Friday, June 28, 2013

- The person playing the speech therapist for the AFLAC duck just said "axtresses" in an interview.  Made me spit a little coffee back in the cup.  One of the commenters on the site made notice of the "need for a black character actress as the speech therapist because the main character (duck) in the long running ad campaign is so very white."

- NFL fan reacting to the arrest of a player for murder - "Our team has a killer tight end we'd trade 'em if the price was right. What? What'd I say?"

- Just read a critique of the lynch mob mentality of our media frenzied society.  Don't worry, Paula Dean.  If Bill Clinton can recover from HIS faux pas, so can you.

       I'm not a fan of profanity.  I use it for emphasis occasionally.  But the effect is dampened by the common use  in most people's everyday usage.  When I suggested to a coworker that his language should be filtered around children and those who might be offended, he said "F 'em.  That's the way people talk today.  Get used to it."  
       I AM used to it.  Doesn't make me like it.  Profanity is discourteous and uncivil.  That's why it exists.  For shock value.  If you want the words to scream, throw in a few syllables of rude.  But if you become callous and common with it's use, the value is lost.  I worked with a Lt in the fire dept that used 'fuck' so frequently that we could play drinking games.  In one minute (timed without his knowledge) of rapid fire monologue, we counted twenty three instances.  My bet had been on a higher number.  When we pointed it out to him, he said "Shit (1), that's the way I fuckin' talk.  Fuckin' nobody even fuckin' hears it anymore."  He's right.  None of the people attuned to the way he spoke reacted to it.  But not everybody felt  that way, and he was offended when a new employee was offended.  We'd tried to tell him it was bound to happen.  Of course, in the real world, the fire department took the easy route and moved the probie to a different shift, and HE was gently ostracized for having manners and expecting them from others, rather than the old leutenant being disciplined.  
       Perhaps the lesson learned is that words are just noise unless you attach meaning to them, and connotations like 'hateful' and 'rude' are diminished with over-exposure.  It's the REACTION to the word that gives it power, and everybody knows that the best way to get a two year old to quit using words they've heard is to ignore them.  So.  Perhaps we should look more at people's intent when they use words like nigger, fag, honky, redskin, cracker, boy, and bitch.  Look more into why a person is compelled to use them, and to what effect. You cannot legislate language.  By giving words independent status in a category legally defined as "hate", you give them power that perhaps they don't deserve.
       I knew a very old woman, now passed, that referred to native americans as indians, and african-americans as niggers.  There was no hate in this woman. She'd forgiven those who'd offended her, and wasted no time trying to set others off.  Several people tried to suggest to her that she might be offending folks with the "hate" labels she used.  She had the same reaction as the fire Leutenant.  "Sorry.  They'll have to excuse me or get over it. I hope they can be that strong. Let them know I don't mean anything by it. But I don't have the energy to worry about it, or the energy to change how I speak."  Most people just raised an eyebrow and cut her some slack because she was old.
       I do think there are words that are charged.  I do think language can be hateful, and demeaning, and cruel.  I also think people should be civil, and generally cooperative, and open about racial divides and history.  Hatemongers of all races SHOULD be drowned out by civility, and words that offend should reflect on their user.  But the problem with criminalizing words, is that their meanings, their usage, their commonality, their connoted power, change.  The reaction to the intent of a categorized "hate" word has to be measured against it's context, the desired effect of it's user, and the agenda of the responder.
      If it's the word you wish would disappear, ignore it.  If it's the individual you're reacting to, then another path might be appropriate, or might not.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Farmers Market

Born in the desert where tomatos grow,
Parked in the arctic where that just aint so,
You can't know,
How I miss them.

Stores in Alaska carry globes of red,
Travel tomatos, that's what we're fed,
Disappointment instead
Of  'mater blissdom.  

Short is the season, uncommon the gift,
To worry, and nurture, til gently you lift
A gem from the vine. But I'm miffed.
Not my wisdom.

So we journ to the tables of those who are able,
Dazed at the spectacle, amazed at the labels,
Shedding our gold 'til we're feeling unstable,
Still coulda kissed 'em.

Memories flood like the juicy, seedy, tangy, flavor of a just picked vine ripened tomato.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ado De Nada

       As the story was told, a man we know was confronted by another customer in a store for bringing his dog in with him.  The man we know assured the other fellow that the store policy allowed dogs.  Adamant, the other fellow insisted that the dog be removed.  The guy we know said no.
       The guy we don't know complained to the manager, who explained the dogs-ARE-allowed-policy.  In my mind, as someone who wasn't there, that should have been all there was to tell.
       But as the story was related by people who also weren't there, the guy we know went over to where the manager was talking to the no-dog-guy, and a REAL confrontation began, resulting in the other guy intimidated, and the guy we know being celebrated as a defender of things that matter, like wives, and dogs, and intimidation.
       The story bothered me more than it should've, and when I told the only person I can tell that it bothered me, it bothered her more that it bothered me than the actual story bothered her, because she knows the guy we know as part of a group of people she thinks I don't know well enough to criticize.  She is right.  But the story would bother me even if we didn't know the guy she knows better.  And so, rather than read the stuff about the people she knows in order to know them better, I'm better off not knowing, because she never hears me when I think they are wonderful, but only when I'm bothered.  So, I'm letting it go to avoid more conflict whether or not I'm right, because from what I hear from mature adults, that's the right choice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keep It Movin' - When Taste No Longer Matters

       At the risk of providing WAY too much info and insight, I was wondering about poop.  Like, what determines how long the body retains the nutrients (and other stuff) that we take in?  For instance, I'd swear the brightly colored carne adovada remnants hung about for three days while whole kernels from last night's roasted ears were machine gunned after twelve hours.  (I've really got to focus on chewing.)  Are there sorter cells in our digestive systems that handle prospective waste material, pass or fail?  I'm picturing tiny horn-rimmed glasses, rubber gloves, and inspector tags; "Nope, Nope.  Keep it movin'!  Wait! We could use a bit of that."
       Or when something altogether unwelcome is introduced, red buttons being pushed and growly warnings and brilliant strobes activated - "Evacuate! Evacuate!".  Rising whoop-whoop emergency alarms sent to the brain - "PooOOP! PooOOP!"
       Or when the inspector cells take a holiday, and their workload gets backed up...
Anyway.  Just wondering who or what's accountable.  Go back to your BBQs and remember to chew.
Thanks for listening to me think, but don't score the quality.  I'm on vacation.

To Want Him, Or To Be Him?

I've told the new guys at work to set their standards high, but not LW high. LW is a contract retread employed for thirty years, retired, and rehired until we can get some folks trained. One of LW's favorite phrases is "All the girls want me, all the guys want to BE me." I decided a while back to help build the legend in his mind, so I've been telling everyone about the inevitable disappointment of comparing one's self to him in any arena. "It's better," I say, "to just do the best you can, and know you've worked alongside the great one."
We have an excellent director who is openly gay, and I've never heard anyone joke about her before LW the other morning. He somberly shook his head and commented to nobody in particular, "It must be so confusing for her. She doesn't know whether to want me, or want to BE me."
Now, we all busted out laughing as he shook his head compassionately as he left the room, but I wondered later how a slightly different audience would have responded to the joke. Sexual preference is a protected category, and any reference could land you in HR discipline. I suspect that our manager would laugh along, because the joke is as much about LW, their relative positions in the organization, and his Fonzie-like self promotion than anything else, and we've heard the want-me-BE-me line for so long. But I know there are those who would perceive an attack, and relish the opportunity to escalate it.
LW can afford to take a risk for a laugh, and that adds to the humor. I may not want to BE him, but I wouldn't mind being in the employment position he occupies now. The cliche is "It's a great gig, if you can get it!"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Quit Drinking

       Congratulations to me. I quit drinking last night. I fully expect to quit tonight as well. It's been so dry, a beer is pretty darn tasty at the end of the day, but more than one seems weighty. Tough to justify the calorie math for even one, though. I'll just have to cut back on food that's not beer.

       My Alaska thoughts of the week: Folks wishing to partake in after-dark activities this weekend may have to wait a month. - Lots of folks are taking advantage of the abnormal amount of sunshine, exposing lots of skin as if it were California. Interesting mix of milky, burned, and bug bit, but hey. - We had another bear mauling. A genius got drunk at a church picnic and threw meat at a bear. We're not sure whether he threw the meat in self defense or just to taunt, but it didn't turn out well, except maybe for the boozy church, whose congregation is likely to triple. - I woke to a buzzing near my ear, and, in that half sleep phase where our minds are most creative, I invented a room laser that patrolled the ceiling of sleeping rooms, and a net that swept living spaces when no one was there. I considered training terriers to snap up the pests, and vaccuums that target movement. Just before I drifted off, the idea came for robotic hands that operate like the "Clapper", a light switch that operates remotely by clapping your hands, but MY clapper hands would track and destroy skeeters. I woke with a bite on my foot AND a mosquito carcass on the top sheet. Call CSI.

My work joke of the week: Only an engineer would call a horse spherical to make the math easier.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Touched by a Visitor

Today we had two sets of visitors to the bunker where I work.  Staff from a senator's office dropped by.  They got the VIP treatment from corporate lackeys and a nickel tour from me.  My boss came in afterward and told me what a fine job I'd done keeping the presentation simple.  I shrugged and explained that they work in Washington!  She shook her finger at me as she left.

The other visitor was a former pipeline technician who retired outside before I even started.  He is visiting family here and called wondering if anyone he knew might be around.  Our lead was hired when the pipeline was built, and was excited to see his old friend, telling us stories about him even before he was cleared by security to visit.  All the stories were tragic.  He was burned in an accident, and lived afterward in pain.  He lost a child to disease when she was two.  He lost his wonderful wife of twenty years to cancer.  He lost the only job he'd ever had when station automation affected headcount.  He lived alone, and his Alaskan friends lost track of him until his name was in the corporate newsletter, which described his stroke and slow rehabilitation, and suggested folks contact him if they wished, while they could.
The man was a joy.  He was thrilled to see the new control room, bragging on how far the company had come.  He hugged his old coworker with vigor.  He slurred his speech a bit, and moved stiffly, but his smile was huge and free, and his aura was all positive.  He asked relevant technical questions and whistled at how things had changed.  He told us of his concerns when he worked for the pipeline, and nodded at the fixes, grimaced at the things that hadn't been fixed.  He still cares, and feels pride and responsibility for the pipeline.

After half an hour, I felt comfortable enough to ask him the question I couldn't help but ask.  "How do you do it?  After all you've been through, all you're GOING through, how can you be so positive, so alive?"

He looked at me like I was an alien, Then scolded my boss with a glance for talking about him.  Then he scratched his beard with one hand and put the other on my shoulder.  "You know, I accomplished everything I dreamed of as a kid.  I lived somewhere fun and beautiful, I was around a lot of interesting people, and I was loved.  Now every day is gravy."

He told old pipeline stories for an hour or so, and I could swear my coworker was bleary-eyed after escorting him out the Get-Smart doors to the gate.