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Archive for July, 2012

Spaces in Between.

Be patient… there’s some formatting issues on this blog due to some wonky code somewhere that I need to fix cut cannot address until tomorrow.  It’s truly hosed but you should always be able to read the most recent post w/o hassle.

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We are solid in the middle of sorting through Cruel Wife’s mom’s stuff.

You might be able to imagine three very intelligent and opinionated sisters in a high-stress situation of sorting through their mother’s belongings after a very unexpected demise.  It has been… trying.  Not bad, not good – no judgment – but a situation requiring lots of latitude and patience.

The only thing we can figure is that she exhibited all the symptoms of heart problems, yet because the most commonly known symptoms of heart problems are the symptoms that apply to men.

Things like blue fingers and nose, one cold leg and one hot, tired for no reason… everyone thought she had the best health and ate healthier and exercised more than any of us.  But, sometimes this sort of thing doesn’t make any sense at all and a common theme here has been one of self-blame, and that is unfair to one but it is also understandable.

So three crazy-tense sisters and two of us husbands who could make it, and we’ve tried keeping kids sane or at the least out of their mothers’ hair.  It’s interesting.

On the way out here from the airport (about three hours of driving), we came across an interesting spot.

A single-wide trailer, its outhouse, and next to a truck car-wash.  Save your soul, empty your bladder, and drive away in a sparkling-clean truck.  Just down the road is the best part – a gas station that sells corndogs.  Since being back in the NW I have had five corndogs, which you don’t find in so many places in Michigan.  It has been a slice of heaven.  So not all about this vacation has been sad.  Hey, work with me here – it’s been a visit with many bittersweet moments as memories have been relived – but there have been chances for people to show strength, too.  Corndogs help.

More later…

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What is left behind when we’re gone?  What is left behind is shared times and memories.  And with time, and the telling, those memories remain alive.  Those aren’t new sentiments but it doesn’t hurt to say it anyway.

Cruel Wife has some things she wanted me to post, and I will do that shortly.  Since that material is at this moment being written by her, I figured I’d take a moment to say a few words and then tack on her stuff when it is done.  It’s a first – a LK/CW co-authorage.

Here is what I would say.

The last night before her folks left, CW’s dad went out to the trailer to get some rest.  He was tired and I don’t blame him – he did a lot of work on our remodel while I was at work.

BCCFN was talking to CW and somehow the topic of dark matter came up and before I knew it, CW’s mom and I were talking about the Cosmological Constant, dark matter and dark energy, the evidence for a closed universe, background energy… and come to find out, she took it in her head one day to get ahold of some lectures and was working her way through the series.  Should one be surprised at this?  I mean she was a radiochemist for years, and it is obvious she was no dummy, none of her daughters are – all of ’em too intelligent for comfort.  But BCCFN… she was doing all this and studying other topics, was here for seventeen days and only mentioned it at the very end, the very last night.  And my jaw dropped.

There is this brain-metaphor thing that describes the surprise and respect I had after that, and I don’t think I could quite define it.  I’ve been told on several occasions that I do not suffer fools lightly, and the flip side to that coin is I have a great deal of respect for intelligence.  This is not to say I have only value for some number like IQ and that makes for superiority or anything, but it does mean I do place high value on people who have done or do things with gifts that they were given – there’s not a one in CW’s family that isn’t gifted (and kind of dangerous in a battle of wits if you let your guard down).  And BCCFN, as nail-bitingly maddening she could be at times, managed to surprise the hell out of me and gain a measure of respect.  And she never let on.  She was about as humble and self-deprecating as a person could be and didn’t stop being curious.  I was bummed when she decided to go out to bed because the conversation when she relaxed was infinitely more interesting than observations about my salt intake or how much oil I put in the stir fry.

A funny, odd, and ultimately quite interesting duck, my mother-in-law.

Ok, I’ll quit talking now let you read the CW stuff.

Simple, silly attachments.  (Aren’t those usually the best ones?)

As many of you know, I lost my mom today.  It took everyone by surprise.  I thought she’d live another two decades at least, and wondered if she might just outlive us all.  She was in remarkably good health for a 75 year old lady, thus the complete shock.  We are still waiting to find out what happened.  I asked LK to share a story for me.  This how I deal with grief, by writing down my thoughts and memories of the loved one departed.

Just last night, LK and I had been going through boxes we’d stored for years.  We set aside a number of unimportant dishes in one of my boxes freshly emptied of “memories” that I couldn’t remember.  The dishes were slated for the consignment shop.

I took those dishes to the consignment shop this morning despite receiving the bad news.  I needed to “just keep swimming” (for those of you who might be Pixar heathen, that is a quote from “Finding Nemo”).  As I stood at the counter asking the hired help to sell them or donate them (I didn’t really care at that moment), it dawned on me that I was looking at Mom’s handwriting on the side of the box.

“Records,” it said.

I distantly heard the lady asking me if I wanted my box back while my thoughts were speeding me back 25 years.  It was the summer before my freshman year in college.  I remember scrounging everywhere for packing boxes, and I still didn’t have enough.  I asked Mom if she had any extra.  I distinctly remember her telling me “Well, these are some of my GOOD apple boxes…but I guess you can have them.”  She gave up several of her long-term storage boxes so that I’d have a place to put my childhood memorabilia.  The box in my hands had been with me for the last 25 years, keeping my childhood treasures safe. Still bearing the title “Records” on the lid and the inner box, written in Mom’s handwriting.  I had to keep that box.

I returned home several hours later.  Never had a shopping trip been so painful, looking for a dress suitable for Mom’s funeral.  As I went in the house, it slowly dawned that I didn’t have the box.  The whimsical desire to save the box suddenly became urgent.  I kept telling myself “It’s just an apple box, for pete’s sake.  If its gone, its gone.”  Still, I got in the car again and backtracked to the consignment shop, only to find it closed.  The lights were still on, though, so I knocked on the door.  I was lucky; the owner was still there.  Lo and behold, she still had my box, too.  Undamaged.  You would have thought I’d found something very special to my mom rather than an empty cardboard box.  To me, I did.  A precious memory of her had returned to me because of that box.  It might be a mundane and largely inconsequential grocery produce box, but it was given to my by a dear lady 25 years ago as she launched me into my adult life.  That makes it precious.

My mother would be flabbergasted by the importance this silly box has taken on today.  All the same, I’m thankful to have it back.  My childhood treasures are going back into that box, to be safely stored (God willing) for the next 25 years of my life.  Then again, who knows?  In 10 to 12 years, Lemurita and Hacker-boy will be getting ready to embark on the next stage of their journeys.  Maybe it will be my turn to donate one of MY good apple boxes to the cause.  If so, they’ll get more than a storage box.  They will get this story, too.

God bless you all and thank you for the well wishes.

CW

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A Little Rain Must Fall.

The news just as I got up this morning wasn’t good.  Cruel Wife entered the hallway and said “Mom is dead.”

I shook my head and said “What?”

“Mom died last night”, she said, and lost it.

Apparently her mother had taken her regular scalding-hot we-can-peel-peaches-and-tomatoes-in-this-water bath and didn’t get out.  About all we can figure is that her heart may have given out.

And so, using blog nicknames as usual, here’s a nod of respect to Bat-Crap Crazy Food Nazi (BCCFN).  She drove me nuts while here at our house and about killed me with her preaching about the evils of salt while she was mentally measuring the amount I used with every shake, but it cannot be denied that she was at her core a kind and caring person.  I’m pretty darned sure that she didn’t suffer and that where BCCFN is right now is a wonderful place.

CW is doing well enough – it comes and goes in waves and as long as she keeps moving and focused on the details of small things she’s holding up.  I will keep the meals coming, the kitchen clean, and whatever is needed to keep things “normal” and let her and the kids deal with things as they wash over them.

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I am very proud of Cruel Wife. She has agreed to watch Band of Brothers from nose-to-tail. She’s not big on war movies but (1) this is more or less real, even with the embellishments, and (2) even though it is disturbing, she’s still watching it.

I have said many times that I will insist that our kids watch BoB and Saving Pvt. Ryan before they leave home, for I want them to be innoculated against those who wish to poison their minds against our country and I want them pay proper respect to our military and our veterans.

I firmly believe that with the right illustration one cannot help but gain a certain amount of respect for those who have sacrificed in either their lives, their health, and in years of service. Reading of it in a history book will not suffice.  One needs the visceral nature of the event.

Now, here you may roll your eyes but hear me out.

Years ago there was a game, Call of Duty.  The game developers (Infinity Ward) made it a huge point to talk to veterans, scrutinize photographs, watch video footage, and I cannot remember if some actually visited the sites of historic battles.

But the thing is, so much of Band of Brothers looked as if I had been there before.  Now, I am not in any way shape or form drawing equivalency between a first-person shooter and the real war, nor can a movie do it, but I am saying that the game captured enough to have your adrenaline racing.  It was damn hard to make it up the beach at Normandy, you died over and over and over again.  The wire, the bunkers and trenches, the fields beyond, and the guns blazing non-stop.  It was pretty intense.  And so help me, there was an added bit of adrenaline watching as Market Garden went sideways.  There were parts of BoB where my inner self has been screaming “Danger!  Danger!  You guys, there’s bad guys up on that roof!  There are guns downstairs in that building over there!  There’s a sniper over yonder!”  In the game you’re getting shot at, guys are dying all around you, and you still have no idea where the krauts are shooting you from.

Believe it or not, a game can make you respect your soldiers more, because dammit, what they endured was hundreds of thousands of times worse.  In the game you aren’t tired, you aren’t cold, you aren’t hurt, you don’t have crappy food, you don’t have some idiot asshole giving orders that make no sense at all.  What you do get in the game is a visual and visceral feel for what it might have looked like, and it did not look pretty, even as inadequate as it was.  That game didn’t feel like they were trying to make WWII like a level from Doom II where you get a BFG-9000 later on.  You had two weapons.  That was it, and lone-wolfing it didn’t work so very well.  And you died if you got hit.

This time around I’m paying more attention to BoB even though the DVD’s don’t have Closed Captions – Cruel Wife is my interpreter at times.

I am therefore not blogging much for the next few nights and haven’t for the last two.  I trust you’ll understand why, even if I can’t exactly explain in words my internalized metaphor that embodies all the reasons why I am compelled to try to understand that section of history a bit more.  I’m sure I’m not at all alone in that, however.

Update:  We just finished up Bastogne.  Beautiful:

We didn’t need to be “rescued” – 101st Airborne

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It’s been a rotten few days in the news. If that statement makes no sense then just run right out and look up “Aurora” on your favorite news aggregator site.

So let’s go somewhere else, shall we?

What is the most perfect way to defuse the world? Why, a pug-mug t-shirt, of course!

There. Don’t you feel just a bit better?

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If you missed this fellow then you are in for a treat. This is how people can non-verbally say “I am a broken toy”:

Yes, those are permanently attached. Yes, he’s in the news because some employees at a McD’s in Paris were stuck in their teens and decided to kick the crap out of him.

Yes, they beat him up even:

After Mann presented the employee with a doctor’s note he carries with him that states he needs to wear his headgear…

What kind of doctor, exactly? A psychiatrist?

What the guy needs is a little less validation in the “craves attention” department and a little more supervision in the “requires medication” department.

Seriously, I could not make this up if I tried

Mann then tried to calm Perpetrator 1 and showed him his doctor’s note, which the employee showed to two coworkers, whom Mann nicknames Perpetrators 2 and 3. After Perpetrator 2 crumpled up his doctor’s note and Perpetrator 1 tore up some other documentation he provided, Perpetrator 1 then allegedly pushed him out the door and onto the street, damaging his gear.

“My Glass started acting a little erratic but I could still see to some degree, but with crosshatches and kind of a freeze-frame like motion as the Eye Glass stopped and started intermittently,” Mann said. The alleged assault apparently loosened a ribbon cable within the device, causing the eye piece to malfunction and flood Mann’s eye with laser light.

However, the device was still functioning until Mann had an embarrassing bodily reaction upon hitting the street, which caused his circuits to short out.

“The actual cause of the final stoppage (which happened shortly after he pushed me out the door) is a bit embarrassing as what happened also is that I had had to really use the toilet, at the time, and it was that I’d been going toward using the toilet but got attacked, so as a result, later, it turned out that my pants became the toilet,” he said.

“My pants became the toilet”. (It was there that I just blinked three times – long slow numb-brained blinks.)

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Cruel Wife and I celebrated 17 years of marital bliss today. Seventeen calendar years, forty-five years subjectively.

Now, before you form an opinion about my insensitivity and gather up pitchforks, tar, feathers, and torches of all shapes and sizes, let me describe the anniversary card she got me.

Two asses (the beasts of burden kind) on the front of the black-and-white card are standing in a field in the shade of a tree. One says “How many years has it been?” and the other one says “Seems like FOREVER!”

Inside, the card says “It doesn’t matter, your ass is still mine!”

Whereupon she added “Your ass, your dogs, and your bats in the attic – all mine.” The second in the list refers to my remarks that “my canines are vocalizing”.

It’s all a matter of perception. She sees herself as owning me forever and I see forty-fi… uh… seventeen years of incarcer… uh… marital bliss.

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I would have posted another pic but I threw it towards Aggie Sith and she wants to use it. It has some words that shocked my tender sensibilities – such coarse and vulgar language – so I’m fine with letting her post it. That said, it exactly illustrates the withering scorn I have for people who can’t be bothered to look words up or learn the rules.

Dammit, if Aggie Sith can pick up English as a second language and speak it better than I can then people dam well aught too be able to (a) stick with words they know, (b) recognize which words they know halve homonyms, and (SEE) learn knew words awl the thyme. I don’t think that is two much to ask. I mean, Aggie uses words like oubliette, insouciance, and soirees. Granted, those are all French in origin, but she uses them in the right context when writing in what is for her a secondary language. I’m impressed as hell.

While we’re on the topic of words we may or may not know – quickly, without looking it up, define “contemn”. Did you know the definition? I’m currently reading Swiss Family Robinson to my daughter, Lemurita, and ran across the word. Believe it or not, I found the bottom corner of the page creased/folded from the first time I read it when I was ten. Even then I had that nasty habit of tabbing a page when I found a word I didn’t know and wanted to look up later. I guess the definition didn’t stick with me, but how often do you hear it used at a party or on the radio?

I would like to make a comment about the book – even at the age of ten I knew that having all that shit down and being on the ball was just so much utter bullshit, plus having everything go off so well without a hitch, but I’m having fun challenging her with a more archaic usage of the language and I can tell it is keeping her on her toes. I asked her if she wanted to keep going with the story and she nodded earnestly while she said “Oh, YES!”

Back to command of the English language…

The inability to properly write is especially troublesome when it comes from writers, supposed English majors, who should know better. But, they let spell-checkers do the heavy lifting and don’t bother after that to check the other things that are hallmarks of the mastery of the english language. Just as I expect optics folks to understand dispersion, diffraction, and wave equations, I also expect English majors to know how to write. Before you heap scorn upon my writing here, let me say that I see blogging as a different beast than that which is farmed out by a reporter because as a blogger you get to make it up as you go – you are allowed to wax metaphorical, contrive colloquialisms, and smith words to your hearts content. Reporters need to be factual and to dot their t’s and cross their i’s, so to speak.

Just keep an eye on H&B, as I think she was going to use that graphic there. You’ll know the pic when she posts it.

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From the “I think my brain became the toilet” files.  

At least 21 treated for burns after trying to walk on coals at Tony Robbins event

It was a motivational speaker event.  Now I ask you:

So you walked on coals.  What does it prove?

You could have the rosiest can-do “No ‘I’ in Team” “I’m a winner” kind of attitude and if you don’t use the proper technique, you’re gonna get burned.

In the article:

The San Jose Mercury News reports that at least three people went to a hospital and most suffered second- or third-degree burns.

Jonathan Correll, 25, told the paper that he heard “screams of agony.”

“It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured,” he told the paper. “First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man.”

This isn’t an exercise in tapping the power within.  This is proving that you have no spine and are pliable human clay.

Let’s dissect that.  Most suffered second or third-degree burns.  Really?  Did this prove anything about having more power within?  Screams of agony.  More than one scream?  It takes more than one to shut the whole thing down?  First one person, then a couple minutes later another one… That’s either one hell of a motivational speaker or there are some amazing examples of sheeple out there.  A line of people walking on that fire.  A line.  Twenty one people is a conga line of people, all waiting to get charred.

You see souls around you going down in screaming charred agony yet you engage in the exact same behavior.  How very human.

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Stealing blatantly from Aggie Sith…

As I remarked to her over at Sithy Things… does it not seem odd for a cat to be using a MAC-10?  Wouldn’t an MP-5 be much better suited to their little cat paws? Last thing you want is a cat fumbling a weapon when he freaks out.  To which she replied:

Thus the shots to the TV.

So there you have it.  Cats should NOT be allowed to carry MAC-10’s because of indiscriminate spraying around the house.

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doubleplusundead…

Nice writing there.  A passionate and well argued piece about why gun control is about the most useless tits-on-a-boar thing you could ever hope to achieve.  Well, that wasn’t exactly the argument, but close.  DPUD’s point is that not allowing people to defend themselves is ultimately… cruel.   And it absolutely is cruel.

DPUD was inspired (and rightly so) by a particularly reprehensible op-ed that had the gall to say, among many other galling things:

Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.  – @d@m G0pn1k

Excuse me?  The train has entirely left the tracks.
Go read DPUD’s most excellent posting.  I’ll link it again here because it deserves it.
And again because it is still more or less a free country and I can.
Yeah, I did half-LEET out the name attached to the quote above.  I don’t like to give it more exposure than it deserves, beyond simple credit.
Here is where I get bogged down.  I read the news about the Aurora thing and the first thing I thought was “Oh God, those poor people”, then “did they catch the bastard?”, “why all those innocent people?”, and lastly “has the list of victims grown?”
Nowhere did I leap up and scream “If only all weapons were illegal, this would never happen!” or “Gosh, I hope no one uses this as an argument to take my right to self-defense away!”
“Guns” were never central in the story in my mind.  People were my first, second, third, and last thoughts.  “Guns” didn’t enter the picture until I read so many reports about calls for more gun laws and how this is the fault of anyone who says the 2nd Amendment and all supporters of it have blood on their hands.  DPUD saw the ridiculous article that was the source of the quote above and responded elegantly and honorably.  Well done.

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The other day Hackerboy (who is six) was on the Wii playing a game that looked suspiciously like the Tour de France in its layout.  Let’s call it the Tour de Frank.

Anyway, he had moved from 100th place in the beginning to 17th place by the end of Stage 5.  I was making dinner and only marginally paying attention but I was following his progress.  He was clearly excited by his progress and I heard him say loudly:

I was BORN for this!

Where he got that, I’ll never know.

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I’m not addicted to Red Bull™.  I can quit anytime.  I like the taste.  It is a social thing.  I just don’t want to quit.  I’m not hurting anybody.  I only have a few.  Other people?  They have problems.

Beautifully creative use of Red Bull™ long after the body has eliminated it.

I only wish I had come up with that idea.  It’s elegant.  Beautiful.  Cheaper than taking it to the shop.

****

Note:  I’m tired, cranky, and bitchy.  I’m going to rant.  You might skip over this if you are in a “don’t pop my bubble” mood.

As you know, I listen to NPR to follow the saying “Know thine enemy”.

I end up knowing far too much.

Rodriguez moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 7. He says if he could, he would vote.

“To see people that have that privilege and not take it, and because they don’t take it we have people elected that create laws that hurt me, that hurt my family, that hurt our communities. It can get frustrating,” he says.

“I am practically an American without papers, and because of that I don’t have the power to vote,” says Rodriguez. “So, the best thing I can do now is organize those that can, and make them vote for me.”

Yet another ILLEGAL alien is whinging about the raw deal he’s getting just because he hasn’t gone and become a legal entity in the US.  Like it’s the US’s fault that he’s in the situation he’s in.  It’s his family who is at fault.  They didn’t do a “moved to the US”, they did a “snuck into the country illegally and decided to stay”.

At the end of the evening, Somos America President Daniel Rodriguez took to the podium.

“Raise your hand,” he said in Spanish, “if you know someone who’s not here but needs this information. Raise your hand if you know someone who’s been deported. Raise your hand if you know someone who has the power to vote.”

Across the room, hands shot up at each statement.

“Every question, almost everyone raised their hands, and that just goes to show you that there’s a lot of people that know the pain and the hurt of being deported or having to know someone that was deported,” Rodriguez recounted.

Rodriguez told the crowd of mostly ineligible voters that they need to use that pain and turn it into power by tapping friends and family who can vote.

The pain and hurt of being deported or having to know someone that was deported… I have friends from Germany that were here LEGALLY and they had to go back home.  So a large number of hispanics here illegally feel like they are owed the right to break the law and be given a free pass?  Well, they certainly won’t be disabused of that notion by our Marxist president and the liberal media.

****

Today I heard another thing on NPR.

One of the reporters was interviewing a lady from Yemen.

Turns out a lot of Yemenis hate the US and distrust us.

WHOA!  OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!  This turns my world UPSIDE DOWN!  Yemenis somewhere in the world hate us.  Oh.  My.  God.

She said it as if we were suddenly going to have to sit up straight and pay attention.  So what?  Big deal.  Let’s have a head count – the number of Yemenis who have been terrorists who have attempted to kill, want to kill, or have killed – innocent civilians.  Ok.  Now let’s take a head count of the number of US terrorists who have the same aspirations to kill Yemenis.  Yeah, there’s a huge network of people organizing to do just that.  Uh-huh.  Sure.

Next, the reporter made mention of either $150 or $170 million dollars being spent on aid programs in Yemen – building things, infrastructure, etc.  He asked her if that is helping the US’s image in Yemen.

Guess what?

Her response was essentially that no, it does nothing because Yemenis see how much we spend on military involvement in Yemen – troops, equipment, training – and see that it is far more.  They also believe that most of that money goes to corrupt individuals in their government.

A corrupt government is a symptom of a corrupt society (the US is not an exception).  But why is the US implicitly to blame for their corruption?  Why do Yemenis still take money from the US?

And better yet, why do we spend money on a country that hates and distrusts us when it does no good and is going to corrupt individuals?  We do it so we can function covertly and overtly in their country.  Let’s not couch it in terms of “aid”, m’kay?  And Yemen – if it is such a distasteful thing, stop claiming the high road while holding out the hands for money.  Clean your house of corruption while you are at it.

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