Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#195 - I Got Nothing

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, I've read a number of posts on Facebook that strike me personally as prejudiced, bigoted, hate-filled, and simply misguided. I thought to respond to those posts, but I have come to realize and accept that my words would make no difference, would convince no one, would cause no one to reconsider their views.

In trying to respond on a post-by-post basis, I feel the lump developing in the pit of my stomach, a lump of despair for humanity. It weighs me down and wears me down and nearly brings me to tears. As I close in on another birthday, I've decided I can't do it anymore. I'm too old and too tired to tilt as these ideological windmills any longer.

The terrorists have won. They have succeeded in filling the minds of millions of people with hate for all that is different or other. In the face of all of that, I got nothing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

#194 - Let's Play A Game Of Musical Chairs

I don't know whether it is a shared restless spirit or spirit of adventure or simply a function of human nature, but every so often we decide to change things up a bit in our house. Of course, sometimes these changes arise out of necessity, such as painting the exterior or putting on a new roof. At other times, it might happen simply because one or both of us gets a burr in our behind.

Such was the case this weekend when my wife and I decided to swap offices — again. We live with one child in a four-bedroom house. Because we have so few visitors (perhaps a half-dozen in the 12-plus years we've lived here) we decided to convert two of the bedrooms into personal offices.

During our time in this house, each of the three non-master bedrooms has been utilized as an office. This time, rather than involve our son in this musical chairs routine, we simply flip-flopped the two existing offices.

Fortunately, we decided to swap desks as well, which made the switch a little easier. Still, changing offices is a chore. There are seemingly hundreds of bits and pieces to move, not to mention a dog who likes to be in the thick of the action. I'm sure he thinks he's supervising.

Each time we attempt something like this, we try to look at it as an opportunity to weed out things and papers we no longer need or want. It is also a good opportunity for cleaning and dusting, two activities I'm sure rank high on most people's lists of things to do.

Needless to say, when you have two independent thinking people going through the same bits and pieces, finding agreement is sometimes easier said than done. Emotional attachments, fear of being audited, a certainty that one of us will use that thingamajig one day. All of these come into play.

As I write this, I'd estimate the level of completion at somewhere between 60 and 70-percent. The computers and desk chairs have been swapped, along with most pictures and a few of the knick-knacks. Papers and assorted bits and bobs remain to be moved, plus there is still the process of getting things organized, put away, set up, thrown away, given away, etc.

Right now, we have things organized enough for us to each use our computers, which is a sort of moral victory in and of itself. I suspect the rest of the process will take longer, simply because there are so many little things to move and deal with but also because next up on the project list is organizing our son's bedroom, a task I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#193 - Something Else That Starts Much Too Soon

In my last blog post, I wrote in response to my local newspaper's posing of the question "What are your thoughts about whether the Christmas/Holiday Season starts too early these days?" My answer was, as I suspect it is for anyone over 30 or 35, "Yes." In fact, the only other thing I can think of that starts much too soon is the Presidential campaign we must endure every four (or perhaps it's now only two) years.

By the time the 2016 race for the White House ends, we will have been subjected to more than 18 months of half-truths, innuendos, accusations, bold promises, temper tantrums, ego-stroking, and braggadocio. And that's all from one candidate. (I'll let you guess which one.)

I'll make no secret of the fact that I support Bernie Sanders for President. Opponents ridicule his ideas for expanding Medicare and offering free college tuition as giveaways. I prefer to think of them as investments in the true infrastructure of America, its people.

However, this is not a post about Sanders or any other specific candidate. It is, instead, about the interminable length of the Presidential race, the duration of which makes it impossible for anyone without access to tens of millions (likely to so be hundreds of millions) to run for the office. From where I sit, this seems to ensure that the political process will continue to be controlled by the wealthiest of Americans for decades to come.

Regardless of which candidate you support (please tell me it isn't Mike Huckabee), I think most of us - with the possible exception of comedians and late night talk show hosts who benefit from months of material without really having to work hard for it - can agree that the process starts much too soon and lasts much too long.

I'm not entirely convinced that this is simply due to the evolution of or the complexity of the political process. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this is some sort of insidious plot by those who wish to control the process.

Somewhere in some smoke-filled room (cliche, I know, but isn't that where these kinds of things get done?) someone or some group of people came up with the idea of extending the Presidential election process to the point where it becomes almost like "white noise" and gets tuned out by the majority of the electorate. How else would you explain the continuing decline in voter turnout in many areas? (I'm sorry, but quality of candidates is too easy an answer.)

The added benefit for these puppet masters is that this "white noise" filters down below the Presidential level to state and local races, reducing voter interest and turnout, making it easier for the candidates they support to win election and re-election time and again. For me, at least, this is the only way I can explain poor people in Kentucky voting to elect a governor who openly promised to end the one program that gave them access to affordable health insurance. (Your mileage may vary.)

The political process has reached the point where the joke is that a newly elected official must begin work toward getting reelected the day after getting elected in the first place. Running for election is all but a full-time job in and of itself. I think it is safe to say that the only thing with a longer shelf life than the electoral process is fruitcake, and I'm not sure we want anything competing with that.

Friday, November 6, 2015

#192 - Yes, The Holiday Season Starts Much Too Soon

As is my custom, upon getting up in the morning, I make my wife's lunch, put on a pot of coffee, check e-mail, and quickly peruse some of the posts on my Facebook feed. This morning, I came across a question posed by my local newspaper.

The paper asks the question: "What are your thoughts about whether the Christmas/Holiday Season starts too early these days?" To me, the fact that the paper feels the need to even ask this question indicates that we have a problem.

It is said that the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. For me, the problem became clear when we began giving names to specific shopping days. The day after Thanksgiving was no longer a satisfactory identifier; we now call it Black Friday.

On the other hand, I suppose Black Friday is an apt moniker for this day as it shows the blackest, most base aspects of human nature. On what other day of the year could someone get trampled to death or beaten to a pulp all because of the competition for a $199 television or some $50 toy just out in time for Christmas and have the reaction almost be one of "Ho-hum, another typical Black Friday?"

Of course, online retailers don't want to get left out of this madness, so they have their own day. Cyber Monday sounds likes some sort of organized online protest or day-long computer code writing event, but no, it's simply another day with a name aimed at getting people to buy stuff for a few dollars less than they can get it for any other day of the year.

Less than a week after Halloween, the holidays ads have already begun, beginning with more general ads (such as the one I saw last night for Toys "R" Us) and ramping up toward more specific product ads as we approach Christmas. The Black Friday ads appealing to the inhumanity and insanity of shoppers should start hitting radio and television airwaves within a couple of weeks.

Of course, many of these ads are aimed at the youngest consumers, who have yet to learn that with the accumulation of stuff comes the need for a place in which to store said stuff. The more stuff we accumulate, the larger the place we need for storing those items.

As I write this, it occurs to me that shopping "holidays" such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while perhaps essential to the bottom lines of most retailers, have enabled and even encouraged many of us to become pack rats, as last year's hot item gets pushed into a dark corner of a closet to be replaced with this year's must-have new gadget.

I have noticed this in our own home. My son, has a robotic toy dog that he asked for and got for Christmas several years ago. He hasn't played with it for at least five years, except on those rare occasions when we come across it while trying to clean out his closet.

Our two-car garage is crammed so full of stuff we don't use (and don't need) that we can only park one car in it. That actually puts us ahead of many people who can't even get one car in their two or three-car garage. In the future, I suspect real estate listings will not mention garages at all. Instead, they will be featured as a "large on-site storage facility."

As I wrote earlier in this post, the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. So let me be the first. I have a problem. I have too much stuff. What I am not sure of is the next step in the recovery process.