Monday, April 29, 2013

Sleep Deprived Phone Tag

The question I always get when I mention I often have to answer the phone during the day while I am recovering from working night shift is why don’t you just turn the ringer off so you can sleep? It is a valid question and despite having the furthest thing from a logical brain I have an answer that would make Commander Spock proud. I live barely five minutes away from my daughter’s school and about fifteen from my son’s, if they get sick or hurt it is far easier for me to go pick them up than my daytime working wife who is clear on the other side of town. To me it is just one of the normal duties when it comes to being a dad.

However, I am not saying in the least that my diligence is always up to the task. Quite frankly there have been occasions when one of the schools has called two or three times because I simply did not wake up. Then there was the time I answered the phone, clearly understood the message that my son was sick and that I had to come get him, but literally fell asleep after putting on my shoes. In that instance the bed felt so comfortable and my back was hurting, so I decided to stretch out a few minutes in an attempt to relieve the pain. Of course, the irate school nurse called again about an hour later and I broke about a dozen traffic laws after that getting to the school while feeling like a sorry ass heel of a father.

Thankfully, caller ID usually does allow me to weed through most daytime calls without having to go through the motions of me being barely awake and talking with someone trying to sell me a lawn service or rug cleaning. That is when I can find the remote phone receiver we have in my bedroom. There are occasions it somehow grows legs and decides to run off to the Florida Keys or some other nice place because there are times I cannot find it, which forces me to run and answer the phone in the kitchen. Because I could not find the remote receiver early last week, it resulted in one of the strangest wrong number incidents I ever encountered.

While the phone call I received last Tuesday is vague in my memory, I do remember the exact time it occurred because when the ringing started I looked at my watch and saw that it was a little after eleven o’clock. I also remember looking for the remote receiver but not seeing it on the recharger. After saying a few cuss words, I then stumbled through the house to the kitchen and grabbed the phone before whoever called hung up. One piece of vital information I need to write is that before I laid down I had taken one of those tablets for headaches that also has a mild ingredient for sleep so I was not as coherent as I would have liked.

After saying hello, I could tell the person on the other end was friendly in a business sort of way but what he was saying made no real sense. That was nothing out the ordinary for me and like similar calls, once I realize they are either wrong numbers or business propositions I inform them they are mistaken or say no thank you, and hang up. This guy would have nothing of it and while still friendly became rather insistent that we make an appointment to meet.

Whereas I would usually say screw it and just hang up because I was groggy I sort of recollect saying, “Yeah whatever, that will be fine,” figuring this was a doctor’s office calling to confirm an appointment for one of the kids or my wife. What followed was a rapid-fire set of instructions with the words “appointment” and “minimum hours” and “cancelation” used. The guy then hung up and I went back to bed and to be honest the whole thing seemed more like a dream when my wife came home later and asked if there any important phone calls today.

Fast forward to last Friday, it was a little after twelve noon and since I am off those nights, I was taking care of some minor chores around the house. The phone rings and when I answer there is a rather irritated lady on the other end.

“This is Russell Consulting,” she said, “just wanted to inform you that you missed your scheduled appointment and that you will be charged for the three hours we had you down for today.” She went on to say an amount that would have probably given me a heart attack if I had to pay such a price. In fact, the heart attack would have been a mercy because I know my wife would have skinned me alive for such a mistake.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” I said not knowing what the hell was going on at that moment, “you have the wrong number. No one here at my house would have called you.” I went on to give her my phone number figuring she would check it against her list and realize the mistake.

Much to my surprise,” Oh no,” she said. “That’s the number Mr. Russell called late Tuesday morning.”

At that moment, all those vague, dream-like memories fell into place with me recalling far more than I felt comfortable with since I now had the very crazy idea that either Russell Consulting or the person he was trying to reach might try to charge me for this missed appointment. A braver man might have told the lady that yes, I did talk with Mr. Russell but I was half asleep and forgot about the whole thing till now but the fault is with your dumbass boss who called the wrong number. But being married to an attorney over the years has aquatinted me to a number of her professional compatriots who would sue their own grandmothers for a buck. This has promoted the idea in me that discretion is the far better part of valor in cases involving annoyed business types who more than likely have several lawyers on retainer.

“Well ma’am,” I replied, “I’m sorry but if that’s the case the person he probably talked with was my brother who was visiting at the time. He’s not here anymore.”

While my suspicion that they might try to make me pay for that missed appointment was rather silly, the next remark from the lady on the phone was unsettling. “Oh damn,” she said slightly worried as if she herself was looking for a way to cover her ass. “Well thank you,” she said still sounding dejected. The line abruptly went dead after that with me making a mental note to screen all my phone calls far better from now on.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Troubled American Skies

One of the few thin strands of commonality that Americans share these days is the belief in some personally defined delusion. These fantasies are easily tailored to fit whatever political, religious, socio-economic standing, or any other views a person bases his or her reality on no matter how ridiculous they might be. To justify these beliefs people naturally seek out others who believe the same thing and then usually begin a process of reinforcing and augmenting these viewpoints. As these groups become more insulated paranoia sets in with anyone who even seems to be deviating from the accepted orthodoxy being branded a heretic.

Since I have long declared myself a liberal most will conclude I am speaking strictly about those calling themselves by a variety of monikers that boil down to social conservative, governmental libertarian-leaning Republicans. The nifty little catch in this is I am not; I have met more than my share of liberals/progressives that have long since drifted off into the netherworld of political La-la land. Their chief fault being summed up in the demand that Utopia be immediately established and God help the person who hinder this process that should not take more than a year to accomplish at the most.

With that open admission out of the way, where warm and happy delusional liberals fall short as compared to batshit crazy conservatives is that the latter is very heavily armed where as the former often go into seizures at the mere sight of a bolt-action deer rifle. This is not a criticism of liberal trepidation at firearms, being a Southerner who was raised around the religious zeal associated with gun culture from the late-70’s to now I have personally seen it mutate into a paranoid monster both eagerly awaiting doomsday and I believe something far worse.

In the strange world of conservative media, no event can go by without it being branded as some vast left-wing conspiracy out to impose a commie/Muslim/atheistic/vegetarian/animal rights believing world government on righteous, God-fearing, capitalistic Americans. The blood was not cleaned up in the Sandy Hook Elementary school classrooms when it was already being declared a diabolical plot by Obama to take away guns from the ever vigilant, liberty loving Americans. It should not go without saying that even as Boston begins to recover from the aftermath of the very recent terror attack on the marathon the loony bin reverberates with the shrill sounds of conspiracy.

Okay, let me reiterate this because I know someone reading this has his or her terribly bent out of shape despite what I already admitted. Yes, liberals very much have their own wackos spouting all sorts of wild conspiracy theories on a wide spectrum of subjects but as a group, we do not purchase huge arsenals of assault weapons and ammunition awaiting the jackbooted thug knocking at the door.

Elements of the right-wing have gone so bonkers that after reading an article concerning how many of Rush Limbaugh’s commercial sponsors had dropped his radio show after an incident calling a woman a slut the comment section was awash with his fans proudly proclaiming they were ready for civil war. As you might be able to guess, they saw this as some plot to take away his First Amendment rights.

Along those same lines I personally heard a coworker say he believed the 2010 midterm elections were fixed because the Tea Party-inspired Republicans were unable to win enough seats to take over control of the United States Senate. This bright boy clearly ignored the fact that the Delaware “I am not a witch” candidate and the crazy loon from Nevada who believed in “Second Amendment remedies” were simply rejected by the voters of their respective states. Like I mentioned, when any group believes they are in some fashion the sole carriers of truth and justice anything that does not support that assumption has to be the result of some mistake or scheme to subvert their legitimacy.

One of my own brothers once posted a comment on Facebook equating disagreement with conservative principles, both religious and secular, as a form of behavior traitorous to true American ideals. The funny thing in all this is that in a family filled with God-fearing, Second Amendment loving, tax-hating, conservatives the liberal black sheep, me, is the only one ever to serve in the military. Not to further expose my family’s dirty laundry but contact between those branches and mine have been severed since November 2008.

There are ultimately two real points I am trying to make here. The first being that there is a large, paranoid, and heavily armed segment of the American public that views any deviation from what they consider normal as not only an affront but an attempt to impose a tyrannical government. By no means am I saying the majority of conservatives hold this view. I still hold to the belief that most Americans on both on the left and right understands it takes compromise to manage a country as large and complex as the United States of America has become.

I do believe that a large segment of conservatives extremely fear the huge change in demographics this country is going through. And that this fear manifests itself in several ways. Ethnic xenophobia with talk of border walls and mass deportations, nightmarish anxiety that institutions such as marriage might be corrupted if Gay people are allowed that basic right, and a despotic federal boogeyman out to take peoples hard earned money.

The second point I am trying to make is that while the United States does have real and dangerous enemies in the world by divine protection or sheer dumb luck we have never faced one with real intelligence. If such a cunning enemy did exist, he or she would only have to understand that our truly most vulnerable point is not some long and unguarded border but a deep mistrust and ignorance constantly exacerbated by a troop of insane political clowns. A few terroristic events staged to make one side or the other of American politics look guilty could very well push this country over the edge.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Still Here...Sort Of

Try as I might to get back to a more regular schedule of writing my usual crappy short stories and semi-psychotic rants the same problems just keep getting in the way. First and foremost is the fact that I have lost control of my laptop. Now that in itself should not be any type of problem since my family owns more than one computer, but like everything else in life the devil is in the details.

Right after we bought the current family computer in 2010, we noticed a curious little glitch that up until this last February was no big issue. It is a very fast Hewlett Packard desktop with an awesome high-definition screen that at first exceeded everyone’s expectation, except for the fact that it would sometimes automatically shut itself off resulting in the total loss of all unsaved data. At first, it would only do this about once or twice a month, but around February, it began doing it between forty-five minutes to an hour after being turned on. This has essentially made it a glorified boat anchor.

I took the sorry piece of overpriced shi… I mean computer to a local repair shop and was told the motherboard needs replacing to the tune of over five-hundred dollars. The two stereotypical nerdy-looking technicians actually seemed surprised when I started laughing at them for suggesting I would even think about spending half a grand when the same amount could buy a completely new computer. Of course, my wife laughed at me even harder when I got home for daring to suggest we go out and buy a new computer when the septic tank was again bubbling up all sorts of smelly detritus into our backyard.

That unfortunately ongoing situation should finally be fixed this Friday. There is some good news on that problem at least. We are only going to have to pay fifteen-hundred dollars to have the luxury of taking a poop without creating a further HAZMAT issue in our backyard. On a side note you should see the weeds around the septic tank, we have some serious evolution going on and I would not be surprised if they start talking. So, with all that going on you can easily imagine why my wife threatened me with bodily harm if I gave any hint of trying to sneak out the house with the Best Buy credit card.

Since my wife has always thought my blogging was a rather bohemian hobby whose only good attribute was that it kept me out of trouble with the family computer crapped out she taken over my laptop to run her eBay business selling equally crappy hobby and craft merchandise. We’re talking about cross stitch and scrapbook stuff among other things that knocks me out like a fifth of tequila whenever she tries to tell me about it. To be fair the same thing happens to her whenever I start blabbing about one of my stories or science stuff.

Top it all off my daughter’s teachers are very computer literate and have created scores of webpage’s to support the curriculum they are teaching this year. This also results in my daughter spending lots of time on my laptop as well, especially on the weekends when my muse usually hits me the hardest.

Long story short for the foreseeable future my posts will be few and far between. In fact the thought has crossed my mind to just throw in the towel and give up blogging since I cannot describe the number of times I have started a story or political rant only to have one of both of the usual suspects declaring there is some life or death issue they must address right freaking now.

Yeah, this is all truly First World problems with several of you out there warming up the violins to play “My Heart Bleeds for You.” Now my wife assures me control of my laptop will be returned, sometime around Black Friday this coming November.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus***

...Or Observations on the state of the Christian faith in Twenty-first century America.

As a somewhat chagrined observer of the human condition, one of the activities I always find fascinating is how we naked primates are constantly searching for a connection with God to justify our existence or actions. It is not enough that we have created God in our image by visualizing him/her not just as human but an old, Caucasian guy endlessly answering the prayers of his favorite ethnic group or individuals, we search every facet of daily life looking for the least little thing that might suggest his/her interest in our lives.     

On the surface it seems, at least to me, a reasonable behavior very much akin to a small child seeking reassurance from his or her parents. Except that when you are dealing with humans  a person or people desperately looking for that personal one-on-one Oprah moment with the creator of the universe have a very nasty tendency to go overboard. On a grand scale, new religions are the worse since they fly off the handle at some point believing the Big Guy wants them to convert every unbeliever, at the point of a sword if need be. On an individual level, things can get just as weird with countless cases of people getting really stupid. The short list involves people blowing themselves up, taking a shower in gasoline and then flicking their favorite Zippo lighter, or my favorites since they are far less hurtful to others, like seeing images of Jesus or even the Big Guy in clouds, MRI pictures, or fried foods.

I clearly remember an incident back in the 1970’s when I was standing in the checkout line at the local Piggly Wiggly with my grandparents overhearing a couple of “Good Old Country Folks” discussing the religious significance of a particular picture in one of the national tabloids. The image in question showed clouds that supposedly looked like Jesus and Satan locked in combat over the ruins of some ancient church. I believe I was thirteen at the time and while my grandparents both attended church on a regular basis I clearly remember my granddad fighting off belly laughs as the two Country Folks convinced each other this “battle” meant that the Rapture was rapidly approaching.

Both these Country Folks went as far as buying the tabloid so they could take it home and show some relative so “he would get right with the Lord.” Honestly, if the Creator of the Universe has to reveal his presence on a tabloid he may want to find another agent because sharing printed space with the likes of the Kardashians or the latest gossip about Prince William cheating on Kate is oh so tacky. On a side note, if that goofy bastard ever cheats on the beautiful Kate he needs to be on hung upside down from the Tower of London by his balls.

Sadly, it is not just the proverbial Good Old Country Folks that see Jesus in curious places, one obviously middle class lady is convinced he appeared in her MRI picture. While I admit I have also seen some strange and wonderful sights, usually after one too many shots of bad tequila, it goes without saying I am more convinced that the “Paul is dead” message was real than Jesus deciding it would advance the Christian faith by surreptitiously inserting himself on a medical image. Forgive me for getting uppity but if Jesus wants to inspire believers, the approach that might work far better is having a kid or two suffering with cancer receive a miracle cure. On another related side note, if a major news organization has to broadcasts such moronic crap they need to find another line of work.

The most bizarre examples of Jesus making appearance have him showing up on fried foods. Over the years I have seen television newscasts and still pictures of fools holding up such items like grilled cheese sandwiches or tortilla chips emblazon with burn marks in the shape of Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, it takes me several minutes for my stomach to calm down after seeing such reports. First, it challenges my belief in reality that anyone except two-year old children and the utterly insane would ever believe such moronic fantasies. Secondly, with such incredible sights on both the macro and microscopic scale implying some sort of underlying order like the planets and the structure of DNA inside cells overly religious types look to fried foods for evidence of the divine suggests a cosmic joke of unbelievable proportions.

Finally, this brings up the latest in divinely inspired foods a woman in Florida has found evidence of the Almighty on a Goldfish cracker.

Woman Finds God on a Goldfish Cracker

Burke hasn't decided what to do with her holy cracker yet. She carries it around in an earring box padded with gauze.

***1.) Listen let me make this very clear it was not my intent to anger anyone, I was raised in a very Christian household and over the years I have known many good and intelligent people doing their best to follow the teachings of Christ but to any sane people this fascination with supposed divine images on food is crazy. 2.) Yes, I stole the title from a Jimmy Buffett song. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Nomad Feet in Charleston

Despite an almost insurmountable amount of inertial keeping me mired at the house, I finally stopped whining, got the Hell out of Redneckistan, and spent Saturday on the coast walking around Charleston.  In a way the situation was weird, I got up that morning without anyone screaming my name or having some issue hanging over my head that could possibly keep me from going. Though just to be safe, I actually sneaked out the house as quietly as possible, figuring some issue was lurking in the shadows waiting to derail my plans. 

My first stop was the Waterfront Memorial Park in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Located next the new Charleston Bridge, it is a relaxing green space with a concrete pier that stretches out into the Cooper River allowing people to fish or just find a bench and enjoy the views of the marsh and Charleston Harbor.

While spring has yet to fully set in Waterfront Park is always a perfect place to relax. After I arrived I called my cousin who lives in Charleston  and then found a bench next the marsh. It was not as quiet as I would have liked with Saturday morning traffic going over the bridge but I did thoroughly enjoy getting away from my suburban purgatory  .

A Red-Winged Blackbird hanging out in the marsh. I would be embarrassed to admit how many times I took a picture of this bird before I finally got a decent photograph.

A view of the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval Museum. It's a great place to visit but the management of the aircraft carrier has been FUBARed almost from the moment it opened with upkeep and maintenance of the ship piecemeal at best. Not up to date on the details but the navy has let it be known several times over the years that the Yorktown needs to be properly kept up or scrapped. Beside the aircraft carrier is the destroyer USS Laffey, which I believe was overhauled for the same reason.

 A nice shot of Battery Park, had to borrow this picture because of the huge horde of tourists on the grounds. I have to admit there are times I wish Charleston was still a secret to most of the country. Be that as it may if South Carolina has one redeeming quality it is that city by the sea.

A cool idea someone set up on Logan Street. Just goes to show how special the people who live Charleston are. Because my Middle-Age male slush fund was somewhat short it forced my visit to be brief as well. Late in the afternoon I left for home hoping I can get back sometime soon.