Tag: Society

Friday Links XLV (Don’t Want to Live On This Planet Edition)

“Exhaustion and exasperation are frequently the handmaidens of legislative decision.”
Barber B. Conable

headdeskI’ve been a bit distant this past while, and for once it’s not because I am lazy.  There was a bit of a… community kerfuffle that happened that I (naturally) am involved in that’s been going down .  And to be honest, it was stinging, exhausting, embittering, and generally just very tough.  So I took a break from other projects to focus, to deal, and to rest when I needed it.  Phone calls with friends (shout out, Savvy) and parents helped, J. helped, and all was fine.  Or it will be.

And then a man shot and killed many children today and I’m trying really hard not to feel generally depressed about the state of humanity as a group.

Here are your links.  Let’s send kind thoughts to people who have been hurt, in whatever way, and remember that Advent is a wonderful time for rest, renewal, healing, and general goodwill.  Even when it’s hard.

I’ve been around guns my whole life, my family owns several, my father taught me to hunt and to care for and clean firearms before he ever put that first dinky single shot tube in my hands.  J. and I have discussed gun ownership for the future.  And I say gun control is a topic that desperately needs more informed discussion and less inflamed rhetoric.

London, London, mere months ’til London…  London really is getting me through.  If anything yanks it out from under me, you will find me catatonic in the fetal position somewhere.  I have no faith in anything this week…

I need to be able to buy this for someone (preferably someone who’s read the book and is just as adoring of it as I am).


I’m about a foot too short to join the team, but I still thought this was fun.

The Australian PM made my day with this one.

Inform yourselves, offenders!

Thoughts on this?  I think it’s rather hideous.

My inner Indian Jones is getting all it-belongs-in-a-museum twitchy over this, but how nifty is this story?

Someday I vow to build this (or something strongly akin to it) for my children!  (Who am I kidding, totally for me!  “Where’s Mummy got to?”  “Oh, just Narnia.”)

Muffins of Judgement

“Ladies, just a little more virginity, if you don’t mind.”
– Herbert Beerbohm Tree

You poor helpless, idiotic thing! Don't worry, I will clean up the mess that is your life!

Savvy was the first one to introduce me to the life-changing phrase, “muffins of judgment,” and I’ve since (with her permission) integrated it fully into my verbal arsenal of artificially created idioms.  By all means, do the same!  “Muffins of judgment” signifies when a person (usually female) insults, demeans, degrades, or belittles you, in the sweetest way possible. Offering you baked goods because you clearly can’t bake them for yourself, can you, you poor dear?

This phrase is most regularly deployed when discussing the antics of the more dangerous of the parish Ladies’ Aid Society queen bees.  They can be difficult to spot.  In the old days you could identify them by their pearls, midcalf length skirts, matching jackets, and Queen-like helmet curls (protecting a head chock full of rigidly Victorian sensibilities).  In these egalitarian times this sort of scathing, high nosed charity has trickled down a bit from the disapproving aunt type and now can be seen across the grand spectrum of the Ladies’ Aid.

Historically I’ve been fairly good at fending off the Ladies’ Aid Society’s more grating members by a combination of good manners, outright avoidance, and sheer dumb luck, but my winning streak recently ran out.  Our parish was combined with another and the adjustment hasn’t gone as smoothly as smiling faces and sweet words of welcome might imply.  Our old parish was a decidedly younger demographic with a tendency to change, due to multiple universities in the area.  Our new one is comprised entirely of families who have lived in the same area for multiple generations and elderly people.  We are without question the interlopers.

I knew that there had been a wee bit of trouble integrating things and trying to reassign responsibilities more evenly, but J. and I have been out and about so much this summer that we rarely attend services at home anyway.  Plus, until recently we assumed we’d both be skipping the country, so why get attached?  God (or your personal divine/moral equivalent) has a tricksy sense of humor…

About a month after the integration, a pair of ladies from the parish decided to pay a call.  I fell into a fit of frenzied cleaning, forced J. to do all the dishes, and hid anything resembling clutter in the back rooms.  I was prepared for the worst.

When the doorbell rang (at 7pm on the dot) I answered with a smile.  My two visitors looked harmless enough, one a 20-something wearing a headband with a large flower perched at a jaunty angle and an Anthropology dress, the other a 50-something in a flowy, Moroccan looking white outfit.
Promising, I thought to myself, not a bifocal or helmet curl in sight.  We might have normality!  Repeat, we might have normality!

“Nice to meet you,” Miss said pleasantly.
“And we’re so glad you didn’t go to any trouble cleaning up for us,” Madam joined, sailing into my flat with a gracious smile.
Headquarters, belay that last transmission.
“I hope we didn’t interrupt your dinner,” Madam continued.
“No, J. and I grabbed some dinner on the way home, it’s not a problem at all.”
“Oh, you don’t cook?  How modern of you!  Mind you keep an eye on your husband, then, or he’ll find someone who does!” she sounded a tinkling, pretty laugh.

Trying to hold my snorts in, I put on my best hostess face and asked them to sit down and we (or rather Madam) made small talk for a while.
“Oh are those your wedding pictures?  I see your dress wasn’t white…well I’m sure you had your reasons.”
“You’re 25 and haven’t had children yet?  I hope there’s nothing, you know, wrong with you.  I’m sure everything will be fine when your time comes.”
“You grew up in Europe!  Well, you don’t seem socialist, so that’s alright.”

When she asked me whether or not I played the piano I nearly burst out laughing.

Eventually the talk turned to the parish and a half hour or so later they left.  Walking out the door Madam paused.
“I almost forgot!  I made these to welcome you to our little congregation.”
From her bag she pulled, I kid you not, a bundle of perfectly wrapped muffins.  Thankfully they made it out the door before I lost it completely.  Muffins.  Of judgment.

Physics and Philosophy

“Lawless are they that make their wills their law.”
– William Shakespeare


It would be an absolute falsehood to say that I find working with law enforcement to be my ideal job or that it answers the immortal career longings of my soul, but working where I do has given me an appreciation for job that law enforcement officers do.  And trust me, it’s not always a pleasant one.

We had another police officer hit by a car last night while directing traffic because the driver did not want to do what he was being told to and purposely struck him.  Nearly every one of our police officers and student employees were threatened or cussed out at the last sporting event.  This boggles me.  Everyone acknowledges that we need police officers, that the work they do is vital to the running of society for the keeping of law and order, but everyone seems to hate them.  Resent them, even.

My theory about this is that nobody likes to be told that they cannot do what they want to all of the time.  Of course people want to drive as fast as they’d like, they don’t want restrictions on where they can park, and they don’t want to be caught when they steal something…but most of all, people seem to hate having to acknowledge (when they get caught doing any of these things) that what they have done is wrong – even when they have hit another human being with a car.  On purpose.

They are constantly stunned when there are repercussions to their actions, and even after two and a half years of working here, this attitude aggravates me.  Every two year old can throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way, but shouldn’t adults be able to acknowledge that having to wait in lines is part of life, and that screaming obscenities and threatening bodily harm may not be the way to deal with it?

When dealing with police, everyone wants to be the exception – can’t you just not report this, can’t you please just let me cut off those 300 people ahead of me, can’t you just let me get away with this once – and the answer is, “no.”  We can’t make you the exception because you are the 47th person to make that very request in the last hour and if we didn’t say yes to them we can’t say yes to you.  And if we do say yes to you, we can’t say no to the next 47 people who ask.

But people hate being told no.  They hate being told that cannot act in they way they want.  And often they refuse to examine the reasoning behind that negative answer; i.e., if I allow you to drive your car through a barricade and in front of a oncoming mass of vehicles you may get injured, and you may injure many other people.  Your actions affect other people, and police exist because so many of those actions or their ripple effects are harmful.

We’ve all had a bad experience with a the fuzz, but take a minute to honestly imagine a society without them.

(Sorry, kittens, but as you can see we’re dealing with some pretty wretched stuff at the department today.  Humor will shortly return.  Hopefully.  In the meantime, let’s all strive to be a little nicer and conscientious today, eh?  There are already plenty of jerks in the world, let’s not them win.)

“You Keep Using That Word-“

“-I do not think it means what you think it means.”
– The Princess Bride, 1987

The word of the day, class, is “profiling.”

A member of the media came to the office the other day in a rage because his daughter had been given a parking ticket.  Apparently she was using his press/media pass to park wherever she wanted, which is all sorts of against the rules.  We tend to frown upon people claiming privileges that don’t belong to them, see yesterday’s post on decency.  But he came in all aflame with righteous indignation…and spoiled it all by lying and saying he was the one who had received the ticket and how dare we ticket him, and he would go to the administration with this –

Red cut him off by telling him that his daughter had already come in and admitted to misusing the pass, which took him aback, but he recovered swiftly and threw out an accusation.
“So, you’re ticketing my daughter for using my pass?  That’s profiling!”

Dear, dear. We seemed to have missed the point, haven't we?

Cut to yesterday in J.’s class, scene: a discussion of hiring and management.  A young man for some reason failed to grasp the problem in a case study of a manager refusing to hire a qualified applicant because he didn’t feel that “a timid Asian woman” would be able to handle the rigors of the job.  (Ah, shades of the Annual Anti-Harassment Seminar…)  J. pulled his jaw off the floor and tried to explain the many, many errors of this man’s thinking but to no avail.  His classmate came back with, “So a woman should automatically be hired even if she can’t do the job?  That’s profiling!”

Acquaint yourself with a dictionary.

Mob. Mentality.

“People are a problem.”
– Douglas Adams

As if we were not already desperately busy, especially with Fall semester looming, this is also when the University hosts a conference open to the public.  For a mere $44 dollars, you can come spend week going to classes about academic topics, theology, personal development, and probably basket weaving for all I know.  This wouldn’t be so bad if it were not for the people.

And we're not leaving without our commemorative mugs!

It is impossible to convey how boorish these invaders are.  You’d think they owned the place!  Office supplies go missing, we have to lock classrooms so that they can’t get in, they knock people down rushing to classes, they yell at everyone…genuine menaces to society.  However, it’s their propensity to complain about everything, usually consequences they’ve brought on themselves by their rude behavior, that really bleaches us of all sympathy.  Some favorite complaints:

I couldn’t find a parking space so I had to park in the road against oncoming traffic.
No.  You didn’t.  That’s like saying, “There were no cigarettes so I had to smoke crack.”  Not at all.  The circumstances are probably aggravating and cause withdrawals and make you irritable (not unlike frustration with parking), but the solution you propose is still illegal.

We paid good money to come to this conference, get out of our way!
We pay much, much more money to go to school here for four years.  Full time.  And do you think any of us get our way?

We paid good money to come here [again, please note $44], so we should be able to park wherever we want.
Hm…not really.  This is, in fact, a fully functioning university 365 days a year.  Which means that we have anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 people here on a daily basis who are actually working and taking classes who need to park.  To put it simply, we trump you.  You are visitors, we are permanent.

We can’t find anything on this campus of yours.  Don’t you label anything? And where are we supposed to park?
Yes.  You will find them on those handy maps you were given on your first day.  And you can park in any one of the half-of-the-entire-campus-lots we took away from those mentioned in the complaint above this one and gave them to you to use.  For a week.  For free.  Ingrates.

The bishop encouraged us to come so, since the bishop sent us, you should give us food for free, because of the bishop.
This is not the parish potluck!

We drove a long way to come here, why can’t we leave our car in a handicapped stall?
I don’t care if the Vatican called you personally and declared all your sins would be forgiven if you invaded campus.  I don’t care if we get an email from Mecca declaring this the site of this year’s pilgrimage.  I don’t care if St. Thomas a Becket re-capitates himself and orders Chaucer resurrected to write another masterpiece about our humble university town.  You do not, under any circumstances, get to get away with such unpardonable behavior!

(Cutting in front of whole lines of people, including one in a wheelchair, to buy things at the campus store and then snapping at the people who ask you to move to the back of the queue, “We’re with the conference!”)
Who raised you?!

Words That Bug Me, And Will Now Bug You

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.”
– Jane Wagner

We all have word pet peeves, times when people use phrases incorrectly, insert words that don’t actually mean what they think it means, or when society at large is responsible for corrupting a word’s usage.  I probably take my particular pet peeves too seriously, but it cannot be helped.

“Ironic” – which does not mean unfortunate, coincidental, silly, funny, aggravating, or any of the other things Alanis Morrissette can now be blamed for teaching us to think it means.

An excellent example of common modern usage.

“Ye”- as previously mentioned, anytime you see a sign showing “Ye Olde [something], you’re not actually looking at a “y” but at an Old English character called “thorn” which makes a “th” sound.

This confusion is somewhat understandable as it is most commonly found in England where several linguistic invasions have made the language something of a puzzle for most who try to learn it as a second language.  Pear, pair, and pare, you try explaining that one.  Or the reason knight isn’t spelled night, when in other words a “gh” produces and “f” like in laugh.  Or why, depending on where you’re from, you may spell civilisation as civilization.  Or why English doesn’t really have rules, only exceptions.

First the Celts came to Britain, after possibly conquering another group of people who were there first, and as far as we know didn’t have much in the way of writing.  There are some hatch mark symbols carved in stone but these seem to have been a clumsy, tedious sort of way of keeping track of things and so they decided instead to rely on memory which they trained to fantastic levels (and where did you leave your keys this morning?).  Then came the Romans who brought Latin and other previously unknown practices (see Decimate below).  But then their empire, as it had become by this time since they’d given up most pretensions to a republic, caught a nasty case of “The Collapsings” and the legions were recalled from Britain, leaving the Romanized population unprotected and understandably miffed.

I think it's time for a trade up, lads!

The Anglo Saxons (go here and carefully note the caption!), watching this from their Germanic homesteads with glee, could see an upwardly mobile real estate deal when it presented itself, so bunches of the upped sticks and sailed over.  They originally were hired as mercenary protectors by the Britons, but they didn’t go in much for togas compared to rape and pillage and within a few years had taken over and set about to dividing into small kingdoms and declaring war on each other to their hearts’ content.  They also brought their language, on which somewhat better records were kept.  A few centuries later, just as soon as they’d got themselves unified into some semblance of order and had started keeping excellent chronicles, a Norman across the Channel decided he ought to be king.  William the Bastard, for that was his unfortunate name,  invaded and won.  He ousted the Anglo Saxon lords and installed his own Old-French-mixed-with-Latin-again speaking cronies instead, further enriching the language and changing his name to the much more impressive sounding William the Conqueror.

But, in spite of each subsequent invader’s attempt to quash the language of those who came before, the invaded stubbornly held on to an impressive lot of their old languages and culture, which is why something as old as a millennium old written character that looks like “y” and sounds like a “th” is still bulldogish-ly refuses to go away.  Which is good because “Yee old [anything]” sounds absolutely ludicrous.

Apostrophe – I know this isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.  People will throw this little mark wherever they think something should go, but for the life of them don’t know whether it’s a different spelling, contraction, or trying to show possession.

There/Their/They’re – And while we’re on the subject!  These are totally different words, figure ’em out!

Had this been painted a week earlier, it would have depicted the farmer's wife and children still alive. One must admire his optimism here, yes?

“Medieval” used when people mean backwards.  Actually refers to a distinct period in Western history which was complex, interesting, and full of people trying desperately to push their way forward out of the mess that Rome put them in after dividing, collapsing, and embarrassingly allowing itself to be ripped to shreds by barbarian hordes.  Western standards of music, culture, and literature were developed during this period.  Architecture, which had become an utterly lost art  was redeveloped literally from the ground up.  The ideas of credit, and banking were invented.  The whole period is a heartening example of human beings being knocked into the sludge over and over again with invasions, plagues, more invasions, famine, and a couple of other invasions, and consistently picking themselves up, dusting off the disease and gore, and getting back to the difficult business of human advancement.

Irregardless – This is not, in fact, a word.  At all.  Don’t use it.  Ever.

“Decimate” – Once upon a time, there was an empire that was cheerfully burgeoning in the centuries BC.  Not that they called themselves an empire, oh no!  That would have sounded barbaric and unenlightened.  They called themselves a Republic, the Roman Republic to be exact, and since they were so enlightened and grand, the ideal career for a spry, young Not-Empire was to invade all their nearest neighbors and force them to submit to their rule.  Really there were few things this adolescent Republic liked better than sauntering into Germany, Greece, or North Africa and casually killing a few thousand people before breakfast.

"Tough luck, Flavius." "Son of a Gaul!"

Not content with brutality directed at the unwashed masses they were trying to subdue (so that they could tax and enslave the snot out of them), occasionally when one of their vicious battalions mutinied or were insufficiently enthusiastic about marching off to slaughter, the commander would order them decimated.  Meaning that they would be divided into groups of ten, draw lots, and whichever one of them pulled the short straw was stoned or bludgeoned to death.  Literally it meant to reduce by one tenth.

Nowadays, the term decimation is used, completely at odds with its origin and etymology, to mean when people, places, or structures are reduced by cataclysmic proportions (although the American media is prone to exaggeration in this regard: “That windstorm last night decimated trees and power lines!” for example, when maybe one or two were knocked down).  Decimated does not mean destroyed, wiped out, broken, mildly damaged, and dirtied up.

“Like” – “It was, like, so hard!  I mean, like, I’ve never had to do anything that bad since, like, I had to pick out my, like prom dress!”  The word “like” means similar to.  Or fond of.  It can be used as a conjunction, verb, or adverb, it is NOT an equivalent to “um…”

The Merry Month of May (or, Geeks Unite!)

“Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
– Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is clearly the month for geeks, nerds, Avatards, etc.  Earlier in the month we were able to enjoy Star Wars Day, otherwise known as “May the Fourth, be with you.”  Now personally I’m a fan of the first three episodes (by which I mean IV-VI) and not so much the second trilogy (by which I mean I-III).

And this mind-warping chronology brings me nicely to today, which is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams’ trilogy-in-five-volumes – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

This is a fan-holiday I can get behind, owning, as I do, the entire “trilogy” as well as (my preferred) Dirk Gently books, and The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of Adams’ speeches, essays, quips, and short stories.  Apart from a wonderful absurdist, he was a fantastically intelligent and clever man who despite his love for technology, was not limited to science fiction.  My personal favorite is the story of Genghis Khan who storms into Europe “so fast he almost forgot to burn down Asia before he left.”  Oh!  And God’s final message to his creation: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

My parents are also fans.  They own the original radio series on cassette tape (which I may or may not have purloined when I went to university – sorry Mum and Dad!) which I listened to from a young age.  I’ve got them on MP3 now and they still make me laugh.

So yes, I know where my towel is.  Which reminds me.  J. and I need to do laundry rather badly.  So long and thanks for all the fish!

Know-Nothing. Party.

C.’s Quick Translation for Online Oppinuendo on Health Care

You liberal/conservative idiot! :   I respectfully disagree with you.

Don’t you have a brain?! :   I respectfully disagree with you.

The Republicans/Democrats are out of touch with the American people!  Down with them!  Drag them into the streets! :   Rep-R/Rep-D voted against my personal opinion! 

Obama is the Antichrist! :  I’m conservative.

Obama is brave to take this problem on! :   I’m liberal.

Stop making asinine comments! :   I have weighed and measured such information as I have found, and I now find myself on the other side of the aisle from you.

You socialist nazi! :   I respectfully disagree with you.

You conservative nazi! :   I respectfully disagree with you.

This is a choice between good and evil! :   This is a choice between political ideologies, about which I feel very strongly.

It’s unconstitutional! :   It personally offends my sensibilities.

I can’t even begin to tackle your logical fallacies! :   I refuse to attempt to see things from your liberal/conservative point of view and prefer to argue.

As a future doctor I don’t want to have the government dictate the terms of my work (requirements, treatment standards, paycheck, etc.) to me! :   I much prefer to dictate the terms of my work  (requirements, treatment standards, paycheck, etc.) to my patients myself.

Go ****/$$$$/@@@@/%%%%  yourself! :   I’m afraid we just can’t see eye to eye on this. 

The End Times are coming! :   I am seriously displeased with the turn of events.

I’m moving to Canada! : I am not actually moving to Canada despite ranting to the contrary for some time. 


There, now you find yourself able to navigate the intricacies of Facebook, comment threads, and forum mudslinging.  Take a few calm breaths to recharge and think of some withering profanities, and when you feel ready, charge back into the fray.  Discussion doesn’t seem to be the name of the day, so feel free to bandy tired clichés back and forth, quote the pundits/talking heads in lieu of actual original thought, and mistake insults/gloating for a solution.  Carry on!

Observations of a Grump

“Common sense is not so common.”

bad dayA couple things that I noticed today because I’m (still) in a rather bad mood and grouchy towards the silliness of my job.  Such an attitude invariably spills over into other aspects of life and I do recognize that I need to snap out of it soon.  I’ll put on rose colored glasses again shortly, but meanwhile I’m still way too irritated!

1) In spite of the hiring freeze the University has imposed on every department, they were still able to give all employees a raise, which was rather lovely.  However it was my job to individually calibrate and apply said raise to all 150+ of our student employees, which was rather horrible.  And despite several emails to student employee supervisors warning them that this project would take several days  and that they would have to get any other wage changes to me before then, a pile of “so-sorry-I’m-late-but-it’-just-been-crazy-and-don’t-you-look-nice-today-could-you-possibly-help-me-out” paperwork stealthily grew on my desk.  Which was rather irritating, but manageable.  However, today a new bunch of supervisor raises appeared on my desk and one kid, when you add up all his raises together, is getting a 10% wage increase because (and this I quote from the supervisor comment section of the form), “He has improved very much.  He now diligently wears black socks.”  This kid will end up making nearly as much as me because he has finally learned to match his footwear to the black shoes, pants, and belt his uniform requires?!  (*teeth grind*)

2) Even after many requests, nigh unto begging, they still will not update the office website!  Currently people trying to muddle through our new (still now quite functioning) parking monitoring program call the number listed on the parking and traffic website…which sends them straight to my phone.  However hearing, “University police,this is C.,” tends to make people start panicking a little.  (*head shake*)

duh_award13) And it’s not just work being ridiculous!  Driving to work today I heard a commercial.  “The current credit crunch and recession making it hard for you to buy a car or house?  Something drastic must be done!  We have bailout money for YOU YOU YOU!  Good credit, bad, credit, no credit?  High income, low income?  Doesn’t matter, you WILL be approved for your big purchase!”

Now…wasn’t it the poor decisions on the part of lenders/banks/credit companies to lend people money that they didn’t qualify for (coupled with people thinking that their actual income should not be a factor in purchases)  that got this country in the financial mess it’s in?  (*facepalm*)

There!  I finally feel purged of the angst!  At least, I’ve complained myself hoarse, and that tends to make for a bad dinner conversation, I’m pretty sure my poor in-laws got an ear-full of it sunday night, to say nothing of my long-suffering husband!  I’m grabbing dinner with Catriona tonight who apparently has much to gossip about, (but won’t even give me any hints as to what, the minx!) so I have to be in prime perked ears position.  Vent-fest over.

Stupid People In Large Groups

“To summarize the summary of the summary, people are a problem.”
-Douglas Adams

Kiri used to have this up as her desktop background.  I used to think it was funny.  I now consider it a sad truth.
Kiri used to have this up as her desktop background. I used to think it was funny. I now consider it a sad truth.

I have again been smacked in the head with the realization that while in terms of skill and efficiency I am constantly getting better at my job, I may not be mentally cut out for it for one very important reason: I dislike silly, annoying, bad-decision-making people.  But what sort of people do you think we deal with at a police station, especially one on a university campus?!  Pranksters anxious to go down in campus legend, freshman drunk on the feeling of being away from home for the first time, crazy drivers, anxious students, stalkers, druggies, thieves, and occasionally the seriously out of touch.  And I mean seriously dangerously out of touch.  Basically, the sort of people that make me go quietly mad and bang my head the wall of futility that encompasses the entire human race (especially on a friday afternoon).  Dealing with these characters day in and day out is exhausting, even my hyperactive personality can’t sustain the level of intense vexation these individuals deserve!

Occasionally, though, when I’ve had a very trying day and that French Bakery is looking even more tempting than usual, there are moments of delight.  I got home from the gym the other night, absolutely dreading some of the stuff I had to do that evening, only to find J. doing the dishes and wiping down the kitchen.  He then helped me put together invitations for almost all of his friends before sending me to bed early.  Pure Bliss.