Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't Abuse The Retailers

Okay, I work in a bookstore, and have for fourteen years now. Not the same location all these years, but the same company. If you've ever worked in retail or in the service industry, you're aware that there are a number of behaviors that get on the nerves of the customer service person. We (customer service folks) all understand these general items, and we all deal with them in our own ways.

The book selling world, like every other specialty retail industry, has its own set of gripes, though. Lucky for me, the vast majority of my time with my employer has been spent as a Receiving Manager, so I don't deal with the public on a regular basis. I have “been there, done that”, though, and I still am occasionally called on to help out on the sales floor, so I've had my share of … “experiences”. Plus, the Receiving room seems to be the default “venting zone”, where booksellers go directly after a stressful experience, to vent their frustration in tones and vocabulary that would get them in trouble elsewhere. So, I get to keep abreast of what's going on in the world of bookseller abuse.

Here, then, in no particular order, are some common bookseller gripes. Please take heed, because you may very well be guilty of some of them yourself.

Where's your nonfiction section?

Okay, I understand that in Elementary school we were taught that the school library was divided into “Fiction” and “Nonfiction”. You're not in third grade anymore, Toto. When we're asked this question, our deepest desire is to point to the quarter of the store that houses Fiction and its sub-genres, and say “You see that corner? It's everything else”. Seriously – what do you expect to find in this nonexistent “Nonfiction Section”? Books on Astronomy? Then we can direct you to our Science section. Web Design? You need Computers. Home Improvement? Art? Collecting? Pets? These all have their own sections. Just tell us what you're looking for and we'll get you there a lot quicker. Without wanting to plunge a pen into your eye or ours.

My kid needs this book tomorrow.

Seriously? Little Johnny or Susie has had. All. Freaking. Summer. To read this book. Or maybe it's just half the semester. Whatever. You and I both know damn well that his/her teacher didn't just assign the book today with a deadline of having it tomorrow. Your child's procrastination isn't our fault. We're out of the damn book because all of Johnny's classmates already came in and bought or ordered their copies. Don't get mad at us because the only copy available is in a warehouse in Tennessee. You should've been here last week. Or, you know – at the beginning of the summer.

How could you be out? Everyone is buying it.

I know, I know. Your teacher told you the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. She was wrong. This is a stupid question. Yes, everyone is buying it. That would be exactly why we're out of it, you brain trust. Yet, this is a direct quote from a customer several years ago. Pardon me, while I sigh and slap my forehead....

I don't know the title. Or the author. But it was about a man. And a woman.

This ranks right up there with saying “Oh, you're from Random City? My friend Joe is from there, too. Do you know him?” Seriously, folks, a highly vague description, without even any non-generic plot points to distinguish the book? And we're supposed to just reach our magic hands right into your little subconscious, dig around and find that literary gem you're so intrigued by that every detail has escaped you? Puh-lease.

Oh! It was a bestseller five years ago.

Let me guess: It was also featured on Oprah, right? Like approximately five thousand other books. By the way, there are hundreds of “bestseller lists”. There are two that matter to us. The New York Times Bestseller list, and our own, which is populated by books that sold the best in our stores. Just because a Sci Fi fan magazine has its own bestseller list doesn't mean anyone else outside their own readership pays any attention to it.

And I'm sure it had a blue cover. Does that help?

Not even a little. Please stop; you're giving me an aneurism now.

Ugh! It's cheaper online, you know.

In other words, you only came in here to use our air conditioning, browse through and dogear, rip, and tear the covers on our hardcovers that you “browsed”, leave a stack of picked-through newspapers which are as hard to reassemble as road maps, spill coffee on the carpet, and leave magazines in our restrooms. Yes, those magazines. We know all about that, you're not fooling anyone...

Gee, too bad Amazon doesn't have to pick up the electricity, monthly professional carpet cleaning, and daily janitorial bills, too.

Do you have a copier?

What's the word I'm looking for, here? Oh, yeah: plagiarism. It's a crime. If you don't know what it means, Google it.

***Correction*** It was pointed out to me in the comments section that I misused the word "plagiarism". I absolutely hate when I do things like this. It's not plagiarism, it's copyright infringement, but it's still a crime.

You only sell liberal (or conservative) books, and hide all the others, because of your company's bias.

Sure. That's exactly right. That political book that's a runaway bestseller? Nope, we don't want any of those sales dollars. You know, because we're not a business or anything. I mean, it's not like we're here to make money, ya know? Hey, Mr Beck fan, while you're bitching about how all the books on the display are by liberal authors, I want you to stop and think about three months ago, when it was all conservative authors. Why didn't you accuse us of bias then? There are two factors at work here:
  1. Displays tend to have a theme. You don't usually see books about Pug puppies and 1970s Muscle Cars on the same table, right? Or books on Hinduism and Christianity? There's a reason for that. They don't go together.
  2. For some reason, I don't know if it's intentional on the part of the publisher, coincidence or divine intervention, but there seems to be a pattern that a bunch of books by conservatives will come out, then a few months later, a bunch of liberal books will be published within a couple weeks of each other.

This is not us plotting against you. This is a combination of natural rhythms in the publishing world and good merchandising.

Phone customers who have us look for a bunch of books, then don't put them on hold.

So, you thought ahead enough to call and make sure we had each one of the items in your long list of books? Great! I just spent half an hour running back and forth between the phone and five different sections of the store, finding and retrieving the books you seem to be interested in. There's only one copy of each of them, and I have them all stacked together right here. What? You don't want me to put them on hold for you? But – there's only one copy of each. We might sell it before you come in, otherwise. What? You were just curious as to whether we have them? So.... I just wasted half an hour and no small amount of aggravation, only to have to spend another half hour re-shelving them? Knowing the whole time that you will indeed come in for at least one of them. Five minutes after we sell it to someone else.

Your website said you have it”.

Websites are great. I'm glad you did a little research before you came in. However, there's no way that website can know if we have it right this minute. I'm pretty sure there's no software that can update stuff that quick. There might be, but if there is, I'm sure it's so expensive the only people who can afford it are NSA. Use the website to see if it's something we normally carry. Then call or stop by to see if it's in. But if you call, please don't be like the person in the last item.

The teacher said you have it.

My apologies to teachers if you're innocent of this, but seriously, teachers are one of our biggest frustrations. If you're going to assign Of Mice And Men to 300 of your students to read this semester, don't just call us and ask if we carry the title and then say thanks and hang up when we say yes. Geez, it's Steinbeck; of course we carry it. Probably about three copies under normal conditions. We would so love it if you let us know that you're a teacher in a local school and that you'd like to send your students to us. With the proper notice, we can have those 300 books here and waiting for those kids.

The author's website said it comes out today.

Sorry, but the author's webmaster and publisher don't always see eye to eye on availability dates. Sometimes that's a shipping date. Sometimes it's an optimistic projected date. Sometimes it's a WAG (Wild Ass Guess). Sometimes, it's an outright lie, intended to keep you salivating for the next sequel, hoping you'll be so happy to finally have it that you won't notice how formulaic and boring the series has become due to the author's ego- and alcohol- induced boredom with the whole thing.

You don't have it? No, I don't want to order it from you; I'll just order it through Amazon.

Then why didn't you do that to start with? Seriously. See the earlier item about things being cheaper online. They're cheaper for a reason: no customer service, no atmosphere, no flipping through the actual book, coffee in hand, before making that final purchasing decision.

Parents who watch their kid throw books/merch on floor and don't correct or clean up after said kid.
We. Are. Not. A. Daycare. Seriously. We've seen you drop your kids off in the Children's Department and disappear elsewhere in the store for an hour. Hell, at one store I worked in, we had a problem with parents telling their children to wait at our store after they got off the school bus until Mom got out of work. And then there are the parents who literally watch their kids throw books on the floor, pull merchandise off the shelf, open packages, making most of this stuff unsellable. Guess what? Some of it is even non-returnable for us, meaning we can't return it to the vendor for a refund when you don't buy what your kid destroyed. We have to write it off as a loss. So, when the price of that Sydney Sheldon hardback goes up? You and your negligent “parenting” directly contributed.

Rudeness to bookseller, just because he/she is a captive audience who isn't allowed to fight back from the verbal attack.

Okay, this one isn't bookseller specific. It applies to every retail, food service, beverage service, and even adult oriented industry worker out there. Yes, they are there to provide you a service. Yes, they are very limited in what they can say back to you. Yes, they have to stand there and take it to protect their livelihood. Which means if you decide to lay into a service worker just because you can, you are a total and complete asshole and a bully. And I hope somebody runs over you in the parking lot, dickhead.

There. Got that off my chest. For now, anyway....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sounds of a Good Day

Alarm goes off. You don't mind, because it's an hour later than usual and you're not going to work.

Hot shower running.

Bacon sizzling.

Coffeepot gurgling.

Garage door being rolled open.

Bike firing up in the garage.

“You ready, babe? Climb on.”

Clunk. First gear.

Motorcycle accelerating.

Greetings from brothers and sisters.

Waitress pouring a second cup of coffee.

Pack of bikes starting up in morning air.

Kickstands clatter up.

RPMs rising and falling as riders shift gears.

Kickstands click down and scrape onto gas station pavement.

Gas pumping.

Clink of Zippos.

Sodas and beers snick and hiss open.

Bikes roar back on the road.

Bikes power down.

Gravel crunching under tires.

“Welcome to the ______ Rally!”

Tents, sleeping bags thump onto the ground.

Hammers pound tent stakes.

Beers snick open, liquor bottle seals are broken.

(edited slightly from Worth Cadenhead's facebook post April 12, 2011)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Equal or More Equal?

Twice in two weeks or so, I've been slammed for trying to “oppress” friends' Freedom of Speech. A couple of Fridays ago on facebook, I called out two friends in two different posts about some pretty racist comments. The next Monday morning, a third friend posted the following:

“I've seen a number of post that some people find offensive lately, and to these people I say, hey this is America. Where you can say and believe whatever you want. Or even laugh to whatever you like. And yes even you have the right to not like it and say so. But it doesn't make you a better person, it just makes you a whiner, yeah, its my right too.“

And yes, of course it's his right to laugh at whatever racist jokes he finds funny. However, the comment thread contained comments about how Free Speech is not a one way street. Odd then, that the implication was that to disagree with the offensive comments was somehow wrong. Seems like we're veering to a one way street after all, just going the other way.

Last night, I posted a joke. I'll admit it was inflammatory, deriding religion. Actually, it was downright offensive, to be honest. But what's odd is that the same man with the previously quoted status accused me of “waving my atheism” in his face. As if my posting anti-religious items is shoving my beliefs down his throat (his words), but other people posting prayers and scriptures is just fine. Again, with the one way street.

There's a perception in this country lately that certain groups are under attack; that they're being oppressed. I just find it ironic that these people are typically the majority groups. Christians claim there's a “war” on their religion. Seriously? When we have their holidays, and even their day of worship institutionalized into our culture? Christmas, Easter, St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween. (Yes, Halloween – the word is short for “All Hallow's Eve”, the day before All Hallows Day, which are Catholic holy days.)

So what if the current President didn't have a National Day of Prayer? Do we really want religion that enmeshed into our politics? The Right Wing says yes, but only because mostoutspokenly religious people in office tend to be Christians. I'm sure if we had a Buddhist or Hindu or Wiccan President who called for a National Day of Prayer, these same people would decry it as “forcing his religion on the rest of the country”.

Another segment claiming to be under attack is the wealthy. Now, don't get me wrong – I have no problem with people being compensated for a highly technical, difficult or even distasteful skill or job. I also have no problem with investors getting return on their investment. It's what keeps our economy going, and large corporations give us economy of scale, which enable people like me to buy things like motorcycles and computers. But executives aren't usually investors. They are given their stock, they don't buy it. I'm okay with that, but don't act like they “deserve” it any more than they “deserve” their salary. The Unions may be wasteful, may be corrupt, and may be in need of having their systems overhauled, but if it weren't for them, we'd all be working 18 hour days, six days a week for subsistence wages, with no sick time, no vacation time, no insurance benefits. We'd work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, often locked into our work areas with no means of escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. Had the executives done the right thing in the first place, there never would have been any need for labor unions. Higher wages and benefits for union workers is NOT where companies are losing revenue. Let's use Ford's CEO Alan Mulally for an example. In 2010, he “earned” $26,520,515. Funny thing, since his base salary was only $1,400,000. He took home $9,450,000 in bonuses. Get that? Bonuses. What the hell can you do that your bonus is 6.75 times your base salary? He also got nearly seven and a half million dollars in stock. Now, taking just his base salary, and looking at the wage that an autoworker with one to two years experience makes, it would take that autoworker 51 years to earn what this guy did. And that's just his base salary, which was only 18.94% of what he made. So, multiple that 51 years by a little over five. Corporations are hemorrhaging money from the top, not from the bottom. Also, bear in mind this guy didn't invent anything. He didn't even invest anything – his stock was given to him. So, basically, he's a paper pushing monkey in a suit with a degree. That's what he brought to Ford's table. That's what makes him worth over 255 autoworkers, in Ford's eyes. I don't see it.

So, to the people whose faith is the prominent one, which has attempted throughout history to dominate all others, and to the wealthy – who have the real power in a capitalistic society, I say it's not your equality that's under attack, it's your supremacy.

Edit: I intended to include the link where I obtained information about Mr. Mulally's income, but forgot to do so. Here is my source:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Protection or Fashion?

Full face helmet: check

Full finger gloves: check

Textile, armored mesh jacket: check

Good for you, Ricky Rocketrider. You've prudently chosen to make sure your vital organs and skin are protected in case some jackass blind, cell phone talking, text messaging soccer mom in an SUV knocks you off your bike.

Wait. What the fuck? Shorts? On a motorcycle? You're kidding, right? Okay, guys who wear no protective clothing, and just hop on in shorts and a tank top to ride to the gym or whatever I can sort of understand. I don't agree with it, but at least they're consistent. But you....I don't get it. You're all encased in safety, but only above the waist. You make it look like you're concerned about road rash, because you wear the jacket even when it's blazing hot.

Dude, if you're worried about the skin on your arms, you definitely need to worry about your leg skin. If you go down sliding and stay on the bike, your arms may get lucky and avoid the asphalt altogether. Even if you come off the bike, you may only get minor scrapes on your arms. You can argue about whether or not to wear a helmet – your head may or may not even touch the ground. I've only gone down twice in 22 years of riding – once with, once without a helmet. I was lucky - neither my head nor my helmet hit the pavement. But the one guarantee about dropping a bike is that. Your. Leg. Will. Scrape. Along. The. Asphalt. Possibly with the weight of the bike on it. Wanna get an idea of what that would feel like? Have the biggest guy you know put all his weight on a cheese grater and rub it on your bare thigh. Then do the same thing over a pair of Levi's.

If you're smart enough to pilot a motorcycle in Austin traffic without dying, you have to be smart enough to realize all this. Which brings me to the conclusion that your flashy jacket and helmet aren't really for protection.

They're a god damned fashion statement.

Put some pants on, you fucking poser.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spam, Old People and Caps Lock

I'm in the habit of scrolling through the Spam folder in my email ever since I lost a "real" email from a friend years ago. I look to make sure nothing got filtered as Spam that shouldn't have, and I also like reading some of the subject lines because they can be funny.

This leads me to certain thoughts:

This one isn't exactly Spam related, but what the hell is the deal with CAPS LOCK? It seems to be mainly older people. Do they think "Hey, I'll just use capital letters all the time so I don't have to use the Shift key at the beginning of each sentence and for proper nouns"? You might as well go the other way, and never capitalize, because either way is equally grammatically incorrect, and to the rest of us, THIS IS THE SAME THING AS YELLING.

Is anybody fooled by an unsolicited email from a "bank executive" in an African nation who has a depositor who died with a large balance and no heirs, and just wants you to help him get the money before his government claims it? He chose you because you were referred to him because of your outstanding Christian morals, after all. All he needs is your date of birth, snail mail address, bank account number and password. What harm could possibly come from that? You have nothing to lose and millions to gain...

And how about those emails from "Face Book"? Women who can't spell their own names correctly, but they want to have sex with you. Tonight. And the emails directly from the women themselves with subject lines like "Wanna get it on?"...  I can picture some old man who just doesn't quite understand how the Interweb works, who feels the need to answer every correspondence:

"Dear Tatiana, I'm really flattered, but I'm a happily married man. You seem like a nice young lady, and pretty, too. I'm sure you'll have no problem finding a nice young man your own age to help you with your immigration problems."

Of course, being an old man, though, his reply would be in all caps and full of misspelled words...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later


Ten years later.


I wasn't feeling very well on the evening of the tenth of September, 2001, so I called my work and told them that if I felt better I'd be there, but otherwise not to expect me. Little did I know, the next morning's news would initially make me feel worse, then wind up making me entirely forget that I was sick...

The next morning, I was trying to sleep in, but my phone kept ringing. I finally answered it. My girlfriend was on the line, saying with a concerned tone “There's some shit going on.” My sleepy brain thought she meant some office intrigue at her work. Then, when I asked her what was happening, she told me a plane had hit a building in New York. Since she didn't sound panicked, I didn't grasp the enormity of the moment. I told her it seemed really weird that a pilot wouldn't see something as big as a WTC tower, and that even if it were extremely foggy or cloudy, planes have radar and various ways to fly “blind”. She agreed it was odd and said there wasn't much other information at the time. I went back to sleep.

Not long after, my pager buzzed (I was still living in the 90s and didn't have a cell phone yet). It showed my ex's phone number followed by 911, pager era “text speak” for an emergency. I was awake – I thought something was wrong with my son, who was two and half years old. I jumped up and called her. When she answered, there was no hello, no greeting at all, just

“Turn on the TV. Channel 4. NOW!”

“What? Why?”

“Just do it. Now. Do it!”

I ran into the living room, grabbed the remote, thumbed on the TV, pressed “4” and “Enter”.

I saw the second building collapse.

“What the fuck?”

We heard about the plane that hit the Pentagon. I realized I had known people while I was at Ft. Meade, MD who worked there. I wondered if anyone I'd served with was there when the plane struck.

News came in about the plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and then we found out what had happened. True heroes on that plane. 

True heroes in NYFD. Anybody who can see thousands running in panic away from something, and then run toward it.... Well, any words I can think of are inadequate to describe their bravery.

I spent the rest of the day pacing back and forth between the TV in the living room, and the radio in my bedroom tuned to talk radio. I punctuated the pacing with phone calls to my ex, to my girlfriend, to my parents, and to my brother. He was out of the Army, but was still in that period of time that he could be recalled into service, so I was worried. I thought about all the people I'd served with in the Navy, and those I knew in other branches. I wondered how many were still in, and what would happen to them. I spent the day somehow both numb and in pain, choking back tears as we all watched those towers fall, over and over, replay after replay, slow motion, and true speed.

That evening, once I was pretty sure it was over and I wouldn't miss anything by leaving the apartment, I went to my ex's to hug my little boy.

That was my day on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Platform of the Horseshoes and Handgrenades Party

Well, it's about fourteen months from election time. I decided I'd go ahead and weigh in with my political stance now, so as not to be accused later of jumping on a bandstand, or intentionally being a contrarian. I consider myself to be solidly middle of the road. I think this is born out by the complementary facts that my conservative friends think I'm a raging liberal and that my liberal friends think I'm a conservative. The truth is that I take a liberal stand on some issues, and a conservative stand on others, but on most I find the most common-sense, easiest to apply solution lies in the middle ground. I'm sure this will confuse some and irritate others. I wouldn't have it any other way.

In no particular order, here are the issues that I listed on a piece of paper, and my very general thoughts on them.

Private Ownership of Weapons:

Okay, I get the initial objection. Who really needs military hardware? I mean, an RPG is a pretty stupid choice for home defense. However, I own guns, and if I could afford it and it were legal, I'd love to have a fully automatic weapon to play with at the range. I wouldn't use an automatic weapon for defense, though, because they require training I haven't received in order to be effective. Still, it would be fun to make matchsticks out of a tree trunk. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with veterans or anyone else who has received training with automatics owning them. It's not the regular law abiding citizen that should be seen as a threat. The Second Amendment gives the people the right to keep and bear arms. Notice that's “people”, not “state”, not “federal government”. The government doesn't need a Constitutional amendment to give itself rights; this is guaranteeing rights to you and me.

In addition to the whole gun control issue, is the fight that private citizens are now waging to be allowed to own pocket knives. Yes, in some places, there is a lobby to outlaw knives. The oldest and most commonly used tool in the history of mankind, and they're trying to take it away. Guess what? I carry a Buck knife with a locking blade between 3 and 4 inches long. Not as a weapon, but because I open boxes for a living. Sometimes utility knives get mislaid, and I can whip this off my belt and carry on with work without wasting time. Also, sometimes you need a sturdier blade than the flimsy, glorified razor blade in those box knives. I carry a Tinker model Swiss Army knife, too, because you'd be surprised just how often those little miniature tools come in handy. This doesn't qualify as an arsenal in my mind. But, with the Second Amendment, so what if it is?

The simple fact of the matter is that outlawing anything doesn't keep it out of the hands of criminals. Have you noticed that crack hasn't disappeared from the planet? If you outlaw my guns and knives, it just means that some guy breaking into my house knows I'm unarmed.


Well, this is quite the buzzkill topic, eh? Are we talking a child, here, or a choice? Both? Neither? Okay, here's my line of thinking. I really don't think it should ever be considered lightly and any woman who chooses abortion as her primary form of birth control should probably go join a convent or something. However, I will also say that I don't think a woman should have to carry the child of her rapist or molester. I also don't think that a fetus is a separate life until the pregnancy has reached the stage where the child can survive outside the mother.

Guess I'm not so long winded on this topic.


I like the idea of a safety net for those who need help temporarily. Yes, I know it comes from taxes we all pay, but think of it as insurance against people becoming those panhandlers who annoy you at the off ramp. What I do have a problem with is people whose career goal is “Welfare Recipient” and have no desire to earn a damn thing for themselves. I don't mind temporarily helping with food and necessities for the family whose breadwinner got laid off or injured and can't work. I do mind supporting lifelong laziness. I have no problem with requiring a drug test before handing out the food stamps and welfare checks. I'd include testing for alcohol and nicotine. Cigarettes are expensive with all the sin taxes being hurled at them lately. If you can't afford food, you damn sure shouldn't be literally burning your grocery money.


Okay. Hot topic. Lots of ranting and raving from the Left and the Right. We have a system in place to allow for immigration. I'm sorry, but it's not everyone’s God given right to live in the U.S. Follow the system. Stop making excuses for illegal immigrants. The key word here is “illegal”. They broke the law to be here. Don't give me that crap about “No person is illegal”. Of course his or her existence isn't illegal. His/her presence is. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is a slap in the face of legal immigrants, like telling them they went through all the red tape and jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops for nothing. On the other hand, if somebody has a valid driver's license, don't harass him for his green card or demand a birth certificate. I don't carry a copy of my birth certificate with me, and it's unreasonable to demand a U.S. Citizen to do so just because his skin is brown. We don't require our citizens to carry “traveling papers” here. Well, maybe in Arizona...

Capital Punishment:

Wow. I usually have a pretty good idea of where I stand, but I'm really unsure and clouded here. I really and truly believe there are people who deserve execution. I think it's jumped to too quickly in a lot of cases, though. I think, with a few exceptions, if there's a chance of rehabilitation, then a lighter sentence should be given. On the other extreme (hey, I'm full of internal contradictions) I think a sentence of life without parole is kind of dumb. You're saying you don't want any chance of this person ever being out in the world again. Ever. So you dump him in prison, where he costs the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year in food, housing, and guards. Plus, there's the chance he could escape. If he's never to be let out of prison, why not execute him?

On the other hand, many innocent men have been convicted, then later exonerated on new evidence. How tragic it would be to find evidence vindicating someone after he's been executed? That makes the state, and by proxy, all of us, guilty of murder. And don't give me that crap about “I'd rather execute innocent men than let guilty men go free”. Guess what, genius? For every innocent man imprisoned or executed, the real guilty one IS FREE. AND you've killed an innocent person.

Because of the fact that innocent people sometimes are convicted, capital punishment makes me nervous. I wouldn't call for stopping it, but I would strongly urge judicious hesitation in its use.

Creation of Federal Jobs:

Big subject here. Yes, I know their pay comes out of taxes. So would their food money otherwise. And those tax dollars going into their checks then goes into the economy in the form of buying groceries, paying rent, buying vehicles and gas and clothes and whatever else employed people buy that unemployed panhandlers don't. I know – you're thinking that then we have to keep paying them because they have this job. Well, look back at the jobs FDR created. Federal and Interstate highways. Yup, they're built, all right. Guess what? You like using them, right? Do ya like not having potholes and cracks in them? Federal parks – built. They still have to be maintained and policed, eh? There's work to be done, and if money is being paid to workers, then it automatically goes back into the economy.

Gay Marriage:

Don't tell me gay marriage in any way affects the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. The only things affecting the sanctity of your marriage are you, your spouse, and your actions. If the sanctity of your marriage is affected by anything outside that, go get some marital counseling. Think about all the straight people you know who have been married multiple times. I'll hold myself up as a bad example. I have two failed marriages and a failed cohabitational relationship behind me, and I'm in a cohabitational relationship now. That's four women I've lived with in 21 years. There are many gay couples who have been faithfully together longer than that. How is my situation any better than theirs? Some will claim Biblical reasons. I'd remind them of the separation of Church and State (more on that later), and also remind them that if we go Biblical, depending on whose interpretation you use, their own relationship may be called into legal question. I was raised to believe divorce was only allowed in the case of adultery, and that the guilty party had no right to remarry. You wanna institute that as civil law? No? Then let's not base our laws on a 1500 year old ambiguous text.

Military Action:

I'm no pacifist. I do think we stick our noses and guns into too many other countries' business too much, though. Like my thoughts on capital punishment and abortion, I think it should be a last resort to invade another country. I don't hold that against the troops by any means, however. They took an oath to give their lives to defend this country, and part of their job is to follow orders. They don't get to question, they just go. I'm a veteran; I understand this, and I thank those serving now. As a matter of fact, today is Friday – I wore a red shirt, did you?

Separation of Church and State:

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “

I think a lot of people focus on the part that says “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, and ignore the part before it, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. I think it's telling that the forefathers stated the part about no laws respecting a religion before the part about not prohibiting the exercise. The first part means that freedom OF religion does indeed mean freedom FROM religion as well. If we don't practice the same faith, then how can I have freedom of my religion unless I'm free from yours?

Free Speech:

It's really tiresome to hear some guy go on and on about freedom of speech, only to have him try and shut you down when he finds out you disagree with him. Especially when he tells you you need to move out of the country because you're too liberal, or too conservative, or too religious, or too …

Freedom of speech is for everybody's opinions, not just the popular. The popular opinions don't need a law to protect them. Beliefs and speech supporting government don't need protection. It's the dissident for whom this Amendment was written.

And, as much as I support our troops, whenever somebody protests military action/war, and a veteran says “I fought so you could have the right to say that shit”, he's kind of contradicting himself, isn't he? He's saying he fought to preserve freedoms that this protestor is exercising, yet is offended that the protestor is is using the gift the veteran gave him. I've never understood this argument.

Federal Power vs State Power

Guess what? This is one that can take a whole post just by itself....

Monday, September 5, 2011

Salute To The Heroes

I live about twenty five miles from Bastrop, TX. Until about two years ago, I lived about eight miles away. There's a secondary fire on the road that houses the RV park where I used to live. It just occurred to me that if I hadn't gotten with my Other Half, and if we hadn't had Baby Girl, I would have been still living there, only I would have been at a party at the clubhouse of the Dallas chapter of my MC. I probably would've gotten home Sunday just in time to not be allowed to go home. I would've had the clothes on my back, and my motorcycle.

Also, sixteen years ago, my ex and I had a house fire and lost everything but clothes and furniture from one end of the house.

I have a whole hell of a lot of respect for firefighters. I saw my garage enveloped in flames that January night in 1995. I can't imagine running INTO a fire. Pure courage. The word "hero" just doesn't seem adequate. And to think there are people who do this as volunteers? It's not even their paid profession, but they risk their lives to save ours.

To all firefighters, volunteer or professional:


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day

Ah, Labor Day, the most ironic of our national holidays. It's a day named for and intended to celebrate laborers and the Labor Force. Yet, the people least likely to have the day off are laborers. Management will get the day off, with pay even. Government workers will get the day off, paid, too. Most retail employees will either get today off with pay, or will have an extra day off at some point in the week. Some laborers and tradesmen will get the day off, but for most of them, it's a day without pay, so if they have the option, they'll go to work. Just. Like. Every. Monday. While everybody else "celebrates" Labor by not laboring and not giving a second thought to those who do.

"Labor", ironically, seems to have the least reason to celebrate Labor Day.

Sixth Street Bikes Bars and Best Pizza

The Boy Child, being a twelve year old suburban boy, and my son, is a heavy metal fan. So, when he once overheard me mention Hoek's Death Metal Pizza in downtown Austin, of course he immediately wanted to go. The problem is that Hoek's caters to the party crowd, because let's face it; there's really no other reason to open a business on that stretch of 6th Street. As such, it doesn't open until 7:00 pm. I finally decided this was the weekend, though. I loaded Boy Child into helmet and onto bike, and away we went, intending to get in, eat, and take a quick walk up the street just so he could get a glimpse of Austin nightlife before the drunks were out in clumsy, staggering force, presenting a danger to unaware preteens.

I have to say that when I first encountered Hoek's, I assumed it was gimmicky and would be the kind of food you'd only like when drunk. I was wrong. This is probably my favorite pizza in Austin - it's that good. And the "Death Metal" part? Yeah, they're not kidding about that. Metallica would be considered elevator music in this place. They have a Slayer poster/banner on the wall, but I'm pretty sure they consider that meditation/relaxation music.

The cartoon Metalocalypse was playing on a TV, with subtitles on, so metalheads could enjoy their metal cartoon without losing any deathly metallic ambiance. You can see also from the photos that they take their name quite seriously:

Would you expect anything less?
Because even Lucifer needs to hydrate sometimes.

Beelzebub's mom's secret recipe. Don't ask for it.

After eating our pizza, we took a quick stroll up 6th. We saw a couple of cool bikes parked on the street, because it is Austin, after all.

I actually know the owner of this one, but I didn't see him anywhere.

Boy Child is an artist, and is interested in becoming a tattoo artist. Most shops have a strict "No Children" policy, but Black Cat Tattoo, where I got my back done, is pretty open, even to the point of tattooing in front of a big plate glass window open to the sidewalk. I knew he could at least watch through the window if they wouldn't let him in. They were fine with him being there, though, so he finally got to see the inside of a tattoo shop without watching reality TV to do it.

And of course, no mention of Austin's 6th Street on a Saturday night can be complete without bars. No, of course, we didn't go into any, but I have to mention them. It's an unwritten law. I'm also required to remind you that Austin is the "Live Music Capital of the World". 6th Street is the epicenter of that music scene.

A couple of bars had some rather witty sandwich board signs to lure customers in. I had to share.

You notice Mr. Hemmingway didn't advocate not drinking?
 We had a good time riding, scarfing some pizza, and people watching. I'm guessing in about nine years, we'll probably go inside more of the landmark establishments.