Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We need more of these

Some bright spots, in the whole Baltimore mess:

 - Allegedly, some ministers went out and formed a human barrier between protestors and the police - so on the one hand, the police wouldn't be so tempted to use their batons on people merely yelling stuff, and on the other, I hope, to dissuade the protestors from throwing stuff or otherwise becoming violent.

- A mom, seeing her son out in the protestors, ran up to him, and effectively grabbed him by the ear (well, he was wearing an identity-concealing balaclava sort of thing, but it LOOKED like she grabbed his ear) and PULLED him out of the line. Go, mom! I think I saw her quoted as saying her son wasn't perfect but she didn't want him to be another Freddy Gray.

- People cleaning up after the mess, trying to put stuff back together.

Yes, the police overreacted in the original case. If they are responsible for the death of Gray they need to be dealt with as strongly as the law allows, and someone probably needs to go into a lot of the big-city police forces and clean house. I get that officers sometimes react badly because their job is dangerous and things can make them fear that they won't come home some night - but at the same time, there are people who tip over into seeing the perp as subhuman and deserving of punishment BEFORE he or she goes to trial, and that's not the way we should roll as a country. Yeah, sometimes a person might need to be grabbed a bit roughly and restrained, or perhaps even tasered in some cases - but doing something that might hasten their death, just because YOU think they're "scum" is wrong.

I don't know how to fix the problems in the police force but I know I've heard of several big-city forces that tend to treat certain suspects unduly badly, often because of their race. This needs to stop. Yes, there are dangerous, hardened criminals out there but from what I have read, in this case it looks like the cops were in the wrong.

The rioters were equally wrong. I have no beef with the people who stood and waved signs or who linked arms and walked and chanted. I DO have a problem with the people who broke other people's stuff, who destroyed what might have been the only easy-to-get-to pharmacy in the neighborhood, who made it even LESS likely businesspeople will open up businesses there (because of the perceived risk).Busting up a business, throwing rocks and bottles at people, that's not First Amendment rights.

It's a complicated and ugly problem and the result of too many people on too many sides not taking responsibility for themselves.

(And I admit, I cringed over the idea to close the schools - some children will have been scared by that. Even though I grew up in a secure and stable environment, if there had been "unrest" in my area, and they decided to close the schools, I would have been scared and confused and thought the world was ending. Older kids, too - some of the teens - is being out of school for the day really a good idea? I guess there was a curfew, but still).

I don't know. I fear we're just going to see more and more of this, as agitators continue to agitate (allegedly, residents said the worst actors were NOT people they knew from the neighborhood), as more and more people become convinced they are owed, as the economy continues to suck so people can't get decent jobs, as the family continues to fragment....and so on. I can sadly only see it in general getting worse, and the people who stepped up - like the clergymen and that mom - are gonna have to step up even harder.

Monday, April 27, 2015


I don't know. I don't have anything much to say.

If this is how the human race is going to end, by fracturing into groups and each group burning the other's stuff down, then let the end come sooner rather than later, and let trees-of-heaven and cockroaches and rats and urban coyotes live in the rubble.

Sorry. I'm in one of my periodic "Humans really suck" moods. Well, some humans do.  They give in to the dark side, the side that tells them because they've been wronged (or believe they have), that it's okay to wrong someone else, someone who is not the one who wronged them.

I pray to God we never have an officer-involved shooting here. That's a selfish prayer, and I openly admit it. I don't want rioting in my town, I don't want the grocery store near me to be looted and maybe close down forever. I don't want to look at a line of angry young people with rocks in their hands and maybe see one or two of my students (or former students) in there. I don't want the local cops, some of whom I know, to have to go into an armed mob that have sworn hatred of them.

I'm also really, really f'ing exhausted. This is my heaviest grading week of the year and I lost a good chunk of time this afternoon because a student came and was anxious at me about stuff. I get that this person has anxiety issues and I tried to be calm and comforting and tell them that yes, they were going to pass the class, but.....I kept looking at the exams I was grading and the labs I was grading and the exam I was trying to write and everything else and wishing the person would decide to leave.

I shouldn't have watched the news this evening. I should get better at scraping off people who are trying to eat up my time when I'm busy. (Or maybe not. I don't know. Maybe my not scraping this person off helped them, maybe they'll turn around and do something good with their life....Sometimes I really wish I got George Bailey's chance, you know? To see whether what I did actually had any kind of a good impact. Because some days I look at the world and it seems so screwed up, so why am I even trying?)

Monday, April 20, 2015


One thought on the whole Cannabis News Network thing (CNN apparently spent yesterday evening showing programming about "Weed Nation"): I hope this starts to make pot "uncool."

I think one of the big problems with the creeping legalization of pot is that people see it as a fun and cool thing to do, and they don't think of the consequences for their health or their jobs or other things - in a way, it's kind of like cell phones. I can't list the number of times I've gotten stuck behind someone driving too slowly and weaving on the street, or someone running a four-way stop, or someone pulling out into the wrong lane, because they were on a cell phone or were texting.

And I've vented my rage here before about people texting in class.

Cell phones are fine in some cases. But too many people want to be able to use them all the time - too many people get hooked on them. Too many people use them where it is inappropriate.

And that's kind of how I feel about the growth of the pot industry. As I've said before, I don't care too much about decriminalization - don't lock up the small-time users (then again, the fact that there are violent drug cartels, who probably would seek to undercut any legal suppliers anyway....I don't know. I'd love to see demand go away, that's what will ultimately solve drug problems).  I don't care about the person who wants to smoke a joint on Friday evening, at home with friends. But I don't want to have to go to the grocery store and navigate around stoned people. I don't want to deal with people on the job who are stoned. I don't want students showing up to class high, or telling me they're too "wasted" to take an exam and need a make up.

As I said: people using it in their own homes or places where I don't have to deal with it, fine. (But I'd also hate living in an apartment complex and regularly having to smell it, just as I felt about cigarette smoke).

But for goodness sake, don't PROMOTE it - as some news stories do. Heavy pot use makes people stupid and indolent and we don't need that in our country. Though then again, maybe Dr. Sanjay Gupta talking about it too much will make some teenagers go, "This is baby boomer stuff, ew" and want to avoid it. I don't know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

thought of the day

There are people in the world who would declare sugar "evil" but will say the actions of people I would clearly identify as terrorists are "misguided."

(I fully expect to see calls for banning sugar, or at least added sugar,* in my lifetime. This would make me angry and unhappy, as sweet things are one of the few sensual pleasures I have left....I don't want SLEEPING to be the only sensual pleasure I have left, for goodness sake)

(*Banning sugar across the board would be impossible; we'd be reduced to eating nothing but meat and a few vegetables that are v. low in starch)

I hate hyperbole.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Yeah, I've been reading a little about the whole Hugo Awards controversy.

I am not a big SF reader....I pretty much read a bunch of different stuff, but some of the things I like (e.g., Connie Willis' time-travel stories) count as SF.

But the whole mess - the whole Dead Puppies vs. the SJWs vs. I don't know who else. It makes me throw up my hands. I think our culture is starting to get crushed under the dead weight of people deciding they are going to be offended at everything.

It seems to me there are people on one side complaining about "privilege" and the need to be inclusive and on the other side people going "Offensive? You wanna see offensive? Here, I'm gonna be as offensive as I want to be! You think this is offensive? Choke on it!"

In other words: both sides are being jerks. I don't mind discussion, I don't mind debate, but we've dropped into an ad hominem world where people are largely being jerks about stuff.

And I'm done with that. If I read a book, I want it to be an interesting story. I don't care about the sex, color, ethnic background, sexual orientation or whatever of the writer....unless they spend a lot of the book beating me over the head with how "diverse" they are as a writer or try to make me feel bad for who *I* am. I don't offend easily....but if someone were to start going on mid-story about "white privilege" or some such I'd roll my eyes and put the book down and make a mental note to be very careful about that author in the future. I'm not saying those issues couldn't be explored, but all too often they are done in a heavy-handed, didactic sort of way.....

I want to read good books.

So anyway. I am now going to look at any and all "awards" in most realms as being like the Nobel Peace Prize - sort of a popularity contest where the winner is chosen partly to make the choosers feel good about themselves. So "award winning" is now meaningless. Instead, I'm going to read authors I have enjoyed in the past, or books that people whose judgment I trust have said good things about. (Same goes for movies, same goes for tv shows....)

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

I always associate this hymn with today. It's rare that I hear it that it doesn't bring me to tears.