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There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” since the election. So much talk that “fake news” no longer means “fake news” but “biased articles we don’t like.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with fake news. I can tell when news is fake, and if you can’t tell when news is fake, then I don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to deal with real news, so I give up on that score. I have even less of a problem with biased news. I expect unbiased news reports about as much as I expect Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor to walk into a bar. I assume that reporters are biased; I factor it into my analysis of their reporting. What bothers me more than fake news and biased news is crap news, i.e. “news” about stupid crap that doesn’t matter to anyone and drowns out issues that are actually relevant to people’s lives.

A prime example of crap news is whatever dumbass thing the President-Elect just tweeted about that makes no difference to anyone but only shows what a dumbass jerk he is. WE ALREADY KNOW HE’S A DUMBASS JERK. THIS ISN’T “NEWS.”

The crap news that is bugging me right now is this business about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, saying that schools need to have guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears. All the liberals are like, “OMG GRIZZLY BEARS THAT’S SO STUPID,” and all the conservatives are like, “OMG THAT’S A GROSS DISTORTION OF WHAT SHE SAID,” and really, both of them are correct, but the most correct response would be “OMG EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT GUNS AND BEARS SHE CAN’T GIVE A COHERENT RESPONSE TO A RELEVANT QUESTION ABOUT FEDERAL LAW REGARDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES”—but that last one is more than 140 characters, so good luck.

I have four kids, three of whom are still in public K-12 schools (the fourth is at a public community college) and two of whom have disabilities. I’m as interested in the success of my disabled children as I am in my other children’s, and I’m grateful to be living in a day and age and society in which we’ve collectively made efforts to ensure that disabled students get appropriate educations. However, I am not naïve about the limitations and drawbacks of the current system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am totally open to new and different policy proposals for ensuring that disabled students have access to an appropriate education.

From what I’ve read, i.e. what I’ve managed to glean from reports that aren’t obsessed with her unnatural fear of grizzlies, Betsy DeVos’s general philosophy seems to be that the federal government should have less control over education and states and locales should have more. That is a general philosophy that I happen to share. No, I’m not some kind of wacko who thinks school districts should just hold bake sales and hope for the best. I’m neither a purist nor a fanatic, but I am skeptical that the federal government, as far removed as it is from most citizens’ lives, can effectively micro-manage the educations of all students. Just a healthy skepticism, that’s all I have, not a partisan axe to grind or a political hobby horse I want to ride.

The fact is that my family does just fine under the status quo. We’re above-average in terms of income and financial resources; my husband and I are both college-educated; one of us is a full-time caregiver. We have many advantages over other families, particularly when it comes to providing for the needs of our disabled children. We can supplement our children’s public education. We can afford to live in a good school district with good schools. We can afford private therapies for our children with disabilities. We can afford babysitters to watch our kids while we go to endless IEP meetings and fight with the school district over what services they’re going to provide. We can take time off work to go to these meetings. If push comes to shove, we can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate to help us navigate the process of getting our kids the services they’re legally entitled to. The federal government doesn’t need to change anything on our account.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of families in this country who don’t enjoy the same advantages we have. Whatever their neighborhood school is, no matter how awful, they’re stuck with it. Whatever the school district offers in terms of services for their disabled children, no matter how inadequate, that’s what they’ll get. These are the families who aren’t being served by the current system because they don’t have the resources to navigate it. So yes, I’m very interested to learn how a “federalist” (i.e. local) approach to education would benefit students across a spectrum of needs. I’m philosophically biased toward federalism and local control to begin with, so you don’t even need to work that hard to sell it to me—but you do have to sell it. You can’t just say, “Leave it up to the states,” like it’s some Jedi mind trick. That doesn’t even work on me, let alone all the folks who think “states’ rights” is just another way of saying “slavery” or “segregation.”

I’m not super-convinced that anyone in Washington really wants to have a substantive discussion about education policy, though. I haven’t seen reports of any particularly substantive questioning of Betsy DeVos by anyone in the Senate. I see that she can’t explain what she plans to do (or not do) to improve the lot of American students, but I also see that some dumbass from Connecticut wanted to spend his five minutes asking her what she thinks about guns in schools WHEN IT’S NOT THE EDUCATION SECRETARY’S JOB TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF SCHOOLS OR PUT THEM THERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT SHE THINKS. Honestly, does anyone think Sandy Hook could have been prevented if the Secretary of Education (whoever he/she was at the time) had just been more pro-active about keeping guns out of school? I meant that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case anyone’s raising their hand, let me just say NO GRIZZLY BEAR OR PSYCHOPATH HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION. Whether or not there should be guns in school or no guns in school is certainly debatable. By all means, have that debate. MAYBE IN YOUR STATES OR LOCALES, WHICH ARE IN CHARGE OF GUN LAWS.

I should probably not call the senator from Connecticut a dumbass when I’ve never met him and he’s probably a perfectly lovely person who happens to feel strongly about gun control for understandable reasons, but golly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not everything can be about gun control.

I should also probably note that Trump talked on the campaign trail about banning gun-free schools, as though this is something the President should even be able to do, let alone actually do. To this I can only say NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND THIS COUNTRY REALLY NEEDS TO HAVE A COME TO JESUS ABOUT EXECUTIVE POWER. FORWARD SLASH RANT

The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is if this is the level of discourse we’re going to have about education policy. A meaningful discussion of the most important issues will take longer than the 45 seconds the public is willing to spend on it. SO FINE JUST TALK ABOUT BEARS.

I have followed the BYU Title IX fiasco, i.e. story, with interest. That’s about the most neutral way I can put it.

I should probably make two things clear from the outset. The first thing is that I’m not a fan of using Title IX to adjudicate sexual assault cases on college campuses. There’s a reason rape is a crime, and there’s also a reason criminals have rights. Does this mean that rapists sometimes go unpunished? Yes. Burglars, muggers, drug dealers, and even murderers also sometimes go unpunished. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when citizens have rights and governments have the burden of proving that you committed a crime before they throw you in prison or otherwise ruin your life. Private institutions can do what they like, of course—but Title IX isn’t a private institution. It’s the law. That’s worth remembering. I believe that sexual assault cases should be handled by the criminal justice system. But I also believe that BYU has moral obligations to its students who are victims of sexual assault. If its failure to fulfill these obligations happens to violate Title IX, that is one thing. We could argue all day about Title IX. But that’s not on my list of things to do today.

The second thing I’m going to admit is that I’m not a fan of BYU’s Honor Code. It’s not that I think the standards are too high. To be sure, I think some of them—e.g. the prohibition on beards and the micromanagement of students’ sartorial choices—are too silly, but BYU is a private institution and can do what it likes. (I’m a big fan of private institutions being allowed to do what they like.) My argument is not with the standards themselves but with the perverse incentives and disincentives that strict enforcement of the Honor Code creates. If you need an ecclesiastical endorsement signed by your bishop to remain in school, it can discourage you from seeking pastoral care when you may need it most. And if you’ve been sexually assaulted and the story of your sexual assault involves an Honor Code violation on your part (even tangentially), or if a violation may be inferred from the circumstances (even without evidence), it can put you in the position of choosing to press charges against your rapist or to stay in school. That’s not a position anyone should have to be in. It’s reasonable to argue that a student signs a contract and should be expected to live up to the contract. I can’t argue with that. My argument is with the terms of the contract itself.

I agree that a lot of the discussion around this topic has been unproductive, due to people’s visceral instincts to slam BYU (and by extension the church) or to defend BYU (and by extension the church). And as many feelings and thoughts as I have on this issue, I’ve not been eager to talk about it publicly because I don’t have any desire to contribute to unproductive discussions. (Lately, I mean.) I understand the reluctance to alter BYU’s Honor Code, which appears to have served BYU and most of its students just fine for decades, and specifically reluctance to make exceptions, even for alleged victims. But there are two arguments against making such exceptions that need to be addressed.

It is interesting how many people argue that the Honor Code dramatically reduces a BYU student’s risk of being raped. (A representative example can be found here.) It is true that there are some high-risk situations that a person following the Honor Code would be unlikely to find themselves in. I’m the first person to advise young women—or anyone, really—against deliberately intoxicating themselves. You cannot argue that remaining sober does not put you at a distinct advantage in life; you are at far lower risk of being a victim of anything if you aren’t unconscious or similarly impaired. As victim-blamey as some people think that is, I will say that all day long and not apologize for it. (If that sounds familiar, I learned from the best.) However, no one should be under the illusion that refraining from alcohol or other mind-altering substances—or following any aspect of the Honor Code whatsoever–keeps you “safe” from sexual assault. Plenty of people are raped while sober, in their own apartments, in the middle of the day, in places and at times and under circumstances where they “should” have been perfectly safe. The Honor Code is in no way a protection against being raped, nor is it intended to be. The Honor Code is designed to discourage you from doing x, y, z (and probably a-k and m, p, t & w) and to cultivate a wholesome environment and image for BYU. Period. That is a fine goal in and of itself. But it was not intended nor designed to protect anyone from sexual assault—and it won’t.

What is really interesting is that many of the same people who argue that the Honor Code makes BYU students safe(r) from rape also argue that giving rape victims Honor Code immunity will encourage people to make false accusations of rape in order to avoid punishment for consensual sex. Unlike the risk of being raped—which isn’t particularly affected by the Honor Code—the risk of being falsely accused of rape actually is significantly reduced by following the Honor Code. If you never have consensual sex with someone, it is highly unlikely someone will claim that your non-existent consensual sex was rape in order to avoid getting punished for something that never happened. But what are people worried about, if rape victims receive Honor Code immunity? False accusations against students who engaged in consensual sex. So what happened to the ”safety” of the Honor Code? It is hard not to infer that rape prevention is meant to be primarily a burden on women.

Rape, of course, is not explicitly mentioned in the Honor Code. But people take what is mentioned in the Honor Code and apply it exclusively in terms of a woman’s responsibility to avoid her own rape. Imagine if the well-intentioned advice about preventing rape went like this:

Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol consumption is highly correlated with sexual assault. You are more likely to rape someone if your judgment has been impaired by alcohol. Your inhibitions will be lowered, and you may not be able to tell if your partner is fully willing or not.

Don’t be alone with a woman. Whether in your own apartment or hers, or in the back of a car in a secluded location, it is never safe to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. You are much more likely to rape someone when there aren’t any witnesses.

Be aware of the signals you are sending. Are you communicating clearly with your partner that you intend to have sex with her, regardless of what her personal wishes are? Or are you giving her the impression, even inadvertently, that you care about her feelings and that she can trust you? Be clear about your expectations. Don’t act like you’re not going to rape her and then change your mind halfway through.

If you’re thinking, “This is ridiculous. Rapists aren’t going to pay any attention to this advice,” you’re beginning to see my point, even if you don’t know it yet.

The Honor Code shouldn’t be seen as a “safety” issue at all. Whether or not it was “smart” or “showed good judgment” to drink or do drugs has no bearing on whether or not someone was in fact raped. I would advise everyone I know to do what they can to stay out of prison, as there’s no question that staying out of prison significantly reduces your chances of being sexually assaulted. However, being raped isn’t something that you should just “expect” to happen when you are incarcerated because hey, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. I don’t care what you’re in prison for, or whether you’re guilty or innocent: other people don’t get to rape you because you’re in prison. Rape is a crime, and it’s evil. It is not a “natural consequence” of your own poor choices, even if your “poor choices” include felonies. Your risk of sexual assault is directly related not to your compliance with the Honor Code but your proximity to someone who is willing to rape you. People should always be safe from sexual assault because sexual assault should never happen.

But of course it does. Not because victims do something wrong or stupid or inadvisable, but because rapists do something wrong, i.e. they rape people. In a perfect world, people should be able to go anywhere or do anything without fear of being assaulted, robbed, murdered, or harmed in any way, but that is not the world we live in. So does it make sense to take precautions in an imperfect world? Yes. Please do take precautions, by all means. Don’t tattoo your Social Security number on your forehead. Don’t give your credit card numbers to Nigerian royalty. Keep your drink in sight at all times. Avoid driving at night after the bars close. Never follow a hippie to a second location. But negotiating risk—deciding for oneself which risks one is willing to take under what circumstances–is not the same as being responsible for creating risk. People have the right to walk alone at night, even in a bad part of town, without being assaulted. That is a right because assault is a crime. We think differently about rape than we do about other crimes because of the emotions and vulnerabilities associated with sex. In some ways this is proper; rape is an especially heinous crime because of the emotions and vulnerabilities associated with sex. However, we must not let our treatment of rape victims be influenced by cultural attitudes and beliefs about sex that may be false, unhealthy, or otherwise harmful. Unfortunately, women are more likely to be victims both of rape and of harmful cultural attitudes about sex. And that is especially bad news for Mormon women at BYU.

So apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!

So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.

To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?

My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.

I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)

But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.

I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).

Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.

Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.

One of the things that annoys me about living in the twenty-first century is that the technology has come so far and yet it still fails to meet my expectations. How is this possible? Am I really that fussy? Apparently so, because I bought this new cell phone (to replace the one that is dead), and it is driving me nuts because I can’t figure out its black magic.

This is the first phone I have bought for myself. My husband bought my last two phones. I have always heard that buying a cell phone is easy. You walk into the store and say, “I would like to buy a cell phone,” and the person behind the counter guides you through the entire process. I suppose that is true, to some extent. I walked into the T-Mobile store and said, “I need to buy a new phone,” and the person behind the counter asked me what kind of phone I wanted, and I said, “One that is like this dead one I am holding right here.” I considered getting a fancier phone than the one that was now dead, but the dead phone, before dying, had always served me well and I really don’t know what I’d do with a phone that was smarter than I was. My husband has owned two Blackberries, and they make me crazy. I can’t stand them. He asks me to look something up on his phone while he is driving (since it is unsafe and also illegal to use your own phone while driving), and I can never do it right, and he gets exasperated, wondering how he ever managed to marry such a big dummy, and I want to throw the phone at his stupid head because to paraphrase Forrest Gump, I may not be a smart man, but I know what user-friendly is. A really smart phone would be idiot-proof, but instead he has a phone that likes to taunt idiots, which I think is kind of mean. I don’t like bullies, never have, but anyway, that’s how I came to be in the T-Mobile store asking for a phone that will at least pretend to respect me.

So the salesman pointed me toward the three phones in the store that were primitive enough to be comparable to my beloved now-dead phone, and I asked him what the difference was between two of them. He said, “This one has bigger numbers and a bigger screen.” Being that I’m old and my eyesight is going, I figured I should opt for bigger, so that’s what I did. I was a little bit sad because my old phone was lime green, which matched my iPod that is lime green and my Kindle cover which is also lime green, and I am just superficial enough that if there had been a lime green phone in that store, I probably would have bought it no matter how smart it thought it was. But there weren’t any green phones, so I settled for this midnight blue one. I felt a little mismatched when I left, but I was still excited to have a new phone because a) presumably this one worked and b) I might just find I liked it better than the old one (no disloyalty intended, but it’s not like the old phone can hear me, being not only merely dead but really most sincerely dead).

You see? I had an open mind.

Anyway, I do not like this midnight blue phone with the bigger numbers and the bigger screen better than my old phone with the adequately-sized numbers and screen. It is not as easy to use as my old phone was. It’s not impossible to use, like a Blackberry, but it’s just not easy. More to the point, I believe it is harder to use than it has any business being, given that it is allegedly not a smart phone. I don’t mean that it is putting on airs, but I think it is being deliberately annoying. I blame myself, because I believed the hype that it is really easy to go into a store and just buy a cell phone. I know better for next time. Next time I will ask the important questions. At the top of the list will be “Which phone requires the fewest steps to access my contacts list? Ideally, I would like something under three. One would be just super. There was this lime-green phone you used to carry that only required one step to access the contacts list. That was so convenient. And intuitive. You opened the phone and the word ‘contacts’ appeared right on the screen, and you pushed a button and there were your contacts, just as if you’d requested them special. Do you have anything along those lines?” I will sound matronly and old-fashioned, but it won’t matter because old ladies don’t care what other people think; they only care about getting what they want. That’s the sort of person I aspire to be.

But that’s in the future. For now I have to live with this phone, on which it is actually easier for me to just memorize all the numbers I need and punch them in myself than it is to access my contacts list. A phone number is ten digits, eleven if it’s long-distance, and that is about as many buttons as I have to push to access a particular number on my contacts list, and dialing the number my damn self will give me a sense of accomplishment and also have the side benefit of not making me want to kill someone because who the crap invents a phone that is this ridiculous? What’s the main reason anyone owns a phone? To call people! At least that’s what I’ve always assumed. Perhaps the twenty-first century has left me behind. Who knows what the kids are doing with phones these days? I don’t even want to know. (And it’s good that I don’t want to know, because I probably couldn’t figure it out even if I wanted to.)

There is another, secondary function that I like my cell phone to have, and that’s a camera for taking pictures. This phone has a camera, and after an entire afternoon on my part and ten seconds on my husband’s part, I have discovered how to access the camera in fewer than twelve steps. The problem is that there is this additional feature on the camera part that allows you to enhance your photos with these cute backgrounds–like, the actual photo part is this relatively-small circle/square and the rest of the picture is this cute background giving your subject animal ears or putting them on Mount Rushmore. The default background is a milk carton with the slogan “Got Friends?” And when I say that is the default background, what I mean is that that particular background is the default setting for the camera. I have to scroll to get to the no-background option. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to change the default setting. I’m sure there is a way, because it just seems that if there weren’t a way, that would just be too asinine for words. My head would literally explode if someone informed me there was no way to change that setting. But there doesn’t appear to be any way to change it, and if you haven’t gotten the idea yet, that is my number-one requirement for a technology device: there must appear to be a way to change it. Otherwise, there really may as well not be. And that’s where I’m at now. There is no way for me to change this setting. I have to do it manually every single time I want to take a picture, until such time as I want to make it look like I’ve taken a picture of a milk carton.

Naturally, I have some questions. To begin with: Am I SEVEN? Why would I want this feature AT ALL, let alone have it as my DEFAULT SETTING? And to end with: Why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY???

That’s my main complaint about the camera. My other complaint–minor by comparison–is that there is no zoom on the camera. My old phone camera had a zoom. Not a great zoom–almost an inconsequential zoom, really, but at least it was there and made me feel like it was at least making an effort. So fine, I have no zoom. I’ll live. Instead of a zoom, I can adjust the brightness. I guess. That appears to be what those controls are for. They’re probably going to be about as consequential as my old phone camera’s zoom, but at least it’s something.

My only other complaint–and this is the last one so far–about the phone in general is that I like to use my phone as a way to tell time because I no longer wear a watch. I used to wear a watch a long time ago–wore watches for years, actually–but one day my watch broke and it took a long time to replace it and by the time I did, I was used to not wearing one, so wearing one now actually bugged. I tried to get used to it, but then the watch stopped working. Then my mother-in-law got me this cute Snoopy watch (I love me some Snoopy), and I was willing to try to get used to wearing it, but that watch never worked. It was only cute. And thus ended the watch-wearing chapter of my life. I would say “but I digress,” but the digression is already over, and I’m back to the phone now. I want my phone to tell me what time it is. My old phone, which was a flip phone, had this button on the side that you could push and light up the clock on the outside. This new phone, also a flip phone because I wanted a phone just like the one I had before, also has a button on the side, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the clock. I have to open the phone up to see what time it is. That bugs. And now I have my number two question for when I go in to buy my next phone.

My number three question will be “Which phone comes with an actual instruction manual, containing actual instructions?” This phone came with a “health and safety manual,” which explains in English and Spanish how to use your phone without causing a car accident or getting brain cancer, and a “start guide,” which is sort of like an instruction manual, except that it’s useless. I will summarize its contents for you: “If you are so STUPID that you can’t figure out how to use a PHONE, here’s a quick tutorial: 1. Open phone. 2. Push the buttons that correspond with the numbers you wish to dial. (Note: If you do not push the buttons in the correct order, the phone may not dial the party you wish to reach.) 3. Talk.” That’s it. Don’t do drugs, stay in school. That’s all it’s got for me.

You know, I don’t mind being condescended to, as long as I receive useful information in the process. Otherwise, have some respect.

Incidentally, I’m sure I can find solutions to all of my phone problems on the internet. Or by letting my husband fiddle with it for 15-25 seconds. But this was more emotionally satisfying. And now I’m going to take a shower.

Okay, I have a question for you crazy kids. Girlfriend’s birthday party is tomorrow. We ended up inviting 23 children. We would have invited 24, but I neglected to mail one of the invitations. Oops. (Seriously, it was a mistake. I had nothing against this kid coming, but it’s a little late to invite him now. Well, I suppose it’s not, technically. I could drive over to his house and tape the invitation to the front door or something. Is it ruder to invite someone less than 24 hours before the party starts or to not invite them at all? I suppose when I put it that way, it’s clear that I should drive over to his house and tape the invitation to the front door, but I dunno, just something about that plan screams, a) “Weirdo!” and b) “There are already 16 positive RSVPs and wouldn’t you rather just feel really guilty afterward???”) Anyway. As I mentioned in the parenthetical aside, there are at least 16 children aged 5-6 coming to this party. No, I am not prepared. I’m not remotely prepared. But it could be worse. I’m going to start a new paragraph rather than dwell on this point any further.

Positives about this party: 1) It’s at my MIL’s house, not mine. 2) It could possibly make my daughter happy. I might even say probably, except that life is unpredictable, and I try not to have expectations. 3) …. Well, those first two should be good enough. Especially since we’re not talking any more about the negatives!

Except for this one thing, and this is just a general children’s-birthday-party complaint: Goody bags. (Here’s where you should be envisioning Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man character from Saturday Night Live while you read.) I hate ’em! In my day, you got invited to a birthday party and you brought the host a present. They weren’t expected to give any to you. They already invited you for cake and ice cream and a rip-roarin’ good time, and that’s all you had. That’s the way it was, and we liked it! We LOVED IT! Nowadays you have to send every guest home with a bag of loot to remember you by, but why? WHY????? (I’m not channeling Dana Carvey anymore, I’m just being myself. Envision me as you will.) It isn’t just that I resent having to spend money and time on goody bags for my kids’ party guests–although it’s certainly mostly that–but it’s also partly that I think it’s just a stupid practice in the first place. I hate it when my children come home from parties with goody bags–it’s all just sugar sugar sugar or cheap Oriental Trading Company crap that clutters up my house, not to mention the earth, and you kids know I don’t even care about the earth that much–so if I’m concerned about the environmental impact of something, doesn’t it stand to reason that it must be evil? And yet I don’t dare buck the goody bag trend. I’m anti-social, but my husband isn’t it, and since he generally does the lion’s share of party-managing, I suppose I have no place to complain…except that I seem to always get put in charge of goody bags, and I hate ’em!

Can you tell I haven’t figured out how I’m going to fill these stupid goody bags without making me hate myself? What do you think would happen if I just didn’t do it? If I just sent children home empty handed–what would people think? What would YOU think, gentle readers?

Here’s another thing: I got a RSVP from someone who wondered if the invited guest’s two siblings could possibly tag along. This isn’t an unusual request. I have certainly had it before. And in the past I’ve said, “Sure, why not?” because I just…can’t…say…no. Even when it’s a Pump It Up party and you have to pay extra for extra guests. Because…just because I can’t say no. I’m that way. But I had to say no today because there are 16 (possibly 16+) children coming to this party, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of two more children, and I had no idea how old these extra children were, but I couldn’t envision a scenario in which two extra children would work for me at all. Older children–might get bored and cause trouble. Younger children–might start missing their mommy and crying. I don’t know. Just–no. I couldn’t deal with it. So I very kindly and self-abasingly said, “Sorry, but no.” I’m okay with it. I thought the world would crack open, but it hasn’t. Yet.

It’s just this–in a million years, it would never occur to me to ask someone–especially a stranger, but not even a person I knew–if it would be okay for my kid’s siblings to come along to the party that only my one kid was invited to. Never, not in a million years. And it’s not like the practice is unusual–apparently–but it would still just never occur to me. Ever! I figure that if you wanted more kids than just the one, you would have specified on the invitation “Kid 1 plus Guest(s).” You know, like when you invite someone to a wedding and they’re expected to bring a date. But that never happens with children’s birthday parties, and so I always assume that “Kid 1” means “Kid 1” and not “Kid 1 (unless there are any more like him at home–wink wink!).” Seriously, am I just old-fashioned, or is this kind of weird? I wouldn’t even call it rude because it’s just so weird to me that the question of rude or not seems beside the point.

It frequently comes up with parents who have to work. I understand that parents have jobs and jobs are important, and I don’t expect anyone to take time off work to take their kid to a birthday party, but the thing is…weren’t you going to work even if your kid wasn’t going to a birthday party? Who was going to watch all of your kids before one of them got invited to a birthday party? Or had you not reasoned it out that far yet? Do you see what I mean? Weird. Or am I just insensitive?

I don’t know. I have to go grocery shopping before it’s time to pick Girlfriend up from school. Wish me luck, amigos. I’ll see you on the flip side.

So Princess Zurg has been complaining to me for quite some time about how the kids at school wear those pink I LOVE BOOBIES bracelets that are supposed to raise breast cancer awareness, but among middle schoolers really only raise boobie awareness (as if it needed raising).  If you read my one blog in October of last year, you know how I feel about being naughty for breast cancer awareness.  No, you don’t have to click on it, I’ll just tell you:  I find it an irritating trend.  Number one, I think just about everyone who could possibly give a crap already knows about breast cancer and how there isn’t a cure yet.  Number two, if you’re going to be naughty in the name of a good cause, at least do it for money–you know, something that might actually help the cause and not just remind people of something they already know about.

That said, I can’t say I have a lot of righteous indignation about the I LOVE BOOBIES bracelets–maybe because I spent all my righteous indignation on that one blog post.  Although I’m sure a portion of the proceeds from selling these bracelets goes to breast cancer research or breast cancer something-or-other, I’m reasonably certain that most of these middle schoolers mainly think that it’s cool to wear a bracelet with the word “boobies” on it–which falls squarely into the category of being naughty for awareness, which I’ve already explained is lame.  But whatever.  The point is not my righteous indignation–which is pretty well summed up with one big eyeroll–but PZ’s righteous indignation, which is summed up with a lot of complaining about how she doesn’t like the word “boobies” and how most of her classmates aren’t even aware that the bracelets are for breast cancer awareness (quelle surprise!) and how the school can’t legally forbid the students from wearing the bracelets because that would be encroaching on their right to free speech.

You might also already know my opinion of middle schoolers having a constitutional right to say “boobies” whenever they want.

But again, my indignation has been limited to eye-rolling, and I’ve tried to persuade PZ to limit her indignation to eye-rolling as well, since this is a heck of a hill to die on, when you consider all the problems an eighth-grade girl can have, not to mention all the problems in the world.  Also, I am trying to teach her to be less uptight.  (If you haven’t guessed already, she’s kind of a prude.)

Today, however, she was talking about a school policy that I already knew about and had previously rolled my eyes over:  Students are not allowed to hug each other.    They’re not allowed to hug each other because hugging a) can be construed as “borderline sexual harassment,” and b) is a gateway drug to hardcore public displays of affection.  I mean, obviously there are a lot of legitimate issues to consider here–or maybe there’s only two.  1)  We don’t want students sexually harassing each other.  2)  We don’t want students making out in the hall.  So it just makes sense to ban hugging.  It solves all kinds of problems–or, you know, it solves two problems.  You could just ban students from touching each other, period, but that would be extreme.  Insert eye-roll here.

So today PZ was complaining about the boobie bracelets again, and then she was talking about the no-hugging rule.  And suddenly the lameness of it all was in such stark relief.  You have a constitutional right to wear a bracelet declaring your love of boobies because that’s free speech, but you don’t have the right to hug your friend because that could lead to sexual harassment or public sexytimes.  PZ said that one of the justifications of the no-hug policy offered by school personnel is that some people might not want to be hugged but they don’t feel comfortable refusing and therefore will end up with an unwanted hug.  So, you know, better make a rule so no one has to be uncomfortable.  Unless someone’s declaration of boobie-love makes you uncomfortable, of course.

I’m sorry, but didn’t we give these kids the “good touch, bad touch” talk already?  Isn’t saying no to a hug, even from your friend, good practice for saying no to a host of other things you’re going to have to say no to for the rest of your life?  What’s wrong with teaching kids to say, “Hey, you know?  Not really a hugger.  How about a fist bump instead?”  It works for grown-ups; it can work for kids, too.

As long as we’re stretching the First Amendment to the breaking point, how about we invent a constitutional right for a middle schooler to give his or her friend a hug if the friend happens to…oh, I don’t know…have a mother dying of breast cancer?  Is there room in your America for such normal human interactions, or only for boobies???

Lame lame lame lame LAME!!!

When I read this story about the Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung photoshopping Hillary Clinton and another woman (Audrey Tomason, the national director of counterterrorism–file that away for future use on Jeopardy!) out of the photograph of Pres. Obama and his staff watching the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, I thought, “This is appalling, but not shocking.”  Apparently their editorial policy, based on religious beliefs about modesty, prevents them from publishing photographs of women because they might be seen as sexually suggestive.  So some very conservative religious people do something that the rest of us think is wackadoodle–stop the presses, you know?  Anyway, there it was.

Then this morning I read about the newspaper’s apology.  They had permission to use this photograph, provided they did not manipulate the image; they manipulated the image, thereby rendering their permission to use it void.  (I could have been a lawyer, only then I would have to read sentences worse than the one I just wrote.)  It was an oversight on their part.  So that’s fine.  We all make mistakes, even big stupid ones that should be obvious even without reading the fine print, so we’ll cut you some slack this time.

But then there’s this line in their official statement:  “The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel.”  They go on to point out that Secretary Clinton was a New York senator for several years and enjoyed strong support from the Orthodox Jewish community, which is fair enough.  That certainly adds some context for their actions.  They insist that their policy of not printing photographs of women is based solely on modesty concerns and they are sorry if others saw this as offensive.

Well, Der Tzitung, on behalf of twenty-first century America, I am sorry if you were offended by our failure to understand how you can respect women so much that you feel compelled to make them invisible.  Forgive us for trying to make sense out of that one; we assure you there was no malicious intent on our part.  Rubbing women out of recorded history, deceiving your readership and effectively lying about what transpired in the Situation Room (love that name, “Situation Room”–I need one of those), rather than allowing anyone to gaze upon photographic images of their fully-clothed bodies may have been motivated by a sincere religious belief, but it strikes us as weird–morally weird.  If you think not publishing photos of women is the correct way to show respect for women, then don’t publish photographs of women–that is your prerogative.  Doctoring photographs so that women are effectively disappeared from public life is not your prerogative.  Perhaps we can avoid such misunderstandings in the future if  you just refrain from publishing photos that contain women, i.e. photos that have ever at any time contained women.  Maybe you can fill those inches of blank newspaper with a detailed explanation of why there is no photograph.  Or you could use a picture of baby pandas.  Everyone likes baby pandas.

In other news, while I was looking for appropriate linkage for the aforementioned story, I stumbled upon this other story about a fifth-grader who got sent home from school because he decided to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death by painting an American flag on his face.  Actually, the school asked him to wash off the face paint, and his mother responded by pulling him out of school for the day.  There is a difference.

An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer said the district overreacted.

“There’s a difference between discussion and debate, which schools should encourage, and a breakdown of discipline in the classroom,” ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper told the newspaper.

How’s this for a concept?  You don’t have a constitutional right to wear face paint to school.  Kids, you know I’m as happy about Osama bin Laden being dead as the next person–which reminds me, I still haven’t baked those cookies–but I still think it is not unreasonable for a school to expect students to show up with clean faces.  I mean, we’re talking about a diversion you would enjoy at a carnival, not the Federalist Papers.  I don’t care what you have painted on your face–be it the American flag, a unicorn jumping over a rainbow, or even baby pandas–there are boundaries, people.  If you wanted to express your happiness over a U.S. military victory by dressing up as Uncle Sam and belching “The Star Spangled Banner,” I suppose the ACLU could make a federal case out of that, too, but is that really the hill you want to die on?  (More to the point, is it the hill you want our Navy SEALS to die on?  Do Navy SEALS die on hills?  I don’t know.)  The First Amendment exists for a reason, but this isn’t it.
In fairness to the fifth-grader, he plans on sticking to T-shirts from now on.  Good call.

When I first read about the new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which will excise all instances of “n—–” and replace it with “slave,” I thought, “That’s lame.”  That was a couple days ago.  I was a little pre-occupied with some other stuff.  This morning I have showered and unloaded the dishwasher and eaten breakfast and my five-year-old is still asleep, so I’m thinking, “What shall I blog about?” and what’s on my mind is this lame publishing company that thinks it can write a better version of Huckleberry Finn than Mark Twain did.

Now, it’s not as though the original version of Huckleberry Finn is going to be phased out or something.  This is just an alternate edition, kind of like an abridged version of a really-long-novel-that-doesn’t-really-need-to-be-that-long (does it? because I’m a little short on time).  And in the words of Keith Staskiewicz, who wrote the EW article linked above,

The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

I think there is a problem.  It’s one thing if you want to take “s—” out of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” for the radio edit–because let’s face it, what does that song even mean?  I don’t know.  It’s her s—.  (And it’s bananas.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S.)  Not much violence is done to the artistic intent if you replace “s—” with, say, “stuff,” although one might well argue that “stuff” isn’t quite as musical as the other.  But I digress.  We’re not talking about a pop song that half of you reading don’t even remember and the other half of you might be angry with me for putting in your brain because now it’s going to be stuck there all day.  Am I sorry?  No, because I was making a point, which is that we’re talking about the seminal American novel that everyone has to read at some point in his or her education because it’s important.  And if you change the language in which it was originally written, it’s not like an abridgement–it’s like a bad translation that fails to capture the essence and intent of the original. It is an inferior product.

“Nigger” is not interchangeable with “slave.”  If it were, “nigger” would not be offensive, or “slave” would be spelled “s—-.”  (Not to be confused with “s—.”) “N—–” has a connotation that goes way beyond “slave.”  A black person wasn’t called a “n—–” because he was a slave; he was called a “n—–” because of white racism.  White racism justified black slavery, but beyond that, even black people who were technically free were not equal under the law or in society.  Replacing “n—–” with “slave” not only screws with the novel’s voice , but it severely diminishes Twain’s anti-racism message.  Good golly Miss Molly, this is like Huck Finn for second graders–I feel ridiculous having to spell this out on a blog post intended for grown-ups, but it wasn’t second-graders who censored Huckleberry Finn; it was well-intentioned adults who ostensibly care about bringing a literary classic to a wider audience.

But these well-intentioned adults are missing the point.  If you are too immature to handle the N-word in historical and literary context, you are too immature to appreciate Huckleberry Finn.  You may as well just watch the TV movie starring Ron Howard and Donny Most because the finer points of the novel will be lost on you.

As I said in my tiny-rant on the Facebook this morning–oh, how I hate to repeat things I’ve already said on FB, but I only have so many original thoughts–it’s like taking out the “F— You” in Catcher in the Rye and replacing it with “Go jump in a lake.”  Say what you will about the literary merits or moral value of Catcher in the Rye, but such a Bowdlerization would render that climactic scene fairly meaningless.  Writers choose their words carefully.  (Even I choose my words carefully, sometimes.)  Because writers know that words matter.  How you use words matters.  When you use certain words instead of others matters.  That’s why we have writers and why we have censors.  There are times when putting things a bit more delicately is appropriate, or at least benign.  It is not appropriate or benign to re-write Mark Twain.

I think I understand how offensive the N-word is.  I move in circles where there is very little vulgarity spoken aloud.  I find the F-word extremely jarring when it is spoken aloud, but if someone said the F-word in front of me, I would be merely jarred–as opposed to if someone said the N-word in front of me, in which case I would be horrified.  Because the N-word has connotations that are beyond vulgar or offensive.  That is why it’s so important that the N-word stay out of our polite discourse but stay in Huckleberry Finn. It does us no good to pretend that the word wasn’t commonly used in the nineteenth-century South or that it doesn’t have a history the pre-dates rap music.

I’ve been known to protect my children from a lot of things I consider vulgar and offensive.  (I won’t let them watch America’s Got Talent, for example.)  Our house is the Euphemism Capital of Suburban Portland.  But my children are going to read the real Huckleberry Finn, if they’re going to read it at all.  Anything less would be unacceptable.


Krusty the Clown: Now, boys, the network has a problem with some of your lyrics. Do you mind changing them for the show?
Anthony Kiedis: Forget you, clown.
Chad Smith: Yeah, our lyrics are like our children, man. No way.
Krusty the Clown: Well, okay, but here where it says, “What I got you gotta get and put it in ya,” how about just, “What I’d like is I’d like to hug and kiss ya.”
Flea: Wow. That’s much better.
Arik Marshall: Everyone can enjoy that.

So this morning I read this story about these buses in Fort Worth, Texas, that have atheist ads on them, and how Christians are upset about them because dude, it’s Christmas, and do we really have to put up with your godless crap at Christmas? and how some God vans are following the atheist buses around town to counteract this abomination, and here, I’ll just quote some of the article for you:

FORT WORTH — Stand on a corner in this city and you might get a case of theological whiplash.

A public bus rolls by with an atheist message on its side: “Millions of people are good without God.” Seconds later, a van follows bearing a riposte: “I still love you. — God,” with another line that says, “2.1 billion Christians are good with God.”

A clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have a blessed day.”

“We want to tell people they are not alone,” said Terry McDonald, the chairman of Metroplex Atheists, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, which paid for the atheist ads. “People don’t realize there are other atheists. All you hear around here is, ‘Where do you go to church?’ ”

But the reaction from believers has been harsher than anyone in the nonbeliever’s club expected. Some ministers organized a boycott of the buses, with limited success. Other clergy members are pressing the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to ban all religious advertising on public buses. And a group of local businessmen paid for the van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town.

“We just wanted to reach out to them and let them know about God’s love,” said Heath Hill, president of the media company that owns the van and one of the businessmen who arranged for the Christian ads. “We have gotten some pretty nasty e-mails and phone calls from atheists. But it’s really just about the love of God.”

The face-off here follows efforts in other cities by several coalitions of atheists — American Atheists, the United Coalition of Reason and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to name a few — that have mounted ad campaigns to encourage nonbelievers to seek out others of like mind. Some have compared their efforts to the struggle of gay men and lesbians to “come out” and win acceptance from society.

So now you know what’s going on.  And here’s what I have to say about it.

First of all, who knew that atheists felt left out at Christmastime?  I thought atheists were supposed to be all badass and rational and not need anyone else because they’re so smart and independent-thinking, unlike people who need to cling to myths to create meaning in their lives, but whatever.  You all know I fully support atheists building up their own community instead of just complaining that they don’t fit in because they are too rational and S.M.R.T.  There’s a local atheist group that meets at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe the fourth Wednesday of every month, and they all slurp mochas and talk about how they can share the joy of atheism without being, you know, all evangelistic and crap.  I don’t know how much success they’ve had in their wider agenda, but they’ve been meeting there pretty consistently for the last two or three years, and I know they have a good time doing it, and that is what really matters.  Yeah, they get a little rowdy sometimes.  Those atheists love to talk–at least when they’re in a group of like-minded people smart enough to understand where they’re coming from–but that is why God created iPods for the other customers, i.e. me.

*Note:  I know that God technically did not create the iPod.  (Or did He, technically?  Does it really matter, as long as I have an iPod?  I think not.)

So, yeah, if a bunch of atheists want to pool their money together and buy some ad space on the city bus so they won’t feel alone at Christmastime, that’s no skin off my nose.  I’m just happy they’re happy.  (I don’t know what God thinks about it.  I wouldn’t presume.)  It doesn’t bother me when atheists talk about being good without God.  I wish more people would be good, with or without God–I’m not picky!  Whatever floats your boat.  And if they can advertise an aquarium called The Wet Spot around these parts, why shouldn’t some atheists advertise some atheism around those other parts?  (We don’t need to advertise atheism in Oregon, particularly.  I think we’re the most unchurched state in the Union, so atheists don’t feel quite as put upon here as they might in Ft. Worth, even if they do still feel the need to imbibe mocha as a group.)

No, I’m actually really annoyed with the Christian businessmen’s response to this.  Seriously, following the bus around all day so people don’t forget that God always gets the last word?  Number one, is that really necessary?  Answer:  No.   Number two, aren’t there better/more important/more useful things to do with your money, not to mention time, than follow a bus around all day?  Answer:  Yes.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Yes.”  As central as evangelism is to Christianity–and I admit I say this as the World’s Worst Evangelist, but at least I am aware of the legitimate place of evangelism in the Christian religion–I really don’t think this sort of thing helps anyone.  I mean, obviously, it doesn’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked or liberate the captive, but more to the point, it isn’t really spreading the Good News, either.  It’s less “Jesus Saves” and more “People who follow Jesus are even more insecure than atheists if they have to hire a van to drive around town responding to the ad on the side of a bus, which would probably be largely ignored if it weren’t for the crazy van people following it all day.”

I guess I’m just different from a lot of people because I don’t get the indignation.  I feel that indignation should be reserved for big stuff that really matters because if you only get indignant about stuff that really matters, more people will pay attention when you’re indignant.  When you get your nose out of joint over every little thing, people tend to start ignoring you.  Just like they do with the atheists.

I really don’t think I’m picking on the Christians, either.  Believe me, I can just as easily see a bunch of atheists getting miffed about a bus ad about Jesus saving, only instead of hiring a van to follow the bus around and say, “OH NO HE DIDN”T!” they would just hire a lawyer and start suing stuff.  (When was the last time you saw an atheist driving a van anywhere?  I rest my case.  Actually, no, I’m just curious.  Do you think atheists drive vans as often as Christians do?  Because they’re apparently kind of loners, those atheists–no one to talk to and commiserate with–so they probably don’t need a lot of passenger seating in their vehicles.  It’s just a theory.)

So what was I saying?  Oh, yeah.  I don’t get the indignation and feeling like you need to do something when someone’s bus ad rubs you the wrong way.  Unless it were a bus ad supporting communism.  Except the public transportation is sort of like communism, so it’s actually kind of fitting.  So never mind.  I guess I just don’t get the indignation.  Especially during Christmas.  Aren’t there better, less “nyeah, nyeah” ways of sharing God’s love at Christmas?

That’s all I have to say, and now I have to go play with my daughter before she goes off to get indoctrinated with this God stuff at her Christian preschool, to which I shall drive her in my unmarked (mini) van.

So this morning on the Facebook I posted a link to this Reason article about why the government shouldn’t ban Happy Meals.  It’s not because I love McDonald’s, because I really don’t, even though I’ve been known to eat there on a fortnightly basis with my daughter.  Yeah, I’ve already admitted that on this blog about a million times, so it’s not like I’m going to start denying it now.  But I’m only there for the playground, I swear!  I find their food tolerable, at best.  Okay, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional McNugget–they’re Satanically delicious!   But I would never argue that eating at McDonald’s is good for children or other living things.  And frankly, I hate the stupid toys that come in kids’ meals because they are nothing but landfill fodder.  Yeah, I give them to the Goodwill instead of throwing them away, but let’s face it, Goodwill is just the middleman in that scenario, and is the energy spent on transporting the toys to the Goodwill any less destructive to the environment?  But I’m losing the thread of my own story now.

Let me sum up the point of the previous paragraph:  I don’t have any great love of McDonald’s, but I don’t have any great hatred of it, either.  If my kid’s getting fat on french fries, that’s my fault.  No one’s holding a gun to my head and forcing me to take her to McDonald’s or any fast-food restaurant.  I understand the “foodstuffs” there are all processed and crap.  You don’t need to tell me how awful it is.  I mean, I can taste that for myself.  But if I want to feed myself or my little darling bad food, that’s my business, as long as I’m not poisoning her.  (And I think the legal definition of “poisoning” does not yet include the occasional trip to McDonald’s or even habitual servings of margarine, knock on wood, so I’m still safe on that front.)

I don’t really have a problem with people talking about how bad fast food and processed food is for you.  I mean, it gets a little boring for me, maybe even a little irritating sometimes, but I figure, hey, I have my religion, they have their religion, and can’t we all just get along?  So I have a high tolerance for people moralizing on this subject, even if that tolerance consists mostly of rolling my eyes and ignoring them.  I just don’t like them forcing their morality down my throat, as it were.  Or, you know, I don’t appreciate their morality reaching down my throat to yank out the evil McNugget because, hey, I was eating that.  My body, my choice!

As Steve Chapman, who wrote the Reason piece, points out, if people can’t go to a restaurant for their fat and sodium, they will just find it elsewhere.  If you really want to go down the interest-of-public-health-fat-people-are-a-drain-on-the-system road, you’re going to have to get way more intrusive than banning Happy Meals to make a difference, and that should make all Americans uneasy.  It doesn’t, obviously, or we wouldn’t have Americans banning Happy Meals, but whatever.  I’ve about exhausted my interest in the subject.

What I dislike almost as much as, or maybe more than, people taking away my God-given right to eat bad food is people employing dubious tactics to scare me away from bad food.  I already know the food is bad for me.  Most people know the food is bad for them.  You don’t have to be smart to recognize that it’s bad for you, and if you don’t recognize that it’s bad for you, you are probably too dim to be persuaded by a more sophisticated argument.  So I didn’t like that SuperSize Me movie.  Yeah, obviously he made himself really sick and unhealthy by eating at McDonald’s three times a day every day for thirty days, but who the hell does that?  Only that guy!  It doesn’t prove anything except that some people will do anything for attention.

Another thing I didn’t like was that video about the McDonald’s hamburger that doesn’t decompose. Dude, I already know that the food is bad for me!  You can stop grossing me out now!  I never actually watched the video for the same reason I don’t click on links that tell me other gross stuff that I already know and don’t need to know more.  But I was happy to see this item, also this morning, which explains that the reason McDonald’s hamburgers don’t decompose in open air is the same reason any hamburger of similar proportions does not decompose in open air:  it dries out before it has a chance to rot.  If you refrigerate it or package it in such a way to preserve the moisture content, it will decompose just like any other hamburger.  But why would you want to do that?  Moldy hamburgers are really gross.  (And, I’ve heard, bad for you.)

I would have posted that link on Facebook, too, but a) I didn’t want to look like a fanatical McDonald’s defender and b) I wanted to post this sign:

So if you’re going to resolve not to eat at McDonald’s anymore, be sure you’re doing it for the right reason:  because their food sucks.  And your body is a temple, by gum!  A freaking temple!  But don’t do it because their hamburgers don’t decompose because they have a very good excuse for that.

P.S.  I do congratulate you on not eating fast food because you are a better person than I am.  And you know what else?  If you’ve never had the opportunity to observe fresh, healthy food failing to decompose in open air in your own household, I also congratulate you because, well, I think you know why.  But let’s not dwell on that!


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