Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Carol Redu

I'm finishing an awesome good book by my fav author, Margaret Atwood. Payback is a non-fiction collection of lectures written a few years ago. It's amazing because she wrote it before the Great Recession really hit in late 2008 and, for a fiction writer, she's awfully clairvoyant.

What the hell does it have to do with the ultimate consumer holiday, Christmas? Atwood looks at the social concept of debt from a writer and story teller's point of view. She looks at the mythic representations of debt beginning in early agrarian Europe. Partway through, she starts talking about the most famous of loan sharks, Ebenezer Scrooge. There's a lot of references to Charles Dickens' classic, including the reality of debtor's prisons in England when Dickens was a child (his own father was held in debtor's prison for many years).

Time and again, Atwood makes thoughtful correlations between debt and the Christian concept of sin. Being in debt is the same as being a sinner, etc.

The end of the book is a witty retelling of Scrooge's midnight encounter with three ghosts. This time, Scrooge is a teeth-whitened, suntanned, fat Yuppie with a Steve Forbes mansion and lifestyle.

Perfect reading for this Christmas.

Scrooge before the hair-implant, teeth-whitening, Florida tanned makeover.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What'd you get for Thanksgiving?

I got seven (nearly identical) letters from the Department of Education right before Turkey Day. Like hundreds of thousands of others, I am a victim of predatory student loans.

Here's a little FAQ.

1. Why did I take out student loans? Because I had been going to college part-time for years, taking 100-level classes at community colleges, etc. I was 25 and working unbelievably low-paying jobs. I naively believed the myth you can't earn a decent living without a four-year degree.

2. Why did you take out loans for every school year? Every time I tried to get a SEOG, BEOG or an addition PELL, I was told I didn't qualify and/or there were no funds left. The UNR Financial Aid office kept stacks of private loan applications at their front counter and they would shove the stack toward me. Also, I tried for several scholarships but the person primarily responsible for deciding who got which scholarship in my department was a mean shriveled dick who hated me. He got a thrill out of causing kids to drop out of the Reynolds School of Journalism.

3. Why major in print journalism? Naively, I had no idea how desperately underpaid 90% of people working in journalism are or that the entire newspaper industry was a house of cards that would collapse when the World Wide Web reached critical mass. Today, print journalism is ranked No. 1 in lowest pay per education followed by public school teacher and nurse. To quote P.J. O'Rourke: "Thanks to the internet, I'm no longer a (magazine) staff writer. I'm a 'content provider' and I'm supposed to work for free."

4. When you realized that journalism was a lose/lose situation, why didn't you change your major?
I tried to twice and was told I could not by the academics counselors.

5. Why didn't you work your way through school? Are you kidding?! On five bucks an hour? I could barely make my rent working 50 hours a week at Kinko's, let alone magically produce a couple grand every semester for tuition + books. The three years I went to college full-time I worked part-time jobs, one of them was as an unpaid 'intern' at a local paper. I also worked for the college newspaper, which was virtually unpaid, but necessary as without 'clippings' I couldn't build a portfolio and without a portfolio I couldn't get a job as a reporter.

6. Why didn't your family help you out? Good question. My mother was retired and living on a microscopic pension from her government file clerk job. She was poorer than I was and died while I was in the middle of going to college. My father and stepmother had all kinds of money but, as my friend Louis Hornstein once said: "You know how rich people get rich? They don't like to share."

7. Didn't you realize you'd have to pay the loans back some day?
Yes, I did. I imagined myself the variety editor of a mid-sized paper in a second-string market making $40,000/year while writing movie reviews and somehow making monthly payments of $300-$500/month probably for the rest of my life. Reality sunk in when my first newspaper job paid just $8.50/hr, I averaged 100 miles per week on my disintegrating truck and I got my first real bill from Sallie Mae for over $1,600 per month ... on the interest.

8. Are we (American taxpayers) paying for your defaulted loans?
Yes and no. Supposedly, the Dept of Ed guaranteed half of my loans. So when the loans defaulted, theoretically the Dept of Ed paid my original loan writer, CitiBank Student Loans. (CitiBank was a recipient of the Wall Street bailout orchestrated by the Bush Administration and the Federal Reserve.)

9. Why are you reluctant to make payments right now?
Because of the above reason. My original loan amounts HAVE BEEN PAID by the Dept of Ed to CitiBank. Any money I send to Sallie Mae is basically gravy, it's strictly a for-profit collection agency, any money they collect goes toward the operation of their 1,000+ collection agencies which engage in horrendous, illegal collection practices because the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and a dozen other federal laws do NOT apply to Sallie Mae.

10. What's the big deal, why not declare bankruptcy?
I can't. Basically the year I left college, 1995, was the year Sallie Mae had the bankruptcy laws re-written. Student loans are the only debt that cannot legally be discharged through bankruptcy court.

11. So you don't pay your loans, so what? What's happened is Sallie Mae has reported my bad credit to every one. I literally cannot get a monthly cell phone plan because my credit rating is so bad. I can't get a lease on a decent apartment because of my credit. Even potential employers run credit checks on job applicants. I was told by a headhunter that I was "barred" from ever applying for a job with again. Ditto for T-Mobile. All of these companies deny they are doing this but if you've ever applied for a job, you know they often ask for your social security number. My ss# is tied to my loans for all eternity. Even government contract jobs are off-limits to me. If I was fortunate to land a gig with the USFS, BLM or even the military, Sallie Mae would be garnishing up to 60% of my pay within three month's time. I have a friend who is in the Army. He took out a tiny student loan years ago when he was only six months into his military career. The lenders sold his loan to Sallie Mae and a few years later they seized his entire Army pay for several months. He nearly lost his home and car.

12. What are you going to do? I don't know. But in the mean time, along with Alan Collinge, Robert Applebaum and the folks over at DEFAULT, I'm going to tell everybody I can about this crime and warn every college freshman and every parent of college-age kids NOT to fall into this trap because financially you will never escape.

13. Surely they're not that bad, can't you reason with collection agents? I have a high school friend who took out a tiny student loan back in 1986 for about $1,200. She then had a baby, went through a bad divorce and stopped attending community college. Six years later, while she was on welfare and trying to raise her then 5-year-old daughter, the student loansharks tracked her down. She started making payments to them, fell behind a few times, but kept going all while working two full-time jobs and raising a child. One day the loansharks called her. They told her they were going to garnish her wages. She told them if they did, she would quit both her jobs and go back on welfare. They went back and forth, finally they said they would take her income tax return (again). Ultimately, she paid over $3,500 on a loan which originally was $1,200. Yes, they're that bad.

14. But if you contact the loan collection agencies things will improve, right? Let me tell you another story. While I was a temp employee for an airplane company in Seattle, one of the collection agents called my temp agency with 'urgent information concerning a sick relative' of mine. The collection agent persuaded a receptionist at my temp agency into giving out my business cell phone. This was a cell phone provided by the airplane company I worked for and was for business only. The collection agent called me under the guise of telling me my grandmother had died! I don't HAVE any living grandparents!!! When one of my on-site supervisors found out a collection agency had gotten access to my business cell number, she hit the roof. I was nearly fired and my temp agency nearly lost the contract.

Thanks to the economy, up until a few months ago I've been on unemployment for over a year and a half. Right now, I'm currently undergoing physical therapy for a back injury and I hopefully will be physically able to return to work again ... if I can find any.

None of the original loan amounts listed in the letter (transcribed below) matches my original loans. When I went to UNR, I could not take out more than $2,300 max from Citibank per loan per semester, and only two of these per semester. After "processing fees" I usually got a check of about $2,200. Toward the end, when UNR's tuition tripled in just two years, I was getting even less as the Financial Aid office deducted any tuition before I got a check for the remainder.

Apparently, Sallie Mae has some how managed to sell my loans back to the Dept of Ed with the interest rates attached as principal. So I'm guessing the Dept of Ed paid Sallie Mae for my original loan amounts (or whatever number they gave them). This is the ultimate shell game for a corporation. Or rather the ultimate Three-Card Monty.

November 18, 2010
The U.S. Department of Education now holds the defaulted student loan from Citibank NA SLC to attend University of Nevada, Reno for which you are responsible. The entire outstanding balance on this loan is now due. You will also be liable for the costs of collecting this loan. These charges can add substantially to the amount needed to satisfy your debt. (Actually, they've tripled it.)

The department wants you to know that paying your debt by a mutually agreeable installment plan may make your loan(s) eligible for loan rehabilitation or payoff through consolidation, which will remove your loan(s) from default status and may improve your credit rating, and will make you eligible for additional Title IV student financial assistance. (My loans were consolidated when Sallie Mae bought them from CitiBank Student Loans in July 2000).

To remedy your default status, you can pay the total amount due immediately (follow the instructions on the above coupon), or contact our customer service representative to enter into an acceptable repayment agreement or to find out additional information on the benefits of the department's loan "rehabilitation" programs. You may contact our customer service center at 1-800-***-****. (Where did I put that six-inch stack of 100-dollar bills?)

All of the department's repayment opportunities are designed to assist you in remedying your defaulted student loan status.

Failure on your part to repay your debt may result in the department moving against you with one or all of the following collection measures:
  • We will report your default status to national credit reporting agencies; this may hurt your ability to obtain further credit. (Too late, Sallie Mae already has.)
  • We can refer your debt to a collection agency, and charge you the costs incurred by the department in having that agency collect this debt. These costs are currently up to 25% of the principal and interest owed on your loan. The department applies any payments you make first to these costs, and then to your loan balance. This will increase the cost to you of paying off your loan by up to 25%.
  • We can notify your employer to initiate wage garnishment; (Again, too late. Sallie Mae did that while I was making monthly payments to them.)
  • We can refer your debt to the U.S. Attorney for litigation; (So they can ship me off to debtor's prison???)
  • We can perform computer matches with other federal agencies to determine if you are a government employee or recipient of other federal aid for purposes of offsetting all or a percentage of these funds; (See? If I manage to land a government job, they'll take every dime I make.)
  • We can refer your debt to the Department of Treasury for offset of federal funds due you (including your federal income tax refund). (Again, see what I mean? They have more power than the IRS.)
To avoid our reporting this loan to the credit bureaus as in default, you have 60 days from the date of this letter to repay this loan in full, make satisfactory arrangements to repay and actually make the first payment under this arrangement, or to request an administrative review.

To request review, an explanation of this debt, copies of documents, or an opportunity to dispute this debt, you must send a written request to the following address: (Note: the Dept may use a contractor to provide information, arrange repayment terms and process payments.)

U.S. Department of Education
PO Box ----
Greenville, TX 75403
Dwight Vigna

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fucking Monkeys

(I couldn't resist the title.) I finally got to hear author Christopher Ryan read excerpts from his provocative non-fic, Sex at Dawn, which has been sparking discussion since June.

Everybody could have happily giggled the night away when Ryan dropped quips about "penguin poontang" and "fucking monkeys" but the underlying thesis in Sex at Dawn is no joke. In a nutshell, Ryan has surmised that humans are:
  • not "naturally" monogamous, neither men nor women
  • women are NOT the choosy, non-libidinous sex
  • homosexuality is an integral part of human socialization, not just sexuality
  • the status of virginity is entirely a construct of the Standard Narrative (patriarchal society)
  • forced female fidelity has been the source of untold pain and suffering (see: stonings under Islam and nearly every Shakespeare play)
  • a post-agrarian society that embraces polygamy is as socially stable as a three-legged chair
  • homo sapiens are just as closely related to bonobos as we are to chimpanzees
But the real whopper in Ryan's argument has little to do with sex. He argues that agriculture and the end of homo sapien's hunter/gatherer nomadism led to war.

It's not excessive promiscuity that sinks us as a species but the lack of it used to form and cement bonds.

Awfully good bedtime reading.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Greasers Vs. Socs

This Massachusetts teen committed suicide after she was systematically cyber
stalked, beaten and harassed by her schoolmates.

Recently Dan Savage (of Savage Love) started a thoughtful campaign to try and stem the tide of bullied GLBT teens from committing suicide. It's called It Gets Better and it's a good idea. My only politically incorrect concern is: why tell just gay teens "it gets better"? Why not tell ANY teen who's suffering under some school tyrant it gets better?

The high school I attended nearly 30 years ago was abysmally backwards in every way socially. It had a lot of things wrong with it -- really low state scores, high drug use and teen pregnancy -- and it was located in rural Nevada aka Reagan Country. Despite being a public school, the administration was comprised mostly of white Mormon men (who drank and beat their wives). These "administrators" towed an overt fundamentalist Christian party line. The list of books we were not allowed to read was long, from the obvious Judy Bloom to Salinger to Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (too pornographic). If you were: not white, poor, not Mormon, being raised by a single parent or were really poor, you were an outsider. And when violence was meted out by the popular kids, it was always us outsiders that took the beating.

That book by Susan Hinton? I lived it. Instead of Greasers and Socs, we had Stoners and Cowboys versus the Jock/Preppies (athletes and those bound for college).

In fall of my first year, a senior jock sat directly behind me in freshman science with his feet propped on the shelf under my seat. Ignoring the befuddled teacher at the front of the class, he bragged to one of his buddies how he'd raped one of the school "sluts". He told his friend he wasn't worried if she filed charges as nobody would believe her. I walked to school terrified and walked home a jittery mess. By the end of my freshman year, I'd gone from an A-minus junior high student to a D-plus high schooler.

I was a bright, articulate kid and raising my hand and volunteering answers in class began to earn me black eyes in girl's P.E.

My sophomore year, things went from bad to worse. A bully in the entering freshman class put me (along with several other victims) high on his list of people to torment. It started out with name calling and progressed to getting tripped/knocked down at least once a week.

The bully chased a friend of mine across the campus one day, knocked him down and jumped up and down on his arm. My friend spent several months with his arm in a cast.

The verbal insults were so extreme and so rude, I don't remember them all. If a jock/preppie called you a cunt or a fag, you got off lightly.

Believe it or not, actress Michelle Trachtenberg said she was bullied
so badly in high school, she had her ribs broken. By another girl.

I was clocked in the back of the head with heavy text books and had basketballs and volleyballs pitched at my face so many times ... it's a blur. I had full cans of soda pitched at my head while walking fearfully "up the hill" for first period class in the "main building". I got jabbed in the ribs with Exacto knives during art class, stabbed in the hand with compasses during drafting class, pushed down hallways, knocked down stairs and shoved against lockers.

By the end of my sophomore year, it was beginning to dawn on me, that not raising my hand and not answering the teacher's questions was the most prudent route, GPA be damned.

Eventually the torment eased. The spring semester of my junior year, I briefly got to attend a real public high school in California. It was laid back, decidedly rich and slightly eccentric. But cliques were not something anyone at that school lived or died by. It was finally okay to be an individual. All the popular kids were busy playing competitive tennis, modeling for Macy's or just being Californians; they didn't have time to bully anybody. That would have been gauche. I'm not suggesting there were no cliques or fights, there were, but the teens at the California school didn't seem so terrified to do anything odd, goofy or slightly eccentric. Bizarrely, they actually respected intelligence and creative talent.

There was a mentally retarded teen who rode the bus with me every morning. Nobody beat him up, he was minimally teased. Every student council rep, every senior-class girl politely endured "R's" overly enthusiastic hugs and one even helped tutor him in Special Ed. This was astonishing to me as the Special Ed kids in my Nevada high school were pariahs, stalked regularly by every popular teen.

Back in Nevada, during my senior year I skipped over a hundred days of school -- writing fake sick notes, etc. -- essentially doing anything to not be there. I sat in shocked silence when a male teacher, famous for his dynamic wit (and ridiculous biases), told his English class 'girls don't get in fights'. At the time he said this, my friend "Jo" was sitting next to me in his class. "Jo" had a black eye from a fight she'd been in with one of the popular girls.

I had a couple of gay friends at my high school in Nevada. "T" skated the whole four years with nary a fight, maybe one dust up and everybody knew he was gay. He existed in this realm of blond coolness, kinda like David Bowie, who was our favorite singer. Another was a gregarious, stout dyke with a booming voice. She did attempt suicide but it was because of her father's abuse, not the occasional harassment she caught at high school.

The Jock/Preppie clique had fringe followers. Hanger-ons who never failed to laugh at the bully's jokes or join in the harassment of outsiders. One of them is now openly gay, married to another man and they have kids. Awesome. I still remember the way he and another hanger-on harassed a homely girl for years. Unfortunately, the homely girl didn't fare as well as the hanger-on who is now Out and Proud.

After graduation, she died suspiciously in a car accident that may or may not have been suicide. Her best friend told me memories of high school bullying haunted her long after it was over.

You do not have to be GLBT to get harassed in high school. You don't have to be a minority. You just have to be a tad smarter, a tiny bit more clever or a teeny bit independent to become a target. For some mysterious reason, teenage kids have access to a kind of cruelty many parents deliberately ignore.

I believe the person you are when you are 15 is essentially the person you will be at 25 and 35, 45 and so on. Whatever sort of moral compass we have starts spinning in our teens. You either align yourself with the "strong" out of fear or become a member of the "weak" by default because you refuse to kowtow to the "strong". The only difference is in adulthood, instead of being called a Jock/Preppy you change your title to Conservative, Country Club member, etc. and if you're a Stoner/Geek when you grow up you might become a Liberal, an environmentalist ... an individual.

Does it get better? For me it did. High school was like four years in a county jail. At 17, I made parole. Virtually every experience since high school, including hospital stays and getting fired from jobs, has been a step up. To all the Outsiders I'd like to say, "it gets better."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sexy vs. Sporty Spice

Any time a group of 40-year-old skater dudes support a cause that appears vaguely feminist; I get worried.

At first glance women's roller derby, eagerly goofed on in the Drew Barrymore flick, Whip It, seems like an empowering phenom. Women strap on 70's-style roller skates, and skate around in a big circle over and over again apparently with the goal of out-circling each other (I'm guessing). Occasionally they seriously hurt each other with the kind of blows to the head that would get an NHL player benched for a year.

The fundamental difference between women's roller derby and, say, the WNBA? Guys show up for this. Some of roller derby's most loyal fans are men. Droves of them appear regularly, PBRs in hand, at Seattle's local Rat City Roller Girls meets. Again, this seems like a good thing. For once the boys are willing to let the women show off their athletic prowess via strength and competitiveness; something 95-percent of American men are hardwired not to do.

But all is not right in post-feminist roller girl world. First off, the uniforms. I've seen more spandex on strippers. These aren't clothes that facilitate speed or agility, they're basically saucy cheerleader costumes designed only to titillate. There's absolutely nothing wrong with dressing sexy if you're a stripper or trying to get into the next Girls Gone Wild shamefest, but it sends a creepy, skewed message. A blogger far more erudite than I summed it up best over at Mean Feminism:

If Roller Derby is really about how awesome the girls are at their sport, then it should REALLY be about that. It should really be about how empowering it is to see women being competitive and athletic and downright bad ass regardless of what they're wearing. Why does "embracing your femininity" in this context turn into wearing sexy clothing? Are there no other ways for women to assert their femininity? And if not, maybe we should reconsider what's so great about (socially defined) femininity in the first place. And if it's primarily about playing with sexual norms and doing some kind of Suicide Girls type performance with a little bit of violence added in for spice, well then I think we should stop pretending it's feminist and empowering.

Conversely, our women's pro basketball team just brought home the most prestigious prize in their sport. It was a very big deal, a very big win and somehow these young athletes managed to do it without flashing their tits or slapping each others asses in the prescribed faux lesbian way.

Photo: Erika Schultz/Seattle Times

Yet the Storm's win barely registered in Seattle. Sure, they had their one-time cover pic in the Seattle Times and there was a small parade for the team just up the street at the Key Arena.

But where was Sherman Alexie??? The writer who wasted entire essays in The Stranger moaning about the death of the Seattle Sonics. I'm guessing even for a self-styled "male feminist" like Alexie, a women's pro basketball team (even the best in the country) .... just doesn't rate.

A year ago, as I was walking up past Key Arena, there was a Storm game starting and a few (mostly female) fans were filtering into the arena. A gaggle of college guys in an SUV roared by, hanging out the windows. The guys started chanting "Go Storm!" in hyper lispy, effeminate voices as they cat-called the unamused fans.

And that's the rub: legitimate women's sports is seen as a bad joke in America while entire magazines are devoted to Tiger Woods' philandering, LeBron James' betrayal of his home town and Bret Favre's rather feminine indecisiveness.

A recent indie Canadian film, Breakfast with Scot, revolved around a gay couple adopting a decidedly fem boy. The butcher of the couple is a Toronto sports announcer. When his straight boss threatens to cut his hours, he's told "you'll be covering women's volleyball forever." No small irony, a gay man was being threatened with the ultimate put down of covering women's sports.

Recently, the Universal Sports channel aired women's rugby playoffs held in England. It doesn't get anymore "bad ass" than rugby. When the cameras panned the stadium I was shocked. The stadium was well over half full and the spectators were pretty evenly split between male and female fans. Something we'll never see in America as long as Sports Illustrated runs covers like this.

Remember the first step in dehumanizing is objectification and to create mindless consumerism you must first commodify sexuality. Don't believe me? Watch Mad Men.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Congo Time

Possibly the coolest thing David Schmader has ever written: Last Days (re: the DR Congo gender genocide).

And Amy Goodman had a chance to talk to Eve Ensler, who took time out from battling uterine cancer to mention to Goodman how important it was to stay informed about the Congo and the ongoing gender genocide there that has been giving feminists nightmares for years.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Animated! Now with more robotic voices!

If you aren't some grad student contemporary English lit geek, you probably won't get this. If you are one of the above, please don't send me hate mail. I do like some of David Foster Wallace's stuff, specifically his short story Forever Overhead which is a sublime piece of prose.

And P.S., I'm sorry he's dead. It would have been nice to verbally spar with him. Now all we have is that stick in the mud, Franzen.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More to bemoan about student loans

Another story about student loan debt that mentions the CORPORATE (not liberal, you teabaggers) MEDIA bias surrounding the coverage of the rising tide of former college students unable to repay their loans.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Twisting path of history

My aunt, age 5 and my mom, age 2.

I stumbled across a website dedicated to the tiny grease spot of a town my mom and aunt were born in. Their mother was a bush farmer's wife in southern Ontario in the 1920s.

My grandmother had an affair with a migrant farm worker, my grandfather. It was all very scandalous and to this day my aunt, who is in her nineties, rarely talks about it.

I imagine Canada back then was as empty and gaping as a giant hole. Sort of like rural Nevada, where I grew up. I wonder if geography pushes people to wild excesses of passion or madness?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One Negative Summer or Why Zoloft is a Bad Vacation Idea

For those of you just awakening from a big pharm sponsored Zoloft coma, things are fucked. Not just kinda fucked, but really in a big way, let’s-all-move-quickly-toward-the-lifeboats fucked. So forgive me if I’m hesitant to post anything sweet about your kid’s recent birthday party photos or offer you solace on your latest breeder relationship hiccup out there in sunny suburban land. In the immortal words of Christian Aguilera, I think we got a problem here.

Bitter, bitter Bierce

I should back up and provide a little personal and historical perspective. In 1868 while Mark Twain was rolling around barely civilized San Francisco working as a freelance reporter, a journalist named Ambrose Bierce became a coworker and occasional friend. Bierce was legendary for his biting sarcasm, the teeth of which he often planted in the ass of the American robber barons of the day, namely the railroad industry. Both Bierce and Twain also wrote eloquently about the treatment of Chinese immigrants in S.F. and the general abhorrent way employers on the frontier often treated their employees. Twain often referred teasingly to Ambrose as Bitter Bierce because he saw Bierce as a pessimist who favored trucking in doom-n-gloom stories and essays. Ironically, both of these men's writing – especially their doom-n-gloom exposes – ended up fostering some significant social changes when people read their articles.

On a more personally front, I’ve been unemployed for nearly two years. Yup, two … fucking … years. And in the midst of my unemployedness, I’ve been in a legal fist fight for nearly the same amount of time. (There were court dates and hearings this spring, the stakes are very fucking high.) Think you can remain upbeat and as happy as a warm bowl of puppies after two years of getting doors figuratively slammed in your face? Please try, by all means SHOW ME HOW YOU DO THIS. Does Jesus help you comb your hair every morning? Or do you just swallow copious amounts of prescription drugs so you can view your mini-van, your kids and your life through a drugged fog and then feign surprise when the drugs don't make the problems go away?

Do your parents console you with love, fresh brownies and unlimited cable TV as you park yourself in their basement indefinitely while the winds of the worst economic crises ever perpetrated by Wall Street/Ayn Randian shitheads howl outside? Does your spouse high-five you every time you drag yourself home from another painfully depressing job interview in which some lobotomized twit sits across a conference table from you and spends five minutes trying to deal your resume out of a thick pile of others?

Because both my parents are long dead, I have no spouse (last boyfriend didn’t make it to the three-month mark because he had to MOVE out of state for a JOB) and I can’t afford cable TV. And neither Jesus nor any other celestial being helps me comb my hair or make life decisions. Yep, my life decisions are my own and I will neither apologize for them or shovel them off on any vague metaphysical belief as a way of placating any judgmental friends (internet friends included).

Recently someone posted a link to an article that, as my UK friends would say, left me gobsmacked. Not gobsmacked by insight or summation but by sheer, unblinking stupidity. The very idea that a “human potential expert” can shovel that much shit electronically and (Gawd forbid) get paid has left me gobsmacked.

I knew the Fourth Estate was dead. I’ve known this for several years but do we really need the likes of this dancing in its entrails while the old horse finally dies? Factoid: 80% of the “writers” and “reporters” of the Huffington Post, AlterNet News and the conservitard Noise Machine are un-paid. Most of what you read on the internet is not news, it’s not researched, no experts were consulted, and NOBODY fact checks like a real editor would in the olden days. At least half of what’s floating like turds at the top of the Infobaun’s septic tank are not “news articles," they’re op/ed pieces just like this one. Wanna read about President Obama, the predatory mortgage foreclosure crisis or the giant multi-disaster that is the BP oil spill? Rest assured when you Google any of those subjects at least half of what pops up is a link to someone’s O-P-I-N-I-O-N. Some where in there you might find a link to the Associated Press’s website and an actual story punched out on a keyboard by an actual reporter but those are getting rarer and rarer. And that’s just one of the reasons I’m so pessimistic and pissed off.

The gist of the “human potential expert’s” piece was: if women face their fears, their lives will improve. STOP THE PRESSES! This just in: THE SKY IS BLUE! It’s interesting because I had a discussion about this very subject with my mother. When I was eight. We talked about me getting up in the night (when the closet monsters were most lively), turning on my bedroom light and opening the closet door to confirm that, in fact, their were no closet monsters. It was just my wildly energetic imagination.

My first thought upon skimming the “human potential expert’s” essay was Jay Leno and Madonna. Several years ago, Jay was doing his monologue and he swiped at Madonna for a totally uber-celebrity stupid comment. Madonna said “human urine can stop the spread of Athlete’s foot”. Jay nearly fell out of his chair giggling and recounting this comment. He then very astutely said: “Listen, if you’re peeing on your own feet, while you’re in the shower, you got a lot bigger things to worry about than Athlete’s foot.”

Folks, we got a lot bigger things to worry about than Athlete’s foot.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Oh boy, this is funny. Jon skewers the 'tards at CNN.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Raymond Chandler, Margaret Atwood & David Foster Wallace

According to this goofy website, I write like the three authors above. Wow, I'm flattered.

What's interesting is the sample from the first short story I entered pegged Chandler and I thought the narrative voice in that one was very sardonic, very Atwood. But nooo, the second sample I entered (from 'Those Little Deaths') was deemed Atwood-ish. And the third sample I entered, from one of my newer short stories 'Love You Long Time' was David Foster Wallace-ish.

I've never read Chandler, have read almost all of Atwood's stuff and only a tiny smidgen of David Foster Wallace (who was a literal genius, batshit crazy and had his own weird brand of misogyny).

According to a news blurb, Margaret Atwood tried the website and it said she 'wrote like Stephen King.' Now that's funny.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pooblished vs. Published

I started to read a summer novel I snagged at a retail chain (coupons!). I was hoping for a repeat of the pulp fiction extravaganza I went through last year with Charlaine Harris and her fun, not-too-deep Sookie Stackhouse series. Harris' books are like popcorn, you can't read just one. Those silly paperbacks got me through some rough shit last year, not the least of which was nearly bleeding to death in Harborview's ER.

(Leg humper).

Anyhoo, I plowed 350 laborious pages through Justin Cronin's "The Passage" and, sorry, it sucked giant sweaty ass. This novel is like a schematic for How To Sell Your Novel to Hollywood.

Step 1: Get Stephen King to blather on about it on the dust jacket
Step 2: Thank CAA on the Thanks Page
Step 3: Mention Ridley Scott on the Thanks Page
Step 4: Write a 800+ page rough draft

Yes, in that order. Because I think that's how it went down. Cronin humped King's leg at some book signing or publishing convention, got him to read a 10-page excerpt of his tome and then went and did the rest.

Allegedly Cronin won a PEN and a couple of other awards for a short story analogy called "Mary and O'Neil". Sadly, I don't think he even bothered to edit "The Passage" and I'm pretty sure no one at Random House did either. stupidly compared the first part of "The Passage" to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". McCarthy's novel is an impressive and flawless read that will go down in sci-fi as one of the great ones.

But Cronin's book is by-the-numbers sci-fi/horror and there's few surprises. There's a pious, self-sacrificing black woman. There's a white trash 8-yr-old with vague mystical powers who gets infected with a vampire virus by evil government men. There's a long-suffering FBI agent who emotionally adopts the mystical brat ... even when she abandons him to die! Etc. This ain't King's "The Stand", it's not even a good knock off of "Different Seasons".

Vast, ruminating back story is given to every damn character. I knew what one security guard's favorite food was, I knew everything about his childhood ... SO?! His character becomes vampire snack food.

And as for Cronin's MFA and more literary-minded writing, I sure didn't see any here. The sentences were often long and clunky. He spends four paragraphs saying something that McCarthy could have said in one sentence.

My criticism (and everybody else's) are moot as Cronin has already sold the movie rights and Ridley Scott is in pre-production. In six months to a year, a smoldering turd will land on top of the box office.

In other news, I too am now a pooblished author. I'd like to thank all five of the readers of Black Matrix Publishing's periodicals. I'll post a PDF of my printed story just as soon as Black Matrix mails it to me and I get it scanned.

Hostile Horizons.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Walking Oil Spill

Way to go David Horsey ... except you left out the idling 3,000 pound SUV.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chairman Mao Loves Me (and so does the Fresh Prince)

The remake of 1984's Karate Kid dutifully follows the original with one exception. This time Daniel-san is shan-Dre and he hasn't relocated to the outskirts of L.A., but rather Beijing. Too bad this crucial change in setting didn't inspire the writers to deviate from the same tired plot.

The lead, overly played by Will Smith's son, meets a local girl and then the schoolyard bully who will terrorize him until Jackie Chan, as Mr.Han, unsteadily comes to his rescue. Right off the bat, this is a little odd as Dre is awfully young to be gettin' with the ladies. Ralph Macchio's Daniel was a hormonal, lanky teenager. Jaden Smith is still short enough to get turned away from half the rides at Magic Mountain.

Wait a minute Jaden, how much do you pay your publicist?

There's more than a few holes in this flick and we get way more closeups of Smith's over-worked tyke rather than Chan's quietly wounded old man.

If they made a silent film starring just Jackie Chan's face, it would be a roaring success. Decades of physical comedy, broken bones and mega-stardom have created a damn interesting fellow who seems to get acting inside and out -- he's just not interested in doing something that easy.

Little Dre's love interest is a comely Chinese girl a foot taller than him who's father is one of the new elite business men of China. Irony of ironies, she's trying to become a classical violinist -- a bourgeois foreign art the Communists gleefully murdered 500,000+ people for during the Cultural Revolution.

In the course of their paint-by-numbers journey (to Dre winning the kung fu tournament) Mr. Han, takes him to a mountain village outside of Beijing; you know, the kind that only exist in movies or at Disney World. Here there's no pollution, no crowds, everyone wears gorgeous silk costumes and apparently no one is forced to work in a Chinese factory. They should have called it the Ancient Wise Asian Town or something. Shoalin priests perch on river rocks in spotless white robes while contemplating existence. A female kung fu practitioner hypnotizes a cobra while perched hundreds of feet above a cliff face. The sun shines and wind chimes rustle. It's the kind of retreat fat Americans spend thousands of dollars to go to on the weekends. Again, what the hell? Was the entire film crew under the age of 30? Does no one remember the Cultural Revolution when hundreds of Confucian and Buddhist temples were destroyed and the Revolutionary Guard took sledge hammers to historical sites all at the whim of Chairman Mao?

Classical violin music and ancient Chinese Confucian meditation are some big speed bumps in The Karate Kid 2010. Yet another hiccup the writers chose to ignore: Jaden Smith is African American. China's not the most progressive country when it comes to racial acceptance. Sure, they're better than North Korea, but that's not saying much. In real life, the rich Chinese business man wouldn't have let the cute moppet Dre within five kilometers of his upper-class daughter, especially considering how damn rare marriageable daughters are in China today.

No one's seen hide nor hair of the Chinese kids who play the bully (Zhenwei Wang), or the female love interest (Wenwen Han) at any press events for the movie. And it's a damn shame as both kids can emote with more believability than Jaden Smith, who's daddy Will Smith bought him this movie.

I think if I have to chose between the mythical Jackie Chan (The Forbidden Kingdom) promoting the cardboard Wise Asian Man versus the stilted reality of The Karate Kid 2010, I'll take the full-on myth. I prefer tinkling wind chimes, meditating Shoalin monks and cascading mountain streams over Beijing's pollution, poor unemployed and China's oppressive oligarchy any day.

Finally, the only thing more offensive than assuming Americans will buy the idea of an African American woman being relocated from Detroit to China to work for a car company (when did they get so benevolent?!), is the assumption none of us knows the difference between karate and kung fu. I guess it's too late to re-name it?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do you want fries with that?

This was pulled directly from a Craigslist ad for a barista:
A (cafe business) in Belltown is seeking P/T experienced barista and customer service rep for 20-30 hrs/wk. We are looking for someone who can work independently AND together in a team-oriented environment. Candidate should be friendly, energetic and efficient. You must be able to move quickly at all times during your shift and have great problem-solving skills and insight. Qualified candidate will have ALL of the following requisites:

*At least 2 years customer service experience
*At least 1 year recent barista experience (manual machine)
*Current WA State Food Handler's Permit
*Reliable transportation
*Available immediately
*Flexible availability
*Able to stay for 6+ months
*Positive, ready-to-work attitude
*Blah, blah, blah

If you do not have ALL of the above listed, you need not apply. We will be interviewing the afternoon of May 24th and 25th, so only apply if you are able to appear at that time. We are looking to fill 2 positions immediately, so open availability for that week is a must. Reply with relevant resume and 3 professional references.

What's wrong with this ad? Well, nothing really unless you look at it from my perspective.
  • It's a (below) minimum-wage job starting at $8/hr (Washington state minimum is $8.55)
  • I'm assuming zero benefits as it's only part-time
  • They want you to quit your current P/T job (must be available immediately),
  • but yet you have to have recent experience (as in employer references)
  • I'm walking distance from this place yet they require "reliable transportation" which means running errands for the business in your car?
  • You have to have a current food handler's license and those cost money and are generally not required by big-chain fast food like Starbuck's, McDonald's, etc.
Wow, things just went from bad to much worse right before my eyes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Unemployed? Prepare to stay that way.

This is so well written, I just have to steal it and re-post it here.

In a Job Market Realignment, Some Left Behind
Thursday May 13, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Many of the jobs lost during the recession are not coming back.


For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

The phasing out of these positions might have been accomplished through less painful means like attrition, buyouts or more incremental layoffs. But because of the recession, winter came early.

The tough environment has been especially disorienting for older and more experienced workers like Cynthia Norton, 52, an unemployed administrative assistant in Jacksonville.

“I know I’m good at this,” says Ms. Norton. “So how the hell did I end up here?”

Administrative work has always been Ms. Norton’s “calling,” she says, ever since she started work as an assistant for her aunt at 16, back when the uniform was a light blue polyester suit and a neckerchief. In the ensuing decades she has filed, typed and answered phones for just about every breed of business, from a law firm to a strip club. As a secretary at the RAND Corporation, she once even had the honor of escorting Henry Kissinger around the building.

But since she was laid off from an insurance company two years ago, no one seems to need her well-honed office know-how.

Ms. Norton is one of 1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began, but were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year. There have also been outsize job losses in other occupation categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery. The number of printing machine operators, for example, was nearly halved from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009. The number of people employed as travel agents fell by 40 percent.

This “creative destruction” in the job market can benefit the economy.

Pruning relatively less-efficient employees like clerks and travel agents, whose work can be done more cheaply by computers or workers abroad, makes American businesses more efficient. Year over year, productivity growth was at its highest level in over 50 years last quarter, pushing corporate profits to record highs and helping the economy grow.

But a huge group of people are being left out of the party.

Millions of workers who have already been unemployed for months, if not years, will most likely remain that way even as the overall job market continues to improve, economists say. The occupations they worked in, and the skills they currently possess, are never coming back in style. And the demand for new types of skills moves a lot more quickly than workers — especially older and less mobile workers — are able to retrain and gain those skills.

There is no easy policy solution for helping the people left behind. The usual unemployment measures — like jobless benefits and food stamps — can serve as temporary palliatives, but they cannot make workers’ skills relevant again.

Ms. Norton has sent out hundreds of résumés without luck. Twice, the openings she interviewed for were eliminated by employers who decided, upon further reflection, that redistributing administrative tasks among existing employees made more sense than replacing the outgoing secretary.

One employer decided this shortly after Ms. Norton had already started showing up for work.

Ms. Norton is reluctant to believe that her three decades of experience and her typing talents, up to 120 words a minute, are now obsolete. So she looks for other explanations.

Employers, she thinks, fear she will be disloyal and jump ship for a higher-paying job as soon as one comes along.

Sometimes she blames the bad economy in Jacksonville. Sometimes she sees age discrimination. Sometimes she thinks the problem is that she has not been able to afford a haircut in a while. Or perhaps the paper her résumé is printed on is not nice enough.

The problem cannot be that the occupation she has devoted her life to has been largely computerized, she says.

“You can’t replace the human thought process,” she says. “I can anticipate people’s needs. Usually, I give them what they want before they even know they need it. There will never be a machine that can do that.”

And that is true, up to a point: human judgment still counts for something. That means some of the filing jobs, just like some of the manufacturing jobs, that were cut during the recession will return. But a lot of them probably will not.

Offices, not just in Jacksonville but all over the country, have found that life without a secretary or filing clerk — which they may have begun somewhat reluctantly when economic pressures demanded it — is actually pretty manageable.

After all, the office environment is more automated and digitized than ever. Bosses can handle their own calendars, travel arrangements and files through their own computers and ubiquitous BlackBerrys. In many offices, voice mail systems and doorbells — not receptionists — greet callers and visitors.

And so, even when orders pick up, many of the newly de-clerked and un-secretaried may not recall their laid-off assistants. At the very least, any assistants they do hire will probably be younger people with different skills.

Economists have seen this type of structural change, which happens over the long term but is accelerated by a downturn, many times before.

“This always happens in recessions,” says John Schmitt, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Employers see them as an opportunity to clean house and then get ready for the next big move in the labor market. Or in the product market as well.”

Economists like Erica Groshen at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York have argued that bigger structural job losses help explain why the last two economic recoveries were jobless — that is, why job expansion lagged far behind overall growth.

But there is reason to think restructuring may take a bigger toll this time around. The percentage of unemployed workers who were permanently let go has hovered at a record high of over 50 percent for several months.

Additionally, the unemployment numbers show a notable split in the labor pool, with most unemployed workers finding jobs after a relatively short period of time, but a sizable chunk of the labor force unable to find new work even after months or years of searching. This group — comprising generally older workers — has pulled up the average length of time that a current worker has been unemployed to a record high of 33 weeks as of April. The percentage of unemployed people who have been looking for jobs for more than six months is at 45.9 percent, the highest in at least six decades.

And so the question is what kinds of policy responses can help workers like Ms. Norton who are falling further and further behind in the economic recovery, and are at risk of falling out of the middle class.

Ms. Norton has spent most of the last two years working part time at Wal-Mart as a cashier, bringing home about a third of what she had earned as an administrative assistant. Besides the hit to her pocketbook, she grew frustrated that the work has not tapped her full potential.

“A monkey could do what I do,” she says of her work as a cashier. “Actually, a monkey would get bored.”

Ms. Norton says she cannot find any government programs to help her strengthen the “thin bootstraps” she intends to pull herself up by. Because of the Wal-Mart job, she has been ineligible for unemployment benefits, and she says she made too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid last year.

“If you’re not a minority, or not handicapped, or not a young parent, or not a veteran, or not in some other certain category, your hope of finding help and any hope of finding work out there is basically nil,” Ms. Norton says. “I know. I’ve looked.”

Of course, just as there is a structural decline in some industries, others enjoy structural growth (the “creative” part of “creative destruction”). The key is to prepare the group of workers left behind for the growing industry.

“You can bring the jobs back for some of these people, but they won’t be in the same place,” says Thomas Anton Kochan, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The White House has publicly challenged the idea that structural unemployment is a big problem, with Christina D. Romer, the Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman, instead emphasizing that stronger economic growth is what’s needed. Still, the administration has allocated dollars for retraining in both the 2009 stimulus package and other legislation, largely for clean technology jobs.

Ms. Norton, for her part, may be reluctant to acknowledge that many of her traditional administrative assistant skills are obsolete, but she has tried to retrain — or as she puts it, adapt her existing skills — to a new career in the expanding health care industry.

Even that has proved difficult.

She attended an eight-month course last year, on a $17,000 student loan, to obtain certification as a medical assistant. She was trained to do front-office work, like billing, as well as back-office work, like giving injections and drawing blood.

The school that trained her, though, neglected to inform her that local employers require at least a year’s worth of experience — generally done through volunteering at a clinic — before hiring someone for a paid job in the field.

She says she cannot afford to spend a year volunteering, especially with her student loan coming due soon. She has one prospect for part-time administrative work in Los Angeles — where she once had her own administrative support and secretarial services business, SilverKeys — but she does not have the money to relocate.

“If I had $3,000 in my pocket right now, I would pack up my S.U.V., grab my dog and go straight back,” she says. “That’s my only answer.”

With so few local job prospects and most of her possessions of value already liquidated she has considered selling her blood to help pay for the move. But she says she cannot find a market for that, either; blood collection agencies, she said, told her they do not buy her blood type.

“Sometimes I think I’d be better off in jail,” she says, only half joking. “I’d have three meals a day and structure in my life. I’d be able to go to school. I’d have more opportunities if I were an inmate than I do here trying to be a contributing member of society.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Car Crash

I canNOT stop listening to this song:

Ms. Courtney still ROCKS. She's my generation's Keith Richards.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bang 'Atlas Shrugged' against your forehead instead of the Bible

Awesome awesomeness from Matt Taibbi. Had no idea that Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand's wacky shit. Gordon Gecko was right. Greed is a religion. And it's full of fanatics.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Craving Rejection

I lobbed another one at the Bridport Prize yesterday. I cut Those Little Deaths (one of the stories in my anthology, Trailer Trash Confessional) down from about 6,000 words to 4,700 so I could meet the guidelines.

I WISH this was my writer's study

It's amazing how many extraneous words you can squeeze out of a short story. Though, in the case of Those Little Deaths it was more about culling entire descriptive sentences. I'm sure there are still LOTS of words to cut. (I kept a lot of the back story too, not sure how T. will feel about that.) And there are characters that are introduced once, briefly described/summarized and then bow off after one or two paragraphs.

I'm running into the same problem with minor characters in my latest (and still very rough) short story, Brave Sucker. I've got a lot of characters that make an entrance, are briefly sketched out by the narrative voice and then leave the stage. I'm not Charles Dickens, I don't know how to make every damn character important and thread them back into the story later on to underscore the climatic moral duel between the protagonist and the antagonist.

I also got my rejection from Missouri Review which has something like a 99.8% rejection rate according It was a form rejection and those tend to be real unhelpful as you don't even get the vaguest critique.

I do not understand why Duotrope is allergic to blind-submission contests that require an entry/reading fee. P. told me blind submissions were THE way to go and, judging from all the famous authors F&SF rejected, I think he's totally right.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


And after this week of depositions, stressful court hearings and awful, debilitating flu colds (complete with diarrhea, fever and non-stop nights of coughing) I sooo needed a good laugh.

How to Defeat Someone Made Furious by "How to Defeat a Pit Bull with Your Bare Hands"

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Spay and Neuter Your Neighbors

The Stranger just ran a tongue-in-cheek article advising Seattleites how to avoid being mauled to death by pit bulls. Of course, it's fired up the usual rabble on the blogosphere.

Weirdly, this tiresome debate is made up of both extremes of the political spectrum. First there's the wigger/gangsta wannabes out in the slummier 'burbs who think it's their god-given right to own uncontrollable animals (see: gun fetishists). And on the other side of the kennel, there's the weepy PETA vegans who think ALL dogs on earth must be saved from horrible humans (including horrible 3-yr-old humans) who are "accidentally" mauled by this "misunderstood" breed.

I covered this topic over 10 years ago when I was a newspaper reporter. My article was about the importance of basic obedience training and socialization for all breeds. Socialization means regularly walking your dog, getting him used to meeting strangers and making him feel relaxed in new environments -- a concept that escapes the mental grasp of 90% of dog owners.

Being white trash, I grew up around pit bulls. Thanks to pit bulls, I had to bury two pet cats before I was 13. They were used in rural Nevada, primarily by ranchers, to hunt and kill coyotes. Unfortunately most of the pit bulls couldn't tell the difference between coyotes and house cats. Pit bulls were also hazy about differentiating between potential burglars and frolicking pre-schoolers. I've lived with pit bull mixes and had boyfriends, roommates, etc. who kept pit bulls. I've known some sweet pit bull mixes, but the pure breds are not my cup of tea. Fighting breeds -- including Chows, akitas and mastiffs -- were bred with the idea that the best defense is a good offense.

Pitbulls have a strong stalking instinct and in the offense department, the pit bull is king. Think about it. The name alone is appalling. They're not called pointers or lurchers. They're pit bulls. You put the dog in a pit. Then you put something (a badger, a lynx, a lion, another dog or even an actual bull) in the pit with the dog. Then you place bets on which animal will survive. Pit bull terriers are the genetic descendants of dogs that survived hundreds of years of this systematic brutality in England, Spain and most of Europe.

Perfect for your five year old!

The thing that chills me is a comment by an animal behaviorist and director of the ASPCA on

According to expert Randall Lockwood, pit bulls are also liars. In a 2004 law enforcement training video, taped when Lockwood was vice president for research and educational outreach for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), he shares the following story:

"Fighting dogs lie all the time. I experienced it first hand when I was investigating three pit bulls that killed a little boy in Georgia. When I went up to do an initial evaluation of the dog's behavior, the dog came up to the front of the fence, gave me a nice little tail wag and a "play bow" -- a little solicitation, a little greeting. As I got closer, he lunged for my face."

Fighting breeds like pit bulls can lie? That is chilling. Shades of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake where in a dystopian future corporations use "puppies" as military weapons.

But then this debate is not new. A 1999 essay from a New York freelance writer, brings the problem home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unlimited Asshatery

Pretty much everything John (old engineer I used to rent from) told me about HR people has been true. So's everything a hippie told me back in Dec. 2003. Their impressions about how Seattle (and the crazy/stupids who live here) works has been dead on. I just got off the phone with an HR headhunter (we call 'em vendors). Here's the gist of it (with witty embellishments):

"Um, are you a technical writer?"
"Does it say that on your resume?"
"Did you read it?"
"Oh, no. Wait. Oh, I'm looking at it now. But do you have any samples?"
"My online portfolio is listed on my resume. At the top. There's a hyperlink. Just click on it."
"Oh! Okay. But do you have Microsoft experience?"
"Are you looking at my resume?"
"Wait. There it is. Yes, that's at the top."
"How long have you been out of work?"
"Over a year."
"Wow! Are you on leave or a vacation?"
"Ever heard of the Great Recession?"
"Oh yeah, right."
"Well, there's a lot of tech writer positions out there right now."
"Really?! Awesome, where should I look for them? Because I've been staring at the same job postings on the state Worksource site since December. And some of the postings on Craigslist are starting to grow moss."
"So you are looking for work?"
"No, I thought I'd just laboriously post my resume (after re-writing it six times) on Monster and endure endless moronic phone conversations FOR FUN."
"Do you want to work as a permanent at Microsoft or just as a contractor?"
"They ACTUALLY HAVE permanent positions for tech writers AVAILABLE? Great, sign me up."
"Wait, oh yeah, my boss is saying 68% of their jobs are contract only."
"Ya don't say?"

And this was one of the smarter ones I've dealt with. HR twits are kinda like mosquitoes and wharf rats. We don't really need them. Human existence would trundle along just fine without them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

All this over health care?

Anybody who thinks the faux protests going on in this country are over health care is asleep.

The last time we heard the phrase 'state's rights' was right before the South seceded from the Union and started the Civil War.

Sorry, teabaggers, states don't have sovereignty, only nations do. Where would Arkansas be without all those FEDERAL farm subsidies? Where would Texas be without endless FEDERAL corporate subsidies to its oil refineries? Where would North Carolina be without all those FEDERAL military bases? How about Florida without FEDERAL GOVERNMENT subsidies to its massive corporate orange growers?

George Carlin was right. Let's put all the Right-wing wackos in a big fenced-in lot and once a month we'll toss a few tons of raw meat and more gun ammo over the fence.

You can't secede from the American government, you dumb asses. You don't have the money and you clearly don't have the brains.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I miss chickens

In the past, I've had occasion to live in a rural setting with farm critters roaming about. Last time I was down on the farm, was in Australia in 2003. I stayed with an earthworm entrepreneur (I'm so not making this up) at his drafty, sprawling, ranch house 17 miles outside of Perth. He owned chickens (which he neglected), six sheep, a spoiled ugly pitbull and a lovely cat named Bella. There were also emus -- we called them Emu Raiders -- who lumbered into the yard late at night and destroyed clothes lines and trampled laundry. Occasionally they devastated the passionfruit vines and devoured the tomatoes.

But the chickens were the best. They began making that weird groaning noise every morning at 5 a.m. They provided eggs and were diligent bug killers. When I was working in the garden, (which was pretty extensive), they would follow me and if I came across a huntsman spider or a Madagascar cockroach, they would run over and dutifully kill and eat it. One of the chooks as they say in Oz, used to follow me around the neighborhood when I went for walks. She would trail behind me clucking worriedly. It was cute.

I really miss the eggs. And the poultry companionship.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Joined the Pity Party

My rejection is vaguely famous.

I guess I have some idea what the dolts on American Idol feel like when Simon tells them they're too ugly to sing.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Random beauty

I just couldn't let the week slip by without showing some of the art this pro did for the cover of the latest Stranger. If you live outside the Seattle area and don't get the Stranger, that's a bummer. Because Jon McNair is super cool.

It's like Maurice Sendak meets Carl Jung meets Robert Smith when he's extra depressed. It's just screaming cool.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rapture time?

I always wondered if one of Roland Emmerich's over-the-top disaster flicks was gonna come true in real life.

Personally, I was a bigger fan of "The Day After Tomorrow". I liked the idea of tornadoes eating Los Angeles in revenge for the billions of tons of air pollution that city has dumped on us all.

But lately, I'm starting to wonder: what if the end of the world is a double-feature?

Chilean earthquake photos.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Gee, why doesn't this suprise me?

Pancreatic Cancer Linked to Sodas
Study Says 2 Sodas Per Week Raises Pancreatic Cancer Risk
By Kathleen Doheny, WebMD Health News

Feb. 8, 2010 -- Drinking as little as two soft drinks a week appears to nearly double the risk of getting pancreatic cancer, according to a new study.

"People who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87% increased risk -- or nearly twice the risk -- of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals consuming no soft drinks," says study lead author Noel T. Mueller, MPH, a research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers& Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Cancer of the pancreas was diagnosed in about 42,000 people in the U.S. in 2009, according to American Cancer Society estimates, and about 35,240 deaths from the disease were expected. The pancreas lies behind the stomach. It makes hormones such as insulin to balance sugar in the blood and produces juices with enzymes to help break down fats and protein in foods.

Whole story here

* * *

Let's see what did my vegetarian friend, Richard, tell me way back in 1991? "HFCS fries your pancreas."

And what'd my holistic doctor tell me in the same year? "Eating a lot of sugar causes your pancreas to 'mis-fire' which causes the liver to dump too much insulin into the blood which creates hypoglycemic symptoms, which then leads to eating more sugar."

And soda pop containing HFCS is THE biggest culprit because HFCS is in liquid form so it reaches your stomach lining and then your blood stream in a fraction of the time it takes, say a cookie, to reach your blood stream. And HFCS inhibits the body's ability to produce leptin, a hormone that 'tells' your brain you are full. Essentially, your body can't tell the difference between consuming a half can of Coke, Pepsi or 7-Up and drinking an entire 6-pack. It feels the same.