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FemaleThis post is dedicated to the finer gender, endowed with prudence, grace, beauty, and compassion.
May the world mirror your shining example.

Tonight I finished watching the first (and now only) season of Amazon Video’s Good Girls Revolt.

It has been an excellent viewing experience: captivating, fun, poignant, reminiscent, educational, and above all, feminist.

The period drama portrays varied and realistic (if dated) female characters cast against the backdrop of a weekly, national news magazine chronicling the tumultuous end of the sixties, the then-endless Vietnam War, and a historic push forward for the advancement of women. Over the course of 10 engaging episodes, these women struggle, grow, and eventually unite around a call for equal opportunity that, sadly, still rings true 47 years later.

I suppose, then, it is no surprise that Amazon cancelled the series. Read the rest of this entry »

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I heard my first Bill Cosby album when I was five.

Memorized my first Cosby routine when I was seven (it was the “Noah…Right!”).

Performed it before an audience of hundreds at age eight (I received Honorable Mention).

Once I heard those early stories of reckless go-cart racing and playing buck-buck in the projects of Philadelphia, I was hooked.

I credit much of my interest in performing and comedy to the childhood laughs that overwhelmed me as I sat in my bedroom listening to those 33rpm records on a tiny shoebox turntable with a mono speaker. I recited the routines in my head until they flowed out of me without thought or concentration, at-the-ready for a passing neighbor, my parents’ dinner guests, or a visit from extended family.

I have vivid memories of sitting in my PJs on Saturday mornings, cup of dry Froot Loops in hand, crunching away on sugary mouthfuls, just happy as a clam, while the infectious intro music of “Picture Pages” imprinted itself on my brain.

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Time to get your Picture Pages.
Time to get your crayons and your pencils!
Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Open up your Picture Pages!
Time to watch Bill Cosby do a picture page with you!

To think of all those boyhood hours spent worshipping—glorifying, even—an alleged serial rapist now sickens me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Just before the turn of the century, I created an extraordinary opportunity for myself.

Taking full advantage of the privileges of youth, I decided to use my new home in the Tetons as the launching pad for what I would later call my “last great adventure of the 20th Century”.

GNP-GttSr-McDonaldCreekFor eight months I planned, prepped, scrimped, and saved, working a second and sometimes third job to sock away enough dough to take six weeks off (unpaid, mind you) to travel the western US and parts of Canada, free as a leaf on the wind. Well, as free as a leaf could be if, wanting to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it had a well-planned route and a fairly rigid schedule to see everything it wanted to in the time it had.

Despite my best efforts, every time I tried to route a shorter trip the main attraction at the apogee was always just a few hours from another “always wanted to see” place. After half a dozen extensions, I had a grand loop around the western third of the US and I knew I couldn’t do it any other way. So in the late summer of 1999, maps and sleeping bag in hand, I hit the road with one close friend and one acquaintance to tackle the amazing and mostly unseen-by-me western US, an undiscovered land that held so much to see that I just couldn’t do it half-heartedly.

A testament to my organized and preparatory nature, I am proud to say that in those six weeks we travelled over 6000 miles, visiting 9 states/provinces, 17 National Parks or Monuments, and 16 cities, almost all of which I had never seen before (nor since). Read the rest of this entry »

I never use the dishwasher.Dishwasher_Vortex

There are a host of reasons why, not the least of which is that I grew up without one and therefore became accustomed to doing the dishes by hand. As a result, I actually find solace in the peaceful process of hand washing, not to mention the satisfaction of seeing the gradual fruit of my labors, which demonstrates a crucial difference between the two—active versus passive, and I tend to prefer action.

When it comes to dishwashers, however, I have numerous complaints about the entire “dishwasher process” not to mention the typically dissatisfying results.

Yes, as a conservationist, I am aware of the argument and research to support the notion that using the dishwasher actually saves water. And whether the carbon footprint of electricity use offsets the savings in water remains uncertain to me. Nonetheless I prefer to wash by hand, keeping the water at a trickle for most of the process.

I should probably emphasize that most definitely I see where a dishwasher has its place. Specifically, when hosting large groups for dinner or assisting a family of 5 or more, I get it. But in the typical day-to-day, for a small household like mine, the dishwasher seems more of an inconvenience, even a nuisance, than anything else.

And so begineth my rationale: Read the rest of this entry »

I practice a sort of thievery.

Not a malicious one mind you, or illegal, at least not yet. And as far as I know my crimes are victimless, and if I do well, often embraced and appreciated. I never plan my heists and never know what tiny observance may spawn one as it may be years down the road that I eventually recognize my plunder. My spoils are random, and often worthless by themselves, and they’re impossible to reunite with their original owners, but nonetheless I stole them.

Yes, in truth, I’m a bit of a thief. You may even be my next victim, and there’s nothing you can do about it; I have immunity. After all, I’m writer.

One of the arcane and villainous joys of creative writing is the license it gives me to draw upon just about anything I’ve ever encountered and use it unabashedly for my own selfish purposes. Read the rest of this entry »

As I have said before, I really love Christmas. Unlike so many Americans, however, it isn’t the gifts or food that warm my heart; nor is it the religious origin of the Christmas holiday, the birth of Jesus and the mythology that now surrounds it. Sacrilegious, I know, but over the last couple of centuries the culture of Christmas has evolved to carry a message entirely its own.

In my heart and mind, I have come to appreciate my own definition of “the true meaning of Christmas,” a meaning with which I am certain you are already familiar. I casually refer to this as “the Scrooge lesson,” or the “Dickensian Christmas Spirit.”

I love “A Christmas Carol.” It has such great characters, images, and lessons to appreciate and it never, ever gets old. And what I consistently take away from it are the very themes that a sorrowful Jacob Marley desperately urges his old partner Ebenezer to embrace: the common welfare, charity, mercy, kindness, forbearance, and benevolence. I also receive the lesson in Scrooge choosing to dine with the friends of his nephew Fred—sharing warmth in the company of others to thankfully appreciate the blessings of fine food, drink, and camaraderie.

Perhaps most importantly, and more subtle, is the general theme of A Christmas Carol that, in addition to charity and revelry, Christmas should also be a time of self-reflection, a time to ponder our lives and how we choose to live them. In Scrooge’s own vein, Read the rest of this entry »

Note: You may wish to read Part I on this theme from April of 2012. It examines the state of affairs regarding health coverage in the US.

The so-called debate surrounding health coverage in the US is fraught on all sides with a disorienting mosaic of platitudes, generalizations, falsehoods, suppositions, and extremism. One cannot even begin to consider the validity of any of the speculations being made because so many are purely to convince us that our lives, liberty, health, or happiness are in danger.

Such is the way of policy-making in these times.

As one who relies on cold, hard facts and supporting evidence, I find this “discussion” to be offensively weak on what I would call substantive arguments. So when real stories surface that expose the cracks in the fear-based memes built around our policy, I try to learn from them. For the hard truth about this crisis is that it is directly affecting people’s lives and livelihoods every day.

I saw one of my caregivers yesterday. I’ve known and depended on her for a long time, so I’ll gladly call her a friend. She’s single, in her early 40’s, educated, owns a home, and she runs a small business for which she is the only employee. She does well enough, but has had to take a second job from time to time when the business wasn’t covering the bills. She’s a hard worker, a kind person, and is both responsible and accountable in her life.

After six years, her business started to really take off. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I talked with a friend about behaving responsibly.

As the years have piled on, I continue to focus on responsible behavior. I readily see the link between making “poor” choices (perhaps “immediate” is better) and the extension of those choices delaying, prohibiting, or outright negating the possibility of me attaining certain goals: health, financial independence, physical fitness, harmony with nature, and so on.

Each year, each month, each day, I consider and eventually enact changes in my behaviors that propel me towards these simple-yet-lofty goals. After all, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I’ll even add, “in yourself.”

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You see I really love cookies. I mean, LOVE them. To emphasize, my first word in this life was “cookie.” Previously, my personal performance of the bedtime routine opened with a few (sometimes more) cookies and a glass of milk, followed by a fervent tooth brushing and the inevitable slumber. I firmly believe that warm cookies and cold milk are good for the soul. So much pleasure and joy is contained within those crude little discs of love, how can they not be?

But recognizing their empty-caloric nature and my languishing metabolism as I age, I’ve been actively suppressing my desires, breaking with my evening custom, and oft replacing my beloved baked goods with less-than-sufficient celery and peanut butter, or worse, nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

It seems either I have the wrong skill set, or I was born in the wrong time.

I’m a writer. I like writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. It’s what I create; it’s what I am proud of; it’s what I have to give to the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that visual representations are becoming more and more central to the art of communication, if not its very foundation. If a picture was once worth a thousand words, its value has no doubt appreciated of late.

To be totally honest, I’m a visual appreciator myself. I love motion pictures and spend a small but dedicated amount of my time enjoying them. Great photographs catch my eye easily. I admire visual art and am often awed by the talent and ability that such creations require. Talent and ability, mind you, which I neither possess nor desire. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried.

Even in technical writing I recognize the value and importance of visual aids. I use them as much as possible (for me), especially when words just can’t accurately describe a particular procedure. But it is a challenge and without the help of gifted manipulators of SolidWorks, I’d be lost.

No, for me, what talents I possess lie either in public performance (acting, comedy, or improv) or in the manipulation of grammatical criteria to convey thoughts, concepts, and emotions (also known as writing). Whether I’m very good at it I’ll leave to your preference. Nonetheless, it’s what I do. Read the rest of this entry »

Stunning admission: I’m not on Facebook and never was.

Mostly, I just don’t have a lot of time for it. I also don’t have a lot of interest in broadcasting random bits about myself, even if it is just to friends.

On the up side, by staying away from Facebook (and Twitter) I have a lot more time to do the things I want to do. As captivating as it may be to survey the latest pics, postings, and posits from 4200 of my “closest friends,” I have a lot I want to accomplish in life and limited time to do it in.

I also have the benefit of getting more honest-to-God personal contact with my friends than those who tweet or FB. Granted it takes more planning and time to stay connected, be it through phone calls, emails, or (God forbid!) visits, but the benefits of actual personal communication is shown in the strength of the friendships that have endured.

On the down side, the number of those friendships has been and is dwindling, and I attribute no small part of the blame to Facebook.

Yes, I fully realize the irony of a blog post that demonizes social media. Hear me out. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday is the 42nd anniversary of the creation of Earth Day, a remarkable movement founded in Madison, WI by then US Senator and former Governor, Gaylord Nelson.

Earth Day has one central purpose: to encourage people to consider humanity’s impact on the environment and act in ways that reduce the negative effects on all ecosystems and species.

It is a simple goal, but has far-reaching implications and can be summed up in their most-recognized slogan, “Think Globally. Act Locally.” It was Senator Nelson who coined this idea, insisting that local action and education be the central method of Earth Day rather than protests and sit-ins.

“Act Locally” does not just mean in counties or municipalities, it means in our homes and businesses, and most importantly, our lives. Sure it means big things like urging local, state, and federal governments to pass laws that protect our environment, but it also means smaller things like being realistic about what we need to consume, Read the rest of this entry »

Despite all the hubbub—all the protests, tea parties, and lies about death panels—it seems that the media, the government, and practically the whole damn populace continues to miss, well, everything about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and what it means for health care in the United States.

They miss what it does, what it doesn’t do, what it’s called (Obamacare? Really?), how it came into being, what the truly good parts are, what the truly bad parts are, and how this legislation walks the fine line between two more extreme options: the current system, which condones an unchecked health insurance industry that can discriminate against anyone at any time by denying coverage, leaves 50 million people uninsured, and sticks the rest of us with the bill, or Universal Health Coverage for all (also known as single-payer, government health coverage, or socialized health insurance).

Let me first disclose that I am not a fan of PPACA as a whole. And while it puts an end to some of the worst practices of the health insurance industry, which is good, it also rewards that same industry with a slew of new customers. That’s bad.

Before I dive into this quagmire, Read the rest of this entry »

I find myself disgruntled lately.

Shocked? I’m sure not, if you’ve read most of my other posts. But you’re probably asking, “What’s got you this time?” So here it is: our ridiculous two-party system of government.

I’m sick of Democrats. I’m sick of Republicans. I’m sick of party politics constantly trumping public policy. I’m sick of bickering, and empty promises. I’m sick of gerrymandering, and stalwart tactics, and of the threat of filibuster (because they don’t actually filibuster anymore you know). I’m sick of misleading 8-second sound bites by majority/minority leaders that exemplify denial and puerility more than reason and cooperation (of course, our attention spans and inane media have a lot to do with that – but that’s for another time).

On issue after issue, threat after threat, problem after problem, the whole idea of passing laws and enacting public policy expeditiously is secondary, if not tertiary, to protecting “The Party” and weakening the opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

I watched footage of American bald eagles yesterday. Not for the first time of course; I’ve seen plenty before. But in watching this bit of video, shot over 30 years ago, I once again beheld what a magnificent creature the bald eagle is, how it is symbolic of our country, and why it has been our national bird since 1782.

Before you go assuming that this post will be merely a flag-waving testament to my patriotism, drawing parallels between our own ever-struggling republic and the freedom and inspiration of a soaring eagle, I beg of you, don’t be hasty. Beauty is only skin (or feather) deep, and my analogy delves much further than the shallow tint of an eagle’s silhouette backed by wind-furled Old Glory on the rear window of your neighbor’s GMC Sierra (likely built in Mexico, of course).

I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t at least acknowledge that aspect of the eagle-nation analogy. So I’ll start there. Please, bear with me.

Call me sentimental; the flight of a soaring eagle is inspiring and does make my heart swell with Patriotism. Grace, guts, and glory are all exemplified in that seemingly effortless flight. Read the rest of this entry »

Laziness. Freeloading. Gaming the system.

That’s what I often hear many conservatives rail against. Nothing gets a blind rightie’s hackles up more than a story about a person who gets paid by the government to sit at home rather than go to work.

Frankly, I don’t blame them. It does suck to hear those stories, stories of someone taking advantage of the way things are in order to do as little as possible. It makes even more sense knowing that anger over such stories usually comes from working, middle-class conservatives who sell over 250 days a year to someone just to make ends meet, especially when no matter what they do, those ends never do seem to come together.

It’s true. You can find cases of a governmental bureaucratic system encouraging laziness. For certain people, in certain situations, it makes more financial sense to not take a job, because they get more money out of the government than they would from an employer.

What amazes me is that the statement above is used as a case against welfare, rather than a case for higher wages. Read the rest of this entry »

Note: Though I typically focus on public policy, this post is about politics, which is not the same thing and I try to avoid. However, in light of the election year, there is a valid point that I feel I must make on the principles of rational argument. I hope you will indulge me. 

Back in January 2001, I didn’t have any real problem with the Bush administration.

I mean, I didn’t like him, of course. After all, it was painful to hear him speak, so obtuse and inarticulate. I found it embarrassing to be represented on the world stage by such a tactless and ignorant buffoon. And I couldn’t believe that Americans could be so base as to (almost) elect the far-less-intelligent son of a one-term president whom we had booted out of office not 8 years prior. But all of that is actually just personal and cosmetic. When it came to policy, upon entering office, I was prepared to give President Bush a chance. After all, he had promised to be, in everyone’s understanding, a compassionate conservative, vowing on the campaign trail to focus on a strong military, education, cutting taxes, and aiding minorities. Didn’t sound so bad.

For 10 months, I just sat back and let it happen, and nothing really terrible came up. In fact, aside from a $200 advance on my next tax return (which I had to pay for later), I barely even noticed a change in “leadership.”

But in September, as you know, the proverbial feces impacted the oscillator and the bent of the administration shifted drastically. In the face of a national tragedy, an executive power grab ensued. As a nation and a culture, we’d been cold-cocked. And while we were still reeling from the cheap shot, the administration was Read the rest of this entry »

Here I am, roughly 20 years into my working life. Throughout that time I’ve been lucky enough to never be unemployed, with the exception of a couple of spread out months following the occasional change of venue.

In terms of work, I have had mostly successes, though no big ones. A few failures too. I’ve been lucky in terms of finding jobs, keeping them, and leaving them at the right time. I’ve been “responsible” with my paychecks (for the most part) and used them to build a decent lifestyle, I suppose.

Professionally, I don’t have a whole lot to show for that time though. No awards. No postgraduate degrees. Certainly no saved lives or groundbreaking accomplishments. No impressive body of work. No significant title, power, or salary to speak of. No influence at my current position, really. Half of the companies that I used to work for, the smaller ones, are now defunct  (no, not because I left) which means I can’t even get a reference out of them.

In my formative years, I always envisioned myself being more successful, accomplished, or even satisfied at this age. At a minimum, I expected that my time spent working (for pay, I mean) would be important, engaging, or fulfilling, or that my peers, friends, community, or even some self-aggrandizing organization that doles out shallow but plaque-able recognition might come to respect the fruits of my labors. But it seems that 20 years in, I’m not, it isn’t, and they haven’t. Read the rest of this entry »

It seems we’re looking at yet another legislative session, in both state legislatures and congress, where partisan gridlock will be preventing any effective, relevant, or necessary legislation from passing. Just read about what’s going on in Wisconsin, Colorado, and the upcoming congress (here and here).

Most Americans have been screaming for three years for our legislatures to do something to help us, the common citizen. And despite hollow promises of “a laser-focus on jobs” and “reaching across the aisle” from legislators, it seems all of their time is spent arguing over non-job-related bills with obvious political motivations and assurances of furthering our political and ideological divide.

Naturally, this has me frustrated, pensive, and reflecting back on a different time.

There have always been political and ideological divides, to be sure. But at a time of such crises, with such a struggle occurring in so many households across the country, one might think that a few, maybe even a small majority of lawmakers, could actually push aside the inflexible and overbearing will of their parties and simply start to do something.

Perusing recent legislative history, bipartisanship seemed to be more commonplace. Look at Nixon’s Impeachment, the Reagan-O’Neill cooperation, the bipartisan vote to censure President Clinton, or the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold).

We’ve worked together before, even amidst other bitter ideological divides. So why can’t we seem to do it now, especially in light of the dire circumstances of so many Americans? Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a century-old law banning corporate spending in state and local political campaigns, thereby ignoring the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling from almost two years ago.

This is a remarkable ruling by the Montana High Court (a 5-2 decision in a conservative state, no less), and it lends credence to the arguments against Citizens United that have been made by the majority of Americans, legal scholars, and many members of both parties for the last year.

It will likely be overturned, of course. If the plaintiffs appeal, the US Supreme Court naturally will simply rescind this ruling, likely with another 5-4 majority decision. But for the first time, a notable panel of jurists has openly written in a majority opinion that the US Supreme Court’s ruling last year was, in essence, a steaming pile of feces artfully molded to appear as though it stood on legal grounds.

The Montana Court’s decision is useful and important, but not really a surprise to us, right? I mean we, the uneducated masses and wanna-be lawyers of the nation who love to wax legal on the weekends, have been calling “Bullshit” on Citizens United for two years! Read the rest of this entry »

I love Christmas for all the right reasons.

Despite all of its faults, its overwhelmingly misguided practice, and it being the single most successful marketing scam in the history of mankind, it’s still a great idea.

No, I don’t mean Santa Claus (fun though he may be), nor presents wrapped in yards upon yards of paper made solely for ripping up and throwing away, nor chopping down trees to put them in our living rooms for a month and then toss out with the garbage (maybe we should wrap them up in used wrapping paper!), nor wasting hundreds of thousands of kilowatt-hours of electricity to power tiny, twinkly lights; the number of which is meant to serve as a proportional indicator of one’s enthusiasm for the season.

The idea I am talking about is what I, and others, refer to as “the Christmas Spirit” – the idea that Christmas can serve as an annual reminder to be a little more generous, more courteous, more merciful, even nicer. A time to look at those with less and feel some empathy, hopefully enough to actually reach out and help them. A time to look at those with trials greater than our own, whether it be in health, or happiness, or love, and extend our own good fortune to them. This is the time of year for us to give pause, count our blessings, and share them with others, especially strangers and those in need. Read the rest of this entry »

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