Friday, January 29, 2016

Constitutional Education, Nerdily

Laney will finish her 10th year in CPS schools this year.  In that time, almost all of her teachers have been superlative. You'd never believe that listening to the folks who run our school system; you know, these guys:

Darth Rauner, Rahm and Forrest Claypool
They'd have us believe that CPS teachers are overpaid, incompetent jerkwads.  But what do they know? They don't send their own kids to CPS.  I'm pretty sure their kids go to The Durmstrang Institute and think that CPS schools are for suckers and taxpayers and, you know, poor people (ewwwwwww).

But our experience with CPS has been great. There was only the one time she had a teacher that might not have been great.  But we could be wrong because it came at a time when Laney was switching schools anyway, thus ending a seven year experiment with a commute so arduous the inside of my car began had begun to feel like Rura Penthe.

This means we came to Middle School blithe in our confidence that Laney would always enjoy a superlative educational experience.

Laney came home recently with a 63 page packet, consisting of alternating pages between dry text lessons about the Constitution and questions about what they'd just read about The Constitution.  I cannot fathom a more boring way to learn about The Constitution. And we really need our kids to learn about our primary governing document, since a solid half of us seem to believe that this what it says:

It took Laney longer to complete it than it took George RR Martin to finish The Winds of Winter (he sent me an advance copy: Arya's dead now) and she did not end up filled with a passion for Constitutional study.  Rather, her relationship with the United States Constitution can be best summed up thusly:

Get it?  I'm saying she'd like to shoot the Constitution on account of how boring it is.  I was trying to squeeze a Star Wars reference in here too. I know.  It's a strained metaphor.  But you get to see Dreamy Han Solo.  That makes everyone happy right?

It's only fair to acknowledge that I'm only really getting one side of this.  I also know that teaching is goddamn hard job for which people are woefully under-compensated whilst forced to deal with pain-in-the-ass parents and these guys who are doing their damnedest to make sure their compensation is even worse:

And it's also a valuable lesson for kids to learn that sometimes things are hard and sometimes you'll have to work with people with whom your style doesn't jibe.  

Still, I wish her reaction to learning about The Constitution was like this:

That said, her dad is a huge history nerd.  I'll put him on it.    

This is a good plan.  I'm done with complaining now.  Bye!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Seriously, Where Are You People Shopping?

This Atrios post I read earlier this week has been buzzing around my head for a while:

...somewhere there was a discussion of people carrying guns and some self-proclaimed liberal made the argument that the fact that he carries a gun makes it less likely for violent situations to escalate because the fact that he has a gun and knows he has a gun means that the price of escalation is too high.  The example he gave was that if someone bumped his supermarket cart he would de-escalate the situation because if he didn't then the fact that he has a gun could lead to things getting out of hand.

Like Atrios, I was a bit taken aback that a supermaket-cart-bump is a situation with potential to escalate.  In my experience, a supermarket-cart bump either results in an accepted apology or, barring that, someone walking away like this: 

Further, there was this comment on a friend's Facebook from someone saying that they didn't shop in places where guns aren't allowed because those are places where they don't feel safe.  Let me make this clear - if the store has this sign:

The potential shopper was like this:

Er... where the hell are these people shopping?  Are they buying groceries in Tombstone, 1848?  Are they picking up tampons and toilet paper from the pharmacy at Pablo Escobar's? Is the only place they can get the really good tomatoes a shop in Mogadishu that's only open between midnight and 4:00 am?

Lookit: I live in a neighborhood with a lot of guns and a lot of shootings.  In the past year alone, there were 28 shootings within a 1-mile radius of my home.  And I still feel perfectly comfortable going, unarmed, to the grocery store.  Do you know why I feel that way? I'll tell ya! Because I am extremely unlikely to be driven into a murderous rage because someone bumps my supermarket cart, as is the case for literally every single other person who is shopping that day

How do these people stand living in a world where kill-or-be-killed informs every mundane detail of their lives?  How can they stand to be alive, feeling constantly on-call to take a life, even when they're just running fucking errands?  It sounds awful.

One caveat: I know it's not impossible that you're gonna get murdered at the Wal-Mart. But the circumstance for when that's happened recently is not, I think, what these frightened folk are thinking of.  

Let's take a look at John Crawford's face and try very hard, amidst all the Star Wars gifs and sarcasm to see the tragic, human cost for all this paranoia.

Monday, January 4, 2016

On the Self LOL

I've blogged about this before, and will likely blog about this again, but for the love of the FSM can we all agree to stop the rampant abuse of the LOL?  Of all the myriad and egregious internetty sins, this is the worst.  It is worse than sharing poorly sourced and obviously untrue nonsense simply to shore up your own already well known opinion.  It is worse than leaving vague and self-pitying status updates.  It is not really the worst.  It is not worse than spouting racist/sexist nonsense. It is is still TEH WORST!  Let's all agree to stop it.

I'm going to help by outlining the situations in which "LOL" is appropriate. There are two, listed below in order of effectiveness:

Derisive disapprobation.  There's a new profile of Megyn Kelley in Vanity Fair, in which they refer to her as "a conservative champion who transcends politics with her skillful skewering of windbags of both parties."  LOL.

Someone ELSE Says Something Funny.  People say funny stuff on the Internet.  When you find something amusing that someone else has said and would like to let them know that you found it amusing, but are maybe running late for a meeting or have to pee or something, just throw an "LOL" at them in the comments.

Don't say "LOL" to confirm that what you just said is funny.  That's lame.  You know that guy who laughs super loud at his own dumb dick jokes?  Don't be that guy.  That guy sucks.

And don't say something shitty and then follow it up with an "LOL". That kind of self-LOL doesn't mitigate the shittiness of the sentence it follows.  Rather it makes it a helluva lot shittier.  It means you've gotten to say something shitty but now feel inoculated from objection to your shittiness.

In the interest of transparency, I went and got my feelings super hurt by such a Facebook comment yesterday (comment has since been deleted by moi).  And while I recognize that I'm being sensitive, a little childish and a lot passive-aggressive in working this out in my blog, I don't care. It's my damn blog.  And I shall continue to preach to my massive readership (all three of you) that there is almost never a good reason to stick an LOL after something you've just yourself said.

So, let's remember this going forward: don't LOL yourself.  LOL-ing yourself will cause hair to grow on your palms.  When you LOL yourself, you make Jesus cry.  Your dead grandparents are watching you LOL.  I use this metaphor on purpose.  I'm saying that it's a form of social media masturbation.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let's All Be The Same Kinda Resolute

To be honest, I make resolutions just about every Sunday.  I always have the best of intentions before the week starts.  And these two weeks of holiday time are like a really long weekend where, while you're working, it's not, like, work work.

But the only real resolution I made this long two week weekend was in service of a clever Facebook status update about how I was no longer going to be enraged when people spelled "lose" like "loose."  This was a Facebook status in which I was kidding on the square.

For some reason, this completely innocuous spelling error makes me lose my shit ("loose my shit"), and I go:

And then they do it again, and I'm all:

And it's not like I have some kind of grammar rage psychosis. My panties remain largely untwisted when people screw up the there/their/they're thing.  But just one work email about "loosing connectivity"and all I want to do is:

As I was ranting about it on Facebook, I had a moment of clarity.  This isn't isolated to lose/loose.  This is all part of my general failure to, you know, just be cool.

I'd dearly love for us all, all us fellow passengers to the grave (h/t Dickens - that's good stuff, there), to just be cool. 

There's the big stuff, like - 

You're a guy who's crazy about the V but the guy on the barstool next to you is way more into the D?  Who cares?  It's not your problem - just be cool.  There's a person with a Y chromosome who prefers to be called "she" and "her"?  What skin is it off your nose?  Be cool.  Tip your hat to the lady.  Some other lady really loves Jesus but you don't believe in anything supernatural?  The onus remains upon you to be cool (and also her - everyone needs to be cool).

And there's little stuff - 

Sometimes I want to go so much faster down Ashland Avenue than everyone else is going.  But the people have agreed that 25 is how fast we're going.  I need to be cool with that.

This morning a friend of mine put on Facebook that he thought Friends was dreadful and gave him a headache.  I FUCKING LOVE FRIENDS!  But his empirically wrong opinion about the most consistently enjoyable and re-watchable sit-com ever (that's right, bitches, I said it) in no way impacts the pleasure I get from it.  I need to be cool.

(It's probably not real cool of me to call you guys bitches... Sorry.  I'm working on this)

Head into the grocery store and the cashier isn't super polite?  You don't know what kind of a day he's having.  Be cool.

It snowed a bunch last night but you don't feel like brushing the snow off the top of your car?  Come on, man, be cool!

Whipping up some pancakes?  Make some for everyone!  Be cool!

Can't figure out how to end a blogpost?  Be cool!  Just put out the best gif from your favorite show of the year!

And be cool!  And watch You're The Worst - it's cool. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

If You're Really Really Scared, I Dunno - Maybe Get Out More?

I've been meaning to try and write this for a while since, you know, I had this whole big plan to read more and write more and eat good foods and stretch and... you know what?  Let's take a brief mo to revisit that.

I have failed miserably on all my lofty plans.  I straight up quit the last book I was reading with like 40 pages to go because I haaaaaaaaaaated it.  I'm having a drink even as I write this. But, I have been stretching near 'bout every day.  And it is straight up incroyable!  (I minored in French you know.  I'll give you a moment to wrestle with how goddamn impressive I am. )

Anyway - the stretching is working.  My back is like the back of a 30 year old.  When I drop something that requires picking up (let's be real: lots of things can just stay on the damn floor), I don't curse the gods because I can instead, ya know, pick it up.  My back!  My back!

So let's get back to the topic at hand which is Why Are So Many Americans So Damn Scared Allatime?

I was out to dinner a while back with a couple of guys I work with and whom I like a lot.  Solid dudes.   It was a nice meal.  But when I mentioned that I think kids today are nicer now than they used to be, you could have filled the Pacific with the incredulity.  "Oh my god, Megbon," they seemed to say.  "Are you the crazy? Has your mind broken? There is a handbasket and we are all in it, going to big hell!"

But, thing is, I think I'm right.  I mean, sure, let's just accept it as studied fact that my daughter is being raised exceptionally well, but surely the rest of the little rugrats she runs around with suffer from much less exceptional parenting (mais oui!  ((I minored in French)). But I remember my own sixth grade year, and shitty little boys lifting my skirt up, and nasty little girls whispering that I'd never French kissed anyone (which, oh my god, I was TWELVE! ).  And Laney's friends just seem so much cooler than I and my peers were; so much less judgmental and mean.

I inquired as to the source of my dinnermates' vast incredulity and was met with the damning evidence of YouTube videos.  Which would be damning indeed, if, you know, Family Ties or Diff'Rent Strokes or Facts of Life were documentary series (the only documentary series of the 80s that got much play was Golden Girls - shut up, it all REALLY HAPPENED).  

I tried to debate them, but the "Bitch, there was no YouTube when we were young, and if there had been, there'd've been some messed up shit on it" argument was insufficient.  So, I ordered another glass of wine and SMH (does "SMH" work in the past tense or is it only meant to indicate present judgment?  Dunno: I shook my head).

All this got me to thinking about, as per ushz, the batshit fucking insane crazy Republican party.  Because my pal, Paul, is (as he tends to be) right that it ain't just Trump*, motherfuckers.  They are a party full of people who are either genuinely terrified of black and brown people, or reaping political benefit from exploiting other people's unfounded fears of black and brown people.  Why are they so convinced that either a Muslim or a Mexican or a Black Person is coming right at 'em all the time?  Oooh - insert gif:

(I know that's not a GIF - apparently no one has gif-ed that yet.  The Internet disappoints, sigh, again).

I have a theory as to why: I think your average conservative American spends his or her real life surrounded only by other white people and spends a chunk of their virtual life consuming a steady diet of racist, xenophobic crap on the TV and the internet.  I think they have furthermore been trained, via a compounded cultural reality of over two centuries of state-sanctioned white supremacy, to believe that white safety matters more because it's for white people.  Science!

But the thing that really kills me is that when you point out to one of these dudes that when they talk about "Radical Islam" and "black on black crime" they're being kinda racist (check out Emily Post for why you say "kinda" instead of "fucking"), they tell you you're being naive.

And, you guys, they believe that!  They believe that they are clear-eyed rationalists who accept the reality that Muslims want to blow you up, Mexicans want to rape you, and black teenagers want to shoot you.  While anyone who disagrees is naught but a starry-eyed, bleeding-heart hippie who got hookworm on account of being barefoot all the time:

(There's a hookworm gif but not a "coming right for us" gif.  Honestly, Internet!  Get your priorities straight!)

And there's only one cure: GET OUT IN THE WORLD!  If you find yourselves terrified of black people or brown people or, FTLOG, young people, stop navigating the world by going from your house to your car to your lily white, middle-aged office.

The good news is that this great problem, like so many others, can be solved simply by taking a walk.  Take a walk - walk through some other neighborhood, walk downtown, walk to Walgreens to fill your blood pressure prescription.  Be in the world and you'll find it's not so scary. Young people, Black people, Latino people, Muslim people... they're just fucking people and they're not Coming Right At You.  Relax.   On the other hand: sequester yourself everyone who's not just like you and you'll end up with poopy pants.

And no one wants that!

Stop being so scared.  It's really OK out there.

*While they are really as bad as Trump, pretty sure that someone can be a Rubio supporter just cause they're kinda dumb.  But if they're on Team Trump, they're definitely Yuuuuuge Racists.

Friday, November 13, 2015


At 4:00 this afternoon, I was on a conference call with an unhappy customer.  And I was trying to reassure him that everything was OK, but while I was doing that, I was clicking relentlessly through Internet tabs, trying to get my head around the chaos and devastation happening in Paris.  It reminded me of 9/11 - all this work is so meaningless when the sky is falling.

When I got off the phone, Don told me that we needed to make sure to keep our eye on the release of a video of a white Chicago policeman firing 16 bullets into the corpse of a 17 year old black kid.  It could tear Chicago apart, he said.  But it needs to come out.

Scared. Shaky.  So sad.  I said on Facebook that it felt like the world was flying off its axis.

In the middle of these dire thoughts, Laney came in to remind me that I'd promised her that we could go to GameStop to sell our old Wii consoles.  I'd told her that if we made enough money selling them, she could buy a new Zelda 3DS game.  So we stacked the Wii stuff in the car and drove over to Gamestop.

I live in a neighborhood that I love a lot.  I really do. It has beaches and personality and all kinds of different people.  But there is also a lot of gang activity and when you drive down Howard Street, you'll see a lot of cops, and the threat of violence seems to loom large.  Parlous times.  World flying off its axis.  Violence and anger everywhere.

I walked into the GameStop with a laundry basket full of old Wii stuff.  A young white guy with a hipster beard helped me with my basket and told me he worked there, but wasn't presently working.  I'd dealt with him before at this GameStop.  He's very sweet. He looked in my basket and said, "Aw, they won't take those Wii boards."  And I said, "Will they throw them away?"  And he laughed and said, "Yeah.  But Terry might want them too."

Terry, it turns out, runs a nearby after school program.

I was all for Terry taking them.

One of the guys who was working came over and said, "I'm sorry, but he has to help you because I can't do buy backs."  He was sweet too.

Laney and I had to wait for about 45 minutes before the guy who was able to do the buy back finished with the other family he was helping. During that 45 minutes, I kept scrolling through news stories about Paris.  World flying off its axis.   But, when I looked up,  all the other people in the store were OK.  All different ages, races and genders.  But they all just liked games.  So no one was rolling eyes or sighing about the wait.  They were talking to each other about games.

When it got to be my turn to sell my stuff, the guy who waited on me was so nice, I actually said, "You guys are always so nice here!'  He smiled and chatted with us about little things while he checked out the games we were selling back and the equipment.  At one point, Laney pointed out some anime thing and said to me, "I liked that show until it got terrible."  He laughed and said  "It did get terrible! But the first two episodes were great"  I had no idea about this show, but Laney lit up.

Terry from the after school group wandered in and I got to meet him.  He was a young guy - much younger than I expected, maybe 25 or so.  The GameStop guy asked me if I had the original backs for my Wii motion controller.  I didn't but I was all, "Seriously, I was going to put this stuff in the alley.  If there's anything you can't buy, don't feel bad."  Then Terry said, "I bet I have some."

Because gamers just have things like Wii motion controllers back panels in their backpacks and are happy to give them to you.

There was a guy waiting behind me, he was maybe 35 or so and just waiting to buy something.  Poor guy ended up waiting for like 30 minutes while I finished my transaction.  I said, "Just your luck, huh?  To be stuck behind the woman selling back every piece of Wii equipment ever."  He chuckled.  I repeat - no eye rolls, no sighs. He just chuckled.

Laney and the GameStop guy chatted about Zelda and Pokemon and anime.

In the end, my stuff was worth about $50 which was more than enough to buy Laney's new game.  I gave Terry a Wii remote charging station.  His after school program sounded pretty amazing. I bet Laney would like it if because it was just a bunch of middle schoolers who like games.

Everyone there was so nice.

Back home, I can't stop watching the news.  I bet lots of people can't stop watching the news.  The world does feel like it's spinning off its axis.

But there was a brief respite for me today, in some dumpy little storefront, in a gang-ridden part of the Chicago, where everyone around me was just too busy liking something to be hateful.

Didn't matter age, nor race, nor gender.  They all just liked games.

A total oasis in a desert of strife and sadness.

This is probably a stupid blogpost.  I don't know. Terrible, awful things are happening and a bunch of gamers being nice is inconsequential except it's not.  Kindness matters.  Liking people is harder and so much better than hating people.

Later on, I'll get in bed and watch dumb TV while Laney plays on her 3DS.  Dumb TV and a 3DS are  silly, stupid distractions - but they are also one of our grandest privileges.  I am goddamn grateful for them.

My heart breaks for the devastation and terror.  I am so lucky for my oases.

Be kind, people.  Like things. That matters so much more than we give it credit for.

Monday, November 9, 2015

I'm Not Rebooting My Life - I'm Maybe Just Shutting Some Tabs Down

I read this blogpost by Will Wheaton recently.  You guys, Wil Wheaton is delightful! If you'd told me in 1991 that Wesley Crusher would grow up to be delightful, I'd have straight up scoffed at you.  Color me surprised! Also, Autocorrect: he SPELLS HIS NAME WITH ONE L.  GOD!

Back to the point - he wrote this blogpost about how his life wasn't going how he wanted it to, and so he decided he'd do seven things to reboot his life.

Me?  I'm less aspirational.  I've spent too long thinking that a few changes will make me like this:

But ending up like this:

I'm a growed up lady and well past the point where I think it could all be different.  Besides, my life is generally pretty good.  My kid seems to be growing up into an interesting, ethical, intelligent person.  My husband still seems to like me pretty well.  I'm making it work professionally.  

But, my body hurts a lot and I feel like I'm always running out of time.

This is likely because I spend too much time, as the French might say, farting around. Sipping a drink and clicking around on the Internet. A little focus, a little discipline, and maybe I could grab control of my own personal Enterprise. So, inspired by Wil Wheaton, here's my list:

1) Exercise daily
2) Stretch
3) Drink less alcohol
4) Write more
5) Read more

Let's tick them off.  

1 and 2 go together.  I, like I'm pretty sure every single lady who has ever lived, have spent a good chunk of valuable time hating the way I look.  For all of my 20s and 30s, eating better and exercising were all tied up with GET SKINNY, YOU GODDAMN LOSER OR YOU WILL NEVER DESERVE LOVE!  But, here into my 40s, I've decided that GET SKINNY, LOSER is maybe not the best way to approach physical health.  Some might suggest yoga.  I haaaaaaaate yoga. Here's me at every yoga class:

But I can stretch.  I can spend 20 minutes a day just stretching out a little.  I can spend 30 minutes a day bumping up my heart rate, getting moving.  And to make sure I am consciously not doing it under the auspices of GET SKINNY, LOSER.  It's a losing proposition, and not the way I want it to be.  As I told my sainted mother when she was here over the weekend, "I'd sure like to weigh 20 pounds less.  But not enough to diet."  I am at peace with my spare tire.

But I can bend and move and shake my body with the goal of feeling looser and more energetic.  That I can do.  I will also continue eating.  Carbs.  

3. Alcohol.  I really love alcohol. I love the way it tastes.  I love the ritual and treat of it.  I don't want an alcohol-free life  But moderation is key. Right, Wesley?

Wesley might not be on board with his one.  But I am. No more wine with dinner.  No more cocktails with the laundry.  But every night at 9:00, I'll pour a whiskey over ice and take it to my bed, where I'll watch TV for an hour or so before sleeping.  This is how I end my days. Like a boss.  

4 and 5.  Reading and writing. Writing is good for me.  I use it to air out the cobwebs, silence the voices inside my head.  Burnish the intellect.  And nothing makes you a better writer than reading. If I were still aiming for reinvention,  I'd probably try to commit to tackling Proust or The Brothers Karamazov.  Maybe Ulysses.  But, shit, you guys, I'm tired.  I work hard.  My days are already a long slog of obligation.  I'm not studying on turning reading into another one.  I'm reading strictly for fun.  I just finished The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  I'm now on what looks to be an awesome bent domestic drama by Lauren Groff. If I want to read 17 YA novels in a row because I like 'em, that's cool.  

You're not better than me, Data, with your big old positronic brain.  You've only ever read Dickens - but you never felt him.  (did that sound just a little dirty?)

So this is the plan.  Who knows if I'll be successful?  Will I actually manage to ease up on the farting around and live just a little more purposefully?  

Lucky you!  Since, I do plan to write more,  I'll let you know!

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