Monthly Archives: April 2009

Wherein I Say, “Sibboleth”

Been putting this off awhile.  Writing about it, that is.  But it needs airing out, I think, both for me to read in the future, and perhaps for my children to read sometime in their lives.  Supermousey may read it soon, since she still finds what I have to say amusing if not entirely relevant.  Ha.  She wrote a post over at her place the other day that I told her I wished she had fleshed out a little more, it read like something she threw up quickly, and that’s OK, since I’ll do it more often than not, but I thought the experience deserved just a tad more introspection and thoughtfulness on her part. Now, I’m proud as hell that she blogs, and I was proud of her decision to stand up rather than stay mute.  We have talked before about how silence is tacit approval.  But I think part of my job as her father is to teach her to take her writing seriously, to apply herself as she would to a less demanding habit, like, say, shopping. :)

But that incident and many others have caused me to observe and indeed lament over the rituals and language we devise to make bonding with each other incredibly difficult.   Even when we manage to break free of our own inner circle of family, neighbors, and friends, we soon find ourselves unconsciously acting as both sentry and stranger,  in a world chock full of groups whose sole purpose is to distinguish it’s members from everyone else.  And pick your poison…ethnicity,religion, political party, career, sport conference, hobby, entertainment preferences, even what one might choose to eat can make us card-carrying members of some sub-group or other.

There is little doubt that this trait  is encoded into our very DNA, as long ago, it must have been very dangerous to deal with the world all by yourself.  Though, I’d argue that it is perhaps more dangerous than ever to do so.  I know we do this by our very nature, as evidenced by the response of my young son’s friends when I engage them.  If I drop the appropriate jargon into the right situation,(“Dude, you totally pwn’ed that newb!”)  I’m accepted and pronounced a “cool Dad,” or, at least, someone who can be allowed in from time to time… a friendly, if you will.  Fortunately for me, the same gifts that enabled me to instantly earn trust in a sales situation also allow me to quickly assess what habits, traits, or jargon to employ when I want to be accepted by a particular group. One of the most difficult groups to win over isn’t even comprised of humans…its horses.  They communicate with barely perceptible ear twitches.  Plus, they can suss out fraud in record time.  If you are troubled when you are in their vicinity, its best to admit it to yourself , horses can deal with conflict, but despise fraud. They force me to be transparent.  Earning a horse’s trust, and respect, is something to take pride in, I believe.

Whats all this about, you ask?

I went to Church last evening!   Last week, while I was tearing out some material I bought at a salvage sale, I met a nice family, and we started to talk.  Turns out there is a non denominational church nearby, and they are members.  Now, I have two non-negotiable perequisites that must be met before I would consider joining or even attending a church.  First, it must not adhere to any one religious doctrine.  Second, and equally important, it must have a gymnasium with a basketball hoop.  This church qualified.  A friend of mine asked me why I am interested in returning to church.  My reply sort of paraphrased Willie Sutton…”Because thats where the Christians are”.

I grew up playing ball.  Any kind of ball.  I remember spending hours on warm Summer nights, and on only slightly cooler Winter nights (God blessed California with great weather) throwing a ball against the garage door and catching it in my glove.  Or, I would shoot hoops.  One day, when I was 7 or 8, a neighbor kid invited me to the Boys Christian League. I spent the remainder of my youth boarding a bus every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to attend Bible study, practice of some sport, then a game to cap off the week.  I went to their Summer camps.  Equal emphasis was placed on Worship and sport fundamentals.  The worship part didn’t stick.  But I can still field a hot grounder, shoot a freethrow, and God have mercy on the receiver coming across the middle once I have the angle.

But I actually enjoyed the Bible study.  The Counselors told stories, and they were entertaining, sort of an early version of Veggie Tales, which, btw, I really love.  Once puberty hit, spending three days a week in all male pursuits didn’t have the same draw, for some reason.  So, eventually, I stopped going.  I still played ball, and still do.  But there is something to be said for fellowship.  Before moving to Nashville, I used to play basketball with a group of guys that all attended the same Catholic church.  The games were fast and physical, these guys had some game, and I really miss the adrenaline rush I felt when the guys and I were in synch, five guys all on the same wave-length.  It really is special to not have to look to throw a pass…you just know your guy is there. After working up a good sweat, we would stand around and talk about life, soup to nuts, as The Primary Wife would say.

I really miss that.  So, I decided that the time may be right for me to fill a void in my life by playing hoops again, and, perhaps fulfill a desire to talk with people of faith and offer a different perspective on things like politics and even Faith itself.   The thing is, I’m pretty rough around the edges.  I’m quick to become combative.  I punctuate with cursewords. I’ve been known to take a drink.  I have a sharp tongue and I can be stubborn on seemingly inconsequential matters. I’m sure I will test their faith…

I may well be able to pronounce the “h” sound, and thereby gain entry, but time will tell if I will truly be embraced for who I am.  Or, in spite of it.  Ha.  I may well be taken outside and beheaded as a returning Ephraimite.

Seems worth the risk.

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“We’re Not Redefining Marriage — We Have Lived It”

Long ago, when the Earth was flat, there were a handful of people in this country angry and fearful about the direction we were headed; two wars, irresponsible tax policy, and wholesale curtailing of basic rights were just a few of the dangerous paths the administration in charge chose to lead us.  People that spoke out were accused of everything from harboring (or being) communists, cowards, traitors, pedophiles, or Godless hippies.  Alright, a few us are Godless hippies, but that’s not the point.  People got fired for voicing their opinions.  Some were blacklisted and suffered financially.  Some of us have even been threatened with physical violence.  Yup, friends, 2000-2001 were scary times.

Fortunately, someone got the bright idea to incorporate a blog on the National Democratic website, and i have to say, without the daily contact of many of those kindred spirits, many of us might well have withered away from the sheer weight of contrary public opinion.  It was on that site that i met many people who I consider life-long friends.

Eight years, a new administration, and a few gray hairs later (not on me, of course) some of us have moved on, but not completely.  Today, I received some of the best news I’ve gotten in quite some time.  One of us, the Rev Jim, is a polite, unassuming, easy going guy.  Gay as all get out.  I’m talkin gay.  Gay.  He fits every stereotype of a gayful gay guy.  From his bib overalls to his truck, he just sets off the gaydar.  I kid.  I mean, I’m a better decorator.  I’m way prettier, come to think of it.  Anyway, he and his remarkable partner, Robert,  live in Gay Paradise, in the world’s most gay-ly hospitable State in the Union- North Carolina.

Of course, everyone knows that gayly gay people are unable or unwilling to form lasting relationships.  We all know that just a passing glimpse of say, the mailman, wearing those sexy blue-grey wool shorts (who doesn’t love a man in uniform?) usually spells certain death to a gay couple’s future.  So, they tend to go through shack-up after shack-up, all the while being miserable in their chosen gayness.  The Rev Jim and Robert are no exceptions, their 16 yr old shack-up is about to end.

Because they are getting married!  To each other! In Vermont! These guys have been through some tough damn spots, y’all.  Homelessness and near death sickness couldn’t break their bond to each other.  Jim wrote me this morning to announce the impending nuptials, and the title of this post is a direct quote from him.  (I wasn’t going to give him credit, but, well, I might attend the wedding, and, I’m afraid of him a little)

I can’t tell you how happy I am for these two friends.  Seriously, congrats, Dude.  Bring me back some maple syrup?  I ran out of the stuff Beantown Bob brung me….

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Gets Hard Fast

New Mexican Sun cut in and stained, nice!

New Mexican Sun cut in and stained, nice!

Concrete, that is. (Ha, that will wreak havoc on my search engine referral stats!)

For years, the Primary Wife wanted a concrete patio.  Stepping off of our recently covered deck (a job I did myself, and am quite proud of, but that wore me out) was a muddy endeavor, especially in the Fall and Spring.   I don’t know a thing about pouring concrete, and just assumed it would be too pricey to contract out.  In an effort to get The primary Wife out of my ear about it, I decided to get some bids….

The first guy I talked with knew less than I did, but was determined to bid the job anyway.  He could have bid zero, and he wasn’t getting the gig.  A few others missed the appointment entirely.  Two showed up on time, and assumed that putting their children through college was a good trade for a small concrete patio.  I was tickled, of course, since my intent was to show The Primary Wife the bids, have a good laugh with her, and forget the whole damn thing.  Then God had to stick his nose all up in my bidness, and directed one Travis Damn Quillin to my house. Travis, you see, is a dad to one of Eggnog’s little school friends, and he came by to pick up his son who had been playing at our house.  I must have mentioned something about wanting a patio, and, as it turns out, Travis Damn Quillin is not just your garden variety concrete man, he is a concrete artist.  Excuuuuuusssssseeee me.

Well, Travis Damn Quillin, it turns out, needed some work done at his place, so we agreed on a price for the concrete, and swapped labor.  As is our habit, the job kept evolving, and eventually included a firepit, since we love to build a fire outside and cook stuff in a big ol pot.  Anyway, yes, the labor swap was important, but he would have gotten the job anyway, because he was informative, relaxed, smart, and polite.  Turns out, he has been doing this since he was 14, and recently decided that he needed to strike out on his own.  He is a 25 yr old with a family, and his employer kept laying him off during slow periods, and he needs steady work, as do we all.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this young guy’s work ethic, and his commitment to doing the very best job possible.  It is gutsy to quit even periodic employment to stake his own claim, but I believe Travis Damn Quillin has what it takes to make a go of it in this new, uncertain economy.  I know I wish him well.  Look at the finished product!

patio

This is the horse's view of the house.

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You Want Me On That Wall

1500 hrs:  Dispatched to Middle School in adjoining sector to monitor and secure perimeter around the End Of The Year Dance.

1505 hrs:  Reported to Band Director (OIC) and received my orders.   I was to post lookouts and run scattered patrols throughout the dance POD and prohibit “inappropriate behavior” perpetrated by indigenous personnel in the 11-14 yr old category.  (wondered aloud if I would know it if I saw it)

1520 hrs:  Observed puddled liquid adjacent to dance staging area, began mopping up operation.  No casualties reported.

1535hrs:  Tracked large number of obvious rabble -rousers intent on rousing rabble.  Seriously outnumbered, elected to monitor rather than intervene.  Requested air strike.

1558:  Radios obviously inoperable.  Engaged in small skirmishes to establish the illusion of control over the area.  Re-enforcements nowhere in sight.  Mopped up again.

1604 hrs:  Watched helplessly as a curiously large number of combatants requested latrine visits.  No plans to mop up there.

1625 hrs:  Prepared to evacuate.  Made mental observation that testosterone is wasted on the young.

1630: Retreated in shame.

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FGF- Just Around The Corner

Not only is one of the best bands evah….I get to feature one of my favorites and tie it in with all this warm weather.  A Coyote Chronicles trifecta!  The video is lame, so just turn up your speakers and use whatever fancy keyboard shortcut you have to turn off your screen.

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The Cross And The Switchblade, Redux

Ariah Fine links to this story posted at NPR about a mugging victim that offers more than he was demanded of…and asks if any of his readers know a similar story.  If its true, it is really remarkable.  Twice in my life I have been threatened with deadly force, and truthfully, both times I fought back, and was lucky enough to come away relatively unharmed and without any monetary loss.  Of course, neither experience afforded me the opportunity to “also give up my coat.”  I don’t think I made a conscious decision to fight instead of flee, in one case, it was my job to arrest the individual, the other was probably one I could have escaped if I had attempted.

Whats interesting to me is that after the danger had passed, (the wallet had been surrendered, and the mugger turned to leave) the victim actually stopped the mugger to offer more.  That was probably more dangerous than the initial encounter.  You never know what type of predator you are dealing with, and a confused, frightened, armed kid is way more dangerous than a calculating, experienced criminal.

I try to teach my kids about situational awareness, simple things like observing the immediate area of a parking lot or glancing inside your car before stepping in.  Avoiding danger is far better than dealing with it.  Another point I try to drive home with people (my kids included) is that feeling secure because you have a weapon is foolish.  Anyone can be taught to shoot the center clean out of a paper target.  Staring down the barrel of a gun held by a shaky hand will empty your bowels right quick, I promise.  The chances are your attacker will have the drop on you, and any attempt to pull a weapon out will result in your immediate loud, messy demise.  If we can get criminals to stand 12 feet away and not move, ok, you got a chance.

I bring all that up because there is a great deal of fanfare here in the South about the right to carry a firearm.  So, i want to ask another question beyond Ariah’s….

If you were robbed at knifepoint, gave up your wallet or purse, and the mugger started to walk away, would you then draw a weapon and shoot him in the back to retrieve your belongings?  What if he or she was a youngster?

* Yea, the title I used was a stretch, but, not that much, if you think on it.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

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The Girls Get Spruced Up!

I wrote a little about the all of the wonderful people I met at Thistle Farms a while back.  It made me happy to see this bit o news… seems the ladies got a day of pampering, courtesy of Elysium Day Spa, and got soaked,brushed, rubbed and polished, and my guess is that most of them have never had a day like it before.  I hope y’all had a blast, and I think the owners of Elysium Spa should be proud to have offered this.  Can I come next time?

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Up For Grabs….My Vote

Time will tell whether I’m right about this, but I have watched years of televised talking heads, and none of them have an accuracy record that exceeds my own, so I feel completely qualified to offer my Republican friends a little advice. Heres the thing, guys.  Your Party is experiencing what the Democrats went through a decade ago.  Now, I don’t mean in quite the same way, since,  as you know, even if you remove the shenanigans in Florida from the debate, the 2000 election was nowhere near a mandate.  We are talking about a mere handful of votes. By contrast,  November 2008 was your Little Big Horn.  I mean, I only received 173 less electoral votes than McCain, and I didn’t even run.  So, when you take a beating like that, its perfectly normal, (and human, I might add) to be a little disoriented.  Its perfectly normal to shake up the leadership, point some fingers and if you must,  lop off a few heads, though,  ideally, a loss and all it brings can be handled with class and dignity, much like a win should.  Then, its time to take honest inventory.  There is a growing segment of voters, (myself among them) that though we identify strongly with one Party over the other, consider ourselves independent voters.  What I mean by that if we are faced with two awesome candidates, or two abysmal candidates, a tie goes to the home team.  But you can bet if a candidate with an (R) after his or her name has fresh ideas and  a clearer goal, he or she might get my vote.

Chances are, you’ve figured out that your base is shrinking, and ours is probably growing.  That should concern you.  I believe, then, that your best and only chance to de-throne the Democrats will be to attract independents, or perhaps more truthfully, attract thoughtful Democrats and Libertarians who already lean slightly to the right.  The Libertarians know, deep down in their Galt-like souls, that they are generations away from being a viable political party.  At best, they will be spoilers, more often than not costing you guys votes in key States.

So, lets see where you might get my attention…

Taxes. I am happy to pay a reasonable tax, on my income, on my investments, on my purchases,and on my home and property.  I’m not afraid of Govt, but I expect it to work as well as any decent for profit organization.  When I need to register a car or renew a license, I want the person across that counter to treat me as a valuable customer.  Better Govt will mean less Govt.  Now, the key word here is reasonable, and we could have a lively debate over what constitutes reasonable, as well as where to direct taxes once collected.  We both want professionalism in the ranks of our police, firefighters, teachers, food inspectors, in fact, pretty much in every Govt official with whom we interact.  I don’t see much argument there.  We have to start the conversation with the understanding that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

With any luck, America will begin to shed it’s image as a wasteful, bloated, pampered country, mainly, I think, because our new economic model will force it on us.  Our kids may begin to walk to school again.  Young adults may forgo college and pursue a trade, hopefully one that harnesses free energy, like wind and solar.  Those that choose college may opt to become engineers or chemists, instead of lawyers and bean counters.  (I lump all business degrees in with the bean counters, since they always end up listening to them anyway) We are resourceful people when challenged, I have no fear that America will forget how to conduct business, I just don’t think we necessarily have to rule the entire planet.  So, in this new economy, there may be less emphasis on disproportionately rewarding those at the top, and more value placed on those that actually perform the work.  Our system should reward risk-takers, since without them, we’d have less innovation, less competition, and less jobs.  Buts lets at least stop pretending that all risk takers are the same.  An example:  When I started my last business, I did so on a shoestring budget.  There were months I couldn’t pay the State the sales tax I collected, because I couldn’t make payroll if I had.  I know what it is like to wake up in a cold sweat because your life savings is on the line, as well as the livelihood of a dozen or more people.  I didn’t have a staff that could “run the numbers” for me.  I didn’t have an in-house attorney to pour over contracts.  No one lobbied on my behalf.  Do you really think McDonalds assumes much risk before opening a new location?  Before the first Chicken McDropping is portioned, fried, packaged and served,  they have done the research.  They know the demographics.  They know how long before they become profitable. They may have even received a tax break from a county trying to lure them to come.  They can buy products at a price I cannot so right off the bat they have an edge in pricing.  I can’t ever remember seeing a McDonalds close a location, and if they did, the chances are good that even the remote possibility of failure was factored in, and deemed acceptable.  Theres risk, and there is risk. Our tax policy should acknowledge that.

I have a modest home.  I spend money on it to keep it in good working order, because my children may have to live here when I am gone.  If they have to pay a small estate tax to do so, so be it, it means I passed on some real wealth to my heirs.  They will want good police, fire, and schools as well for their children.  As i get older, and my income drops or goes away completely, I’d like to know that i will not be taxed off of my property.  Here, i think, as well as in the income or investment tax debate, it may well be time to establish a baseline.  Some figure, arbritrary at first, then adjusted to suit, that defines wealth.  I see no other way.  Forget the flat-tax.  15 percent of 25,000 dollars a year is an undue burden on a young family, struggling to raise the children that will make up our next workforce.  15 percent of 100k is a bite, but a manageable one.  15 percent of a million bucks a year is barely noticeable.  15 percent of 100 million is a crime against the rest of the world.

We can find common ground on this issue, but screaming about the top 1 percent paying 50% of the taxes isn’t working for you.  Tell you what.  Ask 100, hell, ask a thousand Americans that if they could make 500k a year, clear after taxes, would they do it even if they had “earned” one million.  I’d take that gig and not look back.

The Military. Lets, as the kids say, keep it real for a minute, shall we?  Is there a country on Earth that could recruit, train, arm, and mobilize the number of troops it would take to invade America?  All of the real estate in the entire world has already been claimed.  No, future wars won’t conventional, I think we are quite possibly fighting the last war that involves massive airlifts and portable infrastructure.  Most of us lilly-livered liberals think that we could have fought Al Queda much more effectively by unleashing the Arab equivalent of 2000 Jason Bournes.  To paraphrase  C.J. Craig, a fictional White House Staff member on the West Wing, taking out terrorists will be a job for a well-placed busboy with a silencer, not the 82nd Airborne.  Long ago, we should have had assets in place.  It may have been unwise to dismiss the few intelligence gatherers we had that spoke Arabic or Farsi simply because they preferred to form relationships with people of the same sex, huh?  Had we started 25 years ago, we could have people in places that could buy us proximity to those that mean us harm, and I mean damn cheap.

No one wants to admit that many wind up in uniform not out of a strong sense of patriotism, but simply because they lack other options.  Of course, not all are there for financial reasons, but its ridiculous to say that every service member deployed overseas is there because they wanted to be.  They took a gamble, and its a courageous gamble to make, sure,  but they rolled snake-eyes and they know it.  It beats the hell out of conscription, to be sure, but the chance of being blown to bits by a roadside bomb  is a steep price to pay for tuition assistance, or, for some, three hots and a cot.  Prolonged deployment without clear objectives, like say, stopping the Germans from marching across Europe, or, defending the homeland from Japanese bombers, leads to morale problems and opens the door for resentment.  Not to mention what is does for recruitment down the line a few years. Let these guys and gals come home without adequate medical care that includes counseling and you will have some of them snap, and most likely their pent up rage will be directed at those closest to them.  They will need  jobs to come home to, or training for jobs, or some of them will indeed be ripe for the pickin by those that seek to do violence and need hired guns.  The camaraderie experienced by soldiers is a tale often told, and for good reason.  Not much in civilian life matches it.  The chance to belong to a unit again can be a strong pull for some lacking other options.  That unit can be the other 300 million or so residing here if we spend the time and the money to honor their sacrifice on our behalf.  Parades and yellow magnets won’t cut it.

We will need a strong military.  I’m happy to pay for that.  Show me a blueprint for a military that can respond to a crisis a half world away, and do so while adhering to world-wide standards of professionalism, and I’ll gladly pony up.  Send me a bill for acquiring a fleet of outdated aircraft and you can forget about talking to me about wasteful education spending.  Nobody wants us to be unduly vulnerable. Acknowledge that terrible waste exists in the procurement process, and weed out those that feel a military contract is a license to steal, and you will go a long way to securing my trust, and maybe my vote.

I just realized how long this post is…ha.  Well, there are many other issues we should be talking about, like the environment, and many others that we shouldn’t be talking about, like, gay marriage, but the two  outlined above seem like a great place to get started….

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One Good Turn…

Saw this over at Ezra’s house, so, in a effort to loosely “pay it forward”, I’m linking to it.  Who knows, maybe a Coyote reader is a match!

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FGF- In The Spirit Of My Week

But its important for me to make clear that I am not feeling melancholy, in fact, coming to grips with old memories, getting past flaws and failures of mine and those in my life actually is pretty exhilarating.  Feels good to let go.  But I have always liked this band…better than I liked Genesis, which was probably more well known.

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