When Mom Made Veggies

They were always yummy.  I grew up liking almost all veggies as a result.  The exception is brussel sprouts which I will always maintain are an evil plot by SPECTRE.  I mean who else would make such an adorable LOOKING veggie and then imbue it with such a bitter horrible taste?  It’s obvious once you look at the evidence.

Anyway, Mom made veggies all kinds of ways, from simple steamed veggies to casseroles.  I always liked them.

Just so you are aware – the premade, preflavored frozen mixes – they just don’t meet that same level of yum.

Today begins my “take better care of  your body” regime.  It has recently been made clear to me that I’m

  1. Fat
  2. Constipated
  3. Hobbled

All of which are directly or indirectly related to the food I put in my mouth.

So I’m eating better from now on.

This is going to require more effort on my part, which when you consider my depression is going to be a challenge.  So I thought – well it’s not hard to throw frozen veggies in a microwave, is it?

So this morning I made an omelet and nuked up some frozen veggies to go with it.

But frozen veggies in the microwave don’t taste very good.  I mean they’re not disgusting, but they don’t make you want to take all the bites until they are gone.

Mom’s veggies made me want to take all the bites.  Mom was good at cooking.

This healthy thing is going to be a challenge to my brain.  I’m going to have to figure out a better way, because if I don’t look forward to the food, I’ll choose a food that’s easier.

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The ease of our collective delusions

Have you ever wondered how the population of a country can be blind to the horrors it is perpetrating.  How did Germans not see?  How did the Japanese not see?  How did the Americans not see?

WHAT?!  Many an American is bristling right now.  “WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS, SARA.  You take that back!” is being shouted at the computer screen.

But yeah.  NOPE.  Not taking it back.  Because we aren’t the good guys.  But the general patriotic rhetoric and feeling about the U.S. by Americans is “We are the heros, the good guys, the knights in shining armor.”

I was 40 before it occurred to me that We Aren’t the Good Guys.  And I knew all the bad things before that.  But still, it was the unconsidered simplified assumption I had about America so I just reinterpreted the bad stuff, as bad but not really changing the basics – America: Good Guy.

I never challenged Good Guy America because that assumption is fed by lots and lots of rhetoric to make me feel that way.  Heck it’s part of the school curriculum.  America, we are willing to blow innocent people up with Atomic Weapons but only because WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS.  That is the gist of how Hiroshima and Nagasaki were taught to me in school.  In fact, right now, someone is thinking about writing a comment about how many lives America saved by doing it.  AMERICA, GOOD GUY!

This country has an ugly internal history of violent and horrific bigotry.  Consider Slavery, the entire Native American Population, (Trail of Tears is just a high point), Segregation, Immigrant Treatment, and Suffrage.  Just to name the big ones.  A full 25 volume encyclopedia would be necessary to summarize the various points of injustices done inside this country by its government to the people and the land and the wildlife.  But we still internalize the fact that we are a good nation.

The U.S. has spent most of it’s young life being  self satisfied at how marvelous we are.  Or if we are having a bad hair day we relish how marvelous we WERE and imagine how we can recreate this fantasy land of greatness which we once were.

The human brain is fully capable of seeing a fact and reorganizing it inside the brain to be a good thing.  To prop it up against beautiful ideas and honestly believe that despite evidence this viewpoint is reality.  It’s the same way people use religion.

If you take a clean objective look at the bible, for example, it’s hard to find a Good Guy God.  But you won’t catch Christian Religions calling God anything but Love.  Because they believe God is Love, they just re-work all the stories inside their brain to be stories about how much God Loves Us.  Our brains work really well at switching that.

Our monkey brains are not clever.  They can be easily manipulated to remember things that never happened, to see things that aren’t there, to re-interpret the view to one that fits our current worldview.

We are complacent in our belief that our brains will not be wrong, when in fact they are wrong regularly.  And we just ignore it.  Like a glitch in the matrix.

Right now Republicans are reworking Trump in their brain.  He’s the Republican so he must be worthy is how it’s going to come out for most of them.  Because they have the unconsidered assumption that Republicans are Good.  Therefore the brain switches to Trump is Good.

We fail when we don’t look carefully at our assumptions.  So very many are hidden from us, but they are worthy of a good stare.  Because our monkey brains don’t just make assumptions, they make SIMPLIFIED assumptions.   So something like being a Republican, which obviously is a complex mess of ideas and concepts, is drilled down to REPUBLICAN.  This removes all the nuance and lets our brain make those unwarranted brain switches on someone like Trump.

 

 

 

Let’s fix the Primary System in the U.S.

The Problems:

Primaries are centered around the 2 party system. Excluding the value of smaller third parties because the media focuses on the existing system of finding someone in each of the two parties to run.  This gives a tremendous advantage to those inside that party system.

Primaries are NOT representative of the voting public. They range widely in how they are handled resulting a deformed view of what actual consensus looks like.

Some states have caucuses – ie people standing in a room and having their vote publicly counted. People don’t like having to openly vote. Its awkward. There is a VERY noticeable lack of turnout for caucuses.

Then there are closed primaries, where only people who are registered members of the party can vote for the potential candidates. This seems reasonable, after all the party is the one sponsoring the candidate, but the reality is that anyone registered can vote for this person AFTER that date, so basically we are having some people choose what other people can vote on.

And then those counted votes are not counted evenly. Some state’s parties have a system where they allocate the votes proportionally to the delegates – ie 20% of the votes gets 20% of the delegates and other states allocate 100% of the delegates to whomever got the most votes.

Some states send their delegates with instructions to vote the election results, but those delegates are NOT REQUIRED to vote as elections indicate.  Yup.  They can just vote anyway they want to.  And on occasion they have.

Many states do a system where SOME delegates just vote however the fuck they want. No pretense that they should follow the voters, they are specifically directed to vote their conscious or their wallet or for their favorite m&ms.  Yeah. That’s right, just a few dozen people are deciding who gets to run for this office in those cases. This obvious creates a serious misrepresentation of what the actual population of the country wants.

Then there are states that completely avoid having a public primary vote as Colorado did this year to avoid giving any delegates to Trump. That happened. In a system that leads to who will be our President. A few powerful people chose how the delegates would vote by not letting the public vote at all.

Finally – none of these things is consistent from year to year.  Every year, the parties just decide to change it around.  They change anything from the dates to the method of voting.

And then there’s the problem of how few people vote at all, much less in a primary. As a result of undervoting we have a massively unrepresentative election. This needs to change.

The Solution:

FIRST: We change to the Alternative Vote.

Stop the the first past the post system of voting. That’s the one we all know – where the person with the majority of the votes wins. But you can have the majority of the votes and not represent the majority of voters. This is ESPECIALLY true in primaries where there are so many people in the field. So a candidate may win all the delegates by getting 32% of the votes. That doesn’t seem right, does it?
So let’s change to Alternative Vote. Watch the video to understand.  Essentially the Alternative Vote allows people to vote for people in order of preference.  And if your first choice is eliminated, your vote goes to your second choice and so on.  Believe me, it’s a WAY better plan.

SECOND: ALL Primaries happen on the same date.

We aren’t spreading this nightmare out over half a year. One day, with all potential candidates in same stew pot. No backsies. We had a spread of dates because historically candidates had to get around and explain themselves. Be seen in person. Well, let’s face it, that’s not necessary anymore. No one is going to a rally to change their mind. They are going to show support. We make our decisions based on information we gather on TV and the Internet.

THIRD: EVERYONE Votes.

You can go and mark Abstain, but YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP. Just like filing your taxes. It’s something everyone has to do. Some people feel this is a lack of freedom. But I think you can still act on your choice not to vote by abstaining, but you don’t get to just opt out because you too were lazy that day.

FOURTH: Candidates are required to publish and discuss all of their proposed policies on a pre-set list of issues.

In depth. You want to build a wall around the US, you need to submit a plan that shows how much it will cost, how it will be funded, details on how it will be accomplished, and analysis on expected outcomes WITH EVIDENCE.  Your proposal must include at least 2 legitimate objections to your plan and your counter position to those objections.  “We’ll see” doesn’t count as a counter argument. (interesting side note: this is how big business is run and if someone walked up to Trump the CEO with an outlandish idea, that person would need to put together just such a report to even get 30 seconds of Trump’s consideration. But apparently that’s not how he’s going to handle the Presidency)

FIFTH: Everyone votes on Everything.

With Alternative Vote that means you will vote for candidates in each party separately giving first, second, third etc to each one within that party. Or Abstain wholly or by individual. And that also means that EVERY Party has a chance to be considered in primaries.

There are downsides to this. For example, the Republicans may be favoring Cruz or Trump heavily but since the rest of the country is also voting on it –  Kasich, the moderate, may walk away with win.

But you can also see the upside – the middle is where things get accomplished. So I think the fact that this system may wash away the minority views it’s also more likely to work than our current system which misrepresents minority views far more drastically.  Still this is a serious drawback to my plan.  I would be interested to hear other views.

SIXTH.  Parties as a whole will also be voted on.

So for example – I voted for candidates in Green Party and Zoo Party and Garden Club.  But now I need to vote for which of these parties should be able to run ANY candidate in the final election.  Top 4 parties get to move forward.  Obviously there needs to be some kind of popular support existing to end up on a ballot in the first place.  And the current method of signatures of support seems reasonable.

SEVENTH: NO MORE DELEGATES. AND DEFINITELY NO SUPERDELEGATES

The public vote is the only way this game is played. Super Delegates don’t belong in a democracy or, in my opinion, a republic. And the entire delegate system is pointless in this day and age.  Count the votes and be done with it.  Sorry – no more boozy conventions.

 EIGHTH: All states handle primaries the same.

There is no caucus vs primary vs no primary vs closed primary. It’s all a universal system. States manage it, but they can’t make up a bunch of rules that only apply to their state.

NINTH: Primary happens 3 months before the election.

Declaration of Candidacy and any version of open campaigning begins 3 months before Primary. 6 months and the whole nightmare is over for 3.5 years. I’m tempted to lower that to 2 months and 2 months…

I have other ideas on how I would revamp the whole system.  I’m hoping to write those up over the next few days weeks.

What do you think?  Shall we change the broken system?

It’s Business.

One of the weird quirks to capitalism is that we have created a separate and NOT equal world of ethics inside of business.

So that we walk into work and we do things that we would NOT do in our personal lives. Things that would be rude or mean or just morally wrong to us in our personal lives are considered OK if it’s in business because the basics of Business Ethics is – make money and do whatever it takes to make money.  We may add in “as long as it isn’t illegal” but ONLY because illegal acts add a cost on it that makes it not profitable.

We think it’s fine to suspend our morals (what we think is right or wrong) when we walk into business because there’s a different code of ethics (rules of conduct) inside those walls.

No one thinks particularly about it.  It’s just how it is.  Many people have made Capitalism into greater moral authority than their particular God.  And they do it without even thinking about it.  Because it is so very prevalent in society.  It’s the Capitalism Exemption.

I think that eventually humans will have to face the vile hypocrisy that we all pretend is not a problem.  But it is.  It’s deeply embedded into some of the biggest problems this world faces, including climate, war, discrimination and poverty.

It’s also something every single one of us sees happening and does everyday in ways we don’t even notice until the big ugly thing happens. Then everyone is sort of weirded out but they nod their heads knowingly – Its Business.  Its OK.

But it’s NOT OK!  If something is morally and ethically wrong – it’s wrong in all parts of this world.  Business is not a parallel universe in which morality can be temporarily suspended so that we can apply Business Ethics to the situation.   The morality of an issue remains the same, even when we ignore it in the name of profit.

I say these things as an non-believer, whose moral compass is somehow managing to ping louder over the moral outrages that are perpetrated inside of business than many of the people who claim a strong belief in a deity.  If those folks wish to continue to hold what they consider to be the high moral ground they need to stop working the Capitalism Exemption.

Indeed, we all need to stop working the Capitalism Exemption.

The odd in my brain

Yesterday I got a new chair at work.  This new chair has been something of a journey. I was sitting in an old comfy AND broken chair.  It listed a bit to the left. When offered a new chair, I only specified that it not have arms that poked into my fundament.  I hate that. And my current chair, besides being broken, has arms that were put on backward and allow my fundament to spill over without check.

So I got the new chair (same kind as old chair) and it was defective.  The wheels wouldn’t turn to roll in a new direction and I was constantly feeling snagged.  Attempts were made to fix that.  No Avail.  So I went back to old and broken chair a new chair was ordered.

This time, they went big.  As in Big and Tall.  They got me a GIANT chair for large people.  And I love it.  It’s a fat person chair.  There was a time when this would have been a humiliation for me.  Instead, it wasn’t until I was falling asleep last night that I realized I’m fat.  That I’m the fattest person in the office.  That they bought me a fat person chair not just because I made jokes about liking plenty of room for my fundament but because I’m fat.

I’ve had an unconscious self identity of being normal weight.  Despite the conscious awareness that I wasn’t.  So this is why it felt like a surprise.

I wasn’t this fat when I started there 3 years ago.  I was a normal weight 7 years ago.  But in those years I have gained 100lbs.  100 pounds. That’s A WHOLE LOT.

I am aware of it, but I don’t have the obsession with it that plagued me when I was young.  My only desire to lose weight is connected to the awareness that my joints hurt when I walk.  And pain is problematic.

You have to understand the ABSOLUTE OBSESSION that filled my life until I was 33 and got a gastric bypass.  I was very fat, much fatter than I am now,  and my entire focus was on how to lose weight, how awful being fat was and feeling terrible about what I ate when it was bad.  I have NONE of that.  I have only a clinical awareness that my pain is due to my weight.

I have none of the humiliation that would have filled my 20 something soul at getting a fat person chair. I’m fat. OK.  My co-workers think I’m fat.  Its OK.

This change is due to the plunge my life has taken in the last 7 years.  I’ve been living my life in a place of desolation.  A place of horrors.  This is a maximum security desolation where minor side issues like being fat are just lint in the air around me.

So now, my brain has a new perspective. And on the one hand, it’s nice to not have that constant whip that is an obsession with body weight and weight loss.  On the other, I’m not healthy and it’s due to what I eat and the weight I’m carrying, so it would be better if I got a little big more focused on this issue.  Not caring at all isn’t particularly helpful.

Figuring out a plan for this seems annoying and huge and a change.  Mostly I think its the change that the depression is bucking so hard.  My brain is NOT a fan of change or New.

So first small step. This weekend I will figure out how I want to develop a new way of handling this.  I think a daily walk and food changes.  Which is where we come into problems.  Because I’m not well enough to prepare elaborate things, so it has be easy and healthy.  Not two things that go together in my mind.

Sigh.  This is going to be a lot of work.

ellie-front
Ellie from Borderlands 2

 

Self Control

I re-read and edit my already published posts.  A lot.

If I had the slightest bit of self control, I wouldn’t publish it immediately.  I would re-read and edit it over a couple of days until it met my satisfaction AND THEN publish it.

But I don’t.  I want the drug of feedback from readers.  I crave it.

The 21st century – adding yet another thing I should have some form of willpower over but instead have fallen victim to its addictive nature.

 

Have I ever told you about Grandma M.G.?

Grandma M.G. was my father’s mother. She wore a make up and a wig and smelled of Chanel #5.

She was glamorous.  Always and forever. When I was little she would arrive in Puerto Rico, where the weather was 85F pretty well year round in a gorgeous designer wool suit with a fur stole.

She then shed these “traveling clothes” for her resort wear.  Also chic.  Also perfectly appointed and considered outfits.  With matching head scarves and colorful jewelry and sandals that matched her outfit’s color to perfection.  Much luggage was necessary.

Every morning I would sneak into her room and watch her put on her “face”.  She had a very ritualistic and precise process of make up.  It was artistry and magic to me.

Grandma M.G. was born in South Africa, the daughter of an Englishman who worked in the Ministry of Agriculture.  Her mother was French.   Her uncle was a big game hunter.  When you are 10 years old these things all seem very glamorous and exotic.  When you are 18 the reality of it begins to dawn on you.  When you are in college in the 1980s and there are demonstration in the U.S. against Apartheid in South Africa, it makes the glamour turn to shame.

When you are 50 years old, you realize that humans live in their time and place.  I don’t know if my great grandfather did anything overtly horrible or just worked in a system that treated humans like garbage under foot.  Or if he treated the people he met with dignity regardless of race.

I will never know and it won’t ultimately have any impact on my life.  Which is odd, since I carry his DNA in me.  But his actions may still have some unknown effect on the people who live in South Africa.  In the same way that they say a butterfly beating its wings in the Amazon will cause a typhoon in the South Pacific.  Each action spawns others and those new actions spawn more and more… And now it’s impossible to say what the outcomes of a man who lived 100 years ago are.

Which is an accurate summary of human existence everywhere and we would do well to remember it.  Your genetic inheritance may affect your health and appearance, but it’s unlikely that it will ever have the large long term impact of your actions.  The long term effects may not be predictable but the short term ones are predictable enough.  And kindness and helpfulness are always positive.

My grandmother left South Africa when she was 18, but I don’t think she ever let go of the conviction than race mattered.  I was in college when I realized that she thought the caucasian race was inherently superior.  It’s a terrible thing to know about someone you love so dearly.

Grandma M.G. was in almost everything the opposite of Grandma Allen, who never wore make up and was practical in all things, especially clothing.  Neat, practical and durable pretty well epitomized Grandma Allen.  But Grandma Allen was also a racist.  She was also born in a time of racism but in the state of Missouri.  But Grandma Allen did not die a racist.  She changed.  I don’t know if that is true of Grandma M.G.

Grandma Allen died surrounded by family and is mourned to this day by her children and grandchildren.  She mattered to so many people in her family and out.  Grandma M.G. did not inspire that level of love in so many people.  She was glamorous but not generous of herself.  She was was funny and charming but ultimately a bit selfish.  She was not alone when she died because Grandma Allen raised my mother, who cared for Grandma MG until her death.  My mom was always kind to her despite not being very fond of her.

I had two grandmothers, whom I loved very much.  But in the end, I want to be like Grandma Allen.  She lived a deeply successful life.  I’m afraid I’m more like Grandma M.G. who probably suffered from depression in later life.  She became reclusive and didn’t leave her room.

I wonder why knowing the path isn’t the same as walking it.  I want to walk the Path Grandma Allen took.  But I’m probably wandering around on Grandma M.G’s path.  The paths are marked on a map, but somehow the map isn’t the territory.

 

Bad Driving

I have become inordinately aware of bad driving in the last 3 years.  I mean startlingly bad driving.  At first I was blaming the era of cell/smart phones.  People looking at a phone drive badly.  But they’ve been around for awhile and I just became aware of this prevalent problem in the last 3 years.

Today I was noting that the driving was often deliberately bad.  Running lights, cutting off people to get in a lane, cutting through corner gas stations in order to avoid the light, random u-turns in high traffic areas.  All of this happened today while I was running errands.

I am currently living and working in lower socioeconomic areas and nearly my entire 20 drive to work is through those areas.  The previous 20 years of my life was spent in upper middle income areas.

So I wondered.  And I looked it up.  Yup.  Lower Socioeconomic areas have higher traffic fatalities and accidents.  Lots of studies on the correlation between them. But no real indication about causes.

And really I wonder what causes it.  Was it bad driving education or a general disregard for personal safety and property, or a general disregard for other people’s safety.

I’m aware that when your life crosses a certain line of terribleness you stop feeling much regard for other people generally.  I know that because I experienced it when I was homeless.  I had to consciously fight it and wasn’t particularly successful.  While its probable that everyone’s line of caring about others is in a different level of terribleness, but terribleness does abound in these areas.

I’m also aware that being depressed makes you a worse driver, you are more ruminative and disassociated from your surroundings.  This makes you less aware.

I wonder also how much of it is just owning a thing that is nice makes you want to keep it nice.  If you own a piece of shit car, there’s no need to drive to protect it.

Lots of potential causes, but I have no idea whether any or all or some variable combination is part of the issue.

But it does feel good to know I’m not imagining this really terrible driving I’ve been seeing.

Listed Under Bad Ideas

There is an editorial by David Harsanyi in the Washington Post about how we should require a civics test be passed before you are allowed to vote.

His solution to problem of ignorant people voting in Trump the Dumpster is to have a test. Apparently forgetting that not very long ago we used tests to systematically disenfranchise a whole race of people and we fixed that weeping sore on our historical backside for a reason.

His solution, sitting in his clear ivory tower of privilege, is that people who know who would be president if both the President and Vice President couldn’t serve, are the only people who should be able to decide what happens to the other 85% of the population.

Apparently knowing who will be the next President if Obama and Biden have Sudden Presidential Death Syndrome, doesn’t mean you understand the actual facts of the Civil Rights Law prohibiting voting practice that has a discriminatory effect. And I’m just gonna guess on the fact that if 85% of the population can’t pass a test, it’s discrimination.

It’s also apparent that knowing facts doesn’t give you any actual ability to make good choices.  Because Harsanyi knows the answers to the test but is clearly unable to wrap his noggin around the how disenfranchising a whole class of people who are the ones in need would NOT be an ideal situation.

Which points the reality of the problem.  It’s not whether we can name all the Constitutional amendments, it’s whether we can think about complex issues and how they relate to ourselves, the country as a whole and the world in its entirety.  It’s about being able to make choices based on evidence and ethics rather than emotion.  That requires a skill we have not been teaching with any success at school.  Critical Thinking.

The very CONCEPT, that we actually do something about educating people to make good decisions is too hard, costly and painful.  But putting up a test about naming all the constitutional amendments, that is simple, cheap and makes a good headline. It also happens to keep Harsanyi in the tiny powerful group who would get to make the choices for everyone.  And if Harsanyi had done any critical thinking AT ALL, it would be clear to him that there is already far too much of that going on in primaries.  The system is not representational.  Let’s not make it worse.

And let’s discuss the very system that led us here.  Our election process has devolved into a 24 month Reality Show, run by power and money.  It has little to do with getting the best people in office.  And it has NOTHING to do with getting candidates that represent the average voter.  As a result we get a stubby fingered Reality Show Freak, using a skill he’s honed to perfection on that reality show, to get into the office.  The very system that powerful people created to ensure their own interests was hacked by an Anal Sore.  Let’s fix that system before we decide that people who would vote for the Anal Sore should be excluded from voting, shall we?

Here’s the thing.  I’m not excited about ignorant racists voting in a Narcissistic Greedy and Probably Fascist Diarrhea Stain. (it’s possible I have emotions on this point)  But I’m also deeply aware that the people who drove the boat to this place have been struggling at the bottom of a skewed economy for awhile.  They have a right to change the direction the government that controls a good deal of that struggle.  And I would argue that they at least have more reason to be on that boat than the diehard educated Republicans who know the Dumpster is a Wet Fart in a Suit but will vote for him anyway because he’s the Republican Candidate.

What is SAD AND WRONG is the fact that struggling people are being duped and manipulated into thinking that the choices made by the Dumpster will help them.  They don’t understand because the system has let them down from childhood.  Poor education, has led to an inability to use critical thinking in their choices.   A continued lack of concern for their needs and struggles has led them to think that it makes little difference who is in the whitehouse so it might as well be the guy that is good at Reality Show Entertainment and says and does all the things that make them have “feels right” moments.

We cannot block the vote to people because we already let them down in preparing them to vote.  We can fix the system that has let down these people so we don’t continue to generate the problem.

And we can heap on a shitload of contempt for the well educated who vote for him anyway because they can’t think outside the Republican Shoe Box.

And finally, we can vote.  Because I continue to believe that there are more sensible people in the world than not.  So, please don’t miss that opportunity, even if you don’t like Clinton, you must vote for the option that makes more sense comparably.  And you and I both know that Clinton may represent that status quo, but she’s not a Worldwide Anal Leakage Disaster.