Friday, July 23, 2010

One Tired-Ass (and Heartless) Meme

Meme.: A concept that spreads swiftly via the Internet.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

And I'll emphatically add: a concept that, more often than not, ain't necessarily true the deeper one looks.

Take for example this recent meme: "Heartless and hateful Republicans don't want to extend unemployment benefits! Bastards!" If not those exact words, pretty darn close.

A liberal friend, who happens to be unemployed, said to me recently, "it scares me that so many republican politicians carelessly brush aside our (at this point) absolute dependence on unemployment money." That's quote for quote.

This bothered me.

So, I asked my heartless self: Was I a member of the heartless party heartlessly denying hearty unemployment insurance (UI) extension to millions of hearty Americans.

Turns out, um, no, not really.

The then-proposed UI extension, some $34 billion, was a part of a larger $200 billion stimulus (Swindle Us) bill, per the WaPo:

The extension was first introduced in a nearly $200 billion package of economic measures sought by the Obama administration, including fresh aid to state governments and extended health insurance subsidies for the unemployed.

$200 billion? Shoot, that means that not even 1/4 of the money was going to go to UI. So, naturally....

Republicans blasted the spending plan, and conservative Democrats revolted, demanding that the package be scaled back.

So it was:

Democratic leaders spent the next two months tossing various items overboard until nothing was left but the least controversial bit of spending: income support for unemployed workers. Democrats downsized even that program, dropping a $25-a-week bonus for all jobless workers* that had been enacted under last year's stimulus package.

Two months. (Or, if you're unemployed, that's better said, "Two fucking months!")

Yet, our dear President made strong allusions to it being all the GOP's fault, saying that it was just partisan tactics "that unconscionably held up unemployment insurance."

On really?

If extending UI was such an "emergency" as was argued by liberals, why didn't the Democrat-controlled Congress propose a straight-as-an-arrow UI bill?

Well, first of all, UI extensions have been a part of stimulus packages before, so that's no surprise. And it's no surprise that there was opposition to the first version wanting an additional $166 billion in spending—particularly in light of the $800 billion in TARP that isn't working as advertised. Basically, what the GOP said was, "Hey, we're fine (sort of**) with extending UI bennies, but you've got to cut the rest of this crap out of here. And explain how we'll pay for this while you're at it."

That took 2 months. The ball was in their court for 2 months.

Yes, "Those heartless and hateful Republicans!" "brushing aside" the unemployed.

Grab your hip waders, the memes are deep and plentiful. On both sides.

*What? What is this?
** Another $34 billion borrowed from our Chinese buddies. Oye. And yes, with a vote 272 to 152 there was still GOP opposition to the bill. For good reason.***
***At 99 weeks, when do the extensions end? At 9% unemployment? 8%? 6%? At some point, there has to be a cutoff. Having the political cajones to do so, is another question

Friday, July 16, 2010

OP's Summer of New

Last summer, I purchased new golf clubs for the first time in 12 years. Up until 6 weeks ago, I loved them! (I still love them; I'm just deflecting responsibility for my shitty swing on to them because, as we all know, it's the clubs' fault, stupid.)

Anyway, this summer is featuring even more new goodness for me!

Recently, I purchased my first-ever pair of prescription sunglasses, plus a new pair of regular old glasses. (I look sharp in them, too.) I also got a stylish and sinister looking PokerStars hoodie after cashing in some bonus points. (Look out fish!) Then I received a new set of fake teeth. (Sigh.) And, finally, this past Monday, I purchased my first-ever—insert drum roll, please—iPhone!

The 4, to be exact. The one with the antenna issue. Oye gavult.

Leave it to me to finally succumb to technology's siren song only to be thwarted by a glitch. Temporarily, anyway.

Now the sunglasses are pretty awesome as I can drive in bring sunlight without squinting like a 85-year old at the poker table trying to figure out if that's a diamond or a heart on his hole cards. But it's the iPhone that I preordered that's got me jazzed.

The thing is, I'm about as tech savvy as I am handy around the house, so I hope I can make the darn thing work to the best of its ability. I'm sure I will. Hell, it is made by Apple, only the world's most tech-friendly company, I should be fine!

Now watch me end up downloading the "Human-Ending Plague" app, accidentally pressing "Send Plague Now" and being solely accountable for the end of mankind.*

Just thought I should warn you.

*This is why the world is the way it is in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." App user malfunction. And here you thought his post-apocalyptic world was because of a limited nuclear war or global warming.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Unmanly Confession

My poor wife. She did not marry a handy man. She married a Guy Who Can Do Some Things, Just Don't Give Him a Nail Gun or Miter Saw for Christmas kind of guy.

Projects where manual labor is required (ex: rebuilding the back on our fence or rerouting the spouts for the gutters) or a job where a particular skill set needs to be involved (ex: replacing a light fixture in our guest bedroom) or where patience is required (ex: hanging new closet doors) around my house usually go undone for months. And in some cases years. Is it laziness? Lack of skill? Lack of time? Lack of tools?

While it's true that I don't have the skills or the tools to do these projects, I have to say this: I'm not interested in trying to tackle them in the first place. Really, I'm not interested. At all. In fact, I have about as much interest in talking about projects and how to do them as I do in listening to Stephen Hawking give a lecture in quantum physics. Or listening "How to Macrame" on NPR.

Part of the lack of interest stems from losing my Dad when I was 17. Man, he could build stuff. He built my sister's doll house. He also built my wickedly cool train set that folded out from the wall like a Murphy bed. We also completed our walkway and retaining wall shortly before he died. However, he never showed me how to lay down bricks or how to measure posts and so on. Not his fault entirely as I don't recall asking to learn how to do them. But I also remember not being interested in the first place.

This causes me some embarrassing and uncomfortable moments when socializing with my fellow dudes. When they get talking about doing X, Y and Z to their houses, I just nod politely and try to maintain interest. This is problematic as it can cement my feet in to a conversation for untold minutes. (Good thing beer is usually on hand to get me through such conversations.) For example, I know a guy who's worked on his house going on 2+ years now. He's remodeled the kitchen and all of the rooms, plus done all the wiring on the house. It looks great! But to hear him talk about it all I keep thinking is, "You've spent 2+ years of your life doing this? Holy hell, you missed a lot of sunny golf days." And then I try to finish my beer so I can slink off for a new one.

Part of my lack of interest lies in patience, mostly because I lack it—particularly when things don't go as planned as projects have a way of doing.

To me, spending an entire Sunday installing a door like my friend Andy did over at Dipso Chronicles just doesn't sound like a hootenanny. Yet that's what he did. By about the second or third hour I would've turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I hope you're okay without a front door for the next couple of nights because, fuck it, I'm fucking done with this shit right fucking now." Then I would have kicked the pile of shit door for not cooperating then stormed off to find the nearest beer.

And I'm not kidding about that level of frustration either.

Hell, you should have seen me try to put a new spool of cord on to my Weedwacker recently. The wacker is still spool-less. A door? You gotta be kidding me. Why bother.

Yet there's always been this little Tim The Toolman inside me who wants to get out and at least try.

My friend, Sean, made himself a poker table once—padded rails, velvet top, and he even put his own funky logo in the middle of the table. Fantastic piece of manly man that he built. I wanted one too. So I asked him how he did it. He said it was easy, all he did was blah, blah, blah, did blah, blah, blah, then did blah, blah, blah afterhe did blah, blah, blah, but he had trouble with blah, blah, blah when blah, blah, blah didn't attach to blah, blah, blah so he blah, blah, blah and was done.

He was the teacher in Peanuts to me. I couldn't relate. I asked him how much it cost. He said about $350 for all the materials.

I wanted to double it to $700 to cover his cost in labor for building me one as well.

Also, when we first bought our house, I had interest and verve in doing various projects. I gladly engaged in painting, installing a lock on the front door, patching holes. putting up the mailbox and so on.I even bought a Home Depot book on how to do every imaginable house project. Then I remembered who brought the toolkit into our family unit: my wife.

I even did one major house project that required a great deal of help: Building our fence. I'm glad we hired Matt otherwise our fence would have been as useful as the Maginot Line in keeping the then-alive dog in the yard and unwanted critters and people out.

I feel sorry for my son in all this, too. Daddy's never going to teach him how to build a deck, or lay a walk way, or tile the bathroom, or fix a pipe, and so on. If he's interested in learning, well, that's why there are technical courses at the local junior colleges. And I'll be happy to pay for them too.

These days, my wife now knows that if she wants to get something done that we'll need to hire some one. New doors? New can lights in living room? New tile on the fireplace? If you can do those things, buddy, you're hired.

Look, in the end, I get the whole pride in doing it yourself idea, or that feeling accomplishment. Or that doing projects is a way of relaxing and so on. I get all that. Those are all well and good, and bully for you!

Me? It's "No, Lowe's, let's not build something together. You do it. I've got better things to do." Like play golf. Or take a nap. Anything but measuring or pounding and remeasuring and repounding.