Massachusetts

Massachusetts! Yes, Massachusetts gave you Scott Brown to defeat Obamacare, President Obama, Harry Reid, et al. It was a clear indicator from a state often called “the bluest of blue” (which I might contest) that people Did Not Want the so-called “Affordable” Care Act.

Instead of “passing” the law as was, in a manner that at least bordered on fraudulent, don’t you wish now, Dems, that you had gone for that “oh man, we BARELY lost by ONE vote, maybe next time” loss?

Massachusetts Did Not Want the law passed, enough to muster the people’s votes against it then. Massachusetts! And you blew it.

Collected Links

I have been bookmarking things on the idea I would post about them. You’d think posting, say, five days a week would be easy, right? The set is huge, some are probably quite stale, and I am not sure I’ll get to them all with meaningful treatment. Therefore, I will collect several in one post, with minimal commentary.

When law is no longer a safe bet and more about economic change, automation, job security and “the good old days.”

The Roman Army Knife beat the Swiss by 1800 years and looks remarkably clever for the time.

Agile: The Once and Future Methodology explores how what some might think of as new software development practices go way back. A favorite topic of mine, for all my experience in software development is modest.

NSA: The Decision Problem is a discussion of the state of and history of sigint and surveillance, and how modern big data and such affect it.

Superfast internet over old-fashioned copper phone wires?

The Dick Durbin Debit Card Fiasco bears shouting from the rooftops, much the way Barney Frank’s role in the financial crash does.

I waited so long to post this, it’s obsolete! The tax was subsequently repealed, but here’s Why We’re So Frustrated About The Massachusetts Software Tax.

That ought to do it for now.

Thinking

I was getting ready to start this post and happened upon this one, in which Julie says one of the things I have been thinking, but in fewer words than I might have achieved. I have worried about authenticity. Not merely in expressing myself online, but in living my days, pursuing my works.

So. I have been job hunting, in response to Deb going on disability, on the idea that I both need to at least make up the shortfall, and that I am free to pursue such a thing. I love my part-time job that had more or less perfect SAHD hours around her schedule, but it was all I generally felt I could do, besides herding kids and being a crappy housekeeper and an awesome cook. Yeah, I kept thinking “write, dude” and similar things, since when would I have even that much of an opening. Yet I didn’t even keep blogging up well. Whenever the question of what I really want comes up, though, writing is way at the top. Even if it’s blogging.

That was a great thing about my job in outsourced Microsoft support years ago. While in one product, during an annual review I expressed how much I would love doing work centered around writing. That was part of a career growth kind of thing, as I recall. The manager, who was fantastic, didn’t see much chance of that happening, yet under my next manager it did. I had more to do with that than management did, apart from tolerance, initially, and doing what Microsoft wanted, when one of my counterparts there effectively appointed me to full time “web response” support of the product. This was a new thing. It had only been done by escalation level people at Microsoft itself, by our primary weekend guy, and ad hoc by me and a colleague, in any available time we could find between calls. The weekend guy would handle the cases he got as far as he could, then escalate them, even if they were easy. One Monday, Microsoft assigned them all to me and that was it for phone support. I was writing from then on, with rare exceptions, and was one of the pioneers.

Things that make me think.

I’ve been doing a web site migration for an extended family member who had some sort of falling out with his original designer and host. There was more to fix than I might have expected; ways in which they were sloppy. I figure it’s because of a graphics person going into web development, versus someone with a programming background. It’s been a blast. I could do this a lot, but I’d need to farm out graphics to build sites for people that needed new/nice ones. I can do simple, though I lack the tools I once had, and the money to buy nice ones.

I got a call from an unsolicited prospective employer. On the phone I said I was interested, but the guy was skeptical due to the commute. He had read my town wrong. Off the phone, I found it’d be at least 110 miles a day round trip, an hour minimum each way. I did math. They pay over the amount I must make net of added costs for things like commuting and tax considerations, but not enough even to pay for gas at a charitable price. Then there is the opportunity cost of the hours driving, other car costs, the fact it starts out temp, albeit long term, and that I would loathe working in the industry. Which, near as I can tell, is closely involved with making Obamacare fly. That and the type of work is the secondary type I seek, the “or I could do this.” I got an effective rate of pay for the hours added to what I spend on my PT job that is well below my PT job’s hourly rate (which is just $5 below what they pay before doing the math).

There wouldn’t be enough money to move nearer the job and support me in a room or small apartment plus send enough here to keep things rolling. Since we apparently are separating again but for real this time, moving out is actually a goal, but isn’t going to happen until and unless it’s viable. We have a good arrangement and set of roles, and that would shake things up far beyond money. With her home, we have changed roles, so I am no longer the main crappy housekeeper, laundress and dishwasher, but I am still the primary cook. In job hunting, I have had a low key “I can relocate” aspect that I hadn’t before. At a price and within reason, though what’s reasonable depends on price, as always.

That made me think about what do I want to do, or particularly not do. Do I even want a job job? The bottom line for making up Deb’s shortfall is to nearly double what I make from the PT job. We once had ads on sites and peaked at almost 2/3 of that number. From blogging. Or more accurately, from residual value of having blogged and run a blog carnival. I had some resentments that led me to mostly stop blogging, and to keep starting new sites that’d be mine alone. In fact, I have a conundrum that was going to be another post. We decided to return to AV, which I’d never loved the idea of leaving, the act of which lost us most of our audience and momentum. We were staying together. We would have a joint blog again. Happy days are here again. I had actually made a bit of progress with a solo blog, settling on one to build. Albeit not as I’d originally planned. The site in question was going to be a portal to posts at various blogs on various topics (more blogs, topical ones, easier to get ads), while also having original content, and importantly, promoting myself as a “help you create/maintain a blog or web site” service for side money. When we were really screwed financially, Deb did a brilliant job of building multiple income streams that by themselves might not support us, but contributed, and in some cases bordered on being “yawn money.”

Yawn money is a term a friend and former colleague introduced me to (not sure if he coined it) for things that bring in money while you sleep. Anything that gives you residuals or royalties would be like that. Ditto for ads. Once you get past the initial work. Selling something like crochet patterns isn’t far removed, where you do a fair bit of work, but then it’s a download with automated sales, or worst case, sending e-mail with them to buyers. My ideas for that have extended to reviving the blogging enough to generate revenue again. That’s not so much yawn money as it is getting paid indirectly for writing. It becomes yawn money in that you can coast for a while before it goes away. And to writing a book I have had in mind, though I could blog the story serially as well. It’s a business experiences thing.

Now, I should pursue some of this regardless of whether I search for full time work, even if I am going to set my standards low for what I accept. Especially if I set them low. I keep thinking there is something I am missing. A way to make lightning strike. Like it’s a game and I need to learn to play it.

One of the things that kept me from blogging was the fact too many of the wrong people read me, and I had to watch what I said. It’s not so bad as the Facebook account where you’d barely know I had a political opinion, due to the diversity among friends, and especially the vocalness of the leftier, sometimes almost to the point of commie, people there. I sometimes want to throw all caution to the wind and be myself. Which also applies when I am looking for work, blogging on my real name site that is oriented mainly to that end.

In fact, I have developed mixed feelings about this identity. Too many people know the real one, or could figure it out. At the same time, if what I am selling is that I write, that I know something about business and economics, that I managed/edited a thing on those topics that was in its day a big deal, then how am I to deal with the fact that I can’t admit to those things without revealing my pen name, and revealing all my opinions and maybe the less [adjective chain here] things I might have written along the way.

I am also thinking that I am at a juncture like the one when I job hunted following college. I sought accounting work because that was my degree, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t know what else to look for, though, and I stubbornly resisted taking just any job anywhere and seeing what happened. That is the correct tactic. You explore, learn an industry, make contacts, get work experience cred in general, and avoid having zero income or doing something that can’t lead anywhere. Because I kept adding tech stuff, in the form of software I’d used, to my resume, on the idea accounting needed computer skills and especially knowledge of Lotus 1-2-3, eventually I landed in tech support. Hiring people saw an opportunity I had no idea existed. One that was ideal for me.

Now I feel somewhat the same about support, at least in the call center sense, if not about tech generally. Thus I had focused more on “analyst” as a job title, be it called business, systems, data, or something else that still means you’re in the same continuum. Aspects of this harken back to my business background and experience, go along with my ability to cross-communicate between geeks and ordinary people, the times I’ve worked on determining business needs, and my ability to hold a big flow in my head while also handling detail and accuracy.

Obviously, I have an idea of something I could do and might enjoy, but I am not sure anyone will hire me at it, or that I’d be comfortable starting at a high level version. Yet I keep thinking that I am missing something, and that an astute hiring person might say “aha, you could do…” some cool thing I had never considered.

I’ve done self-employment a lot. I’d have done more over the past few years, but for tax complications and SAHD duties. Working on a web site for someone is ideal as a do at home task, for all I am not obliged to do things that way any more. Though it is actually more possible, given the presence of another parent and more viable age of the kids. The tax complications are gone. My weird reticence about charging adequately still needs work. It was another factor in making me not care whether I did business.

Any conclusions? Well, I am going to work on some of the side money angles, and on associating some stuff with my real name without necessarily shouting out my pen name to the world. There is a business blog can be revived easily, and that was the single most successful ad vehicale we ever had, the one that generated most of the money over time. It might still be, had it not lain fallow. I’ll personal blog, and it’ll probably be here, despite my mixed feelings about the joint versus sole blogs. I’d been meaning to post here more than has happened, and to migrate posts from the old version that was in Expression Engine, which doesn’t port over in a friendly, convenient way. Personal blogs weren’t a big seller for ads, but hey. The only blog with an ad is a tech blog I never post at, and that is a candidate for revival. That and the business one go with skills I am emphasizing for Real Job potential. I also had a site that was going to be my next business. It never went away, but I have it blank right now because the content, including what I did for services, pricing and all, was stale. I mean to do something with that, even if I do limited business. That is because I added that as a position on my resume, as well as because, well, any work I can get is much needed income. If it actually flies, I can see a tiny office in my future, which would be a nice supplement to a tiny apartment or room rental I also see in my future, eventually. I’m going to emphasize more the web stuff than I did before. I’m going to stop failing to play with technology. It was exhilarating recently to make a laptop work, including tearing it apart more than necessary and seeing how it ticked. I have computer carcasses and parts to go through and mostly purge, but in the process I can get my groove back. Funds are an issue, obviously, but I learned the hard way you can’t build or even keep a business running without spending on it in ways that get you and keep you current. I used to be angry that everything I took in at the old business went to home expense and I felt unable to put money into anything “extraneous.” The office rent got paid, though sometimes that was an eventuality rather than a given, but the technology I worked with got older and older, internally and not just with the client. If I couldn’t pay me enough to live on (and I felt like I couldn’t trim things as much as I needed – funny what necessity changes) and keep both the taxes and medical insurance/expenses paid, I certainly couldn’t buy new computers, devices, software, training, whatever. And that is part of the problem with my weird reticence about pricing adequately. Which back then wasn’t a problem, long as I charged the clients for everything I did. Too few clients and too much restriction by one on my ability to service others was a problem, but the hourly rate was at least close to where it should have been.

That job prospect I mentioned saved me turning them down by simply not calling me back or e-mailing as promised. I was prepared to say no. That’s something I am learning! I can say no. I don’t have to take work that pays too little or has demands that are all wrong. Obviously there needs to be some work being had, and it can be a matter of marginal revenue in a storm, but the abuse can be limited.

I figure as I blog, as I muck out my room and work through the old computers, I might have ideas. I am feeling hopeful and my brain feels like it’s funtioning fully now, so I am more likely to have a clever, creative idea and be able to follow it.

If the economy were better, I might be focused purely on jobs, but I have already been turned down for no-brainer opportunities. That’s an element I forgot above: The need to piece a living together, to be a rennaisance man, perhaps.

Sprechen Sie Deutch?

There are 21 counties in America where a substantial number speak German at home, which I agree is more fascinating than the amazing number where that is true of Spanish.

The real story lies in where, and in what other languages are included. Predictably, in my neck of the woods, it is Portuguese. There is enough of this that you see a demand for portuguese speakers to work for doctors, and bilingual signs in places like banks. The same applies to Chinese in Eastern Massachusetts. When I lived in Quincy, you were almost out of place if you weren’t either Irish – and not necessarily umpteenth generation off the boat – or Chinese. Bilingual signs everywhere, and a Chinese supermarket near my apartment.

No surprise there’s a lot of French up near the border between Canada and the Northeast.

Surprising might be the lack of Pennsylvania counties where German is 10% or more, and the number where it is not the highest even when looking at the specs for the uncolored counties that fell under 10% of one or another.

Better Than The Nolan Chart

My first thought was that this makes glaring the limited difference between typical republicans (conservatives) and typical democrats (liberals).

SocialStructures

This is from Liberty’s Torch.

My second thoughts involved the naming of the categories, and volunteerism being much less scary-sounding than anarchism, which is what the only truly safe section is. Minarchism may not sound less scary than libertarianism, which is what that part of the chart describes, in strict, traditional terms. Since “classical liberal” is a term I learned meant “libertarian,” I am intrigued by having that matched with “paleo-conservatism,” the next step up, and… mmm… acceptable. I always figure that it matters first what you choose to have government do, then, having decided, doing it right. Towns will run schools? OK, let’s not make them money sinks that do a lousy job, and for goodness sake let’s not let the federal government take de facto control. That kind of thing.

I’m glad the next loop up is modified with “modern,” because it is so not conservatism. Except now it is. Deb sat down as I was working on this and we talked about the names and categories. I came to libertarianism in the seventies, and was heavy into it into the eighties. I learned it as what’s called minarchism here, as I noted. She learned it, later, as what’s called paleo-conservatism here. I learned that as more of a next level, just as shown, where you can’t quite get everyone to agree that, really, these things can be done at least as effectively by the market or private cooperation.

And there’s another thing. It seems to me that this looks at any and all activities at any and all levels of government. In my town, we have a classic example of volunteerism/anarchism, whereby the community runs a gas and electric utility, to benefit the community and keep it tight to the people it serves. Local action. So when we talk roads, are we talking that, yeah, way more efficient for the community to build and maintain them, while maybe a highway that goes long distances and has controlled access, yeah, that could work better or as well done as a privately built road you pay to use.

Which is really just a step up from that decision to assign the right to use force on behalf of everyone to a government entity. Trouble is, another thought I had right away, it’s the very fact you are giving government that power to use force on your behalf that makes it easy for it to use power to coerce you. The idea is projecting it outward. It’s so easy to turn it inward.

And arguably the dangerous transition point is that fifth item up: education. Once the government can not on coerce, but control what is learned, influence attitudes from the beginning, power is well entrenched. Which is why education cannot be controlled by higher levels, but must remain controlled by lower levels of government or community, or be in the hands of the people, or be privately operated and paid.

Fourth Amendment Win, Sort Of

Remember the guy who went through airport screening with the 4th Amendment written on his naked torso? This naturally resulted in grief from our airport overlords, the low-paid, low-intelligence, power-tripping TSA.

Flash forward and he won in court, featuring a requirement that the TSA agents there be educated in the First and Fourth Amendments. This may help in one place, in a small way, but it does not undo the absurdity and overreaction that is TSA and the entire Homeland Security aparatus.

Entitlement

I’ve been thinking about entitlement as a personal and moral trait that can overlap political beliefs, and relate to the government plural of the same word.

Whether you have been raised to it or come to it otherwise, a strong enough sense of entitlement without moral brakes on it can lead you to steal, which is really just a direct form of seeing that money not yours is spent to your benefit. It can lead you to something like insurance fraud, where you feel entitled to take the insurer for enough money not merely to repair insured damage to your house, but also to rebuild it extensively, shiny and like new. It can make you the person who is demanding beyond all reason at a retailer, or who gives the pharmacy hell for the limits of your prescription coverage that they can’t control. It can make you the person who has an unrealistic concept of what Social Security and Medicare are/should be, and of how far the money you paid in actually extends, even if you are logical and not otherwise mathematically impaired.

You see this as a generality in generations, like the Lucky Few, even when individually they might have political leanings ostensibly disparaging of “entitlements.” I had not been aware there was indeed a distinction until recently, despite it seeming like there was a gap before the Boomers. You see it more specifically in families or how people are raised, and in social classes. A sufficiently strong sense of entitlement is a lopsided thing, where you see only that you want, you deserve, you need. You don’t see where the money is coming from, who you are affecting, or even ethical, legal or philosophical ramifications. Come to think of it, it’s the extreme opposite of feeling entitled to nothing via a low self-esteem or “dog that’s been beat too much” problem, but that strikes me as a digression into another topic.

A gentler form of it is indeed strongly optimistic expectations. Of course you can get a job at the proverbial IBM and retire comfortably after thirty years! Isn’t that what everyone does? Sorry, Lucky Few, it’s 2013. Or 1980, as the case may be.

Anyway, where I am going with this is to cross it over to political leanings or expectations. It seems to me that the same outlook could give make your overriding conviction to be milking the system for what you want for you and yours, without regard or even awareness of consequences or costs. Just as you can ruin your life if you let an inhibition-free sense of entitlement veer into illegal ground, you can ruin the country by voting or promulgating institutionalized theft. There are times when the overhead of entitlement can be absorbed for an extended or even indefinite time. For instance, unionized industries that add cost out of proportion to value. There are times when the party ends. Real estate won’t always go up and up artificially. You were never entitled to an automatic windfall. Government won’t always be able to pay benefits it does now. Not even pensions, if the money wasn’t actually put aside and kept safe and actuarially appropriate.

You are not entitled to whatever you want, any way you can get it. There isn’t an endless trough. It has to come from somewhere. If you’re not creating value for value, if you just want it so you should get it, you’re doing it wrong.

Talking About Basic Nonsense

The often sensible if excessively socially conservative John Hawkins has a bizarre piece at Townhall.com that I just can’t resist going through. It’s long, twenty points, and that may be part of its problem. When you’re trying to come up with that much in the face of a deadline…

(Update: I will update this when I have a chance, to show the gist of each original point, so it will not be imperative to read the original to make sense of this. OK, paraphrase, condensed version or copy of point being addressed is indented above each numbered response.)

People who wish to change sexes should see a shrink. Apparently rather than being allowed to, on a reread of the source.

1. People who wish to change genders were not, last I knew, allowed to do so without the advice of a psychologist. That doesn’t mean it’s good advice. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an industry of enablers, as might also be the case with convincing people they have conditions that allow them not to work, or never to grow up, or to live as professionally needful whiners. “OMG I am crazy and always wanted to be a girl” is no excuse for not having a life and taking some responsibility. Nor is it anyone’s business if you want to invert or extend your parts, even if you will never look feminine, or masculine, so long as you are not a societal leech. You have the right to do it. Others have the right to mock it. Nobody but you has any obligation to pay for it, or your general support.

“Most people who remain poor over the long haul in America stay that way because of their own poor life choices.”

2. That sounds like something one of the Lucky Few Generation might believe, having hit everything just right. It sure helps to make good decisions, but conservatives who dismiss timing and luck as factors and are holier than thou just come acorss as low-credibility cretins. It also helps to learn the skills and principles associated with success and good decisions, which makes parenting a rather overlooked factor.

“Most black Americans are good and decent people, but percentage wise there are more black Americans in jail because percentage wise, black Americans commit a lot more crimes than white Americans.”

3. Maybe. Or maybe the pointless drug war goes after them disproportionately. Driving while black? How about toking while black. In any event, most blacks are good and decent people, some of the best, so no disagreement there. It is unfortunate that the fascist left since FDR has used them as a permanent underclass to gain and maintain power, though I perceive that to be eroding. For that matter, referring back to item 2, poor is the new black.

“As often as not in America, the people claiming to be “victims” are the real bullies and they don’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.”

4. No real comment here, since it only purports to be common, not absolute, and strikes me as true enough. There is an element of bludgeoning the rest of us with need, with a claim to being maligned if the sense of entitlement is denied.

Politicians are shameless liars because people vote what they want to hear, not truths.

5. An actual truth, as I perceive it, though given enough chance and impetus, voters might just surprise you.

We owe less to illegal aliens even than to foreign nationals, because they broke the law.

6. Essentially correct, if you operate on the basis of closed borders, and even if you subscribe to the “two hands, one mouth” theory of what immigrants, legal or not, bring. Since Mexico has an economy and we don’t, these days, it’s less of an issue, and it’s not an inverse issue, since Americans are less inclined to leave their family and walk a thousand miles in search of work most people wouldn’t want to do, out of desparation. Or they could stay home and make good life choices!

“Life begins at conception and having an abortion is no morally different than strangling your baby in the crib.”

7. Do we really want to go there? Having kids made me both more willing to accept abortion, and more appreciative of the little parasites developing to the point of intelligence and personality at some point while still in the womb. Until they are viably separate enough to be raised by someone not the biological mother, though, they are indeed parasites, and about as welcome as illegal aliens are to some folks.

“Most liberals aren’t patriotic and they don’t love their country.”

8. Maybe. Not all, but I certainly know some. Yet they would be first to have the schools use instilled patriotism as doublespeak indoctrination and a mind control tool. (Added thoughts…) It is far more important to love freedom than a given country. The same might be said of hardcore libertarians, who are loyal to positive principles more than to place or political status quo.

Avoid civilian casualties but ultimately lives of our soldiers rank higher.

9. Damn straight. Except we should not be involved in conflicts that make civilian foreign casualties a factor without incredibly good reason, none of which currently exist, even if they did in the last dozen years.

Ignorant, ill-informed rabble shouldn’t vote.

10. Arguably, perhaps, but the same sort of class superiority that makes you look down on the poor, and gives you more in common with the left than with real people. This statement is up there with “if you didn’t vote, you lost the right to complain,” which is one of the most shallowly ignorant sentiments I’ve seen. It never fails to make me see red. So are you going to be the one to decide, Mr. Dictator-in-Waiting? That’s where the sentiment leads.

“The only practical way to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is for the Israelis to transfer the Palestinians and take their land.”

11. Ah, Israel. Land that leftist American Jews refuse to support, at least as indicated by voting patterns, if not universally otherwise. Israel, and its annexed lands that the owning countries gave up on and didn’t want the residents back from. The ones who are Jordanians or whatever, but call themselves “Palestinians.” Yeah, keep the land. Evict the people. Even though Arabs live peacefully in Israel proper, and it’s probably the best place for them to be in the greater Middle East and Persia. A friend once told me, probably about 1978, that the solution would be for Israel to become an American state. Never happen, but amusing idea that’s never lost its charm for me.

This is a christian nation dammit!

12. This is a nation of religious freedom and open arms, which has something of a Judeo-Christian tone without being overtly religious. I wouldn’t say that makes it a “Christian nation” with “Christian principles.” I consider those who keep harping otherwise to be somewhere between looney and dangerous. Nor is the presence of “in God we trust” or a national Christmas tree worthy of concern to your average atheist, agnositic or pagan. Especially the latter to the latter, since it’s pagan borrowing.

“Men are just generally better at some things than women, just as women are just generally better at some things than men are.”

13. The most accurate thing yet. Men and women. We are not the same. Nobody is saying women should stay barefoot and pregnant, simply by observing reality. Duh.

Racism was once big deal, now a tool of phonies et al.

14. Another accurate item! “Racism” of late has become a cudgel, even as it’s fading away to nothing in reality.

“Long term, the only way our country can pay its bills is by asking everyone who’s not dirt poor to pay as much in taxes to the government as they’re given in services if they want to continue to receive those services.”

15. And hey, why not make the dirt poor pay and pay too, since that’ll teach ‘em not to make bad decisions. But seriously, this is too brief to be analyzed well, though it’s on the right track. Except… at this point, even that is not going to be enough to pay the bills, assuming we’re not talking about repudiating some or all the national debt that cannot ever be repaid without an explosion of productivity and fiscal sanity. Which, yes, would include people paying for services or not getting them. The more of them privately provided and not within the government sphere at all, the better.

Mother and father better at raising children than singles, gradparents or gay parents.

16. Two parental units are always better than one, unless that “village” is awfully responsive, and not too busy helping with someone else’s much older kids who are far more able to take care of themselves than yours. But… they can’t be gay parents? Seriously? Are you a fucktard? An asshat? Or grandparents?! What’s this, ageism? Does this apply to parents who are old enough to be grandparents? Why mess with the point of “single parents have it harder and are less likely to have great results” by bringing in extraneous prejudices?

Boy Scouts can’t survuve gay scoutmasters because lust trumps all, gay male to young male just as straight to young female.

17. But it’s OK to have a lesbian Girl Scout leader alone with your daughter? I know! Let’s make all Boy Scout leaders lesbians, and all Girl Scout leaders gay men. Problem solved! Or we could try our best simply to have responsible, trustworthy adults who are good examples and would protect and defend but never harm their charges. Naw, never work.

Homeless = mentally ill. Contain or help them in spite of themselves.

18. I missed this one on my original reading, perhaps because my head was spinning with WTF by this point. Not actually out of line, since the homeless problem originated with Reagan’s well-intentioned reduction of the former system for handling the mentally ill. On the other hand, where do we stop with the involuntary “help,” and ho decides “mentally ill”? Didn’t the Soviets used to lock up their “mentally ill”? When I was a kid, this was the stuff of nightmares for me.

“If you have good character, you should feel ashamed of taking food stamps, taking welfare, or being on a school lunch program.”

19. I daresay most people are, but it’s bad when that deters you from bothering at all. Further, what is meant by “school lunch program”? In our town, school lunches are $2.50 and do not serve $2.50 worth of food, and yet it has always been my understanding that even this is subsidized, which is why the feds exert so much control over it and have made it so kids throw so much away as unpalatable. If you are poor for your family size, actually the same guideline as SNAP (food stamps), school lunch is 40 cents, while milk alone is 50 cents either way. That is actually a worthwhile discount, since it costs us somewhat more than that to make a lunch. However, we make lunches half or more of the time, since so much of it is food the kids won’t eat, or can’t due to allergies. As far as I have ever been able to determine, free lunch only goes to kids whose parents are on food stamps. Ironic, since we would qualify, and could use the little bit it would provide, but I gave up on applying after the local food stamp office blacklisted me for rudely expecting them to respond to a renewal application after the one year we received benefits. Luckily, the year we most needed it. Of course, we probably made bad decisions that made us poor, which probably means we have bad character, so why would we have any shame? Glad you feel so superior.

Most immigrants should be well-educated Europeans, not losers from rest of world.

20. Racist! Well, maybe not, but think about it… doesn’t that sound like it? Except it’s not that so much as classism, which has been what much of the list was about.

Happy Anniversary!

On this day nine years ago, we were on our way from Fresno to Las Vegas, arriving late in the afternoon at the Luxor. After checking in, we searched for the place where you pay the government for the right to be married. And searched. Eventually, we found it. A clever sales guy outside snagged our business for the Las Vegas Wedding Chapel. No idea where we’d have ended up, left to our own devices. That worked out, and we rewarded him for the good sense to patrol the opposite side of the street from the mob of other chapel sales people.

And so we got married, as originally planned, sight unseen, we’d hit it off that well long distance. Is friendship the best basis for marriage? Does agreeing on most things supply longevity that might not be there if it were mainly about an overheated attraction? Perhaps. We each had some second thoughts, even then, and we’ve not been problem-free. Yet we don’t seem to be going anywhere, and non-traditional though we may sometimes be, the kids do not appear to be doomed to grow up in a sundered household, as I and so many did. Have the rocky parts ultimately strengthened us? Arguably so.

All told, I can’t imagine my life alone, or with that hypothetical wasn’t-gonna-happen someone else. Or without the three kids. These specific kids, born of this particular mother. I can regret my age and timing, and ponder mightabeens, but wow. Just wow.

Time travel to the post I wrote after my return home, five days later, apparently my first substantive post following the wedding.

Backpacks

I was thinking about backpacks just the other day. My three kids all had to have them to start kindergarten. It’s required. I already knew that they were pretty much ubiquitous these days, but…

I was in school until 1979, and never once had a backpack. Not even in high school. Nor did other people, at least not enough for me to notice. Books and such were carried in your arms. It was awkward, inconvenient, even sometimes painful, but at least during school there were lockers, and generally not everything had to come home overnight. Yet I am no sure how we managed without them.

College was different. While I didn’t start college until 1982, they’d long been a given in that environment. I may not have known that until contemporaries started college in 1978 and 1979, but by the time it was my turn, I knew to head to the store and spend $30 (in 1982 dollars! For one far less good than my kids have for much less!) in anticipation of the backbreaking load of books I would have to cart around.

Funny how that works, seeing the same topic addressed right after I’ve pondered it myself.