Saturday, October 12th, 2019

I paid cash for my lunch at the grocery store the other day. Didn’t expect the high school guy at the register to count back my change the way cashiers used to, but I did expect him to be able to add up the values of the coins as he was making change, which he was apparently having a lot of trouble with. He started by digging out a couple of quarters, which he obviously added up in his head, then thought long and hard about whether to grab another quarter, decided not to, dug a couple of dimes out of the till and mentally added them to the quarters, then stared at the display while trying to decide how many nickels he needed. It won’t be too much longer until the register displays the change graphically: dollar bill, dollar bill, dollar bill, quarter, quarter, dime, nickel, penny, penny.

making change | 9:10 am CDT
Category: damn kids!, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags: , , ,
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Saturday, September 28th, 2019

I was investigating some fraud earlier this week, because that’s what they pay me to do, and I had to find out which bank used a certain routing number, which is the number that’s printed at the bottom of your checks, if you still write checks.

Luckily, I work right next door to the office where they do a lot of accounting and I figured they used some super-official web site to look up routing numbers all day long, so I walked over there and asked one of the accountants if she would look up the routing number I had.

“Oh, I just google that,” she said. “Just type in, ‘which bank is routing number 12345’ and it will tell you. It’s public knowledge; they don’t keep them secret.”

Not only don’t they keep them secret; banks publish their routing number all over their web sites. After I found out which bank I was looking for and I went to their web site, it was printed right at the top of the page with the name of the bank.

And now you know.

no secret | 8:13 am CDT
Category: office work, random idiocy, this modern world, work
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Saturday, July 27th, 2019

We got a letter in the mail last week, an actual hand-written letter which My Darling B opened because who even writes letters any more? The only handwritten mail we get now is the occasional birthday card from close family. We get a lot of letters soliciting donations that appear to be handwritten but at second glance are obviously printed using a font that looks like handwriting. Not the case with this letter we got last week: The handwriting was cramped and our last name was crunched up against the edge of the envelope.

The letter itself was written on blue card paper and read in its entirety:

Hello – our names are Mike & Rose – We really like the location of your house on (name of street). If you have any interest in selling please give us a call. Thanks!

It’s not unusual for us to get offers from realtors who want to buy our house. We probably get one a month. The housing market in Madison seems pretty hot and many of houses in our neighborhood have new owners. What’s unusual is that this particular letter was addressed by hand instead of printed and the envelope was affixed with a real first-class postage stamp, not one of those fake-looking bulk rate stamps.

My Darling B and I talked it over and decided the best possible reply to this letter would be:

We accept your kind offer on the following conditions:
1. We will vacate the house in 1 week.
2. You take possession of the house & everything in it.
3. Price of the house is not negotiable: $500,000.00 cash, paid in twenties.
4. By accepting this deal you waive all rights of rescission.
5. No questions asked.

If you accept these conditions, leave the cash in a green canvas duffel bag on our doorstep Monday morning at 6:00 am. We will vacate the house by the next Monday & leave the keys on the kitchen counter.

If you attempt to contact us in any way other than leaving the cash in the duffel bag, the deal is off.

It was so much fun to come up with this offer that, if we weren’t fairly certain we’d have the police at our door, we’d answer them just to see what else might happen.

offer accepted with conditions | 11:07 am CDT
Category: entertainment, Our Humble O'Bode, random idiocy, this modern world
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Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

I went on a business trip to Racine today and used Google maps to navigate. I used to use Siri but the last time I did that she steered me into a construction project that sprawled over half of Milwaukee and I spent twenty minutes trying to get out of that, so Siri can go suck eggs now. Google maps hasn’t done anything like that yet. In fact, yesterday as we were cruising down the highway the voice of Google maps (why doesn’t she have a name?) warned us, “There’s a speed trap ahead,” and sure enough we spotted a state trooper in the weeds about five seconds later. As we passed, my phone went *ding* and a pop-up appeared: “Is it still there?” ZOMG, Google is stickin’ it to The Man now!

Fighting The Man | 8:25 am CDT
Category: business travel, this modern world
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Monday, July 1st, 2019

A congressional delegation inspected facilities operated by the Customs and Border Patrol agency where asylum-seekers were being held in inhumane conditions. The delegation included Pete Aguilar (CA31), Joaquin Castro (TX20), Judy Chu (CA27), Madeleine Dean (PA4), Veronica Escobar (TX16), Sylvia Garcia (TX29), Joe Kennedy (MA4) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY14), Ayanna Pressley (MA7), Rashida Tlaib (MI13), Norma Torrez (CA35), Greg Stanton (AZ9), Lori Trahan (MA3), and Marc Veasey (TX33).

Joaquin Castro: “At the El Paso Border Patrol Station #1, women from Cuba, some grandmothers, crammed into a prison-like cell with one toilet, but no running water to drink from or wash their hands with. Concrete floors, cinder-block walls, steel toilets. Many said they had not bathed for 15 days. Some had been separated from children, some had been held for more than 50 days. Several complained they had not received their medications, including one for epilepsy. They asked us to take down their names and let everyone know they need help. They also feared retribution. We then went to the Clint Border Patrol Station that warehouses children and some parents. The tents outside, used during the surge recently, were dark and surrounded by chain link fences. The showers — mobile units — were dank, dirty and only too small in number for the hundreds of people there just a few weeks ago. And a boy, perhaps three years old, pressed his face against the dirty glass of a locked steel door. He smiled big and tried to talk to us through the thick glass. His family — or another — ate Ramen on the floor a few feet away.”

Judy Chu: “We just left the El Paso border patrol station … what we saw was appalling and disgusting. We talked to a group of women, detainees who said that they didn’t have running water, that one was an epileptic and she couldn’t get her medication. They were separated from their children. They’d been there over 50 days. One woman said that the border patrol agent told her if she wanted water, just to drink from a toilet … There seriously has to be some change.”

Madeleine Dean: “Just left the first CBP facility. The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined. 15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. This is a human rights crisis. We were met with hostility from the guards, but this is nothing compared to their treatment of the people being held.
The detainees are constantly abused and verbally harassed with no cause. Deprived physically and dehumanized mentally – everyday. This is a human rights issue.”

Joe Kennedy: “Spent the morning in TX at Clint and El Paso detention facilities. Big takeaways — 1) CBP was very resistant to Congressional oversight. They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video. Atmosphere was contentious and uncooperative. 2) Facilities are wholly inadequate. Cells maxed to capacity, concrete floors … It felt jail-like. No way to keep a child or innocent human being. Group of 13 women from Cuba were in tears when we spoke with them.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me. Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress. After I forced myself into a cell w/ women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare” — waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a “lack of funding?” Now I’m on my way to Clint, where the Trump admin was denying children toothpaste and soap. This has been horrifying so far. It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals. What’s haunting is that the women I met with today told me in no uncertain terms that they would experience retribution for telling us what they shared. They all began sobbing — out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”

Rashida Tlaib: “We can’t just focus on the children anymore. I met grandmothers, mothers and fathers who are suffering. This is devastating. The look in one father’s eyes broke me. I can’t look away. A little boy not more than 4 years old asked me where his Papa was through a glass door. An Abuela hasn’t seen her grandson in 40 days & has no idea where he is. A woman, pregnant w/ her first child, just wants to be w/ her family in FL. A father teared up telling me that his wife, 8 yr old daughter & 14 yr old son have been sleeping on concrete floors in a tent for 4 days. They haven’t been able to shower, no real food (chips & juice boxes) & so scared of being separated.”

concentration | 8:39 pm CDT
Category: current events, this modern world | Tags:
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Sunday, April 28th, 2019

the great Paris accord
how is Paris doing lately?
how is Paris?
how is Paris doing?

send all the money to countries that the people never heard of
and raise their taxes

I ended that one, too

I thought I was going to take a lot of heat on that one

a lot of heat | 11:02 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, random idiocy, this modern world | Tags: ,
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

A few random thoughts about climate change, in no particular order:

I don’t “believe in” climate change. I’m not entirely sure what the phrase “believe in” means. It’s most often used in the context of “believing in” god or supernatural phenomena or something for which there is no hard evidence. Until I see some hard evidence, I don’t believe phenomena that are supposed to be supernatural. (You know what they call supernatural phenomena that is supported by hard evidence? Natural phenomena.) (I wish I could say I came up with that myself, but I didn’t. I believe Tim Minchin did, but I can’t find the quote right now.)

Which is why I don’t “believe in” climate change. Climate is not a supernatural phenomenon, and the changes which have been described by thousands of people who have been studying climate their entire lives are supported by hard evidence. I believe the evidence and I believe the warnings that our industrial activity has changed the climate, and I also believe that if we continue to be as active industrially as we have been, we will continue to change the climate in ways that will make our planet inhospitable to human life.

It really isn’t a hard concept to understand. Humans have been polluting the earth, air, sky and water we need to survive for as long as we have been walking the earth. When we were doing that in the ways that every other creature walking the earth did it, this wasn’t a problem, but when we started doing it on an industrial scale and the pollution started to mount up faster than it could decompose, then it became a problem. And because we have done, and continue to do, almost nothing to mitigate the problem, it has grown into a bigger problem year after year.

Those are facts. That is really happening.

And now, some things I believe should be happening to reduce the effects of climate change, but aren’t happening and, sadly, probably won’t happen:

I believe America should lead the world in converting to energy production that produces no carbon dioxide. I believe this is not only possible, and that it can be done in the near future, I believe this is the easiest thing we could do. It wouldn’t even be our “moon-shot” to mitigate climate change. The technology to do it has already been developed and proven, we only have to scale it up. I also believe this will not happen any time soon, if it happens at all, because narrow-minded greedheads like Trump are going to be in high office for the foreseeable future. No, I don’t have a time machine and I can’t foretell the future, but most countries in the world are being run by narrow-minded greedheads these days. It seems to be a trend.

I believe America should lead the world in converting to mass transit that produces no carbon dioxide. I believe this is also possible. I believe it could be done almost as quickly as converting to zero-emission energy production. And I also believe this will never happen because everybody likes their goddamn cars and trucks too much. Honestly, how does anybody justify driving to work by themselves in a truck the size of Nebraska? That ought to be criminal.

I believe American politicians should be engaged every single day with politicians from countries around the globe to find ways to lessen the effects of climate change. And obviously this will not happen because politicians are not really representatives of the citizens of the United States. Politicians do what lobbyists pay them to do, and the lobbyists with the biggest bucks are generally in favor of doing things that cause climate change. Oh shit, I stepped up onto my cynical soapbox. So sorry.

climate change | 11:44 am CDT
Category: current events, Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After I rolled out of bed this morning and started the morning pot of coffee brewing, I checked in to Twitter to see what’s new in the world and the first thing I see is OH MY GOD TRUMP IS GOING TO BLOW UP SYRIA!

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

I’m not all that worried, really.  The rest of Twitter responded with “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as if Trump hasn’t done this before.  He needs to do this every so often to “look presidential,” because nothing gets the pundits to say dumb shit like “this is the moment he finally became president” as blowing shit up.  And that’s pretty much all he’ll blow up, after he gave literally everybody in the world plenty of advance warning by tweeting it. Any soldiers, Syrian or Russian, at whatever target he agreed ahead of time to hit will be long gone.

Cynical?  Oh, a tad.  

Trump followed the “get ready” tweet with:

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

“There is no reason for this,” I love that.  As if threatening to shoot missiles at a Russian ally wouldn’t be a good reason. And then he bats his eyes and asks, “Stop the arms race?”  Because why wouldn’t they? Aside from the aforementioned attack, of course. Sort of justifies my cynical feeling that the pyrotechnics are only there to make everyone go “Oooo! Ahhh!” and repeat the inevitable drivel that Trump is strong and bold and presidential.

get ready | 8:48 am CDT
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Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

I saw a meme on Facebook last night that was, according to the results of a fast Google search, a shortened version of a 2007 book called 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School, Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education, by conservative columnist and radio host Charlie Sykes. The meme listed only 11 rules, probably because, like most Facebook memes, somebody shortened it for quick and easy digestion.  Whoever shortened it also got the source wrong; it said, “Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.”  So it could be that these 11 rules are in no way like any of the 50 rules in Sykes’ book.  If so, I offer my apologies to Charlie until I get the time to read his book and compare it to the meme.  Until then, though, I couldn’t stop myself from responding to the 11 rules that supposedly nobody will ever learn in school:

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Way to inspire people, Charlie! This is a great way to start a list of “rules” you want everyone everywhere to learn and live by.  Who wouldn’t look at a rule like DON’T EXPECT FAIRNESS and not feel a surge of hope for the future and a desire to go on, besides practically everybody?

Strictly speaking, though, Charlie got it wrong.  Life is absolutely fair.  Life makes no judgments at all.  If Life were biased and took into consideration how you lived, then people who dedicated their lives to helping others would all live long and happy lives while wicked, selfish people would perish horribly of pestilence and rot.  It doesn’t work that way, though.  There is nothing more impartial than Life.  You’re born, you live, you die, and you get the same chance to do good or bad with your life as anybody else.  Totally fair.

If, on the other hand, Charlie’s talking about whether or not you get a fair shake in human society, and I suspect he is, that’s all about how people treat one another, which is a part of life, but not all of it.  Maybe that’s what Charlie meant:  People will not treat you fairly.  It’s not entirely wrong, but “life isn’t fair – get used to it” seems like one hell of a cynical take on that message.

I would suggest an alternative to Rule 1: Be fair with people, always. They may not always be fair to you in return, but it’s the right thing to do, and at least you’re bringing some fairness into the world.

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Charlie’s first two rules are DON’T EXPECT FAIRNESS and NOBODY CARES WHETHER YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF.  I don’t know Charlie, but if I had to form an opinion of him based on these two rules, I’d have to say he seems like kind of a cynical person.  I hope he eventually got a friend or a dog or somebody who was nice to him.

I think I get the direction Charlie’s going in: I think maybe he’s saying that doing good work leads you to feel good about yourself.  If he had said that and only that, I would have to agree with him.  However, Charlie might also be saying you don’t deserve to feel good about yourself until you do good work.  He didn’t say that exactly, but that’s how it sounds to me after “the world won’t care about your self-esteem.”

The idea that people do not care whether or not you respect yourself is, frankly, bullshit.  That’s not my experience at all, and I doubt it’s Charlie’s experience, either.  I think Charlie probably knows as well as I do that people will judge you harshly if you hate yourself.  People expect you to hold yourself in high regard.  People care very much about your self-esteem.

And this is just my opinion, but caring about other people’s feelings, whether those feelings are joy or anguish or anywhere in between, is a big part of being a decent person.  My Rule # 2 would be: Bring some compassion into the world in whatever way you can, small or large.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

This is a bald-faced lie. Some people WILL make 60K or more right out of high school. Some will already be unbelievably rich BEFORE they start high school, or junior high, or grade school.  That’s just a fact.

I’m guessing Charlie didn’t make 60K out of high school and, for some reason, he doesn’t want anybody else to show him up by thinking they will.

Here’s my rule # 3: Don’t listen to anybody who tells you what you will or won’t do. In all likelihood, people who dump shit like this on you are grouchy curmudgeons who are still pissed they weren’t making 60K their first year out of high school.

Also: “car phone” – LOL!

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

“Wait until you get a boss” sounds like another way of saying “if the boss you get is anything like the boss I got, he will make you more miserable than your teacher ever did.”

I didn’t think my teachers were tough.  I’m not even sure what Charlie means by “tough.”  I thought most of my teachers were pretty great.  Some were boring, a few were jerks, but most of them were good at inspiring me to do good work, challenging me to do better work, and expecting me to do my best.  That’s not “tough.”  That’s nothing more than you would do for a good friend.  I’m not saying your teacher or your boss has to be your friend to be good; I’m saying a good teacher or a good boss will know how to inspire you.  A “tough” boss will just order you to do it.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

There are so many things wrong with this “rule.”

First of all, flipping burgers is one of the most satisfying activities I can think of. Standing in my back yard, beer in one hand, spatula in the other, and relishing the thought of the delicious meal to come: I can’t think of a more relaxing way to unwind at the end of a hectic day in the office.

I suspect, however, that Charlie penned this “rule” with the intent to point a finger of shame at “kids these days” who shun the drudgery of minimum-wage jobs. Assuming that is the case, I submit that flipping burgers for minimum wage – and it will ALWAYS be for minimum wage – is not always the opportunity he makes it out to be. If you have the great good fortune to move on to a better job from flipping burgers, then sure, opportunity; but if you’re flipping burgers because there are no other jobs available to you, you stand no chance of advancement, and you have no prospect of moving up to a job that would be better than living paycheck-to-paycheck, that’s not opportunity, and it doesn’t leave much room for dignity.

And finally, comparing what my grandparents thought of as opportunity to what my children face in the job market is hardly fair. My grandparents weathered the depression.  My parents grew up during a world war.  There were no opportunities then, there was only survival.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

I’m in the awkward position of having to agree with this rule on a technicality, because “learn from your mistakes” is good advice. So is “don’t whine.” If Charlie had said, “If you mess up, don’t whine about it; learn from your mistakes,” I’d stand one-hundred percent in agreement with him, but the oddly specific don’t-blame-your-parents vibe gives me the feeling maybe Charlie made some parenting choices that resulted in more pushback from his kids than he thought he’d get.

I disagree with this rule on principal because it’s wrong.  Parents do lots of things that directly result in kids making mistakes.  Just one example: Parents who hit their kids makes some of the kids think hitting kids is okay. If kids make that mistake, it’s definitely their parents’ fault.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

YOUR PARENTS ARE BORING BECAUSE OF ALL THEY DID FOR YOU! THINK YOU’RE COOL? YOU’RE NOT! YOU’RE JUST A LOUSY KID.

I hate this “rule” so much.  The clunky metaphor in the last line is bad enough, but the way Charlie turned raising kids into a huge guilt trip ought to be a hanging offense.

First of all, any bills that parents paid were never the kids’ bills.  They were the parents’ bills.  Kids don’t rack up bills and they don’t owe parents the money it cost to raise them.  When parents brings kids into the world, it’s entirely the parents’ duty to feed, clothe, and shelter their kids without any conditions.  There is no bargain, no “okay, I’ll do this, but only if you pay me back later.”  Parents pay the bills because it’s their duty as parents! And because it’s their duty, they don’t hang it over the heads of their kids ever. 

And listening to kids is not a chore! Washing their clothes is, but again, that’s what parents do, and kids don’t owe parents anything for it.  Listening to kids hatching their plans is also what parents are supposed to do.  Listen to them and talk with them; help them develop those ideas. Do it with enthusiasm.  If you act like it’s a chore, you’re doing it wrong.

Finally, at some point all kids start to act like they’re too cool for their parents.  That’s how they let their parents know they’re getting ready to hit the road.  Good parents recognize this and don’t sneer at their kids because of it.

So if your parents are boring now, chances are excellent they were always boring. If you know for a fact they used to be interesting but now they’re boring, well, sometimes people decline cognitively. That’s certainly not anybody’s fault but Mother Nature’s.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

There is so much wrong with Rule #8.  The idea that there have to be losers, for starters. You don’t have to make everything a competition to feel good about yourself. If you do, I won’t be your loser just because we both want the same thing.

I don’t know how I feel about grades, but I’m all for giving kids as many chances as they need to get the right answer. That’s called learning from mistakes, which Charlie championed in rule # 6. What’s it matter how many times they do it, so long as they get it right? Why should kids get a limited number of chances to get the right answer and be labeled a loser if they don’t? That doesn’t even make sense.

As far as school bearing any resemblance to real life: Well of course it doesn’t. School is supposed to be the place where kids get all the chances they need to get the right answer before they have to go face “real life.”  It’s supposed to be a place to practice for what comes after.  (Whether it is or not is an entirely different rant.)

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

What the hell does that even mean, “life is not divided into semesters?” I suppose Charlie doesn’t divide his life into weeks, either, or spend the occasional weekend in front of the television drinking beer and watching the football game, or whatever he does for fun.

As far as “finding yourself” is concerned, I don’t even want my employer messing with my personal life. If my boss tried to give me personal advice, I’d politely tell him to mind his own goddamn business and let me get back to work.

Here’s my rule # 9: People who don’t take time off from their jobs now and then are considered workaholics who end up guzzling Maalox straight out of the bottle to control their acid reflux.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

I don’t know when these rules were written but I suspect it was before people started hovering over their laptops in coffee shops all day, making money. Kids, you may disregard rule # 10. It’s another bald-faced lie.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Two things:

Either Charlie’s a nerd and this is a warning that he’s looking forward to revenge for all the times he was pantsed, or Charlie’s not a nerd and this is a warning he’s passing along after a boss or two of his got revenge on him for pantsing them back in grade school.

Either way, I thought you were supposed to be nice to others because that’s how you would like others to behave towards you.  (I’m not sure if the Golden Rule applies to people who like it when others pick a fight with them.)  You’re a total shitheel if  the only way to get you to be nice to people is to warn you you might end up working for a person you used to treat like shit.

 

fuck your meme | 9:10 am CDT
Category: damn kids!, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant
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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 CDT
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Yesterday, for what I’m pretty sure was the first time ever at the office where I work now, someone stepped up to the middle urinal while I was at the right urinal and someone else was at the left urinal. I’m almost one-hundred percent positive that’s never happened there before. At least, not that I’ve seen. I’ve been working there a little over fourteen months. Maybe the old-timers know different.

This particular building went up in 1964, back when urinals stood four feet tall and were sunk into the floor. More to the point, they were very often planted so close together that, when every one of them was occupied, you rubbed shoulders with the guy beside you. I had to learn early on not to mind getting nudged while peeing. That hardly ever happens in modern buildings, where urinals are spaced far enough apart to put up a steel divider between them.

There’s a gang of three urinals in the men’s room off the elevator lobby, and like the rest of the men on our floor, I’ve always used one of the end urinals. Nobody uses the middle urinal, not even when they go in and find themselves all alone, because what if somebody comes in? And if you go in and find that both end urinals are occupied, you either pass by on your way to the toilets, or you do a one-eighty and go to another floor.

I’m not sure why. My first guess was that most guys think it’s gay, but I’m not sure that figures, when you think about it even a little bit. Most guys stand way too far from the urinal while they’re using it – that’s not my opinion, that’s a fact that a quick scan of the floor will confirm – so I don’t think they’re uncomfortable about putting their junk on public display. But maybe it’s the shoulder-rubbing that they’re uncomfortable with. I’m more than a little uncomfortable with it, to be totally honest. I don’t want to be rubbing shoulders with anyone other than my wife in any situation that isn’t a dire emergency.

My second guess, and this one seems a lot more likely to me, is that the social dynamic of the public bathroom has changed a lot in fifty years. Used to be that guys would gab a lot in the men’s room. Especially so at the urinals, probably because they were packed so close together anyway. If a guy stepped into the vacant spot next to you, he’d say Hi, How Bout Them Packers? Or he’d tell you the latest one he heard about the priest, the rabbi and the pastor, and you’d be expected to tell him the best one you heard that week. Doesn’t happen now. I’m not lamenting it; things change. But you can observe it yourself: Guys don’t talk much in the men’s room any more, least of all at the urinals, where they’re silent as gargoyles. About half of them are plugged into podcasts anyway, so you couldn’t trade jokes with them if you wanted to.

Which is why I was absolutely gobsmacked, and just a little taken aback, frankly, when a guy stepped into the middle urinal yesterday. I almost said something to him. Not about the score of the last Packers game, but something like, Did you even check to see if there’s an open toilet? Because I’m pretty sure he didn’t. And because he had Transgressed the Unwritten Law. It’s not like there are a lot of rules to using the men’s room, but this one has solidified over the years to the point that it’s virtually carved into the tiles above the middle urinal: Thou Shalt Not. Back Away. Do It Now.

And yet, there he was. Guy’s obviously too much of a rebel for unwritten laws. Or he’s from another planet. Didn’t think of that until just now.

middle | 9:49 am CDT
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, Farts & Farting, office work, random idiocy, this modern world, work, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I’m face palming over white people snottily responding to #BlackLivesMatter with ALLLIVESMATTER. No, you see, we were JUST told they don’t.
     – Alisha Rai


#blacklivesmatter | 6:24 am CDT
Category: current events, this modern world
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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

You know how people say there’s literally nothing you can’t get from the internet? I’m literally starting to believe it. My Darling B just bought a case of hummus chips on the internet last week.

Backtracking just a little bit: There’s this snack food called hummus chips that she simply adores, and when I say “adores,” I mean she scarfs them down with a passion you don’t normally see except in teenaged girls squealing with pleasure at the sight of their favorite celebrity boy on the cover of Teen Beat, assuming Teen Beat is still a thing and that you know what is. Put in a more universally understandable way way, all the Jane Austin fans who live or have ever lived don’t give their idol one-tenth of the kind of love that B holds in her heart for this particular snack food.

And hummus chips are just what you think they are: the brown goop derived from mixing chickpeas and olive oil, extruded at high pressure from the orifice of an assembly-line machine into vats of boiling canola oil, scooped out, bagged up and sold as health food because, hey, hummus! Can’t be bad, can it?

But that’s not why B buys it. She buys it because of that passion thing I mentioned. Trouble is, there’s exactly one store in town where she can find them on sale, and that place doesn’t always have them when we stop. (Sorry, the terms of our non-disclosure agreement forbid me from mentioning the name of the store, the street it’s on or even which city it’s in.)

When the chips are all sold out, this makes B very sad, except for the last time we visited the store and found nothing at all but a gap where the chips should have been. That time she decided to do something about it, but she didn’t ask to see the manager to ask him when they were expecting the next shipment and would he pretty please hold back a couple of bags for her and, just to make sure he did, batting her eyes at him to render him helpless to her feminine charms.

No, instead she logged in to Amazon dot come as soon as she got home, searched for hummus chips, found them and ordered a case. A case. And they were delivered to our doorstep within 48 hours. Twelve bags of hummus chips in a displace case inside an Amazon.com shipping box. This is a thing you can do now. Amazing.

cravings | 12:50 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time, this modern world
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