Knott Blog

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

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Location: Dark Side, The Moon

"Don't you know that I'm still standing, better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor and feeling like a little kid..." - Elton John

Monday, June 28, 2004

Still Trying to Make Up My Mind

Charley Reese is probably one of the only political columnists I still read on a regular basis. Not so much because I rabidly endorse everything he says (I don't), but more because I really can't make up my mind whether I like his work or not.
He would, I think, be mostly likely to bill himself as a 'conservative,' which is not what I'm all about. He is also a fan of Ronald Reagan, another thing I'm not so much into. So, you ask, why would I be so driven to read his column every day?
Well, it's like this. Almost every political writer I've ever read pretty much sums up their opinion in every column, at least in the broad strokes. If they're liberal/democrat/independent, then they make pretty sure you know it's all the republicans' fault -- especially the Republicans in the current administration, who want to make war with everyone, cram their values down every American throat, and generally rule you people like a king. Conversely, if they're conservative/republican/pro- family values, then everything is the fault of Democrats who want to raise your taxes, lower your moral standards, and sink our culture into a cesspool. Oh, yes, and spit on God. Can't forget the religious angle to the Right, can we.
But this Charley Reese guy, he's different. He starts out from right where I'm at: 'this is the situation,' he says, 'and here's why it's wrong.' I'm usually totally in agreement with him, too; the war in Iraq is wrong, not because it accomplished the wrong goals, but because it was fought for the wrong reasons. There will never be absolute equality for everyone, because everyone is not the same. All that sort of stuff. He gets me to go along with him, especially when he's listing the things that are wrong with George W. Bush (but he tactfully leaves out the whole Bush/Chimp resemblance thing, very classy). He gets me to believe that he's got his head on straight, that he's in it for the truth, and that he's not like the rest of those, those.... Republicans. (boo, hiss.) And then, just when I'm teetering on that brink, he says something else. Kind of like he does in the article linked to above: he goes on about how government is an ongoing act of coercion (true, very true), how redistribution of wealth is a trick and a plot (I'm a bit more dubious, but I'm willing to try to reason it out for myself), and then he comes up to the kicker. He says that, and I quote: "rather than try to achieve phony equal results with double standards, we should try to construct a society in which everyone, regardless of his or her abilities, can find a niche in which to live with dignity and respect. A good janitor should be no less admirable than a good CEO. If we put more emphasis on character and less on income and position, we might realize that." And that's where I get off the merry-go-round, kids.
Oh, it's not that I disagree. Far from it. Rather, it's exactly what I might have said fifteen years ago. If anything, I would say that I'm closer now to agreeing with the whole "redistribution of wealth" thing specifically because I'm too disillusioned by the world in general to still think that people are suddenly going to start recognizing the existence of character, much less judging individuals on the merits (or lack of merits) of their individual character. I loved idealism, but I can't stand to see what happens to people who try to apply it to reality.
And that's what worries me about Charlie Reese: has he really managed to hang on to his starry-eyed dreams of a better country and future, or is he selling his own agenda just wrapped in starry-eyed dream paper?
It's a poser.

My Great Car Adventure

They recently graded the road I live on. For those of you living on paved streets somewhere in civilization, that means that the city where I live sent their crew of helper-monkeys to my (dirt) street in big trucks, tractors, and a road grader (like a snow plow, but with the plow underneath instead of in front). Once there, they fire up these 20-ton diesel Matchbox toys and have a good time playing in the dirt. They plow the road down six inches, and then cover it in loose dust and gravel; the stated purpose is to keep the road level, 'smooth,' and draining well. The actual result is to make a slipperier surface than highly polished ice (the gravel and dust rolls under your tires, and you can actually travel ten yards after your tires have stopped rolling). It also guarantees a major cloud of dust from even the slowest moving vehicles (or pedestrians), worthy of a movie about dust-bowl Okies.
Okay, so they do this every year, and I'm past even being upset about it. Now, I just regard the whole process with weary, amused contempt. Or, at least I did, until Friday....
My wife, who was already upset with me, drove one block down the street and came back with a bolt stuck in our back tire. Now, like most bolts, this one was as big around as my middle finger and utterly blunt on the end. Unlike most bolts I've seen, this one was around two feet long. I have no clue how she could have picked it up, but she certainly did do a wonderful job of it.
I looked it over, and thought to myself, this looks like it could be plugged and saved, if I can just take it off and put on the temporary spare. So, I grabbed the tire iron and gave it a try. The lug nuts would not budge. Not one to give up, I kept twisting on it until I thought I'd have a heart attack. At that point, my loving oldest son said, "let me try it, Dad." Because I still see him as the cute little boy I remember and not the freakishly tall, aggressive teen thug that he's become, I meekly handed over the tire iron. He applied the socket end to the lug nut, flexed his bicep, and BROKE THE LUG NUT AND BOLT RIGHT OFF.
Needless to say, I became somewhat excited by this turn of events. So excited, in fact, that I was pretty sure an ambulance and oxygen mask were going to be required. Fortunately, my father showed up and looked things over. God bless him, he may be getting up there but he's still got his head screwed on straight. He got me to drive it to the tire repair shop at the bottom of the hill, where they plugged my tire, replaced the broken bolt, and soothed my shattered nerves for a mere $22.50. God, how I love the hicks I live with, and while I am at it, thank you Jesus for making me one of them.
So now, the car is as good as it ever was (worth less than the $22.50 repair bill, but still running!) and I am back at work instead of being fired for failing to show. Also, my son has finally demonstrated that he is now stronger than I am, in addition to being taller, smarter, and better looking.
Don't you just love weekends?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

My gargoyle is spawning.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

They say watching fish in an aquarium is a great way to relax. I have an aquarium, but when I get the kind of stress my job inspires, a frog is the only thing to do the trick.


It was always the conventional wisdom when I was growing up that you got more conservative as you aged. I, myself, am in fact getting a bit older (though nowhere near as fast as the rest of you), and I suppose I might fall victim to the trend myself, were it not for just a few minor niggling details.
Number one, to be a Conservative (and I mean every pixel of that capital C) nowadays means something rather different than it used to. To me, at least, to be a conservative in this day and age means that you are preoccupied with religion, money, and appearances. To clarify: by religion, I mean imposing your beliefs on people who do not share them. I don’t mean this in the tired old sense of “everyone’s beliefs are morally equivalent,” because I don’t think that. Jeffrey Dahmer believed it was okay to kill (and eat!) young men as part of his pursuit of the perfect sex partner. Obviously, even people who are not fans of his chosen victims’ lifestyle are pretty much opposed to this belief. No, I mean beliefs like the commonly held conservative tenet that stem cell research/cloning/genetic engineering science is immoral because Pat Robertson or James Dobson said so. To further clarify: by money, I mean the worshipful pursuit of same, and the requisite withering contempt for anyone who doesn’t have any. I don’t remember who said that ‘greed is good,’ but it might as well have been their holy icon Reagan, because they’ve made it a personal maxim ever since he first held office. And, to finally beat the clarification horse to death, by appearances I mean that the conservatives are still holding to the same old biblical injunction that it’s bad to be different, and to be creatively different is punishable by death, preferably via stoning at the hands of an angry mob.
In sum, that is why I will never be a capital-C Conservative. Now, this is not to say that I still agree with everything I so passionately felt as a teenager. Not so much because I think I was wrong back then, but more because I think the world is just too damned ugly and hopeless for any of those bright dreams to ever come to pass, at least here on this planet. The human race just has too many shortcomings to ever put forth anything better than the confused, half-good/half-bad gestures we’re so familiar with today.
As an example, I would cite the war in Iraq. No, I don’t think that going to war to liberate an oppressed people is a bad thing. Yes, I do think that going to war because the President is still miffed about an assassination attempt on his beloved daddy IS a bad thing. No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Hussein has been deposed, and yes, I do wish that someone would do the same (via a democratic election, natch) for George Bush. I don’t like him; I thought he totally railroaded his way into office with that whole electoral college/hanging chad debacle, and I’m not ready to let that go no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly tell me I should. Then, he made the most of his under-reaction to 9-11 by using it as a pretext to go to war. Yes, that is not just how I feel, but what I believe actually happened. Tell me I’m a victim of liberal spin, tell me that the media have misled me, tell me that I should start wearing a tin-foil hat because the Martian mind-control rays have me under their sway, I still think what I think based on the facts in evidence. Want me to change my mind? Show me some new evidence, such as… Oh, I don’t know, how about a dozen nuclear missiles in Iraq? Some kind of proof that Iraq was behind al-Qaeda, instead of Bush’s asshole buddies the Saudis, perhaps?
But let me just be totally, unabashedly honest before I put this post to rest. The total bottom-line reason I still don’t like Bush is his obvious distaste for anyone who isn’t at least comfortably upper-middle class. Really, he’s made it obvious in a thousand ways, with his policies and his pronouncements and just the general sneer in his voice and on his face when he speaks about anyone who’s poor in America. I get the sense that Bush would prefer we didn’t exist, and if that meant that we all quietly starve to death because we can’t find jobs, why, that’s fine with him. It’s obviously Osama Bin Laden’s fault, anyway. If I had only one opportunity to say anything that mattered to our President, it would be simply this: America lives on the labor of the working poor, and deciding to exploit the working poor of other countries while leaving Americans to starve is NOT a patriotic act.
So there. And (as far as politics goes) that’s all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Class Divide

Okay, here's a little something that ticked me off. I read this about Winona Ryder:

Winona Ryder no longer a felon

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., - The judge in the 2001 shoplifting
case against actress Winona Ryder has reduced her felony
convictions to misdemeanors, The Hollywood Reporter said
Monday. Los Angeles Judge Elden Fox also ruled that the
star of "Girl, Interrupted" and "Little Women" may complete
the remainder of her probation unsupervised. The judge
acknowledged Ryder had successfully completed court-ordered
counseling and community service, but warned her that she
could still go to jail if she violates her probation, which
is scheduled to expire in December 2005. Actress Winona
Ryder was sentenced in December 2002 to 36 months probation
for stealing $6,355 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth
Avenue in Beverly Hills.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering, whatever could be his problem with this? Winona Ryder is a sweet young girl, and deserves whatever leniency the judge opted to give her, right?
Please. If that had been me stealing $6355 worth of crap from Saks 5th Avenue, they'd have locked me up and thrown away the key. Come to think of it, if I even tried to get in the front door of Saks 5th Avenue, I'd probably get the bum's rush from security. Why do I think that would be, you ask? Why, simply because I'M POOR.
That's right, it's all about the money. As a society, we've made huge inroads in the fight against racism, sexism, ageism, gender bias, homophobia, all of that bad stuff. In the meantime, the stranglehold the rich have on the poor in this country has strengthened and solidified. If you ask me, that's what Bush's entire presidency has been about; helping the rich get richer, and to hell (or Iraq) with poor people.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Still hard at work, guarding my modem.

Computers Taking Over

I've been a computer junkie ever since my job at the phone company, lo these six years ago now. My friends there cobbled together a hard drive from their leftover parts, and gave it to me as a going away present when our entire department was laid off. I had that computer for almost three years, with its one gig hard drive and 28 -- count them, ladies and gents, twenty-eight -- megabytes of RAM. Back then, our dial up was abominably slow, and I remember all too well simple web pages that still took five minutes to load.
Well, not any more. Now, I have DSL, and I absolutely love it. I can't believe I ever lived without it, and I think I might ransom my mother to keep it. My whole family loves it, too, which I am less thrilled about -- more competition for my seat at the monitor. Still, it's kinda neat that I never even saw a personal computer until college, and my son who's not yet two can number three different website titles among the twenty odd words that he can clearly say. I was about to go on to defend his online time by saying that he's behind a firewall, the sites are very safe and clean (especially compared to primetime TV these days!), and he's learning something... But why bother? The fact is, it's an ASSET to him to be as familiar with computers as possible. Sure, the ones he'll use when he's my age will look nothing like this one (beautiful as it is, with its 1.7 gHz processor, 30 gigabyte hard drive, and 500 megabytes of RAM, love it), but at least he'll be acquainted with the flow of technology, and also the fact that media platforms have a way of sinking under their own weight, and the way that today's technology keeps on providing the endoskeleton that tomorrow's tech grows on like a coral reef.
No, I don't have that many qualms about what my kids do online (but then, I have keystroke monitors everywhere, ha ha!) It's the fact that I myself am so tied to them that bothers me. I used to be the most voracious reader I knew. I could (and probably still can) read two or even three books a day, provided there are no frivolous distractions like work and children and real life. Now, I never read books. I read blogs, I read Google News like it was the Oracle at Delphi, I read opinions and commentary and even e-books when I can get them, but I never crack so much as a magazine any more.
Oh, well, better for the forests I guess. But I have resolved that I am going to start reading again, and I'm going to start with one of my very favorites. It's by Ursula K. LeGuin, and it's called The Dispossessed. Probably not a popular choice with a lot of people, but it's gonna make me happy tonight.

This is the monitor I'm glued to at home. The gargoyle on top of my modem is an old friend... too bad he can't protect me from viruses.

Monday, June 21, 2004

End of the Reprieve

I'm back to work tomorrow, and I must say I don't feel all that much up to it. I suppose I should decide that it's all just clover, eight hour days guaranteed, no real work in sight, and yet somehow that's the worst part. It's boring right now, and I don't really feel like I have too many friends there.
Big Sigh.Oh well. I got to chat with my brother on Yahoo messenger, using our webcams. I haven't seen him in the flesh in about, oh, seven years, and virtual is still nice. We got to see each other, and he got to see all of my kids. He hasn't seen them since they were small, and hasn't seen the last two at all. Until today that is. We emailed each other pictures, chatted, and webcammed all at the same time. I never thought I would offer Yahoo a free plug (long, resentful story), but the new messenger is really my favorite. I can play my launchcast radio and webcam at the same time, plus IM'ing, which makes it pretty much all in one for videoconferencing.
Lest I start to sound like a shill for Yahoo, whom I mostly despise in a disinterested sort of way, let me conclude by saying that I'm making it my resolution to concentrate more on the moment I'm in, rather than waiting for the next big exciting thing to happen. Each moment is precious, and you never know if the next one is coming or not.

I love my place, and my kids. It was a good father's day.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Well, as lazy as anything can be when you have to spend part of the day working. C'est La Vie, I guess.
You know, lately I cannot get past the way employers treat their workers. I work in a rather intense academic environment during the week, and I freely confess that I currently hate it. I suppose you could call my position a "pink collar" job, in that ten or twenty years ago it would much more likely be a position filled by a woman than a man. Still, I don't think that's a very good reason for the rather poisonous atmosphere that pervades the entire office where I work, as I am the only man in my position (as compared to the other five women). Let me tell you, those ladies are not giving up one inch of ground gracefully; they've made it their business to really make my job harder, and mostly because they think I'm being paid better (from what they've said, I am, too) and that I have a better chance of being promoted (which recent events have proven resoundingly NOT true). Let me be the first to say, an integrated work force has not proven to be an asset to that school.
But then I go to my weekend job, and it's actually fun to go to. I work in a plastics factory on the weekends, and I must confess that I really enjoy it. The atmosphere and attitude are so much friendlier and looser that I find myself looking forward to arriving there during the long and arduous hours at my other job. It's an integrated work force there, too, but it has been a great boon to that shop, because it actually makes it so much more bearable to work there.
If I had a point here, I guess it would be that gender and class are still defining the limits and liabilities of the work force today. It's pretty much the same as it was before the labor unions and workers' rights, and it probably always will be the same. Just one more reason why it sucks to be poor in America today.
Okay, I'm done ranting for now. I'm gonna go take some more pictures of my kids with my digital camera, and try to enjoy what's left of father's day.
Have a happy!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

First Time for Everything

Okay, here goes, first post to the new blog. Have another one, but I find that there are some things I need to keep private, and the things I vent about there are most of them.
So, what's my blog about? Why, me and what I think, of course! What good is the Internet if you can't offer your two cents worth free of charge to anyone with a modem and a strong stomach?
So please, stay tuned!