We have to help ourselves. We just do.

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Mornin’ all.

This is going to be a quick one free from jokes. I actually just want people to think about it.

A dishonorably discharged former soldier dressed himself all up in tactical gear and went into a Texas church during their services. He did what anyone given these basic facts would expect him to do. Twenty-six people are now dead.

Thankfully, he’s dead, too.

The top trending hashtags and posts on social media are variations of “PrayersForTexas.”

This is a serious question. I’m not trying to be an asshole or be sarcastic. This is an honest question from one human being struggling to understand the world to another:

What are prayers supposed to do?

A man who was clearly psychotic already shot up people who were praying. They’re already dead. The worst has already happened to them. Their fates have already been sealed. What are prayers going to do for them now?

Are the prayers for the benefit of those left in the wake? The family members who have to deal with the horror? The people in that church who didn’t die will have the gut-wrenching images replay in their heads for the rest of their lives. They will watch their friends and loved ones die over and over and over in their memories every single day from here on out. What are “prayers” going to do for them, either?

If there is a god, he allowed someone to kill a house full of folks gathered for the sole purpose of praising him. These were his own people. These were the believers. Surely an all powerful, all knowing, all loving god could have easily stopped the series of events at any point along the way before any blood was shed.

Yet, the tragedy was not stopped.

What we’re left with then is a situation where if there is a god, he couldn’t help, or simply wouldn’t. Twenty-six people are dead. They’re gone. And they were taken in such a way that hundreds of lives are now utterly shattered. No god stopped it. No god prevented this from happening. No god intervened. And no god is going to help moving forward.

You know who could have stopped this?

Us.

Look, we have a serious mental health issue in this country, compounded by the easy access to mass murder tools. Every time something like this happens, it just highlights the fact that we’re doing fuck all about it. Maybe instead of praying and then going about our lives as if we’ve done something, we should ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING. I know it’s hard. I know it will bring up many uncomfortable and difficult questions.

The shooter in this situation was a known threat. He had a long, well documented history of extreme violence. We can’t just say “oh, we never expected him to do something like this.” Folks DID know. And they allowed him far more freedoms than he should have been allowed given his history.

What’s the quote? Something like…the freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose. We’re so afraid of infringing on the rights of severely mentally unstable people that we’re endangering everyone else.

With good reason, I’ll grant you that. We used to be utterly terrible to the mentally ill. Until the 70s and 80s, mentally ill people were kept in, essentially, cages. It makes sense that in our deserved guilt over our own actions, we’ve gone too far the other way. In many cases, we’re putting their individual rights over the rights and safety of the rest of the community.

Folks, I’m not advocating for the horrible treatment the mentally ill suffered in the past. We CANNOT go back to that. I’m saying there IS a happy medium. There IS a way to structure our health system to treat criminally insane people with compassion while still keeping the world safe from them. I believe we CAN figure this out.

WE can.

Us.

The ones we know for certain are actually here in this world, and who do, in fact, have the power to make things better.

This is not an anti-god rant. There very well may be a god. I don’t know. But he’s not here, right? He wasn’t there in that church. Of, if he was, he certainly didn’t stop shit from going down. If he was there, he was willing to let things play out as they would.

Maybe that’s the nature of any god that exists. Maybe there is a god, but he wants to just observe how we handle life.

Or maybe there’s no god at all.

Either way, the message is clear. We have to help ourselves. Even if you believe in god, our terrible history of mass murders HAS to be a wake up call that prayer is not going to fix things.

“Prayer gives me comfort.”

Then pray. If you want to pray, pray.

But don’t stop at the praying. It is not enough.

Say your prayer, then use that strengthened feeling you get as your motivation to make the changes we need. Vote for people who are pushing for mental health reform. Support hospitals that are researching new ways to identify and assist those on the edge. Speak up if you know someone is about to snap. Prove to those suffering in the wake of this horror show in Texas that you feel their pain, and you’re willing to dig in and help make sure this stops happening.

And for humanity’s sake, donate to make sure those poor people in Texas get the support and mental health services they need to heal. I cannot imagine life in their shoes right now. They are going to need all the help they can get. You can donate here:

https://www.gofundme.com/SutherlandSprings

This page has been verified as legitimate by GoFundMe, and all of the proceeds will go directly to the families in crisis.

#WeCanFigureThisOut #MentalHealthReformForTexas

Thus concludes my Musing for Monday, November 6, 2017. Think about it. Please. We need to.

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What we need here is a plan…

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*cringes at squeal of office chair’s rusty wheels*

*picks cobwebs off monitor*

*blows dust out of keyboard*

Mornin’ all.

My day started with a dead body.

My cat got another mouse. She’s a very good mouser, and for some reason, she’s had a ton of opportunity to hone her skills already this year. I don’t think mice have much of a feel for real estate. It’s all about location, location, location, and the mice in this housing development did not consider the fact that we have a cat, and our co-duplexer has three. There are four friggin’ cats in this one little building.

Mice. Not the brightest animals in the natural world.

Anyway, I came down the stairs and the mouse was placed at the bottom, right where I’d step on it if I wasn’t already cautious from the last time I stepped on a cold, dead mouse with my bare feet. Kitty the Ripper was sitting next to the door. See, she knows I throw the corpses outside. She sat there and gave me a look, daring me to try and toss the body of her victim into the overcrowded graveyard known as the Back Bushes.

It got intense for a minute there, I’m not going to lie. She looked very proud of herself, too…until my man walked over and picked her up, nullifying an entire night’s plan with one swoop.

Never brag until you’re sure a giant isn’t going to come along and put you in your place. Just a life lesson for ya.

It’s Halloween today, and for the first time in almost 20 years, I’m not taking anyone trick-or-treating. Little Pup decided he doesn’t want to do it anymore. He said, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to sit on the couch with my own sack of candy and not be competition for the little kids.” I made certain he was sure of this decision. Honestly, I think I wanted him to go last year far more than he wanted to.

No more trick-or-treaters. *sniff*

I’m thinking of getting a bunch of candy and stashing it around the house with riddles as clues that he’ll have to solve to get the bounty. I don’t know. Is that still childish? Will he feel like I’m still babying him? It’s hard for me to tell. I am extremely immature. Surely even the youngest in the group has clued into that fact by now and will expect nothing less. Hm. I’ll consider through the day.

Guess what finally happened to me? I got called to jury duty!

“Bethie, you sound excited.”

I am!

“But…it’s…jury duty.”

Look, I’m 39. I’ve never been called to jury duty before, and, frankly, I *am* excited! I am dying to know what it’s really like.

“It’s boring as shit. That’s what it’s like.”

Maybe. But even that’s a story, right?

The timing is putting a bit of a cramp on my jubilee, though. We have a clusterfuck in the bakery at the moment, and we’re losing a key member of our team the week before I head to the hallowed halls of justice. And it’s right before Thanksgiving, the number one busiest week for a bakery. Any other week of the year, I’d be crossing my fingers that I’d be picked for a full trial. I’d love to participate completely in the justice process, I really would.

Stop rolling your eyes. I’m not kidding. It’s one of the processes in this nation that makes us great, and I’d honestly like to be part of something so important. And I will, too. If I’m selected, I’ll do my best to give my full attention to the trial. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t torn by the pressures of the other parts of my life.

Speaking of the other parts of my life, at work the other day, this coworker was a total…

………

“…you okay, Bethie? Stroking out over there? Did the swill you call coffee finally get to you? Do I need to call someone?”

I just remembered I have a stalker. A work stalker, who reads this blog as a lurker. Hi, Lurker. I guess I can’t really shit talk the folks I work with if one of them is creeping.

See, I suck at self promotion. I mean, I’m utter SHIT at it. What I *should* do is tell all my coworkers about not only this blog, but my books, too. You know. Make some sales. I should hand out flyers. Or…business cards? Do people still use those?

Bah, you get the gist. I should be yappin’ my trap about all of it in an effort to create a movement. Or something.

I just want to keep work separate. Does that make sense? I want to be able to come onto the internet and blab and blah and bitch and moan and be as stupid and immature as I want and not see a knowing look in my coworkers’ eyes after I do so.

“Then maybe you should have written under a pseudonym.”

That would have taken a level of foresight that I just don’t possess. Look at my life. Does it seem like I have ever demonstrated the ability to apply careful consideration to anything?? HMMM?!?!?

Besides, I’m not ashamed of anything I write. I’m not. I just want to go to work and make cakes and be bossy in real life, and keep that separate from being on the internet, where I talk about making cakes and being bossy. Makes perfect sense to me.

Maybe I could talk about my coworkers in a way that won’t betray their identities? Let’s give it a go.

Yesterday at work, I was trying to…uh…get coworker X to learn to make…um…stuff…

Shit. This isn’t going to work, guys. It’s a small department. Anything I say would be enough info for the Lurker to put two and two together.

The thing is, this story is more about me than the coworker, really. Okay, I think I’ll just go with this.

Yesterday at work, I lost my patience. I’ll talk a big game and vent here, but in real life, I’ve gotten to where it’s actually quite difficult to get me truly angry. Raising a passel of kids will do that.

…well, that or break you. You either learn patience, or you go insane. Since I already was insane, I learned patience. I will let it all heap up on me and, for the most part, I take life’s shit in stride.

Once in awhile, though, the wrong personality comes along and just presses the right button. And that happened yesterday at work. I’m not at all happy about it. I generally keep my cool way past the point where everyone else has blown their tops.

It was excuses instead of acknowledgment. That’s what did it. I was attempting to show someone a task, they didn’t listen, then spent an hour asking me for instructions every step of the way…on a task they’d already done four times before. It’s not like I was showing this person something for the first time. They just didn’t pay attention, or didn’t care enough to try. The final straw was when I noticed they missed out on a crucial part and asked them if they had done it. “Yep,” they insisted.

“Nope” was the correct answer.

I prodded. “Are you sure?”

“Yep.”

I was looking at the thing that was not done. I said point blank, “So you put *blah* into the *yadda*?”

“Yes.”

I picked up the *blah* that was not, in fact, added to the *yadda*. Instead of a “Whoopsie, my b,” they actually said, “Oh, you didn’t say to put the *blah* into the *yadda*.”

That was it, folks. That was the point of Bethie getting legitimately pissed at a coworker. They had wasted not only their hour, but mine as well. And instead of just owning the mistake, tried to put it on me.

I. Hate. That.

Look, if you screw up, that’s called being human. EVERYONE DOES IT. Acknowledge the error, take responsibility, examine where you turned left instead of right, then do your best not to repeat the mistake. However, if you screw up and then blame someone else, that’s called being an asshole. If you don’t take the time to recognize where you’re screwing up, you will continue to screw up. You will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. You will not grow as a person. You will always be that coworker that pisses everyone else off.

I have today off. I am forming a plan for tomorrow. I have to adjust MY attitude now, because I am not at all happy that I got angry. That doesn’t do any good, either, especially since when I’m angry, I pretty much just shut down. I’m supposed to be teaching this person, and I can’t do that when I let my emotions get the best of me.

I’ve got to namaste the hell out of this shit.

So today when I clean the house, I need to decide how immature I’m being for Halloween shenanigans with the Little Pup, while simultaneously mulling over how I am going to go about being more mature at work tomorrow.

I had a dream about opening a specialty roast shop last night. Like, a store that just sells fancy meat roasts. Beef, pork, goose… My man was the delivery guy. We had a planning session on how to meet demand for Thanksgiving.

NO JOKE. Straight up, that was what I dreamt about last night. In painstaking detail.

Now, does this seem like the kind of mind that can balance these two conundrums in the same day?

Guess we’ll find out.

Thus concludes a musing for Halloween ’17. Everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Can’t we all just get along?

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Mornin’ all.

I’m in a weird mood this week.

Maybe it’s the weather. We finally got a couple autumny days, real pot roast and crochet-project stuff. I was just getting to enjoy fall when it done went an turned hot again. I’m sure I’ll look back on this in a few months when I’m shivering under four sweaters and two pairs of socks while the winter wind howls against my uninsulated walls and think myself foolish for actually wanting cooler weather. But right now, it’s very weird to be looking at the pretty foliage in a t-shirt and shorts.

Maybe it’s the week I just had at work that’s got me in a bizarre frame of mind. It wasn’t particularly trying or hard, but there was definitely an insidious vibe that has carried over. Yesterday I had to write “Jazzy-Wazzy” on a cake.

*decorator’s note: If you happen to be the person that ordered that particular cake, thanks for the business and I hope you liked it! *insert required corporate thumbs up and shiny toothed smile*

I just don’t know what caused the funky mood. But, I’mma run with it. Something happened this week that I hope flew under the radar. Now that it’s passed, I don’t risk accidentally making it a bigger thing by discussing it.

Did you know that on October 5, the “activist” group Focus on the Family promoted a national event? “Bring Your Bible To School Day.”

What an infuriating idea on every conceivable level.

Now, as you all know, I am not religious. I was as a child, then took a long journey of investigation and discovery as an adult until I felt comfortable admitting that I’m not religious. I’ll go one step further and say it so there’s zero ambiguity: I’m an atheist. I love studying religions, and have not found a single one that’s shown me evidence that it is correct and that any particular god exists.

That doesn’t mean I’m angry at any concept of god. That doesn’t mean I secretly work for satan…I don’t hold any belief that he’s real, either. I have read the Bible and Quran, looked at Greek and Roman mythologies, and am currently admittedly struggling to get a real understanding of the Bhagavad Gita (so far, this one’s the most difficult for me to understand…not the translation, but the actual MEANING. I think it’s either because it’s so old, or simply that it’s based in such a different culture and I’m just not picking up the proper context…still a neat read, though, even if I feel like I’m pinballing my way through it. Its garden of Eden story is so much more badass than the Christian version I’ve known since early childhood.). I’ve looked at the core tenets of the LDS, Watchtower, scientology, and many fascinating cults.

I mean it when I say I love studying religions.

I love the tales, but I don’t believe them. I haven’t found anything that provides actual provable facts. A book cannot prove itself. The words inside are not true simply because the book tells you they are. And real truth is evident and demonstrable regardless of feelings.

Does that mean I think there absolutely is no god?

No. Of course not. There very well could be a god. Or gods. Or a collective consciousness. Or a prime mover from another universe who sneezed and kicked off the big bang. Or any number of possibilities.

“Then you’re an agnostic, Bethie, not an atheist.”

All agnostics ARE atheists. The waters get muddied when you try and differentiate to save hurt feelings. An agnostic does not hold a belief in a god or gods. An atheist does not hold a belief in a god or gods. All “agnostics” are atheists.

“No, and atheist is against god.”

No. You’re wrong. An ANTItheist is against the concept of a god or gods. They assert that not only is there absolutely no god or gods, but the very idea that there could be is harmful and should be abolished.

IMO, it’s an equally wrong position to hold. An antitheist is also claiming to know something for certain that they cannot demonstrate or prove.

How did we get here? I don’t know. And I’m okay admitting that.

What I’m not comfortable saying is that because I don’t know, because I lack the knowledge and ability to sort through the evidence and come up with the right answer, it must have been a god. It would be dishonest of me to say, “I can’t think of the solution personally, so it MUST be something or someone supernatural.”

I don’t know. Not knowing leads to a desire TO know, a drive to continue to gather evidence and sort it out in the hopes that maybe one day, there will be a concrete answer. To investigate all possibilities instead of shutting the door before you even start. If that leads to a god in any sense of the word, awesome! We’ve got our answer and can proceed to figure out the next great question. If that leads to more natural origins, awesome! We’ve got our answer and can proceed to figure out the next great question.

Here’s the thing, guys: It’s okay to not know something.

I know it goes against our nature. We’re curious critters. It’s why we’re so advanced on the evolutionary path. The discomfort we feel at not knowing something is what drives us as a species to make ourselves better.

But it really is okay to admit when you don’t know something. I promise. In fact, that’s often the only honest answer. I don’t know. Feels icky at first, but not as icky as pretending to know and not actually working towards finding the real answer to the question.

Now that the scene has been set for ya, back to Bring Your Bible to School Day.

I heard about it in a YouTube ad, and was like, “No way that’s real.” I clicked the link knowing full well I’d be bombarded by targeted religious ads. I took the hit, folks. I did it for you.

The link brought me to a very professional website explaining all the ins and outs of the event. To be clear, Focus on the Family was not promoting kids who attend religious schools or private schools to bring their bibles into school. They were saying that ALL kids should bring their bibles to ALL schools, religious and secular alike. They encouraged the children to share their bibles during recess and before and after school. They had downloadable signs the kids could put up, promotional flyers they could fill in with details on where to meet that the children were encouraged to hang around the school. There were ideas for conversation starters that kids of all ages could use for their age group, all the way down to kindergarten. And since they know the line of legality in this situation is very thin, they also included the limit for children, teachers, and parents…what they can and cannot do by law.

I’m less concerned with “can and can’t” than I am with “should and shouldn’t.”

Look. I get that if you’re religious, if you truly hold your beliefs dear, you have a desire to share those beliefs with everyone. I get that you feel like you’ve got the answers, and you want everyone else to have the same answer. But public schools have been set up as secular institutions for a reason.

I flirted with the idea of changing the story slightly to highlight my point. I was going to say that Family First promoted a Bring Your Quran to School Day. But, I really do think more of you all than that. If you haven’t already drawn the lines between the two concepts, then this is probably not the blog for you.

I don’t want ANYONE pushing their religion on my child when I send him off to school. I want him to learn math and reading. I want him to learn about science, and the scientific method. I want him to learn to play his saxophone and have fun on the playground at recess.

If I wanted my child to learn about religion, I’d send him to a religious school. That’s my choice as his parent. Just as it may be your choice as a parent to teach Christianity to your child instead of the tenants of Islam. Or Buddhism. Or Hinduism. Or any of the other hundreds of religions that are currently practiced.

Or atheism.

I pay taxes. My neighbor pays taxes. We send our kids to the same public school. I know for a fact our religious beliefs are incredibly different. Do you think she wants my kid to say to hers that there is no proof for god?

We have a great public school system. Yes, it’s flawed. But it’s still great. And the thing that makes it great is that it’s a melting pot that is set up to respect a differentiation between secular learning and personal beliefs. It’s designed to allow everyone to have the opportunity to the same basic education regardless of their religion. Even in this tiny town of mine, children from at least four major religions attend the same elementary school; more if you actually break down the general label of Christianity to all the different sects represented by the student body. Why should the tax dollars of a Christian mean more than the tax dollars of a Jew?

I’m not even talking about the horror I personally feel at the thought of having a five year old child proselytize to other five year old children, as if any of them can actually know what they’re saying and the meaning behind the words they’ve been taught at that age. For me, on a personal level, that idea is repugnant. That’s the very foundation of indoctrination.

But even if you’re okay with talking your child into trying to convince other children your religion is correct, I know for a fact you’re NOT okay with the other children doing the same to yours. And that’s the line, folks. That line should be clear to everyone.

We send our kids to public school to learn secular subjects. We send our kids to the church of our choice, or, in my case, no church at all, to learn any spiritual subjects. And the moment you confuse the two, you’re in the wrong. If you don’t want a child trying to indoctrinate your kid into their “wrong” religion, then you can’t be okay with your child doing the same, no matter how right you feel your answers are.

Thus concludes a Musing for what was supposed to be a lovely day but has turned into a humid, cloudy, windstorm, October 8, 2017. I think I’ll take this odd mood around town and try to get pics of foliage before it all blows away.

I wish I could learn the binary sequence for upgrading my coffee making skills…

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Mornin’ all.

I had to take Teen Prime into work for 5 am today. We had an epic jam session in the car (some old school Green Day) while zipping through fog so thick it had a taste. I dropped him off, then solo jammed my way home and almost hit a bobcat on the back road I take to avoid the damned rotary.

Almost hitting a bobcat in the middle of some of the thickest fog I’ve ever driven through while singing “Basket Case” at 5:03 am in 70 degree weather at the end of September left me with an odd feeling.

You ever have a moment where you’re absolutely certain the programming glitched?

“Oh no, Bethie. Not this Matrix bullshit.”

Here’s your uncomfortable thought for the day:

There is absolutely no way for us to ever be certain that we are not just a computer simulation. Any test we could devise to determine if we are more than careful programming would fall within the parameters of the coding. Everything we see, feel, think, touch, taste, hear…it could all be an advanced computer sim and we would never ever know. Ever.

And it’s deeper than the Matrix theory. At least in the movies, the people hooked up to the machines which fed them their “reality” actually had physical bodies. There was always a chance that the human body would reject the machine, that they could break free. But if we are actually coding, if we’re just a simulation, then we don’t HAVE human bodies. We don’t have anything but carefully constructed sequences of ones and zeroes. Our “bodies” absolutely CANNOT reject the coding. There would be no way at all for us to break free.

If we are a computer simulation, we will never, ever know it.

Mull THAT one over.

*sips coffee*

“Bethie, you’re in a weird mood this morning.”

I am. It’s been a weird morning so far. It wasn’t just the car ride. When I got up, I noticed that my cat had dragged an empty soda box out of the recycling and had it set up by her food to lounge on. She got more plastic bags out of the cupboard (she has a thing for plastic bags…I don’t judge) and they are over and around the food and the box.

Guys. In the night, my cat decorated. She set up a sofa and has displayed her plastic bags. She made herself a freakin’ living room. Of COURSE I’m in a weird mood.

We should all be in a weird mood. Life is very weird in general at the moment, isn’t it? It was 88 degrees yesterday at the end of September. Supposed to be hot again today. It’s hotter right now than almost any day we had during the summer. I’ve got pumpkin spice everything at the bakery and no one wants it because who the hell wants pumpkin spice when it’s 88 degrees?? We should be in sweaters rolling our eyes at the leaf peepers up from Connecticut while we pretend to like our pumpkin spice coffees in an effort to drown out the internal panic at the thought of the impending winter.

I’ll happily take the heat wave, though. I’m only mildly bitching for comedic purposes. It’s absolutely nothing like the poor folks dealing with the earth’s other problems at the moment. Hurricanes and earth quakes and wild fires and floods… I cannot imagine the absolute horror they’re dealing with in Puerto Rico, St. Martin, Barbuda, Texas, Florida, Mexico… The earth is a hot mess right now.

Should we even bother to talk about politics? The term “shit show” doesn’t even come close to describing the current state of affairs. Trump is an even worse pres than I thought he’d be. He taunts an insane nuke-wielding despot one day, then turns around and berates American citizens for exercising their right to peacefully protest the next. Which do you think he put more emphasis on? It’s disgusting.

We’re not alone, though. Everyone seems to be losing their damn minds. If you follow international politics at all, you will never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. If Trump doesn’t start WWIII, someone else will.

Maybe our programming got a virus and is attempting to revert to factory settings?

Trump should shut up. Plain and simple. Shut the hell up. Let Americans peacefully protest whenever the hell they feel like it because THAT is what the soldiers ACTUALLY fought and died for. Stop taunting an insane child with nuclear toys. Stop threatening members of the House and Senate if they don’t vote your way.

Just.

Shut.

Up.

We should start taking care of the earth. It’s the only rock that’ll support our fragile asses and we should probably do more to keep our house clean.

We should stop politicizing natural disasters and just help. That’s it. Just help the people who need help. Don’t do it for Facebook likes, or to make your corporation look good, or get a tax write off. Don’t make it about immigration when you offer to house those who have lost every single thing they had. Don’t campaign on the backs of people who are at the lowest point in their lives. Just help. Take the enormous resources we have as a nation and help for no other reason than it being the right and just thing to do. Help. As simple as that.

Look, folks. Even if this is all just a simulation, it’s our shared reality, the only one we know, and our actions clearly have an effect. Even if we’re programmed, we’re programmed in such a way that the things we do and say make a difference, good or bad. Don’t you want whatever reality you experience to be as good as possible?

Gah. I don’t want to be in a doomy gloomy mood. I want to enjoy my day off. I want to have to remind myself not to throw the ridiculously priced Switch controller while I try to work my way through Breath of the Wild. I want to chill and relax and make the most of a lazy day.

Like this:

zelda

See? I wasn’t kidding. She set herself up some furniture. She’s surrounded herself with her favorite things. You can’t tell in the photo, because I didn’t dare disturb Her Majesty when she’s relaxing on her throne, but under the bags she’s placed a rubber band, a penny, and two bread ties, her favorite things to play with. No matter what else is going on around her, she has created for herself a calming, relaxing life.

I want to be like kitty. We should all be like kitty. Will it help in the long run? No. But it gives us a good break so we can regroup in the meantime.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Tuesday, September 26, 2017. I’ve charged the controller and pointed the a/c at the couch. Bring it, Calamity Ganon.

You can’t say it’s NOT a cosmic record of the Millennium Falcon’s thrusters…

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Mornin’ all.

I wasn’t going to write anything today.

“So, just like every day then?”

Har har. It’s been summer. You know I goof off in the summer.

No, I want to write. I want to get this puppy back on track. But I had bad sleep last night filled with self abusive thoughts and useless “what if” scenarios that wouldn’t quit. I absolutely hate the “what if” game. It serves no purpose whatsoever. “What if” has no bearing on what actually is.

Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand the evolutionary boon of having a mind that is able to think about a situation after the fact and learn from it. I suppose the feelings of regret just go hand in hand. However, I can’t help but wonder at our minds’ proclivity to take on guilt over the actions of others in the situation. I fail to see any evolutionary benefit in that. Why does my mind want me to be responsible for not only my actions, but the actions of other people?

“It’s cus you’re bossy, Bethie.”

…fair enough.

Let’s change the subject. Today is dumb, tomorrow will be better.

Why are people so vehemently opposed to aliens?

I’m sitting here reading an article about a newly discovered series of radio waves that originated from somewhere within a distant galaxy. The signals zipped and zinged their way across three billion light years to reach us.

Hang on. Just take a second to think about and appreciate that part of the discovery. These FRBs (fast radio bursts) originated from a point of space and time that was three billion light years away. Three BILLION light years, and the blips actually reached us. Nothing got in the way. These puppies didn’t bounce off another planet or splatter against an asteroid.

“Bethie, radio waves don’t ‘splatter’.”

Well these ones certainly didn’t!

Detecting radio waves in itself isn’t unusual. There’s a whole lot going on in that “nothing” we call space. Many cosmic occurrences create radio waves. However, these ones, dubbed FRB 121102 (I want that on a t-shirt it’s so catchy), are so cool because they repeated. We have, for the first time, recorded a duplicate set of radio waves.

Wait. That’s underselling it. We did not find a “duplicate” set. We got a set fifteen of them. Fifteen bursts that match in frequency, length, and trajectory.

I cannot stress enough how exciting this is!! We’ve never found anything like this cosmic metronome. Something made these, something that created at least fifteen identical radio bursts. Theories are running wild at the moment, of course. Could they be star farts? A bout of cosmic indigestion? Seems a bit unlikely to me that there would be fifteen identical bursts, or that they’d all be on the exact same trajectory. Nothing in our observable model naturally creates identical radio waves. Could it be concussion ripples from a cosmic collision? Alliteration aside, that also seems unlikely to me. The size of a ripple is an exponentially expanding event from one to the next. I wouldn’t expect anything about them to be identical if they are, indeed, collision shock waves. Again, though, this is from knowledge gathered in our very small observable model. Maybe these things can and do occur in other parts of the universe, areas that operate under different physical properties. Because of that, we cannot rule them out.

Nor can we rule out aliens.

Here, in our tiny little corner of the universe, the only things that we have found can create anything identical are mechanical, not natural. A cell does not replicate exactly. “Identical twins” aren’t really. Our own star certainly hasn’t shown anything close to perfectly duplicated expulsions of energy. Close, but not identical.

And maybe these signals aren’t actually identical, either. Our equipment is pretty friggin cool, but it’s not perfect. We’re always refining and honing. Perhaps some day, someone will look at these recordings with much more advanced and precise equipment and say, “Well, shit, Bob, we’ve been thinking they peak at seven gigahertz when really it’s 6.982354 for this puppy, and 6.983451 for that one. How could ancient man possibly think these were identical?!”

I think, though, that if that day does come, we’ll also be able to look at our recordings of mechanical equipment of this era and find slight differences as well.

The point isn’t what we’re going to be able to glean from the advanced equipment of the future. We don’t need future tech to compare all that we’ve discovered with THIS technology. Just like a doc says, “Yep, these twins look identical to me,” we can say, “Yep, these bursts look identical to us, and that’s something we’ve never seen before.” We are comparing these fifteen bursts against all data we have investigated with the same equipment.

Of course the theory has been put forth that it could be a sign of aliens. And just as quickly, scientists have rushed to Twitter to be naysaying haters.

I get it on one level. I get that they don’t want America’s sci-fi history of little green men tainting a legitimately thrilling discovery. Aliens or not, this is some epically cool shit to find.

But I really think in the scientists’ desire to legitimize their findings, they’re discounting the things that make people want to know more. Excitement. Intrigue. Imagination.

Could these bursts be from a flatulent star? Sure. They could also be a product of a machine, a manufactured object that is designed with enough precision to create identical FRBs.

These two options are equal on the plane of possibility at this point in time with the knowledge we have. In fact, once human logic is applied, the alien life form theory edges out a natural occurrence given what we know about how things work in our corner of the universe.

“Oh shit. You’ve got your tin foil hat on again.”

Of course I don’t. Why would I?

Look, I’m not at all saying that little green men are going to invade. I’m not even saying that they have already visited our planet. I find that idea highly unlikely. I find the stories of alien abductions interesting to read, but lacking in any scientific evidence at all. Campfire ghost stories of entertainment, nothing more.

But one of my big pet peeves in science is the scientists who close the door on a reasonable possibility, especially with no evidence at all beyond “we found this thing that came from that point in time and space.”

There are billions of solar systems in our universe. Billions. Why would we think that it’s impossible for one of them to also have advanced life?

That said, let’s look at the facts of this particular finding. These signals are from three billion light years away. What are the odds that any civilization that may have manufactured something that created these signals is still alive? “Very slim” would be an understatement.

It’s also extremely vexing that we may never have an answer. What we need to get an answer is more data. We need to find other sets of identical FRBs, and those don’t seem to be clamoring to be discovered. This is the one and only set we have. Maybe we’ll get enough data just from these to advance a reasonable theory, but unless we can find more, it’s not looking too good right now for definitive answers.

So where are we at with this? We have a cool group of never-before-observed radio bursts that originated three billion light years away that may or may not have occurred naturally. We cannot discount anything at this point, as literally nothing is known about the cause of these bursts. The scientists cannot say the signal was not created by alien life.

My theory holds just as much water as their cosmic gastronomy concept, whether they like it or not.

And that is definitely a thought that can get me through today.

Thus concludes a musing for Friday, September 1, 2017. I’m off to face the start of pumpkin spice season at work. Pumpkin donuts. Pumpkin cakes. Pumpkin cream topped pumpkin pie.*shudder* Someone send help.

*eyes can opener* *eyes can of worms*

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Mornin’ all.

It’s been awhile. What can I say? It’s summer, and the brain’s been on cruise control.

…actually, that’s not really true. While it is summer, and my mind has been on a sort of break, it’s less like easing down the open road on a lazy sunshiny afternoon and more like a perpetual day at an amusement park. I’m stuck on The Whiz Bang, the world’s most insane internal roller coaster that zips and zings, full of twists and turns and untamable racing thoughts.

I’d like to coast right now. Truly I would.

So I turned to the internet to zone out and relax.

“Oh Bethie you fool.”

You’re not wrong.

I know everybody is weighing in on the latest Twittery from the Oval Office, and I generally do a pretty good job of keeping my 2 cents about the dude to myself. I overall think he’s an ass. I hate that he’s in that office. But I really thought he was simply a Donaldist…just in it for himself, damn the consequences. Until now.

I’m talking, of course, about the horrible incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Donald Trump’s reaction. To recap for the couple of people who live in a deep dark cave and haven’t heard about any of this, modern Nazis held a rally over the weekend to protest the removal of statues honoring famous Confederate figureheads.

That was the claim. That was the very loose reasoning for a Nazi rally.

“Alt-right, Bethie.”

Nazis. That’s what they are. They proudly wear the swastikas. They quote Hitler. They throw sieg heils around like parade candy. They openly and unabashedly hate: black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, native peoples, Muslims, Jews, and anyone who has anything at all to do with the LGBT community. The signs they were waving during their Nazi hate rally targeted all of these groups and more. The ONE thing they said that was correct was that Hitler would be proud.

THEY. ARE. NAZIS. And when you try to politically correct the hell out of their group, it weakens the sentiment and the meaning behind their actions and makes it palatable for the average Joe.

It should not be softened. It should not be palatable. If you throw a sieg heil, you’re a NAZI. If you wave a banner with a swastika on it, you’re a NAZI. If you feel a swelling in your breast when you think of Hitler, YOU. ARE. A. NAZI.

I hold this truth to be self-evident. I honestly do not understand anyone who doesn’t.

*deep breath*

Okay. I didn’t want to come on here just to call a racist spade a racist spade. There is a whole lot of confusion stemming from this event and around the issue in general. Trump did say that some people were there not to hate, but to legally protest the removal of Confederate shrines. While the organizers of the event were not at all there for that purpose, I actually think there were some regular folks caught up in the “let’s preserve our history” rhetoric who meant no harm.

Because that’s what happens, folks. That’s how these horrible organizations grow. Not with the hate and signs and anti-human chants…that only works on a few. It’s the reasonable sounding propaganda that actually gets people to stop and listen. It’s carefully spun words that open the door for the evangelists of evil. That’s the truly dangerous thing about hate groups. They know what to say to get you to listen and join.

The rally itself was billed as a protest over the “loss of history” in removing Confederate monuments, so let’s investigate that first.

This issue has been at the forefront for a couple years now. Do we remove the Confederate flag? Do we take down statues of Robert E. Lee? Do we eradicate these symbols of the past? Or will that erasure of a part of history damage the true narrative of our nation?

These aren’t light questions, and I can see why on the surface it could seem to some that by taking down these objects, it feels like we’re sugar coating a significant part of the Story of U.S. If you’re on the fence, I get it. I do. If we don’t acknowledge the past, we’re doomed to repeat it.

But the most important part of acknowledgment is “knowledge,” and that’s seriously lacking in propaganda. Let’s inject a bit of knowledge into this old debate by looking at the most common reasons for leaving up these symbols of the Confederacy.

1) The Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about States Rights.

…yes, their right to keep slaves. What launched the war was a series of documents from the states who were seceding called Declaration of Causes of Seceding States (referred to by a number of titles depending on the issuing state), based off our own Declaration of Independence. The state representatives got together and drafted documents clearly stating their grievances and reasons for secession for five states: Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. All of the states listed issues surrounding slavery as the crux of the problem, whether it was the idea of the abolishment of slavery, the refusal of the federal government to apprehend people who harbored and assisted escaped slaves, or the impact any restrictions on the slave trade would have to local commerce.

If you’re looking for references, just Google it. And if you want a killer quote to throw at people who insist the “states rights” issue was NOT about slavery, here’s a gem from the reps of Mississippi. This is directly out of the document. This is what the Confederacy went to war over:

“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery- the greatest material interest of the world.”

I am not taking that out of context to make it sound worse than it is. That is how the document opens, and it gets worse once they line out specific examples of how the abolitionists had worked against the “institution of slavery”. These individual “offenses” include the government barring the import of slaves, refusing to uphold the Fugitive Slave Law which “has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain,” and probably the most egregious in their eyes, the government “advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.”

Guys. Come on. There is absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever. They went to war to keep their slaves. Period.

2) So? Lincoln himself was on the fence about slavery.

No. Lincoln personally was not. He argued that owning slaves was immoral long before he was president. Once in office, politically he believed the Constitution gave the states the right to own slaves, and supported the House and Senate in their bid to change that part of the Constitution. You know, how things are actually SUPPOSED to happen. A president is not a king, and Lincoln tried to work within that system.

3) But it’s history. I’m a proud American, and honest enough to admit where we screwed up.

This. This is where I have a serious problem with the people pushing to keep Confederate shrines.

Let’s ignore all of the factors that led to secession. The Civil War happened, and we can all agree there were two parties: the Union and the Confederacy, right? The Union wanted to keep the United States whole, and the Confederacy wanted to leave.

How can you pretend to be a patriot while you support the public reverence of people who wanted to leave our nation??

It utterly baffles me. On that point alone, you’ve got no legitimate argument whatsoever. You need to take a step back and look at it in these bare bones terms. They didn’t want to be patriots. The majority was making laws of the land that they did not like, and they decided to leave. THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE PART OF THIS COUNTRY ANYMORE! So you calling yourself a proud patriot for preserving statues honoring them doesn’t really make any damn sense, does it?

Now, add all the shit back into the pot. I’m not talking about erasing history. I think erasing the past is very dangerous. But, there’s a difference between including the information in museums and education, and naming a school after a racist. One teaches about the history so we don’t lose perspective, and the other glorifies people who hated the idea of giving up their “right” to own as property so much that they wanted to leave the country.

One educates, one exalts. I don’t want a statue of Stalin on my town’s square. I don’t want to send my kid to Hitler Memorial High School. I would definitely have a problem with the North Korean flag being flown above the entrance to my town hall. Know thy enemy. Do not glorify him.

We’ve allowed the exaltation of these bigoted twats for far too long.

So that brings us to Trump.

He went on a ten minute tirade doubling down on support for the KKK and Nazis by equivocating the anti-Nazi protesters with the Nazis themselves. He said the Nazis have some “very good people” among their ranks. And somewhere in there, he said that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, so does that mean we should take down their statues?

This is how people still support Donald Trump. Because on the surface, that false equivocation sounds almost reasonable. And that’s what makes him dangerous.

Washington and Jefferson may have been shit people at heart (no idea, really…seems George may not have been too bad, but Jeffy was probably a schmuck on a personal level. Neither here nor there, and impossible to judge when modern thoughts and feelings are applied…), but that isn’t why they are given places of honor in history. They built something. THAT’S why they deserve monuments. They built the nation whose flag you proudly wave. Personal shit aside, they accomplished great things and they did it with the sole purpose of making a nation.

Robert E. Lee and the other reality stars of the Confederacy are ONLY glorified for their desire to keep owning slaves, a desire to see human beings as property so strong that it impelled them to drag people to war for it. They built nothing, they only worked to destroy. They were absolutely anti-American and do not, in any way, deserve monuments and reverence.

Take away the propaganda, and the issues become pretty damn clear.

Is a group telling you to hate people because of who they are? If the answer is yes, then they are Nazis and you need to distance yourself from them.

Did Confederate generals want to leave the United States? Yes, so you are being the exact OPPOSITE of a patriot if you want to honor them.

It’s not hard, and it seems to me if Trump would stop flapping his mayonnaise hole for a second, even he could reason this one out.

Thus concludes a pot-stirring Muse for Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Hey, at least the Nazi ass kissing takes so much time that Donny put a hold on his pissing contest with Kim Jong. That’s…something?

All that said, I bet I could still rock the hell out of turquoise studded fashion boots…

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Mornin’ all.

The other day after I got home from work and shed the constraints of corporate clothing to don my comfy around-the-house duds, I swore loudly when I went to pull out a new trash bag from the EMPTY BOX. *sigh* So, I got myself into public-appropriate uncomfy attire and crammed my tired, achy feet back into shoes so I could drive down to the store to pick up stuff I forgot to get before I left the store I worked at allllll day.

I hate that shit.

Anyway, I went, got the stupid trash bags and a couple other things my stupid ass forgot to pick up at the stupid store I worked at allllll stupid day. I was standing in line when a kid I knew from school walked in.

Now, we weren’t pals or anything, but I’ve mentioned before that my town is small. I had a graduating class of less than 30. The entire population of school children from kindergarten through seniors in high school was only around 400. I didn’t have to be friends with everyone to know who everyone was.

In school, the kid was one of the…hm. I don’t want to say “cool kids”, because that wasn’t it. He wasn’t the classic popular sportsy type. He was more “small town cool.” Into cars. Liked edgy music. Had a switchblade comb. Wore old heavy metal band t-shirts with the arms cut off to school picture day. You know, a real hometown rebel.

I can’t really tell this story without giving you an idea of my age. I graduated high school in 1996. It wasn’t exactly a few years ago. I think I can safely call those times “back in the day” now.

The dude walked in. He was still wearing an old heavy metal band t-shirt with the arms cut off. He still had the slicked back hair he no doubt styled with his switchblade comb. He had an earring, a dangly cross, and a chain necklace that was actual chain. He looked like he could have stepped right out of his yearbook photo.

…for the briefest of moments before my mind and eyes reconciled what I remembered with what was actually real, and I looked at him as he is now, not as he was 20 years ago.

Yes, he had all the trappings of teen rebellion still…with a pot belly. And a whole lot less hair to slick back. Half of what was left was graying. There were bags under his eyes that spoke of unpaid bills and kids who didn’t get home before curfew and the damn hot water heater that broke again.

He smiled and gave a nod. He was always friendly enough even if we weren’t friends. He stood in the line behind me to buy the same cigarettes he used to smoke, and then climbed into the same car he fixed up for himself in high school, an 80s Camaro-type rig that has now seen better days.

I sat there at the lights on the way back home and watched him peel out as soon as it turned green, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blaring from his stereo.

When I was in high school, there were a couple of guys in town who used to hang out at the now-defunct convenience store. Not the new fangled gas station that was brightly lit on the corner, but the one in the older, run down part of town. You know…about 100 feet away from the “good” part of town.

No, seriously. The section of main street we were not allowed to hang out in was honestly less than a block from the section we were allowed to hang around. Small town, remember? We have two traffic lights, folks. Two. That’s it. On one side of the street, you’ve got Town Hall, the library, and the police/fire station. On the other side of that very street, when I was a kid, you had the seedy part of town, where the people your folks did not want you to grow up and become liked to chill.

They were ON THE SAME STREET. Directly across from each other. One side good, one side bad. Left side for preppies and prudes, right side for scrubs and skanks.

I can’t stress enough how small my town is.

Anyway, there were a couple of guys well into their 30s who used to hang out in front of the wrong convenience store. They drove a late 70s Ford, a huge boat of a vehicle. They would stand up against their car in their 80s cut off sweatshirts and board shorts. You remember the cut off sweatshirts. They’d stand there and listen to their old music and flick their long, thinning, bleached hair back and nod at people who passed by like they still owned the world, never realizing that the world had moved on without them.

As I watched my former schoolmate peel out, I it hit me. I realized that he’s become one of Those Guys. One who never realized that they got older. Or that there’s a time and place for Def Leppard, and that time has passed. That dangly cross earrings and a switchblade comb sticking out of the back pocket of stone washed jeans is probably not the look that’s going to get you that promotion you want. That no muscle shirt in the world can make a pot belly look cool.

I’m old enough to be in the same boat as our town’s new That Guy.

Am I “that guy”, too?

I’d like to say no, but at the very moment he was blaring Def Leppard, I was playing The Little Mermaid soundtrack in my car. Soooo….

When the hell did this happen? When exactly was the torch passed? Why didn’t I get the memo?!

*sigh*

Of course, I suppose instead of being That Guy, folks my age could be saying “fam” and “bae” unironically. I know people who do that, too; embrace the new as if they’re young enough to actually get it and be part of the fresh and young generation. I suppose a man bun in thinning hair looks just as dumb as a pot belly in a muscle shirt.

Poll time: Which is sadder? Someone who can’t move on from the past, or someone who pretends to be from a younger generation?

Thus concludes a quick and slightly depressing Musing for Saturday, July 8, 2017. I’m going to try very hard not to blare “Under the Sea” on my way to work. What are people my age supposed to listen to? Sports radio? Country? NPR?