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Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.

 

QFT

I hope to have some time for proper blogging over the weekend, but meanwhile: QUOTED FOR TRUTH

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Divisiveness: not just for politics anymore

Pramas recently updated his blog with some commentary on divisive politics ( Real Americans ) that pretty much exactly matches what I would have to say on the topic. I've just had no time to post recently I was just going to do a simple "Me too" and link to it but something else caught my attention just now and I am so disgusted I have to say something.

From the Gen Con and Origins Charity Auctions report site:

On Saturday, August 15th, 2008 at 6:00 PM, the Gen Con Live Game Auction hosted their traditional charity auction. This year, the event was in honor of Gary Gygax. Originally the charity chosen for GenCon was Gary's favorite charity, the Christian Children's Fund. Unfortunately, when they found out that the money they would get came partially from sales of Dungeons and Dragons they decided not to be the sponsored charity.

The charity auction at Gen Con 2008 raised almost $18,000 that could have gone to making a "lasting difference in the lives of children in need"! To quote from the "donate now" page of the Christian Children's Fund (emphasis theirs):

Your donation to Christian Children's Fund will make a lasting difference in the lives of children in need. Your generosity provides crucial assistance for children around the world —children who face hunger, disease, violence, natural disasters and extreme poverty.

Your support is urgently needed, and Christian Children's Fund is committed to your privacy and security. We will not sell, trade or rent any personal information you provide.

Get that: your support is URGENTLY NEEDED. Unless you're a gamer. Unless you play Dungeons & Dragons, whose creator chose this as his favored charity. Christian Children's Fund claims elsewhere on their website that they believe "that all of our actions must be guided by the utmost integrity and transparency" (again, emphasis theirs). Utmost integrity? Better children starve and suffer than take money from generous, charitable gamers? Who makes that decision (and how can they live with themselves)?!

Much of the readership of this blog comes from the gamer community. We know we're not a threat to society, we know that gaming is just one aspect of our lives (be it our work, our hobby, or both) and that being a gamer and being a moral, decent, (yes, even religious... even, <gasp> Christian) person are not mutually exclusive yet gamers continue to be portrayed as mentally unstable freaks or dangerous devil worshipers (whichever is most in vogue at the moment).

To veer off into politics just for a second (hang with me), recently Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president. I'm linking to a part of the transcript that my friend JD over at FoldedSpace posted the other day.


I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I've noticed that in talking about these divisions I sometimes run into people who think it's not really a big deal, that it's all blown out of proportion because of the current political races or that these Us vs. Them views are confined to isolated corners of Appalachia and not of real consequence.

Unfortunately, I don't think we've really put these divisions to rest at all. The fact that it was so easy to get crowds riled up and screaming out that Obama is a "terrorist" or a "Muslim" (or just the shameful way "Muslim" has become a pejorative the likes of which would never be so publicly tolerated if aimed at any other religious or ethnic group) shows us just how close to the surface these things are, often existing with as little justification or defensible rationale as Christian Children's Fund's decision not to accept the charitable donation from Gen Con. Blacks vs. Asians. Whites vs. Hispanics. Christians vs. Muslims. Heterosexuals vs. homosexuals. "Coastal elites" vs. "Joe Six-Pack".

I think everyone needs to remember the lesson of the Star-Bellied Sneetches.




via videosift.com





via videosift.com

Aaaand, I'm spent.

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Hint to voters: GOP means REPUBLICAN

I cannot believe this needs to be said but apparently it does.

REPUBLICANS in Washington state do not want to run for political office as REPUBLICANS these days. I've noticed this in ads and signs this campaign season, "Vote for Jon Doe, GOP" but not, never, "REPUBLICAN" anywhere to be seen. Dino Rossi, the bitter, bitter REPUBLICAN loser of the last gubernatorial election in Washington is the most prominent example of this but he's by no means alone. Hell, to listen to Sarah Palin in the VP debates the other night you wouldn't know that the REPUBLICANS have been in control of anything since Clinton. But back to Rossi...

Dino Rossi is a REPUBLICAN and has identified as a REPUBLICAN in every other election he's ever participated in. This year, he's "prefers GOP Party" and it's causing confusion. State Democrats lost their bid to force Rossi to identify himself as a REPUBLICAN on this year's ballots, despite the court acknowledging that the trick "could very well engender voter confusion and make a substantial difference in the result of the election," according to Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz. The Seattle Times' chief political reporter David Postman noted that a poll back in June found that about 25% of Washingtonians didn't understand that GOP means REPUBLICAN. Appallingly, 7% thought that the REPUBLICAN candidate was the Democratic candidate. Even Rossi's own lawyer admits that 18% of the REPUBLICANS in the survey didn't realize that GOP means REPUBLICAN.

This is no accident, it's 100% cynical ploy. Not only that, it's Rossi's plan to obfuscate his REPUBLICAN credentials is succeeding. Christine Gregoire leads the REPUBLICAN Dino Rossi 51% to 41%, but only leads 48% to 44% when REPUBLICAN Dino Rossi merely says that he "prefers the GOP party".

It's underhanded, it's insulting, and it's completely typical. Don't be fooled, Washington voters! GOP means REPUBLICAN. Dino Rossi is a REPUBLICAN, as is every other "prefers GOP party" candidate. Vote for them if you like REPUBLICANS but I think they should at least have the balls to admit fair and square that they're REPUBLICANS.

Not to mention that it's really stupid and redundant to try to claim there's a "Grand Old Party" Party. If you're going to spell out the "Party" you should have to spell out the rest... only no one would know what the hell a "Grand Old" Party was, would they? Argh.

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Procrastination by way of rant

I'm getting ready for the annual Green Ronin Summit in just under a month and have a to-do list that started at three legal pages long (both personal and business-related). Needless to say, it's going to be a challenge to blog very much. I broke off from GR business today when Kate got home from school and worked on a couple of items from the list but it's slow going. I should be upstairs folding massive amounts of laundry so I can uncover my bed in time to sleep... but I worked hard all day and I am procrastinating. Folding laundry is so dull.

So, a rant to get my blood pumping.

On our most recently flight (that would be returning from the Alliance Open House in Las Vegas) I ended up on an airline I rarely fly with anymore: US Airways. We hadn't packed too heavily for the trip but did have enough things with us (odds and ends from the show, a few extra books and whatnot) that each of us had one checked bag. At US Airways, you have to pay $15 to check a bag. ANY bag. Then, when we were aboard the plane, we were informed that in order to have any beverage, you're expected to pay. Water? $2. Soda/juice? $2. Coffee, $1. A Bud Light could be had for a mere $7. No free "snack" either, only a $5-$10 "snack pack" option. Then, adding insult to injury, once the plane was in the air video screens dropped down to broadcast commercials for Coke (and other "sponsor's" goods). Wow. What a load of crap.

Airlines are in dire straights and have been for some time but so are everyday people who are being squeezed more and more as well. People can't afford heating oil for the winter, aren't able to pay their mortgages, have seen their retirement accounts shrinking amidst the Wall Street mess. Thanks to the TSA or Homeland Security or whoever decided that liquids and gels are some sort of legitimate threat (Salon had an excellent series of articles on this, calling it a "trumped up ruse.") but now passengers are faced with being both unable to bring their own FREE water from home and being forced to pay for it either inside the airport or on the plane itself? What if the flight is delayed while you are trapped in your seat in the sweltering plane for an extra hour (as happened to me this summer)? What if you were just taking a short hop that turns into something bigger? What if you intended to stop on your layover to buy yourself some food and water but instead had to run the entire length of the Dallas airport like a marathon sprinter with a computer bag slung across your back? No water for you unless you have $2 in your pocket? Outrageous.

And while we're at it, a pox on this whole damn "snack pack" thing as well. Just let me bring my own peanut butter sandwich, don't give me that peanut butter is a gel BS, and let me avoid your weird and creepy concoctions of pretzels and bread crisps with cinnamon sugar, or the combo of chips, some greasy salami, almond-honey butter on sesame crackers or whatever else the lowest bidder agreed to stuff into a "snack pack" to substitute for a meal. I'll pack a lunch if that's what I need to do, but let me meet my own needs! That means if my TMJ is acting up (a condition which is not made any easier when I have to grit my teeth through the entire airport security experience, by the way) I might want to bring a nice, delicate pudding cup, a soft PB&J, a banana or (if it's particularly bad) some sort of enriched beverage that doesn't need to be bitten or chewed at all. Nuts, pretzels, beef jerky... that's not going to be any help to me, thanks. But no, my pudding cup isn't allowed through security. It's absurd.

Finally, on this particular US Airways flight, in addition to all the irritations about food and drink, we were also on a plane with a group of chuckleheads who had been in Vegas for some sort of frat boy bachelor party or something and were loudly continuing to hoot and yuk it up a few rows ahead. While I was fishing around in my bag for my earplugs, I dropped one and was looking for it under the seats when a flight attendant stopped to "help". I'd already done a pretty thorough search (even pulling the cushion up) and wasn't able to find it, told her multiple times that I didn't need help, but she kept insisting she could help. Finally I broke down and showed her my remaining earplug. "You expect me to find that on THIS carpet?" she exclaimed. Through gritted teeth I said, as neutrally as I could, "NO, I don't expect you to do anything! As I said, it's FINE, I'm FINE, I don't need ANYTHING. Thanks."

US Airways really hit all my buttons and I left swearing that I was not going to fly with them again. Unfortunately, they're not alone in this behavior... all the airlines are doing it to one extent or another. Still makes me mad, though, and I have to think it's not going to help air travel (or the economy) in the long run.

Ok, I have too much laundry to sort. Must get back to it.r

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Warning: Politics Ahead

I did not intend to rant about politics on 9/11 but it just worked out that way. In fact, as disgusted and fed up as I am with many political things, I feel my fury to bother writing about my feelings ebbing away before I begin much of the time. However, I've talked to many people recently who have said things to me like "Politics just isn't my thing" or "I'm trying not to pay attention to the election" and it makes me seethe.

John McCain's ads are LIES.




I feel like echoing passionate, freaky little Dennis Kucinich: WAKE UP, AMERICA!

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Zipcar: It's No Flexcar

Longtime readers know that I was a big fan of Flexcar and used the service for over four years before they merged with Zipcar. Things had started to go downhill with the car-sharing when the Washington State Department of Revenue insisted on charging a car "rental" tax of 9.7% on Flexcar users. That situation was never reversed or resolved, despite last year's assurances from my representative Margarita Prentice that that she was "pleased to report the Governor's office, the Department of Revenue and others are working on language that will address the differences between a rental car company and a 'flexcar' program."

I've been living with Zipcar for a while now and I have to say that it reminds me all too much of my experience of being a happy Homegrocer.com subscriber who then saw things go dramatically downhill after the merger with Webvan, much as another disappointed subscriber's opinion piece from 2001 details here. When the Zipcar/Flexcar merger hit the news, company spokespeople and optimistic users were spouting off about how "increased access to cars" through the merger would be great and "outweigh" concerns over shrinking competition. Uh huh.

Erica Barnett at The Slog (Seattle's free weekly paper The Stranger's blog, for those outside the area) blogged about Zipcar's perceived flaws and failures back in February. Higher monthly minimums and higher hourly rates, hybrids classified under "premium" rates alongside luxury vehicles, stiff penalties for "infractions" (5 minutes late returning even though no one else had reserved the car for use? $50 fine!) instead of credits and incentives for pitching in, fees to talk to an actual person to address any issues, etc. These things combined with the fact that we're also paying 9.7% state "rental car" tax, 6.5% state sales tax, and 2.5% King county/RTA tax makes the whole carshare prospect a lot less attractive than it used to be.

Last week was perhaps my worst week ever with Zipcar. Monday the 14th they announced that they were rearranging their pricing, focusing on the fact that they were lowering the rate on hybrids. Had they not raised the price on hybrids (not to mention replaced my local hybrid with a bare bones Subaru) I might have celebrated that news, but I would not have been celebrating for long because that mail was immediately followed by another mail that announced that they were removing my local Zipcar location altogether, immediately. As in had probably already been done by the time I received the mail at 6:30pm. A third e-mail told of the awesome new gas cards and how to use them (this will be important to the story later).

Thursday I reserved a Zipcar for the day. My nearest option is now 2 miles away instead of six blocks. I arrived at my car and opened it up to find shards of glass from a previously broken window strewn throughout the car. Someone had replaced the window and cleaned up most of the glass but there were still shards everywhere (the seats and the floor, front and back, the dashboard, everywhere). The driver's side door armrest had also been ripped away from the door and was still partially detatched. I called to report the damage, but where with Flexcar I had the option of talking to an actual person, Zipcar automates the damage report. I had no idea if Zipcar wanted me to continue with my reservation or if this was something they might have wanted to investigate further right away... but I needed the car and was on a schedule so I had to take it as it was. At the end of my reservation I needed to stop for gas because the car was completely empty. I almost never let the car get that low but this was an unfamiliar car and the gas gauge was in a different location and I flat out missed it until the little red gas pump came on to warn me to fill up. At that point I discovered that my car had not yet been outfitted with its (and I quote) "more stylish, more reliable and more efficient gas card" but the old card that remained in the car no longer worked. I called customer service and chose the option to speak to an actual person (which may or may not have cost me $3.50). However, speaking to an actual person did me no good. She had no clue about the old cards, seemed to be only on hand to talk to people who couldn't figure out the new cards and when her script didn't cover my situation she told me that my only option was to pay to put gas in the car myself and send in the receipt. "You won't be charged as long as there's at least a quarter tank," she chirped. Awesome. Car now 2 miles away, had to deal with broken glass all over, and got to spot Zipcar a full quarter tank of gas on my dime.

I suppose you can tell that I'm feeling a little disgruntled over this, but it gets better! Today I received an e-mail about a damage inquiry on my former local Zipcar. "We are not assigning blame, we are simply following up on the report that we received," the letter read, and then goes on in the very next sentence, "Per our Member Agreement (section 9.6), damages incurred during a member's reservation are the responsibility of that member." Now, this is not an inquiry about the car I just recently used, but a vehicle I last drove A MONTH AGO, on June 20th. In my history with Flexcar I've been diligent about reporting damage, so much so that when I called to report that a pebble had kicked up on the freeway and dinged the windshield they told me not to worry about reporting it unless the windshield was actually cracked. Now, a month after I've used the car they're going to try to put some damage off on me? Oh, I know, I know, they say they're just investigating and not assigning blame but after last week I'm not feeling very generous towards Zipcar. In fact, if they do decide that the damage somehow happened on my watch and I'm responsible for it at this point, you can bet that's the day when I become a FORMER Zipcar member in a right hurry.

It's like Homegrocer all over again. I'll still be missing Flexcar after Zipcar is gone.

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Topsy Turvy World

Today it was 52 and raining. Friday they're predicting record highs, 89-90 degrees. The teachers at my daughter's school briefed them on "appropriate dress" which included lots of warnings about tank tops, muscle shirts, and shorts that are "too short" (more than one inch above the knee). Yow.

Meanwhile a friend of mine was telling me about a situation that had cropped up with a foreign exchange student that is staying with her. This nice German boy was called into the principle's office because a girl had complained about him. He had tapped her on the shoulder (to get her attention, as people do) and this apparently violates some "no touching EVER" rules at the school. I was stunned that there are such rules. I know schools have rules against fighting, and rules against "sexual" contact (including boys and girls holding hands in the hall) but NO touching, EVER? Yep, and not only at that school but all over the country. Another mom I know then told me that her 12-year-old son was warned that he'd be sent to the office because he and his friend high-fived about something. NO HIGH FIVES! NO tapping someone on the shoulder to get their attention. No showing legs, arms, collarbones, or wearing clothes appropriate to the heat on a record-breaking hot day.

What the hell?

I find myself looking around at this kind of thing and feeling sick and fatigued by it all. Is it possible to find myself one of those exclusive communities made of people who hare MY beliefs and aren't, uh, C-R-A-Z-Y? Somewhere where the future doesn't look like Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and the Prison Industrial Complex isn't eagerly rolling out new and better ways to tase us, bro?

Probably should just keep this sort of stuff to myself these days but hey, I haven't been blogging much lately so it was either this little rant or another day of no content.

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Holy shit, that went poorly!

Ok, so today I was really pissed off about a lot of things. I decided, however, that I wasn't going to write about my frustrations. Ex-husbands, failing computer hardware, being raked over the coals for a conversation that took place and was resolved over two years ago, my daughter's stress-inducing class trip and her frustrating hippie school, politics, the situation with our HOA, the ridiculous 'community meeting' with the Seattle Housing Authority that I attended last night... I decided to let it all drift into the background and post a light-hearted little thing about my affection for stupid novelty coffee cups and my not-so-secret inner snark.

I probably should have just stuck to ranting, which everyone could have just ignored. Instead, I triggered a parade of people coming by to lecture me on the realities behind the McDonald's Coffee lawsuit. Yow. Totally not in the mood for that shit today.

Now, instead of a light-hearted post I've instead come across as a gigantic uninformed and callous asshole who is ignorantly laughing at some poor old woman who had third degree burns on her genitals, not to mention seeming to express tacit approval for McDonald's cruel policies (or the belief that anyone could even drink the stuff they sell as "coffee")!

Today was a shit pile of a day and the feedback to my "light-hearted" post was the rancid cherry on top. I think I'm going to step away from the blog for a while. Hell, maybe I'll unplug from the whole damn internet while I'm at it.

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Fun with Telemarketers

The phone rang tonight and, uncharacteristically, I answered. Usually if it's some Unknown Name, Unknown Number kind of thing, or an Unknown 800 number it's not worth my time... but recently I've needed to answer the phone anyway. If I don't answer, the New Washer Delivery Guys might decide not to come... or the Miva Repair Guru might not be able to get through. I answered the other night and it turned out to be Bank of America checking in to be sure I really did charge those "uncharacteristic" charges to my debit card; if I hadn't answered who knows what that might have done for my washer replacement (or, my couch! I haven't even blogged about the birthday couch yet!).

Anyway, I answered the phone and a recording came on to say that I should wait for the next available operator who would have a "very important message" about my "Kenmore appliance warranty".

WTF, you call me and then put ME on hold?! Lovely.

I waited for a minute. Nothing, not even hold music. Then I heard a couple of breath noises, like someone blowing into a microphone...but when I said "Hello?" I heard nothing in response.

Just for fun I started talking. "In case this call is being 'recorded for quality' I want to register my complaint at being called by a robot and then put on HOLD so I can wait to hear your 'courtesy call' about the non-existent warranty on my now defunct Kenmore washer... good thing I'm having a new Whirlpool washer delivered tomorrow!" Etc.

I never did talk to anyone. After the breathing noises and my diatribe, I heard the distinctive sound of being disconnected. They didn't even have the balls to actually give me the pitch!

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I want my $2.00!!

I've been trying to get the Marriott rewards people to credit me for my stay in Indianapolis since August. I've faxed their "missing stays" line the information three times and talked to two different people. One was a fairly capable-sounding chick who was thoroughly confused since my name was attached to some room that seemed like it was booked and paid "through an agency" or something. I can only think this is because my room reservation was part of a block reserved for Gen Con exhibitos but that's never kept me from getting my points before.

I can show that my name, address, and credit card were on the reservation (the Indy Marriott faxed me a copy of the bill showing *I* paid for my own room in my own name), I even sent a copy of my electronic banking records (with the other transactions blacked out) for the time period that shows the transaction clearing my account. They even credited me with points for eating in the Indy hotel restaurant during my stay... I have those points but not for the stay itself! It seems so stupid and simple to fix from my end.

After talking to a woman who swore "anyone" could help me once they got that information from me, I faxed, waited a week and called back. The next woman I talked to was definitely no genius. She started insisting they'd credited me for my stay... the stay she was referring to was the stay from *2006*! Then she looked at my recent credit from the Springhill Suites (where I rented two rooms for 4 nights for our summit) and talking about how it was "double posted" as if the two rooms were a mistake and she was going to "fix" that for me! Ai! NO!

I've been hoarding my Marriott points for years and barely keeping my "Silver Elite" status alive now that we're not traveling as much. If I don't get this Indianapolis thing sorted I'll be two stays short for keeping my status next year. In the big (or even small) picture this is nothing but for some reason it's been really bugging me and I haven't been able to let it go. I feel like that kid from Better Off Dead: "I want my $2!!"

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Carded

I was carded for a bottle of wine at Safeway last night by a snaggle-toothed, fake-fingernail-wearing automaton. When I stepped up and Kate and I began unloading my cart, which was full of groceries, she asked how I was doing. I told her I was fine. Then when I finished unloading the cart I stepped up to the keypad area and she asked again how I was doing. I told her I was still fine. I should have known then it didn't bode well but I let it pass. She was clearly on autopilot.

Then she told me she needed to see ID for the wine. I looked at the little You Must Be THIS OLD to Buy Alcohol sign ("You must have been born on this day in 1986") and then back to her. "Are you serious?" I asked. In her false-cheery automaton way she assured me she was entirely serious. She made a couple other inane comments to the effect that I was still younger than she was, blah blah blah. I, equally fake smile pasted to my face, told her I appreciated being treated like a valued customer and productive member of society instead of a potential criminal. I also assured her that I was not 10 years old when I gave birth to my daughter.

I'm going to be 38 in a month. I do NOT find it "flattering" because I don't believe for a minute that they actually think I'm 20 years old. When does it end?

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The Motherfucking Seattle Underground Tour

I am not happy.

The Green Ronin annual summit is something I look forward to every year. I go to great lengths to make sure everything is just so for my boys. I try to do everything in my power to make sure everyone has an easy stay, has anything they need, has entertainment and food and drink and basically anything they need. Special diet? Done! Special travel arrangements or rooming needs? Done! Seafood-free, high-end vegetarian meals? Done and done, sweetheart. I'll take care of you, just ask!

So, when one of my guys expressed interest in taking the Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tour, I made sure on the eve of our summit adventures, I made sure it was arranged. Or, I thought I did.

I had called the motherfucking Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tour people, made sure that we could get a tour this Friday. I called the number, listened to the recorded message about how awesome it would be, visited the webpage, saw where they offer "Private Tours may be booked with two weeks' advance notice by calling 206-682-4646, ext 202" and called for exactly that. I talked to a man, who did not identify himself. I gave him my information, told him I wanted 8 tickets to the Underworld Tour (the 21 an over evening tour) and was told, yes, they could do it. I should show up at 7:10 to pick up my tickets and it was no problem. I called in advance, I gave the correct dates, I was told we were in, no problem.

LIARS.

My entire team showed up for this tour. We entered the "bar" which was completely empty, and the area for tickets was shuttered. We were approached by a waitress who asked us for ID. We told her we were there for the Underground tour and she told us they don't DO them in October because "it gets dark early and we can't do the tour in the dark." That was it. She had no idea who would could have talked to who would have told us that we could have a tour today, no sympathy, no answers, just NO.

I hate the motherfucking Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tour. I hate being left hanging. I hate being LIED to and treated with such lack of respect: if you tell me to show up on October 5th at 7:10pm to pick up my tickets for a 7:30 tour, we'd better get a damn tour! I could have organized a different event for my team. I could have planned a better meal than falafel at nearby Zaina (as nice a falafel as they make, it's just falafel). I wouldn't have paid $10 for shitty parking in the obscene junky-town of Pioneer Square. I wouldn't have had to resort to the too-loud (if drink-a-riffic) Zig Zag as a stop-gap activity for my guys. We wouldn't have been aggressively pan-handled by the totally crazy guy looking for "chicken with spicy sauce" and accusing us of not giving it to him because he was black.. we wouldn't have had to deal with him nearly crawling into our car as we tried to get away! If you Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tour assholes hadn't LIED to me, I wouldn't have had such a god-awful bad night to kick off such precious time with my friends and employees... because I consider these guys my friends first and I'm ashamed to have put my friends through this. That's not how I do things, motherfucking Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tours, and I can't forgive you for hanging me out to dry like that.

Screw you, Bill Speidel's Seattle Underground Tours, you lying sacks of shit. Screw you for getting my summit off to such a craptacular start. It's not like I look forward to this event all year or anything, assholes.

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Flex-SCREWED

Flexcar is being forced by the Washington Department of Revenue to charge its members "rental car tax" beginning October 1. Upon hearing this yesterday I immediately wrote to my state senator, my state representatives (although Zack Hudgins should be ashamed to represent residents of Seattle without providing an e-mail contact or a phone number where constituents can leave voice mail for him! Join the 21st century, Rep. Hudgins!), and appealed to the City of Seattle through their Office of Sustainability and Environment to apply the necessary political pressure and exempt Flexcar from this tax.

My view is that Flexcar and other car-sharing services are not "car rental" businesses in the traditional sense. Car sharing programs are overwhelmingly used by local residents. Flexcar provides a community service and should be encouraged by state and local government that proports to be interested in conservation, reducing traffic congestion, or making Seattle "a model of healthy, ecologically sustainable urban living." Back in April, King County Executive Ron Sims said "...we believe itís important that people take public transportation, and as neighborhoods densify, that there actually be at times cars available for those unique times, when you canít take the bus to a doctor appointment, or a dental appointment...". Instead, car sharing participants are disincentivized from participating by the application of an 18.7% tax! Outrageous and completely wrongheaded.

This tax will add $75 a month to my typical Flexcar bill. The result will be that I will be less likely to use Flexcar and more and more tempted to just go back to car ownership. How many of the other 20,000 Flexcar users in the Seattle area are going to face a similar decision? This is not the direction the State and local politicians claim they want things to be moving and should be vigorously opposed.

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Liberalism

Drove to Portland and back today. On the way home, right around Centralia, this pick up truck blew past me going over 80 (while the driver talked on his cell phone) and ruthlessly tailgated the car in front of him for 10 or 20 miles. The entire rear window of his pick up was take up by lettering that read:

Liberalism is
Self-indulgent Bigoted Racist
Illogical TREASON Intolerant
Socialist Fascist Spiritual deception
DOMESTIC TERRORISM


I've heard the "Liberals are racists" thing (for believing that minorities need "help" overcoming bigotry and injustices perpetrated by the majority), I've seen the "Liberals aren't good Christians" thing (which I'm guessing is the root of the 'spiritual deception' line) and there are certainly liberals who are Socialists (which seems to be code for 'Commie pinko', which these guys can't throw around anymore). But Liberalism is TREASON? Liberalism is FASCIST? Liberalism is DOMESTIC TERRORISM? Please.

I drove along behind this guy for a while after he got stuck in traffic and dangerously tailgated the people in front of him. I wondered what kind of person is driven to use his free speech in such a way. I wondered if he really believes Liberalism is treason? Would he look at me on the street and think I should die for being a "domestic terrorist" because I believe in things like socialized medicine? I wondered what I would do if his tailgating, speeding and distracted cell-phone-enabled driving caused a freeway accident... would the innocent liberals he'd blown past (like the angry guy in the Prius who rolled down his window to flip Mr. Pick Up off) stop to help him in spite of his loudly proclaimed hatred of them? I supposed I would help him as much as I would help anyone but I did entertain a small fantasy of pulling him out from the self-inflicted wreckage, making sure he was cared for and waving him off in his ambulance with "By the way, I'm a liberal!"

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Friends Have Noticed

Friends have noticed that I've been extremely lax in the Food Porn category this month. Part of it is that I've been trying a bunch of new recipes that have, well, sucked. They've not been any fun to talk about, even to show off some spectacular failures.

Part of it is that I'm politically inflamed right now and I'm aware that no one really wants to hear endless screeds from me on how immoral, corrupt, undemocratic, dangerous, fascist, unforgivable and otherwise unredeemable I find the current regime. One minute it's inflamation over Bush planning to veto a rare bi-partisan plan to fund health care for poor children (S-CHIP) because the Paranoid-in-Chief considers taking care of poor children part of a nefarious plan:"I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care". The next minute I'm inflamed over Fox's completely batshit insane characterization of Mr. Rogers as the "evil, evil man" who has "destroyed a generation" by telling pre-school kids they're special and worthy of love and respect for just being human beings. I can't believe these attitudes exist in American society. I can't wrap my head around what kind of twisted people think it's justifiable to deny innocent (but POOR!) children access to health care or who could characterize Mr. Rogers (MR. FUCKING ROGERS!) as an "evil, evil man." He was a goddamn Methodist Presbyterian minister, you supposedly-Christian-loving assholes!! ARGH!!

So. I'm not posting about the things I love because the things I can't abide are busy punching me in the guts. Sorry about that.

I'll try to get back to the happy photos of fluffy, cute bunnies and write-ups of the extravagant foods I've enjoyed soon.

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Foul Mood

Folks may have noticed I'm not exactly Miss Chattypants right now. I'll be making up for that right now.

I'm alternating between this impenetrable ennui and an honest to god "Bring the Revolution, I'm ready to tear shit up!" anger like a wolverine with a rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. I'm not just "blog about it" mad, I'm bring-the-house-down mad. I'm furious that a man who, as governor of Texas, allowed 152 people to be put to death without intervening and who wrote in his autobiography that it was not his job to "replace the verdict of a jury" has the unmitigated gall to commute Libby's entire sentence because "The verdict was wrong, harsh and vindictive."

I've spent the last several days writing in places where I hope it will do more good. Letters to the editor, letters to my congressional representatives. I wrote to the members of the House Judiciary Committee over the holiday, begging them to take seriously calls to impeach these scoundrels.

I've seen many people complaining of "outrage fatigue" and I feel it too. I keep struggling against it because that's what they want, these people who think they're too good for the laws that govern the rest of us... they want us to feel fatigued, to give up fighting against their dirty tricks and end-runs around the Constitution. Throwing my hands up and giving in because I'm tired gives them what they want. I can't bear it.

It's a harsh coincidence for me that this most recent display of asshole behavior from the President falls across both Independence Day and the Origins convention. You might ask what the hell the Origins convention has to do with malfeasance in the White House, and I would freely admit it's probably only meaningful to me and perhaps a handful of other people who were part of the so-called "mostly bloodless coup" of GAMA three years ago. The unfortunate timing of having Origins going on right now has served to stir up all those feelings from that horrible year, the vicious personal attacks launched by the so-called "Fair, Firm, and Friendly" faction, the way they campaigned on a platform of outrage and howls for "transparency" and then before they'd even been in power a week showed their true colors by making staff changes in secret and without even courtesy consultations with long-serving volunteers, admissions that new board members were secretly accessing the private communications of the prior GAMA board members. After storming in, preventing the platform of necessary changes, and perverting the process to their own ends, they have all left to go on their merry ways... selling real estate, "consulting" in non-gaming business ventures, retiring from the game industry in various states of disgrace after being used by their faction cohorts. Just like George Bush, just like Cheney, they have their post-election lives all planned out and leave behind a trail of honest, hard-working, decent people who got in their way. Finally, after their little power play had played out, after they slandered and threatened and harassed the people deemed to be "against them" the real work of cleaning up the things that needed to be cleaned up three years ago has fallen back on the shoulders of the few remaining people who still care enough to serve. Finally, after they grew bored enough to stop screwing up the works, GAMA has implemented the by laws changes that the organization so desperately needed.

GAMA's bitter political history is like the national fight in miniature. The people who so viciously ripped down the board of four years ago gave up when they found out that it really was just a bunch of hard work and not some sort of gravy train where we were all enjoying perks and kickbacks. The White House behaves in the same shameful manner and I see the people of the country growing weary of the fight, confused about what the fight is even about. Unfortunately, the people lined up to support Bush/Cheney (unlike those who supported Dancey/Stever) find the arrangement very, very profitable. There are plenty of perks, plenty of kickbacks, plenty of no-bid contracts and "friendly" legislation that make it worth their while to keep running this country into the ground... as long as it puts money in their pockets, as long as they know they've got a Get Out of Jail Free card, they're not going to get bored and go off to run a strip club in Vegas instead. That's why I'm worked up and why I can't give in to the outrage fatigue.

I can, however, take a breather from the outrage which is exactly what I intend to do tonight. First, a little Live Free or Die Hard to blow some shit up real good and make the bad guys PAY. Then off to the Can Can for some Heavenly Spies and as many Bella Rouges as I can down before closing time.

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Impeach

Seen at the journal of the Cherry Blossom King and copied whole here because I so thoroughly agree.

"In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to 'pardon crimes which were advised by himself' or, before indictment or conviction, 'to stop inquiry and prevent detection.' James Madison responded:

"[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty..."

Source.

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Perjury: Then and Now

In Republican Lamar Smith's opening statements during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he mouthed the following:

Both historical precedent and current practice support the conclusion that perjury is a high crime and misdemeanor. The Constitution applies that same phrase both to the president and to all civil officers of the United States. Several federal judges have been impeached and removed from office for perjury; that is why the president can be too. Also, bribery and perjury are equivalent means of interfering with the justice system. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines include bribery and perjury in the same guideline.

Some of the president's defenders would like to change the subject and talk about anybody else but the president, and about anything else except the allegations of lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office. Such efforts are an affront to all who value truth over tactics, substance over spin, principles over politics.


It's the letter of the law, folks. Lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office! Those are serious crimes that interfere with our whole system of justice. Clinton lied about a sexual affair, he lied about embarrassing and intensely personal issues but there's no excuse for lying under oath.

Of course, now that the Democratic majority is trying to get to the bottom of a bunch of scandals and cover-ups, trying to reconcile testimony from people whose so-called "misstatements" and convenient bouts of forgetfulness are seemingly at odds with other sworn testimony... well, now we're not talking about any "real wrongdoing" says Lamar. It's all just an unfair three-month-long witch hunt (as opposed to the years-long Whitewater waste of money and the oh-so-juicy Lewinski investigation?). Wouldn't want to look into any innocent "misstatements" that might uncover a pattern of outright lies that lead right back to the White House, that would make things awkward.

Not only am I appalled that anyone who participated in the Clinton impeachment can say with a straight face that investigating inconsistencies in testimony before congress is unnecessary, I'm offended that it's even possible to have such statements taken remotely seriously! I want MORE investigations! I want to root out all the corrupt, partisan, democracy-eroding sons of bitches. All of them. ALL of them! Dems, Repubs, Liebermans, I don't care. NO pardon for Scooter Libby! NO pass for Alberto Gonzales just because he claims he "can't recall"! Haul that asshole Rumsfeld back before Congress and investigate the charges that he knowingly LIED in his testimony about Abu Ghraib, as Major General Antonio M. Taguba and Seymour M. Hersh claim. Don't try crying to me about "abuse of office" or undermining the justice system if you're going to give this stuff a pass!

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Issues with Authority

The "office lady" was the bane of my childhood: it was in her disapproving hands that I had to put any notes from my mother, it was her disbelieving sniff I had to tolerate when I went to the office sick or in turmoil, she who frowned or sneered when I came in late or left early for a doctor's appointment.

My junior high office lady was complicit in lies and betrayal against me that I do not forgive her for to this day. (After being bullied in gym class, I fled the gym in tears. Instead of running straight to the nearest bathroom, where I knew they would just grab me and haul me back to class, I ran out the front door of the school, around the building to the back door, back up the hallway and into the bathroom...buying myself enough time to have a good cry, or so I thought. My evasive action so baffled them -- because, of course, they went looking for me in the bathroom right away but not three minutes later when I was actually there -- and they were so furious that I had evaded capture, they snatched me up when I did come out of the bathroom at the end of the period. The bathroom was right in front of the office and the office lady was livid that I'd somehow been under her nose the entire time. She and the Assistant Principle teamed up, called my mother, and while I was in the room listening completely LIED about having "found me" wandering around somewhere off school grounds! LIES. Complete fabrication. The Assistant Principle looked me right in the eyes while he told this lie; he knew exactly what he was doing and did it on purpose. It was the most petty and blatant abuse of power I'd ever experienced to that point in my life and it affected my default position on people in positions of such authority ever since.

Until last year Kate's school had one pretty decent office lady and one older and slightly more abrasive office lady who I got to know and get along with alright. This year there's been a new office lady and I find I don't much like her. She's called me a few times this year over various Kate issues and each time she manages to insult me in some way. Like when I spoke to her about Kate's lunch money account being overdrawn; I thanked her for calling and told her this was the first I'd heard of it but that I would send a check the following day. That should have been the end of it but she kept talking, insinuating that there was some other reason that Kate did not have lunch money or that Kate was lying about forgetting to tell me. Finally I said, "I assure you I can afford to pay for my daughter's lunches and I've already told you I'll send a check tomorrow. What more do you want?!" and only then did she shut up and apologize if she'd offended me. Or the day she called because Kate had been in the office with a headache for over an hour and "it was up to me, of course" whether I should come get her or not, but basically she was not going to let me off the phone unless I said I'd come pick her up. I despise that things are such at public schools that you can't just offer a kid with a headache a tylenol and send them back to class!

The day after the incident with Kate's pants being cut at school, I went to pick her up because I happened to be going to the post office that day at the time her classes let out. I arrived on the playground but there was no Kate. Her 3rd grade teacher was on playground duty and told me he'd sent her to do an errand for him ("I needed someone I could trust.") and she should be right back. He needed the megaphone they use to call kids to their bus lines but it was in the office, so he sent Katherine to fetch it. Because English is not his first language, he called it "the loud speaker" so that's what Kate went to the office to request. When she returned with it she told me that she'd gotten in trouble with the new office lady because she'd asked for "the loud speaker" and the office lady said "Loud speaker?" and Kate confirmed "Yeah, the loud speaker." Kate was then treated to "Don't you talk to me that way. Don't you talk to me like I'm one of your little friends!" When I heard this, I was angry. It pressed all my buttons and I marched into the office intending to ask the office lady where the hell she got off. I arrived not two minutes after this exchange took place and she was on the phone so I did not launch into things right away. Seeing me, she was immediately all sweetness and light, calling Katherine "Sweetie" and so forth. In the end, I merely picked up Kate's pants (which we'd turned over to them to prove she wasn't making it up and about which they did nothing) and left, but that episode told me all I needed to know to make up my mind. This woman treated kids one way when she thought she was the big boss and completely differently in the face of any parental scrutiny.

I had to deal with her yesterday when she called to tell me, with all the disdain and judgment she could muster, I had to come pick up my daughter because "her head is crawling with lice." That's what she said. "Her head is crawling with lice." I spent the day treating Kate for lice to be safe but after thoroughly going through every strand of her hair I can tell you that she was NOT, in fact, "crawling" with lice. Not only did I have all that unpleasantness but I had to deal with HER. I'm sending Kate back to school today and I'd better not hear from that office lady about it or we will have words and she will not like it.

I still have problems with authority figures.

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New Holly in the news

The Seattle Times ran an article on my neighborhood last weekend.

My neighborhood is part of what amounts to a giant social experiment, spearheaded and overseen by the Seattle Housing Authority. On one hand we knew what we were getting into when we bought our home in New Holly. I knew a little of the reputation of the area, it was clear that we were going to lack amenities for a while while development caught up to the new population. Everyone was clear up front that this was going to be a "blended community" and that didn't scare me. There are some yuppie homeowners in our HOA who are very prissy about the state of the rental units or the attitudes of this ethnic group versus that ethnic group but I've lived in plenty of rental properties in my lifetime. My mom scraped her way up to working class and I know that economic disadvantage does not mean "bad people" even where it does signal challenges. I had high hopes for our neighborhood when I bought in and I still feel that hope, though I would really like to see someone open a frickin' coffee shop or nice restaurant. "Maybe when the Light Rail construction is finished," I keep telling myself.

I do have some issues with the SHA. SHA remains the biggest owner in the development, owning houses that are rental units to replace the public housing that was torn down to build these new homes; I assume it was the SHA that drafted the New Holly Homeowner's Association by-laws and the community rules which we live under (such as the "no window air conditioning units" clause or the "you can't paint your steps anything but grey" rule) as they were the only homeowners before the houses were sold to people like me. When I bought my house the HOA rules and codes were in place and I was forced to sign on to them as they were as a condition of getting my mortgage. I'm not a fan of the state the SHA-controlled HOA board left things, including the issue with faulty water-billing and the lack of proper reserve funds, or the overly-cozy relationship certain SHA board members exhibited toward the utterly incompetent and offensively poor management company the SHA-controlled board hired to "manage" our community. That is not to say that I don't appreciate certain individuals from the SHA who have tried to make this thing work well and who have represented community interests to the HOA board or the larger SHA; I'm just not willing to give the whole Seattle Housing Authority a pass for things I consider bad policy (like their admitted policy of knowingly setting initial HOA dues unsustainably low to bait people into buying in, knowing that substantial increases would be necessary but not disclosing that plan to home buyers).

Now that I've had that little rant, I think the article does a fair job of presenting some of the issues in the community while not overselling its successes or underselling its potential. I agree that language is the biggest barrier, as we saw when I was trying to get fair hearing for my Chinese-speaking neighbors. Without a common language it's very, very difficult to find anything else in common or have meaningful interactions beyond friendly smiles and waves, which is pretty much my entire relationship with my immediate neighbors. Even so, it wasn't until this last year that I met or interacted much with any of my neighbors, English-speaking or not. We barely squeaked into this neighborhood when we bought our house and while we're categorized among the white, English-speaking (let's be frank) yuppies who've bought homes here, we're really not part of that "class" either. We're not doctors, lawyers, or Microsofties. I'm fairly uncomfortable with the idea that I'm supposed to be a "role model" for my less fortunate neighbors or "help them out of poverty" as the article proposes.

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The Daisey Incident

Mike's put video up of the disruption of his performance.

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What possesses these people?

Monologist Mike Daisey is an acquaintance of mine. I wouldn't presume such familiarity as to call him a friend precisely but we have good friends in common and we could recognize each other on sight. I've been to several of his one-man shows now and I hold him in very high regard. He is quite a talented fellow and I've never failed to be childishly enraptured by his story-spell when he works his craft.

So, when I read his blog today, I was completely taken aback:

Last night's performance of INVINCIBLE SUMMER was disrupted when eighty seven members of a Christian group walked out of the show en masse, and chose to physically attack my work by pouring water on and destroying the original of the show outline.


For those who have never seen Mike perform, allow me to describe the scene: he sits alone at a table in front of the audience; on the table is nothing but a glass of water and the outline for the show. The rest he works from scratch, through well-rehearsed and intimate stories, all personal to a greater or lesser degree. Every night, just him and the audience. In fact, there's a short sample of this show available online here.

Can you imagine if someone ripped the bow from a cellist's hands before walking out of a performance because he objected to the music? How about snatching off an actor's wig or pulling down a ballerina's tutu or tearing the book out of a reader's hands or the pages out of the book itself? It's unthinkable to me and the more I think about the incident, the more disgusted I feel. Insulted. Angry on his behalf and on behalf of all the other people who were assembled to see this talented performer.

What possesses people to behave this way? By what right does one's disappointment or disapproval over an artistic act entitle one to attack the artist?

[EDIT] I meant to link to the rest of his blog, for those who are interested. Fixed now

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Random for a Friday

To the guy on that mailing list: This is for you

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Man I hate phone trees!

Every time I think I've nailed down what I want to rant about with the US Attorney scandal, something new pops up. So much for trying to be thoughtful and thorough...

Meanwhile around Casa Nikchick there is no shortage of rant-worthy material. Take automated phone trees for example.

Checking my credit card online to see if a transaction had cleared, I noticed a charge for "Marie Claire" (the magazine) from the 19th that I definitely did not authorize. In fact, about a year ago I'd had a subscription for Budget Living which ceased publication about a year ago before the end of my subscription and was offered Marie Claire in substitute, which I specifically refused because it was so unlike the magazine I had subscribed to. I was not thrilled to see a new subscription charge for a magazine I never wanted in the first place.

So, I called the number that appeared on the charge (1-866-560-9273) and got an automated phone tree. Sometimes you can get a real person by saying things like "operator" or "help" or pressing * or 0. I tried all of that but this automated service was relentless. Finally, after about 10 minutes of struggling with it (I didn't have a "renewal number on the bottom of my card" and I sure as hell wasn't about to offer up my credit card number) it finally gave me another number to call for "further assistance." (1-800-586-5234) Ah ha! Now we're getting somewhere, I thought.

Nope. Exact same phone tree, with exactly the same options, just at a different number. I tried to play stupid and all the other tricks to get a live person but no dice. Finally I said "FRAUD!" and lo, I was given the option to dispute a charge by giving the amount of the charge and my zip code, then my last name. Indeed, the system found my "order" which I supposedly "placed" on March 17th. Using the phone tree I was given the option to cancel, then before it was actually canceled it offered me a "free gift" of gas cards to offset the "high price of gas" and tried to trick me into NOT canceling two or three different ways before finally agreeing to cancel and refund my money for the balance of issues still unsent. THEN it tried to offer me two more magazines before I finally got away... and I have no idea if this is just a temporary reprieve or if I'm going to see another suspicious "renewal" on my card next year, because I never was able to talk to a person.

Angry about the phone tree, I decided to call Marie Claire and complain. There I was able to talk to an actual person who confirmed that I did have a "subscription" and they'd sent out the "May issue" already (how's that for customer service: "order" placed on Saturday the 17th and shipped out by Tuesday the 20th!) and they couldn't help me at all because I'd have to contact the "service" that set up the subscription in the first place. I got a third number to call from the Marie Claire people (1-800-321-6247) which turned out to be yet another way to get to the exact same phone tree. I made sure to tell the Marie Claire chick that I'd gone from having a benign non-interest in their magazine to having a strong negative opinion of it and that she should pass on to the Powers That Be that their association with "services" of this sort was not doing their reputation any good. Oh, and that I never, ever, ever, EVER wanted another magazine from them under any circumstances.

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Enough food, make with the rants!

For those who have been bored with/tortured by/uninterested in the recent heavily food-focused content around here lately, I've had some rants percolating. There will definitely be a rant about the US Attorney scandal forthcoming but it's one of those I'm trying to construct thoughtfully, since it's important and political and stuff.

Today's rant: Prudish fear of words associated with the human body! If you've been waiting to hear me sound off on the issue of the scrotum, vagina, or anus, today is your lucky day.

I'm sure no one is surprised to hear that I think the uproar over anatomically correct words for body parts is foolishness. I've been gritting my teeth and rolling my eyes aplenty over the last month as news items have popped up to spotlight yet another case of ignorance, foolishness, censorship, and (of course) the obligatory moral outrage on behalf of "the children" over words that name their body parts!

About a month ago, the New York Times covered the controversy surrounding the Newberry Award-winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky. In the opening pages of the book, the young protagonist overhears a man telling a story about his dog getting bitten by a snake... on the scrotum. Shock! Outrage! Horror! The "inappropriateness" of the term made headlines. The NYT quotes various outraged children's librarians saying things like "This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment..." (which lets me know right off the bat that this librarian has never actually listened to Howard Stern) or "If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldnít want to have to explain that." or (my favorite) "...you wonít find menís genitalia in quality literature." because, as we all know, only scary, hairy, sexual MEN have a scrotum... little boys have a pee pee and everything else is referred to in hushed tones as "down there" with a dismissive wave of the hand. Of course, the fact that it's a DOG'S scrotum and not "men's genitalia" in the book is beside the point.

Next up was the Washington State bill that would set standards for sex ed in schools, namely that medically and scientifically accurate sex education be taught. Medically and scientifically accurate information in publicly funded schools? Those bastards, how dare they?! One Republican lawmaker was outraged about the word anus because "No parent wants their child to be talking about sex and anuses." (I can imagine her child's virginal wedding night now: "Up a hole, dummy!!") Another genius from the state legislature is quoted thusly, "We do not have a state-mandated curriculum for math. We do not have a state-mandated curriculum for reading, but with this bill we will have a curriculum for state-mandated sex education," to which I say FINE! Explain to me why we don't have a state-mandated curriculum for math or reading but we DO have the high-stakes WASL test that supposedly measures students on their math, reading, and science educations? If you think the WASL doesn't mandate a certain curriculum you need two hands for your crack pipe. But hey, it's not like unplanned pregnancies and rampant sexually transmitted diseases are public health concerns that are furthered through ignorance and that can be fought through education or anything. Not like the public has a pressing interest to address public heath concerns in public schools. I mean, when compared to your inalienable right for you to insist that your child be allowed to go through life in ignorance what's a couple of public health crises? It's not like cases of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes and HIV are on the increase in YOUR county. Oh, wait... they are.

Finally, the news that set me off on the decision that I'd had enough and was ready to rant this morning was this: Three students were ordered suspended after saying the word "vagina". These teens said "vagina" during a high school performance of, wait for it... wait for it... The Vagina Monologues! Actually, they weren't suspended for saying the word precisely, they were suspended for "insubordination" because they'd told the principle they wouldn't use "the word". You know, no saying "vagina" during the VAGINA MONOLOGUES. I suppose they were supposed to call the reading the "Hoohaa Monologues" or something? Good for them for making their stand, I say. Vagina is not an obscenity.

"My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women's army. I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina's country."

Damn straight, girls.

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Insult to Injury

Nooooooo!

Speaker Speaker AND The Thermals are playing a gig at Chop Suey on Wednesday night at 8:00pm. I, of course, will be wrapping up my futile proxy-representation of my non-English-speaking neighbors at the New Holly Home Owners Association meeting and catching my taxi to the airport, where I'll no doubt find my micky-fricky JetBlue flight canceled anyway! The Thermals will, predictably, be heading to NEW YORK in March.

Damn it all!

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Irritating

Boy, I can tell school is out. I keep getting pink and purple Instant Messages from kids every time I sign onto my AOL account. "hey, who r u?" "r u Nikki?" I try telling these kids that I'm not the person they're looking for, but to no avail. They always think I'm kidding around, or else they're just enjoying screwing with me. "yes u r. i know who u r. this is kenny, sarah's little bro" or "do u go to krappington high?"

I could just ignore them, but I figure they might want to actually get the right IM handle for their little friend. They're probably looking for Nikchick123 or Nikichik or some other variation on my handle. I politely request that they check my profile (that's why I have one) but these kids either don't know how to use the function, or my profile doesn't come up for them because without fail they tell me I don't have one. Sometimes I'll get a "who r u" message, I tell them I'm not who they're looking for, they go away, only to IM me the next day "is this Nikki?" Guess what, I'm STILL not the kid you're looking for.

I could just block all IMs, or all IMs except from people I know, but I do actually talk to some people by IM (like people on my demo teams or other industry associates from across the continent) and I don't want to accidentally block them. I already has a bad experience where my spam filter was blocking legitimate mail from freelancers and paying customers. Very bad.

It's really a minor annoyance, but there are definitely some days when I wonder why I try to be nice about it at all.

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Shut Up Little Man!

The good Mr. John Tynes familiarized me with Shut Up Little Man! some years ago. Click the link, read his review, then read on if you're not familiar with the subject.

Done?

That's my mother's husband. No, he's not actually Peter or Ray (he's got the much more evocative moniker of Virgil) but last night, as struggled to get my mother's out-dated pile of hand-me-down computer bits to coalesce into a functional machine, I could hear him going on from the other side of the house. The smell of cigarette smoke wafting down the hallway, shouting in his half-deaf way, I picked up snippets of his side of the conversation: "Some goddamn garlic in it... or sumthin'. Or tobacco! Throw some tobacco in there.... I'm serious! Find some butts or sumthin' and just crush 'em up in there... What're ya heatin' it up for? He don't need that!" It was in the same slurry tone and inflection as any of the Shut Up Little Man snippets. I completely expected to hear him follow up with "...because you crucified it. You ruined it. Goddamn you!"

Before I left for home, he also treated me to his views on training dogs. Apparently, "you gotta beat 'em; that's the only way to learn 'em, they don't understand nothin' else." Unless, of course, they're dogs that bite children or eat chickens: "Don't matter how much you love 'em, you can't ever change a bitin' dog--or a chicken eatin' dog, so you gotta just shoot 'em," BANG (he slams his fist into his hand for effect).

Needless to say, I always feel like I've walked into the Twilight Zone whenever he's around. My mother is not that way, I have no fucking idea how they ended up married to each other.

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Freedom to Read

Do you like to read? If you do, perhaps you are as disturbed as I am by the far-reaching effects of The USA Patriot Act, particularly Section 215.

While much of The USA Patriot Act concerns itself with foreign nationals, Section 215 in particular has given the FBI power to search ANYONE'S library and book buying records without a warrant, without probable cause of any crime or intent to commit a crime. Furthermore, librarians and booksellers are not allowed to report that searches have taken place or that records were turned over to the government or they can be prosecuted. Carleton College, in my "other hometown" of Northfield, Minnesota, has put upthis interesting FAQ for their library patrons.

Amazingly, there actually appears to be some slight movement in Congress to put a stop to some of this insanity: Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced legislation into the House called The Freedom to Read Protection Act, HR 1157. Senator Barbara Boxer of California has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, The Librarian Bookseller Protection Act, Senate 1158.

If you like to read, support the Freedom To Read Protection Act! I spent the morning contacting my representatives and urging their support on these bills. In a letter that's making the rounds through teachers' groups, librarians, and writers, another woman suggests the following ways to show support and help move things forward:

1. Contact Representative Sanders and Senator Boxer to voice your support.

2. Get HR 1157 out of its subcommittee, into the House Judiciary Committee and then onto the House floor for debate.
HR 1157 is now in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. The members of that subcommittee are Tom Feeney (R, Florida), Bob Goodlatte (R, Virginia), Steve Chalbot (R, Ohio), Mark Green (R, Wisconsin), Ric Keller (R, Florida), Mike Pence (R, Indiana), J. Randy Forbes (R, Virginia), Robert Scott (D, Virginia), Adam Schiff (D, California), Sheila Jackson Lee (D, Texas), Maxine Waters (D. California), and Martin Meehan (D, Massachusetts). The chair is Howard Coble (R, North Carolina).
The phone number for the subcommitee is (202) 225-3926. If you know someone who lives in the states of these Representatives, it will be especially meaningful for them to hear from a constituent.

3. Contact the chair of the Judiciary House Committtee, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R, Wisconsin) to tell him you want HR 1157 brought to the floor of the House. Representative Sensenbrenner is a Republican who has berated the administration for its policies of secrecy. Again, if you know people in Wisconsin, get them to contact Representative Sensenbrenner.

4. Contact your own Representative or Senator to ask if he or she is a co-sponsor of HR 1157 or S 1158 and stress that you strongly support co-sponsorship.

5. Contact those who have co-sponsored HR 1157. Call Bernie Sanderís office to get their names and contact information. Sandersí office number is (202) 225-4115, if you want to ask for an updated list.

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DUI

M. was arrested for drunk driving. She's not a dumb woman, but she keeps doing dumb things. This isn't the first time, but I really, really hope it will be the last. M. is important to me and I fear what will happen to her if she doesn't straighten things out.

I hate to write about it, because I don't want to add to the trouble she's having. I care about M. and on one hand I'm mad at her for letting this happen. On the other hand, I can't deny any longer that she's got a serious drinking problem. I've joked before about functional alcoholics, those who drink to excess, but who don't harm anyone or endanger others by driving or miss work because of their drinking. Getting arrested for DUI (more than once!) is not "functional."

She's definitely going to lose her driver's license for this infraction. I would hope the courts would have her attend AA or some other alcohol treatment, but it didn't seem to do any lasting good the other time, if they did. I fear she might spend time in jail. Since she's always on the brink of financial disaster at the best of times, I worry about what spending time in jail would mean for her job, her financial situation, her ability to live... It's terribly depressing for me to contemplate.

Most grim, in my mind, is that her companion is an enabler of the worst sort. M. needs to stay out of bars, not keep alcohol in the house, not surround herself with people who drink, routinely and to excess. Her companion does not support those efforts. Without that kind of commitment and the support of her partner, I don't see how M. can avoid the downward spiral of repeat offenses and self-destructive, addictive behavior.

She's occasionally turned to me for help in these situations. I've tried to be supportive without being enabling. It's difficult. I don't feel equipped for this.

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Violence

I remember the completely sick feeling that I had the first time I heard people talk about the evil things that people do to each other. I do not remember what in particular was being discussed. It definitely wasn't something I was meant to hear. Most likely, I was lingering around the edges of adult conversation sometime in the early 70s, when the Vietnam war and the horrors committed there were still fresh and raw.

The specifics don't matter, the shock, disgust, and utter disbelief I felt have blotted everything else out. It had never occurred to me that people would hurt each other on purpose, that they would set out to hurt each other, that they wouldn't be seized by grief or regret for their actions. I was young enough that I'm sure I couldn't have even put these visceral feelings into words.

Tonight, the History Channel has graphic stories and footage about Saddam Hussein and his sons. Evil, evil, and more evil. Even after all these years, after I've learned about ancient human sacrifices, the Holocaust, female genital mutilation, the rape of Nanking, two small boys left to starve to death in a basement, on and endlessly on... even after all of this, I'm still sickened, still physically disgusted by the torture and mistreatment of innocent people I don't even know. Is it so impossible to just leave each other alone? Why is peace and respect so impossible?

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Airbus are a bunch of fuckers

Stolen directly from JD's site, but this bullshit deserves to be circulated far and wide. Airbus knew and did nothing.

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FOUL

Found out today that a competitor (and I use that term in the loosest sense, as this company is run by a bottom-feeder who is not in our league in his wildest dreams) is using the names of our company and some of our better known products, jumbled up with words stripped from every game or media company/property of note, including (but not limited to) Hasbro, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games, AOL, Fox, Paramount, Marvel Comics, DC Comics... as Meta-Tags for his site(s). That's sleazy enough, but included in this list are all sorts of search words like "sex pedo nude girls" and "cheerleader little russia illegal cock hard big tits" and "sucked lolita lolitas pimps" and "bondage date rape black angels" or my personal favorites "card games multi player cum spit farm animals dogs" and "barely legal pre teen young adult film movies mpeg exploitation money back guarantee daddy incest daughter gays gang bang..." It goes on, but you definitely get the point.

Makes me sick and angry to think that someone looking for our products in a search engine would type in our company name or some other generic game terms and end up at "Prison Bitch: the card game" instead. You want to enjoy the great wide world of free commerce? Go right ahead. More power to you! But leave my products, my company identity, my trademarks and brand names out of it! Why is it so hard for some people to leave others in peace?

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Neighborhood Bullies

I still vividly remember chasing one Tyrone Funk down the street, back in the day, after he threatened to beat up some of my guy friends (calling them pussies). Wearing a garish, flouncy purple dress (for I had just come from the 8th Grade Graduation Dance) I stalked off into the darkness after him, shouting, "You wanna fight? Fight me! I'll show you who's a PUSSY!" as he ran away, calling over his shoulder that I was lucky he was raised so well, he didn't hit girls.... Not long after this incident, I caught him bullying a kid on crutches, trying to yank his crutches away. I threw him up against some lockers, and told him he'd better not ever let me catch him bullying anyone, anywhere, ever again and he made sure I never did.

I discovered in my recent visit with childhood pal Greg (who was witness to this fiasco) that I was not the only one who remembered my interactions with Ty Funk with some fondness. Ah, the memories.

Yesterday afternoon Kate came home from school and asked me if I would walk to the bus stop with her in the morning. Earlier in the year I'd given a young man a talking to, telling him that since he was bigger and stronger than my little girl, I expected him to restrain himself from hitting her in the head with his book bag. At that time, I'd told him that if I heard that he couldn't restrain himself, I was going to have to come to the bus stop every afternoon and walk him home. It took a minute for that to sink in, but I stressed that if he couldn't be trusted to roam the neighborhood without an escort, I would be happy to walk him home after school every day to make sure everyone got home safely. That being just about the last thing in the world he wanted, he fell in line.

This kept the peace for several months, but Toumsa and his friend Massad are getting restless again and this time throwing rocks at little girls. Kate made sure to tell me that they did not throw rocks at her, but they were picking on one of her forlorn-looking little friends, and could I please go and teach them a lesson?

This morning, I happily sauntered up to Toumsa and told him that I'd heard he'd been throwing rocks, and that as one of the biggest kids at the bus stop, I was *sure* he could excercise some self-restraint and not pick on little girls. He indignantly protested that he had not thrown rocks at *my* little girl, and why did I care. I replied that I cared because this was my neighborhood, and I wanted it to be a safe place for everyone, so if I heard that he was causing trouble for any of the girls I wasn't going to let it go. He started to turn away, seemed to be ignoring me, so I turned it up a notch, "Toumsa, what would your family think I told them you were throwing rocks at little girls?"

His jaw dropped. "How did you know my name?!" I assured him that everyone in the neighborhood knew his name because he was always causing trouble. "Well, what's *his* name?" Toumsa said, pointing at his friend. I told Toumsa that I didn't care what his friend's name was, and that if his friend went around causing as much trouble as he did, I'm sure that I would know his name too.

The little coward gave up his friend's name immediately! "His name is Massad!" Fine, then, now I know both of your names. And I expect both of you big boys to have the good sense to leave the little girls alone from now on. This kid was clearly praying for the bus to arrive and save him.

There will come a day in the not too distant future when these kids will be too old and cocky for me to intimidate into good behavior this way, but for now I'll just keep handling the neighborhood bullies like I've always done. Maybe they'll grow up and start acting less like little creeps if they think the Crazy Neighbor Lady is keeping tabs on them, and they're not anonymous and safe from retribution!

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Criticism

Ah, I see it's in vogue for the cool kids to say that X2 isn't a great movie. Bah. I thought X-Man 2 was a rockin' good time, and as good a movie as one could hope to get out of a comic book/animated series property. Silly, pedestrian me. I quite enjoyed it and am eager to go see it again. I guess all the King Geeks are still showing the rest of us how cool and jaded they are. You know the ones, the kind who when you say "Hey, have you seen Homestarrunner.com? Those Strong Bad e-mails are a hoot!" they're the first to respond that yes, they've been watching Strong Bad's e-mails regularly, and they really were better about a year ago before "everyone" discovered the site.

Whatever.

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Mr. Rogers, again

Mister Rogers, again

Today, 2000 people turned out for the public memorial service for Fred Rogers. When reminded of the date, I once again felt incredibly sad. I grieve for what we've lost in the world with his passing. Moreso because of dispicable, self-serving, dark-hearted idiots like Fred Phelps. Phelps you may know from his website (which I refuse to link to) or from his group's choice to randomly picket people and organizations that actively provide aid, support, or just plain general acceptance for homosexuals. Apparently not getting enough publicity for his twisted cause, he and his family/followers have taken to picketing randomly selected churches that belong to denominations that don't actively persecute or speak against homosexuals and homosexuality, which allows them to include as a target, you guessed it, Mr. Rogers. This nutjob is now trumpeting the message that Mr. Rogers is burning in Hell, not because of anything he did, but because of what he didn't do. Mr. Rogers never addressed homosexuality at all, and so, by Phelps' logic, he burns in hell.

I hope Phelps and his followers behaved like the cowards they are and decided not to show up to picket the memorial. Or that if they did, they get no media attention for so doing. A very large, righteously indignant part of me hopes they showed up and got their asses kicked within an inch of their pathetic, hateful lives by grieving attendees, but I don't suppose that Mr. Rogers himself would approve of such an action. Still, I'm continually horrified at the depth of hate and cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on the world.

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I am woman, hear me whine

For the umpteenth time this week I've been called "Sir," by some freaking waitron. Damn it, I am not a man! Just because I don't dress to flaunt my boobies all over the place, or plaster myself with cosmetics, is it so impossible for people to see that I'm a chick??

Ok, so I do wear my hair in a short cut, and I do like to wear my MagiNation ball cap when I'm bumming around town. But couldn't I at least be mistaken for a lesbian? At least butch lesbian chicks are still chicks.

Bah. It's enough to drive me into a little black dress and go-go boots.

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Oh Poop

Not only have I had the most incredible increase in spam since I started keeping this blog but I recently learned that the people who signed my guest book have also been spammed and that the spammers used my webpage as part of their little spam blurb! Oooh, that riles me up. I'm not tricky with the web-building, I don't know a lot of ways to fool spambots or individuals who want to come harvest e-mails from my site. I'm so bummed. It's like the hackers who break into little kids' Neopets accounts. For what? To prove they can? To ruin everyone elses fun?

Here's a hint: I don't have a penis, so I don't need it enlarged. Nor do I need online viagra. Nor am I looking for your help in refinancing my mortgage, nor will I come to you to repair my credit. I most especially don't care about F.R.E.A.K.Y W.H.O.R.E.S getting it on with their fathers, brothers, or farm animals. I will not be visiting your gang bang website, nor willI be looking at jpegs of your "barely legal teens". I hate you, Spammers! I hate you with a burning hatred usually reserved for former Brand Managers of Wizards of the Coast or misanthropic stalker/rapists.

I especially hate you for ruining my fun. All I was trying to do here, you intrusive bastards, was to build an innocuous little community where my friends and colleagues could come hang out and shoot the shit, and maybe find out what I've been up to (since I'm usually so chained to some work- or child-related responsibility, I don't get a chance to actually see my friends and share with them face to face).

Thanks for intruding on my friends, in addition to ruining my fun, you spammer fucks. I hope you rot!

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I Win!

After about 2 minutes in the Mitigation courtroom, the judge had ruled in my favor on the "unlicensed vehicle" issue and additionally knocked the parking fine down from $25 to $5. I'd been willing to pay for my mistake on the parking issue, but I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth either. Yay! Far less painful than I feared it would be. The judge clearly didn't want to hear a bunch of whining (and after hearing about 30 seconds of the story the guy before me was telling, I couldn't blame him! I was sick of it after mere moments. That job would drive me batty).

On the other hand, my visit to the Post Office was far *more* painful than I thought it would be. I wasted a good 35 minutes there, standing in line and listening to the somewhat unnerving Mumbly Guy who sometimes works the counter mumble to himself while he worked over my thirty-odd mail order packages. He's never been anything but nice when I 've seen him, but man, he still gives me the creeps.

While in line, people behind me were complaining about the wait and the slow service. "If this were privatized, the line would be moving faster," I heard one woman grouse to someone. Am I the only person left in the world who doesn't think privatization and deregulation are the cure for everything? Sure, the line might move faster, but I have no doubt the service would plummet and the cost would sky-rocket. Profit-conscious investors would constantly be under pressure to net more and there are very few ways to do that: pay the workers less and charge the customer more are two of the most popular. No thanks.

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Airport

Those who know me have heard me ranting and raging in the past about airline security over the last few years. Ironically, I've been much less irate about airline security since the feds took over the screenings (and since airports installed enough employees and equipment to handle the job). In my most recent travels, I've been screened politely and efficiently by people who speak and understand clear English. These are appreciated and much needed improvements, necessary for passenger compliance and security.

This episode (originating in sweet home Seattle), on the other hand, is really over the line. People crushing their Dixie Chicks CDs is evidence enough of human hypocrisy and pettiness. This Seattle baggage incident, though, is EXACTLY why the TSA's next step in security screening is a terrible idea. Your personal information, credit reports, traffic tickets, goodness knows what else, passing through the hands of anonymous self-righteous "security screeners" in order to make a "security assessment" before you're allowed to board a plane? Yikes. (Yes, I've linked to a lefty news source about CAPPS II. It's my blog, and I've had enough conservative, war-mongering media for today, so screw it!)

Leaving for Las Vegas in a mere 6 hours. Suppose I should get to packing... wouldn't want to be late to the airport.

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Shanghai Knights

It seems like it's getting more and more difficult to find family entertainment. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have pretty loose standards about what Kate is allowed to watch. She's seen plenty of Jackie Chan, she's seen lots of anime, she's even watched a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with us. We've watched PG-13 movies together and even a few R-rated movies. Fellowship of the Ring was no problem for her.

However, she's still a bit on the young side for things like The Recruit or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, regardless of their PG-13 ratings. The Quiet American or Tears of the Sun are far in the future. While searching tonight for a movie to go see as a family, we considered Daredevil, but the savage reviews put me off. Shanghai Knights was just what the doctor ordered (having seen Shanghai Noon with Kate, she knew what to expect) and blessedly saved us from having to consider Kangaroo Jack or Jungle Book 2.

[Brief rant: Are we so creatively bankrupt that the only thing we can think to create for "child friendly" movies are so-called sequel movies to 50-year old "classic" cartoons? What is with the spate of re-hashed movies like Cinderella 2, Jungle Book 2, or worst of all 101 Dalmatians II (not to be confused with 102 Dalmatians, the live-action sequel to the live-action remake of the "classic" cartoon)?! Hello, Disney? Can't you even pretend to have an original thought by at least giving us "sequels" with somewhat evocative names like Cinderella and the Temple of Ultimate Evil, or Mowgli: the Parent Trap?! ARGH.]

Anyway, Shanghai Knights was bland, inoffensive entertainment for the whole family. There were a few chuckles, many groaners, and while some may complain that Jackie Chan wasn't doing his "Jackie Chan Thing" enough, I'll admit to being relieved that he's cut out some of the wild "stunts for stunts sake" craziness that has marred some of his other American films. I love Jackie Chan and I greatly feared that as he aged he would continue to push himself to do jaw-dropping stunts until it killed him. NO threat of that in this movie, and that's ok with me. Owen Wilson does his Owen Wilson patter. It's exactly what I expected it would be and it saved me from kid-movie hell. Woot!

If you're looking for a decent "kid movie" I can recommend The Wild Thornberrys Movie with a clear conscience. If only there were more quality movies like that out there for us!

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