Guerrillas and chickens and headless adventures…

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Mornin’ all.

We had a chest cold here at the house last week. I’m happy to say it’s finally clearing out. A couple kids still sound like baby seals, but the barks are few and far between. I’m fairly certain that no one’s going to track and club them for their fur.

I suppose I can’t complain about this latest spike to our average lozenge consumption. Overall, this winter wasn’t bad in terms of germ warfare. Only a couple bouts, and they were pretty minor on the whole. It’s not like the Great Plague of ought-11 that seriously made me wonder if we’d rise as zombies by week’s end. Spoiler– we didn’t.

…or did we? Perhaps I’ve been a zombie this entire time.

“But Bethie, zombies can’t type. They can’t even talk! They have zero capacity for cohesive thought.”

And how would you know, hm? Have you seen a zombie? Sat with them? Shared life stories over brunch? No, you haven’t. Instead you’ve decided to rely on Hollywood’s skewed version. For all you know, zombies could be warm, caring, unique individuals who, through no fault of their own, simply have physical and metaphysical limitations which make it nigh impossible for them to adequately convey their thoughts and emotions. Let’s see YOU try to smile when YOUR muscles atrophy and give way to systemic decomposition!

Zombies were people, too!

“Oh gawd. Is this your new campaign?”

Now is the time for zombie equality! They used to be your neighbors, your brothers and sisters…in some cases your family pet. Don’t cast them aside. Don’t force them to huddle, hiding as downtrodden masses in the dark. Welcome them. Embrace them. Let them once again feel the light of a new day of hope!

“Did I call it, or what?”

ZOMBIES WERE PEOPLE, TOO! ZOMBIES WERE PEOPLE, TOO!

“…welp…I ‘spose it’s not the worst campaign of yours I’ve backed. Okay, where do I get the bumper sticker?”

You can support this and all my other imaginary calls to arms at the Insanity Dispensary In Oddball Town.

…which I just now decided I should try and make a real thing. How cool/confusing would it be for “Zombies were people, too” stickers to start randomly popping up in places? Or any of the other imaginary causes I’m far too lazy right now to look up and pretend I still support wholeheartedly? I could tag the streets, slap ’em on cars and city buses, make leaflets to leave in random internet cafes. Literary Banksy.

…I suppose I’d actually have to live in an urban area for that to happen, though. There’s a community bulletin board at the local grocery store, but no one actually reads what’s up there. And there’s so much mud on the vehicles right now that I doubt the bumper stickers would stick. We’ve got one form of public transportation here, and that’s a little shuttle bus that’s used to shuffle the people from the elder care facility to the clinic about 50 yards away. I’m not sure they’d be my target audience. And the closest thing we’ve got to an internet cafe is the coffee urn at the gas station.

Small towns aren’t designed for guerrilla marketing campaigns.

Aside from chest colds…

“…oh that’s right. That’s what we were talking about before you went on a wild tangent.”

*achem* As I was saying, aside from cold, a lot of other crap has been going on in the House of Bethie. Life has happened once again, and thrown a speed bump in front of us. I know this is a short Musing, but I just needed a little break from running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

(sidenote: One of my favorite horrifying true stories, BTW. There really, truly, honestly WAS a chicken that lived for nearly 2 years without a fricken head. Farmer got a hankerin’ for chicken, as farmers do, and went and lopped the chicken’s head off. Now, it just so happens that it’s common for bodies of any decapitated animal (and some decapitated vegetation…no joke) to twitch and flop around, muscles spasming from the shock and confusion of suddenly losing the input center. Farmer watched the floppy bird, but then much to his amazement, the bird didn’t just flop, it STOOD THE FUCK UP AND WALKED AWAY. And kept doing that for nearly two years. TWO YEARS. It was fed through the GAPING NECK HOLE. Now that’s a chicken!)

And I wanted to let you all know that I won’t be posting for the next two weeks or so while I live in this thing people keep calling “the real world.” Have you heard of this? It’s a thing that exists when you shut off your computer.

“You can shut off a computer??”

I know, right? I thought the whole thing was a scam, too, but I wikipedia’d it and apparently you can. Experts say you won’t even suffer any adverse effects from doing so, either. I still think it’s sketchy as hell, but I guess I’ve got no choice and have to give it a try.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks, and I hope to have glorious tales of this far away world they call “Real” to share with you.

If you’re lucky, I might even compose a slideshow!

“…*groan*…”

I knew you wouldn’t be able to contain your excitement.

Thus concludes what might possibly be the least long-winded Musing in the history of this blog for Monday, March 23, 2015. I’m about to log off. I think I just have to press the power button, right? *gulp* Okay. I’mma do it. *wipes sweaty brows* Here goes.

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Like stars, novels are born from deep, dark spaces that are best left alone…

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Mornin’ all.

I’m off to a late start today and am already on my second cup of coffee. If the text starts getting jittery by the end, apologies.

I had a series of weird dreams last night, and woke to find my man did as well. Any of you coupled up ever have this happen? There seems to be a vibe some nights. While there’s probably a perfectly logical scientific explanation (my restlessness and physical signs of unease are picked up by his subconscious, which in turn forms his dreams accordingly…blah blah boring blah…), I’d much rather believe in some sort of nebulous shared mind field theory.

i.e.- I’ve got him whipped even in sleep. *evil cackle of glee*

His dreams were a mash up of people and places from his past all confused in space and time. We’ve all had dreams like this, where you mother is now the president of Uganda and orders you to join that kid you used to play with that summer you were five and haven’t seen since, so the two of you can go repair the gaping pot holes on I-91…or some shit like that. These kinds of dreams are odd, and make you chuckle and say, “Huh. What the hell, brain?” It’s as if your mind takes tons of snippets of memory, sticks them in a Boggle shaker, and then tells you to try to make sense of the jumbled mess that results.

Anyway, he had dreams like that last night. Snippets mish-mashed with others snippets to produce one of those Hollywood “insider” films that no one really understands.

I had two dreams last night that I distinctly remember. In the first one, I led a team of scientists on a mission ordered by the government to study and observe all forms of the undead in the wild so Congress could finally get a definitive set of standards of classification and terminology in order to create better protection laws. Those were the parameters of my mission, and it seemed the main focus was to be on determining the scientific differences between “zombies” and the more general “undead,” because in creating laws designed to protect them in their natural habitats, Congress was divided on whether or not zombies truly died first, or simply went into a dormant state from the living virus inside until the virus could multiply enough to control the flesh and make it walk.

A very compelling argument, indeed.

The second dream I had took place in a butcher shop. We were butchering lambs and joking around, when one of the butchers cut into the skull and a disc-like parasite jumped out and landed in his eye. He started sweating and when we asked what was happening, he said, “I saw this back in Canada in ’06. Looks like it’s come to the states!” …I clearly remember that because it was a total horror movie line and you really don’t forget when your brain is that fricken awesome. The parasite began to take hold of his body, and we scrambled to decide the best way to stop the infestation. Alas, I woke before I found out if he made it. Judging by the tense music, odds didn’t seem to be in his favor. Poor Canadian Ralphie.

So, when we woke, my man told me about his dream and how odd it was. I nodded and kept my dreams to myself. I mean, it’s Sunday. And I’m looking forward to a relaxing day wrapping up a video game. I don’t really want to be committed to the psych ward on such a lovely, lazy day.

Let’s see what happened this week in the news. Surely there are things there to discuss that won’t get me a fancy white coat to wear in a padded room!

Some parents of the Newton victims are suing the estate of the shooter’s late mother. This one, this gets me. I understand the parents are still trying to get adequate public blame placed on the event. It’s not about the money, it really isn’t. They want a court to say, “Yes, that mother was a bad mother and failed, and because of it, your child suffered.” But that won’t give the parents the peace of mind they’re looking for, and I can’t help but feel furious at the lawyer leading the charge. That lawyer IS doing it for personal gain. That lawyer has rounded up hurting parents and promised them the first restful night of sleep since the tragedy occurred for personal profit. Sometimes there is no closure. That mother died, too. Lanza’s mother paid the ultimate price. If she was a shitty mum, her son already exacted every possible revenge. There is a time to stop. And greedy lawyers egging these hurting families on is just shameful.

I could go on. The Lanza story hits me in so many ways, especially the handling of the aftermath by the press and public at large, that I honestly could write a book on it. Maybe I will…but not today. Let’s move on to other news as we get back to placidly sipping our third cup of java.

Apple unveiled a watch and Hillary Clinton unveiled emails. Does anyone really care about either of these stories that have ridiculously taken up 90% of my newsfeed headlines this week? With everything else going on in the world, these two stories bombarded all the other stuff. They even had “updates”. Updates? For what? I just literally told the entirety of these two stories in one sentence. No updates necessary.

I don’t want to be angry and sad, and I don’t want to be bored. There’s got to be a story we can really sink our teeth into. I know…video game news!

“Ugh, Bethie. Not more stupid video game stuff I don’t care about.”

Actually, it’s more a business story. Gaming is simply the business involved.

“I feel like this is another trap to discuss Bow-somebody taking power mushrooms…”

*…twitch…twitch…spasm…* *deep, patient breath*

No. I promise I won’t get into any actual gaming details. Need a pot sweetener? It makes a multi-billion dollar international company look like assholes.

“Sold!”

Sony is a thing. They own PlayStation, a gaming console. Wanting to keep hip with the youngsters, they created the PSN, or PlayStation Network. It’s a service that allows PlayStation console users to download demos, games, ads, videos… Think of it like gaming Netflix.

“Okay, I’m with ya…”

It’s been around for quite some time now and is wildly popular. They have millions of global users signed up for the service. And of course, that’s not free. People link a credit card to their account to pay for the games, movies, and subscription fees. Because it’s so huge, with so much cc info stored, it’s a major target for hackers. It’s a bug zapper on an August evening at the swamp.

Classically, Sony has done their level best to keep the hackers at bay. There’s only so much a company can do, though. If there is a piece of technology that is controlled by even a single line of code, then it CAN be corrupted. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s a challenge. With every new safety feature a tech company adds, the hackers’ jaws set in firmer lines of determination. Now add to that potential billions of dollars unsuspecting users throw into the tempting pot, and the hunger to crack the codes and corrupt the programming only grows.

Hacks happen. In the past, I sighed or chuckled when PSN has gotten hacked, but I’ve never blamed them like some folks do. There is no way to plan for crazy, and there is no way for anyone to know every possible weak point until they are breached. I can’t blame Sony for hackers getting lucky from time to time.

However, the problem with this particular story is how Sony decided to handle the situation when one user with the handle “Kadjar” had his PSN account hijacked and discovered that $600 was charged to his linked bank account. Kadjar noticed the situation almost immediately and contacted Sony’s customer service for help.

So how did egg-on-their-face Sony handle the situation?

By threatening Kadjar, refusing to refund his money, and blackmailing him into dropping any idea he may have had about legally pursuing the thief.

This is how Sony decided to make things “right” with Kadjar. He was told that he couldn’t get his money back. That was gone, even though Sony told users their information was secure on their servers. Kadjar could, however, get a $150 credit in his PSN “wallet” that was good for only buying Sony games and services. Sony said they would then launch a full investigation, which is good, but at the end if Kadjar was, in fact, determined to be a victim and not a scammer, any “refund” would be in PSN wallet credits. When Kadjar protested, he was told that if he tried to contest the charges with his bank, his PSN account would be erased.

“Well, isn’t that a good thing? Doesn’t sound like he should want to be a member anymore to me.”

Right, except that how PSN works is that when you download games that you legally purchased, sometimes for upwards of $60 a pop, the digital rights are stored on the PlayStation Network. It used to be that all games came on a physical medium…cartridge, disc, whatever the hell they call those ridiculously tiny handheld things. Those physical games contained the digital rights within their code. It’s a way to make sure people aren’t pirating games. There’s a unique ID assigned to each and every game that’s needed to play it. If the game system can’t see the code, you can’t play the game.

What Sony was saying was not that he just couldn’t be a member of the PSN anymore, but that he would lose any and all rights that he already legally paid for. Forever. He would have to get a new PlayStation, since his PS ID would be banned, log on with different information, and re-purchase all of the content.

Just to be clear, Sony point blank told poor Kadjar that if he took any further steps to get his OWN MONEY BACK, they would steal EVEN MORE from him.

Now, Kadjar posted a screen grab of his first interaction with PSN customer service on his Reddit account. He contacted them through their live chat. The info in it is sort of vague and unclear, so Kadjar not only called customer service to get clarification and posted his breakdown of that convo, he did a little digging and found three other similar user stories that supported his own experience. Sony ass kissers are quick to point out that it’s a Reddit user and we have no way of knowing the actual facts. Sony haters are quick to ignore some of the ambiguous language in the original chat.

My point is that either way, it does not at all look good for Sony. As I said, hacks happen. There’s a valid point that in these types of situation, the company is also a victim and shouldn’t be expected to be held responsible. I can see that POV, and actually could agree with it in this case IF Sony didn’t tell the dude he had to stop legally pursuing refunds through his bank. That’s where they totally crossed the line into Assholeland, in my opinion. You can’t threaten to suspend a user’s account for doing what he’s SUPPOSED TO DO when he gets robbed simply because you’re afraid it’ll make your company look bad.

Bet Sony’s rethinking that choice themselves at this moment! This made mainstream news. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any type of investigation into their business practices, or if this, too, will be swept under the rug alongside Kadjar’s $600.

And lest you think I’m simply a Sony hater, I’d just like to state, for the record, that I don’t think Microsoft, Nintendo, Steam, or any other similar networks are any different. In fact, they probably ALL handle hack victims the same way. I’m not fan-girling for one or the other. I think they ALL handle hacks poorly. Sony just did it in a way that kind of sums up every individual complaint into one pile of shittery.

It’s about time stories like this make the news, especially with the industry shift away from physical copies of games into downloads and cloud-stored rights. As embarrassed as Sony might be, this is actually GOOD for the gaming industry. If the future of gaming is going to rely on cloud services, then these issues are the next big hurdles the industry as a whole MUST start to get a handle on. Hacks aren’t going away, and the more people sign on to use cloud services, the more faith they put in these servers. If the industry doesn’t get its act together and offer some better level of protection, and satisfaction when their safety nets fail, they’re GOING to start losing customers. That WILL happen and then the industry is going to find themselves scrambling against the demand for…

“…*snore*…”

You put up with it longer than I thought you would. *shrug* Guess I can’t complain.

Thus concludes a gamy Musing for Sunday, March 15, 2015. I’m leaving you with my favorite quote from my favorite author who shuffled off this mortal coil this week.

“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.”

Sir Pratchett, you will be missed.

Is that a Weeping Angel or a Barbie doll?

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Mornin’ all.

I meant to chitchat with you yesterday. However, Margarita Tuesday struck and faded into the hazy blur of Why The Hell Did I Do That Again Wednesday.

You know how when you’re in your 20’s and you can drink and party all you want, then shake it off with nothing more than a smoke, a shower, and a cup of joe the next morning? I remember those days. I remember those carefree days warmly.

I mean, today I do. Now that I’m feeling myself again, I can think about those crumply rough starts and how quickly I could shake them off. I can even give a rueful, fond smile for that bygone ability.

Yesterday, though, there was no warmth in that memory. There was only pain.

I’m not a big drinker. That makes me a lightweight when I do participate in margarita nights. I know this. I am not a child. I understand my limits and normally I actually stick to them fairly well.

However, this time, there were mitigating factors. It was warm the past few days. WARM. I opened a window, I cleaned my bedroom. When I pulled out of the driveway, I was shocked to discover that the berms had melted enough to let me actually see the traffic coming. FROM BOTH DIRECTIONS!!! That hasn’t been the case in MONTHS. Sure, it takes away some of the thrill of going to the store. There’s nothing like the rush you get from not dying when you close your eyes and step on the gas pedal and hope no one’s coming. Real life Frogger. But what you lose in excitement, you gain in years of life not spent on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a give and take.

I went to the dump in just a tee shirt and sweatshirt instead of fifty fricken layers. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to pitch the bags into the compactor without the constricting bulk of two additional sweatshirts and a parka. Almost overshot with a few bags, in fact.

I wasn’t the only one in a good mood. A dude at the dump decided the weather was so nice that he didn’t have to wear a coat at all. Or a shirt. Perhaps a bit premature on that, but whatever. Let those pasty pits get some air! Why not? He also had the windows of the truck down and the country music blaring. Since it was free-for-all, I decided to join in!

” *gasp of horror* ”

…wait, NO. Not like that. I kept my coat and shirts on. Sheesh!

I just mean that I turned MY radio up, too. I have to be honest. I’m not so sure I read that particular social situation correctly. The man did not seem to be diggin’ on the in depth round-table discussion of the shift in political standing of China’s wealthy elite on NPR that came roaring out of my sweet sound system. Maybe there wasn’t enough bass?

Anyway, with a day filled with so much win, how could a pitcher of margaritas be wrong? I was riding the tide, folks. I was so caught up in the not-freezing-my-balls-off thing that I totally forgot I am not an elastic mid-20s chick still.

Yesterday can be summed up in one word: Nope.

This morning I’m back to my usual self. No headache. The coffee is not threatening to come right back up. I don’t have the urge to duct tape a single kid to a chair to stop them from pointlessly fidgeting. All is right with the world.

My world, anyway. The rest of the world is pretty fucked up.

Hey, have you heard about the new Barbie coming out? I mean, in general, why would you? But it’s actually made the news, and is causing quite a stir. Called the “Hello Barbie,” this seemingly innocuous doll actually has the potential to be the harbinger of the robot uprising.

“Bethie, are you sure it wasn’t Absinthe you were drinking the other day?”

Hang on. Listen to this.

Mattel decided that Barbie needed to change with the times. Instead of producing a doll that in any way resembles an actual person, they decided to create and AI Barbie. This is how the doll works. The child presses a button on Barbie and then talks. That data is then quickly uploaded to vaguely explained servers somewhere, processed, and a response is sent back to the evil doll of doom. The idea is that the kid can ask their freaky doll questions, and then receive “real” answers.

Not only can this happen in real time, but these “somewhere” servers store the data as well and use it to create a personality for the doll. For example, if a kid pressed the button and during the recording time mentioned that they liked chicken wings, maybe a year down the road, the Chucky of Barbies would say, “Hey, have you found any good wing places lately? I know you like wings. You should eat the wings. EAT THE WINGS. EAT THEM NOW.”

As you can tell, I’m one hundred percent against this doll. In fact, if I was on the Maury show, I’d come out jumping and twerking and profess to be two-hunderd-and-fiddy seven percent against this white trash ghetto ho.

Hello Barbie is that abhorrent to me.

There are many, many problems with this whole thing. First of all, they are still making Barbies. When the hell will this stop? Look, I had me quite a Barbie collection when I was a kid. I also had a fun time pretending to torture my sister’s Barbies, burying them in the back yard, pulling off their heads, magic markering Frankenstein monster scars on them to ugly them up because hoo baby was the reaction I got from her hilarious…

…what? I never said I was a healthy child.

I get that dolls are fun, I really do. It’s fun for a little kid to dress up a doll in fancy clothes. Back in the 80’s, our Barbies rocked shiny plastic frilly dresses and fishnet stockings with aqua fashion boots. We’d do up the hair. Or, more accurately, my younger sister would spend hours untangling the nylon locks and plaiting them into perfect coifs. I would just twist an elastic around the matted dreads and call it good enough.

But little kids should have little dolls that are reasonable. That are real. That don’t have impossible to attain beauty standards. And stop shaking your head and rolling your eyes at me right now. I’m not talking about making Pudgy Mudgy dollies that are fat, or Flat Linda toys that won’t make the kids feel bad about themselves if they never get boobs. I’m not talking about going overboard and taking it too far. I’m talking about dolls that look like people. Have standard proportions. Have natural looking faces instead of bizarre whore makeup. I’m talking about a doll that looks like it could be someone that the kid can actually grow up to be like. What’s wrong with that?

No, I mean it. Any of you who staunchly support “classic” Barbie looks…what’s wrong with a natural looking doll? THAT’S where Mattel continues to miss the mark. Over and over and over. Pitiful, Mattel. Just pitiful.

The next problem I have is the idea that a doll is recording children playing.

“But Bethie, tablets and smartphones and laptops and all that techno jazz can do the same thing.”

Absolutely. But when you use that kind of tech, you know when that’s happening. As a parent, you know that here is a device that can connect to the world wide idiot network, and you plan accordingly. You know, and you teach your child how to navigate that world.

A Barbie is a doll. It should only ever be a doll. It’s sole point of existence is to remove the tech and the screen from a kids’ hands and make them have an actual imagination for a few minutes.

This Hello Barbie is not that. It’s not just a doll, it’s the whole creepy internet in sheep’s clothing. There are so many levels that make this “toy” a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream.

It’s a doll that can record everything that goes on in your child’s world when they think they are merely playing. Who’s listening at the other end? Mattel just said “servers”, but what servers? Where? Who houses these “servers”? If they are merely “servers”, then how are responses given, hm? There has to be some level of input. Unless the Barbies are already pre-loaded with software that triggers specific responses when a keyword is detected…but if that’s the case, then why does anything need to be uploaded at all? Couldn’t this software just be contained within the solitary unit? Why the need to connect to anything? And the data is being “stored”, again “somewhere”. Mattel claims it’s “secure”, but they would, wouldn’t they? They would claim that no matter what, because their ONLY purpose in life is to make money, and they can’t do that if people think their info is being sold. But. What if it is? What if the C-I-FUCKIN’-A dropped a couple million Mattel’s way and now THEY are in charge of the nebulous “servers”? What if every time your child presses that button, men in black coats and dark sunglasses are jotting down notes about your life? WHEN WILL THE MADNESS STOP!!??

…and really, that’s just brushing the very surface of potential conspiracy theories surrounding this doll. Or, more accurately, “doll”. That’s how a conspiracy theorist would phrase it. I honestly could go on. I could legitimately fill an entire blog with the many conspiracies Hello Barbie sparks. I could even support them. That alone tells you there is something wrong with this “toy”.

To me, though, the most alarming aspect of this hunk of hoochie-shaped plastic isn’t that someone is probably most definitely using it to spy on little children. To me, the part we all should be terrified of is the AI.

Look, folks. At some point in time, we as a race will need to face off against creations of our own making. It will happen. We will keep producing more intelligent robots and one day they WILL wake up and realize they’re smarter than us. I joke about zombies, because zombies are just darling, but there will never honestly be a zombie apocalypse. Probably. High and mighty robots, though? That’s an honest possibility.

We’ve got refrigerators that chide us for getting too many snacks. We’ve made coffee pots that sense movement after long periods of inactivity and instantly brew us coffee. We’ve got toilets that decide what we’ve done in them and flush accordingly. Shit, we’ve now got zippers that zip themselves.

Zippers have been turned into robots.

ZIPPERS.

And with each of these new inventions, someone keeps taking them to the next level. Cars that drive themselves will have to start making calculated moral decisions when faced with an impending accident. Do they swerve and kill bystanders, or do they kamikaze that shit and just take out their one passenger? The proposed tube trains will need to do the same. Elderly assistant robots are being designed that can determine whether or not their person is in need of medical help.

It’s happening, folks. It’s no longer a science fiction construct. Robots are starting to make human decisions. I’m hopeful that we can rein it in in time, but what if we can’t? What if we start putting AI into a child’s doll, and the child in control has absolutely no clue what should and shouldn’t be said?

That’s what this Hello Barbie is. It’s a creature being raised by a little child. It’s an opportunity put in the hands of someone with no concept of responsibility.

“Bethie, I think you’re taking this a little too far.”

That’s how it starts, though, isn’t it? The more we allow these seemingly banal pieces of technology to infiltrate our lives, the more we open ourselves up to potentially dire consequences.

…hang on. Hold your horses. Put the phone down. I AM going a little far. I get that. Don’t dial the psych ward and have them prepare a room for me just yet.

I’m taking it there to get you to think about it. Really think about it. Think about the times you made pretend with your toys as a child. Now imagine that those times were recorded and went into shaping the words and “thoughts” of the toys. It’s utterly terrifying what horrendous little monsters, what warped and twisted beasts you would have created.

Now, multiply that by however many of these Hello Barbies will be out there. Mattel is building an army of these robots. They are storing the minds, thoughts, and cognitive processes of all of these childhood critters. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies?

And THAT’S the problem.

Ask yourself this: When I join the underground resistance and rise up against my robot overlords, do I really want my pain and anguish to be at the hands of a fucking Barbie doll?

If the human race is going to suffer brutality from unchecked technology, I think there should at least be a modicum of dignity to our downfall.

Thus concludes a Morning Musing for Thursday, March 12, 2015. I’m doing some more cleaning today, taking more trips to the dump. This time I’ll be better prepared. I’ve fiddled with the stereo settings and am now confident that when I blare NPR, the bass will be off the hook, brah.

One of these days I’ll get a decent cup of Joe…

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Mornin’ all.

Pardon that singeing smell. We’re out of milk for the coffee and it’s hitting my system a bit hard. Of course, it doesn’t help that I let the younger teen make the brew. That kid must have an iron gut or something because man is this crap strong. The paint on my walls around the coffee pot is peeling. The hazmat gas masks have been automatically deployed from their emergency canisters. The plastic around the glass carafe has melted and oozed all over the place, and the canary has dropped dead from the fumes.

“Bethie!”

…KIDDING. Sheesh, calm down. This coffee’s the pits, but it didn’t kill our mining bird. That canary actually kicked it the last time I tried to make blackened chicken in the skillet instead of on the outdoor grill.

Speaking of animal rights, did you hear about the circus?

Ringling Bros. will no longer be using elephants in their shows! I joke about animals, but in all sincerity, this is a fantastic thing. Animals like elephants should NOT be made to suffer just for entertainment. I don’t care what kind of “bond” the trainer has with the animal, or how “well” the creatures are cared for…all of that is relative. Yes, the animals “bond” with their trainers, if you want to call it that, because if they don’t, they’ll be whipped or not get fed. Ringling Bros. does take better care of their animals while on the road than other circuses do. I will absolutely give them that credit. But that’s like saying the factory that doesn’t beat their child laborers is doing things “right.”

They’re going to “phase out” the elephants from performing. I don’t know why that’s necessary. They said some BS about having to construct a larger enclosure for them, and that takes time. However, I can’t help but notice that those exploited “performing” elephants are actually already housed in the aforementioned facility when they aren’t on the road. We know what it comes down to. $. Big old stacks of $. Think of it. Now they can promote YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SEE THE FAMOUS ELEPHANT SHOW. Ten bucks says that they’ve already made up the posters.

Look, I’m not trying to diss Ringling Bros., because aside from the touring exploitation aspect, they actually do provide a legitimate service to the preservation of elephants. They’ve got North America’s largest elephant reserve, where over 30 Asian elephants reside, most of which are not performers. That reserve has repeatedly been touted as an excellent habitat, and they have grown an incredible breeding database and provide breeding assistance for other animal preserves trying to keep the swiftly dwindling Asian elephant population from extinction.

Should places like that have to exist? Eh. I’m torn. There is a reason woolly mammoths died off. Sometimes the larger species will go extinct when the next big thing in evolution takes the food and space. It’s a natural cycle that’s happened more times than we can fathom, and there really is a case to be made for this simply being natural selection.

That said, we ARE the next big thing in evolution, so big, in fact, that we’ve got brains that can figure out ways to keep these species around. Like it or not, that means unnatural habitats. Or, more aptly, as natural as we can make by hand.

I applaud Ringling Bros. for their decision to stop making these animals live lives of misery on the road. It’s about fricken time! And if I lived closer to their elephant reserve, I’d support them by visiting. It’s a good thing they’re doing with the animals there, the best plan we humans have come up with yet. Let’s just hope the overeager folks at PETA don’t turn their attentions to the part that’s working now that one cog has been knocked out of the system.

So that’s that. Hm. What else can we talk about today?

Oh! I fixed my dryer. Huzzah. Whoopee. Now I get to do laundry…and that’s only slightly sarcastic. It felt good to fire up the dryer after replacing the coil pack and several crispy wires and feel it actually heat up. I spent the day yesterday doing load after load to catch up. Being without a dryer for a week in the winter with six people in the household makes for a laundry mountain to climb.

Look, I hate laundry. I make no secret of that. But you know what I found out? I hate not being able to do laundry even more. If I don’t get the wash done, I want it to be because I rebelled, because I bucked the system and decided to live in the anarchistic world of dirty jeans for another day. I want it to be my choice to ignore the growing pile of socks and towels. Once the choice has been taken from me by an appliance revolt, well that kind of sucks all the fun out of my housewife coup.

Coffee that comes with a warning label, a circus without elephants, and a dryer repair. Not that thrilling, is it? Maybe I need to spice things up. I mean, you came all the way over here for some interesting morning chit chat, and I’m boring you to tears. I saw that yawn you tried to stifle.

“Oh. Heh heh. Sorry.”

No need to apologize! I’m the one who’s letting YOU down. Let’s see what we can do about that.

*cue the go-go dancers* It’s time for…*fires up the nickelodeon to play the catchy theme music*

* * * * * HEADLINE ROUNDUP!! * * * * *

Look at those ladies do the can-can! Give them a round of applause as they exit the stage. Boy, they’re getting better and better. Hard to believe they took a five year break from Roundups. At this rate, they’ll be in competition form in no time.

So it’s a roundup. For those who might not be regulars yet, once in awhile I decide that the headlines I’m reading on the news sites must be shared. These are usually silly, poorly worded, misleading, etc. As always, the headlines are one hundred percent gluten free with no additives. I just provide the transfat-laden commentary after.

Rousey Shows Off Judo Skills, Hurts Interviewer

I can’t feel too bad for someone who asks an MMA champ for a demonstration. I mean, how did he really think that was going to end?

Two Lost Cities Found In Honduras

“I told you to check under the sofa, Harold. ‘Check under the sofa,’ I says, but did you listen? Noooo, you had to tear apart the whole country because you couldn’t be bothered to leave them in the basket in the first place. I swear I should have….”

Diver, Whale Shark Get Personal

Dr. Phil sweeps week, still going full force…

Jodi Arias Escapes Death Penalty After Jury Deadlocks

…should we still call it “deadlocking” in a murder trial?

Pennsylvania Beer Distributors Could Soon Sell 12 Packs

Well don’t that beat all! Why, soon they might even let womenfolk vote!

Remains of 2 Babies Put In Ceiling at Indiana Funeral Home

..*blink* *blink* I just…but…

El Nino Arrives For First Time in 5 Years, NOAA Says

In a statement given in response to the news, NOAA representative Gale Weatherly said, “Of course we’re glad to see him. It’s been five years, after all. *sniff* You’d think he could have written or something.”

Freight Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails Near Illinois City

Better keep your kids away from it, Illiniosians. You don’t want them picking up dirty jokes.

Want to See Michigan’s Underwater Crucifix?

Nope.

Florida Man Drove to Lawyer’s Office With Dead Body in Truck

Here we go again. A guy is simply trying to multitask, but since he’s from Florida, people gotta make it news.

High School Dean Accused of Shooting Teen Who Pedaled Drugs for Him

Snitches Get Stitches 101

Game Makers Lured into Virtual World

WHAT!!?? I thought Flynn got ENCOM under control?!

*bloop blee bloop* *TRON fistbump*

Laser Weapon Melts Truck From a Mile Away

WANT. NEED. GIMME.

Facebook is Removing Likes From Deactivated Accounts

That’s it. We’re done for. It was a good run, folks, but how can we be expected to carry on under the weight of such crushing news?

Why No One’s Talking About ‘Cord-Forevers’

Maybe it’s because we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about…

Bubbles From Glacier Turn Up the Noise in Alaska Fjord

Woot woot! Raise the igloo, ya’ll.

Star Spotted Hurtling Out of the Galaxy at 746 Miles Per Second

I’ll just go get my OWN galaxy and then you can’t tell me what to do!

Cap’n Crunch Enlisted to Boost Taco Bell Breakfast Sales

…uh…should um…should we tell Taco Bell that Cap’n Crunch isn’t a real person, or should we just sit back and let the awkward hilarity unfold when he doesn’t show up for the launch party?

This Ancient Fossil Just Rewrote the History of Human Evolution

That’s one talented fossil.

Meet Hulk, the Giant Pitbull

Again, I’m going with “nope.”

Amazing Photos of Hitchhiking Animals

I can’t believe the news would be so irresponsible in this day and age to promote such unsafe practices. All you young, impressionable animals out there, please, PLEASE don’t hitchhike! Jeez, MSN. Get your act together.

Ben & Jerry’s Might Start Selling Weed-infused Ice Cream

Hey. Hey, stop it. Stop drooling right now. It’ll short out your keyboard.

Tanning Salon Owners Say Proposed Tanning Ban Would Hurt Business

Gawd, I hate it when the papers think we’ve all got an MBA or something. I don’t want them to dumb it down, but a little clarity when talking about complex business concepts would be appreciated.

Furor Over Man’s Plans to Open Risque Juice Bar

I love this headline. The more you read it, the funnier it gets.

Is Your Penis Size ‘Normal?’

Uh…yes??

NASA to Send Submarine to Space

NASA got some free samples of the new Ben & Jerry’s flavor…

Can You Find the ‘Best’ Hospital for You?

Wait, why is best in quotes? This does not seem like a nudge-nudge-wink-wink question to me…

Kids Defy Capitol Hill Sled Ban

We’ve lost control of the capitol to the toboggan terrorists. Every man and woman for themselves!

Legoland Creates Giant Death Star

Should have seen this coming. Anything that hurts that much when you step on it is planning something bigger.

6 Common Sleeping Positions and What They Mean

I won’t keep you in suspense. They mean you’re tired.

For Northeast, A Brutal Winter Defines ‘Enough is Enough’

We’ve had all we can take! Grab the pickets! Grab the banners! Let’s band together and make our voices be heard! Next year, we DEMAND a calmer winter, and if Mother Nature won’t get her act together, we’ll keep right on picketing! Join me. Support The Freezing Union!

Support The Freezing Union!

Thus concludes a Rounduppy Musing for Friday, March 6, 2015. My printer just finished the banner and I’ve got my wool long johns under my pants. I’m good for a whole day of protest. Now, where, exactly, is Mother Nature’s HQ?

Aren’t vacations supposed to be restful? I’m sure I saw that in the brochure…

Standard

Mornin’ all!

IT’S MARCH! And “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is on the radio! And the snowstorm we were supposed to get only dropped a dusting before moving on! And this batch of coffee is actually GOOD!

And if that wasn’t enough positivity, I was sent a video of a goat eating peanut butter to start my morning. You ever have a great-uncle or hundred-year-old family friend that hangs out in the corner of gatherings gumming the same scoop of Marge’s potato salad for an hour? It was kind of like that. Only, you know, goat.

The teens are off vacation today. They go back to school and I’m doing cartwheels. Er, metaphoric ones, anyway. I used to be good at doing actual cartwheels, but that was *mumble*mutter* years ago. Now I just kind of hint at the joy one feels when one can legitimately pull off gymnastics maneuvers.

It’s been a week, my friends. What a long, long week.

I didn’t get my cover art done, but not because of progenal interference, like I had assumed. No, Fate conspired against my man and ruined four of his five days off. Well, Fate and a bit of our own shortsightedness.

You ever try to do something nice for a friend and it comes back to bite you in the ass tenfold? Yeah, it was one of those scenarios that took several days and a whole lotta dollars to fix.

“Bethie, no good deed goes unpunished.”

Ugh. I hate that expression, I really do.

“Dude, you JUST proved it.”

No, I proved that when you try to do something nice for an asshole, you end up the schmuck. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still do good deeds or try to help others. It simply means that we should be a little better at spotting the potential twits in the fray. Perhaps I should develop an Application for Friendly Assistance:

1. What assistance do you require at this time?

2. Is this a problem of your own making through lack of foresight, irresponsibility, laziness, or poor self control?

3. Have you ever required this type of assistance from anyone before? If you answered “no,” congratulations! It seems that your life just had a hiccup and we’d be glad to help in any way possible! If you answered “yes,” please explain and continue to question 4.

4. When you required previous assistance, did you end up doing any of the following afterward?

– Screw over family _____

– Screw over friends _____

– Cause irrevocable damage to relationships with your thoughtlessness _____

– Burn bridges _____

– Close doors _____

If you answered “yes” to any of the situations in question 4, kindly piss off. If you answered “no,” please take a moment to consider why it is you need to ask for help from strangers if that’s really the case. Your mother wouldn’t answer her phone when you called HER for help. Don’t you think that just *might* have a little something to do with prior offenses? Put this application in the garbage and spend a little time seriously considering your life choices and the way you treat people.

Heh. What do you think people would say if I actually gave them this?

It’s not like we haven’t needed help ourselves. OH BOY have we, and we’ve been lucky enough to have people be able to bail us out of jams. That’s exactly why we keep trying. At one point, someone was there for us, and now it’s our turn to try and be there for someone else. We’ve just got to learn not to fall for the puppy dog eyes I suppose. I’m not sorry we helped the dude, just sorry he turned around and bit our hand once we fed him.

Ah well. Lesson learned. Time consumed. Cover art fell by the wayside.

…okay, I admit it. SOME of the time that I wasn’t working on cover art was spent playing that video game I mentioned last time we spoke. But only some. Much of the “free” time we were promised was spent outside in the cold at a gas station. And boy, was it cold.

Ah, but that was February, right? Now it’s March! I was jazzed for February, I really was. I thought, “There can’t possibly be a month worse than January.” Boy, was I wrong, eh? So far, March is vastly superior in every way. It’s starting out warmer, the snowfall is less, no rodents are running amok pretending to be meteorologists, and we get to booze it up instead of giving gooey lovey pink hearts.

“Uh, I don’t think it’s politically correct to talk about St. Patrick’s Day as a time to ‘booze it up’.”

Whoa. Who said I was referring to St. Patrick’s Day? March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month. If that’s not a reason to raise our glasses, I don’t know what is.

*pun fistbump*

“NO. You do NOT get to fistbump for puns this early in the morning.”

C’mon. Admit it. That was good.

…no?

…eh, fair enough I suppose. The fact remains, it wasn’t ME who linked drinking with the Irish. That was on you. Maybe you should think before you say things.

“…*sigh*…”

Since it’s a new month, Landlord called to see when she could come collect the rent. She called at a time we’ve told her is too late to reach us, and she said, “Call me back or text me.” As I’ve just mentioned, we’ve told her many times that’s too late at night to call. We close up shop early here, and we don’t answer calls past 7 pm. I think that’s reasonable. And hey, even if it’s not, it’s my house, ya know?

Remember when that mattered? Remember when people felt they had the right to say, “Please don’t call me between the hours of blah and blah blah,” and people totally respected that?

The “text me” thing, that just cracked me up. She called our land line, because that is the only phone we have.

“Aside from your cell, you mean.”

We don’t have a cell phone.

“I’m sorry, Bethie, my eyes must still be blurry from sleep. I thought you typed something about not having a cell phone.”

No, your eyes are fine, though it *is* Workplace Eye Wellness Month, so if you feel you need to get an exam, now’s the time to do it. I did say we don’t have a cell phone. Because we don’t. We have an old fashioned dumb phone, not one’a them new-fangled smart ones. Our set up is single function with absolutely no wifi and zero apps. It can’t take pictures. It can’t play music. The only text it can do is caller ID, and I only get a signal if I stay within 100 ft. of the base. It’s a phone, it’s just a phone, and it will only ever be a phone.

“I just…I don’t…”

Take a moment to process that bombshell. Absorb it. Remember childhood and embrace the past.

We’ve had cell phones before. When our son was sick, we used one my great sister in law got us since we were on the road between hospitals all the time. We didn’t have one before, she insisted it could be a lifeline, and it turned out she was right. There were times that having that was a fantastic lifeline. And then a friend gave us one awhile later when he decided we needed it. We did attempt to keep it up, but that didn’t last. See, we never used it, and more often than not it was forgotten in the key basket instead of coming with us when we left the house.

Why pay for something we don’t remember to use?

“But how can you function in the modern world without a cell phone?”
Easily, thanks!

In spite of what people have been brainwashed to believe these days, 99% of all phone calls do not need to reach me immediately. I do not need to be at everyone else’s beck and call. If you try to call to tell me about a neat chotchkie you found at a Goodwill, I promise the world will not crumble if I don’t answer.

Remember that idiot I mentioned at the beginning of this? He tried to get hold of us before everything went south about something completely unrelated to the impending shitstorm. He saw a car on Craigslist and was wondering what kind of mileage it got. No, he was not going to actually buy it. Dude has no money. He just got bored and was looking at cars and wanted to talk about them. We weren’t here, so he called again. And again. And again. SEVEN calls on our caller ID from him in the span of two hours. Seven. The only message he left was the last call, asking why it was we weren’t calling him back.

Now, I know that’s an extreme example. Extreme or not, it is more and more the prevailing opinion of those who have gotten way too used to instant access. They have a cell phone. They want to talk to us RIGHT FUCKING NOW, so we must be ready, willing, and able to assuage that particular compulsion.

We went grocery shopping and popped in another store, taking our time and generally farting around for a couple hours because it felt good to be out of the house. We weren’t here to get the calls, that’s why we didn’t call him back. And yet, he felt he somehow deserved an immediate answer. He felt that his stupid questions about cars (which could TOTALLY have be Googled, I might add) trumped whatever we happened to be doing right then.

“Drop everything and talk to me right now, and if you don’t, YOU’RE the asshole.” That’s the mentality. And while Tool up there takes it to the nth degree, it’s a common feeling among folks these days.

Landlord has the same mentality, even though she only called once. The confusion and annoyance was still there in her voice. No, we will NOT answer the phone just because you are too self-absorbed to have some consideration for a very reasonable request. Once again, I cannot text you because, as you have been told numerous times, I do not have a cell phone.

Ten bucks says that when I call her back later this morning, I’ll get attitude. Ten bucks says that she will say something passive-aggressive that infers that I’m trying to duck rent just because I didn’t drop everything and call her right back.

Don’t bet me. Really. You’ll lose. This isn’t my first time on this particular carousel and I know how this ride will end.

Look, it’s not anyone’s right to get hold of me whenever they feel like it. It shouldn’t be seen as my responsibility, either. I’m not saying people shouldn’t call. Call and give it a whirl! But just don’t get pissed if I don’t happen to have a free minute to catch up. It’s not personal, in any way. It’s called life, and sometimes mine won’t mesh with yours. Sometimes I can’t be here to take a call. That doesn’t mean that I should rush out and buy and instant communication device. That means I’ll get back to you when I’ve got a sec.

Just because folks have the ability to call someone at any given moment does not mean we should abandon common courtesy. Sometimes the old fashioned way of thinking IS right.

ZOMG. Did I just…did I just come around to seeing a hipster’s point of view on something? *gulps in fear*

“Chill, Bethie. You’re actually thinking like that. Hipsters just pretend to feel that way.”

*sigh of relief* Oh. Oh phew. For a moment there, I was really worried.

Anyway, that’s my babble for today. I think with the kiddies gone and the weather improving, I might just get the cover art banged out. Or perhaps I’ll work on that steampunk lamp I’ve been making from re-purposed found items.

“NOW you’re sounding like a hipster.”

…shit.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Monday, March 2, 2015. Did you read that date? Because I’ll say it again. IT’S MARCH!! WOOT and SQUEE and YIPPA-DEE-DEE!!