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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Things That Go Boom At 2 A.M.

The author and Mr. Fishy.
A confession:  I am afraid of thunderstorms.  This wasn't any big deal when we lived in California and there was maybe one courtesy thunderclap per storm (and we got maybe a thunderstorm a year, give or take?) but it's become An Issue since we moved to North Texas about ten years ago.  There are plenty of thunderstorms here.  They're big, they're loud, they come with terrifying flashes of lightning, and they always seem to hit about 2 A.M.  Shaken from a sound sleep by the Crack o' Doom directly above my ceiling, I'm prone to getting up, running into Joan's room (yes, we sleep in separate rooms; there are reasons for that, mainly with regard to preferred temperature) and burrowing deep under the covers with Mr. Fishy, here.  Mr. Fishy being a stuffed animal, he never seems to mind.  And there I stay, at least until things calm down and the air is quiet again and Joan says, "Go back to bed, you're too hot." (Well.  Thank you.)

This year, in particular, it's been a challenge.  I mean, it always rains a lot in the spring, but this year is just getting ridiculous.  I mean we're not ducks, for God's sake.  My back yard has been under three inches of water for pretty much a solid month now, I have mushrooms growing all over creation, there are more mosquitoes than you can shake a can of Cutter at and I've lost count of how many times I've gotten up at two a.m. looked up at the steadily vibrating ceiling and told God to stop it.  (Not sure he can hear me over all the thunder, anyway, but it's worth a try.)

So it's 2:55 a.m., I've been up for an hour and I just polished off a bowl of cereal (another consequence of thunderstorms; cereal killing).  Caesar the Cat is keeping an eye on me, the other two are kind of roaming around the kitchen and I'm pretty sure that's hail banging against our chimney up there.  Can the tornado sirens be far behind?

Hopefully not, because this house is not designed for tornadoes.  Everything's above ground.  There's no shelter or anything (and let's face it, it'd be full of water if there was one).  The best we can do when the sirens go off is decamp to the hallway, shut all the doors behind us and hope that the worst we get is flying debris.  Flying debris is, by the way, your number one problem during most tornadoes; getting sucked up into a funnel cloud doesn't happen nearly as often as Hollywood makes it out, though I guess it is a possibility.  A couple of years ago a tornado went by about a mile and a half from here.  Plenty of noise and wind and general scaryness but nobody hurt.  I have this theory about tornadoes; I think they aim for trailer parks.  Why?  Because the first thing they do when they build a trailer park is get rid of all the trees.  This is stupid; trees deflect heat, and tornadoes seem to be particularly interested in heat.  Anyway, my house has been here for 58 years, and has never been hit by a tornado. One should never say never, but last time the sirens went off (a couple of days ago) I woke up, pondered their existence, and then went back to sleep.  Until the next thunderclap.

In California, there were frequent small earthquakes and a few big ones.  I grew up in earthquake country, mainly Utah, and I had plenty of instruction in what to do if an earthquake strikes.  Best advice, get under a desk or another heavy piece of furniture.  Doorways won't really do it for you if the building collapses, but desks--there was a school that collapsed in Mexico City in 1985, and what held up the roof and the two stories that fell was a row of standard student desks.  All the kids under the desks were fine.  Still, what I actually did during earthquakes was generally just stand there, like a fool, until they were over.  Unless it was the middle of the night, like it generally was, and then I'd wake up, look around, see if anything was falling off a shelf, and if not, I'd just go back to sleep.  I was there for Northridge in 1994 and I'm not sure I even woke up that time.

So if I can do it with earthquakes I can do it with thunderstorms, right? Wrong.  As long as these long lines of "low pressure disturbances" are going to rumble through Dallas in the middle of the night like this, scattering chaos and mayhem, I'm gonna be losing sleep.  And (leaning against the door with one ear to a glass) yep, there go the tornado sirens.  Cripes, I'm gonna be finishing this blog post in the hallway.  With Mr. Fishy.  Cheers, all.  I hope your evening continues not to suck.

PS. Would whoever gave us the gift subscription to Architectural Digest kindly fess up?   Thanks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Go Read This Blog Post.

Go read this blog post.

Seriously.  Go read it.  Click this link right here.  It is not often that I come across something that so completely encapsulates my thoughts on any subject, never mind abortion, but here one is.  

Yeah, I know all of you won't click the link.  That's okay.  The blogger (and for the life of me, I couldn't find out the author's name or how to contact her) is positing the sort of questions that the pollsters should be asking about this subject.  Never mind this whiny "Is it okay if a woman has an abortion if she's been raped?  If she's dying?  If she's ten years old?"  nonsense.  No, these are the real questions.  The hard questions.  The questions nobody wants to answer.

I'm'a'gonna give you an example.  This is risky, because I couldn't get ahold of the author (see above) to ask permission, but I'm thinking the "fair use" clause from the Copyright Act (17 u.s.c. § 101) will probably cover my butt. (I once had a two hour long conversation with a library director about the "fair use" clause, much to the annoyance of my boss, who hated the guy but was too polite to leave while I was still there talking to him).  Anyway, this is one of the questions that the author would ask, if she were a pollster:

1. Do you think it is acceptable to force a woman to carry a pregnancy and give birth against her will?
  • Yes, always
  • Yes, under some circumstances
  • No, never
2. If you answered “Yes, always,” what methods are acceptable to force the woman to continue her pregnancy?
  • Imprisonment until after birth
  • Mandatory subjection to monitoring of fetal well-being on a daily basis
  • Monitoring of the woman’s location, such as through an ankle bracelet
  • Provision of a chaperone to ascertain the woman’s whereabouts and actions
  • Monitoring of all communications to ascertain the woman is not planning to end the pregnancy
  • Other (please specify)
5. If certain methods are only acceptable for certain circumstances, please match the best method to each circumstance.  

Not so easy to answer, are they?  And here are a few I came up with all by myself:

If a woman is pregnant and continues to use illegal drugs, is it acceptable to imprison her until after birth?

What about legal drugs, like Ativan or Klonopin?

What about legal drugs, like OxyContin and Vicodin?

a.   Should she be incarcerated in an actual prison, or would a hospital be more appropriate?
   1.   If a hospital, should she be allowed to refuse medical procedures, such as a glucose tolerance test, or should she be declared incompetent to make her own decisions?
   2.   Should she be allowed to get a second opinion, or should she be required to do whatever her doctor says?
 b.   If a prison, should the state be required to provide her with medical care, or is that her problem?  

What about legal drugs, like something for depression, that might cause birth defects?

How about if she won't quit drinking?  Smoking?  Sky diving?  Rocky Mountain climbing?  Skiing?  

Should a woman ever be allowed to give birth at home?  Or should any woman attempting to give birth at home be arrested and taken immediately to the nearest hospital as soon as it becomes obvious that she's not going to go there of her own accord?  

Under what circumstances should a pregnant woman be reported to Child Protective Services for failure to follow doctor's orders?  

 Hyperbole, you say? Not at all.  Researchers found 413 cases  of forced medical interventiosn on pregnant women, ranging from mandatory C-sections  to actual imprisonment on the grounds of protecting the fetus.  You know, that critter that's evidently so much more important than the born woman walking around with it that women are being stripped of their civil rights, especially in states like Tennessee  and Alabama, on a regular basis.  Because when a fetus is considered more important than its mother, then its mother becomes a container.  Nothing else. 

In closing, one final question: If an adult woman is capable of making her own medical decisions, how does the implantation of an egg in her uterus change her mental capacity?

But I suspect you already know the answer to that.   

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Collisions of the Faith: Mormons vs. Buddhists

I adore Mormons.  Yes, I lived in Salt Lake City for 13 years and they were not happy years, and yes, I still frick'n have PTSD as a result, but still, I adore Mormons.  How can you not?  They're so nice.  They make Texans look blunt and abrupt.  They're so pretty. Mostly of Scandinavian descent (ahem, ahem).  Plus, they love their families.  I mean, seriously.  They love their families.  You do, of course, know that the reason the whole anti-same-sex marriage thing is petering out is because the Mormons, the driving force behind it, realized they were on an unsustainable course with their own faith. Yes, of course they were.  They were out there attacking "the gays" and suddenly somebody said, "Wait a minute.  My son is gay."  Then somebody else said, "Oh my God.  I have a gay aunt."  And just like a soap bubble bursting on the nose of a curious cat, the whole thing began to fall apart. Because the family is paramount in Mormonism.  The family is everything.  You always defend and stand with members of your family, no matter what.  And when they realized they were in essence attacking their own family members, that was the end of it.  Now there's no one left to carry the anti-same-sex marriage banner but a couple of hardcore old Republican guys, and even their own Young Republicans are saying, "Dudes.  Knock it off or we'll give all our money to Rand Paul."  Oh, and I forgot to mention weddings.  Mormons love weddings more than Greeks and Mexicans combined.  So how can more weddings possibly be bad?

Besides all that, they dress well and send their kids off to preach the faith at a tender age.  Two of the nicest boys knocked on my door the other day and we chatted about Salt Lake City for at least 20 minutes. They wouldn't come inside because there was no man in the house, except Caesar the Cat, but I was still happy to see them.  Because they're so nice.  Did I mention they were nice?

The only thing about Mormons that I don't like is that there's a serious problem in the afterlife.  In fact, Mormons and Buddhists collide so violently in the hereafter that they cannot possibly both be right.  It's not like there's a Mormon heaven somewhere and a Buddhist heaven somewhere else.  If the Mormon heaven exists, then the Buddhist afterlife cannot, and vice versa.  It's like the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I get this mental picture of Joseph Smith and H.H. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama pounding the crap out of each other somewhere in outer space.  I don't know who's gonna win, but it's ugly.

Mormons, in case you did not know this, do this thing called "baptism by proxy" or, as it's more commonly known, "baptism of the dead".  Which is exactly what it sounds like.  You, the living person, voluntarily allow yourself to be baptized in the name of someone who has died (and considering the Mormons go for total immersion, this is no small thing.  I mean, people have drowned.)  The reason for doing this is historical.  Mormonism, or the Church of Latter-Day Saints as it's formally called, only came about in the 1800s.  Before that, we have some 10,000 years of human history, not counting the other 300,000 years when we were still getting used to being homo sapiens, in which there was no Mormonism.  Therefore, if you believe that yours is the One True Church (and Mormons do), there's scads and scads of predeceased humans who died without ever hearing the Good News.  And they're all burning in hell.  Which, if you ask me, is a terrible thing to happen to you just because you never got to hear the Good News.

So, what Mormons do is research their family histories (you were wondering why the did that, didn't you?) in their chain of genealogical libraries, which are the best in the world.  I don't know if you've ever tried to trace your family history, but I promise it is not easy.  Oh, sure, your grandparents and great-grandparents you probably know by name, but much farther than that and you're combing through old census records, baptismal records, marriage certificates and all kinds of stuff.  And when it comes to more distant relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) it gets even more complicated.  My mother does this (not, as far as I'm aware, to baptize dead people, though one never knows) and though she's put in considerable time and effort over several years, I don't even think she's past the 1700s yet, never mind out of America and back to the Old World.  I know I'm from Iceland, that part was easy, but other than that, the rumor is that we're English.  Or maybe Scotch-Irish.  I'd rather be Scotch-Irish, even if they did chase the Native Americans out of Appalachia.

Anyway, if you're a Mormon, this is a sacred duty.  You find out who your relatives are so you can be baptized in their names, thus giving them a get-out-of-hell-free card if they want to accept and embrace the true Church.  From what I understand, it's still a choice.  If they want to stay, say, Methodist, they can stay in hell. Without the baptism by proxy, though, there's no choice at all.  So you can see why somebody would want to be a proxy.  It's the Right Thing To Do.

Buddhists, you know, don't do the whole heaven thing.  They come back and live again, even, for the most part, if they become enlightened.  Once you're enlightened, see, you can choose to become a bodhisattva, which means you choose to come back even though you could skip it to teach the dharma to others "until even the grass is enlightened."  So if you come back, and go on to live another life, and you're, say, an eighth-grader in Beijing or something, what happens if somebody baptizes you by proxy in the name of the dead person you once were?  Do you suddenly get yanked out of your body and arrive in Mormon heaven?  And what happens to your body, if you decide to stay in Mormon heaven?  Does it just keep on going without you?  Without a soul and all that?

Imagine a world full of mostly-Asian people walking around without a soul.  Maybe it's already happened.  Maybe that's how you explain Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong, Junior.  Before anybody panics and suggests we wipe out Southeast Asia, though, let me point out that most psychopathic serial killers are not Asian.  So if anybody's walking around without a soul, it's non-Mormon Christian white guys.

Still, it bears being concerned about.  Because Buddhists don't kill things, right?  And so the very last thing you'd want to be as a Buddhist is a serial killer, see?  So that's why we're on this collision course with Mormons.  Only one can win.  So, I say be as nice to each other in this life as possible.  If the Mormons win, you'll get your chance to go to Mormon heaven sooner.  If the Buddhists win, you'll be more likely to be reincarnated as a Mormon.

Either way, behave, y'all.