My mastery of the obvious wanes

Common sense struck fourteen hours too late today.

You should know this already, but if not, take this opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes.

How did I become an other? Oh woe is me! Am I the mother of all others?

If there’s any chance a doctor’s appointment may cause worry, for God’s sake people, take the morning appointment!

How it fits into your work schedule should be WAY down on your list of priorities, unless for some reason missing time at work will cause more anxiety than the long wait. In that case, you have no alternative. Take two happy pills and call me in the afternoon (if you’re a little too mellow to drive).


Fickle Facebook friends

Note: I wrote this months ago, so the time references are way off (like someone’s concerned about timeliness… here of all places).

I was a social networking snob. At one time I had a blog, a web site, and all of it ran on a web server under my desk. I had Internet cred, and Facebook was beneath me.

Like everyone else, I didn’t get Twitter.

About a year ago I was talked into Facebook at an Obama event in Dunedin. “We’ll post all of our pictures there,” they said. “Facebook is cool. You’ll be hooked.” So I signed up.

A few days later I got my first friend request – someone who allegedly went to high school with me.

“Cheryl, do you remember a — —- from high school?”

“Um, yeah. I think she was a cheerleader and our class vice president.”

“Why on earth do you think she’d want to be my friend on Facebook?”

“Wait. Back up. Why would YOU want to join Facebook? When did this happen?”

Apparently I wasn’t the only snob in the house.

“I give. I’m weak. I gave in to peer pressure – and they weren’t even really peers – just a bunch of people I met at the Obama thing. Well, I suppose they were dictionary peers, but not my idea of peers. You know what I mean?”

“No John, I really don’t.”

Long story not too long, my prospective Facebook friend was helping plan our 20th high school reunion. I was new to the Facebook scene, and a little vulnerable, so I accepted. (Alright, I was vulnerable long before Facebook. Sue me.) I didn’t think we’d ever spoken to each other, and I knew we weren’t pen palls. I didn’t remeber her from any of my classes, though I’ve repressed most of those memories. Yet, through the miracle of social networking, we were Facebook friends.

Time passed. I voted for Obama. She almost certainly didn’t (more on that later). I had no intention of reliving my adolecent nightmares at a reunion. She posted lots of pictures with spirited captions. She’d been a popular kid. I was something, but it wasn’t popular. Dear Lord, who was this person? Shortly afterwards I ignored Facebook altogether (for a time). The hook hadn’t set.

Two people. Never met (I think). Never exchanged words (spoken or typed). Seemingly nothing in common but a brief bout of geography.

Facebook friends.

A few weeks ago depression eased off a bit and I caught up on the news. I left the house for something other than work. I checked Facebook to see what my friends were up to.

With a little curiosity, plus a pinch of boredom, I looked up that first Facebook friend. What I found was a wall full of political cartoons, jokes, and a pinch of right-wingnut hysteria; all railing against one of my passions: universal health care.

I was feeling frisky. My dander was tingling. The social courage I felt during the election returned. I was ready for a debate, even if I stood little chance of changing anyone’s mind. I had to comment, my fragile ego be damned. I picked the entry with the biggest choir and made my move.

I don’t know if I succeeded, but I tried to be civil. I thought I was arguing with reason and logic, facts and statistics. I made innocent/benign analogies. I made what I thought were reasonable points. They rallied – but not around me. Honestly, I don’t know if I drew first blood, but someone made it personal. One person called poor form. Another questioned my integrity, extolled the virtues of individualism, self-reliance and the boot-strap, implied collectivism in any form was the work of Satan, and suggested if I thought universal health care was so great, I should just move and leave everyone else alone.

I took exception to the moving bit, and said so. Still, I thought I was calm – reasonable. But maybe I wasn’t. Everyone got mad. I was told the move/leave comment was an honest suggestion, not an attack, I was essentially an idiot for thinking it was… and I took exception with THAT too.

Go figure. I’m odd that way.

Am I the only one who finds this kind of “suggestion” offensive? Am I the only one who finds an implicit “love it or leave it” message between the lines, implying I don’t love it? Am I the only one who finds it dismissive? Am I imagining an undertone of “we don’t want your kind here?”

And poor form? Can a guy get a collective: huh? Is it poor form to suggest social change conceived honestly, charitably, without malice, and dog gone it – just the right thing to do? I may not be right, and I gladly debate that point – but poor form?

Some of what follows is very similar to a post one of my favorite bloggers put up recently, only his was much better.

I felt like I wasn’t in it deep enough, so I set out to set mouths a foaming. I told them they were all collectivists. I don’t recall if I used these exact words, but I said something like this: “If not, then I expect you’d never drive on public roads, use public utilities, eat anything made out of corn, fly on planes that rely on the FAA to direct them, call 911 when you’re in trouble, engage in risk sharing via private insurance, support any intervention, under any circumstances, by a publicly funded military, use public libraries, beaches, or parks, or rely on others to monitor your water/air supply to make sure no one’s poluting it or poisoning you.”

I’ll say it again (because it makes me feel smart to use big words): everyone living in this country is a collectivist, to some degree.

At one point I had been accused of unfairly assuming one of the commenters was a Republican – though I don’t recall even using the word, let alone resorting to name calling. I got a little mushy and continued: “If I’ve made inaccurate assumptions, I appologize. I meant no offense. But when you’re trading short messages, with people you don’t know, it’s hard not to make certain assumptions based on what you say. I haven’t come out and said I’m a Democrat, but I’ll wager you’ve assumed I am one based on my stated beliefs.”

I might as well have set myself on fire and saved everyone the trouble. The next morning I was notified by email that another person had commented, once again acusing me unfounded/unfair/insulting assumptions, and self-evident deficiencies in logic conveniently wrapped in a single word rebuttal: socialist. I went online to read it again, to see where I’d gone so wrong, only to find I couldn’t. I’d been de-friended. I was in fact no longer welcome.

In an odd way, I hope I was an insufferable ass. Not because it gives me some sense of retaliation after the fact, but because I don’t want to believe the alternative: people are so closed to opposing viewpoints they huddle in little shelters, protected by a cocoon of agreement. I don’t want to believe we’re a society addicted to ideological insulation.

As for myself, I’m a little too comfortable in the cozy confines of my cocoon of naiveté. So make my day. Tell me I’m a stupid prick.

Oh, I know. There are other, less cynical possibilities. Maybe I broke a generally understood rule of social networking (by everyone but socially awkward me): thou shalt not argue on Facebook. Or I might not be right on this one, let alone persuasive. And then there’s the obvious: people don’t agree on everything. It’d be pretty dull if we did.

Then again, she did put all that political stuff up. You gotta expect a little dust-up when you talk political smack, right?

I know it’s not true for everyone, but I sense a pattern: folks get more cynical with age. I worry there’s good reason for it. Reading the news the last few months – about angry healthcare town hall mobs highjacking civil discourse, roving bands of bloodthirsty liberals hell bent on lowering the median age in this country, and the creeping influence of Satan in government (a place where I work) – hasn’t helped.

I don’t think I’m a pawn of Satan. Maybe I should re-read my position description and contract.

Life is like a box of Splenda

Stuff never seems to stop coming out of that dang box. I have to say, it’s disturbingly light. What lengths do chemists go to create a substance with so little density? Anyway, I bought one three weeks ago thinking we were almost out, but the old one’s still filling tablespoons for Cheryl’s elixir of life (coffee).

I had a similar experience this weekend. I was a mad cleaning machine Saturday morning. Cheryl was out on some errands, stressing about all the work that needed to be done around the house. So, I gave myself a good kick in the but and took the house by storm.

Some of you may suspect ulterior motives – like a cover-up for a yet to be revealed fuck-up. Or, you may be thinking this was part of “Operation Butter-up” – a vile plot to bend will to my favor. Well to you I say, I like the way you think. But no, as hard as it is to believe, this was a selfless act – though my unconscious mind will neither confirm nor deny the allegation.

Before I get to the meat of this post, let me first warn you: storms can be messy. They can cloud your judgement, drown your spirit, and blow away your energy reserves.

As it happens, I have an example.

I was cleaning the floors throughout the house, and I’d arrived in our livingroom. I knew I was going to have to shake out the rug and sweep the floor, but it was raining outside. So I thought I’d just shake out the rug over the living room floor and sweep up the stuff that came out with the rest of the dirt.

So there I was, 6’1″ with skinny, long arms, holding the folded rug up at shoulder level (bringing the end up just above the floor), using my full wingspan. I was kicking it with alternating feet to spectacular effect. I’m sure it was quite a sight. I’m equally sure it was very effective.

How was I to know a medium sized rug could hold enough sand for a private beach?

“How indeed?” my wife may ask.

My life in song

She had no idea she was making a mistake. I’m unpredictable that way. You never know what will set me off.

We were watching something on the TV and Cheryl asked, “where have I seen her before?” Not missing a beat, I whipped up a brilliant song about IMDB… set to the music of YMCA. I even threw in the arm spasms… I mean letters. It’s my one true gift, the thing that sets me apart, makes me special.

“Yeah, you’re ‘special’ alright.” she says.

I doesn’t sound sincere though.


Big Bother is watching

Cheryl was complaining this morning. Before you rush to judgement – of me – for telling on Cheryl, let me say up front that I complain just as much as she does. Only, my complaining tends to be more whiney, grating, and down right irritating.

But let us not talk about me, and instead focus on Cheryl – my intended target. (We’ll get to me shortly.)

Cheryl was complaining about her ratio of recreation to responsibilities this morning, but I was having none of it. “I saw you on the computer this morning,” I pointed out. “Yeah,” she replied, “but you saw me when I’d just sat down. I was only on it for ten minutes.”

“You want me to check?”

“What do you mean?”

“I can check the console logs to see what the computer was doing and when. Do you still want to stand by your ten minutes?”

“Show me.”

“Go to Applications, Utilities, double click Console, make sure Console logs is selected and click kernel.log.”

“I don’t know what all this means.”

“Neither do I, but see this… that’s when the Mac woke from sleep. And see this… that’s when you put it to sleep.”

“Well, it didn’t seem like I was on for half an hour.”

Now, some of you may be patting me on my virtual back for my cleverness. Some of you may be sneering at Cheryl’s smug prick of a husband. Some of you, if you’re really smart (or at least smarter than me), will see the trap laid by my clever wife.

Now she knows how to check the MacBook’s logs, to see how long I spend not doing the things she’s asked me to do.

Anyone out there know if it will do any harm if I start deleting my system logs?


Saving money in the wrong places

There are some lines I won’t cross on this blog.

Don’t you laugh. I’ll find you.

I’m not going to elaborate, not that it’ll be necessary. I think your imagination will fill in capably.

I’ve decided not to save money on toilet paper anymore.

I say that now, but just you wait. A few years from now I’ll be reposting this entry, complaining about how rough it is out there.


You’ve done this before

If you haven’t I don’t want to hear about it.

I’ve been working with weights for a while now, trying to build up a little strength. You can do a fair bit with free weights alone, but there were a few exercises I wanted to add that required a bench. The kids have finally grown to the point where I’m not worried about having my old weight bench sitting out, so I set out to harvest its parts from around the house.

Don’t ask me why I didn’t have all the parts in one place. I won’t have a good answer, and I’ll only get angry (again).

I had the main frame in the garage and the rest of the parts in the attic. I found the frame without any trouble, but when I went up to the attic for the rest, they weren’t where I’d left them. In fact, lots of things in the attic weren’t where I’d left them. I immediately thought back to the last time I saw the pieces up there, and the last time someone else had been up there – when the guys from Terminix treated our attic for termites.

Then I got mad. I hate it when folks mess with a carefully organized mess. It might have been a mess, but it was my mess damn it!

I shucked off my good clothes for some cooler ones, anticipating a long search through hell. There’s no other way to describe an attic in a typical Florida home. They’re incredibly hot, poorly ventilated, and hard to navigate. I suppose you could say that about a lot of attics, but in Florida they’re built like fortresses, with reinforcing beams crisscrossing everywhere. It’s a hurricane thing. It’s like a really hot, humid, Children’s playground – with roofing nails protruding everywhere – or a tetanus playground, if you will.

I’ve watched several home improvement shows talk about converting attic space with envy. The only thing you could convert mine into is a drying rack for the neighborhood’s clothes.

I won’t tell you how much mass I shed in sweat, though I know how much you’d like me to.

I came down from the attic exhausted, covered with insulation, and with no weight bench. I was all kinds of mad – as in not completely rational. First I was mad about the mess made of my attic. Then I was mad about having to hunt for my bench. THEN I was half convinced someone took it – those bastards from Terminix. No, it didn’t make much sense. Who would risk their job over half of a beat up, twenty year old weight bench? Maybe I’d inhaled too much insulation.

Now here’s the kicker. Cheryl had THE NERVE to ask me if I’d checked the garage! Of course I didn’t check the garage – not after all the times I saw the bench in the attic. “Don’t tell me where I put MY stuff woman! My mind is a vault of valuable information – impenetrable under interrogation and infallible in a crisis.

Mind you, I didn’t say those things. I kept them secure in the vault. Good thing too.

In this case, life was clearly mocking me. Naturally, it was in the garage. That’s the way these stories work. Didn’t you know that by now? Has life taught you nothing? My heretofore missing bench was in a big box marked “weight bench,” in big black lettering. I’m a big proponent of labeling boxes.

Now let’s go back and check the score. I assumed the worst of strangers, I dismissed the wisdom of my wife, I failed to yield to the “never say never” rule, and I (fittingly) tarred and feathered myself with sweat and insulation.

Maybe a little lock jaw wouldn’t be such a bad thing.