Thursday, January 10, 2013

I was once a liberal.

I was once a liberal. Liberals aren’t evil. They are idealists. They want a world where everyone respects each other’s personal choices and everyone helps each other out. World peace, utopia and democracy are all sweet liberal dreams. Most liberals truly aspire to those concepts. And they are very nice concepts.

In grade school, I didn’t really see where either liberals or conservatives were bad guys. It was only when taken too far that either was a bad thing. Maybe not all kids get the same thing from school, but I understood from my history teachers that there was a certain ebb and flow of ideas from left to right, right to left. I remember a chart that looked something like this:

Radical ----- Liberal ----- Centrist ----- Conservative ----- Reactionary

See how I cleverly arranged the right and left? Didn’t see that coming, did ya?

It was supposed to show that liberals and conservatives could meet in the middle, but their nastier cousins sort of lurked behind them, whispering into their ears.

I never really related the terms Democrat and Republican to liberal and conservative. I didn’t like Republicans. In my forming brain, they were the big controlling faction that owned everything and scoffed at lesser beings. It turns out that this is actually true, as far as it goes.

There is a romantic charm to the underdog who just wants to see fairness. This was how I saw Democrats. Republicans were the wine and caviar party and Democrats were beer and pretzels. Then I began to realize that the underdog/fairness image was just that, an image. Democrats are far more like Republicans than they are like me.

Sure, Dems give lip service to fairness, but they tend to forget justice. They claim they want social freedoms for all. But if Obama is so supportive of gays being able to marry or civil unionize or whatever you'd like to call it, then why did he voice his support after the North Carolinians voted against it and not before? He had the opportunity to influence that vote and didn’t even try.

And on my right, Repubs are so proud to be business-friendly.  But they are right there in line to pass new laws and regulate the ass off anything that moves.

Literally nothing left if you regulate the ass off it.

People support both of these political parties based on falsehoods.  The truths never live up to the public relations and press releases.  We have become a nation of words.  And those words are twisted.  Each party seeks to please their faction with no regard to what is actually the correct action.  Neither is truly liberal nor conservative by today's definitions or older representations.

So what is liberal and conservative?  Ignoring political party connotations, a liberal would like changes in current public policies.  Conservatives would like to restrict change and keep the status quo.  Reactionaries want to go back in time and return to a situation before policy changes were made and radicals want to trash the whole thing and come up with a new plan.

Hold on.  I just realized something.  I am still a liberal.  I would like changes to current public policies.  Well, sonofabitch.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The De-Friending Apocalypse is Nigh

It’s very disappointing to see my Facebook friends removing one another for liking particular philosophies. This political season has been trying everyone’s patience, but it is disturbing to watch former friends ignore each other over illegal immigration or second amendment rights.

Most philosophies have something to teach you whether you accept them or not. I disagree with the theory of socialism, but I add to my understanding of economics when I investigate the root reasons why I disagree. I have friends that claim to be socialists. I don’t dump them. Socialism is not the sum of their existence and rarely the defining force of their lives. They may also like jam bands, science fiction and ironing laundry. Those are things I can appreciate, especially if these friends come over to iron MY laundry.

Probably not socialist.  (Photo credit)

If you scrutinize your own chosen organizations, you might note that you don’t accept all of them completely. Your friends feel the same about their own “likes.” They may enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher and quote them from time to time. This doesn’t mean they agree with every word from their mouths or how they live their personal lives.

Many people detest Honey Boo-Boo, but usually don’t de-friend people for watching her. Why is this more acceptable?

Next time you are outraged your “friend” posts an article opposing one of your pet issues, pause before you de-friend. Consider what you have in common with that person and why you became friends in the first place. If you still want to dump them, go for it.

If you de-friend me because I like John Stossel or Gary Johnson or International Talk Like A Pirate Day, you may be narrowing your view of the world. I am an atheist with religious friends and family. I am a Libertarian with friends in many other political parties. I am a heterosexual with gay friends. I didn’t even de-friend the woman that posts too many Nickleback videos. Now that’s acceptance!

Not Nickelback.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New York's Soda Ban

I’m worn out with all the political chat. It’s debatable what the right thing to do in the Middle East might be. I can only guess the best way to fix our economy. To combat my mental shutdown on all things truly nation-changing, I am writing about a “big” topic that doesn’t confuse me.

In six months, residents of New York City will be limited in the purchase sugary drinks over 16 oz . Apparently, this is going to make strides in solving the obesity problem. Restaurants, concessions, food carts and delis are affected. Grocery and convenient stores are not.

So if I live in NYC, I can buy as many three-liter bottles of soda as I like (with food stamps even) at the grocery store. I can drink soda during all my waking hours as long as I do it at home. In contrast, if I attend a Yankees game, I can only buy 16 oz at a time.

This proposal was passed by the New York City Board of Health. The board is appointed by the mayor with approval of the city council. The positions are unpaid and terms are six years. The council is officially 11 members, all experts in various health and medical issues according to this web site.

In addition to improving the waistlines of New Yorkers, the new law will purportedly save money. NYC spends $4 billion per year on medical care for overweight people. Reportedly, 58% of the population of the region is obese. I assume that the $4 billion is spent on only the overweight people without their own health insurance. I didn’t see any statistics listing how much is spent on those that are not overweight. It seems like a pertinent question.

Presumably, diet soda is still subject to the law.

Another good question may be what economic effect might this have on outfits that currently sell large beverages? Supplies shouldn’t be an issue. They have warning. Sell down the stock of 32 oz cups and only buy 16 oz. The danger is in sales. But that’s easy, isn’t it? Just increase the price of the 16 oz. In fact, double the price of the 16 oz drink then offer “buy one, get one free.” Same amount of soda, same price, two containers, double the environmental impact! I suppose free refills work too.

Mayor Bloomberg has stated this is not the last step in combating obesity. I have some ideas for him. Limit the amount of meat on any sandwich to be not over 6 oz. A slice of pie can only be as large as 1/8 of a 12” radius dessert. No appetizers allowed. After all, these things may have some nutritional content but all of them have more fat than a giant soda. Also, alcohol has more calories than soda and also impairs judgment, so back to prohibition.

Before long, we will be living in a peaceful future where we are all vice-free. No swearing, no guns, no sex, no rock music, no violence and nothing that could possibly be bad for you. Also, Sylvester Stallone will save us. Or was that a movie?

Yeah, forget that last paragraph.

I rarely drink soda and I truly think no one needs copious quantities of it in a single serving. But since when does a body of government (non-elected at that) decide personal soda limit? I will decide what to do with my body. It is my property after all.

Suggesting to people what is best for them is a pretty good idea. Forcing them to do what’s best just breeds resentment and rebellion.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seven Bad RPG Character Names

I enjoy creativity in character names, forum handles and other unique forms of Internet nicknames. The lore behind a name can be an interesting tale that rounds out my vision of personality for a given individual.

The flip side of enjoying such details is that I am annoyed at stupid names. I realize stupid is a relative term in this case. While I might think “Angelkiss” sounds pretty dumb, there are many who would enjoy such a name. But this is my blog. I’ll make the completely arbitrary judgment calls around here, so here is a list of name types I hate particularly as they relate to online RPGs.

1. Directly lifted names of popular characters
If I meet one more elf named Legolas (or Legollas, Legolass, Leggolas, etc…), I may injure myself or others. Yes, we know you are a fan. This is a fantasy game where nearly everyone is an appropriate level on the geek index to have read or watched LOTR. A decent percentage probably own prosthetic elf ears. If you’re going to name yourself after a character in popular media, at least choose a lesser known one that plunges deep into the fandom. How about Thranduil? No one would mistake you for a superficial fan with a name like that. You’re deep! Plus Legolas calls him “Dad” and he’s a king.

Don't make me shoot you for abusing my good name.

2. Obvious names
I once knew a ranger named “Tracke”. Come on, man! You’re not even trying.

3. Evocative names
Ever met a player named “Foxypants” or the like? Did you try to flirt? If not, chances are you missed an opportunity. Dependent upon the gender of said player, it was either an opportunity for cyber or an opportunity to be told, “um, hey, I’m a guy.” Admittedly, there is a third possibility that I am keenly aware of. I named my character “Jajunk.” It seemed harmless at the time as it was a song title. I added a surname later that sort of fits in this category. I forgive myself because I added “Inzetrunk” for the humor.

4. Names I can’t type
I can’t find the umlaut key on my keyboard. If you use an accent mark of any kind that I can’t figure out in less than three seconds, we’ll probably never be friends. Unless there is an option to reply without typing your name, I will also appear to be ignoring you. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re a fine person though perhaps complex.

A helpful Aperture employee locates an umlaut that is not on a keyboard.

5. Long-ass names
As with names I can’t type, you will be receiving neither direct communication nor group invitations from me. I may have known you for years, but we are talking about my entertainment here and I will be lazy if I want to. I’m looking at you, Imwalkinthepath (additionally, a sentence is NOT a name).

6. Titles in names
“Ladysarah” or “Darthmeanie” are not very subtle. Chances are Ladysarah is either not smart enough to realize what she has done or “she” is actually a guy pretending to be a woman. In a number of RPGs, “Lady” is actually an attainable title. If you start off with the name, you may look dumb later when you earn a title and suddenly you are known as “Lady Ladysarah” or “Darth Darthmeanie.” Lucky for you, most games also allow you to turn off titles. But isn’t it cooler to earn it than to immediately promote yourself to a higher social status?

7. Outright stupid
“Hail, Luvtheheals.” “Perhaps you could assist with my collection, Buttface.” “Can you help me find my missing little brother, Dirtyoldman?” Quest dialogue just isn’t the same with a stupid name. Almost any name has a place in some game, but I prefer when it’s kept in the spirit of the game. Stupidity is sort of cool in Kingdom of Loathing, but calling yourself “Lazerbeem” in a fantasy game is out of place and erodes the role-playing illusion.

I know we all get frustrated sometimes trying to select names online. Many are already taken. But I look at it as an opportunity for broader creativity. If someone already has that name, I don’t want it anyway. It’s common.

In the end, I usually say nothing to those that I feel have unoriginal or stupid character names. I don’t discriminate. I even group with them though all the while shaking my head and giving a small sigh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


We were Jewel's fourth home.  She'd really got around even at just one year old.  But we knew she was staying with us as soon as she came in the house.

Supposedly, Jewel was a purebred Egyptian Mau.  I am skeptical about the breed background of most cats and no exception here, but she did fit the bill.  Green eyes, the tabby "M", a ticked pattern, nearly waterproof fur and the extra skin flap with long back legs.  Then there's the spots.  Yeah, not so many spots.  So her first home was probably not a meticulous breeder.

Jewel's second home was with a woman and another cat.  She did fine there for a time.  But the story I heard was that the woman's boyfriend abused the cats.  Then the boyfriend decided it was ultimatum time, it was the cats or him.  The woman chose him.  It seems crazy since people that abuse pets often also abuse other people.  I hope she did all right.

A lady she knew took the cats.  The lady brought them to her daughter's house who already had four cats.  All the cats were indoor/outdoor there.

This is where I come into the story.  The daughter of the lady that rescued the cats was a co-worker.  Our year-old cat needed a companion.  Mostly we just hoped the cat we already had would stop biting our fingers and toes at night and play with the other cat instead.

I was supposed to be looking at a different cat, but once I arrived I could see the owner was kind of attached.  And there was Jewel, frightened low cat on the totem pole that had no interest in going outdoors.  How could I resist a poor little feline that waited to sneak in and eat last so the other cats wouldn't threaten her?

On the way home, Jewel showed a lifelong habit for the first time.  She pooped in her carrier.  After a quick stop to remove the odoriferous object, we continued on.  She was cautious as she was released into the wilds of our home, but got along with the resident cat, Pandora, very quickly.  There was no doubt she had found her place.

Over 13 and a half years, Jewel put up with a lot.  We added a third cat, Miranda, that became her faithful sidekick.  Then I began fostering cats for a rescue group, so there was often an extra adult cat or a whole litter of kittens staying in the guest suite (second bathroom) or strolling around.

A few years ago, Jewel was diagnosed as hyperthyroid.  It barely slowed her down.  When I called her, she would come and take her medication without complaint.  It's a pretty rare thing to shove medicine down a cat's throat twice a day and still retain your skin.  Last year, she developed a liver tumor.  It was just not feasible to remove it.  She only had use of about a quarter of her liver.  We added a supplement to her diet and hoped we'd know when the time was right to let her go.

Today was the last day that I got to hold my cat.  I'm going to miss her badly, but I know it was the right decision.  She was worn out and wobbly.  She still had the energy to crawl on my lap, but I could see it was only a matter of days.

Everyone that met Jewel thought she was amazing.  No one more so than I.  The vet's office provided a clay impression of her paw for which I am grateful.  I don't need a memento to remind how wonderful she was, but it gives me something tangible.  I may not be able to touch her, but I can trace a paw print and think about my love for her.