Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Jaw is Sore for Nothing

     Technology in many fields is really pushing the bounds of possibility. The cutting edge of innovation is filled with huge intellects and huge imaginations, and fascinating answers to new and old questions are constantly evolving. In looking through new advances in medicine, electronics and information technology, one starts to wonder what amazing, unimagined concepts will be tired commodities in a few decades even. However, I have to wonder if perhaps the bounds of some technologies are far enough. Have you seen the technologies being developed in chewing gum these days??
     If you've wandered past a supermarket checklane anytime recently the number of gum choices is completely superfluous. I pine for the days when I could drop a quarter on the counter for 5 sticks of something minty, something spicy, something fruity, or some special bubble blend. That's satisfies all my worldly gum cravings I've ever had. But the gum they have out now! Now you, too, can be chewing a piece of gum and you'd swear it was key lime pie or strawberry shortcake! They have gum mystically injected with a delectable splash of liquid nestled in center (which in my point of view, means I end up with less gum). TV channels are flooded with visually dazzling commercials, with beautifully contrasting high-def images to express the overwhelming emotional sensation you are guaranteed to feel when you put this magical little chewable square on your tongue. With all the edginess of an iPad commercial, they peddle next year's model of gum trying to convince me it's gonna taste like how sex feels. It's simply too much!
     Let me ask you this, readers, who's demands and fancies are not being met by the current gum supply? Is there really someone in the country for whom chewing a strip of strawberry in between two strips of apple was such a divine experience they can never go back to Juicy Fruit like the peasants chew? And forget all that, I still haven't found a gum that keeps the flavor, whatever that flavor is, until I'm done chewing it. No, it looks like a flash in the pan is enough for most people I guess, and they're the tycoons making the millions off this gum. I just sit back with my head in my hands and say "for realsies?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Lend a Life

     We still need a great deal of help here in America, financially. I mean the economy has started to stabilize, but there's a still whole heap of debt out there. So many people still owe exorbitant sums of money to what must feel at this point like loan sharks. The way some people feel, I'd expect to walk into Bank of America and the teller would be in a pinstripe suit leaning on the wall flipping a nickel. Then I take a step back and realized "AW SNAP it's your own fault, debtors!" As it turns out, come to find out banks don't force us to borrow a shit-ton of dough, we go out and buy the dreck we don't need on credit.
     Which is why it blew my mind when I learned about a concept called microlending. Now microlending is when some rich investor in America makes a small loan, $50 or $100 or something insignificant like that, and they lend it to people in third world countries. These little loans, the price of a couple of seasons of South Park on DVD, or a brief crack binge, is enough startup capital for some starving foreigner to start generating money and pull themselves out of poverty to pay back the loan. They might be able to buy a fishing boat and nets, or a small stall to sell things from and BOOM! they have a new livelihood! STUPENDOUS!! Amazing! We can permanently change people's lives for the better for the same amount of cash I blew a month ago on a webcam that I haven't used at all.
     So I guess what fascinates me the most is the contrast. On the one hand, an individual with effectively nothing gets a loan for $50, and they can pay it back with interest. On the other hand, we have people here in the States with apartments and trailers full of heaps of what they will proudly admit is junk, and tens or hundred of thousands of dollars in debt they can't possibly pay back in the terms they agreed to, getting more loans! Because 37 inches is too small for a TV now that you got Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for your XBOX 360, and somehow, they haven't cut off the credit card yet! But I stray from my point. Some people get a loan because they want more than they can afford right now, and some people get a loan because they want to be able to afford more after the loan is paid back.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Miracle on Main Street, Pt. 2

Yesterday I told about two separate incidents that happened to me recently. You can read about them here, but now I would like to compare the two, to help you experience the emotion I took in, and the determinations I came to. The first incident, if you don't feel like reading, was when I found 40$ prepaid on the gas pump I pulled up to. The other incident occurred in the discovery of someone's personal pocket copy of "The Bread of Life / the gospel of John" stuck to my windshield, presumably in response to and evolutionist bumper sticker I have on my car. The point of comparison in these two events, is in the larger implications and in how they made me think. To cut to the chase, I feel as though I experienced the divine in one of these circumstances, and the miracle certainly wasn't in that gift of verse.
     No, instead I found god, so to speak, in the circumstance of finding my gas had been comped. It became apparent when I realized how the two matters moved me. I felt several distinct waves of disgust involved with the the gospel left for me. The first was at the point of discovery. At first I thought "Ticket!" and all the worry that goes with it. After the realization of it's evangelical nature and intent, I felt the usual annoyance I always go through when someone tries to tell me their way of thinking is superior. The straw that broke the camel's back, though, was when I realized the targeted and personal nature of the gift. I was the only one chosen to receive this bit of preaching, presumably because of a my "Darwin Fish" car decal, and the 'giver' pointedly gave something he bought for himself to me. He told himself "this guy needs this more than me," or, in another way, "I'm better than this guy because of this little booklet, maybe if he reads it, he's be as good a person as I am!" Sorry, pamphlet-droppers, I resent the blanket assumption that you are right and I am wrong.
     The feelings stirred up, however, from the dingy gas station in the inner city, and the anonymous charity I experienced, seem somehow holy. It came to me with no imperative, to expectation, and only as much guilt as I put on myself. In the wake of the blessing of 40$ worth of gas, I have changed my plans for the future. I have since vowed to pay the gas forward, when I have the financial ability, manyfold. When I arrived to 40$ in free gas, I felt special and lucky, as well as humbled and owing. I felt as though something very wonderful had happened, and that I had to somehow pay my fair price for it, to somehow return those good feelings to the universe in kind, since I cannot repay the person who donated my gas. What truer definition of a miracle can you ask for?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Miracle on Main Street, Pt. 1

     Recently I pulled my car into a local gas station, a wayward Delta Sonic on East Main St. near downtown Rochester. I was dumbfounded when I got to the pump and saw that $40 had been prepaid into the pump. I tried the "cancel" button and it told me to see the cashier. I have something of social anxiety, and not being in the best of neighborhoods, I decided to use the prepaid dollars and avoid this unique and awkward interaction. Watching over my shoulder for someone to come marching up demanding I return stolen money, I fervently filled up and fled furtively. Through the rest of my commute, and sporadically for days after, my thoughts were consumed with the mysteriously personal, enigmatic bounty.
     I went over every possibility in my head. Perhaps the money should have gone to another pump, and someone stormed into the gas station demanding to know where their money had gone, and the gas station would probably have to eat the loss created by a careless attendant, or a customer who misspoke. On the other hand, just maybe, in an act reminiscent of the coffee shop phenomena seen around the country, the previous gas purchaser had paid for my gas in advance. Maybe the attendant, in a fit of angelic inspiration, decided to give the company's gas away or even put his own money into the register for me. I don't know. It's an absolute secret to me. Additionally, the person who put up their 40$ likewise does not know what his money did.
     I told you that story to tell you this one. I have a decal on my car, that is mocking "Jesus" fish decals. It is a fish with feet that says "Darwin," advertising my choice of belief in evolution. The other day when I walked out to my vehicle after working an almost 11-hour shift, someone had stuck "Bread of Life/The gospel of John" under my wiper. This bit of scripture was obviously worn; corners were bent and it was permanently curved from time spent in a pocket. It wasn't a mass handout from a church to all the lost souls in the parking lot, it was someone's personal copy they told themself I needed. It made me seethe. Some self-righteous, holier-than-thou demigod decided that he or she couldn't let me live with my bumper sticker without reaching out to me. I'm sure they ran home, too, and bragged to their significant other, or their parent, or their church buddy about the soul they hoped to  save and the life they tried to affect. I admit, sometimes I feel like I see signs, little reminders that might, in the right interpretation have larger implications. Check back tomorrow, and I will share with you the signs I see in these two incidents.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Contract Can't Be Gay

   I was surprised and unexpectedly proud of New York when we legalized same-sex marriage a while back. The numbers were solid, too; my local newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle reported that 54-58% of New Yorkers were in favor of the change for acceptance. Almost immediately, however, there was a lawsuit filed by a conservative religious group. Shamefully enough the group is based in Rochester's own suburb of Spencerport, reinforcing stereotypes in the big apple that Western New York is all cow town and country bumpkins. As the saying goes, if you don't approve of gay marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex!
     The most infuriating part of this fresh attack on homosexual rights, to me at least, is the new direction of attack to accomplish their intolerant goal. The procedures for how the issue was legislated are being called into question. The group spitefully calls themselves New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (I won't bother breaking down all the hypocrisies just in this name) and they are claiming open door meeting laws were violated in the process. Additionally, they believe that procedures were violated by the bill not being sent to appropriate committees prior to the vote on the Senate floor. If you would like a more complete breakdown of the legal issues called into question, you can read about it here. Annoyingly enough, the bill vote passed: it would likely pass again if required. I see it as simply being a hindrance for the purpose of being a hindrance. It is shouting and jumping up and down and waving of arms, throwing a childish tantrum at the actions of happy people which do not affect them in any way other than those produced in their own minds.
     Sorry, religious-conservatives, you didn't succeed in convincing enough of us that a harmonious union celebrating the love and promise of two individuals in a legal contract with the state was an affront to the lord. It's your right as Americans to continue to persecute and demonize your fellow humans inside the confines of your church. However, for the love of God, act like an American and tolerate the fact that all men are created equal and therefore all deserve the same rights. We voted this in, even though we shouldn't have had to. Just because you believe you are right doesn't mean you have the privilege to force everyone to live their lives that way. As a good friend of mine once said (actually he's a complete stranger and I'm paraphrasing, but his point is true) 'When I teach physics, it isn't called gay physics. When I donate money, they don't call it a gay donation. When I get married, why can't it just be marriage?' Well, friend, too many people in America, through ignorance, intolerance, or fear still find the need to tally all they ways we are different, rather than agreeing we are all people.

Schmear Campaigns

     My short fuse is already reaching a critical point with the Republicans this year, and we're not even out of the primaries. The only reason I'm singling out the GOP is because they are the cats campaigning right now. Specifically, it's how they're going about campaigning, and every politician is guilty. After each debate, viewers might not even be clear on the issues at stake, but they could sure tell you who burned who. So much effort is put toward the person-to-person zingers, as usual, and annually it massively distracts from the actual issues. What can we possibly expect from politics if all the effort is going to defamation instead of ideas for national progress?
    In my glorious utopia, that will only ever exist in my mind, political debates and campaign strategies would be unrecognizable from the current childishness. Each candidate would only talk about themselves, and so when each side gets asked about fixing the economy, or Medicare controversy or whatnot, their answers would be an apples-to-apples comparison. "This is how I will fix the economy" will square off versus "this is how I will fix the economy," and the ideal solution becomes plain. At present, though, there is no comparison of platform or plans, only attacks on opponents. Whats worse, it works! All the undecided voting sheep hear the debates like it's two poor people cussing each other out on Springer!
     The ignorant, uninterested and misinformed people seem to eat up that kind of politics. I don't want to say that past words and actions of politicians have no bearing on the current elections, but the focus needs to be on the issues our country is facing. If a candidate is over-the-top too unacceptable or inappropriate, it generally becomes apperant quickly (the only Herman Cain reference in the whole post!), outside of the debates and campaigning. Perhaps we should actually hold all politicians to some tangible moral standard, then there might be a basis for the ad hominem argumentation. In the big election next year, I'm sure the onslaught of slander ads will be staggering, so I'm hoping people will take a little more initiative than usual, and demand politicians offer up their plans, rather than let them have their pissing contest and let the best dirt-digger win. Please, voters, take the time to wade through and find what's actually relevant and beneficial in your politician's campaign; then see if he or she is really who we want to put in command.