Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking At My Golden Years

While in no way do I consider myself “old” physically, emotionally, or mentally a bit of a mild shock hit me the other day concerning what until recently was strictly the abstract concept of old age retirement. Now understand I retired from the National Guard in 2005 after twenty-one years of combined service in both the active army and National Guard but the great fiscal guardians of taxpayer funds, both elected and bureaucratic, proclaimed long ago that such veterans (read: fools) like me cannot receive compensation for our services until the age of sixty. Even with National Guard retirement kicking in, I am looking at the year 2033 before I can even begin thinking about hanging up the “Gone Fishing” sign. Since two pillars of my retirement plan rely on government-managed money, the other being Social Security, that 2033 date is something I have only penciled in, so the real date could be something closer to next to never unless I happen to hit the lotto. This leaves me largely dependent on whatever private retirement nest egg I can build up and put it in the hands of monetary experts for investment like those trusted gentlemen from Goldman Sachs who testified before Congress yesterday claiming that their raping of the country was really cool and above board. This is why once a week I will fall to my knees before the lottery kiosk in the convenience store and before picking out my five numbers pray to Mighty God in Heaven for both a smallpox outbreak on Wall Street and for that week’s winning numbers.
Now I bear a huge chunk of responsibility for not being prepared as I should for old age. In my “younger” years working in the manufacturing segment of the economy I jumped from one electronic technician job to the other trying to stay ahead of that thing called global free-trade economics by the high paid but soulless syncopates on the business news networks. Despite my best efforts to build a 401k over those years I still had to ride out two economic-driven layoffs and a plant closing that had me part of the skeleton crew boxing factory equipment for the slow boat ride to China. Other things generally falling in the category called life happened as well like a couple of kids showing up, the purchase of transportation so I could get to work, repairs to the house, medical bills, and even vacations to get over the stress of living the glorious American Dream. This brings me to the recent event that shattered my complacency concerning my private retirement fund.
One of the neat things about working at a hospital as opposed to working the manufacturing field is that people will always be getting sick or injured and needing treatment as long as their health insurance isn’t suddenly canceled. However in manufacturing there are a finite number of widgets people can buy which results in layoffs or factories being sent overseas so the suits can squeeze out every cent in profit using slave labor.
Given this relative dependability at the hospital my 401k was merged with the other pitiful survivors from my previous jobs and for a while was doing okay. However, the economic meltdown and resulting stock market collapse played Hell with my retirement funds. As the financial world fell apart I was left with the thought that I would have liked to have been kissed first before serving as some bitch for a Wall Street metrosexual suffering from delusions of godhood.
However, not having friends in high places I lived without my bailout and soldiered on watching my beleaguered funds very slowly recover as the same shits who got us in this mess reward each other with colossal bonuses.
My employer transferred management of our personal retirement funds to a different company requiring everyone at a minimum to contact the new company so new investment strategies could be worked out. So the other day like a good subordinate with no other option being caught in the wheels of global banking I introduced myself to the nice lady who would guide me to my retirement dreams.
As I took a seat we exchanged the required small talk and got down to the business of figuring out how I would live out my golden years. It took several minutes for her to review both some stuff on her laptop screen I could not see and some papers I had brought with me.
“Well sir,” she said punching keys on the laptop with some sort of program on the screen reflecting off her glasses, “let’s see how we can get you to your retirement goals. I see we have your age, your other sources of retirement income, and how much you have it your 401k right now.” Some sort of unhappy number appeared on the screen because her professional honed mask of perky optimism collapsed like a house of cards for several seconds.
“Is there anything wrong?” I asked but I figured since she only makes money if I keep an account she would never tell me.
God bless her training because the perky mask of eternal optimism reasserted itself and she looked up at me with a smile that while friendly would have scared babies given how fake it was. “No sir, we are a team and I will see that you get as close to your goals as possible.”
Despite the opinion of many and I admit some actual evidence I am not a complete fool, I figured the news was bad and after reviewing the retirement printout I made my trip back to the convenience store to pray again for smallpox and winning lotto numbers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How is talking from one's butt news?

Some caterpillars essentially talk with their rear ends, scraping oar-like structures on leaf surfaces to signal turf ownership to intruders. Now researchers have found the butt-talking evolved from crawling behaviors.

Now if only some National Science Foundation research grants could be created to explore the bizarre nature of politicians and their communication habits since they have been talking from their asses since the beginnings of human civilization. I purpose that all elected officials be captured and tagged allowing an in-depth study on the nature of anal communications. I am sure that since this activity originated from crawling behavior that plenty of their more evolved predecessors can be found simply by looking under any slime covered rocks for comparative studies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Business Theater of the Absurd


Since I am already working with a severe mental deficit at the best of times, the cumulative effects of working third shift makes watching the morning news shows with the hosts explaining the theater of the absurd that passes as normal human affairs an added threat to the weak underpinning of my sanity. Nevertheless, the last hour of my shift will have me in front of some television in the company of my bagel and cream cheese trying to make sense of the verbal offal put forth by the talking heads. For me the morning news shows on the business networks are the worst with high paid heralds of free-market global capitalism almost daily making some outrageous remark that is either condescending to us working folks or showing blatant ignorance about matters outside their area of knowledge.
As a kid growing up in the South I got use to traveling preachers working the revival circuit during humid summer evenings standing in front of us sweating sinners with a fanatical gleam in his eye declaring someone a “Good Christian” and praising God that such people walk the earth. Such declarations by strange men faded into background static during my teenage years as summer revivals became less a chance to get on the right side of Jesus and more an opportunity to get on top of Savannah out behind the bushes. However, I must admit to be taken back a few months ago when I saw the same fanatical gleam in the eyes of one of the business journalist babes on a discussion panel declaring someone a “Good Capitalist.” I have known for a long time that the high and mighty business and investor class have long since sold their souls to the god of Profit but I was surprised to see such a similar religious zeal on someone whose job it is to inform and investigate instead take on the mantle of an acolyte, or better yet syncopate.
I would be terribly remiss if I did not bring up the words of the brunette hottie who is nearly drop dead gorgeous in her own right without having to resort to the silicone implants and countless bottles of peroxide like her Fox Business Channel cohorts. This fine example of a business journalist once declared that China was doing us a favor by selling us toys with lead paint and food with poisons. That earned her my lifetime award for heartless corporate shrill babe. I just hope when she gets around to having a few hatchlings of her own so she can really show her appreciation to China by giving them such toys and food.
The latest winner for me though was yesterday morning when one of brunette hottie’s cohorts was whining about all the money the airlines were losing in Europe being ground by the volcanic ash hanging over the continent. The dude openly wondered why they had not sent planes up in the air to see if there was any way over, under or around the ash produced by the volcano in Iceland. Now understand I have nothing against capitalism except when all common sense is abandoned. This guy’s worry was not over the thousands of people stranded in airports struggling to find other means to get home but over the hundreds of millions and possibly billions these airlines will lose with their planes staying on the ground.
Now dude should have been able to guess that all sorts of meteorologists and aviation experts were constantly pouring over satellite data concerning the ash and when it might clear out. A report I heard from a completely different source hours later did say a few planes were being sent up to check whether flights could start again; so dude had no need to get his knickers in bind because the experts knew what they were doing. I have to admit though to thinking the fun thing to do would be to throw whiner dude forcibly onto one of those planes checking out the ash levels in the atmosphere and then see how much he worried about the airlines losing money.
I'm sorry, I've just seen too many sons of bitches lately and this song came to mind:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

America Still Lost in Space

Not too many weeks ago, I made a promise to myself to stay away from American politics for good. The slime infesting the halls of government and narrow-minded sycophants seeking only their interests at the expense of everything else had turned my stomach to the point that I finally realized the rot had gone to the core making any attempt at reform the same as shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. However, I find myself once again forced to comment on the swirling cesspool, this time for my own narrow interests.
I voted for President Obama largely on the idea that he could lead the country into the 21st century in spite of stagnate views and festering apathy from far too many people who are fanatically holding onto an America that really last existed fifty some-odd years ago. Now to be fair, the suitcases of his family were not even unpacked in the White House when a storm of entrenched forces opened fire on him and have yet to let up. However, instead of the president rallying his forces and heading into the fire at least from my view he sat back and became more a sedate university professor observing the mud throwing and sausage making from a distance. Only recently after his health care reform looked to be roasting on an open fire with Republicans gleefully dancing among the flames like children from Lord of the Flies did he finally jump into the mix.
Along those same lines, I at least think the man is falling short again of the reasons I voted for him. Tomorrow Lord Brainiac will travel down to Florida to once again like all the presidents since Reagan and rededicate the country to some national goal in space. This is after canceling the Constellation program with billions already spent and some actual metal being cut. In its place, the president will propose that commercial companies will act as taxi drivers for American astronauts taking them to and from the International Space Station. Companies whose "space taxis" are at best full size display models but more than likely nice slides on a Power Point presentation.
However long it takes these vehicles to be built we will spend years paying the Russians 50 million dollars a seat to do it for us on their simple but very reliable Soyuz spacecraft. It is supposed by those people running things now that going with commercial spacecraft will be easier, cheaper, and push the boundaries of possible human space exploration finally out of low Earth orbit. While that may be the case a letter signed by the many former American astronauts, in my mind more reliable experts, differ:

The real experts go on to write:

It would be wrong for me to ignore the problems with the Constellation program; it was over budget, behind schedule, and lost in a NASA bureaucracy that can make cold molasses look like running water. My point in all this is that after several administrations all making goals but never reaching them it is a sad state for a country that decided to land a man safely on the moon when it was still finding it difficult to launch a damn satellite into orbit.
Hell, I'm all for going to the real space explorations experts, the Russian, and ask them to teach us how to do it. More than likely it will be faster and cheaper in the long run. If the scattered brained American collective has post Cold War issues with the Russkies we can just wait for the Chinese and buy tickets on their flights. They have stated in no uncertain terms that they will land a man on the moon sometime in the 2020s. Even the Indians have it as a goal to reach the moon appearing far more determined and brave than we are right now. Then again they are not fighting two wars essentially over oil, have a decent education system, and a population a little more interested in something other than reality television and Tiger Woods screwing around.
Yes, Lord Brainiac will come out smiling tomorrow and give and impassioned speech saying that America will keep leading the world in manned space exploration by making our goal going to Mars. So excuse my cynicism if I say all he should do is replay the speeches by his last four predecessor on the subject because they are all empty words. I'll skip the speech and read up on former great powers that choked on keeping up with the future and thinking about more than immediate concerns and got left behind by those that could.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Under A Silver Moon

Author's note: Wanted to write some more but I really did not want to jump back into the vampire stuff just yet. Drifted over to the Writer's Digest website and found this prompt:

"You and a friend break into your neighborhood swim club late one night to go for an after-hours dip. While splashing around in the pool, you go into shock when a dead body floats to the top. Worse yet—it's someone you know. Write this scene."

The full moon shining above lighted the way as Katie and Zane walked the narrow path through the woods that paralleled the length of their neighborhood on the way to the pool house. The only sounds beside their footsteps were of lonely crickets still singing for a mate and small animals skittering through the underbrush.

As they walk beside each other, Katie is clearly uncomfortable about sneaking out of her house so late and nervous about the dark woods around them and seeing this Zane puts his arm around her. “We will be at the pool in a minute babe and it will just be us.”

Katie rewards him for easing her fears by leaning her head over and kissing him. The kiss is short but from the moonlight reflecting off her eyes he sees her silent promise of what awaits once they get to the pool.

The young couple had known each other since elementary school having grown up in the same neighborhood and been a part of the same social circles. Still though, they had never been more than friends until the summer before college. Something always seemed to push them apart, namely Zane’s father who never thought much of Katie or her family for some reason that he would never really speak about. During their senior class trip to the Bahamas though, Zane and Katie, away from their families, began to see something special in each other.

However, college loomed before them so those feelings were set aside and as the years passed they keeping in touch through letters and the occasional phone call. Relationships with other people, some serious, flared and then died as the college years passed but the two rediscovered each other by chance after returning home.

Zane easily climbed over the old wrought iron fence surrounding the pool house as Katie slipped around to the fence door where he lets her through. The pool water sparkled in the moonlight with the two staring at each other longingly before falling into each other’s arms. Their kiss was passionate and long with the couple eager to fulfill years of pent up desire and dreams about each other. As the young couple entered the chilly waters of the pool the full moon whose light had provided a sort of comfort during their walk slide behind a large bank of clouds with a deeper darkness enveloping the two.

Their world becomes the feel of each other’s skin, the taste of each other’s lips, and the sound of words spoken they had only imagined. Feeling the security of the darkness wrap around them their bodies find each other and the world they know shrinks even further to one of primal lust and the joy that they had at last found each other.

Their moment passes, the fever subsides and Zane and Katie become children again swimming and playing in the pool while the passing clouds allow the silver moon to reappear. The returning moonlight illuminates the area allowing Zane to see a dark shape floating in the short segment of the L-shaped pool. Zane cannot completely tell what the shape is gently bobbing in the water is but he has an instinctive foreboding.

“Katie, get behind me and turn around.” Zane said as Katie is suddenly nervous and clasps her arms tightly around her naked breasts.

“Zane, you’re scaring me,” she says as he lets her go and edges closer to the dark shape floating in the water. Zane finally gets close enough to realize it is a man floating face down, the splayed arms and lack of any movement confirming in Zane’s mind that the person is long dead.

“Katie,” he said in as calm a voice he could manage, “I need you get out the water and call the police from the phone mounted on the wall next the pump house.”

As Zane heard Katie begin to wade through the pool back toward the other end he flipped the body to see whom it was. Staring back at him with lifeless eyes was Zane’s own father. The scream that came out of Zane was instinctive, hearing his pure and utter sorrow Katie turned and rushed back to the man she now knew she loved.

As the couple embraced naked in the water seeking only comfort from each other next Zane’s dead father, a figure emerged from the shadows.

“I really hated to kill Edward although he was always able to sense something of my true nature,” a male voice said stepping out into the moonlight. “But despite my efforts all through your life Katie I knew there was nothing I could do to stop Zane from eventually soiling you beyond any usefulness. You two were simply meant for each other”

Both Zane and Katie are shocked to see her father stepping out of the shadows. Even more disturbing was the manic look on his face and the almost lyrical tone to his voice as if he could start singing at any minute. Knowing something was very wrong they held each other closer feeling a growing danger.

“My backers had such plans for you Katie my darling; it really is a shame that you are lost to us now. However, with a little more work on my part either one of your younger sisters will do nicely.” With that, Katie’s father throws the electrical disconnect hanging on the wall beside him that ran to the underwater pool lights. As the lever falls completing the circuit both Zane and Katie saw the broken lights and exposed wires under the water.

As the current raced through the pool and through Zane and Katie’s bodies they sink into the water still holding each other. Katie’s last thoughts before the final darkness engulfed her were terror filled as she saw her father step back into the shadows with his eyes seemingly glowing red.

The next day as police arrive after the discovery of the bodies everyone saw how distraught Katie’s father was at the sight of his lifeless daughter. Without any effort on his part the general census of the authorities present was that Zane’s father had discovered the lovers in the pool and in a fit of mindless rage thrown the switch since it was well know he had issues with his son seeing the girl.

“You two are all I have now.” Katie’s father says as friends lead him away from the pool with his two younger daughters by his side.