On a slow anger simmer

I had the last four days off and had hoped that Monday and Tuesday I would primarily be by myself. That didn’t happen and I’ve been on a consistent angry simmer for the last 48+ hours. Nothing I’ve done, or attempted to do, has gone according to any semblance of a plan I had ridiculously thought might have helped. Wanted to finally get all the taxes together and ready to mail, they’ve already been submitted electronically, just owe all around this year. Wanted to get some writing done for EPV, but my mental attitude didn’t lend itself to that either. Wanted to cut the lawn but couldn’t get the lawn mower started; think it needs a new carburetor. Needed to get the toilet guts swapped out as water is leaking into the bowl and making them run every so often; decided that would be a bad idea.

Rather than getting 5-6 hours of time to myself, to work at my own pace, I wasn’t alone except for a few hours on Monday but I was too far into the anger to have it be productive. The wife was supposed to be at her sister’s house until last night, but came home last Sunday instead because the accommodations there were hard to deal with. I get it, I wouldn’t want to stay somewhere that was cluttered and messy. Being forced to sleep on the sofa alone would have been enough for me to want to leave. The problem is that I’ve needed to get alone and work through some difficult issues and work up some plans that require focused thought to complete. My tolerance for the normal things that bother me is gone and I simmer all day on the edge of anger. At this point, short of a taking a day to myself outside of the house, I don’t think I’ll get past this overwhelming feeling.

Adding to the pressure is the fact we’re having a birthday dinner for my Mom this Saturday, at our house, with my brother in attendance. I’m off on Friday, but I already know that I won’t have any time to myself unless I just head out in the early morning and don’t come back until later in the day. That would most certainly cause more problems than it solves as I need to stay around and get the lawn taken care of. Dinner at our house means that we’re stuck with cleaning up after dinner. We’re also stuck with all the leftover food (we always have left over food) that ultimately will be lunches and dinners for the next few days into next week. I’m okay with the same thing the next day, but push it two or three then I’m just not hungry and won’t eat.

The wife is off this entire week and I already know that today and tomorrow nothing will get done. She’ll get sucked into working on something for the firehouse, doing something random that wasn’t planned, or just not have any motivation and do nothing. I’ll end up cleaning up the dishes, running the dishwasher and most likely doing the laundry. If it’s a tag team effort I don’t mind doing any of that, but when it’s me all the time because some time suck is occupying her time for days on end through the week, it quickly gets annoying. When I sit in my office or in front of the TV, I’m not just sitting there doing nothing. I’m inside my own head, thinking and processing, trying to work through anger so that I’m no longer angry. From the outside, it looks like I’m just being lazy further convincing me that her saying she understands doesn’t equal her actually understanding at all.

The next few weeks don’t tell me that I’ll have any opportunity for time to myself.

Chuck fear mongering under the bus

We, as a people, have used fear and anger to drive our existence for thousands of years. What we have to show for it is a dotted history of violence, genocide, war and generations of conflict. Are we not better than that at this point in our short history on this planet? What makes a person wearing a hijab any different from someone wearing a shirt and tie? They both breathe the same air, both walk with legs, have similar composition of blood pumping through their bodies. Our world culture has created a system where people are classed based on wealth, religion and nationality and made judging others a normal part of life. What right do we have to judge another person, that we don’t know, merely based on their appearance? What visual references do we draw upon that tells us, without impunity, that someone is a terrorist vs. a U.S. citizen?

So muslims wear a hijab, that doesn’t make them terrorists. Catholic priests wear a white collar and a black suit, we don’t see them as terrorists yet the Catholic church has a horribly violent past with wars fought over religious beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that Protestants were viewed as devil worshippers, and publically hanged, merely because they rejected the Vatican and Catholicism. Christians are persecuted in countries primarily dominated by Islam in much the same way that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics (1300’s)and Jews were persecuted by the Germans (1900’s). It’s sad that we’re a violent species that terrorizes others based on perceptions of inferiority, to the extent that Americans do this to other Americans. The Civil War for example over the issue of slavery. Even after African-Americans being freed in 1865, flash forward 150 years and there are compelling arguments that African-Americans *still* aren’t free in the United States.

Call me an idiot for not fearing others that are different from me, I’ve heard it all in the last few years as my ideology has slowly shifted to what I’ve heard referred to as being a humanist. I see people for what they are, fellow humans, and attempt still with some difficulty to not judge based on appearance. It’s hard to break a habit that has been slammed into my brain for over three decades from mainstream media, educational systems and other powerful figures. We have a 10,000 year old instinctive response of fight or flight when presented with a situation we perceive as a threat to our lives that has been reinforced over the last thousand or so years to include everything from a charging bear to someone walking down the street wearing a hijab or a someone wearing a long trench coat in the middle of summer. I get it, we’re hardwired to act on our instincts, but I am arguing that we’re ignoring vital information that we sacrifice with our laser focus on only the perceived “bad” thing in front of our eyes.

I don’t believe that *every* Muslim in the U.S. is a terrorist much like I don’t believe that *every* African-American is a drug dealer or *every* Hispanic is someone’s maid or butler (which really are stupid stereotypes if you think about it). My grandparents had a dislike for everyone that wasn’t a white Catholic; a fact I found disturbing and an indicator of their learned, backwards thinking from their parents. I really could keep going, the common theme of all this is a common hatred of anyone that isn’t in *your* arbitrarily labeled group. We’re all flipping human beings, we’re *all* in the same group.

I consider myself lucky being an introvert in the age of the Internet. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage in deep conversations with others that wasn’t predicated on their appearance. I was able to interact with them on a human level, brain to brain, not caring about their religion, station, wealth or physical appearance. I’ve been like this for years, much longer than my awareness of the fact that we subliminally treat others different based on physical traits. My drive to take this into physical life, instead of virtually, is a rather large and difficult hurdle that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I ask stupid questions out of naivety, that I find is usually dismissed as I’m genuine about my curiosity. The answer is something that I absorb like a sponge, stored for later when I have the time to process through the interaction.

My outward interactions with the world, how others perceive me, has changed significantly in a dramatic and profound way. My view of the world has grown so much, in such a fantastic way, it’s hard for me to put into words even after thinking about this for several days. My interactions with others are getting easier because I’m no longer drawing on outdated prejudices or life lessons that feel as outdated as my grandparents’ views did years ago. This is something that I’ve had to work at, constantly remind myself to not judge based on appearance, force myself to look beyond the surface. Looking (and interacting) with what’s inside all of us takes time, effort and practice…. lots of practice. To put it another way, I’ve learned to love the taste of my foot 🙂

Enlightenment starts with the self, then becomes contagious to those around. This is one pandemic that I think would benefit the human race. Call me crazy to believe that we can do better than we have in the past, we certainly have a lot of history showing us what not to do going forward into the future. Why not start small, a little change that could have a large impact: resist the rhetoric and draw your own conclusions.

Human first, American second

I’m not feeling Three Things Thursday this week. Having been absorbed into election coverage, reactions, and getting over my own brief shock yesterday morning, I have a renewed sense of purpose and see an opportunity for us as American people to stand together. This country is divided, decidedly so, but what’s done is done and the 45th President has been selected through one of the last vestiges of democracy we have left in this country. We have spoken, loud and clear, that we’ve rejected mainstream media’s attempted manipulation of this year’s election. Almost all news leading up to the election proclaimed an almost certainty that Clinton would win, ignoring the level of anger and rage people have had building up across the country.

I have chosen to accept our next President despite the fact that I didn’t vote for him. He is deserving of the same level of respect and open-mindedness that I grant to everyone. While I do know quite a bit about Trump already, becoming the President is just about the biggest life change any one person can have. I’m skeptically hopeful that he realizes this and uses this opportunity to become the President that this country desperately needs and uses his position to guide the government so that the American people come first, not the socialist elites. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t treat this like another reality show and media circus that his primary and campaign ultimately turned into.

I have chosen to be optimistic of our future for the sake of my daughter, who turns 10 next month. She has been asking a lot of questions about the election and has heard some really crazy statements from her friends at school. Some of the parents that I see and talk to on a regular basis have not been so optimistic and their children are feeling the negativity and anger of their parents without the context to completely understand. I took the time to sit down with my daughter and teach her about democracy and freedom in a way that she can understand and opened the dialogue for her to ask questions without fear of repercussions. We have had a few of these conversations with her friends over as well, and I’ve been careful and aware of the words that I use and how I explain things so that it’s heard without bias (not always easy). We have four years until the next Presidential election, it’s going to go a lot faster if we’re working together.

I have chosen to not be as opinionated when talking with people who already have strong opinions. I now understand that strong opinions often cause a knee-jerk reaction to dig your heels in and not listen to what is being discussed. My approach has been more subtle and fact based with sources cited as often as possible. I’m trying to encourage people to do their own research and start to understand the system that’s in place right now. You really can’t begin to change anything if you don’t understand it completely first, which is something that I’m still struggling with daily. Although I know a lot more now than I did 6 months ago, the system we currently have has been four decades in the making and mostly hidden behind mainstream media spin and misdirection.

This piece, written by a Canadian, is more American in spirit than how most Americans are their entire lives. It’s a call to arms to reject the hateful and disrespectful practices of the past and finally fight collectively for human rights. Human rights regardless of who, what, why, how we are. I have had a difficult time understanding how someone can be angry at someone else for something that happened before both their lifetimes. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and it’s as true today as when it was originally spoken. We moved past British oppressive rule and created our own country in 1776. We ended slavery in 1865 and the Civil War ended. We survived the 1960’s and appeared to have moved past racism and hate in this country; we elected an African-American President in 2008. I’ve always treated others as I’ve liked to be treated, but am offended when I’m judged by others that don’t know me except for my external appearances. I don’t trivialize or dismiss the pasts atrocities and do not pretend to know what its like to live anyone elses life. Without civilized communication and mutual respect, we’re doomed to continue repeating past injustices.

The air is thick with anger. It’s up to us to come together and work through our differences once and for all. It’s up to us to figure out how to accept our differences because it’s the differences that make us stronger as a species on this planet. Let’s do this!

The “sounds” make me crazy

Some days, I can’t win. A familiar topic I’ve written about before is my hypersensitivity to sound. It has a name; Misophonia.  Today, for some reason, is significantly more difficult than other days. For me, this is a real thing. I’ve attempted before to explain what it sounds like for me to others, but words don’t seem to express, in an appropriate manner, what I hear and feel.

Eating is by far the most frustrating sound I deal with. Hearing someone eat, regardless of the food, is just shy of enraging. My reaction to this is to put on the headphones and turn on some music to drown it out. As I work in an office where most of the colleagues I work with are remote, it isn’t always convenient to listen to music. I’m left to endure, in silent protest, the sounds of eating around me for most of the day. For me, a sound a few cubes down of someone eating chips is as loud and distracting to me as if they were sitting next to me in my cubicle. The sound is in my ears, amplified, louder than any of the other sounds much closer to me. Another way to describe the sound I hear, think of a gun going off in a shooting range, but you’re not watching the gun so have no idea when it actually gets fired. The sudden jolt to your system when you finally hear it is a fair description of what each chip, chew, slurp sounds like to me. Definitely something that makes me anxious at times.

Naturally, there are a ton of other sounds that do this as well, just not to the same degree. Any one sound by itself is bearable, something that can be almost ignored. Being in an office though, this stuff tends to pool and coalesce into a myriad of sounds that is all but impossible to ignore or eliminate. I’ve attempted to explain, complain, silently protest without success. To someone who doesn’t think any of this is annoying or frustration, I’m the crazy one for being bothered by it. The general reaction is mediocre, and does bring a little relief, however forcing someone to stop something that doesn’t bother them or others around them will generally lead to more, not less sound. Try to be quiet in the morning so you don’t wake someone else, and you actually make more noise. It’s the same type of result here as well. The worst part of trying to explain this to someone is the reciprocated “well this sound you make bugs me, so we’re even.” I don’t get relief, they continue about their day.

While researching this condition, I found that it develops usually around the ages of 11-15. Vaguely recalling some of those years, I was an extreme isolationist and often would spend hours at a stretch in my bedroom on the stereo (had a hobbled together system) and then, around 13, a computer where I would get lost online in bulletin board systems and the like. Once I discovered online chat systems (Diversi-Dial), I spent hours online chatting with other computer geeks. It was a text-based system that ran at 300 baud (or 0.0003 Mbps) and connected you with 6 other people, also dialed in. Diversi-Dial was loaded into an Apple IIe with a cassette, and had 7 300 baud modems installed to allow people to dial in. Most of them cost a monthly fee as it was expensive to have 7 phone lines running into your home to run a system of this nature. I did nothing else, so I had no problems spending my money on my own phone line and monthly subscriptions to dial-up chat systems. I rarely chat online anymore except, as of late, Twitter.

I’m affected so much by this that I’m able to easily get a weeks worth of work done in the 9 hour day I work from home in my basement office. No sound, no distractions, no people doing things that make my brain want to evacuate my head. I’m fighting currently to get more days approved to work from home, but it’s an up hill battle with the level of crotchety thinking by the dinosaurs that run my company. They are very much “butt in the seat” types and have a ridiculous resistance to anyone working from home. Ten years ago, there were over 400 servers here on-site, and over the last decade, that has dwindled down to just 15. Everything else has migrated to virtual systems hosted at a third-party cloud provider. Virtual servers are the future, virtual working is the future, people working from “anywhere” is quickly becoming the norm and dinosaurs be damned, they’re outnumbered and going extinct. The asteroid, in this case, is a millennial forcing the changing of policies that allows flexible work schedules and teleworking from anywhere.

I can only dream that policies change allowing me 2-3 days of teleworking so that I may be spared from having to resort to drastic measures of mitigating the amount of sound around me. Perhaps I can blame the slow change on the Democrats and Clinton….. it works for Trump 🙂

Maniacs on the road

What is wrong with drivers on the road lately? I’m reminded of a George Carlin skit where he describes drivers based on your perception that sort of fits the start of this blog post I’m making today. His quote (or question), that I heard so many years ago, goes like this. “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It makes sense actually if you think about it, as our perception is based on us being at the center, a 360 degree view of the world around us. My experience as of late on the wild roads of Northeast USA has been harrowing and terribly frustrating. It seems that other than the majority of semi-truck drivers and myself, everyone is a maniac.

Let me explain the painting to you in what has brought me to this conclusion. Driving to work today, on a highway where the speed limit is 70, I was in the left lane actually doing 75-ish. A silver Dodge Charger came flying up on my bumper (I saw him coming) and sat there, impatiently, probably contemplating on whether to bump draft and pass me or not. Well, there was traffic, I couldn’t go anywhere and had to endure his impatience in my mirrors. Seeing a large line of trucks in my right lane, more than a few have you, I knew this dude would be sucking my fumes for a while. He was weaving back and forth, peering around me and confirming that yes, in fact, I had cars in front of me. Apparently he had this notion that he could go faster in my spot than I could, and wanted to be here or he would die. A mile or two of this escalated to flashing high beams and beeping his horn, still going 75 or so with trucks on our right. I’m a patient person, and can tolerate a lot of poor behavior on the road, but flashing high beams at me hit a seldom pushed button. I took my foot of the gas and slowed down to the speed limit, which was still 70.

A sizeable gap had formed in front of me as the they continued to go 75 or so. This enraged the dude behind me and if he could have exploded like a volcano, there would have been a crater in the middle of the highway. I had become the driver he hated the most. A driver aware of his horrible behavior and ignoring his escalating anger towards me, not because it wasn’t working, but rather because it *was* working but not with the expected outcome he wanted (me moving over to let him pass). I was coming to the end of the long line of trucks after driving about 5 miles and I slowed down to match the front trucks speed with just a few more MPH to creep past his bumper. The truck driver picked up on what I was doing and could easily see the guy behind me going completely insane trying to get me to move out-of-the-way, which wasn’t his fault. So I accelerated and started to move over slowly with my right blinker on. The Dodge dude practically drove up the middle k-rail to get around me with inches between our cars.

roadrage

I imagine this how he looked.  Makes me feel better to think that.

I’m thinking this is over and all would be well again with the world. Unfortunately I was mistaken as the last 10 minutes had taken a toll on this guys sanity. As there was now no one in front of us for almost a mile, rather than take off like I had expected, he immediately darted half into my lane just ahead of my car. He slammed so hard on his brakes that he locked the tires for a split second and then proceeded to mash the gas and take off. With a loaded semi behind me with a driver I’m sure just pooped his pants a little, I mashed the gas and as I was accelerating, I pulled out my phone. Using the shortcut to the camera, I then held it up just behind the steering wheel prepared to take a picture of his license plate once I caught up. He had been really moving and I did a speed that I have done only two other times in my entire life to get close enough to get a picture, which I did. I backed off immediately and, while I’m not going to say what I had reached, it was certainly 3 digits.

Yeah, I know, going that fast to catch up I’m no better than the maniac in the Dodge and became a maniac to everyone around me to do it. Thankfully I had caught up before we hit the traffic pack and I backed off well before I got close, so I was only a maniac to myself, not better, just less of a maniac (just short of plaid). Once I had arrived at work, I proceeded to call the State Trooper Aggressive Driver Hotline to report the offending Dodge’s behavior and give his license plate number. I was asked by the attendant how I got the license plate, and I said that I caught up to him after he passed to snap a picture. She wasn’t pleased as it was clear I had been speeding to catch him and no better than he had been. Regardless, she appreciated that I reported him and confirmed that it wasn’t the first time the license plate had been called in. He was a maniac by all definitions.

terminator

What I wish I could do sometimes

My observation of drivers in general the last several months is similar to all the negativity in the news. While I’m far from an expert here, I see a correlation between uncertainty, doubt, anger, and fear with our countries direction and the state of people driving on the roads. We all take for granted that a vehicle is in essence a heavy object with power much greater than the average person. It doesn’t take much for the thought of ramming the bumper of the person who cut you off or turning into the side of someone who just flipped you off to enter into your head. I’ve tried very hard to keep myself calm and collected while driving as the last thing I need is to push things too far one day and discover that the other guy had a gun under his seat and is ready to use it. Still can’t shake the damn flashing high beams!!

gotagun

So cute, but she’s a badass!

I’m exposed only to the northeast U.S. and have no clue how drivers are acting in other parts of the country. For all the bad drivers we have in the U.S., I’d gladly take them over having to drive in China. I’ve read articles on the chaos they have on their roads because of drivers with less than 15 years of experience to draw upon. Americans have been driving since the early 1900’s and were afforded the mistakes in a world where the fastest car could only go 30 MPH on a good day. Modern cars can easily reach 130 or more (most US vehicles are limited at 105 or less).