6 February 2016

An open letter

Dear Capitalism,

Have you seen the price of bacon lately?

I wondered if pig had suddenly become an endangered species, but it turns out the price is a response to 'supply and demand', your most basic law. Because every fast food restaurant is now offering baconators, and bacon on bacon sandwiches with a side order of bacon wrapped fries, and everything with bacon, the price of bacon has gone through the roof. I have to pay through the nose to get a couple of rashers to go with my pancakes for breakfast.

This situation is unacceptable. Quite frankly, Capitalism, I expected better from you. Try and improve in the future, or you and I will be parting company.

Yours sincerely.

5 February 2016

There was a time

I've been thinking about my old days at the refinery lately.  I have no idea why, but the memory of my summers there have returned.  The place is being taken apart, bit by bit, the very ground upon which it stood will most likely be stripped to bedrock and  carted off.  All traces of it will be gone.

It was a difficult place for me.  I could do the work, but I never really fit in there.    This place was one of the last bastions of unabashed manliness.  The workers were all men, who spent their day with other men, talking like men to men about man things.  It was before our watered down version of the male, of men playing at being men, before man caves and man buns and ironic facial hair.  I don't really fit into the new era either, but never mind that for now.

I was thinking about applying to return there when I received news that it was closing down.    Even though I never fit in, the money was good, and I thought the need for gas and oil was not going to decline any time soon.  A lot of men I knew- and by then, a few women- were out of work.  The average age there was 55.  Refinery work requires highly skilled labour, but, unfortunately, the skills only exist in a refinery, and are completely non transferable.  I don't know what their options were after they were laid off..  I don't know how many crossing guards the surrounding cities needed.

I've been thinking of one man in particular.  He was a short and dumpy man, who married a short and dumpy woman.  They even sort of looked alike.  They had two daughters in quick succession.  Before long, they realized something was not right with the elder of the two children.  She wasn't hitting her benchmarks.  Other things were noticeable in her behavior.  They had her checked repeatedly by doctors, until they found one expert who could tell them what was wrong.

The fact that the man and women were both short and dumpy and even looked alike was no accident, it was a warning. It was a sign that they both carried a rare recessive gene, and now their daughter had both the recessive genes and got the full effect.  She would be hyperactive. She was developmentally impaired.  She would progress, somewhat, until about the age of seven or eight, and then she would begin to regress. She would forget what she had learned last first as she went backwards.  She would die, almost regressed to the infant stage, around fourteen or fifteen. There was no cure.  There was no treatment.  By the way, you should have your younger daughter checked as well.

She had it, too.

The man's home life descended into chaos and madness.  His attitude towards his wife verged on hatred.  I was told by those who knew that the feeling was mutual.  They went to marriage counseling, but they were only staying together for the children.  he did everything he could for the children.  Advocated for new research, spoke to newspapers, joined support groups and lobbying groups.  When he came to work, it was a relief to get away from all that.  He could just be one of the guys for a while.

Intellectually, I felt sorry for the man.  But whenever I spent any time with him, he was utterly unlikeable.  He treated me with contempt, which I assumed was on account of my height- I have often drawn  the ire of the short.  He was cross, ill tempered, condescending, and very often threatening, although I have to give him some credit: he didn't back down when I called him on one of his threats.  His attitude, his anger at the world in general was understandable, but it didn't make him easier to work with, or to like.  He was an example of the Nancy Kerrigan Syndrome: you can be a victim, and still be a jerk. 

But I've been thinking about him again.  Him and his kids.  I remember the photos of the children on his desk- two blonde, curly haired children, perhaps 3 and 4 years old.  By now they are twenty years dead.  That was all the life they had, and no more.  No one should ever had to have borne that.

And then, assuming he was still at the refinery, he lost his job. 

It's just something I've been thinking about.

2 February 2016

It came from Facebook: 'Debates'.

For months now I have been getting one video or link after another in my feed which claims that this so and so utterly 'destroyed' that so and so in some sort of exchange.  Every one of them has been a lie. No one was destroyed. No one has won.  Indeed, no exchange or debate has even happened.

CS Lewis noted back in the forties that, three hundred years ago, an educated man knew when a point was proven and when it wasn't, and that man was furthermore ready to change his life on the basis of a chain of reasoning. Not so the modern man, said Lewis. Modern man is used to carrying around ten utterly contradictory ideas in his head at the same time. It isn't logic or reason that persuades him, but cant, jargon, slogans and nonsense.

That was seventy years ago. Post modern man makes Lewis' modern man look like a rank amateur when it comes to holding contradictory garbage in their head. Even worse, post modern man is also immunized and inoculated against any new ideas: the members of any group will not bother to defeat any new or outside idea; rather, they will treat that idea as though it is already defeated. They don't engage, they dismiss. 
And so it has been with every single one of these 'watch so and so destroy s o and so's. T hey do not argue, they dismiss. They do not create a chain of thought, they repeat a slogan. They do not persuade others, but preach to a choir. No one is convinced by them except those who were convinced without them, and who are seeking not new ideas but to be confirmed in their rightness. And most of all, nothing is destroyed except the time spent watching these things, and the credibility of those who push them to anyone not in their closed circle.

28 January 2016

On the buying of shoes.

Here's something for the Why My Wife Hates Me/I Love Being A Man file. The following is true, although it may be somewhat.... embellished. I debated not publishing this, but I've been seeing a lot of "men/husbands are clueless stoopid infants" in my feed lately, and I thought I'd fire back. I call it "Buying Shoes":

I am heading out the door. I have a lot to do today. Wife spots me on the way out.

Wife: Where are you going?

Me: Got some errands to run.

Wife: Which errands?

Me: Well, my shoes are wrecked, so first I have to go to the shoe store, then...

Wife: You're going to buy shoes? I need some new shoes, too. Can I come?

Me: Well, er, I have a lot to do today, so it'll only be a quick stop at the store, so...

Wife: I can be quick! I'll get my purse.

She runs off to get her purse.

Me (inwardly): Darn.

Ten minutes later.

Wife: Have you seen my purse?

Another ten minutes.

Me (feeling the day slipping away): Are you coming or not?

Wife: I'll be down in a minute!

I sit down.

Twenty minutes later.

Wife: Sorry about that, but I had to find my purse, and then I decided that if we were going out I should put on some makeup and then...

At the store.

Me: Men's shoes are over there. I'll go get mine and meet you at the cash.

Wife: No way, I need your help to pick shoes. (Perhaps seeing look on my face) Don't worry, I'll be fast. And then I can help you pick yours.

Me: (Inwardly) Do I look five? (Outwardly): Promise?

Wife: Promise.

Soon afterwards.

Wife: What do you think of these?

Me: (sincerely) Those look nice.

Wife: You think so?

Me: How do they feel?

Wife: They feel okay...

Me: (pleased that this really didn't take too long) That settles it, then. Let's...

Wife: Just wait a second. I think I want to try those ones on before I decide.

Ten minutes later.

Wife: What about these ones?

Me: They're fine.

Ten minutes after that.

Wife: What about these ones?

Me: They're fine too.

Anther ten minutes.

Wife: How about these?

Fifteen minutes later.

I've realized why bears will chew a leg off to get out of a trap.

Another ten minutes.

Wife: What about these?

Me: Didn't you try those on earlier?

Wife: I thought I'd take a second look, but I don't like them this time, either.

Ten minutes later.

I am pondering a conversation with St Peter at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter: You ended your own life, throwing away God's most precious gift to you. I cannot let you in.

Me: But, Pete, I was stuck in a shoe store with my wife! There was no other way out!

St Peter: Did you say you were in a shoe store with your wife? Why didn't you say so in the first place? That qualifies as extenuating circumstance. Come on in!

Fifteen minutes later.

Wife: I've narrowed it down to these two. Which do you prefer?

Me: (Not caring in the least and just hoping to end it as soon as possible to salvage just some of my day.) Those.

Wife: Are you sure? I think I prefer these ones.

Ten minutes later.

Wife: Now that I think of it, I don't like either.

Ten minutes later.

Wife: There. These are the ones I want.

Me: Aren't those the first ones you tried on?

Wife: Well, yes, but I had to be sure. I'm sorry it took a little longer than five minutes, but I love you for waiting for me. Now we can pick out some shoes for you. Oh look, you have so many to choose from...

Me: Not really.

Wife: What do you mean?

Me: Watch. (Speaking to one of the staff) You, overworked and underappreciated wage slave.

Wage slave: Yes sir?

Me: What do you have in size thirteen?
Wage slave: Ooooh, not much. Just those... and those.

Me: Thanks.

I grab the closer of the two pairs. I try them on. The fit is acceptable. I put the shoes in the box and start heading for the cash. I notice I am walking alone. I turn around and see my wife glaring at me.

Me: What?

Wife: I hate you.

And that's why I love being a man.

26 January 2016

The song of death

This is actually pretty cool- Dies Irae appearing in popular culture. 

True fact:  Mozart is attributed with having said he would gladly exchange all the music he had written to be the author of the Dies Irae.