25 February 2017

Ain't no denying.

It's 7pm Eastern US time zone, February 24, and it's 80 degrees; Eighty degrees! and it's been about like this now for most of the last few weeks.

I'm in North Carolina, US, +/-36 degrees N. latitude.

This.
Should.
Not.
Be.

Why aren't more people marching on our capitals, calling and visiting elected officials, and demanding immediate and drastic action to address our common threat, the fossil fuel industry.

Fuck anyone's profits, this is life or death for half of humanity if not more. I have children.  They deserve all that we are capable of doing to leave them a better home than we have.

Only a fool stares at the mountain of evidence for human causes of clime change, and at this point, willful ignorance is criminal.

23 February 2017

What the Democratic Party needs to do.

There was a conversation the other day on Zuckerberg's cash cow, about what reforms the Democratic Party needs to undertake in order to remain viable, much less relevant, much further less, oh, right, we're gerrymandered to death, so just fuck it all; it's useless.

No, actually, it not useless. In fact, now is the time to stand and fight, to get active in your local Democratic Party. Over the next few weeks county parties across the state will be holding precinct organizing meetings and selecting delegates to their county conventions in a few months.

Now is the time for all good people to get off their asses and get busy.  I don't care if you're a centrist, or a hardcore socialist, or any other left of center persuasion; GET THY ASS TO A MEETING AND TAKE OVER THE FUCKING PARTY!!!!

Sorry, I tend to get wound a bit tight, but seriously if you show up with dozen or so of your neighbors, and some of you want to be delegates and have a say, it's doable.

The point of this post wasn't so much about the so very important precinct meetings that you'd damned well better get your ass to very soon.  It was supposed to be about two excellent comments in the aforementioned conversation that I latched onto.

The first was made by the person who started the thread, a man who ran for Congress last year and lost, because - gerrymandering, but I digress.
"What it comes down to is Democrats won't have any credibility if they aren't who they say they are. If they claim to be against big money in politics, they must get out of bed with Wall Street. If they believe church and state should be separated, they should take religion out of party meetings. It's that simple."
I couldn't agree more.  Senator Sanders proved to us last year that Wall Street is no match for masses of citizens actively involved, networking and basically donating all their spare time and change to the cause.

The other choice comment, again, not mine, was as follows.
"The constant pledging [of allegiance to the flag] and praying also represent a greater problem: it's apologetic. We all know we love our country, why else would we bust ass to make it better for everyone? If we are secure in that and secure in our own religious beliefs or lack thereof then what is it for? It's a defensive move to defend against accusations by the Rs that we are all atheists. Well, many of us are! As well as agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and others. It's just a relic of the past, and it's not endearing for younger people who want to attend these meetings. It's bad enough they do it at city government meetings, there is zero reason that Dems should be opening meetings that way."
That is exactly the way I feel, and I have no reason to apologize. Neither do you.

Until this country begins showing me something to be proud of again, I will be refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance and/or any public prayers, especially at party functions. In fact I may even write up a resolution to halt the practices of prayers and pledges in our party meetings; not to disrespect anyone's feelings about either subject, but because the Democratic Party is supposed to be a big tent open to everyone, including atheists and those of us not-so-proud of our tarnished nation these days.

I already don't bow my head for prayers anywhere, and I never will again. I am me, and I am moral and ethical enough as I am. I love my country, but I love the earth - the only planet we've got - even more.  I have no need to speak empty incantations in order to prove my loyalty to anyone.

I wish the same things for the people of all nations that I would have for my own:  peace, elections untainted by money, a living wage for all workers and a safety net for those unable or between jobs, affordable health care for everyone no matter one's station in life, and above all justice and equal treatment for everybody, no matter who, how, or why, or where from. 

17 February 2017

Possibly the most frustrating two weeks of my life.

I own a small business.  No employees; just me by myself.  I operate scientific instruments that allow me to find things underground.  How I ended up here is a much longer story, but I've been doing this thing on my own now since the end of 2010.

On Tuesday, January 31 of this year, one of my primary electronic instruments suffered a hardware failure that rendered it inoperable.  It took another 48 hours to acquire the proper authorization to return the instrument to it's place of origin, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, for repairs.  Then it took another five days, due to a weekend, to reach it's destination.

Last Friday, February 10, I finally received a repair estimate and immediately signed, scanned, and returned the authorization form.  I also received a credit card information form used to pay the technicians for their work.  Obviously I wasn't going to fill out all the information and return the form to them as a blank check, so I withheld that bit of paperwork for later.

This time of year in my business can be fairly slow when the weather is cold and wet outside, but thanks to the very real phenomenon of human-induced climate change, temperatures here have been reaching into the sixty and seventy degrees Fahrenheit range for most of the last few weeks.  In other words, it's warm; people are working. Projects are moving forward, and my phone has been ringing constantly since the day after the equipment failed.

I probably watched four to six thousand dollars pass me by over the last two weeks, from clients who couldn't afford to wait.  I've also amassed more than a week's worth of work from clients who willing to wait.  When work piles up, I get stressed out.  I don't like leaving people waiting and having obligations hanging over my head.  I prefer to get things done and keep moving to sitting still, and that's almost all I've done since the first of the year.

So Wednesday afternoon, I got desperate for answers.  I tried calling and kept reaching voicemail boxes, and Canadians don't like to make international telephone calls, apparently.  My emails were not responded to consistently either.  The few times I did get a response it seemed as if no one on the other end could read English, because the answers I was getting didn't match any of my queries.

Desperate, I finally called again and literally begged the receptionist to put me through to the CEO to help me save my business.  She put me through to one of the people I had been emailing instead, and I explained all of the above to her.

Finally something clicked!  She checked my work order and said they would be able to ship it back to me on Thursday (yesterday), with delivery scheduled before noon today.

Late last evening I received a tracking number and receipt.  This morning, I checked the package and it had already made it to Memphis, Tennessee, but stalled at a customs checkpoint.  Someone in Canada hadn't dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" just right.

So now I'm sitting here, a little over two hours left until noon, refreshing the tracking page constantly, waiting for my livelihood to come home so I can get back to work.  I feel like I have been held hostage for a month.

13 February 2017

Walking with the dead.

I live in a small town of under 2,000 people,  The town itself takes up less than two square miles and sits along a major US highway that commuters to and from Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina travel daily.

I live down the street from the municipal cemetery, and walk my dog there, usually twice a day.  As such, I am more or less aware of the endless stream of burials that take place here.

By my estimation there is space in the grave yard for about 2,000 individuals, and probably three quarters of the plots are now occupied.

We seem to have about two burials a week on average.  Last week there were three; two the week before that.  Sometimes there will be no burials for several weeks, and then a minor flood of death rolls through and we'll have nearly a half dozen in ten days.

I notice names and dates as well, during my walks among the dead.  One young woman was born a few years after I was, and died the day after her twenty-first birthday, probably in a tragic accident after a night of celebration.  Seeing the forgotten memorials to lives cut so tragically short helps me remember to appreciate the fifty years I've managed to live through.  Many don't make it half as far.

A family burial group I often notice is a man buried beside and sharing a headstone with his grandson.  The younger man was born less than six months before I was, and died just nineteen years old.  The family, faced with such an unexpected tragedy and expense, must have elected to use a plat purchased for the grandmother beside her husband.

To one side is another burial, a woman, probably the older man's daughter.  I once thought surely she was the younger man's mother, but recently I noticed another burial, behind the grandfather/grandson's marker.  The grave is that of another woman, with the same birthdate as the woman I assumed was the mother.  She had a twin sister.  Either could be the nineteen year-old's mother.  Perhaps someday I'll dig into these stories and find the truth behind my imaginings.

Last week I think I witnessed the first cremation burial I've ever seen.  I noticed that the grave opened was a much smaller hole than usual, and the next day a service was held, so I assume the remains were ashes.

I actually kind of like the side of using the space one coffin would occupy to place the cremains of an entire family together in one plot, if that sort of thing is allowed in a place that tends toward backwardness and conservative superstition.

I enjoy walking among the graves.  The residents are usually quiet, and in a small town like this one, there's a lot of history to be found there, if you know how to read the signs.

11 February 2017

Snippet from a work in progress.

That instant from her earthly frame a demon howling fled.

"Trump!

The Devil herself would run from you!  Strangle your howling
crude and common tongue, and cease your childish tweeting!"

Donald Trump

He tells it like it is, does whatever he wants, when he wants;
fuck everyone else, get outta his way!

And yet, somehow, he's never been arrested or shot, yet.

Donald Trump is every high school drop-out
working stiff's wet dream come true...

we are so thoroughly fucked.

09 February 2017

Public education matters.

There's this 'schools you went to' thing going around on the social network lately. I suppose the point is to promote awareness of how important free public education is to this or any nation.

My list of schools is almost embarrassingly short:  two elementary schools (only because a new school was built), one middle school, and one high school.

I dropped out of one community college twice before earning a vocational diploma from another, and even managed to flunk out of a four year school once.  All public, state supported schools.

My educational record sounds like I'm a loser, and according the small fingered orangutan occupying the White House, I am a loser, but fuck him. His opinion is useless.

I'm successfully self-employed, going on seven years now.  Sure, I could be doing better, but I'm satisfied with where I am for the most part.  I've done well with the foundation I took away from public schools, despite my consistent failure to apply myself.

Sadly, I fear my son's public education has been even less demanding than mine was.  The world has changed, maybe it's just me.

Having an adult child who is a newly minted public school teacher is entirely different enlightenment experience.

She reports that she isn't allowed to practice half of what she learned as an elementary education major at a respected state university, but if she can't bring several children that began the school year with second grade reading skills up to fifth grade standards, the threat of unemployment is ever present.

We need our public schools, and we need to do a much better job of funding them and the professionals who staff them.  Unfortunately, the functional illiterates have been placed in charge for the foreseeable future.

Fight fascism! Plant a victory garden today!

I started work on my victory garden this morning.  I wouldn't normally use such an archaic term, but since we've got Nazis and openly fascist wannabe-dictators running around all over the place recently, I figured, what the hell, let's just go all in.

Anyway...

We've been building a raised garden bed in our front yard since last fall.  Which is to say, I built a one-hundred square foot raised bed box, ten feet square, roughly a foot deep.

There is a maple tree stump in the center of the bed, but the soil covers it. We're doing a 'square-foot' garden system this year, breaking the space into four, sixteen square foot units, which conveniently leaves room for a two foot wide path across the center of the be in both directions, enabling us to access the interior of the garden.

We live in a half acre lot in the middle of a small rural mill town, sans mill. There are three of the biggest willow oaks I've ever seen, standing watch as I'm certain they have for at least a century or more.  Unfortunately that leaves very little sunny ground to garden, but we have a few things going on.

We planted a couple of pawpaw trees in the grove last year, and both seem to be doing well.  I hope to plant a strip of pumpkins, sunflowers, and pole beans along the back fence, behind the trees.  Coming up the west side we have a lone blueberry bush left by a previous occupant.  Until this afternoon there were three apple trees of some sort next in line, planted about six feet apart from one another - far too close.  I cut them down this afternoon and my son and I stacked them at the street for removal.  We plan to plant several more berries in their place.

Last year I planted a small garden directly behind the house in what, at the time, was the only sunny spot in the yard.  It was a failure in many ways, but I did manage to harvest a good crop of potatoes from it, so this year we plan to grow sweet potatoes in that spot (last year was Idahos).

Last summer we had two trees in the front yard professionally removed; a fairly young, healthy maple someone planted in a very unfortunate spot below the power distribution lines, and a huge willow oak, comparable to the ones in the back, except it had been topped  several times by the electric company and was beginning to present a hazard to the house. Now we have a bright, sunny, open front yard.

I planted approximately forty-eight feet of onion seeds in the square bed today, and about twice as much lettuce and salad greens. I have a warm, sunny back porch where I've established a seedling greenhouse.  today I planted a couple of brassicas, just to see if I can manage a small spring snack.

Did I mention that it's not quite the middle of February, and the temperature the past few days has reached into the seventies fahrenheit.  I was outside today, all day, in a loose t-shirt and shorts. In North Carolina. In February! 

Don't let the assholes get you down. Fight back!


08 February 2017

Keep yo' Nazi-loving ass away from me.

If you walk into a room wearing a shirt that reads "Deplorable Motherfucker" across the front, don't be acting all surprised when I decide not to listen to anything you have to say anymore. You support the agenda of racists, xenophobes, and other undesirable malformed humans. You were warned what and who they were, but you voted for them anyway.  They made it okay for you to call people nigger, wetback, faggot, and worse, in public, and you ain't got no fucking problem with that?  You still support them?

I have a problem with you.

07 February 2017

Clovis

Winter rains and howling winds pull back centuries of silt,
winnowing soil from fallow fields

until the bones of ancient cultures lie exposed, naked upon
the ground; gifts left by unknown ancient hands,
unwrapped one grain of sand at a time.

Sandinista!


Numb, uncomfortably.

I have been numb for most of my life.

I smoked pot the first time when I was thirteen years old.

I became a steady smoker by sixteen, when I got old enough to drive myself to work.

I picked up cigarettes around that time too, but quit them for good by about age thirty-five.

I smoked weed in the morning before school, and in the afternoon before work.

Roll another for the ride home, and sneak a toke in my bedroom after my parents went to bed.

I am addicted to cannabis. I have been for a very, very long time.  I smoke in the morning, usually within the first hour of the day.  I typically smoke five to seven times daily, depending on the quality of my on-hand stash.

I quit once before, after many failed attempts, and lasted over eight years before the urge overtook me again.

I remember the first time I smoked again after so long away.  I smoked a tiny little ugly, almost black nugget of what must have been cheap Mexican brick weed, in a pipe I had carved from an old piece of cherry.  I decided then that if it ever took much more than that tiny amount to get me that high, I'd be doing it wrong.

Well, I'm doing it wrong again.

What started as an occasional toke turned into buying small quantities, led to buying better and better quality, and ultimately to today, when I find myself spending three figures at a time more than once each week.  The cheap stuff - even the "better" cheap stuff - is almost totally ineffective to me now: I am immune to all but the loudest, skunkiest buds.

I am addicted.

I have been high for more than thirty of my fifty years; literally stoned for decades.

I was high both times I got married

I was stoned at the births of both of my children.

Birthdays, weddings, funerals, surgery vigils, holidays, vacations, you name it.  If I was there I was getting high somewhere.  For a while I infused it into butter, to avoid smoking.  But eventually the old smoking habits and rituals became to powerful.

Cannabis isn't supposed to be addictive, and it isn't for most adults, but for me and my particular history, it very much is addictive.

I have been a very stupid, selfish  man.  Lucky not to have lost everything I own many times over.  I need to stop this shit. I have other things to do.

The last time I managed to stop for any length of time, I began drinking heavily at night. I became what I would call an alcoholic.

I can't do that again.

I have so much emotional baggage lashed to my back.  Deep seated trust issues, insecurity, self-loathing.  I need therapy, but trust no one. I embarrass myself. Who but the biggest pussy on the planet gets "addicted" to weed?  People get addicted to meth, to cocaine, to opiates; not pot!

But I'm addicted to pot. It has imprisoned me.  I need help.

This is going to take a lot of therapy...

05 February 2017

Steve Bannon is trying to engineer another Holocaust.

As I have been saying, they want a war, preferably with Iran. The bloodier the better, in their view.
"A war would underscore his contentions that his critics are weak, his rivals myopic, liberals perverse, immigrants suspect, leftists metastases, journalists -Fox News and Breitbart excepted - subversive, anti-American, knowingly and treasonously and shrewdly deceitful. 
A war would make it clear that it's not mass casualty shootings by loner white males that makes Americans unsafe. It is, rather, the specter of the swarthy Muslim we have never met, which should keep us up at night - even if that Muslim is in actual life a saint among physicians or a decorated former brother-in-arms of U.S. troops overseas."
Tillerson and others want the oil fields, obviously, but Bannon has genocidal tendencies and subscribes to some fucked up "Fourth Turning", eighty year cycle theory, which is about the amount of time it takes for all the generations that remember the last really terrible blood-letting to all die out.  Bannon is a big part of the problem.
"In a speech to a Christian conference held in the Vatican in  the summer of 2014, Bannon declared that "we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."
At the time, Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker, headed the far-right, white nationalist-friendly Breitbart News, and was also a producer and director of films.
"We're now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism," he said."
You see, Bannon is the real deal, a genuine fascist of the old world variety, right down to his hard-on for killing people based on their religion.  Bannon's got to be removed.  Somehow.  Otherwise,  here we are again, on the eve of a great global war, ostensibly against fascism, but it's not.

This is a war being instigated by American fascists, for their own self-enrichment, just like both world wars of the last century.  It's always the fascists who instigate war, because war is always about controlling resources, whether those resources be minerals, ports, or populations.

I'm not even sure if Islamic fascism is possible.  What most Islamic states resemble more is a theocracy, although, we do have our own special Christo Fascists in America, so anything is possible I guess.

Islam bans usury, and that fact prevents a lot of greedy American capitalists, like Trump, from doing much business in many Islamic countries.   They simply will not accept enslavement to our financial institutions, and non-Muslim oligarchs have a real problem with that.  This is why Islam and the west have a problem with each other, but the problem is and always has been of our own creation.

Capitalism creates poverty.


How long until I can retire?

I just watched Ben Sasse, Senator from Nebraska, on ABC's This Week program, trying to make a case for raising retirement age.  His argument seemed to hinge upon the fact that average life expectancy in the United States has gone up.

Apparently, when "retirement age" and social Security were being set up, average life expectancy was about 62, three years younger than the age people begin qualifying to draw benefits from the system we spend our entire working lives paying into. Fact is, life expectancy has skyrocketed... for those with high incomes, great retirement packages, and/ whose working life mostly involved light manual labor, if any.  Higher incomes mean access to better health care, and more tie to recover in the event of illness or injury.

The thing those who favor raising retirement age conveniently overlook is the fact that those of us who maintain the infrastructure, build things, work in factories, and who basically do the hard manual WORK of this world still die young.  Many of us don't even make it to sixty, so when some millionaire senator or billionaire executive tells me that raising the retirement age is a good idea, all they are really telling me is that they want to steal the money I've been forced to pay into the system all these years for themselves.

With luck I'll make it to seventy, but the odds aren't in my favor, and if you work for a living, especially in construction or manufacturing (yes, they still exist), they don't much favor you either.

If anything we should be talking about LOWERING the retirement age to sixty, and perhaps even lower for those in the most physically demanding jobs, and open up more job opportunities for younger people.

Think about it. It's the only realistic option short of starting another world war to kill a few million of us off, like they did a few times last century.  We have more people today, but more work is done by computers or robots, so there are fewer jobs available to begin with.  The jobs aren't ever coming back, unless we, as a civilization, take a giant step backward and wipe out a lot of technology and people in the process, Backward, towards slavery and feudalism is not the direction we want to go, but it's where the oligarchs are dragging us, whether we like it or not.  Resist!

04 February 2017

A fascist on the SCOTUS


Death Letter (not today)

I'm going to kill myself.  Not any time soon,
but I will, someday.  I've felt this way for

a number of years now, and tried to deny it,
but there's no point.  One day I will wake
up and find that I've had all I can stand.

I never loved this world. No, if anything
I despise it; full of ignorance - willful

or not - and unnecessary pain.  Humanity
doesn't deserve our place at the top of
the animal kingdom.  We are deplorable.

We're shallow, hurtful, thoughtless beasts
most of the time.  We make up utterly
preposterous stories to explain everything

from bad weather to bad behaviour.  Hairless,
hormone-driven, clever apes, that's all we are.

One day I will wake up and discover nothing
left but pain, no joy, no hope, no love, and
when that day arrives, I shall cease being;

But not today.

I think I must be cursed.

We started trying to put up the panelling in our attic this morning. By the time we hung the third sheet (have you any idea how hard it is to hang panelling at a 45-50 degree angle?), I found that I had nothing left to nail to on one edge. The rafters were not measured and set at equal intervals, so some are 16" apart, others 15", still others 17", and yet others at even odder distances.

I remember being told how I would appreciate knowing how to do all this shit when I was a kid, but the thing is, I don't know how to do this shit! I can fake it to a point, but my projects are never level, plumb, flat, smooth, or any other adjective you would choose to describe well done, skilled work.

So, after a couple hours of everyone in the house literally screaming at everyone else - except the dog, who was smart enough to stay well away from the war, er, I mean, work zone - now I'm back to square one, sitting on the couch, trying to figure the best way to resolve yet another obstacle in the path of the upstairs room that doesn't want to be.

Stray

I've been an inmate in the asylum of my mind

Trapped inside a dungeon of my own unknown design

03 February 2017

Getting tired of the small biz bullshit.

Every construction company I work for is different. One pays with a credit card, no receipt needed. Others like invoices, need only my W9, while others want that plus a certificate of insurance. No problem, both are common practices.

The state contradicts itself, allowing sole-proprietors, like me, to waive workman's compensation insurance, unless one works for commercial construction contractors; then you have to carry it.

Now, business owners are exempt from workman's compensation policies unless you're willing to pay extra, but why would I do that?  I have personal health insurance (for the moment), and I have no employees. Just me. Workman's compensation insurance is a useless tax deduction to me, but I get in the pool like everyone else and do my part.

Some clients are special snowflake clients; they pour salt in the open wound that is the above described extortion. They want additional special forms and waivers of subrogation and signed exemptions...

Shit to print, scrawl, scan, and trash.  A total waste of my time, not to mention perfectly good paper.. 

And they never pull this shit until after the work is done and invoice received, and some office minion peeps.  

I'd charge extra for this garbage; sign the ones I can - some you just don't ever sign - but it's hard to re-submit an invoice with an extra $200 for bullshit added after the fact.

Solidarity

All workers bleed RED,

No class but the working class.

We have nothing to lose but our chains

... and perhaps your shitty boss.

Solidarity is everything.

We are all workers.

We are many.

Solidarity!

The battle of Stalingrad.


02 February 2017

It just doesn't matter!

I am sick to death of hearing about the damned three million votes.

It just doesn't matter! Move on!

The Democratic Party abandoned the working class, slowly, over several decades. They played identity politics and meritocracy and 'fuck you, you shoulda gotten a college degree' and finally lost it all.

Quit whining about the God damned popular vote and get busy doing something constructive.

01 February 2017

Freedom

Freedom doesn't come dressed in a business suit, carrying a briefcase;

Freedom shows up wearing a tshirt and brandishing a guitar!