Monday, October 10, 2016

The Politics of Fear

I've lived through quite a few election cycles now. I cannot recall a cycle in my lifetime that was as fearful as this one.

Many on the left are so terrified of Donald Trump that they will overlook and rationalize anything Hillary Clinton says.

Many on the right are so terrified of Hillary Clinton that they will overlook and rationalize anything Donald Trump says.

And many of them do so on a regular basis.

Both sides freak out at the idea anyone would vote third party. "A vote for [third party] is a vote for {Trump,Clinton}" (insert whichever one they are afraid of). And each side is utterly convinced. (Apparently if I vote third party they will both end up in office. That actually sounds like a deal to me, as they'd be too busy fighting to do much else.)

People are losing friends over this. Almost every day I see someone threaten to unfriend anyone who will vote for {Clinton,Trump}. O r see that they have done so. There's a lot of bad "theology" in Star Wars, but sometimes Yoda is right:

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

It's not guaranteed, but it often happens, and I see it running amok in the USA.

I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be angry at any of you. I refuse to hate. I refuse to inflict suffering.

Whether you believe in the God of the Bible or not, I urge you to consider the following:

"There is no fear in love. Perfect love chases away fear." (my translation)

Choose to love those around you. Listen to what they are really saying. Talk wit them instead of at them. Hold them. Hug them. Walk with them.

Fear will ultimately destroy you. It will steamroll everything and everyone you care about, if you feed it. Love will free you, and offer freedom to everyone around you. Which one sounds like the better deal?

I don't want Ms Clinton or Mr Trump as president. But I'm not going to unfriend anyone over their vote for either.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Don't Be That Guy

I just got back from coffee with a friend. She is the third young woman during the past week to say something that translates to "guys are jerks". None of them actually put it that way. None of them were being judgmental. They're simply fed up with guys treating them as something other than equals- whether as lesser people, objects, servants, fools, toys, diversions, or whatever.

I know that had I pressed them they would have agreed it's #notallmen . After all, they were entrusting their feelings to a guy. But the fact remains that a lot of the guys they interact with (in at least one case, a huge majority) treat them poorly. A common theme is that they don't feel it's safe to accept anything- even a frappuccino- from most men because they have learned there's a good chance that those men will expect sex.

Seriously? Guys, if you think she's just a cheap whore, what does that say about your sense of self-worth? While I'd like to believe that most of the guys I know would never do this, I know better. That's really sad- as much for the guys as for the women.

You're all worth so much more than that. Learn to love and respect yourself. And trust me; if you treat women (or men) this way, you don't really respect and/or love yourself, even if it's so deep inside you've buried or lost sight of it.

If you knew who you really were, if you could see the beauty in whose image you (and all those people around you) were made, you'd be so much happier. You'd make other people so much happier. God's crazy in love with you! Soak in that a while; life becomes a lot more fun.

You're awesome and loved. So is she (or he). Let's treat ourselves and each other better.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Escalator to Heaven

I haven't heard it via my ears in at least a week, but it's on repeat in my head. I've known this song by heart for years. I still love it. And no, I don't think "love" is too strong a word. Nor is "rapture". If I could go back in time to just one concert that I didn't make, the Led Zeppelin 1973 Atlanta concert would probably be it. It's definitely one of the top three.

I still remember where I was the first time I heard "Stairway to Heaven". It literally stopped me in my tracks, one of a select handful of songs to do so. Eventually I returned to Earth enough to find something to sit on while the song finished. Afterward, the DJ's babble and whatever came music followed seemed profane. I turned the stereo off and tried to recreate what I'd heard. I couldn't hear the song enough.

I'd been a Zep fan since the first time I heard "Immigrant Song". I almost wrecked my bicycle when that came through my transistor radio. Yeah, music had a profound effect on me. It still does. And Zep did that to me several times.

I know a lot of people don't like Stairway because "it's been played to death on the radio!" I have a better solution; I quit listening to most music radio. Oh, I wander the "dial" now and then, but 99% of music on the radio is the dregs of a tiny subset of whatever the bean counters have decided America wants. Barf.

So I still love some of my old favorites, "Stairway to Heaven" included. There are times (like tonight) when it hits me like it did the first time, stopping me in my tracks, a transcendent, spiritual experience, effortlessly transporting me to an amazing place.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if there's a band you really want to go see in their prime, go see them. Find a way. I don't run into many people who say, "Man, I wish I had never gone to see Zook Spliffer Ganesh when 'Reefling the Sterm Acht' was my favorite new album!" But I know a lot of Reefling fans who still rue the decision not to go.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

But, My Heart… by Cathleen Ferose

A friend found words that express my heart so well on this whole issue. Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and so many others. Remember them, yes. But unless we do far more, there will be far more names to remember. Racism and hatred- especially the institutionalized sorts- have to go, and soon.

I waited, on the stairs inside my house, with my phone
With my son
For the verdict to go down
For the man who “stood his ground” and killed Trayvon Martin
He was acquitted, as you know
My son, pleaded with me why,
How could they do that?
And some weak joke about Florida justice wouldn’t cut it

This is my America
My country, tis of thee, sweet land of
Sweet land of
Sweet land of
I can’t sing

You see, my eyes might be blue,
and my hair some shade of blonde
But, my heart

When the elderly Mrs. Harn’s taught me in Sunday school class
When I was too young for school
“Jesus loves the little children, all of the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight”
My heart believed that
When my classmate Kimberly called the school janitor a nigger in first grade
I sat there, as if time stopped.
I saw his face, the tear that formed in his eye, as he turned his head away
I felt his pain.
When I turned back to my classmate
I did not look at her as the same little girl
In pretty dresses
And fixed hair
Because Kimberly didn’t see John as he picked up after us
Did chores while whistling
Or fix things around our school
She took offense at what
His creator gave him

That was taught to her

My parents
Forgot to do some things most do
They never identified a person by their race
 That I can remember.
So when I saw John, I saw him.
Oh, I knew he had that nice ebony skin,
The kind that didn’t burn, like mine,
But I saw him.
Might be the same reason that I was half way through a year of teaching my first period class
Before I noticed that whites were in the minority
There were all races sitting in my classroom
But they were my beloved students, not labels

Hands up, Don’t shoot
I can’t breathe
If they gunned me down
If I die in police custody

When I hear those words,
Those cries
The fear that my fellow citizens have
Living in the land of the ----
It becomes my fear and those cries belong to the faces of people I know

It’s the young man who is such a good friend to my son
It’s the young men that I will see dressed in suits in debate competition this weekend
My students sitting in my classroom
Those on the sports field and in the gym
It’s my friend’s nephews
That one who plays in the band at church
It’s a college student named Xavier at UT
Who is a son to me

It is not us and them It is not black and white
It is us, we, together
It is not Black History month, it is our collective history
When are we going to stop the madness?
Let us tell the truth.
We sing their songs. They are our songs
And watch them play sports on our teams
They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, and perhaps family
We’ve read their books, our books
And admired their achievements in fields from science to politics
And consider that American progress

And yet
For them, their America, our America
Still isn’t a land of liberty

Until a person will be judged By the content of their character
And not the color of their skin
It. Will. Not. Be.
Martin knew what he was talking about

Sometimes I look around and think that I am in the minority
Feeling out of place
Knowing I’ll raise my voice anyways
And I will hold out my hand
My white hand
In their struggle
In our struggle to find the soul of this country
 America in 2015

You see, my eyes might be blue, And my hair some shade of blonde
But, my heart…


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Of Football, Nuclear Physics, and Children

The US football season is almost here! Do y'all know how excited I am?

Here's a clue. Think of the distance between a proton and a neutron[1] in a helium atom. That distance is much bigger than my excitement.


[1] This assumes a simplistic view of a proton and neutron as if they were, indeed, simple physical particles with fixed, measurable surfaces.[2] The reality, of course, is that each of these is more like a three year old's birthday party, made up of an indeterminate number of children powered by fusion reactors and exhibiting random velocity Brownian motion, sometimes moving completely through walls as if said walls were not there, and into the neighbor's yard, the middle of the street, or the swimming pool two blocks away.
[2] Yes, you may assume that I generally find science (and children) infinitely more exciting than most team sports.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

R.I.P., Scourge of the Net

Years ago, when the net was very young, before there was a world wide web, there was usenet.

Out at the far end of usenet, intended as a walled off ghetto, there was a rather bizarre hangout called, fittingly, talk.bizarre, or tDOTb. The people who set it up saw it as Obi Wan saw Mos Eisley- a wretched hive of scum and villainy. We simply saw it as home. We ranged from people who fit no mold, to people who broke molds (seldom on one another's heads), to people who smelled like mold, to people who ate mold.

It was fun. It was weird. It was brilliant. It was creative. It was stupid. It was a lifeline. And sometimes it was brutal.

Most of the brutality wasn't that brutal and was aimed at stupidity. But occasionally (as can happen anywhere) someone with serious problems showed up.

One college student (let's call him Kltpzyxm[1]) in particular stood out. Kltpzyxm came off as a troll, but over time he managed to make a lot of other trolls look good. He could be brilliant and witty, but he could also be nasty. He loved to play games; he would start acting nice to you, maybe even email you and draw you in, then stab you in the eye with an ant-covered stick.

And not just in talk.bizarre. He did this in respectable groups as well, where people innocently discussed things that mattered to them.

Kltpzyxm apparently went on to have a successful life in the real world. He married and had kids. He dropped off the radar.

He recently drowned off the coast of Hawaii.

From what I hear third hand, he was probably a good husband and dad. I hope so. I hope his family has good memories.

How do the people of tDOTb remember Kltpzyxm? (These are the short versions, not the actual quotes.)

  • "Kltpzyxm tried to get me banned from the systems I posted on [over something ridiculously innocuous -ed]"
  • "Kltpzyxm tried to get me fired."
  • "Kltpzyxm publicly attacked my family and me on my wedding day."
  • "Kltpzyxm made false accusations to my department head and nearly ruined my academic career."
(There was also the endless, day to day nastiness that grates on the nerves.)

Yes, those quotes are truly representative of how he acted. People reached out, tried to help him. He played nice til they believed he was changing. Then he whipped out the ant-covered skewer. As NJ summed it up on the Facebook tDOTb page:

"My recollection of him is as a progenitor of the Internet troll, and his legacy in that regard is well-represented on 4chan and in Gamergate. I assume, or perhaps merely hope, that his family and friends experienced some brighter side of him than he chose to present in his youth, and that their memories of him are fonder than ours."
Life isn't about leaving a legacy, but we all leave one. Hopefully there is far more to him than this, but this is the part of his legacy I know first hand (I remember when the incidents referenced above were happening).

I don't wish death on anyone, much less for a family to go through this.

I'm sad- for him and for his family. But to be honest... I don't miss him. I hope the guy I knew died a long time ago and a much nicer guy emerged as Kltpzyxm. I hope he left a much better legacy than the one the tDOTb community knows.


  1. Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Could tonight get any worse?

Some of my friends and family tend toward the dramatic. Almost three years ago one of them posted on Facebook, "Could tonight get any worse?" While I realized their pain was real, I was able to look more at the forest than the saplings.

Yes. You could wake up in a tub of ice to find that your kidneys were intact but someone had tattooed "I am da BOMB" on your belly in highly reflective paint. You would be arrested any time you tried to fly.

Yes. You could wake up in a tub of ice to find that your kidneys were intact but someone had replaced your skeletal system with cheap, imitation Silly Putty[tm] (adding insult to injury).

Yes. You could wake up in a tub of ice to find that your kidneys were intact but someone had replaced your right foot with a second left foot, making dancing awkward.

Yes. You could wake up in a tub of ice.

It could pretty much always be worse.

But it almost never is.