BIDEN?!?!?! we are so screwed

Verbally fumbling about in disbelief this morning as I read that Obama has apparently picked Delabama Senator Joe Biden as his running mate, I found myself muttering his name as we drove the family home from the Y this morning. My six year old started requesting that others kiss his various body parts, and the wife interjected "Kiss my Joe Biden". It's a fairly utile expletive, seeing as he's often both a putz and an ass, confirmed by the fact that the kids started picking up on it right away.

"Kiss my Joe Biden" quickly Spoonered into "Kiss my Bo Jiden", which devolved quickly into a new phrase that might not make it past the TV censors.

Thus, I submit for your enjoyment, the word of the day: Bojina, meaning a clean, articulate, and sometimes over-the-top almost non-specific body part reference. Use it wisely.


somewhere in southern california...

... there is a daughter of old-school hardcore punkers named Unity. and she is very, very angry about this, so much that she will become an evangelical mormon lesbian insurance actuary. either that or ask people to call her "betty".


no complaints department

I am working on the 21-day challenge set forth by Will Bowen in his book A Complaint-Free World, with some limited success.

The premise is simple, as is the book: refrain from complaining, verbally and aloud. The idea is to go 21 consecutive days without doing it - easy on paper, hard in practice. To help you remember you wear a bracelet, switching it from one wrist to the other each time you kvetch, or use some other such reminder method such as a coin kept in one pocket and moved to another as required.

The day I started was at last weekend's Diamondbacks vs. Mets game. It's become a family tradition, the five of us trekking to Chase Field in our Mets gear, hoping to see our original home team stop sucking (that wasn't a complaint but an objective assessment, really) but also cheering for our adopted home team. We got to the stadium and were heading inside when the gate attendant pointed out that our tickets were for the day before. Previously I would have lost it, gotten down on myself and pretty much caved. But instead I took a deep breath and paid attention while the attendant pointed us to the ticket windows.

We waited on line for a good 10 minutes while our younger sons got wild and out of control, only to be told we had to go to a different window. At that window we again waited while keeping the boys from climbing/thrashing/fighting/wreaking general havoc, again to be rerouted to yet another window, and then to a fourth. The boys were going apeshit by then, and my wife was rather floored at how I was not joining them. All the time I kept telling myself, this will work out, this is just an inconvenience.

And next thing I knew, the ticket clerk handed me five new tix, ten rows in front of our old seats. The game was great, David Wright hit a homer into the stands a few rows from us, and we had a great time - in part, because I stopped myself from griping. Or at least I did until the Mets intentionally walked Augie Ojeda and I whined about it to no one in particular. Realizing I'd done it got me laughing as I switched my rubber band to the other wrist.

To date I've made it 24 hours twice - in fact today I went 36 hours without audibly bitching, quite a feat for me. But just a while ago I caught myself letting one out and reset the calendar again.

For me, it's traffic. I can have the most peaceful, complaint-free morning, and then go out on the road and catch myself yapping about how the guy just cut me off. Sure, the guy is a lousy/dangerous/shitty driver, but pissing and moaning about it doesn't do anything to help. All you can do is not let it affect your good day, and remember to be a defensive driver.

I highly recommend this idea, especially if you're an angry zen bastard like me. Plus, you get to snap a big honking rubber band against your wrist from time to time and have a good excuse, at least until your official ComplaintFreeWorld purple wristband arrives in the mail.


Raul Castro and the slippery slope of the president's idiot brother

The resignation of Fidel Castro as Cuba's President and the apparent succession by his younger brother Raul brings up the specter of America's great Fraternal Executive problem.

In America we have a time-honored tradition of our President having an less-than-exemplary brother. He is perhaps the Dorian Gray of presidential ambition, absorbing the shadow elements of the Leader of the Free World: buffoonery, drunkenness, mediocrity, and so on. Where the President is the one you want to have over for a dinner party, his Idiot Brother is the one you hit the bars with afterwards.

John F. Kennedy's Idiot Brother, Teddy, made his first big splash (sorry) one night near Chappaquiddick Island, effectively ending his presidential ambitions and quite possibly saving himself from his two older brothers' fate. My own first encounter with the President's Idiot Brother phenomenon was failed restauranteur Donald Nixon, whose mediocrity was immortalized in a National Lampoon comic strip in the early 1970s. Donald proved even more inept a criminal mastermind than his brother Dick.

The Nixon sibling was far outdone by the illustrious PIB Billy Carter, he of Billy Beer fame, perhaps the Platonic Ideal of the PIB. (For the record, Billy Beer was beyond awful.) Billy Carter's influence was so strong that both Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. removed all public records of whether or not they had ever had brothers. Billy's PIB precedent cast a shadow over American politics for twelve years, a time in which anyone considering running for public office had to take a good long look at their own blood kin.

Bill Clinton revived the tradition in the form of his half-brother Roger, although some would say Bill embodied his own fatal flaws well enough while in office. Still, Roger got himself in enough trouble to qualify for the PIB pantheon - drug possession, drunk driving, B-movie roles, and so on.

It would be too tempting to say that George W. Bush already is the idiot brother, were it not for the existence of Neil Bush, whose participation in the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s and subsequent adventures with Asian hookers placed him on the medal stand along with Billy and Teddy.

The PIB phenomenon may not be limited to American soil. The heir to the British throne, Prince William, has his own Billy Carter in the form of his younger brother, Prince Harry. In this light, Raul Castro has a difficult road ahead of him. While Cuba has been thought to have remained more resistant to American influence than most Latin American nations, time - or the tabloids - will tell.


Six Word Memoirs (yet another pair)

Can my burnt toast be cinnamon?

No idea what I'm doing here.


sangría like you mean it

there are as many sangría recipes as people willing to drink it, so take this as just one of a shzillion variations on the theme. except it's mine.

This version is specific to the lower Southwest, where the snowbirds grow ornamental citrus trees in their overwatered backyards yet keep bowls of artificial citrus on their tables for show. Somebody has to help those poor neglected oranges and lemons fulfill their destinies, and that person is now you. Congratulations!

Ahwatukee MidWinter Sangría:

  • the bottle of red wine your boss gave you in lieu of a bonus
  • one orange (or two) stolen from a neighbor's tree (hey, they were going to let it rot anyway, weren't they? you've done a good thing here...)
  • likewise, one liberated lemon
  • one lime, if you must (don't steal this one, okay?)
  • liquor of your choosing: rum is good (dark, light, spiced, whatever, don't care. just not Bacardi); brandy will do nicely; don't even think about using good tequila or whiskey in this one or I will come to your house and take it away from you.
  • sugar to taste (I don't add it, but some of you high fructose crackheads insist; no more than 2 tbsp)
  • seltzer, club soda, ginger ale even (if you use the latter, please don't add sugar)
  1. cut the sweet fruits of your thievery (that's the citrus, eh) into wedges, remove accessible seeds, squeeze into a pitcher or jug
  2. add the wine, liquor, and optional sugar
  3. mix softly (enough to dissolve sugar if used), cover and chill overnight or however long you can wait
  4. pour into glasses and add half again as much soda, stir a bit
  5. stand outside just before sunset and bask in the incongruity of 65 degree weather literally in the middle of winter. enjoy or else.


Spanish Market at the Heard

I had the good sense to get to the Heard Museum's Spanish Market this past weekend. I've been reluctant to go to these - in Arizona and New Mexico - in the past. To me it seems most of the artists and artisans work in either the same set of imagery: Virgen de Guadalupe, cruces, retablos, dominos, Dia de los Muertos, la Raza, and silversmithing out the wazu. Except for the hyperCatholic stuff I'm an admirer of the genre, but I can only go look at it so many times.

This Market was chock with the above, but there was enough creativity within the usual styles to make it worth the trip. One standout: Nuevo Mexicana artist Marion Martinez reworks circuit boards into techno versions of retablos and other traditional Hispano art forms. She had a "Motherboard of Guadalupe" on display, and on her website there's a photo gallery of her work including this very Sith-looking Jesus.



From the NO DUH Department:
A major longitudinal study on drug treatments for ADHD has concluded that medications such as Ritalin and Concerta have no significant difference in outcomes when compared to talk therapies. Oh, and that the drugs may stunt childrens' growth. And that they might have exaggerated about the drugs' alleged benefits back when. Sorry 'bout that part, kids.

I had to fend off small hordes of self-appointed ADHD police when my oldest son entered 1st grade in 1999. Principals, guidance counselors and teachers ranging from the incompetent to the malicious took it upon themselves to diagnose my firstborn after a single incident of non-herdlike behavior, even if they had not witnessed such alleged mortal transgressions. And let's not even get into the 'practicing medicine without a license' issue.

Maybe ADHD was a valid disease diagnosis - and I believe it's not a disease but a set of conditions and propensities that can result in unsanctioned behaviors, especially in the veal farms that so often pass for schools. But school officials and lackeys were so quick to jump on the bandwagon and latch onto that little bit of power dangled before them by the medical-pharma-industrial complex. All they had to do was forget the part where they actually teach children to think and choose and make their own lives as future adults and switch over to drugging or threatening to drug students into compliance. Voices in the wilderness like Thom Hartmann, whose The Edison Gene set out his "Hunter in a Farmer's World" model (backed by solid research and so much more accurate AND humane than the DSM-IV dogma), went largely ignored except by us fringe-dwelling freaks.

Now we may be coming to the dying days of this mass hysteria that washed across our schools almost a decade ago. But the lasting damage to a generation has still not hit us fully. As the Ritalin Kids enter the adult world, we'll begin to understand just how utterly destructive this witch hunt was. Is. Will probably be again.

May I just say for the record: YOU SICK BASTARDS.

BBC report:
HealthBolt's take on the study announcement:
Thom Hartmann's The Gift of ADHD:

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more bullets of joy

The world just got a little bit more like a Richard K. Morgan novel.

America's favorite privateer outsourcing firm, Blackwater USA, may have finally gotten busted for its increasingly over the top shenanigans. At least slightly, given the timidity of governmental oversight, but for now they're in the spotlight.

Seems our premier corporate supplier of mercenary cannon fodder may have smuggled weapons into Iraq that wound up in the hands of a known terrorist group. Now how's that for growing new markets....

There may be a few real prosecutors remaining in the Justice Department, and combined with the spate of bad press Blackwater's gotten of late this won't get swept under the rug just yet. My guess is that Blackwater will wind up paying a small fine a year or two down the road, then appeal it in federal court and have it overturned by a friendly Bush-appointed judge, then writing off the fine (plus legal fees and all related expenses) on its taxes as a cost of doing business, despite never having paid a dime of it in the first place.

The only action the feds could take to truly affect Blackwater would involve a raid on all of its corporate offices and operations centers with overwhelming police and paramilitary force - but since the National Guards and Reserves are stretched so thin in the Giant Exploding Sandbox even a rare bout of political would still not make that happen. The only credible threat to Blackwater is the negative publicity hitting its profitability by making recruitment and retention more difficult. Oh, yeah, and any resulting lessening in the loss of life and limb by its contractors might be nice too.


what to do with organized religion

This is obviously not written for the conventionally religious. Then again, I doubt those folks would be reading this in the first place. And once again I'm drawing heavily on the summary work of Ken Wilber and the orbit of the Integral Institute, or at least my reading of it.

The world, at least the real(ish) one I live in, the parts of it I know or experience, looks to be divided down a particularly nasty fault line. That line loks like the Korean DMZ: a mile wide, booby trapped, nigh-uncrossable. It's called religion.

Not to diminish the deep and entrenched problems of persistent poverty, culturally ingrained discrimination, environmental toxicity, or any number of truly effed up things existing in this world. But this religion Thing is a gatekeeper to other problems, because regardless of the existence or not of some objecive deity, godforms, or Kosmic Thusness, the institutions of religion exist as cultural constructs, which ultimately are only in our minds. They exist because we continue to pay attention to them, collectively and individually.

The faithful and near-faithful might argue that organized religion produces a great deal of good. Not just good works, but a framework for guiding humans toward standards of behavior, how to live among others in this world without breaking down into armed skirmishes each day, how to be a better person. They don't always succeed at this.

The post-faithful would argue that organized religion keeps people from realizing their potential and brainwashes children, demanding adherence to rigid groupthink and building barriers of intolerance between in-groups and unbelievers. Then again, too many of religion's critics exhibit their own rigid thinking and intolerances.

I myself am often torn between the call of my own culturally-based religious roots - New York Ashkenazic Judaism of the Reform variety - and revulsion at it. In the end I think it's my own personal experience that leads me to the arguments herein. I am neither a faithful nor going-through-the motions Jew, although I sometimes refer to myself as a Yid. The words and rituals offer me no meaning or help to my life, and I flat out cannot abide the whole circumcision thing.

It may have made sense to substitute that ritual for sacrificing the firstborn son back in the day, but we have managed to move past that rite (I hope). A God that continues to insist you mutilate your newborn son's weenie is one to keep your kids safe from; to paraphrase Groucho, a club that wants a piece of my member is one I wouldn't want to join. Not to mention that the rite that defines your belonging is only available to one gender, but the other faiths don't exactly stack up in that department either.

But there is an idea buried within Judaism that God started out shaping the lives of humans, then intervening or meddling now and again, but at one point withdrawing from the world and allowing humans to make their own mistakes. It's one of the things that has kept me nominally Jewish, although I won't set foot in a synagogue for fear that I'll start a fistfight the first time someone mentions the word "bris&qut;.

For the first of the major organized faiths to go on and on about The Lord Commandeth This And That and then to say that He withdraws from the affairs of humans is unprecedented. God The Parent has raised you, now you're grown up enough to make your own way. You have His love (and maybe a few scars from His beatings) but you're a grown up now - you're off the leash.

Whether you take the Torah to be the unquestionable Law handed down by the almighty or a collection of legends and/or histories of a people, for the Narrator to step aside from the main story is one of the human drama's first great plot twists. It's a step that the Christian and Muslim institutios have refused to take, and it may become their Achilles heel.

A good parent learns when to let their children make their own mistakes. Once they figure out how to cross the street safely and which bugs not to eat, Mom and Dad have to let them go learn about the world. For humans it takes roughly 15-20 years before they're ready to screw up their own lives, sometimes more (ahem, my little brother who is 40 and living at home...), but at some point they must leave the nest. And trust me, the parents will come to visit at the most inopportune moments, just like a good deity should.

Contemporary critics of organized religion like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins tend to offer their own structures as replacements for churches, temples and mosques. They zero in on mass religion's worst behaviors, but then they fumble badly when it comes to howo to wean adherents off it. (The lovably obnoxious Christopher Hitchens' latest, God Is Not Great, isn't expected to propose solutions, since we pay Hitchens to rant like a total bastard.)

Substituting one authority for another is not the point, it's helping humans learn the fundamentals of living so they can go on and have lives - which will definitely involve some breaking of the rules they've learned.

Shoring up the First Amendment is one step: the builders of this American democracy-republic-thing put that first on the list of edits for a reason. Believe as you wish, but you have to let everyone else do the same. Because there can be no Freedom without the mind and heart and other parts first freed to relate to the Ultimate, whatever that may or may not be, on its own terms. The best organized religion can do is help establish guidelines, translate the Mysteries into How Do I Live until we can answer that question ourselves. Then step back and watch the kids play on their own.


well, I'm an ass

about a month back I lauded Senator Pat "No, Eff YOU, Mister Cheney" Leahy and Representative Henry "Wax yr corrupt ass" Waxman for their efforts on calling the current criminal element in the Executive Branch (i.e., the entire bleeping Executive Branch) on the carpet for one or two of their many malfeasances and assorted felonies. given that the pace of official business in the nation's capital swamp moves even slower in dead summer, a month is about a frog's breath in the life cycle of a Congressional subpoena.

it's not that I expected some sort of progress to have happened by now on the "let's actually gather evidence on one of these crooks" front. It's that I once again suspended my own healthy disbelief and expected anything to actually happen beyond a dumbed-down dog and pony show. I pulled the wool over my own eyes and thought we might just get ourselves a real live impeachment donkey show at the end of it.

HA! So funny!

so for this evening I will self-administer a hearty slap and remember that whatever goes on in Washington, No Good Will Come Of It. And that goes double for the Nationals.


checking in from the wilderness

I haven't posted here in about a month, mostly due to building a new business. I am posting over at the PetBlog as part of the rollout, though.

The transition from librarian to pet sitter hasn't been that rough. I've essentially been on a sabbatical - alternately of industry and sloth - since November 2006, and with the youngest of my kids about to start school (in about an hour) I am finally free and clear to get back into the workforce thing.

My on-and-off off-time has taught me one thing for certain: I don't want to be a librarian anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. In fact, my basic unsuitability for the World of WorkCraft has I don't think I could work for someone as an employee now without getting fired for insubordination or even malingering. So, a decade-plus since I embarked on learning what seemed to be the only career option for the likes of me - the pseudoscience of librarianship - I'm starting on another new Quest as an entrepreneur in the wilds of pet care.


and on a related note ...

what if Al Capone had paid his taxes...?