Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We're Winning - But We Have Work to Do

We are. Bill Gothard has fallen and his organization is in shambles, nothing but a paltry shell of what it used to be. Doug Phillips has been run aground, with his affairs and pompous arrogance. The Pearls are struggling to stay current with their abusive how-to's for parents and wives being discussed in public now, rather than in the shadows. The Duggars are simply charicatures of what used to be the movement, giving it lip service, while doing everything they can to stay relevant - watering down the message.

But that isn't to say we can be less vigilant. As the Duggars water the message down, they are accomplishing a new victory - making it look cool. You can now wear skinny red jeans, as a boy, and your girls can be stylish in relatively form fitting clothing. They make a family that lives this way, look happy as a clam, hiding the hearts of the young people who have tasted freedom and want it.

As those of us who have broken free know, that freedom is not allowed and will get yourself ostracized, many times, even cut off from all family and friends. This can be a death sentence, being that the martyr complex causes these families, that are as different from modern society as the Amish, except with electricity, to retreat from society and become a community amongst themselves. Once you break a rule in this community, you're out.

And now you have no one to lean on.

We must keep winning in the theater of ideas. And we also must pay attention to the young people breaking out.


I. C.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Transgender Woman Crossing the Street - Destroying America Project

Today, I witnessed a transgender woman, waiting at the street corner for the light to turn green. When it did, she crossed, using the crosswalk.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gay Man Driving - Destroying America Project

A gay man drove past me on the highway. He used his turn signal to move into the adjacent lane. He had his headlights on, driving off into the foggy morning.


Lesbian Raking Leaves - Destroying America Project

I watched a lesbian raking leaves. She was using a wood handled rake.

Gay Man in Cereal Aisle - Destroying America Project

Today, I met a gay man in the cereal aisle. He bought Frosted Flakes.


The Destroying America Project

With the Religious Right's shrill terror at 'the gays' destroying America, I decided to start documenting all the ways (which rhymes with 'gays'...should probably find a different word) in which I encounter them throughout my day, so I can discover how they are doing this destruction. I am stealing (not sure that's illegal) #DestroyingAmerica in order to accomplish my discoveries and documentation.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thankfully, I love to clean - for the most part

I was nearly the sole dishwasher and floor scrubber, amongst six siblings, during my childhood. You would think that I would run away from cleaning, screaming, when I grew up. But the opposite is true. I love it. It relaxes me, in an OCD sort of way.

For instance, I cannot make a meal without the kitchens (yes, we have 2) and the dining room being completely clean.

As a contrast to my marriage, Heina Dadabhoy or Heinous Dealings, relates a story of a previous relationship. I'm going to have nightmares now.

PS: My kids have not inherited my love of cleaning. This is a problem of epic proportions, being I have six of them.

Women, don't ask me for hair advice

I'm always going to go with the pony tail.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Checkmate for the 'Homosexuality is not Natural' Faux-gument

If homosexuality is unnatural, not adhering to the natural laws, set up by (of course), the Bible god, then Jesus' miracles, yeah...those things that happen that defy the natural laws of the Bible god, never happened either.

Neither did Jesus rise from the dead.

Oh? God did it? God screwed with his own sense of natural order?

Then homosexuality is okay too. 

Silver Linings Playbook - Bipolar Disorder in Living Color

I climbed into bed, a little tired, last night. My wife, Kristine,  was already sitting up, leaning her lovely back against the headboard that really needs to be tightened, for obvious reasons, being that we live in a house with six kids - and I still love my wife...a lot.

"Wanna watch a movie? Silver Linings Playbook looks good."

"Sure," I replied, instantly perking up. We hadn't watched a real movie together in a while.

As she is wont to do, my bride fell asleep before the beginning credits finished, leaving me to watch a movie that depicted the image of my brain, emanating from the two main characters.

Silver Linings Playbook is a must see. The trailer depicts a completely different movie than is actually presented to the viewer. It isn't the funny, happy-go-lucky, boy meets girl, boy falls in love after some sort of awkward societal footwork, girl plays tough to get, kiss and make up, end credits, sort of movie. It's a real and raw story of a gentleman with bipolar disorder.

The interactions between Pat, the main character, and his parents, was nothing short of amazing. The mother, seemingly doting, yet always with a loving incredulity pasted on her face. The father, screwed up and OCD in his own ways, violent even, vulnerable and caring through his toughness. Worried about his son. Skeptical of his actions.

Or were they?

The love story is a large part of the picture, and yet one is left wondering, at the end, whether Pat's whole life after his stay in the hospital, was choreographed for his benefit. Even so, the emotion is real, centered around a dance competition that doesn't go overboard, but is revealed, just enough, in order to make a point, whatever it was.

I watched Pat throw a mega-tantrum, escalating to the point where he had no control. I have dear friends who tell me about their bipolar disorder and the manic episodes. I watched as he threw a book through a window, simply because it didn't end right, then paced, back and forth, back and forth, in his parents' bedroom, at 4AM, loudly exclaiming his displeasure at the plot.

I do that all the time. Kristine falls asleep.

Even though I have no mental diagnosis of any kind, I was intimately brought into the characters heads through the script. It was so well done, I felt their pain.

Go see it. It's on Netflix.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola is God's Judgment for Splitting Up Israel

"There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun, because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now. We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola...as a result of God's judgment on America due to Obama [dividing up the land of Israel]" - John Hagee

John, pray tell, what part did Sierra Leone play in peace talks to create a two-state solution. Liberia? Any other countries? 

Nah. You readers know the game. Everything bad that happens, claim the Bible god's judgment, due to some naughty thing you're against.

I wonder what Hagee would say if he contracted the deadly virus.

Also this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The House Is Dirty

I care. Really, I do.

To be fair, though, the kids have done an admirable job keeping it clean...ish since about a week ago. We deep cleaned the place and then spent time making sure that it stayed decent.

Victory was mine when Renaya (12) came downstairs one day, after cleaning her room, and said, excitedly, "Daddy! Cleaning the house is so easy if you keep it clean every day!"

Seems to me I've been telling the kids this since they were blastocysts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In 2014, We Still Consider Bloodshed as a Natural Consequence for Petty Sins

My friends, bear with me. I spent until 2AM listening to this sermon, and then replied to the lovely person that sent it to me to critique. Here was my response:

So many thoughts. I'm very glad I left religion behind. Especially his horrible god.
He listed aaaall these mercies that his god bestowed upon David and yet he kept overlooking a gaping hole in his logic:
David's son still died. Where was God's mercy there? Why the hell do we sit back and nod our heads, agreeing with the theology that, when a sin is committed, death logically follows? Christianity is based in blood. It's barbarism. We live in 2014 and we still worship a being who values life only as long as he can balance it with equal death.
This preacher kept conflating so many theological ideas and acting like they neatly fit together. It irritated my sense of order and reasonable logic. I was born and bred on literal biblical theology. I hate fast and loose, sleight of hand with it. I see anti-religious people doing the same thing, often.
Today, we had a fire. A big fire. Fred (9) was so excited. He loves life. Fire especially. Marshmallows, the noise, the smoke in his eyes. His giggle and smile is so contagious. I would build fires every day, just for him.
10 pm rolled around...
Mommy told him to go to bed.
Every few minutes, he would pop up by the fire again, sneaking a peak, fondling a marshmallow stick, talking with the friends we have living with us, and just being my beautiful Frederic.
In short, he was disobeying his mother.
My reaction was this:
"My son has sinned! Someone must die! I need blood to assuage my wrath!!!!"
So I found a squirrel, caught it with my bare hands, mutilated it for a few minutes, then nailed it to a tree, right outside his bedroom window, so he could see what his sin had wrought, and be grateful that I didn't slit his throat instead.
I'd be in prison for that reaction.
I took him by the hand and walked him up to his room, talking to him the whole way about whatever I cared to talk to him about. He is now sleeping softly, un-terrorized, knowing that I love him.
And yet we worship a god who resorts to the squirrel mutilation. Blood as his first recourse. Sure, one would argue that Jesus' sacrifice means no squirrel is necessary, but then, we're just talking in circles. The fact is, that god is evil, however you slice it. And I want no part of him.
Jesus did not have to die for your sins. He didn't actually. He was a simple criminal according to Roman law, his death then captured and marketed by a new religion. Many hip religions were popping up in that age. This one just caught fire, just like Islam.
You're actually good WITHOUT needing a sense of eternal guilt to be forgiven. No, sin does not dirty you, rather, goodness makes you good. Goodness hides the bad things you may have done. But forget about those. Toss off any guilt from your past and live, dammit!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gay Marriage Turns 1 in Minnesota

On November 3, 2012, I wrote a screed, delineating my position on the pending Minnesota Constitutional Amendment vote, banning gay marriage in this great state. Three days later, I encouraged everyone to go to the polls and vote NO!

The amendment suffered a resounding defeat, much to the shock and dismay of the Minnesota GOP. For months, they had been predicting that Minnesota would join other states in writing discrimination into their constitution. But this great citizenry decided otherwise. 

It was interesting to see the breakdown by county. The seven county Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area overwhelmingly voted NO! Rural counties all over the state were either evenly split or overwhelmingly for the ban. There was one anomaly that I cannot explain, even to this day. Way down on the border of Minnesota and Iowa, there's a tiny county called Blue Earth. They voted heavily against the ban. Thank you, my rural blood brothers and sisters.

Elsewhere on social media, directly after the vote, I began calling for the state legislature (now swung to the Democrats, including the governorship) to make gay marriage legal in this state. I received a lot of flak for that position, with the argument that legalizing gay marriage would be "overstepping".

I didn't buy it. It was obvious that the majority of voters cared about the issue in a positive light, enough to flip the entire state House and Senate, including the executive branch, over to the side of those that believe freedom for gays and lesbians to marry is written into the common understanding of what is not discrimination.

Through no fault of my own, the legislature heard mine and a whole host of others' calls. On May 9, 2013, the Minnesota House passed gay marriage into law. The Senate and the governor soon followed suit. Best part of all, two of the four Republican legislators that voted for gay marriage, Jennifer Loon of Eden Prairie and Pat Garofolo of Farmington, were those I have had great contact with and also live in the latter's district.

Happy birthday, gay marriage in Minnesota!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How I Lost My Faith In Humanity...And My Wallet

It was 8:30 AM. I woke up with a start and a shiver. I had been visiting a dear friend the night before, and had arrived home at 3:16 AM, hitting the sheets immediately. My alarm was set for 5:30 AM, and I must have turned it off in my sleepy state.

This morning, I was supposed to take Fred (9) and Naya (12) to work with me. I told them it would be an early morning. 8:30 AM is kind of early, depending on what time zone you're in, I guess. But I was late. I texted my boss and let him know I would be in a bit after our morning meetings.

Tossing together my things, I left the house with the two squirts, got in the car, and drove to the local Kwik Trip. I figured I'd be an awesome daddy and get them doughnuts for breakfast.

We went in, grabbed doughnuts, coffee, muffins, and iced teas, they both stuffed it all in my arms, and I hobbled out to the car. Fred couldn't open the door, being that the handle had broken off a few months ago, requiring expert skill in opening it.

"Daddy, can you open the door for me?"

I looked at my arms and hands, full of everything, including my wallet and my phone, ran through a few sorting algorithms I had learned in CSci 101, and decided that it would be my wallet that went on the roof of the car, freeing up my hand to open the door.

And that's where the wallet stayed - until it must have flown off when I crossed the town railroad tracks.

I drove out of town and got stuck behind some old rusty white Ford Aerostar. I turned my right blinker on to get over and pass him in the right lane when a green car drove quickly up beside me. Out of my peripheral vision, I waited until he would pass, thinking I would get behind him. But he met my speed, mile for mile. Now, I was irritated, but he wouldn't budge.

"Um...Daddy. That guy is trying to tell you something," Naya nervously croaked from the back seat.

So, in a huff, I looked over to see a young looking gentleman, earnestly waving his own wallet, which he was quite happy to still have, at the moment. We pulled over and he told me that he saw my wallet fly off back in town, by the train tracks. This was bad. Bad, because we had recently started a new budget, where my bride and I each had $375 to spend on groceries, gas, necessities, et al, every two weeks. I had $185 left in that wallet.

We raced back to find it gone. I called into work and told them I would be taking the day off to put the pieces of my life back together. I find it amazing how much of our little world we can pack into a little piece of leather.

I took the kids back home and cancelled all my credit cards. The second I hung up the phone with the last company, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a very friendly young lady on the steps. She had piercings all over her face. In her hand was my wallet.

A flood of emotions swept through me, the chief of which was, "This woman is going to get $50 from me, right now!" I opened the wallet to make her day - and found it empty. No cash. Everything else was in there (and now useless, due to all my phone calls), except the green.

All I could do was warmly thank the woman, chat about life a bit, and then say goodbye.

I sure hope the thief puts that money to good use. He or she obviously needed it quite badly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Louis Gohmert's Illegal Alien Crime Statistics Are a Ruse

I've said this before and I'll say it again:

Humans commit crimes. Humans break laws. Just because a criminal happens to be an "illegal alien" does not make that crime more alarming.

Enter Louis Gohmert, the ever fear mongering Congressman from the great state of Texas. This gentleman has been on the rampage against the recent influx of illegal border crossers, the majority of which are children.

According the Right Wing Watch's captured audio,  Gohmert said the following:

...in fact, of the 171,000 [illegals] who had committed a crime [within the last 5 years], there were uh 671,000 crimes committed..separate crimes committed, by those 171,000 people.

Now, at face value, this is an astonishing number. But, when you really begin to drill down into the actual details of the rhetoric, you begin to see a much different picture than the excitable Gohmert wants you to see.

First of all, when a crime is committed, that crime carries with it a number of charges. A neighbor of mine was recently arrested for breaking a "no contact" order, and was slapped with half a dozen charges at his initial hearing. The problem here is that these were not distinct crimes, insomuch that he had committed six separate acts of crime. Instead, they were six different charges for the exact same action - breaking the "no contact" order. To pretend that 671,000 crimes committed by 171,000 individuals is a bad number, is to purposefully inflate the idea, depending on your audiences ignorance.

Also, if we use the crime numbers from the last five years, in Texas (2008 - 2012), something interesting begins to take shape. In this equation we will be adding up the following crimes (which are not even remotely the same as the crimes listed in Gohmert's 671,000 number. With knowledge of how Louis works, that number includes crimes like jay-walking, etc.):

  • Violent crimes
  • Property crimes
  • Murder
  • Rape (Texas calls it "forcible rape", but I'll skip that label, being that I find it redundant)
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Larceny/Theft
  • Vehicle theft
Now, these numbers include ALL crimes by ALL inhabitants of Texas, not just illegals. It comes to 5,254,828 crimes. If you compare that to the 671,000 crimes, even assuming that all of those crimes are in the above list (though they are most likely not), you will notice that the crimes committed by illegals was about 12.7% of the total.

This means that non-illegals committed a whopping 87.3% of all listed crimes in the state of Texas in the last five years.

Also, Governor Perry has been talking about how this influx of illegals began in the year 2012 or earlier. If you look at crime statistics in Texas, you will notice that they are dropping. In sheer numbers, they are dropping. But, then, Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the union, by population, which dramatically increases the rate of the drop in crime statistics.

Couple all this with known facts that the American magnet lost it's pull during the Great Recession, causing illegal border crossing to drop off sharply after 2008, only recently increasing in numbers, due to an improving economy here and reported violence in Central America, and you begin to diverge from Gohmert's clean narrative.

Humans commit crimes. Illegal aliens (migrants) do not have a greater propensity to commit crimes, just by the mere fact that they are here illegally. In fact, if we were to decide which area of the population to deport based on crime statistics, we should probably shine a greater light on the non-illegal inhabitants of Texas, being they commit the vast majority of the criminal acts.

Humans Aren't Worth Much to God, Fetuses and Babies, Even Less So

I've been following Steve Wells at Dwindling In Unbelief for years now. He's the author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible, something you may have come across beside the Gideon Bible in a hotel room.

In this post, he graphs and charts the Levitical worth of every human being, according to words from God's own mouth. It's bloody brilliant.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Evolution of a Sin

What is sin exactly? How is it defined? Does sin morph, or is it static with time? Surely, anyone who has studied any amount of religious history, can see that sin changes with each generation. 

Can religious masses be expected to understand a generally accepted rule book, delineating every little detail of life, telling them what is wrong and what is not right? After all, most of religious theology, especially Christianity, the religion I am most familiar with, deals with what man, throughout history, has done wrong, and what can be done about it.

When I was a young lad, I used to drink water - a lot! I would go into the bathroom, cup my hand under the faucet, fill it with water, and bring it to my mouth, repeatedly. I loved the taste of Minneapolis water. It was sweet, with a hint of lemon and lime. 

Then, my Mama found religion. Religion was an Artesian well. Once a fortnight, we would drive our old van forty minutes to the well, fill scores of gallon glass bottles up under the flowing metal pipe, then drive them back home.

Mama made it a rule that we were no longer allowed to drink city water. Artesian well water was blessed by the gods. It was healthy. Checked for all sorts of chemicals every four years or something.

Drinking city water was now a sin.

My sinful nature took over, as it was wont to do. I was a descendant of Adam. I had no choice but to want to sin. So I drank city water. I couldn't stand the crap from the well unless it was so ice cold, you could barely taste the flavor. Kind of like how you have to drink Coors Lite, hoping, beyond hope, that you swallow it before any sensation remotely resembling the taste of piss-water, becomes recognizable by the receptors in your brain.

A year later, I was convicted of my sins. I went to a seminar where the guru, Billy Boy G. (Gothard) told us all to think of two sins we wanted to confess to our Mamas and then remove from our lives. So we could be good smelling to the gods, or something. The two sins I picked were drinking city water and picking my nose and eating it. In other words, within one evening in front of that black-haired, lying bastard, I removed my only hope of street survival.

From that moment on, I never picked my nose and ate it again. I did, on the other hand, drink city water, here and there. I told you...I was a descendant of Adam. I had a sin nature. What the hell was I supposed to do? Be perfect? Oh yeah...like I was Jesus. Sure, HE never picked his nose and ate it and always drank Artesian well water. But dammit! That's because he probably turned his bloody snot into loaves and Swedish fishies, and his Artesian water into delectable Italian wine. I didn't have those powers. That man had it easy.

And so, sin was what I was made to feel guilty about, then established in my life what I needed to do about eradicating it, then constantly focusing on not partaking in it, so I could feel right and proper when taking communion the next Sunday, needing to dig deeper to find other sins I could create, starting the cycle all over again.

I'm thirsty. The tap is calling.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Friend, Collin Engstrom, is Pretty Smart

I went to college in Marshall, Minnesota. Southwest Minnesota State University, to be exact. I received a Bachelor's in Computer Science and missed a math minor by three credits. I was terrified of the Calculus 3 professor, who had a reputation for eating his students alive, after dismembering them with chalk he sharpened with his teeth.

My dearest friend from college took that class. This gentleman, Collin Engstrom is a genius. He has so many degrees, he makes Al Gore look lowly in his shadow. He graduated with a double degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. Even though he was brilliant, that Calc 3 class killed him. He ended up taking the beating twice, and still couldn't get up to an 'A'.

Then he went on to smash records in everything else. Had to be the professor.

Anyway, Collin is finally published and the paper is a good read for smart people.

Check it out here.

Title: Design Patterns for Tunable and Efficient SSD-based Indexes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Hotel from Hell: America's Best Value Inn, Sarasota, Florida

It was 11:00 PM on a Saturday night in June. I was driving from Orlando, Florida to Sarasota with a dear friend of mine. We needed a place to stay. So, as I navigated the oddly heavy traffic on I-4, she jumped on her cell and called Hotels.com.

After a few minutes of nearly dropped calls, the Hotels.com staff member found her a deal she couldn't refuse. For just about $150 and six minutes from Siesta Beach, we could have a good room for two nights - at America's Best Value Inn, Sarasota, Florida.

After hanging up, my friend nervously turned to me and asked if I had ever heard of this hotel chain. I had. A few years ago, they built one in Pipestone, Minnesota. It looked very much like an AmericInn, but with cheaper siding and windows. I assumed this one would be about the same. America's Best Value Inn had touted itself, recently, as the "fastest growing, discount hotel chain" in the United States. You can't grow fast without doing something right. Right?

There's always a bad apple in a good box of fruit.

America's Best Value Inn of Sarasota is located right on the edge of downtown. Downtown Sarasota is beautiful. It's an eclectic mix of eateries, shops, and small towers, where people allegedly work, when they're not staring out at the beauty of the surf and the approaching angry skies. A hotel in that area would naturally be a fine establishment.

We pulled into the parking lot and stepped out of our vehicle. Our nostrils were met with a stench that reminded us of a mix between a backed up sewer and sulfur from a reverse osmosis water purification system. Broken blinds were hanging in the windows of several of the units. But, through the fence, we could see a pool that looked okay. A unique-looking walking bridge spanned the two buildings.

Shrugging off the stench, assuming it could be coming from somewhere else, we walked around to the front of the hotel, and buzzed the attendant. She grudgingly looked up at us, waited a few long seconds, and then pressed a button to let us in.

Inside the cramped lobby was a messy assortment of tables, resembling an attempt at a breakfast area. On the counter of the lobby desk was what looked like a five-gallon, pump-action bottle of hand sanitizer. That should have been our first warning. Behind us, a television was on, blaring some 'B' movie, semi-drowning out ours and the manager's voices. The lobby smelled like floor cleaner on top of mold and smoke and old socks, smelly feet, a hint of rotten orange juice, and possibly a hidden carcass of a mouse or a yellow-bellied small-mouthed bass.

The manager didn't attempt to turn the movie down. She was too busy filing her nails and picking up a blue Magic Marker to color in a missing area of nail paint. The color didn't match, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Her clothes were haphazardly matching as she slouched in the chair, obviously irritated that we had even dared to show up at her hotel. Without looking at us, she mumbled something, inaudible to either my friend or I.

"Excuse me?," my friend asked politely.

"Driver's license and credit card, please," the lady croaked out, angrily.

My friend looked at me, a look of concern crossing her face. I raised my eyebrows and assumed an acquiescent nature that I wear, anytime I need to entice a horrid person to like me. I mumbled some sort of joke, chuckled nervously, and received a look of disdain, shot at me from behind the desk. The lady grabbed the credit card and pulled out a knuckle buster from below the desk.

Yeah. A knuckle buster. Who uses those anymore!?

Afterwards, she proceeded to type random characters into her computer for nearly five minutes, chewing loudly on her gum, over the noise of the television, ignoring us, treating it as if we didn't exist. I had a notion to ask her if we were good and if we could have the keys, but, terrified of what she might say, I abstained and instead, shifted on my feet, sighing loudly, letting my passive aggressive, Norwegian heritage do the work. She heard me, lowered her head, and typed harder, paying special attention to ignoring us.

Finally, she ripped open a drawer, produced two odd looking keys, and handed them to me. We walked out and went to gather our things from the vehicle. Returning to our entrance door, we noticed the handle of the door was broken, swinging freely. It opened without a key. Discovering no elevator, we began to climb the stairs to the second floor. The stench had grown. We couldn't breathe without closing our noses. It smelled like rotting feet now. Like an old baseball stadium after all the fans have left from a double-header. 

We were halfway up the first flight of stairs when, from around a corner, stepped a man in nothing but underwear. He looked like death. His pectorals were drooping, nearly hitting his belly button. His face, contorted into a drug-induced insomnia. His eyes were so wide open, one would be convinced the balls would pop from their sockets and bounce lightly on the dirty concrete, rolling under poorly installed trim, hitting the wall behind, then heading directly into a storm drain.

I held my breath and stood behind my friend, in case the dripping-skinned gentleman needed to choose the easiest target to murder. I would go quietly, I knew, never having been in a fight in my life. I held my breath. He passed the bottom of the stairs and disappeared.

We made it to the top of the second flight and found the hallway door propped open. No key was needed to enter this wing of the "hotel". The carpet in the hall was stained with disgusting black stains. The walls had odd stains and scratches on them. The smell worsened. Every door we passed gave us a semblance of the occupants within. The walls were paper thin, allowing the screams of children, the loud noises of televisions, the fighting of spouses (or whatever they were), the bangings of bodies against cheap construction, and maybe scratching noises of what we had now reasoned would not surprise us, had they been the scratching of rats. Families of rats. Cockroaches. Bugs. All sorts of bugs. Poisonous lizards. Snakes. Runaway alligators. Dumped pets. Fleas. Bed bugs. Nothing would surprise us now.

We opened the door to Room #215.

That was our next mistake.

See, my friend is the closest thing to a germaphobe. She carries a can of Lysol spray into every hotel room she enters and immediately sprays down all furniture, the bed cover, all handles to doors, toilets, sinks, the hangars in the closet, and, if she gets really carried away, sprays me too.  This room wouldn't have been acceptable to her unless dozens of Lysol spray cans - the jumbo family size - were used. Even I, not a germaphobe, would have been very happy with a military-grade flame thrower, at this juncture.

The second you entered the room, your throat closed. I am not allergic to anything, but this room was allergic to me. It stank. There was old caulk everywhere, covering up holes in the walls. The bathroom curtain was untouchable. Stains on the walls in the bathroom. Stains on the carpet. The furniture was scratched and scuffed. The bed, hard as a rock. In short, I cannot describe the awfulness of the room without nightmares coursing through my head.

We turned around and left, feeling dirty for having just stepped into the room.

At 2:00AM, we found Hampton Inn & Suites, Sarasota, by the airport. They rented us a third floor room. The lady at the desk was pleasant and fun. The room smelled fresh and clean. Everything was white. Everything worked. All the carpets were new and fresh looking. No scratches or stains adorned the walls. The bed was comfortable. And, best of all, the Lysol spray can sat on one of the tables, unused, smiling at itself.

As I drifted off to sleep, I turned to my friend and asked, "Are you feeling better now?"

"They wash the bed covers here," she murmured happily, with a dazed smile on her lips, as she drifted off to sleep. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bruce's Letters to Those Who Try to Evangelize Him

I've been reading Bruce Gerencser's blog for quite a while now. He is so well spoken. He used to be a pastor and then, in 2008, walked out of religion altogether with his wife.

His latest post is about writing letters to those that make a valiant attempt at evangelizing you. He gives ample examples of his own writings, as well as some tips.

It's a very good read.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm Going to See a Urologist

I've been terribly non-existent here at Incongruous Circumspection. Part of that is due to my ambivalence about writing. That will pass, once my bride graduates from college and I have some time on my hands from our currently busy schedule (I'll keep lying to myself). But also, This year has been bloody horrendous for health issues. Nothing major yet, but every one of them causes me to think I'm dying (my wife will say that's nothing new).

So, on July 22nd at 3:15PM, I will be seeing a urologist about various issues I have been having (pun intended, sort of). Here are the top five things I expect them to discover:

1. Prostate cancer. Surgery will completely render my sexual function useless, leaving me an empty shell of a human being.

2. A brain tumor that fell through my neck cavity, bounced off my pelvic bone, and lodged onto the exterior of my stomach wall.

3. A permanently damaged liver from drinking an average of one fine brew a week.

4. Both kidneys, shutting down, with no hope of a donor, leaving me on dialysis for the rest of my short life.

and finally...

5. A disease, yet undiscovered, now named after me. 

While flattering, that's one thing I don't want in my eulogy.

I'll keep everyone posted and try to keep the dirty details as few as possible.


I. C.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

People Change: This is a Fact

The politician decides to run for office. He hasn't given any speeches recently and yet, ten years ago, something he said was caught on camera and posted to some social media site. Something said, off-the-cuff, and yet, his opponent's dirt diggers will make him pay dearly for it. The politician had forgotten about it and would be embarrassed about the statement, had he found it first. 

A gentleman marries a woman. She hates kids. He has a career that he deeply loves. They have children. She makes him take care of their every need and forces him to leave his career for one that makes more money. He's smart and capable and does well in his new career. Their marriage changes. They fall deeply in love. She learns to love her children. They are happy.

Yet, some of their friends from years back remember them from their days at the beginning of their marriage. The friends bring them up in casual conversation, telling stories of the woman who didn't love kids, worrying about the husband, being forced to change careers, and even mocking them behind their backs.

These stories are simply an example of how humanity assumes that people never change. If they get to know a person and then move on, the way they saw that person during those moments they spent with them is stuck in their minds in perpetuity. The human mind sees this as fair. After all, your assessment was very fair when you had contact with the individuals.

But people change. And they can change very quickly.

My wife and I have been married for nearly twelve-and-a-half years. We began marriage as a very happy couple. We fought a lot. We believed in God. We were deeply religious. We didn't believe in birth control. We believed that sex inside of government-sanctioned marriage was the only allowable sex. We thought that we could never have friends of the opposite sex, in any and all capacities, while married to each other.  We wanted to home school our children. The list goes on.

As the years went by, we began to change. From the outside looking it, our life looked like a series of irrational spontaneity. One week, we would be home schooling. Then, the next, all of our kids were enrolled in the local school and we left the church we were nominally attending, asking to be removed from the membership rolls.

One day, we would be driving a few old beater cars, then the next weekend, we would have two later model cars, gleaming in the burning sun, in our driveway.

The reality was that my wife and I would, every so often, get so tired of our complacent existence, that we would stay up for 72 hours, discussing our life and considering change - then acting on it.  What seemed rash to those on the outside was actually a very carefully constructed choreograph of life on the inside. Sure, we had to experience various things within that dance in order to continue making wise decisions, but we were willing to take that risk.

I grew up with an old friend. He was three times my age and still looks to be that way. Life has hit him hard. As a young lad, I was a very interesting character. I was funny and rash.  I was the always getting into trouble and those who knew me got used to rolling their eyes and dismissing me by saying, "That's just Joe."

This was funny at the time and I learned to enjoy it. But, as life moved on, I married and had six wonderful children. I bought a house, started a new career, loved my wife, tolerated my kids, and watched as my bride went through college to start her own career. 

I had matured.

And yet, this old gentleman would come to my house, hear a few things about my life, and say, "That's just Joe." I found it to be humiliating. Dismissive of my capabilities to make good decisions. Hell, I wanted to be recognized as an adult, but was still treated like the child I used to be and act like. I had arrived in my own life, but this gentleman refused to recognize it. Worse, he was only the tip of the iceberg.

This affected me greatly and finally, my wife had had enough. She confronted the old guy and told him that I was a different person now. He was shocked. And his shock surprised me, until I realized that humans who don't have ample interactions with other human beings, tend to see those people as who they used to be - forever. This wasn't this guy's fault.

People change. Some change very slowly. Others change quickly. Some, of course, not at all, but they grow wrinkles, so they've still changed. Before you spread the old news about them, get to know their new selves.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Highway in the Distance

On April 28, 2012, I wrote about the mournful wail of the train horn.
I remember those nights when I was young.  I would be laying in my bed, thinking of whatever I was thinking of, feeling the soft summer breeze come through the window of my bedroom, lightly flapping the curtains.  Then, without fail, off in the distance, I would hear that mournful wail.  It would start low and last a long time.  Then, it would increase in volume and pitch.  As the train came nearer to our house, the loud sounds of metal on metal would fill the neighborhood, the horn would let out one last distant wail and then break free of it's yonder bonds as the train crossed the bridge over my front street.  The sound of the horn would wash over the whole house, shaking it to it's crumbling foundation.  Then, the pitch would lower and continue on into the distance, leaving only the clackety-clack of the wheels to lull me to sleep.
While I still remember that sound fondly and love the fact that I now live just three blocks from a frequented train track, there is another sound that hearkens my thoughts back to me resting in my bunk bed at night, lost in thought, dreaming about the beautiful Jolene who I was meant to marry, but didn't.

A mile from our front door, Interstate 35W wound it's way through the industrial areas of Northeast Minneapolis, snaking around the East and West Banks of the University of Minnesota. Thousands of cars, per day, would travel that stretch of highway. But I mostly remember the high pitched sound of the 18-wheeler.

For anyone who has been following Incongruous Circumspection since it began in February, 2012, you know I had a tough childhood, filled with abuse. But, having a mother with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, we also had many exciting adventures. The happy times were punctuated by being miserable. And the worst part was, you never knew when those punctuations were going to happen. Stress would build and then stay at a marginally high level until the bad happened, then it would reduce and begin the cycle all over again.

The sound of the truck tires would take my mind and carry me with them. I would imagine that I was traveling with the truck, off to some mysterious and exciting land somewhere. Anywhere but where I was. 

That sound follows me everywhere. I hear it when I'm camping, when I'm in a hotel, when I'm riding the ski lift at Lutsen Mountains in Lutsen, MN, about to slide down the Alpine Slide. And when I don't hear it, I see the world as quiet and peaceful.

Wherever I am at that moment, I rest.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fighting the Doctrine of Worthlessness

Let's toss out the Bible. Ah...now I've lost a bunch of you. That's okay, I know you'll keep reading in order to strengthen your beliefs, so I'll just hope that my words "won't come back void." Yep...two can play at this game.

You've heard it said, "A little leaven leavens (or leaveneth for you KJV types keeping score) the whole lump." This phrase comes from the Apostle Paul, encouraging the new Christian church to dump those that were naughty. Kick them out. Excommunicate them, if you will. The idea was that the naughty member would, in time, permeate the rest of the church, making them all naughty.

As the centuries passed, theologians and preachers have used that phrase to preach "The Gospel," claiming that one sin makes everyone naughty. If you have one naughty thought (like: I think 32 miles per hour is okay in a 30 miles per hour zone (or whatever that translates to in kilometers per...what's the metric equivalent to an hour?..), no matter how limited in wickedness, you're damned.

Thus, many a child grows up, seeing themselves as worthless...hopeless...even dirty. Even when they are "saved," these individuals are constantly reminded of their utter inability to be good. They must rely on someone outside of themselves to keep them on the straight and narrow. One untoward thought. One look in the direction of beauty. Anything that might be construed as sin by centuries, nay, millennia of evolved religious-based morality, will incur the wrath of God. Some believe even hell fire, no matter if they were "saved" or not.

Let's turn it around with this simple concept: Instead of a little bit of naughty makes a whole naughty person, wiping out their goodness, why can't we just admit that a whole lot of goodness forgives a little bit of naughty. Let's face it: Most of humanity is good, minding their own business, doing whatever they can to help those they are responsible for and even those they aren't.

Finally, let's face this truth: A man or woman in isolation, that man being the entire makeup of a society, can never commit a crime, can never sin, and is never naughty. Unless, of course, you superimpose on that society, a sort of god-like person, watching your every movement, just waiting to punish you for the smallest of infractions, which nobody would ever come up with something so asinine...oh wait...

Why I Listen to Christian Radio

The title of this post is a bit too narrow to encompass everything I do to stay on top of the culture where I live. As a passionately indifferent atheist, I listen to Christian radio (sermons, music, etc), read blogs of amiable and thoughtful Christians, and pretty much read and listen to anything where the material is educational, rather than political or sensational in nature.

Recently, I stopped following the Religious Right Wing as closely as I had been. Bryan Fischer, Kevin Swanson, et al. Essentially, my reading and listening used to be a listing of those people that Right Wing Watch copiously kept track of. I stopped because I got tired.

Think of it like programming, my day job:

You're writing a program, using a high level code language to do so. Everything you use in that language is so abstracted from the actual internal logic of doing the dirty work. Sorting functions are used instead of writing a sorting algorithm. Collection objects are fondled and loved, instead of writing code to handle every edge condition when accessing an array or some other basic non-trivial programming construct.

Then, something bad happens. You work for days, trying to discover the bug in your code. You Google incessantly, post ad nauseum to Stack Overflow, even go as far as putting your code out on Facebook and begging your barista friend to pretend he knows something about code and humor you by looking it over. Then someone says the obvious: RTFM.

That stands for "Read The F*cking Manual," something not done much these days, being that the intelligence of a programmer's Integrated Development Environments are legen - wait for it - dary. Nobody codes in Notepad anymore, and if they do, you wouldn't know them anyway, because they're introverted hermits, living in their grandmother's basement, hidden from all government spies, scheming to take over the world.

Reading the manual then opens the programmer's eyes to the foundational concepts behind the high level coding language. As you read, there will be more than a few "AHA!" moments, and you may happen across the reason behind your bug.

Or, one day, your code just begins to work - but we won't talk about those days.

And that is pretty much why I care to keep my mind up to date with the foundational theology of Christianity, a huge component of our American and especially western culture, historically. 

But mostly, I have six kids. These kids ask a lot of questions, something I did when I was a child, and yet I was spoon-fed one-sided ideas (high level ideas, based on the foundational reasoning of Christian thought), rather than given the basic building blocks for making sound, life defining decisions. 

In short, I have put it upon myself to stay fresh, so that, if I say, "Free will is impossible because God cannot be omniscient and control the hearts of kings at the same time," and my kids ask, "Why, Daddy?" I can give them a really good answer.

Also, they've almost graduated from asking questions like, "Daddy, does God fart?"

Hint: I know the answer to THAT one.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Call Me Maybe - The Dumb Song That Made Me Cry

So, I want to tell you a story. A story of hope. A story of looking back in life and weeping. Looking forward and seeing hope for the children of mine, given to me through the wonders of humanity's ability to procreate. I want to tell you this story through the song, Call Me Maybe.

It was the summer of 2012. Call Me Maybe swept the United States, captivating the attention of every person below the age of fourteen. The song was dumb. Pointless. Bubble gum pop-y. Tried and true (translation: boring) lyrics. Sung by a lovely young woman, yet a complete waste of time. Unless, of course, you like your music in small doses of sugary substances, digesting it quickly, and feeling hungry for more meaningful and complex flavors. You know...music.

And yet I wept over this song. Yeah. Blubbery tears, snot dripping from my nose. And it wasn't while watching Jepsen sing. Actually, it was all the hundreds of YouTube videos of the song, with perfectly choreographed young folk, being happy together. Coming together in a community. Enjoying something. Embracing camaraderie. Having fun, with no real purpose except having fun, based on a dance and common enjoyment in an activity that resembled...music (I must squeak that word out carefully here).

And that is why I loved it. 

I never had that growing up. Everything was forbidden. Everything was serious. All was for naught, unless directed toward heaven. Every minute of every day had to be redeemed and accounted for at the Judgment Seat. All thoughts and actions were re-channeled to prepare for telling others about Jesus Christ or letting them see your perfect life through how you lived (which was a totally awesome concept, being that I could hide my embarrassing religious beliefs and still claim to be a worthwhile Christian...though this concept was always railed against by various religious leaders, calling out the lazy ones among us..."Share your faith!," they would shout, then lambaste you with some idea that everyone who you didn't speak to in a public urinal was going to hell because of you).

And I lived miserably. I was supposed to be a happy Christian and yet I was miserable. Miserable as hell, ironically.

Part of the weepery was looking forward. Sure, I looked at my past and cried for what I missed. I wanted to be those young people. To be sitting on those buses, in those vans, elbow to elbow, smelling the mutual purposeless existence, enjoying life while careening toward nothing in particular. But mostly, I wept, purposing to not allow the same weeping in my children when they reached my age.

I want my children to hear that song and watch those videos when they hit 31, burst out laughing, crowing, "We did that!"

And think nothing of it.

Fight Normativity - Take Another Shower

The first thing I do when I roll out of bed, other than setting my feet upon the cold, wide plank boards of our bedroom floor, is to stumble down the two flights of stairs to the shower. 

I love taking showers. They're refreshing, relaxing (a different kind of relaxation than the slumber I just left), and a time to unwind and prepare for the day. Some mornings, I wake up too late and end up taking a shower at night, before bed. But not usually. That consistently gives me Einstein-like bed hair in the morning. Being that I don't ever look in a mirror and my sweet bride thinks I'm beautiful in every way imaginable, I usually don't discover this until later that evening.

But, say I took a shower in the morning. When I arrive home after work, I walk past the bathroom and my whole being yearns for that hot water rushing over my soulless self. My feet play tricks on me, trying to move me in the direction of the lavatory. But then, a click in the back of my brain jerks me back to my normative reality:

"You already took one this morning!!"

The problem with that thinking is that my body has already considered the possibility of the shower. Now that logic has stepped in, the physiological relaxation process that had already started then feels the need to reverse itself. This takes ample brain power. Always victorious, I walk the other direction and find myself oddly more exhausted than when I arrived home.

Now for the tossing of the normativity shackles...

Take another shower!!! I will. I'm going to. I need it every so often. You probably do as well. If it's a bath you're into, then do that instead. Heck, mix it up, take a shower in the morning and a bath in the evening. 

I tip my hat to my well-relaxed and healthy readers.


I. C.

Valentine's Day with My Bride

Tonight, we are putting the kids to bed. Then, we'll go to McDonald's. We might even go crazy and get Kid's Meals - just for the toy. Heck, ice cream cones too!

Then, we'll go home and enjoy a bottle or two or three or so (who counts after three!?), sitting in front of the fireplace. 

Then we'll fall asleep.

Kristine will wake up the next morning with a hangover and I will laugh at her. She will slap me. I will laugh harder. She will kiss the slap mark, which will be enormous, being that she works out every day, something I can't do because it hurts and I don't do things that hurt me.

The kids, after hearing the slap, will come into the room and see Mommy kissing my cheek and will walk away, confused as to why a simple peck sounded like a very hurtful slap.

Then, we'll go back to sleep. The kids will get their own breakfast.

The day will be perfect.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Night With My Bride

Kristine went to school. I stayed home with the kids, as usual. She had made them supper and I arrived home late, pushing some project at work.

After class, she called me and said she had to go get a few groceries. I asked her to come home and we could go together after the kids went to bed. So she did.

We went to Wal-Mart and smelled candles. They were all gross, but she bought dozens anyway. Then they smelled good.  

Then she bought a few pairs of delicious thongs (ignoring my protests about money), a utilitarian bra (is there another worthwhile kind?), and a few groceries. After that, we happened upon the aisle of tea.

Tea is good, here in Minnesota, where it's cold and snowy for 11.5 months out of the year. That other half-month finds us 'Sotans cowering inside by the fire, listening to the drowning whine of mosquitoes, the unofficial state bird. Oddly enough, all babies in this state are born exactly nine months later. I'm not quite sure when that month is, because I lost track of our babies after we had two, on our way to six or whatever we ended up with.

Then, we went through the check out line. The few groceries became a $168 bill and we whistled our way to the car, the parking lot smelling like flowers and cupcakes, coming from the candles in the cart.

On the way home, I begged Kristine to go out with me to get a drink. I had walked past a twelve pack of Heineken and, even though I'm not a huge fan, got thirsty. We ended up at Carbone's in Farmington.

The parking lot had three cars in it. We were the third. 

"Lots of people here," Kristine said.

At that exact moment, the door of the bar swung open and a gentleman walked out.

"Even more popular now," I retorted.

We entered and found a table. About a half-dozen, swearing regulars, yelling about a jacket used to flick a bean (I have no clue what the context was) were sitting at the bar. They acknowledged us with their drunken looks. The bartender came over and offered us drinks, informing us the kitchen was closed.

We were hungry, but decided two beers on an empty stomach might do the deed. The manager of the establishment was walking around, vacuuming the floor. It was 11 at night.

We dove into conversation. Pleasantries were exchanged. Phones were fondled. Then more pleasantries. Mid-sentence, the manager walked up to us.

"You guys want a pizza?"

"The kitchen is closed, we thought."

He shrugged. Then he helped us order a pizza, personally made it, and brought it out to us. A few minutes later, he popped back over and slapped a slice of his new creation, Stroganoff Pizza, onto the table, then stood there, eagerly waiting for our verdict. My god, that was a good slice! His eyes twinkled and his vacuuming became just a bit more efficient after we gave him the thumbs up and mumbled exclamations with our mouths full.

Other employees came and introduced themselves with one even telling us her life story. She's 32 and just got out of a 9-year relationship. No need to worry. With her confidence, she'll be fine.

Then, we went home and fell asleep, wrapped up in each other's arms.

Did I mention that I really love my wife? Okay...now I did.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reason for my Absence: My Health

If any of you have been following this flu season, you'll have seen reports of higher than average infection rates. Not just flu, but viral infections through the roof.

Just before Christmas, my neck began to swell on the left side. A little swelling here and there. It would increase and then decrease, but never went away.

Christmas came and I took two weeks off from work. For one of our Christmas trees, we bought a fir from Home Depot, which seemed to exacerbate my neck swelling. The swelling increased to it's largest size yet. I attributed it to allergies.  As the tree died in the house, my neck swelling reduced until it was gone completely.

Then I went back to work. A few days later, the swelling came back. Except now, it was on both sides and up the back of my neck. I also began to have issues breathing here and there, but could always cough to breathe better. It seemed that every time I closed my office door, the swelling would become unbearable.

I gave up and went to the doctor, petrified, anxious, ready to diagnose myself with chronic disease - just like WebMD told me I had. Don't ever look at WebMD. EVER!

My blood count came back normal, but the doc said I had elevated bacteria and prescribed Amoxicillin, Zyrtek, and a Ventolin inhaler. I took four more days off of work. Not improving, I went back for a second opinion. This doctor told me that I had a viral something or other and no bacterial infection. Also, she said I had no allergies.

For nearly twenty minutes, she reassured me that it was a bad viral season and my body was fighting off infection after infection, as was clear by my swelling lymph nodes.

I had more blood tests as my nodes bounced around, generally in the smaller category. Kristine got sick and went in. Her doctor spent an hour telling her the same thing. 

My anxiety is now almost to zero. My swelling lymph nodes come and go. Fatigue is still present here and there. But I'm pushing the fluids and waiting for the day when my body finally fights off the last of these viruses. Also, my company switched my office.

Really, I'd just like a new neck...or summer.

Love you all,

I. C.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Today, I am here to make your day all warm and fuzzy

Do you live in a house? Do you pay for heat? Is it cold where you are? Are you worried about your heat bill?

Well... just be happy yours isn't as much as mine.


I. C.

PS: Now taking donations. ;)

It's COLD HERE!!!!

Yes. Cold. But you've heard it all over the news, so I won't bore you with too many details.

We woke up this morning with a 26 degree below zero temperature and 56 degrees below zero windchill. Here in Minnesota, we're excited to climb to minus 18 by 3PM!

Thank goodness for our garage. It's amazing what a simple stud wall can do to keep out the elements. Both vehicles fired up easily.

Don't worry for us, though. In a few days, it's going to feel like Summer around here with highs in the mid twenties. We may even see 30 degrees ABOVE zero on Sunday!


I. C.