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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nooks and NonGovernment

Well, kids, the Financial Reports are in.  You know, those long articles in the business section, full of statistics and numbers and so on, that you never bother to read.  I don't read them either, and I didn't make an exception just because I was gonna be writing a blog post about one of them later.  But, anyway, here's the link to the one that says that Barnes & Noble experienced a 26% drop in profit in Nook products during the third quarter of last year.  

Now, I'm not sure how they measure that, and I wouldn't claim to be the expert in counting Nooks or noses or anything else.  But I do know that this is Bad News.  I love love love my Nook.  I loved it from the moment I picked it up and I have never so much as even liked a Kindle.  But I do have a theory, kind of, about why things aren't going so well in Nookville:  They did it right the first time. 

Seriously.  I have a Nook First Edition, pictured above.  It was big and clunky and weighed a little bit more than was convenient.  It was also perfect.  The Nook 1st was the one that broke the mold.  It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a tablet, but unlike the later Nook Simple Touch and the Nook Glowlight, it did have a rudimentary Internet browser.  (Pain in the ass to use, but at least it was there, and if you had an emergency, you could tap out an SOS email on the digital keyboard.)  It also had the capability of playing certain sound files, so if you wanted to listen to an audio book, you had that option.  Later low-end Nooks eliminated this feature.  It even had a chess game, which never failed to checkmate me in about twelve moves.  Okay, I ain't Bobby Fischer.  But still.  

Later Nooks got more advanced and added stuff like color and HD and the capacity to play movies and suchlike.  Those were the high-end Nooks that were the most tablet-y.  The trouble with the tablet Nooks, though, is that they're--tablets.  And if you're going to buy a tablet, you might as well buy something that has serious processing power, like an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy or something.  In fact, I think that's where this whole e-reader thing is going to end up.  What started out as Kindle  vs. Nook will end up being two little iPad apps, dueling it out in cyberspace.  Which, when you think about it, is kind of sad until you realize that none of us actually exist, anyway, except as a sum of component parts.  

Speaking of getting it right the first time, I'm given to understand that the entire U.S. economy is going to drive off a cliff tomorrow at about 12:01 a.m.  I'm a little fuzzy on the why, because the various factions have been yelling at each other for such a long time that I've basically stopped listening.  Something about "kicking the can down the road," and/or, if they'd fixed it the first time, we wouldn't be in this mess.  That's true about a lot of things, from Carter warning us about the ultimate instability of our dependence on foreign oil to Reagan (Yes!  I'm going to say something nice about Reagan!  Nobody faint!) predicting the eventual demise of the Soviet Union through simple economics vs. nuclear weapons.  (Though I'm sure mutually assured destruction didn't hurt. And it's not like all that vacant farmland in North Dakota didn't need Pershing missile silos; I mean, what else would you do with it?  Grow crops or something?)  

I've always wondered why people vote contrary to their best interests.  I mean, if you don't have health insurance, which is pretty major, and one party's going to help you get health insurance and the other party isn't, why would you vote for the second party, just because they're also going to cut money to schools?  If you're a woman, say, why would you vote for the party that wants to take away your birth control, stop protecting you from domestic violence, send your kids to different wars all over the globe and have the local police investigate your miscarriage?  If you want your kids to have well-funded schools, why would you vote for the party that always cuts the money to the schools, instead of the party that makes sure the schools have all the money they need?  As I've said time and time again, people are strange.  People are strange.  People are strange.

I hope, when the history books are written about this weird little gridlock, the writers will point out that the gridlock wasn't the fault of the Democrats, or even of the Republicans.  The gridlock was the fault of us, the voters, who watched all this happen four years ago and sent most of the same idiots back there to do it again.  Thanks, y'all.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to flip open my Nook First Edition and do a little reading while it still works.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Give Us A Sign, Oh Lord

Thanks to meds and lots of other things, I don't often have full-blown anxiety fits anymore.  Even when I do, they're mostly small affairs, remedied by a look at a bank statement (oh good, I didn't really do that) or a case file (oh good, I really did that).  Because, odd as it may seem, I know what I'm doing most of the time.  Especially at work, screw-ups are rare.  They happen, but they're rare, and they are usually fixable.  And in my personal life, such that it exists, I more or less Handle Things.  I'm the chief quartermistress in charge of wardrobing and laundry, the head chef, preparer of (most) meals, the balancer of budgets and the cleaner of things that need cleaning (or, to be fair, the director of persons to things that need cleaning.  We're in this marriage thing together.)  But then, it's not every day that I come home from a day-long OA meeting to a sign that looks like the one on the left here.

Yep, that's it.  The Sign, Oh Lord.  Our house is really on the market.  Somebody is really going to buy it and we are really going to have to go and live somewhere else.  Here's the MLS listing.  Below is a pic of our front door with the lock box, so that realtors can come and go (by appointment, only) to show our little Dallas palace to potential buyers.  I pulled into the driveway (so as not to block the sign from view; I don't think I can park on the street anymore) and just sat there for a few minutes trying not to cry.

And then, because of course this had to get worse, my idiot neighbor came out of his house.  (Warning:  If you buy this house, you will have an idiot neighbor.) He wanted to know how much and who was in charge.  I gave him the real estate agent's card and got inside as fast as I could.  I knew he was interested.  I just knew it.  From the second we started hauling boxes of books out of here and taking them to a storage unit, he's had his weird little eyeballs on us.  I think he wants to buy it to rent out, which is fine with us really, but I hate hate hate having to talk to him.  He kind of scares me.  

Why?  Because he's the male of the species.  Well, that and he's not safe around a chainsaw, but that's another story and shall be told another time.  At this day-long OA meeting, there was this workshop about sex and body images, and one of the speakers said something that I thought was very profound.  She said the whole time she was losing weight, and she's lost over a hundred pounds, there was this constant battle raging inside her head between wanting to be thinner, and thereby both healthier and more attractive to the opposite sex, and being scared of the opposite sex and not wanting to lose her layer of protection against looking too attractive.  She'd been molested when she was about four.  I have lost count of how many women I have heard at OA meetings say that they were molested or otherwise sexually abused when they were children.  Literally lost count.  I guess some women turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with this sort of thing, but it looks like an awful lot of us turn to excess food, and bulimia, and anorexia.  And when it was time for comments from the audience, I was waving my hand so I could say, "Me, too!  I got fat to keep men away, too!  I was molested, too!"  which is usually not something I'm terribly excited to tell people. 

Anyway.  I got inside, had my anxiety fit and went to the first thing that's guaranteed to calm me down a little: Food.  First I heated up some of the leftover enchilada casserole from the other night, and then I had a few graham crackers with Biscoff spread.  That's not really a binge--pretty close to a regular meal, in fact, and it was dinnertime--but figure this out:  Daylong OA meeting.  Brilliant insight about reasons for being fat.  And what do I do when something bothers me but come in here and eat.  Anyone who doubts the addictive power of food, particularly sugar, really needs to spend a few days with me when I'm trying to get off it. (Surprisingly, however, Biscoff spread doesn't have much sugar in it.  Only 5 grams a serving.  So I dodged a bullet, there.)  

In retrospect, it occurs to me that our idiot neighbor buying our house might indeed be the perfect solution.  He'd have himself for a neighbor, and no one else would have to put up with him.  And my anxiety fit's more or less over, so I can, I dunno, hide under a blanket with Caesar the Cat for the rest of the evening and just hope nobody wants to view the house past seven on a Saturday.

Or maybe watch a horror movie.  As if life isn't scary enough.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Death, Taxes and Real Estate

I dunno if this is true of all real estate agents everywhere at all times, but the ones I've dealt with, at least, seem to have a kind of selective hearing.  Whatever you say, they pick out the stuff that's relevant to what they've already decided to do.  So, when I say, for example, "First off, we're looking for a duplex, not a single family house, and it needs to have at least one and a half baths," they seem to hear, "xxxxx xxx we're looking for x xxxxxx xxx x single family house, and it needs to have xx xxxxx one xxx x xxxx bathx."  "We don't have any kids, so we don't need to be near all the best schools" turns into "xx xxxx xxxx xxx kids xx xx xxxx need to be near all the best schools."  And don't even ask me what "Please don't show us any more ranch houses in suburban Arlington" turns into.  It's kind of untypeable.  It may not even be audible to human ears. 

It gets worse when we're talking about money.  Mention that your absolute maximum is $175,000 and they'll somehow find a way to make that $250,000.  ("Don't worry, it will sell for $225.")  And the mortgage broker?  My friends, if you have the misfortune to have good credit, the mortgage broker will finance you well above and beyond anything you can even remotely begin to afford.  I mean, I wouldn't lend me that much money and I'm a nice person.  I can't imagine a total stranger lending it to me, even if they knew more about my finances.  Which they don't, apparently. 

When we bought the little 3-bedroom palace in Far East Dallas, we did it only after we fired three real estate agents.  We didn't have time to fool around.  We had less than two days to fly to Dallas, find a house and buy it, so when the real estate agents started jerking us around, I fired them.  To be fair, each time a new one came on board I told him or her what the last one(s) had done to piss me off ("Please don't do this, this or this.")  When they did it anyway, or found some other new and exciting way to make this whole process completely counterproductive, I fired them. 

Until we found Sondra, and she was a candidate for sainthood.  She put up with me, for one thing.  She drove us all over town in the pouring rain, for another.  She found us the perfect house, got the deal done, arranged for us to close on the house in Phoenix, Arizona while we were driving between point A and point B, and even got the gas turned on for us when it turned out we'd forgotten that little detail.  Our only regret was that we couldn't give her the commission for selling our place in San Diego, because she certainly earned it.  So naturally she was the real estate agent we wanted when we were selling our place in Dallas.  But something's happened to her and she's No Longer With The Agency.  We're meeting our new agent on Sunday.  Meanwhile, our selling agent is scaring up things we can't afford, and--oh, it hasn't been a lot of fun, okay?  At this point I'm like, let's just sell blood, turn tricks on Harry Hines Boulevard, whatever, get the ridiculous sum of money and fix the stupid pipes, already.  Except then Tracy and Tammy wouldn't have anywhere to go.  Sigh.  I guess we'll just have to plod along.

Speaking of plodding along, it's time I came out of the closet.  No, not about THAT.  About the other thing.  The scandal that's been building since August.  Okay, I confess; it's all true.  After almost eighteen years of marriage, I'm seeing this guy.

Who's a therapist.

What, you expected me to suddenly morph into a suburban swinger?  You can take the fat white Lutheran chick out of North Dakota, but you can't--yeah. 

Anyway, he's a nice guy, but he's still a guy, so not a spark of romantic interest can possibly be kindled.  Although I do catch myself trying to mother him in a put-your-sweater-on, it's-cold-out sort of way.  No idea why.  It's the same way I treat my boys, I mean my lawyers. (They're all my boys.  Even if they're girls.)  Those who have children, mother.  Those who don't have children mother their cats and their therapists.  Sigmund Freud would have a field day with that one. But, sometimes a cat is just a cat.  

About six months ago, I was in a state.  Like Texas, only even more fucked up.  I still don't know what exactly caused it--something about writing and a mid-forties crisis and I'm not sure what all else--but my unique craniobiology guarantees I'll go through the occasional low period.  I don't know if that's what it was.  I do know that between my psychiatrist bugging me and Joan worrying about me, I finally got on the Internet and looked up psychologists until I found one that looked like a good match.  We met.  He was.  (Which is odd; usually Girls Are Supposed To See Girl Therapists, but I've never done a very good job of that--I relate better to dudes, I guess).  And I started feeling better pretty fast, without the aid of chemical interference (or, I should say, any more chemical interference than I've already got--man, this condition sucks sometimes.) 

So now it's six-ish months later and I feel better and I'm not sure what to do.  With this guy.  I mean, I'm positive I still need to be there every Wednesday at six.  There's no question about it, really. I sort of look forward all week to going there.  And when I get there, I actually relax for about an hour.  As Joan puts it, to quit now would be like saying, "Oh, yeah.  I'm fine, so I don't need meds anymore." (And then she'd throw me out of the house, which, considering that we haven't found a new one yet, would kind of suck.)  I just don't know where to go from here, what to say, without dredging up a lot of gunk from my sordid past that I don't really wanna even touch much less talk about.  (I subscribe to the three-sentence method of discussing past traumas: "Yes, that happened.  It was nasty.  Let's move on.") 

I dunno.  Is it possible to do therapy wrong?  Because if it is, I'd find a way.  I'm very good at finding lots of ways of doing something that will not work.  Maybe that explains my bad luck with real estate agents.  Or maybe some things in life are merely certain.  Death, taxes, real estate agents who don't listen to you. 

Well, it could be worse. 

It could be Arlington.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Radical Acceptance

I dunno if any of you have the privilege of watching WFAA's morning news show, but if you do and you happened to see it Monday, boy howdy, what a show you got.  Monday was the day the Boy Scouts were supposed to announce whether or not they were changing their policy on accepting gay members, but they changed their minds and didn't announce it after all.  (Maybe they weren't prepared.)  Anyway, reporter Shon Gables was interviewing this pastor guy, who was all in favor of not only keeping out gay Boy Scouts but banishing gay people to the end of the Earth, evidently, or maybe even farther than that. Among other things, he said that the "radical homosexual agenda" was all about using "terrorist tactics" on good God-fearing folk.

If anybody has a copy of the radical homosexual agenda, would you send it to me, please?  I lost mine the last time I was out practicing my terrorist tactics.  And since when did organizing, protesting and letter writing become terrorist tactics, anyway?  Somebody ought to notify Homeland Security.  But enough about this guy, he had plenty of air time as it was.  Let's talk about this reporter for a second.  Right in the middle of this interview, she asks this guy if he maybe already has some people in the Boy Scouts that are hiding their "gender identity."  He allows that he probably does.  I missed everything else, though, because I was busy rolling my eyes.

"Gender identity"?!  What does that have to do with anything?  Isn't this the 21st century?  Can there actually be people who don't know the difference between "gender identity" and "sexual orientation"?  I guess there are.  Okay, here we go: "Sexual orientation" has everything to do with who you love.  As in, male or female.  "Gender identity" has everything to do with how you feel.  As in, male or female.  If you're a woman trapped in a man's body, you have "gender identity disorder," not "sexual orientation disorder."  And, okay, I'll reluctantly accept that I can't expect everyone in America to know that, but how about a reporter who's reporting on gay and lesbian issues?  Is that too much to ask?  I hope not, because every time the collective I.Q. of the United States slides down another point, I break out in hives.

And look.  I know somebody's gonna say it. "You keep making Christians out to be the bad guys."  I know.  I'm sorry.  But, ya know, I keep getting such good examples.  Where are the rest of you, the 99% of Christians what love one another like Jesus said?  Could y'all grab the microphone away from these other guys and, I dunno, SAY SOMETHING once in a while?  It'd be appreciated.  I used to run with a Lutheran street gang, I know of what I speak.  In San Diego the Christians were the ones trying to close the abortion clinics and gerrymander all the gay and lesbian folk into Imperial Beach until my gang marched downtown to protest the closing of a residential hotel that kept many near-homeless folks off the street.  We were on the news, organist Jared ringing his bell and pastor Noel demanding justice.  We got the hotel to stay open for three more months, long enough for most of the residents to make other arrangements.  And when the Westboro Babtist folks came and protested us, we protested right back at 'em, in the middle of Sunday services, no less.  So never say it can't be done.  Evil flourishes when good people wring their hands about How Things Look and then go back inside to make lutefisk.

Anyway, this blog post started out being something about trying to accept something you don't want to accept because you really, really wanted it to turn out different.  I'm not sure how we ended up in San Diego protesting the Westboro Babtists.  Trouble is, I don't know how to say it, now.  Just that, you know, if you've known someone for a very long time, and all that time they've been doing things a certain way, it's very strange that you would expect them to suddenly do things a different way, just because you want everything to turn out differently from the way it usually does.  Am I being obtuse on purpose?  Um, yes.  But I'm kind of in that sort of situation, and it's no different than expecting Fred Phelps to suddenly appear on TV with his arms around, oh, say, Ellen DeGeneris.  (Sorry, Ellen, if that gives you the creeps; I'd have one of my "He's dripping slime on me" moments, too.)  (Nice thing about blogging; you get to borrow celebrities.  Leonard Nimoy is stopping by next week and the last time Annie Lennox called to say she loved me, my page views shot into the thousands.)

In Buddhism, there's this concept called "radical acceptance."  It's when you pay attention to how you feel about a given situation and just--accept the way that you feel.  You know, just kind of sit there with it, instead of downing a beer or chowing down on several doughnuts or, I dunno, turning on the TV.  No problem doing this when you're happy or serene, and even when you're mildly distressed.  But when you're trying to swallow that the person you've known for a very long time is just basically never going to give you what you want, and you're pounding on a door that ain't never gonna open--whew.  That is some trick, brother.  Much easier to sit with how you feel about Fred Phelps and the San Diego Lutherans, or the WFAA morning show.  Or the Boy Scouts.  But for that, my friends, I am not prepared.