Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

A fair wind and following seas to you, Dick Gordon, and thank you.
Dick Gordon

Command Module pilot Dick Gordon in his spacecraft (NASA photo)

Fare thee well, Dick Gordon | 10:06 pm CST
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It seems this would be an especially appropriate time to talk about why I believe rounding up undocumented people and deporting them is so revolting to me.

Right out of the gate I’m going to refuse to use the term “illegal immigrants” or its shortened form, preferred by lunch-room lawyers and pundits, “illegals.” People aren’t illegal. Their actions can be illegal, but people themselves never are. Describing a person as illegal has got to be about the most revolting way you can possibly treat them. I’m going to stick with “undocumented” because my experience tells me it’s the most accurate way to describe them.

Here’s why: We Americans were raised to believe we are citizens because we were born here, but that is no longer true. We are citizens only if we can prove we were born here, which a shocking number of American-born people can’t do, or at least I think it’s shocking. One is shocking. If only it were just one. I go to work every day to help American citizens prove they are who they say they are. It’s literally in my job description.

The standard of proof is usually a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. When I was just a lad, it was pretty easy to get a driver’s license. I filled out an application, I took a test to demonstrate my knowledge of the rules of the road, and voila! I was licensed to drive. But now that a driver’s license is more than just a license to drive, every state of the union requires you to show documented evidence of your birth, usually a certificate issued by the state. If you lost your birth certificate or never had one, you can get a replacement, but the state usually requires you to show photo ID. How’s that for Catch-22?

Just a note here: For a lot of American citizens (way too many, again), birth records simply don’t exist. There are various reasons for this, but the most common are: the state lost the records (fire, flood, incompetence), or the parents didn’t record the birth, sometimes because the parents didn’t believe in or bother with the legal ins and outs of life, but often because they were so poor they didn’t have the resources to travel to the county seat. If you were one of those people, you could record your birth now by going to court, which takes time, money, and the stamina to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

It doesn’t end with your birth certificate, by the way. To get a driver’s license you also have to prove your identity, which is different from proving your birth. Most people show a Social Security card to prove their identity. If you don’t have one, guess what you have to show the Social Security Administration in order to get one? See “Catch-22” above.

What I’m getting at is that there are way more undocumented Americans than you know. By the letter of the law that I hear practiced daily by lunch-room lawyers and television pundits, these Americans reside here illegally, because they have no documents to prove they were born here, and a lot of them would not be able to produce documents if you gave them all the time in the world to get them, because they don’t have the resources to do so.

This is relevant to the conversation about people who come to America from other countries without documents because the only thing about their situation that is different is, they weren’t born here. They came here because they wanted a better life for themselves or for their children. That is literally the American dream. Know-it-alls who say immigrants are welcome but only if they jump through the bureaucratic hoops set up to do it legally are speaking from the position of Americans who were born here.

It’s a great privilege to be born in America. You are instantly a citizen. You don’t have to do anything at all to be one. You can literally coast through every step of your life, skip school, duck out of work, do nothing at all for your community or society at large, and still be a citizen. Or, you can excel. Either way, there’s no test, or there wasn’t until you had to show your papers to get a driver’s license. (You watch; eventually American-born citizens will be swept up in these “enforcement actions” for the sole reason that they didn’t have the required documents.)

To the naturalized Americans who jumped through the hoops, good on you. You applied, you paid the money, you took the test. I admire your determination to be a naturalized citizen. I also admire anyone who has the determination to walk here from Central America, then work the rest of their life cleaning toilets in a hotel or deboning chickens in a processing plant so their children can live a longer, fuller life. Whether or not they got naturalized or got a green card, American dream achieved. Documents don’t make us Americans. Determination to live a better life in a better country makes us Americans. Kicking people out of the country doesn’t make it better.

documented | 12:19 pm CST
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, September 5th, 2016

At what point do you believe push-ups have occurred? I ask because My Darling B says that we do push-ups when we yoga, but I don’t think we do. We plank, which it the top of a push-up, and we chadurunga, which is lowering from a plank to the floor. I would argue that that is not a push-up because there is no actual, you know, pushing up. We never plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga. We could, I suppose, but I have never been to a yoga class where they did that.

Sometimes we chadurunga and up dog, which is lowering from a plank but stopping before our bellies touch the ground, then straightening our arms while leaning forward, while at the same time doing a back bend, looking up at the ceiling. And although we are lowering ourselves down, then pushing ourselves up, that is definitely not a push-up the way I learned to do push-ups in gym class, or in the military.

What I learned was this: Push-ups usually start in the up position. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with the sadism inherent in gym instructors and sergeants. Hands are directly under your shoulders, arms straight, back straight, feet flexed so you’re on your toes. Then you lower yourself, still with your back straight, until your chest just touches the floor, but never so that it rests on the floor. Your arms should always bear all your weight in a push-up. When your chest touches the floor, you push back up until your arms are straight again.

That is one push-up. But push-ups are never done singly, that I know of. In gym class, I’m pretty sure we never did less than ten push-ups, and in the military I think the minimum number was 25. Whatever the minimum is, push-ups are definitely always plural, and any number less than five seems kinda wussy. So my guess would be that push-ups start at no less than five.

push-ups | 8:39 am CST
Category: Life & Death, yet another rant
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Monday, April 20th, 2015

The lawn mower didn’t start when I pulled the trigger on it yesterday. The blades were very hard to turn by hand, so I thought that maybe the bearings on the motor could use a touch of oil, and that meant I would have to take the engine cover off. I had wanted to do that last year, because somewhere under that engine cover there was a mouse generator. Every time I used the lawn mower last summer, mice would erupt from the openings where the handle connected to the deck. Sometimes they would run up the handle straight at me. I would finally get to see what a mouse generator looked like. Well, I’ve seen one now and I never want to see one again.

There’s a lot of room under the engine cover. The motor itself is about the size of a soup can. I thought it would be a lot bigger. All of the deck space that wasn’t taken up by the motor was filled with bits of trash, fur, lots of mouse turds and two mummified mice. Yuck. And it was all glued in there somehow. I don’t even want to know what glued it all together. None of it fell out by simply upending the lawn mower. I had to dig it out with a stick, then use the shop vac to get it all out of the cracks and crevices. When I was done, I washed my hands in scalding water, twice.

mummy | 7:38 am CST
Category: Life & Death, yard work | Tags:
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Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

As I was saying, the biggest thrill of the weekend was the mouse that came up the stairs into the kitchen on Sunday night. I’m not kidding. Don’t judge us. We don’t get out much.

The little booger literally came up the stairs. I’m almost one-hundred percent certain of this because when I turned on the lights to go downstairs Friday night, there on the second-to-the-top step was a mouse, frozen in mid-step. Hm? Where was I going? Me? I was, ah, just going to the bathroom! Yeah! That’s the ticket! The toilet downstairs is backed up, so I was going to use the one upstairs, if you don’t mind! Yeah! What? You do mind? Well, then, heh-heh-heh, I guess I’ll just go back downstairs and piss in the corner again. See yah!

When I spot a mouse in the house, my reaction is just a little manic. I hope nobody ever records it, because I don’t want it to be immortalized on YouTube for the rest of recorded human history. But here’s what it sounds like in print: “I SEE YOU! I SEE YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD! I’M GONNA STOMP YOU! YOU CAN RUN, BUT I’M GONNA GET YOU!” It goes on like that for pages as I scramble around, huffing and puffing until I have to stop to catch my breath. I’ve never caught a mouse this way. Really, there’s probably nobody who spends more energy on not catching mice than I do.

But if I have a cat as my wing man, then I can get things done. Boo spotted the little invader Sunday night after it tried to sneak under the stairway door into the dining room. She happened to be ambling by, headed for a bite of kibble from her bowl, which was probably what the mouse was thinking of doing, too. Boo let us know what she’d found by leaping into the air, scrambling back and forth across the floor, and finally sticking her face in the crack between the base of the oven and the linoleum, snorfling up more air than a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Subtlety is not Boo’s way.

When we went looking for the mouse to see if it was, indeed, trapped, My Darling B spotted it between the oven and the fridge before it scurried to relative safety behind the oven. So we worked out a way to catch the little vermin: I would sweep under the oven with a stick while B made sure that Boo wouldn’t wander away. Her attention span can be a little short sometimes.

But it didn’t take long to flush out the mouse. One or two quick sweeps with the stick and the mouse popped out from under the oven like it was shot, straight past Boo and through B’s feet. That’s when she squealed like a girl and jumped back three feet. I thought that was something that happened only in cartoons. Her reaction wouldn’t have surprised me more if she’d lifted the hem of her petticoat, jumped up on a chair and squeaked, Eeeek! A mouse!

The mouse made a hairpin turn to the right and I thought at first that it headed for the stairway door and the safety of the basement, but for some reason it went instead into the living room where Boo chased it back and forth across the floor like two of the Three Stooges. Whoo-woo-woo-woo! and Why I Oughta! would’ve been the perfect caption to the photo I didn’t get a chance to take, because I chased after them, making sure that the mouse couldn’t find another hiding spot. I had to move one piece of furniture away from the wall so Boo could get behind it, and twice I had to play goalie, slapping the mouse back into play with my foot when it tried to run for the hallway, but Boo did most of the work, finally pinning it down by the front door, the perfect place for me to slap a plastic tub over it. It was late and I didn’t want to keep it overnight, so I suspended our usual no-kill policy and that particular mouse went on permanent sabbatical.

Boo can move pretty fast for such a tubby cat. She’s usually the epitome of a princess-like cat, mincing across the floor in carefully measured steps, but when she saw that mouse, she went batshit crazy, and she scrambled across the living room like a maniac. It was hard not to be impressed.

yelp 2 | 6:07 am CST
Category: Boo, entertainment, housekeeping, Life & Death, O'Folks | Tags:
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Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Good night, Bonky-boy

dsc09487

Alas, Bonkers | 4:00 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, Life & Death, O'Folks
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The Toyota garage we take our car to for service appears to be staffed entirely by children.

The guy who acted like he was in charge had to be in his early to mid twenties. If I had to guess based on the context, I’d peg him at twenty-four. If I had to guess after just a glance at his baby face, though, I’d notch him down to eighteen. Not older than twenty.

The gal at the front desk making appointments and printing up invoices could’ve been sixteen.

No doubt this is a sign of my encroaching decrepitude and old age, and I’ll soon be getting a drink by dunking my face in a great big bowl, then tipping my head back and gulping, slopping water down my neck and all over the floor as I do.

kid world | 9:41 pm CST
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy
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Sunday, July 28th, 2013

new smart phoneAs I mention earlier, we replaced our dumb phones with smart phones. We made up a lot of reasons that sounded good for doing this but the real reason we did it is that SMART PHONES ARE AWESOME!

The dumb phones we had were the pay-as-you-go type, which were fine for making phone calls. In fact, they were better than the land line we still have but will soon be getting rid of because the only phone calls we ever get on the land line are from telemarketers and political action committees. I’d put up with daily in-home harassment if the land line was amazingly cheap, like five bucks a year. Or, I’d be happy to continue to pay them whatever overinflated price they wanted for their very dependable service if they would guarantee that I would never receive another call from a telemarketer. I’m pretty sure that neither of those options are going to materialize in the near future, though, so we’re going to drop the land line.

We already stopped paying for the dumb phones. They were good, as I said, for making phone calls but obviously they don’t do any more than that and besides, we weren’t ever completely sure how much we were paying each month for our dumb phones. As it was somewhat inconvenient to find out too late that I couldn’t make a call because I’d forgotten to top off my account, I gave them my credit card number and said, “Here, take out ten bucks whenever I’m running a little low.” Like running a tab at the bar, I didn’t think about how much I was paying because I didn’t have to. My Darling B did the same thing. When we reviewed the costs of keeping a land line and topping up the dumb phones, though, it seemed a little silly to keep on paying that when, for a bit more, we could have SMART PHONES!

They were delivered last week Wednesday, if memory serves, and I use the word “delivered” very loosely here. The FedEx guy was supposed to drop them off after seven, which would have given us more than enough time to get home after our dinner at The Wise if he had, in fact, stuck to the plan. When we got home, though, there was a note from the FedEx guy on our door that said (paraphrasing): “I gots here at 3:30 – Where Was You?” We jumped back into the O-Mobile and burned rubber to get to the FedEx facility on the north side of town just ten minutes before they closed.

When we had dumb phones, My Darling B put a happy face sticker on hers because otherwise they looked exactly alike. Remembering this, when B ordered the smart phones she got a white phone for herself and a black phone for me. That girl’s always thinking. I don’t know how her brain doesn’t get musclebound from all the thinking she does. In case you care, she ordered the latest model, Samsung S4. All that means to me is that they’ll be obsolete in about six months, if they’re not already. That, and they’re not real. They’re science fiction, completely make-believe. Or, as Arthur C. Clarke, one of the greatest science fiction authors who ever lived, put it, they’re magic, as in “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Even Captain Kirk would have thought so. All he could do with his communicator was make phone calls. It was a dumb phone, really. He couldn’t use it to look at a map or search the ship’s computer. Spock would have killed for a smart phone. The one I’ve got beats his tricorder all to hell. It’s smaller but it’s got a bigger screen and I can tuck it in a pocket. It doesn’t hang from my neck on a leather strap. Way more handy than that boat anchor he had to carry around.

And it’s one hell of a lot smarter than Spock’s tricorder, too. Thirty seconds after I turned it on and told it my e-mail address, it knew way more about me than probably my own mother does. Our phones use the Android operating system so they’re connected to The Google, and The Google, as everybody knows, is more powerful than all the nimrod politicians in the world and probably more powerful than every branch of the military. Man, are those guys going to be surprised when they figure that out. If The Google lets them figure it out.

So probably because I have a gmail account and because I’ve been using The Google’s browser, Chrome, for a while now, my smart phone autoloaded everything The Google knew about me. My list of contacts – everyone I might call on the phone or send e-mail to – was imported from my various on-line e-mail accounts. My photo gallery – the folder of photographs in my camera-ready smartphone – was suddenly filled with all the photos I’d ever uploaded to the net. And so on and so on. This thing called “privacy” that you think you have? You can forget about it. The Google knows all about you. If you have never in your life sent an e-mail message, placed an order on-line, or used a cell phone, then I suppose it’s possible that you might have managed to evade The Google’s all-seeing gaze, but if you have ever experimentally dipped a toe into even the shallowest of social media, you are in for a shock when you activate your first smart phone.

And do you want to talk about distraction? A smart phone is literally all the distraction in the world gathered together in a package that you can hold in one hand. It has these things called “apps” that are hot buttons of one kind of distraction or another. All you have to do to be distracted is tap one. If and when the distraction of that app runs out, you can tap the next one. And you will tap the next one. You will keep on tapping the next one until you fall asleep sitting up, and when your head hits the table, waking you up, you will tap the next app to be distracted some more, because going to sleep is boring but a distraction is, well, distracting. You will not notice you’re tired. You would not notice conquering armies invading your city. Not that I’m suggesting smart phones could be part of an elaborate conspiracy to keep tabs on us while distracting us from the coming subjugation of an invading army. In fact, I’d like to go on record as saying that even if this were a thing, I for one welcome subjugation as long as I get to keep my apps. How bad could that be?

smartphone | 11:58 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, current events, daily drivel, damn kids!, Life & Death, Our Humble O'Bode
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Friday, January 13th, 2012

The question that biological anthropologist Barbara King is pondering on the science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture is just this: burial, cremation, or donation to a body farm? Strangely, she did not include what I’ve always considered to be the non plus ultra in postmortem disposal: detonation.

When I learned about cremation, I realized we could do something more daring with our bodies after death besides box them up and bury them in a trench. Something exciting. One last hurrah. So I thought about it for quite a while and decided that, what I would most dearly wish my family would do with my body after I die would be: Set it atop a small mountain of explosives and blow it to teensy-weensy little pieces. Vaporize it, if possible. An atomic blast would be ideal, but if vaporization could be done the simple way with good old-fashioned dynamite, that would be just fine with me.

The next most appealing option would be to have my body frozen and cut into many thin, bologna-like slices that would be mounted between glass panels like that guy at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, except that I’d want the panels used as walls for bus stop shelters across the city. When we didn’t have a car and I had to take the bus everywhere, I remember being monumentally bored with nothing to do while I waited for the bus. This would give people something to do.

Because I doubt that anyone I know will seriously consider either of those options, I guess the body farm would be okay. If you don’t know what a body farm is, wait until after you’ve finished eating your breakfast to find out.

the end | 5:57 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Life & Death
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