Friday, October 2, 2015

Even a baby understands the Second Amendment!

Jimi's guitar sounds like Lee Greenwood after getting kicked in the balls.

When developing a list of the most inefficient ways to kill someone (something that’s bound to happen while driving college kids around allnight), subjecting someone to random shark attacks on the beach or infants rank pretty high. I’m not talking about bashing someone to death with a baby (in no time in history have marauding hoards swooped in with bundles of joy) but just the little fuckers themselves, all big-eyed and adorable.

Breeding pestilence wherever they go, toddlers also cause home accidents at an alarming rate, what with people tripping over them when they could have been falling to their deaths attempting a selfie on the steps of the Taj Mahal. I have a theory babies cause old people to wander out in traffic by whispering suggestions in a frequency perceptible only to aged ears.

A crib is not for keeping them safe but is the little prison they’re sent to for plying with a lighter while hitting you with a blast of hair spray.

Put a gun in their hands (because handing a toddler a loaded weapon is always a fun way to pep up a family gathering) and our little angels of death are more lethal than terrorists. Unfortunately, banning infants is not the best strategy for the survival of our species.

Although terrorist must be pretty bummed at being bested by American babies (“USA! USA!”), they’re probably ecstatic knowing how awesome Americans are at killing each other. As President Obama pointed out in yesterday’s address on the UCCS mass killing, the number of Americans killed by guns this year towers over how many have been killed by terrorists.

Not even war can match the sheer American-killing power of gun ownership. As Nicholas Kristof wrote about in August, since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all the country’s wars. That includes the Civil War, the one in which Americans killing Americans was pretty much the point of the whole war thing. So, terrorists can feel a little better about themselves knowing that even war can’t compete with our propensity for shooting fellow citizens.

Basically, all terrorists have to do is wait until enough of us have been killed by American guns and then saunter in to show us how to really ban Planned Parenthood.

Hang tight, terrorists. Even with people like the Oregon shooter not exactly making the point for Second Amendment fetishists that, “Isn’t it great that we can have as many of whatever kinds of guns we want?” it’s just another existential moment in this country, one in a very long line, wherein “These crazy gun laws leads to appalling numbers of deaths,” soon becomes, “These crazy gun laws leads to the conclusion that there aren’t enough guns in America.” Trust me, it happens every time.

In the meantime, terrorists, you might want to switch tactics and advocate arming more babies.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Loving 21 Pilots makes me a whore

Yes, I'm a whore and this song is infectious. So, don't sleep with anyone until you get it cleared up.

On those morning when I drive the girls to school, we usually listen to the local indie station (KWSS stream) for the Rockin’ Royale, playing a little game wherein listeners vote for songs that the station might put into rotation. Not that they have a rotation per se, other than anything that might be spinning when I tune in – Tito Puente, 80s New Wave, Rockabilly, I even heard Aerosmith, one night – none of which has ever made me punch a button and say, “Oh, that’s total shit!”

When it’s time for Rockin’ Royale, I’m usually jockeying lanes from the HOV to the exit. No small task, the number of moronic maneuvers I encounter usually determines how I’m going to feel about the first song. If it seriously rocks, it usually gets my vote. If it sounds like Tove Lo, I’ll give the next song a chance. Even if that song sucks much less, I’ll still go for the notorious reset (enough reset votes and neither song repeats the next day), saving my thumbs up for no less than tear the shit up.

Too cool for school, EC sits in back, always (as if she’s one of my Uber passengers), “I wasn’t listening,” she’ll usually mumble or, if she’s feeling social, “I dunno, they both were lame,” then sulk because I pulled her from her vacation in EC Land. Frank, my gender-fluid younger daughter (she wants to go by a make’s name), always rides shotgun and casts a vote. Once she’s decided, I tell the phone to call the station, see if we called it when Rockin’ Royale returns in the morning. If we get on the air, we get to hear a few seconds of what everyone else is hearing due to the delay that protects listeners from foul mouths and feral minds.

Beef Vegan, the MC of the TMI morning show and joined by a bunch of random people joining him in the booth, takes the calls and gabs it up with the voters. When we get to talk to him, we’re known as “Hipster Dad and Hipster Daughter” (I haven’t asked Frank how she feels about that, since becoming a she-male… um, probably not that). Sometimes it’s her on the air, confident, laconic, not there to chit chat with Beef but to place the votes, the clipped diction of Tumblr. Frank doesn’t so much laugh as LOL a lot.

Fair enough. I WTF quite a bit.

Yesterday, I seriously thought Frank had been bitten by a spider. There was an eruption of shrieking, screaming and crying, someone jumping around and bumping into furniture. By the time I stumbled to the scene, Frank was on EC’s bed, showing off her phone. Apparently Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy had tweeted her. Frank’s world had suddenly become complete, free Cheez-Its and Dr. Pepper for life.

Frank is at that age where she needs to develop an almost obsessive attachment to something that annoys me. The thing is, that thing is mostly inoffensive, I don’t hate FOB (“Uma Thurman” was actually kind of clever and catchy). In fact, I’ve been to no less than two FOB shows this year and at no time did it feel like people were holding me down and jamming screwdrivers into my ears. With that aside, she hasn’t asked for any weird pets or started a meth lab in her closet.

Frank will have to step up this rebellion thing if she intends to drive me crazy.

In the meantime, one thing we all agree on (except LoML, whose taste in music is not to be trusted) is that we all like 21 Pilots. Both EC and Frank will pull up the 21 Pilots folder when I’m not in charge. And when I pick up the pod to find that folder playing, I’m inclined to keep the jams going (as the kids say).

I thought raising teenage girls was supposed to be harder than this. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another effin effed-up post

This bit is NOT by George Carlin and the Internet doesn't know who the fuck it is.

A friend asked me why this new version of my blog has shown me with a muted potty mouth, noting that my much-reduced frequency (and frequent permutations) of the word “fuck” had led to an improved vocabulary. No, I demurred, it was due to “Improve Your Word Power” in the Reader’s Digest that I was suddenly able to pull fancy words out of my ass. That, and, “Internet Solutions” as my provider likes to say (the provider who won’t provide me with “the quick number” to tech support so I don’t have to punch through their bullshit reset process).

Besides, my grandchildren might stumble across this site one day, from a stilted building on Sea Earth. If they do read this, they’re probably saying. “Get a load of this fucking guy!”

Aside from probably finding this all very quaint (what with their gill implants, prosthetic flippers and neural Internet connections) - hell, even I think blogging has become a niche interest in the virtual universe – I doubt they’ll be phased by grandpa dropping the F-bomb, the little fuckers. In fact, I wonder if “fuck” will have much of an impact by the time they read this. If it won’t be so surprising when our POTUS tells the American people, “This is fucked up,” when South American cartels hike the price on their spicy Soylent Green. Our language evolves: it seems that “fuck” has none of the shock value it held when I was growing up and its ubiquity in current everyday conversation, movies, television (cable only, still) and everywhere else has pretty much burnished the pointy bits off the word.  

Still, for the last couple of years I tried to make my site as boring as possible, showing snoopy prospective employers that I could be relied upon to be safe, sane and not post anything for months at a time. Something no one would read and not anything I was interested in making time for. After a recruiter told me that she had been to my site, I blanched, concerned that there was nothing there to see other than a thin portfolio and my cursory comments on stuff that I linked. My initial saucer-eyed boast of, “Hey, I’ve got a web site!” became more of an, “uh, yeah…” as it occurred to me that my domain pointed to something completely void of personality, fun or worthwhile content.

I never said "fuck" in a single post, I kept my language wholesome and bland. My site was the "Her?" of blogs.

That’s not me. If an HR rep stumbles across this site (and I have no doubts that it will happen again), I encourage them to read these words, hopefully laugh, and get a sense of who I am. The employer who can appreciate that, this, what I do, that company is out there.

This, then, is for them:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Driving people to the Moon

If you don't play this video while you're reading, there won't be another Super Blood Moon for 18 years.

Here I went on about the Super Blood Moon (which sounds like a Chinese appetizer), pounded keys until my fingers were splintered with plastic over the matter, searched high and low for videos to share and data to spew, and I didn’t even get to see the big show. No pics from me, my friends.

Instead, I was Uber driving and heavy Lyfting, chatting it up with riders, for once earning some serious scratch. Of course the Super Blood Moon (herein known as Liz) came up during the early hours of Saturday evening and I got to impress people with my knowledge of perigee… and puns.

A nice couple, on their way to a restaurant in a tony section of Scottsdale, knew Liz (the teacher of the two had assigned students to either photograph or draw Liz) but were confused about the mechanics. “Dreams” by the Allman Brothers had just begun when they got in and was still playing when the topic turned from the obligatory “How’s your night?” to Liz.

“You’re rocking out tonight,” said the passenger who was not a teacher.

“I picked some music for Liz,” I lied, the song actually being on a mix I’d made for LomL.

“Yes, Liz!” the teacher responded enthusiastically, apparently glad they’d been picked up by a driver who was informed about things instead of some meathead who squelches all conversation by saying, “Do you mind? I’m trying to get drunk up here.” In the meantime, talk floated between the front and the back as the three of us shared what we knew about Liz and how she behaved in her house in the sky.

“It looks much bigger near the horizon,” the teacher continued, sounding a little disappointed, as if her students would soon be sending letters to NASA complaining that the Moon wasn’t scary enough.

“That’s the Moon illusion,” I told them. “It appears larger in relation to the landscape, things we see and know that are relatively close. It’s a trick our mind plays on us. It has nothing to do with Liz’s size, that’s because the Moon is at its perigee.”

The teacher added her own Moon lore, adding in orbital shape and the fact that Liz wouldn’t return for another 18 years.

The Allman brothers finished just as we were done Moon talking, and I skipped my pod past The Cars to Ween.

Unable to determine a pin, Google navigation misplaced us a block from where they needed to be, so we took a slow drive down cobblestone streets to the correct location. I’ve learned to trust Google Map navigator about as well as Carly Fiorina’s story about her record at HP.

After dropping my Liz devotees, I got pinged by Lyft several times, riders 18-20 minutes away from where I was in north Scottsdale. Uber was surging 1.7x in my vicinity and Lyft wanted to send me to Tempe for inevitable cancellations (Lyft users are notoriously flaky) and much less money. Lyft was desperate to get drivers near ASU – exactly where I didn’t want to be (short rides, heavy traffic, whiny Sun Devils fans) – and was not ashamed to insult my intelligence in order to pump up their brand.

I turned off both driver apps, found a parking lot and rolled a cigarette, playing Ween again, blasting it while I smoked. My only regret in refusing the Lyft riders was that I couldn’t share the song with them.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The shoes of a fisherman, the mouth of a sailor

Replace "simple farmers" with "billionaire buffoons" and he's talking about the Koch brothers.

As an ex-altar boy and sacramental wine nipper, I am of course interested in what the Pope has been tipping his huge hat at in this country of ours ("Once a catholic, always a catholic," as The Boss said). I mean, the Pope rules everyone in the universe, even Thetans, so when the Pope pops something out of his host hole, people to tend to sit up and pretend to pay attention. While conservatives tend to view the Dalai Lama as some kind of mystical liberal fairy, the Pope is awarded a ton of gravitas even if they don't believe in him, to them he's one serious dude; that he has more money than God doesn't hurt with that crew, either. So, it's not surprising that the Pope's words on climate change would get some conservatives to mumble a specious retort while looking as though they'd just been caught taking a leak in the confessional.

"The Pope shouldn't talk about climate change because he's not a scientist," is rather like saying that we can't talk about flying because we're not aeronautical engineers. 

One of the features I look for in a potential emlpoyer is a commitment to not continuing screwing up the planet. Real commitment, not a few recycle bins, low-flow toilets and a gift card for taking the bus on Earth Day, but serious skin and investment. A company that not only acknowledges global warming is "a thing" and that, as Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us," but actively embraces policies intended to reverse the direction climate is heading. Having said that, it should be apparent that I passed on applying for an instructional designer position with Koch Industries.

Really, opposition to anthropogenic climate change is looking like some fringe, tin-foil hat idea indigenous to the US. As I write this, Chinese president Xi Jinping is preparing to take the mic from the Pope (man, you would have thought Francis would be the headliner) and announce that his country will be implementing cap-and-trade. Hell, even Saudi Arabia has agreed that a global initiative for reducing carbon emissions is essential - a country that, without oil, would be reduced to exporting algebra and sand.

What the Pope said yesterday to congress was that not doing anything to mitigate climate change is unethical and immoral. He stated the obvious except he got to do it from his big, fancy pope chair so that he'd have the world's attention. Really, most of the world has been agreeing for some time with what the Pope has said. It's time the US got over its inane slap fight over the climate change conversation and started doing its part.

Done for the day, time to start spewing out my own greenhouse gasses as I drive for Uber and Lyft. With my mind on my money and my money on my mind, I'll still be groovin' on fall...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Got yer' not Yer' regular Harvest Moon, here

Place this for your sweetie on Saturday while the two of you watch the moon. Stay in the 
backyard, there's naked tumbling in the forecast.

Not wanting to have a repeat of the previous night (man, that would make a killer band name), I stayed in, submitted more applications, survived a skull-cracking headache. I'm still picking up bits of brain from around the house. Don't want to be leaving out zombie bait in these time, yannow.

Coffee made me feel better this morning, less like someone had tried to open my head with a pair of Garden Weasels. 

It seems we're off to a good start to the Halloween season, a Blood Super Moon this Saturday, an event that is sure to have Donald Trump jumping up and down and screeching,  flinging poo at all willing cameras. In case you're unfamiliar with the "Super Moon" term, it's not that the Moon puts on a cape as it dashes across the sky to rousing music. It's just a really big moon. The blood part comes from the fact that it's the color that washes down the drain in Dexter due to the Earth getting between the Sun and the Moon, presumably to stop the two from getting into a brawl (the Moon would so get its ass kicked).

Since it starts at 6:07 PM here, we'll just get the last couple of hours of blood. That's what we get for living in a freaking desert.

In case you catch the event in passing ("Wow, it's blood colored and big!") as you're on your way to something slightly more exciting than watching the moon, here's a primer about what you saw:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mix tape or mistake?

I drove for Uber last night and didn’t even make enough to cover the gas I used to chase down riders. My refusal rate is going to hurt because I dismissed two repeat calls from some woman at a party. They came after I’d waited almost 15 minutes for her, sending several texts to let her know I was there.

The highlight of my night.

I waited almost 15 minutes for you, madam, stubbing my toe wouldn’t top that, I wanted to respond. Instead, I started heading back where I’d come from, I had more cancellations than actual riders. Flakes are the worst: you spend time (that you could be spending on a paying rider) and gas going to them and then, bonk, they cancel. I get zilch in the process.

The “He can wait” ninny made me four bucks for my “Rider no show” cancellation. What rides I did have were short, a couple dollars and some change for me after Uber took their cut along with dinging me a dollar more for the “security fee” (basically, the insurance on the rider).

One of those nights.

At some point, I need to decide if my time is not better spent at home, looking for a real job. As I tell some of my riders, Uber is just (barely) paying my bills while I try to get a job in my field, training or working as an Instruction Designer. The diploma for my Master’s in Education was awarded in May and I’ve been on a serious job search ever since, fielding solicitations from job boards and headhunters, grooming my LinkedIn network, searching out company websites. A lot of contract offers (mostly three to six month ones), most not worth what they’re offering given the more than three-hour round-trip commute entailed.

Contract positions don’t enthrall me the way that possible in-house jobs do, of course. However, I’d take a contract in order to pad myresume with some experience, make it clear that I can successfully perform the duties that a position requires. If credentials and excellent references aren’t enough to land the job then I’m primed to do the footwork.

Landing a job in this field is hard work. I research the company and then decide if I want to apply. Then, I tailor make a resume and cover letter to suit their needs. Each application is an investment of several hours. If that results in an interview, that first interview is invariably followed by, “This is just the first stage of this process and we’ll be reviewing candidates for the next several weeks.”
Then, a few weeks after that if the second interview goes well. And several weeks following the third interview.

Landing a job at a newspaper was easy. I dropped off a writing sample and about a week later the editor called me in to tell me, “You can certainly put a sentence together but it’s not journalism. Fortunately, I have two of the best writers in the southwest out there, “indicating the guys in the newsroom, “and they can teach you how it’s done.”

Starting as a stringer – taking whatever assignments were thrown at me and making $50 an article (a market rate that hadn’t changed in over 20 years) – I worked my way into a permanent position within a few months (even though I’d taken a couple weeks off to visit Ireland). Over the following years, I not only covered economics and politics at a local, state and national level for my paper’s readership but provided a spotlight on several ongoing controversial issues, my coverage often changing the dialog as new facts came to light through my reporting.

When I announced that I would be moving to Arizona in August (a clear sign that I was insane), many people from the area stated that my voice would be missed, in my reporting and in my columns, and were afraid that my successor would not be as willing to investigate the finer details of dealings within the town and throughout the county.

Unfortunately, Arizona publications largely seemed less interested in experience and good writing as they are cheap labor, hacks to fill content. Hard copy publication has gone from being the ultimate arbiter of information to the penultimate, undone by technology, resigned to being a niche medium but just better than word-of-mouth. With the culling of the herd in print came my decision to switch paths and pursue a different career. Impatient to wait on residency, I decided to pursue my Master’s online, with a private university.

I took a stab at secondary education for a year (appalled at the quality of work that was passed, unfortunately). Plus, the prospect of probably never making more than $50,000 a year in this state and dealing with teenagers all day (and all night, with my kids) made me rethink my path. After doing some research, it seemed that exciting things were happening in adult education, things that would pay considerably more than public education as well as providing the opportunity to work in a more technology-focused environment. The focus on adult education has only gained traction within the last thirty years or so and my thinking was that the potential for growth was immense.

I passed with a near-perfect GPA and reminders that there is a doctorate program. After updating my resume on job boards from “pending degree” to “graduate,” offers started dribbling in, people wanted to talk to me.

A week after one interview, a face-to-face second interview, I read that the company had decided to close 68 stores. Probably not much of a need for training people in that organization, I thought. Obviously, the training that needs to be done in that company needs to occur with the people in charge. In my experience, it is those people who are least likely to acknowledge that they are the ones who created the mess and need to rethink how they’re going to change.

I’ll land something in due time but the waiting can be frustrating. I’m itching to design an organizations learning and not be on the road, carrying strangers around in my car.

Passengers comment that I must have an interesting life as an Uber driver, that I must have some interesting stories. No, frankly what happens in my car is banal and monotonous, I’m not hosting orgies or an opium den. From time-to-time some frat boy wants to get in my car with an open beer and I tell them nope, not happening. Otherwise, I’m driving you where you need to go and if you want to talk, great, I’m always up for conversation. There’s no room in my car for co-ed shenanigans or rowdy cowboys.

Oh, and I’m not changing my music or taking it off All Things Considered, sorry. If you’re not going to talk, the driver needs his noise to help him navigate streets and traffic.

Prior to getting the call from party girl, I had a drunk on the phone who was too intoxicated to work the Uber app. He sent me to pick him up at Denny’s but that was where he wanted to go; he was actually about a mile and a half east of there. Yep, another two bucks and some change in that ride but, given how slow the night was,  I was willing to tolerate his idiocy.

“I wanted to go to Denny’s, that’s what I told it,” he slurred loudly through the phone. “I thought I didn’t have to put in my address.” Yes, the “Your location” and “Your destination” fields in the app apparently kanji, flipped around, dancing across his screen. It happens. Once, some guy (also drunk) had his location on the interstate, the navigator woman was insistent on that. When I called his inebriated, incompetent ass, he was more than 20 miles away at some strip club. I had that guy cancel the call, put in his correct address and call for another Uber. Last night’s drunk was not that far and I needed whatever fare I could get.

Unfortunately, the Uber app was screwing up. I told him that he was being charged $4 for the cancelled call and that he needed to resubmit a ride request. I’m pretty sure he was afraid he didn’t have the wherewithal for that. It was after cancelling his ride that I got the call from the woman who wished me a stubbed toe.

I’m going to try switching it up a bit and working some daytime hours, overnights are killing me.
And, I can’t afford another one of those nights.