Learning to Shave

When I was something like fourteen years old I started to hit puberty, and one Saturday morning as I was sitting at the dining room table reading the NYTimes my father came downstairs and stopped at the entry way to the dining room.  I looked up from the paper and he brought the back of his fingers to his cheek, scraped his whiskers, and said to me, “You should start shaving.”

It was totally out of the blue and I didn’t know what to say – so I said nothing; he continued through the dining room and into the kitchen where he made himself breakfast.  I went back to the newspaper and tried to put his words out of my mind.  I didn’t know what to do – so I ignored it.

The next week the exact same thing happened, and I mean exactly as you see above, but instead of ignoring what he said I realized that yes, I was going to have to do this.  I just didn’t know how to shave.   Also I didn’t have a razor.  And I had no money or to get one.  I was altogether unclear on how I was going to make this work and anxious about the whole thing.

Naturally I ended up “borrowing” my father’s razor.  I mean, there it was in the bathroom, so I just used it.  That, and hand soap for lubricant.  With a little trial and error I managed to do a half-decent job of it, and with practice I got better.  Ah, if only YouTube or the equivalent was around back then.

Looking back I’m not sure how that could have gone differently.  At that time in my life my relationship with my family was poisoned.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask for his help, and he didn’t offer any.

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Grade School

Ugh, school.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate school.

I remember one time when I was in kindergarten and my uncle asked me how it was.  “Pointless,” I replied.  I had no idea what we were doing in kindergarten or why.  We played in the morning, we has story time, we snacked on juice and crackers, we napped, we played some more, then we went home.  Why go to kindergarten?  I could do all that stuff at home.  Kindergarten really did seem completely pointless to me.

I spent first and second grades in public school.  I remember absurdly stupid homework assignments, like “cut out pictures of pies from magazines and bring them to class” (no, really), and “fill in this circle that says Red with red crayon”.   I was just a kid but it seemed obvious to me that these assignments accomplished nothing and served no purpose.

When I was going into the third grade my parents pulled me from public school and put me in private school.  They’d learned I was going to get a teacher who was notoriously loud and cruel – and, in second grade, I was in a classroom next to hers, and we often heard her yelling at students, so there was surely something to that.

I don’t remember much about third grade but I know that fourth grade is when I truly began to loathe school.  The work was harder and required more time both at school and at home.  I didn’t care about any of the subjects and I had real difficulty with math and foreign language.  It was also in fourth grade that I began to fathom just how long it would be before I graduated high school, and it was daunting.  Every day was like going to prison, and I had an eight year sentence.  When teachers tried to motivate me to do better, they would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I learned that they’d use my answer to try to convince me that schooling was necessary to do what I wanted when I was grown up, so I started telling them I wanted to grow up to be a garbageman.

I almost never did my homework and I’d put off studying and assignments as long as possible; every approaching test or due date felt like a daily weight around my neck, an approaching appointment with a judge who would hand down my verdict of failure.  I was a terrible student except that I managed to skate by.  My grades were meh and I didn’t care, as long as I passed the classes.  I just wanted as little to do with school and schoolwork as possible.  My parents didn’t work with me on homework or studying for tests, and were almost entirely unaware of what tests were coming or what essays or projects were assigned.  They never asked, and I never volunteered that information.  They would send me off to school and I was gone until the early afternoon when I would arrive back, and they had little to no interest or awareness of what happened during that time.  When I came home from school, if my parents asked me how my day was, I would tell them, “Fine,” and we would leave it at that.

My neglect of schoolwork would catch up with me every semester and cause its own problems.   Parent-Teacher conferences and report cards were always bad news.  Aside from my getting sent off to school each day it was those conferences and report cards seemed to remind them that I was in school, in the sense that they would pay attention to what was going on in school, albeit briefly.  My parents would sit me down and sternly tell me that I needed to do better in school, and then they’d punish me.   Punishment usually meant no TV for a week or so.  I did what I could to skirt those sanctions and they were loosely enforced.  After a few days my parents would often forget that I was being punished anyway.

My grades and overall school performance were bad enough that by ninth grade my parents had had enough; they put me back in public school.  They told me there was no point in paying for private school if I was doing so poorly, and really, I couldn’t argue with that, and I didn’t protest.  I think my spirit was broken by that point and I just didn’t care any more – this school, that school, whatever school, I still had to serve my sentence.  Sure, public school sounded worse, but it was still school, so it was going to suck no matter what.

Public school was… worse.

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When I was a kid I remember hanging out with some of the other neighborhood kids, we were probably, what, ten years old? – and one of the kids – not a friend of mine but he was from the neighborhood – said something, I don’t remember what, but something about “God”.  I asked him what he meant, and he was, like, “God – you know, God.  Up in heaven.”  I did not know.  I’d never heard of God.  I literally had just learned about God from some kid out on the street.  Well, OK, I was standing on the curb, but he was sitting on the curb, with his feet on the street, so yeah, that counts.

When the topic of religion occasionally came up in my young adulthood my father always said that, like many things, they (he and my mother) wanted me to make up my own mind.  Over the years I’ve asked them a couple of times, casually and in passing, but it was only in my mid-thirties that I pressed the question to them as to what their beliefs were.  As for my mother, I gather she doesn’t believe in any religion but is either so respectful or uncomfortable with the topic that her answers were vague and noncommittal.  As for my father, well, he finally told me about his own beliefs.

Raised Catholic, he believed in God implicitly but his devotion was focused on the saints.  As he explained it, he believed that if you could get in good with a saint then they’d put in a good word for you with God.  In his mind it was sort of like having and advocate, or an inside guy, and he had a patron saint: Saint Jude.

Yes, Saint Jude, the patron saint of hope and impossible causes.  You have to be more than down on your luck to have this guy as your saint; you have to be hopelessly screwed.  Think: Leprosy, or some fatal and incurable disease, or maybe just desperately poor, this saint is the last resort of the truly desperate.  And then there’s my father: a second generation American, raised in a modest-not-poor middle class house, went to college, got his PhD and went into teaching at a university.  Got married, had a son, and went on to own his own home, cars, and other material possessions common to a middle-income American household in the latter part of the 1900’s.  Never went hungry.  Some back problems but never had a serious disease.  It doesn’t seem like a good fit or an appropriate choice but it makes sense to me.  My father has always been depressed, morose, fatalistic, and tinged with self-pity.   Like most leftists he believes he’s been screwed in life, mostly by other people.  That my father might see himself as a hopeless cause seems unsurprising to me.

That he believed in God at all, however – that was a surprise.  Religion was never a part of our household, and to my knowledge he never went to church, or even prayed – to God, Jesus, St. Jude, or Vishnu for that matter.  That he never mentioned this was explained by his wanting me to make up my own mind, at least that’s how he explained it, but that makes no sense.  It would be as if he said to me, “I wanted you to make up your own mind about the spiritual beliefs I have never told you about.”

What’s just as baffling is how he cherrypicked the parts of Catholicism that appealed to him and tossed the rest, as if he had a choice in how the universe works.

In accordance with his beliefs he didn’t have me baptized.  Baptism is the Catholic equivalent of a Get-Out-of-Hell Free card: All your previous sins are literally washed away.  As he explained it, his angle was that I could do that at a time of my choosing, perhaps on my death bed (with the inference being that in that way I could game the system and get in to heaven).  That didn’t work out as he planned, though.  He and my mother left me in my grandmother’s care one day when I was just a tyke, for reasons he did not say, and in their absence my grandmother spirited me off to the church and had me baptized.

Without religious indoctrination I grew up to be an atheist, or to be more technically accurate, an agnostic, so whether I’ve been baptized or not is of no consequence to me.  From my perspective what remains is the question of why my father wouldn’t teach me his beliefs or even about the beliefs of others.  From his perspective – and this is my supposition – my everlasting soul was at risk of eternal damnation, so what did he do to make sure that didn’t happen?

Nothing.  I’m surely better off for it, not being religiously brainwashed and all, so, um, thanks for nothing!  But there’s that parental neglect thing again.

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The Fambily – Part 2, Reflecting

When I was just a wee tyke of probably three or four years of age my father and grandfather took me to a zoo in a firehouse.  No, really.  It must have been some kind of fundraising thing for my grandfather’s local firehouse; they had animals in pens right inside the firehouse where the fire engines were usually parked.  My grandfather was once a volunteer firefighter; he had to quit after he’d helped rescue a badly burned child and the emotional trauma of holding her in his arms was just too much for him.  Nevertheless he visited the firehouse often and kept good relations with the firefighters through the years.  So, as my father and his father took me around this makeshift zoo we came to a popcorn stand, and the firefighter manning it greeted my grandfather pleasantly and then he turned to me and asked with a kind smile, “Would you like some popcorn?”  I meekly accepted and my grandfather thanked him.

We went around the zoo and visited the animals as I fed my popcorn to them.  As we completed the circle we came back to the popcorn guy who saw that I had emptied my box and so asked me if I’d like more.  My grandfather took a step forward and held up his hand, and said, “No, thank you, that’s alright, but thank you”.  My grandfather escorted me away from the stand and then turned to me, bent down close to my level and looked me in the eye as he said, “Let that be a lesson to you: Never take advantage of your friends.”

I was thunderstruck.  I recognized that this was clearly a life lesson; I was being given instruction on how to live my life.  Nobody had ever so directly given me a lesson like that before, and looking back on my childhood it’s one of the only times I was ever taught something like that.  The more I reflected on it, the more I realized that my parents didn’t do much to prepare me for life, either the childhood I was living or the adulthood to come.

For my mother’s part, I know she had post-partum depression for some time after she had me.  I’m told there were long stretches of time when she couldn’t get out of bed.  I have some dim recollections of that, of coming home from school and sensing her sadness, but I don’t know much about that time, or how long it lasted.  She went on to get her PhD in Psychology, worked in clinical psychology, and ended up with her own private practice.  There’s some irony in that.  Whenever I think of the past, and about my parents, I rarely think about my mother because she was so – absent.  There, but not there.  Not much involved, even after she got over her depression.

My father was involved with my early upbringing and spent time with me when I was just a tyke.  He gets along with and loves the company of small children.  He would spend time with me, play with me, tell me bedtime stories, and I have dim but fond memories of that.  His involvement in my life gradually diminished.  What strikes me most about my father is that he was a college professor in the Educational Psychology Department: teaching teachers how to teach, and test design.  The irony here is that, well, you might think that being the son of a college professor was like, y’know, every day a classroom!

No day was a classroom.

My parents taught me virtually nothing.  We didn’t have much by way of conversations, even when we came together as a family for dinner; we just watched the evening news on TV.  They left my schooling up to the schools, and my upbringing was largely upkeep.  Somewhere along the way I learned not to ask many questions of them; there was very little by way of life lessons, or guidance, or emotional support.  No conversations about my friends or our activities.  No lessons on home or macro economics.  No discussion of my school day.

They took no little to no interest in whatever thing in which I was interested.  By way of example, my father used to paint and build plastic scale models of WWII planes, and he did teach me the basics of how to build them.  He occasionally bought me some models, too.  I mostly had to “borrow” his supplies – glue, X-Acto knife, sometimes paint – but looking back it’s striking to me that we never did this together.  He would make his models in his part of the basement, and I would make mine in my room, and there were no more lessons.  What strikes me most about that is that it was a shared interest and activity, one of many things which we could have shared together, but didn’t; such a waste of so many perfect opportunities to teach and bond with his son.

He was also an artist (as in, art school art degree) but taught me nothing of art; how to make it, or how to appreciate it.  Come to think of it, he knew something about plumbing, home and car repair, and cooking, but again, taught me virtually nothing of any of that.  He did teach me a few other practical things: He taught me how to draw a tank, break someone’s knee, drive a car.  Probably a few other things I don’t remember, but not so many I’d need more than two hands to count them.  And that thing about breaking someone’s knee?  OK, here’s the story: There was a time in grade school when I was getting bullied.  My father found out and taught me how to kick the side of their knee, which would probably end up crippling them.  Then he told me I should never tell anyone about that.  As an adult I look back at that and…  I have questions, but no answers.

My mother – well, my mother even less so.  I can’t think of any practical thing she taught me, or of emotional involvement or support after early childhood.  It’s hard to talk much about my mother because despite living under the same roof we seemed to have a minimum of interaction, so there aren’t many memories I have of her except for the fact that she was there – living with us, perhaps cooking dinner; she was my father’s wife but she didn’t seem to do a whole lot by way of being mother to her children.  Well, me at least, my sister might be a different story.  I can recall that my mother taught me how to do my laundry – but that was somewhat self-serving as it relieved her of that responsibility.

She made me take piano lessons.  OK, to be fair, she did ask me.  We had an upright piano which we got for my mother, who could play but she never played.  One day when I was a young boy my mother and sister were talking and it must have been something about piano lessons (I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying much attention to them), when suddenly my mother turned to me, leaned down and put her face quite close to mine, and asked me, “Would you like to get piano lessons?” I was actually somewhat taken aback; I’d never given the idea any thought.  I had no interest in piano and no idea that “piano lessons” would mean weekly sessions learning to play with a piano teacher ad infinitum, but in that moment I felt there was only one right answer to give, so I told her “yes.”  I had no idea what I was getting into.

When the lessons started I was deeply chagrined to learn that they also entailed practice time on my own.  That was just more homework as far as I was concerned so I tried to avoid it, but my mother would admonish me and force me to practice although she never taught me anything herself.  It took me some years to work up the courage to tell her that I no longer wanted to take piano lessons; apparently my reticence at learning and practicing weren’t sufficient clues.  In retrospect I was probably just fulfilling her own wishes in some way.

I spent a lot of my childhood alone.  I was an outsider outside the house, and inside the house I felt like an occupant.  I think my parents wanted to have children but didn’t want to raise their children; they would give me a kiss and say, “I love you”, but I don’t know what that meant for them.   My free time was my own to spend and my problems were my own to try to figure out.  Growing up I wasn’t alone but I felt alone.

Now I’m a loner and I don’t feel alone any more.

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The Fambily – Part 1, an Awakening

In my early thirties one of the things I used to do was to take a hit or two after work, kick back, and remember my past.  I would remember events I’d long since forgotten, which would lead me to other long forgotten memories, and so on.  I did this on an irregular but somewhat frequent basis, and after quite some time of doing this I noticed that these recollections always ended with my remembering how miserably unhappy I was in the way back when, particularly during the school year.  In my childhood I was unhappy most of the time.  Then it struck me, like a minor epiphany: Isn’t that pretty much the definition of an unhappy childhood?

I had never thought of myself as having had an unhappy childhood.  I always thought the kids who did were so much worse off than was I; after all, my parents didn’t abuse me, or beat me.  They always provided for me.  I had a roof over my head, shoes on my feet, clothes on my back, and food on my table.   I got presents for my birthday, for Christmas, and even for Easter when I was just a little kid.  They would hug me and tell me they loved me. My sister and I didn’t much get along but it wasn’t out-of-hand.  I had a few friends.  I grew up in a relatively safe middle-income neighborhood.  For many years I was sent to a private school.  Was it really so bad?

Surely I didn’t have it as bad as other kids who had an unhappy childhood, but there was no denying it: I was so unhappy, so much of the time.  I began to think back to what it was that was making me unhappy, which was a lot about school, but also – what?  A feeling of isolation, of being in a household with other people but alone with my problems, of being in school and being in a house but not belonging in either.  I remember on a few occasions when was, oh, maybe ten years old, walking back to our house, and as I came within sight of the front door I thought, “I’m Bella.”  Bella was our cat.  Bella also had a roof over her head, food and water in her bowls, but nobody asked her about her day or took any interest in her life.  She just lived there.  Like me.  Many years later I was hanging out with friends and I was about to tell them I had to go home, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t want to lie to my friends, but I just couldn’t bring myself to call that place “home.”  I puzzled over this, over how to phrase it, and finally settled on, “I have to go back to the house.”  It was, after all, not my home, but just the place where I lived.

Over time I began to piece together more of that puzzle.  I work for a family-owned company, and in the many years I’ve worked there it was common to have children in my office.  Watching and listening to the interactions of parents and their school-age children was – surprising.  Just hearing them talk to each other, how the adults would ask questions and get into conversations with the kids was something new to me.  Asking about their classes, their homework, their tests, even “Who did you sit next to at lunch?” or “Who’s your best friend?” – the way they talked to children made me realize that this must be how parents normally speak to kids.  My parents were uninterested and uninvolved.  They might ask me how I was, or my day was, but paid little attention to the answer, and only on rare occasions was there a followup question.  My family didn’t discuss the school day, the school work, friends at school, friends at home, our games, activities or issues.  Whatever personal problems I had were mine to deal with on my own, with rare exception.

Then I remembered something my therapist said when I was a teenager.  I know, there’s that thing in my life too, so let me touch on that first – long story short: I was starting to get legit paranoid, but I knew it was all-in-my-head paranoia.  The fear was there but I knew it was irrational, and so I told my parents I needed to see a psychologist.  I didn’t tell them why but my father did ask the doc.  My father said the doc only told him, “Your son is very brave.”  I’m not sure that’s true; I was more worried about my mental state than I was bravely seeking help for paranoia.

Talking to the psychologist helped me – or I just got over it, one of the two – and he started seeing the rest of my family, individually.  Anyway, at one point in one of our sessions, he said to me, “You know, you and your sister deal with the inattention of your parents in completely different ways.  She’s the squeaky wheel who gets the grease.  You withdraw.”  I was stunned, and said nothing.  What nonsense was this, about the “inattention of my parents”?  I didn’t think it was true – but I never forgot it.  Looking back on it, and in comparison to what I came to know as normal and healthy parent-child interactions, I began to see the legitimacy of his point.

Well.  That only took me twenty years.

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The Fambily – Prologue and Conclusion

I’m not close to my family.  My mother has never been close to me; my father was, when I was small, but that faded away as I grew from boy to adolescent; my relationship to my sister was more like that of adjoining cellmates who didn’t get along – until she went away to college and we became distant-but-friendly on the occasions of family get-togethers.  Over the years I got along best with our cats.

I went from being an unhappy child to a rebellious, unhappy teenager, and then a directionless, unmotivated, unhappy young adult.  After I moved out of the house and got on my own I tried to both fulfill my family obligations and to keep the family peace, but over the years I’ve grown increasingly distant, by my choice.  I’ve found that the more distant I am from them the happier a person I have become.  When I think of my nuclear family I don’t feel a sense of love or attachment.  When something good happens in my life I don’t think, “I can’t wait to tell Mom & Dad”, and when something bad happens, I don’t think, “How will I tell Mom & Dad?”  My sister and I don’t talk unless we’re at some family gathering.  They’re more like a some of adults I know, and I don’t particularly like them, so I would prefer to think about them less than I do, and when I do think of them it’s often with contempt or derision.

It’s not that they’re nasty or generally unpleasant people; sometimes it’s because I’ll remember something from my past, like how at some point – in my adolescence, teens? – my parents stopped taking me to the doctor or dentist for checkups.  I only realized that when I thought back to when I was switched from private to public school, how I was taken to their doctor for a physical, undoubtedly as a requirement of law, and thinking at the time that, wow, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to the doctor.  It didn’t occur to me at the time but on reflection as an adult I wonder at that, and how I never did go for medical checkups after that, ever, and how that doesn’t seem right.  As in, I was under their care but I didn’t have a doctor or dentist, and they never took me to one for checkups, and that seems like a pretty blatant negligence of their obligation as parents.  So when I remember or think about things like that, then yes: contempt, or derision.

Most of my antipathy towards them is directly attributable to our political differences.  I’m a patriotic fiscal conservative neocon, and they’re f’ing international socialists.  Not merely Liberals – actual international socialists.  Bernie Sanders cheering, capitalism-hating, world citizen pinkos, although to be fair, they would probably describe themselves as “Democratic Socialists” now that it’s what Bernie Sanders calls himself.  It’s a family disease; every one of my extended family is, at the very least, a Liberal.  I recently learned after her passing that my grandmother’s parents on my mother’s side were Russian Bolsheviks (and that was why her first Christmas present came from her husband); my father recently told me that at age fourteen he was deeply influenced by Marx’s Communist Manifesto.  I’ve long known that my father was a member of the SDS long before I knew what it was; a copy of his membership card was incorporated by an artist friend of his into an art piece commemorating IIRC my father’s birthday, and which was hung proudly in our bathroom for many years.  He told me with an odd mixture of pride and embarrassment that after they started throwing bombs he let his membership lapse (… and just think about that…).  My sister told me she was a communist when she was in college.  They all live in the United States and wouldn’t dream of moving to one of the socialist utopias.

Although their political beliefs are strong they didn’t talk about their beliefs or opinions at home when I was growing up.  I grew up as a Liberal but that only by default and through osmosis.  After my own political conversion around 2002 my parents mentioned in a phone conversation with me that my sister’s opinions were so vociferous that they had agreed to a political “no-fly” zone – a banning of political discussion or comments in their conversations.  I enthusiastically told them that was a great idea for us, too.  It’s the only thing that’s kept the peace in the family when it comes to our political differences, and it still takes my turning of a blind eye to their occasional politically-charged comments and observations.  Sometimes they just can’t help themselves, but I can keep from making a retort.

I originally created my Facebook account about ten years ago so that I would be able to keep up with what’s going on in my family since they rarely directly communicated to me about family news.  It was through their postings on FB that I began to see just how leftist they really were, and from what I’ve seen, like most Liberals, they are gullible and stupid.  They’re told what to think, and they do.  They’re told what to believe, and they do.  They’re told who to hate, and they do.  What they’re told to ignore, they do.  For the most part, whatever happens to be the leftist outrage or cause du jour it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re on board.  A hundred years of history telling them that they’re wrong has taught them nothing.  They do not wait on a news story to allow for facts to emerge before supporting the opinion they’ve been given.  They exist in the Liberal Bubble and rely on their Liberal/Leftist news and opinion sources to tell them what their political opposition has to say; they are embarrassingly ignorant and easily misled yet consider themselves to be well-informed critical thinkers.

As people, on social occasions, they’re generally OK to be around – but their politics disgust me.  Political passion runs deep in my family, and we are at polar opposites of the political spectrum (and let’s just go with that metaphor and not get caught up in trying to square the circle of describing myriad political phyla as a linear plane).  They call Republicans Nazis, racist, homophobic, rapacious, and an assorted variety of vulgar insults; while I’m not technically a Republican I do vote that way, so they’ve made it clear what they must think of me.  They parade their hatred on FB;  in turn, my contempt for their politics, and by extension, them, is deep, wide, and just below the surface.  I could easily see a political discussion blowing up into a family-destroying argument.  I’m ready, but not yet willing, to flip them the bird and turn my back.

I don’t want to blow up the family.  I don’t want to break their hearts by telling them how I really feel, and what I think of them, but that’s what would happen if they were ever to learn the truth.  As for what can be characterized as parental negligence I’m confident they don’t see it that way, they may not even remember it that way, and they weren’t that way out of conscious malice, but rather it was a form of casual neglect.  Regardless, I am not their teacher; it is not my responsibility to correct their faulty knowledge or foolish beliefs.  They can go on to the end of their days being wrong and that’s not my problem.

My mother and sister remain distant, but I’m well aware that my father would very much like for me to be more in touch – to call, to visit, to be a part of his life – and that’s a real shame.  For him.  My parents squandered their opportunities and obligation to build a relationship with me when I was in my formative years, when I was child and most needed it.  I’m an adult now and self-sufficient, and I neither need nor want anything from them nor do I need or want them in my life.

As my parents get older they will become less capable of taking care of themselves.  They are both retired and their house would serve them poorly as a place in which they will be able to grow old.  They live in a fairly large house with (effectively) four stories; my father has had a lifetime of back problems which have left his legs with uncertain footing on stairs.  They live in a very nice suburban neighborhood that has rolling hills which become treacherous in winter, and their house is not within walking distance of stores.  They are reasonably intelligent and reasonably well-off, yet I’ve neither seen nor heard any hint that they are going to address the impending hazards of their living situation.

My sister lives in Alaska with her family and will be unable to assist them.  Despite my living in another state over an hour away by car, I am their geographically closest relative by a large margin, and I just know that that at some point I will be called upon to help – and I don’t want any part of that.

I will not be their caretaker.  Not.  My.  Problem.  On the other hand, considering that my father could fall down the stairs and break his neck, and my mother’s horrible driving might get herself killed, this problem could solve itself.

I’ve written some blogposts about my childhood and family and will publish them in the coming weeks.  Although partly autobiographical in a general way they’re mostly about my relationship with family, so I’ll give them this category in my blog: “Fambily”.

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Big Data Pays a Visit

Today a coworker of mine came up to my desk and asked, “Do you want to see something weird?” “Sure!” I enthusiastically replied. Who doesn’t want to see something weird? So I went to her desk and there she showed me her FaceBook page, where there was an Amazon.com advertisement for a desktop wire file sorter – the model I had just bought for the office. She had never seen one like that before I’d put it on top of my cubicle wall a couple of days ago, but now here it was appearing in an ad on her FB feed.

I had done a search for it on Amazon.com (didn’t buy it there, though), but she and I are not FB friends, and so the connection between us isn’t obvious. Then she scrolled right on the ad, and up came a nightstand – the very one that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for a few weeks. I’d dropped it out of the cart a couple of weeks ago, but here’s the interesting thing: I searched for the file sorter using my business account, and the nightstand was in the cart of my personal account.

“Clearly there’s a connection between you and me,” I said.  I told her about Big Data, and how big companies like Amazon and FaceBook are collecting all kinds of information about us, who we know, what we like, and so forth.  I also told her how, a few days ago, I created an Instagram account so that I could see the wedding photos where another coworker was a bridesmaid, and again, that other coworker and I are not FB friends and have no other connection but work.  When I created that account Instagram suggested some people I might want to follow and amongst some random famous people was yet another coworker, one of our warehouse guys, with no other connection between us.

“So, the lesson here,” I said, “is to be careful where you buy your sex toys.”

Sore Losers

This isn’t about being bad losers. We are in revolt because our country is now in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist. If this doesn’t terrify you, you’re a fool.

I found this in my FB feed and it’s just so, so… so very. What’s the word I’m looking for?  Wait, it’ll come to me.

The Format: There’s nothing about this video which needed to be animated; nothing in particular is emphasized by the animation, and all of the text fits into the given format size. It’s essentially a meme-GIF gussied up for no apparent reason.

The Music: You’ll have to clickthrough the hyperlink to hear it; WordPress won’t let me attach an MP4 so I had to convert it to a GIF.  Spare yourself: it’s goofy and dumb.  It’s almost as if the music was chosen to contrast and undercut the message. I’m guessing “Yackety Sax” was too obvious.

The Message: Let’s fisk it.

1) “WE ARE NOT SORE LOSERS” (in all caps) “This isn’t about being bad losers.” Yeah, actually, it is in substantial measure about that, and they most certainly are bad, sore losers. When candidate Trump cast doubt on the integrity of the vote he was assailed by Leftist Democrats as not merely wrong, but he was accused of undercutting the very underpinnings of the democratic process. Within weeks it was the Leftist Democrats who were throwing shade at the integrity of the vote on flimsy pretenses without a hint of shame at their own hypocrisy.
The Russian “hacking” of the election? Nonsense. There’s no clear evidence that the Russians hacked into the DNC.  The hacking tool (see GRIZZLY STEPPE) used to break into the DNC is for sale on the black market.  What the Russians certainly did was to spread “fake news”, to dubious effect. The hacking, in this context, refers to the leaked emails of the DNC, and if Julian Assange is to be believed the trove WikiLeaks published came from a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter. Assange is not trustworthy but it’s a completely plausible story, considering that the emails revealed the DNC to be colluding with the Clinton campaign to lock Sanders out of the primary. Even if it were the Russians who hacked the DNC, what happened was a revealing of truth, not disinformation. So let’s be clear about this: What the Democrats are upset about is the revealing of truth – not truth related to our safety and national security, but political truth and the dirty politics of the DNC.
The Comey backstabbing? Nonsense. FBI Director James Comey revealed days before the vote that the investigation into the Clinton emails had been re-opened due to the discovery of a new trove of thousands of emails on disgraced Anthony Weiners laptop. Essentially, the position appears to be that the truth of the status of the investigation should have been kept secret, as it was during the months summer months when Clinton insisted that the investigation was nothing more than a “security review”. In fact, Comey betrayed the American people by failing to press charges against Clinton and her staff despite unambiguously clear multiple violations of Federal law. Once again: What Democrats are upset about is the revealing of truth.  As for the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, we have Dianne Feinstein (D), who’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and assures us that there’s no evidence of that.

2) “We are in revolt because …” Whoa, let’s stop right there. They certainly are revolting but not in the sense that they are “in revolt” by any stretch of the imagination. Leftists have a long-standing love affair with “revolution” and they love to associate themselves with it. It’s self-aggrandizing, counter-establishment, and in their minds, flattering. When Leftists declare they are “in revolt” they are echoing the battle-cry of Leftists from decades past, but they are not, in fact, “in revolt”. They are just complaining like the sore losers that they are.

3) “… our country is now in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist.” Well, to be fair, that’s true enough. The problem Leftists have is that it’s the other guy who won. Their candidate fits that description too, and is, by far, the most corrupt politician I have seen in my lifetime, and I remember ABSCAM when congressmen were literally taking a bribe in the form of a suitcase full of cash. There’s also the matter of her sense of entitlement to the presidency, her disparagements of the other side, her willful disregard for the our national security secrets, her massive influence-peddling, and so on. Clinton was a deeply, deeply flawed candidate/criminal, so much so that despite at least a two-to-one spending advantage her team couldn’t beat Donald Trump, the biggest clown running for the presidency I have seen in my lifetime, and I remember – wait, no, I don’t want to start clown-ranking past presidential candidates.  That’s beyond the scope of a blogpost. So: He’s the biggest clown. Trust me. The biggest. Yuuuuge clown.

4) “If this doesn’t terrify you, you’re a fool.” Idiot Leftists are equal measures stupidity, ignorance, and smug arrogance, supported by a foundation of fear and violent anger, all of which they project onto their political opposition. Socialists are shameless in their support of an ideology which has killed tens of millions, and the terrifying disasters which are the direct result of their ideology put into practice teach them no lessons in failure, but really, if you aren’t terrified of Trump, you’re a fool. None of the dumbasses who liked or shared this have actually acted in any meaningful way to protect themselves or their loved ones from this terror, but supposedly: terror.

5) “WE ARE RESISTING TYRANNY” (again, all caps). No they are not. I’ve heard this word, “resist”, thrown around a lot by these Leftists, but no, they’re not resisting. What does it mean to resist, to be in this resistance? Are they smuggling refugees out of the country to freedom and safety? Are they smuggling news, supplies, weapons, anything to the victims trapped inside, or the their fellow revolutionary resisters? Are they carrying out missions of sabotage or assassination? No, none of it. So what are they doing? complaining is what; complaining like the sore losers that they are.  And in what way does the Trump Administration manifest “tyranny”?  We know what tyranny looks like.  We have real-life current-day examples of tyranny:  China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela; and the farther left a government goes the more tyrannical it becomes.   Socialism is the road to tyranny (or serfdom, for you Hayekian purists) and these pathetic Leftists are so clueless as to call themselves Antifa.

Ah! there’s the word I’ve been looking for:



Addendum: While writing this post I googled “Define sore loser”, and here’s what Google came up with:

In what cannot in any possible way be interpreted as a partisan political message, when I Googled “Define sore loser” and I got a picture of James Comey.

Burning Questions About Hydrogen Wire

Scientists at Harvard have recently announced the long-sought creation of the metallic form of Hydrogen.  The last I recall reading about progress towards this goal, perhaps a decade ago, researchers were using diamond anvils.  Take two perfect diamonds, set them opposite each other, place the sample substance in between, and then squeeeeeeeze.  As it turns out they’re still using that same kind of apparatus with some refinements to make the compression surfaces more atomically perfect.

In the circles of material science this milestone really is a big deal.  The theoretical properties of metallic hydrogen are intriguing: room-temperature superconductor, super-high energy rocket fuel.  The article goes into some pie-in-the-sky speculative detail about what wonderful things could be done with this new substance, as most science articles are wont to do.

Let me just point out a couple of things:

  1. There is no theoretical means of mass production.  When these people talk about this room temperature superconductor revolutionizing energy storage and transmission, bear in mind that we have no idea how to scale up production to a level which would be useful or economical for anything other than special-purpose 1-off big-money project.  Think: military, or space exploration, or special-built supercomputer.
  2. Unlike most fuels we use metal hydrogen must have all its energy put into it.  Gasoline, in contrast, has a rather high specific impulse, but what makes it so darn attractive is that the energy is already present in the hydrocarbons we pump out of the ground.  With a few chemical tweaks we can modify it into a very useful fuel, but it is an energy source, whereas metallic hydrogen would be useful as an energy medium, i.e., a form of energy storage.  That is to say, the energy from metallic hydrogen will have to come from some other source and then be stored in the form of metallic hydrogen, but that energy has to come from somewhere else.  Therefore, it’s useful for rockets where volume and mass are at a premium, but very little else as compared to, for example, hydrocarbons.
  3. When considering the superconducting applications of metallic hydrogen, don’t forget the other potential use: high specific-energy rocket fuel.  Now consider the implication: superconducting metallic hydrogen wire would be made of rocket fuel.  We’re used to thinking of wiring as a fire hazard, but mostly because it can overheat and melt, and spark, and thereby set other things on fire, but hydrogen metal wire will itself burn enthusiastically.  Maybe not the kind of stuff you’d want anywhere near your person or things you care about.

So: Metallic Hydrogen.  Superfantasic as the fuel of the world’s tiniest spacecraft, but otherwise, well…  Not so great.

Fauxahontas vs. Big Pharma

Found on my FB feed this morning, posted by one of my many Liberal relatives, who apparently did not actually read what she was endorsing.  Fun fact: She’s a schoolteacher.  Here is the important message from Fauxcahontas, and without further comment, I quote (emphasis added):

“For years, Congress has been working on legislation to advance medical innovation in the United States. But in the closing days of this Congress, Big Pharma has hijacked this 21st Century Cures Act – and every good, common-sense, bipartisan proposal will die unless Democrats make it easier for drug companies to commit fraud, give out kickbacks, and put patient’s lives at risk. I know the difference between compromise and extortion – and I cannot vote for this bill as it currently stands.”