10102013 Jesus-Zach Galifianakis Picture and Its Many Uses

Take a look at this picture. It is the iconic picture of Jesus that many of us stared at while growing up in our grandparent’s houses – the one which made the hair on the nape of our neck stand on end when we were trying to get by with something forbidden.

Or is it?

No, it’s actually a very clever morphed Jesus-Zach Galifianakis hybrid picture. This picture makes me laugh out loud, literally, sometimes.

I’ve used many times to wrap presents with. Those who don’t look closely think that I’ve used a picture of Jesus. Those who look really closely and who also follow pop culture really get a laugh out of it.

I’ve used this picture on personalized coffee mugs that I’ve had made.

I’ve used this picture as a centerpiece on xmas decorations and things of that nature. Many people never notice that something isn’t quite right about the picture.

I tried to convince myself to make a large framed version of this and sneak it into the church I most often attend. I couldn’t quite do it, although I’m certain that the pastor would have laughed until he cried. It’s not like any of us old fogies can see well enough to catch the tomfoolery at first glance, anyway.

It’s not so much that I’m subverting anyone’s beliefs, but that it is a great example of subversive humor.

Churches Should Be Taxed

 Churches should be taxed, as well as treated as employers in all aspects of the law.

This post will anger a lot of people, but it’s just my opinion here on the fringes.

And yes, it should include property taxes, unemployment taxes, everything a small business should have to endure.

While many will disagree with me, most of it boils down to simple “we don’t do it that way,” rather than because it wouldn’t make more sense.

Quote on Privacy From Dilbert Blog

“We tend to fear losing our privacy until it’s gone. Then we wonder what all the fuss was about. It turns out that the bigger challenge than retaining privacy is getting anyone to care about you at all…” -Scott Adams

Although not strictly related, here’s a facebook post from a while back:

“Facebook is one of the biggest technological marvels in the world. It is often the equivalent of an email, a phone call or a visit all in one package. Yet, we vainly try to use it to ‘control’ the array of positive and negative happenings in their lives. Use it to share with those you respect and love; otherwise, I will have to find you and yank out your nose hairs for vague-posting. Instead of hinting, share. If you can’t share openly it is best to post nothing and thereby quell the potential for inquiry. Everyone close to you already knows both the joys and sorrows of your life. Share or silence are the 2 available options, at least in my opinion. Amen.”

We can hide well as individuals in a mass of people but anyone is easily uncovered in 30 seconds or less, for free, on the internet. If you don’t mind paying a little, you can uncover anyone in 5 seconds. Where do you live? Do you own a house? Who are you related to? What’s your phone number? Date of birth? Where did you go to school? Who were your friends? Who are your friends? No matter how private you think you are, I can find the answers to all of these questions incredibly easily. Most of it is information you’ve willingly provided. You don’t need the NSA to snoop, intercept, or do surveillance to get this information. 

Everything you do everyday reveals your life. Your phone tracks you, your car tracks you, cameras at ATMs and on roadways track you. Other people’s movements help track you. Your friends and coworkers assist in your every move.

It’s easy to go to bed, convinced that you haven’t added to the invasion of your privacy. If you are alive in this modern world, you can be certain that your life added to the database today.

If you know that your life is being scrutinized, even anonymously, why not share the meaningful bits with the rest of the world? It is just as viable an option as being superficial. 

09022011 Spanish As a Way of Life

Sometimes I forget that I was once fluent in Spanish. Not the “fluency” generated by even 3 years in high school at college; rather the fluency from spending entire days speaking almost exclusively another language, reading avidly in that language and hearing so much Latin music that my own language began to sound unwieldy in my own mouth.

There is something about hearing Ricardo Arjona preaching in his lyrical way in Spanish that simply disengages the cynical part of my personality. Reading Wayne Dyer in Spanish always made the truth in his words more evident and reachable.

Spanish didn’t come easily for me. I filled several books with words to remember, jokes, phrases, etc. When I heard music that I didn’t understand, I would search out the lyrics and study them until they had penetrated my thick head. I learned that I had actually do have a propensity for languages – just not in the way that traditional school tries to teach it.

Don’t get me started with my preference for Spanish grammar and its spelling system.  As beautiful as English is, we could learn much from the overall simplicity of Spanish.

Spanish became less stressful for me the day I realized that I would never perfect it – never. And that didn’t bother me. If native Spanish speakers mocked me, instead of worrying about their opinion, I would listen to their attempt to speak MY language. The comparison evened out the mockery. Pick up any verb conjugation book in either Spanish or English and you will quickly see that mastery is a rare thing. You should also note that it doesn’t matter. When I had to learn an entire quality system and then teach it to native Spanish speakers, my attitude changed to “do the best I can” and assume that this would be good enough.

I look back on my “fluent” days in the same way a marathoner would on his best race. I worked hard and hit a point where I knew I had succeeded. I’ve backslid tremendously since then. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

In an average day, we don’t use even a 1,000 different words. That’s it, even if it sounds low to you. Years ago, I started recommending that people wanting to learn Spanish try to learn just one word a day. For anyone truly interested in learning, they soon found themselves learning much more than 1 word a day, without any extra effort. Committing to just 1 word a day made the likelihood of failure less likely.

It is odd seeing my region coming to terms with the Hispanic population. Years ago, I was one of the few people stressing that simple economics would require that the prejudice against foreign languages be lessened. Seeing it so strongly now, everywhere, is refreshing.

Attitudinal Conservatives

“Attitudinal Conservative” is a phrase I use to describe people whose outlook, especially political, doesn’t match their way of living. While it MIGHT be construed to have an element of hypocrisy in it, that doesn’t capture the expected idea precisely. They claim to be conservative yet almost nothing observable identifies them as such.

This does NOT refer to those conservatives who study the issues, details and know every angle of their arguments.

We all know at least 1 person who seems to know an inordinate amount about conservative politics. I say “seems” because most of their knowledge is shallow, unfocused, very much like everyone else, just with a narrowly-defined ignorance. If they have an opinion, you will hear it, whether your eyes are rolling like a hungry, rabid zombie. They say specific things, sometimes with detailed numbers, names, and dates.

Suddenly, after listening to them, I realize they are just babbling, mostly smoke and mirrors.

Trust me: this means that the person listens to and/or watches only conservative TV and radio. Usually, their media diet is 99% Fox. Am I saying that Fox News is nothing but conservative garbage? Almost.

You can’t turn the TV on to any other news channel without hearing a complaint about the “slant,” blah blah blah. Even if you have it on the Disney channel showing fake news, you will get commentary.

(Not that most liberals don’t don similar blinders with their programming, too… it’s just that liberals aren’t as damned irritating when they do it.  : )    )

Getting back to the point, “attitudinal conservatives” almost always consistently do things that violate the tenets of their supposed conservatism. They have abortions, support government growth or support when it helps them specifically, argue for programs that rely totally on socialized healthcare, education, etc. Don’t confuse them by pointing it out, either  – or you will catch holy heck for it. And even if they instinctively realize you might be right, the ‘attitudinal conservative’ will try to force an exception to prove their specific actions or circumstances don’t fall into the category at hand.

All I ask is that you watch these people and notice the difference between what they say they believe versus their own words and actions. If you compile a list of these contradictions, it will rival Santa’s naughty list.

Endnote: much of my criticism regarding attitudinal conservatives applies to any group whose arguments and identify are tied to a dogmatic system of belief.

…and I’m probably wrong about this, too…

Drunk Tasering For Fun and Profit

If we want to eliminate a lot of drunk driving, can’t we change our approach?

One idea… Sell tickets (aka licenses) to hunt suspected drunk drivers. Here’s how it might work.

Sell licenses to people who register for the privilege. One they obtain a license, they will then be allowed to sit near the entrance or exit to any bar, club, sporting event, etc. If they observe drunken behavior before the suspected drunk gets into a vehicle, they would then be allowed to dart or tase the drunkard.

Once the drunkard is subdued, the licensee would contact the police.

If the police show up and it turns out that the person wasn’t legally drunk, the licensee would have to pay the non-drunkard a fine of $1000. If the person is drunk, the drunkard would have to pay the licensee $1000. This would serve to keep MOST of the licensees honest, except for the richer ones.

This idea serves multiple purposes: It reduces drunk driving. It gives people a hobby. It grows the economy. It will also make for some interesting video footage. An entire industry might evolve around the practice of “drunk darting,” as I would like to call it.

True, it might reduce business at bars and sporting events.
But let’s face it the secret we don’t like to talk about: a LOT of people at bars and sporting events are drinking way too much and everyone knows it. We are supposed to pretend, however, that it is not happening.

Drunk Darting will help society on many levels. I’m going to go write up a grant proposal now. 

Our Right to Believe – Their Right to Criticize

“Who says we can’t challenge or joke about religion? You have the right to believe what you want; I have the right to believe it’s ridiculous.” -Ricky Gervais

This quote is true. And you have the right to think my belief is ridiculous.

One thing people don’t like to acknowledge is that we don’t like being ridiculed for beliefs. We also don’t like being called out when we do it to others – even when they deserve it.

It’s more difficult to get by with criticizing if you are criticizing something mainstream, such as Catholics. But if you walk into a room of Catholics listening to a story about Mormons or Scientology, you will hear derision and laughter. But if you point out to the Catholics that much of their ideas are just as crazy to you as the Mormon’s beliefs are to them, you have basically just punched them in the face.

Common courtesy dictates that you don’t go out of your way to ridicule or undermine someone’s beliefs.

But if you are expressing your beliefs in public please don’t expect to be given a free pass. People do have the right to express their opposing beliefs. And we can do it without calling everyone else names.

Maybe.

Work Rules and Open Secrets Commentary

These are excerpts from something I wrote years ago as a primer of sorts for people working in an area I worked…
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Goals & rules that matter are enforced. If you see a rule or procedure that is ignored, you must conclude that it is a dead rule or for “show.” Management will not appreciate your attempt to point out that rules that are alleged to be important are flagrantly disregarded.
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If standards are not being enforced, a logical person would be irrational to continue to concern himself with expending extra energy meeting goals that are, by lack of application, unimportant. Being unconcerned, however, does not equate to announcing it over the rooftops.
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Do not directly acknowledge to anyone that you have come to realize that some goals are not real and that you have delegated them to a lower priority. The appearance of importance must be maintained. You are more likely to get in serious trouble from pointing out your realization than from direct misconduct.
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An “open secret” is anything that is either prohibited or not specifically permitted, but which everyone knows goes on. No direct discussion of the “open secret” happens. It is the proverbial elephant in the room that no one dares discuss.      
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If you violate any provision covered under the “open secret” rule, you are going to endanger your peace of mind, if not your job. Many times an employee who is trying to do his or her job properly will run into trouble with “open secrets.” They are then forced into a position where they are challenging it. Since open secrets don’t actually exist, you end up boxing with the wind.  Examples: Sally is allowed to clock in 15 minutes late, Jack is allowed a extra smoke break, Fred doesn’t have to concern himself with some paperwork, everyone gets an extra 15 minutes of break, etc. Trying to discuss it is going to anger, Jack, Fred, and Sally, while you are going to be targeted as a troublemaker, even if your question is valid.              

War

As ignorant as I am about so many topics, I have never been able to wrap my mind around the sheer amount we spend towards “defense.” I use the word in quotes, as everyone has his or her own definition of which portion of our budget actually is for defense and what constitutes a defense expenditure.

Google “federal pie chart” and look at even conservative estimates for defense spending. You’ll see that at least a 1/4 of the pie is defense. Factoring in “past expenditures” for pensions and benefits and it gets even more surprising. Additionally, you have to factor in the amount we are actually spending on the off-the-book wars. No one agrees on how many billions per year that’s costing.

(You’ll see a figure of about 1/4 if you use the government’s accounting system. It’s so far off even with a cursory glance at where the information derives from. Start with looking at how much of the budget results from ex-military benefits, for example. )

Almost 1/2 of the world’s military spending is from us. That statement alone should cause you to stop and think for a long minute. It’s absolutely crazy and not justifiable.

We argue and fight socially about a few billion dollars for education, housing, homeless shelters, etc while entire truckloads of our money is being used for “defense” spending. It is simply unethical.

It’s hard for me to bash a church for hoarding and wealth when we as a country are doing much, much worse in regards to wasting our resources and cash instead of bettering the lives of human beings in the world.

When I was younger, I used to be much more irritated by things like this. Ultimately, as I’ve written about, it dawned on me that my personal opinions were of no value against the size of the problem. Worrying my life into ruin was not logical. It’s unethical for me to have such strong opinions about the stupidity of our defense budget at the expense of human beings and not do something about it. I know that makes me a hypocrite.

Although my liberal views haven’t changed and I’m no less sickened by our sense of priorities in this country, I note that it is only getting worse. We will probably not learn our lesson until we are bankrupt
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In case you missed it, my point is that our defense spending is much too high. Social efforts should always take priority over war and defense spending.

Hiding the true cost of defense spending allows our system to continue to hurt all of us.

06052014 Please Don’t Say This…

“He’s at peace…”  “He’s in a better place…”  “He was a good man…”

I would rather have my carcass loaded with dynamite and detonated on live television than have the traditional inanities uttered after I’m gone, especially if untrue. (Please televise it on Fox news as a sort of beyond-the-grave satire if you choose the detonation method.)

Feel free to speak ill of me after I’m gone – if you have legitimate grievances about how I behaved toward you. If you think I was a nefarious bastard, please say so. If I am guilty of an offense, the truth is not weakened by you saying so. My ears won’t shrivel from your comments. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that no one’s motives are gauged honestly while we are alive. It is foolishness to expect that once we are gone that the same craziness, gossip, and outright insult won’t follow you to the grave. Each of us has our own multitude of opinions about everything and everyone and the truth is that we all judge other people, even if we don’t voice it. Whether you like to call it “judging” it or not is a matter of semantics. Much of the disinclination to speak ill of the dead derives from the hope that we will not be complained about once we are gone. After decades of observation, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people I’ve been around, watched and listened to have very specific opinions about people who pass. Most seem to maintain the social norm of not being actively vocal during the traditional mourning cycle.

(“It’s generally considered bad form to take a bullhorn to a funeral. ” – X )

But the opinions of individuals remain, layered under a blanket of social acceptance.

Each person has a spectrum of opinions about himself or herself – we are different people to many other people. I have one relative who will undoubtedly be lauded as a great, religious woman, whereas my personal opinion about her is much more harsh. When she passes, it will not be my isolated and personal opinion that lasts; at least, probably not. The fact that our paths don’t merge frequently is even more reason to discount the negative opinions of people in your life – they matter no more in death than while you are alive. My pious relative’s reputation won’t suffer due to my minority opinion. Her opinion that I’m an ass won’t affect my reputation, either.

If I’ve not used my time here appropriately, don’t feel saddened or express remorse. I’ve had a great, long life, even if cut short by a burning meteorite falling from the sky tomorrow morning on my way to work. (Although, dying on the way to work would be a horrible legacy, much like falling over at some hideous place such as Kohl’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Each day has been of my own choosing, with each hour and minute used deliberately and in full realization of how fleeting and precious our time is. If the meteorite hits me tomorrow, don’t stop and waste your time wondering why my time was cut short. Instead, stop in amazement of how dumb we get sometimes, forgetting that time is the most precious commodity and that one person can live more in twenty years than some people live in seventy. I wasn’t promised any length of time and what I did with the time I was given was my responsibility.

I don’t mean to diminish the heart-felt words of others who can express themselves easily after someone dies. I’ve know a few people who are masters of the spoken word, those rare people who can describe a cow pasture while convincing you it would be a great idea to sleep under the noonday sun in the middle of one. Social decorum is generally desirable, but I’m not so sure that it is what is best for us as a species – not all the time.

Most people seem to need the traditional platitude patter and commentary that pervades services and gatherings after a death. In my case, I would love a joyous sharing, even if not all the content is glowing and positive. A service anchored in truth is much more desirable. We’ve all been to the funeral where the evil sister is sitting in the corner, cigarette dangling from her lip, mumbling invoked words of hatred toward the deceased. We all talk about it at the fringes of our overlapped conversation. Everyone had their own ideas about the departed and it is weird to me personally to categorically reject its presence and effect on  everyone. Better to air it out and learn to respond to the awkwardness collectively.

Everything I write in this blog is a feeble attempt to badly describe what’s going on in my head. That, too, changes, much like a series of sunsets. (Each individual sunset, although strikingly different, can still be recognized as a sunset.)