's great to pick up a fast meal every once in a while. It won't destroy your body if you do it every once in a while.

But as a culture, that's not really how we do things. We're an all or nothing, zero tolerance policy, laissez-faire kinda culture.

There is something to the fact that cultures which don't demonize the rum have fewer young people who go hog-wild with firewater in college and binge drink. But if we bump it down to 18, we're just pushing the problem down a few years, not getting rid of the problem.

Next thing you know, we'll be teaching junior high classes in flavoured vodka and rum appreciation - just to make sure that the kiddies can handle their liquor quicker than they can now.

And you thought teaching kids about sex was a naughty thing for a school to do!

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:18 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 23, 2008

The Lost Island

There is nothing worse than losing my religion your identity, just not knowing who you are and where you're from. Sadly, in Greece, there's a whole frigging island which finds themselves adrift in the sea of just such gender identity uncertainty, swept away by the careless tides of the ever-changing language that is English.

Throughout the United States, of course, lesbians (note the little "l") are known for their causes, but in Greece, Lesbians are ticked off about their Cause. Not saving stray cats. Not gay marriage. Not even a quibble over the fact that Queer As Folk was obviously superior to The L Word. No, these Lesbians hold a sign which boldly reads, "SILENT NO MORE ... If you are not from Lesbos, you are not a lesbian." (article)

That's right, these people actually want to be Lesbians.

Frankly, I think they're obviously disordered and we should fear for the sheep population there. I mean really. They sound like deviants. Wanting to be Lesbians. Imagine!

Apparently the Lesbians took the Gay and Lesbian Union of Greece to court, demanding that they relinquish the word lesbian from the deviant grasp of the lesb - umm, womyn who love womyn. Because the Lesbians don't think the lesbians are Lesbians and apparently they want to protect their good name.

Alas. Surprisingly, the Greek courts told the Lesbians to shut up and pay the court fees. You know lesbians work in social justice fields for their Causes and so of course, they don't have much money. But apparently the Lesbians lost to the lesbians and have to pay the court fees. The Lesbians, however, are still pissed about this. You see, many feel that the lesbians are causing "daily problems to the social life of Lesbos's inhabitants," also known as Lesbians.

Let me summarize. The Lesbians are mad that people the world over call some women lesbians and not everyone calls the Lesbians Lesbians. Plus they're mad because apparently being called Lesbians or lesbians is confusing the sexuality of the Lesbians on Lesbos. I mean, if someone called you a Lesbian, how would you know they weren't calling you a lesbian? I mean, this is a human rights violation here, here right? Calling Lesbians lesbians and women in sensible shoes. I mean, it's just Darfur all over again. (Seriously, one of the dudes bringing the case to Greek court really did call it a human rights violation.)

We all know that lesbians are great with their causes. I think if the Lesbians would just play their cards right, they could hire some lesbian social workers and ACLU lawyers to lay the smackdown so the Lesbians can take back the night their name. I mean, how can you have a national identity when some flannel-shirted redneck just ups and yanks the word away from you just to use it as a pejorative to a couple of women who don't wear make-up or heels. (Except the lipstick lesbians. You know who you are. You're blowing it for everybody. Wait. That came out wrong.)

However, "an Athens court ruled there was no justification for [the Lesbians'] contention that they felt slighted, saying the word did not define the islanders' identity."

Those poor, poor, islanders. Even with a man "spearheading" the movement (and wow, but i'm not touching that quote from the BBC with a ten foot ... umm ... spear), the Lesbians lost to the lesbians.

What's in a name, after all?

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:09 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 18, 2008


Surgery is over and done with - a plate on each bone and more screws than I want to think about. I am now truly screwed. (The obvious sometimes must be said.) I'm moving around much better now that my foot is actually connected to my leg again.

I worried most of yesterday about whether or not I'd really be able to make the mission trip to the Dinetah (Navajo lands) in New Mexico. The discharge process was long and ridiculously drawn out, leaving my leg down and poorly balanced for far too long. By the time I got home, every slight jar hurt like hell and I didn't think I'd be able to handle the 3 day drive.

Today, however, things are much better. The only real problem is when my muscles jerk. You know, you've seen the crazy commercials about Restless Leg Syndrome, right? It's one of those disorders that people make fun of because it just sounds so stupid.

Unless you're trying to sleep and your body jerks you awake. And then you try to sleep and your body jerks you awake.

Now think about your newly operated on leg ... and the muscles twitching or jerking. The movement would wake you up anyway, but add the pain to that and ... whooooo boy-howdy, buckeroo, that ain't the way to get good rest. Luckily the pain lasts just a moment and the aching that comes after doesn't last too long either.

Tomorrow afternoon we're having friends come over to watch the cats ... and we're heading out to the Dinetah. I'm so excited I could just explode. Of course, with all the mess the last two weeks, we're not as prepared as we'd like to be and sadly this means the other half is running around like crazy trying to get everything set. I feel horrible because I need all sorts of stuff out of what we've taken to calling the "disaster room" and I can't get in there to get what I need. I've got to finish printing out some references to work on some art whilst I'm gone. (Not that I'll have much free time except during the van drive.) Then she'll have to go back in the room, dig out the good resume paper so I can print out 3 copies of my resume and 3 cover letters so I can send those out while I'm in New Mexico so I can keep my name out and about.

We've got to make sure the doc called in another refill on the pain meds - because it would be BAD to run out whilst on the trip. Hopefully I won't need more than what I already have ... but I don't wanna chance some 25-30 hours in the van on the way home without pain meds. So, I have to make sure the doc calls it in - and the other half picks it up. We need a couple of house keys to give to the friends who are going to stay here whilst we're gone. I should get to the bank one last time and I need to snag a couple of disposable cameras. And the other half needs to dig through the disaster room to pull out my backpack.

I hate relying on someone else. I'm not good at it. I can't help but feel guilty if someone else "has" to do something for me.

But for the next 10 days, I suppose I'll be attempting to learn the balance between helping others ... and letting others help me. Probably be even more of a learning experience for me this way than it would have been otherwise.

At any rate ... it'll be quiet here for the next 10 days. For the first time in years, I'll be completely disconnected from the computer. No 'net access where I'm going. No email. No web. No blogs. No BBC Online.

Me, off-line for 10 days. Wish me luck.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:22 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 4, 2008

People Are Really Really Insane

Los Interwebz is a great invention. I love it. You find all sorts of cool information.

But you also are exposed to the sheer insanity of humanity.


So in the town in which I sadly live (and you can diagram that section of the sentence to make sadly refer to me or to the town, take your pick) - there was an accident on Monday. Apparently two cars collided - pretty much right in front of a cop. The "offending" car (for lack of a better word), suddenly accelerated into the parking lot of the apartment complex near where the wreck took place, down a hill and into the St. Joseph River (which has a NASTY undertow and crazy currents - it's not a river you want to be in). The article, should you be interested in such things (or, should you wish to verify the veracity of the story I'm about to impart below) is here.

That in and of itself is a news story, no doubt. And I hope everyone who was in the car - and the other car that was hit - is okay.

But the story I want to share is just beginning ...

Our local online news affiliates allow comments on their news stories. Sometimes this is a good thing as you get some details from friends and family that you might not have otherwise known.

But the rest of the time, you get to see the sheer insanity of the people who live near you. What I'm about to repeat are the real comments from this story. I've left out some of the comments which don't apply to this "subplot" of comments, but I've not edited any of the following in any way.

Monday, Jun 2 at 4:19 PM Fledge wrote ... This person must have been going at quite a speed to have gone that far after a collision. Probably another drugged up lowlife looking for a cheap thrill. Well, I sure hope he finds one in the County lockup! Of course, if it turns out it's another person who was sadly taken ill while driving then, well ...my bad, glad they're ok. But probably, its gonna be another DUI...Drivin Uh Idiot! As a practicing demoncologist, I hope this person gets the help they need to fight their inner torment.
Monday, Jun 2 at 5:11 PM Sue wrote ... Fledge, as an active proctowiccan, I'm not entirely clear how this applies to demoncology. Could you clarify?
Monday, Jun 2 at 5:46 PM Joe wrote ...Wow Fledge...Just Wow. you might consider changing your dosage.
Monday, Jun 2 at 7:19 PM Steve wrote ... There's no such thing as proctowicca! I know, I looked it up on wikipedia, and i am a bit of a wikipediphile!
Monday, Jun 2 at 8:10 PM Susse wrote ... What Dr. Fledge is saying is that the person in question is a consumate victim, almost to the point of being masochistic. My ex-wife was like that.
9:12 AM Hey Fledge wrote ... I hope you get the help you need too. Look in the Bible....
9:49 AM Fledge wrote ... Haters, all of you. I just said what I thought. I'm glad this guy is ok and the police did a great job. As for those knocking my faith, you are entitled to your own beliefs, no matter how wrong they may be, as long as you are happy. But, the day you feel your soul being ousted from your body by a seething entity of vile black hatred, you'll wish you had listened. Have a great day!
11:47 AM Marcus wrote ... Do not make light of the principalities. You probably feel quite witty, but it's just a tool of Lucifer to weaken your resistance to his vile manipulations. You, Fledge, are at the greatest risk of losing your soul to the fires of hades. Bode well. Bode often.
6:58 PM Clarification needed here lol but seriously people wrote ... Demoncologist is that a OB DR for demons? eww hate to deliver those ugly babies...and what is a proctowiccian anything like proctologist? a wiccian specializing in proctology? hum kinda yucky

Yeah. This is the town in which I live. Chock full of demoncologists, proctowiccans, proctowiccians and people who make light of the principalities.

The one-liners in this exchange simply boggle the mind. "My ex-wife was like that." ... "I know, I looked it up on wikipedia, and i am a bit of a wikipediphile!"

No wonder I can't find a job here ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:18 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

No Spoilers here!

And, in order to keep this a spoiler-free zone, it'll be a short review.

I loved it.

I watched Raiders and Temple of Blech Saturday night. I made the mistake of watching Last Crusade before I went to church Sunday morning. (It was a mistake because I was beyond hyper during church.) We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and headed over to the theatre.

Okay - without spoilers - here are some elements of the movie.

1) As with the other movies, this is a "throwback" to the old serial adventure movies and the golden age of comic books. It is not a realistic action flick. (Actually, I don't think any action flicks are realistic. I guess I mean modern.)

2) It is now 1957. So far as I can tell, Indiana Jones was "born" in 1900 - this makes him 57. (There's a plot for an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which puts him at age 5 in 1905.)
Fifty-seven year old archeologists of any genre are no longer physically capable of stunts without pain. This holds true throughout the course of the movie and becomes a running gag much as the younger Indy's ability to do stunts with great good luck and little pain were a running gag throughout the first three movies.

3) It is now 1957 and archeology has changed. Let's face it - in the first three movies, Indy was a professional grave robber. He wanted museums to have the stuff he found - but not the museums of the countries of origin. Of course, most archaeologists of that time period did the same thing. It was status quo for the times. However, in 1957 Indy has to change his tactics as he is probably also in the process of changing his opinions on ethics.

4) It is now 1957 and the country has also changed. Quite dramatically, actually. Hence, the characters around Indy are different than they were in earlier films - and some have moved on in one way or another.

5) All of the Indy movie plotlines revolve around one premise: Indy is looking for some mythological, mythical something. The culture varies from Judaic to Hindi to Christian. Indy searches for this thing even though he thinks it's "just" an artifact. He never believes in the mysticism around the artifact when he begins the search - and at the end of the movie that mysticism is always proven to be truth and not just a myth.
In this fourth movie the myth is actually a somewhat 1950s, somewhat American, somewhat South American conglomerate. I found it utterly fascinating that it took several myths and tied them all together - much, quite frankly, as was hinted at but not fully done in Last Crusade.

6) The puzzles in this movie were almost meta-puzzles. That is, they were almost more about the myth of Indiana Jones than they were physical archaeological gimmick-traps as seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Did we still see cool bits of "rock mechanics" and "rock gears" and such? Yep. Loved it.

7) Characterization - I thought Indy's character made as much sense as he ever did. His supporting cast made as much sense as the previous supporting casts (in some ways, even more so). Were some of the characters cardboard? Umm, well, let's think about this. Were any of the bad guys in previous films more than cardboard? Not really and that's where the whole "throwback to the old adventure serials and golden age of comics" comes into play. I don't want them to be fully developed. I don't want to have any sympathy for the bad guy characters. They are mere plot device spear carriers only there so I can watch Indy be Indy.

I'm hearing some people complaining that they are Indy fans and think this movie sucks. Lemme put it this way, it was heads and shoulders above Temple of Doom. I thought it was on par with Last Crusade (and I have a hard time deciding if I like Last Crusade or Raiders more - Raiders is more of an action flick; Crusade is more of an Indy flick, so I think I come down on the side of the more fully developed Last Crusade).

So did I like it? Hellz yeah. Did I think it was a good Indiana Jones flick? Hellz yeah. It was far better than I feared and it was exactly the right script to bring Indy back.

Bravo! (Yes, I do give it five stars out of five.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:53 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 1, 2008

The Island Who Lost Its Name

It's true, Virginia, there really IS a Lesbos.

Seriously. It's a Greek island just off the coast of Turkey, near Ayvalik (which was a Turkish city filled with Greeks until about 1922). Today, it's often referred to as Mytilini - which is actually just the name of the island's capital.

And, they want their name back. They do not wish to be residents of the isle of Mytilini (which sounds vaguely Italian anyway), they want to be ...


Wait, wait, wait. That came out wrong. ACK! Not "came out" like "came out of the closet" ... I mean, it didn't sound ...

Oh bollox.

It's simple. Waaaaaay back in the 7th century B.C., there was a woman named Sappho. She wrote poetry. Love poetry. Sappho lived on the Greek island of Lesbos. She wrote love poetry to women. Hence, Sappho was a Lesbian lesbian. Or was she a Mytilinian lesbian? Maybe she was bi, we just don't know. At any rate, somewhere along the line, instead of being accurate and calling women who write love poetry to other women Sapphians, which would have been more accurate, they called them lesbians. And then, of course, they attached the word to females who were attracted to other females, instead of being more precise and only referring to women who wrote poetry to women as Sa - I mean lesbians.

So it's quite obvious that the entire process of naming women who happen to be homosexual as lesbians has been very much botched from the beginning. Or at least since the 7th century B.C. Or, to be more precise, B.C.E. (before the common era).

At any rate, the people of the island sometimes called Lesbos and sometimes called Mytilini would actually like to be called Lesbians now. Never mind that there are plenty of people who would prefer to NOT be called a lesbian, these people would like their name back.

It's been badly misused by the media in the United States. All throughout the 1980s, any news story involving Sharon Gless using began in this way: A crazed lesbian broke into Gless' home or perhaps Gless has taken out a restraining order on the crazed lesbian who broke into.

And anyway, why bother to divide the gay community into "gay men" and "lesbians" anyway? Shouldn't the gay community try to band together and show their numbers instead of subdividing into minute special-interest groups? What if the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s had subdivided into Africans, half blacks, quadroons, Baptists, Catholics, etc, etc, etc?

I say, let the island of Lesbos have their name back. I don't want it, anyway.

Now, if the Dutch start demanding "dyke" back, we're gonna have problems ...

You can read the BBC article here.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:46 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 29, 2008

The Dark Side of Belief

Those of you who have read this blog for very long will not be surprised that the news story which has captured my full attention over the last few days is taking place in Austria right now.

A father, Josef, tricked his 18 year old daughter back in 1984, to enter the cellar, where he drugged her, handcuffed her and then confined her in the cellar. He forced his daughter, Elisabeth, to write a letter to her parents stating that she had run away and that they should not look for her. Somewhere between 1988 and 1989, Elisabeth gives birth to a daughter. Then, a son. Nearly 10 years after Elisabeth's "disappearance," she purportedly leaves an infant on the doorstep of her parents' home, with a note stating that she cannot care for the child. This happens again the following year.

The tally so far, a daughter and a son who live in the cellar with Elisabeth. Then 2 infants left on the doorstep for her parents to raise. Four children fathered by her own father. Two she was allowed to keep; two taken from her. All this in the first 10 years of her incarceration.

In 1996, she gives birth to twins, one of whom dies shortly thereafter and her father places the infant in the building's incinerator. The next year, she gives birth to another child who also is left on the parents' doorstep. Then, in 2003, she gives birth to a final son. (source)

Elisabeth and the three children who stayed with her lived in a tiny cellar, which was constantly enlarged over the 24 years that Elisabeth was condemned to the prison. There was a little kitchen, a little bedroom, a little bathroom ... and apparently, a small storeroom as well.

What finally gave Josef away and revealed the four people living in the cellar dungeon? The oldest child became deadly ill and he took her to hospital, claiming she'd collapsed in front of his building. A call went out for the girl's mother ... and eventually it all came to light, quite literally.

When we are confronted with an example of pure malice and evil, our first reaction is generally one of denial and disbelief. Even as we marvel at the evidence in front of us and know intellectually that the buildings at Auschwitz were used in the ways that they were used ... a portion of our mind finds the concept of such cruelty too large to hold and the first words uttered are generally, "no, this can't be."

I spoke last month of Merrily Melson who was faced with a similar situation on a personal level. A partner whom she trusted suddenly began attacking her with an ax. Think about this for a moment. Think about your partner suddenly hefting an ax and come running toward you. What would your first thought be? Would it be "Hey, you're not Jack Nicholson, put that damn ax down before you hurt yourself?" Would the time it took to realize this was NOT a joke mean the first stroke was fatal?

How do you cope with finding out that you are NOT safe?

Merrily Melson was lucky. She reacted to the situation quickly enough to escape with her life and that, trust me, is no small feat. When you are confronted with such an extreme act, your ability to think is essentially cut off. Your brain cooks up a batch of chemicals which rather locks the reasoning areas down and strips you to reflexes. So it's no surprise that in the heat of being attacked by her partner wielding an ax in some bizarre scenario, that it didn't immediately occur to her to grab her son (who was not being threatened at the time). This is an immediate fight or flight response. Had Melson's partner begun threatening their boy in front of her, her instincts would have been to snag him and run.

But without seeing that immediate threat ... we are programmed more toward denial than thought at such a time.

It is the same with child abuse and particularly true of abuse in its most extreme forms. As humans, we accept, intellectually, that some sick people force themselves on children or beat their children or neglect them.

But unless confronted with some concrete evidence or very compelling circumstantial evidence (behavioural clues from the child, perhaps) - we do not believe that it will happen to anyone we know ... to the person next door. To us. It happens to other people. Not people we know and care about. Other people.

It's one of the fictions we live with daily in order to not worry 24/7. Just as we trust that the walls of our homes will not be breached, that our health will not suddenly disappear, that the people we love will care for us. We trust that helicopters will not fall from the sky, that big brother is listening to someone else's phone conversations, that our bosses do not read our blogs.

We trust, essentially, that those around us are worthy of our trust because the world is far too big and dangerous if we have to go it completely alone.

But this trust also means that many people try to say that these cases of extreme abuse don't really happen. Or that they don't happen in the U.S. - and it makes me want to scream. We have an example in Austria where it really shows just how easy this can be. Is it common for abuse to happen at this type of level? No, I don't believe it is common. But I am convinced that it happens more often than we want to think.

What confuses people, I think, is the plethora of wild abuse stories told in the '80s. We had the Atlanta abductions in the news, then there were reports of mass abuse happening in day care centres, and people claiming multi-offender, satanic abuse rings were popping up all over the nation.

If you read very carefully the 1992 FBI report by Kenneth V. Lanning (read the report here), Lanning is pretty thorough and logical with his analysis of the phenomenon. He begins with the history of how the U.S. has handled everything from "stranger danger" to the claims of the 80s. By the fifth part of the report, entitled "MULTlDlMENSlONAL CHILD SEX RINGS," he gets to the core of what I believe has confused the American public.

Lanning, in 1992, had found no evidence supporting a large, multi-offender, multi-victim, multi-murder cult. Look at all the words there. Large. Multi-offender. Multi-victim. Multi-murder.

He states quite clearly that smaller groups are possible and it's possible that smaller groups could even evade the law, particularly (this is a bit more my interpretation, but I think his text indicates he might agree with this) particularly when the victim is a young child, under the six at the onset of the abuse.

An important quote from the report:

Most people would agree that just because a victim tells you one detail that turns out to be true, this does not mean that every detail is true. But many people seem to believe that if you can disprove one part of a victim's story, then the entire story is false. As previously stated, one of my main concerns in these cases is that people are getting away with sexually abusing children or committing other crimes because we cannot prove that they are members of organized cults that murder and eat people.

I think most people in the '80s looked at the extreme allegations made, read the FBI report and came to a sort of conclusion of denial - "he said these things don't happen," when, in fact, the most important part of his report is that the stories of murder and cannibalism and satanic ritual may be exaggerated stories used to conceal very real abuse or crimes.

What he said was, these things don't happen with large groups of offenders and victims.

We have evidence that they do happen on a much smaller scale.

Who would have thought that a father of seven children would kidnap one of his children, imprison her, father seven children on her and then raise three of them himself and imprison three of them (and burning the body of the infant who died)? How did he choose which of the children to raise and which to consign to life in the dungeon? Why did he choose to bring any of them out? Was it simple overcrowding?

The case in Austria simply brings to light all of the questions I have about how humanity treats humanity ... and how tenaciously we cling to the idea that the world is a safe place even as we mouth the words about how unsafe it is.

The dark side of our belief and our hope that such things do not happen ... is that those who perpetrate such things get away with their crimes.

It was unfathomable that any government would kill some six MILLION members of a single group of people and for that to be just one segment of the deaths. Intellectually, we seem to recognize this possibility now - but even as we do, there's a rising number of vocal people who believe that the Holocaust did not happen. Whether that is simple political expediency or not, I think it also demonstrates just how deeply our denial goes.

We do not wish to believe such evil occurs.

The dark side of our belief that evil does not happen is to allow that evil to continue happening.

How do we keep these things from happening? The short answer is that we cannot. Josef and his family were insular. But even if they had been outgoing people, the cellar dungeon would likely not have been detected. Josef was quite good at concealing it and concealing sound. And, not every shy person or introvert is hiding some deep, evil secret.

With the facts we have about Josef's case, I'm not sure that he made many mistakes ... that he gave much reason for investigation. It all sounds so plausible once the daughter was first tricked into her incarceration.

But what about another case where people in the neighborhood knew that dead animals were nailed to the fence and they were pretty sure from which house this was happening? Why did they choose to look the other way? Isn't this a neon sign that bad things are happening?

Or were they just grateful that strays and vermin were gone from their neighborhood? Did the dark side of their belief in humanity convince them to be grateful that's all it was? that what they saw was the worst of it?

How do we balance the need to believe we are safe ... with the evidence that we are not?

Why do we choose to believe some stories ... and not others?

Why do we often choose to believe in grand, large conspiracies ... and ignore the smaller contrivances around us?

Why do we hear so often "I knew how I was treated ... but I never thought 'Pat' would hurt the children"?

Our belief can be a very power and positive agent in our lives ... but it also has a darker side which can cause us to completely deny actions we should take or allegations we should investigate.

We cannot live in a constant state of suspicion ... but there are times when we need to take out the cloth of our beliefs and shake it, examine it carefully and analytically before once again cloaking ourselves in it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:55 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 24, 2008

Why Is It Always Texas??

Recently, I've run across a fair number of people online who seem quite adamant that the disaster at the Koresh compound in Waco was somehow an unfair persecution of a religious sect. Of course, this conspiracy nonsense has been much fueled by the current issues with the break-off sect of the Church of the Latter Day Saints who have built a community for themselves in Texas.

Why, oh why does this crap only seem to happen in my home state??

(Okay, okay, so in Texas and California. Still. I do NOT want Texas equated with California!!) So let's look at some of the pertinent facts and laws which apply to one case or the other.

First, let's start with how works in Texas.

Upon receiving a report of possible abuse or neglect, CPS first goes to the home or school and must speak with the child and do a visual exam. The child will be removed by the case worker investigating only if one of four scenarios exist or there is sufficient reason to believe one of these four is true:

  • immediate danger to physical health/safety
  • the child has been sexually abused
  • the custodial adult is using a controlled substance and that is causing an immediate danger
  • the custodial adult allowed a child to remain on the site whilst meth was being cooked

Two, weapon laws at the time of the Koresh standoff with the ATF. Automatic weapons were considered illegal at the time of the Koresh standoff, including the following weaponry found at the compound:

  • M-16 type rifles, modified for automatic use

  • AK-47 type rifles, modified for automatic use

  • Heckler & Koch SP-89, modified for automatic use

  • M-11/Nine, modified for automatic use

  • AR-15, modified for automatic use

  • silencers

  • live M-21 practice hand grenades

Three, current age of consent laws. The age of consent in Texas is 17. The legal age for marriage is 18. If under the age of 16, the law requires that the couple receives a court order before being allowed to marry. Marriage for ages 16 and 17 may occur with the written approval from a parent or legal guardian. (See the Texas Family Code 2.003 through 2.009)

Now, given these facts, I firmly maintain that there was sufficient cause to investigate the Branch Davidians. Accusations of child abuse had been made for years, but as is often the case, insufficient evidence was found. We know after the fact that while the Branch Davidians ran a legitimate arms business, they also had acquired illegal weaponry as well.

I do agree, as do most people, that the situation was botched and botched very, very badly. However, those people who think that the Davidians were a simple, innocent religious organization are simply wrong, if for no other reason than the illegal weaponry.

Those people who claim this was a violation of church and state are simply wrong. Churches still must comply with the laws of the land. They can work with their lawmakers to obtain exceptions and the like - as the Amish have done and done quite well - but there are some hard-and-fast rules. Physical safety of the members is one such rule, particularly in regards to children. Another is that gun laws must be obeyed.

(Side note - and it absolutely boggles my mind that any truly Christian organization would run an arms business and stockpile that inventory at the church. To me that goes against everything Christianity is - but, that's just my personal opinion.)

In the current example of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with their ranch in Texas, a similar set of circumstances has arisen which is drawing criticism from people who believe the group is being persecuted.

In this particular case, there is a documented history of statutory rape and illegal marriage. Their leader is in prison as an accomplice to rape after he forced a girl under legal age to marry her cousin. One of the group's tenets is that a man must marry at least three women in order to get to heaven. We can make all the lame jokes about how being married to three women sounds more like hell, but that simply neglects the real issue: polygamy is illegal in the United States. Marriage to a relative is illegal in Texas. Marriage to someone under the age of 16 without court-granted permission is illegal in Texas. In addition, sex with someone under the age of 17 is illegal.

The state of Texas allowed the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to move into state because it was not illegal for them to do so. They changed a few laws (updating some antiquated marriage laws such as the marriage age). And they left the group alone to practice their religion.

Now, they have received a complaint that a 16 year old was sexually abused.

Whether that complaint is true or not, they must investigate it. Since they have not yet found the teen who made the complaint, they are left with an evaluation of the home life of the other children at the ranch as well as a deep concern for the originator of the call.

Let's look at this in a smaller scale. Two brothers are quite close. One forces his sister's child to marry another sister's brother-in-law. This brother is taken to jail for abetting the rape of a child. The other brother, who believes the same as the jailed one, continues on about his life. One of his five children call CPS and claims abuse. When CPS gets there, that child is missing.

This constitutes a reasonable concern for the safety of the other children and, in my opinion, necessitates their removal from the home until the situation can be better assessed.

Drastic? Yes. Traumatic? Most likely.

I see the same situation with the Yearning for Zion ranch.

This is not a "human rights violation," as I have seen some argue. Their right to practice their faith is no more being curtailed than any other faith. As a nation, we also don't allow practitioners of certain forms of Santeria to commit human sacrifice. Nor do we let the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints commit child abuse.

There are simply times when we have to step in and say, "We are not flexible about this law. You must obey it."

To call this persecution by the government is laughable.

Does it remind us of the failures at Waco? Of course it does. However, this has been handled in a different manner.

There is reasonable cause to think that laws have been broken. Investigation must occur.

Now, if we find out that the call from the 16 year old was in some way faked, we have a different kettle of fish. And the DNA testing? The assertation that this is to discover which child belongs to which adults seems reasonable to me given the Texas legal code. Legally they will need to place the children back with their biological parents when the investigation is over and since many of the adults aren't sure who is who's parent, they need the DNA tests. The Texas code is not set up for group families - they're set up for "traditional" families (meaning biological parents or legally adopted children). I suspect they also want some verification about incest and inbreeding, but that's just my suspicion and is probably only secondary to their legal directive to return the children to the biological parents after the investigation is concluded.

At the end of the day, there is no more persecution going on here than the Catholic Church was persecuted during all of the allegations of sexual abuse.

When the law is being broken ... it's not persecution, it's prosecution.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:44 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 9, 2008

Still Breathing

I was, apparently, a good baby. (I know, what happened, right?) As the first-born, of course, my parents had no real idea what they were getting themselves into, and like all new parents, they thought I probably cried too much. I was put on the very healthy soy formula, since that was the thing at the time. Apparently I was congested so much of the time as an infant, my mother was just certain that I would be claimed by SIDS. Part of that fear was "just" the paranoia of a new mom, part of it was my congestion. But it wasn't long before I settled into a fairly quiet routine. I'd play in my crib, gurgling and goofy in the morning until Mom was ready to get up - a note in my baby book says that it was a great way for Mom to wake up in the morning, greeted by baby's smile.

Despite my determination to play no matter how I felt, by the time I was three, it was obvious that something wasn't right. After a myriad of tests you don't want to give to a three year old in 1971, I was diagnosed with both allergies and asthma.

A partial list of allergies:
Foods: soy, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, peas, broccoli, most every green vegetable and I believe every legume -- luckily I do not get the anaphylactic shock reaction, so I can tolerate some amount of these things
Outside: grass of multiple varieties, ragweed, pine trees, cedar trees, cottonwood trees, most flowers - pretty much everything that grows outside, I think
Animals: cats and dogs and bird feathers
Inside/Misc.: mold, mildew, dust mites, cockroaches, ampicillin

The asthma could be triggered by humidity, cold, smoke, and "excessive" activity. Yeah. What's excessive activity to a three year old?

The doctor told my mom the bad news: she needed to keep not just a clean house, but an ultra-clean house. My parents needed to stop smoking. And they'd have to watch me carefully outside. And, of course, I'd have to start getting allergy shots.

I started allergy shots.
Mom covered my box springs in a plastic allergy bag. And my mattress. I think we tried the pillows, but I couldn't sleep for the noise it made.
Mom gathered every single stuffed animal and doll that I owned, put them in bags and into the car. I thought Mom and I and my toys were going for a car ride - we did - straight to the Salvation Army. Stuffed animals and dolls were dust catchers. (Try explaining this to a heart-broken, screaming three year old. Doesn't work very well. Obviously, as I'm still whining about it.)
Mom began a cleaning regime which developed into a full-fledged OCD drama. Vacuum on Mondays and Fridays. All clothes, including the bedding, washed on Thursdays. I don't recall a specific day for the dusting, but it was also done often.
Mom was nervous every time I went outside, exhorting me to not run (didn't work).

Out of those two lists, what didn't get done?

I know it was the early 70s. Everyone smoked. Including my parents.

I can recall going clothes shopping (against my will) with Mom and everyone smoking in the mall. The clothing stores had ashtrays in the dressing rooms and I recall one time in particular when I was a bit older. Left alone in the dressing room while Mom went to hunt down another size (I was "saving" the dressing room so someone else couldn't take it), Mom left her lit cigarette in the little stall with me. Brave, I picked it up, surprised a bit at how warm it was, and I carefully stubbed it out, trying not to damage it, just to make it quit stinking up the place so bad. She came back, went for a drag, and was stunned to see that it had "gone out." She re-lit it, took a few puffs, tried on some stuff and again left me there while she went back out to find something else. This time I broke the cigarette and when Mom came back, I was really surprised, but she wasn't really mad. Just said she didn't realize it bothered me so much. That was the only time I ever held a lit cigarette.

So much of my childhood was structured around avoiding triggering my asthma and allergies - but the smoking was something that drove me crazy. I could feel the "dirt" in my lungs from it. The smell got up into my sinuses and drove me crazy. But it really started to get to me when other people assumed that I smoked simply because everything I owned smelled of it, and I smelled of it. The breaking point was the evening I went to babysit for a new client and the mother literally turned up her nose at me and said, "You smoke." I replied that I did not smoke and never had. She sighed dramatically and pointed to a remote location of the backyard. "Smoke over there, where the children can't see you. They are not allowed to see people smoking."

It didn't matter how I protested, I was a teenager, I smelled of smoke, and she was a judgmental woman. Of course, by then, the mid 80s, smoking was becoming a habit to restrict and to drop. I began a "quit smoking" campaign with my mother, but it wasn't until she decided to rejoin the workforce and was afraid that being a smoker was one strike against her too many, that she decided to quit smoking. And she did it, first time, with the help of the nicotine gum.

I know that in the early 70s, it was not easy to quit smoking. Hell, I realize that for most people, it's not easy to quit now, even with Zyban, the patch, the gum and all the rest of the quit smoking aids.

But it was truly one of the great frustrations of my childhood to know that I was expected to not run track, not join a swim team, have all of my stuffed animals given away in front of me, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera - and still have my parents smoke in the house, the car - constantly.

It was a constant mixed message. We care so much about you we wrapped your bed in plastic and we restrict what you can do - just so you stay healthy. On the other hand, my food allergies were completely ignored and the most frequent household chores I had (besides doing dishes) was to dust and vacuum. Even though particularly dusting the house was prone to give me a terrible sneezing fit, clog my sinuses and irritate my eyes.

You have asthma, you can't run track. Go dust the house.
You have asthma, you don't need to be building a clubhouse. Go weed the front yard.
We want you to be healthy, as they blew smoke in my face.

Don't mistake me. I'm actually not trying to vilify them for this. I'm trying to understand it.

Mom once told me that when the doctor told her that she and my father needed to quit smoking, she knew that Dad never would. She made the decision at that time to do everything else possible. I told her, but the smoke wouldn't have been as bad if it had just been Dad. He was only home evenings and was outside most of the weekend during the warm months. Her unspoken answer was plain on her face: if he wouldn't give it up, it was unfair to ask her to give it up.

And to a certain extent, I get that. I can imagine how difficult the craving would be with no patch or gum, the moment Dad walked in the door with a lit cigarette. I have no doubt it would be maddening, and I am pretty certain that Mom simply didn't have the willpower at that time in her life to quit smoking under those conditions. I do get that.

But it doesn't really touch the double standard of how my allergies were handled.

Anything that impacted my parents in a serious way was ignored. Mom literally forgot that I had food allergies until I was digging through some paperwork one day and found the results of one of my old allergy tests. I was stunned at how many of the foods I really, really seriously hated were on that list. I tried to point this out to my mom, to point out how unfair it was that we bent over backwards to avoid using cow's milk because my sister was lactose intolerant - and yet I was told to eat food I was allergic to almost every day.

It was a few weeks after finding that paperwork, that I began to have a recurring dream, one that I would have until a few months after I moved out of my parents' house. In the dream, I was at my pediatrician's office (instead of my "grown-up" doctor) and he was listening to my lungs and tsk-ing. I just knew I was in trouble. I'd done something wrong, but I couldn't figure out what.

"She's got to stop breathing," the doctor told my mother. "It's going to kill her." Mom stood across the examining room and looked disapprovingly at me - as if I should have known better. As if she'd been telling me for years that breathing was bad for me and now I was making her waste precious time and money by having to go to the doctor - only to have him tell me to quit doing this.

In the dream, I am too shocked to say a word. How can breathing be killing me? Not breathing is what kills; not continuing to breathe! But they are both looking at me so seriously, so gravely.

The dream cuts to a return visit to the doctor. This time I'm attempting to hold my breath as the doctor examines me. To breathe on the sly, taking stolen tokes of oxygen. It's to no avail. He sighs, shakes his head and again ignores me to look at my mother. "She's been breathing again."

It's a pretty simple dream, really. Obviously by the time I was a teenager, I believed I was being held to impossible standards that other people were not held to. Some twenty years later, I can see that feeling was pretty accurate. I was expected to do everything exactly right, no matter how much that inconvenienced me, whereas my parents were very much allowed to take any shortcut they chose.

Of course, a portion of that is simply the difference between being an adult and being a teenager, but I can also see where my parents were simply not ready to take responsibility for their actions - to think through how what they did affected their children.

I see on a variety of blogs over at Cre8Buzz how different parents today are thinking through what they do and how it affects their kids. Of course, these parents are my age or younger. They've learned from their own mistakes and the mistakes their parents made. I've seen some amazing parents say, "Eh, ya know what? I'm spending too much time online. I'm going to take charge of my life and ration the time I allow myself to be online. I need to go play with my kids more." I've seen them discuss quitting bad habits, talking to their kids about serious issues, pulling their kids out of crappy schools and agonizing over whether to home school or take on an additional job to pay for private school.

I find that introspection and self-examination and honesty a breath of much-needed fresh air.

Ultimately, what many of these bloggers don't realize is that not only are they in conversation with other parents when they share a story about parenting or their kid. (Because by no means are all of these people "mommy bloggers" or "daddy bloggers" - many of them are "regular bloggers" who happen to include their family life in addition to everything else they write about.) They are also, in an odd way, helping those of us who did not have great parents or a great childhood to gain some perspective and attain some healing. Reading one parent say how they tackled a problem with their kid can lead to me thinking through how my parents handled a similar situation - and in spending time analyzing that it becomes easier to see what is a normal bump in the parenting road, and what was perhaps a freaking boulder from the sky.

I suppose, then, that this post is really a thank you to all the folks who brave the stigma of being branded a parent-blogger. You're not only helping out other parents with tips and techniques, you're not just making us laugh with you - you're also helping us to re-evaluate our own childhood and parents.

And that's a good thing.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:46 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 4, 2008

The Bottom Line

A legal entity known as a corporation, must, in its charter, protect the bottom line. Their legal charge is to make money for the shareholders.

After WWII, many companies and corporations began offering health insurance as an incentive to attract better workers - it sounded like a good idea at the time. Help the bottom line by attracting good workers and do a good thing for employees at the same time.

Today, in order to pad the bottom line - and to be quite frank, the pockets of the executives - there's a clause many companies and corporations are adding to their health insurance policies. It's a simple clause. If you are injured and you sue the party who injured you, the health insurance company wants the money that they paid out back. In some cases, this makes sense - why should you get "paid" by the insurance company and then paid again for medical expenses and pain and suffering.

However, as in the case of the Debbie Shank, sometimes this just means you get screwed again. Shank was hit by a semi and left with brain damage and the kinds of medical bills no one wants to think about. WalMart's insurance company paid her bills as they were supposed to do. Bully for them. The family sued the trucking company and received about $417,000. Enough to put money in trust for her long term care and make sure they had a house wheelchair accessible (instead of their 3 level home). The trucking company carried a maximum liability of a million bucks. Should be plenty, right? Yet somehow, after legal fees and everything else, the family only received $417,000. Well, okay. Accessible house, set up the trust for her continual care - of course, no more health insurance from Walmart since she wasn't working there anymore. They thought they'd be able to use the trust they set up to take care of her.

Three years after the fact, after they are starting to get some normal routine together, NOW Walmart & their health insurance provider wants their money back. The money they originally paid out for her immediate care - some $470,000. More than they'd received to begin with.

And then, as the court decides that Walmart can't have $470,000, but they can have all of the money left in the Shank's trust for her care. No job. No prospect of ever working again. And to top it off, their middle son was killed in Iraq - but with her short-term memory shot from the accident, Debbie Shank "learns" this fact anew every time she asks where he is.

Walmart "apologized" but essentially said, hey, the clause was there. We gotta protect the bottom line and we're required by law to enforce this clause or we set a bad precedent.

I wrote about this the day before Christmas last year. This week, after months of bloggers agitating on the web, and finally getting the main stream press to pick up the story in a serious way. Now, this week, Walmart finally says, "Oh, we guess you can keep the remaining money for her ongoing care."

"We wanted you to know that Wal-Mart will not seek any reimbursement for the money already spent on Ms. Shank's care, and we will work with you to ensure the remaining amounts in the trust can be used for her ongoing care," Curran said. "We are sorry for any additional stress this uncertainty has placed on you and your family."

Gee, how nice of you.

You see, while individuals at Walmart might have wanted to help, the corporation as an entity, simply wanted to protect its bottom line. And it's cheaper to let the Shanks keep their measly $275,000 than take the hit on their PR. Their reputation, it would seem, is worth a bit more than a quarter of a million dollars to them.

What sickens me is this: what IDIOT didn't realize this sooner? If we look just at the corporation's bottom line and ignore the human element as corporations are wont to do - why did they think they would get away without a smack to their reputation for pulling something that is sure to tug at people's heartstrings? Do they often do such things and get away with it? Does it happen often enough to work for them?

And, if we DO look at the human element, what is wrong with every person who touched the case and decided that it should go to court? Did any of them stand up and say, "if nothing else, our reputation is worth more than the money we might gain?"

I know, I know, I'm talking about Walmart's reputation, meh.

The bad thing is, how many people at Walmart who were involved in this case were too damn scared for their own jobs to question policy? How many of them did and were told to shut up?

Well, at least the Shanks have their trust fund to help care for her.

What about the cases we don't know about?

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:44 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 14, 2008

Don't Feed the Trolls

My bedroom in high school and the first year of college, was, more often than not, pitch dark. It wasn't for the lack of trying to lighten it up - my mom bought the most sheer curtains she could find. And when I demanded "bed dressing" that matched my personality, Mom made matching curtains out of an extra set of the sheets. (White, with a stripe of rainbow down each long side ... yeah, I know. Early indicator?) Stark white walls, mostly white comforter, sheer curtains which let in the light from the street light at the corner of our front yard. But my favourite way to be was laying on my bedroom floor, all the lights out, just the glow of my "jambox"-stereo's equalizer dancing up and down. And that last year of high school when I scrounged together all of my money to buy my prized Magnavox Videowriter, I would sit at my desk, adding the amber glow of that cheesy word processor to the dim light of my room.

When my creative writing teacher first told us how he would go to an all-night Waffle House to immerse himself in the biomass (to borrow Stephenson's word), I was appalled. How could anyone write with all of the cacophony of activity and light around them? F.J. insisted that it was a valuable way to observe characters, to practice dialogue. Being far too much of an introvert, I could not really wrap my head around this enough to do it. That was about 1986 or 1987.

A few years earlier, my dad brought home a stunning new toy - a Commodore 64. He was amazed and gleeful like a little boy on Christmas morning discovering his new Red Ryder BB gun or Radio Flyer sled. He practically squealed as he opened up the package and pulled out that brick of a keyboard/computer. A whole 64k stored in this sucker! He explained to me, in one of our rare actual conversations, it used to take a machine the size of about half our house to do what this little sucker could do. I remembered one of those rooms - Dad took me to work with him once ... an icy air-conditioned room filled with huge metal cabinet-things. Punch cards. Later, rolls of paper tape.

Mom forbid the acquisition of a modem as efficiently as she'd forbidden cable television - but the boy across the street had a modem and I watched as one letter after another would pop onto the screen from some distant person. Heh, and watch those letters disappear as the person hit backspace to correct a typo.

But it wasn't until I was nearly done with my seven year stint at university before I discovered MUDdog and email and just how fascinating this online Waffle House could be. That was somewhere around 1992-4.

I've been hooked ever since.

This morning, once again, I've turned off all of the lights. I have the band Sick Puppies blaring on the stereo, though not as loudly as I'd like - my neighbors are still sleeping. The glow of my keyboard and laptop screen - and the blue glow of the stereo are all I want. I'm writing against the deadline of sunrise, remembering how easy it was for me to get lost in my introspection as a teenager and 20something in the dark. How much easier it was and is to reflect honestly on myself and my actions as well as the biomass I observe around me.

I recognize that I'm damaged
I sympathize that you are too
But I wanna breathe without feelin' so self-conscious
But it's hard when the world's starin' at you

To me, this is the most interesting thing about the internet. You have all of these people with their foibles and faults and strengths ... you have these intercies, these nodes, of common interest where this diverse mass of individuals pour their thoughts into shared pixel representations.

Why do we do this? Why do we strive to share our experiences and thoughts with everyone else? Why do we strive to get people to understand what we're thinking, feeling, wanting?

It seems to me that no matter how introverted or extroverted an individual is, we all are reaching for some connection beyond just our self - to know that we are not totally alone in our thought or experience or feeling. That someone groks at least a fraction of who and what we are.

What I constantly strive to understand, and I'm not sure I'm capable of really understanding it, is why some people are literally so lost in their own individuality that they cannot hear the experiences and feelings of others.

I can't even begin to recall how many times I have read the pixels of people who define their world by "I'm right" and you're either 100% with me or 100% against me. So when I see one of these people laying their pixels down in a frantic dance of light and dark dots, I'm sucked in by my own curiosity and confused fascination. When I watch as they blithely ignore the community around them and choose to take disagreement as attack; when they insist on reading a helping hand as condemnation.

And, then, of course, all of our shared human foibles come to the fore. The helping hand and the civil disagreement becomes frustration and anger - which does become attack and condemnation. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves the outer edges of the community in confusion and often shock. It's like seeing the "perfect couple" have a real fight finally. You see sides of these people that you never suspected lurked beneath all the letters they've strung together on the internet.

And when the smoke clears and all the participants who are able to do so actually sit back and take a look at what happened and how they contributed to the explosion, they are left with this conundrum:
How do I both "protect" my self, ideas and beliefs ... and balance my emotional reaction ... and walk away from the trolls who only want a fight and to get everyone riled up?

How do we differentiate motive on the net without body language and tone of voice to help us decipher our pixelated world?

In my experience, it becomes about building a context. If one person's response to disagreement is to always either ignore or attack, with no middle ground attempting to bridge differences and create understanding, then that person is probably simply trolling for trouble. It's a subjective thing. And, in online communities, it's a dangerous field to walk across. Newer folk are going to tend to side with the troll when the old hands attempt to slap down the troll out of frustration. The old hands know the history and have often decided to take a stand to defend their community and hunt the troll until they've left the community. New people, not knowing that the troll may be currently presenting the mask of the maligned victim in order to garner support and thus keep the battle going on longer, may openly side with the troll in an effort to defend their new community from bullies.

The term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often erroneously used to discredit an opposing position, or its proponent, by argument fallacy ad hominem.

Often, calling someone a troll makes assumptions about a writer's motives. Regardless of the circumstances, controversial posts may attract a particularly strong response from those unfamiliar with the robust dialogue found in some online, rather than physical, communities.

Experienced participants in online forums know that the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore him or her, because responding encourages a true troll to continue disruptive posts -- hence the often-seen warning "Please do not feed the troll".

Frequently, someone who has been labelled a troll by a group may seek to redeem their reputation by discrediting their opponents, for example by claiming that other members of the group are closed-minded, conspirators, or trolls themselves.

No matter how even-handed ... how just ... we try to be, the fact of the matter is, we are not perfect. We snap. We jump to conclusions. We get tired and cranky. And what separates us from the trolls? We are able to step back and re-evaluate our behaviour, to try to learn from our mistakes, to learn when to stop reacting next time and walk away from what we feel is trollish behaviour.

To creatures who seem to intrinsically need to be understood, it's a hard thing to walk away from that chance at communication. But some battles are won only when they aren't fought at all ...

The light is beginning to make the curtains glow ... so now I leave you with this ...

Don't Feed The Trolls

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:26 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 7, 2008

March Showers?

So, our shower has some issues. First, it's the only fixture in the bathroom which is an almond colour. And I don't think we can actually wrangle a new tub in through either the doorway OR the window. Bugger. So, we did the nice tub paint thing on it. Except the paint was a little "stiff" on the last coat ... and somehow we never got around to buying another can of it to finish up. Then, turns out, you're really not supposed to leave your wet shower curtain on that paint forever and ever in the corner. Cuz now all the paint in that corner has worn off.

Next, and more important on a day to day level ... is the showerhead. We were getting next to no water pressure for the last couple of weeks. And the hot water was just not wanting to get hot - but ONLY to the shower. No drippy pipes.

Today I decided I'd had enough. I carefully took the showerhead down. Easy fix, there's a pressure adjuster in there that we don't need since there's only adults in the house. And, it was gunked up a bit with some rust particles. Yank that sucker out and screw the showerhead back up.

Good news? We have hot water which is actually hot. We have water pressure. I fixed the showerhead.

Bad news? Then I broke the showerhead.

GAH! I had to take it off with a wrench, but I started putting it back on by hand. I pulled out the hand wrench to give it the infamous "last little twist" - trying to gauge the force correctly since I didn't want to --

Oops. I didn't want to break the damn plastic screw-on connection, but guess what? Literally one twist with the wrench and POP!


Now I have to go buy a new showerhead. Frankly, the other half is ecstatic as she didn't like that one anyway.

Just what I wanted to do today! WOOHOO!

(Maybe I'll go to Chipotles for dinner ... mmmm ... burritos and REAL guacamole.)

UPDATE: I didn't go to Chipotles ... wound up not on that side of town. And you know what? We're out of food now. I ate chicken fajitas tonight ... without any tortillas (or guacamole). Damn.

Anyhow, I installed the new showerhead shortly after getting home. Works like a charm. :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:04 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 19, 2008

Nerf Sniper Rifle

My first Nerf basketball hoop, back around 1972 was not a whole lot more than a wire about the thickness of a coat hanger (a wire one, of course, not that plastic crap we have now), with some yo yo string to make a net. The foam was so lightweight you could hardly shoot with any kind of accuracy at all.

I loved it. A ball I could throw in the house!!

Soon thereafter, my dad brought home another Nerf product. This was a foam plane. Think paper airplane "grown up" a wee bit. Another toy I could throw in the house without getting into too much trouble, although my mom cringed every time, I think. I had friends who had the little Nerf "cars" as well.

Eventually there was the obligatory extra Nerf balls ... Nerf football ... and then Nerf got really cool. Nerf ping pong! You could set up the Nerf ping pong on ANY table and not damage it. Nerf pool! One of my all time favourite games ... and we had never had a pool table. Once again, you set it up on a regular table and played without damaging it. Nerf "air" hockey! Eventually there was even an outdoor set which included Nerf badminton, volleyball and "tennis." Nerf mini-golf.

Of course, there were then Nerf soccer balls, different kinds of Nerf basketballs, included correct weight ones to use outside.

So far as I was concerned, Nerf could do no wrong. Their toys were creative and fun.

Then came the Nerf bow and arrow set. Crossbow. These were also fun ... shooting darts at targets. And then Nerf "guns." Nerf tag. All good fun.

But over the last five years or so, it's gotten completely out of hand. Nerf has turned more and more to only weaponry, various styles of guns. This past year, in my opinion, given the number of school shootings the U.S. has experienced, Nerf has gone too far.

Their new N-Strike Longshot is, plain and simply, a sniper rifle for children.

I don't want to hear "we make what people buy." Children do not need play sniper rifles which actually fire 35 feet. Children do not need a play sniper rifle with a targeting scope to increase accuracy at 35 feet. Children do not need 2 quickload ammunition clips to increase their firepower.

Now look. If we're talking about adults playing with it ... I have somewhat less of a problem. I own two airsoft pistols and an airsoft "machine gun" (sadly, not an automatic, though). I enjoy playing target games. I have no issue with people who hunt and eat what they kill (or sell the meat to others).

But if we are serious about reducing gun violence in schools, then I'm not sure children should be practicing with toy weaponry which can hone rapid-fire skills.

A sniper rifle has one clear purpose. Long range assassination. I do not want my child on the ground, N-Strike Longshot set up on its fold-down bipod (for stability and better accuracy) and practicing sniping. Now, my kid grows up and goes into the armed forces and wants to be a sniper ... you know, I may not always agree with it, but there is a serious purpose for that. I'm fine with an adult making that decision. Police snipers ... there are damn good reasons for those. That's fine.

My 10 year old laying down in the backyard firing at the dog? No.

I know about Nerf Wars and Nerfers. As with airsoft wars and bb guns wars and paintball, there are fun war/shooting games you can play.

The difference is that airsoft guns, BB guns and paintball guns are all marketed in the sporting goods section ... there are restrictions and most parents (certainly not all ... and I've heard plenty of abuse of the system) but most parents treat the stuff as equipment that needs some rules. You really need safety gear to play paintball and while sure, your 15 year old can get away without it in the back lot, if the kid wants to go to a paintball tournament, the kid will have to wear the gear. It's a sport with protective gear. Got it. BB guns and airsoft are a little different, but most parents tend to treat them with some amount of respect.

Nerf guns are sold in toy stores and the toy aisles. Their name at one time meant Nerf basketball and safe indoor toys. Even some of the first dart weaponry was kind of a safe, indoor extension of squirt guns or cops-n-robbers.

Now they have gatling guns and automatic revolvers.

And a sniper rifle.

Look at the commercial. (Will pop up in new window)

Now, the Nerfers are modifiying their Nerf guns ... I've seen several people who have developed darts which are more accurate and fly further. There's a way to modify the guns to get better airflow to the darts so they will fly further and faster.

I do not have an issue with this. I love playing paintball, and Nerf Wars sounds like fun to me, too. It can be cathartic to play such games ... but they can also attract unstable people as well.

I do not have a problem with Hasbro/Nerf marketing directly to the Nerfers. Perhaps actually making Nerfer guns for the sport. But sell them in the sporting goods section. Sell them next to the paintball guns and the airsoft pistols. Because even though the modified guns are safer shooting darts than a paintball or airsoft weapon ... they are still weapons. Give parents that much of a reminder that the kid is not idly looking at some funny little foam version of a squirt gun. Shoot, develop a new logo for Nerfer Guns or Nerfer Wars. Something, anything to remind people that these are not the little foam balls we threw into a wire hoop. A new logo will help parents and kids differentiate between the inaccurate, low-powered toys that kind of throw darts around ... and the more accurate, more powerful guns which shoot darts.

A subtle difference, perhaps. But if we are going to squawk about our children shooting each other ... I feel it's a step we need to take. One that might remind us to look at ourselves and our lives and lifestyles ... and reflect on what we're really teaching our children - that we are paying attention to them and their interests ... and that we are teaching limits and boundaries ... and the morals we want them to espouse.

This, for me at least, is not about left-wing/right-wing. It's not about gun control. It's about taking responsibility for our actions on a personal level (really thinking about our children and their toys) ... and most especially, about corporate and marketing responsibility.

If you didn't view the commercial before, please take the 30 seconds to view it now. Do you want your child practicing to be a sniper?
Look at the commercial. (Will pop up in new window)

Okay, I'm tired of all of the comments from the 10-12 crowd defending their right to have a TOY sniper rifle. Particularly the illiterate bullshit.

So here's the deal, once more, with feeling:

I'm NOT saying these should never ever be made. I am saying they are a sporting goods item, NOT a freaking TOY. There's a difference in mind set. I agree they're kinda cool. I play airsoft, I play paintball. But unless it's under controlled circumstances, there is NO reason for a CHILD to have a sniper rifle. If you're a Nerfer playing a SPORT called Nerf Wars, there IS a reason. Fine.

But a toy is a different thing from a piece of sporting goods equipment.

Comments are now closed because I'm sick of whiny tweens and illiterate teenagers whining. Discussion is fine. My tolerance for whining, however, is negligible.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:41 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 8, 2008

Crass Commercialism

I live in Northern Indiana. Home to the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary's University. There's a Catholic convent here. Retirement home for priests. In some areas, there's literally a Catholic Church on each of the four corners of an intersection. (Apparently so there could be a Hungarian Catholic Church and a Polish Catholic Church, and a regular one and who can remember which group the fourth is.)

AM General, a good-sized factory, serves fish every Friday, year round in the cafeteria. There are other food choices as well, but during the Catholic season of Lent, they only serve fish in the cafeteria.

Lent is a big deal around here. You see signs like this one on nearly every fast food joint - and even many larger restaurants:

2 fish sandwiches for 3.33

So when I drove to the grocery store last night (sans camera phone, dammit), I could NOT stop laughing at the Arby's sign. You see, Ash Wednesday was this week. Lent has begun. Today is the first meatless Friday for those observing the practice.

And my Arby's had this sign up:

free roast beef friday

Yeah, I had to go back there today with the good camera (so I suppose it's lucky I didn't have the cell with me last night) just so I could snap this shot. I'm still snickering.

With everyone else catering to the Lenten practice of meatless Fridays, I'm sure the local manager thought it would be good to cater to the many people in the area who do not observe this practice. And while the absurdity of the entire situation - fish advertisement as well as free roast beef - still makes me chuckle ... in light of one of the online community explosions this past week, it also makes me sad that so many can boil down other people's fervently held beliefs into an opportunity to sell more crap.

But I still can't stop giggling, either. It's just all too surreal and absurd. Almost as if the fast food joints are now announcing at the drive-through window - "Hey, you want religion with that?" I know for a fact that one chain around here already offers politics with their food - they required all of their employees to wear shirts hawking the chain owner for local government in last fall's elections.

My issue is that I want my politics and religion separate from my retail experience. It's not that I think someone should put their religion in a box and leave it there - most faiths ask exactly the opposite of you - that you live your faith. But selling your faith - to me - simply cheapens it. Proselytizing tends to turn off a far greater number of people than it "helps" because it often (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally) disrespects the beliefs or opinions of the person having to listen to it.

For example, I bought something off eBay quite a while back and received a little "business card" with my order. Only it was a Bible tract printed on it and an "invitation" to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. It pissed me off and I never ordered from that person again. Why? Because it implied that

1) I had not already done so
2) that I did not have my own faith
3) that their belief system was better than any I might already subscribe to

They may not have meant it that way. I don't know nor care. My brain ... oppositional as it often is ... immediately thought how offensive this would have been to me had I been Jewish.

To me, it's simply about respect. If I am conversing with someone and a topic or issue comes up which touches on faith beliefs or political beliefs, then we can discuss such things. Throwing a confetti of religious tracts around in the hopes of helping all the poor people who do not believe as you do ... it's arrogance. Discussion with mutual respect is one thing. Scattering your seed EVERYWHERE is something else entirely.

Ooops. I kind of strayed away from the original intent to post a funny sign. Meh, I think it's a better post for having opened up the field a bit.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:06 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 7, 2008

The Tower of Conceptual Babel

Back in 1993, I was finishing up my bachelor's degree in English in a state school. Not the fancy-pants University of Texas at Austin - known as UT. But the school we perceived of as the poor cousin, University of Texas at Arlington - known as UTA. It wasn't that the school wasn't as good, but we simply didn't get the press that UT did. We didn't have a football team. We were a commuter school. We weren't in a cool town like Austin, but out in the 'burbs between Dallas and Fort Worth. Our concept of ourselves was based on what others thought of UT ... we were obviously a poor outlying satellite.

Despite our concept of ourselves, we had some cool stuff going for us. One of the other tutors at our writing center told me about this nifty thing she'd discovered. It was called a MUDdog ... you got on one of the dumb terminals over in the computer science lab, logged in, entered a few commands and you were suddenly immersed in this text world. I was unimpressed. I had Zork on the Commodore-64 at home, thank you very much.

This was different, she insisted. Through the campus connection, this text world was populated with real people from around the globe. You could talk with them and interact with them in real time!

I tried it for a lark one Saturday when I didn't have anything else planned. Walked up to campus ... logged in ... and eight hours later I finally looked at my watch.

I've been hooked on various types of online communities ever since.

As someone who is always fascinated by human interactions, as someone who can't help but be an observer as well as a participator ... as a writer ... I am utterly enthralled by the microcosms of society that we set up online.

MUDS, chatrooms, IRC channels, "Web 2.0 sites," blogs, shoutboxes, forums (technically that's fora, but I try to go with the flow).

General public, special interests, moms, dads, writers, non-writers, artists, dog-lovers, cat-lovers, extroverts, introverts, introverts who become extroverts online.

Invariably it happens.

Invariably someone trots out their fervent belief in X. And X might be a product, a method of doing something, a religion, a favourite actor or politician or writer ... or whatever.

And just as invariably, someone else takes a polar opposite view.

Now, things can go a couple of ways at this point. It might be we have a nice, logical, rational discussion about the pros and cons of X. Of course, this is the least likely scenario, but it does happen.

Another option: things get heated. X is vilified. X is extolled. Vilified. Extolled. On and on and on. Neither side listens to the other and you literally get an extremist jihad, crusade, holy war of whatever flavour you wish to call it. Sides are drawn up. The inevitable rhetoric gets trotted out: "you're either for us or against us" ... "there is no middle ground" ... "well you know what I mean."

The option that goes one step beyond that is this: X is vilified and so is "that damn dipshit who said X was good." "You're delusional and anyone who thinks like you is delusional."

It seems that even when we speak the same language, we still live in a tower of babel. We still struggle to make our words understood ... to feel that we are being respected and heard and believed. And often, despite what we are sure is plain language and crystalline logic ... other people fail to get our point ... fail to agree. And obviously, the failure is almost inevitably theirs, as we have been perfectly clear and rational.

Over the last two weeks I have watched as two of the three online communities I participate in had serious melt-downs. Honestly, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Ideas being denigrated, people being denigrated, people feeling sure they were denigrated when they were not ... all because emotions were running high.

Often, it's like watching a bunch of junior high age kids (13-15 or so). Kids that age are still learning the finer social mores and how to converse without pissing people off. They speak plainly and say exactly what they mean ... but often their vocabulary does not include any grey area at all. The idea that words have connotations generally escapes them. The concept that words, despite our best efforts to deny this, words do hurt us. Or at least they frustrate us. (And please note that there are plenty of teens who do get this concept ... and there are plenty who don't learn this concept ever. This is merely a developmental stage and a generalization.)

Online, we add to this type of social group the fact that there is no good way to discern body language and vocal tone ... and often we misinterpret words that were not meant in the ways we see on the screen. And, sometimes, no matter how hard we try to craft those words to elicit in every person who reads them exactly and precisely what we mean ... all that work is simply lost in the babel of pixels and previous experience and the mind of the individual reader.

It is in watching these explosions happen online, where you can see each piece of the misunderstanding beginning to unfold and then to blossom and the fruit to explode, spreading its pollen of dissent over the entire participatory community ... it is watching this microcosm mushroom online that we truly see the babel of concept and idea which in the so-called "real world" leads to fighting and war. It's an amazing and, when put in this light, terrifying event to watch.

It starts so very simply.

And it is played out over and over and over again. As soon as one segment of a community finally "gets" how these things get started ... when a few people suddenly realize that they ways in which they phrase things matter AND that they become more capable of trying to take the other side's ideas as something to respect despite disagreeing (and perhaps disagreeing vehemently) ... as soon as this happens, another group comes along who has not yet learned these concepts ... and the battles begin anew.

It is the curse of our relatively short life spans and our frequent procreation and our different rates of learning and comprehending - as a race we seem compelled to play this scenario out over and over and over again.

Whether it's the mud-slinging of an American presidential "season" ... whether it's "your tree's leaves are falling in MY yard" ... or "your people are creating problems" ... or "your actions are eroding the atmosphere" ... "we don't want your sort here" ... "you don't believe as we do."

We bag and tag and categorize each other out of existence so that we don't have to listen to the conceptual babel and weigh all sides.

And even when we have learned the lessons and we try to stay calm and rational ... there is always human frailty, exhaustion ... and a point when someone else's rhetoric finally crosses a line beyond which we feel a moral imperative to call them on it because to not call them on that particular phrasing or concept is to allow an intolerable situation to thrive.

It doesn't ever end. And it feels like "we" never learn.

But whether the babel is language based or conceptually based, it is a constant of human existence. We are locked into our own skulls with wiring and operating systems only somewhat compatible with the others around us.

Our lives are never-ending attempts to connect and to forever try to understand and be understood in the face of failures and partial compatibilities.

Our strength lies in our stubborn certainty that we can finally find the right cord for connection and the right version of the operating system to achieve a true and deep melding.

I'm reminded of a book I never really liked, but I adored one single line. (Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero)

"People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter.

We are individuals afraid to merge ... and yet seeking to be understood so fully that we do merge ... which frightens us more and makes the need to be understood more fervent and powerful.

People are afraid to merge. To lose some aspect of their true selves? Fear that to understand all is to dislike? To find out some idea we might have about that person is false?

People are afraid to merge so we build these towers and walls to protect our thoughts and minds and feelings ... our individuality.

And then we wonder why others do not see things our way, not realizing that the bricks and stones and concrete of our towers and bunkers are simply not transparent. They don't just protect us and shield us, but they blind us to where others are.

Even our most fervently held beliefs are simply stones in the wall, often preventing us from understanding someone else. And when someone doesn't understand us when we think they should ... so often we begin casting our stones at them, trying to bury them in our beliefs - sometimes without even realizing we're doing it. Of course, this only makes us build our own walls thicker and higher ...

... and people are afraid to merge.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:51 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 7, 2008


Gotta love the "low risk" tagging in San Francisco. Bored in class? Draw a tag on a sticker and then label your way to tagging fame out on the street!

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:26 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 29, 2007

Hardest Thing I've Ever Not Done

I don't know what day it is anymore. Yes, the calendar tells me that it is currently 7:18 a.m. on a Saturday. But I don't know if this is still today or if it's yesterday.

You see, my partner has to be at work by 5 a.m. Needs to be up by 3:45 a.m. to make it to work on time. Neither of us are morning people. At. All. So you can probably extrapolate that needing to go to bed by 8 p.m. in order to get close to 8 hours of sleep a night is not a particularly easy task.

After seeing a neurologist for migraines a few weeks ago, the doctor re-iterated that getting regular sleep and enough of it, was vital to helping stop the migraine cycle. He said that if we were having a constant struggle to be able to go to bed at that hideously early answer, to NOT go to bed then. Instead, he said that we should stay up later and later and later each night over a vacation. Stay up later every evening. He said it would reset the internal clock better than trying to force ourselves to go to bed at 8 p.m. every night.

So, we stayed up to 2 a.m. ... and then we made a jump to 6 a.m. ... we were going to shoot for 10 a.m. the next day ... but then we realized we had hair appointments and would not get 8 hours if we stayed up until 10. So, we went to bed at 6 a.m. again.

Tonight we are trying to hold out until 10 or 11 a.m. before we go to sleep for the "night."

Not going to sleep at this point, is the hardest thing I've ever done. Which makes it the hardest thing I've ever not done.

I think.

My brain is fogged, my eyesight is blurred and I'm starting to shake. But if we can get our internal clocks to reset, it'll be worth it. I think.

But I dunno, because I can hardly think at the moment.

All I can think right now is that the neurologist said "If you have to take a nap, it can't be any longer than 20 minutes. You'll wake up refreshed after 20 minutes."

I'm thinking this dude never tried this technique himself and tried to take a 20 minute nap. Cuz I just took a 20 ... and I'm telling ya, I don't hardly know what I'm doing anymore.

Am I sleep-blogging?f

The question is beyond me at the moment.

But if you don't hear much from me ... or see too much activity ... then you know I'm prolly off hoarding another 20 minute nap.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:16 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 24, 2007

Cannon Fodder

Their commercial states: Know what I love about WalMart ... they really know how to help me drop the hint.

Know what I hate about WalMart ... they really know how to hit below the belt.

So, this woman works full-time for WalMart. She buys into the health insurance plan offered by the company. There's a clause there, that's in most health insurance contracts currently ... and really, what choice do you have? Do without health insurance ... attempt to get individual insurance ... or simply accept the crazy clauses added by the company you work for. Not a lot of choice when you're working for the types of wages available to most retail workers.

At any rate, she's out and about one day and the unthinkable happens. She's hit by a semi-truck. Hospitalized ... eventually the dust settles ... she's a paraplegic and brain damaged. Will need a respirator to continue breathing. Special wheelchair. Probably at least some hospice care when she returns home. Definitely the house will need to be remodeled to accommodate her new condition.

The family sues the trucking company and wins enough to pay for the home renovations. Pay the hospital bills.

And then WalMart's health insurance carrier exercised the clause which allows them to sue the Shank family to recover the $470,000 dollars it paid out for her care following the accident. Now, the victim of this accident owes WalMart's health insurance carrier another $10000 ... after they've already given them all the rest of the money from the settlement.

Quoted from:
The Shanks and WalMart

Few such cases have attracted as much attention in legal circles as the Shanks'. Mrs. Shank took a job in 1999 stocking shelves at a Wal-Mart store in Cape Girardieu, Mo. She jumped at the shift from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. so that she could spend days at home with her three sons, Mr. Shank says. After a probation period, she qualified for benefits under the Wal-Mart health plan in February 2000.
One day about three months later, as she and a girlfriend were touring local yard sales, a semi-trailer truck plowed into the driver's side of her minivan. Her friend's injuries were minor, but Mrs. Shank suffered major brain trauma and spent the next several weeks in intensive care. She drifted in and out of a coma, and the hospital, for months.
"One doctor didn't give her any chance," says Mr. Shank, a maintenance worker at Southeast Missouri State University. Her medical bills climbed past $460,000. The health plan paid them promptly. "They were terrific in that respect," he says.
It also sent Mr. Shank several notices that he was to inform Wal-Mart's health plan before he settled any suit. In 2002, the Shanks did sue and won a settlement from G.E.M. Transportation Inc., owner of the truck. The firm had only $1 million in liability coverage, though. For his own losses, Mr. Shank received $200,000, of which $119,000 remained after legal expenses. He says he spent most of it toward a one-story house fitted with ramps and wider doors, which is more accessible than the family's previous three-level home.
Mrs. Shank's own settlement was $700,000. After legal expenses and attorney fees, the remaining $417,477 was placed in a court-created special trust designed specifically for Mrs. Shank's future care. The Shanks' lawyer, Maurice Graham, wrote the Wal-Mart health plan informing them. Mrs. Shank had received no funds directly, he said, and therefore had nothing to pay Wal-Mart back.
Nearly three years went by, Mr. Shank says, before they heard again from Wal-Mart. Mrs. Shank struggled a year rotating in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation programs. She could no longer use her right arm or three fingers on her left hand because of neurological damage. She couldn't feed or dress herself and conversations with her family were limited to all but simple questions. Eventually, her husband moved her to a nursing home for around-the-clock care. Medicare and Medicaid pay for the nursing home. Mr. Shank used some of the trust's proceeds to continue paying a private aide to care for her there.
"We wanted her to have a decent quality of life, and we still had the money," he says. He hoped he could also use it to pay the roughly $130,000 in bills for Mrs. Shank's rehabilitation and a return hospital visit after her coverage expired.
But in August 2005, Wal-Mart re-emerged with a lawsuit against the Shanks demanding repayment for $469,216 in medical costs out of their settlement. It charged that the Shanks had violated the terms of the health plan by not reimbursing it. The company also demanded payment of legal fees and interest for the cost of suing the Shanks for the money.
Mr. Graham, the Shanks' attorney, says he approached Wal-Mart's attorneys about negotiating a compromise, but was told the health plan wanted to proceed with the lawsuit. "We're not contending that Wal-Mart isn't entitled to a payment. We're saying they're entitled to one based on equity," he says. Since Mrs. Shank wasn't fully compensated for her damages in the first place, he argues, Wal-Mart should also expect only partial reimbursement.
Administrators of employer-financed health plans "have an obligation to participants to be impartial," the Wal-Mart spokeswoman says. "Virtually all health plans include subrogation provisions as a way to control health plan costs."
In August last year, U.S. district judge Lewis Blanton sided with Wal-Mart, ruling that when Mrs. Shank signed on to Wal-Mart's health plan she was obligated to abide by its terms.
The ruling came six days before the Shanks' 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in September last year in Iraq shortly after he arrived in the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division.
"I wanted to give up at that point, tell Wal-Mart they won," Mr. Shank says, but his lawyer, Mr. Graham, said he'd continue with appeals.
Mrs. Shank went to Jeremy's funeral. But because of memory problems due to her injuries, she gets confused about what happened. On a recent morning, she cried several times and asked what had happened to her middle son. Mr. Shank says that he obtained a divorce from Mrs. Shank this year, partly because of advice from a health-care administrator that she might be more eligible for public aid as a single woman. Mrs. Shank, who has been declared incompetent by a court, hasn't been informed of the divorce by her family.

What kills me is that WalMart insurance carrier let three years go past before deciding to pursue "their" money. Three years in which the family attempted to put their lives back together. To make sure that Mrs. Shank would have a good quality of what remained of her life.

Now, the family is in pieces. Changed beyond the telling of it.

They thought they were lucky to get a settlement out of the trucking company. And, they were to a certain extent. But since that point, their luck turned back to the same luck that led to Mrs. Shank being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the semi came plowing into her mini-van.

The luck of so many Americans who are forced to live on small income and seen as simply "cannon fodder" in the war of the corporations to gain gold and power.

That sentence is not meant to be as over-dramatic as it may sound. Instead, it is meant to reference early times. When the powerful simply didn't think the underclasses mattered. That they were simple cannon fodder, meant to be sacrificed so that the powerful might live well and heartily.

Sadly, this seems the one lesson in history that we are condemned to repeat in some kind of Sisyphean cycle of hell.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:08 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 14, 2007


My mom went to Catholic school. I think this is where she picked up her intense love-affair with edicts - rules which were written in stone and were absolutely iron-clad. And they worked for her throughout much of her life ... when I was first diagnosed with asthma and allergies at age 3, her love-affair with organization and rules (commonly known as OCD today) rose to the challenge. Monday and Friday were vacuuming days. The ENTIRE house was vacuumed those days. Since one of my allergies was dust, the doctor told Mom that the house had to be very clean - I had a box springs covered in plastic. Actually, I probably should have been in a bubble.

Anyhow, Mom had her set days to vacuum, to wash clothes, to wash the sheets. In time, it went from a routine to a full blown obsession, as did most of Mom's edicts.

Many of her edicts didn't make sense, however. Not long after we'd moved away from my beloved Austin, my new school had "Hat Day." I was in third grade now and after so many peer group moves in short succession, (kindergarten and first grade in one school, second grade in another, a new peer group when I went back to my old school for third grade ... and then moving to Arlington after just the first six weeks of third grade), I was struggling to make friends. I was eager to participate in Hat Day. This just seemed perfect for my Donald Duck baseball cap. It was a nice red ballcap with a circle appliqué of Donald's head. Not too kiddie, but cartoons are a great way to start conversations when you're eight.

Mom's edict: no Donald Duck hat for school that day. I was too old for such things and I would be teased.

I was in shock. I argued. I presented cogent arguments. When I realized that logic would not budge her, I whined, wailed and threw everything short of a full-blown fit.

And then I got stubborn. I shoved the cap down the back of my pants. (I had no homework and so I never had a bag to take stuff home ... and if I'd had one, she would have checked that.)

I went to school and my hat was a huge hit, just as I'd known it would be.

All hell broke loose as I attempted to smuggle the hat back into the house. She'd gone looking for it whilst I was at school. I denied, quite plausibly. She couldn't see where I'd hidden it. She screamed. She hollered. She told me she'd invaded my inner sanctum and conducted a thorough search. She KNEW I had worn it to school explicitly against her wishes, and by gum, I was to cough up that damn cap NOW!

I fished it out (and wasn't she just HORRIFIED to discover it was keeping my li'l ass warm when it wasn't on my head) and I handed it over.

It went into the kitchen trash.

I fished it right out.


She yanked it out of my hands and threw it in the trash again. This time I did throw a complete and total fit. I had disobeyed and been caught and I fully expected punishment. But this? This didn't seem like a punishment to fit the crime to my about-to-turn-nine-years-old mind. Grounding, no TV, no hats for a month. But throwing away my favourite Disney World souvenir because I wore the cap to school on Hat Day????

(And no, I'm still not over that hat. I see a red ball cap like that to this day and whine about my Donald Duck cap.)

There were other edicts passed down through the years. A favourite one is that you have to make a recipe EXACTLY like the recipe card or book says. If an ingredient says "(optional)" next to it, that comment you ignore. Everything on that card goes into that recipe, darnit! It got to the point where I hated it when my mom made "Grandma's Chocolate Cake" ... because she always put nuts in the frosting. I like nuts, but not in that frosting. And they made the roof of my mouth itch, which didn't make for a pleasant birthday cake, really.

Once, after a hard day at high school, I decided I wanted some chips and dip. We didn't have any dip. So I thought for a moment. Most dips were either cheese based or sour cream based. I got out the sour cream, dumped some in a bowl and headed to the spice rack. I don't recall now everything I dumped in there ... it was more of an open the jar, sniff and dump kind of thing. Hey, that smells good, put some of that in there.

I sat down to enjoy my snack and my little sister waltzes in. I share, not super willingly as I really hadn't made enough for two people, but I do let her have some. We're chowing down happily.



MOM: Where did you get that?
LI'L RED MONKEY: From the fridge.
MOM (horrified): That wasn't in there this morning. Where did you get it?
LI'L RED MONKEY: I made it.
MOM (panicked now): Where's the recipe? (looks around frantically)
LI'L RED MONKEY: There's not one, I just added stuff to it until I liked it.
MOM: You can't DO that!
MOM: You have to have a recipe! You'll get food poisoning and die!

I think I was about 15. You can imagine the snotty teenaged reactions after that. Unfortunately, my sister did get a stomach upset after eating it, which just further codified Mom's belief that You Must Always Have a Recipe Created By a Licensed Chef.

Never mind that my sister was lactose intolerant and just ate a bunch of sour cream ....

Don't confuse Mom with facts. It's not nice.

The interesting thing to me, though, is how all of Mom's edicts were supposedly designed to keep us as collectible children in mint condition ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:15 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 10, 2007

WTF is WRONG with People?

So here's the deal:

I'm pissed off. Like seriously pissed off.

I have a friend who has not had the world's easiest life. Dealt a crap hand in terms of parents. Neighbors who knew and did nothing. Left home before finishing high school ... and yet still finished high school. Had to work to support herself. Did so. Did good, valuable and helpful work ... but day care teachers don't make a whole lot. If I'm remembering correctly, she was working two jobs when we met. A nursery school during the day and a drop-in day care in the evenings.

This is someone I admire a hell of a lot. She kept trying to pull ahead to do everything she needed to do to take care of herself and be independent. Took classes at the junior college as she could afford it.

But when I say dealt a crap hand in terms of parents ... I kind of understated that. A LOT. Which created some issues. Which to be perfectly honest, she tried her best to deal with. And she was doing the work that needed to be done. But, as they say, shit happens. Better described, various health problems happened.

And, despite there being real health issues, the doctors apparently decided she was just another hysterical female. The blew off things that they should have pursued. Hospital stays finally cost her her jobs. And the shit continued to happen. And she continued fighting and trying to do everything possible to stay independent and together.

Finally, she was getting dizzy and falling. Back issues. The docs kept putting things off. She wasn't a priority. She could wait.

She tripped in her living room and fell. Not down a flight of stairs or anything. Just fell.

Blew out three vertebrae. Paralyzed. Stuck in a nursing home.

Now to be perfectly honest, I'm pissed off enough about all of that. I wanna holler that little kid plea, "It's not fair!" And it's not fair, but it's life. That's the way this shit goes, I guess.

But what has me really hot now is that she's dependent on the nursing home. Despite all these years of trying to make sure she stayed independent. And they are NOT taking care of her; they're making it as difficult as possible for her to do much of anything.

And the last straw for me is this:
She was using a transfer board to get from her bed to her wheelchair. Fell. Broke her tibia.

I found out last night that the doctors didn't even bother to set the leg. It's still swollen. She may be in a wheelchair, but she's paralyzed - and still has feeling in her legs - and the leg still freaking hurts. They put a short boot on her and called it done. Last night a nurse told her the only way to set the leg was through surgery ... and with a pulmonary embolism, dead spots on the lungs ... surgery is not really an option.

But I just can't believe that this is the best care. I just can't believe that just putting a short boot on someone and calling it good enough is standard care in this situation.

I'm tired of people treating people like crap. Why can't they just do their damn jobs? If you're in a profession to HELP people, then freaking HELP THEM. What the hell is with this ignoring them or thinking that crappy care is "good enough" for those people? I mean really. Why do people have to be like that? It's not that hard to do what's right, especially when it's your job. Why do so many people have to take this "easy" out of just being lazy?

WTF is wrong with people anyway?

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:58 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 8, 2007

Paddington Bear ARRESTED

Prime Minister Brown is set to take on illegal immigration in the U.K. and has served notice by going after one of the most loved and well-known illegal immigrants in the U.K. - Paddington Bear.

"It's an outrage!" claimed Paddington from his home West London after his initial release pending further investigation. "I was a mere cub and was forced onto the boat by my auntie. I knew nothing of immigration papers or applications."

However, a neighbor in Notting Hill recalls a gleeful young Paddington bragging about beating the system. "He was constantly laughing at me and telling me to call the Border and Immigration Agency but that it would do no good. He said he knew someone on the inside and that I was simply a cranky curry to be tossed in the bin and thought of no more."

"I may be from darkest Peru," the angry bear stated early in the day from his holding cell, "but I know this is just a ploy to boost his polls. I don't understand why the government must persecute me in this way."

The Home Office had this to say: "We are taking a robust approach to tracking down people who have no right to be here and removing them from the UK."

However, Mr. Bear's family and friends claim this is all a dark plot to paint Mr. Bear as a terrorist. "We just don't understand why the government would make these claims! Certainly his fur is a sand tan colour, but he is Peruvian, not Middle Eastern. This is racial profiling at its absolute lowest form - because it's not even based on facts, just the appearance of a different ethnicity."

Long-time friend and companion, Pooh Bear of 100 Acre Woods, declared he overheard two bobbies claiming Paddington Bear quite obviously fit the profile of a suicide bearer. "I mean, indeed!" exclaimed Mr. Pooh Bear. "Everyone is quite well aware that the phrase is suicide bomber, not bearer. This is simply gross bearism in its most heinous form."

Mr. Bear has resided at 32 Windsor Gardens, Notting Hill, west London since his arrival in the U.K. some fifty years ago.

BBC article regarding the arrest here.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:59 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 10, 2007

Geeked Redux

I love Apple. I do. But they have really pulled a Micro$loth this time.

I finally got everything backed up, wiped the hard drive and did a clean install of Leopard. I am seriously contemplating going back to Tiger.

Firefox is acting squirrely: it won't download; it crashes the program. If I do a restore session after the crash, some of the tabs will not reload, giving a Server not found error, even though the page had been loaded earlier.

Thunderbird is still not working right. Messages with an attachment will not open; if I do try to open the message, it crashes the program. I've re-installed. Same issues. Made a new profile. No joy.

YIM and AIM are both problematic. AIM is completely doa. YIM works for a while and then will quit unexpectedly.

I've flitted around the Apple discussion boards and the Mozilla boards and found no joy so far. However, it does seem that the issue might be something that Apple apparently "added" at the last minute. Besides the usual "permissions" for various folders and files in an Apple machine, there are now also ACLs (access control lists). Apparently there are conflicts and they're not easy for the computer novice to untangle. In fact, I'm not really sure that I want to try to tackle this issue myself.

My guess at the moment is this: there's a file or directory that Thunderbird requires for attachments whose ACL is set to something it shouldn't be. Why do I think this? Because when the issue first began, I noticed that the Library directory had a permission which was set to Read Only. I reset the entire directory to Read/Write permissions. It worked for a while, then it locked back down. Fixed it again. Worked for a while. Now the permissions appear to be set correctly, but the issue is still there. Unfortunately, I have no idea what file or directory might have a conflicting ACL from what Thunderbird thinks it should be.

So, until someone creates a third part app to help us manage the ACLs (so we don't have to delve into the command line) or until Apple fixes the mess they made at the last minute, I guess I'm just going to limp along until I get so ticked off, I re-install Tiger. Hopefully there will be a fix before that.

Apple? Ya listening? Here's a big hint. No matter how much we might wish a new operating system might come out sooner ... please, please, please ... we'd much rather deal with it coming late than it shipping before it's truly tested and done. I mean, you guys know better. You're not Microsloth. Sheesh.

Oh, and my opinion of Leopard minus the issues? Dunno. I'm still fighting it too damn much to notice what the changes have been. I haven't fired up any of the new apps like Time Machine or Spaces.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:37 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 9, 2007

Geek Alert


So, I thought I had the computer straightened out. Was waiting for Super Duper to be upgraded for Leopard, and was gonna run a bootable backup, delete the hard drive and then get everything all settled again.

Thunderbird started acting goofy again. Checked the permissions ... they'd reset. Grr. That's what I get for running a "repair permissions" utility. So, I reset the permissions, Thunderbird worked again. For about four hours.

I decide to get out my new USB Snowball mic from Blue and see how it works. I'm not gonna get into podcasting, but I have been thinking of performing one of my short stories and putting it out there. Hmm, it's a plug and play mic. Plug it in ... suddenly flurry of "this extension and that one aren't properly installed." The sound drivers are, apparently, fried.

Frustrated and ticked off, I said, screw it. I'll just back up everything I can on the new 500 gb backup drive. Plug it in.

Flurry of similar messages. No firewire capability either.

So, now I am truly in computer hell. I have the older laptop hooked up to the new one via firewire. Starting the old one in "firewire target mode" works fine since that really bypasses the screwed up OS.

But I only have the one firewire port on this old machine. So that means I'm hooking up to the nifty backup harddrive by USB 2.0. Shit. Slower than hell.

So, I now have 2 17" laptops on my drawing table, wires everywhere, the backup hard drive. Oh, and the extra power cord for the old laptop? That has to be plugged in exactly right or it won't register. It is actually taped down in one spot to help keep it from jiggling around too much.

It took about 6 hours to back up the Applications directory. It has taken over 15 hours so far to backup the Users directory and I still have about an hour to go on that folder. I still have the Library and the System Folder to go.

And, ultimately, this is what I get for loading some "haxies" on my machine. This is not a typical Mac kind of upgrade problem. However, I had APE loaded on my machine ... and then had promptly forgotten about it. APE "hacks" into the core systems of the computer ... and there was a new version out. I didn't know. Didn't pay attention. (Bad computer user, BAD!) Apparently, this old version of APE causes the upgrade to Leopard to misfire, which has caused the bulk of my problems.


So, once everything looks to be upgraded, I'm going to wipe the drive and then do a "clean install" of Leopard. Then slowly move all the pieces back over. At least by then I'll be able to move the second laptop back into the "server room" and get the printer hooked back up.

What a mess. And all for two reasons:
1) I did not keep all my software updated
2) I did not have a good, solid, bootable backup

Bad, bad computer user. The sad thing is, I know better. And I'm lucky. I kept my old laptop to use as a server, so I had something of a backup plan going. And I do know how to pull files off of an apparently "dead" computer without wiping down the hard drive and starting over again. I'm lucky. I'm sure there are plenty of Mac users out there who are pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do. I know there are, I've been to the discussion boards at Apple.

And here's the deal about that. Most of us Apple users have become too complacent. Apple upgrades work. Apple hardware rarely fails. We're used to small company software and shareware because so many of the "big boys" haven't wanted to develop for the Mac. And we're used to these "hobbyists" being at least as professional as the second tier software makers for PeeCees. We're used to automatic updates.

The Mac market is getting larger now. More machines means more hardware failures ... that's a fact of our manufacturing and capitalist life. Apple delayed the Leopard release some this year, but apparently not quite long enough. (And hey, it's still a damn sight better than that Vista crap.) Apple has warned us for years to be careful hacking around in the system ... that things could change that would make the machine behave erratically. And, as the Mac market continues to grow, we're going to get more viruses as well ... and spyware ... we've been incredibly lucky so far.

We've got to stop being so darn complacent and remember that if we really want to continue relying on these machines ... we need to be more vigilant and protect our data actively.


Another 53 minutes is the latest estimate on that Users directory. At least I'm getting caught up on my reading.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:45 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 6, 2007

Politically Correct

Oh, how most of us just dread that phrase, including me. It's become an epithet of everything that's wrong with Western society ... with people too frightened, too cowed, too weak to call a spade a spade. (I was in college before I understood that the previous phrase was not really talking about shovels and then I was horrified ....)

The way most of us now use the phrase "politically correct" came about in the 1970s. At that time, it was used to begin a movement to use neutral language with regard to sex (the he/she issue). But it goes beyond that original s/he issue and has truly attempted to move into neutral language. And here is where complexity meets intentions and confuses the whole damn mess.

An attempt to use neutral language is an attempt to be polite, to consider the feelings of other people. It is not an attempt - or it shouldn't be - to dilute experience and identity. It is not an attempt to emasculate anyone. It is not an attempt to do away with "plain speech."

And yet, over its evolution, it has often become those things by misguided people eager to right every wrong and react to every word in a far too sympathetic way.

Wikipedia discusses the word "deaf," for example. Often described as "deaf and dumb" - an obvious value-negative phrase - doubtless some well-meaning group decided that "hearing-impaired" was a better term. But like many do-gooders, they forgot to ask those within that group what they thought of each label. As it turned out, the deaf preferred that word and were offended by "hearing impaired."

Does it really matter if I call someone who can't hear me "deaf" or "hearing-impaired"?
Does it really matter if I call the latino kid down the street a "wetback" or "hispanic" or "latino"?

If I walk into a job interview and say something about the "spics" down the street, am I likely to get the job?

There is a time and a place for all kinds of language. We humans have, through centuries of development, found ways of communicating with different groups of people. We speak differently with our grandmothers than with our best friends. We do not necessarily speak any less truthfully with Grandma than with Tim, but we do not use the same word choices.

Using value-neutral language is the same concept. When we are with people we do not know, we revert to a more value-neutral language than that which we might use with close friends.

Another example:
homosexual, gay, gay woman, lesbian, dyke, queer, lesbo, friend of Sappho, fag, faggot, fairy, queen

In the company of people I don't know, if someone who loved a person of the same sex became a topic of discussion, I would assume that most people would default to a more value-neutral word. They would probably use one of the first four phrases to talk about this individual. Our society has, by general consensus, declared those terms as the least negatively charged phrases to describe someone who loves a person of the same sex.

However, whilst I was in high school in the mid to late eighties, I heard news report after news report with the phrase "crazed lesbian." "Today, a crazed lesbian broke into Sharon Gless' home." The two words seemed to always be paired together. For me, "lesbian" became a very value-negative word. As I went to college, I met a fair number of people in the field of writing and rhetoric. They were all about the power of words and the taking back the power of words as symbols. Thus, I heard the word "dyke" used in a very positive manner. Because of this set of experiences, my personal "value-neutral" phrase for a woman who is homosexual is not homosexual, is not lesbian. Either the word gay or dyke seems the most value-neutral to me.

Do I correct the random person on the street for saying "lesbian"? No! Not at all! I know that for the largest segment of the population, that word is fairly value-neutral. (Or as neutral as the topic itself can be.) I might grit my teeth a little because the word annoys me, but that's it. The random person on the street using the term "lesbian" is usually attempting to be either friendly or non-judgmental.

Among friends, I will use the word dyke. Not with all of my friends, just those who are relatively like-minded.

Why? Why do we put ourselves through these gyrations of multiple words all meaning the same thing? Why are we afraid to call a spade a spade?

It's about respect.

As a word comes into our common vocabulary with a new definition (gay, for example), it also begins growing its own history. With that history comes emotional ties. I respect someone I do not know enough to want to choose a value-neutral word in regard to them. I don't wish to upset someone I don't even know just by a sloppy choice of word. Of course, given the varied experiences of every human, it's impossible that I will always choose the correct term. But I try to make the effort and I try to listen and adapt my vocabulary when the language, once again, shifts.

For me, choosing one term over another has nothing to do with being "politically" correct. It has to do with being polite, with being empathetic, with being cognizant that our words can hurt.

Consider the shift from Indian to Native American. The people already indigenous to North America were called Indians because the whites thought they'd landed in India ... the term Indian, therefore, was grossly wrong and reflected a heritage completely different. And, while it might not be as fun for kids to say they're playing Cowboys and Native Americans ... it would be, in my opinion, even better if the kids said they were playing Cowboys and Comanches instead.

You see, I think that even referring to all the indigenous people as Native Americans is a disservice. There are at least 335 recognized "tribes" in the U.S. alone, many of them sharing few similarities. Those 335 can be subdivided into bands which don't necessarily have a lot in common. I would rather talk about the Navajo or the Acoma Pueblo than talk so generally about such a diverse group.

And absolutely ALL of this mess goes back to our biological and psychological imperative to categorize. As humans we are creatures of patterns. We look for the patterns in life, events, people and we attempt to box them. We know, intellectually, that people fit into multiple boxes, and yet it's easier to categorize Catholics one way, Jehovah's Witnesses another. To categorize latinos one way and whites another.

But I am more than any of the boxes one might stick me in.
The English teacher in me cringes at the dangling preposition in that previous sentence. The writer in me knows that this more colloquial way of speak-writing finds a larger audience.

To my mind, attempting to use a value-neutral term is to respect and acknowledge that while we are discussing a generalization (people born in Latin America), we are not necessarily putting someone in a derogatory box. We are attempting to acknowledge that we are all more than just one box.

And people ask me why I hate About Me boxes ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:06 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 13, 2007

Serenity: Oh God, Oh God, We're All Going to Die

Martin Lee Anderson was sent to a boot camp for juvenile offenders at the age of 14. The first day there, he threw a fit at the exercises, like most 14 year olds faced with what looks to them like pointless indoctrination. He wanted to stop, he called it bullshit. Typical 14 year old rebellion. And, of course, you can't have that in a boot camp. You have to have fast discipline. So, the guards jumped the kid and "forced him" to continue the exercises. They held him down, they put him in take-down, they applied pressure points ... and I gotta say, I'm not sure how those things are forcing the boy to continue exercising ... sounds pretty much like forcing him to be still, to me. Finally, they forced him to inhale ammonia.

During this process, the boy went "unresponsive" in official-ese.

The first autopsy declared that the boy had a previously-undiagnosed blood disease which the staff couldn't have known. And that this was the cause of death. Announced five weeks after the boy's death.

Video showed the boy being kicked and punched. And ammonia capsules being shoved up his nose.

The family screamed.

A second autopsy was called for, the dead boy exhumed to be examined again, this time by the coroner of the county as well as several other forensic pathologists and a New York State Police coroner as well. The results indicated that the boy did have the "trait" of the blood disorder (meaning it was pretty much a non-issue rather than an active disease). They also noted that despite the bruising, the boy was not beaten to death.

According to the press release by the state attorney, nearly 5 months after the boy's death:

Martin Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to actions of the guards at the boot camp. The suffocation was caused by manual occlusion of the mouth, in concert with forced inhalation of
ammonia fumes that caused spasm of the vocal cords resulting in internal blockage of the upper airway.

Governor Jeb Bush claimed he was disturbed by the findings and that he would ensure that justice was served.

Was Martin a bad kid who deserved to be beaten the first day at the camp?

According to the BBC, "The teenager had been sent to the camp for violating probation by trespassing at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car from a church parking lot."

So, the eight various employees found themselves embroiled in a criminal suit.

Their defense? They used the procedures of the camp, designed to instill discipline. They claimed the boy was faking illness to get out of the exercises.

The response to Martin's death has been that all of the state's bootcamps are now closed. The head of the department of law enforcement stepped down.

The verdict has now come back after just 90 minutes of deliberation. Despite the fact that Governor Charlie Crist recommended the state pay $5million to the family, the jury has found the 8 defendants not guilty.

The all-white jury. Sitting in on the trial in which a 14 year old black boy was killed.

For whatever reason, I don't normally think of Florida as a part of "The South." Georgia is, of course, but for some reason, Florida is just kind of a separate entity, I suppose, in its own way like Texas is and Alaska and Hawaii.

When I look at an all white jury taking just 90 minutes to decide this case dealing with the death of a 14 year old black boy ... I have to re-think my gut reaction to not consider Florida a part of The South.

And I know better, really. I know that it doesn't matter what state we discuss. There are still numerous cases of racism around the United States, on a regular basis.

When Martin was killed, there had been ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY complaints of excessive force at the boot camp where he'd been killed.

After Martin's death, the use of ammonia capsules was banned. After Martin's death the use of violent measures such as punching and kicking the inmates of the camps was banned. Approximately four months after Martin's death, the boot camps were closed.

Was Martin Lee Anderson killed because he was a black boy?
Were the employees directly involved in his death acquitted because they were judged by a white jury?

I don't know.

I suspect these things are true. I suspect this because of my own experience. I fear that this is true and it hurts me.

Recently, a young man on BlogCatalog asked Do You Care About Racism?

And I had to respond, hell yes I care. I had to respond that I do think about this every day.

Do I care because of Martin Anderson? Yes, it's true that his story makes me care. It's true that the story of the Jena 6 makes me care.

But I also care about the issue of racism because of what I, personally, witness every day. Not in "The South." I witness it in northern Indiana. I watch as people cringe from the dark-skinned black man across the street.

I watch as people make fun of the Orthodox Jews who walk through our neighborhood on their way to shul.

I watch as people treat the latinos in town as less than human.

I watch, and I try to not stay silent. I try to NOT be the voyeur witnessing the pain of others.

And I get "that look" from my "fellow" whites. They are not happy with me, and I don't care.

For whatever reason, as a child, I knew that there was no difference between myself and "them mexicans." There was no difference between me and Jon Comb, who happened to be Jewish. There was no difference between me and Paula, the black girl who befriended me in junior high.

The only difference between "them" and "us" was circumstance. Colour did not enter into it. Other people's perceptions of us coloured who they thought we were. But it really didn't matter which of us was white, brown or black.

I mostly do not see colour, myself. I haven't seen colour since I was about seven.

Why can't everyone else? Why does it matter to ANYONE if someone is black, brown, yellow or white? What does it matter if they are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu or Muslim?

Why must we keep sticking our noses into other peoples' private lives?

Do I care about racism?

I hurt knowing that people cannot celebrate differences but must instead rail about anyone different from themselves. So, yeah. I care. Not about the various colours of the people I know and don't know. I care that others are not colour blind. I care that people even fucking notice the difference between Jamaal and Chaim and John and Juan.

But what really haunts me?

What really haunts me this month of October ... this month of the dead ...
are the number of dead in the name of "I'm right and you're not" ... whether we're talking race or religion or just good old-fashioned us versus them.

Does this haunt you?

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:12 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 2, 2007

Quit Pulling My Leg

People will save anything. I should know. I'm a consummate pack rat myself. When I moved from Texas to Indiana, I broke down and got rid of a bunch of stuff. And I do mean stuff.

Eight big, black, bloated bags of umm. Well. I feel kinda sheepish explaining it to you. They were filled with cardboard and umm packing materials and bits of plastic and string and umm, nifty looking stuff.

Now, in my defense, I'm a crafty li'l bugger. I make things. Things like this toy. Or this wall desk. So while I hoard "stuff" ... I try to keep it down to stuff I will actually use. (And I took all eight of those bags of good stuff over to a friend's house ... he is also a consummate stuff-maker.)

But there is stuff that you keep and trade and even sell. And there is stuff that you simply don't mess with.

For example, this dude in North Carolina. He was in a plane crash back in 2004.

Well actually, let me start with the recent events instead.

Ya see, if you don't pay your bill at a storage facility, they sell your crap. You know, to make their money back and stuff. So, this bloke buys a decent little smoker and thinks, hey, I can have a barbecue this weekend. He gets his sales slip that says he owns the smoker and its contents.

Yeah, about that.

Mr Whisnant gets home (have you noticed his name? I tell you, you can not make this shit up ... he sounds like a pissant to me) and he opens up the smoker ... ready to fire it up. Luckily he looked inside first. (Is the suspense killing you yet?)

Inside the smoker is ...

really, you won't believe this one.

An amputated leg.

See, back in 2004, Mr Wood was in a plane crash and his leg was amputated. But he wanted to be buried "a whole man" (several religions require this, so it's not quite as odd as it might sound). So, of course, Mr Whisnant calls the cops, who determine that it was not removed by a serial leg collector or anything, and they toss it at a local funeral home so that Mr Wood can have his leg back. (Are you kidding me? I mean, really? His name is Mr Wood? There are sooooo many places you could go with that name. But I'll leave that to Happily Anonymous instead.)

Meanwhile, Mr Whisnant has been selling tickets to the nearby vaguely sentient creatures that somewhat pass for human in his locale. Tickets to what? To look at the inside of the freaking empty grill. The one that used to hold a human leg.

And, apparently, business in looking at an empty grill is just BOOMING in Maiden, North Carolina. I mean, really, what else is there to do there? Skip stones like Opie and Andy Griffith? So, Mr Whisnant asked the funeral home to give him the leg back. After all, it was found in his cooker and it ought to be his leg, right?

The funeral home refused. Mr Whisnant contacted Mr Wood and asked for, get this, shared custody. Why? Because he can charge more money for his tickets it being close to Halloween and all.

Mr Wood insists he doesn't really want to make any money off his leg.

Naturally, this has pissed off the intrepid Mr Whatsit, I mean, Mr Whisnant. He has a receipt, dammit. He paid for the thing! By gum and by golly, that's his leg now and he can dance around as the three-legged wonder man if he jolly well wants to. It's his god-given american RIGHT by virtue of the almighty dollar!

Yeah, he says if they don't give him his furry foot back ... sorry, that's a kid's halloween story, my bad ... if they don't give him Mr Wood's amputated leg back, he's gonna take 'em to court.

According to the BBC, he claims: "Everybody knows it's mine, period," he said. "And if anyone tries to take it, I want everything they got."

Now there's a real humanitarian for you.

I'm pretty sure you can't really buy and sell actual body parts. I think he maybe doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. I'm thinking he might just have to stand on his own two legs with this one.

Questions for the astute among you:
1) How badly does Mr Wood want to be buried a whole man if he forgot he left his leg in a smoker in a storage facility in North Carolina? (he lives in Greenville, South Carolina, now)
2) What does that leg look like after it was amputated THREE frigging years ago? Is it preserved in some way? Has it already been embalmed?
3) Despite the fact that I am a Southerner, I firmly believe that Mr Pissant must be a buck-toothed yokel from the sticks to really think he's gonna keep that leg. What do you think? Is this guy that one from the trailer park the media keeps "on tap" for every natural disaster which occurs in the South?

(I know, I know. I'm so going to hell for this post.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:12 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 12, 2007

Eating Crow

Today we're not so prejudiced that we have water fountains labeled White and Colored. We allow "them" to sit at the lunch counter with "us." And still, it seems, "they" have the gall to complain.

Until you read about Jena, Louisiana, and the "white tree."

Now it's being called stealth racism because instead of being codified in Jim Crow laws, it's being played out "unofficially" ... it's not written down ... therefore it doesn't happen.

The problem with this theory often used by those trying to cover up their racist views is that it is written down. And, sadly, one of the best examples is from my own home state, although I'm told it's prevalent throughout the States.

The written record is in our legal system, but unlike the Jim Crow laws, these are "codified" in the way that we choose to pursue justice, who we sentence, and what sentence they receive. The bulk of crimes "deserving" the death penalty are sentences handed to black men. (Look at the race of those executed in Texas since the re-instatement of the death penalty.) Black violence to white = harsher punishment.

Another example? Look more closely at the Jena, Louisiana, issues. A black student "jokingly" asked if he could sit under the tree with the white students. You see, all of the white kids sat under the big tree, whilst the black kids sat on the bleachers. They weren't labeled White Tree and Black Bleachers. There was no law that said that. It was simply a case of everyone sticking to their own.

Except the tree was known around town as the white tree, when, in fact, the tree, like most trees, was brown. Now why could it be called the white tree? The principal told the kid he could sit wherever he liked ... but the next morning, 3 nooses were found hanging from the tree.

A schoolyard prank. It didn't mean anything.

Unless you've seen this. Unless you've lived it. Heard relatives telling the "story." And then, you can't help but be chilled by the threat. Can you take that risk? Can you really take that risk that it was just a joke?

The school recommended expulsion for the "pranksters" but the school board over-ruled them and decided a simple in-school suspension was plenty of punishment. No need to escalate things.

Except, of course, that that's exactly what happened. Things escalated as they have a tendency to do. Fights breaking out along racial lines, seeming to culminate with the burning of the main academic building of the school and the blaming of "Them" by "Us," with the definitions changing depending on which group a person was in.

But what has appeared to be a kind of proverbial "last straw" is the arrest of the so-called Jena Six.

One account includes one of the Jena Six attempting to go to a party and being turned away. And then, getting into a fight over the issue. The white man who instigated the violence was eventually charged with simple battery. The next day a white student argued with the black boys and ran to his pick-up truck for his pistol-grip shotgun. Reportedly Robert Bailey took the gun from the white boy and refused to give it back. (Personal aside ... given the situation, I can't say I'd want a pissed off white boy to have his damn shotgun back either!) Bailey was charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery and disturbing the peace. The white boy? Not charged. Had he not brandished the firearm to start with ... but that seems to be beside the point.

The real culmination of this series of events came a few days later at school. Apparently one of the white boys, bragged how the black Bailey had been beaten up by a white man. Later that day, Justin Barker (the white boy) was jumped by the so-called Jena Six (including Robert Bailey). They did beat the crap out of Justin. He was knocked unconscious either by hitting the concrete or by being punched in the head ... but despite a short hospital observation (2 hours), he was released and went to the school's Ring Ceremony that evening.

The six boys were arrested originally for aggravated assault, which was later changed to attempted second degree and conspiracy to murder, not the simple assault/battery that it was. Later, one of the boys had his charge "reduced" to aggravated second degree battery. Sounds better right? That's a charge that requires the use of a "deadly weapon." Okay, so what'd the boy use? A pipe? A big length of thick branch?

His sneakers were dubbed deadly weapons.

The jury was all white.

The court-appointed attorney did not call a single witness to the stand.

It sounds like the days of Jim Crow, and I know every single blogger who has written about this has used the same phrase ... but yanno? It freaking fits ... and that terrifies me.

I'm not saying that the boys don't deserve some repercussions. But when I say that, I mean every single one of them. I mean the boys who put up the nooses. I mean the kids who started fights in the halls. I mean the children who called each other names. I mean the school board who eased the punishment of the noose-boys. I mean the people who burned down the school.

I mean the people who look at each other warily from across the street. Is that white dude going to start something?
Is that black girl going to start screaming at me?

I mean the white dude who decided to teach them uppity black boys a lesson at the party. I mean the boy who had to brandish his shotgun.

I mean all of us. These are the repercussions for our attitudes, for our distrust in those who seem different from us, for our certainty that "we" are good and "they" are wrong, whatever our definitions of we, they, good and wrong.

And there's a march scheduled now for the unfair way the justice system is choosing to pursue the problems in Jena.

It's a start. Trying to keep these issues at the forefront of people's minds. It reminds us not to be complacent. It reminds us to question our motives, not endlessly navel-gazing, but honestly attempting to look at what we do ... and what results those actions have.

Stealth racism. Jim Crow laws. Lynchings. Colored water fountains. Separate but equal.

Racial profiling. Fear of the different.


I am chilled.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:18 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 11, 2007

The Multi-Coloured Coat

I grew up in Texas in the 70s and 80s. I was in first grade during the time period that the movie Dazed and Confused covers. It was the age of Free to Be You and Me and, so far as a little kid could tell, the battle for civil rights was over. Blacks (no longer referred to as "them coloreds") were equal in the eyes of anyone. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a martyred hero who had, through that martyrdom, won.

Of course, I was completely wrong about much of that, but I thought that the time for marching not just for civil rights, but marching against hatred and prejudice, was over.

I was, of course, terribly naive. But what seven year old isn't? By the time I was 13, I realized that I had only been to school with one black child. And I began putting more details together. My mother locked her car doors if a black man was on a street corner. Regardless of what he was wearing/looked like. My father dropped the N-word in regard to Differen' Strokes (and yet he loved Sanford and Son). I still strongly suspect that he did at least a brief stint in the Klan. I was removed from one junior high school and placed in another ... purportedly because the second school had a higher level math class that I could take for only one semester out of the three I had left. In retrospect, this move feels much like my change of schools for second grade ... in junior high, I was fast becoming best friends with Paula. A black girl. In second grade, my teacher was black. And, worse, Austin was preparing to begin busing.

In both cases, my mother thought she was protecting me. She was in the very difficult position of having tried, by her own admission, to raise her children without prejudice ... and yet being unable to let go of those old habits herself. In talking to her about this later, she admitted that she was afraid that whatever the other results of busing, she just knew that if some of the kids (or even the adults) got into an argument, a fight ... that I would be right there in the thick of it, attempting to create peace. And probably getting hurt. Reflecting on who I was back then, I think she was probably correct. It wouldn't have mattered to me who had started it nor even, really, what it was about. I was outspoken about what I felt was right. If a white person picked on a black; or a black person picked on a white, I would have been defending the picked on and trying to make peace.

Even in the case of the junior high move, she had pointed out that some of the kids at the school might call me an N-lover for being friends with Paula. I snorted and said, "So? I don't care what people like that think." This time, she was even more wrong for moving me as there really wasn't that kind of racial tension in the school. I'm not saying that everything was always perfect between the white kids and the black kids ... but simply being friends with someone from the "opposite camp" was not really going to fuss anyone.

And then I began to open my eyes to the wider community, not just the small one that I inhabited. I saw incidences of prejudice in Texas, in the South. I fussed to myself. Why were people not doing something about this. I had announced in junior high that if there were civil rights marches, I would be there. Oh how that must have just terrified my mother.

I was discussing the issue of prejudice and violence in the south and in the north with someone last night and I said that I had seen more and worse events here in the North than I had ever seen in Texas. That's personally seen, not just read newspaper stories of. Although, come to think of it, I think I've seen more of that here in Indiana than I did in Texas as well.

Much of it here has revolved around how so much of the black community has been pushed into the worst areas of town. The gangs run rampant on that side of town. Here, two towns essentially run together and it can be very difficult to tell where South Bend ends and Mishawaka begins. And I can't count the number of times I have heard someone from Mishawaka say they could never live in South Bend ... because of the gangs ... because of the "black troubles."

I've observed black people being waited on last. I about got my head bit off for telling my waitress someone else was there first. And I got the same kind of service that the black family got for my trouble. A dear friend in grad school told how she and her husband were thrown out of Sears - for trying to get the repair center to honour their warranty. After less than 2 weeks, her new vacuum cleaner had broken. She took it in. Her husband waited, in the manner of most people ready to be done with a chore and off to the more interesting things of the day, slouched against a wall, waiting for her to be done.

The clerk told her nothing could be done. She produced receipt. She produced warranty. The clerk merely produced more anger. Finally, the clerk called security. Not to deal with my friend, who was a seriously PISSED off ex-drill sergeant by this point. No, to escort her husband out of the building and to ban him from Sears. For intimidating the clerk. You know, by freaking standing there.

There was the piling on of cops and pepperspray for the one black guy who tried to lift a pack of cigarettes. (Turns out he stole nothing. It was a mistake ....)

And my God, but the Klan is active here ... they terrify me and infuriate me all at once. My friends have tried on more than one occasion to make sure I am otherwise occupied when there's a rally in the area. (If for no other reason than they're tired of hearing me rant.)

So, today I know that my childhood belief that Martin Luther King, Jr. had won, is indeed not true. Some civil rights are more protected than they once were. But you can't legislate attitudes, and legally protecting things that simply should be ... creates equal and opposite pushes. Sometimes I think for every person like me who arises from that time period, we have ten who feel they were wronged by the legislation.

There are so very many ways that people can be different. And we as a society seem hell-bent on repeating the past. "The problem with the Irish immigrant is they are lazy, heathen, fighting is in their very physical make-up. They're little better than animals." Then it's the Italians. The Jews. The blacks. Gypsies. Them Mexicans. The queers are out to give us all AIDS. The Irish Travelers all abuse their kids. A perpetual game of Them vs. Us with constantly changing definitions of the tribes.

And God forbid you compare the plight of one group to another. The fight for civil rights by the queers is just nothing like the fight for black equality.

And I wonder whatever happened with Mostafa Tabatabainejad, the student at UCLA who was tased repeatedly for being different. (Okay, for not showing his ID the instant someone asked him for it.)

Of course, today we're not so blatant as we were "back then," right? We don't see White and Colored water fountains now.

(continued tomorrow)

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:49 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 27, 2007

Do You See What I See?

... a star, a star, shining in the east ... blah blah blah. I suddenly forget the rest of the words anyway.

I should start this post by mentioning that I once nearly got thrown out of the Dallas Museum of Art for proclaiming my views on modern art. Well, sort of. See, I was dragged to the art museum by my other half who was an art student at the time. And we made the mistake of going to the modern wing first. Whilst I was really hyper. And there was this canvas that was painted red. Like with a roller. Just ... red. No funky shape. No design in the red. Just a canvas painted red.

This offended me. Any monkey can do that. There is no art in a red canvas. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes the crap the art establishment refers to as art is just crap.

Anyhow, I was in a highly sarcastic (to some people that means annoying ... to me, that means hysterically witty and funny) mood. And I kept up a nice running commentary throughout the modern wing. Now, once we got into the stuff that actually takes some modicum of freaking SKILL to create, I was enjoying the purty pitchers and stuff.

Then we walked into the very cool Egyptian room. Nifty stuff abounding. And as we walked out of the "tomb," we see this HUGE ... TALL ... MONGO wooden statue of a woman sitting in a chair. Yanno what they say about Texas women? The higher the hair, the closer to God? Well, this woman had them all beat. And, without missing a beat myself, I said, perhaps a mite too loudly, "LOOK! IT'S MARGE SIMPSON!"

Every child in the museum turned and laughed in total agreement.

The security guards, for some convoluted reason, took exception to this. Maybe it was because there were about ten different school groups there.

Anyhow, that's all backstory. What I really wanted to talk about is THIS.

To me, and I realize this is a subjective field, to ME, this is paint slop. This is not art. I can get Cubism, although I don't like it personally. But it's art. I can see Impressionism as art. Surrealism. I can see a lot of the Isms as art.

To me, this painting simply looks like the work of a four year old. That's it. Paint smeared around. Random, for the most part. Playing with paint (and there's nothing wrong with that!).

But, museum-worthy, great sums of money worthy, art ... it ain't. It's paint and canvas and no great shakes.

However, the art of the four year old Marla Olmstead of New York is being touted as the work of a child prodigy. They are comparing her work to Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky.

In my opinion, that's crap. She's sold 25 paintings, or rather her crafty parents have, and they've made $40,000. That's an average of $1600 a painting.

OMFG ... there are people honing their craft out there making nothing. This kid is playing with paint and raking it in.

I will never understand the New York "high art" world. Never.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch I've Heard the Mermaids Singing and enjoy the visual one liners.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:55 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 11, 2007

Redneck Central

During college, I lived in a little duplex on campus. It was a nice little place ... the rent was unbelievably low even for an on-campus place. The drawback was that the place was tiny and only had one small and ancient window air-conditioner ... and this was hotter than hades Texas we're talking about.

So, we moved off campus to another duplex. Doubled the size of our living space (at least doubled) and we also doubled our rent. And, our neighbors became ... well ... let's just say they were interesting. We called the place the Neighborhood of Pigs. (And realize now, that this was highly offensive to the animal pigs ... who are much cooler than any of these neighbors were.)

On one corner, in front of our new home was an alcoholic who lived with his much older wife. He'd yell horrible things at her periodically ... it was a true joy to listen to. Not.

In the other half our our duplex were the friends who had talked us into moving in here ... wonderful people and it was quite nice to continue to live next to people we actually knew and liked.

On the other corner (we lived on the top bar of a T intersection), however, were the rednecks from hell.

Seriously. These were the people with an American flag as their curtain on the front door ... and one of the largest Confederate flags I've ever seen as their curtain for the living room windows. They had a gorgeous, large front porch that I was jealous of. But, they also had the bench seat from a school bus and the back bench seat from an SUV as the seating arrangement on the porch.

I never did figure out how many people were living there, either. There were at least 3 guys and one woman. And, any given week, there might be as many as 5 guys living there.

They were typical rednecks. They had hated our next door neighbors since they moved in because they were gay (something they neglected to tell us about before we moved in!). They'd occasionally come outside and scream horrible things at Stacy and Melanie ... and then the weird dyke commune women from two streets over would inevitably come out and just stand in the street and glare at the rednecks until they got scared and ran back inside their house. (Neither we nor Stacie and Melanie knew any of these women ... but they would just magically appear in the street whenever the rednecks began thinking of getting out of line ... was very odd.)

And, of course, the rednecks had a hound dog and junk all over the yard and lined up by their privacy fence. They couldn't have been more a stereotype of a crappy redneck if they'd actually tried to be one. Although, I did find their mode of transportation amusing ... they drove a hearse!

Needless to say, the neighborhood was highly entertaining.

One evening, the drunk's wife was out of town. Not having her to scream at, he came and stood in his driveway, wavering there and looking for someone to yell at.

Redneck Girl came out of their house. With a bicycle. She gets on this red Schwinn 3 speed with the granny seat and handlebars, affixes her little bicycle helmet, checks her tall orange flag (I'm not kidding here) and proceeds to labouriously pedal off.

Drunk Man is happy now. He has someone to yell at. Hands on hips, he screams out "Ya fat cow! You're gonna have to do more than ride that bike once around the block if you want to lose some of that fat cow weight." He continues calling out "Fat Cow" at random intervals. And wavering.

She rode around the block once ... and retreated back into Redneck Central. It was the only time anyone ever saw her on that bike.

But the most amusing night in Pigs Neighborhood was the night the cops descended on Redneck Central.

You see, the five redneck boys and their girl were sitting in the house when they heard a noise in the backyard. Now, if the front porch was a junkyard mess, the backyard was far, far worse. There were paths of junk, bits of car parts, metal, miscellaneous stuff. One of the rednecks tip-toed outside, heard a noise from a different part of the yard and he high-tailed it back into the house.

They called the police. Because someone was trying to steal their junk. (And they were too scared to confront the burglar.)

Three or four cop cars show up, lights blazing. Some go in through the front door, others head around to the backyard. I am watching out the window, entranced by the scene as it unfolds.

The privacy fence falls over.

Turns out the privacy fence was something they had taken from a construction site and just leaned up against their crappy chain link fence. Scared the crap out of the cops when a whole section of fence fell over. But they started laughing. Guns drawn, they continued on into the junk infested backyard.

About 15 minutes later, the cops are laughing their butts off and getting into their squad cars. One last cop stood on the front porch and talked to the five redneck boys and the redneck girl for quite some time.

The prowler?

It was their pot-bellied pig.

The one they forgot they owned! These big, tough, redneck boys had been scared senseless by their own pet.

Naturally, the ASPCA came and picked up the pig soon thereafter. And their hound dog.

So they got a cocker spaniel pup that winter.

Some people never learn.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:24 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 9, 2007

Thursday 13, also Thursday FOAD

Thursday 13

The universe never did make sense; I suspect it was built on government contract. - R.A.H.

Things wrong with the world today:
1) People do not take responsibility for their own actions any more. (If "they" ever did.)
2) People do not really take care of each other.
3) Most people think they are islands ... or at least that their immediate family is an island.
4) Many religious people are sooooooooooo happy with their religion, they wanna shove it down YOUR throat ... even though they don't strictly go by all the tenets they're supposed to go by.
Of course, they insist that YOU go by ALL of those tenets.
5) Politicians SUCK
6) Anarchy would be worse ... (see numbers one and two).
7) Democracy may not be the best system there is, but its the best we have.
8) The existence of insurance companies. They should all be shot, scrapped, their fields sown with salt, and other bad things done.
9) COBRA health insurance
10) Anyone who doesn't believe in global warming (and you should look at my electric bill).
11) Cell phones. Do we REALLY need to be connected 24/7? I don't.
12) People who shrug and say, "It's good enough" when we know it's not.
13) People who rush something to market before they've thought it out and then later they go, "Oh, I didn't think THAT would happen."

FOAD for today:
COBRA insurance. They want $330 up front to cover me from 7/10 to 8/10. Sent that in 10 days ago. Now, like a stupid, "I forgot to RTFM dweeb," I see that it can take up to THIRTY freaking days to process. So, by the time they've got it processed, I won't be breathing anymore because I can't afford to buy the $210 asthma medication because I already paid the COBRA people $330 so that my $210 medication would only cost me $35.
To ALL health insurance, COBRA and otherwise, to all paper pushers who forget that there are PEOPLE out here, FOAD!!!

There's more ... but that's all the energy I have with which to rant right now. I've gotta get back to putting my online portfolio up. *sigh*

Quote of the day ... another Robert Heinlein quote:

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:36 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 8, 2007

If Microsoft were HQ'd in Georgia

Another old chestnut of an email forward ... some of these make me cringe, but most of them are hysterical ... again, probably dates around 1996 or so (dig the Windows '95 being the hot new MS system)

Ways things would be different if Microsoft was headquartered in South Georgia

1. Their #1 product would be Microsoft Winders
2. Instead of an hourglass icon you'd get an empty beer bottle
3. Occasionally you'd bring up a window that was covered with a Hefty bag
4. Dialog boxes would give you the choice of "Ahh-ight" or "Naw"
5. Instead of "Ta-Da!", the opening sound would be Dueling Banjos
6. The "Recycle Bin" in Winders '95 would be an outhouse
7. Whenever you pulled up the Sound Player you'd hear a digitized drunk redneck yelling "Freebird!"
8. Instead of "Start Me Up", the Winders '95 theme song would be Achy-Breaky Heart
9. Power Point would be named "ParPawnt"
10. Microsoft's programming tools would be "Vishul Basic" and "Vishul C++"
11. Winders 95 logo would incorporate Confederate Flag
12. Microsoft Word would be just that: one word
13. New Shutdown WAV: "Y'all come back now!"
14. Instead of VP, Microsoft big shots would be called "Cuz"
15. Hardware could be repaired using parts from an old Trans Am
16. Microsoft Office replaced with Micr'sawft Henhouse
17. Four words: Daisy Duke Screen Saver
18. Well, the first thing you know, old Bill's a billionaire
19. Spreadsheet software would include examples to inventory dead cars in your front yard
20. Flight Simulator replaced by Tractor Pull Simulator
21. Microsoft CEO: Bubba Gates

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:25 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 7, 2007

Computer Humour

What if people bought cars like they buy computers?

General Motors doesn't have a "help line" for people who don't know how to drive, because people don't buy cars like they buy computers
--- but imagine if they did . . .


Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how may I help you?
Customer: I got in my car and closed the door, and nothing happened!
Helpline: Did you put the key in the ignition and turn it?
Customer: What's an ignition?
Helpline: It's a starter motor that draws current from your battery and turns over the engine.
Customer: Ignition? Motor? Battery? Engine? How come I have to know all of these technical terms just to use my car?

Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how may I help you?
Customer: My car ran fine for a week, and now it won't go anywhere!
Helpline: Is the gas tank empty?
Customer: Huh? How do I know?
Helpline: There's a little gauge on the front panel, with a needle, and markings from 'E' to 'F.' Where is the needle pointing?
Customer: I see an 'E' but no 'F.'
Helpline: You see the 'E' and just to the right is the 'F.'
Customer: No, just to the right of the first 'E' is a 'V.'
Helpline: A 'V!'
Customer: Yeah, there's a 'C,' an 'H,' the first 'E,' then a 'V,' followed by 'R,' 'O,' 'L' . . .
Helpline: No, no, no sir! That's the front of the car. When you sit behind the steering wheel, that's the panel I'm talking about.
Customer: That steering wheel thingy -- is that the round thing that honks the horn?
Helpline: Yes, among other things.
Customer: The needle's pointing to 'E.' What does that mean?
Helpline: It means that you have to visit a gasoline vendor and purchase some more gasoline. You can install it yourself, or pay the vendor to install it for you.
Customer: What? I paid $12,000 for this car! Now you tell me that I have to keep buying more components? I want a car that comes with everything built in!


Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how may I help you?
Customer: Your cars suck!
Helpline: What's wrong?
Customer: It crashed, that's what went wrong!
Helpline: What were you doing?
Customer: I wanted to go faster, so I pushed the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. It worked for a while, and then it crashed -- and now it won't even start up!
Helpline: I'm sorry sir, but it's your responsibility if you misuse the product.
Customer: Misuse it? I was just following this damned manual of yours. It said to make the car go, to put the transmission in 'D' and press the accelerator pedal That's exactly what I did -- now the damn thing's crashed.
Helpline: Did you read the entire operator's manual before operating the car sir?
Customer: What? Of course I did! I told you I did EVERYTHING the manual said and it didn't work!
Helpline: Didn't you attempt to slow down so you wouldn't crash?
Customer: How do you do THAT?
Helpline: You said you read the entire manual, sir. It's on page 14. The pedal next to the accelerator.
Customer: Well, I don't have all day to sit around and read this manual you know.
Helpline: Of course not. What do you expect us to do about it?
Customer: I want you to send me one of the latest versions that goes fast and won't crash anymore!


Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how may I help you?
Customer: Hi! I just bought my first car, and I chose your car because it has automatic transmission, cruise control, power steering, power brakes, and power door locks.
Helpline: Thanks for buying our car. How can I help you?
Customer: How do I work it?
Helpline: Do you know how to drive?
Customer: Do I know how to what?
Helpline: Do you know how to DRIVE?
Customer: I'm not a technical person! I just want to go places in my car!

I first found this in one of those endlessly forwarded emails ... prolly circa 1996 or so. It was attributed to:

Yadira Halubi
PLATINUM technology, Software Interfaces Lab.

Again, whilst comments are closed, if you wanna comment, use the Contact button at the top of the page. Sorry, comments will return soon!

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:15 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 25, 2007

How To Assassinate Your Own Character

UK comedy actor, Chris Langham is in some serious trouble.

Mr. Langham has been accused of "indecent assault and a serious sexual offence on a girl under 18." But what's being focused on at the moment ... is the child pornography found on his computer. (I came in to this news story late ... the bit about the girl was either earlier in the trial or an earlier trial).

Mr Langham insists that the images ... and videos ... found on his computer were simply research for a character he was thinking of developing for the series, Help, "in which he [Paul Whitehouse] played different patients seen by a psychiatrist played by Mr Langham."

First, it's a comedy show ... I hardly think that any of the actor's really need to apply Stanislavski quite this far. Secondly ... if anyone was going to research it ... you'd think it would be the actor who was gonna play the dude needing help ... not the dude playing the shrink.

And, the stupidest thing of all ... if you're an actor or a writer who needs to research illegal activities ... TELL YOUR PRODUCERS ... tell the local police ... do SOMETHING to leave a paper trail that you researching this for a reason.

Mr Langham's co-star says he knew nothing about this "research" that Mr Langham was conducting. Apparently he didn't bother to tell anyone associated with the show about it, either.

I know that it's a part of the cycle of the abuse for the abuser to deny that anything happened. And apparently Langham is accused of shooting some footage himself, so he apparently falls into the abuser category and not just the computer-age, distanced viewer, but great good gods, the stuff was on his computer. Freaking own up to it. It is sometimes amazing to me how actors think just cuz they can act, they can fox the whole courtroom. *sigh*

Bleeding idiot.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:07 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 2, 2007


Political Rant ... this is just a rant ... not a discussion ... a reaction.

How the bloody freaking HELL can W ... nicknamed The Shrub, nicknamed Duh, I mean Dub ... just gets to adjust Scooter's sentence? WTF happened to him bitching about "activist judges"???? Now we have Dick saying he's not part of the executive branch in one scenario ... so he can get out of answering questions ... and then in another situation insisting that he was a part of the executive branch so he could get out of answering questions. And then we've got the Commander-in-Idiocy intervening in the sentencing of one of his cronies. But we're supposed to believe this is all for our own good and these fools know what they're doing.

Haliburton ... Enron ... wtf. I do NOT fooken get it.


Posted by Red Monkey at 6:15 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 11, 2007


From moe20302030 at YouTube.
And since Quicktime irritates some people and crashes other people's browsers, click the extended entry to get to it. comments/exciting.gif

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June 6, 2007

little fagit

little fagit exciting.gif

This was a comment left on my blog earlier today by Joshua.

Wow, what an insightful comment he's made. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm wondering if he passed any spelling tests, ever? I believe the word he was attempting was "faggot." And, sadly, he has the wrong word anyway. Since I'm female, if he wants to call me gay and use a derogatory word, he should actually use something like "dyke." Unfortunately, for poor li'l Joshua, I happen to prefer the word dyke to just about anything else.

Of course, I have to wonder WHY Joshua felt it was necessary to leave this comment. There's no explanation, but the post it was left on was New Shop where I hawk some of my t-shirts.

Maybe he didn't like one of the designs?

At any rate ... Little Fagit sounds like it might be the name a new cartoon ... hmmmmmmm.......

Thanks for the idea, Joshua!

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May 26, 2007

Captain, my Captain

Once upon a time, there was a book called Sound and Sense. And every Friday during my senior year of high school ... we worked on poetry in English class.

With all apologies to poets and would-be poets and enjoyers of poetry ... I friggin' hate most poetry. I adore Stevie Smith ... some Yeats ... ee cummings ... not a whole lot else. So, naturally, I was not ... shall we say ... enthused ... by English class on Fridays. I dutifully read ... considered ... and ... was mostly boreded. not because the words didn't move me, necessarily, but because poetry tends to be the last bastion of HIDEOUS conformity in American high schools. There is, according to many (but not all!), teachers of high school English, just one canonical interpretation of that poem.


That's not what poetry is supposed to be about. It's about free-thinking, free-association, non-conformity, not just thinking but BEING outside the box.

In short, poetry does not belong in the hands of the average English teacher. (And I say that as a former English teacher who taught for nine years.)

In fact, my high school English teacher (who also taught at the local university), thought that I was something of a screw-up who didn't necessarily belong in AP English.

The truth of the matter was that I had already learned a lesson which was of vital importance to some (but not all) students. School, ultimately, doesn't matter. It wasn't my life, although my mother wanted it to be ... although I already knew I wanted to go to college and grad school. Playing the game of School was not so important to me as finding my own way was.

So ... I'm watching the commentary to Dead Poet's Society, and I go to Wikipedia ... as I am wont to do ... and discovered something that made me laugh.

The hideous "excrement" that Mr. Keating has the boys tear out of their poetry book ... is ... in fact ... nearly word for word an early chapter of ... you guessed it ... Sound and Sense.

Now, what really cracks me up about this ... is that I was, as usual, boreded. That class was just nothing to me. Another 55 minutes when I really just wanted to work on my novel and ignore the class, like most of my classes senior year. (Umm, since about third grade, actually.) I did the work. I did the reading. I regurgitated what we were supposed to regurgitate. And, going through those Friday exams as quickly as I could ... I began writing a parody of the poem we were critiquing (after I'd written the required interpretation essay of the "real" poem, of course).

My teacher, bless her, told me what most of my teachers told me through the years: "If you'd just slow down ...."
Of course, that was before ADHD was recognized, really. I was going as slowly as I knew how ... but writing a parody of the poem was far more interesting to me than writing the "official" interpretation of the poem.

Eventually, though, I got boreded with that as well and began using that time to write poetry of my own rather than restricting my thought to simple parody of the poem in question.

One Monday ... as our teacher was handing the tests back ... she began talking about one student's interpretation of this poem. I believe it was called something about Mr. Z ... and it was a poem about being black in the United States. And she talked about how one student interpreted the deliberateness of the title as Mr. Z feeling like he was last in society because of his colour. Yanno ... Z is the last letter?

Apparently this was a somewhat novel interpretation.

She first attributed it to Kyungah. Then Susan. She went down the "rank" of smart kids.

Each one said they hadn't thought of that.

In truth, it was me. I waited for her to remember. But she just about when down the list of students by GPA.

Because high school is not about free thinking. It's about conformity. And I managed to not conform on a regular basis. I wasn't a jock, exactly. I wasn't what we called a "drama mama." I wasn't a nerd. I wasn't the typical honors kid, even.

No matter how often people wanted to put me in a box and shut it, I had a tendency to unseal the seams and combine jock and drama and honors and slacker ... all together in one chaotic and yet truthful package.

In short, I tried very hard to seize my days ... to think.

And so I wasn't terribly surprised when Mrs. Ward couldn't seem to realize that I had come up with this "novel" interpretation.

But when Dead Poet's came out just two short years after I graduated from high school ... I was surprised that another writer had tapped into "my" brain so very well. Had tapped into that desire to both please my parents and be myself all at the same time, impossible though that was.

Captain, my captain.
I stand before thee
before you all

and scream my barbaric YAWP
from the top of my mountain
from the top of my desk

It's not what I say
It's not what I saw
It's what I choose to do

It is not that the sheet which leaves the feet cold is too small
It's not that we stretch it and pull it
It's not that it covers aught but our face

It's that we try
It's that we do
It's that we are.

It is not Captain my captain.

We are our own captain.
We must own our decisions.
We must own our lives.

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May 23, 2007

With Honesty Aforethought

I don't do the political type posts too, too often. Partly because I don't want to deal with the conflict any political post invariably brings up ... and yet, I also don't want to be one of the close-minded folks who shut down comments ... or worse, refuse to listen to the other side at all and simply berate them.

But sometimes, something happens that I just have to throw in my two cents.

In this case, it's to cheer on Jimmy Carter. First, Mr. Carter talked about the war in Iraq ... as he has since before it began ... and stated that he was disappointed in Britain's apparently subservient role. (BBC article)

After staying remarkably restrained for this administration ... remarkably and admirably, I might add ... "The White House has dismissed former US President Jimmy Carter as "increasingly irrelevant", following his sharp criticism of President George W Bush." (BBC article)

And while I can understand the current Bush administration wanting to address Mr. Carter's comments in some way, I personally think this only underscores the depth of the "spoiled brat, schoolyard bully" mentality demonstrated so sadly by The Shrub. Particularly when Mr. Carter says things like: ""The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including (those of) George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Mr. Carter is not engaging in that apparently favourite American pastime of "Hey, let's bash the opposite party mindlessly and thoughtlessly" ... instead, Mr. Carter is thoughtfully and deliberately expressing his opinions. And all the Bush administration can do is attack him personally.

Well, to be honest, what other choice do they have? Mr. Carter knows the previous administrations of all flavours ... and rarely in the history of the government of the U.S. has there been this kind of thoughtless action, self-centered righteousness and sheer schoolboy bravado refusing to listen to those who actually pay attention to the world around them who attempt to guide and help.

Even Nixon, our one impeachment, owned his decisions, owned his responsibilities.

This administration rails against flip-flop-ism ... and yet changes the rules every time something goes wrong ... all whilst calling those who disagree with them "big mean poopy heads."

So ... Mr. Carter, sir, I salute you. I salute you for saying that which needs to be said. You are not increasingly irrelevant. You are increasingly that voice of conscience which no small boy who has shattered mummy's vase wants to listen to ... particularly not as he makes it look like his friends had convinced him the vase was actually in another room and never in danger at all.

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May 6, 2007

A Distraction

I received this via email the other day ... and thought I'd pass it along:

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between The Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machines Components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa, yes farm equipment!
It took the team a combined 13,029 hours of set-up, alignment, Calibration, and tuning before filming this video but as you can see it Was WELL worth the effort.
It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.

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April 16, 2007

How Many Slices of the Pie Are There?

I know everyone in the blogosphere is going to be talking about this ... but I'm going to take a different approach.

I don't make any claim to know why someone shot up the campus and I'm not going to speculate on who nor why.

But I am concerned about a culture of anger and a culture of entitlement. And these are not just issues in the United States ... or even the Western World.

What is it programmed into us as humans which makes us think we deserved something that someone else has? What makes us think that hurting other people is a reasonable solution? or at least a reasonable reaction to our mundane circumstances? (I'm not talking about self-defense here ... that's another issue completely.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:49 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 4, 2007

Holy Crap, Network-Exec-man II

WTF? I mean really. A show comes on that's intelligent, funny, clever and above all, engaging and well-acted ... and the damn network pulls it.

I am, of course, speaking of The Black Donnellys.

The show is fascinating. You've got a totally unreliable narrator who claims to not be there ... then tells the story ... then the cops turn around and say, hey, I thought you said you weren't there ... and then he edits things. So you never fully know how much you can trust Joey the Ice Cream's stories. (And who doesn't love that nickname? I mean, now THAT is a classic.)

The main characters are fascinating ... flawed and heroic ... trying to get by ... trying to better themselves ... well, except for Jimmy who just wants the easy cash.

Honestly, this show and Heroes are the only reasons I enjoy American television. I mean, I like Bones and House ... but they're very typical and kind of run of the mill. House has more unusual characterizations and thereby a somewhat more interesting plot and show ... but it's still "just" another doctor show. Bones has a great chemistry and it's wonderful to see some very realistic academic type characters being themselves.

BRING BACK BLACK DONNELLYS, NBC. Good lord. God forbid television should be freaking intelligent and keep the audience guessing.

I'm disgusted. Yet another reason for me to draw more and spend less time in front of the damn boob tube.

Fooken NBC.

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February 21, 2007

We don't need anyone

I honestly don't know what it is about Ireland that attracts me so ... but even though this song is sung in a nice, average rock accent (read: American, sadly) ... I hear a nice Belfast accent ... or maybe just the trills and Rs of a B-movie Irish accent. At any rate, at the moment, I'm seriously considering doing this for the talent show at the church in a month's time. Of course, considering that I'm terrified to ever do a solo singing gig, it won't happen ... but I think I may practice it incessantly for a while anyway. It just fits how I feel right now. Particularly that first couple of segments.

We do it all.
On our own
We don't need
Or anyone
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life
Let's waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads
I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life
All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see
I don't know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

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February 15, 2007

You've GOT to be Kidding Me

Absolutely unbelievable.

Still no package.

(To skip the rant and see a nice pretty picture, just scroll down to the next entry.)

And now, someone is trying to make things sound better or cover up the errors. My instinct says the driver is trying to cover his arse ... and I'm getting more and more furious with the entire situation.

So ... we did get a crapload of snow Tuesday night (though driving wasn't difficult until well after dark). UPS did manage to get a package to us Tuesday. But not good ole DeadEx.

And when I look at the tracking information now, there's lots more things added.

For Saturday ... when the shipment was due and I was home all day waiting for the thing, I now see this:

Local weather delay, delivery not attempted

AND the original entry as well:

Customer not available or business closed

Hmmm. That was a bright and sunny day. Hardly any snow on the roads at all. And there's still no explanation of why delivery was then delayed until Tuesday. Monday wasn't a holiday ... why wait an extra day when they'd already missed the delivery window? Hrm. And now for Tuesday ... like I said, I was out in the snow, my partner was home ... and I was having no issues with my little lightweight compact car out on the road. I certainly passed a ton of FedEx Ground and Freight trucks out and about. And, UPS had already delivered a package to us. Now the tracking for that day says:

4:55 p.m. Local weather delay, delivery not attempted


4:55 p.m. Local weather delay, delivery attempted

Hrm. Okay. The driver attempted/not attempted delivery. Which is it?

So, we move on to yesterday, Wednesday, for a package that was supposed to be delivered Saturday. I was snowed in at home. We got dumped on Tuesday night and early early Wednesday morning. The roads were decent, but the stupid snowplows had plowed us in. My car could have gotten through the snow in the driveway ... but there was no way it was going to make it through the plowed drift of snow/ice crap that had been thrown at the edge of the drive. Luckily, I can work from home when necessary, so that's what I did ... and I called a friend to come clear the drive for me.

At some point in the morning, FedEx called and a nice lady was confirming I got my package ... then she apologized profusely and said, "I'm so sorry, I see that it's on the truck for delivery. I'll check back at the end of the day to make sure you got it."

Well, this is promising at least.

I begin obsessively checking the tracking around 6 p.m. last night. It's getting late. This arse is going to make my package the last stop on the route, I can just feel it. "On FedEx vehicle for delivery." That's all it says. 7:00 p.m. ... 8:00 p.m. ... finally 9:00 p.m. rolls around and still nothing. I break down and call FedEx. I'm not sure I've been this ticked off in a LONG time. I remember when I FINALLY get a live person, that this guy just answers the phones ... it's not his fault. But I'm sure he can hear the barely suppressed rage in my voice even though I'm trying to be relatively pleasant. I tell him the entire story.

Now here's the interesting thing. Corporate or the complaints department or whoever ... had already flagged my package in the system as "Deliver as soon as possible." To me that means this oughta be at the beginning of his route instead of the end. "Deliver as soon as possible" does NOT mean deliver when you feel like it. He tried calling the local hub (of course they NEVER give out that number ... can't have you going directly to to the source of the problem, now can they?). Of course, the local hub is already shut down. But the tracking page says my package is still on the truck.

Did the driver not "log out" or whatever it is that they do?

This morning, I see this:

9:55 p.m. Local weather delay, delivery attempted

Yeah, right.

So, today ... naturally ... I'm beyond freaking livid. The local manager is supposed to call me this morning. I'm leaving a nice trash bag tied to my porch railing for this arse to put my package in and he'd damn well better do that or bring the thing to my place of work. And I can't wait to talk to the local manager ... if this has been the same driver every time ... and I think with the Home Delivery service, it probably has been the same guy every time ... I want a freaking written apology from him as well as a refund of my delivery fee. This is just freaking crazy.

*sigh* I HATE FedEx.

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February 13, 2007

FedEx is eVile

I placed an order with an art store I love last week. The only shipping options, sadly, was with FedEx - The World on Time is their tag line.


The package was due to be delivered Saturday, and I happily awaited my package. I hit reload on the tracking page every few hours ... and as the day wore on and I was getting more frustrated by wanting to work on the projects which required that package ... every half hour or so. Finally, at 7:30 p.m., I see this:

7:29 p.m. Delivery exception Customer not available or business closed

WTH????? Here I am, sitting here, waiting. Nothing. "Customer not available" my ass!

Furious, I immediately find the Contact page for DeadEx and send them an email complaint. They ask for more information, which I give. The new estimated date of delivery is not Monday, February 12, but Tuesday, February 13. Crap crap crap.

Do I hear back from the local DeadEx hub? Of course not. Apparently they didn't work Monday for President's Day. So today, again, I eagerly hit reload. "On the truck for delivery." Great. WOOHOO ... I'm gonna get my art supplies so I can work on some model sheets.

I check at 5:00 ... sure enough:

4:55 p.m. Delivery exception Local weather delay, delivery attempted

WTH???? Yes, we have a lot of snow. But UPS was able to deliver. I was able to drive my little bitty, lightweight, low-to-the-ground foreign jobbie without any problems. I passed PLENTY of FedEx trucks around town.

I am so furious I could scream. That's twice now that they've "attempted delivery" when they haven't even been near my house. And, of course, their 800 number is busy today ... so there's just no other recourse than another email. Which they won't care about.



How much you wanna bet they don't deliver tomorrow either?
/me growlz inconsolably

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February 11, 2007

The World on Time

I really hate FedEx ... well, I should be more specific. I truly hate the FedEx hub here in town. I've had loads of problems with them not leaving packages which did not require a signature ... and then telling me to pick it up at the hub, only for me to show up there (after calling as you're supposed to do) and then find out that the item was still on the truck, out for delivery. My favourite was being told that I should come pick up the package at their office after 6:45 p.m. ... and that they closed at 7 p.m. ... and if the truck wasn't there and didn't have it in the front office by then, I'd have to wait until Monday.

But this one really takes the cake.

I check my tracking info ... package on time to be delivered Saturday. I hit reload all day long ... "on the truck for delivery." Reload. "out for delivery" 6 p.m. rolls around ... "out for delivery" ... 6:30, same thing. 7:00. 7:30 p.m. ... "delivery exception" ... "Customer not available or business closed."


I'm sitting here at home all damn day Saturday, waiting for that package so I could get some work done. And now, "The World On Time" seems a great big joke to me. The fact that the driver ... or whomever ... LIED and said that I was "not available" really ticks me off.

So, I use the site to email them and let them know ... I was kinda hoping they'd make someone bring the damn package over ... but of course, they simply said:

We received your inquiry. We regret any inconvenience caused by this situation.
To help us follow up on this situation, please e-mail the following information to us: - The complete names and addresses of the shipper and recipient, for verification - Telephone/contact number
Once we receive these shipment details, we will send a message to the terminal and advise them of your concerns.
Thank you for your patience in this matter, and for shipping with FedEx.

Ummm, well, okay. At least they're gonna talk to the locals. Then I get this:

We sent a message to the delivery terminal and advised them of your concerns. We referenced your phone number and requested that the terminal give you a call back in case they need more information to complete the delivery of this package.

And then? Nothing.

My guess, Monday, while I'm at work, they're gonna try to deliver again ... no one will be home since we'll be at work ... and maybe they'll actually leave a tag. Then I'll have to drive out to the damn hub and get the package myself.

You know, I pay too much for delivery for all of this hassle. Stupid jerks. *sigh*

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February 8, 2007

The New Nigeria

I'm gonna be rich. Rich, I tell ya. And I'll remember all my poor li'l blogging buddies when I'm rich, really I will. Maybe I'll even start my own blogging host with all my millions of dollars.
See, I got this great email from a soldier in Iraq and you know what? He SCORED, man. Oh wow, did he ever. He got Saddam's money, man! And he's picked li'l ole ME to help him get it into the States. Wow. I'm flattered to be so trusted by this dude. It's amazing ... here ... lemme share the good news with you:
FROM: Sgt. John J. Guy

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is John J. Guy I am an American soldier, I am serving in the military of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regimient,Patrols Tal Afar, in Iraq.

I am presently in Kuwait for the mean time. I apologized using this medium to reach you for a transaction/business of this magnitude. Please view this link to see my picture:
http://www4.army.mil/armyimages/armyimage.php?photo=9169 and

We have in our possession the sum of US$25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million US Dollars), which belongs to Saddam Hussein. These funds have been moved and kept safe in a Security Company, please view this link for more details: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2988455.stm
Basically since we are working for the American Government, we cannot keep these funds, but we want to transfer and move the funds to you, so that you can keep it for us in your safe account or an offshore account.

I have the authority of my partners involved to propose that should you be willing to assist us in this transaction, your share of the sum will be 30% of the US$25 million, 60% for us and 10% will be kept aside for expenses and rest assure that this business is 100% safe on your part provided you treat it with utmost secrecy and confidentiality. Therefore, if you are interested, Please reply immediately via my private email address: megalot64@aim.com with your Full Name, Current Mailing Address and your
confidential Telephone and Fax numbers for easy communication.

Upon your response, I shall then provide you with more details that will help you understand the transaction. Please observe utmost confidentiality, and be rest assured that this business is risk free.

Respectfully submitted,
Sgt. John J. Guy

Oooops. I guess I should have read this more carefully before posting. I guess it's not going to be a risk free operation now, huh? AH WELL.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:11 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 1, 2007

Up Yours Boston

Lame LED lights outlining a cartoon guyI read a TON of sci-fi as a kid ... and I ran across a quote from Robert Heinlein ... he probably stole it from someone else "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

And I'm telling you now, the officials of Boston have proven that in a way I can't even begin to fathom. You see this funky little Commodore 64 era pixelated sprite on the left? He's a Mooninite from the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It's a silly little adult cartoon show. The Mooninites are going to invade earth.

So, the marketing gurus decided to build these little LED lightboards, power them with apparently 4 D cell batteries and place them near the billboards advertising their movie. You know, a little guerrilla marketing, spread some word of mouth.

Yeah, after they'd been up for about two weeks (and several of them stolen in that time), some Chicken Little in Boston decided they were OBVIOUSLY bombs.

Check out a closer look at one:

Closer Look at the electronics of the Mooninite

Okay ... maybe from a distance, you can't quite see anything except wires and batteries and LED bulbs. But you know what? It makes a silly little character outline. That would get me thinking that it was just silliness. But apparently some good citizen in Boston is really really really freaking paranoid. Cuz it got called in to the authorities. And they came out and blew the first one up. Cuz you know, the bomb squad apparently couldn't figure out that the freaking wires were powering the damn LEDs and nothing else. I don't see any C4 or plastique on these things. What the hell kind of bomb squad does Boston have that they can't trace the fricking wires and figure out it's a damn LIGHT just like it looks like?

Are we really that paranoid? I know I can't freaking live that way. Paranoid and scared all the time. Are you people so crazy nuts that you can't even use your brains anymore?

And what really slays me about this entire incident is in this CNN article.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis called it "unconscionable" that the marketing campaign was executed in a post 9/11 era. "It's a foolish prank on the part of Turner Broadcasting," he said. "In the environment nowadays ... we really have to look at the motivation of the company here and why this happened."

Really? Really? Look, if there were crazy wires everywhere ... bits of clay that might be explosives ... something that actually looked like a freaking bomb, I could perhaps understand it and agree that this might be "marketing run amok." But it looks freaking harmless!

Now, maybe a common citizen who was scared of electronics might not know this. Shoot, my mother thought I was going to burn the house down when I spliced some speaker wire together as a teenager. But the specialists who showed up to deal with the "suspicious devices"???? COME ON!

Absolutely ridiculous.

I refuse to live my life terrified. Maybe that means I'll be dead because I pick up some LED lightboard that turns out to actually be a bomb. But my quality of life will be better for rejecting fear and living my life every day.

So ... to Boston, I have to agree with the T-shirts already showing up on eBay ... Up Yours.

Other auctions for the LED boards are here ... and here ... and I'm sure there will be more.

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January 23, 2007

Adopting Discernment

I wrote the other day about our propensity toward fear and violence and how as often as not, our fear of that which is different causes us to react ... poorly. Then I was talking about the murder (or execution, really) of Hrant Dink. Today I'm talking of this fear we all have of discrimination.

We've learned our lessons sooooo well, it seems. If someone doesn't like us ... or worse, dares to disagree with us, we instantly cry out, DISCRIMINATION!

The fact of the matter is there is discrimination - an ugly choice made based on fear and surface level assumptions - and there is the discerning decision: a choice which is based on research and personal precedent and honest thoughtfulness.

A decision to choose not to hire someone because their skin is a different colour is discrimination. A decision that women should not be in combat positions because they will break a nail and want to go home is discrimination. (And I've heard that argument made on many occasions.) A decision to not hire a completely blind man for a job which requires sorting wires by their colour and their colour alone can be a discerning decision.

The problem, of course, is that we often don't know what went into someone else's decision making process.

And, of course, today most of us belong to multiple groups which we may feel face discrimination from others. Our religion, being part of a sorority or fraternity, having gone to a particular college, not having finished high school, being a certain colour of skin, a certain ethnicity, appearing male or female, being a freemason ... the lists go on and on.

It boils down to one simple thing: we fear what we don't know.

If we don't know what it is to be a mason, well, they're secretive ... if they're hiding something, they're bad, right?
If we are Armenians and don't know what it is to be a Turk and remember the early 1900s, then we fear further reprisals.
If we are a Turk who does not know what it is to be Armenian, we fear the accusations of genocide.
If we are good, conservative Catholics and don't know what it is to feel as though you've been born gay, then you fear that which is different and not understood.

Why do I revisit this today?

Because of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's threat to the English cabinet.

It seems that the U.K. has passed an Equality Act due to be enforced beginning in April of this year. That Act prohibits discrimination "in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor would rather see orphaned children turned over to foster care or orphanages than allow otherwise qualified folk who happen to also be gay, to adopt these children.

He has threatened to close seven agencies across the U.K. if they are not exempted from this law.

There's been a flurry of controversy over this, of course, with some screeching religious discrimination if an exception is not made for various faiths. However, the opinion of the ministers seems to be summed up quite neatly by Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer:

If we take the view as a society that we should not discriminate against people who are homosexual, you cannot give exclusions for people on the grounds that their religion or their race says we don't agree with that.

This is easily the crux of the matter. I know plenty of folks out there who would disagree, but let's look at a parallel case: polygamy and the early Mormon church in the U.S. Was not issuing an exemption to the early Mormons a discerning decision or discrimination? Probably some of both ... but what won the day was not necessarily the belief of one denomination or faith over another ... it was the general consensus of the public that polygamy was not "right" for their society.

If the U.K. has decided that discrimination of gays is not to be tolerated, why should one group or another be given a "get out of jail free" card?

There's a secondary, and to my mind, FAR more important issue going on than this base argument over gay rights.

And this issue is one that both sides scream in frustration at the other: "But what about the children?"

The Catholic Church's agencies are said to handle 4%, or about 200, of all adoptions a year. However they handle about a third of those children judged difficult to place.

While there are some WONDERFUL foster parents out there in the system in the U.K. and the U.S., the fact of the matter is that simply being in the foster care system is highly traumatic for the children. How can they help but think that they are unwanted? How can they help but think prospective parents are "shopping" for the perfect child? How can they help but think if they would do something differently, maybe their foster parents would turn into their adoptive parents?

How can they feel like anything more than some inconvenient luggage shifted around from place to place?

Not every child's situation is as grim as all that, and thank goodness that the Baudelaire children do not really have a commonly true story. But that does not negate the serious damage done to many of these children on a daily basis.

If the only prospective parents are perfectly suitable in every way except they happen to be black and the child white, should that adoption be blocked?

I say no.

There may be issues as the child grows up. It might not be "The Ideal Situation." The kid might be teased, bad things might happen.

But I will tell you now, a child with parents who love that kid, who care for that kid, and who will talk with that kid about all the issues that will arise ... that child is in a far, far better place than the child in the foster care system.

And I make the same claim about gay couples adopting children as well. I'm not going to argue "The Ideal Situation," I'm going to argue for reality. Get the kids out of the system and into loving homes. If the only thing keeping someone from adoption is sexual orientation, then we do the children a terrible disservice.

I know that I would have left my "comfortable" existence in the 'burbs in a heartbeat for a family who truly loved me, who knew me, who listened to me, who cared for me even had they lived in the middle of the worst tenement in the worst inner city. I wouldn't have cared what the colour of their skin was ... what religion they followed ... whether they were straight or gay. All I wanted was to be loved unconditionally.

Anything else can be worked out together, as a family.



A Note To Foster Parents: Most of you do an amazing and stunning job. I do not write this to shame you at all - being a foster parent is, as far as I'm concerned, a higher calling. It is the system which is in use and the fact that there are not enough caring parents to go around for each child which I believe causes the damage.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:17 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 4, 2007


LSU beats ND 41-14

And for a nice analysis, check out Mark Schlabach My favourite quote, which really sums it all up neatly:

The Fighting Irish will end the postseason losing streak that dates back to 1994 because next season they'll be playing in some second-tier bowl game in a non-descript place like Shreveport, La., which is where they should have been playing during much of the last two decades.
Against LSU, Notre Dame once again proved it doesn't deserve to play in BCS bowl games, which have become its birthright because of the school's national stature and ability to draw high TV ratings.

And that sums up Notre Dame in a nutshell. Not every student or administrator has the world's biggest ego or sense of entitlement, but the majority of the school does. There's a pervading air of "We're Notre Dame, we deserve the best." And when you ask why, the reply is simply, "We Are ND."

I feel for Brady Quinn, however. He's a really good, smart kid who deserves a great deal of credit for his smarts and hard work. It's a pity that can't be said for more people. I hope that Quinn gets the early NFL draft pick that he deserves and goes to the team he's hoping for.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:41 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 2, 2007


Yeah, it's like that today.

"That's What I Get" Nine Inch Nails
"Wish You Were Here" Pink Floyd
"Terrible Lie" NIN
"Three County Highway" Indigo Girls
"Unwell" Matchbox 20
"Welcome Me" Indigo Girls
"Three Hits" Indigo Girls
"Comfortably Numb" Pink Floyd
"A Poem On The Underground Wall" Simon & Garfunkel
"Sanctified" NIN
"Mother" Pink Floyd
"Precious Pain" Melissa Etheridge
"Dirt and Dead Ends" Indigo Girls
"On the Turning Away" Pink Floyd
"Head Like a Hole" NIN
"Dragula" Rob Zombie
"Angel" Sarah McLachlan

(Who else puts these folks into the same playlist? Sheesh.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:12 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 31, 2006

Search Terms

We all get weird hits for bizarre search terms. It's the nature of having a category page or a long post ... eventually the words someone has put into a very odd order are going to show up on your page. Probably not all together as the searcher was apparently hoping ... still.

Someone from Houston, Texas, got to my site with the search term: lesbian monkey metaphor.

Obviously they did not enter "lesbian monkey metaphor" which would have only showed pages which used that phrase as three consecutive words. I feel quite certain that until today I never ever ever said anything about any lesbian monkey metaphor.


I'm going to get more hits for this now that I've posted about it, aren't I?

Ah well. I had to share this because it's just so freaking bizarre.

Also today I noticed a few stellar stand-bys:
what the song the guy sing with the monkey
red monkey jeans
what is the red monkey jeans
do red monkey jeans exist (answer ... I wish they did not!)

and then the one that always makes me hurt:
hodgkin's disease what is the price to pay

Hodgkin's might be cancer lite, but it's still cancer and I never like to see someone searching for it as it likely means someone they know is affected by it.

Meanwhile, I'm hovering near the phone today. I found out this morning that a good friend of mine was rushed to the hospital this morning. I've no idea what the prognosis is, where they've taken him, when he can have visitors. This doesn't look like an auspicious beginning to 2007 so far, but hey, maybe he'll be fine and that'll make it a great start to the year, right? Right?

Lesbian Monkey Metaphor

Where do people come up with this shit?
Oh ... and Mr. from Houston, Texas? I'm sorry you're stuck with a Windows XP machine, but you really might want to switch over to FireFox instead of IE 6 ... you're already running a machine prone to virii and the like. You might want to switch to a browser that's a bit better than that crap Microsoft hands out like Chiclets on the border.
Just saying.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:17 PM | Comments (2) | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 23, 2006

ID or Leave ... Nah, Tazer

This did not happen to me. This did happen to someone in the U.S. recently. I've tried to stay as close to the facts that I do have as possible, though I can't be absolutely positive of that.

I am in the library computer lab. My school has random ID checks served to help keep the homeless out of the library after hours. Our computer lab is open later than the library itself ... so long as we get into the lab before the library closes, we can stay and work.

There are tons of students here with me. We're all working, and as I finish and am on my way out of the lab with my backpack, I am suddenly asked for my ID by campus police/security. That this is a random check and they do this randomly to everyone. No one else has been asked, but my skin marks me as from the middle east. I'm tired. I'm frustrated.

"Show your ID or leave."

I go to leave. I tell them I'm leaving. I also tell them they should check some random white students, too, if they're really being "random" about it all.

Apparently they are tired and frustrated and perhaps angry as well. Maybe they're scared of me. I don't know. But now they have pulled out tasers and handcuffs and they insist on seeing my ID. I don't know why I don't show it. It would be easier if I would. But I'm tired of the constant suspicion, the funny looks. I'm just tired of it all. I've read about non-violent procedures. I think, maybe, tonight is the night. It's a scary thing ... but so is all of this constant suspicion.

"I'm leaving, just as you asked."

They are following me, they still want my ID. I don't understand why they are hounding me like this. They put hands on me and finally tired of the stress, tired of the harassment, tired of going along with every little thing, I go completely limp. Non-violent. The opposite of what they expect of me, I'm sure.

The first blast of the taser takes me completely by surprise. I hit the ground and I can't help but scream. I didn't expect that much pain.

"Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power!"

I'm crying as they taser me again and begin yelling at me to stand up. I've been hit by several 3-5 second blasts of electricity. I can't do much but cry and scream. I can't believe how much this hurts. And they're doing this in front of 50-60 other college students. I thought this was how you were supposed to do civil disobedience and be safe about it. These guys, they don't care. They just want to hurt me. I was leaving like they asked.

Now they're shouting at me to stand up! I can't hardly move after the taser, much less stand up. Everything hurts and feels like rubber. I'd only fall over again. Students have been gathering around me. They're demanding the cops' badge numbers and information. I don't know if they give a crap about me, but at least they can see this situation isn't right.

But I guess these guys are really scared of me. Because I can't count how many times I've been tasered. Don't they know it takes at least five full minutes to be able to function again after a taser blast like these? Five to fifteen minutes. It can't have been that long. They're handcuffing me now and I still can't hardly move. Another taser blast while handcuffed? What do they think I can do? Why are they doing this to me? I can't do anything to them ... and I never threatened them at all. I was non-violent ... I did nothing ... I was leaving when they told me to show ID or leave. Why pick on me?

I'm dragged out of the building limp, in pain, in handcuffs. Part of me wishes I'd just shown my ID. Part of me is glad that I stood up to this. I'm tired of getting picked on.

And all I can think is that while I can see that other Americans were trying to help me even though they didn't know me, the police over-reacted. And probably because of my skin. I know that some people in Iran will use this to solidify their hatred of the U.S. ... and that some Americans will use this to further solidify their suspicions of anyone with "middle-eastern" skin.

I am hopeful, however. There were American students standing up for me. There is good here ... there is working together here ... even through the pain of this incident, there is hope. We can work together. There can be discussion instead of knee-jerk reaction and fear.

-- LA Voice.org ... quotes at least two articles about the real event.
Again, this is a fictionalized version of events based on the articles I've read and the bits of the video which are visible (it was caught on a video cell phone and uploaded to YouTube).
I don't pretend to speak for Mostafa Tabatabainejad ... he can do that himself, I have no doubt. I put this fictionalized account out here to show one set of possible motivations. To put a human face on what goes on. To remind us that for all of our differences, our reactions are much the same and we are much more alike than we sometimes would prefer to think.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:32 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 6, 2006


My mother does not have an milliliter of technological or mechanical sense whatsoever. I say this first, because I should probably be punished severely for making fun of this 60 year old woman, but hey, this was FUNNY, dammit.

So, Mom calls me Saturday and says, "I think I need to buy an iPod."

After picking the phone up off the floor and being grateful the battery didn't fall out of the thing, I answer, "Really? Why?" You have to understand ... my mother needs nothing. This is a woman who thinks that she shouldn't bother to fix her air conditioning because it's too much money ... and then she ignores the higher cooling bills, and complains about the higher temperatures in her house. And she lives in TEXAS, so it's not like the weather is just a little balmy.

"Well, there's this AM radio station I listen to and it has all my music on it. But they don't come in very well at work ... or at home ... and they're really tiny ... and I think they might go out of business. Because you know, all of their listeners are dying off." She makes this little laugh that I suppose is supposed to make me feel sorry for her. "You know, literally," she adds when I don't laugh back appreciatively.

She stops the conversation there. I am unsure how an iPod enters into things.

"So I need an iPod, right?"

"No, you need that radio station to stay on the air and get a bigger tower, I think."

"Well," she harumphs at me. "Since we know that's not going to happen, I need an iPod, right?"

"No, what you need is iTunes or something, Mom."

Now there's a long discussion explaining internet radio stations to her. She's on dial-up and couldn't access those at work when she's on a big line. So I then explain purchasing MP3s and the like online, that she'll have to pay $1 a song for her music. She is horrified, but would never entertain the idea of LimeWire or the like.


The mind boggles. I thought a buck a song was reasonable. I want to make sure the artists' get something, for crying out loud.

I begin trying to explain how MP3 files work.

"So it's just like a little file on your computer? So it'll have a little icon like a Microsoft Word document? Won't it fill up my hard drive?"

"Yes, yes, yes. That's it."

"Well, I don't want to fill up my hard drive."

Apparently the music should just magically stream through her magic computer and equally magic iPod.

I finally get everything explained to her and she decides she needs a CD burner, but she's concerned about the overwhelming price of blank CDs. emoticons/huh.gif

I am almost out of the dark and scary woods that represent this conversation. I have so far managed to not lose her to the dank murk of the woods for more than a minute or two at a time. I have even guided her through a brief discussion of MP3 vs. AIFF encoding methods.

Then, sadly, I open my mouth one too many times after she says it's a shame because she has all these old records and no record player. "Oh," I tell her, "I've got a USB record player ... it hooks directly into my computer and I can record all my old vinyl and turn them into CDs."

After ten minutes of "REALLY?" at the top of her lungs, she is now bringing all of her old records to Christmas this year and I'll be spending January, February and most of March burning CDs for her.

How did I know that her asking me about an iPod was going to be more work for me???

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:29 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 17, 2006


People frighten me.

On a typical day, I can expect to see that most people who used a search engine to get here to the Red Monkey were actually searching for "Red Monkey Jeans." I've also seen these variations:

  • monkey mowing
  • monkey logos
  • little red monkey tshirt
  • monkey scary stories
  • red monkey design
  • who made red monkey jeans
  • red monkey t-shirts

Okay, okay. I thought my little red monkey was simply a symbol of my ADHD, but apparently I should have clad him in jeans from the beginning. I get that now.

Also, in my larger website, I have a section, badly in need of a re-design, which features the park Caelum Moor by Norm Hines and which was funded by the Jane Mathes Kelton foundation. So I get a fair number of hits for those key words. Those are the things I'm used to seeing.

I've also gotten some freaking BIZARRE hits from search engines as well. One has something to do with "schoolgirl dirty socks keds," I believe. He didn't stick around long and I don't WANT to know what he was actually looking for.

But I got one today that just took the cake ... which has now spawned this top ten list of crazy or just odd search terms used to hit my site:

  • number 10 ... skateboard helmets are geeky (yes, yes they are ... unfortunately my other half insists that I use one ... dammit)
  • number 9 ... symptoms sprained broken finger (I don't think I've ever talked about this)
  • number 8 ... claw growing in paw (we had this happen to one of the cats - she stopped shedding claws and it just kept growing in a curve ... nasty)
  • number 7 ... help for my third grader wont behave in class (well don't use ME for an example!)
  • number 6 ... talequah oklahoma gay locations (my grandparents lived there for quite a while ... that is one tiny, rural area ... my guess: not a lot of gay hotspots there)
  • number 5 ... skateboard wheels sidewalks cracks (if you board much, you know those damn things are deadly ... particularly if you're old like me and still own a board with metal or clay wheels ... OW)
  • number 4 ... adhd gorilla (WTF?)
  • number 3 ... how to make a pillow deadfall trap (does this dude want to CATCH his pillow? has it been escaping him every night?)
  • number 2 ... miniature railroad spikes on banjos (normal people canNOT make this stuff up ... I don't have the slightest clue where to begin with that)
  • and ... the number 1 most BIZARRE search term came today ... I am still completely and totally confused and blow away by this: "If a mexican and a white person marry how will there [sic] child look"

People frighten me. A lot.

I can't count the number of things in that last one that disturb me ... not the least of which is that it landed them on a page where I did kind of sort of talk about that.

Oh, for more frightening things ... check this out from Rain on my Tirade (again! she is cracking me up).

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:11 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 24, 2006

Jesus Camp

This terrifies me. (It's a You-Tube video in the extended entry section.)

Jesus Camp is a documentary film about Becky Fischer's Kids on Fire camp, but follows three youngsters and their involvement in what they see as a Jesus movement.

Now look, people who are rational and fervent in their beliefs don't frighten me. I don't care if those beliefs are Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Democrat, Republican, or whatever. If you can discuss your beliefs without trying to force them on someone else ... without insisting that those beliefs are "undoubtedly correct and the only way" ... then we're cool.

People who think they should die for "the one, true way" scare the crap outa me.

Check out the video in the extended link ... and more commentary after that.

The things that frighten me about this little sound byte of info are:
1) children in camo and militaristic mindset ... even though the kids are apparently performing in a recital or revival or something. I do not want children to lay their lives down for the lord in quite that violent way. To me, Jesus was about peace and love and turning the other cheek. I'm not saying that I, personally, am always able to accomplish that myself ... just saying that training children otherwise frightens me.

2) at least the people in these clips are not very concerned with open dialogue. I know that the gentleman from Fuller Theological says that the youth movement is training kids to engage in open dialogue, but the clip from the Kids on Fire camp does not indicate anything other than indoctrination.

NOTE: I am commenting on the CLIP ... not the actual Kids on Fire camp nor these people ... this might simply be a news clip which is showing only the most "damning" portions.

3) I am offended at the stupidity of the news clip to insinuate that every child who attends a Christian rock concert or goes ot a Christian sponsored skateboard competition ... or whatever, is also to be compared to the children who are the focus of the Jesus Camp documentary. That is just lame. There are variations in every movement and I don't think that you can compare a Christian rock concert with some of what we see in these clips of the Kids on Fire camp. Also, when you are talking about Christian rock ... you are for the most part talking about older people, not 8 and 10 year olds. A 15 year old is more able to think things through on his own than an 8 year old.

What are your opinions? Will you be checking out this documentary? How do you feel about what you've seen of the Kids on Fire camp (and the news coverage of this camp, the movie and Christian youth movements in general)?

Just a couple of questions. comments/exciting.gif

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:33 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 16, 2006

There's GOLD ...

in them thar hills!!!


Yeah, that's right ... I'm going to make a ton of easy money in the not so distant future. How, you ask? Because some random artist from the U.K. has decided to trust little ole ME! I'm so excited. Why does Susan Wrights trust me? Well, because she "followed my antecedent from the internet" and then "decided on [me] because [her] confidence reposed on [me] as someone that is responsible and reliable." ME!!! Little ole me is responsible and reliable and that's so obvious from my antecedent on the internet!

Apparently poor Sussan-the-artist has discovered a gold mine of people to fleece in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who are just so excited to have her artwork that they are sending her TRAVELER'S CHECK or MONEY ORDER or CASHIER'S CHECK as payment. Unfortunately, Susan Wrights has not found a bank in UNITED KINGDOM with tellers whose fingers aren't so far up their own arses that they can be arsed to figure out how to convert and cash such esoteric transactions as these.

That's where I come in! She's gonna send me these payments and I will cash them for her, save 10% for myself and use Western Union to transfer the rest back to her. Easy money! I get paid for just cashing her checks!

I'm a little hurt, though. She also had to go and call the FBI and the Secret Service and they've assured her that if I take too much money, they'll track me down and punish me. I thought she said she trusted me? Oh well, I guess you just can't be too sure about these people you meet over the internet and I should just be glad that she's entrusting me with her money at all.

Boy, if she sells enough paintings to Americans, I'll be able to quit my day job and make cashing checks my full-time job. Sure, there's no health insurance or other benefits ... but maybe if I show her how trustworthy I am she'll let me set up a store for her stuff here in the UNITED STATES and I can just spread the word about the wonderful Susan Wrights and sell more ... wait ... was that Sussan Wrights or Susan Wrights. Oh, and wright here it says Susan Harrison-Tustain. But Harrison-Tustain is a New Zealand watercolourist. Susan Wrights is in London (United Kingdom, in case you had any doubts). And Susan Wrights does work in pencil or "art brush mixed with color pencils."

WAIT ... she wrote "COLOR" ... not "COLOUR." Everyone knows those crazy brits add an extra U here there and everywhere. What's going on here? What's with this? Is it real? Is it memorex? Is it a recycled Nigerian money-laundering scheme?

Damn ... I thought I was gonna be rich. comments/blush.gif

Read the whole thing below:


Welcome to The Art of Susan Harrison-Tustain
304, Parliament Street,
York, YO18SG, UK

Email: sussanwrights@yahoo.co.uk
Date:22 june,2006.
Greetings to you,
My name is Susan Wrights . I am an artist, practicing with my husband Mr.Fred Wrights, here in the United Kingdom. We own the SUSAN ART WORK INC., here in London, (United Kingdom). I live in London United Kingdom, with my two kids, two cats, one pet dog and the love of my life, my husband, Mr. Fred Wrights. It is undeniably a full house that we keep. I have been doing my artwork since I was a small child, which makes it about 23 years of experience for me in the field. I majored in fine and creative art in high school and in the college I professionalised in the art courses in the advance levels. Most of my works are done in either pencil or art brush mixed with color pencils.

I have recently added designing and creative artwork on the computer, and I have been selling my art works for the past 3 years to my prestigious customers from all over the world. Also, I have had my work featured on trading cards, prints and magazines, I have sold in galleries and to private collectors from all over the world, but I am always facing serious difficulties when it comes to selling my art works to Americans. I have bigger customers from the Americans but most of my America customer's mostly offer to pay me with TRAVELER'S CHECK or MONEY ORDER or CASHIER'S CHECK, which is difficult for me to redeem into its cash equivalence here in London, United Kingdom.

My main reason for sending you this email is that I am looking for a representative in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I am looking for someone who will be working for me, and with me, as a par time worker and I will be willing to pay 10% for every transaction the person assists me in making. Following your antecedent from the Internet, I decided that you should assist me in handling this situation. I decided upon you because my confidence reposed on you as someone that is responsible and reliable. Presently, I am working on setting up a branch in the states so, for now, I need a representative in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who will be handling the payment aspect for our company. The work you would be doing for me would not have to affect your present business or work. The work I would like you to do for me is simply to receive from me the TRAVELER'S CHECK or MONEY ORDER or CASHIER'S CHECK that my customers are paying me with. Because the cost of coming to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA constantly to redeem this payments is becoming too expensive, time-consuming and inconvenient for me. When you receive the check payments from our customers or my secretary through the postal service, I would like you to cash the checks for me as soon as you receive them. So when you cash the check, I would like you to subtract your 10% and the transfer charges and send the balance to my cashier in the United Kingdom through Western Union Money Transfer.

However, the problem I have is trust. And as a result of that, I have made arrangements with the FBI in Washington and the secret service agents that if anybody representing me gets away with my money they have assured me that they will definitely get hold track the person down, and the person will go to jail for looting my funds. PAYMENT WOULD BE SENT TO YOU THROUGH A TRUSTED POSTAL SERVICE AGENT. AND AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE THEM I WOULD LIKE YOU TO IMMEDIATELY CONTACT ME, SO THAT I WOULD DIRECT YOU ON WHAT TO DO WITH IT AND HOW TO GET THE BALANCE TRANSFERRED TO MY CASHIER IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

NOTE: All charges of the WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER will be deducted from my total sum, so you are rest assured that you wouldn't spend a CENT out of your own personal money. You just have to deduct your interest and send the balance to my cashier for accounting and bookkeeping.
If you are interested in assisting me in this venture pending when our branch would be ready in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA for us to work closely together, please kindly get back to me immediately via this my mailbox.

P.S, Please send to me the listed information below:
1. Your Name in Full
2. Your Full Contact Address
3. Your Occupation
4. Your Age
5. Your Marital Status
6. Your Direct Phone Number and Fax Number
I eagerly await your prompt response,I appreciate your fervent dedication and your decision to assist me.
Pls all response should be sent to my private email : sussanwrights@yahoo.co.uk

Thanks for your assistant and God bless,

Thanks for your assistance and God bless you for your anticipated dedication,

Director of SUS ART WORK INC,
London, United Kingdom.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:42 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 9, 2006

Not News

Once Upon A Time in the world, there was this little chunk of land known as Michigan. And Not So Very Long Ago, there was a smaller chunk of land within the confines of Michigan known as:
Rainbow Farms.

But tale of idiocy I tell today really only touches tangentially on Rainbow Farms ... you can read more about the farm and their standoff with local law enforcement, the FBI and their 420 festival here and here.

No, what I have to discuss today is our local news. It sucks. Wait, wait, this all ties together in a minute. Be patient, trust me. But our news does suck. Really really really suck.

You see, about the time the standoff at Rainbow Farm commenced, WNDU, NBC local affiliate, channel 16, owned at one time by the University of Notre Dame, bought a news helicopter. While owned by Notre Dame, channel 16 was well-known for purchasing new tech and new gadgets so they could be the best of the best (in a really small local market ... whoopee). So, they painted their lovely new helicopter a deep colour of blue, a bit on the dark side and happily flew around from town to town reporting on as many of the local high school footballs games they could manage on a Friday night.

Wait, I mean they reported news. And traffic stuff. Yeah, that's what they did.

But mostly they flew to high school football games in their nifty new chopper.

Enter the conflict at Rainbow Farms. As I said, this story isn't about Rainbow Farms, but what you do need to know is that the guys who owned the farm had pretty much had it with the local cops. They were getting paranoid about the cops, and my very brief understanding of the conflict suggests that they had reason to be concerned. So, there's this kind of low-key standoff between the local cops and the dudes at the farm ... and the geniuses at channel 16 decide ... hey, we have a news chopper, let's go report The Big News �. And off they flew.

Let's see, it's dusk. It's a dark colour helicopter. It's a standoff with the cops. It's guys who're suspicious (rightly so by this point).

Yeah, I certainly think it's safe to do a low fly-by right over the frigging armed suspicious dudes, sure. Why not? What's the worst that could happen? I mean, this is the NEWS and we gotta deliver the news, right?

Yeah. You know what happened next. I know what happened next. (Well, I'm writing this, so I damn well better know what happened next, but you know what I mean.)

One of the dudes mistook (cue groovy announcer voice) NewsChopper 16� (end groovy announcer) for a military or police black helicopter and took a shot. Duh.

Now, I would not want to have been the pilot or the passenger on that chopper. I'm damn glad no one was actually hurt. But good lord, how stupid could they have been?

The focus of the channel 16 news that night?


Dear lord. I am not kidding you. Out of their what, 22 minute newscast at 10, I think 20 minutes was spent discussing the tiny hole in their freaking helicopter. A more reasonable actual news account of the story is on their website here.

It was like a car wreck of a newscast that evening, I tell you. I couldn't look away. I could not believe they were continually talking about the fact that they had a small bullet hole in the rear stabilzer. "They were all okay," they hastened to add, "but it was scary." Really? No shit. You flew down low over a tense, armed standoff and got shot at and it was SCARY? I had no idea. Thank you for that bit of news.

That was the first five minutes of the newscast. Then next 15 minutes consisted of a running commentary about how bad this was ... they'd been SHOT at, didn't you understand? and then ... then ... THEN ... they trotted a camera crew out to the helicopter pad. At first, when it was still a tad bit light ... the helicopter wasn't back yet. So, they showed us footage of the empty helicopter pad ... and discussed that they had been SHOT at, do you BELIEVE this shit? SHOT AT. Them!

Finally, the chopper arrives. It is now full dark. During the commercial break, they frantically get a camera crew back out to the helicopter pad and attempt to light it up and somehow avoid washing everything out all at the same time. Quite a trick what with the bright lights bouncing on the bright, shiny-new chopper.

They spent another five minutes after the break showing us the little bullet hole and the ragged bits of the fiberglass where it had gone through. And then assuring us, that "No one was hurt, but it was scary."

Now, look. Local team, big news story. They got excited. They had a new toy. I understand that they wanted to show that toy off and get to use it. But good freaking lord, could they show a little common sense and not do a low fly-by? And why were they surprised that they were shot at? I mean, a really good investigative reporter does understand that there is danger involved in the job on a regular basis.

But in the larger scheme of reporting the news, the fact that they had a bullet hole in their rear stabilizer truly was not a 15 minute news story. A sentence or two as they discussed the story of the standoff - fine. Yeah, it should be mentioned if for no other reason than to warn the public to stay away from the standoff. (Unlike the fine idiots who took picnic lunches to Waco on the weekends for the Branch Davidian mess.)

But the fact that they were not shot down is not a news story!

*sigh* Heinlein's quote seems particularly appropriate when applied to the local news:
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

It boggles the mind, it does.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:12 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 23, 2006

Well Said

I found { decadently } while surfing Blogmad and I have to say, I'm really glad I did. There is such a thing as taking an argument out of context and taking it far too far and Marie said all this far better and more bluntly than I ever could.

Check out Open Letter #246234. Well said, indeed!

Oh, and while I was on vacation, the anti-discrimination ordinance missed passing by a single vote. Apparently the mayor is furious. I'm afraid to go to the nospecialrights.net site and see how they gloated. *sigh*

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:32 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 20, 2006

Why Not to Be in a Hurry

Yesterday, I very very hurriedly tried to get some edits done on a piece at work. I only had the printed copy and no digital copy to work from, so I had to re-type the short piece and edit as I went. Then, I handed it off to the graphic designer to put into the brochure format with the hopes that we would both still work on some of it in the morning.

I am really REALLY hoping that he didn't send it out yet. Cuz, umm ... well .... there's this nasty little typo ... umm:

This means that you can make monkey from people who love this.

Ooops. Guess I have monkeys on the brain or something. Or maybe it was the 3.5 hours of sleep before coming in to work a full day after being gone for something like 11 days. Or maybe it was the shock of being back in Indiana after being in my beloved Texas.

Yeah. Anyhow ... I really hope that hasn't gone out yet. (Or if it has, that he actually saw the typo, laughed hysterically at me and changed monkey to money.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:10 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 24, 2006

In the Ghetto

For regular watchers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you know where I got today's title and subject matter. (Meanwhile, check out the Player Haters video from The Daily Show link ... it'll get your blood a-boiling.)

Video games, apparently, are something the U.S. Congress does not comprehend. I suppose this must be much like once books were commonly available. All them old folks simply don't get this new-fangled dissemination of ideas, concepts and freedom of thought. Especially not when those li'l whippersnappers get hold a them idears.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, riles me faster than "adults" dodging responsibility. I will attempt to curb my language in this post, but I make no promises. There may very well be strong language which reflects my intensely strong feelings on this issue.

I don't care if we're talking about Dungeons & Dragons, the swimming hole at the quarry, the Hardy Boys books, My Little Pony, cartoons, video games or the freaking rocks in the "empty" field. Kids find stuff to get into that we wish they didn't do. The fact of the matter is, they are tiresomely independent and creative in finding ways to amuse themselves that we attempt to keep from them.

Now, the catch-22 is that we can watch almost their every move if we are willing to give up a two parent career/jobs ... providing you're not a single parent already. Of course, giving up two incomes probably means you can't give your children all the opportunities you'd like to give them. For some families, that might be food and clothing. For others it might be a junker to re-build together. Your mileage, of course, may vary. There will still be times that we can't be with our kids, but we can at least hover over them most of the time. (Providing they don't sneak out of this smothering closeness at night. Of course, I suppose you could put an alarm system on the kid's room and get around that, too.) But you can utterly stifle them and watch them most of the time.

Or, you can raise them as best you can, talk with them, instill your values in them, and then do the hardest thing in the world for any good parent: trust them enough to let them make their own choices (within certain parameters, of course).

Then again, the third option is to ignore the crap outa them and let everyone else raise them haphazardly, as they see fit. Sadly, this seems to be the preferred method for far too many American families.

But what got me on this topic to begin with? Let's listen to a minute long MP3 clip from "Player Haters" on The Daily Show.
The U.S. House of Representatives apparently feels the need to discuss video games and their violent tendencies more than say, violence in Iraq. Because they can do something about video game violence. In this clip, they are discussing, of course, Grand Theft Auto.
(PC IE users, you may need to download and play from your favourite MP3 application, FireFox users should be able to hear this play in browser.)
Player Haters Clip (Opens in new window so you can read this post and listen at the same time :) .)

"It's safe to say that a wealthy kid from suburbs can play Grand Theft Auto or similar games without turning to a life of crime. But a poor kid who lives in a neighborhood where people really do steal cars or deal drugs or shoot cops, might not be so fortunate."


Let's dissect this, shall we?

A wealthy kid ... a poor kid ... the poor kid "might not be so fortunate." Gee, ya think? And only people in poor neighborhoods steal cars, deal drugs and shoot cops? C'mon here! Could this dude spurt more stereotypes?

"There's almost certainly a child somewhere in America who's going to be hurt by this game. Maybe his dad's in jail or his big brother's already down on the corner dealing drugs."

All right, now wait a minute here. I mean, Jon Stewart nails one of the issues by pointing out that the "Columbine boys" were NOT poor little inner city "chilluns." But there's so much more here. Where's the personal responsibility of the parents? Oh wait, I forgot. We're assuming all these "unfortunates" have a dad already in jail, mom is presumably working or waiting in the welfare line and big brother is selling drugs on the street corner. (Double meaning to the last is intentional.) Second, boy, dad and brother. Wait a minute. Mr. Joseph Pitts ("Mmmm, unfortunate name.") from Pennsylvania seems to think that the females are not going to be affected by the game ... or that it might be Mom in jail instead of Dad.

Leaving the issue of male/female aside - this was, after all, just a 3 sentence clip - I just gotta say WTF. I mean what the bloody freaking hell?

Now look, I don't want my 5 year old playing Grand Theft Auto. Let's just be clear about that. Nor do I think I really want my 10 year old playing it. At least from what I've heard about it. But let's do a little freaking proactive parenting here, huh? Video games tend to run about $50 while they're brand new. What ten year old has $50 that they can just run over to Target and spend at will? We start getting much older than that, and I suppose by 13 it might be possible. (We're gonna get to the "but what about their friends' homes" whine in just a minute.)

13 year old wants to play a video game. It's marked M for mature. Okay. Kid really wants to play it and "everyone" in his class already owns it. Go down to the local gaming and video store and rent the damn thing. Don't tell Junior, just do it. After he goes to bed at night, play the game. Are you gonna get all the easter eggs? No, not really, but you will have a good idea if you really want your kid playing the damn game or not. Okay, let's say I've got a 13 year old who is utterly car mad and impulsive. Umm, I'm thinking NO to Grand Theft Auto. Pretty emphatically. She argues that she's not gonna "do anything," she just wants to play the game and I'm mean to her.

Tough. Okay, kid, prove to me that you are mature enough to play the game. Let's set some goals and ground rules surrounding the impulsivity issues. If Impulse-child can meet those goals in six months, I'll re-consider.

Now the deal is, this only works if 1) you know your kid and talk to the kid 2) the kid knows that "re-consider" means re-consider and it doesn't mean an automatic hell no. It can't be a delaying tactic just to shut the kid up. 3) it means you have to be willing to do some research and stay involved.

Is any of this easy? Yes and no. It's time consuming, and at the end of the day, many of us are simply too tired and too caught up in our own lives to invest enough into creative parenting. But the fact of the matter is this: kids are far more appreciative of being treated like thinking beings than they are of having the latest stuff. Sure, most of them want both. :) But those kids who are treated like thinking beings will grow to understand why they can't always have the stuff. And they'll learn to cope with that and enjoy their relationship with their parent(s).

The fact of the matter is, Dungeons and Dragons is not evil. Video games are not evil. Rocks in the field are not evil.

Children who are so isolated from right and wrong that a rock war in the field sounds like a stunning idea, never mind that three kids had to have stitches ... that's something to be concerned about.

Suburban ... white suburban boys who are angry at the world and in anger management therapy and yet still have access to guns and terrorize a "nice suburban" school ... that's something to be terrified about.

Is it the parents' fault when their kids do terrible things? That's a very knotty question that depends on the total situation and another post another time. Please understand I am NOT knee-jerk reacting and saying that bad behaviour of children is automatically the fault of the parent for not paying attention.

But when we're talking about things like video games, we have choices. More choices than many of us seem to think.

For example, a good friend of mine at work is very religious. Not in the in-your-face, hey, I'm RELIGIOUS kind of way. He's very quiet about it ... very much tries to live a simple and devout life. Doesn't feel the need to convert everyone around him. We were talking about the Lego Star Wars video game one day. His kids just adored the game and had great fun with it. After all, when you swing the light saber at something, it just breaks into its little Lego blocks. No blood, no gore. Didn't really seem like a violent game. If I remember correctly, the littlest boy is something of a pistol at five or so. What "Jonathan" noticed was that the kids got very wound up after playing the game. He told the kids he was going to take it away for a week after they'd had a particularly rambunctious day. Over the course of that week, they're behaviours calmed down. Once they had the video game again, they went back to Nutsville.

They don't get even that E for Everyone game anymore because with six kids in the house, they simply wound each other up too much. Does that mean the Lego Star Wars video game is bad for all kids? Not at all. In Jonathan's situation it was. Perhaps if the littlest of the kids had been a bit older, they'd have been mature enough to reign in their excitement. Perhaps not. It really depends on the kids and their personalities.

What I'm saying here in this long post which has now taken me two days to write is this:
You have to be willing to observe your kids. You have to be willing to say no. You have to be willing to do the research. You have to be willing to find the time to do all of this.

We don't get it right every time. We can't. We're only human.

But we can't blame a game, or a book or a CD for our children's behaviours. It's so very much more complicated than that.

And back to Mr. Joseph Pitts for a moment. It's absolutely reprehensible to assume that the rich suburban kids will have no problems with the more "dangerous" games like Grand Theft Auto while the poor inner-city youth will automatically succumb to the situation at hand. Absolutely reprehensible. And, to my mind, the fact that this @sshole planned out this statement just makes it all the more reprehensible. He's looking for a scapegoat that will garner him votes. He's looking to soothe busy parents' minds by telling them it's definitely not their fault, they can blame these modern times and gizmos. I find that irresponsible and ridiculous.

Argh. I forgot to get back to the "but what about their friends' houses" whine. Another time, another time.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:16 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 17, 2006

Silent Reverie

If you've read much of this blog before, you know that I frequently claim to have been an odd child. Maybe I should make that one of the categories here, as it seems like an almost ritualistic start to many of my posts.

At any rate, I was an odd little kid. At seven, I was positive that I had the whole world figured out. The point of life was quite obviously to be an adult. This was the mecca of achievements. After all, grown-ups were always telling us to act more mature. And, the definition of a grown-up was to be objective, impartial and to have no emotional extremes whatsoever. Getting angry or hurt or mad or too sad, all of that was childish. And even at seven, I strove to be as adult and grown-up as I possibly could.

To go along with this concept, I assumed that as my friends and I aged, we would become more "adult," more objective, more impartial, less given to petty fights over nothing at all.

As I grew older and realized that most chronological adults are anything but objective and impartial and who are still quite emotional and sometimes petty, I grew terribly confused. Why couldn't all the adults see that my vision of how life should be was the right one? They obviously weren't trying enough.

Like I said, I was an odd child.

Okay, seemingly big jump here, but I'll tie it all together in a minute, hang on.

I've been online in one capacity and frequency or another since the kid across the street got a modem for his Commodore 64. He'd labouriously log into his BBS and we'd type to some other kid. The modem transmitted one slow letter at a time. And oh, but God forbid you make a typo ... then you would watch the cursor back up, eating one letter at a time until the other dude got to the mistake and then labouriously re-typed the real word. And trust me, on the C-64, you had to whale on those keys with your fingers to get each letter to take. There was none of this soft-touch keyboard action. You might as well have been on an old Royal typewriter and you'd better have some damn strong fingers if you wanted to touch-type instead of hunt and peck.

Now I am both a very visual person and a very words-oriented person. The two traits together have helped me learn to read people's words, body language and mannerisms fairly well. (Okay, so being the child of an alcoholic honed that skill more than anything else could have, but you get the point.) And what I noticed about the early BBS was that it was far easier to get into a misunderstanding there than in person. In fact, the limited typing skills, the speed of the modems, and the programming of the systems pretty much generated disagreements like Orville Reddenbacher generated popcorn.

When I got back online in 1993 and joined MUDdog, the landscape of being online had changed drastically. While there's still the "lag kills" issue to be faced, the 'net was far more of a "real-time" community than it had been. But the miscommunications and fights seemed to be just as bad, if not worse, than before. And because I both love figuring things out and because I'm a writer, I tried to do what I do best: sit back and observe and then draw conclusions. (And then share them ... gee, aren't you lucky?)

The fact of the matter is that on the computer screen, everything is flat as hell. It's a one-dimensional, flat as a pancake, exercise in frustrating interpretation. The fact of the matter is that most of us are completely used to relying on another person's vocal tone or body language to give hints as to whether someone is laughing at us or with us. As a writing teacher, I saw this over and over and over again. Our little black marks on the page are one of the best ways we have to communicate our ideas to a wide audience ... and they are also simply the dead skeleton left behind by the ideas we convey as we speak. They're better than nothing, but they're not the whole Stegasorous.

And what really sucks about this is that so many of us feel that "plain speech" will "clear the air" and is the best way to avoid being misunderstood and to still be true to our own selves and our own feelings.

Unfortunately, this simply is not true most of the time. Plain speech, more often than not, leads to people taking offense. And we can say all we want, "I didn't mean it that way" or "I should be able to say what I mean" ... but the deal is ... language, any language, every language, does not have fixed meaning.

An example: I hate the word lesbian. It drives me up the frigging wall. Yet, most people who are trying conscientiously to use the "right" word for a gay female will use lesbian. To me, it sounds like a frigging disease. See, when I was in high school, and a newscaster was forced to talk about "one of those people," they'd say lesbian in this hideous tone of voice that just dripped distaste. One particular news story discussed the "crazed lesbian who broke into Sharon Gless' home." (This was while Cagney and Lacy was airing.) For me, I internalized all that venom directed when the newscasters said that word and so it's never been a word I particularly liked. Dyke, on the other hand, was a word I'd never heard before I came out in college. So while a great many gay women find the term offensive, it's always been one that I preferred.

Actually, I just thought anyone who wasn't heterosexual oughta go by "gay" since I have never really seen the need to separate out every little faction of the community ... but that's just me. :)

All of that is to say while the basic definitions of lesbian, dyke and gay woman all seem to describe the same concept, well, they really don't mean the same things.

One more seeming sidetrip and I'll wrap this post all together.

I read a LOT of Robert Heinlein novels as a kid. And I can remember reading in several of his books about the concept of manners and politeness. In several different books he talks about the brashness of youth and how many young people seem to think that being polite really just throws sand into the gears of life. If we would all just say what we mean, then things would move more quickly and efficiently.

I was confused. Being just a kid, I pretty much agreed that the ritual politeness of adults was a little crazy. But it bugged me to be categorized as "just a kid" in this way, so I thought about it a lot. And I eventually came to realize something.

"Political Correctness" is not bullshit. No, we didn't use the term back then. And I'm not talking about Orwellian double-speak, taking things too far political correctness. I'm talking about attempting to consider the other person's view and culture before opening our mouths ... or letting our fingers do the talking for us.

You see, when we say something that's on our mind with absolutely no internal editor on it at all, chances are we're going to use a few words that have highly charged meanings. Then, if we want to continue productive conversation with that person, we're going to have to back up and explain what we really mean, or soothe hurt feelings, or dig our heels in, call the other person overly sensitive and walk away from it all.

If we think a little more before we speak ... if we search for the right words when writing ... if we take the time to explain the context (even tho that takes longer), then we often have a better communication with a wider number of people and fewer hurt feelings or lost conversations. Which way is more efficient? Taking an extra ten words to explain part of the back-story or reason or taking an extra few seconds to choose a term carefully ... or "speaking plainly."

Particularly in online communications, our words serve as the grease which keeps the gears moving smoothly. Sure, it's messy work getting the right grease on the gears. Sure, it's kind of a pain to try to do that. And sure, sometimes you use the wrong stuff and the whole damn thing grinds to a halt anyway. The point is not whether the right word is lesbian or dyke or Sneetch without a green star on thars. The point is that we are not really objective, emotionless automatons who instantly grok the meaning and intent.

Sure, this can all go too far, to the point where we're making up words that are hopefully not offensive to anyone. Sure we can be so afraid to offend someone that we no longer speak up or talk about the things that need to be talked about. To me, that is PC bullshit. Fear of speaking is the bullshit. But there's a second side to that coin as well. It's just as bullshit to decide that words have but one meaning and no one should be offended by the words and jokes we tell. There are shades of grey here because we are not emotionless automatons.

Striking that balance between trying to think of the other person ... and still saying what you need to say ... that's being an adult. It's not politeness and ritual just for the sake of ritual and wasting time. I get what Heinlein was trying to say about manners now.

And I wish it was easier to convey our meanings and intents in our online communities. Because I've been online for a long time. I've been part of a LOT of different online communities, and I love them. There is something particularly delightful about meeting people from around the globe and learning about different ways of life, different cultures, different ways of thinking and being and living. But that also means there are lots and lots and lots of different ways to offend and be offended. To hurt and be hurt.

And while we aren't the "perfect," objective, impartial "adults" I'd conceived of back at the tender age of 7, we can at least try to listen to the other person. We can try to understand them. We can try to choose a less loaded word in hopes of carrying on the conversation longer. But ultimately, shit will happen because we don't all think exactly perfectly alike. We're not objective and impartial most of the time. And most of us are hard-wired to include at least some pettiness.

I just wish ....

I've been trying to finish that sentence for ten minutes now. There are so many things I tried to cover in this post. So many things I want to convery. But it's late, I'm really tired, and I don't know if any of this even makes sense anymore. I guess I'm just saying "why can't we all just get along?" Idealistic. Overly Pollyanna-ish. I know ... I know. But no matter how many times I see misunderstandings ... no matter how times I hear them ... I'm a writer. And I'm always trying to figure out how to bridge the rifts that words make ... with more words.

Well ... it's been well over an hour since I started attempting to unearth this particular dinosaur and uncover his bones, dust them off and examine them. Perhaps I should leave further interpretation for another day and other commenters.

Anyhow, I'll close with a bit of the song from which I took this title ... Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" :
so tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there's vultures and thieves at your back
and the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lie
that you make up for all that you lack

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:30 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 16, 2006


People tend to call me a party pooper because I do NOT like fireworks in the neighborhood. They call me a worrywort. They call me old fogey (even when I was 19 and told my friends to go do that crap somewhere else ... away from my car and home).

Well, the other half went out to the truck at 4:30 in the morning ... time to leave for work ... walked to the curb, where it was parked under a streetlight, and discovered that someone had pointed a bottle rocket straight at the windshield "to see what would happen." This is what would happen:

cracked windshield

Click either image for a larger look.

cracked windshield

You can see in the top picture that there are actually two points of impact. One, centered, has white residue not just from the lines of the cracked glass, but from the cement or powder or whatever that's in the bottom of the bottle rocket. Just to the left of that is another white smear of that same reside. And the heat cracked the windshield far beyond just the impact. And of course, the people who did it, picked up most of the bottle rocket "debris." The paper, the little stick thing and the cement plug are all gone.

At least there was no damage to the body of the truck. And at least they didn't set the gas tank alight. Still, this did not make for a good day yesterday for either of us.

I suppose we're both grateful that this didn't happen while driving and that what happened to the neighbor's car a year ago didn't happen to us. Cuz the neighbors were awakened by the police around 4 one morning ... because as they were driving past, young neighbor lad's car was "parked" in the yard.

Yeah, someone had come up the street fast and nailed his parked car hard enough to move it at least a good car length onto the yard. And then they abandoned their car (with all their paperwork and personals still in it) and took off on foot. Completely totaled neighbor-lad's car.

Still and all ... it's not a nice way to wake up in the morning.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:54 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 11, 2006

Alligators and Gorillas

So, there's a whole silly reason that I call this blog Red Monkey, but of course, one of the reasons I wanted the red monkey, was because I do adore monkeys and gorillas both. So tonight, as I was watching Growing Up Gorilla on the Discovery Channel, I remembered my trip to the Brookfield Zoo and the pictures I got of a new gorilla mommy.

Mama Gorilla and baby
Mama Gorilla and baby

The best part of the show was watching four little guys playing together. The one male of the group, second to youngest of them all, decided he was a silverback already. Posturing and pulling all the others to the ground, even the one several, several months older and much bigger. Once he'd decided he'd dominated them, he went to the electric fence that separated them from the toddler gorilla-kids, he kept trying to get through the fence to prove himself king of the big kids too!

Ahh, gotta love the politics of the playground. I can remember when I wished there was an electric fence to keep the bullies away from the younger kids, too. In fact, there are times on the internet when I still wish the same thing, what with people not conversing in comments left on other blogs, but instead just spitting insults and venom. And no, I'm not talking about here ... somehow, at least up to this point, I've managed to avoid any trolls or venemous spitting comments, but I've witnessed it on the blogs of many other people. I never do understand it ... it always makes me think of junior high.

In fact, back, waaaaay back when I was in junior high and the abacus had only recently been tossed in favour of some funky hand held device that weighed about 6 pounds and could add, subtract, multiply AND divide!!! (all on one single 9 volt per every 100 calculations) ... anyhow, back in the day, the rage was Lacoste Izod shirts. These were the little three-button shirts with a collar. Sometimes called a polo. Sometimes called a golf shirt. Well, there were Izods back then and then there were just plain shirts. The Izod had the little alligator and was thus considered cool. The reason why is lost in the mysteries of time and the brains of the then pre-adolescents. Everyone wanted that stupid alligator on their shirt.

I just thought those shirts in general were the height of cool. Obviously, they were dress-up shirts because they had a COLLAR. And, still, they were t-shirts. Casual and dress-up all in one package!!! I loved them.

I really didn't care if they were plain, had the alligator or the Sears Le Tigre tiger on them. Whatever.

However, most of my classmates were terribly rabid about the Izod alligator. Oh, you weren't made fun of for wearing a plain 3-button. But you certainly weren't "in" if you did that.

Of course, as soon as I hit seventh grade and junior high, my mother decides this is the perfect time to pick up sewing. And she proceeded to infinitely increase my cool factor by making most of my clothes. It's not that she was bad at sewing, but her taste in materials left much to be desired. At any rate, in my perpetual attempt to make fun of my classmates for being slaves to stupid things, I found a nifty -- and quite large -- alligator applique whilst whiling away the interminable hours at the fabric store. Mom was looking for the cheapest cloth and the best cloth: a search continually doomed to failure, so she usually chose cheap. (I'm surprised we didn't have shirts made out of that funky white crap that I can't remember the name of ... edging? no ... whatever.)

I bounded over to my mother with this freaking three inch alligator and announced that I wanted THAT on one of my shirts. My mother looked at me sadly. Obviously I was a challenged child in terms of spatial relations and she said tenderly, "Honey, no one is ever going to think that's an Izod alligator."

I rolled my eyes in the fashion of teens and pre-teens everywhere. "I KNOW, Mom, that's the POINT."

She reluctantly purchased my joke alligator and dutifully sewed it on one of the shirts.

All I heard that day at school was "That's not a real Izod you know."

To which my reply was a big grin and a delighted, "I know ... that's the point."

There were a LOT of confused kids in my school the first few times I wore the shirt.

But, the saddest thing to me was that while I got a lot of confusion over that shirt, I never did get teased. On the other hand, "Donna" wasn't so lucky. She couldn't afford an Izod. Her mom got her the next best thing, at least in Mom-Think. Donna got a Le Tigre shirt instead. She spent an evening getting the tiger off that shirt and then, skipped athletics one morning and took an alligator off some unsuspecting girl's Izod. She tried to glue it onto her shirt.

Watching the gorilla kids on the tv show tonight reminded me very much of that scene in the girl's locker room in the 80s. A pack of girls, converging on Donna. Yelling at her. Screaming, "That's not an Izod, you faker!" And other, less nice, things. Donna, frightened, insisting that it was. Truly, it was an Izod. She tried to divert attention to me, reminding the girls I had a HUGE alligator. They were tearing at Donna's shirt now, trying to get to the tag on the inside back. Donna was squriming, terrified, trying to get away.

All she'd wanted was to fit in.

All I'd wanted was to let the other kids know you didn't have to fit in.

I got ignored.

Donna got her shirt literally ripped off. And the tag held up triumphantly. Le Tigre.

The coach had to find her a shirt from the lost and found. Luckily, there were some just back from the laundry.

In the show tonight, the slightly bigger toddler gorillas were picking on the littlest one. Something that wouldn't really happen in the wild, according to the researchers, because the older adolescents and the adults wouldn't stand for it. But in this habitat, they get groups of babies, not the adults. So the humans sometimes have to just let the "kids" sort it out for themselves ... sometimes they have to step in.

What is it in us, that makes us go after the weak or those we perceive to be weak? Is it a throw back to some more survivalist instincts in which only the strongest survived and if you killed off the weak, it was more food and survival for you?

I hear some folks, adults, talk about this phenomenon with disgust for the weak. I've heard others talk about with hurt and confusion. Others with a determination to fix it all.

For me, it was in junior high that I realized that this behaviour the adults called "junior high" was prevalent everywhere. I saw adults being just that petty as to be asinine over what brand of clothes someone wore. What neighborhood they "chose" to live in.

And all I could think ... all I can think ... is our need to not be alone really that strong? That this is one of the largest worries in so many people's lives in the western world? (I presume it's the world over, but I don't know other cultures well enough to presume to speak for them.)

Schoolyard bullies. Proving strength like the young gorillas. Proving they're cool like Cordelia in the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Proving we're still essentially animals despite our insistence that we're civilised.

Wow. This post took some turns I didn't expect.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:51 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 31, 2006


Umm, just a hint for those of you with airsoft pistols and who get really curious about whether or not they hurt.

They do.

Yeah, see, we've been playing with my airsoft pistol at work to relieve stress ... we shoot at the funny little sticky target that grabs the little green, plastic BBs and holds them there on the target for later retreival. And then we "graduated" to attempting to knock over the Pez dispenser Death Star. And the Playskool Star Wars guys.

In the course of this, naturally, there have been some ricochets. Yesterday, I caught a ricochet just under my mouth. And, finally, yesterday, one of the guys said, "Shoot me." We've all been hit by the ricochets and they kinda sting a little, but they don't really hurt. So ... one of the guys shot the graphic designer. His eyes kinda flew open and he said, "Let's not try that again."

So, of course, this morning, I can't stand the suspense anymore. Does it really hurt?

Hell yes.

I am now graced with a nice BB sized welt on my calf.

Umm, OW.

Won't be trying that again any time soon.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:13 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 14, 2006

In Vein

So, in the process of applying for life insurance, naturally, I have to go in for some insurance company basic blood test type physical. Coolio. I get there and the woman preps me for drawing blood. After having been through Hodgkin's disease in 1999 and again in 2001, having a little blood drawn doesn't bother me. So much so, that I usually watch the "little poke" and watch the tube fill up with blood. It's all no biggee to me.

So, as usual, I'm watching the woman make the poke and insert the first tube. Normal. Then she goes to switch tubes. I don't know if she'd just had a heck of a long day or if she was tired and fussy or just unpracticed, but she bobbled the exchange. I could feel the needle start to slide out, go back in ... and, I swear, I could feel it go through the other side of the vein. It hurt. But, okay, whatever. Accidents happen and I have a high pain tolerance, so I was willing to let it go. She puts the little bits of gauze on my inner elbow and the band-aid on top of it. Standard.

We go to the restroom for the obligatory pee test. Well, that is, she waited outside for me to produce the specimen! As I'm setting the now full cup down on the edge of the sink, I happened to look down at my arm. Blood. Running down my arm. Gauze is totally soaked through and I have honestly seen a lot less blood on a scraped knee than was pooled in my inner elbow and beginning to run down my arm.

"Umm, I never stopped bleeding," I tell the woman as she runs her little test strips through the specimen.

"Uh." She studies the little strip and puts it in its tube.

I reach over her and grab a paper towel as I'm thinking some direct pressure is probably necessary by now. "Umm, I'm still bleeding here ... I've never had this happen before."

She reaches over and grabs her second little strip and places it in the specimen and then studies it before putting that one in its little tube. We go back to the little examining room. (And, by the way ... this woman did not clean off the sink very well after placing that specimen cup there. Disgusting!)

On the way in to the examining room, I notice that now the paper towel has also soaked through - although at least some of that was simply from mopping up the mess that had run down my arm already.

"I've bled through this as well," I tell her, now brandishing the blood-soaked paper towel since I'm not sure what it will take to actually get her attention.

"Oh, you're still bleeding? Well, those little gauze pads are pretty thin."

Excuse me? That's all the concern or interest she can muster up? I have bled through 2 of her thin gauze pads, doubled over, the band-aid and now a relatively large paper towel for the bathroom and she's unconcerned about this?

Her solution? Not to tell me to consider continuing the direct pressure. Instead she grabbed 4 gauze pieces, folded them up and tried to tape those down with a regular band-aid. Hmm. And when it came time for her to give me the pre-printed sheet on how to avoid bruising, she kind of shoved it toward me and said, "Well, you're already bruised, so this doesn't really matter now."

Such concern. I'm so glad such a compassionate person is doing anything in the medical field; she has truly found her calling.

I really hope she was simply having a bad day.

But still ... this shot is from today, three days after she drew blood:


The pictures are somewhat washed out. It looks a lot nastier than this shows.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:16 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 3, 2006


I am never mowing the yard again ... after mowing both front and back yards today ... my knees are killing me, my hip made a hideous crack that could be heard literally across the house ... and I've already taken a pain killer. My allergies are killing me and my eyes won't stop watering.

We're hiring a neighborhood kid to do the yard the rest of the year.

Doesn't he look excited about it?

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:11 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 28, 2006

Coding Argh

Holy crap, dude.

I just finished making this index page XHTML 1.0 Transitional valid. I think there were 156 errors when I first ran it through the validator.

I first learned to write HTML while using the now archaic Mosaic browser and using the View Source option liberally until I understood how things worked. I joined the HTML Writers Guild and educated myself on web standards. I think I put my first webpage up in late 1996 and joined the Guild shortly after it organized.

Since then, though, I guess I've gotten awfully lazy about my coding knowledge. I was surprised at how many things had changed - which is stupid, I should have more consciously realized that tags would change as the "language" of HTML grew and morphed.

Anyhow, between learning about 9Rules and this review, I decided to clean the sidebar up a bit. I got rid of several pieces that required javascripts that just wouldn't get compliant and were just annoying little toys anyway. I also got rid of my page counter, which at some 22,000 hits makes me a little sad. I kinda liked watching it go up. But, as often as not, BlogPatrol was down or experiencing problems and it really just wasn't worth the delay in page load that it sometimes caused.

I keep intending to really clean up the template and re-adjust this to a three column and better handle the archives adn a few other things (including the new section in the sidebar, "Blog Clutter").

Now I need to run the stylesheet through a validator. Meanwhile, I'm now just hoping that I remember to put _blank in quotes and to self-close my line breaks. Yeesh. I gotta pay attention!

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:26 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 18, 2006

Safe Spaces

Dig way back into what you can remember of history ... dig back in the dark ages before electricity ... back to a time when our children were safer. When the only things a parent had to worry about were wild animal attacks, random murderer and pedophile type people, the dangers of swimming holes, quarries and climbing rocks, cliffs, trees and the like. Ahh, yes, life was so much simpler then ... you didn't worry about kids bringing guns to school - unless it was to hunt dinner on the way in. And sure, they might rough each other up in a game of fisticuffs or they might fall our of a tree and break a limb ... they might catch polio or scarlet fever or the whooping cough. But those dangers were nothing like ...

Well, maybe they were the same.

It's always been a struggle as a parent to find the time to monitor your kids' activities and keep them safe without watching them so closely that they're smothered and rebel. Whether it was the worry of the local quarry, that patch of woods all the kids used to play cowboys and indians, or the playground equipment they scaled in lieu of trees, kids do things we wish they didn't do. They take risks we wish they wouldn't take, and half the time (if not more), they don't even realize they're taking risks.

It seems for every danger we've managed to eradicate, another one has sprung up in its place.

The focus lately seems to be largely on what electricity brings us: television, music, videos, and, of course, the internet.

When a bear ravaged a village in Oregon, the cry was to eradicate all bears because bears kill people (and knock down trees? ... I just had to say it). When a gator chomped a kid in half in Florida, people went nuts to kill all gators. When one kid took a game of Dungeons and Dragons too far, parents called for the banning of the "evil" game. When a kid in Texas fell out of a tall pine tree and was paralyzed, we didn't cry out for the chopping down of every pine tree.

In a great many of these cases, the real issue is not so much a game, the wild and domestic predators or the music our kids listen to. Most of the time the issues is simply time. How do we spend enough time with them? How do we tell them often enough how to be careful without undermining their confidence? The simple fact of the matter is that we can't be with them every minute, particularly as they grow older. At some point they have to make their own mistakes and we have to pray like mad that our kids will be both smart and lucky and escape serious harm.

When I was a kid, people were scared of Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music, other music (like Prince) and fears were just beginning about video games.

Today we can add the internet programs with the online pedophiles trolling for children, plus the wealth of information our kids can find by purpose or by accident, that we may not want them to have. Most parents in "first-world" countries fear the new playground of cyberspace even more than our ancestors worried about wild boar and the environment in general.

But what really cheesed me off this morning while web-surfing was this:
Their Logo  

The newest scapegoat ... err, danger in a parent's arsenal of fear is now the web community MySpace. In fact, Dateline just ran a big story on the dangers of MySpace. And I have to say that what I heard of the story was actually responsible journalism instead of the fear-mongering garbage we've been getting for the last decade or two.

But, the tag line for this MyChristian-Space.com just completely makes me want to throttle someone. Note the difference, please. I'm not saying that the concept of a Christian blog-type community is a bad one. I'm just saying that to proclaim because they don't allow profanity or immoral ads, that they are therefore a "safe place" is naive to the extreme.

The problem with any community, online or not, which attracts a flock of teens and pre-teens, is that the same community will also attract predators.

I clicked through on the banner to see what mychristian-space.com was like. The photo (randomly chosen, I'm sure) which first popped up only continued my irritation with this group.

IMG DELETED (at request of MyChristian-space) How safe is it for a 17 year old to post her name, city and state to the site? And, of course, her photo. Of course, there's the real oddity in that I'm pretty sure that the "Angelina" pictured here is a female, despite the profile listing as male. If she's male, she does an amazing drag act.

To me, this advertising as "Your Safe Space" particularly during this MySpace "scare" is reprehensible. I can just hear some of the parents saying to themselves, "oooooo, MySpace isn't safe for my teen, but I'll send them to "MyChristian-space.com: your safe place" that'll solve any problems!" After all, it's Christian AND they advertise as a safe place.

And the photos of the "recently logged in members" was just as scary. Most of those users were teens or children:

IMG DELETED (at request of MyChristian-space)

I beg of you, if your kids are online at all, do the research yourself. Don't trust the advertising, don't trust the news articles, don't trust what you've heard. Go investigate your kids' interests for yourself. Play their video games with them both so you can see what they're doing and spend quality time with them. Sure, you may not like playing the game, but you didn't really like reading Goodnight Moon 7000 times from age one to age five, either. If you find something objectionable, talk to your kid. Please don't hand down edicts.

Zero tolerance policy ... blanket statements ... these aren't very good tools.

If you're going to check out of your child's life, there are no safe spaces, not mychristian-space.com, not your neighborhood.

We can't be there every minute. But we can let them know we're trying and that they're a priority. If we value them and let them see that, they'll value themselves more.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:05 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 19, 2006

Superheroes Unite

So, Marvel and DC comic book publishers are now attempting to claim the word Superhero as a trademark!

How in the world can they claim such a common word as something they can trademark? This makes no sense to me. What's next? Marvel trying to trademark the word Mutant?

Now, the deal is ... I can't see where legally this could be true ... so I did some checking. The deal is, the government website on Trademarks and on Copyrights is terribly confusing if you don't look very carefully. So, if you go to the government site and enter a search for superhero, you'll see 31 different entries.

The first entry which is solely for the word "superhero" is actually for ... "G & S: Baseball caps, boxer briefs, boxer shorts, briefs, pajamas, panties, shirts, slippers, socks, thong underwear, t-shirts, undergarments, underpants, undershirts, underwear."

The second entry is for a particular icon utilizing the word "superhero" within a "fireworks-like" outer graphic.

I saw nothing recorded for Marvel or DC.

So, I looked a little further. I ran an advanced search for DC and LIVE as the LIVE/DEAD indicator mark ... here, record 480 of 538 finally garnered the hit that seems to have caused the fuss.

Serial # 73222079 ... jointly held by Marvel and DC, this trademark is for:

    Word Mark SUPER HEROES
    Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
    Design Search Code
    Serial Number 73222079
    Filing Date July 3, 1979
    Current Filing Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Published for Opposition June 9, 1981
    Registration Number 1179067
    Registration Date November 24, 1981

Now, my best deciphering of this mess is this:
they do NOT own the word "superhero." At most, they own a drawn rendition of the word (which does not appear in the public record, so I can't verify this). The Mark Drawing Code is for a Typed Drawing ... not for the word itself, but for a particular use and look.

And, this is old news ... this was done back in 1979 and 1981, not something recent. If, in fact, the two big comics publishing companies did hold the word trademarked back then, they no longer do for the simple fact that they have not been "vigorously defending" every single iteration of that word. If you do not pursue legal recourse against everyone who uses a trademark or copyright work, then it becomes a part of the public domain and nullifies the copyright/trademark. That's why it's important to file if you see a violation of copyright/trademark.

So ... mystery solved.

Superheroes unite, stand strong, and keep up the good fight.

, , , , ,

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:56 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 23, 2006


I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I can still vividly remember the early drinking and driving commercial campaigns. I remember it vivdly because I rarely saw my father without an open can of beer in his hand. Naturally, as I watched those rather graphic commercials and as I was exposed more and more to Dad's drunken driving, I learned an important lesson without having to get hurt to learn it: Driving Drunk is Dangerous and Can Be Deadly.

Now, I'm not gonna moralize about it ... we all screw up now and then, make bad choices that we wish we hadn't made ... this is all precursor to a local news story.

The town where I'm living now, South Bend, Indiana, has had THREE police officers who have been charged or investigated for drunk driving in the last two months. (All of them were off-duty at the times of their separate incidents, though ... that does make a difference, at least to me. It's one thing to make a bad choice on your off-time ... quite another to make it on-duty.)

On Monday night, 911 tapes recorded a caller who said that there was a police car around the corner from my house, pulled over on the side of a major intersection. Okay, sometimes cop cars pull over, no big deal, right? Well the caller wasn't even sure that the guy with the car was actually a cop because not only was he not in uniform, but he was taking a leak in the middle of the road! Of course, this caller was particularly upset because he had kids in the car (who, naturally, saw the whole thing).

Look, cops have a really incredibly stressful job. They've got an incredibly high suicide rate because not enough departments do enough to help the officers cope with the horrible stuff they witness every day on the job. A lot of cops feel a stigma about going to counseling because, well, dammit, they're the ones who help people ... they don't need help. (Not all cops and not all departments feel that way ... but it is a generally pervasive attitude.)

On the other hand, dammit, cops SEE all the time just what drunk driving does to people. They know, intimately, what happens to innocent families affected by drunk drivers. Even if there's no collision, they've seen the panic that shoots through the community as an impaired driver wanders through an area. They've heard the stupid excuses.

This last officer had a blood alcohol twice the legal limit.

The father of my ex was a cop in Dallas. I desperately wanted to be a cop when I was growing up. I have several friends who are or have been cops. I respect and admire the hell out of them. But there are times when I want to shake some of them. I don't think cops ought to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us ... they're human like you and me. But, I do think there are some things ... I don't know ... I just don't know. I started to say there are some things that are unforgiveable ... but I'm not saying these officers should be kicked off the force, by any means! This could have been a one-time deal ... or they could have a real problem with alcohol, in which case, they weren't fully thinking. That's the problem with any kind of zero-tolerance policy ... it catches honest mistakes or screw-ups as well as those who pre-meditated bad behaviour.

But dammit, I just keep coming back to, they oughta know better!

The department here in South Bend is making a big deal over trying to make sure all of their 300 officers know how to get help for drinking issues. That's a good thing ... but I wonder if they're just passing out some pamphlets or if they're really trying to work on the culture of the department to make it not just available, but encouraged for the officers to really talk about what's going on.

I mean, how else is the next drunken yahoo going to take their officer seriously when they get pulled over. Can't you see some smart-ass drunk insisting that the officer take the breath-alyzer first and figure out who's drunker?

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:40 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 22, 2006

WTF is wrong with people?

Ask any ER doctor and they'll tell you without hesitating ... people are frickin' crazy. Ask them to share some full moon stories and you'll be amazed at just exactly how STUPID people can be. What? You want examples? Sure ... here you go ... warning ... many of these are of an adult nature ... use caution in clicking through to the rest of the story.

A teaser:
A Hard Pencil
Butt He Told Me To Sit On It
Hard Ass

I heard most of these stories yesterday as some friends seemed determined to out-bizarre each other with the strange things people do.

Calvin and Tanya have decided that their sex life is simply not interesting enough. So, having read something about inserting needles into the breast, they proceed to make a pincushion out of Tanya's breasts. They forego the needle idea because they have more pins laying around the house than needles. In the course of their play, one of the pins becomes lost in ... ahh, the ampleness of Tanya. Eager to continue their play, Calvin grabs an Xacto knife and begins hunting for the lost pin. After several attempts at digging it out, Tanya finally cries, "red" and they head off to the emergency room to have it surgically removed.

Undaunted, Calvin and Tanya will make a re-appearance in a moment. (And yes, their names have been changed because I actually know the people who did this.)

This one comes from a friend who worked an ER. We were discussing the insanity that surrounds full moons and she told me this story (as well as Toothpaste).

A latino family comes into the ER surrounding a little 15 year old girl. They have come in with a jar that has something floating in it.

The patriarch steps forward. Nods at the 15 year old, "She had a miscarriage."

The nurse is confused ... "She's having a miscarriage?"

There is a brief huddle as the younger folk try to interpret for their elders. Finally, a young boy pipes up with, "No, she already had it." He takes the jar and thrusts it at the nurse. "We needa know if it's a boy or the girl so we can name it for funeral. Priest won't do the mass if we don't gotta name."

A bit taken aback, the nurse takes the jar to the back where it's eventually evaluated. After a quick examination and much chuckling, the nurses realize that they need to educate the teenager a bit. They go out to meet the family again. But now, they have to try to keep a straight face as the family is somberly waiting to know whether to name the stillbirth Jaime or Anita.

Because the 15 year old gave birth to a tampon.

Evidently she'd not been told she needed to remove it. Yikes ... what a way to admit you've been having sex at 15!

A Hard-Pencil
Now we're back to Calvin and Tanya ... for whatever passes for reason in Calvin's small brain, he'd decided to insert a pencil in his member. I don't know if he thought that this would make him harder or if he thought it just might be pleasurable. Frankly, whichever one he thought, I think he's insane!

Another trip to the ER, by which point the doctors all recognize the couple. He stammers and attempts to tell the unbelieving doctors that he had just gotten out of the shower and dropped something, which rolled under the bed. The pencil, he claimed, lodged in his member as he lay down on the floor and scooted around to dig out whatever rolled under the bed.

Now, I thought this was just something that Calvin had tried. Yesterday, someone told me about this gentleman from Serbia who also thought that a pencil up the member was a good idea. Evidently, Zeljko Tupic had never heard of Viagra and thought that a pencil in the penis would be a good way to keep himself hard ... however, the pencil shifted during his playtime with his girlfriend and ... get this ... he ruptured his bladder with the pencil!

I cannot imagine that there are truly even two men in the world who felt that sticking something up that hole would be a good idea. I'm cringing just thinking of it!

Now for a bit of a hodge-podge of stories:
Butt He Told Me To Sit On It
First up, a joke I heard yesterday from As Confusion Sets In:
A guy walks into an emergency room and he has a cat stuck in his butt. The doctor asks, "Why do you have a cat stuck in your behind?" The man responds, "How else am I supposed to get the gerbil out?"

Then, there was the woman who inserted the head of a screwdriver up her husband's behind. Evidently this poses an interesting problem because the handle is wider at the top, so when shoved in handle first, be careful not to let it go all the way in because you can't just pull it out by the metal part. The guy had to be wheeled out, ass in the air, on the stretcher and taken to the hospital.
(I feel dirty just for having heard that yesterday.)

Of course, there's also the story of the woman who used an old-style pop bottle, open end first. Built up a bit of a vaccum and had to go to the ER for removal.

And the woman who inserted a full 2-liter of pop ... evidently this was a video circulating the internets for a while.

Or, of course, the guy who had a Barbie doll stuck up the behind ... have to be careful removing those since their little heads just pop right off.

Winner of the seriously-you're-a-dumbass award goes to the x-ray of the revolver up the anus. WHY would you think shoving a loaded (yes, loaded) gun up your ass would be a good idea?

Another ER true story from the same nurse. An old Serbian family came into the ER with a hobbling grandfather in tow.

"He has not gone to the bowel movement in several days now," announced the middle-aged son.

They dutifully wheel him in for x-rays. Soon, every nurse and doctor in the ER is staring at the developed x-rays. They draw straws as to who will go out to talk to the family.

"I'm not surprised that your father has not been able to go to the restroom. He has a fifth of scotch stuck up his behind."

The family was unfazed.

"Yes, he thought it was a tube of toothpaste."


No further explanation was ever heard on that one. What possesses people to stick weird shit up their butts???
"What'd you do this weekend, Maynard?"
"Oh, I thought I try to find the weirdest thing in the house that I could get stuck up the butt."
Can people really be that bored AND that stupid???

Last but not least:
Hard Ass
Here's another one with a link. Evidently some men think that if something hard up the ass feels good, why not go for something really hard?

Doctors Peter Stephens and Mark Taff describe a young man who came in with "no apparent distress" other than the fact that he had something lodged in his behind. The x-ray showed something in the rectum ... and "upon further questioning," the young man finally admitted that he'd had his boyfriend pour cement into his behind. Oddly enough, it began to hurt as it hardened ... hence the trip to the ER.

The concrete was removed in one piece, a perfect concrete cast of the man's rectum ... but when the doctors chipped off the edge of the concrete because the x-ray showed something inside the concrete - they found a ping-pong ball!

Someone asked what the ping pong ball was for ... not realizing that it had been in the concrete, I responded it must be to keep the gerbil busy!

Like I said, WTF is wrong with people?????

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:05 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 16, 2006

Notre Damn

I hate the telephone. I was never one of those teenagers from whom you had to surgically remove the phone from the ear. In fact, once the internet really matured, I'd so much rather deal with an email or even an IM than the phone. Why? Well, I choose when to do my email or IM. The phone interrupts at any given moment with its shrill and demanding call.

Most of my friends know how much I hate the phone and so, we rarely get calls at our house ... so much so that it's become habit now to think "wow, what important thing has happened that someone had to actually call us?" when the phone rings.

So telemarketers really bug the crap outa me.

So, last night the phone rings and this young woman's voice comes piping out, "Hello, this is Muffy O'Donnell. May I speak with Red Monkey?"

Now about half the time if I don't recognize the voice or the name, I might just hang up. Friends who thought I would certainly recognize their voice have long since learned I don't recognize voices well. I figure hanging up now is saving the telemarketer time and money. They're not gonna get a damn thing out of me, so now they know and they can dial the next number on their list and maybe make some money off that mark.

If I'm in a decent enough mood, I might attempt to be polite. Last night was somewhere in between polite and really really onery. I decided to answer literally and honestly and see what happened. She asked if she could speak with Red Monkey and I answered:


Pause as she waits for me to put Red Monkey on the phone. "Hello?"

"Yes, we've done that part already."

I can now feel the confusion coming through the phone line. "Umm, well, is this Red Monkey?"


"Oh, well, like I said, this is Molly Maguire and I'm a student here at the University of Notre Dame."

"I'm sorry."

Pause. "Hello???"

"I didn't go anywhere."

"Umm, so I'm a sophomore at Notre Dame and --"

"Yeah, I heard you the first time. I said I'm sorry. That's a pretty bad school."

"But ... what? But why? Why would you ... I'm sorry. It is not."

At this point I hung up out of kindness. The kid is likely trying to raise money for a school that has more money than most state school systems, and she's probably getting a small commission on each "sale" she makes. If I have to take the time to explain to her exactly why the education that she's getting there is deficient, well, she'll never make any money!

I'm curious to see if I get another phone call from them, though.


(Oh, and the title of this post? That's from an IM conversation I had right after I got off the phone. I was explaining to someone who had called and typo'd Notre Dame as Notre Damn. Given my feelings about that place, it seemed faaaar more appropriate!)

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:22 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 13, 2006

Warcraft & the Guilds

I generally try to refrain from blogging about gay issues because, well, I'm tired of them. But, when surfing the web this morning during my lunch hour, I came across this little headline on the BBC-online: "Gay players win rights battle in Warcraft game world."

It would seem, from this BBC article (and I refuse to take the time to research this further), that one of the major characters on the Shadow Moon server created a guild called Oz. Not as in the prison, not like the country, but as in "the land of Oz." If you know anything about gay culture (which might be very different from the gay people you may or may not know), you know that Dorothy and the land of Oz are a huge ... umm ... obsession. To make things perfectly clear to those folks who aren't up on their gay culture, Shimmre (the character on Warcraft who began the guild), described the guild as being set-up to be welcoming and open to the GLBT community. (gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered ... otherwise known as the alphabet soup)

"She was threatedned with being banned from the game if she continued to advertise the Oz guild using such language."

Now, look, I actually applaud "Shimmre" for starting up the guild. She said she'd noticed a lot of homophobic comments in the gaming environment and wanted to do something to make GLBT folk feel more at home. No one is asking any of these players to identify as gay (so far as I can tell from this article). Joining the guild doesn't mean the player is GLBT or that the character they're playing is GLBT. It's essentially a promise to not treat GLBT folks poorly just for being GLBT. It's not promoting an "unhealthy" lifestyle; it's saying 'we're not gonna make fun of you if that's how you are.'

I used to play on MUDdog, an early early precursor to the kinds of online games that spawned Warcraft. I know that when you get a bunch of gamers together, they socialize. Eventually, Elspeth finds Skif, they talk about the game and then they start talking about their "real lives." They have a whirlwind internet romance and maybe they even start travelling across the country to meet each other in "real life." Maybe their characters get married in the game. Maybe they even get married in real life.

I've seen it happen before. And, I've seen it work.

So, when someone tries to say that "sex" should be kept out of the game, I'll agree with that. However, the point of an online game is relationships. Sure, most of those relationships are simple friendships. Some folks will find people they can't stand and become enemies in the game. Some of those people will carry that out into actually despising each other as people and not just characters.

Such is the nature of relationships.

But to suppose that simply identifying oneself as GLBT is to "advertise" your sexuality ... now there I will disagree.

If nothing else, it's simple truth in advertising. If Vanyel and Elspeth are chatting and discover they like each other, should Vanyel never tell Elspeth that he's gay? Telling someone that you really like on friends level that you just want to stay friends ... well, isn't that the running joke? How frustrating it is to hear, "Let's just be friends"?? To never identify yourself as gay is to eventually make everyone question your sexuality and it often becomes a much bigger deal than if you'd just said it at the beginning. People notice that Stefen never flirts with the girls ... that he hangs around with the other guys ... and they begin to gossip, hey, maybe he's queer.

When that detail stays hidden, it tends to bring out the worst in a lot of people. On the other hand, while Kyle might make all sorts of homophobic comments about the ambiguous Stefen, he might never say a word against the out Vanyel.

All of this rambling is just to say this: who freaking cares if there's a guild on Warcraft that advertises as gay-friendly? What damn difference does it make?

Now, if we're concerned with cyber-sex in the game, then fine. I've got issues with that whether the characters or players are gay or straight. (Unless the game is 18 and up and clearly marked where this type of thing is acceptable within the confines of the game. Then I still have issues, but I'll keep 'em to myself as they're my issues and shouldn't affect anyone else! ;) )

I'm just not sure why being honest about the fact that you prefer the company of the same sex makes people go crazy nuts. It's not like it's contagious. It's not like they're forcing someone to witness or participate in a sexual interaction.

And, I'm really not sure why this was so important as to be front-page news for the BBC!! Geez, it's just a frickin' game, folks.

Comments are open. (And always moderated, but unless they are spam or terribly abusive, I don't edit or delete them.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:33 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 3, 2006

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Okay, so I know I said I was gonna talk about the perv-y Sunday school teacher, but I got distracted by telling this story at work yesterday.

I have been afraid of fire for most of my life. One of the very few fears I have, it became a full-blown phobia over the course of my childhood for a myriad of reasons, all of them surrounding my dad's intense fascination with fire as a cure-all for most every home improvement project.

For example, when I was about 3 or 4, and we were either living in New Mexico or Oklahoma, we had a slight tarantula problem. As in they were all over the backyard. Big-ass, fist sized spiders, all furry and fangy and they utterly terrified my mother.

So, one evening, my father decides that he has the perfect solution to the problem.

He digs small holes in the backyard, pours gasoline in them, and as the tarantulas wander down into the little pits, he sets the whole mess on fire. It was early evening, dusk, stars beginning to shine in the sky (so it must have been New Mexico) and you can see the backyard beginning to move on its own. First one corner of the yard, then another ... slowly creeping around, more irregular than the wind whispering through the grass ... largely because we didn't have any grass, just a lot of dirt. Then a small echoing whoomp, and a blue glow quickly turning orange and yellow.

Welcome to the new house, kid ... and by the way, beware the flaming tarantulas of doom wandering around the backyard.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:01 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 2, 2006

College Stories

As I was talking with someone the other night, I realized that while my college years were pretty atypical, I did get some interesting stories out of them ... just not the kinds of stories that a lot of other people got out of their college years.

First up, the perv stories.

When I first moved out of the house at 19, I took a job at a little sandwich shop in Texas known as Dino's Subs. We made 26 different sandwiches, and the first step to getting a job there was to memorize what meat/cheese combo came on the sandwich. If you couldn't get at least close to having the whole menu memorized in a day or two after getting the ingredients sheet, forget working there.

Evidently lots of pervs haunt sub shops.

The first dude was truly the creepiest one of all. "Jared" was about 300-350 pounds, sweaty -- no matter how high we had the airconditioning cranked -- and of course, he smelled as well. He usually said very little as he went through the line ... just ordered his Big D (the number 11), told us what he wanted on it, paid and that was the extent of it. Except, he usually waved Bill over to come talk to him before he left.

One day, before "Jared" had left the shop, Bill talks to him, then comes back to me with this worried look and pulls me into the back room.

"He'd like to help you get through school."


"Don't do it. But he said he'll buy you a house and pay for everything." Bill turned a bit green.

"What's the catch? He's gotta know I'm not gonna sleep with him, right?"

Bill nodded. "He knows."

"So what's the catch?"

Bill practically whispered this: "Video cameras."

I can't even begin to describe how badly this creeped me out ... and partly because Bill who could be a bit of a perv himself, was utterly creeped out by it. Turns out "Jared" had been coming in for some months and every time he came in, he tried to get Bill to pitch this idea to me. For months, Bill had thought "Jared" was kidding with him, but evidently the last couple of trips, he'd managed to convince Bill that he was dead serious and in the process really freaked Bill out. I always got the feeling that Bill had only told me the bare bones of the story and there was probably more to it than he'd given me. But, just looking back out into the dining room and shaking my head at Jared was enough to get him to stop bugging Bill about me ... and he never did directly speak to me about his offer. Something about that made it even creepier.

I don't even wanna know what videos this guy surely made of "unsuspecting" young things.

The second perv was an American Airlines pilot who tried to impress me with all of the wonderful places he'd flown. He was more of a straighforward perv who promised to whisk me away to Paris for the weekend and still get me back to Arlington in time for my Monday morning class. Umm, no.

Oh, but Paris is so romantic ... it's beautiful ... I'll wine and dine you ... take you to the Eiffel Tower.

Umm, no.

Germany, then.

Umm, no.

But Linda's ears perked up then, her being from Dusseldorf and all ... I gladly passed off that perv to her. She, on the other hand, had a blast chatting him up about Germany and flying and beer.

Tame by college standards, I know. I have no tales of wild parties or crazy affairs ... just the oddballs that seemed to follow me no matter where I went.

Tomorrow ... the creepy Sunday school teacher ....

Until then ... what odd people did you meet in college ... or what odd propositions did you hear?

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:56 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 26, 2006

Schoolyard Bullies

NOTE: Please make sure to read the update at the bottom of this post!!

Despite being an early adopter of the internet � I got a VAX account in college and played on MUDdog, learned PINE for email � I was rather late getting into blogging. I've seen a lot of fads come and go � or more accurately, I've seen a lot of trends rise and fall in popularity. At first, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the blogosphere. In May, though, I began Red Monkey and added my voice to the many others already out here. I also began helping a friend move out of Blogger and into his own domain � so I got an education in blogging pretty fast.

And one of the first things I did was to surf other blogs, looking for a way to get the word out about Red Monkey and generate more traffic. After a little futzing around, I settled on BlogExplosion. The interface was easy to use, and the benefits were great. I loved it � I got a a fair amount of traffic pretty quickly and managed to get some regular readers. I began exploring more and more of the site, and became more a part of a community instead of mindlessly surfing others' blogs and hoping that they were doing more than mindlessly surfing mine. I joined the "shoutbox" a kind of not-quite chat room where different members could come and talk to each other � about blogging, their lives, or just be silly for a while.

Besides the shoutbox, I had one other feature at BlogExplosion that I really, really enjoyed. Battle of the Blogs. Here you could pit your blog against another blog � bet credits and let 15 other people read the two blogs and decide which one they liked better. Particularly when you're just starting out in blogging and perhaps not getting a lot of comments, this was a really cool way to get some validation that you were doing something people enjoyed. When I was surfing blogs at B.E., I noticed that other traffic exchanges were posting blogs and getting them traffic through B.E. I tried out BlogAdvance, but found it really hard to navigate and hard to get used to. I had a referral button to them on my site for a while, but I really didn't go there and utilize their service very much. Then I saw another one � BlogMad. This one claimed they were "coming" but that they weren't ready yet. They were offering extra credits to those folks who signed up early, and it sounded like they had some incredible stuff planned.

Life went on. My blog grew � my readership seemed to be growing, although I'm rather lackadaisical about checking that out. I have NO idea how many people read my feeds and I use statcounter.com more to monitor my entire site than to just review my blog.

But, life seems to encourage drama at every turn and in every aspect of our lives. BlogExplosion and blogging was no exception. One night in the shoutbox, someone comes in and begins attacking B.E. � for, as far as I could tell, no reason at all. Myself and some of the others in the shoutbox immediately began defending B.E. Two moderators made appearances rather quickly and eventually kicked the highly obnoxious parties out of the shoutbox. That was that. I figured this was simply the case of another blog traffic site being jealous of B.E.'s success.

Then I began hearing stories � people who were banned from BlogExplosion because they had a BlogAdvance button on their site. People who merely disagreed with a moderator being banned.

I still figured this was just a lot of hooey. People with gripes trying to blame others. I'd talked to many of the moderators on several occasions and thought they were pretty cool. Jeff, called "blog," and OHB (orange-haired boy) seemed pretty cool. Jeff was a bit stand-offish, but I would expect that from someone running a large web service like B.E. Can't have a lot of time to chatter with the peeps if you're running a good service (unless you have 8 million employees and no responsibilities yourself). The third moderator, Rachel, seemed a bit caustic and blunt, but that's not a bad thing. Her blog is pretty hysterical.

Then, for no reason that I ever figured out, things began changing. I heard more stories of B.E. members getting upset with the moderators. More tales of bannings and just plain bad customer service. It was now starting to get a little disturbing. Then a few people I had made friends with in the shoutbox seemed to be getting attacked by another friend.

We'd been very quickly reduced to kids in the playground sandbox. Was depressing � but such is life. Whatever.

And then, more drama. One of the moderators, acting on her own rather than as a representative of B.E. began talking rather publicly about some of the members. She insisted left and right that it was her right to bitch about members as a private person, and this is true. However, she was na�ve in the extreme to insist that this shouldn't reflect on B.E. After all, this is the issue of blogging about work in a microcosm. If you complain publicly about a client, you really shouldn't be surprised when word gets back to that client and you lose that account. It doesn't really matter if you complain publicly in a bar or a restaurant or a blog or a public park. If you say something about a client publicly and it's overheard, be prepared for consequences to your business.

Within a matter of a few weeks there seemed to be a schoolyard "us and them" mentality springing up. People acted as if you were part of either the "in group" with the developers and moderators, or part of the "shoutbox group" � or, of course, people who had simply been surfing and not using the shoutbox and forums might simply be considered unaligned. The weird thing was that what group you were "a part of" seemed to change depending on who you were talking to.

Everything seemed to come to a head, at least as far as I was involved, when BlogExplosion began a new chatbox and got rid of the old shoutbox. The new chat is an awesome Flash application which added audio and video feeds to the chat experience. Way cool! As with any change, of course, some people didn't like it. Some didn't like the new bells and whistles. Some couldn't use it from work. Some guys in the Middle East couldn't use it because their connections were too spotty or slow. New people used chat as older voices wandered away. Such is change.

Then, a few members of B.E. installed shoutboxes on their blogs or websites and all hell apparently broke loose. There was talk of cliques and voting blocs voting against different groups in Battle of the Blogs. Blog entries were written, blogrolls decimated as very polarized camps began deleting each other. In the midst of the relatively petty bickering, though, I saw something particularly disturbing.

Two of the moderators began answering support tickets in a manner that was often rude and completely uncalled for. The language deteriorated into accusing various members of somehow taking advantage of BlogExplosion's services.

Members began leaving in droves.

And, then, the talk of a voting bloc began to heat up. I entered a battle and it was over in less than two minutes from the first hit recorded at statcounter.com until the last vote recorded. Oddly enough, statcounter.com also only recorded 9 hits instead of 15 � and 5 of those votes were from the same IP address � supposedly something that couldn't happen with their voting scripts. If I wasn't getting 15 hits to my blog, and the battle was over before people could really read my posts, then there was little sense in battling at the moment.

I shrugged it off. People had hurt feelings, people were pissy � and as much as I love Battle of the Blogs, this just didn't seem to be worth fussing about. People are people, no big deal. After a few days, I decided to try again to battle. That was Friday, the 20th. That battle was started at 7:15 in the morning � around noon, people began asking me what was wrong with my battle. I didn't know � I'd been stuck at 6 votes for a while, but didn't see that as too terribly unusual. At least this battle was taking a relatively normal amount of time instead of two minutes.

No one could vote on the battle.

I laughed it off. Probably some weird glitch in the script. The battle stayed stuck. Well, maybe some of the programming types had figured out a way to hang my battle. Kind of unlikely unless people were a LOT pissier than I had thought � or truly that bored. Who knows. Support tickets were filed by at least two people wondering why the battle was stuck. No response. The person battling against me filed a support ticket.

No response.

Members began talking about it. A moderator in the chat room said it would be fixed "some time today." That was Monday.

Yesterday, another battle got "stuck."

I relaxed. Ahh, see, they are just having issues with the battling script. Surely now they would have to do something about the stuck battles.

They fixed the other battle.

Mine is still there.

No one has yet to hear back on the support tickets.

You see, they don't need to be nice to their BlogExplosion members anymore. They've now opened up BlogCharm � a blog-hosting service where you can get a fabulous template and get paid to blog. You see, they're offering a great deal � ads on your blog � but they split the ad revenue with you.

There's just one hitch: the same people who do not understand that they are offering a customer service based service to people are running BlogCharm and BlogExplosion. Think about it. They've gotten all these interested bloggers to their site. Surely some of them are ready to leave Blogger and Blogzy and some of the other free platforms. They've built up a nice base of clients that they can now make a lot of money off of.

If they can keep their bloggers around, that is.

You see, one of the things they forgot about is that they have now pissed off writers. Writers who have some readerships. The word is rapidly getting out that if you use BlogExplosion, be careful. You can get banned for simply having your blog hosted on the wrong server. Or disagreeing with a moderator. The sense of community and fun that was there is now shifting and collapsing.

Maybe it's all just the way of the internet. People who are only somewhat connected through 1s and 0s are drifting away. But if that's true, why do we blog? Aren't many of us doing this for the sense of community and that moment of connection between writer and reader? Isn't that the point between having the capacity to leave comments and begin discussions?

Is the internet really just an excuse to be rude and hateful because you can't see the other person or because you can more easily ignore them than those you are physically around on a day to day basis?

I don't know why my battle at BlogExplosion has been stuck for a full week without a word from the moderators. I don't know why they refuse to answer the support tickets that have been filed.

I don't know why they fixed the issue with one frozen battle and not with the one that had been there longer. I don't know why the moderators seemed to suddenly turn on some members and became rude � and in some cases downright hateful.

And you know what, I really don't care. I was using a service that I enjoyed. The customer service of recent has been abysmal. So why continue to use the service? There are other services out there. Still, it saddens me to see what was an incredible service go down the drain.

I hope that the customer service at BlogExplosion turns around soon and the petty crap has run its course. I won't hold my breath, though.

I am curious to see just how much longer they'll be silent about the stuck battle. How much longer they will ignore it and the support tickets.

How much longer they can afford to ignore their customer base. And how long before their new customer base at BlogCharm twigs to the lack of customer service and care practiced by most of the BlogExplosion staff.

After filing a support ticket today, I received an almost instantaneous response from the main adminstrator of BlogExplosion. He seemed very hurt and upset by the insinuation (or, really, outright statement) that customer service seems to have been forgotten or has gone by the wayside. Apparently they "have been looking at this issue at length over the last couple of days ... We are trying to source the issue."

The puzzling bit, however, is that he insists that they have been answering "all support tickets within 24 hours for months now. I don't have an answer for BOTB yet but we are trying to desperately find out why." And, for me to settle down (which is a well-deserved rebuke ... I don't get mad often, but when I finally do!).

However, I know that at least 3 tickets have gone completely unanswered for several days.

The question remains, then ... what happened to those unanswered support tickets ... and why was one battle fixed within a day, but another broken for a week?

Well, this morning, the battle was "released" some time this morning and voting commenced!

I've no idea what locked the battle up, but hopefully we'll hear something from B.E. soon.

I do want to say that the lead administrator over there responded VERY quickly to my ticket. I don't know why the other tickets went unanswered ... but once I did officially notify B.E. the situation was cleared up very promptly. Kudos for that.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:06 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 24, 2005


We all know that some people are selfish ... and it seems that the season of goodwill at the end of the year tends to bring it out as well. But you'd think that by the age of 24, people would move beyond the "I don't want you to have it" childish behaviour.

But evidently a woman in Blue Springs, Missouri, just couldn't allow her boyfriend to have his own cell phone back. I don't know if she wasn't finished making phone calls or if she didn't want him to answer the phone or perhaps she decided that he shouldn't call someone that he wanted to call. But her delightfully mature response really took the cake.

She attempted to swallow the phone to keep him from using it.

Check this out, if you don't believe me.

Evidently after attempting to swallow the phone, her boyfriend had to call 911 ... why? Evidently she was "having difficulty breathing." Gee, ya think? Ya think not quite being able to swallow the cell might mean a little difficulty in breathing?

And how did he call? "Honey, breathe real hard for a minute." Or was it more like "Now lemme just thunk your throat three times to call the ambulance" ???

Her identity and condition have not been released ... and I would assume that if this woman has any shred of dignity left, she doesn't want to her identity to be known!

"Can you hear me now?"

I do hope santa brings her a lump of coal ... shaped like a cell phone, of course.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:55 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 3, 2005

Another Child in Pain

I was startled to realize that I hadn't posted in a couple of days ... sorry about that. As I said in my last post, I've been more than a little bit introspective lately. A part of it is that I miss teaching so very much ... another part of it is that I got to thinking about Mikey and all of the other kids like Mikey that I've known.

I met a kid named Chris once and after getting to know him for a while, he told me about his family ... I don't really know why so many people feel they can open up to me and tell me about their horrible childhoods, but they do. And since so many of them so obviously need to tell someone about the things that happened to them, I simply listen.

*** Again, this story is probably not for the weak of stomach ***
Chris had a clear memory back to the age of 2 or 3. With a father in the military, his family moved quite frequently, so he could judge an age by describing the house or apartment they were living in ... then his mother would tell him that he couldn't possibly remember that house as he was only 2 or 3 at the time. (Makes me wonder how many other people just assume that some of their early childhood memories are from an older age because they have no "place" context in which to judge the time period.)

So, Chris recalls waking up one particular morning with a tummyache. He was a bit startled to see his mom already up, happy and bustling about the kitchen. Generally speaking, he was far more likely to get up before she did. So, he told her that his tummy hurt (and being that verbal and male, he and both agree that he was probably three, not two). She told him that he'd feel better if he just ate some breakfast. He fussed and said his tummy hurt and he really didn't want to eat breakfast.

However, his mom had made him oatmeal and by golly, he was gonna eat it. So, she scooped up the toddler, fastened him into his booster chair and said, "Eat, you'll feel better."

A dutiful child, Chris tried a couple of spoonfuls of oatmeal. His tummy instantly felt worse. He squirmed a little in his booster seat, trying to decide if he should get out or not.

Too late ... breakfast was going to make a re-appearance. Not wanting to make a mess everywhere, he threw up into his oatmeal bowl. And, like most little kids upon puking, he began to cry.

Now his mother was behind him in the kitchen, presumably cleaning up the dishes from cooking. She came around the corner at his crying and asked why he hadn't touched his oatmeal and why was he crying.

Not the most verbal at that age ... and since crying and trying not to puke again really don't help a person in being very communicative, he just couldn't seem to get his point across to her.

"Eat your oatmeal."

"No, I threw up, I sick, no eat."

"Eat your oatmeal, you'll feel better. That'll settle your tummy and you won't throw up."

"No, threw up, tummyache."

Completely not hearing the boy, she made him eat his oatmeal in front of her. Naturally, having to eat the already eaten oatmeal didn't go over well, but at least this time she was there to visually witness the abused tummy's reaction.

You know, in and of itself, this could simply have been a terrible misunderstanding on the part of any parent. Kids at that age don't really communicate well, and often parents are still learning the idiosyncracies of that child. Mistakes, as big as they might seem to the kid, happen.

Unfortunately for Chris, this was simply one time among many that his mother refused to listen to the words he said. Without ever having reason to believe this child was a liar, she repeatedly ignored what he had to say all throughout his life.

At four .... "my ear hurts"
"Well do you need to go to the doctor?"
"I don't know. It hurts."
They went shopping instead. His eardrum burst in the mall ... he didn't even seem to notice even though this is supposed to be a very painful experience. Instead, his mom looked over at him after a while and asked what that green junk was on his face. Turns out it was the infection that burst through the eardrum.
They didn't go to the doctor even then. Went instead a few days later for the regular checkup.

At eleven ... "I think my arm might be broken"
"Are you sure? What'd you do to it?"
"I was hanging from the soccer goal and a kid pushed me off."
Three days later, they go to get it x-rayed ... he'd already tried to ignore it for a few days before then. His mother took one look at the x-ray before they walked into the doctor's office and proclaimed the arm not broken.
The doctor took one look and said, "Yep, snapped the bone right here."

At thirteen ... "Dad used to beat the crap out of me when I was smaller."
She asked the father that night and then came back to the boy. "I asked your dad and he said he never did any of those things you described." (He'd given her three different, specific incidents.)
He decided he couldn't tell her the rest of what his father had done to him.

At fifteen ... "Mom, can I go to an Alateen meeting?" (His ride was already on the way.)
"Oh my God. Are you an alcoholic." She was completely stricken.
He looked at her in disgust ... "No, Dad is."
She was even more stricken, and shocked, despite the fact that he'd been drinking out of control for the entire 20 years of their marriage.

By then, he quit telling her anything at all. What was the point? She never did listen to him.

I still want to know ... how can people do that to their children? I could understand an incident here or there ... like I said, everyone makes mistakes. But his mother had a pattern of literally never believing this child who by all other accounts, was a great and trustworthy kid. How could she just ignore his health like that? Ignore him like that?

For some reason, these thoughts just keep coming back to me at this time of year. I think a lot about the various stories I've heard from those whose parents ... well, to be honest, I think they should have been shot for what they did to their kids. I've only sketched out the smallest bit of Chris's story, just to lay out the pattern of being ignored that he felt.

How many other kids like Chris are out there right now? How can we both find them and help them?

I don't know. And it really bothers me.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:46 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 24, 2005

Computer Support Humour

This circulated the internet back in about '94 or so and I haven't seen it since that first time, so I thought perhaps this is one of the few internet funnies that has not been done to death ... I give you now, "A Week in the Life of the LotusNotes Support Person from Hell."

User called to say they forgot password. Told them to use password retrieval utility called FDISK. Blissfully ignorant, they thank me and hang up. God, we let the people vote and drive, too?

Accounting called to say they couldn't access expense reports database. Gave them Standard Sys Admin Answer #112, "Well, it works for me." Let them rant and rave while I unplugged my coffeemaker from the UPS and plugged their server back in. Suggested they try it again. One more happy customer...

8:14 am
User from 8:05 call said they received error message "Error accessing Drive 0."
Told them it was an OS problem. Transferred them to microsupport.

11:00 am
Relatively quiet for last few hours. Decide to plug support phone back in so I can call my girlfriend. Says parents are coming into town this weekend. Put her on hold and transferred her to janitorial closet down in basement. What is she thinking? The "Myst" and "Doom" nationals are this weekend!

11:34 am
Another user calls (do they ever learn?). Says they want ACL changed on HR performance review database so that nobody but HR can access database. Tell them no problem. Hang up. Change ACL. Add @MailSend so performance reviews are sent to */US.

12:00 pm

3:30 pm
Return from lunch.

3:55 pm
Wake up from nap. Bad dream makes me cranky. Bounce servers for no reason.
Return to napping.

4:23 pm
Yet another user calls. Wants to know how to change fonts on form. Ask them what chip set they're using. Tell them to call back when they find out.

4:55 pm
Decide to run "Create Save/Replication Conflicts" macro so next shift has something to do.

8:30 am
Finish reading support log from last night. Sounded busy. Terrible time with Save/Replication conflicts.

9:00 am
Support manager arrives. Wants to discuss my attitude. Click on PhoneNotes SmartIcon. "Love to, but kinda busy. Put something in the calendar database!" I yell as I grab for the support lines, which have (mysteriously) lit up. Walks away grumbling.

9:35 pm
Team leader from R&D needs ID for new employee. Tell them they need form J-19R=9C9\\DARR\K1. Say they never heard of such a form. Tell them it's in the SPECIAL FORMS database. Say they never heard of such a database. Transfer them to janitorial closet in basement.

10:00 am
Perky sounding intern from R&D calls and says she needs new ID. Tell her I need employee number, department name, manager name, and marital status. Run @DbLookup against state parole board database, Centers for Disease Control database, and my Oprah Winfrey database. No hits. Tell her ID will be ready tonight. Drawing from the lessons learned in last week's "Reengineering for Customer Partnership," I offer to personally deliver ID to her apartment.

10:07 am
Janitor stops by to say he keeps getting strange calls in basement. Offer to train him on Notes. Begin now. Let him watch console while I grab a smoke.

1:00 pm
Return from smoking break.
Janitor says phones kept ringing, so he transferred them to cafeteria lady. I like this guy.

1:05 pm
Big commotion!
Support manager falls in hole left where I pulled floor tiles outside his office door. Stress to him importance of not running in computer room, even if I do yell "Omigod -- Fire!"

1:15 pm
Development Standards Committee calls and complains about umlauts in form names. Apologizing for the inconvenience, I tell them I will fix it. Hang up and run global search/replace using gaks.

1:20 pm
Mary Hairnet from cafeteria calls. Says she keeps getting calls for "Notice Loads" or "NoLoad Goats," she's not sure, couldn't hear over industrial-grade blender. Tell her it was probably "Lettuce Nodes." Maybe the food distributor with a new product? She thinks about it and hangs up.

2:00 pm
Legal secretary calls and says she lost password. Ask her to check in her purse, floor of car, and on bathroom counter. Tell her it probably fell out of back of machine. Suggest she put duct tape over all the airvents she can find on the PC. Grudgingly offer to create new ID for her while she does that.

2:49 pm
Janitor comes back. Wants more lessons.
I take off rest of day.

8:30 am
Irate user calls to say chipset has nothing to do with fonts on form. Tell them Of course, they should have been checking "Bitset," not "chipset."
Sheepish user apologizes and hangs up.

Support manager, with foot in cast, returns to office. Schedules 10:00am meeting with me.
User calls and wants to talk to support manager about terrible help at support desk. Tell them manager about to go into meeting. Sometimes life hands you material...

10:00 am
Call Louie in janitorial services to cover for me. Go to support manager's office. He says he can't dismiss me but can suggest several lateral career moves. Most involve farm implements in third-world countries with moderate to heavy political turmoil. By and by, I ask if he's aware of new bug which takes full-text indexed random e-mail databases and puts all references to furry handcuffs and Bambi Boomer in Marketing on the corporate Web page. Meeting is adjourned as he reaches for keyboard, Web browser, and Tums.

10:30 am
Tell Louie he's doing great job. Offer to show him mainframe corporate PBX system sometime.

11:00 am

4:55 pm
Return from lunch.

5:00 pm
Shift change; Going home.

8:00 am
New guy ("Marvin") started today. "Nice plaids" I offer. Show him server room, wiring closet, and technical library. Set him up with IBM PC-XT. Tell him to quit whining, Notes runs the same in both monochrome and color.

8:45 am
New guy's PC finishes booting up. Tell him I'll create new ID for him. Set minimum password length to 64. Go grab smoke.

9:30 am
Introduce Louie the custodian to Marvin. "Nice plaids" Louie comments. Is this guy great or what?!

11:00 am
Beat Louie in dominos game. Louie leaves. Fish spare dominos out of sleeves ("Always have backups").
User calls, says Accounting server is down. Untie Ethernet cable from radio antenna (better reception) and plug back into hub. Tell user to try again. Another happy customer!

11:55 am
Brief Marvin on Corporate Policy 98.022.01:

"Whereas all new employee beginning on days ending in 'Y' shall enjoy all proper aspects with said corporation, said employee is obligated to provide sustenance and relief to senior technical analyst on shift."

Marvin doubts. I point to "Corporate Policy" database (a fine piece of work, if I say so myself!). "Remember, that's DOUBLE pepperoni and NO peppers!" I yell to Marvin as he steps over open floor tile to get to exit door.

1:00 pm
Oooooh! Pizza makes me so sleepy...

4:30 pm
Wake from refreshing nap. Catch Marvin scanning want ads.

5:00 pm
Shift change. Flick HR's server off and on several times (just testing the On/Off button...). See ya tomorrow.

8:00 am
Night shift still trying to replace power supply in HR server. Told them it worked fine before I left.

9:00 am
Marvin still not here. Decide I might start answering these calls myself. Unforward phones from Mailroom.

9:02 am
Yep. A user call. Users in Des Moines can't replicate. Me and the Oiuji board determine it's sunspots. Tell them to call Telecommunications.

9:30 am
Good God, another user! They're like ants. Says he's in San Diego and can't replicate with Des Moines.
Tell him it's sunspots, but with a two-hour difference. Suggest he reset the time on the server back two hours.

10:17 am
Pensacola calls. Says they can't route mail to San Diego. Tell them to set server ahead three hours.

11:00 am
E-mail from corporate says for everybody to quit resetting the time on their servers. I change the date stamp and forward it to Milwaukee.

11:20 am
Finish @CoffeeMake macro. Put phone back on hook.

11:23 am
Milwaukee calls, asks what day it is.

11:25 am
Support manager stops by to say Marvin called in to quit. "So hard to get good help..." I respond. Support manager says he has appointment with orthopedic doctor this afternoon, and asks if I mind sitting in on the weekly department head meeting for him.
"No problem!"

11:30 am
Call Louie and tell him opportunity knocks and he's invited to a meeting this afternoon. "Yeah, sure. You can bring your snuff" I tell him.

12:00 am

1:00 pm
Start full backups on UNIX server. Route them to device NULL to make them fast.

1:03 pm
Full weekly backups done. Man, I love modern technology!

2:30 pm
Look in support manager's contact management database. Cancel 2:45 pm appointment for him. He really should be at home resting, you know.

2:39 pm
New user calls. Says want to learn how to create a connection document. Tell them to run connection document utility CTRL-ALT-DEL. Says PC rebooted. Tell them to call microsupport.

2:50 pm
Support manager calls to say mixup at doctor's office means appointment cancelled. Says he's just going to go on home. Ask him if he's seen corporate Web page lately.

3:00 pm
Another (novice) user calls. Says periodic macro not working. Suggest they place @DeleteDocument at end of formula. Promise to send them document addendum which says so.

4:00 pm
Finish changing foreground color in all documents to white. Also set point size to "2" in help databases.

4:30 pm
User calls to say they can't see anything in documents. Tell them to go to view, do a "Edit -- Select All", hit delete key, and then refresh. Promise to send them document addendum which says so.

4:45 pm
Another user calls. Says they can't read help documents. Tell them I'll fix it. Hang up. Change font to Wingdings.

4:58 pm
Plug coffee maker into Ethernet hub to see what happens. Not (too) much.

5:00 pm
Night shift shows up. Tell that the hub is acting funny and to have a good weekend.

I was told that the originator of this madness was:
Simon Travaglia

But, his Bastard support series seems to be a bit different from this piece, so I'm leaving the original attribution up as well.
I assume the following might have been the originator of this madness:
John A. Gunterman
An analog man trapped in a digital world. @ http://www.cnh.mv.net/ipusers/gunterman/

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:40 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 23, 2005

The Care and Feeding of Mikey

(And no, ShallowMike, this isn't about you.) ;)

This "story" really is true, so far as I know. I have changed some details, like the name, but I also promised "Mikey" that I would tell this story and call it "The Care and Feeding of Mikey" for years. This is just the beginning of the story ... but like many stories, this beginning is probably the most important part. It certainly explains a lot about "Mikey's" later life.

Stretch your mind back, waaaaay back to the 70s (I know, I know, before some of you were even born). There was a little boy named Mikey going to public school in Texas. His dad and mom were divorced and his mother lived a few hundred miles away with her new husband and his daughters.

Mikey was a typical boy for the most part. He wasn't super interested in school, he was pretty interested in being a rock star, playing baseball and begging to play peewee football (American football). He caused about the same amount of troubles as did most of the other boys.

He had a secret that he kept from the other kids ... actually, he had a couple of them. One was that his father was a little unpredictable. Once, Mikey forgot to take out the trash and his father woke him up at midnight and told him to take the trash out now. Not so bad, really, but when Mikey tried to go back in the house, the door was locked. Still not too unusual, Mikey just groaned and pulled out some bits of plywood, made a touch of a shelter, wrapped up in some of the old rugs piled out back. This happened about once a month or so. Mikey didn't tell the other kids about things like that, or about being missing school for a week after getting a spanking with a 2x4. Stuff like that.

But the biggest secret was one that was really beginning to bother the ten-year-old Mikey.

"Dad," he asked one day. "Why don't I have a ... a ... why don't I have one like the other boys?"

His dad shrugged him off. "They grow at different rates, Tiger, and you'll get yours soon. Another year or two and you'll see it growing like you wouldn't believe."

Mikey had survived his childhood so far by trusting what his dad told him. So, even though he hadn't heard the teachers saying anything about boys growing things, Mikey didn't have too much choice except to believe his dad. And it did make a certain amount of sense ... after all, the girls grew stuff, why not the boys too? Still, he was a little concerned because it seemed like all the other boys already had something at least.

Mikey's life was about to change and change in ways he could never have predicted. His mother, whom he hadn't seen in years, had been struggling to gain custody of Mikey. She had remarried a wonderful man with two girls of his own and she desperately wanted her only child back.

So, at ten, Mikey was re-introduced to his mother.

She was shocked at her child's appearance. Gaunt, somewhat unkempt with his father's unorthodox methods of child rearing, this was not what she'd expected to find.

And, at ten, Mikey has a nervous breakdown when his mother regained custody.

Mikey, as most adults reading this have long since realized, was a girl, not a boy as he had believed for the entire ten years of his life.

Now, I can understand that Mikey had to believe his dad ... a kid pretty much only knows what his parents teach him ... to a point. But how did Mikey go to school through third grade and no teacher notice that something might be wrong with Mikey's family? Didn't any of them question the "boy"? How did none of the other boys notice that Mikey didn't have the same plumbing? Even in the 70s, how could the most basic facts of Mikey's life have escaped the eyes of every adult around him?

How do you get over a lie that colossal? How do you really get over living your first ten years as a lie that you didn't tell?

I don't have any answers ... I'm not sure anyone does.

And, then of course, what the HELL possessed Mikey's father to try to tell such a colossal lie? What the hell was he gonna do when Mikey started "growing up" and developing in areas that Mikey did not expect to develop?

Again, I don't have any answers and I'm not sure anyone, even Mikey's dad, has those answers.

I guess I'm something of a sucker. Mikey's one of the folks that I took in while I was in college. He was having some health issues and couldn't work while waiting to have surgery (no, not that surgery, though he would have liked to have had it).

But I'm really glad that I was able to help Mikey out if only for a little while. He lived with me two or three different times when he would otherwise have been living out on the streets. He deserved a chance to relax and let someone try to take care of him, even a little bit, if even for a while.

Why do we do horrible things to each other? I know giving him a home when he needed it did not even come close to cancelling out all that he'd been through. But maybe that trust that I showed by taking him in when I literally did not know him at all, helped counteract a little of the distrust he had to have for the rest of the world.

It's hard to leave yourself open to a stranger. It's a risk. It can be dangerous. It can be stupid. I'm not arguing that.

But, if you try to exercise some caution and take some risks, both, it can also be very rewarding. And it just might help someone who needs it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:39 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 22, 2005

Brakes? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Brakes

My father was ... is ... an alcoholic. So maybe that one tidbit will help you understand a little better my desire for my own set of wheels. After years of being forced to get into the car in the evenings with a drunk, I was ecstatic to be able to take myself places and not have to worry about Dad's condition ... or Mom's reluctance to leave the house for any reason.

So that rolling death-mobile may have represented freedom to me in a way a little bit bigger than it did to most teenagers.

Shortly after I moved out of the house ... actually, as soon as my mother discovered that I was planning on moving out of the house, she planned on divorcing dad. That's another long saga that I might go into one day ... but not any time soon ... this story of the brakes is sad enough and I don't want to turn this into that kind of a blog. :)

At any rate, moving out, getting a set of wheels, meant a great deal to me.

But, of course, in the U.S. it generally takes more than a minimum wage job to make even the barest of livings. I was staying in an apartment complex with a roommate for $201 a month and we could barely make ends meet on our budget. Neither one of us went out clubbing -- cost too much in gas to go to clubs and we couldn't really afford the cover charges anyway. And, of course, I was paranoid about drinking and driving given my dad.

In the course of starting college and filling out financial aid forms, I discovered something about my family that completely shocked me. In 1986, my father filed a tax return just under six digits.

We had a hell of a lot more money than I'd been led to believe.

Now, in some ways, this was a good way to have been raised ... I wasn't a spoiled brat and I didn't expect to be given a lot of things like some of my friends. I didn't expect to have the latest and greatest popular stuff. The swatch craze pretty much passed me by, as did a slew of other Name Brand Fads. And, I expected to work for the things I wanted.

But, I've also been led to believe ... just by the society I grew up in, that when even an adult kid really needed something, something important, that you could rely on your parents to help you to the best of their abilities.

So, I was driving the rolling death-mobile to work one day, about a year after moving out. I worked at Bizmart, an office supply megastore (eventually bought out by the ever-evil OfficeMax).

I pulled up to a red light ... and my brake pedal went all the way to the floor. Nothing.

I slammed the car into neutral and prepared to yank the wheel into a curb to avoid entering the busy intersection. Luckily there was enough of the brake pads left that the combination of the brakes and neutral did stop me. (The emergency brake had never worked.)

By this point, my parents had been divorced for about a year and my father had agreed to help me with college as necessary and to repair the rolling death-mobile when it broke down. At this point, it had only broken down once and he'd been fairly good about getting it fixed.

I finished the drive to work gingerly, but without any further scares. Throwing the transmission into neutral seemed to be the key to getting enough brake power to stop reasonably. The trip home was a little more nerve-wracking, but no major incidents. I called my father and let him know the brakes had completely failed. It was Sunday night.

"Well, I can't do anything about that now."

"I know, Dad, but should I take it in to Pep Boys in the morning? My roommate can get me to work tomorrow, but I need the car back for classes Tuesday."

"Well ... I don't know."

"Dad! I have NO brakes!"

He sighed. "I'll look at it on Saturday."

I was shocked. I thought parents were supposed to be concerned about their children even after they moved out of the house. It's not like I was going to a private university and sucking the money out of him. It's not like I was driving a BMW and demanding that he pay the insurance and maintenance. I'd already gotten grants for my college tuition, so he wasn't having to pay for my schooling anymore. I was taking care of all of my own bills ... our town had no public transportation and walking was not an option -- everything was just too far away.

This was not a hole in the muffler that I could drive around for a week.

Brakes, I thought, were kind of important.

I got off the phone with Dad and was at a loss. My brain was going like 60, trying to figure out how to get out of the problem I was in.

And then, I remembered what I'd gotten in the mail just a day or two before.

My first credit card. $500 credit line for the college student in need. I got it for emergencies.

Brakes seemed like a necessity. Not having brakes seemed like an emergency.

I asked around, found a good mechanic -- NOT Pep Boys -- and paid the $120 repair bill with the shiny, new credit card.

I never asked Dad to repair the car again.

He didn't call me on Saturday to ask about the brakes.

He never did ask me about them.

Guess it didn't matter to him. After all, he's the one who bought the rolling death-mobile to begin with.

Within 20 minutes of posting about the rolling death-mobile last Thursday, I had two people tell me that it sounded like my dad was trying to kill me. I was already thinking ahead to this story of the brakes ... and in a lot of ways, to a lot of other stories of my childhood ... and I gotta think ... maybe they're right.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:03 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 17, 2005

The Rolling Death-Mobile

My family was not rich and I had no pretensions growing up that we had money. We didn't have a pool, we didn't have a family room with a pool table or fooseball, and I didn't expect a car for my 16th birthday as many of my classmates did. After all, in the '80s, we didn't have the $500 for me to go to Washington, D.C. with the rest of the honors geeks or the $50 for the PSAT that could have gotten me a national merit scholarship, so I knew we didn't have a lot extra.

What I couldn't understand was that my parents really didn't seem to want me to have a job, either.

At any rate, I will admit to having more than a little bit of envy for my classmates who drove their second hand beaters to school ... and especially for the ones who drove their own BMWs, Porches, the Alfa Romero and the Lamborghini. But it was an idle kind of thing. I had no idea how I would ever manage a car of my own since I was so rarely allowed to take mom's car, couldn't work and my parents didn't have anything to spare.

So, I was trying to take some vicarious joy out of my mother's quest for a new car when her ancient and decrepit Delta 88 had lived far past its prime. I was completely stunned when Mom passed a book to me advising me how to pick a used car -- we were going to use the money from the sale of the Oldsmobile to buy me a car for my senior year of high school. Ecstatic, I threw myself into the task. We made little checklists of things to look for and examine and set out to various used car lots.

But, everytime I found something within the price range, the answer was the same -- "let your father check it out first. We have to wait for him."

After two months of this, I gave up. I'd get my hopes up over a cool car and be ready to drive it to a garage for a check-up only to be told again to wait for Dad ... and he never looked at any of these cars.

I thought maybe I'd get a surprise for my 18th birthday. Nope. Christmas? Again, no. I gave up completely.

Mom tried to bully me into going car shopping again, but I kept asking her why and she, too, finally gave up.

I threw my after-school time into our drama production and forgot all about it (mostly). The day of our premiere, my grandparents and mom were beaming at me from the audience. A shy kid (despite the hyperactivity -- I'm just a mass of contradictions), my mother in particular was shocked and proud when I'd decided to pursue drama. But I was more than a little surprised when Mom and my grandparents dragged me out of the theatre as fast as they could after my performance, telling me I had to come outside NOW.

About a month early, my graduation present sat in the parking lot. A red Buick Skyhawk hatchback with mag wheels. Only 6 years old.

I was completely stunned. I really hadn't expected to get anything.

In retrospect, I would have preferred a nice pen set. You know, like the 5 other uninspired, generic pen sets I got for graduation.

My idea of a new car had been small, foreign and standard. My father's was small, American, automatic ... and red. Yes, the 18-year-old wanted something more practical and the 40-something wanted RED. And, as it turned out, he bought one of the worst vehicles on the lot.

First, the mechanics on the lot had not yet looked at the car ... it had just come onto the lot as a trade-in from the new car lot. Second, my father's idea of working on a car is to stick his lit cigarette face deep into the running engine and bang on things, so his examination was incredibly intense and thorough. Third, the car had a glass roof ... a "moon roof" that was an obvious home-job. I have never seen any project EVER use so much caulk. (It did, however, never leak from the roof, I will say that.)

Oblivious to most of this at the moment, I was ecstatic. My own wheels! Freedom!

The next day I took the car to a shop to get an evaluation of it. The mechanic walked back out white as a ghost and said, "I hope you didn't pay much for it."

The car had been in a serious accident which had broken the frame of the vehicle. It was welded back togoether underneath the driver's side door. The mechanic looked at me and said, "Don't ever get into even a fender-bender in this car. That weld could snap at any time and the car will crumple at that point ... right at the driver's seat. Don't even let anyone rear-end you."

I stared at him, horrified, looked back at the car and then up to the moon roof. He just bit his lip and nodded. He didn't need to say it. This car was a rolling death-mobile.

As a result, I was probably a far more careful driver than any of my peers, including my best friend Andy, who totalled out at least two cars in high school and the beginning of college.

Somehow, though, we nursed the car along for about two or three years before the repair bills were $200 every other month, rather negating the bonus of having a car with no car payments.

Highlights of the death-mobile were the time that Mom decided she knew "what was wrong with that car" -- she happened to be reading a book on auto repair ... I have NO idea why because she certainly wouldn't deign to stick her fingers in the engine. Coincidentally, the parts needed for this repair happened to be on sale at Pep Boys ....

Net result: Dad broke the timing chain in his efforts to fix the car that had been running just fine. The car wound up at Pep Boys for about three or four days while they repaired the car for me. However, when driving it on the way home, I took my foot off the accelerator for an approaching red light.

The car didn't slow.

It sped up.

Crap. I put my foot on the brake and it did slow to a stop. However, I had to ride the brake all the way home because the car continued acceleration regardless of whether or not I was pushing the accelerator. I call the shop the next day and complain, telling them they need to fix it. They hem and haw around, telling me they were nowhere near the fast idle choke and that they didn't break the car. I point out it wasn't doing that before they got hold of it. Yelling match ensues in which they think they can bully me because I'm a kid ... bad mistake.

I take the car back and they fix it.

Phone call, "Your car is ready, but I have to tell you that there's a potentially dangerous problem with the vehicle."

I'm thinking, yeah, the frame is probably cracking already.

"Three of the four engine bolts that hold the engine in the car are missing."

At this point I'm sure that they had the three frickin' bolts sitting in the mechanic's pocket because he was pissed that I made them fix the fast idle choke. Of course, they have the car ... and I don't have the bolts ... and there's lots of potholes on the way home. I tell them to fix the car and tell me when it's done again.

Two weeks later, the car is ready. They had to order the bolts. Mmmm-hmmm. I believe that. My father, on the other hand, is ecstatic because they only charged me $12.00 to fix the car -- no labor, just the cost of the bolts. He's now convinced these are the most honest mechanics in the world.

But my favourite story about the rolling death-mobile is when the brakes went out.

Well, really, I guess it's a story about my dad more than the car.

But I'll save that one for another day ... until then, if you see a red Buick Skyhawk on the road ... don't scare it ... it'll fall apart if you honk at it, shattering the inch thick glass roof and probably exploding, creating a crater the size of Detroit.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:09 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 16, 2005

More Caelum Moor

Click for a bigger look.

Here's a shot of more of the park I was talking about the other day. I'm still stunned that the park was dismantled because a few Christian fanatics (I'm not saying all Christians or even all fundamentalists, though most of the folks involved in bringing the park down were fundamentalists) actually had the audacity to cry out "separation of church and state." These are literally the same folks who complain bitterly that the Ten Commandments ought to be in front of court houses.

At any rate, I do have more pictures of the park ... not enough to my mind. I never did get a picture of the structure in the pond when its fountain was on. It was beautiful. I'd sit on that one small stone just to the right of the pond and Morna Linn (the sculpture in the pond) and watch the water cascading off the stones. At night, lights recessed in the ground shone upward and the ones lighting the fountain were just amazing. I wish I'd gotten some pictures of that.

If you're still curious about the park, check out the part of my site dedicated to the memory of Caelum Moor park.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:48 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 13, 2005

Caelum Moor

Click for a bigger look.

One of my most favourite places in the world ... this park was in built in the 1980s by Norm Hines. It was meant to be the centerpiece of a business park ... a place of quiet reflection amidst the crazy activity of modern life. And it was for a while. Unfortunately the businessman who commissioned it went bankrupt ... and then, after the city bought the park which had once been used for outdoor theatre and the local Scottish Games, some of the more conservative churches banded together and claimed it was illegal for the city to own that park. They claimed that "the pagans" used the park as a place of worship and therefore the city couldn't own that "church."

The city sold the plot of land, dismantled the stone sculptures and the land that had been sculpted to create the pond, gentle hills and a natural looking amphitheatre area was razed and turned into a business property.

The stones now sit in a water treatment facility. In storage.

There have been attempts made to have the park built again - the artist has tried several times to have the park re-built - but they're still sitting in a water treatment facility in Arlington, Texas.

The sad thing is ... any park with some grass or a tree or even a nifty rock could be considered a "place of worship" by many people, not just pagans. It's a shame the city ever caved to the "pressure" of a few completely reactionary people.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:04 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 8, 2005


So, I've discovered the best cell phone rules ever. Check out ParaTed2k's blog, to see what I'm talking about.

Meanwhile, I thought I would post a re-enactment of one of the best overheard cell phone conversations.

If you remember, a while back I had a cat who stopped shedding her claws. As we were in the waiting room to the vet's office, the cell phone of the girl behind us went off.

She yakked away as if she were at home, not in public. I was trying not to listen but that's a little impossible when she's practically shouting into the phone and laughing hysterically. She finally ends that call and immediately calls another friend.

This is that phone call.

"Hey John, this is your favourite Christian friend. I'm just calling because we have an extra ticket to the Christian concert on Tuesday, do ya wanna come along? We're going to meet at Larry's house and then all drive over to the concert in one car because it's at the fairgrounds and the parking's really expensive, but I think we're going to park waaaaaaaaay down the road and just walk to the concert because we won't have any money for t-shirts and CDs if we actually pay for the parking so if you want you can come with us."

At this point she takes a breath. Not enough of one to really make up for the oxygen deprivation she must have felt as she spat out that last run-on sentence, but enough to get her going again.

"Anyhow, I meant to tell you I met that girl at the coffee house last night and we went out and got to talking and we stayed out together all night I mean, I haven't hardly even been home yet, but I just picked up Bonsey here for his vet appointment and came straight over here and I think I'm in love with this girl, I mean, we didn't do anything last night or anything but she's just wonderful and I think this will probably solve that question for me but Larry's really worried about me and wants to have a long talk with me about this, but I think he's just being old-fashioned because you know ...."

Now, now she finally lowers her voice a little, but of course by this time the entire waiting room is listening avidly to this child's run-on sentences.

And now, she's about to impart wisdom. We can all feel it.

"I think he's just being old-fashioned because you know ... you know Jesus never said anything about the gays." She laughs. "Okay, I gotta go. Jesus loves you." She hangs up.

And the sad thing is, I really hope this was a message left for John's answering machine because if not, she never did let the poor guy get a word into that conversation.

Okay, I gotta go. Jesus loves you.

(What a way to end a conversation! Sheesh!)

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:23 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 19, 2005


Sometimes you see a friend running a company and you just want to tell the guy that the whole reason the company is starting to fall apart is because the marketing guy is lame. Got great workers, great concept, great creative team, great tech folks ... but the guy he hired as the right hand man, this genius marketer, is just not meshing with the rest of your team. And at that point, you remember this little ditty of Paul Simon's, "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover." Only that doesn't cover things at all. Totally different issue. Well, here's the version that'll help your friend understand what he needs to do:
(original lyrics here.)

50 ways to lose the idiot

The problem is all inside his head,
We told the prez.
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically.
We'd like to help the comp'ny in its struggle
To be solvent.
There must be 50 ways
To lose the idiot.
We said it's really not our habit
To intrude
Furthermore, we hope our meaning
Won't be lost or misconstrued
But we'll repeat ourselves
At the risk of sounding rude
There must be 50 ways
To lose the idiot
50 ways to lose the idiot

You just send him on back, Jack
Take out an advert, Kurt
You don't need his brain, Lane
Just get the comp'ny free
Slip him some pink, Link
You don't need to discuss much
Just get him gone, John
And get the comp'ny free

We said it grieves us
To see so much wasted time
We wish we could get some work done
To make our bids get won
Prez said, I appreciate that
And would you please explain
About the 50 ways
We said, why don't we all
Just sleep on it tonight
And I believe in the morning
You'll begin to see the light
And then we pointed at him
And realized he wasn't working again

There must be 50 ways
to lose the idiot
50 ways to lose the idiot

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:45 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 24, 2005

Parents and Kids

You can go into any high school in the U.S. and tell after just a few minutes what kids have bad parents.

Not an exact quote that I saw on the ShoutBox over at BlogExplosion today, but close. And one that really cheesed me off.

You see, I had everyone at my school snowed. I was an honors student. I never snuck out of the house. I never "did it" with a guy while in high school (or college, for that matter). I never took drugs, not even marijuana. I never TP'd a house even though I did have to clean up after other kids' TP'd ours. If my curfew was 10:00, I was home at 9:55. I got good grades, not valedictorian class, but good. I never did get detention, all the way through school.

I was easily one of the kids this person would have classified as good and coming from good parents.

I was a good kid. But I didn't come from good parents.

Was I the exception to prove the rule? Or do the "statistics" really back up this person's assertion that bad parents = bad kids and good parents = good kids?

Come on, folks -- what do you say?


Glad to see some comments rolling in. One commenter (Tim) points out that without knowing my age and more about why I called my parents bad parents, my assertion doesn't hold too much water. He's right, so here's more of the details.

I'm 36, I'll be 37 in November. Why do I consider my parents bad? That's harder to answer in a public forum like this ... but I brought it up to begin with, so I should bite the bullet and put up or shut up.

My mom is OCD, clinically severely depressed, a very co-dependent personality who thinks that the nun psychologist who ran the assessment tests for mom to become a nun about 15 years ago was out to get her.

My dad is an alcoholic, abusive (physically, verbally, and otherwise), addicted to sex, racist, disinterested in his family.

They weren't "bad parents" for being invasive in my life. I'm not an overly sensitive 23 year old who thinks Mom and Dad were meanies. They were bad parents for a myriad of real reasons. And I didn't turn to drugs, alcohol OR acting like them.


EDIT 2 (Sunday Morning):
Scooter, as originator of the quote, has some clarifications in the comments section. He further elaborates that I may have confused "bad person" with "bad parent" and the existence of a curfew may just demonstrate they were good parents.

Poppycock. Plain and simple, if you have parents who beat their kids, rape their kids, keep their kids from as much social interaction as they can without getting noticed -- they are bad parents regardless of whether or not there was a curfew and a few other niceties of good parenting. These things make them bad parents as well as bad people. Just having a curfew does not mean they were actually involved in the child's life. Did they actually enforce the curfew? How did they do so? Did the child obey out of extreme fear or respect or just because they didn't want to be grounded (or otherwise reasonably punished)? Two of those reasons imply good parenting. The first reason indicates very very bad parenting.

It's not nature versus nurture as one of the commenters mentioned. It's a mix of both that creates a bad kid, as cooper points out.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:27 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 13, 2005

Adult : Child :: Boss : Employee (or is that backwards?)

Why must work suck?

Okay, okay, so not everyone's work sucks and work doesn't necessarily suck all the time. And, of course, there's the whole "do what you love, love what you do" thing.

When I was a teacher, I might fuss about grading (okay, so I complained about grading long and bitterly), but I really, really, really enjoyed my work. And everyone except my department head and the dean of the first year studies thought I was damn good at my job. Even the guys in the teaching and learning center tried to get me to speak to other instructors. And I loved it. I adored teaching. I adored mixing with the students. I loved watching them "get it." I enjoyed commiserating with them about stupid rules. (Like the fact that most majors at ND only got a couple of electives at all and those didn't really come until senior year.) I was crushed when I couldn't reach one of the students, even though I knew I wouldn't be able to reach all of them. Didn't stop me from trying. Didn't stop me from trying to figure out what I could have done differently.

I know a lot of professor types who just hated teaching first-year students. I think it's a blast.

Now, as a copy writer, though, I gotta wonder: does every boss treat their employees like children? I mean, come on! Give me an assignment and let me the heck alone to get it done. From talking to other folks, it sure seems like more bosses than not have this obsessive need to check in on their employees (although the new boss's habit of standing quietly in the doorway to my cubicle has just GOT to stop). I am not a five-year-old. Give me an assignment, give me a general idea of priority or a deadline and I'll get it done for you. And I'll do it well. But I can't get the thing done if you keep coming in and checking on my progress!
(And I also can't get it done when you give 1/2 the project to the dude who works in secret and won't show me anything. I can't write about how to use a website if I haven't seen how that website works!)

The endless explanations that I've heard 18 times and already taken into account (even by his admission -- but it's really important and bears repeating ... again and again) ... the projects changing 76 times in three days ... the projects with no boundaries to them -- write a newsletter for this magazine (a newsletter about what???) ... the ever-changing projects -- this emailer needs to go out Wednesday, no wait, make it about this instead, no wait, we're not ready for that, can you make it about this? Why isn't it ready to mail out?

I can have fun at work and I try not to let all the little changes and office politics bug me. But the tendency of some of the executives to treat the creative department as wayward children is really wearing. How do people deal with this every day?

I wish I was teaching again. (And not just to avoid the executives -- you still get some of that crap from the academic world, too.)
Guess I just needed to vent. That's a part of the reason I've been somewhat quiet over the last couple of weeks.

Oh, and lest this slips into oblivion, here's a quote from the University of Notre Dame's University Writing Program:

Students who have attended FYC regularly and submitted all major assignments should earn As, Bs, Cs, or Ds only. (Fs are reserved for students who stop attending or who do not turn in one or more of the three Unit Assignments.)

You can see it here (it's most of the way down the long page).

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:49 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 23, 2005

WTF is WRONG with these people????

Okay, so I had kind of intended to go on a Harry Potter binge for a few days, but then I came across this gem. At first, since the post is so short and mostly just that question, what if, I assume my buddy is simply hypothesizing. Hey, I just woke up and my brain is going in 18 different directions. Then I finally realize that there's a hyperlink in there. I click and find JustinLogan.com - What Is the Plan If There's Another 9/11?.

Holy crap. Holy freaking crap. Lemme quote the most pertinent bit:

According to Philip Giraldi, writing in the new issue (not online) of the American Conservative, it's to nuke Iran:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

So if I understand this right, our plan if we're attacked again, is to strategically nuke a country with some nuclear development AND who hates the crap out of already - WITHOUT ANY INDICATION THAT THE COUNTRY ITSELF IS INVOLVED IN THE ATTACKS!?!?!?!?!???? What freaks are we that when faced with a guerrilla war that is NOT housed in any nation, but is a movement hidden over the world (but mostly somewhat centralized in the Middle East) and we arbitrarily decide without evidence that we're going to punish a nation that our government still holds a grudge against - for something that nation's government did not necessarily do and/or condone????

Now look, I came of age during the Iran hostage crisis. That was the first news story where I started paying attention to the bigger world. And I largely noticed it for several kid-reasons: the Shah came to the U.S. on my sister's birthday and the hostages were taken on mine. Regan was elected on my birthday the next year and I, for the first time in an election, had paid attention to the campaigning and I desperately wanted Carter in office to finish handling the Iran mess. I didn't trust Regan. (And on top of all of this, my dad worked directly under Ross Perot at the time - so I knew about this dweeb, too.)

Anyhow, my gut reaction is to not trust Iran, sure. But, I want very solid evidence of governmental involvement with al Quaeda AND direct connection to any attacks on the U.S. before I feel that I can condone any war with another country. I'm sorry, I guess I'm just odd that way, but I don't feel we should go around attacking other countries based on guesswork, fear and this bull-headed belief that because we had something terrible happen to us, we should make terrible things happen to others.

Look, I don't want another 9/11. I didn't want the one we had. I didn't want Spain to have one. I didn't want England to have one.

I don't want Afghanistan to have one. I don't want Iraq to have one. I don't want Iran to have one.

You know what? There is more than enough pain and suffering out there already. People die in senseless car wrecks. They get sick with cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. A tidal wave takes their home, their livelihood and their family. Crops fail and there's just not enough food for everyone. A company just can't get the business to stay afloat despite severe pay cuts for the upper executives as they try to keep their workers pay fair and a good living wage.

Shit happens. It's the way the world works. Random things happen. Nature happens. And our own sometimes psychotic natures affect what happens to the people around us.

But I don't think there's EVER a call for a psychotic government. And the U.S., in my opinion, is damn close to that right now. There was no call to invade Iraq. And considering this "plan" for how our government wants to react should there be a second major terrorist attack upon the U.S., it's obvious to me that the U.S. government has become psychotic.

Right now, "Hail to the Chief" sounds a hell of a lot like Heil to me.

I wish we could impeach the entire U.S. executive government right now. Get Bush, Cheney and the rest of the psychotic war mongers out of positions of power. I wish we could listen to more of our armed forces brass who keep saying that we're fighting the wrong kind of war.

For example:

The United States and its allies are fighting a networked, global insurgency led by extremist Muslims, he said. The insurgent leaders do not speak for all of Islam, but they threaten to hijack the religion for their own purposes, he said. The United States needs to be on the side of moderate Islam and avoid being set up as an enemy of Islam, he said.

from: The InsideDefense.com

The "he" in this quote is three-star general in charge of Marine Corps forces in the Pacific region, Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson.

He goes on to say: "The center of gravity, the decisive terrain in this war is the vast majority of people who are not directly involved but whose support, willing or coerced, is necessary to insurgent operations around the world,� he said. �Hearts and minds are more important than capturing and killing people.�

This, from a three star general in the Marines. Not some so-called wishy-washy liberal. A MARINE. Do you get it? That when the freaking gung-ho Marines are saying we are fighting the wrong kind of war that we have well and truly SCREWED UP?

All right. This is why I don't talk about politics often. I get so pissed off at the stupidity of others, particularly those currently in power. But sometimes, if we don't speak up ... if we don't get angry ... if we don't try to do something to set things right, we run the risk of letting another Reich gain a foothold. I'm not saying Bush = Hitler; I'm saying that we run the risk of making horrible, invasive, deadly mistakes. We run the risk of wiping out cultures and people.

Bastante. I'll post some pictures of the mama gorilla and her infant from Brookfield Zoo tomorrow.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:42 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 18, 2005

Dude, Where's My Mom?

So okay, a wee little bit of a rant here.
About a month or two ago, my mom found out that she was getting a free flight to Chicago. So, she decides to flit out to Chicago, which is about 2-3 hours from where I live. The plan is to get Grandma from Dayton to Chicago and the two of them will "party" in Chicago for a few days. The second part of the plan is for me and A to drive into Chicago and visit for the weekend. My response is, well it depends on whether or not A has to work that weekend.

Long story short, that weekend is the first week that AM General goes to mandatory 10 hour a day weeks PLUS it's the first weekend that they had to work on Saturday as well (and missing that Saturday - for any reason other than hospitalization is a firing offense). In addition, I have to serve at church that Sunday and it's the first Sunday that there is literally no one else who can serve that weekend except me.

So after much discussion, I call Mom and tell her that there's really just no way that we can drive in to Chicago that weekend -- it would have to be after 2:00 on Saturday, so we'd get to Chicago around 5 - but it would be crazy traffic time (even on Saturday), so we probably wouldn't really get to their hotel (on the far west side of town) until 6 or so. We'd have one hour to spend before we had to get back in the car and head back home. Sunday would be even worse because we'd have to leave early early evening so that A could get a full night's sleep before being at work by five a.m. -- that means getting up at 3:30 a.m. to get to work on time.

Now, Mom lives a good thousand miles away, so I offer a compromise: why doesn't she and Grandma take the train into town, planning on getting to South Bend around 1 p.m. on Saturday and then take the last train back? That was the only way I could see for us to get to spend any time together.

So, Mom says, yeah, cool. She calls me Friday night . . . the evening before she's going to come over. I've been frantically cleaning the house. Yes, she verifies they'll be there in the morning. I'm excited. I continue cleaning the house.

11 a.m. on Saturday morning, she calls and says, no, she can't come in to South Bend because it takes too many train changes and she thinks they'll have to either stay overnight (oh no!) or not stay long enough to make the trip worth it.

Okay, now I'm disappointed. I've cleaned everything for two days to get ready for her and I'm excited to have them see our house. But, I also understand . . . I just wish she'd looked up this stuff earlier in the week when I asked her to instead of leaving it until Saturday morning. At the very least, she should have told me Friday night. But, *sigh* I'm pretty much used to this from her.

"Why don't you and A just drive in to Chicago?" she asks. I about drop the phone. We've gone over this about 15 times now. But, I dutifully explain again that we just can't manage it time-wise this weekend and there's no way around it.

"Why don't you come by yourself?"

"I told you, Mom, I will NOT drive in Chicago -- it's horrible and it terrifies me."

So the conversation continues with way crazy amounts of mom-guilt. "I'm travelling 1000 miles and you can't travel the last 100 to see me????"

Much frustration on both parts, but finally I thought we got to a good place: neither of us was actually happy about the situation. It did suck that mom was so close and I couldn't get over there to see her, but such is life sometimes.

Fast forward to last week. A has been planning a trip to Chicago for us for months -- it's being interrupted by a trip to Dayton, Ohio to see my sister as she makes the cross-country trek from Dallas to New York City, laying over in Dayton at our aunt's house for a few days of relaxation before they complete the trek.

First night that we're all at my aunt's house, my grandma calls my mom so we can all talk - kind of a nice family get-together even though Mom's still a thousand some odd miles away.

Mom and Grandma talk. Mom and Jenny talk. Jenny hands the phone to me.

"Young lady, what are you doing going to Chicago now?"

First words out of her mouth. I'm stunned, shocked. Here I thought she finally understood that we could not work out the schedule the one weekend that she could be in town. Nope, she thinks I did it just to spite her. She lets me know quite clearly that I "obviously" didn't go to Chicago that weekend just to hurt her -- it didn't have anything to do with the fact that we couldn't get there that weekend.

"Well, why didn't you take a vacation two months ago when I was there?" is her response to my pointing out that we're actually both on vacation this week.

I try explaining that A doesn't really get vacations - she gets time off when the plant goes to shutdown, but that's it. And I didn't have enough PT time accrued when she was in town.


I hurriedly get off the phone. You'd think I had done all of this specifically to hurt her. For someone with a cruddy self-esteem, she sure seems to think the world centers around her.

It'll probably be another couple of months before we speak again. Maybe she'll be in a better mood then. But there's no telling. These random spikes of irrationality have been a pattern with her ever since I was tiny.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:06 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 12, 2005

Red Monkey Jeans?

Okay, so this Richelle person wants to know where to get "these jeans." Something called Red Monkey Jeans. She wants to know where to get them so much that she emailed me about it. Of course, I have no idea what jeans she's talking about in her email since there is no description of them whatsoever. And, since that obviously wasn't enough to satiate the need she has for "those jeans," she has also posted a comment to my Journeys entry - a post about religion and faith journeys to ask me again, where to get those jeans. This time she's a little more descriptive and she calls them "red monkey jeans."

Despite my love for the little red monkey, I have never heard of red monkey jeans. Despite the search engine hits that BlogPatrol has identified about red monkey jeans, I know nothing about any red monkey jeans. Why would red monkeys need jeans?

Why would I know anything about said jeans? Why would I be inclined to run a more effective Google search for this person so she'll quit asking me about these jeans? And yet, oddly, if I was not heading out for vacation in a couple of hours, I would be hitting Blingo and trying to locate these jeans for this woman.

So, to anyone searching for red monkey jeans -- I have no idea what you're talking about. I've never heard of red monkeys wearing jeans. I've never heard of red monkey jeans. I'm not sure why anyone would think that I would hold secret knowledge about something I've never written about.

Although at this point, I wish CafePress did jeans. I'd make a great Red Monkey design, plaster on a pair of jeans and direct everyone to my Red Monkey Jeans. Come to think of it, I may just have to design a Red Monkey wearing jeans and plaster on a t-shirt just to commemorate this search for red monkey jeans.

And now, I must go pack before my other half yanks the plug out of the computer so I get off-line and get busy.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:14 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 7, 2005

Why do we all hate each other so much?

Dammit, when will it ruddy well stop?

I'm sickened and disgusted that we just keep doing this to each other.
I'm sickened and disgusted that people feel this is a viable method of communication.
I'm sickened and disgusted that for some of us the first reaction is to retaliate in kind.

As kids we were told that fighting was childish, that there were better ways to settle our differences. And I tried so hard to find those other ways. I thought - when I was a kid - that violence was childish and we would grow out of it, like shedding a childhood disease, when we grew into adults.

Too bad that kid's view of the world was wrong. The way adults fight scare me just as badly as the systemic groups of bullies in junior high and high school.


Posted by Red Monkey at 6:01 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 14, 2005

Holy Crap, Network-Exec-man

While I have the TV on fairly frequently (it's off right now and I'm still listening to the Bowling for Soup CD), I rarely really watch television shows. Why? Most of them suck. Network television, most cable channels, just suck. They pander to the lowest common denominator and I think that the Neilson and Arbitron ratings need to be re-examined. We get crap like The Swan and Who Wants to Be a Hilton because it creates more eager consumers. Oh my god, I don't look exactly like Paris Hilton. Shit, I better go buy some plastic surgery and keep getting surgery until I look like her. Oh crap, look how trust-fund babies live. Crap, I better at least act like I have that kind of money. Yeah, I really need a Hummer and a home theatre system that would crack my windows. Hell, I guess I better buy some better windows, too.

And the good stuff . . . the really good, clever, fun and funny stuff that encourages us to exercise our brains, that's the stuff that gets cancelled. Okay, so I'm late to the party, but I really can't believe that CBS cancelled Joan of Arcadia. I mean, I'm really shocked. Really really really shocked. Here we had an ensemble cast of wonderful actors with some phenomenal writing. The characters were very real and multi-layered. The show dared to ask the big questions about life the universe and everything without trying to give us the easy answer.
(42, btw, is the easy answer . . . I started to write 24 - I'm dyslexic where numbers are concerned).

I can't remember the last time I actually looked forward to a TV show every week. Sure, I like Law and Order and SVU. But that's about it. Numb3rs seemed pretty cool, but I haven't seen it - it's probably gone already, too. I can't remember the last time I actually got involved in serious discussion surrounding a TV show. With numerous people. Days after the show aired. Actually got into just short of argument discussions about what was going to happen next or what a particular scene meant.

Wait, I do remember: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the last show I got involved in. It was the last show I saw that really challenged people to think -- even though I didn't start watching until season six because I thought it would be cheesy. And it lasted its full seven seasons although it seemed to be in jeopardy every single season.

CBS actually stated that they thought a young person talking to ghosts would pull in a younger audience than the teenaged Joan talking to God. Actually, I think that if you want a show to pull in that teen to twenty-something demographic, you don't put it on Friday nights! Damn, there aren't many folks that age who want to stay in and watch TV. Shoot, how many "adults" had softball league, bowling, basketball or some other activity Friday night that pre-empts sitting around becoming a couch potato? I'll be vaguely interested to see if they put the Joan replacement in that Friday night slot. Right now, I think they've got it slated for Thursday. Hmmmm. There's a fair comparison.

To Barbara Hall and all of the writers, Joe Mantegna, Mary Steenburger, Amber Tamblyn, Jason Ritter, Michael Welch, Christopher Marquette, Becky Wahlstrom and everyone else who was involved in this show: I thank you so much for the two seasons. I'm sorry your network royally sucks. I hope that somehow these are only the first two seasons and you'll find a new home at a new network who actually appreciates what they have. I know I'm really not done with these characters and lives and I hope you get a chance to show us how they change and grow.

Note: Last night, when I finally heard that the show had been cancelled, I hit the CBS website and looked up the show. Today, when i wanted to get all of the cast names right, the show had been taken out of the pull-down menu on the CBS site.

Tired of the spam comments, so I'm closing the comments on this post ... you can use the contact link or comment on an entry that hasn't been hit so hard by the spam-bots.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:28 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 27, 2005

Oh, This Won't Be Overturned Or Anything!

So my friend, Andy, posted this story about a stupid judge in a divorce case.

The gist is a divorce judge added a paragraph to the divorce decree forbidding the parents -- both of the same religion -- to teach their child their religion. A religion recognized by the military. A religion specifically protected by the First Amendment.

Ah, the insanity of it all.

Now, back to my Friday night Buffy-fest. Current episode: Season Four, "Hush"
Have to wash the stupid out with the way-smart.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:34 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble