Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Do I Give Blasphemous Advice in Other People's Dreams?

Let's assume, for purposes of this post, that God created the earth in seven days or less.

Let's also assume that Kathy Cowley told the truth in her recent comment, and while we're at it, let's go on and assume that other people are constantly having dreams in which I give them the same advice.

Is it blasphemous to expect mortal writers to create worlds at the same pace which is traditionally attributed to the Supreme Being? Or is such advice OK, since fictional worlds are invariably less complex than real ones?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Missing Week

For purposes of this post, we will assume a week extends from Tuesday to Tuesday.

For purposes of this post, we will also assume a week progresses from most recent to the murky time period I often anecdotally refer to as "the other day."

And of course, we will assume that you are disappointed rather than pleased that I have not posted all week.

Starting from these (admittedly dubious) assumptions, I wish to say to you: never fear. Using my superpower of inventive memory, I now present to you a review of the Missing Week:

Today: I am trying to make a very important point in class when I am reminded by something I say of a whole genre of Mathematician/Physicist/Engineer jokes which I was often told as a child. This in turn, reminds me that because my father would count asymptotically when I was approaching trouble, I never learned to hate math like other children and have been a misfit since.

Yesterday: I am in bondage in Egypt--until some grape juice is spilled on a plate, at which point I am at a table eating chapatis with haroset and horseradish.

Yesterday's Yesterday: It is Sunday. My daughter is so restless at church that I sort of wish we were Buddhist so that I could go to church alone in a monastery and not come out for several months instead. After church, I tell my wife I was a much more patient father before I had a child.

The Day Before Yesterday's Yesterday: We pass numerous cows on our way to the Hindu temple in Spanish Fork, UT, site of the largest Holi celebration in North America. When we get there, the place has been overrun by college students who believe that being covered in colored powder automatically makes you a temporary hippy. One holds up a sign that says "PEACE DAMNIT." I am not sure whether he knows that our country is currently involved in two wars, and that neither of them is in Vietnam.

Several Days Ago: My daughter and I drive for more than an hour in search of an old friend's wedding reception while my wife takes a breather at the local Buddhist monastery. We have trouble getting to the reception because half the roads Google maps suggested are under construction or closed. We finally reach what appears to be the correct address. There is a large abandoned barn which creeps my daughter out. Either we have the wrong address, or this is a terrible metaphor for marriage.

The Other Day: There is an eighteen-and-a-half minute gap in my otherwise perfect recollection of this day. I blame the ghost of Richard Nixon.

The Other Other Day: There is an eighteen-and-a-half hour gap in my otherwise perfect recollection of this day. For the other five-and-a-half hours, I am asleep. Fortunately, I have no strange dreams.

A Week Ago: I write a post called "The Missing Week" and schedule it for automatic publication in one week, thus relieving myself of any responsibility to update my blog between now and then.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A thank you to 2% of Americans

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a long-debated healthcare bill in the hopes that voting Americans will have some idea what it's about before elections in November. Credit for the landmark bill has largely gone to Barack Obama, who--in a brilliant strategic move--decided to run for office at a time when George W. Bush had secured Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

I'd like to take this moment, however, to thank the 2% of Americans who earn over $200,000 annually per individual or $250,000 per couple and will see their income taxes rise to offset the costs of this bill.

While I do not personally understand how hard it is to have an annual income of a quarter million dollars, let alone be taxed on it, I want these people to know that I appreciate their sacrifice in the face of the soul-sucking socialism this bill represents.

(And I'd like to think that Jesus appreciates their sacrifice, too.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pick Your Poison; or, Why I Love Email Forwards!!

I like to keep my finger on the pulse of America, as manifest in the email forwards I get. This week, the pulse was telling me that Americans are tired of being outnumbered by rules by a factor of 5 to 1. Also, they miss the good old days when every decent high school had a smoking dock.

As a general rule, I don't talk back to America's pulse (except maybe to say "thumpa thumpa thump," a sort of pulse-speak greeting), but in this case I felt an exception was necessary. The present needs someone to speak up for it, and why not me? After all, in the past I would have died at twenty-five-and-a-half.

So without further ado, I present to you an email I got forwarded, and a response I like to think of as a forward striking back:



HIGH SCHOOL -- 1958 vs. 2008

Scenario 1:

Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck's gun rack.

1958 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2008 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.


Scenario 2:

Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1958 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2008 - Police called and SWAT team arrives -- they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.


Scenario 3:

Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1958 - Jeffrey sent to the Principal's office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2008 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt. Billy must do chores to earn the money to pay for the window.

1958 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a responsible, successful businessman.

2008 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.


Scenario 5:

Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1958 - Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.

2008 - The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:

Pedro fails high school English.

1958 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2008 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.


Scenario 7:
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed..

1958 - Ants die.

2008- ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents -- and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.


Scenario 8:
Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1958 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2008 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy .


This should hit every email inbox to show how stupid we have become!!




Unfortunately, this ad wasn't included in the original forward.
Scenario 9: Mother wants baby to stop crying NOW.
1958 Mom smokes, experiences "the Miracle of Marlboro,"
doesn't smack kid.
2008 Mom never sees an ad like this and forgets to smoke,
yells at her baby. Feels guilty. Watches Oprah. Repeats cycle.


2008 vs. 1958


Scenario 1: Tyrone, who is black, and Amy, who is white, go to prom together

2008: They have a great time, date a while, and then break up because they're going to different colleges.

1958: Tyrone gets lynched.


Scenario 2: Bobby's dad gets extremely angry a lot.

2008: Bobby's mom reads something online and wonders whether depression may be manifesting itself as isolation and anger in her husband. She waits a few days and finds the right moment and way to ask if he's feeling OK and if a visit to a counselor might help. Because he knows his wife is smart, Bobby's dad goes and gets treatment. He still gets angry but not as much. For the rest of his life, Bobby feels special compassion for people who struggle with anger.

1958: Bobby's dad is still thinking about all the weird crap he saw and went through in the war but doesn't feel like he can talk to anyone about it. He feels alienated from his wife, who can't figure out why he's so different than he was when they dated, thinks (possibly correctly) that his kids are spoiled brats, and only feels good when we can wander out back and drink for a while, although some nights the alcohol just makes the anger worse. His son Bobby decides he hates everything and becomes one of those scary bitter hippies who shout abuse at Vietnam vets.

Scenario 3: Pedro's little brother, Gerson, is still in elementary school. He has trouble focusing all day because he still struggles with English.

2008: Gerson's teacher happens to speak Spanish and occasionally clarifies instructions in Spanish when he and the other immigrant kids look lost. Gerson also spends an hour with an ESL group each day. A college student who speaks Spanish comes in once a week through a volunteer mentor program to help Gerson with homework.

1958: Gerson's teacher happens to speak Spanish, but the school has a strict English-only rule. One day, the teacher tells Gerson, in Spanish, to pay attention, and the next day she gets fired for it. (Note: if she'd been caught, this could have happened to my grandma.)

Scenario 4: Mary would rather solve logic problems or do math than go outside and play.

2008: Mary goes on to study computer science, comes up with some new ways to organize information on the internet while daydreaming in class, and is a billionaire before she turns 30.

1958: Because she's a girl who likes math, Mary is a freak. Whenever she answers a question, she gets laughed at--so she stops answering out loud and just takes notes to herself. In college, a nice boy pays attention to her and she tells him some of her ideas about making numbers into machines. He steals the idea, makes a million dollars, and she doesn't even bother to try to tell anyone because they won't believe her anyway.


Scenario 5: James notices that his left testicle has grown larger and feels sort of hard.

2008: James does some reading on the internet and suspects he has testicular cancer. He talks to his parents about his concerns and sees a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor sends him out for tests, confirms the diagnosis on the same day, and tells James that the survival rate for testicular cancer patients is over 95%. James gets treated and quickly goes on with his life. He gets married and has kids.

1958: James doesn't know how to bring up the subject of testicles in his idyllic 1950s home. He decides that whatever is going on, he can just tough it out. Eventually, he goes to the doctor who tells him that he has a near-incurable form of cancer and probably only a few months to live. Experimental treatments make all James' hair fall out and cause countless horrific side-effects, and then James dies anyway. The medical bills bankrupt his parents and his brother takes a hazardous industrial job to work his way through college now that the family savings are gone. The asbestos at that job later gives him cancer and he dies, too.

This should hit at least a few inboxes to show we've been crazy for a long time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

woH ot ediH morf hcraeS senignE, srotagerggA, cte.

ebyaM er'uoy a tnedissid ni narI ro anihC ohw t'nseod tnaw sih/reh sgnitirw ot wohs pu ni tnemnrevog sehcraes. ebyaM er'uoy dierrow tuoba sremmaps gnipoocs pu er'uoy liame sserdda sa rieht stobor llort eht aes fo eht tenretnI rof gnihtyna gnidne ni moc.laimg@. Ro ebyam uoy tusj tnaw ot etirw touba ruoy yzarc dlo dneirf leahciM yddirP tuohtiw mih gnidnif tuo sa noos sa eh yllacitsissicran selgoog sih wno eman.

Sretupmoc evah ot eb demmargorp ot daer sdrawkcab, dna ot ym egdelwonk, enon era. elpoeP era hcum erom elbixelf dna nac erugif tuo lla sdnik fo sgniht fi uoy tel meht.

ehT kcirt si ot tsurt rouy ecneidua ot peek eno pets daeha fo eht retupmoc.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Less Than 0.4% of Births "Suckers"

If the common aphorism "there's a sucker born every minute" is factually accurate, that means that about 0.4% of the 255 average births on earth per minute result in suckers.

Just thought you might like to know.

Monday, March 8, 2010

AWESOME sequence

Usually, episodes of Black start with the some corporates execs doing something sketchy, or else with something from forensic account Jared Black's off-the-job life. Almost every episode, that short sequence is followed up, after the credits, with Black arriving on the scene of what may be a serious corporate crime.

Last night's episode of Black opened with an extended sequence in which the FDIC takes over a failing bank instead, and it was pretty AWESOME. A lot like a spy movie, actually, with secret meeting, covert operations, and then like 300 federally-employed special agent accountants swarming the bank on a special signal Friday night to lock everything down and get records cleaned up and transferred over before the bank reopens on Monday.

What's particularly cool about the sequence is that I did some looking around, and it's accurate! Stories from 60 Minutes and NPR describe the same sorts of things that happen in the show. Who knew that accountants, of all people, would be so spectacularly sneaky?

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not all that surprised...



America's real Secret Service--the FDIC.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sounds of Kahanistan

In Kahanistan, foods whisper their flavors into mouth, nose, and ears.

In Kahanistan, the colors of autumn sing and the warmth of the afternoon hums.

In Kahanistan, even the doors often stop to tell your hands whether they are open or closed. And through the doors in Kahanistan, you can hear the strangely-woven melodies of the occupants' dreams.

Never was blindness so vivid as in Kahanistan!

When you walk down the streets of Kahanistan, it is always as if you are walking on a bridge which sways back and forth below you, and the frequency of the swaying travels up through your eyes--eyes, which, in Kahanistan, can receive such frequencies as sound and only subsequently translate them back into sight.

The dogs that roam these swaying streets of Kahanistan use their voices not only to bark, but also to sit, beg, play dead. When the rain cries down in sheets and sighs its way under their fur, people passing wrinkle their noses against the slight arhythmic hiss the dogs emit. Even when the time comes for these stray dogs to die, their deaths manifest themselves aurally: a low whine, a faint tearing as if of paper as the spirit leaves the body, and at last, an almost-silence that prickles ever so slightly along the outside of the drum of a passerby's ear.

Natives and tourists alike both mourn and give comfort through sound in Kahanistan. Doctors heal using sounds; patients allow themselves to be healed by listening. Hope is made of sounds in Kahanistan, as is memory.

Yes--in Kahanistan, the past pulses from the ground and makes a rhythm you hold in your bones.

In Kahanistan, harmonic resonances take the place of identity.

In Kahanistan, you can hear a person's heartbeat in his or her voice.

When lovers kiss in Kahanistan, the silences they keep always wrapped inside themselves under countless shrouds of sounds are able, for a fleeting moment, to meet.

In Kahanistan, the gradual emergence of a sound like a hummingbird from out of a woman's body signals the beginning of new life.

If you draw a map of Kahanistan, you have to do it using symbols that tell you how the very air vibrates with the idea of Kahanistan. It is a nation of vibration, a place that can exist only in the dynamic space of sound.

What draws you, like me, on frequent pilgrimages to this imaginary country? Perhaps we come because we love to use our minds for hearing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform

The country of Kahanistan recently adopted a new constitution, much like ours but with one noteworthy exception: because Kahanistan has far too many states to make a Senate practical, their bicameral legislature is composed of a "House of Experts" and a "House of the People" instead.

The members of the "House of Experts" are elected representatives who, like members of our own House of Representatives, have staffs to do much of their research and bill drafting while they spend most of their time worrying about fundraising for expensive media-driven election campaigns to make sure their staffs get re-elected. This House is expected to work out many of the details of legislation.

The second house, the "House of the People" operates something like a lawmaking focus group. Members of this House do not and cannot seek election: they are selected randomly from out of the census records (with an international team of computer scientists and statisticians observing and confirming the randomness of the selection process) and invited to join the House for a term. Thus, the House of the People routinely includes numerous members drawn from the ranks of Kahanistan's stay-at-home mothers along with garbage men, advertising copy writers, nurses, public school teachers, college students, small businessmen and women, grandparents, retirees, the unemployed, and generally at least one or two prisoners (who participate through video conference). All legislation which comes out of the House of Experts is subsequently examined, debated, and then accepted or rejected by the House of the People. The members of the House of the People also talk amongst themselves about the nation's problems and occasionally create detailed mandates for the House of Experts to write legislation on this or that issue, keeping this or that in mind.

Kahanistan claims, through this system, to be the world's only true democracy--a bold claim for an imaginary country, to be sure, but one which the innovative system of government nevertheless justifies.

Could the U.S. ever adopt a system like Kahanistan's?

It may be that a measure as radical as selecting one democratic legislative body without campaigns and elections would be the only successful means of enacting effective campaign finance reform.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Late to Kindergarten...Again

After missing almost all of last week with her share of the family plague, Kira was excited to go back to school today. She loves school: that's why she goes even though she's already gotten to wear the fancy graduation hat most of us spend years working towards.

What Kira does not love, however, are mornings. My wife says that's because she's my daughter. I have no idea what she's talking about.

In any case, this morning, as is the case on most of the days when my wife works early and leaves me solely responsible for getting Kira to school, we were late.

Can I just say I have a persistent and growing fear of being told that I've earned a long sentence in parental detention for fostering the habit of tardiness? I can see it now--I bring Kira to school, she is handed a hall pass while I am whisked away by men in suits and dark glasses who put me into a cell where I'm forced to stare at a clock and mildly electrocuted for an hour or so whenever it passes 8:55 so that, when I'm allowed to go home again, the very thought of being late just makes me want to cry.
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