Category Archives: humor

Father’s Day

 

For the past twenty-plus years I have basically been living a holiday-free life.  I married a Jehovah’s Witness, and it is an article of faith with them to never celebrate worldly holidays of any kind.

This has always included Father’s Day.  I have never celebrated Father’s Day in any way during the 22 years I have been a father.

Explaining why I no longer associate with Witnesses is complicated and began when illness started to take over my life and my family.  And it wasn’t only my illnesses that took hold.  Religion, to hold your faith and obedience, really needs to keep its promises.  No matter how well-meaning they were in their doctrines, their decisions had the opposite effect on me.

So, a side benefit is a return to celebrating the things that everybody else celebrates.

My daughter is highly skilled at some online Japanese games.  She won a few prizes and had them mailed here to us free from Japan.  The action figure shown above is my original Father’s Day gift, a Star Wars Last Jedi figure in a box with only Japanese product information on the box.

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And because my daughter felt so good about giving me a Father’s Day gift, and is also seriously bangarang at Japanese video games, she won me a second one that came on the Friday before Father’s Day.  I feel blessed and loved by my children.  And, honestly, I believe that is what holidays are actually for.  Even the little ones.

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Zinnias Are Blooming

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My flower adventure for this summer was planting Texas wildflowers and zinnias in the space where the swimming pool was last year at this time.

We had to go from a yard full of bare dirt to a better, greener space with colorful things growing in it.

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And, of course, the weeds took to filling the space in the yard like maniacs on steroids.  For every flower that bloomed, twenty to fifty weeds were thriving.  And I, suffering from arthritis have a hard time pulling the weeds out by hand.  And I will not use herbicide.  We, as a people, have spread enough poison in the world as it is.  It has always been my intention to grow things that consume the carbon dioxide and spew out things like oxygen and nitrogen, the things we can actually breath.  I mean to help life grow, not prune it or kill it.

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Even the weeds like thistles can have beautiful blossoms to share with butterflies and bees.

I have to do a better job of weeding the flower plot.  Weeds can take the sunlight and nutrients away from the plants you want to thrive.  One of the workers who removed the pool was a sunflower seed chewer.  It is not mere coincidence that we have more than twenty sunflower plants growing as weeds in the yard.

 

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But the point of this whole flower-petal essay is that the zinnias are blooming, bright, and loud, and beauteous, at a time when I need the color… need the beauty… to balance against the darkness.

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The Wheels of the Stupidity Cycle

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Sadly, the Flynn Effect is working now in reverse.  If you didn’t know, for decades the collective IQ of the United States has been increasing.  People have been getting smarter.  Improvements in education, health care, and diet had been making it possible for each succeeding class year to score better by a significant and steady amount every year over the students of the previous year.  Apparently, according to recent data analysis, it kept going up through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s.

And then, in about 1991, people began to be born who were destined to do worse than their predecessors.  People stopped getting smarter.  In fact, they not only leveled out, they began to get dumber.  Bummer.  As a teacher who taught during that time period, I have to pause and wonder… was it my fault?

I want to be clear about my use of illustrations here.  Not all of the faces I used in the collage above are actually stupid people.  I am told Rowan Atkinson (who plays an idiot character named Mr. Bean) is actually a genius with a very high IQ.  And some of the faces are not even from actual people.  They are cartoon characters or animals or Donald Trump.  And none of them actually caused the decline of IQ scores.  (Although I can’t prove the actor Brendan Fraser didn’t cause it by making the movie George of the Jungle.)

Economic factors brought about by the Reagan Revolution probably caused the wheel of life to turn back towards the stupid end of the cycle.  Rich people began sucking up and keeping every dollar possible, making themselves impossibly rich, and leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs.  McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King turned the poorer suburbs into virtual food deserts of no nutritional value in every major urban area.  Schools across the nation have been forced to teach to tests whose main and sometimes only purpose is to prove schools undeserving of their funding so States can shift that funding towards private and for-profit schools.  Starved for proper funding, it is only natural that schools turned from learning institutions into baby-sitting services and uniformity indoctrination centers.  Schools now put out only average and poor students because that was the goal of education reform all along in conservative minds.

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So what, exactly, should we do about it?  Well, the wheel will still turn.  And as all wheels do, the part that is on the bottom will return to the top, and stupid will return to bottom as it obviously has before.

The next century is rife with problems that threaten human life on Earth.  Those problems, like income inequality, climate change through corporate abuse of the environment, the nuclear threat, and Donald Trump, will have to be solved by the next generation’s smart people.  When they do solve all those problems, the world will be better for it… or destroyed.  One of those.

And don’t mistake my meaning.  Stupid people have their own value.  Clowns like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers are doing a far better job of helping us understand the issues of today than the nightly news is.  There is a great deal of fun to be had in watching the cat-and-mouse game of Robert Mueller and Donald Trump (where Trump is not the mouse so much as the cheese the mouse ate to start all the slapstick brouhaha).

And people who are not particularly smart can have great value in an infinite number of other ways.  Simple people may never be able to do calculus, but they can make you smile and feel loved better than some of the sharpest intellects (who often tend towards cynicism and bitterness).

The wheels of the Stupidity Cycle will continue to turn because that is the very nature of wheels. We will eventually be smart again.  We can’t keep getting dumber forever (though we did elect Trump).  And this is a pessimist telling you this.  So if this is completely wrong and off base, remember, I am also trying to be positive about the future.

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Filed under angry rant, education, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, Paffooney

Aeroquest… Canto 27

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Canto 27 – Blue Eggs and Ham

      The Leaping Shadowcat pulled into the orbit of White Palm just as the last explosions on the periphery of the battle site were dying out.  Sinbadh sat next to Ham in the copilot chair.

“So, Bucko, what be Questor like?  I have ne’er been in that there port.”

“It’s deep in the Imperial Interior, in the Phaetus Cluster with the systems of Phaetus, Xerxes, Perch, and the Talosian Systems I, II, and III.”

“Kinda the suburbs to Galtorr Prime?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Do it be easy livin’ there?”

“Yes, but…  Well, the Galtorrians house many of their slaves there.  Freaks, Unhumans, Mechanoids, Metalloids, all the basic slave races are housed in the ghettos of Questor.   It was oppressive growing up there and seeing all that injustice.”

“Me, I never had the chance to see the like.  My people were forever hunted out there beyond the borders, movin’ an’ hidin’, movin’ and hidin’.”

“You had it good.  When I was twelve, I had a friend who was a Mechanoid.   He was only ten when they reanimated him.  He would’ve never been able to grow up had he…  At school they caught me talking to him when he was supposed to be mucking out sewers.  They whipped me for talking to a slave.  They shut him down and scrapped him.  I found out, though, that he was still a person, just like me.  He told me all about his memories of his early life.  He remembered when he was still alive.  He felt love and fear just like we do.  I vowed after that that I would change the galaxy some day.  I wanted them to be treated the same as we are.”

“Ged feel the same?”

“He’s worse than me.  He’s careful and doesn’t get into trouble as much as I do, but he cares passionately about justice and morality.  He’s already done more to help the oppressed than I ever dared to even dream of.”

“Good man, that Ged.”

“You’ve no idea.  He’d give his life for an ideal.  He’d sacrifice himself to help you and me, too.”

It was then that the Madonna brought them lunch.  It was made of blue eggs from the starchickens of the planet Arriseah. They smelled foul and were served next to greasy slabs of fried bacon.  The meal was not healthy, but the planet-bound peoples of the Imperium believed the meal had the effect of a love potion.

“Madonna, my girl,” said Ham shaking his head, “I do not like blue eggs and bacon.”

The Madonna looked at him confused.  She wore a revealing flesh-wrap that effectively showed off her girlish blue figure.  Being a neotynous Nebulon, she had the physique of a fourteen-year-old human girl, even though she was a Nebulon woman of nearly thirty years in age.  Nebulons were child-like even when they achieved advanced age.

“I…  I read about your world… foods of love…”

Ham’s expression turned from one of disgust to one of sympathy.  He had grown fond of this Nebulon Princess.  He didn’t want to hurt her in any way.

“You don’t need to feed me Aphrodisiacs.  I love you without that.”

The Madonna smiled at him shyly.

“Well, says I,” said Sinbadh, “I better get to the galley and make this right.”  He took the eggs and bacon and headed out of the cockpit.  “I’ll make ye some of me best honey-plant stew.  I got a case of honey-plant roots on board for just such an occasion.  They can make ye fall in love too… with me cookin’, o’ course.”

The Madonna sat down in the copilot chair.  On the view screen, a large Pinwheel Corsair showed up.  Its weapons were visibly armed and ready to fire.

“Unknown vessel!” came a voice over the commo, “prepare to be boarded.”

“Negative, corsair.  You don’t need to board us.  We are friends of Captain Tron.  Radio him that Ham Aero is here to help.”

“Ham Aero?  Is Ged with you?”

“No.”

“Oh, okay.  Don’t make any foolish moves.  We’ll escort you down to the planet.”

Together the two spacecraft rolled to the left and inserted themselves into the atmosphere of White Palm.

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Rewired for the Future

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Last night the Princess and I went to the Dollar Movie in Plano to see the new Spielberg epic, Ready Player One.  (Yes, I know the movie cost $2.70 apiece, but it is still called the Dollar Movie.)  We were blown away with unbridled enthusiasm.  (Enthusiasm takes the place of wind, right?)  For me, the story brought back everything I loved about the 80’s and early 90’s.  The movie is filled with cultural references to things like the Iron Giant,  Mortal Combat, Mobile Suit Gundam, and even the Ninja Turtles.  For the Princess it brought the gaming world and its online possibilities to a sort of fantasy reality that gamers are already beginning to step into.  She wants to be a maker of anime, a game designer, or an animator, and is already well on her way to becoming that.

 

The story is about a future dystopia where life as it actually is is so much worse than the life you can live inside the virtual game world, where life is what you want it to be in your wildest fantasies.

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And the plot revolves around gambling on your fantasy game skills to overcome the corporate cleptocracy with a magnificent all-or-nothing gamble to find the three keys and win the world.

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And in many ways, this techno-virtual-fantasy story is absolutely relevant to the lives we are living at this very moment.  Trump’s cleptocracy is determined to take everything away from us, healthcare, clean drinking water, freedom of speech, and many other things, so that he and his corporate villain-friends can squeeze more profits out of our decline and suffering.  We are living in a real world that will soon resemble the mundane real world of the movie.  And we need to be prepared to fight back in a world as foreign to the world of the 1950’s as the world inside a video game is to the world inside a Shirley Temple movie.  Things have changed.  And we need to change too to survive and thrive in the future.

readyplayerone-tributeposter-highres-breakfastclub-1520373880 There’s probably little hope left for me to make the massive adaptations facing the people of the near future.  I try to get rewired and ready.  I bought a new mouse today make the writing of this post possible.  But I have little doubt that my children will be up to the task.

This is a movie review.  And I think it is clear that I am suggesting you should see it.  I never write reviews on movies I don’t like.  And I liked this one immensely.  But don’t let my opinion sway you.  This is a movie you really have to experience for yourself.

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Seizing Sunday

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Sundays have always been a day for rest.  And yet, I have always gotten more work done on Sunday than any other day of the week.  It was always in the past a day for grading papers and reading student essays.  It was also a day for housework; washing dishes, mowing the lawn, painting the house, and paying bills.

And today, I have paid bills and fully intend to do more meal deliveries through Uber to raise money for paying even more bills.  I have no shortage of bills.

But I also need to “Carpe Diem” a little bit and do some of the things that are most important in life.  And here I intend to confess a few of those things that I consider important.

My wife has gone to California for a week to a religious convention.  I took her to the airplane early yesterday morning.  So I am alone with the kids for a while.  I intend to take them out to eat today, maybe at Braums.  Later, the movie Ready Player One is playing at the dollar movie in Plano.

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You can also see by the initial picture of this piece that the flower garden has zinnias blooming, but desperately needs weeding.  I don’t wish to horrify you too much, so I will not post a picture of me working on the flowers because I have resolved to do it in the nude.  Seriously, have you ever heard of the oriental practice of Forest Bathing?  Spending time in nature, like the time we visited the redwoods in California, really does cleanse the soul.  And because we have a privacy fence in the back yard, and because wifey is gone to California where she can’t make fun of me for it, I intend to get a little bit of that feeling by practicing nudism a wee bit in the back yard.  I know it sounds like the idiot pronouncements of a fool entering his second childhood, but it is really a refreshing thing to be out in the light of the sun bathing in the growing greenness and yellow sunshine.  And I can get a few weeds pulled out of both the flower garden and my soul.

So I vow to get important things done today.  I will seize the day.  And while the things I do can’t all be called work, necessarily, they will be accomplishments.  And I will have done something worthwhile.

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Uber Crazy

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I have to admit it.  I have been driving for Uber.  I, like many who are doing the same, need the extra money, and can’t manage any other way.  I wanted to work in a grocery store, or something else where I could put in regular hours and make at least minimum wage to supplement my shrinking pension income.  But my health is not sound enough to hold a job where I have to work every day for a set number of hours.  I am only well enough to work about ten hours a week, and then only when my arthritis isn’t crippling me, my diabetes isn’t making me stupid, and other factors aren’t overwhelming me with upset stomach, psoriatic itchiness making me scratch myself bloody in all the wrong places, or having trouble simply getting enough oxygen to stay among  the living.  Uber works for me because I can go do it any time day or night that I feel well enough to do it.  But the job involves a bit of craziness along the way.

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One thing that makes it crazy is the way Uber drivers have, as a group, developed a somewhat sketchy identity.  Sure, they sometimes aid superhero actors who play Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes in saving people from attackers (You know, that Bandersnatch Cummerbund guy).  But they also get tried for raping or robbing passengers.  They get into bizarre accidents and shoot their passengers.  How do you convince the female passenger that it is safe to trust you despite the scruffy beard and homeless guy ambiance you are stuck with due to poor health?  Certainly you are aware that you look like a serial killer, right?

man_file_1061878_uber-driver-be-likeAnd back-seat drivers all have visions of the bloody, fiery car crash you are going to put them through in return for their $5.00 riding fee.

But given a chance, I can drive like a master.  I had a daily commute that was 30 miles long (45 stop lights) one way that I spent hours practicing on before and after school for a total of 4 hours a day for 180 days a year for a space of 7 years.  Passengers have gasped when they see the threats coming at us from two lanes over at twenty-miles-an-hour-faster-than-the-speed-limit, but breathe a sigh of relief when I avoid the impact by several feet.  I watch twenty things at once in Dallas-area traffic.

Lately though, I have been limiting myself to food deliveries. I have a car that. due to a faulty heat sensor that has defied recall repair three times, constantly thinks it is suffering from engine overheating, so that, in order to keep going, I must roll down the windows and put the heater on full blast.  That doesn’t sit well with passengers in Texas heat.  But it means I must endure a high-speed Easy-Bake Oven ride while driving.  And today, when I parked at the main office of the apartment complex and walked the meal to the appropriate apartment, which was as it always is, on the far side of the entire complex, I got locked inside.  I couldn’t get back out through any of the security gates because I didn’t have a car to activate the pressure plates at the exit.  And the Spanish-speaking maintenance man who let me in the place was nowhere around to let me out again.  And the next meal delivery was waiting for me to pick it up at Taco Bueno, not getting any warmer while it sat on the counter. I had to squeeze my jelly belly through the narrow opening between the two sides of the security gate.  This I was able to successfully do only probably because the mad dash through the hot sidewalks of the apartment complex had lost me just enough weight to make it.

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Given the option, I would really rather still be teaching.  Uber driving is a crazy way to make money.  But we do what we can actually do in life, and at least I get a funny story or two to tell about later… if I manage to survive the next Uber drive.

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