Friday, November 30, 2007

Coughing Through My Ears and Sexual Harrassment

I've been absent for a couple of days. Honestly I've been in kind of a fog. I've had a cold coming on for about the last week. Not a full blown cold but one of those annoying little ones that gives you just enough congestion to cause post nasal drip. You don't notice it so much during the day but when you lay down at night you start to cough. And cough. And cough.

I told you before that I have apnea and sleep with an embryonic Alien face-hugger strapped to my face but what I didn't tell you was that I also tape my mouth shut. Yes. Tape across the lips. Voluntarily. And no, my wife doesn't have anything to do with it. I started having problems with the air leaking out of my mouth during the night and when that happens the therapy goes right out with it. Now no doctor or therapist in his right mind will tell you to tape your mouth shut but when you're struggling with this goofy therapy you try whatever it takes to get some sleep so I started using paper medical tape and it actually worked pretty well. Until this week when I got a cold.

I think you see what's coming. There I am all strapped in and taped up and settling down for the night when it starts. A tiny little tickle in the back of my throat. Maybe it'll go away. cough. That wasn't so bad. Okay tickle's gone. Ah. cough cough. Damn. Alright, I can control this. I'll cough will myself cough cough to not



Have you ever tried coughing with air blowing up your nose and your mouth taped shut? I don't recommend it. Not unless you're really desperate to see what the three smallest bones in the human body look like - you know - the ones in your middle ear. Holy crap.

Needless to say, I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I tried to remedy that by buying a big bottle of NyQuil and doing a double shot before bed. It has helped. I did get some sleep. Unfortunately it also has left me (as I said in the beginning) a bit foggy in the morning.

That's one reason I haven't been here to write. The other is that I spent all day Thursday and will spend all day today in training at work. Employment Law for Federal Managers taught by a couple of government lawyers. Now isn't that the perfect topic for a sleep deprived guy with a NyQuil hangover? Most of today was spent covering performance improvement plans and sexual harassment.

Um. Those two subjects weren't directly related, though it might've livened up the class a bit. Can't wait to see what we get into today.

Quick question. Does anybody else think this headline is stupid?

Gee, maybe they could do a story titled "Does the Pope display religious tendencies?".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can I Hear An Amen!

Now here is a church that I can really get behind. So to speak.

Baptists. Who knew?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's Your Sign...Was It Good For You?

After Sex Comments by Astrological Sun Sign:

Aries: "Okay, let's do it again!"

Taurus: "I'm hungry--pass the pizza."

Gemini: "Have you seen the remote?"

Cancer: "When are we getting married?"

Leo: "Wasn't I fantastic?"

Virgo: "I need to wash the sheets."

Libra: "I liked it if you liked it."

Scorpio: "Perhaps I should untie you."

Sagittarius: "Don't call me--I'll call you."

Capricorn: "Do you have a business card?"

Aquarius: "Now let's try it with our clothes off!"

Pisces: "What did you say your name was again?"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving: The Day After

Thanksgiving unfolded just as I said it would. There were copious amounts of food, fun, food, music, food, family, food, drink, food, games, food, laughs, food, love, and did forget to say food?

Dinner and clean-up was followed by a sudden onset of post-prandial narcoleptic seizures. In this damn digital age someone always has a camera at the ready and they caught me unawares.

I did manage to avoid the vulgar and thoroughly gluttonous action of unfastening my pants after dinner in order to make more room. I though ahead. I didn't bother wearing a belt.

After a sound night's sleep I'm feeling much more svelte and agile and I'm up and ready to face the world.

An aside.
Middle daughter was scheduled to work today but does not yet have her license thus requires a ride. It's now 11 AM. Conversation ensues.

Dad: "When are you scheduled?"

Daughter: "12 to 4. I think. But I'm not sure. They haven't called me so I'm not late"

Dad: "Reasonable assumption, but perhaps you're not getting all the data. Wouldn't it be nice to know that you're not actually scheduled LATER before I drive you up there?"

Daughter: "mumble, mumble."

Fast forward a half hour as daughter comes down dressed for work. Dad, his mind clouded by the overindulgence of mind altering chemicals disguised as turkey dinner, fails to ask if she actually called and assumes she's scheduled for Noon. We depart.

We enter the parking area of the Retail Outlet Mall where she works. I spot a 75% off sale sign in the window of a clothing store that I like and decide to park and check it out rather than just drop her off like I normally would. We say fare thee well and part company. I enter store. Approximately three minutes later look up to see aforementioned daughter standing in front of me.

Daughter: "I didn't have to work at 12."

Dad: "What time do you have to work?"

Daughter: "4:00."

Dad: "Uh Huh. Good thing you didn't waste your time calling. You couldn't possibly have gotten that information over the phone...before we left."

Driving her to work...and back: 20 minutes.

Gas used: $3.00

Getting to see the look on her face when she realizes I WAS RIGHT!!!!: PRICELESS.

Ahh, small pleasures.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish everyone a safe, wonderful and very happy Thanksgiving.

I won't be checking in today as there will be lots and lots of family time, fun and food. Today is the "official" start of the holiday season in our house. Even though retail seems to be making progress on their insidious plot to move Christmas closer and closer to July I insist on celebrating holidays in their proper order. I use as my standard for signaling the start of the season a tradition that was started by, ironically enough, the retail giant Macy's. That's right. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

My wife will be up performing miracles in the kitchen and I will be rolling the girls out of bed early to watch the parade with me. We've done it every year since they were little just like my dad did with me.

At just before noon as the parade is coming to a close Santa Claus appears in his sleigh and I declare a loud and joyous "Merry Christmas!" as I start our household's official first Christmas CD and the voices of Frank, Bing, and Nat fill the air and mingle with the aroma of turkey dinner.

Holiday memories and traditions. I have many things to be thankful for but none more important than my family.
Have a great holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Miscellaneous Beautiful, Blonde, Bugs

Just a few random articles that got my attention.

Beauty Is Hardwired in the Brain
Italian researchers showed test subjects both normal and slightly distorted images of sculptures and measured brain activity. What I found interesting was that the images considered to be more appealing were the unaltered ones which were in proportion to the Golden Ratio, 1.618 (followed by a long string of numbers), which was determined geometrically by Euclid but turns up everywhere in nature, art and architecture from ancient times to the present. Everything from the spirals of hurricanes and mollusk shells to the pyramids (in Egypt and Central America) and the Parthenon to the human face and body to the seed arrangement on a sunflower exhibit geometric proportions that equal this number. Fascinating stuff.

Men Act Dumber Around Blond Women
Well duh. While I doubt there's anyone that would question this finding I do disagree with their explanation. They seem to think the cause is due to, for lack of a better term, prejudice. That men have been conditioned to buy into the image of the "dumb blond" and that they therefore act dumber in the presence of a blond. Personally I think it's physiological. The guy becomes dumber because his brain isn't functioning at peak efficiency due to decreased blood flow. Blood is being diverted from the big head to the little head and that's where the "thinking" is taking place. The researchers unfortunately did not design the experiment to measure the correlation between dumbness and erectile activity. That's another study all together. In any case, my wife is a beautiful and extremely intelligent blond (support for MY hypothesis) and in light of the findings of this research I'd like to say in my defense...See honey, it's not my fault!

Biggest Bug Ever
Of the three Indiana Jones movies I could easily do the snake scene from the first and the rat scene from the third. The bug scene in the second however has an extraordinarily high squirm factor for me. I don't particularly care for bugs and I really, really hate BIG bugs. You know, the ones that are big enough to look in their eyes. Those are big enough but this prehistoric scorpion was EIGHT FEET LONG!!! Holy shit. You'd have to buy Raid by the tanker load.

Monday, November 19, 2007

'Ello, My Name Is Bruce and I Am a Hose Head

'Ello Bruce...

I mentioned last week that had to strap a CPAP contraption on my head before I went to sleep and I promised I'd explain.

I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea in general is defined as a condition characterized by episodes of stopped breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in your throat relax and close off your airway. Sounds like a lot of fun doesn't it? It's a shame I'm asleep and missing it.

It all started out with snoring. It was occasional (I think) and not terribly loud. Then it progressively got worse. I wasn't quite keeping my wife from falling asleep but if she woke up for some reason and I was sawing wood, well, let's say she had a hard time going back to sleep. Then it got to the point where she started wearing earplugs to bed. Eventually she told me she was (sort of) getting used to the snoring but it was the absence of snoring that was really starting to bother her. WHAT? I can't win. She explained that I'd be snoring along for a while then all of a sudden I would stop breathing. There would be silence for a long time then I'd gasp for air and start breathing again. I told her maybe she should stop holding that pillow over my face. She wasn't amused. I asked how long she waited and watched before I started breathing and if she considered maybe, I don't know, shaking me or something. She was even less amused. I had a medical appoint scheduled for another issue and I promised I would bring it up.

I mentioned the situation to the doctor and he gave me a referral to a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist had me go for a sleep study. For those of you that don't know what a sleep study is, it's when you go to a strange place where strange people you've never met show you to a strange room and tell you to change into a hospital gown. Then they take you to a room and glue electrodes all over your head, chest and legs, they stick a couple probes up your nose, wrap a band around your chest, and clip a pulse-ox meter to your finger. Then they take you back to the room where they hook all the electrodes and wires to a box on the wall. They tell you to get into bed, which is about the time you notice the video camera on the wall pointing at the bed, and they say "make yourself comfortable and have a good night's sleep, I'll be in around 5:30 AM to wake you up". Then you spend the rest of the night tangled in wires feeling like Frodo after Shelob got him in the spiderweb.

The sleep study found that I had moderate sleep apnea. I stopped breathing an average of 23 times an hour. The doctor discussed treatment options and we decided on using CPAP which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Then he sent me for another sleep study. Oh for Chrissakes! This time the study is called a Titration. It's when they determine the optimal flow rate of air that will keep your airway open. I don't know how it was possible but the second time was far worse than the first. The results of the study indicated that I slept three hours out of the eight that I was there but somehow they managed to get enough data. Then I got to take the doctor's prescription to a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) supplier to get my CPAP equipment and instructions for use.

I was fitted for a CPAP interface, more commonly referred to as a mask, that is strapped to my head and connected by a hose to the CPAP machine which supplies air to the mask.

Here's my machine being modeled by little Mikey:

Here's the interface I've been using since I started therapy six months ago as modeled by Wayne:

And this is what it felt like during the first couple of weeks of treatment:

Eventually, I did begin to get used to it and really did start to sleep more or less normally. Some nights are better than others but I have started to feel better during the day. It's not a dramatic difference but I really noticed on the mornings after the one or two times I slept without the CPAP. I woke up feeling hungover - and I hadn't been drinking. The hardest part is getting used to it because you spend your whole life just going to bed. Now you have to get all this crap ready and don your gear before you can settle in. It sort of kills spontaneity and it makes you look really really sexy. It's also rather daunting to think that this is a condition that's not going away and that the CPAP is a treatment, not a cure. There are mornings, like today, when you get up after a particularly bad night and think that you just can't do this another night. But you do. It's not the best treatment to have to live with, in fact I frequently think that it involves smoke and mirrors and black magic. The whole education, patient information, doctor, DME, and insurance situation is more often than not extremely frustrating and is set up to prevent the patient from having control over their own treatment. Right now, it's the best thing available.

Talking to others that are dealing with this condition really helps and there is a discussion forum that has been particularly supportive. The people at CPAPTALK.COM have been absolutely amazing and I honestly don't know that I would still be doing this without them. All joking aside, Sleep Apnea is a very serious condition that can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart attack, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches as well as job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

Information can be found at the American Sleep Apnea Association and by search the internet. I'd also be happy to answer questions if I can.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Glimmer of Hope?

Hearing and reading the ludicrous stories I talked about yesterday made me seriously question our future and wonder whether we should all just jump off a bridge. I consider myself to be neither an optimist nor a pessimist but I do try to be a realist. I believe in cyclical existence and that the wheel keeps turning. My father summed it up simply - "what comes around, goes around". Hopefully we can influence some things to go and others to come, more quickly.

There are probably many messages to be found in this picture but for some reason it gives me just a tiny little bit of hope.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It Seems I Woke Up in the Twilight Zone

In spite of being in a delightful state of mind when I went to bed last night I had a horrible night's sleep. I have sleep apnea and go to bed every night with a CPAP contraption strapped to my head (explanatory blog post to come). Some nights are better than others and last night sucked. So right out of the box the morning was looking none too sunny. Then I peeked outside and found that it was literally none too sunny. In fact it's raining. Ya'll know how I feel about my morning commute and rain (actually weather, doesn't really matter what flavor) just makes it worse.

So, on the TWO HOUR ride into work this morning I started flipping around the radio dial and ended up on NPR listening to Morning Edition. Congress...blah, blah, blah. Debates...blah, blah, blah. War funding, President Bush, Primaries...blah, blah, blah. A teenager in Europe is arrested and charged with the theft of $58,000 worth of virtual furniture that doesn't exist...blah, blah...WHAT?! WTF did he just say? Yeah, I heard it right. A teen in Europe who plays, lives, games, whatever, in one of those virtual online communities where you buy credits to spend in your fake little world apparently "stole" $58,000 worth of imaginary furniture and gave it to his imaginary online friends. He was then arrested by the real police and placed in a real jail. You can go to jail for stealing something that doesn't exist. Who knew? Hopefully he can imagine himself and his virtual friends in a more pleasant virtual place when his new actual friend Sven offers to establish a new broadband connection for him in the actual shower.

So after the commute to work (did I mention it was TWO HOURS?) I get some coffee, fire up the computer and start my routine. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but this fucking ridiculous story about Santa Claus! Santas Warned 'ho ho ho' Offensive to Women. Oh you read it right. This is going on in Sydney, Australia BUT, the recruitment firm that is hiring the army of Santas - Westaff - is from the US. Unfortunately, since we seem to be the world leaders in idiocy, that probably explains it.

I'm seriously considering going home and going back to bed. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daddy's Rules for Dating My Daughter

I got a comment on an old post yesterday from a fellow father of daughters. For some reason it reminded me of these rules so I went and dug them up. I didn't write them and if I could credit the person who did I would but I have no idea who he is. I think they've been around since the days when jokes circulated through the office via Xerox rather than email. For fathers of daughters they are timeless.

Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do no, in fact come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "Barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: "early."

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ahh, Days Off

Okay, I'm a slug. And I'm an employee of the US government. I suppose some would say I was being redundant. In any case, yesterday was a federal holiday and I had the day off. The majority of our federal holidays are on Mondays. In fact when they first went to that system I remember my dad being pissed off because he was born on Washington's Birthday and he like getting his birthday off on the actual day.

The federal government also utilizes something called Alternate Work Schedules which allow more flexibility to its employees. There are several variations but the one I work is called a 5-4-9 schedule. In a two week pay period I work eight 9-hour days, one eight hour day and I get one day off. My day off is a Monday so I get every other Monday off. That in and of itself is very nice. It gets better however when we have a federal holiday on a Monday that I'm supposed to have off - like yesterday. In that case, the Monday is still my day off AND I get Tuesday as the holiday and no matter how you add that up it's a FOUR DAY WEEKEND.

My point in tell you this? Well:

Four day weekend + Me being a slug = slacking on the old blog

Get it? Fact is, I just got out of bed so like it or not this is it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

The official date of Veterans Day is November 11th no matter what day of the week that falls on. That was yesterday. Since I didn't blog yesterday and since today is a government holiday I thought I'd honor it today.

If you're interested in the history of Veterans Day you can read about it on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

The purpose of the observance is to thank Veterans for their service to this country. Regardless of politics or leadership these men and women have, at great personal cost, done what was asked of them. They deserve thanks and respect. We all know somebody who has served. Thank them.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Keep to the Code

We've all heard about "honor among thieves" and about bad guys and villains with their own sense of right and wrong but all that always seemed to be more of a romanticized creation of Hollywood than actually reality. Finally we have proof.

Mafia '10 Commandments' Found

I absolutely love this. I'm half Italian and my grandfather came over from Sicily, so maybe that's why this story appealed to me. Italian police finally located and arrested Salvatore Lo Piccolo after 14 years on the run. He was positioning himself to be the Don of Dons in the Sicilian Mafia. When they searched the country house in Palermo where he was arrested they found administrative documents of Cosa Nostra (even they can't escape paperwork) which contained among other things, THE CODE. Who would've believed that the Mafia had a written code of ethics? The list begins with a simple preamble that states "I swear to be faithful to Cosa Nostra. Should I betray, my flesh will burn."

The Ten 'Mafiosi' Commandments are:

1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
2. Never look at the wives of friends.
3. Never be seen with cops.
4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's about to give birth.
6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
7. Wives must be treated with respect.
8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

I don't know whether knowing that almost all of our politicians couldn't be in the Mafia comforts or frightens me. Holy crap! The Mafia has a higher moral standard than Congress! I'll make you an offer you can't refuse. Let's adopt this list as a new oath of office - along with the same punishments if the oath is broken. In some sort of twisted way it seems...I don't know...more honest.

Have a great weekend and remember, "leave the gun, take the cannoli".

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sassy Bruce

Almost two years ago while I was clicking through a news website I came across an article that saddened me. It reported the closing of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. (technically the U.S. Repeating Arms Co., the Winchester name is licensed) manufacturing plant in New Haven, CT. The plant where Winchester rifles and shotguns had been made for over 150 years and production of the Model 1892 Winchester, probably THE most recognizable rifle in history was to cease. Anybody who has ever seen a John Wayne movie or any other Western knows what a 1892 Winchester lever-action rifle looks like even without the picture I posted above. It's been used in just about every Western movie ever made, even the ones that historically take place long before 1892 (which curiously is when the Model 1892 was introduced). This rather nostalgic article from (of all places) The Washington Post sums up what I was feeling when I heard the news of the demise of this unique American icon.

My dad was a huge fan of Westerns and I sat by his side watching and loving them too. Right up until a couple of years ago, whenever he came to visit he demonstrated a unique ability to find obscure channels on cable that played continuous reruns of old Western TV shows. As a kid I played cowboy complete with capguns and hat. Hell, I even had a real pony (mean little bastard named Cocoa) My family, like a lot of families back then, had a real Winchester. It was my Grandfather's and I think my uncle ended up with it but I learned to shoot it at an early age and took to it very well. I wasn't much into sports but man I loved target shooting. I was good at it.

When I read the news about the plant closure I decided I was going to look into getting one of those rifles before they became scarce and too expensive to buy. So I started Googling to try to gauge price and availability. During my search I accidentally came across a website for a shooting sport that I had never heard of. Cowboy Action Shooting. The website belonged to the national organization that oversees the sport. The Single Action Shooting Society more commonly known as SASS.

Can you imagine? A sport that involved using an alias, dressing like a cowboy and target shooting with real cowboy-style guns in a competitive setting. SIGN ME UP! I read the summary of the sport and all the other information available then I checked the locations of their affiliated clubs. There were three all within a hour of me. I went to watch the first match I could get to and started asking questions. As it turned out you need two pistols, a rifle and a shotgun plus all the other accessories so it took me a while to get everything together. It's not a cheap activity but they're not real sticklers on a lot of things other than safety when you're just starting out. I finally got myself fully equipped and officially shot in my first match last March. I was a bundle of nerves so my goal was just getting through the stages safely and getting a feel for the whole thing. I didn't set out to win anything and I wasn't disappointed but man was it ever fun. It's not an age or gender limited sport by any stretch of the imagination. There were whole families there - all shooting. Quite a few ladies and children, all of whom out shot me. The summer was insanely busy and got away from me so I didn't get back to another match as planned year I intend to dive into it.

A local TV station in California did a story called "High Noon in Fresno" this week on the sport and the local club. It's pretty well done and provides a good introduction.

There are also several instructional videos posted on Expert Village that give an overview of the sport, equipment, and shooting categories.

I never did get that Winchester but I did end up with two Colt reproduction pistols, a Winchester reproduction and a double barrel shotgun. Oh, and an alias. You can call me Tiberius Wolf pardner. My kids however like to call me "Sassy Bruce".

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bubble-Wrapped Kids

Okay I did the whole thing on hugs and political correctness and declining social contact yesterday. I was planning to move on today. I really was. But then I got my coffee, opened my browser, started to check the morning news...and got hit with this:

Megan Coulter (ironically I mentioned Ann Coulter yesterday in one of my comments - to my knowledge they are not related) put her arm around the shoulders of two girlfriends to say goodbye for the weekend and she got slapped with two days of detention, one for each girl hugged.

Here is the actual wording of the policy from their student handbook:

“Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved.”

Displays of affection are in poor taste...and brings the person involved. Yep. That's the road we're heading down.

School District Superintendent Sam McGowen thinks the policy and the penalty is fair. What's the matter Sam, mom didn't hug you when you were a kid? Haven't worked that out in your therapy yet? Okay, group hug for Sam everybody.

Look, don't get me wrong. I'm a father. I'm not advocating that middle school students should be allowed to grope and make out in the hallways (or anywhere else for that matter), but putting your arm around a friend's shoulder? This blind, mindless, unquestioning adherence to these zero-tolerance policies has got to stop. What message are we sending the kids? We're certainly not doing them any favors by isolating and enfeebling them. We're going to end up with a crop of socially awkward, emotionally stunted adults unable to cope with real-life situations and interactions. They won't be able to converse with someone but boy howdy, will they ever be able to pass standardized tests for math & science. And unthinking, uncaring blind adherence and zero-tolerance is not just in our schools. Can anyone say "Homeland Security"? I've always known that common sense isn't common but when did this country stop thinking altogether? When did it stop feeling? 9/11 was a terrible life-altering event that frightened us and put us into shock. Instead of recovering from that shock we've allowed ourselves to slip into a coma. The time to wake up is long overdue. It's time to start practicing some zero-tolerance on the ridiculous, asinine, insane, arrogant, illegal, unconstitutional, and reprehensible acts that are taking place here everyday.

In "The Time Machine" H.G.Wells wrote about a future where mankind evolved into two classes. One the pastoral, innocent, docile Eloi who frolicked and played and didn't have to think for themselves. The other class was the aggressive, violent but intelligent Morlocks who bred the Eloi as livestock...AND ATE THEM. I've never felt comfortable being part of a flock.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How 'Bout a Cuddle Love?

This BBC video reports that "Texting" along with one of my favorite subjects (can you detect heavy sarcasm?) "Political Correctness" are among reasons being blamed for people not getting enough cuddles. "Cuddles" is their word (it's the BBC and it sounds kinda cute with the accent) but if you're more comfortable we can call them hugs.

I hope everyone can see the irony in using an impersonal electronic medium to deliver the message about impersonal electronic media contributing to the decline of actual and desperately needed human contact. Together with rampant over-reactionism and rising puritanism this will have us self-flagellating in stone cells, donning hair-shirts and communicating by scribing 21st century hieroglyphic emoticons on plasma screens with papyrus backgrounds. The only live human contact will be with the UPS guy delivering food that you bought from

Hugging is an underrated and under appreciated form of expression and contact. In perusing the internet I found dozens of stories covering the health benefits of hugging. There was even one on the terminally uncuddly Fox News (I guess it was part of that "fair and balanced" thing). There are also dozens of stories about the increasing trend in schools to ban ALL physical contact between students, including hugging. I can understand the concern over inappropriate contact but I'm not sure banning all forms of touching and suspending elementary school students for hugging classmates is the way to go. Something about a baby and bathwater?

I'm half Italian and I'm demonstrative. In general I like hugging but like everything else it can be good or bad. My wife got home yesterday from being out of town. When I walked through the door after work and hugged her for the first time in four days it felt wonderful indeed and I didn't want to let her go. On the other hand a hug at the wrong time and/or from the wrong person and there can be some serious squirming. I had a manager a few years back that insisted on hugging every one of her employees when she handed them their paycheck. If I had liked her I wouldn't have minded so much. But she was the kind of person that made me worry that there would be a knife going between my shoulder blades during the hug so it made me just a skosh uncomfortable. Well, that plus the fact that she bought her perfume in five-gallon buckets and doused herself with it everyday so after the hug you walked away smelling like a old syphilitic french whore, but I digress.

Since this is an electronic message I could be tempted to give you all a great big CYBER HUG {{{{{{}}}}}} and tell you to pass it on. But fuck that. Step away from the computer and go give somebody a real one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Water, Flame, Wine, Music...Peace

For the third or fourth weekend in a row I've been in the garage (which I suppose is better that being in the doghouse) constructing gruesome artifacts. If you read my Halloween posts then you know that I spent the weeks leading up to the big event building zombies, electric chairs, cemeteries, autopsy bodies and other assorted (and sordid) props and decorations. You would think it would be time for a breather. Not hardly.

My middle daughter is playing Van Helsing (hey, shortage of guys, her good fortune) in her high school production of Dracula next weekend. I told the theater teacher months ago that I would help out. With Halloween over and production week starting, the time has come to pay up. Soooo. After clearing the lawn and figuring out where to put all the decorations (I pity anybody that decides to go in the attic above my garage, it looks like the scene in Aliens where the creatures are coming through the ceiling space...only it's zombies), then yet another trip to Home Depot, I spent the weekend building a coffin. Not just a rectangular box, but one of those really cool old fashioned shaped numbers (I plan to keep it and add it to the decoration lineup). Then I had to figure out how to rig up an effect where half of a bloody stake can stick out of Dracula's chest at the end of the play when he's killed. And at the last minute the director told me she'd really like to have a bat fly from the stage up into the lighting catwalk. It's Sunday night, the stake is done, the coffin is not as far along as I'd hoped, and I can tell you where I'd like to make a bat fly for the director. I'll get it finished. But I was stressin' today.

In my commuting blog a couple of weeks ago I explained how much I value my weekends and the limited time I have with my family. I absolutely love Halloween but as I said, this was my third or fourth weekend either in the garage, Home Depot, or the front yard. It's starting to feel like a job. On top of that my wife wasn't here this weekend. She had a family obligation in Florida and yes, I'm not ashamed to say that I miss her. Badly. The high point of the weekend was without question spending time with my two daughters, that and the kick-ass broccoli-potato-ham-cheddar soup that I made for dinner.

Like I said, I was stressin'. So, as I stood there watching the girls clean up after dinner, and I glanced into the garage at the partially finished coffin and the piles of scrap wood and sawdust, I did what any red-blooded American man would do. I poured myself my third glass of Cab Sav, ascended the stairs, lit a few candles, turned on some Native American flute music, and took a long, hot, bubbly, bath. I sat there listening to the haunting sounds, stared at the candle flame, emptied my mind, and soaked until I pruned. After enjoying a totally empty mind for a while I allowed myself to drift to a Caribbean beach which is where I would desperately love to be for real...for a week, a month...a year. Then I got out, dried off, threw on some sweats and did a Tai Chi routine. Now I feel like a limp dishrag, and I couldn't care less what's happening in the garage. I don't care whether or not Dracula has a place to sleep for the night or whether or not a bat rises out of the mist, whistles the finale from Les Miz and flies up the teacher's ass. I'll think about that tomorrow. After all...tomorrow is another day.

Baths. Christ, what a simple pleasure.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I Are Smart

Okay, I didn't really have anything to blog about today so I stole something from a fellow blogger. Biscuit, I have to give credit. Thank you for giving me something to do while I was putzing around the internet at 11:00 last night.

Here's a quiz to tell you what percentage of the population you are smarter than. Or dumber than, depending on your point of view.

How smart are you? - The Dumb Test

I will warn you that before it gives you the results you will have to go through about 478 pages of advertisements. I think that's the real quiz. Have a great weekend. I'll be busy putting away Halloween decorations.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Follow-up on the Intoleration of Intolerance

A few weeks back I blogged about the charming little hate group called the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas coming to my little town to protest. They were met by the UNwelcome wagon. I'm only sorry that tar and feathers weren't available. Well, there's some new information about these lovely folks.

In March 2006 Albert Snyder experienced the pain of attending the military funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. One would not think that attending the funeral of one of your children could possibly be made any worse. Unfortunately Mr. Snyder and his family learned it could. Also in attendance at that funeral were the looneys from the Westboro Baptist Church, complete with their trademark "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" signs and "God Hates Fags" tee shirts.

At some point after the funeral Mr. Snyder sued the so-called church and yesterday in federal court the verdict was announced. Mr. Snyder was awarded $11 million. $2.9 million was awarded in compensatory damages. Before the jury deliberated the amount of punitive damages the judge informed the jury that the compensatory damages award "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants". The jury came back with $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress. Hello! Can you say MESSAGE? CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!!! There's serious doubt that Mr. Snyder will ever be able to collect his award but that's not the point. Here's hoping that every other family that's ever been assaulted by these dark hearts files a lawsuit too. Here's hoping that this case and every other one filed keeps these vermin tied up with legal fees to the point that they can't afford poster board and crayons for their signs or the gas needed to drive someplace to use them.

The "church" of course vowed to appeal based on their First Amendment rights to free speech and religion. I am absolutely NOT against free speech or freedom of religion. I have literally taken an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" and I take it seriously. Much more seriously than our president does. However, the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution apply to EVERYONE. This group does have rights but they do not include using their right to free speech to cram their religion down the throat of anyone else . At the risk of sounding like Peter Parker's uncle Ben, I believe that with great freedoms come great responsibility. Some things are just wrong and when people cross the line they need to be called on it.

My wife and I tried to raise our children using the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" approach. It's not an infallible system but it's a pretty good starting point and guideline. We didn't beat them over the head with a holy book or threaten them with a boogieman either in the sky or in the underworld. They know right from wrong and have grown into girls that we are very proud of. I mention this because, while I take some degree of satisfaction and feel some hope in seeing this jury verdict, ultimately I'm concerned and frightened. Why? Check out the picture that accompanies the linked article. The one of the ten and thirteen year old Westboro Baptist church members (children of the "church" founder) holding the protest signs. The one of the kids who experience hatred as a way of life. I shudder at the virulence of what they've been taught and of what they in turn might teach.

It brings to mind the lyrics to Rodgers & Hammerstein's "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear—
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade—
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late—
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate—
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
You’ve got to be carefully taught!