Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, January…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

We lived.

That’s the story of the day. We made it through Snowmageddon. In fact, here we didn’t actually get a lot of snow. Other places did, but we got less than a foot. Not really the record setter it could have been.

Still, it was bitter cold. I’m talking the kind of cold that punches you in the lung and freezes the lone tear you cry at the unfairness of it all. If you’ve never been in cold that was quite that cold, don’t get smug about it or anything, but consider yourself lucky.

The wind was a wicked pisser, too. Holy smokes did it blow! There’s been talk that the schools shouldn’t have closed for the day, but I’m personally glad they did. I’m rather fond of my teenagers, and really wouldn’t have enjoyed trying to pluck their frozen bodies out of the trees where the wind flung them when they tried to catch their bus. I’m a softie. The icicle tears on their little blue faces would have done me in for sure.

More flakes are puttering their way down to the ground outside now, but it’s not supposed to add up to much, and traffic seems to be going at a decent clip. There probably won’t even be a delay for the kids. Fortunately it’s a lot warmer out there now. I think it’s solidly in the teens. Downright balmy.

January’s almost over! I’m so excited. I hate January. I hate it with a burning passion that will never die. I hate January almost as much as I hate okra, and that’s saying something. January means cold. Grumpy kids. Cabin fever. It’s the let down after the holiday season and the realization that this year will be pretty similar to the last. I suppose any month that starts with a hangover is destined to be a dud.

But, one more day of this barren, bleak month and we’ll be in February! You’ve got to appreciate the farce that is February. First off, the name is so stupid that the few people who actually pronounce it correctly get laughed at. Then there are February holidays. We start the month staring at a fancy rat, then give each other chocolate, and close it out with a kooky observance we only have once every 4 years. February is like that aunt everyone has who flits about through life “finding” herself. Even as a kid you know she’s bat shit crazy, but you secretly hope she’s at every family event to shake things up.

Oh, February. I welcome you with open arms, you zany bitch. Come, liven up this bleak winter.

I think in celebration of the fact that there are only a handful of hours until we’re over the hurdle that is January we should do something fun this morning.

Oh yeah. You know what I’m talkin’ about. Cue the dancers! Cue the band! Drop the banner and set off fireworks, because it’s time for a….

*** HEADLINE ROUNDUP ***

Look at that go-go routine! The synchronization in the double dip is incredible! Brava ladies, brava!

*chorus line takes a bow*

Yes, I think we need it. Let’s clear off the cobwebs of ennui January has let accumulate and poke holes in news headlines that are poorly worded, confusing, or just strike my funny bone. As always, these are actual headlines. I just provide the commentary. Shall we begin?

Manchester Police Investigate “Altercation” On West Side

Please let it be an epic snap-off to music…please oh please….

Gas Blast Wrecks Mexico Children’s Hospital

*no jokes about burritos* *hold it together, Bethie…* *no jokes about burritos*

Graham: “I’m tired of just complaining”

…he complained.

Best Nail Looks Of Your Favorite Stars

Unless they’re talking about the hot fashion trends on the planets around Alnilam, I’m clearly not their target audience.

Measles Outbreak Stirs Concerns Among US Health Officials

Hm, can’t think of why. Unless it’s because measles is a horrible, terrible, deadly disease that was seconds away from being eradicated only to be brought back from the brink of utter extinction because people would rather get their medical advice from a silicon-filled celebrity than, you know, every single medical fact available. Think that’s why they’re concerned??

Delta Airlines Pilot Locked Out of Cockpit for Las Vegas Landing

And you thought locking your keys in the *car* was bad.

Kentucky Runaway Teen Refuses to Stay in Courtroom

Gee, couldn’t have predicted that one.

McCain to Protesters: “Get out of here you low-life scum!”

Keep it classy, McCain. Way to keep it classy. Oy.

Russia Plans to Test Nuclear Missiles Bigger Than “Satan”

So, like, any real size at all. Got it.

Canada Spy Agency Given More Powers to Detect Terrorist Activity

Canada! You’re going to actually SPY on people?? I’m shocked! I expect this kind of behavior from, well, us, but I’ve always held you to a higher standard.

This US Ambassador Grooves to “Vinyl Diplomacy” to Thrive in London

I don’t even have to know what this means to be embarrassed for us. Someone get over there and quietly remove the shag carpet you KNOW he’s installed in his office before it sparks an international incident.

ISIS Wannabe Mulans Can’t Fight, But They Can Tweet

Hold the phone. You mean a terrorist organization that runs around lopping off heads isn’t on the cutting edge of gender equality issues?

“Angel of Death” Nurse Apologizes for Taking Selfie With Corpse

I’m sorry, but if your nickname is “Angel of Death,” you probably have bigger things to apologize for than selfies. Just sayin’.

ISIS Wannabe Mulans Can’t Fight, But They Can Tweet

Another thing…”Wannabe Mulans,” PRI? Seriously? We’re going to liken the savage bitches who willingly join a group who are PROUD that their M.O. is CUTTING OFF FUCKING HEADS to Disney heroines now? Really? REALLY?!?

Turkey Sulks As Kurds Claim Victory Over ISIS

They snatched their ball grenades back and went home.*sniff*

ISIL’s Rise in Libya

I only mention this one because Politico decided that the graphic for this story should be a random map of New Hampshire. Yep, New Hampshire. Either we pissed Politico off, or the folks over at Politico don’t know the difference between New Hampshire and Libya. For shame, Politico.

– Scientists Upload Worm’s Mind Into Lego Robot

It’s happening. The prophecies were true. The mythical worm uprising has begun.

Bill Gates Warns On Dangers of AI: “I don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

SEE!! He gets it. I’ll join your crusade against the robot worm overlords, Bill!

Saturn’s Moon Titan Caught “Naked” By Cassini Flyby, Acts Much Like Mars

In all fairness, the TMZ paparazzo had that slap coming. Sure, the rude gesture might have been taking it a little far, but I fully support the mooning the cameraman got.

*ducks rotten tomato*
OH COME ON! You know you would have been disappointed in me if I didn’t say it. Don’t act like you’re above puns all of a sudden.

Comcast Slams Customer With Major Insult

Comcast changed the name on the guy’s bill to “Asshole Brown” after a phone call from the dude went about how you’d expect to end up with those results. Heh heh heh. Never thought I’d root for Comcast.

Obama Veers Left

The “No Shit Gazette” is on the ball today!

Hashtag Inventor: I Choose Non-monogamy

Let’s get him!!! Not for the lifestyle choices but for creating this modern hashtag bullshit!! #grabthetorchesandpitchforks

Taco Bell: Emoji Unfairly Biased

….riiiiiight. From a food chain that had a thickly accented chihuahua wearing a sombrero hawk their loosely Mexican cuisine. Because there’s no stereotyping going on there.

Mom Angry At Anti-vaxxers

NO. Stop. Do NOT give them a fun nickname. Call them “idiots” or “morons” or “neglectful wastes of air”.

Bill Gates’ Biggest Regret

Not stopping AI worm overlords sooner!

Sarah Palin Delivers “Odd” Speech

So, just another standard week day then.

What Makes Kids Binge Drink? Study

Bad parents. End of study. I’ll send my bill to the government and collect my research grant money now…

Marshawn Lynch Talks About Why He Doesn’t Talk to the Media

…to the media.

McDonald’s CEO Resigns After String of Burger Blunders

He forgot the pickles. HE FORGOT THE PICKLES!!!!

*fistbump to other parents who are fellow Spongebob survivors*

Mom Admits to Helping Kids Hide Evidence of Double Slaying

Gawd, don’t you just hate these helicopter parents? If you step in and do it for him, how will he ever learn to stash a body on his own, lady? Sheesh. Cut the cord already.

California Lawmaker Aims to Raise Smoking Age To 21

Look how great that worked for underage drinkers!

Opera Strives To Strike a Chord With US Youth

Opera?? For US teens???…..Bahahaha! Aaaahahahaha! Hahahaaaa…*wipes tear*…heh heh. Ahh. I needed that.

Physicist Have Built a Time Machine Simulator

Quick, Bill! Here’s your chance to right past wrongs. Hop in and stop the AI Worm Lego men from taking over the world!

…oh. Wait. I guess if I had to write this, the plan failed. *sigh* Then I guess there’s only one thing left to say.

All hail our mighty worm overlords.

Thus concludes a headline-y Musing for Friday, January 30, 2015. I guess I need to get used to saluting worms. How, exactly, does one salute a worm?

Advertisements

Must…post…one more…blog….

Standard

THE END IS NIGH!!!

Er, sorry. I guess that was a bit rude. I shouldn’t just throw a dire prediction out there before I even say “hello”, should I? We may be facing the end of days, but that’s no excuse for poor manners, and I apologize. Let’s try this again, shall we?

Mornin’ all.

There. Much better! Wouldn’t want you to think I was raised in a barn or anything. Now, where was I? Oh, right. *achem*

THE END IS NIGH! HUG YOUR CHILDREN KISS YOUR SPOUSE!! TURN THE FAMILY PET OUT TO GIVE IT A FIGHTING CHANCE!! LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE SONG ONE LAST TIME AND SMOKE BACON-WRAPPED CIGARETTES DIPPED IN ABSINTHE!!

Might as well. There’s a *gulp* SNOWSTORM.

The dude on the radio called it the “Snowpocalypse,” so you know it’s serious. MSN had an article with the headline, “Winter Storm Bears Down on Densely Populated Northeast.” Sounds bad, huh? I think it was the Huffington Post that said, “Storm to Cut 250 Mile Swath of Destruction.” Not sure if it was HP or not, but doesn’t it sound like a Huffington Post headline?

We’re getting a storm. Wicked blow, if you’re from a bit further south. Nor’easter, if you prefer. In our house we just call it, “…*sigh*…shit.” It’s all about intonation, though. You have to say it in the most defeated way possible.

I joke, because it’s New England. Of *course* we get snow. However, I guess I kind of agree that this one is shaping up to be one for the books. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but the potential is there for a whole lot of shoveling later. At the moment, there are only a couple inches. We’re supposed to get up to two feet. We’ll see.

Schools are canceled. They actually were called off yesterday afternoon. As of this moment, there are 1012 school and business closings in NH. I’m stunned. I didn’t even know there 1012 things that COULD be canceled in NH!

…kidding. Calm down angry rednecks. It’s a joke. Go back to your bacon-wrapped Absinthe pacifiers.

Towns are closed. Whole towns. In the list of cancellations, there are many towns listed. When I was young, this cracked me up.

Fine, you caught me. I’m no longer young and it still makes me giggle. Picture it, though. You’re driving along completely unaware when you slam into an invisible wall. No, wait! Even better! An ancient iron gate that wasn’t there the day before. “You shall not pass through these kingdom gates,” says the guard, dressed head to toe in aged armor. “Ye towne is closed.”

“Bethie, you worry me.”

I’m bored, okay? It’s snowing. A lot. And bitter cold. It’s one of those storms that just takes your breath away with the iciness of it. Often it’ll warm up some before it snows. Not this time. And it’s windy, too. The wind gusted almost all the snow off one car and deposited it on top of the other. Um…thanks? Can’t tell if that’s a win or not. My point is, it’s not even a snow you can go out and play in.

I think we’re going to be watching bad movies on Netflix later. Like, intentionally seeking out steaming piles of crap. It’s great fun! Sometimes it’s far more enjoyable to uselessly kibitz a bad movie than to remain quiet and respectful through a good one.

I’m a sci-fi fan. I tell you what, it’s good that I can laugh at horrible sci-fi instead of scoffing and getting mad, because the vast majority of science fiction movies suck. They’re terrible. Utter pieces of garbage. If there are good effects, the acting will be horrible. If the acting is good, the effects and plot will be abysmal. If the plot is incredible and the acting is passable, then the set will literally consist of a distracting array of masking-taped plunger “ray guns” and hastily glued on alien masks that are crooked. There really aren’t many science fiction movies that can capture the three critical elements and put them together properly.

I have given this a lot of thought. Perhaps more than I should, to be honest. Hey, I’ve lived through 36 NH winters. There’s been a whole lotta down time in my life!

Anyway, I have thought about why it is so difficult for movie houses to make a proper science fiction film, and I think it comes down to a basic lack of understanding of what science fiction is supposed to be.

Let’s take the most mainstream sci-fi concept: aliens. We’ll use that as an example, since that’s what the average Joe’s mind goes to when they hear “sci-fi.” In a book about an alien planet, there is an incredible amount of back story, world building, environmental explanation, etc. A new race has been completely designed by one person and is translated to the reader through a million little ways.

For example, let’s say I invented the Gjorks. They live on an ice moon of Saturn. As an author, my job is to tell you all about the Gjorks, their world, their day to day lives, personalities, politics, relationships, food, clothing, technologies… I need to introduce the reader to every single thing about them. And I could do it by saying, “Hey peeps, these are my homies, Gjorks. They live on an ice planet, punch a time clock in the diamond mines, tend to be standoffish, lean strongly to the right on social issues, have two spouses and three children on average, eat daisies, wear crepe paper top hats, and light their homes with the asses of glow worms,” but that’s clunky and weird. Sure, it would make things a whole lot easier for movie makers to convert a 400 page novel into an actual movie, but that’s not how writers do.

If I’m going to introduce to to the Gjorks, I’m going to give you all that information, but it’s going to be in a far more organic way. The main character Gjork will pick up a top hat made from crepe on his way out the door to work the mines. Maybe he’ll kiss one of his wives goodbye, then meet up with the other for lunch fifty pages later. He’ll attend a recital for one of his kids in the next chapter, then get into an argument about the latest issue up for vote with one of the other parents after they listen to the kids play the glorptrapis they’ve been practicing so hard to master.

See, in sci-fi, it’s not a matter of the details making the story better. The entire story IS detail. Through the course of a book, there are a million facts that combine to create the picture of a foreign world and its people that the reader has never before seen. You can’t say that in any other genre of writing, and that translates to movies.

A romance? A mystery? A thriller or an emo Millennial “memoir”? In stories about humans on Earth, the author can tell you about the main character in one paragraph, because you know what hair is. The author can say, “She had long, strawberry blond hair,” and even though “strawberry blond hair” actually only exists for romance novel heroines, you still get the picture. You know what hair is, you know what human eyes are, you know we wear clothes…or don’t. You can picture all of it with literally one paragraph. A basic understanding of humanity is already in your head.

Likewise, the scenery in a story about humans on Earth is familiar, or at least relatable. You may have never seen the type of hut described, or personally been inside a castle, but you have seen and learned enough about humanity on earth to extrapolate and build a picture.

It’s the same for everything in a story based on Earth with humans. Food? Yep, we eat it. Water? Drink it by the gallon every day. Weaponry? Sure, the author might describe some kind of gun you’ve never heard of, but you still know the basics of what constitutes a gun.

In an alien sci-fi, everything must be explained. Good sci-fi authors drop bread crumbs for you to follow. They tell you some basic ground rules, guidelines in the beginning to help you start to see for yourself the world that lives in their head. Take the Gjorks, for example. A good author will have the Gjork walk out of the mine at the end of the shift, gritty and cold from the bitter day of work as he gazes upon the image of the setting ringed planet over the icy horizon. Perhaps he has to duck his cone-shaped head, or blow on his four-fingered hands to warm them up while he waits for the glide transport that will slide him home across the frozen tundra.

Think of how many details you just got from those couple sentences, how much of a world has already begun to form in your head. A good author will tell you critical details, then pepper the rest of the info through the story itself. They’ll drop enough bread crumbs to gently lead the reader through a whole new world.

An excellent author does this so well that the reader doesn’t even realize it. An excellent science fiction author can build the new world and its people in a way that makes the reader adopt the ideas as fact. If you read an excellent alien sci-fi, you WILL look up at the stars at night and wonder where that civilization actually lives and when you will get to meet them.

I think that gentle hand and carefully crafted mental voyage of learning is one of the things that makes it very difficult to translate a great sci-fi story into a movie. I can’t imagine the amount of work and pouring over the details that’s required. And that Gjork example, that’s clearly a humanoid form. What about an alien that doesn’t have hands? Or can’t see? Or translates thoughts instead of words for communications? The detail building is even more critical there, since the author is starting from an utterly blank slate. And if the movie maker misses one of the key details, then no matter how much other work is put into the movie, the end result will always fall short. It’s a tall order right from the get.

Even if the movie makers do manage to get the props, make up, and sets right, they need to find quality actors. A sci-fi needs actors that believe it. Or, believe it *could*. So many Hollywood actors that have played aliens have done so from the basis of being humans. Big names. Actors with statues on their mansion mantles and too many red carpet appearances to count. They accept the job and pick up the script and throw their whole human heart behind the project. And those who do that, who approach it as a human pretending to be an alien, come off exactly like that. They don’t *believe*, so neither do I.

“Uh, Bethie…they ARE humans.”

Yes. But the good ones forget that while they’re acting. The good ones read the book, read the screenplay, take note of the little mannerism details that draw the line between Gjorkism and humanity. I think in order to truly play an alien, the actor must be a science fiction fan. LARPing for pay.

And then you’ve got the director. I think the director plays such a key role in a sci-fi. You can have a director that wants to embrace the story and demands his actors truly get into character, or you can have one that says, “You know what we need? Space explosions!” In the old days of bad sci-fi, you could see strings dangling the UFOs. Now you see green screen run amok, but at heart, it’s the same thing. Pretty CGI does not make a quality science fiction movie.

Ah, but it sells tickets, doesn’t it?

That’s the thing that really gets me. Some of the biggest stinkers in the eyes of true sci-fi fans have done blockbuster sales because they look really fricken pretty. That fuels the wrong kind of sci-fi. Take Prometheus.

“WHAT? That movie was GREAT!!”

No. No, it was not. That movie was the theatrical equivalent of a used baby wipe. The script was nonsensical. The plot line was trite. There were details that did not make any sense at all and holes in logic so big that even Stephen Hawking couldn’t come up with a plausible theory for their existence. It was a piece of shit horrible science fiction movie. It was also a pretty big hit. The world was expansive. The scenery was pretty. The action parts were hella actiony.

Pitiful.

Want another example? Avatar.

“Oh no you didn’t.”

I did. And I meant it. I can’t tell you how much I hated that movie, or hated the hype it got just because it was pretty in 3-D. I hate that movie. The ideas were old, the story wasn’t unique, there were jumps in the plot that needed explaining, and you always, ALWAYS knew through the whole thing that the actors were acting. They didn’t believe in the story, and, as a result, neither did I.

I was, perhaps, the only person in America yelling at the screen as it played. Ah well. I had fun. Not the kind intended by the million+ people on the cast and crew of that film, but fun nonetheless.

The dude on the radio just announced that the governor of NH, Maggie Hassan, has called a “state of emergency” and asked that people only drive on the public roads if they absolutely have to. I actually don’t mind that. It’ll mean less salt on the roads and an easier time of shoveling the berm later. I’ve got the teens, and enough shovels to go ’round. And it’s fluffy, so the little electric snow blower we’ve got will probably do some good.

And in between rounds, I’ll watch crappy, horrible, terrible sci-fi movies that’ll keep me laughing through the arduous day. All in all, the end of the world isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Thus concludes a snowy Musing for Tuesday, The Last Day of Existence. I’m off to queue up a bunch of junk on Netflix and rouse the kiddies to put on comfy sweats and join me. Until we shovel, I see no legitimate reason to put on real pants.

When you wish upon a…spent multi-stage booster rocket?

Standard

Mornin’ all.

I just read a depressing article.

Actually, I read MANY depressing articles. If you haven’t loaded up a news site today, save yourself the gloom and doom and spend your internet time finding happy kitty pics instead. Or goofy memes. Hell, take a trip down memory lane and see if your old MySpace profile is active. Do anything else but look at the news today.

“But Bethie, I need to know what’s going on.”

I’ll tell you what’s going on. IS or ISIS or ISIL or whatever the hell they’re called this week is threatening to behead more people. Not to be outdone, Boko Haram is stepping up their terrorist game by claiming responsibility for killing hundreds more than IS/ISIS/ISIL/DEMONSPAWN.

Stars are in an “uproar” over American Sniper…both because it tells the story about our troops having a hard time coming home, which somehow means we’re all Nazis (wth Hollywood??) and because it shows violence. You mean there’s violence in war? Huh.

The crime pages are filled with stories of parents killing kids, kids killing parents, kids killing strangers, strangers blowing folks away in operating rooms…and then sub-stories of people who lost others at the hands of psychos suing schools, towns, and movie theaters for not anticipating every possible whacko scenario. Sorry, but you can’t plan for crazy, folks, and it’s no one’s fault but the shooters. Sometimes there is no resolution or closure.

And then of course we’ve got politics. State of the Union address was last night. Do I even need to say how much of an uproar Obama calling for free college caused? If you listen to nothing else today, heed this warning: Do not read the user comments under ANY of the articles covering Obama’s speech. Just don’t. You will walk away hating humanity, and it’s already a bleak Wednesday in January. Life is hard enough in the middle of a winter week. Save yourself the pain and heartache.

As I scoured the news looking for a ray of sunshiny hope, I came across an article that, on the surface, seems equally depressing. The article was about space junk floating around Earth. Because of humans’ collective inability to keep their room clean, our outer orbit is full of debris we’ve simply left lying around. There are currently over 300,000 pieces of “space junk” floating around the rock we call home.

Right now, over your head at this very moment, there’s a chunk of garbage passing by. Think that’s a morning star? Think again. It’s the spent fuel tank of a rocket. Or the crumpled solar collector of a damaged satellite. Perhaps a “Progress module” didn’t burn up properly.

…what’s a “Progress module”, you may ask? Why, an un-manned capsule the International Space Station fills with compressed human waste and shoots toward the Earth to be burned up upon atmospheric reentry of course! Pee is recycled and purified into water, but the other…well, there’s not much use for fertilizer on the ISS.

(sidenote: Perhaps we should come up with another acronym? I mean, I know it’s called the International Space Station, so ISS makes sense and all, but with all the IS/ISIS/ISIL bullshit, it’s getting a bit confusing. Let’s call it the InSpaSta. Hm. No, that won’t work. What about InterSpa? Sounds like a new come on by Ikea. AstroHome? Leans too heavily to Americans, doesn’t it? Damnit, IS/ISIS/ISIL! Why you gotta screw EVERYTHING up!? I’ll keep working on it. I know I can come up with a better name than ISS…)

Anyway, back to talking about astro-crap. They’ve got all this waste from eating yummy astronaut ice cream and Tang powder. They could just dump it, but then it’ll be in their orbital path the next time they come ’round and, well, think about that mess. There aren’t any car washes up there.

Yet.

So the astronauts and cosmonauts and any other ‘nauts that happen to be visiting take all the waste and compress it, then stuff it into an un-manned cargo craft they then fire towards the Earth. Basic physics says that if it’s launched at the proper trajectory and speed, the friction of reentry will burn up the capsule and its contents in a streaking, flaming burst across the sky.

You remember that shooting star you fervently wished upon? Mm-hm. Poop. You placed your hopes and dreams on a burning can of shit.

Gawd I wish I was a good enough writer to come up with a metaphor even half that deep!

That’s the process of waste elimination. That’s what’s supposed to happen. But, the InSpaStan (…uh, no.) has been housing ‘nauts continuously for nearly 15 years. It’s been the cosmic wayside tavern for nearly 100 people, and all of them have had functioning colons. As someone who used to change baby diapers, I can tell you for a fact that’s a lotta poo. So has it all gone to plan and successfully become a wish killer?

Who knows? In theory, sure. But in theory, *all* space debris was supposed to do the same. The assumption has always been that over time, all the crap we’ve littered around would decide to finally succumb to the overwhelming gravity of Earth and be burned up. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it will given enough time. We’re talking cosmic time lines, though. Hundreds, thousands, millions of years. Maybe they aimed wrong. Maybe the thruster didn’t thrust. With 299,999 other pieces of debris up there, what’s one more?

Right this very minute, one of those shit missiles that wasn’t aimed quite right could be floating above your head.

Kind of makes my little hoarding problem seem like not such a big deal, eh? I mean, sure, I’ve crammed the corners of my dining room full of car parts once again, but at least I’ve never kept my own excrement locked in a perpetual orbit around my home.

Can’t argue that, folks.

The problem of the great trash heap in the sky is only going to grow, too. We keep sending stuff up, and only some of it comes back down. Why is this such a big deal?

First, it’s all traveling really fast. I mean, REALLLLLY fast. In low orbit, the debris travels at a speed of about 7 km/second. That’s 420 km/minute or 25,200 kph. Americanized, that’s about 15,658 mph.

You cannot imagine that speed. I cannot imagine that speed. We’ve got no point of reference. Pick the world’s fastest super car. That goes less than 300 mph. The fastest land record set on Earth was 763.035 mph. Space debris travels TWENTY TIMES as fast. The fastest jet any government will cop to does a blistering 2,193 mph. Extremely respectable, but still a snail in comparison.

We’ve not only got 300,000 hunks of crap out there, they aren’t just harmlessly floating about. They’re careening at face-melting speeds towards anything else we’ve got up there. Not only do we have the ISStat (Better? Worse? On the fence with this one…), but 1,100+ working man-made satellites in our orbit. Some of them are governmental, most of them are private. Like that cellphone? Or being able to swipe your debit card instead of carrying around cash? That doesn’t happen on its own, and we’ve come to rely on the digital army we’ve installed around us. Every moment of every day, all the good stuff we want is threatened by all the crap that’s been turned into ammo.

We are also starting to have one helluva headache when we plan launches for anything new. The early space race didn’t have to worry about colliding with a broken antenna or smacking into a shit bomb. They just had to pick an direction and go. Can’t do that now, can we? We’ve got so much crap zinging around up there that anyone planning a mission honestly has to plan around garbage. That’s insane. Imagine if you were planning a vacation and had to constantly update your travel plans because someone keeps firing cannons at the interstate.

If this continues, it doesn’t bode well for continued exploration. Space is hard enough. We can’t very well expect a brave group of people to colonize the moon or to make friends with the Martians if they’re taken out before they even break orbit.

Putting all the inconvenience and danger to humans and our very way of life aside, perhaps the most offensive part of this whole this thing is what image it presents to the rest of the universe.

Imagine if you will that you’re Zangnil, a Vaug’niian explorer from another solar system on a mission to document any intelligent life the galaxy might hold. Maybe you got life readings on your scanner. Maybe you picked up some radio signals and are dying to know what the hell “baseball” is. Maybe you looked through your vastly superior telescope and saw blue.

You feel excited. You turn your ship Sol-ward and head on towards us, thoughts of a great friendship being struck, or new trade for your people, or perhaps you just think there will be a chance to refuel. And then you get closer and get your first look at the blue planet, only to discover…

…trash. Garbage as far as the eye can see. You’d like to land, but you can’t get through. Besides, what kind of beings would junk up their own planet so badly? Even if you did land, you’d probably catch flark pox from the filthy creatures! No amount of curiosity about “baseball” is worth a case of the flark. Instead of bringing about the single most profound moment in human history, you turn your craft around and hightail it on out of there to go home and talk shit about your idiot neighbors.

Face it, folks. We’re a galactic trailer park.

I don’t know about you, but if an alien race is going to consider us backwoods hicks, I’d much rather they decide that AFTER they’ve gotten a chance to know us first.

We’ve got to clean it up. But how?

We can’t send up giant magnets, though that idea is commonly kicked around. For one thing, the weight of a magnet large enough to have a significant effect on an object traveling at those speeds would make it extremely costly to send into orbit. Besides, most of the space crap isn’t magnetic. Sure, we’d probably pic up some random iron-filled rocks the cosmos hurls our way, but not the man-made stuff. Most of what’s up there isn’t magnetic. Iron and steel are heavy and don’t hold up well in the extreme temperature changes of orbit.

We can’t just make a net, either, though that’s also been suggested. There are over 1,100 active and very useful robots up there we need. We can’t risk damaging them in a broad trash sweep. I can’t think of a type of net that would work, anyway. Once again, these projectiles are traveling at ridiculous speeds.

The only plausible way to get it all is to actually go up there and get it. Send people up, put them on the same trajectory and let them hunt it down. Pull the big pieces in for salvage, shoot the small ones toward the ozone properly.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does! This idea is nothing new. One of the very staples of space-centric science fiction is the idea that in the future, there will be enough space garbage for there to be entire companies devoted to salvaging useful materials. All of this normally pertains to deep space. Other places, other worlds. Hell, other galaxies and beyond. It makes sense both as a story, and as a plausible distant future. If we keep creating and abandoning, then people who have the gumption and inclination can become intergalactic scrappers. Logically, there will be a need.

I’m saying, the need is here. This should no longer only be a sci-fi concept. There is a need in our society for the world’s first orbital salvage company. Think of all that aluminum and copper and titanium and gold. It’s just up there, waiting.

That thought…that perks me up. That lifts my spirits from the doom and gloom of the depressing news. Because no matter how bleak things seem at times, no matter how much it feels like we’re just treading water and repeating the same shit over and over, there IS a bigger picture. We ARE advancing. We HAVE made progress. In fact, we’ve progressed far enough as a race that we need to send janitors up into space.

And one day, we’ll need to send them to the moon to tidy up the colony.

…and to Mars, to work the mines.

…and to Europa to salvage all the failed attempts at creating a permanent city on a giant shifting ice plane.

…and beyond.

And that makes me happy.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Wednesday, January 21, 2015. I’m off to try and calculate just how many of my dreams have been wished upon garbage. Ah, science. You make life fun.

We’re havin’ a heat waaaaave…a tropical heat waaaave….

Standard

Mornin’ all.

It’s twenty degrees warmer this morning than yesterday morning. It’s a face-melting 14 out there! I busted out the tee shirts and sunscreen for the kids.

I joke, but seriously, it does feel a ton warmer. I’m reluctantly acclimating to this horror we call winter. Why do I need to acclimate? Why can’t I hibernate?

That’s it. I’m forming a new Super PAC. We’ll call it the Anti-Acclimation Pro-Hibernation League, of AAPHL for short. Our goal will be government sanctioned hibernation laws for all northern areas of the country. Our mascot will be a bear. We’ll go on tour with our mascot and try to drum up support. Crowds love bears. It’s a winning idea.

“Uh, Bethie? I don’t mean to piss in your Wheaties or anything, but how are you going to get a bear to go on tour with you in winter?”

…oh. I guess we can’t actually parade a bear around this time of year, can we? Fine. We’ll have a picture of a bear. Pictures can be just as moving as the real thing. Besides, I think PETA will be less likely to protest our rallies if we don’t drag a sleeping bear around by a collar.

“And what, exactly, are you rallying for? You do know it’s not illegal to hibernate, right?”

Well…I mean…I guess not *strictly*. But they certainly don’t make it easy. If I want to hibernate all winter, well, dammit! I should be able to hibernate free from consequence and…

“So you essentially want napping laws.”

…don’t you?

“Guess it makes as much sense as any other Super PAC.”

Glad to see you’re on board! I’ll send you a pamphlet and an online petition once we work out the details.

There was an event at our local elementary school here in town last night. The 8 year old was completely jazzed for it. The mum, eh. Not so much. I dragged the 16 year old with me. Not only is he the only one that could also provide me with entertainment (he’s a crack up), but he was probably the only one of the three that would actually go. I wasn’t expecting to have much fun, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

The event was Casino Night.

“Casino Night…at…an elementary school…?”

…yeah, that’s what I thought at first. A bit of an odd choice. However, there was no gambling. The night was held to cap off a unit of math the middle schoolers had done. They worked very hard to create games of odds and math. Every kid from the school who attended had a casino card, and when they did one of the activities, they’d get a sticker. At the end of the event, they tallied up how many stickers they collected and got a prize from the table of neat give away items the local bank donated.

It was a pretty damn cool event, if you want to know the truth. It’s a small school, only a couple hundred kids grades pre-k through 8th. I was actually very impressed with how much they managed to do. I’m a big old nerd, too. I absolutely love seeing what kids can make, and some of the games and displays they came up with were super impressive.

They have a fantastic theater director there who is so unafraid of embarrassing himself that he pasted on fake sideburns and donned a white jumpsuit and glittered cape to pretend to be Elvis. All. Night. Long. Even when he sidled up to give the 16 year old a hug and a slap on the back because he hasn’t seen him in awhile, he stayed in character. He said, “Well-uh, hey now, partner! I haven’t seen you-uh since we tore up Reno!” Fan-Tas-Tic.

The flow of the night needed a bit of work. Some of the games took awhile for kids to play, making the waits in the line take awhile. But the idea was great, and if they do it again next year, if they just tweak it a bit, it’ll be a huge hit. An impressive showing by the staff and students of what in this area is widely considered to be a sub-standard town. Last night’s event was full of creativity, hard work, excellent teacher and staff involvement. No, we couldn’t hold it in a fancy event center. But I guarantee that a larger percentage of parents and families showed up to support their kids last night in our “dumpy little redneck town” than any functions the richer schools in the area hold!

…er…sorry. I wave the hometown flag a little hard sometimes. Hey, SOMEone has to!!

As great as the event was, there were a couple people there who didn’t realize that:

a) They were in a school.

b) The school was filled with children.

c) Those children do not want to hear about gutting a deer, “fixin’ that fuckin’ muffler,’ or who Becky went home with from the bar the other night.

* Sidenote: If your name is Becky and you’re from a small town in the southwest corner of NH and you happened to go home with a man after a few too many last weekend….woman to woman, you need better friends. STAT.*

Now, lest you think it turned into a wild, spittoon twangin’, jug chuggin’, fiddle hoppin’ hootenanny, there were a couple hundred people at the event, and only a handful of them had no class. The gossip chicks who totally did NOT have Becky’s back, the “fuckin’ muffler” guys, and the details of the deer gutting happened only between a few people. You get those folks in every crowd. There is always someone who doesn’t understand how to behave in a mixed group, regardless of geographical location.

One such woman looked to be well put together. She had her make up on and her hair did. High heel pumps (which are NOT allowed on the gym floor dumbass) and a fancy pocket book which I’m sure cost more than a couple cars I’ve driven in the past. She started to chit chat with me about her son running one of the game tables, and it all went fine until she asked about my younger son. I said he was in third grade. She got this horrified look on her face and said, “Third grade? I thought he was a kindergartener!”

Now folks, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned, but my 8 year old is…diminutive. He’s not a dwarf or little person (no offense meant, I genuinely do not know which term is preferable), he’s just short for his age. Like his dad, he seems like he’ll just grow later in life. I know this. HE knows this. And it’s been quite a struggle to get him to be okay with the fact that there is only one other kid in his class that’s as short, and she’s a girl. We have pointed out that his oldest brother was very short, too, until 9th grade, and that his dad didn’t actually have a growth spurt of note until he was 19.

Everyone can see he’s short.

My question is, why in the HELL would an ADULT feel the need to point it out? Not just in a crowded location, but right in front of him??

I was flabbergasted. I said, “The boys in the family grow later. This guy here (16ager) was the same height at 8. So which game is your son’s?”

I wasn’t justifying for the lady, you understand. That lady could take her spiked heels and fancy purse and shove them up her hoity toity ass. I was trying to make it okay for the 8 year old boy who just heard an ADULT be HORRIFIED that he was so short. And call him a KINDERGARTENER.

Have you ever had an 8 year old boy? They are loud and brash and fully believe themselves to be five years older, ten feet taller, and twenty times stronger than they actually are. Being called short and three years younger is almost the ultimate insult. The only thing that could have piqued his ire more is if she also said he looked like a girl.

…and even that, meh. I’m not so sure he’d care as much. As long as it was an 8 year old girl.

So giving any response to Shithead Sal wasn’t me trying to justify or explain anything to HER. My words were for my kid.

You’d think she would have realized she was choking on her own foot at that point, but no. Clueless Carol had to keep pushing the issue. She said, “But 8? I don’t believe it. He’s so tiny!” It was clear that Nancy Numbnuts was just going to keep grinding him into the ground, so I ushered him along and made a point to once again tell him how wrong it was for someone to care about his height.

Why do people do this? Why do ADULTS do this? Why do they think it’s okay to point out differences in children?

What was Debbie Dumbass’s thought process that lead her to believe that it was not only fine to proclaim what she perceived as an inadequacy in my child, but to then keep pressing when it was clear that I was attempting to get her to shut the hell up? There were a million other potential small talk topics. The childrens’ art projects on the wall next to the line. The event we were waiting for. The principal who walked around handing out Mardi Gras beads. Shit, we’re a poor community without any sports teams, but we’ve somehow managed to keep having weather. Talk about the weather.

Or, don’t talk. Give a polite nod, tell your son’s age, and be done. I didn’t know Jessie Jerkoff, and she didn’t know me. She did not owe me conversation, and I would have been completely fine if she never opened that diarrhea maw of hers. We could have nodded uncomfortably, then looked away as normal people do when they’re in line.

Thankfully, it didn’t ruin the evening. My son had a great time, and even the 16 year old admitted he really liked seeing some of his favorite former teachers. The games were fun and there was free popcorn. Can’t have a bad time if there’s free popcorn!

So that’s our local school report.

There’s a school in Alabama making headlines this week, and not for their fantastic Elvis impersonator or his performance I believe Roger Ebert would have called “inspired.” A middle school principal has come up with what she believes is a brilliant way to ward off would be school attackers. Have you heard about this? For those not in the know, I’ll catch you up.

Her brilliant plan is to have a cache of weaponry on hand in every classroom for the children to use.

Hang on. Before you go launching an anti-gun rally, the principal’s idea is even DUMBER than using actual weapons. What does she want to stockpile?

Cans.

Actually, “canned food items.” Over and over she kept saying “canned food items.” It got so annoying.

She sent a letter to parents requesting that they each donate one 8 oz. canned food item. She said that at the end of the year, if the students did not need to use the cans for protection, the canned food items will be donated to a local charity for consumption. She said the parents should consider the canned food items as a last resort for children to be “empowered” to help protect their school from an intruder, and assured parents that the children will not be walking around the halls with loaded canned food items.

…I added the “loaded”. That’s it. The rest was legitimately what she said about the canned food items.

(See? “Canned food items” gets old quick, doesn’t it?)

As you can imagine, the comments section under the article was absolutely hysterical on the surface. There were too many witty quips to list them all, but they ranged from, “Canned tomatoes don’t kill people, CANS do,” to, “If I was a shooter, you’d bet your ass I’d gun down a canned asparagus wielding little puke. But a kid with a Chef Boyardee can would give me pause,” to my personal favorite, “It needs to be said. All it takes to stop a bad guy with a can of peas is a GOOD guy with a can of peas.” I chuckled. Snorted, actually.

And then I got over the giggles at the absurdity of it all and realized it’s not really funny. It’s not funny at all.

Everyone’s afraid of school shootings. Of all the possible phobias out there, this has got to be one of the most justifiable, especially if you’re a parent of a school aged child. Remember Sandy Hook? Since then, there have been 74 shootings in schools. And that was just a couple years ago! School shootings are real, they are happening, and schools HAVE to be prepared. I am not arguing that whatsoever.

But people. The way to prepare is NOT to arm children with useless “weapons”. With ANY weapons. It is not a child’s responsibility to try and stop a shooter. And what in the bloody hell is a can of flippin’ peas going to do against a gun?

The moronic principal says that this plan is “empowering” for children.

Right. Well, let’s take a look at how the scenario would play out, shall we?

Gun man is crazy. By the very act he is about to commit, we can say with absolute certainly that he is not a mentally stable individual. He has rage. He has bitterness. He has a taste for revenge that is so twisted that his primary targets are little children.

He walks into the school. Maybe he shoots some teachers or staff along the way. Gets down the hall. Enters a room with children, only to have some cans thrown at him as soon as he opens the door.

The principal would have us believe that like a black bear raiding your camp for munchies, this would be enough to fluster and scare the attacker and he would run away.

The principal is fucking dreaming.

Gun man is NOT a black bear. He is NOT more afraid of you than you are of him. He has a gun, and if something is thrown at him, he will use it. He will turn it on the kid who stood up from behind cover in order to pelt 8 ounces of canned food item uselessness at him and he will blast that child away. He will remove the threat. He will not hesitate to add to the body count, because his entire point of going into that school on that day is to rack up as many kills as possible.

It’s not funny. It’s not clever. It’s not “empowering.” It’s a death sentence.

And yet, the community there is blindly following the principal’s insane lead. Not a damn one of them will point out that the emperor is not wearing clothes.

Our schools around here do lockdowns if there is a problem. As soon as an intruder is detected in the school, the doors to the classrooms are locked. The lights shut off. Teachers have been instructed to get children behind book cases and other furniture items, and the children are to remain as quiet as possible. An alert goes out to police immediately, and in the drills they’ve done, they can have the entire school locked down with police on site in minutes.

Is it perfect? No. There is no perfect system when you’re dealing with sick, crazy individuals. But I guarantee you these steps would be infinitely more successful in a worst case scenario than relying on children to throw cans at a psycho.

Thus concludes a school themed Musing for Friday, January 16, 2015. I’m off to go out back and sunbathe on my deck for awhile. What? It’s a balmy 21 now! Can’t miss out on this little slice of heaven…

I’m sure he’s handy at something, just haven’t figured out what…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

-11 to start today.

Just thought I’d explain why the coffee is so extremely hot. Be careful. It’s also strong as paint varnish and tastes about as good as licking the underside of a leaky ocean liner. But there’s plenty, so help yourself.

“Thanks, Bethie! *sip* *gak* *choke* *choke* *spasm* *twitch*”

You’re welcome!

The weather people are calling this a cold front. It used to be that in the winter, we just called cold weather “winter”. I don’t know when that changed. Now everyone’s gotta be freaking out and looking for new names for the things that suck.

“Arctic blast!”…it’s just a breeze in the winter.

“Deep freeze!”…yes, well that does tend to happen up here at the old 44th parallel around this time of year.

Winter’s cold and it sucks. That’s all that needs to be said. You don’t have to freak the eff out every time it’s nippy in January. Even the local stations have taken to this type of weather reporting, as if they’ve never in their lives paid a lick of attention to 1/4 of every single year they’ve spent in NH.

Ah, but everyone’s got to sensationalize everything these days. Everyone’s got to add punch and pep to their reporting. They’ve even gone so far as to give winter storms NAMES.

Stop it, weathermen and women. Stop it right now. I will give you a pass on making up fantastical terms instead of continuing to predict “wicked cold weathah ’round heah”. Fine. You can do that. But naming a snowstorm is just asking for trouble. When you give something a name, you give it credibility and power.

Do not name the enemy!

The cold is making a few people very happy, though. Oil companies are loving it. They’re living high off the hog at the moment, even if the price of crude is low. In this neck of the woods, many homes are still heated with oil furnaces. It’s actually technically not really “oil” so much as a blend of kerosene and diesel…potato, potahto I suppose. Anyway, the point is, it’s gross, smelly, expensive and, most importantly for the oil companies, very inefficient.

Now, before you start saying how horrible we are in these parts, cut the NHers a bit of slack, eh? We’ve got 200 year old houses all over the place. An oil furnace that was installed in 1973 is super modern in comparison.

Our house used to be heated with oil. Now we’ve got these small electric baseboard heaters. They’re also pricey, so add the electric companies to the list of folks who are totally into this chilly weather. On top of the cold, we had an ice storm that took down many power lines on Thanksgiving. Remember that? Yeah, well when that happens, the local utility companies say, “Hm. There’s profit to be had here…” and you suddenly have a $200 increase in your bill for “storm damage”. No, it doesn’t matter a bit that nothing on your end was damaged. And no, that was NOT an exaggeration. A $200 increase from one month to the next, with NO bump in meter usage.

Man, I gotta hurry up and build that backyard wind farm…

Road crews are feeling pretty good right now, too. We haven’t had a lot of snow, but what we’ve had has mostly fallen in annoying times and ways. We’ll get a burst, just a couple inches, right before the temperatures plummet. This means that if the roads aren’t continually salted until there’s enough salt on them to dry out any moisture that could possibly freeze, then we’ll have Olympic caliber ice for our cars to drive on.

Have you ever tried to drive on Olympic caliber ice? Do it some time and you’ll get the gist.

* The writer of this blog feels the need to gently remind you that this is for comedic purposes only. In no way should you ever, ever drive your vehicle into an official winter Olympic training facility, no matter how badly you now find yourself wanting to. You think Michelle Kwan wants to triple salchow into your bumper? “Axel,” not “axle” my friends. *

Anyway, the road crews are finding themselves with a whole lotta overtime pay right about now.

But the folks who are really raking it in at the moment? Plumbers.

I must say we here in this rickety old shack have not been immune to winter plumbing woes this year. Not our side, but Neighbor, the one who makes up the “du” of this “plex”. I don’t know if she just didn’t leave the water a’tricklin’, or if it was just that freakin’ cold last week, but a pipe on her side froze. And boy, did it turn into a saga.

I believe I have said before that the state of this abode is what most would find lacking. Our landlords have not seen fit to do much with the place, and that includes refusing to buy into the lie the Illuminati calls “insulation.” Add to that the fact that we’re in a 100+ year old house on an old dirt cellar foundation with natural springs running directly through it, and we tend to have plumbing issues in the winter.

Bear with me a sec. I’m about to drop some science on you. Ready for it? Bare pipes dangling in an unheated, uninsulated dungeon tend to freeze once the temperature around them drops.

Shocker, right? I mean, who could have ever predicted that the basic laws of thermodynamics actually apply in a basement?? I should write up my findings and go for a Nobel.

Usually it just takes a bit of constant planning and round-the-clock attention to keep the pipes from freezing. This winter, things were apparently exacerbated by the fact that the handyman the landlord paid to install a full bulkhead with a storm door down there did not actually complete the task. He installed a frame for the outer door, slapped on the 16 ga steel doors, knocked a huge hole in the foundation for the frame of the storm door, and…

Actually, there is no “and”. He left it. He didn’t even cover the outer frame with plywood.

Picture this. In your head, create two metal triangle frames. Got that? Now, put them on either side of a gaping hole leading away from a house so that they taper to the ground. Add a sheet of metal on top of that, but only on the top. Leave the sides gaping open for all of Nature. THAT’S what happened.

Perhaps there was nothing Neighbor could do to keep her pipes flowing when faced with that count against her.

The handyman was called down here to fix the problem he created. He set up a kerosene heater and an old kerosene pump and a kerosene pipe shaker that looks like it was from 1920. He set up all these kerosene gizmos, right in front of a gaping hole in the cellar on a windy day. I think he believed that the fumes would be sucked up and out. Hey, cut him some slack. We already know his grasp on the basic physics of our everyday world is tenuous at best.

About half an hour later, things started to get a bit fuzzy and woozy in here. Not only were the pump and the pipe shaker loud and trembling, but the fumes were actually carried by the wind from the hole right on up to our side of the house. I saw my landlord pull up so I went out to tell him I didn’t really want to be monoxide poisoned by an incompetent handyman. After pondering for a minute, he saw my point of view.

Ya know, it’s a rare day indeed when my landlord is so quick to agree with me. I think he probably knows how much more work would be involved for himself if a tenant kicked the bucket on the living room floor. I mean, it’s hard wood, folks. There would be stains.

I’d like to think he was at least a tad concerned for our safety, but in actuality, I think he was more pissed at the handyman and searching for more justification for his murdery feelings toward the guy. Whatever the case may be, he had the idiot actually vent the fumes, so all was well. After a lot of shaking and baking and quaking, the ice clog melted enough to be flushed from the system and the pipes were once again functioning. Though the storm door cannot be installed in the winter because of the frozen ground, they did stretch a thick tarp over the gaping hole, and another one over the frame of the bulkhead. The landlord made the handyman get some foam pipe insulators, and replace a section of pipe that had frozen because it was now bowed. All in all, could have been worse.

…that was on Friday. On Monday, guess what? Yep. Another plumbing issue.

I went to take my shower and noticed that the water pressure was low. I figured that Neighbor had learned her lesson and was keeping her water running. Alas, such was not the case. After the shower, when I was in the kitchen reheating some coffee, I heard a distinct trickle noise coming from the direction of the basement door.

Now, I am a trying-to-recover hoarder, as I may have mentioned. I got that area by the basement all cleared out. …and then we got the parts car, and had to have a place to store all the tidbits we stripped and cleaned for sale.

Oh, Bethie. *sigh*”

Hush. It’s a process.

My point is, I stood and sipped the scalding coffee and really, REALLY didn’t want to be hearing what I was hearing, simply because of all the work it would take to make a visual confirmation. It didn’t matter, though. The trickling noises continued and there was nothing to be done for it but move all that shit out of the way. Even as I worked I was certain about what I was hearing. I didn’t even get the jump seat moved away from the door…

* The writer of this blog would like to take this opportunity to advertise a w123 diesel wagon jump seat, in palomino coloring. Excellent condition! Hardly used! Looks brand new with plenty of padding and lot of life left in her! Our rock bottom prices can’t be beat for this bottom pleasing seat!!! Call today before it’s too late!! Operators are standing by. *

…before I heard the unmistakable rush of a broken pipe. I got a flashlight, eased my way down into Gollum’s lair on the Stairs of Doom, and stepped onto the dirt cellar floor.

Folks, remember in Star Wars Episode IV when Luke steps on the pile of trash in the compactor only to discover that it is not, in fact, a solid pile of trash and he sinks into mucky, filthy, dianoga infested water?

*sigh* Yeah. That.

I hope it was just mud. I really, really do. And while I didn’t stick around long enough to let a dianoga pull me under, I’m fairly certain I heard it slither.

I hopped up on a cinder block and shined my flashlight through the Pit of Hell until I saw the broken pipe alllll the way at the other side of the basement where I could not get to it without further contaminating myself in the Bog of Eternal Stench.

I do a lot of maintenance around here. *Could* I have shut the water off and replaced the pipe myself? Sure. But I was not risking life and limb to finish a job a half-ass handyman failed to do right in the first place.

I called my landlord, and within a half hour, the loud, shaking, stinking set up was back on, only this time, the handyman not only did not vent the fumes, he up and left. Left everything running and took off. Later he was on his way back, saw me out in the drive shoveling, and took off. You know, like a baby. I think he was pissed that I called the landlords. He did this again, and finally I went back in the house. Not two minutes later he returned, shut off the machinery, ranted and raved in the basement before finally peeling out of the driveway.

He laid rubber on the road, folks.

Like any professional.

*rolly eyes*

Believe it or not, that wasn’t even my worst plumbing story every.

I can’t decide if the worst plumbing incident would be the Chronicles of the Zombie Mouse, wherein our heroine finds herself being stalked by a one-eyed robo-mouse run amok in the pipes that just WOULD. NOT. DIE…

…or The Man Who Knew Too Little About Pipe Snakes, and the Ceiling That Paid the Price. That one’s a cautionary tale, really.

Ah, but those are stories for another day.

Thus concludes a Morning Musing for Wednesday, January 14, 2015. I’m off to take a shower, and hopefully this time it will not set into motion a series of unfortunate events. Here’s hoping that Neighbor learned her lesson and has her water trickling. I gotta be honest, I’m a little dubious.

Winter. Pfft. Am I right?

Standard

Mornin’ all.

I need to write. And yet it is too cold to do so for very long. I’ve got stupidly poor blood flow in my hands and feet, and even as I’m chatting with you, I’m wearing gloves.

It’s still wicked cold here. Not as bad as the other day, but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. I’m talkin’ to you, Mother Nature. That sun in the sky isn’t just there for decoration, you know.

I caught the bathroom sink juuuust in time before it froze up this morning. We left it at a drip, but a mere drip was not enough. I was not so lucky with the washing machine. The water lines in froze and now I can’t do laundry today.

Oh, damn. I’m positively heart broken.

I think laundry has got to be one of my least favorite household chores. It’s supposed to warm up enough this weekend to thaw out the lines, and I’ll be able to catch up on Sunday before the boys need more clean clothes for school, so it’ll all work out. I just can’t do it today.

Or write. See, we’re just having a friendly little gab session…just chit chat and not real writing. I want to work on a novel. I’m in the middle of one. Actually, I crossed the middle and am firmly nearing the home stretch. But I hate *writing* if I have to stop my flow every half hour to warm up my hands. I just want to wind up the creative key and typety-type until my ideas are out for the day. I don’t want interruptions.

I guess we’ll just gab for a bit and hopefully this’ll take the edge off.

So. What do you want to talk about?

“Bethie, this is YOUR blog. I’m just here for the free coffee.”

Fair enough.

Only thing is, I don’t know what to talk about. And when that happens, there’s only one thing we can do.

Cue the go-go dancers, tune up the band, get ready for the intro because it’s….

*** HEADLINE ROUNUP!!! ***

Yes, let’s do it. Why not? I’m feeling talkative, yet void of ideas and you need SOMEthing to read while you suck down that coffee. Let’s do the very first Roundup of 2015, shall we?

*catchy theme music* *new go-go routine*

Bravo! Give the ladies and the band a round of applause, and let’s get to it. As always, these are actual headlines. I just supply the commentary.

– America is Colder Than Mars

False. This one pisses me off, simply because it’s bad science that people are now going to spread. Parts of America have temperature predictions that are lower than the peak high temps of certain parts of Mars. America won’t be “colder than Mars” until we also have -144 degree F nights to add to the average. And this isn’t even getting into the fact that the arctic circle regularly has the same…

“Bethie, I’m here for jokes with my free coffee, not science.”

Oh. Right. Sorry.

– Dad Accused of Tossing Daughter Off Bridge Acted Strange

Really!? A dude who threw his own kid off a friggin’ bridge was “strange”? I’m floored.

– French Manhunt Eerily Similar to Boston Lockdown

Oh, so you mean that France followed basic, logical steps to look for outlaws, too? Novel concept.

– Nuclear Forensic Experts Prepare for Worse

Worse what? Worse coffee in the break room? Worse parking spaces in the garage? Worse casual Friday sweater contests?? Worse WHAT?!!! DON’T LEAVE ME IN SUSPENSE!!!

Wintry Weather Closes Schools in Northeast

Sorry, I should have warned you to sit down before I dropped that stunner on you.

US Tries to Teach Iraq “The Will to Fight”

It’s a real struggle, what with them being such a peaceable nation and all.

For Many in Boston, French Shootings Bring Bad Memories

Oh. My. God. Look, the marathon bombing was horrible. Hands down. Not saying any different. But come on, Boston. It’s not about you.

Oklahoma Prisons Boss “Confident” Ahead of Next Executions

Well that’s good. I’d hate for him to murder someone if he was having a bout of low self esteem.

Atlanta Fire Chief Who Criticized Homosexuality May Challenge Ouster

Yes, he’ll call that rapscallion to the mat and there will be fisticuffs!

Cosby Jokes That Women Shouldn’t Drink Around Him

Ha ha. Ha ha ha. That’s so funny. Everyone knows date rape is hil-ar-ious. Can’t you hear the nation roar at your cleverness and wit. Really, we’re clutching our sides here. Asshole.

Baltimore Police Horse Maimed Hand of Child in a Wheelchair

This story has it all! Animals? Check. Police? Check. Animal police brutality? Check. The child in the wheelchair is really just icing on the cake.

FBI Ends Probe of Connecticut Man’s Disappearance

…in spite of the fact that they haven’t come close to finding him. When asked for comment, the lead investigator shrugged. “I guess I’m just not feeling it anymore,” he said before vowing to only take on cases that could contain car chases. “I always wanted to be in a car chase,” he added.

Man Injured in Stabbing

I really think the headline should be “Stabber Has Successful Day at Work”.

Belt Expands When Your Stomach Gets Full

We certainly have a lot of entries from the “No Shit Gazette” today.

Backlash Against Muslims Feared Across Europe

As opposed to every other day, when backlash against Muslims is feared across everywhere.

Japan Recalls Baby Food Over Cricket Contamination

CRICKETS?? What the hell, Japan?

No Birthday Celebrations For Kim Jong Un This Year

Dictator of the whole nation, and still he can’t even get a birthday party. Just pulls at the heartstrings, doesn’t it? Everyone join me in a pity party for the sad, friendless, unloved despot.

Rain & Cold

Yay, I love word games! Okay…let’s see…Oh! I got it! *achem* Hail & Humidity. Your turn.

Indonesia Officials Say “Ping” Detected in Search for AirAsia Black Box

But since they weren’t looking for pings, the search continues.

Indian Official Sacked for Pulling 24-year Sickie

The dude called in sick and stayed out of the office for 24 YEARS, still getting paid, still technically having the job. *slow clap* Well played, my friend. Well played.

Pennsylvania Jail Guard Made Prisoners Play Patty Cake

I’m torn in my reactions here. On the one hand, patty cake??!!! That monster CLEARLY must be stopped. On the other, I can’t help but think of this as cool and unusual punishment.

California Firm Recalls Beef, Pork For Possible Metal Contamination

Okay, potentially lethal shards or razor sharp metal may be just a *tad* worse than crickets. Apologies, Japan.

Slump in New York Arrests, Fines Hits Lawyers, Bailbondsmen Hard

Move over, Kim Jong. I found some more guests for your pity party.

Sober Monitors Must Attend Univ. of Virginia Frat Parties After Rape Allegations

So the way the university is going to handle the situation is to allow the frats to keep having their drunken keggers as long as they have…babysitters. I didn’t realize Bill Cosby was setting university policies now.

Federal Judge Makes Foie Gras Sales Legal in California

An enormous weight has just been lifted off the shoulders of the nation. I’ll rest easier at night knowing that the elite of California no longer have to risk their lives smuggling fattened duck livers across the Oregon border for their dinner parties. PHE-EW.

Arizona Signals Plan to Appeal Decision on Human Smuggling Law

??!?….sooo….do they *want* human smuggling? So many questions…

Harold Hamm Offers $975 Million Divorce Check: Wife Refuses It

Apparently Mrs. Hamm hasn’t heard about the foie gras ban being lifted. You don’t have to pay black market prices anymore, sweetie. Go ahead and take the money so we can all stop vomiting over the disgusting stories of your selfish, horrible, pathetic life.

Boehner Re-elected US House Speaker

Speaking of fucking idiots…

Cumming Man Records Driver Performing Lewd Act in Driveway

There is no comment I can make on this headline that will do anything but make you think less of me.

Belfie Stick Helps You Take Pictures of Your Butt

If you could see me, you would notice the lone tear I weep for my future that will be in the hands of the idiots that are creating these moronic devices. There. It just splashed into my coffee. You have officially ruined my day, Millennials. Are you happy now?

First Test-tube Baby Penguin Says Hello to World

It can TALK!!?? I told you freaky scientist bastards not to screw with the natural order, but would you listen?!

Diaper-wearing Volunteers Guard Filipinos for Black Nazarene Feast

…what? I…just….what??

Boehner Says it Hurts to be Called “Spineless or a Squish”

Look, Kim Jong! More and more pity partiers by the second!

Virgina Transportation Department Turning Road Kill into Compost

Admit it. You sighed in relief when you read the word “compost”, too.

Florida Man Accused of Toting Baby to Home Burglary

Make up your mind, folks. Do you want dads to be involved in their kids’ lives or not?

Hasbro to Replace Penis Shaped Play Doh Toy

Critics said that the toy demonstrated an unfair bias by the company, as Hasbro did not offer a vagina shaped toy for girls. “I’m shocked and saddened that a corporation as large and respected as Hasbro would bend to old fashioned confines of gender roles,” said a representative for the organization who created the online petition to raise awareness for the situation. “And their move to pull the toy instead of also offering an equally empowering toy for girls shows you just how much further we need to go to get the equality our daughters deserve.”

Cars Buried Under Salt After Morton Storage Collapse

After 50 years of debate, I think we can finally all agree that too much salt IS bad for you health.

Record For Largest Paper Wad Set In Minnesota

Don’t have much to do up there, do you, Minnesota?

Man Hurt In Dryer Fire

…um…you do know you’re supposed to take the clothes off first, right?

Why Funky, Flashing Disco Clams Get Their Groove On

You read that right. Funky. Flashing. Disco. Clams.

I think I finally found my spirit animal.

Thus concludes a Roundup Musing for Friday, January 9, 2015. Everyone have a good weekend. Let that funky inner clam fly the freak flag!

I don’t know that this is the best way to make friends and influence people…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Winter found us. We tried to hide, but Nature’s got a nose like a bloodhound.

…true statement. Think about it.

Right now, it’s a whopping 2 degrees out. It wouldn’t be so bad if the wind would stop. Those who don’t live in a creaky old house in a cold climate, let me bring you up to speed. When it’s cold and still, your heaters will fill your little abode with a warmer cloud of air. However, when it’s cold and windy, the wind finds every little crack and draft and sneaks in to steal your toasty cloud.

“Didn’t you put plastic on your windows?”

Yep. And that plastic is bulging and billowing like an accordion. It’s cool, in a sort of creepy way. The wind gusts, the plastic on the three windows in the living room fill and push out, then slowly recede when the gust stops. It’s like the house is breathing.

Oh shit.

The house is breathing! I didn’t even think about that before and now…now I’m casting a wary glance around the room and I swear I heard something cackle.

*gulp*

I’ve seen this movie before, folks. When a house gains sentience, there’s only one way this can end.

“Bethie, get a grip.”

*deep breath* Yeah. Heh heh. Yeah, sorry. Got a little swept up in my own imagination there for a minute. The house isn’t breathing. That’s stupid. I didn’t sleep very well the past few nights. That’s it. I’m just over tired.

*gusty billow*

…but if that creepy “don’t open that door!!!” music starts to play, I’m hitting the road.

So how’s your 2015 going so far? Pretty much the same, huh? Why is it that every New Years, people think the next year will be so very different?

That’s rhetorical. People are foolishly hopeful that change is as easy as the flip of a calendar page, that’s why. I get that. I just needed a segue from “I think my house is going to eat me” to “Hey, I read something I want to discuss.”

The something I want to discuss is the reaction to the story of the transgender suicidal teen, Leelah Alcorn. Have you heard of this? Not only was it national news, but anyone with a Facebook account MUST have seen the story, too.

If you somehow aren’t familiar with the story, here it is in a nutshell. A teenager who was born a boy, but identified as a girl, committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving semi truck on the highway. She left a note on her blog explaining her reasons for her actions, blaming society in general for non acceptance, and specifically calling out her parents for not understanding her desire to transition to her body parts to match the inner female she already identified as.

Now, before I get emails about me not being clear how to best tell this story in the most inoffensive and respectful way possible…what. WHAT!? What the hell did I do wrong? Because I know for a fact that someone WILL email me to say, “I cannot believe you even brought up the fact that she was ever a boy…” or “Way to side with the parents, asshole,” or “She didn’t need to change her body parts to be who she was!”

That’s what I’d like to discuss. No matter how politically correct the varying articles were, SOMEONE was offended. Someone sounded off in the comments. The articles that mentioned the kid’s birth name were blasted for even bringing up the fact that the person was born a boy. Um, HELLO. The entire point of the kid’s depression and resulting suicide was society’s problem with transgender people! The fact that she was born a boy is kind of pivotal to the entire discussion. Not to mention that the girl herself wrote her former name in the suicide note. Articles that copied and pasted the note WORD FOR WORD were crucified for including that part. The parents did not understand their child. That was abundantly clear. Yet articles that brought that sentiment forward were called out for taking the parents’ side.

And I will most likely be called out for the same.

What do you want from me, people? What do you want from ANY news site reporting this information?

These are the facts of the case. Once upon a time, there was a baby boy who swiftly grew to understand that while the body possessed a penis, everything else inside was actually female. The child then grew up in a society that did not understand what being “transgender” means, and the parents were part of that clueless society. This snowballed into a mental illness that caused her to take her own life by jumping in front of a vehicle, not only killing herself but creating a victim of the truck driver who now must live his entire life knowing that he was the one to end the life of a child.

Those are facts.

So why isn’t it okay for the story to be reported like that? Why do the facts piss people off?

Among the dozens of complaints in the comments section of one of the articles that went far more to the left than I did in reporting yet STILL got called out for insensitivity, there were the expected dozens of hate posts. Come on, you didn’t think it would all be Kumbya for equality, did you? There were hate posts against transgender people, the whole concept of being transgender, the standard “I knew a guy who got ‘tranny tricked'” bullshit, stabs at the LGBT community, etc.

There were comments about politicians.

There were comments about Christians.

There were comments about whether transgender people find more acceptance in the white community, or with minority groups.

There were comments speculating on whether or not transgender people could be considered an actual minority group themselves.

…on and on, as you kind of would expect from such a misunderstood topic.

And why is it misunderstood? People are quick to blame religion, that it’s religious fervor that’s keeping the transgender community down. Sure, there are some religious folks doing that. You’ve got whackadoos in every subset of the population and there will be religious people claiming that those who change their outward genders are “sinners”. Keep in mind, though, that there are still religious people claiming that it is okay to buy women and slaves, because that’s what was done in the bible.

My point is, this issue goes way deeper than religion, a fact that is evident if you want to wade through the comments of such articles. People who have no religious affiliations whatsoever don’t understand the biological aspects of being transgender.

When you are a kid in school, you learn that there are two different sets of chromosomes that create two distinct genders necessary for continued population of the species. When you’re in about fifth grade, you get separated by gender, and boys are given the “so you have smelly armpits and wet sheets in the morning, eh?” talk, while girls get the, “you should be HAPPY to bleed all over the place every month…now put on a bra” speech. In middle school, your uncomfortable gym teacher no doubt separated you yet again and gave you an uncomfortable talk about STD’s that included a lot of “ums” and red faced muttering before passing out pamphlets no one read. And then you got into high school and discover that you were the only girl in shop class and your guidance counselor suggested you switched to home ec…

…shit, I just aged myself, didn’t I? I don’t even think they HAVE home ec. anymore.

Anyway, after all of this carefully constructed gender education, the trans community is expecting everyone to be like, “Oh, okay. We’re all wrong. Go it.”

I’m sorry. As much as it sucks, life doesn’t work like that. People don’t work like that. The human brain is not conditioned to throw away an entire lifetime of observed education in the blink of an eye. People want to know why. They NEED to know why. They need to be able to wrap their heads around a situation to be sure there’s no harm, no threat, no potential personal ramifications. It’s simply genetics, folks. We’re animals. We need to make sure something is safe before we can let it be and move on with our lives.

Now, add to the combined gender education hurdle the fact that MOST people love their genitals. Most men are proud of their penises, and most women like having a vagina. It’s very difficult for someone who loves what they’ve got to understand that not everyone feels the same.

Okay, think of the personal horror you feel when you play your new favorite song for your best friend and she says, “Meh.” You’re utterly aghast. Or when you try lemon poppy seed cake and it is THE thing and you just want to share it with the world, only to find out your husband thinks it’s gross. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that not everyone will feel the same, and that’s just over something so trivial as a song or snack. Now, apply that to your genitals, a part that so many people feel such a deep connection with that it defines their very being. If you are someone who is happy in your gender like most people, you will cringe when you think of someone cutting it off or reshaping your most favored part.

Look at you. Just me mentioning has you crossing your legs in a protective stance.

Combine all that, and you can see that the transgender folks are facing an enormous uphill battle here. I get it, and I’m not trying to say any different. My point is that they are going about things the wrong way.

So what can be done?

Well, blasting news agencies for petty, unintentional “insensitivities” when you know damn well they’re trying their best is certainly not the way to educate the public. The ONLY way that change will happen is through understanding and reason.

I guess I’m calling you out, LGBT community. You are hurting yourselves because you’re too wrapped up IN yourselves to understand the rest of the world is honestly looking to you to explain. When someone asks a legitimate question about transgender people, they get shut down or publicly shunned. When an article sets out to shine a light on the tragic lack of mental and emotional support for transgender teens, they’re called insensitive and uncaring. What do you want?

You want acceptance. People don’t accept that which they do not understand. And people can’t understand without asking questions. Yet, the moment they ask questions, they are “persecuting” and “focusing on differences.”

You’re sending a very conflicted message, LGBT.

The average person in 1980 did not understand gay people. Not just the uber-religious groups. The average person. There was a basic lack of understanding that transcended all social, economical, political, religious, and gender groups. When I was in high school in the 90’s, there was a great push for an understanding of the science, of the biological facts of being gay. By the time I graduated high school, the scientifically-minded folks were winning. Now, being gay is widely accepted as simply a matter of, well, matter. Now, the average person realizes that being gay is just who a gay person is. They have brown hair? Cool. They’re gay? Same deal. Cool. It’s part of their make up, their genes, their brains and hearts and souls. It’s just who they are.

Where is the push by the LGBT community to spread the same type of education about transgender people? Isn’t it more important to ring in on these articles to give deeper understanding and explanation than to use the public forum to voice offense because the article quoted Leelah herself?

A transgender person is a person who is born with thoughts, feelings, and emotions that make them a different gender than what the shape of their genitals would indicate. Their brains function like that of the opposite gender. Their organs produce the chemicals as that of the opposite gender. By everything except the shape of the genitals, they are the other gender. The ONLY reason they are not considered that other gender is because of a penis or vagina…a collection of skin, tissue, and nerves that formed incorrectly when the person was growing in the womb.

“But if they have a penis, they are supposed to be a boy.”

This is what it all comes down to. A penis is one part of the body. Just one part. If they have the mind, thoughts, internal chemistry, emotions, and sense of identity as a girl, doesn’t it make much more sense that the penis is the thing that is incorrect? When 99% of the person is a girl, isn’t it the 1% of malformed skin that’s wrong?

Let me put it to you this way: If I was born with a vestigial tail, would I then be a monkey? Or what if something hiccuped while I was forming and I ended up being born with eight appendages? Would I be an octopus? No. That’s INSANE.

One part of me that formed incorrectly would NOT define me as a person.

Get it now?

And if you just got it, then others will. Not through me saying, “You’re not being sensitive enough,” or “Blindly accept it because I said to.” Reasonable, straightforward. That’s honestly what it will take to create an acceptance for transgender people. That’s what it took to create the growing acceptance we’re now thankfully seeing for gay teens. That’s what it’s going to take to create a world that will embrace the scared and confused kids who need comfort and understanding so they don’t commit suicide because of who they are.

Thus concludes the chilly musing for Tuesday, January 6. 2105. So far no scary gonna-get-got music, so I think the house breathing is okay after all. I’m off to clean out my fridge so I’ll have enough dishes to justify washing the dishes once again to warm my hands up…