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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

59 And Counting

A little while ago was my 59th birthday. On the day it showed up, I was pretty much ignoring it and went to work as usual when the phone rang at 0200. Just another day. Holidays and birthdays and everydays are what you miss when crew management lights up your cell to go again.

Then I turned my phone on when I got to the other end of the railroad...

Out of the blue, lots of people popped up on my notifications saying 'Happy Birthday'. People I hadn't heard from in..well...a long time. I know...they get a push reminding them that it's somebody's birthday but still...just to drop in and post is saying something.

I was frankly a little surprised. I've been shying away from social media for a while now after some less-than-cheerful experiences. A respite seemed in order since I sort of felt overwhelmed by it. I often can't process the constant input and output that it demands and the attention it screams for. It's also sometimes an ugly, unhappy place for something that's supposed to be 'social'. Over time, I've weeded out most of the rabid partisans of any stripe but there's still the occasional screamer or hyper-ventilated conspiracy theorist that pops up. I'm getting to those.

I should just not think about it but my ADHD self takes it too personally. If someone is posting it...they must know that I'm reading it. It kinda takes away from the good wishes when they call me a snowflake; sheep; socialist; bleeding heart; etc. every day except one.

You can say, "Well I wasn't really talking about you" but if you shout insults in a crowed room, you can bet there's going to be some confusion over who it's intended for. I know...just ignore it. But if this is how we say what we want to say these days, doesn't it make sense to buckshot a little less? 

There's a thousand and one platforms where you can opinionate and guess what? Unless you're a George Takei or Kanye West...hardly anyone is listening anyway. I know nobody is reading this but me. So why antagonize the ones who really are paying attention? Our circle of friends may look bigger because we have hundreds of 'friends' and 'followers' but if most of them signed off tomorrow, how many would you really miss?

 I'll never be a new world man I guess. 

And yet, I'm really grateful so many people took the time to wish me a Happy Birthday...there's hope. The best gift for me would be that everyone remember that it should be more than once a year that you wish others happiness. Just a thought for my 59th...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Another on Religion

Reading the news this week...I know...I should quit doing that. But amid all the (nowadays) normal Trump noise and the usual insanity that permeate the daily cycle...here we go with yet another investigation into the Catholic church.

This one caught my attention because even though it's an absolute nightmare, it's not surprising. The church has been down this road before and will be again.

Seems to me that nobody should be looking at a DC pizza joint or haunting 4chan searching for child abusers and traffickers...they're right down the street at the vestry.

How many times do these 'revelations' have to come out? This go-round it reaches back to the '40s and involves possibly thousands of victims? 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone? Some at it so long they've retired or died. And this is what's called a religion? It's more like a predator meat market.

Tell me about how 'they're not all bad' and I'll tell you about turning a blind eye to madness. To make the excuse that the 'good' ones don't know what's happening in their ranks is ridiculous.

Think about it...just as a rough estimate...take 50 states with say...half that many per state comes out to 7500 practicing molesters and pornographers. All with perfect hunting grounds and the protection of one of the most powerful and influential organisations in the world. You can even get promoted if a whiff of your indiscretions gets out. What a deal! Don't tell me they don't know.

And still they have the gall to preach morality. They espouse celibacy and abstinence while raping children. They wring their hands over the 'moral outrage' of LBGT while colluding to hide their own immorality. They exclude women and decry the crime of birth control while they bleed their parish children of innocence. They dare to sit in pious judgment of others while they feed their own personal demons. Their absolute power has corrupted absolutely.  They bury the evidence and protect the guilty in a twisted parody of the Mob. Over and over again.

In truth, the Catholic Church is no better than any criminal enterprise at its core. They do some good to cover up the fact that they destroy lives and do irreparable harm to the most vulnerable of those they profess to protect. All you need is some good PR and a few 'donations' to grease the skids. 

Hell, even Pablo Escobar knew that if you do a little 'public service', your corrupt and evil organization will be better tolerated and harder to indict. Run a soup kitchen, give away a tiny fraction of the take, smile for the cameras. Pay the right people and threaten the rest and the wheels keep on turning. The church continues to be immeasurably wealthy and powerful while 'the least of these' are used and abused. It makes me feel like throwing up.

The leader of the church, Pope Francis issued a letter yesterday to Catholics around the world condemning the “crime” of priestly sexual abuse and cover-up and demanding accountability.

Francis wrote: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

That you did. Your 'church' has overseen more devastation and horror in the name of your faith over the centuries than any other in history. You demand from your followers that which you yourselves cannot or will not do. You preach chastity, charity and forgiveness while you indulge in sex with children, sit on a misers hoard that can't even be counted and pronounce judgment on anyone who dares to question your authority. How do you look in the mirror and call yourselves men of God? How dare you call yourselves holy? How much evil can you hide? 

A Catholic poet once wrote, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"

Perhaps your parishioners...particularly the children...should do just that. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Other Wayward Sons

This place is (by a long reach) named after a song from long ago when I was still a big-haired, high school-hating farm kid. Back then almost everything I heard was on a badly distorting AM radio bolted to a tractor fender or a dusty cassette deck in the cow barn. Most of it just faded away or became background music at the grocery store but a few songs got under the sunburn and stayed for the duration. 'Carry On Wayward Son' was one of them. Yeah, it wasn't particularly good or especially meaningful as songs go but it stuck just the same. Sometimes odd things mean something to someone and there's no explaining it. But I know I always felt like I was Wayward in ways I couldn't understand and so here we are.

One of my sons graduated from college last week. The other one is working and doing that adult thing with the best of them. They're off and rolling. Now I find myself asking the questions parents of every generation have asked...When did they grow up, stop being the boys and become men?

I look at them and wonder...as every father does I suppose...how did all this happen? I'm in the same fix as anyone that's ever turned their kids loose on the world. You wonder if you did it right. They didn't come with an instruction manual. Two small people just showed up and took over being everything. From the day they came home to the day they leave to lead lives of their own, they print memories and feelings on me every day. I'm ecstatic that they are who they are. They're the proudest thing in my life. They became absolutely wonderful people without much help from me sometimes.

I was gone so much of their young lives that I sometimes wonder if I even had much to do with raising them but they did good for being basically single-parented. I know...nobody ever wishes they'd spent more time at work and less time with their family. I feel it very much but reality really does suck and you have to work unless you're born loaded. Somehow...it worked out for them.

And now they're young men and the world is ahead. They'll have their own songs stuck in their heads I hope. It makes me smile to think of it.

They'll be Wayward in their own way and somehow...it'll all be okay. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I Need A Ride...

What is it about 'social media' that makes people so unsocial? I'm pretty unhappy this morning after yesterday's adventures in 'keeping in touch'. Turns out it's no more social out there than it ever was. The keyboards are humming with invective. Parsed by vacation pics and recipes is a veritable feast of forwards, rumors and internet outrage generators. I guess I'm supposed to be angry at someone or something all the time. I can't do it. 

I made the mistake of venturing back out into the 'social' world because I thought I might catch up with some of my old crew from the team and maybe even a rink-rat or two. I don't actually hate Fb per se but I got weary and wary so I put it on the back burner. I used it a lot for the team and have quite a few real-world friends that I can't keep in touch with any other way. It's useful at times but then there's days...

Like I said, I've been running pretty light on it for a bit while I sorted out my personal life so I kind of held my nose and dipped my toes back in. Foolishly I posted some photos and ride maps. 

Shortly thereafter, I got called out for failing to notify anyone that I was going for a Monday ride with my sweetheart, ridiculed for a post and indirectly called a Nazi sympathizer and a liberal snowflake. These are the friends I haven't blocked.

The one about the ride alone blew up into over 20 posts...most of which got deleted when it became apparent I was too naive to get the tone as intended. Turns out I'm snark-impaired. One woman apologized which was nice (and accepted) but the genii doesn't go back in the bottle well.

As for the one about being a Nazi...that came from a meme that wasn't directly addressed to me but since the friend posting it has to know or hope that I'll read it, it counts. You see, I have a fairly liberal slant so a post comparing liberals to Nazis hits pretty close. Aside from being a blatant violation of Godwin's Law, it just wasn't true...particularly about me. If anyone was trying to persuade me to change my viewpoint, a Third Reich reference is a poor place to start. If anyone cared. Apparently they don't.

I get that on your page, you can post whatever you want. You can offend to your hearts content and go for all the shock value the platform standards will allow. Or you can not. You can put up kitten pics or tell the world what you had for lunch (oh wait...that's Twitter). If you're going the personal opinion route though, it pays to remember the old saying about opinions and assholes...everyone has them but nobody wants to see yours. Everyone does love kitten pics. Just an observation...

I also understand that I don't have to look. If I'm "offended" (which became a derogatory term in itself somehow), I can just block you. Believe me...I have and I will. It seems a little ridiculous though with my privacy settings being what they are that I have to scrub my newsfeed every day. These are from people I want to be in contact with. Why does it often feel like the day I opened up an 18" sewer main and found out exactly where it was plugged? I don't dump stuff because I disagree. I flush it because it's awful. Some of it the junk that shows up has been around since I had a PS-1. Some of it is so bad that it isn't even wrong. A fair share is not only insulting but it insults your intelligence reading it. I want to talk to people, not read all-caps 'scary' rumors, phishing forwards and flat earth conspiracy bullshit. At some point doesn't it make sense to stop abusing the people who are allegedly your friends? The ones you want to hear what you have to say? The ones who don't always agree?

After all, your argument is not really much of an argument if you're preaching to the choir. That's not a debate, that's a pep rally. Yes you'll be pretty safe in that mirrored bubble you end up with...where everyone nods and forwards 'amen' but trust me in this...a bubble isn't that much different from a cell and mirrors are all black on the inside. If you stare long into the abyss...

Come out and play and I'll happily argue and debate all day long but I'm not going to be berated because I disagree. And at least do a cursory search before you come at me with something that 'the mainstream media will never tell'. Who knows...come armed with facts instead of insults and you might change my mind. I might change yours. What a concept.

Just remember that in my world, your point is automatically invalid as soon as you resort to terms like 'snowflake', 'cuck', 'lib (or anything else) tard". You give up your high ground when you call people by racial or sexual or economic snarl words. And if there's even a passing reference to infowars or any of that ilk as actual facts...we're done.

The point is, and I know this has been said a million times...why would you say something online that if it was said in person, could end a friendship, demolish Thanksgiving dinner or start a bar fight? You know who's going to see what you post. Maybe you don't care who it hurts. Maybe it doesn't even matter if it's true. Maybe it's easier to buckshot some snarky, mean thing than engage. Maybe if you shut down everything except what you want to see and hear, your opinion becomes your truth.

Maybe that's where we are. But that's not social...it's sociopathic.

And yes...I need a ride.

Friday, March 2, 2018

February Down

It's been an anniversary of sorts this week. Even though I still can't go into it much, it's enough that I got through another February. 

Almost everybody just wants to get through February and I'm no different. That's probably why it's the shortest month. It's stuck between coming down off the holidays in January and the first hint of spring somewhere in March. It's the hangover, late payment, pothole, frozen pipe month. If your furnace is going to give out or your car is going to quit, it'll be in February. You just want it to be over with and think about warmer, brighter days. It's even more than that to me.

The month is about endings and beginnings around the Home. My old familiar life ended forever in a February. Full stop. Reboot. Then like the seasons, everything started all over again.

It's still ongoing. In a few years, I should be able to blog it all but for now...

February will always be like a moonless 3:00 am to me. The darkest and loneliest hour. The deepest, most desolate part of the night before the sunrise. That time when it's coldest and quietest and the world seems to hold it's breath. When it's so still that you can almost hear hope fading and sometimes promises slip away like whispers.

That's how it was that one February when everything changed. But I found out that if you can hold on just a little while longer, dawn will slowly sneak over the horizon and day will always come again. It may seem like it'll never get there. It may be cloudy and gray when it does but if you can just hang on one more hour, even one more minute, there will be light again. The dark loses some of its power and life finds the way back into the world.

If you just don't close your eyes in that last few minutes before daybreak, you'll finally see a glow in the east and suddenly feel like you can live again. You'll find your bearings with the light even when you thought you were completely lost. I should know...I've seen the darkness fade out often enough and I swear it's the hardest time of all

But then ever so slowly, the night lifts up from the horizon and the hills get left behind by the stars. It's still cold in the morning this time of year and in my world, the workday is only partly over when the sun comes up. But that's how February is. Endings and beginnings. And still putting one foot in front of the other knowing that better days are coming. 

One of these years I've got a story to tell but until I can, I'm happy to have another February down. It's March now and the snow is falling hard but yesterday the air smelled a little of spring and promises. Winter is fading like the dark after a long night. February down for another year.

Somehow it makes me think once again of hope.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Florida On My Mind

I just can't take it anymore. I know we've been down this road before but this time...

I've been watching the news and it's full of the latest school attack in Florida. I'm just sick of it. I've had all the moments of silence and 'thoughts and prayers' I can stomach. I've had enough conspiracy theories, finger pointing and ridiculous arguments to last the rest of my days. 


Allegedly intelligent people refuse to accept that something is most certainly wrong with our civilian weaponry status quo and instead, spend hours at the keyboard attacking the victims, screaming injustice and pretending at patriotism. Thousands of social media warriors invoke their piety and proudly expound on what they would surely have done had they been there with their trusty sidearm. They stand ready and eager to kill anyone who they perceive as a threat. That eagerness says something in itself if anyone cared to read between the lines...but that's another post.

So lets just clear the air a little before I go much further. The fact is...I don't hate guns. I don't hate people who own guns. I don't want your guns taken away. I don't care how many you have. If you know me at all then you already know that.

What I do hate is turning on the news and seeing yet another attack. I hate that nobody wants to do anything. I hate the talking heads and politicians that embarrass themselves pandering to the money. I hate the liars and lunacy-peddlers that preach conspiracy. I hate that so many people work so hard to discredit and debase the witnesses and victims rather than put one tiny bit of energy into anything remotely constructive. I hate that my generation has failed yet again and more of our sons and daughters are dead because of it. 

Something is terribly, horrendously wrong and if you can't see it, you are simply not qualified to carry or own a firearm. Period. 

If you think the answer to too many gun deaths is more guns, we're not even in the same universe. If you believe every living soul should be armed, we're already speaking a different language. If you think this isn't about money then you're not paying attention. If you believe that nothing can be done to at least slow the death rate, please scroll off to InfoWars where your real friends are and save yourself the trouble of insulting me. Don't bother with the same old tropes about banning cars or knives or box cutters or fertilizer or anything else either. We're talking about weapons designed and built to be weapons. Focus.

Don't waste my time telling me if only everybody was armed, this would never happen. I call bullshit just like the kids from Douglas High School did. Nobody, least of all me; who has never faced a violent crisis knows what might happen in the adrenaline rush of the moment. Lethal force is a terrible responsibility. In the confusion, fear, noise and overload of an attack or even a perceived attack...how many terrified, minimally trained 'good guys with guns' firing in anger for the first time in their lives; in close quarters hallways and rooms full of equally terrified people do you see as being beneficial? What could possibly go wrong? 

Besides the likelihood of making bad worse, all that handy firepower floating around seems pretty likely to end up getting used for other purposes besides self-defense. Just ask the Uber Eats driver that recently killed his customer in an argument over basically nothing. Or ask yourself where all the bad guys you say so easily acquire guns actually get them. How many are stolen from the well-stocked good guys? For that matter...how many get flat-out sold by the good guys to the first taker with cash? Just a thought...

Also save the video argument. Don't tell me that we should ban GTA or first-person-shooters or violent movies and TV before we talk about guns. My kids play video games all the time. They don't seem to be building arsenals. I've watched both 'John Wick' movies. I have no desire to run out and shoot up nightclubs after doing so. I've seen 'The Hobbit' too but it didn't make me suddenly believe in elves. My sons and I know the difference between fantasy and reality. You should too.

So moving along. We should talk about mental health? Ok...who's doing the talking? Who gets to say who's in trouble and to what degree? The government? The same ones who are busy scheming to take away your guns and covering up UFOs? Who wants to be the first to put their medical records in a database that every gun shop, random state bureaucrat and your employer can access? Sign me up for that. Not.

The number of people with mental issues of some sort or another is probably unknowable anyway. Think of how many webcrawlers out there believe they need to stockpile weapons and ammo to defend against tyranny and you'll start to see the trend. One man's mental case is another man's patriot you know. These are the fully rational people that love and respect the military and law enforcement but feel the need to have the ability to kill a lot of them should it come to that. The idea that one guy in a bunker can hold off the police or that a bunch of weekend warriors scampering around in the woods could outfox the military for more than 10 minutes is pretty bizarre by itself. It speaks volumes about how much we probably do in fact need to take a hard look at who's stable enough to own firearms and who isn't.

The question then is where do we go from here? I don't have the answers you'll like. I have some suggestions...but first we have to start acting like the adults in the room. If everything begins with the premise that the end game is to confiscate your armory and dump you in a FEMA camp under WalMart...then you have nothing more to say that can be helpful. Watch the young people and learn.

Anyway let's just start...since vehicles as weapons comes up all the time when the socially strident start talking about guns, let's look at it from that angle. You know the drill. "When are we going to ban cars because more people die in cars that with guns?" Never heard that one before.

To refresh...to own and operate a car on the road you have to jump through some hoops. Nobody gives it much thought...it's just the way it is. It doesn't stop very many people from having the privilege of using public highways but it does set a minimum standard and provides a system of regulation and record keeping that seems to work out fairly well. So take a peek at what's required for something as common as driving that...by the way...is not even remotely protected by a Constitutional Amendment. Not even mentioned yet for most people, it typically does not keep them from owning or operating a vehicle.

For starters...you have to be of a certain age. Then you have to get a state-issued permit that becomes your ID. That allows you to practice driving while under supervision. Most states require some minimal training before you take a test to show a certain amount of competence before they turn you loose on the motoring public. Insurance is required in case something unexpected and unfortunate occurs and you must also register the vehicle you're driving or be able to prove who owns it so law enforcement knows it isn't stolen should that come up in conversation. Are you seeing how this looks?

To operate larger vehicles or motorcycles takes more training, testing and an endorsement on your license. The laws become more stringent the more responsibility you have. Hazardous material haulers have more regulation than pizza delivery drivers. Taxis and buses are different again. Nobody questions this much. Nobody worries the deep state will confiscate their big-stack coal-roller just because it's registered and insured. 

Does everyone on the road have a current license and keep their insurance paid up? Of course not. I got rear-ended by an unlicensed, uninsured driver once but that's a rarity and the system worked to get me and the car fixed and hold the driver accountable. Yes, a percentage of the population will always scofflaw until they get caught but the argument that since 'criminals will always find a way' so it's pointless to regulate at all goes out the window every time you walk into a DMV.

So why is such a mechanism which almost everyone routinely deals with on a regular basis so absolutely unacceptable to the Ted Nugent fan club at the NRA? Let me venture a guess...because EVERY SINGLE option proposed is instantly elevated to a Constitutional crisis and an existential threat. The reasonable voices of the vast majority of gun owners gets drowned out in the screaming. Everyone is shouting but nobody's listening.

The thing is, there's much we can do. Things we already do. Things that really don't interfere too much with doing what we want yet provide some structure and a basic frame of reference and regulation. Is it foolproof? Nope...the kid that smashed my LTD proves it. But would I like to be on the road knowing that because we couldn't prevent ALL unlicensed driving, then nobody needs a license? Would you put your kids out there knowing that nobody was insured or even superficially trained? It's bad enough as it is.

Oh and that guy driving the gasoline truck? Somebody drove one once with a suspended license and we couldn't stop him so from now on, we'll just forgo the Hazmat endorsement and roll the dice. Bad people will always find a way anyhow so what's the point? See how that sounds?

The idea that we can't do anything because we can't do everything is ludicrous. It's lazy. It says we are helpless and should just accept the killing. It says that corporate profits and our personal desires outweigh everything. That having the right to own as many guns as possible is worth every one of the lives lost. 

I don't buy it. And neither do the kids in Florida. And neither should you.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Taking The Knee

The call has gone out from the highest office in the land for professional sports figures to be banned from playing because they, for reasons of their own conscience, choose to kneel instead of standing for the national anthem. This a foolish thing in a long string of very foolish things. 

The call is for spectators to leave the stands and boycott the team unless patriotism is enforced and displayed prominently regardless of individual belief. 

Does anyone realize that mandatory displays of anything are simply displays of nothing? Fear is very different from respect. Compulsory respect is not freedom. 

My idea of patriotism and liberty would be this; that every one of the tens of thousands of fans in every one of hundreds of stadiums, speedways and arenas...just one time...kneels with the players before the first note blows from the bugle. For just one single, silent, solitary moment. 

In defiance of tyranny. For the love of country. For the sake of all of us.

Just for one shining moment...

That would be the sound of freedom roaring.