Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It Begins WIth A Cat.

As things often do in this life. Not just any cat, though; Uhura the Cat, a sleek, coal black female with bright green eyes.  I don't have a picture of her. (This is a stock photo.  It's pretty close though.) I wish I did; actually I have lots but they are all actual photos on paper, and if I have to try to get that scanner to come online even one more time I will probably pitch it out the window and leave it for the Jawas But anyway, she was a beautiful and very smart cat.  She lived with Joan, who had had her since she was a tiny kitten, and then, roughly about 1996, I came along.

Here's the thing.  I had just broken up with somebody, and in the breakup, the somebody stole my cat.  I was so thoroughly undone by the breakup and everything else that I not only swore off dating for life, I swore off cats. I would never have another cat. Forget it. I did not need that level of heartbreak and aggravation.

Then Joan moved in next door, and, well, we know how that ends.  And Joan came with Uhura the Cat.  And if Uhura the Cat hadn't liked me, well then, Joan wouldn't have had anything to do with me.  But Uhura did like me, and darn it, I liked her too.  It was hard not to like her. This was a cat where, if you picked her up and she decided she wanted down, she beeped you on the nose with her paw. I'm not kidding.  Sometimes she beeped you emphatically, as if to say, I want down now.  Other times she'd hover around your face with her paw.  Maybe I want down and maybe I don't.  Hm, I have to think about it.  Again, a very smart cat. With a sense of humor, no less.

Shortly after we bought our first house, the condo in San Diego, Uhura got sick with fibrosarcoma, a common cancer.  She had surgery and some chemotherapy (it doesn't make cats sick the way it does people).  It didn't cure her, since fibrosarcoma generally can't be cured, but it did buy her about six more months, during which she didn't know she was sick. Two days after she had the tumor removed, she tried to tear through the screen door to get at the orange cat that liked to lounge on our patio. Not until she quit eating and started coughing a lot in the last few days of her life did it become obvious she was really going to leave us. We had her put to sleep in December of 2000.

It wasn't the next day, but it was probably not very many days after that we woke up one morning and the house was too quiet.  Any house without a cat is too quiet.  We went out that afternoon and adopted Caesar and Chloe, a brother and sister pair, from a cat rescue service.  They were inseparable at first; then, once they realized they lived in a safe house with nice people, they decided they really didn't like each other all that much and spent much of their time at other ends of the house from each other.  Well, that was okay.  They were great cats.  They survived a flooring installation, an attic remodel, a move to Texas and (in Caesar's case) cancer at the age of five. And if you've ever been over here you probably met at least one of them, or maybe both of them.

One of our neighbors gave us a kitten (gee, thanks), with an eye problem. Eventually the eye had to be removed.  This was Sparrow the Cat, named after the infamous one-eyed "CaptainJack" Sparrow. Only, as it turned out in the second movie, he actually had two eyes; the eye patch was a prop.  So we'd named our cat after a bird for nothing.  Well, that was okay. Sparrow didn't know she was named after a bird.  She did fine without the eye, the only problem being that she'd sometimes jump for the feather toy and miss.  (Depth perception and all that.)

Caesar, our cancer survivor, came down with another case of it, as sometimes happens, and died at the mighty age of sixteen.  Not long after that, Joan found a kitten outside under a truck during a rainstorm.  She took the kitten to the vet, and the vet told her he could put her in with a litter of feral cats in the back but was Joan sure she didn't want to keep her? She was very sweet.  And so we met Artemis.  Boy, was Chloe less than happy.  She was sixteen herself by then, and not impressed with the pipsqueak.  But Sparrow liked her, and put up with having her tail pounced on and her ears chewed on and, once in a while, being the victim of a flying leap from the other side of the room.

Sparrow developed a neurological problem and lost the use of her  back legs.  Being unable to walk is a deal breaker for a cat, so we had her put to sleep at the age of twelve. Then it was just Chloe and Artemis, at least until last week when Chloe slipped out of the world at the super-advanced age of eighteen.  And a few mornings later, Joan and I woke up (with Artemis; Artemis is fine) and realized it was still way too quiet in the house.

Meet Grayson, our new handsome boy.

It all comes back to Uhura the Cat. Without Uhura, there wouldn't have been Chloe and Caesar, and without them, we wouldn't have met any of the other fine felines we've been so lucky to have. I don't know if I'll make it to the age of eighteen in cat years (around ninety-five, we think), but even if I do, I will still have a cat.  Can't live without a cat. Can't write without a cat, for one thing; if you don't have a cat, you don't have anybody to curl up on a fresh pile of pages from the printer, so how do you know if they are any good?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

These Kids Today...

I think I've told you guys that I have a rather chequered past when it comes to work.  I mean, let's just say I don't have a stellar resume dating back to the early nineties with only three jobs on it showing a steady progression toward higher and higher levels of management.  In fact, my resume is a collection of short stories, some by Jodi Picoult but the vast majority penned by either Douglas Adams or Stephen King (or his son Joe Hill, who is wickedly good, maybe even better than his dad, just in case you've never tried him out).  I have had some seriously weird working experiences, in other words.

Actually, some of the better stories aren't even on there.  One of the places I worked is not on my resume because I'm embarrassed to admit I ever worked there, even for a brief time.  The first day, I walked in and they handed me three Motions for Sanctions to which our client had to respond.  They stemmed from a thing called discovery, which you might have heard of.  Everybody in a lawsuit has to participate in discovery.  Them's the rules. If you don't respond to discovery questions, or if you respond badly and don't give any information, the other side will file a motion to compel you to respond. But that's not what a motion for sanctions is.  A motion for sanctions means the other side has *already* filed a Motion to Compel, got an order requiring you to respond, and you still didn't respond, and so now the other side is asking the Court to fine you, usually for thousands of dollars, to say nothing of disobeying a Court order, which is a Really Bad Idea.  And they handed me three of these things.  In one day.  If I'd have been smart, I would have turned around and walked out right then.

In fact, I am smart.  I'm just also stubborn.  I was going to Make This Work, by God, at least until it became so obviously impossible that even I got the message.  Besides, being unemployed kind of sucks, and if it's the kind of unemployment that doesn't even come with small checks from the state of Texas, it sucks even more.  Well, I don't know.  Maybe some folks like rolling funds out of their 401k.  Or selling their possessions, or--whatever.  Myself, though, I like having a job.  I can't stand being in the house alone with nothing to do.  It. Drives. Me. Crazy.  Yes, I know I could probably write a book (and did one time, while incredibly manic; fifty pages in less than eighteen hours, and Joan finally had to pry me away from the computer and take me  to a movie.)  But I prefer writing books in off hours. There's also that thing about a paycheck coming in on a semi-regular basis that I've grown rather fond of.

Anyway.  I was recently out of a job in a weird way, for about two weeks.  It all started when the place I was working started advertising my position on public job boards (!).  Not only were they looking to replace me, they were going to pay that replacement more than I was making, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a fine genteel way of telling you to fuck off and  go to hell at the same time.  And, I mean I guess I could have had a big confrontation with the manager or something, but I'm not that confrontational a person and besides, there wasn't any point in wasting anything else, including breath, on this position.  Oddly enough, the guy I used to work for who I'd left for this job I was now leaving called me up and said he was slammed and needed extra help.  So off I went to be the extra help.  In between and around I went on some job interviews, and one company said they were going to hire me but kind of never actually did. Another one said they had to get approval from their head office to hire me but could I start right away, whenever that happened? People, you don't need to be this flexible. I promise, you don't.  

So I worked for the former boss and I ran around on job interviews, and in between there I think I did get an unemployment check but it was pretty negligible.  Then the former boss offered me my job back, with a raise, and said he'd fix all the stuff that was wrong. Unfortunately, he A. couldn't afford me and B. wasn't really able to fix the things that were wrong, because I'd been gone for five months and they were still wrong and besides, Joan would have killed me.  She hated it when I was working there and I couldn't imagine how to tell her I'd just accepted my old job back.  

And then, out of the blue, one of the companies I'd interviewed with called me and said they needed somebody to start tomorrow, at a law firm that was sort of the exact parallel opposite of what I was actually looking for.  They caught me at the right time on the right day.  I said I'd do it and it actually hasn't been bad at all.  The pay is very good, the benefits are nonexistent because it's a contract position, but I have health insurance through Joan, so that's taken care of.  And it's true that a contract position can theoretically end at any time, but here's a news flash, folks: Any Job Can End At Any Time.  There is no such thing as job security.  I'm not sure there ever was.  Well, maybe for a while, in the 50s and 60s, for white people (specifically, white male people).  You would think that if you showed up every day, neatly dressed and ready to work, and you did a good job, you could stay there as long as you wanted to. But no. 

I keep hearing that "these millenials," which is I guess the equivalent of "these kids today", like to job hop.  They'll stay at a job for two or three years, or as long as it's fun, and then move on.   And people my age roll my eyes about this and explain, in exasperated tones, why having three jobs on your resume since the mid-1990s and moving steadily up the ranks of management is the correct way to do this career thing.  If you ask me, people my age just want something to feel superior about because the reality of it is, some of the people I know have been through a lot of jobs. People move.  People get laid off, companies decide to shut down, and sometimes you get blamed for something that isn't your fault, for which you have proof in fact, but you get fired anyway.  So I'd suggest to the hiring managers of the planet that they quit worrying about how long somebody's held a job and worry instead by what they've learned. Because honestly, there's no way to learn things faster than starting a new job. Anymore, there's no training, nobody you can follow around for a few days.  Nope.  There's nothing in the budget for that. Most of the time they just throw you right in.

Okay, one more job related story and then I'm out of here.  I was working at a public law library.  We had, shall we say, some interesting clientele, as well as lawyers and judges and stuff.  There was this one guy in particular who told me the same story every time he came in.  He said that he'd lived in a small town that had been the staging area for some tests of an experimental CIA mind control nerve gas that caused everyone in the town to forget that any of this had ever happened.  He wanted to file a Freedom of Information Act to find out more about this, but the problem was he couldn't remember the name of the town (on account of the nerve gas, you understand).  I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.  The guy came in every month, told me the same story, and every month I took him back to the Freedom of Information Act section so he could look up how to file a Freedom of Information Act request.  This went on for four years.  And four years is an eternity in CIA mind control research.

Anyway, y'all take care and stay gainfully employed.  And if the CIA ever comes to your town, write down the name of the town  so you don't forget it.  Cheers!                    

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Epic Flood

My sister was here last weekend and she reminded me that I hadn't told y'all about the epic flood.  (And she said lots of other things, too, and we went to the zoo and the Dallas World Aquarium, and had dinner with some friends and stuff, but anyway):  It all started, as these things often do, at two o'clock in the morning.  I woke up to hear a tremendous crash, which Joan apparently slept right through.  And as it goes when one has cats that are primarily nocturnal, I lay there listening for another crash before deciding on whether or not to get up.  No subsequent crashes followed, so I went back to sleep.  I mean, I figured somebody had just knocked some precious knickknack off a shelf and broken it or something, and if that was the case there'd be a mess to clean up, and I always deal with messes better after a decent night's sleep.  I don't know about y'all. 

Anyway, the next morning I got up (and two innocent-looking cats, lying at the foot of the bed, also got up).  I headed into the kitchen and put my stockinged foot down in an enormous puddle of water.  Lights, please. Ah, there we are.  Yes, it appeared that the entire kitchen was flooded to a depth of about an inch, which, in our kitchen anyway, is a lot of water.  No idea where it was coming from or such, but it did appear to have stopped. Which was good.  If it had gone on it might have filled up the entire house. 

So Joan got up and brought many towels.  This was an eight-towel job, including wringing some of them out and going back for more.  I mean it was really a mess.  And the tremendous crash I'd heard?  Well, that was the younger cat apparently trying to climb a chair in the middle of the night to get away from the floodwaters and bringing it and herself down on the floor and right into the cat food bowls. Which spilled everywhere,  making cat food soup.  And in the midst of the cat food soup were the three bras which had been hanging on the chair drying.  They, uh, weren't dry anymore.  They were soaked in cat food soup.  And kind of weren't wearable, at least not before serious washing went on.

At this point, the only thing more important than determining the source of the water became the quest for a decent day's lingerie.  I was going to wear one of those bras to work, thank you very much.  I have only one other and it was missing a hook.  So while I was hunting all over the kitchen for suspicious wet things to blame for the cat food soup, Joan was executing an emergency lingerie repair so I'd have something to wear to work. 

At about 7:30, our normal time of departure, Joan finished the emergency lingerie repair right about the same time I discovered the source of the leak.  The dishwasher. Aha, now we could call a plumber.  The plumber couldn't come until the next day.  So, the wet towels went into the washing machine and the cat food bowls got refilled and I got dressed and then we headed off to work, only like 15 or 20 minutes late. Yay, go us.  But don't think we're superheroes or anything. We totally stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and coffee.

Anyway, the dishwasher guy told us to have funeral services for it, and so we no longer have a dishwasher. Well, we have a dishwasher but it can't be used because of its potential to cause epic floods.  (Hey, on the plus side that was soapy water all over the floor. So at least the floor got washed.) We're doing the dishes by hand.  Kind of like in the old days when your cell phone screen was lit by candlelight and the Internet was all in pencil.  There's some possibility that we can catch a post-Memorial Day sale and still get one at a decent price.  Otherwise we're stuck with the rubber gloves for a while.  (And I have to wear rubber gloves, even though they make me clumsy, because otherwise my hands break out from the dish soap.).  Number of glasses broken so far: 3.  (Hand washing is rough on glasses.)

So that's the story of the epic flood and the cat food soup.  I mean, I guess it could have been worse.  We could have had wet cats.  Cheers!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

So How's The Class Going, You Ask

Or maybe you don't, but I'm going to tell you anyway.  It has gotten a lot better since I got my mitts on this portable keyboard here, which now clicks into my tablet and basically means I no longer have to haul my laptop around.  Except maybe for meetings.  The keyboard is by Arteck and it was all of about $20 bucks from Amazon and I can't even tell you how much easier it's made everything.  I'm typing on it now, in fact, in my favorite restaurant, Afrah, in the 20 or so minutes I have before I take off for my Meditation Group (TM).  (It's like church. Only quieter.)  

Anyway, I'm in what should be the third week but is actually the second week of the writing exercises in the book, "90 Days To Your Novel" by Sarah Domet (accept no imitations.) You're probably going to be mildly appalled to hear this, but the actual novel writing hasn't even started yet. We've been doing writing exercises this whole time. Now, I am no big fan of exercise of any kind (except for swimming and lifting weights and bicycling and once in a while I'll walk somewhere), but I'm actually really enjoying it.  Sitting down at the keyboard and being unable to write anything positively sucks. Sitting down at the keyboard and realizing I have something to do because I have to knock off the writing exercises on page 105 and 106 is actually kind of awesome.  One thing I was Not Doing before all this started was making time to sit down and write.  And I mean, yes, there's the Very Demanding Job and the Chauffer Duties and the Household that I'm supposed to keep running and two Cats that I need to make happy, but I just wasn't using my spare minutes very well.  I blame baseball season.  Luckily, the Rangers are tanking.  

The class meets in the basement of somebody's apartment building, which happens to be right across the street from where Joan works. So she Rollators over there and meets me, and does cross stitch while the rest of us (there are, I think, about nine people; we'll see how many show up this Friday) talk literary things. And writing exercises.  And one of the things I've figured out is that I might only think I know what I'm doing.  Seriously.  It's entirely possible I've been writing stuff for close on thirty years without the foggiest idea how any of it actually works.  

So I'm not sure when the writing exercises end and the manuscript writing actually starts, but it's completely untrue we're writing this thing in 90 days. It sounds like it's going to be a lot closer to 60 days or maybe even less than that.  Now, I did the National Novel Writing Month thing, which involved 50,000 words in November, and that, for the record, is crazy talk.  Of course, I once wrote fifty pages of Spellbinder in eighteen hours.  (And yes, I was manic as hell at the time, but That's Not The Point.)  So it can be done.  And hopefully, once we finally charge in there, I will have enough background put together to do a good job, or at least a passable job. (First drafts can suck. That's perfectly okay. Ask anybody.)  

In fact, so far my biggest problem has been which of the various works in progress I have strewn around my brain is going to be the winner of the Great 90 Day Novel Experiment.  Because I always have works in progress strewn around my brain, from a wild romp through alternative Dallas with Loki, Thor and living statues to the fifth part of the increasingly-inaccurately-named Mindbender trilogy.  But I think I've finally settled on one, and I think you're going to like it, and it's not my fault it's going to get lumped into that vague, nebulous category of YA fiction.  These days, you have a protagonist that's under thirty and the whole novel is suddenly YA fiction, even if it features blood, gore, gratuitous torture scenes and wild sex with men/women/fantasy critters.  After The Hunger Games, all bets were just off.  Kids killing kids was the last taboo in YA fiction, and Katniss Everdeen didn't just cross that line, she plowed right through that sucker with guns (oh, okay, arrows) blazing.  So anything goes.  Really.  Absolutely anything.  Next thing you know they'll have YA books about how to do your taxes and the finer points of the Microsoft Office suite. 

Anyway, I've settled on a project and I've done a bunch of exercises and I think I'm starting to write an outline, though the way these exercises work, they kind of sneak up on whatever thing it is you're doing, so you may not know you're writing an outline until you're halfway through it.  Now the only thing I need is for people to keep showing up to this class.  Every week we have a few less.  Of course, that's true of any school-type situation; I started paralegal school with 13 other wide-eyed and eager legal eagles to be, and there were only nine left when we graduated nine months later.  But it's also, I think, a function of the class not costing anything. Seriously, it should cost something.  If you pay money for a thing, you're a lot more likely to show up and see it through.  Or so some researchers said once, and I believe them.  Not, by the way, that I'm arguing for this particular class to cost something because the orange guy is still in the White House and the moon still goes through all its phases every twenty-eight days and I'm still broke, thank you very much. But it's something to think about.  

Anyway, that's the State of the Class.  Everything else kind of sucks at the moment, and I don't know if that's me, or the orange guy in the White House.  But hey, Memorial Day Weekend is coming. And so's my sister. So that's cool.  

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Classy Dame

Another Thursday, another sandwich at Afrah before I run off to a meeting.  And, inshallah, another blog post. I've taken to cramming what little writing I do lately into the small spaces between this and that. Which is okay, I guess. I keep thinking about getting another portable keyboard for my tablet so that I don't have to haul around my computer. The first keyboard didn't work out so well.  Maybe technology has improved since then. I saw one keyboard that didn't even really exist;  it was projected, like a hologram, onto whatever surface you happened to be sitting at. So you could type on anything from a table to Formica to a stuffed animal, as long as it was reasonably flat.   Now that was pretty cool.  But I'd settle for something that approaches regular keyboard size so I don't have to keep an eye on my fingers the whole time I'm typing.

Now before I get into the whole blog posty thing, I gotta report something I just found out today; Kameron Hurley has a new Nyx book coming out. It's called Apocalypse Nyx and it'll be out in July.  So if you haven't read the Bel Dame Apocrypha (and if you haven't, what's wrong with you?) go get yourself a copy of God's War and get busy. Heck, I might just go read them all again myself. In between the book I'm supposed to read for my book group and all the professoinal reading I'm not doing and blah blah blah.

Speaking of writing stuff (were we speaking of writing stuff?), what am I up to lately, anyway?  Um, honestly, not a lot.  I mean, I'm working on a thing, and I'm like over 100 pages and so on, but it just doesn't, you know, pop the way the increasingly-inacurately-named Mindbender trilogy did. (Of course, I also feel guilty for leaving Cameron standing in a cemetery, a strange man's hand on his shoulder, having just heard someone say, "Your Honor, a word please."  I know who it is and I know what the question is but damned if I know the answer, so there we are.  Kind of like the ringbearers staring down at Balin's tomb in Moria. And stop me before I subreference again.)  So I don't know if I should keep slogging away at it, or just chuck the whole thing and move on. I mean, I don't know if I can make something pop.  It might be that it just either does or it doesn't. Like having babies. Either they have hair or they don't, and either way it takes you nine months to find out.

So just about now I figure it can't possibly hurt to take a class.

Yeah. I get up at 4:30 and some nights I don't get home til 10; I drive all over the damn place; I work a job that can stretch to ridiculous hours; but sure, I can take a class. I can do two or three hours of homework a night.  Why not.  It's not like I need to sleep or anything.

Get this; the class is called "90 Days To Your Novel."

I've been reading the textbook for the class.  (Of course I'm reading the textbook. I don't have time to do all that other reading, but this textbook I can manage.) Not only do they honestly expect you to knock out a novel in 90 days, they expect you to outline it first.  You know.  Plotting.  Graphing.  Charting. Creating a narrative arc. Actually planning where you're going before you go there? Why, that's like--like buying maps at the gas station or charging the batteries in your GPS or something.  Who'd have ever thought?  Not me.  I usually just wing it and see what happens.  And--she hesitates, then goes on--maybe that's been the problem the whole time. 

So anyway, the class starts next Friday.  In the meantime I need to shovel off my desk, find some kind of program with which I can make digital flash cards (Joan may have found me one; thanks, Joan) and figure out how I can make my old computer fast enough to keep up.  Or else break down and buy a new computer, but I'm trying not to buy anything expensive until I get a new mattress.  Maybe I can get a used computer on Craigslist.  And while I'm at it maybe I can throw lots of money out my car windows and see if it's still there when I turn around. Cheers, all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fun With Copy Machines

I don't know why this is, but I have never managed to feel like an adult human being doing a job. I always feel like a little kid who has somehow stumbled into an office in a suit way too big for me, faking it as much as possible in hopes that I can pass for a grown-up. Kind of like Tom Hanks's character in Big (and what do you mean, you've never seen Big? Go rent it right now).  The only time I ever feel like an adult is when I'm in some kind of trouble, and--no, actually not even then. This is a big switch from when I was a kid and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I was stuck in a room with other kids all day,  I mean, I was at least thirty. Okay, past life thing, whatever.  But there it is. I got older but somehow I never grew up.

Anyway, regardless of my actual age, there are plenty of times when I wonder what in the hell I'm doing in an office. Any office. Somebody like me should be wrestling polar bears in the Great Northwest or hand firing swords or looking through a microscope at dangerous virii or something.  And sometimes technology is not my friend. Okay, sometimes technology isn't anybody's friend, but sometimes I feel like I have more trouble doing what should be very simple things than other people do.

Take, for example, Tuesday.   At this law firm, we have these very punctual Monday morning calendar meetings, where we get together and go over the calendar and make sure everything's covered and that nobody is scheduled to be in, say, Boston and Houston on the same day. Very punctual,  except on this particular Monday,  the litigation section had a big meeting of its own. So the calendar meeting got moved to Tuesday.

Tuesday morning came and I forgot all about the calendar meeting. I was still running triage after the litigation meeting, making lists of stuff to do and trying to decide what I could handle  myself and what I could foist off on other people. Suddenly my phone rang and the receptionist told me they were all waiting for me at the calendar meeting.  And a mad scramble ensued.

Part of my gig, you see, involves printing the big calendar for these meetings. We need 18 copies. What's more, it's long, running to ten or twelve pages sometimes. So I jump up. Then I sit back down and tell my computer to print out the calendar, 18 copies, collated and stapled  please, and would it kindly step on it because I'm late for a meeting. The printer obligingly whirs to life, starts printing the first copy and then promptly jams.

Well, of course it does. Copiers and printers only work when you aren't busy and there's nothing due in the next 5 minutes. I don't have time to figure out which tab has stopped fitting into which slot, so I do the next best thing, which is sending the whole print job to a different printer.

I hear the printer fire up across the hall and I run over there with my notepad and pen, ready  to grab the pages off the printer and run like a maniac to the other end of the office (because the meeting is at one end of the office and I'm at the desk it's the farthest from). I grab the pages and start flipping through them while I'm waiting (impatiently) for the last few copies to roll off.  I've only looked at two or three pages when I realize I have another problem. The top of the page says February 3. This isn't February 3, it's March 27.  I've just printed 18 copies of  the wrong calendar.

Back to my office I go. At great speed.  I pull up the calendar again. I set it for the right dates.  I decide to send it to the high-speed printer, which is in the mail room, which is at least sort of on the way to the meeting.  It is also, as the name suggests, high speed.  I grab my notebook and pen and take off out of my office as the phone starts to ring again.  And I burst into the copy room, ready to grab my calendars and take off.

But no. I don't know why or how, but I've somehow sent this print job to the only printer in the entire American legal system that doesn't collate automatically.  Which means I now have a nice, stapled set of 18 copies of Page One, 18 copies of Page Two... you get the idea.

I grab a staple remover and start ripping out staples.  Then I sweep everything off this big long table and lay down my 18 copies of Page One, face down. Then my 18 copies of Page Two.  And Three.  And so on, and so forth, one fricking page at a time, until I finally have 18 copies of the right calendar.

I still have to staple them all. Then I have to clean up the mess from where I swept everything onto the floor.  Then, pretty out of breath by this time , I have to run the rest of the way down the hall to the other end of the office, burst in on the group of people who've been waiting for me for the past 20 minutes, apologize all over the place and (finally) sit down.

After which, things went pretty smoothly. At least until I got to the part of the meeting where I said, "Please  turn to paage 5 in the calendar," and all these little voices at once started saying, "I don't have a page 5."

Turned out nobody had a page 5. How could they? Page 5 was still on the frick'n sorting table. Next to the bin full of metal clamps and the heavy duty stapler.

Seriously, maybe I should open a cheese store. Or become a professional wrestler. Or manage a heavy metal band. As long as there are no copy machines. If there are any copy machines, I'm going to send my assistant over there. Right after he finishes separating out all the green M&Ms for Eddie Van Halen.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


So I guess the way I've been feeling lately is kind of how you ordinary Christians probably feel when somebody like the alleged Reverend Robert Jeffries gets on TV with some Fox News pundit and says it's totally irrelevant if Donald Trump cheated on his wife with a porn actress but that all gay people need to die.  There's sort of a collective cognitive dissonance, a wanting to jump up and down and yell, "But we're not really like that!  The church isn't really like that!" to anyone who will listen and at the same time wanting to hide under a rock rather than attract any more attention.  Or to use another example, maybe the way you might feel when you see the Westboro Babtist folks picketing some soldier's funeral with signs that say "God Loves Dead Soldiers."  You want to throw rocks at them, and at the same time you notice they're wearing the same t-shirt as you are and so when the TV reporters show up you want to deny that you're wearing a shirt at all.  Three times.  Before the cock crows for the dawn.

After which you eventually what?  Go home, watch TV?  Or maybe pray over it.  Maybe hold focus groups, meetings at which a lot of church ladies with clipboards twist their pearls into a knot and look concerned. But how do you DO anything about it?  You can't, right?  I mean, you can make sure everybody at church and in your community knows that cheating on your wife with a porn star is verboten and you're totally cool with gays and lesbians, but it's not like Fox News is going to come over there and film you because people being nice to each other don't get any air time.  Basically, to attract any media attention at all, you have to be an asshole.  And people wonder why my doc has repeatedly told me to stop watching the news.

Anyway, that's sort of how I'm feeling about this whole Rohingya refugee crisis.  What?  You haven't heard of the Rohingya refugee crisis?  Well, I can't hardly blame you.  Even with our blood-hungry news media, the Rohingya are getting like two inches under Dear Abby. Time Magazine ran a pretty decent article about it this week, but it didn't even run on Page One; in fact, the only time Time ever covered this story as a lead article, it ran in the international edition, so we U.S.ians didn't even get to see it.  Maybe the wire services have had a few stories about it, so you might vaguely know that there's something going on in Myanmar that involves Buddhists and Muslims.  Well, there is, Blanche.  There is.

Most Rohingya are Muslim, though some are Hindu.  Unfortunately, Muslims and Buddhists have a very uneasy history over many hundreds of years, and usually the Muslims won.  Well, yeah; if your religion tells you not to touch weapons and to run away rather than fight, you will probably lose most geopolitical confrontations.  That's just the way it is.  This time around, though, the Buddhists are winning.  And by "winning," I mean they've managed to chase at least 700,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar and into Bangladesh.  And kill about 300,000.  And burn the villages of many of the survivors, and rape them and torture them and cut off their sources of food.  Meanwhile, the rest of us Buddhists are wanting to jump up and down and yell, "But we're not really like that!" and...yeah.

(It reminds me a little of when a cult of otherwise ordinary Japanese citizens declared their willingness to die for Buddhism by launching a sarin gas attack on the Toyko subway during rush hour, killing 13 and injuring hundreds.  Die for Buddhism?  I mean, that's so--so unBuddhist-y.)

Let's back up a little here.  Who are the Rohingya, anyway, and how did all this get started?  Well; they are a group of people who speak their own distinct language, and they're an ethnic minority that has lived in Myanmar since at least the 1800s (documented) and possibly as much as a thousand years before that (myth, legend, family stories).  For much of that time, their presence in Myanmar has been a thorn in the side of certain "ultranationalist Buddhists" (and that's another contradiction in terms; I've never even met a nationalist Buddhist, much more an ultranationalist one).  The Myanmar government's official position is that the Rohingya are invaders from the Bengali region of India that crossed into Myanmar from Bangladesh; illegal immigrants, in other words, who shouldn't be there. They cannot be citizens or hold civil service jobs, and their kids are legally kept out of state-run schools.  Tensions between the Rohingya and the Buddhist majority rose up in 1978, 1991-ish, 2012, 2015 and of course just recently (interesting observation; two of those dates coincide pretty neatly with global recessions. Hmm.)  This time around, though, it's not just arguments over whose land is whose and who married whose daughter; this time it's out and out ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar govermnent looks like it's ready to kill, chase out or forcibly remove every single Rohingya in Myamnar. The military is leading these attacks on Rohingya villages, and stirring up anti-Rohingya sentiment though officially, the government denies involvement (where have we heard that before?).  Aung San Suu Kyi, who's sort of the leader of Myanmar and who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle for peace and democracy, hasn't done a thing to stop the violence or even spoken up against it. The government of Bangladesh's official position is that Myanmar has to take the Rohingya back, because it can't handle an influx of so many refugees. Nobody else has spoken up to say, "Send them over here, we have plenty of room," so the crisis continues. 

As a bad Buddhist myself (I eat meat, I meditate with music, I'm pro-abortion, I make mala beads out of pricey gemstones), I dunno why I'm so surprised that this is happening, but I am, Blanche, I am.  You would think (or anyway, I would think) that the Buddhists would be the first ones to hold up their hands and say, "Can't we all just get along?" Certainly, burning out your neighbors, or killing them, is about as un-Buddhist-y as you can get.  And over here I'm crawling under a rock, waiting for the first person to say "Oh, you're a Buddhist, right?  Isn't that you guys killing all those people in Myanmar?"

Which, I guess, may never happen, since hardly anybody seems to know about Myanmar anyway.  But it could.  And when it's all over and all the Rohingya are dead, I really don't wanna be the one answering the questions.  Especially if I have to follow it up with, "But we're not really like that."  Because if one of you is, then all of you is, especially if the one of you is the only one who can get any attention from Fox News.