Monday, December 26, 2016

From Snit to Surreal

I can get upset about tiny things.  If it's something bigger, I generally maintain my cool.  But little stuff ... I can get into a snit over little stuff.

For example, a friend of mine gave me a gift of an audiobook, and I was notified via text message.  Which was a problem, because a) I keep my phone clear of anything that eats up memory because I need it for work and b) I had no idea how to download the book onto my computer instead.  I researched and tried different things, while getting more and more pissed off about the situation.  Eventually, not completely sure how, I got it onto my computer and into iTunes.

But, man!  I was so worked up!  I got myself into a real snit.  So many unreasonable things running through my mind about how my friend should know better and how technology is stupid and on and on.  Probably, underneath it all, I just felt stupid for being behind on technology and not knowing how to do it.

Happily, I refrained from saying something nasty to my friend.  Because he's a good guy who just wanted to do something nice and did absolutely nothing wrong.  But when I'm in a snit, it doesn't matter.  And when I'm in a snit, I want to hurt someone or something.  I want to hit my desk so hard it breaks or say something 'innocent' that actually hurts someone.  I want someone or something else to feel my pain.

I really don't like this side of myself.  And it happens far more often than I would care to admit.  But I prayed about it.  And I asked God to help me not be so snitty.

Yesterday, I did Christmas dinner and presents and stuff with the fam'.  A little history.  I used to work with my brother and sister-in-law, and it did not end well.  Lies were told, and not by me.  I know they're not horrible people, but what they did to me was pretty awful.  And since then, I have merely tolerated them.  I show up, I give the obligatory hugs, but mostly I avoid eye contact and try not to talk to them.

So, I'm sitting there last night, and the thought pops in my head ... 'What if you let that go?'

Seriously?  I mean, it's not like I haven't tried.  I've prayed about it and gone through the motions of letting it go over and over.  I don't like living with this knot inside of me - I'm not someone who does well carrying baggage around.  I've tried.  Let it go?  Oh, OK!

But as I rooted around inside, expecting to find that knot, expecting to find resistance, I found ... nothing.  The anger is gone.  Weird.

I still know what they did.  I still think they should apologize.  But that bitterness?  It's missing.  What's up with that?

And another thought comes ... 'What if you struck up a conversation?'

Come on.  Really?

But I did.  The anger isn't there, so I can look him in the face now.  And he was standing nearby, so I started a conversation.  And we talked for 10 minutes or so about this and that.

I'm not going to say it was nice.  But it was OK.  And later I was near my sister-in-law and I talked to her for a few seconds.  It wasn't much, but I initiated it.

There used to be an inspirational poster titled Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Star Trek, which listed many of the nuggets of wisdom to be found in that universe.  It's not on the poster, but one I've always taken to heart is from Captain Kirk.  When Sybok offers to take away Kirk's pain, Kirk says:

"Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor!  You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand.  They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are.  If we lose them, we lose ourselves.  I don't want my pain taken away - I need my pain!"

I think that's true, to a point.  I don't think we should seek to have our pain removed artificially, whether by drugs or a hypnotic Vulcan.  We need it, to keep from making the same mistakes, to show us the stuff we need to work through, to help us to understand others going through something similar, and more.

We need our pain.  But maybe we only need it ... until we don't.

I asked God to help me with my snits.  And this has been one extremely prolonged snit.  Really, more than a snit - a pain and betrayal that I couldn't fully let go of.  God had to do it for me, in His time.  It's surreal, but I'm grateful for it.

One more thought came into my head, late last night ... 'Holding on to pain does nothing to change the other person.'  Kind of obvious, but it's true.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why I Voted For Trump

So, I've been reading a whole lot of stuff on the internet for the past couple of weeks, telling me what a horrible person I am.  I'm either a racist and a sexist and a homophobe and a xenophobe, or I'm enabling a man who is, and emboldening the bad people in our country to treat blacks and hispanics and muslims and women, etc. ... poorly.

But most of you posting these things have not asked me.  Which would be nice.  Because it seems like you're making assumptions which are incorrect, while ignoring a lot of pertinent info about your own candidate.

For the record, I don't like Trump.  I voted for him, but I would not call myself a Trump supporter or defender.  Got that?

When I look at a politician, I break them into three categories: the personal, the practical and the policies.

Personal.  Do I think they're basically a decent human being?  Obama?  Yes.  Bush?  Yes.  Either Clinton?  No.  Trump?  No.

Practical.  Do I think they are good/would be good at the job?  Reagan?  Yes.  Bill Clinton?  Yes.  Obama?  No.  Hillary Clinton?  No.  Trump?  Not sure.

Policies.  I'm a libertarian leaning Republican.  I believe that government is best which governs least.  So while I don't agree with all of Trump's policies, his line up more with mine than Hillary Clinton's.

One thing I’d like to note at this point.  It seems like a lot of people confuse policies with the personal.  But just because you dislike someone’s policies, doesn’t mean they are bigoted.  If someone wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, that doesn’t mean they automatically hate Mexicans.  It may simply mean they favor enforcing the existing laws of this country.  If someone favors lowering corporate taxes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to oppress the poor.  Many believe lowering taxes lures businesses back to the U.S. and spurs the engine of economic growth, which helps everyone.

Look, I think both parties picked the worst possible candidate.  But to me, Hillary Clinton is worse.  It seems clear to me that she and her husband sold out the country for their own personal interests.  So my basic metric in this election was: Trump has said horrible things, but Hillary has done horrible things.

It's fascinating to me that once Hillary Clinton was the candidate, the Democrats circled the wagons and it seemed like all you heard, from CNN to the late night talk shows, was how horrible Trump is.  Alternatively, on right-wing talk radio, the Republicans were constantly discussing Trump's flaws.  It makes me want to say to the Democrats, ‘Really?  You find nothing wrong there?  From deleting emails and destroying laptops that the FBI had requested to the appearance of pay-for-play using the Clinton Foundation to Bengazi, and going all the way back to Whitewater and Hillary-care?  We can debate these issues, but really?  Nothing to see here?’

I made what I thought was the best choice possible, given the choices available.  I flirted with not voting for either one.  If some decent Democrat had run, I might have been tempted.  But that wasn't the case.

So I voted for Trump.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sexism and The Match Game

It seems to me that there are at least two different kinds of sexism.  One is where you actually think of the opposite sex as inferior.  But another is where you do think of men and women as equals, but also as different, and your behavior reflects that difference.

I've been watching the old Match Game.  And I've found myself cringing a couple of times, because the host, Gene Rayburn, can be a bit sexist.  How so?  He kisses every female celebrity, usually on the lips, and he acts as if that's their ticket to the show.  There are the occasional bawdy comments, although those are just as likely to be directed at anyone.  And in once case, he kind of mock ravaged Didi Carr for about 3 seconds.

Richard Dawson used to do this on the original Family Feud.  He's famous for kissing every female contestant, be they daughter, mother or grandmother.

The thing is, I don't get the impression that they think women are inferior.  I mean, I don't know them, but in every other way they treat the women the same as the men.  It's more like they think that women are their equals, but also desirable.  And they think it's not just acceptable, but positive to express that in some small way.

Another example is M*A*S*H*.  There are lots of sexist comments directed at 'Hot Lips' Hulahan.  But I'm pretty sure Hawkeye thinks of Major Hulahan as his equal.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not condoning either type of sexism, and I'm sure arguments can be made that one leads to the other.  I'm simply pointing out that there does seem to be a qualitative difference.  Richard Dawkins can be a good guy, with just a little sexist behavior sprinkled on top.  He's different than, say, Archie Bunker.

When I pick someone up for a ride to the airport, I often ask if I can help them with their luggage.  Sometimes men, but mostly women.  I don't really care who it is - if their luggage is sitting there and I can grab it, then why not?  But I have noticed something.  Most people will say thanks, but some women will add an additional comment.  'Thanks.  It's heavy'.  Sometimes it's a warning.  Sometimes it's more of a sigh of relief.  But the thing is, it's usually not that heavy.  Not for me.  Because I'm a weightlifter?  No.  I'm a fat, 48 year old who rarely exercises.  But I'm a guy.  And it's not that heavy to me.

Which brings me to that phrase: The Weaker Sex.  I can see that being used as a pejorative.  But to me it's just stating something obvious.  Women are, generally speaking, weaker.  Not always.  I have no doubt that many, many women could easily kick my ass.  But, in general, women are physically weaker than men.  Not inferior - just different.  And many of us were taught some basic chivalry.  It's nice to help a woman with her luggage.  It's a kindness to open a door.

While Ubering, I often drop off single women late at night.  And I've taken to not driving away right away.  I stay and watch them until they enter their building.  I don't do that for the men.  The women might not appreciate it.  And the likelihood of anything happening is small.  But you don't ever hear about men getting raped.  And that's something that is also included within that phrase, The Weaker Sex.  It's a call to look out for your sisters.  They are not inferior, but they are often smaller and weaker and may not be able to fend off an attacker.  Or they may just struggle to lift their luggage into the car.

A few years back, at my annual retreat, a few of us did this thing.  There's a bridge that separates the cabins from the parking area.  And as people were carrying their belongings to their cars, several of us guys planted ourselves on the bridge.  And as the women walked by, we would catcall at them, like the construction workers of old.  Nothing too dirty.  And it was clearly meant in an ironic way.  But they women ... they were blushing and smiling, and it seemed like some of them kept finding excuses to cross the bridge again.

Look, I'm not saying sexism is OK.  But it does seem like we've lost something.  I don't feel comfortable telling a woman she's pretty, for fear of the backlash, either verbally or implied with her eyes, that she thinks I'm some kind of predator.  And that's a shame.  It would be nice to live in a world where women can be treated, not as sex objects, but as appealing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I recently came across an article here.
And here is another awesome article, by Blake Ross, co-founder of Firefox.
(keep in mind, if you read these, that each person's experience is a bit different)

It describes the condition I've had all my life and finally gives it a name: Aphantasia.  What is it?  It's the inability to visualize, to pull up pictures in one's mind.

Now, I've known that I'm different in this way since ... oh, my early 20's?  And I don't see it as an impairment - I'm just different.  But reading the article made me realize some other things.  It says that others with aphantasia also usually cannot recall sounds or smells or tastes or touches.  And that threw me for a loop, because I didn't know people could recall those things, too.  I can't.  Well, I can pull up songs in my head - that seems to be the exception to the rule.  But I can't call up someone's voice or remember their touch.  A particular smell does not initiate a sense memory taking me back to another time and place.

Something else I've realized.  While I don't see or hear or smell or feel when I remember someone, I do remember them in my own fashion.  This is hard to explain, as it is mostly just a 'sense' of that person.  But as I've been experimenting with my recall, and trying to pull up different people, it's made something else clearer.  My recall, even of that 'sense' of someone, is quite limited, and it fades.  For friends that I've known for a long time, even if I haven't seen them in a while, it remains fairly strong, but I can tell that it fades with time.

I'd noticed this previously.  I had wondered why, with old girlfriends, I couldn't really remember them.  Not just their faces or voices, but that 'sense'.  It's like they get erased.  I thought perhaps there was some emotional block that was doing that.  But now I think it's just the way my brain operates.

It also explains why I don't really miss people.  My brain simply doesn't pull up the necessary images or voices while they're gone.  What I do experience is that once I see them again, I get a feeling of, "oh, good!"  So, it's like I catch up once they're back.  In a way.

I'm remembering also the time that a guy stopped me on the street.  He clearly knew me, but I had no idea who he was.  And he was playfully not telling me.  He finally relented and told me his name, and only then did I realize that I really did know him.  Really.  As in, he was the husband of a friend of mine.  I'd hired him and we'd worked together for about six months.  And we'd even been on vacation together.  Seriously.  And yet I looked at him and had no clue.  Mind you, I can remember all of these facts, but looking at that face, my brain could not find the corresponding files.

So, it's a journey.  I'm still figuring out the ways in which I am weird.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Big Companies Pay No Taxes

We've probably all heard about how some big companies get away with paying no taxes.  I've wondered how this could be the case.  Well, now I know.  Last night, I had an international tax accountant in my car, and she explained it in fairly simple terms.

Say you've got Big Company X.  Big Company X is a huge, multi-billion dollar company that does business all over the world.  But they're an American business, so how come they don't cough up their fair share?

OK, but Big Company X is made up of many subsidiary companies:

And those subsidiary companies are in other countries, like India, Singapore, China and the U.K.  Each of those companies pays taxes in the country where they reside.  So, it's not that they're not paying taxes - they're just not paying it to the U.S.

And there are laws on the books in the U.S. and in other countries to prevent corporations from being double taxed.  Because if a company had to pay huge taxes in every country where they did business, then it wouldn't be worth doing business at all.

Still, surely the main company has income and should pay taxes in the U.S., right?  Well, there's something called the Foreign Tax Credit, and it relates to this double taxation thing.  Sometimes these subsidiary companies do end up getting taxed by both the U.S. and a foreign country.  And in that case, that double taxation is offset to some degree by the Foreign Tax Credit.  But what Big Company X will do is instruct their subsidiaries to pass that credit up to them (which they can do), and use it against the taxes that just the Big Company X headquarters owes.  Which is how Big Company X avoids paying taxes to the U.S. while diverting that tax burden to their subsidiaries.

The other piece of the puzzle is this.  Why do these big companies have subsidiaries all over the world?  Because the U.S. has a tax rate of 34%, higher than almost any other country.  By contrast, the worldwide average is 22.9%.  If the U.S. were to lower the corporate tax rate to 20% or even 10%, it would encourage businesses to set up shop here instead of in other countries, and then they would pay their taxes here instead of there.

Now, the woman I talking to was a little tipsy, so you can take this all with a grain of salt, and my apologies if I've gotten anything wrong here.  But she was clearly a smart cookie.  And I was amused that she professed herself to be a strong liberal, but on this issue she believes a very Republican argument can be made.

So the next time you hear that big corporations don't pay taxes, you'll know that's not true.  They do pay taxes, just not to the U.S.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Rules for Time Travel

1. Players choose a token and place it on the board.  All players start in the present.  Tokens to choose from include a Delorian, a phone booth, a police box, a hot tub and the Starship Enterprise.

2. Players start the game with two Event cards.  If you have less than two Event cards at the start of your turn, draw up to two.  Event cards can be played at any time, as long as they are appropriate to the time period.  For example, if you are 26 years in the future, you could play 'Learn the Outcomes of Sporting Events' card.  You could not, however kill your own grandfather, because he died three years before you were born.

3. Players take turns rolling dice and travelling through time.  To do this, the player rolls two dice.  They may then move up to the number shown, in years, into the past or the future.  Note that wormholes are free and do not use up any of of your time travel allotment.

4. Players may forego their roll and choose instead to explore the time period they are in.  Some types of exploration are Meeting Famous Historical Characters, Going Native, or Changing the Timeline.  If your time machine is broken, then your only option will be to explore the time period until you have repaired your time machine.  This can be done by 'borrowing' a locomotive, obtaining plutonium or getting advice from a 70's sitcom character actor.

5. At the end of each player's turn, they should draw a card from the Temporal Anomaly deck.  These are special events, both good and bad, that affect all players.  Simply read the instructions aloud for all to hear.  You may find yourself falling in love with someone from another era or playing the game over and over for all eternity.

6. Alternate Timelines.  If you change an event in the past, players in the present or future may be affected.  If so, they must place their tokens on their sides until the timeline is repaired.  The players themselves may find their bodies becoming insubstantial.  If a player is unable to roll the dice or move their token, they are eliminated from the game.

7. Fixing the Timeline.  To fix something that has gone wrong, check the Event card in question.  It will indicate what needs to be done and the level of difficulty, 1-12.  For example, if you've killed your father and are in danger of ceasing to exist, you can attempt to sleep with your mother, which has a difficulty rating of 8.  Roll two dice and get a score of 8 or better to succeed.

8. Paradoxes.  In the event of a Paradox, the universe collapses in on itself.  Everyone loses.

9. To win the game, a player will need to successfully insert themselves into past events in such a way that all players remember it having happened already and don't understand why the game even needs to be played.