Saturday, July 27, 2019

Marley

The Wackadoodle and Us. That was an idea that I had for a long time, and even mentioned it in the second posting I ever did for this blog. I think I had even made an attempt to start writing down Marley’s antics while I was working for a tech company back between 2009 and 2013, just to try to relieve some of the stress and pressure while at work. Unfortunately, that stress sucked out the motivation to do so pretty easily. I kinda wish I forced myself into writing a blog about the doodle now, but I have a hard time getting motivated to write in this one any more, the short blitz of the last eight months or so aside. I wish I wasn’t here writing this one. But it’s one that I need to do to honor our companion of the last 11 years.

It’s been just over three years since my last similar entry, when we lost Flash in 2016. Doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I guess it has been. It’s already been a week since we lost Marley late on Saturday, July 20th. This one hurts a lot. Not that any of our other losses didn’t hurt, but at least with Willy and Flash, we had time to prepare for the inevitable. Willy was never in good health and it was only a matter of time. Flash was just a good old cat and he lived out his life well. Both hurt when they passed, but we still knew that their time was coming soon. With Marley, he seemed perfectly fine Friday morning, and then, less than 48 hours later, we were saying our final good-byes. It just didn’t make sense, and we just were not ready for this time to come.

Marley lived up to his namesake well in his early years, but mellowed out a bit as he got older. He was still a bit of a troublemaker every now and then, but our proudest moment came when we were able to train him to get along with Hershey so they could co-habitat together. I regret not trying to do it sooner with Willy and Flash, but I don’t think the cats would have accepted it anyway. They were used to having a house all to themselves for far too long. That was probably my biggest regret with the cats – not being able to get them all to live together. 

Yeah, Marley was a special dog when he was growing up. Like any dog, he liked to chew, but Marley seemed to take it to another level. He ripped apart every dog bed we got him within a day. He chewed the furniture naturally. And he turned out to be a wonderful garbage picker. Many a day we came home to find the trash can knocked over and garbage trailing around on the floor. He never got out of that habit, no matter how much we think we garbage proofed the house, every once in a while we would find evidence of him poking about one of the other cans. He even liked hitting up the litter box on a regular basis. Yeah, there was nothing that dog wouldn’t eat – from a candy cane full of Hershey Kisses, to a box of Cadbury Eggs, to some chicken bones in the garbage outside, to even my glasses off the bathroom sink one day. There was nothing he wouldn’t eat, it seemed. Unfortunately, that seems to be what finally did him in. After the trip to the ICU at the animal hospital it turns out his digestive system was blocked up and would require expensive surgery to fix, but that wasn’t the only issue. In the end, at best, he had a 50/50 chance of making it past the weekend. We were told our decision wasn’t the wrong one, but it still feels like it is.

He was one heck of a special dog. I seem remember reading that puppies won’t go to the bathroom when they are caged. Well, one day when I got home from work, not only did Marley go, but he got it all over himself, requiring an emergency bath. Heck I still remember hitting a pile of poo every morning when he was a puppy, no matter how many puppy pads we put out in the house. That dog could go and go and keep on going. Cleaning up the back yard is probably the one thing I will not miss. But I wish I still needed to do it. Yup, he was special all right. I still remember a time when Marley was investigating a strange being that landed in our back yard. He would cautiously step up to it to try to sniff, then leap back just in case it tried to attack. Then back to try to sniff again, then leap back as if it made a move towards him. This went on for a couple of minutes as he circled the strange being and eventually managed to get up close enough to touch with his nose before turning tail and running away, just in case it attempted to attack at that moment. The strange being – a basketball. So many stories and I don’t even remember half of them now. I wish I had forced myself to write them down like I wanted to all those years ago. I wish I still had a few more years to start writing new stories down about our special doodle.

I’m still in that phase where I’m following habits developed of the last 11 years – trying to look for and avoid the poo spots outside while heading to the shed, or making sure I don’t step on him when I get up in the mornings to turn off the alarm. I still wait to see him at the window when I come home and then rush outside to wait for me to open up the gate in the back. I still think he’s waiting in the wings for Hershey to finish eating so he can rush in and gobble up what she didn’t finish. He was our special doodle and I’m going to miss him every day.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Uncleared Path

A long time ago, when I used to work at a bowling center during the day when the senior citizen leagues were run, I used to chuckle to myself at some of the “senior moments” they used to have. I just couldn’t understand how you could misplace your glasses or keys when you literally just set them down on the counter not five minutes ago. And then I got old and now I realize just how damn easy it is. That’s kind of where I am at right now. I wanted to start this entry off with a story back from my grade school days, but for the life of me, I can’t remember exactly what grade it was or the specific school I was attending at the time. The one thing I remember distinctly was sitting in the lunch room of that school one day with a couple of my buddies as we hatched out a plot that (unbeknownst to us at the time) would actually be the catalyst to effecting some change at the school.

I think this was around my Intermediate or Junior High school time – 7th or 8th grade maybe, but it could have been earlier. Regardless, the plot we hatched that day was to minimize the amount of homework we were getting at the time. Obviously, things are a bit skewed when you are that age, but I seem to remember that we were frustrated that there appeared to be no communication between the teachers of various subjects on the amount of work each one would assign on any given day. Thus we were getting several hours of work that limited, or eliminated, any of the free time we had as kids between the end of the school day and bed time. So, we ended up coming up with a Declaration of Independence from Homework (or something to that effect). What we wanted was for the school to put a limit on the amount of homework that was assigned in any given subject so that we could balance that work with still having some free time as a kid. We wrote up a petition and started passing it around during lunch time for the rest of our classmates to sign. Of course, me being who I was, I had to be the first to sign, and make sure my signature was the biggest, just like John Hancock. Within a few days we had three or four pages of signatures. Not too bad for a group of kids that weren’t part of the most popular cliques that are typically formed by school kids.

The most amazing thing was that the school officials took notice and actually acted upon what we really thought was a pointless whim. They saw the dedication we had to this particular issue and our ability to showcase it enough to have many of peers agree and sign the petition. So they made some changes to show their respect to that dedication and even shortened the school day by 15 minutes as a result. That may have been the first instance where I truly learned the value of speaking one’s mind, regardless of who may or may not like it.

That was kind of reinforced this past week as my mother brought over an essay my sister wrote for a class assignment back in 2002. The essay was to write about a person that had a profound impact on her life up to that point. Naturally, she picked me! (Just kidding *insert proper emoji here*). The purpose of her choice was to point out that I tended to be a “non-conformist” back in my youth and not let what other people thought or said to influence my thoughts about myself, or my beliefs. I guess I was just born to be a rebel. I think I lost sight of that along the way of growing up and being more adult after my early 30’s, when she wrote that essay, or maybe she saw something more in me that I didn’t even realize I saw in myself at the time. She wrote that I “have always been the type of person who will not allow the spoken word to interfere with what he deems worthy or necessary.” That I have “always been willing to take the different perspective, even at the risk of peals of laughter and resistance.”

“He has always chosen the ‘uncleared path.’”

Maybe I’m just turning into a Grumpy Old Man, but I feel like a lot of my frustration of the last few years has been because I have allowed myself to lose sight of those qualities that my sister saw in me almost 20 years ago. I think that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start this blog several years ago, but allowed myself to avoid using it for that purpose until recently. I think last year I finally woke up and had my “Mad as Hell” Network moment. I can’t point to any one thing that got me mad as hell, but I think just any number of things that in no way in any level of hell should be accepted, we have come to indeed accept as society . Most of all, I think I was mad at myself for not going to the window and screaming at the top of my lungs at the fucking lunacy we have devolved into as a society.

 

Erin’s Regional Competition track meet held yesterday (May 5th) was another case in point. This was the second weekend of completely piss poor weather to do anything outside. Sort of the perfect bookend since the first week of season turned out the same way. My gut feeling on both those days was just to say screw it and keep Erin home. There was absolutely no reason for either competition to be held on either of those Sundays at the level these kids were competing at. But I ignored my gut feeling and trusted that those in charge were making the right decisions. I compromised my values, and even worse, didn’t really speak up about it after the first week, like I initially wanted to. That made me pissed at myself even more. I lost sight of what it was about me that my sister wrote about all those years ago. So I think the last few months of this blog has been me making the course correction to start clearing that uncleared path once again. It is also the same reason I wrote an e-mail expressing my feelings on the matter and sent it out to the coaches and parents. It’s something that I felt needed to be said and everyone involved needed to hear it, because I got the impression that a few other people felt the same way. It was about time someone stood up and said it. I did it because I was absolutely furious at myself for not doing the right thing by staying home on either of those days, regardless of the commitment we made when signing Erin up for track this season, and trusting someone else to make a decision for me and my family. I hope what I said gets a lot of other people mad as well – whether they agree with me or not. It’s long past time for us average, everyday people to stand up and start being heard just like the fringe elements of society have been doing for far too long now, even if we don’t necessarily agree with one another.

In fact I hope that us average, everyday people don’t always agree with one another. It’s the discussions that can come out of that disagreement that can bring about the change that is necessary in our society instead of letting the others do it for us. We have been letting them do that for far too long now as it is. So whether it’s getting necessary changes in some dinky CYO athletic event that keeps the health and safety of everyone involved as the main priority or finally getting people into public office who have an ounce of common sense (and common decency – and no I am not just talking about Trump, but every single elected official in the United States and beyond), each and every one of us need to start picking up a shovel or hatchet and start clearing that damn path.

I get closer to knocking on Heaven’s Door every single day, and I have wasted a lot of my previous years lost in the woods hoping someone else would find that path for me because I was too afraid to say I was lost, and then do something about it. I’m not going to go to my grave with that regret on my shoulders. I’m going to do something about it. I will continue to say the things I think need to be said. If people agree with me, then that’s great. If they don’t then that’s great as well. Let’s get a discussion going and bring some actual progress to the topic. I’m damn tired of walking around in circles and having to keep my mouth shut for fear of pissing someone off. It’s about time that a lot of us got pissed off and started saying it.

I’m picking up the shovel and getting back to that uncleared path I abandoned long ago. Everyone else is welcome to pick up a shovel and join me. If you disagree with my choice of tool or which direction this path needs to take, then by all means let’s discuss. It’s long past time to get mad as hell and start making the changes that need to be made.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The New Unnormal


How would you define normal? Without looking at a dictionary, could you define normal without using an example from the world around us? I’m not sure I could. At best I suppose I could go with “something usual or expected” or “not out of the ordinary.” But even then, what is normal? Can we even apply that to everyday life? I know we do without even thinking about it, probably dozens of times a day, but can we really have anything on this world that is “normal?”

It is normal for the area where we live to be cold and maybe even get snow in the Winter season. That would be unnormal in Australia, however. In the summer, we would expect hot weather and no snow. Yet, the last time I went to Pike’s Peak (during a summer vacation) there were patches of snow and ice on the ground. One would think that having snow on one day in March or April, and two days later having 60 degree Fahrenheit temperatures to be a bit unusual, but it such variances in temperature aren’t really all that unnormal in the Spring and Fall.

As humans we have an instinctive need to categorize things and to give order to what tends to be a chaotic existence, including ourselves. As I said in one of my recent previous entries, we have an instinctive mistrust of anything that is different from what we consider ourselves to be. Anything like us is “normal.” Anything not like us is unnormal. And as such, when we find ourselves more unnormal than not, we seem to have an incessant need to try to be normal, no matter how different from “normal” we are. It seems we even get to the point where we try to change the definition of normal.

In Science, we have developed, or discovered if you prefer, certain rules that govern how the universe and everything in it works and is supposed to behave. However, we have also discovered instances where these rules simply do not apply, and we still have yet to be able to explain why. These parts of existence are unnormal and our current level of understanding does not allow for us to have any explanation for it. It is simply beyond our current level of comprehension as a human race. Does that mean we just give up on trying to find the solution to that problem? Certainly not. Scientists are currently striving every day to come up with answers to those unanswerable questions.

Why then, if we can continue to strive for answers and solutions in the greater Cosmos, can we not do the same for ourselves as people? Like the Universe, us mammals have certain rules that govern our existence. We have biological rules that allow us, and all other mammals to live our lives and to continue to exist as a species. Without being able to adhere to these rules, we simply would not be able to exist. The two biggest rules of mammals are that we are warm-blooded and we reproduce sexually. In the case of the latter, it requires a male and female to mate in order to produce offspring and continue to perpetuate the species. Without the ability to reproduce in this fashion, the species would cease to exist. There simply is no other way for a mammal to reproduce except via intercourse between a male and female member of the species. That is something we would categorize as normal. Therefore anything that does not conform to that rule, by definition, would be unnormal.

As humans, we have evolved to be the most complex mammal on this planet. Therefore, we are able to understand concepts such as normal and unnormal as they apply to the basic rules of science and biology as we understand them. Yet, it seems in this new era of Political Correctness, we are hell bent on making something unnormal into something that is supposed to be natural and normal, even when it goes against how we understand science and biology to work. We absolutely insist upon it, and if anyone dare question it, they are ostracized.
 
I am a human male who is attracted to human females. I’m normal in that sense, however, I know I am unnormal in other senses. My wife is a human female that is attracted to human males. She has some unnormal things about her as well. Both my female children are normal in some ways and absolutely unnormal in other ways, to the point where we have needed, and may continue to need specialized assistance to understand what is unnormal about them and treat it, if possible, to make them more “normal.”

When children are born as conjoined twins, we consider that unnormal, and if at all possible, perform operations to separate those children to give them more “normal” lives. When children are born with Down Syndrome, we consider that unnormal and understand that they need to be treated and taught differently to be able to live and exist in the world. We used to call things like this birth defects. I don’t really know what the current PC terminology is, and I don’t really care. We have people in this world who suffer from all manner of physical and psychological issues. They are not “normal” as we would think of an ordinary, average human. That’s why for centuries, Medial Science has worked to find cures and solutions to many of these problems, so that these unnormal people can live more normal lives. For some things, like addictive personalities (alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, etc.) we haven’t found a cure, but have found methods of treatment that can control such unnormal behavior. We haven’t given up on helping people with these issues. Why then have we seemed to not only have given up on people who suffer from some form of Gender Identity issues, but we have now in fact tried to make such afflictions part of the definition of “normal” when the very rules of biology say otherwise?

If someone is Homosexual or Transgender they are not normal by the very rules that govern mammal biology. To say any different is complete bullshit. That’s like saying the child with Down Syndrome has no issues whatsoever, so let’s treat them like everyone else. That’s like saying the alcoholic really doesn’t have a psychological issue that affects his or her behavior, so let’s just buy them another drink! Just imagine what would happen if we take every paranoid schizophrenic in the world and tell them, “Ah, you’re fine, nothing wrong with you. Yeah, sure that painting on the wall talks to everyone” and send them on their merry way. Does anyone with a single ounce of logical thought think that’s in any way how we should treat a mental disorder? Yet, here we are as a society, treating a large segment of the human race as if there was nothing wrong with them at all. So what that two males or two females can never possibly procreate and perpetuate the species. It’s all good, extinction of a species is, after all, normal, right? It is just mind-boggling to me that as a society we have gone into complete denial of the serious psychological issues that a good portion of the human race suffers from.

If I were to walk into a doctor’s office tomorrow, and tell them that “I just don’t feel right in my body. There is just something wrong deep down inside me – cut off my arms and legs so I can feel normal,” they would think I was completely insane and immediately begin the process of trying to find out what was wrong with me, and ensuring I would not be able to harm myself. However, that’s not how we treat transgendered people. You can collect every meme for “Mind-blowing” that exists on the Internet right now and it still couldn’t match my complete bafflement of what we have done as a society up to this point. We might as well be back in the Dark Ages, when bloodletting was the cure du jour.

As a society we have tried to normalize a great deal. By doing so, it allows us to ignore any real issues that lie at the core and deal with them. As a human race, we have become proficient at sweeping things under the rug because the truths are inconvenient to our everyday existence. The truth of the matter is that the more we try to normalize the unnormal, the more we do a disservice to everyone in our society. Just scratch the surface and it’s easy to see that there is nothing normal about any single one of us as individuals. We all have our various quirks and idiosyncrasies. For the most part, they don’t interfere with us being able to live “normal” happy lives. But unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. In those instances, it is our duty as a society to cure what ails our fellow members of the human race. Failure to do so is a failure of society, and can only eventually lead to our own demise as a civilized society. The solutions are not simple and will not come easily. But just because we haven’t found a cure for alcoholism or drug dependency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying to find one with all our power. Just because we build ramps for people who are permanently disabled and require the use of a wheel chair doesn’t mean we need, or should, stop trying to find a cure for their disability. Nor does it mean we need to stop acknowledging that they are in fact disabled. In all reality, without that acknowledgment, we really wouldn’t have any reason to find a cure. I would find that very troubling.

For the LBGT+ community, that means facing up to the fact that they are not normal in a psychological sense. That also means society has to understand and accept the fact that they are different, as each and every one of us are in our own ways, and continue to find actual treatments and cures for this disorder as we do for any other mental disorder. So it is our duty as a society to, instead of ignoring the disorder by attempting to normalize it, accept it for what it is and ensure that those in the LBGT+ community can have access to the metaphorical ramps in life so they can live “normal” happy lives like the rest of us unnormal folk, until those true treatments come within our reach.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Identity Crisis


This seems to be an ongoing theme here throughout the years I have been writing this blog, but man how the time does fly! Take a month off for the holidays, and suddenly, it’s almost three months later before I sit down to finally get something written down. I haven’t been totally quiet though. Obviously still doing my gaming streams and videos, but rotating back to engaging in some interesting conversations elsewhere around the Internet, which brings us to this point. My original plan for this entry being pushed off for later because of one of those interesting conversations. But first ….

It’s interesting how things can come full circle, I suppose. In my last blog entry, I made mention of how I don’t blindly believe people who claim (rightly or otherwise) to be victims in situations where I have no knowledge of the events that transpired. I prefer to wait for the facts to be uncovered or otherwise present themselves. And now here we have one of the very situations where this comes to pass with the recent episode involving Empire actor Jussie Smollett. Many people, including other actors and politicians were quick to jump on the Social Media bandwagon and induce rage about hate crimes and modern day lynchings. It’s funny however, now that the truth is beginning to come out how these very same people doing this within hours of the incident being made public are now refusing to comment until “all the facts are known.” Hypocrisy at its finest! Thank God the chief of the Chicago Police Department isn’t afraid to call bullshit when he sees it. Props to that man, and the entire CPD for coming out in this climate where doing so is only inviting being ostracized and dragged through the mud slinging media. I shudder to think of the absolute disaster this incident could have caused if Smollett has staged this incident with white men as the attackers.

That being said, this does bring us to the point of today’s piece, which may not entirely be unrelated to genuine hate crimes.  During my internet travels over the last couple of months, I was perusing one of my favorite gaming news sites and came across an article from one of the writers that really fired up the gaming community, me included. Essentially what was said in the piece was that we, as in people who enjoy playing games, cannot identify as Gamers because “Gamer” is not a real identity. Meaning I can identify as a White American Male, but I cannot also qualify that with Gamer. Needless to say there was a lot of back on forth from the community in the comments section on this issue, partially stemming from the fact that the writer made a very poor attempt at defending his argument in the piece itself. At the end of the day, most of the community came to the consensus that the writer was full of shit, and that Gamer is indeed a valid identity one can use to describe oneself. However, during the debate process there was a distinct overtone that sure we can identify as Gamers, but that identity is not as important as a racial or sexual identity. Part of the reasoning for that argument was that there are certain things about who you are that are unchangeable and as such are meaningful identities.

While I agree with that on some level, I had an issue with the way some of the arguments were being made.  Now some of the issues arose from the fact that Gamers are not a marginalized group like the LBGT and African American communities are, and that’s perfectly true. But along with that, many people were trying to invalidate what we as Gamers have personally experienced in our lives. And I would go even further to other groups – like the Native American, and the Chinese American. These are two other groups that have been as marginalized, if not more in some cases than the “Big Two”, yet there is hardly mention of any of that. Yeah, slavery was very bad, but what happened to the Native American in this country, much of which was instituted by the American government was at the very least just as bad. Yet, because the Native American community doesn’t bitch and moan like the others, all that is easily pushed aside and forgotten.
 
I’m just wondering at what point does a crime become a hate crime? The Smollett incident showcases this perfectly. Here’s a guy that is allegedly attacked for what he is – black and gay. We have laws on the books that now make this type of targeted attack a hate crime, and thus the resulting punishment is worse than your normal everyday mugging in a back alley. He was attacked because of who he was; because of his identity. Five years ago, a tech blogger was attacked in a bar in San Francisco while she was wearing a Google Glass (yup that failure of a consumer device, but that’s beside the point). She characterized the attack as a hate crime, which many questioned at the time. Why wouldn’t it be though? It is highly doubtful that she would have been assaulted had she not been wearing the device. Some expressed a concern about the recording features of the device, but what if it was her cell phone? Everyone has a cell out nowadays and doesn’t think twice about the possibility of being recorded. It’s doubtful that the assault would have transpired if she had anything else but the Google Glass.

I myself was the victim of no less than three assaults during my grade school years. I was one of the shy, nerdy kids and because of this was one of the easy targets by the more popular and athletic crowd. One time I was entering the bathroom and, as I opened the door, was grabbed and thrown to the floor by another classmate. In another incident, on the last day of the school year, just as we were leaving school to get on the bus to go home, I was punched squarely in the stomach by another classmate and left reeling for several minutes as others walked by, unconcerned. I was hit so hard, I couldn’t even breathe properly due to the pain and had in fact lost hold of my report card which was in my hand at the time. It took me another few minutes, after I had finally recovered enough to stand and look for it that I finally found it several feet from where I had been assaulted. A third incident involved a group of classmates essentially beating and kicking me one day for what seemed like several minutes until a teacher was able to intervene. Each one of these attacks was prompted solely by who I was. A white, shy, nerdy kid. Does that qualify as a hate crime? Other people had similar stories of themselves or friends being attacked simply because of their Gaming proliferation. Just a few months ago, down in Florida, there was a mass shooting that targeted a Gaming convention and resulted in the deaths of at least two Gamers.

Again, Gamers are by no means a marginalized group, but does that mean attacks against us are any less hateful than those against minority groups? Some argued that since we can choose not to play games, that we can’t use Gamer as an identity as opposed to those unchangeable identifiers like our race, gender, and sexual orientation. But if that’s the case, if I have to identify as a White, Hetero, Male because that’s how I was born and that cannot be changed, doesn’t that mean transgendered people can no longer identify with the gender they prefer to be and can only identify as the gender of which they were born? The fact of the matter is that, as far as I know, our race is the only thing we can’t change about ourselves right now, and even that may be likely to change far in the future with scientific advances. If I were to get a sex change and become a woman, what would my identity be? I am a male and feel quite comfortable being one. I am attracted to women and enjoy the company of my female wife. If I were to surgically become a woman regardless of that, what would my identity be then? I would still be attracted to women, so at that point I guess I would then become a Lesbian, would I not?

In truth, I could stop playing games. I could stop streaming and making videos related to my passion as a Gamer. But truth be told, my identity as a Gamer is so ingrained within me as a person that it would be no different than me getting that sex change and becoming the world’s ugliest Lesbian. I could change my gender, but it wouldn’t change who am I deep inside any more than not playing games would stop making me a Gamer. Some people say “It’s just my job, it’s not who I am” by way of saying that their professional choice in life doesn’t necessarily define them as a person. I agree with that to some extent in that my current job is certainly not one that, given a choice, I would choose to do. But in the end I think that everything we do does make up some part of our identity, and no one part of it is any less important than any other part with how we ultimately identify ourselves. And no one’s identity is any more or less important than any other identity on the face of this planet, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or passion.