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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

So This Happened:

So this happened:  On our way home from a craft thing at a friend's house, Joan and I stopped at an Indian restaurant in Richardson to have an early Valentine's dinner.  As often happens, about six more parties followed us in (we draw crowds wherever we go, what can I say).  One of the parties was seated right behind us; a couple, evidently from around town, and some friends from out of town (they didn't have Texas accents; if I had to guess I'd say South Africa).  Anyway, we'd just put in our order when the guy of the couple started opining, loud and long, about transgender people and "men using the women's room".  I distinctly heard him say, "I feel like a woman today, I think I'll use the ladies' room."  Among other things, using some words I haven't heard in better than 20 years. Meanwhile, we got increasingly uncomfortable.  No, neither one of us is transgender (though I wouldn't tell you if I was, so munch on that), but we know people that are and, well, I'm just not happy about people dissing other people in public.  In general.  And in particular.  Are you?

Anyway, Joan leaned across the table and said, "Let's go."  And I said, "We just put in our order."  So she flagged down the waiter and asked him if he could box up our order to go.  And then Mr. Opinionated said something else--I actually didn't hear it, or didn't understand what I did hear, and Joan said, "Let's go. Now."  And we did.

We left a nice note for the manager, letting him know it wasn't his fault, and some money for the appetizer that had already come.  And on our way out the door, Joan leaned over and announced to the table, "Thank you for ruining our dinner."

Lemmee back up and say that again.  Joan leaned over and announced to the table, "Thank you for ruining our dinner."  

I mean.  I just.  Wow.  Those of you who don't know Joan, she is a quiet and nonconfrontational type of person.  She has a temper (who doesn't?) but it doesn't come out very often.  So she must have been pretty pissed.  I was just really uncomfortable and wanting to leave because I was listening to a person who plainly understands nothing of what he speaks and has to say it loudly, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to actually confront the table.  I mean that was ballsy.  Oops, I just referred to Joan with the wrong genitalia.  My bad.  You see how complicated this sort of thing can get?

A couple of minutes later, as we were getting into the car and driving away, I said, "I've never walked out on a check before.  Are we going to jail?"  Joan said, "Relax.  I left some money."  So I relaxed.  A little.  But if you guys hear anything about the Richardson police looking for two fat ladies who walked out of a restaurant Sunday night, I'd appreciate it if you'd pretend you don't know us.

This ends happily, sort of.  We drove over to Afrah, my favorite restaurant, which not only serves great Lebanese food, but is really warm and friendly and welcomes everybody.  We got a great meal and if anybody was talking loudly about transgender persons, they were doing it in Arabic so I didn't understand them.  (I can say a few things in Arabic.  Hello, how are you, he'll be out in a minute.  I thought I was going to get a job with the Holy Land Foundation Defense Fund there for a while, so I learned a little Arabic just in case.  I've forgotten most of it, though.)

So I guess the moral of this story is, you never know who might be seated next to you in a restaurant. So don't spew your prejudices about, loudly, to a room where you don't know who might be hearing them.  Or that people will be assholes sometimes.  But I think the real moral is, don't ever, ever piss off Joan.  She can be fierce when roused.  I'm going to take her a nice iced coffee now.  Cheers.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trolling For Outrage

A while ago the manager came into my office and caught me on Twitter, as I sometimes am (@jenstrikesagain).  She asked me what in the hell I was doing and I told her I was trolling for outrage.

"Trolling for outrage?" she said.  "Yes," I said. "Usually I can sit down and do my job just because I like what I do.  But sometimes I come in here and I don't feel like it or I'm tired or I don't feel well or whatever.  And that's when I have to go trolling for outrage.  I get on Twitter or I get on Yahoo News and I look for a news story that's outrageous.  It never takes very long to find one. And then I'm outraged and I have all this energy and I feel like smacking somebody but instead I get to work and do my job because maybe there'll be a little less outrage out there if we win this motion or we settle this case or we mediate this dispute.  Trolling for outrage. That's what I call it.  What do you do when you don't feel like doing your job?"

The manager gave me a long, slow blink and said, "I drink another cup of coffee."

Well, hey, that may work for some folks, too.  But ever since November 9 of last year, it's been ridiculously easy to find outrage.  I no longer need to go trolling for it. It shows up at my doorstep daily in freshly wrapped packages.  Here's a sample just from this morning:

  •  Trump fired his acting AG for refusing to defend his unconstitutional order banning people from seven different countries from entering the US.  (In case you don't know this, attorneys can't argue for or defend anything they know is unconstitutional. They can be disbarred if they do.)
  • The entire upper echelon of the State Department has also been fired.
  • Fox News spent all of yesterday and part of today stating that the Quebec mosque shooter was from Morocco. In fact the shooter was a French Canadian university student.
  • The Education Secretary nominee apparently plagiarized her answers to written questions propounded by the Senate.  Let's get this straight, people: Only legal professionals can plagiarize at will, and only from other legal professionals.  Educators must do their own work and keep their eyes on their own papers. 
  •  A Danish citizen has been denied entry to the United States because he excavates archaeological sites in Iraq. Really.
  • A Mississippi lawmaker has submitted a bill that would make wearing saggy pants a crime. I would argue that's double jeopardy, since it's already a crime against fashion. 
You see what I mean?  It's getting ridiculous.  It's almost to the point where I think a long, extended break from all social media would be a good idea, though realistically, I'll probably never do that.  But the whole thing does raise some questions about the role of social media in life, anyway, how we're shaped by our environment and how we may be doing the shaping, without even knowing it. And how Buddhist-y it is, anyway, to deliberately go look at things you know are going to piss you off?  Probably not very.

One argument against spending time on social media, for example, is that it puts you in a bubble. Unless you really like to argue with people, you're probably going to follow people who think the way you do and tweet the way you tweet (or Snapchat, or whatever).  So you're bouncing the same old, tired ideas off people who are bouncing the same old, tired ideas off you, and pretty soon it's like being in an echo chamber, and then when you happen to run into people who disagree with you out in the real world, you're first shocked, and then angry.  How dare they. Which, of course, leads to increased conflict, more arguments and more suffering for all beings.

Another thought: Docs are telling us now that more than a small amount of screen time is bad for people.  Parents all over the country restrict their kids to no more than a certain amount of time on the iPhone or the tablet for fear their eyes will fall out, or that they'll meet predators in chat rooms. Yet, when the kids suggest maybe Mom and Dad should put their phones down, too, a lot of moms and dads find out that they just can't do it.  When a day care center put up a sign about it, outrage followed.  People have become hooked on the instant-information fix. Well, a lot of us have. You are, after all, reading this, aren't you?

(Incidentally, the Thai Buddhist temple here on Dallas, off of Forest Lane, has handpainted wallpaper that depicts, among other things, old Buddhist stories and modern dilemmas.  It's got an illustration of Siddhartha meeting the sick man, the old man, and the dead man, for example,  It also has a picture of a man with a computer, on Facebook, drowning in the Sea of Delusion.)

In Plum Village, the Thich Nhat Hanh hamlet near Bordeaux, France, they have a "second body" policy when it comes to going online (and yes, monks and nuns do go online; it may be a monastery, but it isn't a 12th century one). That means that somebody else sits there with you while you get on the Internet and do what you need to do.  Kind of a pain if you feel like pulling up some good porn, but then I suppose monks and nuns aren't supposed to do that anyway and it's probably great for not getting lost in the clickstream for hours at a time. (It's a little culty, though, if you ask me.)  I don't have a "second body" that I can haul around when I need to get on the Internet, so I installed this little chime thingy that rings once an hour. That at least tells me how much time I've been there, and since I'm on the Internet at work basically all day, it's a good reminder to get up, stretch, walk a little, take a few deep breaths.  You know, interact with the actual world.

I get sucked in by bad news; other people get sucked in by fantasy football, Twitter, the Kardashian sisters or who's winning American Idol (is that even still on?).  We've managed to design a world where it's hard to live without instant tech. In 2010 we had a huge power outage that affected most of the northern part of the state, and besides being freezing and having to cook in the dark, Joan and I were terribly worried about how we were going to charge our cell phones.

Anyway, I don't know what the solution is.  But maybe taking an hour or so a day to unplug would be a start.  Seriously, an hour a day without your cell phone close to hand.  Can you do it?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Guest Post: Another Way To Starve

I am so, so excited to be able to guest post this amazing essay by Kimberly Dark!! First read it, of course, and then go check out her Web site: www.kimberlydark.com   If you want to see the original layout of the post, you can see it here.  Thank you, Kimberly!! and I'm glad this is getting read by at least some people who wouldn't have seen it otherwise.  --Jen

Another Way to Starve

By Kimberly Dark
When you’re a fat kid, sometimes you go hungry.








Here’s something weird.

It’s when your family has enough money to buy plenty of food,
even fancy food sometimes, like a steak dinner. They stop whenever
they want and pick up a little something because who has time for
cooking all three meals every day? But somehow, you’re the person 
in your family who shouldn’t eat.

It’s not like they withhold food, but they make you feel bad for 
eating it. They want you to say no to food. They want you to want to 
deprive yourself and why would they want that, if you were actually 
just as good as everyone else? I mean, why would they? You 
wonder this because you’re a kid. And you don’t have any answers.

“When you’re a fat kid, sometimes you go hungry.” — Tweet this.

But hang on. Sometimes they don’t feed you because you’re being 
virtuous and they’re being supportive. You’re on a diet. They don’t 
feed you even though you’re hungry. They tell you this is your 
choice and they’re proud of you for it.

They know you’re hungry and that you feel left out when others 
are eating because how could you not feel left out from the
 deliciousness and kindness and collaboration and community and 
belonging and satisfaction involved in eating? And they look at 
you with pity and tell you how good you are when you’re starving.
They tell you how great you’re going to look because clearly 
there’s something wrong with the way you look now. They know 
it. You know it. Everyone who has ever seen you knows it. It 
goes without saying. And yet, they say it often enough anyway,
just to remind you. The only way to not be insulted for looking
how you look is to actively, and in full view, be starving.

“The only way to not be insulted for looking how you look is to 
actively, and in full view, be starving.” — Tweet this.

Everyone you know says you’ll look great if you only eat very 
little and they encourage you to say it too. It’ll make you feel better 
about starving. It’ll make them feel better about encouraging you 
not to eat when they know you must be hungry or hurt or left out 
of loving interactions that happen around food. You’re not just
reminded once in a while either. People eat three times a day. 
Well, that’s officially how often they eat, but lots of people eat 
more often than that. Not  you. That’s snacking and snacking 
is bad. You’re bad. Your body is bad. That’s what you learn.
People who want to live have to eat. But eating is the one thing 
that seems to prove that you shouldn’t exist at all.

“Snacking is bad. You’re bad. Your body is bad. That’s what
children learn.” — Tweet this.

Everyone tells you how gluttonous you are, how overstuffed-
privileged-lazy you are. They may not say it directly to you 
(or they may). They say it about you and about people who look
like you. They say awful things as though you aren’t standing 
right there, or you don’t matter and really are awful.

You are not allowed to eat in a relaxed way. Sometimes you’re 
not allowed to eat at all. What does that mean? You’re a kid, 
so you’re still working out all of the strange things adults do, 
and learning who you are in the process. You hear about people 
starving for lack of food but you have food — loads of it — in the 
house where you live, in the stores where you shop, yet you too 
experience hunger. (And sometimes you over-stuff yourself,
like on a holiday, when those around give you permission to eat. 
Or like when you get angry and can’t stand all that being 
precious around food, so you eat. And then, you figure out what
to do with the shame of having eaten so much.) You know you 
don’t deserve to claim hardship and yet you live being hungry
or rebelling against hunger. What does this mean? You wonder 
because you’re a child and no one can make sense of it for you 
even though they’re adults and they seem so sure about the rules. 
They seem so sure about who you are. It seems like they would
understand what all this means but they won’t tell you.

“What do you say to yourself and the children in your life?” 
— Tweet this.

That’s weird, right? To grow up totally middle class and able to 
eat, only not able to eat and be love-worthy at the same time. And 
the shame. Oh, the shame of being wrong, all the time wrong,
 impossible to erase the wrong-bodied-ness that you express 
everywhere you go. Hide  yourself. Don’t move. Don’t dress flashy. 
Don’t be loud. No one wants to hear you. No one respects you. No 
one will ever respect you. Do something about yourself, 
for godsakegoddamnit.

As a kid, how would you even talk about something like that? 
As an adult, how do you make sense of it?

And now that you know how diet culture works on children and 
against children, on adults and against adults making it seem like 
it’s fine for a person’s life purpose to be diminishing one’s body, 
what do you say? What do you say to yourself and the children 
in your life? 

How will you fix this?

--Kimberly Dark is a writer, sociologist and raconteur working to
reveal the hidden architecture of everyday life, one clever story, 
poem and essay at a time. 

Learn more at www.kimberlydark.com.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Exodus

Aaaand she's late again.  Well, that's okay.  What are they going to do, cut my salary?  Besides, I have an excellent excuse.  I found out Friday that we're going to be kicked out of our house for a week.

Yeah.  Seems that a few years ago, when we had that broken pipe which led to the catastrophic flood under the house, some of the floorboards in our bathroom were damaged.  They're now very weak and starting to give way.  In short, the entire bathroom floor is due to collapse.  Which, you have to admit, would be a rotten thing to happen while you were sitting on the throne, if you know what I mean.  And guess where all the weak spots are?  Right around the throne.  So you see the problem.

We had a contractor come over and give us an estimate.  It's a scary estimate, but it's doable.  He's pulling out all the bathroom hardware, totally replacing the shower stall with a disabled-friendly walk in shower (thank God for small favors), repaneling the floor, laying tile, and painting.  In short, we're going to get a whole new bathroom, and it's going to be a nice shade of teal.  The only thing that really sucks is the whole having to move out of the house for a week part.

See, we only have one bathroom.  That's the one thing I've never liked about our house.  All houses should have two bathrooms, in case of emergencies.  But in 1958, when our house was built, it was sort of inconceivable that anybody could possibly need more than one bathroom.  (Clearly, 1958-era contractors never tried living with two women at once.)  I asked a contractor once how much it would cost to add another bathroom to our house and he told us that A. because of where the sewer pipe is located, the only way to go is up, ie, we'd need to add a second story to the house and B. that would start around $20,000.00 and go up from there.  So we never did it.  Besides, Joan can't do stairs.

So we spent a goodly portion of Saturday trying to find a place to stay for a week.  Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of hotels which are A. affordable and B. are just fine with you bringing your three cats. Imagine.  Anyway, we ended up cruising vacation rental places and finally found a condo near downtown. The guy who owns it is an attorney, and it probably didn't hurt that I said we were a paralegal and a librarian.  And yes, I told him about the three cats.  He rented the place to us anyway.  Beginning this Saturday, we'll be living in a tony one-bedroom in a luxury complex that has a fitness center and even (gasp!) a swimming pool.  Not that anybody's doing much swimming when it's 38 degrees outside, but I guess you could.

Moving day is next Saturday.  We will probably each be taking a few days off work so that the cats won't be alone in a strange place.  Luckily, both of us can work from home to a greater or lesser extent. If I can manage it, I'll send pictures.  Wish us luck.

It could be worse, you know.  It could be Dallas in the winter.  Oh wait...


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Brave New...Whatever



Thanksgiving pic. Aren't we cute?
Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!  Yes, I know it's been ages since I blogged.  You should see my Christmas letter--oh wait, you can't because it's not done. Well, it's almost done.  Well, I think I'll get it mailed this week. Maybe. Possibly.  It's been that kind of holiday season.

I don't make New Year resolutions because I've discovered that they're basically a setup, but if I did, I'd be promising to blog more.  The original idea was every Thursday morning.  That worked pretty well for a long time, particularly when I was participating in the Talk Thursday discussion tree, but it sort of fell out of favor in the last year or so.  Probably just the incursions of Life, with its sub-incursions of Work, Household Stuff and of course Sleep.  Honestly, though, I will try to blog more, and since Thursdays worked pretty well for a long time, I'll see you again in two days.

Wait, hold on a second.  I should at least tell you what's going on.  The odd answer, though, is not very much.  I'm driving a lot because Joan can't drive because she can't see, but other than that it's just swimming, work, home, household chores, writing a little, meditation and other Buddhist-y things. I mean, there are crises every now and again--we have a sick cat, for example; three times to the vet in the last three weeks--and big major household repairs that need to be done for which I have no clue where the money will come from.  But other than that, just the stuff that is.

I think what may be going on here is that I've hit middle age like it's a giant pillow.  Or maybe an air bag.  I haven't felt like going out to bars, picking up 18-year-old ingenues and driving drunk like a character in a bad Hemingway novel, but I am about to turn 48 here, and I do think I'm having my version of a midlife crisis.  It's maybe time to admit that certain things are simply Never Going To Happen.  I'll probably never play backup keyboards for Herbie Hancock, for example, both because I don't play keyboards and because Herbie Hancock doesn't need any help.  I'll probably never be first bassoon for the Philadelphia Orchestra, either, unless someone dies and makes me God, and my odds of ever climbing to Everest Base Camp to check out the mountaineering scene are shrinking exponentially by the day.  Something about high-altitude cerebral edema and being out of the reach of Western medicine.

Or, as Annie Lennox put it, "This is the book I never read/ These are the words I never said/ This is the path I'll never tread/ These are the dreams I'll dream instead."

Which is another way of saying, "Let's just wing it and see what happens."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mini-Post: Stephen Hawking Ranted At Fat People Today. So I Ranted Back.

Stephen Hawking ranted at fat people today. So I ranted back.
Dear Mr. Hawking: 
Lots of obese people eat normally and take regular exercise. I swim 7 miles a week and eat about 1700 calories a day, on the average. Has that helped me lose weight? No, and I don't expect it ever will. It happens I just got my numbers back from the doctor. My total cholesterol is 143, my blood pressure is 120/80, my blood glucose is 106 and my A1C is 6.3.When I swim my heart rate goes up to about 135 and then settles down to a perfectly normal 70 beats per minute. So why do I weigh over 300 pounds instead of 150 or so? Put your amazing brain to that little puzzle, why don't you.
It's OK to be fat!!
Some people just are.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I've Got Nothing to Say, So--

--I'll let these fine folks say it instead.

"BRITAIN:  Brexit is the stupidest, most self-destructive act a country could undertake.
USA: Here. Hold my beer."
--@bpedaci

"As someone who spent 15 months researching Trump's past statements, if anyone says they know what a President Trump will do they're lying."
--@kfile

"White people want to die. They want to eliminate all of the things they need to survive. Yo. Let them. Step out of the way. Let them go."
--Are0h

"Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. As someone who lost ancestors in the Holocaust, that shit is not lost on me."
--@modernistwitch

"It is interesting how Trump says he's going to drain the swamp but is bringing with him alligators like Christie, Giuliani & Gingrich."
--@azmoderate

"If you think folks who elected Trump would've been more amenable to Bernie being first Jewish US president, you missed what happened tonight."
--@breenewsome

"White supremacy isn't just voting for Trump. It's voting against him, then attributing his victory to reasons other than White supremacy."
--jshahryar

"Fahrenheit 11/9."
--@mmflint

"I find it fascinating how your first reaction is to blame *liberals* for conservatives electing a fascist."
--@fawfulfan

"look if you tell me to hug a trump supporter--
I am not gonna hug someone who voted my country into fascism.
I'm not gonna hug someone who thinks racism, misogyny, & xenophobia are good and/or passable.
Fuck that and fuck you."
--@libraryyeti

"Great Day to be a #Racist #Misogynist #Xenophobe #FASCIST   #WhiteTrash
Sad day to be someone true to our ideals."
--@zeitgeistghost

"One day we'll look back at the Dubya administration as the good ol' days when we were only fightin' 2 wars and losin' 800,000 jobs a month."
--@Teapainusa

"No matter how horrifically violent and terrible the action, white people desperately argue that their own "isn't evil/racist/etc.""
--@yeloson

"Trump supporters get to have the president they wanted. They don't get to have my good opinion of them as people, too."
--@cawkward