Friday, November 17, 2017

Entry 401: The Franken Conundrum

Al Franken is probably my favorite officeholder of all time.  I love his politics; I love his humor; and I loved his public persona.  He seemed like a genuinely good dude.  Well, maybe not -- or at least maybe it's more complicated.  In light of the recent allegations that he groped and sexual harassed member of the military model Leeann Tweeden while they were both on the same USO Tour, I posted on Twitter and Facebook yesterday that I thought he should go.  Now, after reading scores of articles on the matter, including many written by thoughtful women, I'm not so sure.  I'm still leaning that way, but if he doesn't, I'm honestly not going to be that outraged.

Here's what I think...

The reason my initial response was for him to step down was twofold:

(1) Several of my female friends whose opinions I respect were saying he should step down.

(2) If you're going to call out sexual misconduct, you have to do it even against people you like.  That's what it means to be against something.  You have a woman, who seems credible, saying she was assaulted by Franken, and then you have a picture of him either groping her or pretending to grope her (it's tough to tell if he's actually touching her and she's wearing a big flak jacket) while she's sleeping.  Put those two things together, and he probably did something untoward.  Was it the worst thing in the world?  Of course not.  It's not even close to what Roy Moore (allegedly) did or what Donald Trump (allegedly) did.  But it seems perfectly reasonable to me to say -- if you physically violate a person in sexual manner, you shouldn't serve in public office, period.

But then again, there's this logic, which I find at least somewhat persuasive.  The idea, essentially, is that the vast majority of powerful men have done something as bad Franken in the past, on both sides of the political aisle.  But if Democrats are the only party who calls on members to resign over something this, which, given how the Alabama GOP and voters are treating Roy Moore, seems to be the case, then it can be weaponized by the alt-right.  Start exposing Dems in red states, and then when their party forces them to step down, as is new the moral protocol, replace them with a Republican.  This, ironically, would only further hurt the very people you intended to protect (victims of harassment and women in general) because it would give more power to the more ruthless party, and they would enact all sorts of terrible legislation.

I follow the logic, and admit that is a concerning possibility, but I don't totally buy it.  For one thing, it's true that most Republicans don't hold their own accountable when it comes to sexual assault -- Trump never would have won if they did.  But that's one of the main reasons why I'm not a Republican.  Not being in a party of hypocrites and shady old fucks who live an alternate reality is important to me.  For another thing, the fear laid out by the author requires a very specific set of circumstances -- blue congressman in a red state with thinly veiled skeletons in his closet.  I'm not sure how many people there are who actually tick that box.

Also, saying somebody needs to go doesn't necessarily imply they need to go immediately without any thought of the consequences.  Somebody can be removed in a way and on a time-frame that minimizes the damage his vacancy will have on his constituents.  In Franken's case, I don't think it's hypocritical or a great compromise of liberal principles to argue that he should step down but not until the governor (a Democrat) chooses a suitable replacement.  And if it was the case that the governor was a Republican, then you could give him the boot after he finished his term.  And actually, this is more or less what the author of the article advocates for in Franken's case (along with him doing penance, which I agree he should do), but she's insistent that he not resign, lest he become a precedent.  But the precedent that should be set, as I said alluded to above, is transgressors will be removed in a way and on a time-frame that minimizes the damage their vacancies will have on the causes they support.  And, by the way, this cuts both ways: If Republicans can get rid of Roy Moore, in a legal and ethical manner, and hold onto their seat (like, say, via a write-in candidate), then they should do that.

Anyway, anytime stories like this break.  I immediately think of my own past.  (I've weirdly fantasized, in elaborate detail, about what I would do if I was ever falsely accused of a sexual misdeed.)  As to Roy Moore's behavior, I can immediately dismiss the notion, because I've certainly never done anything as fucked up as he did.  As to Al Franken's behavior, it requires more thought.  I feel fairly confident I've never forcibly kissed somebody who didn't want to kiss me back -- even as part of a misunderstanding.  That's just never been my way.  Honestly, I can't even remember a time I went for a kiss and got denied.  I think a combination of good judgement and a damn-near paralyzing fear of rejection kept me out of trouble.

As for the picture -- for groping a woman without permission -- I can't think of a time I've done something like that either.  But I've definitely seen friends do it -- often in the guise of a joke (as was the case with Franken), but it wasn't always received that way.  I have a good friend from college, sweetest guy in the world, who used to declare himself a member of the DGP -- Dick Grabbing Posse -- and then he would walk around parties and randomly grab guys' dicks, just to be silly.  Most the time he was among friends, so nobody cared, there was an implied consent.  But I definitely remember once he did it to one of my friends, who wasn't really friends with him, and my friend was like, "What the fuck?  Why is that guy grabbing my dick?"  And my response at the time was "Don't worry about it, man.  Mellow out.  Don't be such a homophobe."  But he wasn't being homophobic, at all.  He just didn't want somebody else touching his junk, which, obviously, is a very reasonable request.  I was wrong.  My dick-grabbing friend was wrong.

This is just one example, one person, but if I rack my brain, I could probably come up with many, many more.  In fact, another one just popped into my head.  I went to a New Year's Eve party once, and afterward several of my female friends came up to me and told me that another one of my friends kept trying to grope them on the sly.  I just said he was good guy, but maybe he got a little handsy when he was drunk.  In retrospect, I wish I would have confronted my friend and told him not to behave that way and tried to get him to apologize, but I didn't.

The thing is, though, the vast majority of my examples would come from a time when everybody was really young.  The DGP died out by the time we could legally drink; the New Year's Eve party was over 15 years ago.  Kids do stupid shit like that.  I'm not saying "boys will be boys"; I'm saying people under the age of 25 don't really know how to treat their peers, in general.  They're harsh to each other and do stupid shit.  They make bad decisions.  They have little impulse control.  But with a little luck they survive and grow up and act how adults should act.

That's one of the things that bothers me about Franken's photo -- he's like a 50-year-old man then.  He's not some dumbass 19-year-old.  He should have known better.  This is also one of the reason's Trump's "locker room talk" excuse was so weak.  Sure, it was locker room talk -- if you're an insecure high school student.

Anyway... fun stuff!  I gotta go.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Entry 400: That's Right, 400

Wow, 400 entries.  I've been regularly posting to this blog for over seven years now.  If you do the math, I've averaged a post every 6.5 to 7.0 days.  It's a little under a week because, although now I regularly post once a week (with the occasional skipped week), when I first started it (pre-kids), I posted twice a week and so that's reflected in the average.

It's been a positive exercise overall.  Sometimes it's a drag to write something, or I don't have any ideas or time.  But for the most part it's very nice to create something that I can look back on and smile about.  It's fun to go back and read old entries sometimes.  I remember things from the past that would literally be forgotten forever if they weren't written down.  It does feel a strange at times -- inefficient -- to put so much effort into something that so few people actually consume, but that's how it goes.  Not everybody can be David Sedaris, and I bet even David Sedaris has written thousands of words nobody has ever read or heard.  In my own publishing experience -- crossword puzzles, academic papers, guest articles at "real" blogs -- the ratio of time I spend working on things that will never see the light of day to things that will is embarrassingly high.  Or at least it would be if I let myself be embarrassed by it.  But I don't because it's a way to spend my leisure time -- and it's just as good as any other way.  If you derive satisfaction from the process, then it's never a waste of time.

Anyway, more news about sexual assault this week.  That's... good?  I dunno.  Certainly it's not good that men are sexual assaulting women (and other men), but it is good that it's coming out and (mostly) being condemned.  It appears to be one of those cultural waves that seemingly hits the public all at once with a tremendous force -- like how almost overnight gay marriage went from being a taboo, even among mainstream liberals, to being so widely accepted that you will be criticized (rightfully) as being a bigot if you don't accept it.  The public rose up and said "there's nothing wrong with gay people getting married" and now we seem to be saying "it's not okay to treat women the way we've been treating them."

Not everybody is on-board, of course.  Republicans, as you might expect, are loath to embrace this anti-harassment movement.  Oh, they are fine with it when it's a "liberal" doing the transgressing, but not when it's when of their own.  There are a shockingly (but not that shockingly, if you've been paying attention) high number of GOP members earnestly positing that a child molester is more fit for public office than a Democrat.  Sexual predation against a minor is not a deal-breaker.  Indeed you have people who think a 30-year-old man forcing a 14-year-old to feel his erect dick is not all that bad.  It's sick -- but that's today's GOP.  They are a sick party.  That's the harsh, sad reality.

And they've always been resistant to social changes.  In fact, it's really why they exist.  At the top, you have super rich people who want tax cuts and ideologues who want to dismantle the welfare state, but the base -- Trump's people -- are held together almost completely by social and racial grievance.  They see the country changing -- becoming less white, becoming more LGBT-friendly, becoming more multicultural, more wary of "family values", less accepting of traditional gender roles -- and they don't like it.  They could give a shit about public policy and foreign affairs.  They just want somebody in office who hates the same things and the same people they hate.  They want somebody who is on their side, fighting the wave of progressivism they feel is overcoming the country.  (And they are not necessarily wrong about this wave coming.  Where they err, in my opinion, is in thinking these changes are necessarily going to make their lives tangibly worse.)

I thought this was a good article about Trump supporters.  This has been my take on Trumpism from the beginning.  It's not really a con, as many people like to say.  I think a lot of Trumpies know he's full of shit.  They know he's making promises he can't keep.  They just don't care -- they might even like his lies, knowing full well they are in fact lies, because he's lying on their behalf and telling them what they want to hear.  His lies are part of the deal.  The deal being -- you support me and put me into power, and I will stick up for you.  I will insult the people you want me to insult.  I will normalize your bigotry and make you feel good about your racism.  That's the quid pro quo.

Now, to be clear, getting back to the problem of sexual assault, this is most definitely not something on which any part of the political spectrum has a monopoly.  You find it on the left, the right, the up and the down, the in and the out, and other dimensions we haven't even discovered yet.  The difference is how do people respond when it is revealed.  And right now the left is better at disowning its sexual abusers (see: Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner).  Maybe if you go back to previous generations with Bill Clinton or the Kennedys, this wouldn't be the case, but we aren't in a previous generation at the moment.  Also, with respect to Clinton, other than the fact that he last ran for office before a decent chunk of the electorate was even born, he also was impeached and thoroughly investigated at the behest of his political enemies, and the worst that came out is that he lied about an infidelity with a consenting adult.  (With that said, I would have no problem with Democrats casting Slick Willy aside.)

Well, one thing that remains true after 400 entries: I always run out of time way before I think I will.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Entry 399: The True Meaning of Ague

1. A febrile condition in which there are alternating periods of chills, fever, and sweating. Used chiefly in reference to the fevers associated with malaria.
2. A chill or fit of shivering.

Ague is a word you know today if and only if you do crossword puzzles a lot.  But I got a taste of it firsthand earlier this week.  I came down with something awful Halloween night after taking the kids trick-or-treating.  I was so sick Wednesday I literally -- literally -- did not get out of bed all day but to use the bathroom a few times.  It was 6:00 pm before I even left my room to try to eat dinner at a table like a human being.  (I had some low-sodium, organic, fake-chicken noodle soup, which hit the spot perfectly because it was so bland.)  Thankfully S was around to help out and do double-duty with the kids, because I was in no condition to take care of them.  I don't know how single parents do it, or how I would have done it if S was away on one of her trips.  I guess you just suffer through it and do what you have to do, but it's hard to function with a fever of 103.

[This is one of the worst lyrical songs of all time.  "I'm hot blooded, check it and see, I got a fever of 103... I'm hot blooded... You don't have to read my mind, to know what I have in mind"  So, you're extremely ill, and that's supposed to be a turn on?]

That was the worst part -- the fever.  It was way up, and I struggled to bring it down.  I even thought about going to urgent care because I know it's really bad for your brain to be overheated for an extended period of time.  But I never got above 104 (peak was 102.7), which I read is the start of the "danger zone," and I was pretty sure it would break before too long.  It doesn't happen often, but I have been this sick before, and it follows the same pattern: I'm totally wiped out for one day, and then I'm "normal sick" for a few days, and then I'm more or less back to normal.  It seems as if the same thing is happening this time.  I'm currently in the normal sick stage -- I can get up and do things (like blog) but I'm definitely in no condition to, say, compete in a triple jump tournament.

[Kind of a weird event, don't you think?  Jumping is a very natural athletic competition, but why three in a row?]

Every time I get sick, I take for granted how good I have it when I just feel normal.  The saying "at least you have your health" is a cliché, but it's also true.  It's also nice to just zone out the world and not worry about anything but your own health for a day, even if it's because you are physically incapable of doing anything else.  And I missed quite a bit being out.  There was the attack in NYC, in which some deranged individual took out a bunch of people with his car, and more disturbing (to me, certainly not to most Americans) there was an incident in which somebody tried to do something similar in my neighborhood.  Around 3 am Halloween evening, some guy who lives down the street from me, apparently as part of a neighborly feud, tried to hit the woman who lives next to him with his career.  The details are fuzzy -- I'm getting all the information off our neighborhood Listserv -- but apparently she ended up being okay and the guy smashed into a bunch of parked cars.  (It also said there was a cyclist who was nearly hit, which seems very odd given the time of the incident.)

The guy got away, but the police know who he is and are looking for him, as I write this, so he will probably get caught soon.  Nonetheless, I wanted to find out exactly where this guy lives so that I could avoid his house in future, especially when I'm with my kids.  So, I walked down to the scene of the crime and there were two police officers hanging out there.  They asked me a few questions to see if I had any new information for them (I didn't).  Then they assured me they were going to get the guy.  It was nice to see a police presence still in the neighborhood, and according to the Listserv, they were there within minutes after being called, but the whole situation is still unnerving to say the least.

In other news...

The kids are doing pretty well.  Lil' S1 seems to be enjoying kindergarten at his new school, and Lil' S2 is starting to speak in (somewhat) coherent full sentences.  They do something different every day that makes me smile.  When we went out trick-or-treating, Lil' S2 was so adorable.  He would waddle up to the door in his little construction worker outfit and say his version of "trick of treat," which is more like "trit o' tree," but he said it so quietly nobody could actually hear him, and then he would just reach into the dish and grab a piece of candy.  If he grabbed more than one piece, he would put some of them back, without being told.  Somehow he knew he should only grab one.

As for Lil' S1, he did something that really made me proud.  It seems silly at first, but stay with me.  He watches this show Clifford's Puppy Days.  You know, the big red dog?  It's about him when he was small.  The theme song has a lyric, "I might be little, I might be stuck in the middle."  I was singing it because it was stuck in my head (of course), and Lil' S1 said, "it's not stuck in the middle, Daddy!"
"Yes, it is."
"No! It's not!  There's no middle to the whole world!"
"It's a saying."
"What's a saying?"
"It's just something people say.  It doesn't have to literally be something real."
"It's not stuck in the middle!"
"It is."
"No, it's not!"
At that point I let it go because as hard-headed as I am about acknowledging reality, I'm equally hard-headed about not causing a meltdown on the way to school.

I had forgotten about this when the next day, out of the blue, he comes up to me and says, "Daddy, I listened to the song, and you were right it is 'stuck in the middle.'  I'm sorry that I said it wasn't."  And that was my chest puffed!  He thought something was true that wasn't, sought out evidence to confirm it (he listened to the song more carefully), realized he was wrong, admitted it, revised his position, and apologized for it.  I've never been prouder.  Seriously.  If only our politicians had the integrity my five-year-old son.

Until next time...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Entry 398: Life Stuff

Lot's things going on here in the G & G household, none of them very exciting, which means they are perfect material for this blog.  We are getting a ton of work done on our house.  This is on the heels of getting a ton of work done to our yard this summer.  Some of it is just cosmetic stuff -- changing the blinds, touching up some bare paint, fixing a dent in the wall where Lil' S1 crashed a chair, and most importantly, getting rid of this damn dangling chandelier-like light fixture in our dining area that's good for nothing but whacking me in the head.  Some of it is important maintenance -- our furnace was leaking carbon monoxide (not enough to harm anybody, but enough to set off our detectors, and you don't mess around with CO), so we are getting it replaced (the workers are here as I write this, actually).  And that's our savings account drained down to nothing.  But I don't mind.  Improving where you live pretty much always seems like a good investment to me.  For one thing, you improve where you live.  For another thing, you can often get the money back (at least a decent portion of it), if/when you sell.

We are actually discussing doing some serious renovations -- like get-a-line-of-credit-for-a-couple-hundred-thousands-dollars renovations.  And by "discussing," I mean S is telling me she wants to do this, and I'm trying to find the best way to keep a happy marriage.  I don't really want to do renovations, to be honest.  It's too much money for too little payoff, and it doesn't seem to me as if we have the type of house for it structurally (although admittedly I know very little about architecture).  S wants three things: 1) a bigger kitchen, 2) a more open main area, 3) a room on the ground floor for her mom when she visits because she struggles going up and down stairs.  But it's like $300,000 to do 1 and 2 (3 might not be realistic), and I'm not convinced it would be that much better when it's done.  I mean, for that amount of money, we could buy a whole new house!

Except we couldn't.  Not anything decent; not anywhere near DC proper.  You have to go pretty far out in the suburbs, not even the suburbs, the suburbs of the suburbs to get a good house in a decent neighborhood for that price in this area.  We have been keeping a close eye on DC real estate (well, S has at least, and then she makes me look at it), but the market is just INSANE.  It's like $1 million for what we want, and you have to be ready to make an offer five minutes after you see it or somebody else is going to come in and snatch it.  And these places aren't even that great.  They are "yeah, okay, this could probably work" not "OMG!  This is my dream house!"  If we wanted to sell our house and move to a totally new place, now we would be a great time to do it.  But since we want to sell and buy in the same market, it doesn't really work to our advantage.

My feeling on the whole thing is that I'm open to moving, but I don't really want to do it (similar to renovations).  If a great deal presented itself, then I'd be all for it.  But we haven't seen anything close to a great deal yet.  So that being the case, I say we just stay here, don't pump a bunch of money into our place for a marginal upgrade, and live a happy life (or try to at least, it's hard to really be happy with Tangerine Idi Amin in the White House).

Unfortunately, the problem with having a family is that you have to consider what other people want as well.  And S doesn't like that plan, so we have to figure something out.  I think we might just end of moving next spring.  We will sell our house and then move into a rental for a while and then look for a new place.  I like that idea better than trying to do it simultaneously.  It's easier to work out the financing (you don't have to put a contingency on the sale, which many sellers around here won't agree to anyway, because somebody else will make an offer without one), and we won't feel rushed into buying a just okay house for an obscene amount of money.  Also, I ultimately would love to move somewhere else completely -- where?  I don't know.  But if we don't own a house, it's a lot easier to dream realistically about such scenarios.

But renovations are definitely still on the table.  We wouldn't have to buy a new house, and we would ultimately get to stay in the neighborhood, two big pluses for me (although we would still have to move out for a few months).  Renovations also have the upside that we have more control over what we want.  But they have the downside that we are limited to what the current structure of our house will allow and that there are somethings we still won't get even if we renovate -- like a parking space.

So some "fun" conversations are on the horizon for S and me.  Our marriage works because we, at a very macro level, agree on things -- we have similar values and we work really well as parental team.  We're happy as a family, which is probably the singularly most important thing.  But there are some big lifestyle issues on which we have never seen eye-to-eye.  We have different priorities and derive satisfaction from different things.  S always wants to be going, doing, moving someplace, something -- a new job, a better house, a better school so on and on -- onward and upward.  Whereas I just want to get to a place of adequate comfort and free time, so that I can do things that actually make life worthwhile -- you know, like crossword puzzles and blogging.

And, by the way, it should go without saying, but neither one of us is right or wrong.  We're just different.  That's something I think we could both stand to remember is moments of frustration.  S often chalks my attitude up to "not ever wanting to be bothered by anything" (as if moving to a new house is equivalent to running an errand), and I often dismiss S's opinions because I think she's just going to have new ones in a few weeks anyway.  I think she often wants to change things just for the sake change not because they get us closer to any sort of final goal.  But, even if this is the case (and it might not be) so what?  Why is that any less worthy a way to live life than any other way?


Well, my blogging period has elapsed.  Until next time...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Entry 397: Some Brief Thoughts On a Culture of Sexual Assault (I Should Have Done More)

Short entry this week.  We have a bunch of company this weekend, the in-laws and some family friends of the in-laws.  There are currently six adults and four kids staying in our house, so, as you can imagine, it's a bit hectic...

[Note: This entry ended up not being that short after all -- as usual.]

It has been interesting, to say the least, to watch this Harvey Weinstein story snowball into a much broader story about a culture of sexual harassment and sexual assault in general.  It seems as if this didn't really happen when the mainstream media started reporting on other predators, like, say, Bill Cosby.  I'm not sure why Weinstein seems to have resonated so much more with people.  Perhaps Weinstein's tactics were more in line with the type of unwanted sexual advances the typical woman receives on a regular basis.  Most women were never drugged and raped by "America's Grandpa," but many have been harassed in the workplace by men who had power over their careers.

As I mentioned previously, I was only vaguely aware of Weinstein before all this broke, and my opinion of him was already negative -- I thought he was the stereotypical asshole, bullying business executive (and he seems to have been that too).  I've been reading a lot of the stories about him, and I've been following the chorus of "me too"s on social media.  I've said almost nothing about it, and I haven't responded to any of my friends' posts.  It's way too easy to misunderstand somebody or be misunderstood when communicating in a series of texts and emojis, so I typically steer clear of serious issues on social media.  (On a related note, is this soon going to be a cop-out on my part?  Is discourse on social media going to take over to such an extent that saying "I don't want to talk about it on social media" is tantamount to saying "I don't want to talk about it all?"  A different topic, for a different time.)  Also, when you're not a member of the victimized group, when you are just an ally, you have to be careful not to "make it about you."  So, with that said, I know this subject is not about me.  But men do play a big part in it, and this blog is about me, and so I believe it's the appropriate place to give my thoughts on the subject.

My thoughts are very much in line with those of Quinten Tarantino.  I have read some criticism of Tarantino on this.  Many say it's too little, too late, which is one hundred percent fair, and it's basically what Tarantino himself says.  ("Anything I say now will sound like a crappy excuse.")  But his words really resonate with me, and I don't think I'm alone.  Only a very small percentage of the population is in a position to see firsthand somebody as rich and powerful as Weinstein in action, but I suspect the vast majority of men have known another man who very likely crossed a line with a woman in some way -- and we didn't do enough about it.

In my case, throughout my life I've had three woman tell me they've been raped, and each time my reaction was completely underwhelming.  I basically did nothing.

The first woman -- girl, actually -- was a high school friend.  She described the first time she had sex, with her boyfriend at the time, and it was not consensual.  I dismissed it at the time because she was still really close friends with the guy.  But, if what she told me was accurate (I think it was), and if my memory is correct (I think it is), then she was flat-out date raped.

The second woman was a college friend.  She openly said a different guy, who we all knew, raped her.  To my knowledge, nobody did anything about it.  (I don't even know if she did much about it.)  I did ask another friend about it once, and he said, "I don't think that's really what happened."  And so I just accepted that without further inquiry because it was easy -- that's probably not what happened.  I even saw the guy around a few times after that.  I always tried to avoid him, but even before this all went down, I thought he was a colossal asshole and tried to avoid him.

The third woman was a high school friend, who was visiting some other high school friends at my college, so we were all hanging out together.  We were playing the drinking game "I Never," where you say something you've never done and everybody who has done that has to drink (or something like that).  Because we were all young, drunk, and dumb somebody said "I've never been raped!" and my friend drank.  She didn't make an ostensibly big deal about it, but it was pretty clear she wanted people to notice.  I did, and I didn't do anything about it.

That's the point: I didn't anything about any of them.  Maybe it wasn't my place to do anything, but I could have asked -- could have, but didn't.  My attitude was somewhere between denial and "somebody else other than me should be handling this."  And that's not good enough.

One through line of all these incidents is that they happened when I was young.  I think I was only 21 or 22 when the last one occurred.  I didn't have the life experience to really know how to process something like this.  But like Quentin Tarantino, I knew enough to do more than I did.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Entry 396: The Rubik's Cube of Life

The in-laws are in town.  I mostly like it when they come.  They're good people, and S's mom really helps out with cooking and cleaning.  However, when you add two more grown people to a not-humongous house, things start to get a bit crowded no matter how much you like them.  Plus, Indian people typically don't put the same value on personal privacy as do people raised in the States -- it's a culture difference -- so they are more okay with staying right on top of one another.  I remember when S lived in a tiny condo by herself and her family came to visit and they had five adults and a toddler all staying in a 500-square-foot area.  S's family is not hard not up for money, so asked her why they just didn't get a hotel room for a few days, and she said it was not even a possibility -- culturally they just would never do that.  It's wasn't even in the question.  In a way, it's nice -- you're much less likely to get lonely (I heard a piece on a podcast about a predominantly Indian retirement community, and how the norm was that anybody could stop by anybody else's room at any moment and it wasn't considered rude); in another way, it's like, "Can I just have an hour alone, please?"

But I got some time to myself right now.  S and her parents took Lil' S1 with them on some errands, so it's just me, a napping Lil' S2, a cup of coffee, and my laptop.  Aaaaah... bliss.

I had a funny episode with S's dad, where he couldn't find the spare key we gave him when he first arrived.  The first thing I suggested is that he check the pockets of all the shirts he had worn recently (I frequently see him put the key there when he takes his daily constitutional).  But he insisted that he put it in this little box on our mantle like he always does.  He thought the kids got into it, which is a perfectly reasonable theory, except everything else in the box was in order.  When the kids get into something, it looks like a twister came through.  So he starts looking all over the mantle and on the floor near the mantle, and again I'm like, "check your pockets," but he doesn't, so it's just lost for the day, and they don't have a key.  (I don't let on how much it bothers me not knowing where this key is.)  So then today, I ask if he found it yet, and he said he hadn't and starts looking for it again.  Twenty minutes later he says, "Found it!  It was in one my shirt pockets."  Of course.  The funny part is that there is no recognition, no "Hey, you were right along.  Should have just looked there first," it's just "found it," moving on.  I think he just legit didn't hear me when I was telling him to look in his pockets, or he heard me but it didn't register.  I think that's pretty typical human behavior actually -- we get tunnel vision and just can't see anything outside of a narrow scope.  My father-in-law was convinced he put the key in the box, and so any initial rejection of that premise just didn't compute.


I've taken up a new mini hobby: Rubik's Cube solving.  At first, I was going to figure it out all by myself, from scratch (apparently if you are good with permutations in abstract algebra, which at one point I was, you can figure it out), but this lasted about ten minutes, before it was

So I went online and got the instructions.  Once you have the instructions, it's mostly straightforward, but you still have to figure some things out on your own.  It's a nice little project.  I'm going to get to the point where I can solve it in a few minutes from memory -- that's the only way you can impress people -- nobody thinks it's cool if you're like, "Check this out!  If you give me 45 minutes and let me reference the directions on the Internet I'll can solve this puzzle!" -- but it's not easy, because there are a lot of moves to remember, and there's not just one path to take every time.  You have to learn all the different scenarios.  It takes a lot of practice.

S doesn't really like this new hobby of mine because she says I just zone out and don't pay attention to anybody while I'm doing it, which there is probably some truth to.  But the thing is, S doesn't like anything I do.  I swear, she just wants me to sit there and stare into space, doing nothing, so that I don't seem distracted when she makes an offhand comment to me every five minutes.

As you can probably tell, this is one of our ongoing "discussions," -- the zoning-out discussion.  My general defense is, "Aren't you glad you have a husband who has hobbies he's interested in?  Isn't that better than some passionless dolt?"  I'm not sure if she totally buys it or not.

[Rubik's Cube inventor and crossword puzzle favorite ERNO Rubik]

In other news, Lil' S2 is really starting to grow up fast.  He can talk now, which is fun and cute.  He's even learned how to tattle on his brother,"To-to," as he calls him.  ("To-to do that!  To-to do that!")  I think he's still a bit behind verbally, but he's catching up quickly.  He's definitely behind where Lil' S1 was at his age.  We have video of Lil' S1 counting to ten by myself when he was a few months younger than Lil' S2 is now, and Lil' S2 can't really count at all yet.  He can maybe get to three, before he just starts saying the first parts of random numbers ("Waah, do, tree, nigh, si, te!").  But I'm still not worried because Lil' S2 seems to be pretty advanced analytically.  From a very early age, he understood most of what we told him, and he's really good with puzzles.  He does this US states puzzle by himself without any help.  It's pretty impressive.  Also, he's already telling us when he has to go poop sometimes ("Poop-butt! Poop-butt!"), which is great.  I cannot wait to ditch the diapers.  Tossing our stink-ass Diaper Genie will be a major milestone in my parenting career.

Alright, speaking of Lil' S2, I hear him waking up now.  Better go.  Until next time...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Entry 395: Bad Weekend for Humans

Last weekend was a bad one for humans.  The disaster in Puerto Rico was awful enough without the fucking moron (TM: Rex Tillerson) "running" our country deciding an island full of beleaguered, desperate brown Americans would be the next foil in his ongoing culture wars.  He's a disgrace.  He's been a disgrace since day one, but that doesn't make it any less true now.

Then to pile catastrophe on top of catastrophe, a deranged man killed 50 people (and injured scores more) with an assault rifle in Las Vegas.  This, naturally, opened up the floodgates for the spate of "thoughts and prayers" from (mostly Republican) politicians who then will do absolutely nothing about it.  I just don't get this.  I just don't get gun culture.  I understand having a gun if you want to hunt or shoot skeet or if you legitimately want to protect yourself (although I think it's drastically overstated how effective they are for self-defense).  But this notion of equating a war-ready arsenal of assault rifles with "freedom" is beyond me -- as is the idea that pretty much anybody should be able to buy pretty much any gun and pretty much any ammo with pretty much no safety training or experience.

A lot of Americans see eye-to-eye with me, which is good, but a lot of Americans don't, which is the problem.  Proponents of gun control love to blame the NRA for gun violence -- which is fine by me, I loathe the NRA -- but the truth of the matter, as I see it, is that's it's not really the NRA itself, it's the millions of people who love guns.  They make the NRA, not vice-versa.  I've seen a lot of tweets going around by liberals claiming congress is "owned" by the NRA, but actually they give only nominal amounts of money to candidates.  They don't have to spend a lot.  In fact, I would say your typical Republican candidate needs the NRA more than the NRA needs the typical Republican candidate.  It's the people, the voters, my fellow Americans.  They love guns, and there is seemingly no amount of death that can ever convince that guns are possibly, maybe part of the problem with gun violence.

I don't like what Bill O'Reilly said about mass shootings being the "price of freedom."  But I think it's something with which a lot of people agree.  In fact, I think that if God came down from heaven and offered hardcore gun lovers a deal -- all gun violence would somehow be ended instantly, but in return they would have to relinquish all their guns -- I don't they take it.  They would rather have guns than peace.  They might not ever admit it, even to themselves, which is why they make a lot of terrible rationalizations about owning guns that involve hammers and cars and Chicago and Switzerland and force monopolies.  I don't think we're going to be able to change the laws until we change the culture; although, circularly, I think changing the laws would go a long way toward changing the culture.

The good news is that now that outed serial sexual harasser Harvey Weinstein has pledged to take on the NRA, everything should be all good in, what, a few months?  Jeez, what an awful story and an awful man.  The only thing I really knew about him came from Adam Carolla, who basically called him a crook, saying he would cook the books on movies he produced to avoid paying the movie makers their just royalties (I think he produced Carolla's movie The Hammer), so I had a negative image of him already.  I had no idea he was so involved in Democratic politics (although it sounds as if the actual amount he donated has been exaggerated), and I couldn't care less.  Listen, if you didn't know before this there is sexism/misogyny on the left, you are the world's biggest naif.  It's much more about power than politics.  Many powerful dudes abuse their power and treat people, particularly women, even more particularly young, vulnerable women, like shit.  They get away with it for so long because speaking out against it, even if you are totally in the right, sucks.  It's often easier to just move along, especially if you get a settlement offer.

Weinstein has tried to pull the "it was a different time" garbage to explain away his actions.  (As somebody on Twitter wrote: "You have to understand, it was a different time.  The science on whether women were people was still up in the air.")  This is clearly a very weak attempt at rationalization -- he is much better off with the mea culpa, "I have a problem and am working hard to fix it," route -- but he probably isn't wrong when he says that this is part of the culture.  This is actually a big reason why I've been very reluctant, despite some very good opportunities, to give it a go in Silicon Valley.  The bro-y lifestyle just doesn't sound appealing, and the sexism I've heard so much about is a part of this.  It's not the entire thing -- it might not even the biggest thing (the hours, the instability, the expenses of raising a family in the Bay Area, etc. also come into play) -- but it is a thing I take into consideration.

Alright, I think I've said enough for now.  Until next time...