Category Archives: Social Rules

Voting Is Like Boots For Cows

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Warning: this madness may trigger you, either on the grounds of satire or foolishness. Were it my choice, partisanship would go the way of the Blue Squirrel, full of pellets and eaten with roasted potatoes. Part of the joy living in a d̵i̵c̵t̵a̵t̵o̵r̵s̵h̵i̵p̵  free country is that each of gets to voice our own ridiculous opinions. Unless you work in the NFL, home of the buy-one-get-one-free concussion special.

I voted on election day because the rodeo grounds in Springdale is the best voting station in Northwest Arkansas – and not just because they have free coffee and tanning beds available. The voting stations are no longer drive-through, though, as I discovered the hard way. Note: vehicle insurance covers these types of mishaps. My apologies to Janet, John, and Frida, who thankfully escaped injury as I drove through. It is fitting that the same odor which sometimes graces the hallowed acres of the rodeo grounds also captures the essence of the political process. It is an olfactory reminder that we shouldn’t take our own vote for granted, much in the same way that those already in office tend to take us for granted.

It serves as an early voting location, too, for the county. I tend to early-vote twice and then just once on election day unless my social media friends have been especially tedious and annoying about voting – in that case, I vote 3 or 4 times. The throngs of ineligible voters the Democrats bus to my voting location usually give me adequate cover to not get caught. (Note: part of that was a joke, obviously, much like the current presidency.) As a fairly nondescript middle-aged white guy who is often favorably compared to Danny Devito, I tend to blend in well with people, until I open my big mouth. They assume I’m a Republican mostly because I sound ridiculous and doubly so if you can understand what I’m saying. Once I get my hand inside their wallets, though, they know I tend to vote as a progressive. Any chance I get to vote to raise taxes, I do so gleefully and if I can raise yours too, I consider it a bonus.

I opted to vote in the Republican primary again, mainly to disrupt the process. Not that the GOP needs my help. Putting Trump in office has given everyone the idea that they should run for office, even if they are currently leaking brain fluid. I gladly did the same in 2016 so that I could vote against Trump in the GOP Presidential primary. In November, I had the honor of voting against him again. Because I live in Arkansas, though, the hordes overwhelmed me, as they were armed with the antiquated “Electoral College,” which is just about as bad as weighted voting on “The Voice.” I wish that the Native Americans would get together and deport all these white Europeans who are ruining the country. Somewhere, there’s a “Fox and Friends” viewer who is reading these words who is getting really pissed off. “That’s racism!” he or she will undoubtedly repeat two or three times before dragging out his or her old typewriter to write the editor an angry letter. That last part is supposed to be funny, too, because we all know that no self-respecting Fox & Friends viewer is going to read anything past the first paragraph unless it says “Applebee’s” across the top of the menu.

I voted against Steve Womack in the 3rd District race and I’ll vote against him again in November, probably twice just to be safe. There’s a rumor that he might have to drop out of the race in order to have the stick up his rear end removed. Those who revere his rigid posture often overlook the fact that it’s due to that same stick. (Also, he looks like Mike Pense’s 2nd cousin after a hard weekend of drinking.) I voted against Asa, even though Jan Morgan is nuttier than a closet full of fruitcakes. She wouldn’t win the primary, of course, so I’ll vote against Asa again this fall. She might be the next VP candidate, though, if Tom Cotton ever figures out that literally, anyone can become president. Additionally, it irritates me that Asa’s actual first name is “William.” For the supreme court, I voted for David Sterling, because more dark money was spent in his favor than the other candidates. In the Age of Trump, that’s the kind of idiotic logic that I find myself agreeing with. A massive influx of dark money and influence is very important to me, unless you ask me, in which case I’ll say the opposite and do so while waving my arms nonsensically. I’m not too fond of the supreme court, anyway, since black olives and onions are generally terrible on pizza.

Because I’m adept at reading upside down, I scanned down the clipboards the poll workers left in plain sight on the registration table. First, the text I was reading upside down was inverted- not me. I think the poll workers would not have been amused had I been upside down, either like a slumbering vampire or a gymnast walking on my hands. The R columns vastly outnumbered the D columns; simply put, the Republicans turned out in much greater numbers to vote today. I understand that there are variables which affect this observation, not the least of which is that a progressive voter is more likely to early-vote and traditional voters also tend to be retired and can, therefore, follow the tradition of voting on the day of the election. I like to think that by voting in the GOP primaries that marketers foolishly assume that I am anywhere in a Venn Diagram with their targeted constituency. Obviously, if I were to suffer a major head trauma it is possible that I would suddenly start seeing both logic and appeal in the platform of the GOP but until then, please continue to send me ridiculous flyers to warn me of the dangers of foreigners and the need to personally own no fewer than 17 guns, each of which I’ve given cute names.

I enjoy the moment immediately after I give the poll worker my I.D. Given that the average poll worker is older, he or she invariably reads my name at least ten times. Most of them usually give up and assume that my license, like every other person in this state, lists my last name first and vice versa. When requested to do so, I try to find the strangest way to recite my name, address, and date of birth. Today was no exception. My wife hates the way I recite my date of birth even though logically it’s the only way to be precise while simultaneously getting on everyone’s nerves. That last part is very important to me. One of my favorite quips is to quickly ask, “Date of conception, you asked?” and then pretend to start counting backward with the months of the year.

I sometimes ask if they have ballots with pictures of the candidates on them. One day, the answer will be “Yes.” It seems only fair if they can ask me to repeat the information that is plainly visible on the I.D. they are holding, I have the reciprocal right to amuse myself with a barrage of my own questions to yield the confused and nervous looks they often give me.

All of y’all pushing to get everyone out to vote should sometimes stop and remember that people like me listen and go vote, much to the detriment of the political process.

I was a little disappointed to find out that it was a rumor that Springdale was voting on whether to get rid of that horrible criss-cross pattern it chose as it’s mascot. Logo. I mean to say, “Logo.” The poll workers did tell me, however, that I was welcome to get some colored permanent markers and change all the logos in the city myself. Heads up, Chamber of Commerce and local constabulary.

Once done voting, I boarded the bus with the throngs of ineligible voters. As we drove away from the rodeo grounds, we saluted our framed picture of Robert Mueller.

 

A Few Words on Voting…

A couple of basic ‘voting’ posts I wrote a few years ago, especially regarding the feeble, illogical, and nonsensical “… if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to voice your opinion” arguments seen every election cycle.

Not Voting Doesn’t Negate Your Right of Participation or Expression

Voting Disenfranchisement Is Wrong

P.S. I of course vote. But those who don’t, voluntarily or involuntarily, don’t forfeit their right to participation or opinion.

The Futility of Caring Less In A Couldn’t Care Less World

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If someone says, “I should be so lucky!” it implies that they know they’ll never be that lucky. Everyone except those recently hit on the head with a Wile E. Coyote anvil easily recognize the words spoken and the intended meaning. The word for such a phrase is ‘idiom,’ which can be loosely defined as ‘words which have incorporated a meaning not easily evident in the words themselves.’ In other words, an idiom can take on any meaning we ascribe to it, regardless of how divorced it is from logic, lexicon, and lippitude. The more vibrant and involved a culture is, the more likely that the language used has evolved in an infinite trajectory, one more often determined by confused and seemingly incoherent words.

Those most invested in the idea of a stagnant and static language usually tend to be those who incorrectly think they’ve arrived at the imaginary train station marked as “Correct.” They tend to look at a painting and see that the proportion is slightly off rather than observe that a great work of art sees them as well, in part precisely due to its defect. While language’s mechanics might be best understood in the mind of a master, it is on the lips of the young and those dancing around the fringes of normal usage who see to it that it undergoes the transformation which grants our words magic.

Usage, collectively or popularly applied, constantly creates idioms that defy their own origins. Entire books have been written on the subject and a million doctoral candidates have expounded on the folly and futility of language. The well of this subject will never run dry, as most of its underpinnings sit on opinion rather than science. The rules can be any we choose. Regardless of our choices, none of us will ever learn ‘Standard English’ as a means toward poetry or as a dialect born in our infancy.

For me, it is sport to watch educated and well-intentioned people gnash their teeth at one another for esoteric perceptions of correctness. Almost all who do battle on the field of language do so at their own peril. At feud’s end, the language has already expatriated itself to foreign terrain, evolving even in the midst of disagreement. For those who’ve not noticed, I root for the team advocating a dose of anarchy.

Another peculiarity of our language is that we can juxtapose both negative and positive connotations of the same words and phrases, yet mean exactly the same thing. Our language is stuffed with examples, ones which remind us that language is not math and the roadmap toward language in no way follows a logical course. If I shout, “I can’t hardly wait!” you know that I’m full of enthusiasm. On the other hand, if I shout, “I can hardly wait!” I mean exactly the same thing. Both listener and speaker understand the context and content of the contradictory utterances. You can artfully quibble with this specific example but be warned that our language is an arsenal of similarly-defective pairings.

When you snarl your lip and smugly make your assertions, you are not presenting the scholarly front that you anticipate; you’re demonstrating an unwillingness to bend to reality. Language is not math and it certainly isn’t logic. Its consistency lies only in the recognition that it cannot be learned like a finite subject.

We use the word ‘awesome’ without stopping to consider that ‘awful’ also derived from the same root. Usage redefined the intention of the words. I could literally write a list a mile long, one filled with words which have drifted away from their linguistic docks, often to mean the opposite of its cousins.

Having written all the above, I move to one of my most cherished phrases: “I couldn’t care less.” An idiom which reveals the flawed understanding of its detractors more efficiently would be impossible to find. Many an argument has been waged by those using the word in the presence of those who’ve made up their mind about an idiom that means exactly what it is supposed to.

There is no real controversy here, not really. Before this phrase appeared in popular usage, even before its counterpart of “could care less,” people always said, “No one could care less than I.” If said aloud, this phrase sounds as if it had been born in the stilted and feverish imagination of a terrible English writer. It died precisely because of its ridiculousness.

Saying, “I couldn’t care less” in no way conveys confusion, except in the mind of the person who doesn’t understand language, idioms, or the dynamic and evolving presence of our language. If you persist in your insistence that “I couldn’t care less” isn’t correct, you are doing so in contradiction to all evidence to the contrary. You have become contrary yourself.

Language is whatever we decide it is to be.

The sacrosanct of today will soon lie dormant on our lips, replaced by what is to come.

Your objections?

I couldn’t care less.
Love, X

DNA and the Golden State Killer

In regards to the Golden State Killer being identified by using genealogy indexing, this is an area where I have experience. I’ve written so much about privacy over the years that I forget that people have an unusual and mistaken perception of their own privacy. DNA is the universal math of identification. Like our fingerprints, we leave it everywhere we go and transmit it through our intimate family web. To believe that we will one day not have a database of every living person’s DNA is to ignore the pull and push of history. The same arguments against DNA indexing are the same as those once used to push back against fingerprinting.
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In those cases where I have tracked down missing fathers and absent family members, DNA would have immediately unlocked those doors.
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I don’t ‘worry’ about my genetic profile being misused because I understand that it is already something out of my control, much like my identity and credit history. Before you accuse me of it, I will agree that I’m decently ignorant about some of the ramifications.
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DNA unlocks the lies and misconceptions we have about our own family trees and the mechanics of our biology. Genealogy was already sufficiently fascinating for me prior to the DNA component; now, it is ethereal and scientific magic, opening doors and both answering and asking questions about what we think we know.
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For years, I’ve predicted the scenario such as the Golden State Killer breakthrough.
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For anyone related to me, you can relax. They already have our entire genetic code. Like with most puzzles, a relatively small sample size of the populace is enough to identify everyone. Even if you don’t ‘choose’ to share your DNA profile, statistically it is almost a meaningless decision on your part. It’s difficult to be able to piece together the math and science of this truth and even more frustrating to find a way to like it if you find yourself in disagreement.
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The services I used don’t sell or transmit my genetic profile without my consent, which is more than I can say for other companies I’ve dealt with. Most people are unaware just how often they might consent to DNA indexing or sharing, especially when dealing with clinics, hospitals, or insurance companies.
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When the Facebook hyperbole surfaced, I cringed at people’s over-reactions. Google, for instance, maintains massively larger databases about all of us, yet receives much less press for it. During the data breach at Equifax, most people simply didn’t understand what had happened. It certainly didn’t stop Congress from rewarding Equifax with an exclusive contract with the federal government.
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Your DNA, like your fingerprints and credit history, is already ‘out there,’ beyond your control.
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I have several concerns, of course, but know that my personal opinion won’t divert the trends already beyond my reach. Right now, I am grinning a satisfied grin, knowing that what I predicted for years finally happened.

No Cashier For You

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“1) Will a cashier always be available at the local Neighborhood Markets?” The answer is “No,” if Walmart has its way.

By the way, this hasn’t been answered by any of the dozens of emails, tweets, or direct messages I’ve exchanged in the last few weeks. Luckily, the corporation is staffed by human beings, ones who exist in the real world – and who share our misgivings about achieving cost reduction by eliminating jobs (and people) at the expense of customer convenience. Despite my complaint regarding being coerced into using self-checkout, even for large volume grocery shopping, the bigger shadow will come from passive scanning technologies which are designed to eliminate almost all interaction between shoppers and employees.

To all those with physical limitations or who dislike being required to be their own cashiers for one of the largest corporations in the world, please accept my apologies. Walmart will imply that their “Store Pickup” system will address these concerns. They won’t, at least not in the immediate future. From listening to people I know who’ve tried the order ahead and “Store Pickup” system, they love the idea of it but have universal frustrations with the implementation. Most of the hiccups are from, you guessed it, human error and insufficient staffing to provide a worry-free grocery experience. Warm ice cream? Shorter expiration dates on your dairy? Less appealing merchandise compared to what you might choose? Scheduling and logistic issues? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

If you have a disability or limitation, I can only recommend that you insist that all retailers accommodate you. If you resent being less valued as a customer, I can only advise that you seek a retailer which honors your request.

Most of us will gladly embrace self-checkout for some situations. We’ll even use the ‘scan as you go’ apps in most cases. Equally true, though, is that we’re not going to accept a multi-billion dollar corporation’s insistence that we do a job better performed by an employee of its organization, a job for which we are already being charged. There are times when we want a cashier, especially when we’ve accumulated a few dozen items in our shopping carts.

As for the customer service reporting system, Walmart’s is broken. As it turns out, it is deliberately designed to function that way. In the last few weeks, I’ve exchanged hundreds of emails, direct messages and fruitless tweets and posts. None of them came from an identifiable person. With each promise of contact, I’d be sent back to the starting point of the broken carousel. I could almost hear the crackle of laughter behind some of the redirects. Walmart insulates itself from marketing glitches by pushing everything back out to the local branches, as if the store manager is the one wanting to reduce his or her staff. In a moment of candor, I had a store manager tell me directly that he/she blamed all of it on corporate’s sole focus on cost, even though the metrics of customer satisfaction skew away from cost as being the sole factor.

Officially, no one at Walmart had the courtesy or professionalism to answer any of my questions, even when I reduced it to the one question which starts this post. Their failure to answer me is a testament to their proven ability to ignore most pushback and to their own belief that they are too large to fail. I can’t blame them, not really. Arrogance of that magnitude is almost inescapable when scaled to their size.

One thing I found out for certain is that Walmart is slowly transitioning to self-kiosks while simultaneously avoiding any blanket statements about their future. A bigger part of their vision involves using scanning technology or customer-driven input, which either passively tracks what we pick up at every point in the store or requires our input to scan or tally the selected merchandise. We are the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pot of water and we won’t realize that we can’t turn back until we’re too boiled to hop out. Walmart is counting on our complacency to reach a point of no return.

Between initiatives like Project Kepler and Code Eight, Walmart is investing heavily in technology which reduces labor by removing Walmart employees from the process as much as possible. For cost reductions, it’s smart. For human relations, it is less than ideal.

If you don’t want to use a self-checkout kiosk, the best option is to politely say “No.” If you’re told something you don’t like, try to remember that employees are either badly trained, which is management’s fault, or they are only parroting the words and procedures given to them, which is also management’s fault. They are still people first and employees second. This is ironic when you stop to consider that these very people are the ones Walmart is eliminating to save you money. Truth be told, most managers don’t have any real ability to control these types of issues.

It is a certainty that many retailers will follow suit and use technology to push our shopping habits in a new direction. As I’ve said all along, such technology holds a place in our future but it shouldn’t be forced upon us for all situations.

I started all this weeks ago by saying that Walmart and its smaller food markets in particular is a business model I very much want to embrace. I love technology and welcome both self-checkout kiosks and “as you go” systems. I resent the idea, though, that I am becoming an involuntary employee of the organization I’m rewarding with my business. For those who are older or with physical issues, I am especially concerned.

Locally, most of us will have choices through smaller grocery stores and chains. They’ll face the same price pressures, though, at some point.

I realize that this isn’t the most well-written post but perfect is the enemy of the good. If a billion dollar company can wing it, I see no reason to hold myself to a higher standard.

P.S. If you write me, I’ll be sure to forward that to my compliance and correspondence officer. Or Tier 3. Or Reader Spark. Or that guy Jonathan sitting in the basement waiting to help you. Please give me at least 24 business days to ignore your message.

The Observation of ‘There’

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I see or hear people say, “Those drivers in so-and-so! What idiots.” Or, “People in so-and-so are so mean!” Because it’s a sentiment commonly seen and heard, it doesn’t sound that odd to most people. Most of us have our own particular ‘there’ in mind. I recommend that you imagine Dallas on a Friday afternoon, or the DMV between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., anywhere in the United States.

There are exceptions, of course, but in general, people are similar regardless of geography. Southerners are no more polite than those from Wyoming and drivers in Arkansas are no less idiotic than those in Pennsylvania. (Except for Josh. He really stinks.)

Most of the time, the grouchy people in question have traveled with their own geographical prejudices. If you listen closely, it becomes more apparent than ever that there is as much fault in the observer as the observed.

Anyone can pinpoint a particular place and time, inhabited by a shifting mix of people and situations and say, “Well, this case is different because of so-and-so…”

This particular scenario occurs in every nook and cranny of this country, each and every day. No travel is required to see and hear people behaving poorly.

“Those” people there, wherever there is, are no different than you or the people who live around you.

“They” see us and shake their heads at us and our impolite stupidity and our inability to drive in a straight line without flipping our vehicle upside down – while parked.

The circle of complaint is eternal, each of us pointing to those idiots elsewhere.

Even though we’re all the same, each of us struggling to minimize just how much stupidity we individually generate.

The struggle is real.