Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Edicts From Your Benevolent Overlord

I knew I'd have more ideas to pass down to my loyal subjects from my throne on high. Behold more wisdom from your honorable sage:

1. Allow all US taxpayers to assign their tax dollars to programs they support. Conservatives complain that their tax dollars are spent on social programs which only benefit the "lazy" (apparently code for minorities, women, college students, the elderly, injured veterans, and anyone who travels on federal highways, uses legal medications, or eats processed food products!). Liberals complain that their tax dollars are spent to support fascism (code for the military industrial complex, the Department of Homeland Security, and The Patriot Act). So, from now on we should put a Scantron style form in all tax documents with a list of 100 key governmental agencies/programs. People could fill in the dots for the programs they want their money to support. People would be less reluctant to pay taxes if they felt as though they had control over where their money was going.

2. Dismantle the Federal Communications Commission. It frustrates me to no end that we have a First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech in the US, but we also have a governmental agency which can order fines against TV and radio broadcasts which say "dirty" words or show nudity but which offers no such fines for depictions of graphic violence. The federal government should not be in the business of regulating content. The FCC should only regulate frequency allocation so that TV/radio signals don't interfere with communication devices and frequencies used by military and emergency responders such as police, fire, and ambulance providers.

3. Strip Liz Cheney naked, cut hundreds of small slits in her flesh, then pour lemon juice into the cuts while forcing her to sing "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" at the top of her lungs. As with her father, I don't have a reason for doing this other than it seems like it would be alot of fun!

4. Make it illegal for any corporate CEO, athlete, actor, or musician to earn more than $10 million a year. It is the height of obscenity to live in luxury while your typical employee or fan is living paycheck to paycheck, or can hardly afford to see you perform. Those resources would be better spent curing disease, educating children, or eliminating poverty. And if you honestly think that a $10 million pay cap is TOO LOW you deserve to be executed!

5. Require Congress to tie their raises to increases in the Federal Minimum Wage. Why should Congress be able to vote for their own pay raises while US citizens get nothing extra in return? Congress should no longer be able to raise their salaries without increasing minimum wage by at least 10%. If they think they deserve a "cost of living adjustment" then they are tacitly agreeing that EVERYONE deserves an adjustment.

That's enough for now, although I'm already thinking of new things to enact once I take over the world!

Have fun and keep living accordance to your Benevolent Overlord.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Socialist Storm is Coming

Over the last few weeks I've been reading articles and watching video clips which have me convinced that the US is slowly and inevitably edging closer to socialism. And I, for one, will welcome its arrival with zeal.

First, there was an article from The New York Times which discussed Norway's continued economic prosperity in the face of the global monetary downturn. Thanks to the idea that government should exist to benefit its citizenry, Norway saved/invested hundreds of billions of dollars as a sort of rainy day fund. As a result, the nation was able to continue serving the needs of the people without any major disruptions. In fact, their economy has actually grown slightly during the downturn. I seem to recall that the US had a similar budget surplus at the end of the Clinton administration. Of course that was before the "wisdom" of George W. Bush took care of that when he chose to give the money "back to the people" to spend as they saw fit.

Then, there were the plethora of articles I read over at World Changing which show that, again and again, it is Europe which is leading the way in the movement to combat global climate change. As before, the European ethic of working together toward the societal greater good pushes them to innovate in the fields of energy production, conservation, and sustainable land use management.

But what do these topics have to do with the US? Well, I think that, thanks to the Internet, more Americans are becoming aware of the fact that the so-called socialist nations of Europe have already come up with effective solutions to the problems which plague our society, but with few, if any, of the negative consequences which US conservatives have attempted to use to vilify those solutions.

Take, for instance, this article from Wired about the socialist nature of the open-source movement. Literally millions of people take advantage of, and participate in, the open-source movement in one form or another. All are encouraged to share their information and resources freely with the rest of the world. People voluntarily pool their talents to create free software solutions (such as Gimp and Open Office) which rival the best, most expensive, software on the market. There are even open-source architectural solutions being devised to solve global housing deficiencies. All of this contributes to the greater good of the larger society. Add to that the benefits of flexibility and diversity of resources inherent in an open-source mindset, explained in some detail in this talk from TED, and you can see that the lumbering corporate mindset endemic to capitalistic business organizations could, one day soon, be a thing of the past.

Of course, in a way, capitalism is already forcing us to live as socialists. The consolidation of companies, thanks to deregulation, has forced most people to now do the work of two or three people and to work 60 or more hours a week even though their salary only compensates them for 40 hours! It isn't much different than being an open-sourcer, when you think about it. You're voluntarily doing more work for no extra compensation because you think its for the greater good. Although, capitalism convinces you that the "greater good" is you keeping your job rather than your job actually being beneficial to those around you. There are some companies which have made efforts to take care of their employees first, such as Malden Mills (makers of Polartec fleece) which continued to pay its staff while their factory was being rebuilt after an explosion. Unfortunately, those stories are too few and too far between to be considered a trend just yet.

I'm looking forward to the changes which our society will undergo over the next decade or two. Eventually we may learn that doing what is right for our fellow man can ultimately become the most American thing we can do.

Have fun and keep living life... and start working for the greater good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two Steps Back

I've mentioned before that I believe that the US took a significant step forward by electing Barack Obama as President. However, I would argue that this week we took two steps backward regarding the torture debate.

First, let me come right out and say that I am absolutely against torture (my fantasies of Dick Cheney, jumper cables, and a waterboard notwithstanding). Now, I watch 24 and I get how useful it is as a storytelling device. But just like clicking my ruby slippers together won't actually transport me back home from the mystical land of Oz, torture doesn't work as a method for interrogation. It is effective as a tool for vengeance, but that's a big reason why it shouldn't be used. Even if it did work as an interrogation method, committing an act of violence to prevent a possible act of violence is an immoral act, something conservatives of this nation don't seem to understand no matter how many times they are reminded that Jesus allowed himself to be tortured to death for the sins of the world rather than fight back in self-defense. But what do I know... I'm just an agnostic who was required to study the Bible from front to back while attending a religious college.

Having said that, I wish Obama had not backed down like a little bitch about releasing those torture photos. On his first day in office, President Obama pledged openness in his administration. Now, he shows a willingness to cave under pressure from the largely irrelevant and immoral Republicans while trying to hide behind "protecting the troops", a tired retread of an excuse from the Bush days. Secrecy almost never serves the greater good. And generally if you must hide the truth in order to "protect" someone or something, the only thing being protected is your own self-interest. And anything you'll need to hide tomorrow typically isn't worth doing today.

Which brings me to Nancy Pelosi. While I'm inclined to believe that the CIA may have lied to her about the use of torture (after all, how can you trust an agency which is paid to lie to people for a living?), I'm also inclined to believe that Speaker Pelosi is just trying to cover her own worthless ass! She, and the rest of the Democrats in Washington, didn't have the balls to stand up to Bush and Cheney when it mattered and now, as her reward for cowardice, she must back pedal like a juggling unicyclist on a tightrope!

America likes to pretend it is some shining beacon on a hill. In reality, America is nothing more than a degraded crackhouse in a ghetto. How can it be any more than that when conservatives pretend piety while promoting ideals like torture (ie., revenge) which are antithetical to the values of Christ, while liberals promote intellectual truth, equality, and dignity for all but lack the personal strength to stand up for those values when the political winds seem to be blowing against them?

I still believe in that hope that Barack Obama was peddling during the election season. But now I have to have hope that he will eventually learn to stand up for what I believe.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Thursday, May 14, 2009



1607 – Jamestown, Virginia is settled as an English colony.
1796 – Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox vaccination.
1804 – The Lewis and Clark Expedition departs from Camp Dubois and begins its historic journey by traveling up the Missouri River.
1862 – Adolphe Nicole of Switzerland patents the chronograph.
1878 – Vaseline is first sold (registered trademark for petroleum jelly) .
1904 – St Louis hosts the first Olympic Games to be held in the United States.
1935 – Los Angeles' Griffith Planetarium opens, 3rd in the United States.
1948 – Israel is declared to be an independent state and a provisional government is established. Immediately after the declaration, Israel is attacked by the neighboring Arab states, triggering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
1955 – Cold War: Eight communist bloc countries, including the Soviet Union, sign a mutual defense treaty called the Warsaw Pact.
1968 – Beatles announce formation of Apple Corp.
1973 – Human Space Flight: Skylab, the United States' first space station, is launched. It is the last launch of the Saturn V rocket.
1973 – The final episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In airs on NBC.
1974 – Symbionese Liberation Army destroyed in shoot-out, 6 killed.
1998 – The final episode of Seinfeld airs on NBC.


1686 – Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, German physicist (d. 1736)
1904 – Hans Albert Einstein, American professor (d. 1973)
1928 – Will "Dub" Jones, American singer (The Coasters) (d. 2000)
1936 – Bobby Darin, American singer (d. 1973)
1940 – Troy Shondell, American singer
1944 – George Lucas, American film director
1952 – David Byrne, Scottish-born American musician (Talking Heads)
1952 – Robert Zemeckis, American film director
1961 – Tim Roth, English actor
1962 – C. C. DeVille, American musician (Poison)
1969 – Cate Blanchett, Australian actress
1971 – Sofia Coppola, American director
1984 – Mark Zuckerberg, American internet entrepreneur(creator of Facebook)


1940 – Emma Goldman, Lithuanian-born anarchist (b. 1869)
1982 – Hugh Beaumont, American actor (b. 1909)
1987 – Rita Hayworth, American actress (b. 1918)
1993 – William Randolph Hearst Jr., American newspaper magnate (b. 1908)
1997 – Harry Blackstone Jr., American magician (b. 1934)
1998 – Frank Sinatra, American singer and actor (b. 1915)
2003 – Robert Stack, American actor (b. 1919)


Roman Catholic Feast day for St. Corona

Monday, May 11, 2009

If I Ruled the World

Image is of Light Yagami from the anime series Death Note

When I'm bored I often pass the time with thoughts of how I would love to rule the world. Admittedly, my fantasies are primarily the jurisdiction of the United States, but I think just being President would be insufficient for some of the things I'd like to accomplish.

Here is a list of some of the things I would love to do if I were the Benevolent Overlord of the World:

1. Force all 535 members of the US Senate and House of Representatives to attend the annual TED Conference. Annual exposure to some of the greatest minds in the western world might reduce some of the shame and stupidity endemic to our nation's lawmaking body.

2. Put Monsanto and other large scale agribusiness firms out of business. These companies hurt the environment and put family farms out of business with unethical legal practices (lawsuits, lobbying for subsidies), thereby increasing the need for agribusiness to pick up the food production slack.

3. Force all credit card companies to cap interest rates at 15%. Now, credit card companies can charge 25% or more in interest, imprisoning their customers in an interminable cycle of debt. And they have the nerve to say they can't make money otherwise. I've got news for you guys, we all know that the costs of doing business have actually declined thanks to computerization. You guys are just selfish bastards!

4. Chain Dick Cheney to a wall, naked, with jumper cables attached on one end to his testicles and on the other end to my car's battery. I don't have a reason for this one, other than my own personal pleasure.

5. Construct an extensive high speed levitated train system down each US coast and west across the northern and southern most states. I like riding trains, and they are a cleaner form of transportation than cars or planes.

6. Move the state of Israel to Nevada. Seriously, if the US is going to spend eternity being Israel's bitch we should at least move them somewhere that we can guarantee their safety. And since Nevada and Israel are both in the desert it will be like they never left home! Besides, we already let the Mormons own Utah.

7. Make free or low cost access to healthcare a global right. It sucks being in the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare. And health insurance companies are a despicable scourge on the Earth. There is no reason that living or dying should be dependent on how much money you have or how good your individual health insurance plan is.

8. Create a REAL Christian Nation. Homosexuality and abortion would be illegal there, but all citizens would be forced to follow ALL the laws of the Bible. That means no more ham, bacon, shrimp, lobster, or cheeseburgers! Citizens would have to observe kosher dietary laws, and from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday there would be no use of electricity, no driving, no spending money, no carrying anything outdoors, no writing, or anything else which could remotely be considered "work"! And don't give me this crap about kosher being a "Jewish" law. EVERYTHING in the Old Testament is a Jewish law. So, either you follow all of them, or none of them. No more picking and choosing! Maybe I'll put it where Israel used to be.

9. Turn US prisons into rehabilitation facilities. With few exceptions, like Charlie Manson or Osama bin Laden, psychology can help reform and redeem anyone. We spend enough on each prisoner to put them through college. With that sort of investment we should at least be getting productive citizens in return. Otherwise, we are just throwing money down a bottomless hole.

10. Build a replica of the Twin Towers, including desks and computers, then remotely fly planes carrying pig carcasses as human analogues into the replicas. I don't know if 9/11 was an "inside job", but this seems like the only way to prove it beyond all doubt. If the buildings collapse in a few hours, we will know the planes did it. It it takes 12 hours or longer for the buildings to fall, then I will have a legitimate reason for putting jumper cables on Cheney's testicles.

I'll stop at 10 for now. I'm sure I could come up with more in time. Perhaps I'll revisit this later.

Until then...

Have fun and keep living life... and bow to me, your Benevolent Overlord!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just Another Day

Today is Mother's Day. It isn't a day that I typically make a big deal about. After all, it is largely just a marketing holiday. As I've already mentioned I am not close to my own biological mother, my grandmother having long ago taken over the responsibility of caring for me. And seeing as I do not currently own, nor have ready access to, ovaries of my own, Mother's Day seems especially superfluous.

That's not to say that I don't have any positive memories of my mother, but all of them are more focused on me and the part of my mother could have just as easily been replaced by my grandmother, my aunt, Gertrude Stein, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, actor LeVar Burton, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut!
In fact, one of my fondest memories, which doesn't even involve my mother at all, is of me walking around a mall carrying a cheap stuffed dog with a fireman's uniform and helmet which I had named Sgt. Pepper after The Beatles album. I was four.

Where others have fond memories of lessons passed down by loving moms, my life lessons came from my grandmother, teachers, or the confluence of hours spent in front of a TV while babysitting myself. I learned about life not so much because I was taught but because I was naturally curious and asked lots of questions and looked for lots of answers.

Most of my memories which are unique to my mother involve me being smarter than her. One time she got a wooden cuckoo clock as a gift, but was horribly distressed to find that the clock had to be assembled from a kit in a box. Well, since there were instructions, I took it upon myself to build the damn thing because I felt sorry for my mother's laziness. I was eight.

And while working for AT&T my mother earned company stock each year in the form of actual paper certificates (yeah, they actually used to transfer shares of stock that way before the Internet). One day she needed money for debts and sold her stock. I had to inform her that she should have gotten a loan using the paper stock as collateral so she could have kept the stock which would have been more valuable later in life. She explained that she had asked a stock broker about "stock options" and he didn't mention the possibility of a loan. Of course not, I told her, a loan is a loan, it isn't a "stock option". I was ten.

Please don't mistake me. I don't say these things to elicit sympathy. Instead, with the exception of feeding me and keeping me from living beneath a bridge, I'm trying to explain that my mother's contribution to my life was hardly worthy of celebration. I do sometimes envy those who had close, supportive relationships with their mothers. It's hard not to want to find a woman who can counteract the negative impression of women programmed into me by having to live with my mother. It takes effort to learn how to effectively let go of the years of disappointment and just enjoy someone for who they are. But, still I try.

So, for all of you, I hope you enjoy your Mother's Day with fond admiration. For me, though, it's just another day.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Friday, May 8, 2009

To Boldy Go, or Just to Go

I, like many others in America, went to see the reboot of Star Trek tonight. It was good. I'm not sure if it was $9.50 good, but it was good. There were a ton of gorgeous CG effects, action, and comedy. As long as you aren't an uber Trek fanboi who has memorized the canon you should enjoy the movie. I've always loved Trek but have also always been bothered, as a writer, by how easily people allow themselves to ruin good storytelling by getting WAY too engrossed in the "canon" of a particular series. Sometimes details have to take a backseat to the story you want to tell.

That said, I felt a little uncomfortable while I was there, supposedly as part of a geek-themed Meetup group. The problem was that no one in the group acknowledged my presence. I suppose I could have been bold and made myself more known to all of them, but there were about 20 people in the group and I just felt out of place. I sat near the other group members during the movie, but I was really alone. I may try to attend another group event that has a smaller attendance and see if that helps. So far the Doctor Who group that I've been attending has been quite inviting, but I just didn't feel the same from the Geek group.

It seems like the only place where I really feel comfortable is at school. In class I'm bold and assertive. I have no problem talking to people and feeling like I'm in control of my situation. Making friends at school is a challenge due to the age barrier that I've already addressed, but I can still gather a small number of acquaintances. School has always been my comfort zone and time spent away from it feels awkward. If only the other students would age along with me.

By the way, I made an A in Developmental and a B in Environmental, just as I expected. I'm still awaiting my Philosophy grade, but I had the final exam this morning and I wasn't impressed with my performance. The exam consisted of three essay questions totalling 20% of our final grade! I don't think I did better than an 80 on the exam, so I can kiss that A I had going into the exam goodbye!

Now that the semester is over I want to get back into my writing. My novels have been taunting me with an urgency to be written. Even if I merely committed to write a page a day I would make some significant progress over the next 90-100 days before the Fall semester begins. I won't have time to write for myself during the next semester because I will have to devote all my effort into getting good grades if I have any hope of transferring into NC State's Psychology program.

You know, it is probably no coincidence that I am desperate to start writing again now that the three year anniversary of my breakup with Ex is imminent.

Have I mentioned how lonely I feel?

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Exam Week

Next week is Exam Week. I have Environmental Geology Monday afternoon, Developmental Psychology Thursday morning, and Philosophy Friday morning. This past week I made an A on a test in Developmental, a C on a test in Environmental, and an A on a Philosophy paper. I'm in a pretty good place right now and could easily end up with 2 A's and a B for the semester. Of course, that assumes that I make A's on each of my final exams which, while being unlikely, doesn't seem impossible.

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself right now. Thanks to my decision to drop British Literature earlier in the semester, this is the best semester I've had so far. I loved all my classes and I feel as though I've learned a lot.

Still, I'm concerned about my exams. They won't be easy. For Environmental I need to go back and read over the chapters on earthquakes, volcanoes, and coastal processes, which were among my weakest sections during the semester. It's unlikely I'll make an A on the exam, but I'd love a solid B to lock in my current B average in the class. I think I'd need a 96 or better on the exam in order to get an A in the class, but that isn't even remotely possible since my highest test grade so far has been an 88.

For Developmental my concern is that we will have to be able to, completely from memory, list all eight of Erikson's stages of development, with the issues to be resolved, and the corresponding virtues gained. Oh yeah, they have to be in order, too! That's on top of the 60 multiple choice questions which I'm less worried about. Right now I have an 88 in the Dr. Mike's class, so I only need an extra two points on my average to get the A. If I can get at least a 90 on the final I'm guaranteed to get it.

Philosophy is a bit worrisome to me though I don't know why. I think I have a solid A in the class right now, but Gandy doesn't post grades during the semester. Still, I made a 90 on the first test, an 80 on the second test, an A on the first paper, and a 90 on our make-up day assignment. We haven't gotten our grades back on our second paper, but I don't see any reason why I wouldn't have made an A on it as well. That means that the exam can only hurt me at this point; it can't give me a better grade than I already have. Having to defend an A is not a position I'm used to being in.

I plan to study for my Environmental and Developmental exams, but there isn't a good way to study for the Philosophy final since Gandy wants us to apply our philosophical knowledge to readings he'll provide on exam day. At this point, I can only hope for the best.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!
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