Does this thing still work? Hmmm, it looks like it still does. Maybe I should do some writing.
Riding the bus this morning, chatting with my companion, a woman whom I had never met said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but I rarely hear conversation this intelligent on the bus and I hope you don’t mind if I join in.” Wow. Now, I realize that “intelligent conversation on the bus” could have an overtone of “best dressed at a hobo convention” but I really think she was sincere. Regardless, it was a really fantastic way to start my day. Let me start at the beginning and you’ll see why.
Choosing to ignore the alarm clock was the first good idea of the day, and allowed me to shower after Offspring #1 was done (hoping against hope that there would still be hot water) and share the bus ride with him. While we were waiting for the bus I mentioned a nerd-centric web comic that we both happen to like, specifically this edition of the strip. (Go look at it now. Go. Do it.) There are a LOT of discussion points in that strip, the most horrifying of which to me is that majority approval for interracial marriage didn’t happen in the US until 1995, 30 years after it became legal in all 50 states.
My offspring commented that it made perfectly good sense to him that same-sex marriage would be accepted more quickly because of the availability of information and opinion on the Internet, and he’s right in the sense that the amount of information, opinion, and commentary instantly available to us is orders of magnitude larger to us than it was 30 years ago. But I don’t necessarily agree that this leads to faster social change. I countered with the opinion that it takes more than information to change social opinion, it also takes an open mind and a willingness to change. (Anyone who’s read pretty much anything political on here will have no doubts how I feel about contemporary open-mindedness, or lack thereof.)
The young man acknowledged that there was a certain validity to my opinion, but said that he felt that the vast increase of information, testimonials, etc. made it easier to understand the people involved and sympathize with them. I agreed that this would increase the odds of that “wow, they really are human” sort of epiphany but said that I thought he was overlooking the function of age, in the sense that older people tend to spend less time re-evaluating their positions on social issues, which is one reason why large scale social changes tend to move slowly. Drifting to another talking point from the comic strip, I also mentioned that it was interesting that interracial marriage became legal in all 50 states 30 years before a majority of the public considered it acceptable. I questioned how that could happen in a democracy, since it implies that the law got passed without a majority of voters approving it.
At this point the unnamed woman chimed in and said that she thought it was simply a case of interracial marriage being recognized as a basic human right by lawmakers. From there, she felt, it wasn’t hard to imagine laws being passed and challenged based solely on it being the right thing to do. Personally, I’m far too cynical to easily buy in to that world view, but it certainly is possible that it happened that way.
We soon arrived at her stop and she thanked us profusely for the conversation and the great start to her day. HER day? Hell’s bells, what a great start to MY day. A good conversation with my kid, agreeing to disagree on various points, became a compliment from a stranger, a reason to take pride in my kid, and a reason to think there might be hope for humanity after all. That is a great start to the day, no doubt about it. Okay, sure, I missed a 9am meeting because I didn’t check my calendar, but there was enough hot water for my shower so those two cancel each other out.
I’m a big fan of news stories that leave you with more questions than they answer. I ran across a good example the other day in the Seattle Times that really got me going and I’m going to share it with you. WARNING: The story is about a murder, so it’s not warm and fuzzy. In fact, some of the questions it leaves unanswered are pretty yucky. You have been warned. Let’s start with the original story as printed on July 12 on the Seattle Times website:
EVERETT, Wash. —
An Arlington, Washington, woman has admitted she killed her husband in 2004 and buried him in the backyard.
The Daily Herald reports (http://is.gd/5jycCS) that Michele Donohue pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the death of Byron Wright.
After a tip from a jail informant, Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives found the man’s dismembered body in February, inside a plastic tote and two bags buried under two feet of dirt and a cement floor. An autopsy showed that the 53-year-old man was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck.
Donohue told Wright’s family and others that he had left her for a younger woman.
The woman divorced Wright, later remarried and told her new husband what she had done. Her new husband and two buddies of his eventually dug up Wright’s body and buried him under a shop floor.
In exchange for Donohue’s guilty plea, a deputy prosecutor agreed to recommend a 15-year prison sentence. Donohue faces a maximum 18 years when she’s sentenced later this month.
Okay, now we start with the unanswered questions. First, we’ll start with a trivial item. How did a jail informant get into a position where they could break the news? Was the woman already in jail? If so, what for, and if not, then which of her moronic accomplices was? Another of the minor questions is how do you divorce someone who’s no longer around to discuss the matter? I’m sure there’s a lot of precedent for this but I don’t think it’s likely to be very easy. A disgusting but practical question is how they determine the number of stab wounds on a body that has been … ahhh… “stored” shall we say, in three separate containers? Bleah. Again, though, pretty trivial. Let’s move on to one of the big ones.
What kind of schnook was the ex-husband that when his family was informed by his wife that he’d run off with a younger woman they seem to have accepted it without raising so much as an eyebrow?
“Gee, Madge, I haven’t seen Bob around much lately.”
“No, and you won’t be seeing him again either, because he took off with (his secretary / a Hooters waitress / the girl at the clinic who gave him his prostate exam) a while ago without telling you, his loving (sister/brother/mother/father) and I don’t expect he’ll be contacting you any time soon either.”
<laughing> “Ha! That’s Bob alright, he’s such a free spirit! We’ll miss him though, that’s for sure. Well, thanks for letting us know, I have to unload the groceries now before the frozen stuff thaws.”
Another of the larger questions is what kind of schnook the NEW husband is if he has at least two friends he can contact on short notice to help him relocate a dead body. Maybe he’s in the funeral home business but I think it’s more likely that he lives a lifestyle that would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino flick. “Hey, Cooter, you think you and Bubba could come over on Saturday and help me move a my wife’s ex-husband’s body?” “Awww, shit, Albert, AGAIN?”
But let’s set all this window-dressing aside and move on to the grand kahuna, the whopper question of the whole story, shall we? How in the hell do you tell your new husband that his predecessor did not, in fact, run off with his secretary as you had previously told him but had in fact been personally whacked by you, his loving new wife? I can’t see any realistic scenario where that doesn’t involve a lot of shouting followed by awkward silence. Somehow, though, this dame not only managed to avoid having the new hubby immediately call the cops (which is annoyingly easy nowadays) she apparently broke the news to him so deftly that he responded by suggesting that they relocate the body together. You know, quality time with the wife, digging up the ex and re-burying him in the basement.
And lastly, well, I don’t really feel very good about this one. I know it’s wrong and judgemental (<snort> as if the rest of this post wasn’t) and totally unfair of me, but somehow I just can’t … no matter how hard I tell myself not to… I just can’t shake the feeling that every single person involved in this fiasco shops at Walmart.
I’m pleased to introduce you to version 2.0 of my blog. There will be many similarities to the old blog. There will still be random stories that amuse me and if they amuse you too, well, that’s an unexpected bonus. There will still be random political rants whenever I can lift myself far enough out of my despair of mankind’s future to bother ranting. There will be lots of sarcasm. In fact, careful observers will find few if any differences at all and are welcome to feel betrayed and ripped off by my use of the 2.0 label to lure you in. On the other hand, it’s free so really, how ripped off are you going to feel? There will be more nerdy stuff and maybe more gaming-related stuff but that depends on how much I’m willing to alienate my core reader. I’ll make you a deal. If you give me feedback I promise to personally give it full consideration. Let’s see Arianna Huffington offer that deal to HER readers.
The two major differences in 2.0 are that I’m removing my self-imposed “at least one post per week” rule, posting whenever I darn well please, and that I’m going to allow myself to repost stuff from other sources that I find interesting. That’s about the only changes I see coming. Well, other than actually posting stuff at all, of course, which will be a dramatic change right there.
There are a number of reasons that I stopped writing, none of which will be discussed in a public forum. When a few of my recent blurbs on Facebook got a healthy number of “likes” it went straight to my head and made me start thinking about resurrecting this forum to air my nonsense and see if anyone was actually interested in reading it. To help decide, I made a list of reasons to write a blog along with detailed analysis of whether it is a good reason or a bad one.
- “My political views are worth reading” – bad reason, obviously.
- “I can help people see different viewpoints” – terrible reason, no one is interested in differing viewpoints.
- “I’ll become famous and people will love me” – terrible idea. I’m loved by a nice assortment of people already and famous people have to put up with photographers following them into the bathroom.
- “I’ll show people amazing new things that prove that the world is a really cool place” – Puh-LEEZE. Bad idea.
- “I’ll brighten peoples lives by making them smile” – good intentions, terrible way to try to accomplish it. I’d get better results by sending people random YouTube links via email. Come to think of it, I do that already.
There are more of these but I’m tired of typing them and the point is that they are all uniformly rotten ideas. Rarely have I compiled a list of reasons so heavily weighted toward the “con” side. In fact, I can confidently state that the only time I have ever helped create a pro/con list that was this negative was when my wife and I were deciding whether to have kids or not. After failing to come up with one single good reason to have children we promptly had 2 sons and it all worked out fine. I see no reason to let an endless series of bad reasons stop me.
So, to all the parakeets whose cages this would be lining if it was the print edition, welcome to version 2.0 of the blog.
I volunteer at a couple different places doing different things for different reasons, mostly selfish ones. For several years now I’ve volunteered to drive a sweep van for the Manitoba marathon and the selfish reasons I do this are:
- I get to drive around barriers and up the wrong side of the street and no one can yell at me for it.
- Cops wave me through into places that they’re telling everyone else to stay out of.
- I get to talk on a radio all day.
- I get to meet interesting people.
This year was a good one. We made several runs but weren’t too busy and were rarely bored. We weren’t forced to keep anyone in the van too long. We didn’t go near a relay zone all day (last year when we tried to drop someone off at a relay zone we discovered over 50 people waiting for buses that were no longer arriving; deciding which 7 to take back to the stadium was… uncomforable. I’ve never seen so many people start limping so quickly…). And I got to meet someone interesting…
The first call we got was for a wheelchair racer with a flat tire. This caused some concern on my part because I’ve never worked with them before and certainly never received any training on special needs, how to lift, etc. so it was a journey into the unknown. We arrived on the scene, my partner got out, and the racer got back in his low-slung racing wheelchair and backed up to the open passenger door. Now you have to realize, I’m driving a 10-seat Sprinter van that *I* have to climb up two steps to get in to.
Let me also explain that this guy’s legs are about the size of my arms and obviously completely useless. Some of the competitors in the wheelchair division can walk with difficulty or can only walk for short distances and use the chair for their competitive outlet; this guy is clearly NOT in that category and there is no chance that he’s just going to pop out of the chair and limp into the van.
So I’m wondering how this is going to work and whether I’m going to end up looking incompetent. I’m a bit stressed, and in my mind I’m composing the offended letter of complaint that this guy is going to send to the organizing committee, but keeping my cool, I just said, “Let me know if I can do anything.”
“Just sit there and be amazed,” he replied. In seconds, using arms that I suspect were transplanted from a gorilla, he scrambled up into the seat with absolutely no assistance. Well, to be honest, I’m just assuming he used his arms because the whole process was over so fast I have no idea how he did it. I couldn’t swear that he didn’t teleport somehow. My partner, a bit stunned that it was over so fast, grabbed the wheelchair, tossed it in the back of the van, jumped in one of the middle seats, slid the side door shut and we were off to the stadium.
My passengers are often upset, disappointed, or otherwise emotional about having had to abandon the race, so I try to make small-talk to take their minds off their problems. In this case, I asked if it was his first marathon.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m ranked #3 in the world at 400m and thought I’d try to string a whole bunch of those together at once.” It turns out that he’s been to 3 Olympics and 4 World Championships and has travelled to Beijing, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, England, France, and Germany among other places. We had a great conversation and as I dropped him off I told him it was nice meeting him and wished him the best on his future endeavors.
That, that right there, that’s why I volunteer.
As he was getting out of the van he said, “Thanks, and thanks for making my day a little bit better.”
That? That part’s just the gravy.
Apologies to my loyal reader (you know who you are) for the silence lately. There’s been some Heavy Shit to deal with here on Planet Feingarden, but I think we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and there’s good reason to believe that it may not be a train so it’s time to get back to writing again. My muse has had a lengthy vacation, probably on a beach somewhere with too many umbrella drinks, so I’m going to give her a few more days to sober up before getting serious about things but in the meantime I’ll offer you a teaser of some of the stuff I’m working on for future posts:
- I had a great conversation after hockey last night with a potential new reader of this nonsense and she helped me make some sense out of a line of thinking I’ve had lately. Oddly enough, watching a special on TSN about Vlade Divacs has also helped clear my thinking, so a post about the importance of political self-identity is on the way.
- In the “when life gives you lemons” category, I’ve got a post coming about pets, unconditional love, and golf clubs. Stick around to see what they have in common.
- If I get really energetic I’ll blow the dust off of a character that I’ve been using for quite a while now and see if I can get the first chapter of a novel completed to the point that it’s worth releasing here. Because this blog wasn’t confusing enough with just politics and real-life humour, right?
Those, plus anything else that life tosses my way and which I arrogantly think that I might be able to make interesting for my one (now two?) loyal reader.
In the meantime, hug someone. Life’s short.
I’m working from home this morning, and as I look out the window, who do I see walking by? Mitten lady! I didn’t have any shoes on but I yelled out the door until I got her attention (no, really lady, I’m not insane) and then Zach, who was leaving anyway, ran the mitten out to her. She said thank you, rather than all the other things she was probably thinking about like restraining orders and guard dogs.
In the end, the good deed was finally done after a month or more, and I also get to have that feeling that comes when you’ve closed an item that was irritatingly open for far too long. Plus, I think that failing to mention that we happen to have an ID badge that also might belong to her was the right think to do. That would just be too much for her to handle, so I’ll just anonymously return that one to the company that issued it.