Monday, April 29, 2013

Non-Flying Economy

I have decided, after much consideration, that I am going to become a penguin. 

This penguin. (Source.)
Why? Well, let's start with the fact that everyone told me college was a good bet. I'm hunting minimum wage jobs now, sweating and panicking that I won't even be able to find a job that will let me maintain my current income. 

Know who's hiring? Skilled labor. Lots of freaking skilled labor jobs out there. If I'd gone for a CNC machinists certification, I'd be drowning in job offers right now. And I could have had that certification in the same amount of time it took me to get a useless freaking associates. I could have picked up a massage license in less time and for less money. Same for a mechanics certification. Hell, I could be a plumber. And any one of those would be serving me better right now than three years of a college education.

For that matter, why are we still telling kids that college is good for them? Currently, Americans hold somewhere between $902 billion and $1 trillion in student loan debt. And that's with just over half of all new college grads in America being flat-out unemployed, and unable to find jobs. 

There's also this unrealistic expectation of experience. "Hiring for General Manager. Successful applicants will have two years prior experience." How many general managers do you think there are, people? How many office assistants, how many of anything? How the hell are normal people supposed to get this mystical experience thing? 

Or even better, when the experience I do have isn't considered. I worked in the mall. Year-round. During Black Friday. For three years. I know customer service, and I'm good at it. But I can't get a hit to save my life, because I don't have a specific breed of customer service. I haven't worked in a pawn shop, I haven't worked in a video game store, I haven't worked, I haven't, I haven't...

Seriously, do you people expect the one perfect person for the job to fall out of the sky and demand it from you? 

I am here for the pizza delivery job! (Source.)
Someone who just happens to have worked in your industry in a position exactly like the one you're offering, and just happens to be looking for a job?

Other reasons to join the flightless birds, of course, fall under the "screw you" and "I hate you all" categories. 

I have, sitting next to me on this desk, a cheap atomizer that I use to deliver nicotine to my bloodstream via my piehole. I have a computer that fits in the palm of my hand that can take pictures, video, make phone calls, browse the internet, and make use of dozens of programs that range from following sports to organizing my life to shooting zombies with my index finger. I'm typing this on a top of the line Mac all-in-one with a second screen and $4k worth of software and peripherals on it (thank you school technology fund!) in a lab surrounded by 25 of these exact same setups. 

I have a car that sips gas lightly, costs next to nothing to maintain, will outlive me if I treat it well, and isn't too hard on the payments. When I drive my nice-ish car home, I'll arrive in a decent apartment complex in a moderately nice neighborhood. We might be able to order food, or we might cook something. But we'll have food, and it will be tasty and relatively good for us. 

My hubby and I are freaking broke all the time, but we're surviving. And even with our finances being strained to the limit, we can afford little things, we can afford all the wonders we have available to us.

On my way to work, I passed ten people who have no homes, no jobs, and are begging on the street for cash to feed their families. I hear rhetoric all the time for and against gay rights, women's rights, minority rights...and that's all well and good. But what the hell are we doing to help end homelessness, to help end hunger here in America? 

You know how much money we spend annually on fighting diabetes? $218 billion. Take a wild freaking guess how much money on making healthy food available to school kids? $11.1 billion.
School lunch. (Source.)
Apparently, 11 billion buys you a banquet dinner. With cookies
and milk. And a token orange, so it'll at least look healthy. (Source.)

And hey, guess what? My nutrition professor told my class (and yes you may all laugh, but then when you stop and think about it, you'll feel a little sick) class that the leading cause of people not eating right is that they don't have access to nutritive foods. When was the last time you saw a ghetto with its own grocery store? When was the last time you saw someone walking down the road with a sack of fresh vegetables? Hell, when was the last time you stopped to think about all the jokes being made about kids raised on macaroni and cheese or college students that live on ramen noodles?

So why don't stores open up in the neighborhoods that need them? Why are whole populations served by quickie marts and convenience stores? Cause there's no money in those neighborhoods. But the government will damn well subsidize corn. Doesn't help anyone, mind you, but hey, there we go. 

How are we faring on the situation of creating more jobs? Well, we kinda suck. And honestly, the economy is such a mess I have no clue where to throw in. How the hell are businesses supposed to hire more people with their insurance rates going up, more and more people being dumped onto the market, and a drive to run people through education they really can't use? 

Here's a novel idea: figure out how many of those nice little farm and business subsidies are actually doing something, grab those that aren't, and hand them to the Small Business Administration so entrepreneurs can get a leg up helping the economy recover on a ground level. 

Oh, and just to get back on the social issues horse for a moment, while all this is going on, we're still arguing over whether or not two guys or two gals can pick up a marriage license, or whether women get to decide what goes on in their uterus, or whether guns are magical death machines. 

The economy is still in the crapper and the middle class (which was invented for the sole reason that republics don't function well without them) is still shrinking at a vile pace. 

So I'm going to go be a penguin now. Penguins are fine with gay penguins, haven't invented firearms, are gender equal, mate for life, house and feed everyone in the flock, (alright, they live outdoors, but so what?) and everyone works together to survive. 

And, with any luck, I can rally my new tuxedoed brothers and sisters to the cause of fighting off the humans that are killing all our food. Cause hey, humans can't manage to help their own, so us penguins are going to have to look out for ourselves.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Robin Who?

Once again, we come to you live-ish from Facebook to tell you a tale of rank insanity. On a side note, every time I think about taking a longer break from Facebook, I realize I'd run short on stuff to write about. Yes, Facebook, you're that bad.

Today, kiddies, we're going to talk about fear-mongering. A few years back, some twit began circulating a little gem that essentially called for Anglophone/American Isolationism. A couple years after it started making the rounds, someone replaced the last paragraph with a quote from Robin Williams, which caused the whole piece to be attributed to Williams.

If It's a couple years old, why are we talking about it? Because I keep seeing it on Facebook. Damn you, Facebook. And while I would hope most people would see this as a joke, I have the disturbing concern that many do not.

For your edification, the "Robin Williams Plan:"

"I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace. So, here's one plan":

1) 'The US, UK , CANADA and AUSTRALIA will apologize to the world for our 'interference' in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those 'good 'ole' boys', we will never 'interfere' again.

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting withGermany , South Korea , the Middle East, and the Philippines . They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are from. They're illegal!!! France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign 'students' over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't att end classes, they get a 'D' and it's back home baby.

6) The US, UK , CANADA and AUSTRALIA will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non-polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not 'interfere..' They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army.. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us 'Ugly Americans' any longer. The Language we speak is ENGLISH...learn it...or LEAVE. Now, isn't that a winner of a plan?

‘The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.' She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'you want a piece of me?''

Welp. That's...adorable. Before we even dig into this, note that the only part of this I completely like is the Statue of Liberty bit at the end, which is the quote that got Williams' name tacked onto this nasty little turd.

1) 'The US, UK , CANADA and AUSTRALIA will apologize to the world for our 'interference' in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those 'good 'ole' boys', we will never 'interfere' again.

This is pure pettiness. Everything up there? We were asked to the party.

"But Operation Iraqi Freedom!" says Strawman Schmoe.

Nope. I.F. was was a 'merican operation, that consisted of mistakenly bombing the daylights out of a country under false pretenses, then deciding we were just going to go ahead and take out the country's leader because we were in the neighborhood. Every time some guy in another country thinks of the stupid Americans and how they should stop going in with their "cowboy diplomacy?"

Five'll get you ten that nowadays, they're thinking of I.F. and Operation Enduring Freedom. What? Oh, E.F. was the one where we were attacked by terrorists, and declared war on a sovereign nation in response when they wouldn't hand us the terrorists. Because that's how justice works, right? I mean, wouldn't we bomb Canada if they misplaced terrorists or decided not to extradite them for some reason?

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting withGermany , South Korea , the Middle East, and the Philippines . They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

There's two parts to this. The first half is the withdrawal of troops world wide. On the one hand, I'm sure there's plenty of ardent supporters of many nationalities that would like to see the back of all American troops. Arguments have been made, good ones, that maintaining a large military presence in Europe is somewhat silly.

On the other hand, we sort of need them to stay put if we want to maintain diplomatic outposts pretty much anywhere nowadays.

But even still. Anyone got any idea how many troops we have, versus how many are deployed?

Try 3,396,825 total personnel. Of which, 3,203,084 are stationed in the US and its territories. That means we have a total of 193,741 personnel active and deployed. Oh, and those numbers do not count the National Guard or the soldiers deployed for I.F., E.F., or New Dawn (Iraqi clean up contingent.)

Which leads into the second question. What the hell kind of difference would an extra 193.7k soldiers do patrolling the US border? For clarification, the total US continental borders amount to just under 7500 miles.

That's 1,356 times longer than Mt. Freaking Everest is tall. Oh, we're only gonna seal the Mexican border? Still 1,933.4 miles of border, land and water. Which, to continue the model, is as long as 351 Mt. Everest's are tall.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are from. They're illegal!!! France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign 'students' over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't att end classes, they get a 'D' and it's back home baby.

I've lumped these together because they're the same point, essentially. The idea being to get them dern fererners to stop taking our jobs, and generally making our lives bad somehow. From the top:

There's estimated to be 11.1 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. For reference, the Katrina Hurricane displaced between 400,000 and 1.5 million people. We could barely move, house, and feed them. How in the name of all that's holy are we going to keep track of and ship out several times that number?

No fererners stay longer than three months without a special permit. So what if they want to become citizens? Oh, wait, that takes 5 years. So, essentially, no more immigration allowed in a nation made entirely of immigrants. No more outside ideas. No new blood.

No asylum? No Wernher Von Braun. No getting our hands on the geniuses, the luminaries, or the families that will give rise to them. In short, the beginning of an acceleration to America's intellectual collapse.

No foreign students over 21? So we'll force any student that wants to complete a bachelor's degree in the US to get here at 17, excel into the 99th percentile just to stay, and then ship them out?

You know, attract and train the kinds of minds capable of completing high school 1-2 years early, maintaining a 3.0 or better GPA, completing a Bachelors in the fastest track possible...and then throw them out because we don't want fererners?

Gee, that doesn't seem like a plan to wipe out any intellectual edge America might have. That doesn't seem like our college system would become thoroughly stagnant and collapse under its own weight as those brilliant minds are forced to go teach and practice elsewhere. Nope.

6) The US, UK , CANADA and AUSTRALIA will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non-polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

Here we see a great point and a rotten point. We absolutely should be self-sufficient. Absolutely!

Now, where else are we going to go for oil? Hmm? Oh, that's right. We already do. It just happens that, even with the US being in the top 3 total oil producers in the world, it's still not enough to keep us running.

We'd need ours and all of Russia's to get through every day, which would cause prices to soar as we became dependent on two sources. They won't have to take our offer, cause they don't use the damn stuff nearly as much as we do. They just have to wait a couple of days for our everything to grind to a halt. And then we'll take whatever price they feel like calling for. 

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not 'interfere..' They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army.. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

Yep. That's the way to win allies, friends...refusing to render assistance out of spite, or in some weird show of pessimism disguised as pragmatism. That will absolutely insure that no-one calls in the massive debts we owe them. What, you thought charitable giving was because we're being nice? How about because we owe a lot of people a lot of money, and would like for them not to bankrupt us?

And even at that, are we, one of the richest nations in existence, so poor that we cant't spare the time and aid to people dying of hunger, dying of disaster?

Sure, we need to get on the ball and tackle hunger and poverty in the US, but why not throw a lifeline to those that need it. Even if we give no fucks, think of this: you never know, they might have nukes someday.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

Uh-huh. Let's voluntarily surrender one of our few remaining claims to being a world leader, much less a superpower. Sure, they talk a lot, and get not much done. But the same can be said of Congress, and at least forcing Congress to work on a small island devoid of amenities would show some positive results on the way our nation is run.

Oooooh, I'm going to have to revisit that scenario....

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us 'Ugly Americans' any longer. The Language we speak is ENGLISH...learn it...or LEAVE. Now, isn't that a winner of a plan?

Or we could, I don't know, revamp the school system we have? Put some real money and policy behind a preventative health plan? Regulate corn syrup use? Shut up and acknowledge that without an oversight board the English language evolves?

Oh, wait, we're trying to get immigrants to learn the English language? Why should they, they're only here for three months, and even then, they're unable to live here permanently.

Hmmm...ah, you must mean the people already living here. You know, the Native Americans with the dozens of languages we've stomped out, or the various Spanish speakers that make up 12% of the population? Or any one of several other languages commonly spoken in America? Right, of course.

How were you planning to communicate with other countries again? Because I don't see English holding on long as the language of international exchange when one of the largest exporters of the language effectively seals all borders to immigration, homogenizes language, alienates 3/4 of the world, takes a nosedive into intellectual stagnation, collapses their own economy trying to strong arm the energy reserves of the world into bankrupting themselves to feed our greed, and becomes a third world cesspit.

But hey: if you don't mind living in a dystopian hell, that's definitely a winner of a plan.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Skittle Storm

Title got your attention, yes?, I was working on a poli-social rant for today, got sidetracked, and now I figure I'll tell you why.

No Skittles to see hear. Move along. (Source.)

My older sister is planning a rare visit to Oklahoma next month, specifically to hang out with my partner and I. And somehow, she managed to pick the dates out of the blue that would put her up here for not one, not two, but three major events.

Kicking things off, my commencement for my Associates degree is on day two of her visit. I found out the dates coincided a little while back, but it was easily three weeks after she told me when she was coming.

Day three is our local Gay Pride Parade, moved back to May these last couple of years because Oklahoma uses summer as an excuse to try and kill us all. Not that it needs an excuse, being Oklahoma, home of tornadoes, earthquakes, brush fires, floods, baseball-sized hail, and ice storms. But I digress.

So my sister will be able to come see me wear a silly robe and even sillier hat while the President of the college hands me a piece of paper that entitles me to get some more college. But it's awesome, nonetheless. She will then also be able to go and watch drunken drag queens stagger about in the heat screaming about love while trucks, floats, and every flavor of queer invades a mile long strip of ground. And for that day, and for days after, it looks like a unicorn puked on that part of OKC.

But, and most exciting, is this: the Love is Love Rally.

Read through it. Take your time. Why yes, there is a mass commitment ceremony at the end of that, isn't there?

So, on that day, with my sister watching and squee-ing from the sidelines, my partner and I will declare our love to a few hundred people, exchange rings, and get giggly all over one another.

Two fantastic elements to this:

The first and foremost is that I get to have a ceremony with my partner of nearly five years, something we've both badly wanted for a long time, but have been putting off due to lack of funds.

The second is that my sister, one of the few members of my blood family that would actually show up to any such ceremony, will not only be there, but had planned for it, in advance, before any of us knew it was even possible.

So, if I haven't managed to churn out a few hundred words of wrath, please excuse me. I'm to busy over here being mushy and pink and whatnot.

Ranting resumes, yet again, on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Polit-idiots, Legion, & Rural Communication

So, normally Uncle Jeremy picks one thing that's pissing him off, or giving him warm fuzzies, and takes off on a tearing rant. Today, however, there's more than one. And since most of them are short enough to cover at speed, we'll take them back to back.

In no particular order:

4. You are what's between your legs, apparently.

State Rep. Peter Hansen, R-NH, apparently has absolutely no idea what Internet security is. There's really no other explanation for why a Republican politician would put the following in an email after all the other nasty little slips his party has had recently:

What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina's of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims. (Source)

Hansen was responding to a "stand your ground" bill, which basically says that if you can hand over your wallet, run away, drop your drawers, etc., you have to try that first before you can smack 'em in the temple or trachea.

Leaving all the horrible implications in that bill aside, seriously? Hansen claims he was using the word for shock value, but come on people. How many more times are we going to see some idiot politician degrade women or minorities?

Speaking of minorities:

3. Let the grandstanding commence!

Politicians have a tendency to turn anything into political capital that at times can seem Rumpelstiltskin-esque. Take State Rep. Steve King, R-IA, who's jumped on the Boston Marathon Bombings as a sign that we should be cautious about immigration reform.

No, seriously. Here you go:

Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa. If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture. —Steve King (Source.)

King is most likely reacting to news that a comprehensive bipartisan bill to reform immigration laws, specifically those dealing with illegal immigrants, had been mostly hammered out after months of closed door sessions. While the bill needs some more detail work, it looks like a decent shake for just about everyone involved might actually come out of this. 

A round of applause then, for Representative King! You didn't even let a single day of that warm, creamy political goodness slip by you before slamming into gear to get that tragedy working for you! I swear, that's one of the fastest snatch 'n spins I've seen on a tragedy since...

They did what? Ok, get me a bottle of Visine and the football.

2. Who Rules?

Yeah, no segue. Bite me. Anywho, the Phelps Home for the Criminally Insane is at it again, telling people that God hates us all, and communicates through bloodshed. In the past, this has been met with loud media shouting, and much furor. However, a few months back a higher (or lower, depending on your point of view) power has deigned to intervene. 

The hacktivist group Anonymous has declared holy war on the unholy church. Here's their declaration of intent.

Because that's not at all terrifying, right? The best part, however, is that Anonymous is following through. They've stood down Phelps' clan a couple times since then, hacked their Facebook, Twitter, and websites a couple of times, and now Anonymous has flat out stated that if the WBC tries to protest the funerals of the Boston Bombing victims, the WBC will have to deal with Anonymous.


So...woot for a terrifying, faceless organization with potentially unlimited, decentralized power...but apparently with more conscience than most governments? I can live with that, for now.

1. What.

Ladies and gentlemen (and those who prefer to be neither,) I give you:

 Drive-by groundhogging.

BROOKVILLE, Pennsylvania — Police in one western Pennsylvania town are investigating a case of bar kill: dead animals tossed into a tavern by unsatisfied customers.

A groundhog was tossed into Bill's Bar on Sunday in Brookville, about 70 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, before a man sped off in a pickup driven by another man, The (Dubois) Courier-Express reported Wednesday. Hours later, the men returned and tossed in the dead grouse for good measure.
Ya did what now. (Source)
I have nothing to say on this, especially. It just struck me funny. I leave you with the second to final line of the news story without further comment.

"We have a lot of it up here. A guy will get in an argument and put a dead squirrel on his girlfriend's doorknob, that kind of thing," Dworek said.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meanwhile, In Boston

Apparently, there was a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon today. Estimates put the wounded somewhere between 50 and 150, and there are two confirmed dead. And much as I would love to tell you there's some social issue here that needs addressing, tell you that I've got some ranty little opinion that will tease out a laugh...

I've got nothing. The only people at fault are terrorists, and it's not as though we're being stupid on the terrorism front. There's safeguards, there's limitations on freedom that may or may not be reasonable, there's intelligence networks scrambling to stay on top of things.

So...there's no one to yell at, particularly. Not even the terrorists, because we're still not sure who they are, or what they stand for. Hell, this could be a street gang in it for the kicks, however unlikely that might be.

What can I write here?

Well...I've seen a lot of posts today quoting notable people, saying comforting things. I've seen pretty pictures and ugly pictures, and pictures of smoke rising over crowds of panicked people running to and from the blast.

I've read half a dozen stories, seen footage, and read a couple of other blogs.

All I can really say here is that I offer my condolences to those who lost someone. I offer my sympathies and hopes for a speedy recovery to the injured and the families of the injured.

I offer thanks to the first responders in Boston, for doing the best they can in a horrible situation.

I urge you all to keep a level head, keep the prayers coming if you pray, donate blood or money through reputable organizations if you can.

And for the love of all that's holy don't vote hastily on anything that comes out of this. While I hope this will be handled with decency and efficiency, the last time there was a major terrorist attack, we became embroiled in an decade long war. So keep your eyes and ears open, ok?

I'll leave y'all with a rare invocation on my part, then:

Lords and ladies above and below, Deity in all facets and faces,
Grant strength and aid to those in suffering, and to those who aid them
And have mercy on our race, that we may outgrow our failings.

Ranting will resume Wednesday.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Writing About Writing

I was working on a political blog. And then I sat there, staring at it, and just couldn't work up any vitriol. What's the point? I've yelled about how heavily bastardized our political system is, how useless the lot of you are, how very stupid it is that we keep handing the power right back to the idiots we hate for not doing their jobs. And I'm yelled out on the front, to be frank.

But as I sat here watching the cursor blink, it occurred to me that I've never talked about the one thing it would seem obvious to talk about. Namely, that writing a blog is bloody hard. Hell, writing in general is bloody hard. You know what's funny, though?

Writing is a low barrier-to-entry field in the minds of most, and those who do think it's difficult somehow have this strange idea that the publication alone is what makes it hard. And then there's even more who seem to believe that because so much material finds it's way onto the interwebz, that no part of writing is difficult.

Let's take these in reverse order, hmm?

The idea that "because so much gets published by various means, it must not be hard to do"? I can kinda see where that comes from. I mean look at this:

That's over one hundred thousand books and manuscripts published or put up for sale on Amazon in the last month. Surely, with that kind of flow, writing can't be that hard, huh? Yes, it can. Publishing has simply grown more diverse and less choosy. We all know this.

We all know that any schmuck with an axe to grind can kick up a blog, website, or (for the discerning ranters) self-publish an actual physical document that can be purchased in hard copy or e-book. Anyone. And there are no editors, no agents, no fact-checkers, no proofreaders, no publication one to stand in your way and grind you down. No-one to tell you you suck.

But there's also no-one to catch your mistakes. I work without a proofreader or editor on this blog, and it shows, no? There're little grammar errors sprinkled throughout, little redundant words here and there, moments where my thinking and reasoning gets mixed into my prose and makes a mess instead of a point. There's rampant comma abuse. There's the occasional typo that makes it through spell check and three proof readings. But by and large, I work hard to make sure that such things, though accidents do happen, are rare. 

Now imagine if my blog looked like this:


Or this:

And then he said take me baby and she said ok and they did it hard and it was gud.

Wanna feel scared? That's the sort of thing that can get published, actually, honest to gods published, on Amazon. The barrier to entry is set so low that anyone with a manuscript can convert to eBook and publish. Is it always that bad? Nope. But is a lot of it unreadable uncleaned dreck? Yep.

The idea that it's the cutthroat world of publishing that makes writing difficult is actually fairly easy to address, as it's a transition point. Short story short? If you want to publish traditionally, yes. Publication is a nasty little headache waiting to happen. Self publishing or electronic publishing, as noted above, have trashed the idea of the publisher as a barrier. 

So that leaves the little darlings I want to throttle, the ones who think writing isn't actually difficult at all. 

Shown: My head. (Source.)
What leads to this belief? Why, the fact that everyone and their dog can sit down with the writing implements of their choice and express themselves through the written word. No, seriously. The same culture that spawned SMS language is the culture that believes access to a keyboard makes writing easier. 

"Ahhh," says your friendly neighborhood Strawman. "But what about those kids that can't write for crap in their highschool/college classes?"

They don't believe writing is hard. They believe they can't do it. Some of those kids may realize that they're having problems because it's six kinds of b*tch to write anything coherent. But some will believe the teacher has no clue what he/she's talking about. Though in all fairness, if a teacher goes by "coach," and the class isn't outdoors or in a gym, that assumption may be right.

But right or wrong, what it will lead to is those kids who write fan-fiction and think it's the god's own gift to earth (some is), or think they can slap the next Great American Novel in a month by targeting a word count and calling it good. There are whole books written in the "and then, and then, and then" style of a 12 -year old. Whole published books. Don't believe me?

Go have a look. No, I won't look for you. I don't feel like being reminded of it.

And then there are those who do have a functioning command of the English language, and automatically believe that qualifies them to write professionally. I'll admit, that's pretty much the best entry qualification. But it's hardly the only one.

Take me for example. I've been writing for years. I actually sat down and took the time to get a degree in it, which is by no means the route I recommend. Taking classes on the side would have worked just fine, thanks, and I might have a degree I could use. But I digress.

This year alone, I've written easily better than 11,000 words on this blog alone. That's not counting the 96 daily haikus, the cartoons, the homework, the short stories, the resume's, the cover letters, the emails, or the writing I do for myself. That's just the non-fiction prose I write.

What makes me think that I'm a writer? The fact that I practice. I write often. I read endlessly, voraciously. I sit and think about ways to turn a phrase for hours at a time. Can anyone sit down and be good? Sure! Can you do it consistently? Well, that depends.

Are you willing to actually exercise your ability, your vocabulary, your grammar and composition skills at least once or twice a week? Can you make yourself hold to a schedule and crank out work on that schedule? (It's one of my failings!) And can you accept criticism?

If any of the above = no, then you may write, yes. But you're not writing, not in the sense of the profession.

So is there a point down here?


My point is that I'm more than a little pissed that my profession, the work I strive to do to the best of my ability, is considered the easiest form of artistic self-expression these days because anyone can slap words on a screen and hit publish. I'm pissed that I can't make a living with my degree because the business of telling people what's going on has been eaten by the business of making money telling idiots what they want to hear.

I'm pissed that my generation, the two or three generation before it, and all of those after it so far, have vomited so much crap out into the world that it has to have a kitten or death attached to it for anyone to pay attention these days.

Actually, I'm just plain pissed that writing isn't a profession anymore, as such.

Oh well. Not feeling the kittens right now, so have a bulldog instead.

It's adorable, and it can kill you. Ha! (Source.)
At least that way a few people will have a look, right?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Of Children and Blogs

I need to write a happy blog at some point. This is not that blog, unfortunately. Also, I should probably find a topic other than gender rights, LGBT rights, and politics. Those are fairly done to death around this corner of the web. But the next one is political, and this one's about gay stuff. So eh. I write what I have. 

Also, it would appear we're kicking on a M/W update schedule, but seriously, don't hold me to that. Official updates are still just Mondays.

Getting into the topic for this blog a bit sideways: if you want a good view into a reasonable Catholic mind, go read BadCatholic. He's a good writer, bit wordier than even I am on occasion, and he actually has a very similar style to mine. He uses expository thinking, strawman arguments (lampshaded, of course) and intersperses humor and humorous pictures when called for. He also makes logical faults, but so do I on occasion. Oh, and I don't endorse his views. But I like his style.

A word to the wise, though: where I use ridiculous amounts of links to secondary sources, he uses said links and goes scuba diving into the depths of the Catholic faith. So this ain't no 101 class, kiddos. His theology is sound but, like all good metaphysics, it takes a couple cups of coffee and a few passes to get the various levels and subtexts that allow theology to form a decent understandable whole.

For anyone that's annoyed that I'm linking a Catholic blog on a ranty alt-social blog? I have the blessing of Ceiling Cat. And he's watching you. All the time.

All the time. (Source)
Anywho. That's housecleaning, and a nice lead-in to my current post. Pull up a chair, Herr Doktor Internets. We're going into my head today. 

My introduction to BadCatholic came courtesy of a friend on the Facebooks. I swear, I think I'll abandon Facebook some days, just to get a breather. But then I'd have no juicy fodder for this blog, and all my readers would complain to me. (No, really. Every time I stop, I get at least three people I had no idea read my stuff come up and ask me why I'm not writing.)

What was I saying? Of, yes. So, this post on BadCatholic. If you're going to get upset at the guy, you have to read the whole thing first. I did, and I noticed a few things. 

First, he and I actually agree pretty evenly. He's still against, I'm still for, but the reasons and arguments are fairly similar. "Civil marriage is a crock anyway" being the outstanding example, but annoyance at ridiculous generalization is another. And yes, there's a lot of Catholicism to wade through in all of that, but I've had the training to read that stuff, and once it kicked in, I figured out that he was largely supporting his arguments that civil marriage is a crock and has nothing to do with the sacrament of marriage. 

I'm paraphrasing, to be clear. There's no way I'm going to try and take him point by point, because it would boil down to "ok, look, he's using a different paradigm, but we're really saying a lot of the same things, and this is where the translation points come in."

I'm going somewhere with this, I swear. Bear with me.

Like me, he builds to a final point, using his previous arguments and musings to create a foundation and structure his final point can stand on. At the risk of losing a few of you, here it is:
"Do children have the right to a mother and father? If the answer is yes, then I oppose the redefinition of marriage on the grounds that such a redefinition would restrict a child’s basic, human right." —BadCatholic

Everyone take a step back and hold your fire. Though I don't agree with him, that's a highly valid point, for two reasons. I have some issues with his support of it, but that does not invalidate his argument.

For the first reason, I'd like to note that the studies he cites take a great deal of time to go through, but they come down to concerns over claims of "no appreciable difference" that are not statistically supportable based on the size of the studied samples. And they're correct. Meaningful data cannot be drawn from the sample sizes used in the studies addressed.

That does not automatically prove the opposite. All it means, in the end, that we still don't really have anything more than anecdotal evidence to go on as to whether GLBT families have better, worse, or the same quality of child-rearing capability as heterosexual families.

Reason number two is that he phrases it quite clearly as a conditional opinion, "if-then." So if you don't hold with the initial assumption, the conclusion does not apply to you. And I like that phrasing a lot. It gives a writer room to run without first having to declare that this, and only this, can be true.

Where am I going with this? Well, as stated, I don't agree that it's harmful to children to raise them in alternate family structures.

But I live in terror that I'm wrong, and he's right. That kids get screwed up without a Mom/Dad structure. After all, we just don't have the data to back it up one way or the other. Ah yes, and now my dear readers can understand why this is a "Herr Doktor Internets" blog.

See, I know, intellectually speaking, that kid raising is a crapshoot. Horrible parents can raise good kids, good parents can raise horrible kids, every flavor of family can have mixed results, and the only way to get any idea of what works requires a vast sampling. And the only thing we can get meaningful samples of is heterosexual family structures, and the options there generally point to stable, longterm partners delivering the best quality of child-raising.

And I know, too, that while family structure is important, at the end of the day it's case by case to the individual. Some gay and lesbian couples might have no business raising kids, but at the same time, there's plenty of straight couples who equally have no business trying to grow micro-people.


But there's a fear, held by anyone that wants kids, that they're going to screw up horribly. And in my case, it's coupled with a vast amount of people informing me that I'm absolutely correct, I'll be a rotten parent as a ground state simply by ruining the kid's life by virtue of imposing my non-hetero family structure on him or her.

I mean, I don't know any kids who were raised by gay parents. Maybe they do get screwed up, and I just don't know about it.

On top of societal problems is that fact that I really want to adopt. I think that rather than creating micro-people of my own for the sole purpose of handing off DNA that, if we're being honest, carries relatively high probability of intelligence as one of its few redeeming qualities, I could give a home to a kid who might not have one otherwise. Short version of that last line: my genes sorta suck, and there's kids who need a home.

But that means inviting the government into my life, which is a fairly Lovecraftian prospect. At that point, I not only have to raise a kid, I have to do it to the standards of strangers, using methods acceptable to those strangers, under the eye of a bureaucracy that gives no fucks about real life and its complications if I'm not crossing every t and dotting every i.

I have to try and raise a kid who may wonder why his or her friend's parents won't let them come over for fear of me and my husband. I may have to explain to the little tyke that teachers treat him or her differently because they think his or her parents are wrong for giving him or her a home. I might have to fight, more than once, to keep my kid when even good people decide there's a genuine concern where none exists and the state jumps down my throat on the word of strangers.

I may have to teach my children how to recognize and deal with logic and rhetoric so he or she can defend him- or her-self against the soul-crushing pain of being told they're tainted by their parent's very existence.

In short, I could start three chips down and lose the whole pot without ever being given a chance to try. And whether I fail on my own, or with judicious interference by strangers, friends, and the US government, it will be taken as validation that gay parents can't raise kids. And if I succeed it will be taken as a statistical blip. "So that one managed it. It's still bad for kids, anyhow."

And if I go with my husband's preference and we surrogate? Well, that kid may still go through everything I listed above, and can still be subject to summary removal from our care on the grounds that we're gay, and so of course we shouldn't be raising a kid.

Bottom line here, then.

Do I believe a nuclear family structure is the optimal way to raise kids? Not really. I believe it's in the range of optimal, but only because it has the highest rate of occurrence and therefore has the best statistical success rate. If you put enough numbers in a box, eventually you get two extremes that are unlikely, and a wide middle ground. The smaller the sample, the narrower the middle ground, and the more plausible the extremes look.

But am I still worried that my kids, if I'm ever allowed to adopt any or keep any we surrogate, will be horrible people solely because of my orientation and the backlash that will come with it?

Yup. Because while enough people saying something doesn't make it does make it niggle at the back of your mind, and keep your eyes open at 3 a.m. wondering—

"What if they're right?"

Monday, April 1, 2013

It Sounds A Bit Bazaar...

...but things the way they are...

Yeah, this has a humorous theme song. If you're not blood related to me, you might not get it. On the other hand, you might. What is it that inspires the strange pun in the title and a musical video about peons thanking a usurer for dying without selling their debts?

This, of course. Now, my husband took the time to repost this on FB, noting with indignation that "instead of giving us equal rights because it's the right thing to do, they might do it just so they stop losing and it might make them money!?" And, from a purely ideal standpoint, he's right. There are, of course, some concerns to address. 

The first thing to take into consideration is that my husband is expressing a valid point of view based on the information available to him, and the information presented is correct in both its conveyance of fact and its particulars. The thought that a political party would change it's point of view on an issue they've obfuscated for close to two decades as a way to "earn back the vote" and increase their revenue is heinous. Especially when one considers that the issue in question could already be settled had this party not only voted against it, but actively introduced and passed legislation to outlaw the rights this issue represents. 


You remember how I've mentioned before that viewer bias is one of the strongest factors in not only what news gets reported, but how it's reported, and the spin offered? You know, advocacy/citizen journalism? This is a fabulous example!

Here's the end source my husband got his story from initially. Article linked is safe, but the blog overall can be NSFW. So you might want to hit that one from mobile or home, ok? 

Here's where it gets fun. The blog article is 136 words. The article it redirects to is 206 words. Both hinge on the following quote:

"Republicans’ intolerance to marriage equality has been detrimental to winning...[b]ig donors understand that they don’t want to invest in campaigns focused on a losing issue," McLear said. "I think certainly the fiscal issues for Republicans are much more marketable."

The problem here? Both stories clearly say that the above quote was given, not to them, but to a different news source, one called Politico. So I looked up the actual piece for which McLear was interviewed. That article is 984 words long. That's nearly five times as much information as the larger of those two articles, and it contains links to other articles that provide the backing information for key points. Further, both of the smaller articles fall into the "soundbite" category. 

Both of the mini-articles were presented by gay news outlets, so the news presented is the news most likely to appeal to gay readers. Again, it's factual news, but it's not the whole news. Each article takes a single juicy tidbit and hands it out to readers who read those sources specifically for the angle they present. In niche opinion outlets, and in many targeted online sources, spin is inherent and context is irrelevant, as the idea is to maintain readership through getting information out in the most palatable and entertaining means possible, rather than the most factual.

Why does any of this matter in the face of "horrendous evulz?" Because of this quote, page two, paragraph four of the original story:

“The Republican Party need not be the keeper of individual values as this is not the role of a political party in the USA,” said Herro, a partner at Harris Associates, a Chicago-based investment company. 

“Politicians should stick to what they are truly able to legislate: taxes, spending, infrastructure, national security, because to some degree these are all public goods, whereas one valueset is quite personal and individual.” (Source.)

That's the other side of the story. The other side is that the people handing out the money, who want various flavors of governmental conservatism, are getting sick of seeing their money spent on politicians blustering over social conservatism and losing because of it. The men and women holding the purse strings want the exact same thing I want in broad strokes: they want the politidiots to stop pushing their personal beliefs as social agendas, and get on with the job they're supposed to be doing (running the country.)

So, on the issue of context and getting the whole story: while money as a motivator for social change and equal rights is really awful (idealistically speaking,) the fact that they're also getting bashed by their sponsors, who are threatening to take their money and go play somewhere else, is a plus. Seeking money for social change, and needing to be threatened economically, is a black mark against the GOP. Making those threats, and making them loud enough that they might stick, is a really refreshing sign of common sense from our nation's various McDuck wannabes. 

Concern the second: do we really care why they butt out of social normativity crusading and go back to running the country? Anyone? Show of hands?

First, let's be clear here: we're a horrible species. We have the Bystander Effect, we've got the highest body count of any species in the history of our planet, and we're the only species that consistently kills our own kind without a direct need for resources or instinctual bias. Hell, we're still trying to agree to dismantle weapons that can wipe out every living thing on this planet in under an hour, and the argument has boiled down to:

"You put yours down first."
"No, you go first."
"Well, I'm not going first."
"Well, neither am I."

So when we say that personal gain as a motivator for social change is a bad thing? Please remember that, historically speaking, it's one of the few things that works.

But the problem here is not that we're having to pay them off to get them to change their minds; the problem is that they believe this is something that needs to be legislated in the first place. There's a mental image of both conservatives and liberals that's been built up by these social issue wars over the last few decades. 

On the one side, we have the cartoonish buffoons working to keep our country in the dark ages; on the other we have the slick talking progressives working to undermine morality in the name of pure secularism. What we've forgotten is that not only are these caricatures largely expressions of the outer fringe of lunacy, they're also nothing to do with government.

Conservatism and Liberalism (in the American context, at any rate) are political umbrella terms that are so broad as to be meaningless. In many cases, the two overlap so tightly that there's no discernible difference. What strongly divides the two in the average American mind is their stands on societal issues and the fact that they're associated with two enormous parties that have platforms to push.

Would we like less debt? Sounds good. Would we like to strike a balance between social services the government extends and strong foreign and military policy? Sure! Better education systems, and a drive back towards becoming an intellectual superpower? Sweet!

As a rule? The how is under debate, but the goal itself is not. Both parties like those goals up there. And by and large, that's a fairly good list of things both conservatives and liberals want. So is "how shall we get what we both want anyway" the hot button topic of our times?

Nope. Those would be abortion, gay rights, women's rights, minority rights, immigration, and finding someone to blame for the economy tanking while hoping it fixes itself.

In short: social issues take precedence over the actual running of the country. Even when the direction the country should be moving in is generally agreed upon. And if a plan comes up that might work, the other party has shown a tendency to torpedo it if they don't agree with parts of it, while the party that comes up with the plan will stand on every point without any give.

Why? Because solving problems instead of talking about them is serious political capital. And both sides are worried that if the other side gains momentum and ground, they'll push through social reforms. So on the fear that one side will force social issues to take on their preferred form, both sides are stonewalling on running of the country.

So if it takes economic sanction to force the GOP to shut up and sit down on this, I really don't care. At the very least, it's one less talking point politicians can use to avoid admitting they suck at the job they're supposed to be doing.

I wonder, though: how much money would we have to threaten both parties with to get them to sit down and work on actual legislative problems rather than bickering over who has better social values? What dollar amount do we have to wave to get politicians that have an interest in running the government, as opposed to dictating the sociocultural mores of our country?

Bottom line here, people. We elected them to operate the vast bureaucracy that our country depends on, and they've decided they'd rather be a pair of churches, trying to make our spiritual, moral, and ethical decisions for us. That's not their job, and if threatening their pocketbooks is what it takes to get them to sit down and do their jobs, I'm all for it.

Now: will someone get control of the other party?