Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dogs Life

This morning I was having a very pleasant dream when Dog #2 decided it was time for me to get up.

I have lost all control over my mornings due to these dogs.  Every morning is the same.

Dog #2 kicks it off with an Oscar-worthy performance of passive/aggression. "Don't let me wake you," he seems to say through loud, nasal exhalations and vigorous ear-shakes.  I find myself fantasizing about having easy access to a tranquilizer gun by the bed.


He keeps up the performance until I get up.  Like this:


We go downstairs, emancipate Dog #1 from her crate.  Dog #2 has not yet accepted a crated existence.  I know: this is all my fault.


We head outside to our tiny yard, for ablutions.  I don't even care.  I am in my pajamas in clear view of the ample street and automobile traffic of Sheridan Road.


Dog #2 pees and then heads immediately back inside anticipating breakfast.  Dog #1, on the other hand, takes advantage of this outdoor time to smell literally every goddamn smell there is to smell. There I am, in my pajamas, in clear view of all the passersby, strangers and neighbors and strange neighbors (actually, I guess I'm the strange neighbor in this scenario), hollering "GINGER!  GINGER!  COME!  GINGER! GODDAMMIT!" and she's all:


So I have to wander out into the dewy, peeful yard to pick her up and bring her back into the house.


Once inside, it's time to feed them.  While they tear through their food like they haven't eaten in years, I am now free to sit down with my morning Coke Zero and have a little time to check out social media and have a general blogaround.  


This lasts for about 13 seconds because Dog #2 has a digestive system that operates at Mach 3 and now he has to poop.  Have I mentioned this is how it goes every morning?


So back outside we go where Dog #2 immediately poops, which I then pick up and throw away, failing to have noticed that Dog #1 has sneaked outside and is once again ignoring me while smelling every goddamn smell there is to smell.


Back out, still in pajamas, through the dewy, peeful yard to bring her back inside. This brings us to now, as I sit on the couch writing this while the other two humans who live here and both the damn dogs are sleeping.


I still love all of them.  Dogs and human a lot.  




Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Another Note on Giving Up God

Even before I  decided to let go of god, I was always confounded by one of the primary objections to atheism.  Someone comes out as atheist and someone, aghast, asks "how can you be so sure?"

I was confused because I couldn't grok why believing that there is no god required more confidence than believing that there is one.

But some recent hearsay has clarified it a little for me - people are wondering how you can be so sure because the stakes are so much higher if you don't believe than if you do.  If you don't believe and the religious text in question is correct, you go to hell.  If you do and it's wrong, no harm/no foul.

When the lightbulb went on about this (arguably, a whole lot later than it should have) it reminded me of a Bible verse from Revelation (note: Revelation. There is no book in the Bible called Revelations.  I know a lady who is routinely driven bonkers by that common mistake):

Because you are lukewarm and neither hot not cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth
-Revelation, 3:16

I remember that verse from my Christian schooling (which was ample, you guys).  Maybe I remember it because it's so gross, or maybe because it's very evocative.  As I interpret the verse (and I'm no scholar), I'm pretty sure it implies that god doesn't care to be treated like a safety school.  God doesn't want to enter into an agreement with you that if neither of you have found someone by 40, you'll just marry each other.

If you're going to believe in god, I think you ought to believe in God.  Not believe in "well, I might as well just in case."  

My atheism is a life choice.  I can't know for sure if there's a god or not. You can't really prove a negative.  I really don't think so, especially not in the way god has been explained to me for my whole life.  But it doesn't matter: I choose to operate under the assumption that all we have is us, so we'd better be good to each other.  Ain't no one coming in to rescue us.  We're on our own.

And I also don't want to live my life lukewarm.  I'm not going to believe in something because I'm scared I might be wrong. Such weak tea! The very thought makes me want to vomit myself out of my mouth (not really - but that is an excellent descriptor, right?  Even if the logistics are a little hard to conceive).

I love, by the way, to talk religion. I'm neither scornful nor precious about it.  If you want to discuss this, tell me I'm wrong,  ask me questions, go for it.  I probably won't offend you, unless you're one of those people who are super quick to offense.  If you are, stop being like that; life is short with or without god, don't waste it with your dander up.  There's probably a Bible verse to that effect.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Reading

I hate starting a new book.  But I love to read.  I love to be in a book, fighting the battle between oh my god what happens next and savor savor savor.  You know that feeling?

I love to be under the spell. I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities while sitting on the patio between 11th and 12th grade and moving the book closer and closer to my face as the light dimmed with the setting sun, unwilling to break the spell before Dickens did.  I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird in the tub and letting the water run cold, unwilling to break the spell before Harper Lee did.

I love that.  Love it.  It is a great joy of my life.

But, man, starting a book is a chore.  I take no pleasure in introduction.  I'm not one of those people who cracks open a book eagerly.  Beginnings are work. But once I'm in, I'm your best friend.  I will love you so much I'll sit naked and chilly in a cold bath, I'll find a way to read in the dark.

This is probably why I love to re-read books.  I love to pick up a book that I loved and remind myself of why I loved it.  Over the weekend I re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude and found it just as weird and beautiful and sad and gorgeous as I did the first time I read it, but I was liberated from the what happens next battle, because I knew what happened next.  Reading that book at 20 is a real different experience than reading it 46. I know.  I've done it both ways.

I've read To Kill A Mockingbird a dozen times, at least.  I've read Middlemarch four times.  I've only read Ragtime once, but I intend to read it again this year.  I've read Gone With the Wind four or five times, but never as grown-ass woman, because I'm not sure I could take all those happy slaves  - but I'm sort of interested in revisiting Scarlett now because I suspect she may be a real feminist hero. Great Expectations is an old friend that I have visited a few times.  I spent last Sunday on the  couch, hanging out with Bridget Jones for the third time.  Lonesome Dove?  Read it at least 5 times. I've made my way through the Harry Potter series three times.  Maybe four.

It's not just the comfort of the familiar.  We might not ever really change, but we do grow and the books we love grow with us. There's value in it.  I love it. Plus it's so much easier than starting a new book. I'm lazy.  I can live with it.

Some of the other big readers I know don't re-read because there are too many books out there they haven't read at all.  I get that.  And I admire that.  But I hate starting a new book.  I love revisiting an old one.

While I live, I'll read.  And I don't plan to regret what I haven't read.

When the lights go out, I won't mourn Moby Dick (I tried, man, I did. That book is boring) or Proust.  Maybe Proust.  I would like to read Proust. But, really, when the bill comes due, I'd like to pay it while reading the Circle of Prydain.  Those were the first books I really loved.  And I have read those five books 20 times.  And I hope to read them 20 more while I breathe air.  I hope they're the last thing I read.

That said, recommend some books to me - I'll read them.  I hate to start books.  But eventually, you get in them.  They'll never be The Book of Three, but they may make the re-read list.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Politics Bloggity, with Mention of my Brother

I spent the first weekend of my spring break down in Franklin, TN with my brother and his family.  As is probably normal-to-the-point-of-banal for big brothers and little sisters, this little sister has spent much of the past 40+ years in some state of fraternal hero worship.  My brother has always been a guy who could do no wrong in my eyes; and this in spite of how much smarter and better-looking than he I am (this is empirically true, you guys.  Just trust me).

So while I was in Franklin, my brother mentioned that he thought that when the dust settled on his presidency, Barry Obummer would likely go down as one of the better presidents in our history.  Now I'm a good Democrat and as such, I exist in a state of perpetual disappointment with my elected officials; which is real different than good Republicans who elevate terrible, ruinous presidencies into the stuff of saintly, manly perfection (I am talking here about Ronald Reagan, who was a terrible fucking president and if you don't agree, let's go have a beer and discuss because I have manymanymany things to say on this topic). But the more I thought about what my brother said (despite, as previously mentioned, me being so much smarter than he is), I decided he was right.

And it's not just that Obama's had a successful presidency despite a level of commitment to Republican intransigence so high that had Obama cured cancer someone would have won a senate seat in Oklahoma on account of how Obama had killed all the oncology jobs and was somehow going to give your guns away to someone who doesn't deserve them because .... I don't know.  Reasons. I am endlessly surprised at how effortlessly some guy with 400 guns can make himself out to be a victim.

But as I thought about this, the reason I'm impressed with President Obama is that he's managed to stay dovish in a country it's pretty hard to be dovish in.

See Obama's predecessor did a neat trick. George W made a whole buncha money for the military industrial complex.  I am an English major and am, as such, fully learnt on how war profiteering has always been a thing in America (see Miller, Arthur and All My Sons which is literally the biggest bummer in English literature and I say that having read Jude the Obscure because I am, after all, an English major).  But it's not just that George W Etc. enabled the good folks at Cheney, Inc to make a buncha money.  They also somehow managed to turn war profiteering into patriotism, which is quite a neat trick.  Doesn't seem like American soldiers ever made any money fighting wars.  But someone else did.  And questioning this fact made you a pinko who hated America.

Goddamn, the 00's were a messed up time.

But Obama came into office and did not capitalize on this newfound American notion that it's only cuz we love America and liberty that we send our soldiers we send to die in foreign lands (and if the good folks at Cheney, Inc. make a few millions off it, that's just as God intends). Folks clamor for him to bomb Iran (and kill thousands of folks who have nothing to do with nothing).  Folks were demanding war in Libya and Syria. Jesus, folks were desperate for war with Russia.  Russia!  That would have gone swimmingly, right?  Obama has again and again not got us into wars.

What a pussy, right?

Oh, that's enough irony.  Obama's dovishness is my favorite thing about his presidency.  And the thing I'll likely miss the most if all the signs are right and Hillary Clinton breaks that oval office glass ceiling.  She is too hawkish by far for my taste.  I'm a war only as a last resort lady.  Because, as previously stated, I'm super smart.

Presidential politics aside, I sure do hope that when the typically feckless Democrats start running for seats other than presidential in 2016, they will run TOWARDS the successful presidency of Barack Obama rather than away from.  Because if there's another idjit out there like Allison Grimes, whose senate campaign reached such heights of dumbassery that Robert Penn Warren rose up from his grave and said "Oh my god, someone get me a pen!", I will do something crazy like vote for ...

Pfft.  Christ.  I'll still vote for the Democrat.  Because no matter how shitty the democrat is, they're less shitty. And if we have to eat shit, less shit is better.

Not Obama, though.  I think he's been pretty good.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Are You Doing It Wrong? Probably. But So Did Your Mom

This post has popped up on my Facebook timeline no fewer than five times over the past couple of days.  If you want to read it, go ahead.  If not, she's saying in a nutshell that the world is filled with neurotic, over-protective parents who are ruining their children and we should be more like our own parents.

Hmmmmmm.



This is not to say I disagree entirely with the basic premise.  I personally practice a fairly laissez-faire parenting style and like to have some fun.


But the beef I have is that this woman writes "nothing steals joy away from parenting more than believing you are doing a terrible job at it" in the middle of a blogpost about how you're parenting wrong.


Jesus Christ on a cracker, can't the mommy bloggers of the world just take a meeting and agree that it's just as OK to be a mommy who makes a shit ton of crafts for Valentine's Day (because some people like doing that) as it is to be a mommy who doesn't?  This blogpost (and a million like them) are so judge-y about parents (who the fuck am I kidding?  mothers) who get into scrapbooks and schedules and birthday cupcakes.  Look, I am telling you on this very unsuccessful blog of mine: It's fine to get into scrapbooks and cupcakes. If you want to scrapbook your kids life - go right ahead and tell all the cooler-than-thou moms out there that they are free to not.


Then there's this:


Hold on - this one drives me to drink:


Not having access to iPads did not make superior parents!  It's just something we want to believe because our superior childhoods would then make us superior people.  And if our tab-drinking, get the hell out of the house parents were really mostly keyed up on having time to themselves, Minecraft would have been a gift from the gods!  

You know what I remember a lot from childhood: being bored as shit!  Feeling left out and ignored from games and fun.  I would have loved to have spent time in my bedroom building imaginary Minecraft worlds (I think - I don't understand that game).  

Which brings me to the point I really want to make.  This lady isn't talking about us as parents. She's  talking about us as people. Gen X.  My people.

Did you catch that?  It sounds like she's praising her mom, but the subtext here is that we are the extra awesome beneficiaries of benignly neglectful parenting while people younger than us are, y'know, crap:

I'm here to spoil the damn party: there is no generation born to man who has not been accused of being entitled, spoiled, and generally helpless by the generation that came before.  I cannot believe this woman has completely forgotten every boomer dickhead who bemoaned our general uselessness in 1990.

I'm fixing to drop the mic here -  there's a simple calculation for successful parenting: their needs come first, but not to the exclusion, of yours.  That's it.  If you feel better booking your kids in a series of summer camps or if you're OK letting him hang out in his room with Minecraft, or if you lock them outside while you drink Tab, all of this is fine, so long as you're keeping them fed and loved.  You make the call on how you want to do that, not the Internet (except this post).  

In the end, when your child is grown up, there will be a bunch of Millennials talking about what shit his whole generation is.  Because they will have forgotten the shit they took.  This is how the world works.  Quit letting other people telling you you're raising your kids wrong.  What the hell do they know?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I've Kept to My New Year's Resolution - and I'm Resolving More!

So many years I've resolved to lose weight or write a book or be nicer. Instead I just get fatter and don't even read enough and, lordy, do I get grumpier every year.  So this year, I decided to make a resolution I could stick to: I resolved to not click on a single Sarah Palin story all year.


And, you guys, I have been WILDLY successful.  Of course, it helps that Sarah Palin has Sarah Palin-ed herself into obsolescence.  Hers was a star that burned bold, like a tremendous fart during a quiet moment at the opera, but it was bound to be brief.  There's only so long one can sustain a public persona of obvious horribleness covered lightly by a patina of milf-y righteous indignation.

Her name has popped up, though, in my various social media feeds.  But I have not clicked on a single story.  Mostly I remember Sarah Palin as that lady who made SNL politically relevant again for a spell (I'm hopeful for Kate McKinnon's Hilary Clinton, though.  That's pretty good).

Just a few moments ago, I was on Facebook (as is my wont, because I am old) and I clicked on a story about Rudy Giuliani saying something about how Barack Obama is actually an Indonesian lesbian who only speaks Klingon at home or how the Wu-Tang Clan has been around longer than racism and, you guys, the story wouldn't load!  And so I was all OH MY GOD LOAD LOAD LOAD!  I want a shot of that sweet, sweet outrage!  Gimme!

Obviously, I have developed a Rudy Giuliani problem and I'm going to have to resolve to stop clicking on any stories about him too.  The man is a buffoon.  His sole mission now is to piss off liberals.  I shall spend no more of my valuable time on this dude anymore.


But, I know I'll find some other jackhole dedicated to pissing off liberals to spend my clicks on.  To be honest: I like it.  I like reading about the Palin's and Guiliani's and letting my own (maybe a little milf-y?) righteous indignation fuel me through another day; mama needs a little reassurance, from time to time, that she's a good person and I can get that when I recognize what colossal assholes those other guys are in that story with a headline that begins "YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT....!

Sigh.  I'm gonna stop.  I'm gonna stop being outraged by these pitiful displays.  I'll carry on being aware that there's a chunk of America that thinks Barack Obama is insufficiently American because he doesn't think the A in US of A stands for AWESOME!   And I'll stay aware that there's a really sad and shocking amount of Americans who remain steadfastly convinced that black people are responsible for racism (oh, my nillas, PLEASE stop that).  But no more wasting my time on clicks designed to gin up my own outrage.

It's bad for the soul.  And probably the complexion.  And, goddammit, I wanna be a little milf-y for a while longer!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Opting Out of PARCC




We're opting out of PARCC.  

I went to an LSC meeting at Laney's school this week and her teachers recommended that kids in Laney's grade (sixth) take the test since it seems inevitable that the test will be used for selective enrollment when she's in seventh.  Their opinion is that it's good practice.

This isn't bad advice.  And they almost persuaded me.  But then I asked a question: "who grades this test?" No one there knew.  According to this source, Pearson (the company who created and operates PARCC) are hiring folks off Craigslist at $11/hour.   Let's take a look at a math question (click to embiggen):



I want to be very clear here - I'm not bothered by the question.  I don't think I could ANSWER the question; but, I'm going to take it on good faith that the methods for answering these questions are addressed via common core curriculum.  What bothers me is that they've rolled this thing out so poorly that no one knows who's going to be assessing Laney's response, which will be delivered in paragraph form.  When a teacher assesses a test response, I can read what she had to say, Laney can discuss it with her.  This is not true for some jamoke off Craigslist.

PARCC, by the way, is estimated to come with a 70% failure rate.  

But even this isn't why we're opting out.  The test doesn't count, after all.  It won't be used to determine funding for the schools, it won't be used to fire any teachers.  Why not just give Laney a real-life trial run before the goddamn thing matters?

Well, I'll tell you: We're opting out because the whole damn thing smells like a dirty political trick designed to liberate lots of good government dollars from public schools and into the hands of charter school hucksters*.  

I believe in public education.  I believe all children have a right to a quality education.  And I am sick sick sick of public school teachers and administrators being vilified as lazy or entitled by those who are baldly gaming the system by underfunding public schools while robbing our children of valuable classroom time with hours and hours of standardized testing.

The PARCC rollout in Chicago is a crappy political game with a clear goal of driving a stake through the heart of public education.  

And for this year, at least, we're not playing. 

* yes, yes, I know.  #notallcharterschools    

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