Friday, August 28, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 28, 2015

The University of Tennesee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion just issued a document expressing concern that students will be offended by the use of traditional pronouns, such as he and she, him and her. Written by Donna Braquet, director of the school’s Pride Center, the document suggests people should use these “gender neutral” pronouns: ze, hir, zir, xe, xem, and xyr.

Wait, What?! Is this for real, or did the author of the document accidentally run a few sentences thru a Chinese translation software program?

No, this is indeed for real. Ms. Braquet explains that there are “people who do not identify within the gender binary.” (I wonder if it’s OK to call her “Ms.”? Oops, is it even OK to call her “her”?!)

Anyway, this begs the question: What exactly does “within the gender binary” even mean? Oh silly, haven’t you been paying attention? Caitlin Jenner? Facebook’s 56 different gender choices? “Within the gender binary” means the traditional two options of male or female. This is now known to some folks as “old-fashioned and oppressive,” while to other less progressive-minded folks the gender binary is known as “reality.” (Personally, I think “Within the Gender Binary” would make a great name for a rock band.)

Nonetheless, Ms. (or Ze or Zir or whatever) Braquet says that students may prefer something other than “the sex they were assigned at birth.” (“Assigned,” as if gender was something handed out to us by a bored Dept. of Motor Vehicle employee while we waited in line.) If these particular students are uncomfortable with traditional pronouns, the recently invented gender neutral pronouns must be used. But how to know which ones to use? Easy, Braquet offers this simple solution: “You can always politely ask, ‘Oh, nice to meet you (insert name). What pronouns should I use?’ It’s a perfectly fine question to ask.”

Perfectly fine question? Yeah, I can see those conversations going smoothly. “Oh, nice to meet you, Frank. What pronouns should I use?”

“Pronouns? Whattaya mean?”

“You know. What gender do you identify with? He? She? Zir? Ze?”

“Uh, are you having a stroke? Should I call 9-1-1?”

There’s an old Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we certainly live in interesting times nowadays, don’t we? Of course, insanity and absurdity are often considered interesting. I think the Chinese proverb was written by a guy (or possibly a gal) named Xem Zir Ze (or possibly Yu Kiddn Mi?).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stop Maligning Contractors

There is a segment of our society that is constantly being maligned, and I think it’s high time we stop it. No, I don’t mean politicians. They are constantly being maligned — and rightfully so! If anything, we need to increase our malignations toward those people who look us square in the eye and lie, especially now that we’re heading into a presidential election year. Complaining about politicians is the only way we regular folks can keep our sanity. It’s a defense mechanism, kind of like “laughing to keep from crying.”

Anyway, speaking about people who “look us square in the eye and lie” brings us back to today’s topic: contractors. Contractors are constantly being maligned, and a common malignuous claim is that contractors look you square in the eye and lie. But this is not true. For a statement to be a lie, the person uttering the statement has to know at the time that it is false. (For example: “I have no intention of raising taxes next year.”)

With a contractor, when he looked you in the eye and said, “I have to finish up a job in Litchfield tomorrow morning, but I’ll be back here by noon to install your new toilet,” he absolutely, 100-percent believed what he said was true. It’s not his fault unforeseen complications occurred at the Litchfield job. How was he to know that when he tightened the screw on a new faucet handle it would cause a pipe to crack under the sink, which spewed water all over the place, and when he raced down to the basement to shut off the water, the valve handle would snap right off in his hand, and then the plumbing supply house would be all out of the required replacement part, which forced him to drive to Waterbury, but his van got a flat tire in Thomaston? How would the poor guy ever expect something like that to happen, other than the fact similar situations occur on virtually every job?

So the bottom line is, he is unable to get to your house by noon, and you have to go the rest of the day, and as it turns out another two weeks, without a toilet. Hey, stuff happens. By the way, if this ever happens to you, when you visit the nearby Dunkin Donuts five times each day for an entire fortnight to use their facilities, at least buy something once in a while. Otherwise, take it from me, the folks behind the counter begin to lose their mirthful demeanor.

This unfortunate scenario is the exact reason why contractors should be admired rather than malignated: they risk their financial security every single day despite overwhelming uncertainty. You think it’s easy being a contractor? You think they’re all getting rich? Think again. What if you quoted a price for a job, and calculated it would take 10 hours to complete, but when it was finally done, it instead required 25 hours and you ended up losing money on the project (along with leaving a couple people waiting extra days for their new toilet)?

Personally, I hate uncertainty. I prefer a steady paycheck each week. I’d be unable to sleep if I knew that despite working hard every day I still might not get paid if a few unforeseen problems occur. Frankly, I don’t know how those guys do it. 

So let’s stop maligning contractors. (Hey, surprise! I used the word correctly for a change.) Contractors are the backbone of our entire economy. And if one of them could stop by and install my new toilet sometime this month, the folks at Dunkin Donuts and I would be very grateful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Only 4 more months till Christmas!

Just a heads up: only 4 more months until Christmas! Yes, it’s hot and muggy outside right now, and the kiddies are going back to school. But if you haven’t noticed, time flies, and before you know it Christmas decorations will be in the stores (October) and then we’ll hear non-stop Christmas carols on the radio (November) and finally the big day itself will arrive. 

Also, to make us feel better, the AP reported yesterday that the Farmers’ Almanac just published their prediction for this upcoming winter. They say in the Northeast U.S. it will very similar to last winter, that is, much colder than usual and much more snow that usual. Oh goodie! I can hardly wait. “It’s the most wonderful time, of the year!”

Monday, August 24, 2015

But Mass Is So Repetitive and Boring!

The other day a friend said to me, “Hey Bill, how come you go to Mass every single week? Mass is the same old thing every time. I can’t believe you waste your time going through the same repetitive, boring ritual every single Sunday.”

I replied, “Well, I don’t. Sometimes I go to Vigil Mass on Saturday.”

He rolled his eyes and said, “You know what I mean. You go to Mass every weekend, and it’s the same old thing every time.”

I paused for a moment and said a quick prayer to St. Shecky, the patron saint of smart-aleck comebacks, and then said to my friend, “Let me ask you something. Why do you eat every day? Why do you sleep every night? Why do you do your laundry every week?”

He said, “Um, I don’t do laundry. Ever since I put a new red shirt in with white stuff, and turned everything pink, my wife won’t let me near the washing machine.”

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes and say, “You know what I mean.” I continued, “Why do you do those boring repetitive things over and over again?”

He said, “Well, with food, I need to nourish my body, or else I’ll die. With sleep, I need to rest and recharge my batteries, or else I’ll, um, I’m not sure what’ll happen if I never sleep, but I’m sure it’s not good. And with laundry, that’s obvious. You don’t want me walking around with dirty, smelly clothes, do you?”

“You mean dirtier and smellier than what you usually wear?” I asked. (By the way, I forgot to mention this conversation took place on a weekend, the time when we guys often relax our hygiene standards—by which I mean we pretty much have NO hygiene standards and will put on any article of clothing that does not have visible mold colonies chewing through the fabric.)

Getting a bit more serious, I said, “What you just said are the exact same reasons why I go to Mass each week. I need to get spiritually nourished on a regular basis, or else my soul will starve. I need to rest and recharge my mind, and get away from all the electronic noise once in a while. I need to clean myself of all the selfish thoughts and nasty attitudes that build up during the week. That’s why I go to Mass: to keep my soul and spirit healthy and clean.”

My friend thought about this for a minute. Finally he said, “I guess that makes sense—for you. But for me, Mass is so boring. I don’t feel nourished or cleansed or any of that stuff. That’s why I hardly ever go anymore.”

“I totally understand,” I said. “There was a time years ago when I felt the same way. But that was before I discovered a really important celebrity was in attendance at Mass.”

“Celebrity?” he said. “Around here? Who do you mean, the mayor? That wacky weatherman on TV?”

“No,” I said. “I mean the Creator of the Universe. Jesus Christ Himself is really present in the Eucharist at every Mass.”

“Wait, you don’t really believe that stuff they taught us in 3rd grade catechism class, do you?” he asked.

“Why shouldn’t I?” I replied. “Jesus taught it, St. Paul repeated it, and the Church has proclaimed it for 2,000 years. He is truly present in a special, supernatural way. And it only happens at Mass.” Then I took a deep breath and said quietly, “Why don’t you join me at Vigil Mass today? It starts in an hour.” 

My friend looked at me and sighed. “OK, why not?” he said. Then he tilted his head, lifted his arm, and sniffed. He looked up and said, “But first I’d better put on a clean shirt.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 21, 2015

The recently signed nuclear deal with Iran has been very controversial. President Obama insists the deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while critics, including Israel, say the deal insures that Iran will get a bomb sooner. (And the fact the leaders of Iran repeatedly insist that they want to wipe Israel off the map makes the folks in the Promised Land, shall we say, a bit nervous.) All along, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has insisted that the deal will allow U.N. officials to inspect Iranian nuclear and military sites, guaranteeing that Iran cannot cheat on the deal.

Just this week, however, it was revealed that a secret side deal between the U.N. and Iran will allow certain Iranian sites to be inspected by … Iranian officials.

Wait, What?! The guys we don’t trust are the SAME guys who will be doing the inspections? Hmm, that’s sure to end well. Imagine that I’m a suspect in a bank robbery and the police come to my house. I tell them to wait on the front porch while I check to see if there’s any bank money in the house. A few minutes later I return and say, “Nope, I didn’t see any bank money here anywhere.” As they turn to leave, the cops say, “Thanks for your help, sir. Sorry to trouble you. Have a good night.”

(Another analogy I saw online: This agreement is “like letting an athlete suspended for drugs send in his own urine sample.” I suspect there will be about a million of these snarky analogies once the cyber world realizes what this agreement is all about.) 

When I first read the article explaining that Iran gets to inspect Iran to make sure Iran is not violating what Iran agreed to do, I thought it was a parody news website. Nope, it was the real news. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday morning

I am grateful that it has been hazy, hot, and humid all this week. Actually, I’m really not THAT grateful, but I’m trying to minimize the complaining by reminding myself how bitterly cold and snowy it was last winter. Mid-90s and oppressively muggy is kind of annoying, but minus-10 with blowing snow, and listening to my boiler run non-stop all night while it struggles to keep the indoor temp above 60, is definitely worse. 

And if I remember correctly from Physics class, my pipes will not freeze when it’s 90-something degrees outside. There, I feel better already.