Saturday, December 29, 2012

Facebook games

When I first got on Facebook, I played some of their games. Gave up after a while, but not before I had a buttload of "friends" who I've never met. I suppose I could go through and delete them, but I don't care enough to do that, and some of them have actually been interesting.

But the other night, I was finishing my drink before I started the dishes, and, for lack of anything else to do, thumbing through Facebook. And I came across this message.
K: Kade is complaining of hear pain and can't sleep does anyone know what I could do even if I took him to the ER Walgreens is closed
Huh. Teenaged mother, hoping for help. I took another drink, and noticed the top three comments.
A: Try olive oil with garlic. Take cotton balls and put them in his ears. The warmth will help him feel better.

K: I'll try that thank u

C: peel and cut an onion in half. place the sliced part of the onion over his ear and have him hold it there until there is relief. The onlion will draw out the toxins that are causing him pain. Works for me everytime. When ur done, look at the onion. The proof is in the rings.
I nearly swallowed an ice cube. Really? Predatory peddlers of woo? Hell, for all I know, they're all from the same town in [click] Wisconsin, apparently.

What the hell: give me a second to change into my superhero costume, and I'm...

Unfortunately, my Captain Obvious underpants were in the wash, and all I had left in the back of the closet was an old Dazzler costume from the 70s, when I... well, let's just skip it, OK? It's a long story.

I'll just have to go in as me.

Me: Oh, god. A little onion juice in the ear could make an infection worse. Same with garlic. Jesus, people, this isn't the 14th century - magic doesn't work. Homeopathy doesn't work. The ER could give him medicine that could help - it might be a cold, it might be infection.
Was that harsh? There are some who might say it was a little harsh.

The ladies, however, weren't done.
A: Garlic actually does work. But I prefer my 14th century methods as opposed to running out and getting tons of medicine before trying a home remedy.

C: excuse me? dr's even tell u to use onion capsules. This works jsut like it did in the "14th century"

Me: Yeah. Really helped with the Black Plague, didn't it?

C: sure, do u see the plague now?

Me: Yeah. I live in New Mexico. Look it up.
You know something? Some of those people may be right. Apparently, I can be a dick.
Me: Let's go over it one more time. If it says "alternative medicine," it's crap. if it works, it's called "medicine."
I'm also not above stealing jokes from Tim Minchin, either.
C: i dont see "alternative medicine" written on an onion, do you? hmmmm that why most pills and medicine contain garlic and onion.

Me: Because sympathetic magic is crap. Because an onion doesn't "suck out toxins." That's called "crap"

A: That's why there's MRSA. And tons of drug overdoes from taking medicine as prescribed. In the morning she can go to the doctor, but for tonight if this provides relief let her do it. Calm down, your jizzing all over your medical magazines.

Me: Yup. Overuse of Methicillin has led to MRSA. Meanwhile, underuse of it leads to situations you can find in third world countries. It's a fine line, but waving your wands isn't going to drive the spirits away.
Has anybody noted that I didn't mention their miserable spelling? Or the fascinating claim that onions and garlic are in most pills?
Me: Heat can help with inflammation, if that's the problem. If it's an infection, those darned antibiotics that Andrea hates can knock it out pretty quick. Aspirin has very few side effects (and comes from willow bark - oooh... natural!). Medicine helps, magic doesn't. Raised 3 healthy kids. Saw a lot of bad advice. Good luck, Ms K.
Oh, one last note The next morning, her status read as follows:
K: Well didn't want it to happen but I had to take Kade to the ER he has a bad ear infection but I won't complain it's only his third ever
See, that's the thing. You can be a dick, and still be right.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blow me, Pink.

I really hate to be the arbiter of morality.

Anybody who's ever met me knows that I don't have any significant objections to what my grandmother used to call "strong language." Anybody who's read my stuff, or walked near me, or sat next to me in church...

A very wise man once said "sometimes, you just have to say 'what the fuck'," and I've always tried to live by those words.

That being said, Pink's latest hit bothers me just a little.



There's a difference between "some inappropriate language," and the carefully calculated insertion of cuss-words, specifically to make your song appeal to 13 year olds (when the radio-edits are specifically built in to the phrasing, that can often be a giveaway).

I'm not the biggest Pink fan, but I like her well enough. And several of her previous hits had a "bitch" here or a "damn" there, and I had no problem with that. But with this, it's like she decided that part of her popularity was due to the prurient value of her language.

(That's your new vocabulary word of the day, folks.)

I don't know anybody who says "I had a shit day." Maybe that's local slang from someplace; as an adjective, the word should be "shitty." But then she goes and conjugates it (or, you know, would have, if first-person, second-person and plural had different forms in English).

I'm not likely to clutch my pearls and swoon about this being Hollywood having an agenda and trying to destroy civilization as we know it. This isn't some Satanic influence over a singer, this is just a musician trying to make money with some carefully-inserted controversy.

But that's kind of fucked.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He's more than just an abbott - he might be the pope.

There's something about the music of Declan Patrick MacManus that I can't get out of my head.

The son of a jazz trumpeter, Ross MacManus (who performed under the stage name "Day Costello"), Declan took his manager's suggestion and formed his own stage name by combining Elvis Presley's first name with his father's stage name, and Elvis Costello was born.

His voice, which is admittedly harsh and slightly nasal, throws off a lot of people, but I have no problem with it. He has spanned the entire range of musical styles in various songs: jazz, pop, punk/New Wave, classical, country. He's mostly avoided metal, probably for a good reason.

I'll admit that I died a little inside when he worked with Burt Bacharach in the late 90s, but I might forgive him for that eventually. (And yes, I do own a copy of his album of country and western murder ballads.)

I actually started listening to him in the 80s, which remains my favorite era in his musical library. Several of his songs during this period are carefully layered, wall-of-sound style romps, layered with some of the most amazing lyrics, filled with amazing imagery and wordplay: he once self-mockingly described himself as "rock and roll's Scrabble champion," but his early lyrics are probably what attracted me to his music in the first place.

He has always been stubbornly anti-authoritarian, both politically and in his own life and career. He started with Stiff Records, which were only distributed in the UK. Protesting the fact that he could't get distributed in America, he was arrested for busking outside of a convention of CBS executives. It seemed to have worked - within months, he had a contract with CBS.

But then, on his first appearance on US television, the record executives wanted him to perform the first single that had been released off of My Aim is True, called "Less than Zero." It was a song about Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, and Costello felt it would have no bearing on the American audience. So he famously stopped a few bars into the song and said "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here." He then burst into "Radio Radio," which skewers the power of music executives.

(If you're interested, you can see that here - somewhere between Warner and NBC, it's a pain to find an embeddable version.)

Elvis Costello has literally worked with all of the greats in music - Paul McCartney compared their collaborations with his time with John Lennon. There are few voices in music who have moved me as much as Mr MacManus.

__________

Full disclosure - I wrote this under the influence of Imperial Bedroom, one of the two Costello albums I got for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The place where optimism most flourishes...

The Republican party has been sinking slowly into the depths of madness for almost 40 years now.

An argument can be made that the problem began with Ronald Reagan, but if you look back at Nixon and his hatred of the "elite, East Coast liberals of the media," you can see where the Fox "News" mantra about "liberal media destroying the country" began.

(Plus, Nixon was a paranoid totalitarian who kept an enemies list and had a racist side he tried to keep hidden. He'd fit right into the new Republican Party.)

Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the GOP had an open money-faucet flowing into the election. And despite that, the Republicans took a magnificent electoral pummeling. You would think that this might have caused Republicans to look into their souls, and perhaps reevaluate their priorities. Instead, they've decided to double down on the crazy.

You see, in the theory that "we can't afford to lose a single vote," the GOP embraced people who should be shunned by any reasonable human: conspiracy theorists, racists, and all the worst examples of the darkness and pettiness that creeps into the fringes of society. And for a number of reasons, those people have moved into the leadership of the party, and make up the public face of the GOP. Now, the entire party can be broken down into four types of people: the lunatics, the con-men, the marks, and the Old Guard.

You have the lunatics: they don't just spread the lies - they believe them, down to the depths of their souls. In essence, they're just marks or rubes, with a little more charisma and no fear of public speaking. People like Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert.

In days past, they might have been found on streetcorners with bullhorns, and people walking past, looking the other way. Now, they're elected to office, or given TV shows.

Then you have the known liars, who see the truth as something that needs to be to be bent to match their political agenda: Rush Limbaugh; the late, unmourned Andrew Breitbart; Karl Rove; and now, Mitt Romney. People who will lie, and then double-down on those lies, without compunction or shame.

(Please note: this is by no means an exhaustive list; not even scratching the surface. Just four of the biggies off the top of my head.)

And then you have the hapless rubes who believe them: the Teabaggers, the Fox "News" viewers; the easily-deluded fools who desperately cling to any idea that fits their preconceived world views, because it's so much easier than actually thinking.

And finally, you have the Old Guard. People like my father, who bought into the Republican line back when they had some shred of morality left to them, and haven't looked closely at the people who now make up the party. It's not clear whether they're a minority, or simply not loud enough to be heard over the din of the lunatics and criminals, but they don't seem to have any interest in being visible.

And it doesn't matter if the lies are easily debunked: the Republicans want to believe them, so little things like "facts" and "truth" get ignored for weak twistings of logic, and occasionally for simple repetition of the same lie, over and over again.

It doesn't matter how many birth certificates you release, the birthers will just keep on going.

Former Ron Paul staffer Eric Dondero has declared that he's "soured on electoral politics" and is now promoting "outright revolt." Of course, his definition of "revolt" is pretty much just to be a dick to anyone who doesn't express rage and hatred for the duly-elected President of the United States.
Starting early this morning, I am going to un-friend every single individual on Facebook who voted for Obama, or I even suspect may have Democrat leanings. I will do the same in person. All family and friends, even close family and friends, who I know to be Democrats are hereby dead to me. I vow never to speak to them again for the rest of my life, or have any communications with them. They are in short, the enemies of liberty. They deserve nothing less than hatred and utter contempt.

I strongly urge all other libertarians to do the same. Are you married to someone who voted for Obama, have a girlfriend who voted 'O'. Divorce them. Break up with them without haste. Vow not to attend family functions, Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas for example, if there will be any family members in attendance who are Democrats.

Do you work for someone who voted for Obama? Quit your job. Co-workers who voted for Obama. Simply don't talk to them in the workplace, unless your boss instructs you too for work-related only purposes. Have clients who voted Democrat? Call them up this morning and tell them to take their business elsewhere.
So, yeah. He's going to have a lot of friends.

But the right wing refuses to accept the simple fact that they were beaten by Obama fair and square. Exit polls clearly showed that Obama destroyed Romney on the issues, but what is the chant we hear from the right? "He ran a negative campaign!" Or, to put it another way:
What they won't say is that President Obama won a mandate for his vision, or that the GOP has veered too far right in its outlook.

"The president won the election. But I think it wasn't on the issues," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday at the annual Republican Governors Assn. conference. "He ran a heck of a good grass-roots organization and was able to basically convince enough people that they couldn't trust Gov. Romney."
Face it. The truth is, Obama didn't have to work to make Mitt Romney seem unlikable. The person doing that job was Mitt Romney.

Another theme that's being repeated over and over is "Obama cheated!" (Because, you know, hundreds of repeated attempts at voter suppression by the right don't mean anything at all! Hey, if you didn't win, it must not have been cheating!)

The head of the Republican Party in Maine, Charlie Webster claimed that blacks were bussed in to steal the election.
"In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day," he said. "Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black. How did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out."
"I don't know any blacks! They must not exist!"

Sorry, Charlie. There are over 17,000 blacks in Maine, and the state went for Obama by a margin of 108,000 votes. I'd say that a few white people probably voted for Obama too. Whaddya think, Charlie?

And things are only getting worse. From the woman in Phoenix, in despair because Romney lost, who ran her husband down with a car (not because he voted for Obama, but because he didn't vote at all), to the paranoid separatists building an armed compound in Idaho (where you can get a good-paying job making guns).

From the man who murdered his family, and then killed himself, because he was afraid of a second Obama term, to the porn-stached Joseph Farah, who once claimed that Obama's reelection would lead to conservatives being "hunted down like dogs," and is now saying we should boycott the U.S. military because Obama's in charge.

The right wing is insane. And they're not getting any saner.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Random thoughts on a school shooting.

Since Adam Lanza shot 27 people in a Connecticut school, I've been having a number of conversations over the last several days, primarily on Facebook and in what we laughingly call "real life." (I have yet to work up the interest in trolling right-wing blogs, though. Not sure why - perhaps the open futility of logic in this case.)

It's surprising how often I've been hearing the same tropes, too.

You know, if one of those teachers had owned a gun, none of this would have happened!
Actually, one of them owned several guns. Her son used them to kill her, and 26 other people.

And in fact, if you review the data (and this analysis is slightly flawed, but data is data), of the 17 mass shootings he analyzed, 11 were, in fact, stopped by civilians. But only in one of them was the shooter gunned down by someone carrying a weapon (one other was wounded by a civilian with a firearm, but he escaped, and later shot himself). The most common endings for these situations is a gunman shooting himself, or getting tackled by unarmed civilians; police killing the gunman actually came in third.

In fact, the most common ending for armed civilians entering the fray? Increased confusion, more collateral damage, and more wounded bystanders. So, once again, the "conventional wisdom" turns out to be completely inaccurate.

Students were killed because liberals ended prayer in school!
Or any of a thousand variations on a theme. Really, there's only one answer to statements like that.
(On a side note and something of a non sequiter, Westboro Baptist Church announced their intention to picket the funerals of the children. And within hours, the hacker group Anonymous released the contact information of many of the more public members, so you can contact them and tell them how you feel. Just thought I'd mention.)

There've been a few new tropes of late, though. I had the following exchange after tossing out a simple picture like this:

Guy: I would only point out that they should be focusing on the societal issues that causes this piece of dirt to think this was a viable option.

Me: And one of the societal issues? The easy availability of guns. How is it that every other 1st world country can handle this problem but us? Why are we down with the 3rd world countries in per capita gun deaths?

Girl: It's been said many times before: guns don't kill people, crazy idiots with guns kill people

Me: Guns don't kill people. People kill people. By throwing bullets at each other.

Still me: 27 children. Dead. I'm just saying.

Guy: Lol at your wikipedia reference. it would be a little more believable if the dates the data was cherry picked from matched and if the US didn't have three years of data to every others one year (exception being Argentina)

Still the guy: and yes 27 people killed is a horrible tragedy. Maybe we should spend some time grieving first and then discussing why it happened at a more appropriate time.

Me: Huh. Interesting theory. Ignoring your wish to get all the data from a source that doesn't exist, there have been 4 mass shootings this year alone. There have been two a year for the last 3 decades. If we followed your advice and waited until an appropriate time, it's a discussion that would never happen. So, since we obviously need it, when do you suggest? And how many people need to die before we do?
Please note the two newest tropes on display up there:

We should take care of the societal issues that cause the problems, not the problems themselves.

and

Now is not the time to talk about this. There should be time to mourn. We should wait until emotions aren't running as high.

I believe Jon Stewart pointed out the problems with that last point.


So in the end, there are no new arguments. Just the same ones, louder.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A few thoughts on religious extremists

Anybody who meets me will slowly come to realize that I have no time for religious extremism. Adding even more stupidity to an already illogical belief system is just compounding the brain damage.

On a (potentially unrelated) side note, I like to say that I use Facebook much in the way most people use their refrigerator door: as a place to hang things I find interesting/funny/unbelievable. I think it's a better idea than sticking things to my computer with refrigerator magnets.

(This is not a non-sequiter - it just looks like one. I once worked with an older woman, and one day I caught her using a magnet to put a picture of her grandkids on her hard drive. And just to make it better, she was putting it over her air vents. She didn't appreciate my input on the subject.)

My sister, the Episcopalian priestess, gets a little cranky with my lack of respect for her chosen profession. (By the way, she really dislikes the term "priestess." Just so you know...) She even wrote me, on Facebook, to ask why I kept putting down Christianity, and no other religion. You can probably insert a little "why do you hate god?" into that, too, if you'd like. Entirely subtext, of course.

My answer included the fact that there were plenty of other people out there bashing Islam, so they don't need any help on that front.

But overall, my opinion of religion is pretty much like the somewhat-overused joke:
Religion is like a penis. It's fine to have one and it's fine to be proud of it, but please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around... and PLEASE don't try to shove it down my child's throat.
There's a thousand variations on that one, but there it is.

With all that being said, I came across the following video clip, which is worth the ten minutes out of your day that it will take to see it. It's a bit from Russell Brand's talk show, where, inexplicably, two members of the Westboro Baptist Church agreed to appear.

For any of you that are unaware, Westboro Baptist is a cult dedicated to the idea that the Prince of Peace wants them to picket funerals and sporting events holding up colorful signs saying that "God hates fags" and explaining that you're all going to hell.

There's a lot of people out there, who've spent a lot of time and venom talking about the Westboro Baptist Church, so I'll let you look them up on your own. (At this point, all you need to google is "Westboro," so it isn't like the material is difficult to find.)


So, a couple of takeaways from this.

1. Russell Brand has a talk show? I mean, admittedly it's on FX, so how many people actually see it? But still... really?

2. Nobody should be surprised about them appearing on this show. The Westboro Baptists have made a life out of putting themselves on display, so this is just a logical extension of their standard behavior.

3. The guy with the hair, Steve Drain, can at least fake having some kind of charisma. The head-shaver, Timothy Phelps, can hardly hide his disdain for this crowd of heathens. Even when he tries for a crappy joke, his hatred for everyone and everything peeks out: "Well put. Other than the accent, very well put."
3a. Really? You dislike the fact that he's British? When there's so much else to hate there?
4. That being said, Russell Brand definitely came out on top here. (There's no double entendre there. Trust me.) He was polite, kept his audience in line, and, although he was in full Tease mode, he managed to keep it friendly and avoid most of the snark. But he didn't really take it easy on them, either.
Brand: "Have you considered that the Bible, like all religious doctrine, may be allegorical and symbolic to direct us toward one holy entity of love, as opposed to a specific litiginous text to direct the behavior of human beings? The Bible wasn't literally written by a cosmic entity. It was written by people."

Drain: "It was written by the holy spirit."

Brand: "The holy spirit ain't got a pen!"
And really, that's the only way to deal with people like that. Point and laugh.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wild Wild West

You know, it's odd. I apparently have a love/hate relationship with Rep. Allen West.

It's weird. Before this month, I would have said it was entirely hate. I mean, West is exactly the worst type of human being in America. He is a miserable, unlikable, lying sack of smegma, with the morals and integrity of a pustulent, diseased maggot. And many people think that he's just being a sore loser, refusing to accept the election results two weeks after Election Day.

But as it turns out, he's doing, for once in his life, exactly the right thing. Admittedly, for all the wrong reasons. But, like Hermann Göring saving a kitten from drowning, Allen West is doing a good thing.

See, here's the problem. For Allen West, losing the race for reelection would be evidence the the world is not falling into chaos. He has had one of the most evil, dishonest and hate-filled political careers of any political operative since Joseph McCarthy, and if anyone deserves to lose, die in ridicule and be crushed in the trash compactor of history, it would be Allen West.

He is, after all, the man who claimed, with nothing more than his own paranoid feelings as "proof," that all of the Democrats in the House of Representatives were Communists and essentially slaveowners. (Not to mention his history of torturing prisoners and endorsements by the worst figures of recent Republican history: Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, among others.)

But West has every right to ask for a recount, especially on a razor-thin margin of loss: the last recounts, late though they were, show West's campaign trailing by a margin of 0.58 percent; any spread of less than 0.50 percent would have triggered an automatic recount. That's pretty damned close, though - well within the margin of error.

And here's the thing: we just finished a campaign season full of voter suppression by the GOP, and outright fraud, incompetence and election theft for the last decade or more, and so any attempt to ensure a fair and complete election has to be taken seriously.

More than that needs to be done: laws need to be passed to punish the criminals who try to subvert the democratic process, and laws need to be repealed (I'm looking at you, Citizens United) to ensure that people can't just buy an election.

And, admittedly, Allen West's fight to continue the recounts, much like the rest of his political career, are based in fear-mongering and conspiracy theories. But there is enough actual evidence of impropriety, or at least mismanagement, that the Allen West fight must be allowed to occur.

It would be a tragedy of Biblical proportions, but Allen West might not have lost his seat in Florida. And the only way to be sure is to get a full and fair accounting of the votes in every county affected by this election. (You know, the thing that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow in Florida back in 2000?)

Few people in America deserve to lose as much as Allen West. But his fight must be allowed to continue.

It's called "democracy." And we have to support it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

It's just a thought.

What can you say about a man who holds down weaker students and cuts their hair off? Is it just schoolboy pranks, or evidence of a something else?

"Impersonating a police officer," incidentally, is only a misdemeanor. But why would somebody do that? Do they just like having power over other people?

What kind of person would think it's funny to have kids smell a dish of butter and then push their faces into it? And then do it again, years later, on their grandchildren?

What does it say about somebody who'd strap a dog in a carrier on the roof of a car? Is that animal abuse? (By the way, it's interesting that somebody might claim that the carrier was air-tight. Even assuming that the dog could breath, it obviously wasn't fecal-tight...)

What kind of person "likes to be able to fire people"?

I'm not suggesting that such a person would be anything more than a bully. But it might be enlightening to dig around the grounds of the Romney family home in Michigan. You know, just to see how many small animals have been buried there over the last 65 years or so.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Abort! Abort!

I've worked various election campaigns, and phone-banking is one of the most depressing, soul-grinding things you can do. Important, but sweet baby Jesus, you get to hear from all the losers, idiots and, worse, the one-issue voters.

Yes, they're out there. We could be emerging from the rubble of a GOP-led recession, the challenger could be saber-rattling for a third war in the Middle East and trying to set up robber barons for another Gilded Age, and you'd still have people on the phones listening to babbling lunatics explain how they could never vote for the Negro Abortionist.

Well, if there's people out there fixating on one subject, let's look at that subject for a moment, shall we?

(If you know anybody doing phone-banking in these waning days of the campaign, feel free to share this with them. You don't even need to give me credit for it. I'll be honest. It won't help: one-issue voters are not changing their minds, regardless of how many facts you run past them. But, well... at least you'll feel better.)

Barack Obama has been reliably pro-choice his entire career. This is not under dispute. But despite what many on the right like to claim, he is not a "radical abortionist."

While he did vote against bills to prevent "sex-selection" abortion and various bills which claimed to protect infants born alive due to failed abortions, but not due to some radical agenda. All were introduced by radical anti-abortionists, and all were so general that they could be twisted by political activists to begin the process of making all abortions illegal. Plus, the "failed abortion" acts were redundant even before they were written: Illinois law already protects an aborted fetus which turns out to be born alive.

But if you think that a vote for Romney is a "pro-life" vote, then, I'm sorry, but you're an idiot.

Because the truth of the matter is, nobody (probably not even Mitt Romney) knows what Romney's personal feelings are on abortion. Just looking at the evidence, his political advisers have determined that it would be best for his campaign if he was pro-life. But the people who know him give the impression that he isn't so much "pro-choice" as "uncaring." This isn't really a subject he feels like addressing.

But there's nothing here that qualifies as evidence. So, to determine the truth, we have to look at his record, and consider what Mitt Romney has actually done.

That, however, is also a mistake. Because the only conclusion to be drawn from history is that Mittens will say anything and do anything if he believes it is politically expedient.

In 1994, debating Teddy Kennedy, Romney said that he supported Roe vs Wade. Kennedy responded "I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice," leading Romney to tell a heartwarming story of a close relative named Ann Keenan.
"I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people. Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that."
Look it up. While you do, keep in mind that one joke he made there, that he will "not impose (his) beliefs on other people." (It'll seem funnier later.)

In 2002, debating gubernatorial opponent Shannon O'Brien, he added "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose. I am not going to change our pro-choice laws in Massachusetts in any way. I am not going to make any changes which would make it more difficult for a woman to make that choice herself."

But in 2005, as governor, Romney vetoed a law which would ease access to emergency contraception. He explained through an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, where he said he was "pro-life" and opposed any "judicial mandate" that dictated a nationwide abortion law, arguing instead that the issue should be left up to the states.

"I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother," Romney wrote. "I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate." Romney said he would uphold his campaign promise not to change Massachusetts' abortion laws, even though that campaign pledge was preceded by Romney's statement that he would "protect a woman's right to chose."

Then, during his first presidential bid in 2007, Romney explained that he had "changed my mind" on abortion while serving his one term as Massachusetts governor, and that "we should overturn Roe v. Wade and return these issues to the states." He also said he would be "delighted" to sign a bill as president that would outlaw abortion, if there "was such a consensus in this country that we said we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period."

(He even had a cute little explanation, about how Reagan and both Bushes had started out pro-choice, and changed to become pro-life. Like so many of Romney's stories, it was a lie. But even though he was called out on it, he used it again a few years later.) Still with me?

From 2005 to 2011, Romney consistently said that he was "pro-life" and believes abortion should be legal only in the case "of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother." That may be the longest stretch he ever went without reversing himself.

During the Republican primary last year, Romney expanded that view to explain how he believed he should cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Roe v. Wade "because it is bad law and bad medicine," and end funding for any international aid program that "promotes or performs abortions on women around the world."

But remember: he won't force his beliefs on other people.

He wrote it out for us in a National Review Op-Ed in June 2011. "If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation's next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America." Apparently, one of his advisers thought he needed to take a hard right tack.

Having said repeatedly that abortion laws should be left up to the states, in October 2011 he went on Fox "News" and told Mike Huckabee that he "absolutely" supports a Constitutional amendment banning abortion.

But now, less than two months after accepting the GOP nomination, Romney is casually trying to amble back toward the center on his abortion stance, telling the Des Moines Register last month that he would not make abortion legislation part of his agenda. "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." (It comes about 14 minutes into the audio of the interview.)

Funny, because in his National Review Op-Ed, he named three specific pieces of legislation he supported: "I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions... I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy (to bar foreign aid from abortion providers)... I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children..."

But hell, his friends, family and coworkers are just as confused about Romney's position as Romney is. After he spoke to the Des Moines Register, Romney's spokesperson, Andrea Saul was quick to contradict her candidate, saying "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life and will be a pro-life president."

On the other hand, his sister Jane, back in August (you remember August, right? Her brother was "severely conservative" back then...), said that any fear that Romney would restrict abortion was "conjured," and that "it's not his focus."

At a "Women for Mitt" event held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, she said "He's not going to be touching any of that...  Mitt's much more in the middle" than even the GOP platform (which supports several anti-abortion initiatives and a "Right to Life" amendment with no exceptions for rape or incest).

Romney's surrogate, former Senator Norm Coleman, seems to agree with Jane, saying in Ohio last week, "President Bush was president for eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed. It's not going to be reversed."

And then we have that last debate with Obama, where Romney went even further left, saying Obama was "totally wrong" about him wanting to shut down Planned Parenthood. Of course, he was also trying to blame gun violence on single mothers (presumably women who had escaped his binders), so perhaps he was just having an off night.

It's funny, isn't it? Romney's positions on abortion seem to change whenever there's an election nearby, and what position would be most popular with the people voting in that election. That's kind of weird. You have to wonder - is he a vacillating bag of douche, or a cynical, calculating fucknozzle?

Personally, I vote for the second one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A small addendum...

Speaking as a veteran with two tours of the Middle East, I think I should mention just one small point to our friends on the right wing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tagg, you're it.

So, now even the Romney kids are allowed to weigh in on the race? How do these dicks even get a public forum?

See, Tagg Romney... OK, first off, what the hell is up with these rich kids' names? Tagg, Piper, Trig: it used to be that you could expect the stupid names to come from the ex-hippies - River, Leaf, Phoenix. But it's all coming from the right this time around.

But regardless of that, Tagg went on some second-rate North Carolina radio show, and when he got asked how he felt about President Obama calling his dad a liar, he coughed up the following hairball.
"Jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the stage and take a swing at him. But you know you can't do that because, well, first because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because that's the nature of the process."
Now, let's get this out of the way right off the bat. Tagg, you really don't have much call to get all cranky anyway. It was only a couple of weeks before the second debate that Daddy (who's admittedly, a dishonest bag of douche himself) said that he raised a big old bunch of liars - that would be you, right?
"I've got 5 boys. I'm used to people saying the same thing over and over again hoping it becomes true."
So, unless you beat Daddy up while no cameras were around, you don't get to be all up in arms about this. But there's something even more important that you aren't taking into account.

Tagg, you're the privileged son of a known bully. You probably aren't used to walking around without a group of sniveling syncophants trailing along behind you, willing to do whatever they had to in order to keep you happy, from beating up other kids to backrooom blowjobs.

So it's possible that you aren't even aware how big a puss you are. You're a pampered, self-indulgent rich kid. Hell, you couldn't take Barack. You couldn't even take Michelle: she's got better arms than you do.

I'll go one step further. Sasha and Malia would put a fist right in your crotch and you'd drop like a rock, and probably wet yourself. It wouldn't take the Secret Service; Bo, the First Dog, wouldn't have a hard time making you run.

These aren't people scared that your dad is going to fire them. I know their skin might be a little darker than yours, but they aren't the help. Any one of them could kick your ass.

It really wouldn't take much.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Columbus

Were you aware that there is a movement to rename Columbus Day "Exploration Day"? It's true: a general celebration of exploration, rather than the glorification of just one man.
First celebrated nationally in 1937, Columbus Day pays homage to Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas. It is, needless to say, viewed very differently by different groups of Americans. Some people forget it's a holiday at all. Some Italian Americans see it as a point of cultural pride. Other people — especially Native Americans — point out that Columbus personally oversaw the murder and enslavement of thousands and see the holiday as an intrinsically cruel celebration of the beginning of a massive genocide and generations of oppression.
Christopher Columbus, much like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson after him, is a widely mythologized figure, remembered in song and story for having discovered America, thereby proving once and for all that the world was round.

Thanks to the miracle of the American educational system, that's pretty much all most Americans know about the story. It also happens to be complete crap.

First of all (and this argument is actually known by most Americans), how could he have "discovered" America when the Native Americans were already there? Or when the Vikings were in Greenland, and possibly points south, from the tenth century through the mid-fifteenth century?

(There's also the theory that Chinese Admiral Zheng He discovered America in 1421, but that's been mostly debunked - Zheng He [a.k.a. "Cheng Ho"] stuck primarily to known trade routes, and visited India, the Middle East and Africa, the islands around them, and some various stops in Asia.)

On top of which, the people of Europe were well aware that the world was round: Aristotle had proven that in the 4th Century BC.

You might also think that Queen Isabella of Spain gave him her jewels to fund the trip: actually, she turned him down. It was King Ferdinand who overruled her and paid for half the expedition; the other half was financed by Italian investors who Columbus had lined up.

What were the names of his ships? The Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, right? Well, that's not even entirely accurate: the Santa Clara was nicknamed Niña ("Girl") because her owner was named Juan Nino of Moguer.

A lot of the mythology comes from Washington Irving, who, in 1828, wrote "A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, which actual scholars have called "fanciful and sentimental." (Really? The guy who wrote "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" might have an active imagination?)

Columbus never set foot in North America: after his first voyage (he had four), he was named Viceroy and Governor of the Indies (which as far as he was concerned, was mostly Hispaniola), and he poked around in the adjoining islands, which included Cuba; his third voyage touched down briefly on the north-east corner of South America, and on his fourth voyage, he actually explored part of the Central American coast.

But he wasn't a particularly good or moral man. He tortured, killed and enslaved the local people; when the native Taino people of Hispaniola revolted at their treatment and killed the men left there as a colony from the first expedition, Columbus demanded a quarterly tribute in gold and cotton. Anyone over the age of 14 who didn't deliver had their hands cut off and was left to bleed to death.

He and his men frequently kidnapped and raped the native women. One of Columbus' childhood friends, Michele da Cuneo, wrote about one such incident this way:
While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked - as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But - to cut a long story short - I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.
After his third voyage, some of his sailors revolted, claiming he'd lied to them about the wealth they'd be able to find in the New World (which, by the way, Columbus was still saying was the Orient); that, plus continued reports of his treatment of the natives, caused the Spanish Crown to order his arrest and return to Spain.

He only spent six weeks in prison before the crown ordered his release; after all, he'd paid back his debt, and more, in gold and slaves. He was allowed to make one more expedition, with the Santa Maria and three smaller ships. All four were destroyed, and Columbus and his men were stranded on Jamaica for a year before they were rescued. (The new governor on Hispaniola hated Columbus, and refused to allow any of his ships to rescue them.)

He returned to Spain, where he lived out his last two years of life. He tried to get the Spanish Crown to pay him 10% of all profits from the New World, as they'd agreed before his first voyage, but since he'd been relieved of his duties as governor, Spain didn't feel they needed to pay him. (The lawsuits filed by his heirs because of this lasted through the end of the 18th century.)

So Columbus opened the Americas to European settlement, and made Spain the preeminent power in the area for many years; he also managed to bring one other thing back, along with gold and slaves: he introduced syphilis to Europe. The initial outbreak is thought to have killed more than five million Europeans.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Really, David Gregory?

So, I thought I'd email "Meet the Press" today.
So, let me get this straight. You had Ralph Reed on, to impugn the honesty of Barack Obama.

First, it might have been nice if you'd disclosed that he was working for Mitt Romney. That might have been a basic level of truth that you could have established at the beginning. Just a thought.

Second... Ralph Reed? Seriously? Didn't he work with Jack Abramoff to steal from Native Americans in at least two states: the Choctaw in Alabama and the Tigua in El Paso, Texas? (I believe his entire résumé was an email to Abramoff reading "Hey, now that I’m done with electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I’m counting on you to help me with some contacts.")

You have a thief and a liar on to discuss the honesty of the President of the United States? Without talking about HIS background, or about the fact that he is now working for the Romney campaign? Did you miss a few classes when you were getting that journalism degree?

I'm just curious.
Sadly, I didn't have the emails for either David Gregory or his executive producer Betsy Fischer Martin, or I'd have gone straight to the source.

Remember, folks. This is what the GOP likes to call the "liberal media." Go figure.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Continuing Adventures of Rocky and Boris

Rocky and Boris are still trying to work out their relationship. (Here's a little backstory in the off chance you aren't up to speed.)

I've always had dogs. Boris is roughly the same size as the other dogs I've usually owned, so I said this morning that he was a "medium" dog. My wife corrected me: "No, he's a large dog."

I granted her the point, saying that he was about the size of my usual dog, so it's what I'm used to. She looked at me and shook her head. "No, that's a median dog."

(I walked over, kissed her, and told her that I knew there was a reason I married her.)

Boris is many things, but he's never been an alpha male. He has been known to stand up for himself on rare occasions, so he isn't an omega male, but for the most part, he isn't even a beta. He's an iota; maybe a pi.

It's actually kind of cute, watching Boris and Rocky: it's been a long time since Boris actually frolicked like a puppy, but he does. And considering that Rocky is less than half the size of Boris, you'd think he'd be a little more intimidated. He's not.

When Boris has a chew toy that Rocky wants, some of the most fascinating tugs-of-war ever seen occur. At one point, I made a sound that caught Boris' attention, and he sat up and looked at me. With Rocky dangling off the chunk of rawhide in Boris' mouth, growling, back paws barely touching the floor.

Boris spent several years getting pushed around by Tasha: she'd eat her food, and then however much of Boris' she wanted, while he'd just stand back and let her. She was the boss. So when it's dinnertime, if Rocky decides to push his face into Boris' bowl, Boris just stands back and watches him eat both bowls of food.

Rocky may push him around, but they're friends. If they're in the yard and the neighbor's dogs come running up to the back fence, Boris will stop whatever he's doing, stand up straight, walk over to the fence and firmly sit down, watching them.

He isn't smart enough to know that there's no way the other dogs can get to Rocky. He just knows he's going to protect his little buddy.

So, here's how Monday started. I stumbled out of bed, put a spoon of canned dogfood in water, nuked it for 30 seconds to loosen the gelled bits, stirred it into a slurry, and added a little less than half to a bowl of puppy chow, and the rest to a bowl of dog chow.

Rocky, at this point, is bouncing around like a squirrel on meth, so I put his bowl down first, where he leaps on it like he hasn't seen food in a week. Boris somewhat sedately walks over to his bowl and starts eating.

I start to heat water for tea, and glance over, to see Rocky eating Boris' food, as Boris sits a foot behind him looking morose.

I picked up Rocky with a stern "no!" and put him by his food again. Boris huffed and went back to eating.

There followed a vaudeville routine. I looked around, looked down, and Rocky had pushed Boris aside again. Push Rocky over to his food bowl. The water starts to boil. Dash over to the stove. Snap "Rocky!" Take the water off the heat. Pull Rocky out of Boris' food.

Finally, it entered my sleep-addled mind that either I stood right there until Boris finished eating (and I had to get ready for work), or I had to separate them. So I picked up Rocky in one arm, his food in the other, and went over to the back door. Put down Rocky to slide the door open, put his food on the porch, go back to Boris's bowl and pick up Rocky, and put him out with his food.

I made my tea, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and came back to the kitchen to see that Boris had finished eating, and Rocky was at the door literally vibrating with excitement.

So I opened the door, and a little beige streak shot past my legs aimed directly for the empty food bowl. I picked up Rocky's half-full one, carried it over and set it down. Picked up my tea, and turned around to see Rocky frantically licking Boris' bowl.

And Boris calmly eating the puppy chow.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time to call Congress. Again.

If you've been paying attention to little things like "reality" (as opposed to the partisan propaganda that seems to have overtaken much on the American thoughtscape), you've probably noticed that Obama is something of a centrist. He prefers to work with both sides to come to a conclusion that both can live with.

Of course, if you listen to Fox "News," he's a dangerous radical and the most far-left socialist of our time. And if you just hang out on the extreme right fringes, he's a (pick any two... or four) dangerous radical leftist Muslim socialist Satanic communist Kenyan fascist extremist arrogant totalitarian dictator terrorist. (Some of them try to avoid saying "black" or any variation of it, although Rush Limbaugh did try to coin the phrase "halfrican" at one point. But let's move on.)

The Right applied a similar fun-house mirror effect to the presidency while Clinton was in office, labeling him a hippie and a "radical leftist," despite the fact that Clinton implemented a dramatic deficit reduction plan while lowering the taxes of working family; he developed a crime bill which hired 100,000 police officers and drastically expanded the use of the death penalty; he instituted the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (despite their recent love of it, right wingers thought DADT would destroy the military at the time); and despite the myth of "liberals loving Big Government", Clinton reduced the size of government more than any president in three decades.

A lot of this anti-Clinton propaganda, of course, can be laid at the feet of Newt Gingrich, the nascent Fox "News" Channel, and their efforts to radicalize the right. In their ongoing efforts to rewrite history, the Right really, really wants to ignore what they were doing at the time. Some of us lived through it, though.

But I digress.

Despite the propaganda, Obama tries to work with Republicans. They're just too polarized to respond. And the fear is, he might be willing to consider cutting Social Security in his upcoming budgets. (After all, it wouldn't be the first time he's offered it.)

Which is why Senate Democrats have been forced to make a stand.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and 28 other members of the 53-member Senate Democratic caucus have signed a letter opposing any cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.

The letter forms a significant marker as Congress looks toward a possible deficit bargain in the lame-duck session after the election. It says Social Security has problems down the road, but that they should be dealt with separately from any budget deal.
And this seemed like an appropriate approach to me. So, looking down the list, I noted that one of my two Senators, Tom Udall, had already signed on. I sent him a little note
Senator Udall,

I appreciate your efforts to help the most vulnerable American citizens. Specifically, in this case, I'd like to thank you for signing onto the letter that Senators Sanders, Franken and others put together, opposing any cuts to Social Security.

Full disclosure: I do not use Social Security, nor does any member of my immediate family, as far as I know. (My father, who retired from the Army as a full Colonel, does collect Social Security, but his retirement check could still support him even without it.)

However, I understand, unlike our Republican friends, that Social Security is an earned benefit, that far too often helps those who would otherwise be unable to support themselves. Even Paul Ryan, who only managed to go to college after his father died because of the Survivor's Benefits, wants to destroy any trace of a safety net in America (mostly because he's a hypocritical gasbag who follows Ayn Rand - not that he's willing to admit that while he's running for Vice President, but he has in the past).

Again, thank you, Senator. As long as you keep doing the right thing for the American people, you can always count on my my support.
But that's only one Senator. Like most states, New Mexico has two.

I was, perhaps, somewhat less supportive in my email to the other one.
Senator Bingaman,

I realize that you aren’t running for reelection, but I would appreciate it, as your constituent, if you could walk your butt down to Senator Reid’s office and sign on to the letter put together by Senators Sanders, Franken and company, saying that you oppose any cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.

It would be nice if you could show that you cared about the most vulnerable citizens and in some small way, were opposed to allowing Americans to starve.

I realize that Social Security will need to be fixed sometime in the next twenty years or so, but eliminating the cap on any income over $107 thousand dollars might be enough to do that all by itself.

Please do the right thing as long as you’re still in office.

Thank you,
I realize that it's only a drop in the proverbial bucket; on the other hand, they say that one letter is counted as the opinion of a hundred people. I'm not sure how they count emails, but there it is.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Why Does The GOP Loves Mitt Romney?

I've been trying to figure out why the Republican party nominated Mitt Romney as their candidate for president. They spent 2004 castigating John Kerry as a "flip-flopper," but now they want to elect someone who has literally reversed himself on every single issue.



But then it hit me. There's no way that they couldn't love Mittens. He's one of them.

The right wing has spent years trying to claim how much they dislike the "liberal elite," so it's somewhat ironic that their 2012 presidential candidate is a Harvard lawyer and multi-millionaire with four houses and a freaking elevator for his cars. But it's understandable, because, just like Mitt, the GOP has managed to reverse themselves on almost every policy they ever supported.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves; admittedly, he left the Republican party (like any reasonable person would), but he did it. In fact, the party was founded six years before the Civil War by anti-slavery activists and "modernists." Despite having that history to act as guide and beacon for their moral compass, the GOP has opened their arms and embraced every bigoted pinhead out there.

Those of us who wander the dark side of the Internet are treated to a daily flood of images of Obama as a monkey or an African witchdoctor, watermelons grown on the White House lawn, variations on "can we still call it the White House?" and every other racist stereotype they can dredge up.

Do you want to see how ugly it can get out there? Turn Safesearch off and google "Obama nigger." (But trust me, that's not a nice place to spend any amount of time.)

Have you heard the Republican position on unions lately? With all their assaults on collective bargain and worker's rights, it's sometimes hard to recall that the GOP once embraced unionization as an important step towards strengthening the middle class.

Back in the day when the Republican party still supported the ideals of the "common man" over the aspirations of the super-rich, they knew that only by organizing and acting in groups, could the poor gain any influence in negotiations with the wealthy.

Admittedly, they still know that: they just don't think it's a good idea any more.

As Reagan put it, "where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." What, you don't believe me? Honest, he said it!


Despite their current efforts to do away with environmental protection and their mantra of "Drill, baby, drill!", the Republican Party used to consist of ardent conservationists like President Teddy Roosevelt, whose policies led to the creation of the National Park Service. And though they don't like to talk about him, Richard Nixon was a Republican, and he created the Environmental Protection Agency.

They've always been a little bit prudish. On October 28, 1919, a Republican-controlled Congress overrode the veto of President Woodrow Wilson (of the Progressive Party), and passed the Volstead Act, banning alcohol and bringing us Prohibition. Also, it was Edwin Meese, Attorney General for Ronald Reagan who created the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, which succeeded in getting magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse removed from convenience store shelves.

Yet despite this continuing drumbeat of "family values," it's the traditionally "red" states that consume the most pornography; at their national conventions, strippers prefer Republicans, who outspend Democrats three to one. Republican Congressmen hold a solid lead over Democrats in number of sex scandals, as well.

The GOP likes to claim that they support the concept of smaller government, but if that's so, why does every Republican president increase the number of government employees, while every Democratic president reduces them?

This is not the Republican Party of your father. (Nor of mine, although he's most likely going to vote for them.) But overall, on issue after issue, the GOP shows why they support a hypocritical, lying gasbag who can't keep a consistent position as their candidate. He's what they aspire to be.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Romney/Ryan. Two of a kind.

The RNC Clown College has gavelled itself back into their usual unscripted incoherence again, and, to the surprise of nobody anywhere, Romney and Ryan are the nominees for God Emperor and Fisher King, and the Tampa strippers now go back to making subsistence wages.

There are actually many reasons why Mitt Romney would choose Paul Ryan for the VP spot, and only one of them involves the fact that Ryan's tax plan would have Romney paying less than one percent in taxes.

Ryan is like Mitt in many ways - he is also in the habit of making huge, sweeping statements about what he'll do, without giving any details about how he'll do them. For example, his vaunted plan to balance the budget? Well, what few details have been released have been described as "ludicrous and cruel."

But more than that, the details he isn't releasing are important. Forbes magazine, one of the most staunchly conservative of publications, point out that it isn't a plan, calling it "vacuously vague" and "all candy and no vegetables."

But he's very protective of that plan: back in April, when the president pointed out some flaws in it, Ryan went on the attack in a speech later that evening, saying "I seem to remember him saying that he was going to be a uniter, not a divider. Frankly this is one and the worst of his broken promises. We do not need a campaigner-in-chief, we need a commander-in-chief."

(Isn't that cute? "The president shouldn't attack me! Democrats can't fight back!" And then he gives a Bush quote but attributes it to Obama. And then he attacks Obama. You have to admire that level of hypocrisy.)

And in keeping with the Romney strategy, he doesn't just avoid criticism by never giving any detailed policies, he's more than happy to lie his ass off, just like Romney. His big speech at the RNC kept fact-checkers busy for days.

But remember, avoiding lies isn't a major priority of this campaign. It was Romney's advisor Neil Newhouse who said "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

Two men, defined only by their complete inability to tell the truth. They're made for each other.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Dog Days of August

Now we're in for it.

I guess life was too quiet around the Cynic household. So we went and got a puppy.

Around 9 months ago, we finally had to have Tasha put down. On the dog front, that left us with Boris, who I've described before:
Unfortunately, as Boris got older, we discovered a minor problem - he's an idiot. Dumb as a bag of hammers. This might partly be due to a badly-healed skull-fracture that the vet discovered, which also led to his nose curving ever-so-slightly to the right. It might be due to the fact that Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are known to be a little vague. Or it might just be that he doesn't even have two brain cells to rub together....

Boris is both moose and squirrel rolled into one dust-covered package. He's lazy - he doesn't just sit, he'll lie down, or he'll lean against a wall. Some stray atom of thought will roll through the dark recesses of his skull, and he'll go bounding down the hall, running into walls, and either skid to a stop in the living room or ram, full-speed, into some piece of furniture. And then he'll stand there, looking around confused, because whatever phantom had momentarily interested him has apparently vanished into thin air.

Boris is also extremely friendly. He loves other dogs, people, cats, birds - anything that moves is his friend. We have hopes that a burglar breaks into our house while Tasha is still around, because left to his own devices, Boris will lick their faces and show them where we store the good china and the big TV.
Now, you can see where this might be an issue when one of our primary reasons for owning a dog is in place of paying for a burglar alarm, right? The Trophy Wife was pretty happy with answering the door when she had a giant ball of throbbing death growling at her side: it was a little off-putting to salesmen and Jehovah's Witnesses, and gave her a good reason to end the visit quickly.

We can't even get Boris to bark at the door on a regular basis when somebody knocks. We've gotten one bark out of him, once or twice, but so far, only when it's been somebody we expected and knew already. So that hasn't been completely successful.

So yesterday, we took a firm grip on our sanity, and calmly threw it out of the car. Ran over it a few times, and proceeded to the Animal Welfare folks to get another dog.

Now, I've always said that if we got a dog, I wanted a puppy. And for the perfectly logical reason: I like puppies. But, in talking to the wife, we realized that neither of us particularly wanted to housetrain another dog. Plus, Boris wouldn't be much of a mentor for a houseplant, much less a puppy. So we agreed that an older dog might be a good idea.

Unfortunately, our options were limited: with our menagerie, it needed to be a dog who could stand to be around cats, and, in fact, other dogs. Preferably not a biter, and definitely not one trained to fight (yes, we still have issues with that here in New Mexico: we were one of the last two states to outlaw that particularly reprehensible "sport"). So when we narrowed down our choices, none of them were particularly housebroken, and we realized that training a younger dog to poop outside would be easier than breaking a bad habit in an older beast.

So we ended up with a 5-month-old male, Rocky (in keeping with our Bullwinkle-themed canine history): in human terms, not really a baby, but just pre-adolescent. Twenty-three pounds of excitable labrador-and-something. He loves Boris, isn't sure about the cats yet, doesn't run around barking madly, and sincerely wants to be close to people.

There are, of course, the usual puppy challenges: he wants to chew on things, we've only had one accident so far, and we have to separate the dogs to keep Boris from eating the puppy food. (Oh, and Rocky did not appreciate his first bath. But he also didn't melt or explode, so he recovered quickly.)

Of course, at seven, with most of his life spent around a relatively placid older dog, Boris is not at all sure about this bouncing bundle of energy. But overall, they're getting along quite well.

Things ought to be interesting for a while. I believe there's an ancient Chinese curse to that effect.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mr. Telephone Man

Well, we went and did it.

The Trophy Wife hasn't traditionally been rough on phones, but her's developed a small crack in the casing some time ago, and has been getting a little crotchety lately. So on Thursday, when it didn't ring the first time I called her, and then just completely dropped the call the second time, we knew it was time to get a new one.

But somewhere along the line, we lost our minds, broke down and upgraded to a Smart Phone. And since the Wookie Son had come along for the ride (it being mid-afternoon, so he was awake), he, too, ended up with an upgraded phone.

So they've spent the last two days pecking and swiping and learning all about their damned little gadgets with the adorable two-thumbed, slide-out keyboards and the touchscreens and all the various apps.

I have a phone. That's it off to the right. You know what it does? It calls people. That's all it does; it has a low-res screen (which shows phone numbers just fine, though), and it doesn't even have a camera. I'm OK with that.

That phone is the Sanyo SCP 7050. It's five years old, and still going strong - how many people do you know with a 5-year-old cell phone who aren't cursing about it? Rubberized case, military specs for durability and waterproofing; you can drop this one on the pavement (and I have), run over it with a truck, drop it in water, and it still keeps working.

You know why they stopped making this phone? Because nobody was buying new ones to replace the ones they broke: to kill this bastard, you have to put a stake through its heart, and then burn the remains, soak them with holy water, and bury them at the crossroads at midnight. And even as you're doing that, it might just ring.

Christ, people don't seem to have a problem getting hold of me as it is. Why should I want to make it easier for them? Hell, most of the time, I don't even want to talk to the people who call me anyway. Why use would I have for a phone that can call people, email them, connect to Twitter, and find them on Facebook?

So there it is. My wife and son now have phones that are officially smarter than I am. And I don't have a problem with this.

At least I didn't have to crack out the instruction manual to figure out how to answer when somebody calls. ("Oh, you have to swipe the green phone icon sideways, not just tap it. OK!")

Saturday, August 11, 2012

<i>We must code</i>

Blogger recently did a redesign on its pages, and a lot of people don't appreciate it.

The spacing has gone weird, it likes to reset your font at random, and sometimes the background color will just do whatever the hell it wants. The problem is, I'm willing to bet, that you're working in "Compose" (that little button in the upper left, assuming you have the standard layout).

See, I have a little (very little) training in coding. And damn, but I wish I'd kept it up - in 1999, I could have made a ton of money just correcting a programming error in COBOL.

If you're having weird formatting issues, open that post, and click the button in the upper left labelled "HTML." What's probably going to happen is that a lot of crap that you've never seen before will suddenly appear in the middle of your post.

I know you don't care, but HTML stands for "HyperText Markup Language." It's just the commands that tell your computer how to do things on the internet. It's not usually scary, until you let a machine try to do it.

Because they use a program to put the HTML in the middle of your text. And one of the things that the program does is set your format for every paragraph (the font style, the font size, everything). And if you go back to something you've already written to change a few words, the program wants to reset the format again.

And sometimes, when you throw in a space it doesn't think is necessary, it'll throw some invisible symbol in there (usually starting with an ampersand and ending with a semicolon). You normally can't see those, but they exist.

And sometimes, there's so much unnecessary crap there that you can only barely find your text, hiding between various commands that have no real excuse for existing.

It's automated. Like any machine, it does exactly what it's been told to do, and doesn't vary in the slightest. So you just have to cut proto-Siri out of the equation. Here's what you do. And don't worry if you have no experience with computer code: we're going to start slow and work you up to it.

First, just accept the standard font and background. You can mess with those later when you're more comfortable with it. So, the first thing you need to do is to click the HTML button again. You're about to take a few (very few) tentative steps into the wonderful world of computer code.

Now, every HTML command gets bracketed by "greater than" and "less than" signs. That tells the computer to sit up and pay attention, because you're talking to it, by god!

So, for example, to tell it to put things into italics, you type <i>. That "i" tells it italics. (Exchange it for a "b" and you've just told it to bold the next bunch of letters.)

An important thing to remember at this point is that, just like in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, if you tell your computer to do something, it will keep doing it until it dies. So every command you open, you have to close. And in this case, that means that once you've told it to italicize something, you have to tell it to stop, usually with the same command, only preceded by a slash (so </i>). Think of the slash as you, telling your computer "stop, you bastard!"

In fact, once you've done it for a while, you'll discover that a lot of programming involves counting commands and seeing which one you didn't shut down. (Or counting parentheses and seeing which one you didn't close.)

The next thing you'll notice is that HTML doesn't like paragraphs. Everything you type ends up in one big block of text. To fix that, we have another command. We'll call it "break" (programmers like easy-to-remember commands, by the way.) It looks like this: <br/>

You'll notice that the slash is at the end. This one isn't paired up with a second command. It just inserts a break (what us old guys would call a "carriage return" - those of you too young to have used a typewriter... fuck you. You'll be old soon, too).

Me, I like double-spacing between paragraphs. So I end up typing <br/><br/> at the end of every paragraph.
Pro-tip: just to make it easy on you, after you enter the breaks (<br/>), hit "enter" and make a new paragraph (which the HTML will just ignore): it'll make it easier to edit your work later.
Now, there's just two more things to show you tonight.

The first is the hyperlink. It's a jump to a new web page. It goes like this: <a href="">

Now, inside those quotes, you'd put the address for whatever webpage you were interested in. If, for example, you were writing for a particularly slow audience and wanted to steer them to the Google homepage, you'd type <a href="http://www.google.com/">Google</a>

(Notice that the closing command was just "/a" - the first part of the command is the important part. Everything else is just details, giving it the specifics of what you want it to do).

And because we like to quote our sources sometimes, it's cool to be able to set them off from the stuff we wrote, perhaps slightly indented. To do this, you'd use the command <blockquote> at the beginning of the quote, and </blockquote> at the end. (Personally, I like to italicize those as well, which looks like this: <blockquote><i>quote goes here</i></blockquote>

To be honest, you don't have to get them in the exact order, either. I do, because it's easier to look at it and say "OK, I opened italics here, and closed them here. The hyperlink starts here and ends here." Like I said, if you get into any detailed coding, it's a good idea to have a simple system to follow.

So, to recap, if you type the following commands, you'll get the following results.

<i>Italics</i> gets you Italics

<b>Boldface</b> gets you Boldface

<a href="http://www.google.com/">Google</a> gets you a link to the Google homepage

If you need to set off a quote from the rest of your text, you use <blockquote>The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.</blockquote>, which gets you this:
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
And just so you know, you don't have to put breaks either before or after a blockquote. It already double-spaces on both sides of it.

Once you're comfortable with that, you can move on to more advanced commands. Which you can learn about by going to Google and asking for "HTML for background colors" (or whatever it is you want to change). But start slow: wait until you're comfortable with what you're doing right now.