OK, I drank the Kool-Aid.




We made a stop in Hammond this morning on the way back from an event in Bloomingdale, Illinois.1  I actually wasn't planning to buy today, I just wanted to see and hold one after reading about it at Tam's and Og's.  But the deal was too good to pass up, and the lady wife, while not pleased that it was, after all, a gun, did allow as it was nearly our anniversary, and birthdays were coming up, and yes, I was going to get a camera stuffed up my bum2 this coming Friday and wasn't even going to get kissed.

In return I think I will be paying for her new iPad Mini, if we can find one reasonably priced.

I can't wait to take the Preciousssss to the range.  But I guess it won't be this coming weekend, as I don't bounce back quickly from intravenous Demerol.  (I do get a fabulous nap out of it, though.)

1 The first question the guy at the gun counter asked me was, "Illinois or Indiana?"  I said, "Oh, Indiana.  We were just over in Illinois and we're going home to Indianapolis."  He said, "Welcome back to the land of the free."

2 Getting old is not for the pussyfied.  But nobody told me it involved having your ass violated with a camera after a damn-near day-long purge, then lather rinse repeat once every five years because of diverticulitis.  Ah well.

It is just as powerful as it was the day it happened.

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But I keep wondering when we're going to absolutely pound the shit out of the corner of the world it came from, for good and all.

Not under this worthless President and Congress.

It's truly sad

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that for weeks I was running my browser at 105% magnification...and didn't even know it.

I had been wondering why things were so much easier to read.  And when I discovered it, I left it as the default...

Musings while considering who I work for

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and whether or not I ought to continue to do so:

I hate Europeans.  I really kind of wish they'd let the ragheads outbreed them and take over.  Then we could nuke Europe and feel good about it.

Yeah, I really said that to a co-worker today.  Guess I'm unqualified to be an NBA or NFL owner.

Gentlemen, we must protect our phoney-baloney jobs.

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At least that is the takeaway I get from my wife's recent brush with the law in $COUNTY, which shall remain nameless for the protection of the innocent.  It is, in any case, NOT the county we live in...nor has my wife ever lived in $COUNTY, although she did work there briefly a long time ago.

Last week, my wife received an officious...er, make that "official"-looking letter from the $COUNTY Prosecutor, informing her that she was a deadbeat check-passer and that the $COUNTY Prosecutor was requesting that the state refile a warrant for her arrest for same.

Now, my wife used to be one of those folks who thinks that if they have checks left in the checkbook, they must have money left in the bank.  This has not been the case since we married and she was introduced to modern methods of accountancy.1  She also had a somewhat laissez-faire attitude toward bills that she found herself unable to pay.  So this has meant, over the years, that we have occasionally received officious, er, sorry, "official" notices of back taxes not paid, or old utility bills not paid and sold to bill collectors for pennies on the dollar, etc.  One back tax notice was for failure to file in $STATE, where she lived for about three years, and where she would never have failed to file because she would have gotten a full refund...but I digress (and I think I may have opined about this particular idiocy before anyway).

But this is the first time she's been served with a warrant for passing a bad check.

Upon reading the particulars, we found that the alleged bad check was written CLEAR BACK IN 1998.  That is, well over a year before I met her.  Then, early the next year, the case was refiled and a warrant for her arrest issued, one assumes because they added "failure to appear".  In neither case did my wife receive service of the complaint, probably because she lived in $OTHERCOUNTY at the time (again, not the one we live in now) and it was probably served by mail...and who knows what address they sent it to.  If they sent it to her work address, the idiots she worked for at the time probably threw it away.  In any case, that's where matters sat for over 14 years.

Note that $BIGBOX, the retailer who accepted the check in the first place, also appears never to have tried to contact her directly.  I have heard in the past that $BIGBOX doesn't generally bother with that, they simply go to court immediately because it's not worth their trouble to collect on their own.  Again, I don't know if that's true, it's just what I've heard.

Comes now $COUNTY Prosecutor, who is apparently running for re-election according to $ATTORNEY, and has decided to clean out the courthouse attic so he can claim to his constituents to be Mr. Law and Order.  So my wife, who wrote a check for $MISDEMEANORAMOUNT, has sat here chewing her nails for the past few days whilst her lawyers contacted the court and found out what she had to do to avoid being perp-walked in $COUNTY2 (and probably losing her job in the process).  This all concluded satisfactorily this morning when she went to court and paid for the check, the court costs, and the lawyer's fee, and promised the judge that she would be a good girl henceforward.

My question, though, kind of goes like this.

If a prosecutor timely issues a subpoena or a warrant for an infraction that has a statute of limitations, and then timely executes the subpoena or warrant, I have no problem.  But I do have a problem when 14 years elapses between the paperwork being filed and anyone in the prosecutor's office arsing themselves to do anything about it.  It seems to me that if you have a 10 year statute of limitations on the crime, then a like statute of limitations should apply to any subpoenas or warrants that are related to it that are not executed within that time (I mean, the statute would run for x number of years after the filings, not concurrently with the statute for the crime itself).  And it doesn't seem to me that service by mail is appropriate, either, because mail can become lost or misdelivered through no fault of the court or the defendant.  At some level the state needs to be prodded to do its job, not leave things hanging for years and then be able to, for little more than political reasons, revive them.  Perhaps I need to bring this to the attention of my state representative and senator.

And by the way, you may be wondering how she managed to never got picked up on an outstanding warrant.  She's been stopped a couple of times for things like her taillight being out.  (Not for speeding, she doesn't speed.)  She had an accident a couple of years ago when some idiot kid hit her in the ass at a red light.  She's had background checks run for her job.  Nothing ever came up about an outstanding warrant.  The prosecutor had to ask the state to refile the warrant because the copy they had was unreadable.  That's how fucked up this whole thing is.

The fact is that $BIGBOX is not getting their money, because they were paid what the original court filing demanded 14 years ago.  So inflation alone has destroyed any value inherent in the amount they will receive from the Clerk of $COUNTY.  Pretty stupid all around, and they upset my wife for no particularly good reason, since all they would have had to do was CALL US and we would have made it right.  This was never a case of they "couldn't" find her, either -- she has always had a current drivers license, and has filed taxes, and had bank accounts where the bank knew where she lived.  They could have found her at any time.  They just never tried.

But I did get to call her "my little Miss Demeanor" all week.  :)

1 I have always paid the monthly household bills, because I want the bills to be, like, paid.  I like having a roof over my head and heat and light and water and all those decadent modern comforts.  Sue me.  Well, don't.  I can't afford it right now.

2 They did, in fact, threaten this when her lawyer contacted them.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

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I mean, if ISIS took things over...


Could be worse, I suppose.  Ragheads?  Where?  Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzap!

Let's talk about charity.

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Earlier today I posted on the book of face:

Whatever happened to the idea that one could be quietly charitable in his own way, choosing the cause or causes he wished to support without being "challenged" by supposedly well-meaning friends and associates?

Of course I was referring somewhat obliquely to the ice bucket challenge being pimped by the ALS Association in their current fundraising campaign, but the fact is that ALSA is not the only organization whose marketing people dream up new ways to part good-hearted Americans with their pocket change.  At least in this case, ALSA has a fairly-decent throughput of 27% of income going for research, 19% for patient and community services (which I interpret as some sort of direct aid to patients and families), and 32% for education about the disease.  They spend 7% on administration, which seems reasonable, and 14% on fundraising, which also seems reasonable if a little high, given that apparently all they had to do was get this ice bucket thing to go viral and sit back.

One commenter on the thread suggested that maybe the schtick wasn't so bad, after all former presidents were getting into the act.  He also suggested that perhaps we old people couldn't see the forest for the trees (actually what he said was that he could see the generation gap getting wider rather than contracting, and then offered his "come on" plea that former presidents were doing it).

But my post wasn't aimed specifically at the ALSA ice bucket campaign, even though I used the "challenge" term.  What I really meant -- and what I responded to the negative commenter by saying -- was that I didn't care if GWB let Laura dump a bucket of ice water on his head, because I learned early in life that just because one of my "friends" jumped off a cliff wasn't a good enough reason for me to emulate his behavior. 

Challenging someone to donate to charity or, should they refuse, shaming them into performing some penitential act, is not how charity is supposed to be done. Charity begins in the home, and comes from the heart, not from being challenged to duplicate some stupid stunt that's been dreamed up by a marketing department of a large charitable organization.

I come to this particular crossroads because I am (as should be fairly obvious from my postings over the years) a dedicated Freemason1.  Freemasonry was created out of a need to succor the widow and the orphan in an era when the mass of people were poor, longevity typically wasn't, most men worked in trades where they could be instantly killed or maimed for life if they weren't damned careful what they were about, and, critically, there wasn't any insurance, or any real way to save money against disaster short of putting it in a sock under your straw tick.  If you had a sock.  And a straw tick.  If you were a husband and father, say, a member of the free stoneworker's guild, you could be working 200 feet up on the local cathedral building project and put a foot wrong and be, seconds later, a bloody dead mess on the ground 200 feet below.  Or you could be working with an axe or a saw or an adze, or just about any other edged tool used for timbering or stonecutting.  One slip of the fingers and maybe you don't have one or two of them anymore.  Or maybe you don't have the hand.  Or a foot.

But if you were lucky enough to be a member of that free stoneworker's guild, it was likely that they would take care of you and your family until either you recovered enough to go back to work, or even if you couldn't.  And they would take care of your widow and orphans if you died.

Why was that?  Well, it was because the free stoneworker's guild was fairly enlightened for its day, and had determined that it was the right thing to do, so it swore its members to an oath that, among other things like requiring obedience and true work, also required that you do the right thing by your fellow craftsman -- because he was sworn to do the same for you.  This attitude about caring for people other than yourself -- being charitable to others -- goes back in masonic history to the 14th Century, if not earlier.  And when operative lodges of freemasons decided in the 17th Century that it made sense to open their doors to other good men in their towns and villages, who then became "speculative" freemasons2, they carried that charitable attitude along with them into common practice.  Then, after 1717 and the institution of the first Grand Lodge at London, the idea was codified into what we call the Old Charges Of A Freemason, and, a little later, into Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons.  And they were not the only ones to do this.  Some other fraternal organizations that were designed around the concept of charitable practice, such as the Odd Fellows, also trace their origins back to more or less the same time, although they do not claim the same lineage of Freemasonry.

But the word "charity", as they used it, did not mean what we think of today as "charity", which like as not they would have called "alms", anyway.  The medieval notion of charity was to treat people kindly and much as you would like to be treated yourself.  It was very much an expression of the Golden Rule.  Alms, in the form of money (or other in-kind transfers of wealth, like food, clothing, tools, animal fodder, etc.) might be involved when one acted charitably, but the act of being charitable was the point.

Even in times closer to ours, the word did not immediately conjure up transfers of value.  In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln famously said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all".  He was not referring to millions of dollars in money transfers to the losing Confederates, as a president in the 21st Century might do.  The key was in the duality of the phrase.  Lincoln meant that the end of the war would require reconciliation, that men on one side of the soon-to-be-late conflict would have to shed malicious thoughts about the men on the other side, and treat each other with leniency and compassion.  The entire paragraph reads:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Nothing about money in there at all.

This understanding of the practice of charity, and what it meant to be a charitable person, seems to have survived until about the time of the Great Depression.  I believe (and that's why this isn't a scholarly paper; it's just my opinion backed up by what I see are the facts) that at about that time, the progressive socialists who came to power with FDR began to co-opt the concept of "being charitable" into a set of taxpayer-funded relief programs that later metastasized into our current federal and state welfare systems.  Where physical relief (as opposed to "charity" -- physical relief was a "charitable act") had been handled for centuries by religious and private groups, now it would be funneled mainly through government, because private charity was considered inequitable and too dependent upon the fickle, er, charitable nature of the general public.

"Charity" thus became financially- rather than philosophically-bound, both because it was supported with tax monies that all too often were deducted automatically from wages, and because institutionalized "charities" with specific goals sprang up (think disease of the week...well, go back to why I'm writing this post, and to the ALSA, or to the Red Cross, or to the Lupus Foundation, American Cancer Association, American Heart Association, etc. ad nauseum) with legions of volunteers and paid staffers to pound the pavement for them.  Hell, look at the March of Dimes, founded in 1938 by FDR his own bad self.  Its original reason for being barely even exists anymore; the disease it was created to eradicate (polio) has been, well, essentially eradicated3, and they've moved on to other childhood diseases.

When I was growing up, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, we were taught that "charity" meant "give money".  Or at the very least, give something of value.  I remember the UNICEF boxes we carried at Halloween.  I remember the Jewish National Fund tzedakah boxes we had at home and stuffed loose change into.  I'm sure members of other religious denominations had similar piggy-bank-like schemes.4

Oh, and by the way:  I grew up as a Reform Jew.  I'm not one anymore and haven't been for years.  But Reform Judaism is very, very, VERY social justice-based.  We got our UNICEF boxes at religious school, not at our day school.  And we were taught that the Hebrew word "tzedakah" meant "charity", which in turn meant "share the wealth", i.e., "share your wealth with those who don't have anything" -- like those poor African dictators who got rich off of UN largesse.  But I digress.  

Anyway, that is NOT what the Hebrew word "tzedakah" means.  It comes from the root TZ-D-K, which in its basic form means "to be righteous".  (And not in the way the word has been corrupted by language morons in the 20th and 21st Centuries, either.)  To commit acts of "tzedakah" is to emulate exactly what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said "with charity to all".  Be lenient and compassionate to your fellow man.  Take care of the widow and orphan.  See that the stranger in your gate has shelter and a square meal.  Be kind to animals.  Love one another.

In other words, when we were kids, THE GROWNUPS FLAT OUT LIED TO US.  Or at the very least didn't know themselves that they were lying.

And in the 50 years since the institution of the Great Society, and the exponential growth of government-directed and big impersonal institutional charity (and there is nothing worse amongst the latter than the United Way and the Red Cross, neither of which any right-thinking American should be giving money to), most people are completely lost to the concept that charity is not a simple transfer of value, be that value money or clothing or used kitchen appliances or whatever.  Charity today is impersonal and is generally handled by paying your taxes, writing a check when someone solicits you, or dropping loose change into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmastime (if you can find a store that lets them stand outside, that is).5  And every social and fraternal group has got a pet charity (sometimes two of them) that it is inordinately proud of.

It may come as a shock to my readers that I don't care much for institutional charity.  I don't care for the welfare system we've built in this country either, that takes a gigantic chunk out of my paycheck twice a month.  Both are conceived as a way to separate me from my hard-earned gelt, the government's "share" by force if necessary, and the big impersonal institutional charities by attempting to shame me into jumping off the same cliff I talked about earlier.

I love my country, but I hate the deadbeats who live off of my wealth.  Or what I conceive to be my wealth.  As a noted Washington, D.C.-area golfer who sometimes puts on a president hat told me some time back, I guess didn't build that.  Of course that would come as a surprise to the Founding Fathers, and to Old Abe, too.  It certainly came as a surprise to me.

I also love my fraternity, and the various appendant bodies under it to which I belong, but I'm really over the institutional charity angle. It's not what we are about.  We are taught as Freemasons to be charitable, not to write checks to charity.  And a little research into that shows that, yes, the architects of the Masonic Fraternity meant the word no differently than Lincoln did, or than anyone else did before government and big institutional charities got involved.

After all this typing, the point is simply this:  If you are offered the choice of making a donation or being shamed, or if you are offered no choice at all in supporting government social welfare programs that you don't agree with, there is nothing charitable whatsoever involved.  "Charity by writing a check" (or getting it taken out of your check) does not fit the classical definition of charity.  No person should feel a warm glow because they wrote a check instead of pouring ice water over their head.

And I will extend that to my Fraternity, as well:  When you require me to pay an annual assessment for the upkeep of the Masonic Home, I feel absolutely no thrill. It's just the cost of being a Freemason in this state.  But when I freely donate to the Home, or to its Foundation, I do feel charitable.  And when I go to the Home and visit the brethren there, I feel that I have actually performed a charitable act.

That's the definition of charity.  We need to take it back from the state, and from the institutions, and start practicing it ourselves.

That is a challenge I will accept without reservation.

1 Who, by the way, doesn't cuss nearly as much in public as he does in this blog.  Or rant with the same abandon and lack of caring what other people think about it, either.  The blog is a relief valve, without which I would probably explode from watching the mill run of my fellow Americans act like total fucking idiots most of the time.  As far as I know, I am well thought of by my brethren, some of whom do actually read this blog from time to time, and probably nod their heads at most of my rants.

2 Operative freemasons were the actual working stiffs, who practiced the trade of the free stone workers.  Speculative freemasons were the men they invited in from the community, for instance, the local merchants, or local officials, or the lord of the manor, who were taught by symbols and allegories the philosophical lessons of the free stoneworker's tools.  If you're interested in how this all came about, I'd recommend Freemasons for Dummies, by my good friend and brother Chris Hodapp.

3 Or been eradicated until the idiot anti-vaccination crowd's folly comes to full flower in a few more years.  Why are so many people completely unable to see reason when an airhead bimbo celebrity promotes unsubstantiated and disproven lies?

4 I also remember handing in dimes every week and pasting 10 cent JNF stamps into little passbooks, and handing the filled passbooks in at the end of the term so we could buy trees for Israel.  That was actually a GREAT charity, even if it was money-based.  People of my generation still buy trees in Israel for kids' bar and bat mitzvahs and other life cycle events.  Gonna need more for the Gaza-bordering areas when the IDF gets done with it.  Maybe for Gaza itself, if the IDF does what I think it should and makes a park out of it.

5 And by the way:  The absolute BEST disaster-relief charity in America is the Salvation Army.  And this is a Jew-boy telling you this.  If you are looking for help after a disaster, don't look for the Red Cross.  Look for the Salvation Army.  They don't care who you are or what your situation is, or if you're a Christian or an atheist, they will help you regardless without asking.  And they'll be there and set up long before the Red Cross gets off its arse, and will still be there long after the Red Cross has packed up and gone home -- in large measure because the Salvation Army is community-based and the Red Cross is not.

Two item takeaway

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OK, so there's a group trying to educate 'murricans regarding just exactly what Shakespeare meant when he put the line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" into Dick the Butcher's mouth.

Whether the Bard was trying to defend lawyers or not, I see two takeaways from this.

First, our schools are doing a shit job of teaching the classics if someone has to have this explained to them.  (Of course we've known that for years.)

Second, counselor, "thou doth protest too much, methinks."  If things are so bad that people are actually twisting the meaning of the line out of context against lawyers, your profession has other problems that won't be solved by explaining what Shakespeare really meant.

I hate complaining

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about my own failing physical body, but I really wish the fraggin' weather would MAKE UP ITS MIND.  Since last Thursday, every joint I own has been complaining, and to top it off, somehow I managed to strain a muscle in my back that makes it agony to sleep lying down, and feels better when I stand up...until I move, at which time it grabs me in a reverse bear hug and tries to drop me to the floor in pain.  My left knee does fine on straightaways but as soon as I try to make a lateral movement, it also tries to drop me.

I did finally manage to get into a semi-comfortable position around 3AM, but damn.  At least the formerly-giant cat* didn't decide to stomp all over me last night, but slept between us like he used to.

I need to find some good stretches and a workout program I can do at home to get limbered back up.  The 20 years I've spent behind a desk are starting to take a toll.

* Who now weighs only about 10 pounds, down from his former 19...he had some tooth problems and also has a delicate digestive system since he had surgery 11 years ago after eating a bobbin of thread off the wife's sewing machine...to the point that he had gotten a bit dehydrated and was constipated, so he wasn't eating much.  The vet prescribed 1/8 tsp. of Miralax in his wet food twice daily.  Seems to work, and the wife says (after she was away at her folks' for four days) that she thinks he's gaining some of his former weight back.  She may be right.

Happy Birthday

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The first birthday is exceptionally hard.

Love you.Senior pic.jpg

(Via Facebook, posted by her older son.  Senior picture from high school.  Plus, I don't think I mentioned this before, but she was elected homecoming queen that year.  What a shock...to her.  I think it actually embarassed her.  At any rate, she played it down to the point that I never knew about it till the day we buried her.)

I should go to GenCon this weekend.


The beard has become quite fluffy.  Before I trim it, I'm thinking I should go cause some neck injuries from double-takes at GenCon.

"Do you know that you look like ... "

"Yes.  And no, I don't know when the next book is coming out, and no, I won't kill you, unless you ask me when the next book is coming out."

A little late to the party

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The model who posed for this racy little Burger King ad (which only ever ran in Singapore) has just discovered it (after five years!) and is calling for a boycott of Burger King because she claims she did not consent for her image to be used in that way.

The model, who has not been named, says she was not informed that her image would be used in what appears to suggest an oral sex act.  Last week she posted a YouTube video under the account RV Wonderspunk, where she explains that Burger King Singapore’s advertising agency bought a stock image from a third party, and that during her photo shoot, she was simply instructed to show a range of emotions.

Notice that she's not suing over this.  That's because, as a model, she knows that she doesn't have a leg to stand on; her photos were a "work for hire" and she apparently didn't retain any contractural rights in them at all.  The photo was sold as a "stock photo" and it's unlikely that there were any usage strings attached.

Burger King says,

Burger King has responded to the video, saying that the image was a stock photo that one of its independent franchisees purchased the right to use back in 2009.

"Respect for customers and employees is a top priority at Burger King restaurants around the world. This advert was created by an independent franchise in Singapore in conjunction with a local promotional offer. This ad was not released in any other markets."

I find it interesting that nobody ever identified the model in over 5 years since the ad went viral -- even given that there was so much pious uproar over it -- and I can only figure that the model in question is really trying to create buzz because her career is probably in the shitter.  Eventually she'll self-identify and the world will flock to her door.  Or so she thinks.

For God's sake, people.

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Get a fucking grip.  HE WAS A COMEDIAN.  You act like he was Moses or Jesus or something.

Stockbroker #1: [looking over the edge of the balcony] I think Alan Swann is beneath us!

Stockbroker #2: Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!

Stockbroker #1: No! I think Alan Swann is beneath us right now!


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Potential customer:

I am trying to download your product for Mac, but the Mac links only provide Unix docs and programs...


Lies, damn lies, and statistics

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NBC says that 44% of Americans polled agree that Israel's actions in Gaza were justified.

That few?  Or, given that this is NBC, that many?

I wonder what Americans would do if Mexican terrorists parked themselves across the border and started heaving missiles into the American Southwest?

Oh, wait.  Aren't they already sniping at us with .50's across the Rio Grande?  (Sorry, autoplay video at that link.)

We are so fucked.


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