Saturday, January 8, 2011

What is freedom?

TUCSON, Ariz. – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday when an assailant opened fire outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents, killing at least five people and wounding several others in a rampage that rattled the nation.

Giffords was among at least 10 people wounded, and the hospital said her outlook was "optimistic" and that she was responding to commands from doctors. The hospital said a 9-year-old child was among the killed, and a U.S. Marshal said a federal judge was also fatally shot in the attack.

At first, I was shocked and dismayed at the story. That was, until I read down to the bottom of the article and saw this little blurb from our Commander in Chief.

The shooting prompted an outpouring of sympathy from politicians and people around the country. President Barack Obama called the shooting "an unspeakable tragedy" and that such "a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society."
OK, so it has no place in a free society? Pardon me while I examine the Constitution [wait ... tic ... tic ... tic...] The Constitution that has that second amendment about the right to bear arms that the gun nuts keep throwing in our faces? That Constitution? That "free society?"
If we're free, as a society, then that society has to be free in a multitude of ways, not the least of which is the freedom of will. If you are going to give people the freedom to carry guns around, you're going to have to be willing to accept the consequences of those actions.
Either you're free or you're not. If you are truly free, then you have entrusted your people with the responsibility of being free, which includes (but is not limited to) not shooting people in the head. If you don't want to be free, then take the (fucking) guns off the streets and keep things like this from happening.
You can't have it both ways. Either you're free and you accept the consequences or you're not. Make a choice.
Shooting people in the head is not acceptable whether you're a "free society" or not, and it's about time that our [quote] leaders [end quote] stop making excuses for it by being surprised every time it happens.
C'mon, man.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Things you haven't thought about - which is probably why you're reading this.

I love upheaval. I love it when conventional thinking goes out the window, or when something that was created by people who are supposed to know what they're doing turns out to be a giant mess.
The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC's Western division with a losing 7-9 record. That pisses off a lot of football people because a "losing team" isn't supposed to win anything. Not only that, but the Seahawks get to host a playoff game when the 11-5 Saints travel two time zones to play them on Saturday. Needless to say, I'm rooting like hell for the Seahawks, because football people will be in a crazy-assed snit over yet another breach of their little kingdom. Never mind that they made the divisions and the rules - it's just wrong.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave the okey-dokey to build casinos in the state a while ago. Since then, several kids have been left in automobiles while their gambling parents went inside to bet. Now, they have sponsored a series of TV commercials featuring a guy who goes to the ATM to get gambling money, only to find "insufficient funds." He then runs out to his car to root through the seats for change. A graphic for the state-sponsored gambling addition website comes up, and gamblers are supposed to recognize themselves and log on for help. The state thinks that, because the web site hasn't had that many hits, that there isn't a gambling problem. As though people are good at recognizing their own problems.
Meanwhile, Governor Ed Rendell wants to check around for areas that area "underserved" (his word) by casinos so that they can build more. What's funny about it (other than everything) is that the governor uses the word underserved, as though serving people is part of the casino business. I don't have enough time to explain that, so if you don't understand, just skip ahead.
The state, in its wisdom, created an entire industry (gambling) that now requires an adjunct industry (anti-gambling) that wasn't necessary before the state created casino gambling. Meanwhile, I can't figure out why there is an unemployment problem. I'd guess that one could find gainful employment in either the gambling or anti-gambling industry, since those are brand new jobs that didn't exist until they were made necessary by state legislation.
Then, I'm watching TV (because I can't afford to gamble) and there's a commercial for toilet tissue (which they refuse to call toilet paper) where the woman in the ad proclaims that her brand makes her "clean" after she wipes. I don't know about you (and don't want to) but I almost never feel clean after I wipe my deification off any part of my body with a piece of thin paper. I need soap.
With all the nonsense going around about anti-bacterial gel and washing your hands so that you don't contaminate people, how do they get away with telling us that wiping your ass with paper makes you clean? I'd guess that bidets would be more popular, if we only had room for them. There isn't any soap, but at least the water is an improvement.
Which reminds me -- don't you think that the dirtiest thing you can put your hands on -- other than a bank drive-in canister or a buffet serving spoon -- is the dispenser on top of the hand sanitizer gel? People with dirty hands have spent their day pressing that thing and rubbing gel on themselves. By using it, you're cleaning your hands that were made dirty by the thing you're using to clean them.
So, if you want to stay clean and sanitized, keep your hands off the sanitizer gel.
I came here to help the humans.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The resolute.

I've been a member of a gym (er ... fitness center) for 31 years. Outside of a bout with pneumonia in 2001 and a dislocated elbow in 1989, I've never missed any extended period of time.
The sociological phenomenon that is the influx of new gym members I see on January 2 still amazes me. That either shows that I'm a slow learner or have a short memory.
It happens every year at every gym I've attended. Since the place is closed on New Year's Day, if you lost your calendar or your watch stopped, the day you suddenly noticed five times the number of people in the place as you saw the day before would be January 2.
At some point around Christmas, thousands of people suddenly decide that their pants don't fit and if they look directly downward they cannot tell if their shoes match. They make a proclamation and decide that the new year will bring a new ... them.
The sociology part of it is that it's the changing of the calendar that makes people realize the sudden need to change, and not merely being 75 pounds overweight or the sudden inability to climb a flight of stairs. Humans associate the beginning of a new calendar year with some sort of necessity to make a life-changing decision like quitting smoking or finding a soul mate.
The problem with using the calendar to help make those decisions is that the calendar is relentless and the decisions are not. The days go onward, and bad habits are just as difficult to break on January 2 as they are in July, which is why most of the people that swarmed the gym tonight will be gone by President's Day. They lose track of the motivation that made them look at themselves and the last page on their calendar with a sense of purpose.
Fitness Centers make a huge amount of money off of people who sign monthly contracts and don't show up. Imagine renting a house to someone who paid for utilities and never moved in. The rent they paid would be profit for the landlord, as well as a really bad investment for the tenant. The same calendar that makes people decide to change their life makes them spend a lot of money on something they will almost never use. These are the same people who would yell at their kids for buying an expensive jacket they never wear.
Over the course of 31 years, I've seen them come and go - mostly go - and I can deal with the short-term inconvenience and, in a way, thank them for providing enough money for the gym to continue to operate in their absence. I take solace and pride in knowing that I'll out-last them. I suppose it's the same feeling that retailers have when they are forced to deal with holiday shoppers.
Maybe gym owners should call this month Black January?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year?

"Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy."
- Louis C.K., on the amazing and sometimes frustrating things that technology has done for society.
The remote for my sophisticated cable box recently broke. At least, I thought the remote was broken, since the delay in the box recognizing entries caused me to have to take it back to the cable company to get a new one. The new remote didn't work any better than the old one, and I figured I would have to get a new cable box, causing me further inconvenience.
As it turned out, all I had to do was turn the box off for a few minutes and turn it back on, which was a last-ditch effort to fix the problem without actually fixing anything. Turning something off and on again is a half-assed attempt, but in this case it was the solution, and as Occam's Razor taught us, the simplest solution is the best.
NEW YORK (AFP) – The bells weren't ringing for many iPhone users this New Year's weekend, when thanks to a glitch the alarms on Apple's iconic mobile phones failed to go off, causing many to oversleep. It was the second time in just a few months that the alarm function on the phone failed to activate correctly, prompting an avalanche of complaints on the social networking micro-blog Twitter.
"Dear iPhone, why didn't your alarm go off this morning? I set six of them. I've now missed church. Thanks for nothing," said one user Sunday morning.
"Some sort of digital iPhone pandemic is going on. Alarm clock failure reports are pouring in from all sources around the globe," said another Twitter user.
Apple said in a message sent to Macworld magazine that the California-based company was aware of the problem. "We're aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for January 1 or 2."
Most of us have regular alarm clocks, and they work as they have worked since Polk was president. Some, however, prefer to rely on technology to do things that normal appliances have done for centuries. The downside, as we know, is that when they malfunciton, we are left wondering why we relied on a "non-repeating alarm" from a device that hasn't lived as long as some of your kids.
Then, you're frustrated and angry because your technology has let you down. Just as you are when your cable goes out, your 3G cell phone connnection loses its grip or your fancy GPS device sends you through Manhattan to get to the Catskills.
It's all part of our so-called enhanced lifestyle, and the enhancements have made it easier in the sense that we can now use technology to make it seem as though our lives are somehow better because we can use gimmicks to do things that our ancestors did with their fingers and things that are plugged into the wall. Not only that, but these gimmicks also cost us money.
Once one buys an alarm clock or a paper map, the expense is done. The gimmicks carry monthly service fees or expensive upgrades. The trade-off is that you aren't supposed to have to think about anything. That trade-off dies a miserable death when your expensive iPhone application doesn't work.
Or you have to (God forbid) get out of your chair to change the channel on your television, set an alarm or read a map. We don't think as much as we used to, partly because we prefer to let electronics think and act for us. The trouble with that is that the devices don't have any stake in getting anything right. At least when we mis-read a map or set the wrong alarm time, we're responsible. When those things malfunction it probably makes you wish you had just set an alarm clock or wrote something on a piece of paper.
Because your iPhone doesn't have to get up for work on time.