Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lessons From the Infant

Today, the family and I were out shopping at one of those giant stores that sell giant amounts of goods for giant prices--but which are smaller than they would be should the shopper buy the same amount of goods elsewhere and in not so giant volumes. The kids were hungry and getting quite rambunctious...probably because they were hungry. We stopped at the section of the store that has been set aside for serving pizza, shakes, and other delicious, deadly snacks.

I had the wee one in my arms, so my wife took care of ordering, buying, and drink filling. She placed a giant, fizzing cup of Mr. Pibb on the table in front of me and the wee one. She even brought over the Polish Dog and Sauerkraut. As she was asking me how much sauerkraut I wanted, the baby in my arms pulled the Mr. Pibb over into our laps.

Instantly my programming kicked in. You know, the error-filled, buggy programming that we get by watching others. "Well, Dad just got stuff spilled all over him and now he's pissed. Noted." The programming was accessing all the expected Sense-DoS nodes, prepping to flood the body with chemicals associated with anger and frustration. Then the boy in my lap started crying a pitiable cry of fear and confusion as his sensors and processes were overwhelmed by a sudden lap-full of ice-cold...something! The program runtime ended as though someone had tripped the breaker, kicked the power cord and nuked the electric grid (from orbit, of course) all at the same time. Suddenly I saw the situation for what it was: hilarious. The viral program had terminated unexpectedly and quite completely, and the system was better for it in every way.

New program running: "Something has happened. Something that means nothing. Ignore all previous programming and choose how to respond in the moment. Default response: laughter."

Golden Tripe

Watching Obama's acceptance speech, and being moved, I shook loose the shackles of his mesmerizing words and realized we were once again being sold a plate full of tripe.

Sure, the desires weren't tripe, but they were indeed trite, and the reverberations of the suggested solutions will ring throughout the nation for decades.

The trite: everyone should be treated fairly and with equality. We should help the down trodden. We should honor the families of troops. All families who have overcome difficulties should have respect (as should those who have not yet overcome difficulties and still giving it their all).

Who wouldn't buy into those noble goals? Who wouldn't want that? And who wouldn't love fluffy puppies and bunnies?

The tripe: consider the party's solution for making all those things happen. Consider the cost! And consider where those resources will be coming from. Us. Everyone. As it should be! The difference is that we should not all be coerced into doing the right thing through higher taxes and other benefits being ripped from our grasps through federal threats and bullying. We should simply do it because it's the right thing to do.

Petting puppies, loving bunnies and feeding poor, injured birds...everyone would love that until someone tells us that we must do it. Then it's not so fun anymore.

More tripe: pretty much every campaign promise made in the speech. Why's Obama think that the power of the Executive Branch can completely bypass and ignore the other Branches' powers and responsibilities? The president doesn't make the economy. The president doesn't control investments into alternative energy sources, etc. The president can certainly make strong suggestions and exercise influence over those who can help make the decisions. But to boldly state that the he will be solely responsible for the happiness of the puppies and bunnies is delusional and manipulative.

Now, as for McCain's choice for VP: nicely played. I just wish Palin hadn't already played the gender card...or at least not played it so openly. At least she could've played it a little more surreptitiously like Obama's been playing the race card.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Look In a Mirrors

I just got back from watching the Mirrors movie. As always, I learned something new about me. Or more accurately, I confirmed something I had suspected about myself. It's all about the innocent.

As I watched the movie, I jumped at all the right places, cringed at all the appropriate gory parts. I even got a little misty at the more touching parts. Through it all, I felt this overtone of tension and fear that any Suspense/Thriller/Horror movie is supposed to evoke. That is until a child was injured. Then there was nothing but rage.

As I watch movies I tend to really put myself in the protagonists' positions. "What would I do if it were me?" It really makes for an intense movie experience. Throughout Mirrors, there was quite a bit that I would not have done that the protagonists did, but as I projected myself into their situations, there was that overtone of fear that I mentioned earlier. And when the child was injured, all fear evaporated. There was only rage--the deadly, intense, focused determination to destroy--to annihilate--any and all things related to that which harmed the child. Mugger, psycho, demon, devil...all will quail and fall in the chaotic glow of my righteous, indignant wrath. Can't kill a demon? Watch me. Impossible to slay a devil? Tell that to its screaming, writhing, sulfurous body just before it's thrust back into the bowels of Hell.

I know, I know. It's only a movie. But hey, you can still learn something real about yourself, even if the teacher is a fantasy. Lesson: my paternal instinct is way out of control. And it's not something I'm likely to change. Because I don't want to. Because I'm right.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Education from the Past

With all due respect and gratitude to the class presidency...I just got home from my 20 year high school reunion. As you may know from my twitter account I'm clearly not one that felt or feels a need to hold onto the past. You would probably quite correctly guess that I was one of those kids that sat back with arms folded in pep rallies and assemblies, desperately wishing the event would end so they could get back to class and get the day over with. Often I sat back in the cafeteria and watched all the popular kids interacting and getting all involved in everything high school. I was invisible. Oh sure I'd interact whenever someone talked to me, but really, when did that ever happen? I never fit in. I had lots of acquaintances...very few friends. And I was alright with that.

Back to the reunion... One person talked with me, one of the "geeks" of the school. I always liked John. Not that I ever talked with him much. We exchanged the pleasantries, the gratuitous, "What're you doing now?" and we went our separate ways.

My wife and I sat at the far table with our backs to the wall, so we could watch everyone. No one talked with us. Of course we never gave them the chance. I felt uncomfortable staring at the yearbook badges we were wearing for fear of unintended insult ("What, I've changed that much!?"), and by doing so I may spark a conversation with someone I never really cared to converse with. Anyway, after a walk down memory lane led by the class president and a speech from a prestigious teacher, we invisibly sneaked out and drove home.

On the way home I shared with my wife something that came as a shock to me. I finally--finally--after 20 years understood what "school spirit" meant.

I told her I had always equated "school spirit" with "class spirit." I was never any good at making or keeping friends, so what did I care about my class? In my mind, the Class of '88 was a bunch of the cool, social kids that cared entirely too much about what was going on for a mere four years of their lives. Me? I just wanted to be left alone to do my school work, go home, and watch some cartoons...maybe play a video game and work on my computer. The occasional date was nice, too (though to be honest, those rarely came, considering I was quite obviously a rather socially backward wall flower). The future would take care of itself, much like the present does, so don't get too caught up in any of it.

We get education from the strangest places, and imagine the irony that I got it from a teacher! ...Keeping in mind this was at my 20-year reunion. Mr. Crump talked a bit about the fact that our high school was going to be celebrating its 100th year of service soon. He invited us all to join its year-long celebration. I considered going! Me! The one who couldn't care less about school spirit! That is when the distinction became very clear. School spirit is about the institution; it's about the faculty, the staff, and perhaps your friends through whose care you pass during those fleeting four years. It's not about how much bonding you do with your classmates...though that can help. It's about the legacy your brief stint creates for future alumni to appreciate and contribute to. It's about appreciating the legacy your predecessors and the current staff added to the virtual blink of an eye you are there.

My wife said, "Yeah, when they built that high school near our house, I was bummed that our kids wouldn't be able to go to our high school."

That's exactly how I felt when I learned a new high school was being built nearer us than our old high school. When I realized I felt that way a few years ago, I questioned it. Why would I feel that way? What do I care about people that I really didn't care about? What do I care about where my kids have pep rallies and social awkwardness? Tonight it came clear. Because there is, was, and always will be a little, tiny (albeit invisible) piece of me in that old high school. There will always be a love for that place, the faculty, and now new-found respect for the class presidency...and maybe even for those "flighty social butterflies" that got it long before I did.

Oh, and when you go to your next reunion, a little note from those who know: talk to those on whom you had a crush--even if you're with your spouse--or you'll regret it. Loose ends always need tying up.