Irritable Blog Syndrome

I’m having a really, really, really bad day. (Well, technically I’m not. I probably wrote this two weeks ago. Today I’m more likely to be back to my cheery self. But you get the picture.)

Today (the day I wrote this, once upon a time, whatever works), I had to deal with someone who is morally and ethically repugnant, two-faced, slimy, self-serving, and deluded. Naturally, that put me into a foul mood.

And then, already feeling foul, I had to deal with someone so steeped in ignorance that she was attacking me on Facebook because I believe the science about COVID-19 rather than her Fox news talking points. And then she went on to say that a vaccine is not going to help. Give me strength.

She probably also thinks that the sun revolves around the earth, as a horrifying 26 percent of Americans do. Heaven help us. I am so sick to death of stupidity. (And if you’re one of those believers, get thee away from this blog! I am in no mood to deal with you. There’s only so much I can take today.)

There’s a reason that “sick” and “tired” go hand in hand. I’m exhausted and in despair over the idiocy of some people. And they’re the very people who will never be enlightened.

And that makes it really hard for me to blog without sounding whiny and frustrated. Does anybody really want to hear me complain as they eat their Post Toasties? Highly freakin’ doubtful.

And so there you have it. Stupid people are the root cause of Irritable Blog Syndrome. I hate that stupidity has such a strangle hold on my writing.

So now I need to find a cure for stupidity. No pressure there. Better people than I have tried.

You’d think that education would be the solution. But stupidity seems to be the most education-resistant disease that has ever plagued mankind. I have nothing left within me to fight it.

I am just so tired.

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Freedom of Movement

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Wolf Connection

Once again, by listening to NPR on my commute to work, I’ve learned something that has broadened my horizons. This time it’s about an organization with a unique way of helping at-risk youth. It’s called Wolf Connection. (You can hear the inspiring 4 1/2 minute story here.)

This organization serves a variety of amazing purposes. First, it is a wolfdog sanctuary. Many people think having a wolf/dog mix will make for an exotic pet, but soon learn that they can’t really handle the responsibilities thereof. Often these animals get abused or neglected or put to sleep, as most shelters will not put them up for adoption. Fortunately, in cases like this, Wolf Connection can sometimes step in and give them a forever home where they work with handlers who understand their unique qualities and special needs.

This group also does presentations for schools and organizations. Using wolves as a focal point is an exciting way to teach students about the environment, human history and evolution, teamwork and ethics. Wolves are, after all, the first creatures that we humans made a long-term connection with.

But for me, their most exciting mission is their Wolf Therapy program. This eight week program for troubled teens who have been abused, or have been in and out of foster care, or were in gangs, is a really impactful way to reach kids who have rendered themselves unreachable out of pure survival.

First of all, they can relate to these animals, because they, too have been abused. And wolves don’t judge. Wolves can teach us much about teamwork and cooperation. They show us the value of being okay with who we are, just as we are. They teach us how and when to trust. Working with these animals can increase confidence and self-esteem and teach valuable vocational and life skills. The program also teaches you to be more introspective.

I love it when I see so many positives coming out of an organization. You can sponsor one of their wolves, too. By doing so, you’re also investing in the future of our youths. Win/win.

wolves

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Allow Me to Simplify

Here lately, humanity seems to be struggling with concepts that should be pretty straightforward. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It is causing conflict and anxiety that seems completely unnecessary. Given that so many people these days don’t seem to want to think, let me lay down some basic concepts for you:

  • Nazis? Bad.

  • Texting while driving? Deadly.

  • Waiting your turn? You freakin’ better!

  • Violence? Bad.

  • Compassion? Karma, baby.

  • Net neutrality? Crucial.

  • Racism and/or sexism? Idiotic.

  • Flossing? Necessary.

  • A fur coat for your schnauzer when people are starving? Unconscionable.

  • A right to health care? Obviously.

  • Voting? The most important thing you can do.

  • Helping yourself to my french fries? Get your own.

  • Not pulling right up to the car in front of you in a traffic jam, thus preventing the people behind you from getting through intersections sometime this century? MORONIC.

  • Abuse of power? May your chickens come home to roost, and soon.

  • Courtesy and Respect? The bedrock of civilization.

  • Education? Critically important.

  • Science? Real.

  • Smoking? Bad for you. Even worse for those who love you.

  • Human rights and basic freedom for everyone? Duh.

  • Paying your fair share? Of course.

  • Vaccinations? Not important, as long as you’re okay with having the life expectancy we had in the freakin’ 1600’s.

  • Global warming? HERE. NOW.

  • Abuse of children or animals? Sick. Demented. One of the few things worthy of torture.

  • Taking care of the planet? A good idea if you want to live.

  • Blocking the grocery aisle because you’ve run into a friend? STUPID.

None of these concepts seem particularly controversial to me. And yet here we are, a world divided on these issues. I don’t get it. I really don’t. Please make me understand.

common sense

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Historical Statues: One Solution

At a time when the US seems to be struggling with what to do with its Confederate statues and memorials, I can’t help but remember my trip to Budapest back in 2006. What an amazing city, with a lot of very tragic history. They were occupied by German forces in WWII, forcing them to embrace Fascism even as the Nazis were applying internal terror to control the people. So it’s understandable that the Soviets might have seemed like liberators to them at first.

The Soviet Red Army occupied the city in 1945. During the peace talks, Great Britain and the US basically gave the country over to Stalin. After much torture, spying, interrogations and fear brought down upon the citizenry for years on end, in 1956, a student-inspired revolution took place, and while it relieved some of the societal pressure, it ultimately failed. The control finally started crumbling in 1989, but it wasn’t until 1991 that the last Soviet occupying soldier left Budapest. By then, all the soviet era statues had been joyfully pulled down.

And lo and behold, despite the absence of these statues in the public squares, Hungary’s dark history has not been erased any more than ours would be without Robert E. Lee gazing at us in our city parks. In fact, the people of Budapest handled their statues in a brilliant way. They dragged them all to one location, and turned that into an opportunity to teach about their past oppression in the hopes that it will never, ever happen again. They created Memento Park.

I remember standing among these monuments, and thinking how intimidating they must have been in their heyday. Some of them are 20 feet tall. All of them make the men look strong, the women look hard-working and dedicated, and for the most part, the people all look like anonymous and mindless machines. It must have been terrifying to pass them every day, knowing that’s what your government expected you to see, feel, and believe.

Now, gathered in an educational park, lined up like so many dominoes of long-dead subjugation, they seem rather pathetic and powerless. Children climb on them. People take pictures in front of them while they make funny faces. But mostly, they learn that none of us should go backward, into an era of the exaltation of hate and control.

History shouldn’t be forgotten. That’s what books and teachers are for. Monuments are not history. They are for glorification, and should be removed from our public spaces as our society becomes older and hopefully wiser. Learn from these silent statues, taken down from their shining pedestals. Learn, but don’t deify.

I hope we follow suit in the US. The time is long overdue. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with some photos of me in Memento Park in Budapest.

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Why College is Still Worth It

I have three degrees, and not one of them has helped me get a job. I’ve never worked in any of my fields of study. Never. If that’s your only yardstick for measuring a college education, then yeah, for me it was a monumental waste of time and money.

But I still maintain that college was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I would be a completely different person were it not for higher education. The impact it has had on me has been priceless.

First of all, dorm life is the perfect transitional period between living with your parents and entering the real world. You can try new things, have new experiences, and make truly epic mistakes while still being in a relatively supervised environment. It’s a very important rite of passage. Freedom with a bit of a safety net.

And I guarantee you that you will never find it that easy to make lifelong friends again. Something about pulling an all-nighter or sharing a room with someone bonds you. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

And I truly believe that it’s nearly impossible to go to a university and come out without your horizons having been broadened. You are exposed to other cultures, different schools of thought, and controversial points of view. You learn to question authority and make informed decisions. You discover the importance of thinking outside the box.

Continuing a formal education past high school also helps you discover who you are. You spend time with different types of people. You have different successes and failures. Saying to yourself, “I’ll never do that again” is every bit as valuable as finding your niche or your calling.

Having that amazing 4 year span before the chains of life start weighing you down in the form of mortgage and debt and relationships and obligations and soul-crushing responsibilities is also invaluable. I miss that feeling of only being lightly tethered. I’d love to have it back.

And, yes, of course I learned things that are quantifiable. I speak Spanish. I know the difference between there, their, and they’re. I suspect that if necessary, I could still remember how to rappel down the side of a cliff. And the critical thinking skills that I perfected there have served me well every single day of my life.

So yes, move heaven and earth to go to college. Just be more realistic in your fields of study than I was. You will have to pay the bills eventually.

If you skip this precious milestone in life, you’ll be selling yourself short. And you’ll never know just how much more amazing you could have been. Go for it.

college

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Are We Having a National Stroke, or What?

Please explain. How is it that our elected officials can make so many self-destructive and nationally-destructive choices and yet still remain in power? We are becoming an international embarrassment.

Do you have any idea how backward and ignorant we look as a nation when the only other countries on the PLANET that aren’t going along with the Paris Climate Accord are Syria and Nicaragua? Yes, let’s hitch our wagon to a star made of coal, even though it’s destroying the world, and is an increasingly outmoded form of energy. Who needs to prepare for the future? Why be on the cutting edge? While we’re at it, why don’t we subsidize the corset stay industry, and the coalition to promote powdered wigs?

Does anyone think that history is going to look back on this fiasco and say, “Woot! Brilliant choice, Donald!”

Oh, and single payer health care? Who needs that? Who needs health care at all? Let’s decrease the surplus population, since it seems to be against life-saving vaccines anyway! Poor health is really a lifestyle choice, after all.

Oh, and the increasing number of white males engaging in hate crimes and domestic terrorism? Let’s ignore them. Surely they will go away on their own, just like police violence is going away on its… oh. Wait. It’s increasing, too? Temporary glitch, no doubt.

And education is highly overrated. The more ignorant you are, the better the choices you are bound to make (see again: resistance to vaccinations). This administration is living proof of that!

Have we had a national stroke, or what? Why aren’t we doing anything about this insanity? Is this your idea of America being great? Then, yay, us! I guess.

The glimmer of hope, the one bright light, is that I just read an article that says that several U.S. states and cities plan to uphold the Paris Accord in SPITE of our “leader”. That’s a step in the right direction. Now it’s time to clean house. That big one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Facepalm

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Bad Business

Imagine if, purely by accident, you stumbled upon a way to have at least 50,000 people gaze lovingly at your business at any given time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know if I drew that much attention to my blog, even once, I’d think I had died and gone to heaven. That’s the kind of PR gold that most fortune 500 companies would pay millions, as in Superbowl advertising money, to obtain.

But somehow, the Animal Adventure Park, a petting zoo in Harpursville, New York, halfway between Syracuse and Scranton, managed to achieve this miracle without even really trying. All they did was put up a live camera in the stall of April, their pregnant giraffe. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They thought a few locals might be interested, and some regular visitors to the park might want to take a peek as well. They never expected the world would be beating a path to their door.

As April’s anticipated due date came and went with no baby appearing, all eyes began to anxiously await the new arrival. They got to know the vet, the owner, and the handlers by name. They created Facebook groups. Plush toys and posters began flying out of their gift shop. They created a text alert system, where paid subscribers could obtain updates and exclusive photos.

When the calf was finally born on April 15th, 1.2 million people were watching the live feed. I was one of them, and I have to admit I had an ugly, joyful cry. They are now having a contest where you can pay to vote for a name for the new baby boy. So far, so good.

But publicity has its downsides. Fielding all those interviews and e-mails has made it nearly impossible for the park to focus on business as usual. At one point, April was limping, and their servers crashed from all the e-mails they received from concerned viewers. People even called 911. And everybody’s a critic. Are they being fed enough? Too much? Why don’t they go outside more often?

So, on the day of this writing, the Animal Adventure Park decided to pull the live camera, just as they had planned to do all along, prior to all this kerfuffle. They thought 5 days of seeing the baby was plenty. Thanks for watching. Now please go away.

I cried when that camera went down. April has been streaming on my laptop at least 8 hours a day for weeks now. As I wrote this blog, I had her off to the side, keeping me company. She has become part of my life. And I’m in love with that baby boy. I know I’m not alone. Schools have used April to teach about Giraffe conservation. Senior centers have noticed that their Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble remembering other things, but they are anxious to check on April every day. We have become a family.

The park staff say that you’ll be able to see them occasionally on yard cameras, and they’ll have sporadic updates and photos, and maybe turn the camera on every once in a while, but it won’t be the same. And what they’re doing makes no sense at all.

I hate to say this, but April is a cash cow. And all this attention could be parlayed into a unique opportunity to educate people about giraffes and their endangerment. It would be a great avenue for fundraising for the park. That little zoo in that little town could become Giraffe central. They could be the go-to people for giraffe information. Yes, it creates more work. So hire a Public Relations person. The live cam would raise funds for that easily.

Throwing away a chance like this seems foolish. It’s such a waste. I will never understand this thought process.

April, I’ll miss you. Having you snatched away from all of us is no way to celebrate Earth Day.

giraffes

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My Cabinet Dream Team

It really amazes me that Donald Trump has somehow chosen the most destructive and incompetent person for every single position in his cabinet. I mean, that takes talent. Finding the worst possible human being for any job takes effort. You have to sift through a lot of scum to get to the most slimy of dregs.

The other day, while stuck in a traffic jam the likes of which can only happen in Seattle, I entertained myself by coming up with a cabinet dream team. Hey, if sports enthusiasts can do it, why can’t I? I admit this is official proof that I’m a geek. I’m okay with that.

So here’s my fantasy team. I know many of them are no longer living, but since this is a fantasy, why not?

  • Secretary of State— the Dalai Lama. He’s wise. He’s fair. He remains calm. He speaks quietly and people will listen. People respect him. If they don’t respect him, they look horrible.
  • Secretary of the Treasury—Colin Kaepernick. This is a man who recently donated 50K to Meals on Wheels. He also has raised millions to bring food and water to the people of Somalia. If anyone knows what’s truly financially important and how to make it happen, he does. So what if the NFL won’t draft him? They prefer wife-beaters. I wouldn’t hire the NFL.
  • Secretary of Defense—Mahatma Gandhi. It’s about time that we had someone who wasn’t a warmonger in this position, don’t you think?
  • Attorney General—Michelle Obama. She’s a lawyer who is intelligent and capable. She cares about people. She knows how to get her point across. She’s strong, and an excellent role model.
  • Secretary of the Interior—Theodore Roosevelt. Yeah, he liked to hunt, but he created the first national parks on the planet. On. The. Planet. That tells you all you need to know.
  • Secretary of Agriculture—Dan West, founder of Heifer International. This is my favorite charity because it is all about helping others to be able to maintain an agricultural life in a healthy, sustainable way. We need more of this if we’re going to survive.
  • Secretary of Commerce—Jessica Jackley, one of the founders of Kiva.org. This organization teaches us that through microfinance we can lift people up and allow them to help themselves by making it possible for them to have their own small businesses. This is a model we need to emulate.
  • Secretary of Labor—Bernie Sanders. Who else? This is one of the few politicians who actually has dedicated his entire career to giving a shit about people. With Bernie, the unions would be safe, we’d all have a reasonable minimum wage, and he’d work closely with the president to get a single payer health system. What a concept.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services—Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. A controversial choice, no doubt, but we need to protect Planned Parenthood. And if she were willing to speak out for women at a time when that just wasn’t done, I’m willing to bet she’d also support a single payer health system now.
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development—Martin Luther King Jr. Now, this is a man who would have been horrified at our increasing homelessness and the blight of the inner cities. He’d know how to reach people and speak the truth to them.
  • Secretary of Transportation—Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’d rather create a Secretary of Universal Exploration position for this amazing man, but barring that, this would be a good place for him. He’d look at Transportation in a scientific way. He’d encourage green options. He’d think outside the box. He’d support NASA and promote it as the transportation of our future. And we’d all probably have hovercraft in no time.
  • Secretary of Energy—Al Gore. Jeer if you want, republicans, but this man has been warning us about Global Warming since long before most of us knew what it was. And now that the vast majority of us are coming to our senses and seeing its devastation firsthand, it’s about time we let him get to work on it. We need green technology. We don’t need coal and pipelines.
  • Secretary of Education—Malala Yousafzai. Now, here’s a young woman who risked her life to go to school. She knows the value of education. And she’s another one who is so respected that anyone who opposed her would look like a jerk.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs—Al Franken would cut to the chase. He would come up with common sense solutions to support our veterans. He wouldn’t go for doublespeak or foolishness and he’s not easily intimidated.
  • Secretary of Homeland Security—Jon Stewart. Here’s a man that does not bullshit anyone. He has boundless common sense. He wouldn’t be swayed by fear mongers. He wouldn’t be focusing on a freakin’ wall and certainly wouldn’t be trying to tear already heavily vetted immigrant families apart.

So there you have it. My dream team. I would love to see what would happen in this country with these diverse, intelligent people at the helm! What a refreshing change it would be. Discuss below!

Cabinet

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The New Dark Ages?

Back in 2013 I wrote a post entitled, “When Did ‘Intellectual’ Become a Dirty Word?” Little did I know at the time that that was just the tip of a very ignorant iceberg. I am beginning to look at 2013 as the halcyon days. Imagine that.

Ironically, I started that post by saying, “I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog.” Snort. Now it seems like that’s all I do. But I can’t stay silent. I had that luxury in 2013. I don’t anymore.

Now we are thrust headlong into a political shit storm in which our own government is trying to dismantle our public education system. While they’re at it, they are destroying every environmental victory we’ve made since the 1970’s. They’re attacking science and medicine. They’re defunding art. They’re demonizing the media and all things that allow for the free flow of information. They’re impeding travel. They are clinging desperately to fossil fuels even though they know it’s destroying our planet. They are gleefully widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

This is worse than the Dark Ages, because so many of us know better these days. This is not the road we want to take. It only leads to destruction.

I keep having these dreams where half of us are trying to reason with the other half by using facts and proof and intelligence, and the other half is not listening, and destroying everything in its path with steam rollers. It makes no sense. The inmates control the asylum. Whose idea was it to give them the keys to those damned steam rollers?

I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Word. Perhaps it’s time to buy another one.

Don’t turn out the lights, folks. The darkness is descending. And no doubt we’ll all come away with something much worse than a stubbed toe.

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