Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Entry 350: Guest Post

Something a little different today.  For the first time in six years, I'm posting something not written by me.  It's a funny anecdote by my sister.  I'm quite excited about it, so without further ado, let me introduce you to the one and only My Sister!  Take it away, K...


Thank you to Crocodile DG for allowing me this platform to vent my frustrations anonymously because none of my friends are aware this blog exists, although I often think the whole world should be reading it on a regular basis. Admittedly I might be biased because my brother and I, for all our differences of opinion, and there are quite a few (for example I do not think he’d win a fight with a wolverine) do see eye-to-eye on some issues one of which is my topic: Dumb-Ass Parents With No Common Sense.

My oldest son started middle school this fall. Before that he and my youngest child were both attending a primary school close enough to our house that we are not eligible for bus service. For the past 5 years, or approximately 900 drop-off/pick-ups, it’s been smooth sailing which I now realize is thanks to Mr. W. Until I began dropping my oldest off at the middle school a month ago I had no idea the enormity of the service Mr. W provides at the primary school. Every morning and every afternoon, rain or shine, he is out in front of the building wearing his cargo shorts and fluorescent vest and directing parents in his booming New Zealand accent. I marvel at how he summons the energy, day after day, to repeatedly urge parents to “pull forward, pull forward, keep going. Stop here, please stay in the car, Mom, that’s it. Ok, now move along, move along. Next car please, pull forward, pull forward, keep going. Stop here, stay in the car, Dad, that’s it…” I’ve even wondered if this direction is necessary since we parents are grown ups with (presumably) valid driver’s licenses. Surely we can handle this on our own. But I now understand Mr. W is out there every day because he knows he is the only thing standing between us and chaos. You see, the middle school doesn’t have a Mr. W. There is in fact no one directing drop-off/pick-up and at the middle school; mayhem reigns supreme.

Let me explain the logistics… the front of the middle school is parallel to a busy street. The parking lot runs the length of the school and there is only one entrance/exit. When you enter the lot you stay straight and follow along the curb. The first two-thirds of the curb is red, and “No Stopping” is painted on the pavement every 10 feet. The last third of the curb is yellow and opens up to a wider area directly in front of the main doors that is clearly a loading zone. It is long enough for 5 vehicles to pull into at a time. Seems self-explanatory, right? Pull into the lot, drive along until you get to the designated zone, stop the car, tell your kid to get out, maybe tell him you love him depending on how the morning went, and then pull away from the curb to continue circling through the parking lot until you get back to the entrance/exit. If the loading zone is full you politely wait a moment until someone leaves and then you pull forward as far as possible allowing room for others behind you. I’ve provided a diagram you will want to refer to for this next part:

So on the first day of drop-off I was unsure how it all worked, although I’d been to the school previously for orientation and had an idea of how it should flow. Well, apparently I was one of only a few parents who had this idea because most were utterly lost. Many parents were stopping in the “no stopping” red zone or pulling into the loading zone, but stopping with room for two or more cars in front of them. Because of this the parents stuck behind them were abruptly and with no signaling swerving around the stopped vehicles (the place is swarming with kids, remember) and some were even pulling into parking spots and kicking their precious children out of their cars leaving them to navigate the craziness like pixelated frogs. I managed to drop my kid off in the loading zone and barely escaped with my life. I was shaken, but optimistic it would get better as the days went on and people figured it out. And it has gotten better, sort of. Most parents have figured out how to keep the flow going. But others… well that brings me to this morning.

I turn into the school lot with 3 cars ahead of me, pleased to see there is no one in the loading zone and anticipating a quick in and out. Next thing I know I’m slamming on my brakes possibly giving my child whiplash because the first car in the line (A on the diagram), the car with NO ONE IN FRONT OF HER, has parked. In the red zone. In front of where it says “No Stopping.” Then she GETS OUT OF HER CAR. She opens the back door for her daughter and helps her UNLOAD HER CELLO oblivious to the cars now backing up into the street and blocking traffic. She kisses her daughter good-bye and WATCHES HER CHILD WALK TOWARDS THE BUILDING. She then unhurriedly climbs back into her car and SITS THERE. Since this transaction takes a couple of minutes the car behind Dumb-ass decides to unload her kids and so, of course, the car directly in front of me does the same thing because, why not? So there I am watching kids being unloaded 50 feet away from the EMPTY drop-off zone. I so badly want to fling my door open, march up to Dumb-ass, and shout, “what the FUCK??” that I almost pass out. But I restrain myself and hear a soft honk behind me. I look in the mirror to see a dear friend directly behind me in her SUV smiling and waving. I half-heartedly wave back and then gesture to Dumb-ass with a “get a load of this dumb-ass” look on my face. My friend, of course, gets it because she’s my friend and I feel a little better that we have both witnessed this act of incredible stupidity and can bitch about it later. By now Dumb-ass and her followers have moved so I pull ALL THE WAY forward into the designated drop-off zone (B), tell my kid to get out and I love him (we had a good morning) and prepare to drive away. But first I look into my mirror so I can wave goodbye to my friend and see her … unloading her kid 7 car lengths behind me (C). In the red zone.  On top of  where it says “No Stopping.” Backing up traffic. Like a dumb-ass.

At least she didn’t get out of her car. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Entry 349: ... and Major

After two recent police shootings, there is much civil unrest in Charlotte right now, but ironically (for lack of a better word) that shooting probably was justified (update: or not, see below), while the one in Tulsa almost certainly was not.  But this probably has more to do with the demographics in those respective cities than it does with the merits of the cases.  (The percentage of African Americans in Charlotte is over twice that in Tulsa.)  Also, the officer in Tulsa has been charged with felony manslaughter, while in Charlotte a lot of the protest is about the police department releasing the videos they have of the shooting.  I find this obstinacy by Charlotte P.D. troubling and strange.  It completely flies in the face of the police transparency movement that is supposed to help build trust between law enforcement and residents.  (Although, North Carolina recently passed a bill that will go into effect in a week that makes it illegal to release police footage without a court order.  So North Carolina seems to not really be down with this police "glasnost" concept at all.)  The police chief in Charlotte claims that he’s not releasing the videos, because there is no compelling reason to do so, and that it might further inflame things.  But my thought is – Isn’t thousands of people protesting in the street a compelling reason?  And aren’t things already quite inflamed?

With that said, looking at the evidence dispassionately, I do think the man who was killed in Charlotte, Keith Scott, was in fact holding a gun and refused to let it go when he was shot.  Reading the transcript of the video released by his wife who was recording the incident on her cell phone (I can’t bring myself to actually watch these videos) the police officer -- who it is worth noting is African American -- says the following: “Gun. Gun. Drop the gun. Drop the fucking gun.”  Then later he says several times more to “drop the gun.”  So either (a) Scott actually had a gun; (b) the police office straight-up fabricated it on the spot; (c) the officer confused something else for a gun and the department is now covering it up (they said they recovered the gun on the scene).  In order of likelihood, these go (a), (c), (b) for me.  Although I certainly don’t begrudge people – especially black people – for thinking (c) deserves more weight than I’m giving it.  As we have learned from other tragic incidents, such as the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago, the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina, and the Samuel DuBose shooting in Cincinnati, police officers will lie to cover their asses -- or at least they will "massage" the facts, consciously or subconsciously, to produce a version of events very favorable to themselves and very divergent from reality.
Update: Apparently since I started working on this post, they have released the dashcam footage.  Here is what a friend of mine on Facebook said about it.  I'm going to quote him verbatim and leave it at that since I agree with him.  
(1) No police officer is going to get charged if Mr. Scott had a loaded gun in his hand at the time he was shot by the police--regardless of whether it was pointed at the officers or not. (2) There was no reason for police to engage with Mr. Scott, who was sitting in his car minding his business (and maybe rolling a joint) in the first place--especially after the wife told them he had a TBI. Why would they order him out of the car and force a deadly confrontation? Why not secure a perimeter, take safe cover, and wait it out? Nobody had to get shot or die that day...
I mean, just look at the Tulsa case.  If the video on that didn’t definitively show that the victim, Terence Crutcher, was not a threat when he was shoot, I guarantee the officer would not have been charged.  She could have told her side of the story about being scared and thinking he was going for a weapon – and who would have refuted her?  The other cops on the scene?  (As we've also learned, first and foremost cops protect one other.)  It’s not that she would have been lying necessarily; it’s that her perception of the events would have been a wild distortion of what actually happened, and nobody would have been able to really challenge her on it.  That’s one of the truly insidious things about disputed killings.  Often the only person who can credibly contradict the killer’s narrative is dead.

I read a lot of articles on stuff like this, and then, on occasion, I do something that I know I shouldn’t do, but I do it anyway: I read the comments section.  It's an awful habit of self-flagellation.  If you are ever feeling too optimistic about the current state race relations in our country, read the comments of an article about the shooting of a black man by police.  You are guaranteed to cringe at least twenty times by the third comment.

Once you get past those cringes, though, you do notice the same recurring arguments for justifying the actions of the police officers, no matter what (even in the cases where the officers actually get charged with a crime).  I thought I would list out the most prevalent of these arguments and debunk them in turn.

The victim wasn’t following the officer’s orders.  Had he complied he wouldn’t have been shot.
There are many problems with this argument.  One that I rarely hear mentioned, but is true to my own experience, is that it isn't always easy to follow police instructions.  Once I disobeyed a "no turn on red" sign that I didn't notice, and I got pulled over by two police cars.  The officers had me get out of my car and do a sobriety test.  (I think it was a quasi-drunk driving sting, as it was near the main bar district in a college town at around midnight.)  Although I was sober, I completely failed their field test, because I was having a lot of difficulty following their instructions.  My adrenaline was pumping like crazy, so I was struggling to retain the things they were saying, and then I couldn't tell who was talking exactly because they were shining their lights in my face, and they weren't exactly epitomes of clear communication.  So the whole thing was a mess.  They were about to arrest me, but, of course, they gave me a Breathalyzer, and I only blew a  0.03 (the legal limit is 0.08).  "You are the winner tonight, my friend," said one of the officers before they let me go and drove off.  Yes, I didn't go to jail for a crime I didn't commit -- winning!

It's completely understandable that in an incredibly stressful situation, somebody wouldn't be able to fully process the commands a police officer is shouting at them.  And even if they can, non-compliance is not a capital offense!  In America, we have a process in which people are tried before a jury of their peers for crimes -- even truly heinous crimes.  They aren't executed on the spot.  That's for fascist dictatorships.  (So it's completely unsurprising that most of the "comply or die" crowd support Donald Trump, whose role models of strong leadership are fascist dictators.)

Parents need to teach their kids to respect police!  Yes, sir, no, sir!  Do as they say!  Then this type of thing wouldn't happen.  I know this will never happen to my kids because I taught them how to behave around police officers!  
This is just a different way of phrasing the same argument as above.  And I would be willing to bet that the person who wrote this is white.  Well, I know he is white, because I wrote it.  But I see comments like this all the time, and I bet those commenters are white.  Because from what I've heard from black parents, they do talk to their kids about how to behave around police, and they are still scared to death of them getting shot because they flinch and an officer has an itchy trigger finger.

Also, white parents, I bet your kids aren't as well behaved around police as you think.  I know this because I went to college with a whole lot of white kids, and I'd go to parties where there was pretty much only white people, and the police would show up to break it up, and it was not "yes, sir, no, sir," I assure you.  Kids would run away; kids would talk back; kids would lie; kids would mockingly hug officers; and kids would occasionally challenge officers to mano-y-mano fistfights (this actually happened, more than once).  And what happened?  Well, these kids would sometimes get citations for disorderly conduct or minor in possession or something of the like.  But you know what never happened?  Nobody ever got shot!  I never even saw an officer so much as motion toward his or her weapon.  For some reason, the police officers, despite the obstinacy never viewed us as threats.  Now why would that be?  If we were a bunch of young black kids, doing the exact same thing, it would have been totally the same -- right?

Yeah, but black people commit a far higher percentage of violent crimes than any other race.  So police should profile them.  It's not racism; it's just facts.
Okay, but it's also a fact that a very small percentage of people of any race are going to commit a violent crime at all -- particularly killing a police officer.  So shouldn't the risk assessment be "How much of threat is person going to be to me?" not "How much of threat is this person going to be to me relative to somebody of another race?"  If it's the former, which it should be, then the answer is that a person is almost never going to be a mortal threat to you, because most people, even those who get stopped by police officers aren't killers.

And why are we so quick to lump together "black people" when it comes to crime, anyway?  We don't do this for white people -- or for men.  I mean, men commit a far higher percentage of violent crime than any race does.  But can you imagine if police treated all men the way they treat black men, and women defended it by saying "hey, men are more violent than women!"?  How would that go over?  

The real problem is black on black violence.
No! That's not the real problem because there is no single real problem.  Police brutality toward people of color is a problem; gang violence (which is what I think most people mean when they use the awful term "black of black violence") is a separate problem.  Why are you bringing up the latter when we are discussing the former?  Imagine if we used this logic in other areas:

"We need to stop foreign terrorists from getting into our country!"
"Actually, more Americans kill Americans than foreigners kill Americans.  So that's the real problem!"

"We need to find a cure for cancer!"
"Actually, more people die of heart disease.  So that's the real problem!"

It's nonsensical.

All these people are criticizing the police, but if somebody broke into their house, who would they call?!
I would call the police.  It's their job to protect people.  I would also like it to be part of their job that they not kill so many unarmed black people.  Is that too high a standard for you?

That's all I got.

Until next time...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Entry 348: Some stuff, Both Minor...

I’m not feeling great at the moment.  I was a little sick last week, but nothing too bad, and then Wednesday evening something hit me like a sledge hammer.  I was in that awful state of somehow being too hot and too cold simultaneously.  I’d bundle up in a hoodie only to remove it sweat-soaked ten minutes later.  My fever peaked at 103, which is pretty damn hot.  To make matters worse, something was wrong with my urinary tract.  It constantly felt like I had to pee, but nothing would come out, and then my urethra would burn like hell when it finally did.  (Ten years ago, I might have been worried about an STD; today I can pretty much dismiss that possibility altogether.)  It was quite unpleasant.  To make matters even worse, I had to take care of Lil’ S2.  This was doubly bad in that I felt like shit, and there was little I could do to limit his exposure to my germs.  I'm the only one here to take care of him right now.

But, it’s quite possible that he gave me what he has, so I don’t have worry about getting him resick.  I don’t know.  Both of us seem to be feeling better today (Friday), so that’s good.  I usually go into the office on Thursday, but since I was feeling ill I decided to work from home, so that I wouldn’t infect all my coworkers and so that I could take a nap if need be.  At around 10:30 a.m. I decided to do just that – take a nap – so I laid my head down to doze off for a few minutes and woke up… four hours later!  Apparently I needed more than just a nap.  At that point I figured it best to call it a day and take sick leave.

Lack of sleep is almost certainly a big reason for my ailment.  I just don’t sleep enough.  It’s not something I can easily fix either, because I’m not tired during the times I can sleep – or to put it more accurately, I am tired, but I don't feeling like sleeping.  If I go to bed at 10:30 p.m., I’ll just lie in bed awake.  1:00 a.m. is pretty much the earliest I can go to sleep on a regular basis, and if the kids are waking me up at 5:45 a.m. – well, I’m not Nikola Tesla.  I do my best sleeping between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.  That’s just always the way I’ve been.  Even when I had a job that required me to be at work super early (one summer in college, I stocked shoes at a sporting goods store before it opened), I still wouldn’t go to sleep early.  I’d only sleep a few hours at night, and then I would occasionally take a quick nap after work.  (Incidentally, during these naps I would sometimes experience sleep paralysis.  It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever done so – thankfully, as sleep paralysis is absolutely terrifying.)  Then on the weekends I’d sleep in until noon.  That’s a huge problem now: I can’t “catch up” on sleep on the weekend with these damn kids around.  If only I was a deadbeat dad… *sigh*.

Anyway, enough about the woes of being an “owl.”  There are more important things to discuss, like black people getting shot by the police (again and again).  However, I decided to move that to a different post, which will be up very soon (with S and Lil' S1 out of town I have a lot more free time to blog).  I wanted to devote a post specifically to these shootings, and also I wanted to up my entry count.  Once I sell this blog for big money, I'm going to charge by the entry.

Until then...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Entry 347: Cough Syrup is Bullshit, Right?

Lil' S2 came down with something nasty last week.  He's still getting over it.  Actually, I might have been the one to give it to him, as I came down with something about a week ago.  He seems to have gotten it much worse than me, though.  Maybe that's because he's only one -- you know, developing immune system and whatnot.  We took him to the doctor on Thursday -- mainly because Lil' S1 happened to have an appointment anyway, so we made it a two-fer -- and the doc prescribed him some cough medicine.  We've been giving it to him twice daily, as per the instructions, and... he's still coughing.  Is it less than he would be otherwise?  I don't know.  How can you tell?

I think cough syrup probably doesn't work -- at least not in any real way.  However, I'm basing this entirely off my personal, anecdotal experiences -- I have very vivid memories of being a kid hacking all night, taking disgusting cough syrup, and then hacking some more -- so I could be wrong.  I suppose I could research it, but reliable medical information is notoriously difficult to find online.  I need somebody else to research it and report to me their findings.  I listen to this podcast called The Gist, and they have a segment featuring a science-minded journalist named Maria Konnikova called "Is that bullshit?" and I would love to hear an episode on cough syrup.  Maybe I will suggest that to the show via the appropriate social media platform.

Anyway, Lil' S2 is still sick, and it's just he and I for a while.  S took Lil' S1 to Abuja, Nigeria for two weeks.  I'm not making that up.  S's idea of a good time is taking a four year-old to Africa.  She's weird that way.  I was quite nervous about it.  But she insisted that she could handle it and that it was no less safe than going to a big city in the States, so, okay, I trust her.  Plus, she has to go for work no matter what and having him here with us right now would be brutal.  A sick one-year-old and a hyperactive four-year-old, by myself for a fortnight?  No thank you.  I'm feeling pretty good about things now anyway.  Like many people, I get anxious about big events before they happen, but then once they start I calm down immediately.

[According to the Internet, this is Abuja]

It also helps that I went online and got a virtual tour of the daycare facility where Lil' S1 will be staying.  It's really nice, and it came recommended by S's colleague who lives in Abuja and sends his kids there.  So between that and the nice hotel where they are staying, I think they will be fine.  I mean, I don't like that you hear so much about warlords enslaving children and forcing them to become soldiers in Africa, but Africa is a pretty big continent.  If somebody wanted to come visit Washington, D.C., I probably wouldn't stop them under the logic that there are violent drug lords in North America.

In other news...

To follow up on my Colin Kaepernick discussion from last week, you should check out this short video by George Carlin Jesse Ventura.  I completely agree with it -- or at least I agree with 80% of it.  I'm not sure why he had to bring 1930s Germany into the discussion (Godwin's law?).  Putting social pressure on people to stand for the national anthem or mandating kids say the Pledge of Allegiance isn't good, but neither of those things exactly puts us on a road to Nazism.  But that's where I always am with Jesse Ventura -- right at 80%.  I'm totally with him and then he veers off into conspiracy theory land and loses me completely.  Yes!  Exactly!  Right on!  Preach!  Wait... why does this mean 9-11 was an inside job?

Alright that's all I got.  Short entry, but it's a work night.

Until next time...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Entry 346: On Colin Kaepernick and Our Nation Anthem

My opinion about Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest have change significantly over the past week and a half.  At first my feelings on it were neither here nor there – perhaps I tepidly supported it.  I agreed with his general position on the over-policing of black and brown people (I still do), but I didn’t understand where he was going with his protest, and I was put-off by comments he made about Hillary Clinton essentially being a criminal.  Also, I had a somewhat negative view of Colin Kaepernick as a person due to this story (perhaps unfairly, since, like Hillary Clinton, he was never charged with anything).  And of course, being a Seahawks fan, I have been conditioned to always root against Kaepernick.  Now, this doesn’t really matter.  I don’t base my opinions about people off-the-field based on whom they play for or how good they are (e.g., Steve Largent the football player = my boyhood hero; Steve Largent the politician = awful anti-gay bigot).  But if I’m conflicted on somebody, I might use it as a tie-breaker.  I’m only human, after all.

However, as this story grew, and I learned more about it, and I watched it reach beyond just Kaepernick, I’ve come around to a position of full-fledged support.  Not only does it bring attention to legitimate social issues, but it also sheds some light on the annoying sanctimony of the ritual that is the playing of our national anthem before sporting events.

Let me start with the latter.  I very much dislike the Star Spangled Banner ceremony before games that we’re all pressured into joining.  This does not mean that I dislike what our flag stands for, or that I don’t love my country, or that I don’t support the military.  Because I do on all accounts.  I have a very deep and personal love of my country, despite its imperfections.  I’m a proud American through and through, and it’s important to me that my children are proud Americans as well (which, on a side note, is a big reason why, despite my wife’s penchant for new experiences abroad, I don’t ever want to settle permanently outside of the U.S.).  I just don’t understand why I should feel compelled to participate in a ritual I never signed up for and doesn't really seem to accomplish anything tangible.

To be clear, I do stand for our anthem when I’m at a sporting event.  But I mainly do it so that I won’t get hassled.  (You have to pick your battles, and it’s simply not worth it to me to have the self-appointed "anthem officers" present in every crowd haranguing me while I’m trying to enjoy a leisure activity.)  This particular ritual doesn’t mean anything to me.  I understand that it does for a lot of people – particularly people in the military – and I completely respect that, but why does this respect mean that I have to participate?  Why is it so important to honor the military in this particular -- and to me, contrived -- way?  I don’t get it.  You give people far too much power if they are able to offend you by literally doing nothing.

And it shows how out of whack our priorities are.  Today I drove by two different people on different street corners holding "homeless veteran" signs, begging for money.  We can't even get people to pay a little more in taxes to take care of the kids we send off to fight when they return home all messed up (because fighting wars has a tendency to mess you up).  It's disgraceful -- and yet people are up in arms because somebody knelt during a song.  We have a presidential candidate who insults war heroes and denigrates our military on a regular basis (I heard him call it "a mess" today on the radio), and yet I suspect he's getting the lion's share of the vote among the people who most staunchly object to Kaepnick's protests.  Does this make sense to any rational person?

The main problem I have with the ceremony of our nation anthem is that it makes people feel like they are doing something, when in fact they are not doing anything, and it gives people a reason to feel (falsely) superior toward other people, and to get indignant toward anybody who doesn’t behave exactly like them.  You’re doing patriotism wrong!  But of course, as many others have pointed out, the very essence of being American -- the very thing our flag stands for -- is the freedom to live how you want to live and be how you want to be.  Viewed through this lens, kneeling for the national anthem to try to affect change, to make your country better is, in fact, a profoundly patriotic act.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that the national anthem was originally played before baseball games as a marketing gimmick, so it hardly has noble patriotic roots.  And the NFL – Colin Kaepernick’s employer – has very little room to talk about respecting the military.  (To be fair, the NFL has not, to my knowledge, issued any statement against Kaepernick.)  Again it illustrates a major distortion of our priorities.  Kap’s perceived disrespect for the military is a huge story, while the “pay for patriotism” scandal mostly flew under the radar undetected.  To me a multibillion dollar corporation taking payments from our military and presenting it to the public as a partnership is much, much worse than a second-string quarterback not standing during the Star Spangled Banner.  The former actually costs the military money – a tangible resource that could be used to help soldiers.  The latter… doesn't.

As for Colin Kaepernick, specifically, I’ve really learned a lot recently, and it has changed my opinion of him.  I heard Shaun King speak about him on a podcast called Politically Reactive (highly recommended, by the way -- both the episode and the show in general), and it made me come around on him.  For one thing, I think Kap deeply cares about the issues like police brutality about which he speaks.  It’s not a publicity stunt; it’s not an irrational, half-cocked gesture.  He put in the time and research to truly learn what is going on, and how he could use his celebrity status to make a positive difference – or at least keep this issue in the forefront of everybody’s mind.  He’s also consulted respected people who are knowledge in this area like former green beret and NFL training camp invitee Nate Boyer, and former NBA superstar and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  It’s very admirable, in my opinion – even more so considering his football career is on much thinner ice than it was a few seasons ago.  He doesn’t have the job security that somebody like Russell Wilson has (not that Wilson would ever do anything this controversial, and not that’s not a bad thing – let Russ be Russ and Kap be Kap).  Also, he’s getting other athletes to follow his lead.  He’s legitimately starting a movement.  It's cool.

And now for my final point on this topic: race.  It can’t be ignored.  A substantial part of the backlash against Kaepernick, I believe, is because he’s a black man speaking up on mostly black issues.  It's completely fine to disrespect our country and our military, as long as you are a white person inveighing against the black man in charge.  There is the aforementioned Republican presidential candidate, of course, but as another example, I give you this.  Remember this?  About a year and a half ago the Texas governor ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor U.S. military training exercises in Texas.  He did this because... the U.S. was going to invade and take over Texas, a state that is already part of the union?  What is more disrespectful to our military than posturing to actively take up arms against it?  Yet, this story was merely a blip on the radar, but Colin Kaepernick has taken over social media for the past month.

Okay, okay, this probably has more to do with the power of celebrity than anything else.  If the Texas State Guard story involved a well-known athlete (instead of just an old, nutty actor) it probably would have gained legs as well.  But my larger point stands: For a lot of people, it’s perfectly acceptable to denigrate our country for bullshit, predominantly white reasons – illegal immigrants are stealing all our jobs (they’re not); our once safe neighborhoods are now besieged by “thugs” and gangsters (they’re not); we’re losing the war against ISIS (we’re not); the real racism is "reverse racism" against white people (puh-leeze) – but if you speak out on a real issue that predominately affects black people, say, police brutality, you’re anti-American and should move to a new country.  This, my friends, is what we call white privilege.

And since my time at this laptop is quickly running out, I will have to table my lengthy spiel on white privilege and end here.  It’s coming though – maybe next week.

Until then…

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Entry 345: Double-Dipping (Party foul)

Lots going on in Crossworld.  There were two articles about crossword puzzles published in mainstream media, and I published a puzzle in the New York Times this weekend.  I wrote two blog entries about these topics at my "word blog."  You can find them here and here, if you wish to read them.  I'm going to use these entries as my entry for this blog this week.  You might say I'm "double-dipping," which, if you solved my puzzle, you know is a party foul.  But I'm doing it anyway.  I'll be back soon with a new entry on a requested topic: Colin Kaepernick's sit-during-the-anthem protest.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Entry 344: Happy Birthday to Me... And to You

Today is my 39th birthday.  The weirdest thing about reaching middle age is doing the subtraction from my youth.  30 years ago it was 1986, which I remember quite well -- it still feels like "modern day."  But if you go back 30 years from 1986 you get to 1956, which feels not just like a different era, but like an entirely different plane of existence.  The increment from 2016 to 1986 is the same temporally as that from 1986 to 1956 -- 30 years -- but the former feels like a little skip away and the latter an uncrossable chasm.  Like I said, it's very weird.

It's also weird to think back to, say, 1986, and remember all the things we did as a family (Expo '86!), and then realize that my dad was two years younger than I am now when we were doing these things.  But, I guess I can't feel too old.  Yesterday we had a birthday party for Lil' S1, who turned four a few days ago, and one of the dad's of a friend of his mentioned that he graduated from high school in 1974, which would put him at about 60.  That is objectively an old age to have a young kid (and he has another one who's even younger).  The energy required... I can't even imagine.  But from what I can tell, he's a great dad and a great guy.  So more power too him.  I hate how ageist our culture is anyway.

In other news, we're back from our trip to the PNW.  It was an excellent vacation, as expected.  Always great to see my family and old friends.  Well, my paternal grandpa died while we were there.  That was kind of a bummer -- but just kind of.  I mean, when a really old person, who is withering away physically and suffering from dementia, final passes on, it's not exactly the world's greatest tragedy.  He was in his 90s.  That's a decent run for anybody, especially for somebody like my grandpa who told me "I'd be fine going tomorrow" when we went to visit him... in 1996!  (So much for the powerful of positive thinking.)

Plus, I have a strange relationship with my dad's side of the family -- by which I mean, we don't have much of a relationship at all.  I'm friends with one of my dad's brothers on FaceBook, and that's about as far as it goes.  To understand the family dynamic better, here's all you really need to know: I have two first cousins on my dad's side whom I have literally never met.  That's just how things are.

Anyway...  I've got a list of topics here.  Let's see how many I can plow through.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Tacoma is way underrated when it comes to beautiful cities.  The Waterfront and Point Defiance have some amazing vistas, and it's equally staggering on the other side with the Narrows Bridge and Chambers Bay (which is technically in U.P.).  I mentioned this to S, and she said that I might be a bit biased because I grew up there.  Perhaps, but the thing is I never appreciated it when I lived there.  I was too young.  I took it for granted because that's what young people do -- they take things for granted.  But now I miss it because that's what middle-aged people do -- they miss things they took for granted when they were younger that they don't have now.

I miss living in/near Seattle too, but DC definitely has some big advantages.  For one, DC has a much better public transportation system.  Seattle is a very car-centric city.  For two, DC is much more diverse.  At Lil' S1's school there are kids of all sorts of backgrounds, ethnically and socioeconomically.  There are poor kids and rich kids (well, maybe not rich, the rich kids go to private school, but certainly upper-middle class); there are black kids and brown kids and white kids and every color in between.  A few months back we went to a cookout and of the seven families there, six of them had biracial kids.  That just is not my experience in Seattle, where I mainly interact with white people.

Lastly, Seattle is getting really hipster (or maybe it always was and I only just realized it this trip because I'm now a non-hipster family man, but I definitely realized it).  Now, hipster isn't always a bad thing -- microbreweries and artisan food trucks are fine by me -- but too much of it is irritating.  As an example, one night we got ice cream with my brother and his family, and we went to this super hipster ice cream shop (they make their own waffle cones on a little iron and have fliers up for bands you've never heard of).  Lil' S2 was with us, and they were being really weird about there being a baby in their establishment.  And I was thinking to myself, "Yes, how odd to find a small child in an ice cream shop!"

With that said, all other things equal, I'd pick to live in Seattle (or Tacoma) over DC.  I think it is just always going to feel like home to me.

[Lil' S1 on a rope bridge in Seattle Center.  You don't get shots like this in DC.]

For all her strengths, S is an awful grocery shopper.  I'm writing this with levity now, but it's legitimately vexing at times.  She constantly forgets things ("Make a list and use it!" I cry in vain) or she buys the wrong thing or she buys too much or too little of something or she buys pineapple chunks that are half brown.  It's always something.  To be fair, there are so many damn variations of everything now that it's easy to mess up, but you have to know that and look at the items carefully before you put them in the cart or order them (we do InstaCart a lot).  S rarely does that; she grabs and goes, so it's no wonder when she gets buttermilk instead of half and half.

The other day was particularly bad.  She was going to the store, and I sent her a text with three items I wanted -- provolone cheese slices, tomatoes, and plain yogurt.  She forgot the yogurt (which ruined my dinner plans), and then she bought smoked provolone, which I didn't ask for, and we've never gotten before.  At least the tomatoes were good.

I some offended some old guy at the airport on our return trip.  We were at bagging claim waiting for our luggage, and Lil' S2 was getting into something so I had to quickly corral him, and I invaded this guy's space or something.  (Imagine that, being crowded in an airport.)  I'm not sure exactly what I did -- I certainly didn't make an noticeable contact with him -- but I heard him utter under his breath, "Easy!"  And then he moved to the other side of the carousel and just stink-eyed me until our bags came -- just straight staring at me.  It was strange.

I was halfway hoping he would come over and try to chastise me so that I could pull my favorite move.  Here's what you do in that situation: You wait for the person to finish; you look them dead in the eye to show you aren't intimidated; and then you turn around and walk away.  This serves two purposes: 1) It pisses the other person off because they want you to engage.  2) It extricates you from a shitty situation.  Win-win.  I've done this move before -- it works.  Few things feel as liberating as thinking to yourself as you're walking away, "I could be arguing with an asshole right now over some bullshit, but instead I'm just movin' on with my life."

Alright, time to go.  We're going to go take the kids to the pool.  S just texted me that both kids are awake now.  They were refusing to take naps, so she told them they're going to the pool, put them in the car, drove them around the block until they fell asleep, and then just sat in the car with them for an hour.  Hey, works for me.  I got some peace and quiet and got to final write an entry on this blog, and now I get to go to the pool with the family.  Sounds like a fine 39th to me.

Until next time...