Sunday, July 23, 2017

The last date, or, "I don't get it. I'm a nice guy..."

So the other day, Captain Midnight, Miss V, my sister Jenny and I all went out for dinner to The Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named (not because it's Chez Voldemort, but because it was not in any way responsible for the events that follow). We were seated next to a couple on a date, and they were engaged in a spectacularly awkward conversation.

Well, I label it "conversation" in the broadest sense, as it was overwhelmingly one-sided. The guy dropped a metric ton of mansplaining about the meal, not stopping to consider that his date did not seem like an idiot and thus might be familiar with all the information he was firehosing in her direction. He talked nonstop about his place of business, badmouthing everyone who worked there and placing the blame for work-related screw-ups on everyone but himself. He sprinkled his comments with casual vulgarity. He packed all the audible space with his own thoughts and experiences, hardly letting the woman opposite him -- you know, the one he took out presumably so he could get to know her better? -- get a word in edgewise. And he made no attempt to pick up on his date's body language, which was a real shame as he could have learned a lot from it. She was as polite as her obvious discomfort with the situation would allow, but from my position I could see her hoisting the Oh Hell No Never Again flag and flying it boldly through the duration of the meal.

By the time the bill came, she already had her charge card in hand. Immediately she grabbed the black folder and slipped the card inside without bothering to check the total. (Hint, guys: this is the dating female's equivalent of gnawing off a limb to escape a trap.)

"Oh, I was gonna pay for that," said Mr. Everyone At My Work Is A Total Fricking Imbecile. Somehow he convinced her he should pay the bill, and eventually -- perhaps realizing she could at least salvage a free meal from the smoking debris of her Friday evening -- she let him. A few minutes later, they gathered up their things and made their exit (to separate cars, one hopes).

I waited until they'd left the building, and then: "Well, that was interesting," I said.

And that busted open a virtual piƱata of discussion at our table, because as it turned out, everyone had been listening to their conversation, astonished and slightly horrified at what was going on next to us.

I don't know if we witnessed their first date (it sure felt like one), but I'm certain it was their last. I'm also pretty certain that Mr. See, You Use The Eating Utensils Like This will have a mournful conversation with his favorite bartender next weekend. He'll nurse a beer, musing, "I just don't get it. I mean, you know me; I'm a nice guy. Why can't I ever get a second date?"

Mister, let me count the ways. I mean, we didn't actually catch you picking your nose and wiping it on your napkin, or letting a juicy fart fly in public, but those were about the only social faux pas you didn't commit. You are not a nice guy, you are a Nice Guy -- the kind of oblivious jerk who has to label himself as Nice, because no one else is keen to do it. Mutta.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Yes, still alive

I know, it's been a while. My excuse: my sister Jenny's been here. During the day we go out and have adventures, and at night (when I typically do my blogging) she sleeps in the room where my computer lives, so I haven't had much of a chance to write updates. In fact, I don't have much time to write this either, because the Nerd Brigade is coming today and I've got to do some cleaning up. Soooooo... later, skaters!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Political observations

Between family members, friends and acquaintances, I've come to know people from all sides of the American political spectrum: conservative and liberal, libertarian and authoritarian, and people who claim to have zero interest in politics. And the behavior I've seen recently from many of them isn't merely disturbing; in some cases it actually mimics the signs of mental illness.

I've seen an ardent Trump supporter, a woman old enough to vote (and, I might add, old enough to know better) throwing a public tantrum on social media -- filming herself as she flung a stack of her formerly-favorite novels in the trash bin -- after discovering that the author had publicly disparaged President #45. How DARE that author express her wrongheaded political beliefs? It's not as though she had some sort of right to speak her mind enshrined in a Constitutional amendment or anything.

I've seen people who cheer this administration's so-called "Muslim ban" (based both on the President's private description of it as such, and the way it targets people of a specific religion) and who ardently hope it will survive a Supreme Court ruling, even though our nation has long been known as the Mother of Exiles, even as millions of innocent people die fleeing terrorist-sponsored warfare. (For those of you convinced that refugees will bring more terrorism to the USA, look it up: since 9/11, not a single act of terrorism in America has been perpetrated by a refugee.) If we were serious about defeating ISIS, we'd be welcoming Middle Eastern refugees with open arms. Our opposition to ISIS is nothing compared to the fury of Syrian refugees whose lives were destroyed by ISIS, and who have exactly the kind of everyday information we need to target and destroy the terrorist groups who have taken over Syria. But this administration continues to think shortsightedly because EEK SCARY MUSLIMS.

I've seen people who describe Republicans and conservatives as mean, stupid, or (in one particularly vivid description) "excreted from the anuses of demons" because they oppose having their taxes raised again and again to fund various government programs. I've seen people who loudly hope their children will never become horrible, mean, stupid Republicans (you know, the political party I most often voted for, at least until this administration). Such people are engaging in a false dichotomy: either you care about people and want your taxes raised to help them, or you don't want your taxes raised because you don't care about anyone but yourself. They don't seem to remember that public virtue is a real thing. Many conservatives do want to help people, but prefer to spend their own money to help charitable organizations rather than handing it over to government, where 75 cents of every dollar is wasted by bureaucracy and the remaining funds may go to causes or organizations that taxpayers would not voluntarily support. But no, conservatives are all mean-spirited cusses who somehow think they have the right to keep the money they earned. (It's not like there are any mean-spirited Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, etc. who would prefer to keep more of their paychecks. No, somehow Republicans have cornered the market on evil. Riiiight.)

I've seen people who want to sweep aside the established election laws of this country, oust the current president and install in his place the candidate who won the popular vote, or the candidate they wish had been endorsed and backed by the Democratic Party. While I empathize with their fears, I also realize we have election laws for a reason. Running roughshod over the law is extremely dangerous because it creates a precedent for casual or cherry-picked enforcement of that law; in future, when you hope to have that law on your side, it will no longer be in effect thanks to years of ignoring or selectively applying it. Trust me, you don't want that to happen. Seek to get the election laws altered, if you feel that strongly about it; in the meantime our current president did win the electoral college vote and was therefore sworn in without a serious legal challenge. If he is successfully impeached and removed from office, better get used to saying "President Pence." (Oh yeah, and while I have your attention: are you registered to vote? If you aren't, you should get that way.)

I've seen people who love the idea of pure anarchy, the absence of any kind of law to get in the way of doing what they want to do. In response to this, I usually sigh and yell, "READ HISTORY, DOOFUS!" Seriously. Every time in the past, when the established order of things -- no matter how bad that order might have been -- was swept away by anarchists in favor of no law whatsoever, the resulting power vacuum was filled by authoritarian tyrants or despotic governments who ruled by pure force, not law. "Anarchy now" leads to getting curb-stomped by a dictator later. So yeah, maybe quit bashing in shop windows for fun, get a real job and move out of your mom's basement? You'll enjoy capitalism a lot more when you can participate in it.

Do we really need to be beating on each other, rather than championing what is good and beautiful about this country? Has inarticulate, blind hatred really overwhelmed rational thought when it comes to politics? I hope not, but I'm seeing more and more indications that people aren't as concerned about being virtuous and seeing the good in others as much as they are desirous of scoring political points against The Other, however they define that concept. This isn't how to make America a good nation; it's a way of splintering us into petty city-states constantly at war with each other.

This is how a nation fails.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Starting a Blessing Journal

ATELY I've been carrying a lot of stress and anxiety, for a number of reasons that don't need to be articulated here. It's not easy to live with a constant, sore weight of fear in your belly. So today I picked a blank book given to me by my sister, opened it up and wrote the first entry in what I am calling my Blessing Journal.

I'm not the first to come up with this concept. It goes by other names as well -- often it's called a Thankfulness Journal or a Gratitude Journal -- but because I believe in God, and further believe that God is the ultimate source of all good things in life, I perceive such things to be blessings. Besides, it's my choice. So a Blessing Journal it's gonna be.

The concept is pretty simple: cast about in your life for something which is a blessing to you, especially if it's something that's easy to overlook or take for granted, and write it down. The act of writing solidifies the blessing in your head, making it less easy to ignore and increasing your feelings of gratitude for what you've been given. You can keep it very simple or go into detail, as you feel inclined. (I'm sure you don't have to guess how I'm inclined.)

Here's what I wrote for today:
You can speak, read and write English.

Two of the world's most difficult languages to learn are English and Chinese -- Chinese because of its complex writing system and the language tonality where a slightly different tone can drastically change the meaning of a word; English because it has borrowed words from so many other languages that it seems to have no rules. But English is the de facto language of business, communication, art and science. Much of the world speaks English as a second language. Your early command of both spoken and written English has been an enduring blessing in your life. You can readily express your thoughts and feelings, and you have had free access to the thoughts and feelings of others, from autobiography to fiction to scripture. Because you know English, you can easily drive to a new place by reading maps and signs, pick up the items you want at the store, watch copious amounts of Hollywood movies, vote in elections, and otherwise participate in daily life in the United States without the need for an interpreter. Further, your English literacy allows you to be of service to others for whom English is still difficult. It is a great blessing, one not to be taken for granted.
In writing this, I'm not trying to suggest that other languages are inferior to English. But in the United States and other primarily English-speaking countries, it is a huge advantage to be fluent in the most commonly recognized tongue. Most of my maternal relatives had to work very hard to gain some fluency in English, so I was very fortunate to grow up learning it. And reading, primarily from English-language literature, has been the joy of my life.

Not sure I'm going to do this every day, but I do want it to be a regular habit. It's easy to forget your blessings, especially when you're stressing over something, but that's when blessings can be a great strength and comfort. Here's hoping the practice will help keep me sane and grounded.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Desert Scout

It's been a while since I did any municipal art blogging, hasn't it?

So here's a wooden sculpture I've somehow missed a couple of times, in the hallway of the Redmond Library. It's called "Desert Scout," and unsurprisingly it's by Dudley Carter.

It's especially interesting to look at the fine details of his work; much of it is deliberately kept rough to show the grain of the wood, but his stylized signature shows he's capable of smooth, finished work as well.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

When good quilts go bad

When Captain Midnight and I first got hitched, we were exceptionally lucky to have a few crafty family members and friends. As a result, we received a couple of beautiful queen-sized quilts as wedding presents, and we've used them on our bed for nearly 24 years. However, years of regular use, washing, and a rambunctious kitty cat have all taken their toll on one hard-worn quilt, which is now sporting at least a dozen rips and tears over its top. I've taken a careful look at this quilt and determined that the cover fabric is too fragile for mending and/or patching to do much good. It's time to procure a new quilt.

We could do this a number of ways. I could buy a cheap duvet and cover at IKEA. I could wander down to Goodwill or another local thrift store and see what's on offer. I could spend an arm and a leg and get a beautiful, brand-new artisan quilt.

Or I could do what I'm doing: flip the old quilt so the less-worn side is facing up and eke a little more use out of it, while I put together a new patchwork quilt from my overflowing stash of CM's old jeans. This isn't going to be the cheapest option as I'll still need to pick up some sturdy denim needles for my machine, find a good backing fabric and some batting, etc., but if I take the time to make it right, this new quilt should last at least another 24 years.

Now to determine a simple block to sew. I'm leaning toward Rail Fence or Roman Stripes, something basic that looks good in scrappy colors.
Maybe something like this? Hmm.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My inherited magical power

Well, I can tell Mom is feeling better, because for the last two days I've sprung her from the clink to go on outings in the car. Last week she wouldn't have had the strength to go out. However, I've been pushing Mom around in a wheelchair in 80-degree "it's a dry heat," so I think I've lost some five pounds in water weight. Mom is very motivated to bring up her strength in rehab so she can go home, so she's getting a little stronger every day. (And so am I. Wheelchair pushing burns calories!)

I have mentioned in the past that Mom has this magical ability to get strangers to tell her their life stories. I don't think I've explained yet that this ability apparently runs in the family. I look (and sound) enough like my mom to have the same kind of friendly, familiar, approachable, pretty-but-not-intimidating face and manner, and many's the time I've been sitting in a public place, minding my own business, when A WILD STRANGER APPEARS! and tells me all sorts of stuff. Since I fancy myself a writer, this ability is a godsend for gathering stories.

"Your thoughts to my thoughts..."
Sometimes this magic power can be amusing, as when I offhandedly asked the driver at the rehab center how he got his job, and was regaled with a long and adventurous tale of employment woes for the next twelve minutes. And sometimes it just comes out of nowhere.

For example: I was waiting in the local pharmacy to pick up a prescription for a family member (I swear, I spend about half my waking life in drugstores) when this guy came in and sat down next to me. He cut quite the figure: big, muscular, bald, with a black eye, a padded brace on his right arm and a couple of notable stitch clusters on his right knee. He was wearing shorts and a grey muscle shirt printed with the words "OBAMA CAN'T TAKE THESE GUNS" and two large arrows pointing to his biceps. Mr. Guns listened to the piped-in music ("All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor) for a few seconds, then turned to me and said, "Pfft. She ain't all about that bass."

"That right?" I asked noncommittally.

That was all that was necessary for Mr. Guns to launch into his tale. He told me about how he'd just had a knee replacement, about how he'd put it off for years because he was a bodybuilder and his doctor had warned him that after a knee replacement he wouldn't be able to lift more than 200 pounds, but finally it got to be a necessity and he was incredibly pleased with the results. Except... the first few days he was recuperating from surgery at home, he was all hopped up on Percocet for the pain and thought he was a superhero. The phone rang downstairs, and instead of letting his wife pick it up he decided he'd just run downstairs and get it. Well, he did get downstairs... the hard way. Which is how he picked up the arm brace and the black eye. (Remember, folks, despite how it makes you feel, Percocet does NOT give you magical powers of flight.)

I think Mr. Guns was all geared up to share another story, but just then the pharmacist called my name and I had to break things off gracefully to pick up the prescription. He gave me a cheery "Take care!" in parting, and I thought but did not say, "You too. Really. And lay off the Percocet."

Heh. Maybe I really should have gone into journalism. I wouldn't even have to ask nosy questions -- I'd just show up, smile, and let people tell me EVERYTHING.