February 03, 2007

Asking ...

We all know the old cliché that the only stupid question is the unasked one.

While that may or may not be true in the high school or college classroom, in personal growth, I submit:
The only truly harmful question is the unasked one.

We all have needs for today. Many of our needs, whether physiological or emotional, we can meet ourselves.

But, some we cannot.

So, we need to ask. Sometimes we need to ask again and again. Or we need to figure out the right way to ask, or who is the right person to ask.

If that’s true of needs, it’s true in spades of wants.

Wants, after all, often involve another person, and so we obviously can’t meet them by ourselves.

I can’t find, create or develop a love relationship inside myself. I can’t get a promotion or new job assignments all by myself (unless I’m self employed). I can’t develop new growth in any community, be it a church, small group, self-help group or whatever, inside myself.

I need to ask.

For some of the things in life that I’m wanting, or changes of state that I’m wanting… and I mean I Steve Snyder, not “I” as a substitute for “everybody” …
I need to ask.

Like The Philosopher casting his bread upon the waters to wait for its return after many days, consider this my asking, scattering my wants, not enumerated here, but guessable by some of you, on the winds of electromagnetic ether.

So, I'm asking ...

My new residence is:

Far South Lancaster.

Yes, you read that right.

Read the post immediately below this, about an appalling run-in with early morning alcohol-exacerbated racism, and you'll understand how discretion not only can be the better part of valor, it is going to be.

I really don't care as much if the Far South Lancaster publisher would notice this, or even the corporate ownership of the Far South Lancaster Times.

I do care, though, if somebody in town happened to read, not somebody of standing, but somebody who engages in that type of drinking and holds that type of racial beliefs himself.

Watching my mental or psychological back is one thing; literally watching my physical back is another thing altogether.

Well, it looks like racism is alive and well in at least parts of Far South Lancaster; so is excessive drinking

I was doing some Saturday work today.

This is the second annual “Go Texan” weekend for Far South Lancaster and
Far South Dallas County. In essence, it’s a booster-type kickoff for getting ready for the Houston Livestock Show. Lil Miss Texan, chili and other fixins cook-off, etc.

Well, I went out Saturday morning, hoping to get a picture of the junior posse and of people starting to cook, of whom there were plenty.

Shot at a couple of spots that had good light angles, etc.

At the second, a team of three Grimes County Jail trustys left, having just finished "policing" that particular part of the cooking area. One of the three was black.

After I got done with my pix, and approached to ask for names, the guys there offered me some of their food, a 40-quart dutch oven full of breakfast burrito food. When asked if I were hungry, I said yes to that and a cup of cowboy coffee. That was from the one older generation guy on this cooking team (which identified itself as being from Far South Lancaster), who also said he recognized me from my picture in the paper.

I said no to a beer with the polite refusal line that it was “too early for me.” (Another guy either didn’t hear my polite “no,” or else thought that I wasn’t covering all forms of alcohol when I said no to beer; five minutes later, he asked if I wanted some vodka.)

Then, a couple of minutes later, the guy who had offered me a beer said:
We need about 10 or 15 more ni-- (and yes, he sounded it out) to help us finish eating this.

Holy shit. I looked around; nobody else in the group seemed embarrassed in general, let alone embarrassed that their local newspaper editor had heard that.

No, I know that one incident does not necessarily establish the character of a fair-sized chunk of a town or county. However, the casualness of the whole incident does give the theory or analysis extra credence.

It was like he was talking about the fricking weather. And this is a decade AFTER the Byrd murder in Jasper.

I'm sorry, anybody who encourages me to enjoy lower East Texas, but the hell with that.

February 02, 2007

The unwanted touch

The violent, forceful touch;
The invasive, unwanted touch;
Are both worse than no touch at all.
But far less worse
Than the abandoned loneliness
Wanting no human touch at all
When the sadistic touching ends.

— I have a voice and it has emotions

I halfway agree with John Carona

The state senator wants to keep cities from profiting off red-light cameras.

Hey, everybody who drove Collin County northeast of McKinney on 121 remembers the speed trap called Westminster.

I can understand that Corona has similar concerns about cameras.

Maybe his bill can be tweaked to refer to “windfall profits” rather than all profits.

And, yes, I know Lancaster has plans for them.

Lancaster Outreach Center now being charged for Rec Center for fundraiser

Boy, that’s tough. I can see Jan Belcher’s position about worrying about “opening the floodgates” to other non-profits.

But, you can always make it a case-by-case basis. And, if you don’t want to make the call, punt it to the city council.

And, if other cities are supporting their outreach centers, waiving the rental fee sounds like the minimum the city could do here.

Don’t know if someone in Lancaster had a complaint against Chief Knopf, but …

If somebody was alleging racial bias in Fire Department hiring, they’re wrong

To put it bluntly: you can’t be biased against people who aren’t even applying for jobs.

The Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission gave the Lancaster Fire Department a clean bill of health on hiring practices.

The department tested 108 people for various positions during the period under review by the state, presumably in response to comment from someone.

Of those 108, one was African-American and six were Hispanic.

You can’t hire black firefighters if none are applying. It’s that simple.

Rick Perry did something right?

Our Texas gov used an executive order to bypass the Lege and sure-fire Religious Right opposition and mandate the new cervical cancer vaccine.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said in announcing the order.

“If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention the health and well-being of these individuals to have those vaccines available,” he said.

Of course, let’s not look a gift horse too closely in the mouth. As the story notes, vaccine maker Merck is one of Perry’s biggest campaign donors and he has multiple ties to the company.

Also, Texas law allows parents to opt out of state-mandated vaccinations on religious grounds.

Nonetheless, this is a start; if Texas is doing it, other more conservative states will be hard-pressed to fight it.

Personal perceptions of poverty, part 2

Let me get back to the personal side of this issue, as started in my
original post.

Some friends and acquaintances have said they could see me teaching.

Given that it’s easier than it used to be to “come in the back door” for K-12 teaching, that’s possible.

At the college level? To try to do that full-time, at least?

Although I don’t have one or two kids to worry about, having seen the example of my dad going to get his PhD, then having his dream come up empty-handed, leaves me pretty gun-shy about considering something like that.

And, without a PhD, it’s just not very likely you can get full-time college teaching slots.

Having done the part-time contract/freelance instructor route, I remember both the fun and joy of teaching AND the dog-eat-dog of trying to get class assignments, and doing this all without insurance. I could not have done that, in all likelihood, had I not been living with my dad.

Doing that alone seriously scares me.

Personal perceptions of poverty, part 2

My best and very good friend had some perceptive e-mail comments, and sharing, about my original “Personal Perceptions of Poverty”
post. He noted that he brought at least some degree of similar background to the table, but that his perceptions moved him in a politically more conservative, then more religious, direction.

First, I think it shows the diversity of human nature.

With me, the religious moving was for other reasons, as far as the direction I moved; the political was at first, at least in part.

Second, while I told him I didn’t consider myself “cynical,” I did identify myself as a skeptical liberal on the header of this blog.

Third, I said I did agree with him in part on how the government can at times perhaps contribute toward the intergenerational intransigence of poverty.

But, that said, does government make poverty worse? There, I’d disagree.

Here’s my thoughts in more detail. From Social Security, first, then Medicare, it’s hugely clear that government CAN do a very good job ameliorating and lessening poverty. Senior citizens have a lower poverty rate than the nation as a whole, and by a noticeable margin.

Second, are government cash payments the best way to ease poverty? No, of course not, at least not in every circumstance. And with seniors, even, that’s not what always happens. Medicare doesn’t give them cash to buy an insurance voucher, a voucher that could be stereotypically sold for drugs if it were a Medicaid voucher given to inner-city poor.

Third: that said, non-cash payments can also worsen poverty. The government’s history of low-income housing has pretty much bounced from one fiasco to another.

Personally, I think going beyond AmeriCorps to a revival of the old Civilian Conservation Corps would be one step. Every summer, get hundreds of thousands of teens out of poverty environments, out of monocultural environments that feed poverty, misogyny and other problems, and working in places like national forests and national parks.

Fourth, resistance to scattering federal housing hasn’t helped. But, can you blame the middle class? Until we put federal housing inside gated communities, you can’t blame them at all, to be honest.

(As I’ve said about busing, the day the yellow vehicles roll up to Hyannisport is the day we’ll see the Kennedys really believing in it.)

This all goes to show that the solution for poverty isn’t easy, or simple.

February 01, 2007

A cell phone and scientific curiosity

After getting my cell phone, I found out I don’t always have the greatest of reception inside my apartment. Stepping immediately outside, but still between apartment units, doesn’t help.

But, I can walk 100 feet to the corner, go diagonally across it to an elementary school parking lot, and get two or even three bars of reception.

I feel like the cell phone is a bit like a metal detector, only I’m searching for electromagnetic radiation.

And small!

Not much longer than my thumb when folded shut and no thicker than a fair-sized native pecan. It’s not much more than a toothpick in hands my size.

Too personal?

A friend was caring enough to ask if I wasn’t worried about being too personal with some of my recent posts. She meant that not in the sense of worrying that I might upset someone not used to hearing about a family life far, far short of Ozzie and Harriett, but whether I shouldn’t be concerned about somebody using this against me.

The somewhat longer answer, expanding on what I told her, is that I haven’t gone into too many details; there’s still “layers” I have kept personal.

The psychological answer? No, those layers are protected by boundaries. But, in doing this, I believe I am converting what once were “walls” into boundaries. Beyond that, this is part of an intense cycle of emotions, and attendant possibilities for personal growth. That includes working through fears as well as other emotions. And, there is at least a bit of education in this for friends and other readers who don’t “flinch.”

The short answer, as to those people who might try to “use” these more personal posts?

No.

Those people, especially as I work through fears, anxieties, longings, yearnings and more, and share carefully selected parts of that in public, have less and less possibility of having any real power over me. That, too is part of my potential gain. Beyond that, anybody who would do that, including people who have in essence tried to “smear” me with other information already on this blog (former school superintendents and others know who they are) have already demonstrated a lack of spiritual, personal, and psychological depth and integrity anyway, and have failed, besides that.

Boredom vs. the “drug” TV can become

First, I don’t meant that TV is a drug; I mean that it can be, if one allows it to become a numbing tool.

Eight-plus years ago, I was in a fairly similar emotional state to now when I moved to Jacksboro, northwest of Fort Worth, in the direction of Wichita Falls.

On the outside world, television reception there was horrible. I could not get any DFW TV stations with rabbit ears, and could get snowy reception out of just one of the Wichita Falls stations. Since I was renting, a roof antenna was not an option. For various reasons, not just frugality per se, neither was spending $45 a month for cable.

I was driving 30 miles each direction every day to Mineral Wells. With the time I spent there, it was at least two hours, if not two and a half or more. It was time well invested on myself, as those of you who know me well know, but that also ruled out time to be watching evening TV anyway.

Well, for various reasons of where I have taken my life today, whether in Navasota or going elsewhere, I’m not planning on investing that hour or so of time in person, though I do have alternatives online. (Of course the “personal presence” online is just that; something to be put into scare quotes, and not fully real.)

Anyway, beyond a fairly slow pace at work, that leaves much more time on my hands here. I’ve been walking even more than in Lancaster — another good reason to watch my diet so that I don’t lose any more weight.

On the boob tube, I can get one Bryan-College Station channel well with rabbit ears; the two other commercial networks, plus PBS, are fairly to very snowy. And, it’s a big nugatory on getting anything from Houston.

But, it’s good, I think. I went 18 months without watching TV during my time in Jacksboro. Now that my mind is clearer in various ways today, I might have room for more “inner” work on personal development. I hope I am in the right situations to put more of the inner work into outer action when the time is right.

PTSD: What it is, and is not

A sane reaction to an insane world

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not a mental illness. Instead, it is a psychological injury, as this website explains well.

And, its symptoms are not the same as those of mental illness. For example, hypervigilance is not the same as paranoia; the paranoia of schizophrenia stems from organic brain problems, whereas hypervigilance is in reaction to one or more specific external events — or, as I said in a previous poetic post, a sane reaction to an insane world. A complete list of contrasts to mental illness-type symptoms is on the website.

The website I linked above, and others, do a good job of explaining a potential new psychological diagnosis which may make it into to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Complex PTSD. This diagnosis would separate single-event trauma PTSD from the greater complexity of a chronic, ongoing series of related events, one from which the victim often has trouble escaping. This Medscape article has more.

January 31, 2007

A SANE RESPONSE TO AN INSANE WORLD

My primal, child-deep emotions
Were my highly sane response
To a highly insane world.

I recognize that now.
But, of course, I couldn’t then.
That world was the only one I knew
In those child-deep years.

I don’t even know that
I thought myself, or my reactions, insane.
I do know that I didn’t feel
Anything.

That was the sanest reaction of all
To the most insane parts of that insanity.

Unfortunately, I never learned
To let go of that reaction,
Or that I could let go,
Let alone that letting go
Had eventually become the sane thing to do.

So, behind the adult mask
Was a once-sane ball of selfhood,
Not knowing that his internalized self,
Was now insane in an outside world,
Which itself saw just the adult mask,
Being carefully and vigilantly
Blocked from inner entry.

"Swimming in an ocean of emotional amniotic fluid"

That is somewhat the way I feel right now; the quote popped into my head Wednesday. In a sense, it’s good. It’s better than taking a dive into an emotional pool that’s been drained for the summer.

It’s not so good in the sense that it means feeling things more deeply, or feeling things buried long enough in the past that I didn’t even feel them anymore — or had buried them as soon as the feelings arose. But, that’s part of the price for the path ahead.

Good-bye, Miss Molly, we’ll miss you

A Texas original, Molly Ivins, is dead at 62. That said, I’m reminded of Jim Hightower’s waggish comment that anybody who graduated from Smith College can’t really be considered a populist.

I hope your will includes some last kick at Shrub, like dumping your ashes on his Crawford “ranch.”

I’m not “anti-Mac,” it’s just that I think …

Steve Jobs at times can be the best salesman west of, well, Larry Lewis!

(I don’t know who should be more hurt by that.)

I have PCs (desktop and laptop) at home. Started with Windows 95 on the first I owned. Then 98SE, then 2000 and now XP.

Yes, viruses, worms, etc. can be a concern.

But, is that more because Windows is inherently deficient, or simply because it’s the “magnet” with more than 80 percent of computers? While it’s not really an “either-or” situation, I lean toward the magnet. I’d put 75 percent of the problem on that side of the scale and 25 percent on Windows-based security problems or laziness.

BUT, that said …

Jobs has been nonexistent on comment about, or corporate response to, the Month Of Apple Bugs hacking project in January. Cupertino, Calif., has its share of security laziness as much as Redmond, Wash.

Month of Apple Bugs: As I said before, 91 days on average to fix security problems is horrible. You Mac Kool-Aid drinkers should be thankful Jobs doesn’t have 80 percent of the market, or Macs would be so buggy they wouldn’t run.

OK, the charges that Gates “stole” from Mac? Well, ideas can’t be patented, and reverse engineering has been part of the American psyche at least since somebody cracked open Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. (When foreigners do it, though, we normally tend to belittle and stereotype them.)

And, yes, because Windows was building on previous shells until XP, it had problems that Macs didn’t.

But, THAT said …

I’ve NEVER had either of my current computers with XP crash, as far as system crashes. And, I’ve had no more program crashes with them than with my office OS X where I currently am.

And, as I’ve said before and elsewhere, Windows made a bigger improvement jump from 2000 to XP, in my opinion, than Mac did from OS 9 to OS X.

And, isn’t that part of the marketing? Switching from Arabic to Roman numerals to make it sound like the Super Bowl of computing or something?

Looking more at and beyond Mac computers:

iPod? Great.

iPhone? Overhyped, and as I noted a couple of weeks ago, hyped with bad timing, but that might be due to the weakness of Apple TV.

Apple TV? Didn’t I just say it? Wait, you’re not running out to buy one?

Steve Jobs stock options backdating problems: Priceless, precisely because they undermine Apple’s “outsider, David vs. Goliath” image. Davids don’t get on the hook for millions, or tens of millions, of dollars in backdates stock options.

Say good night, Steve.

Maybe I can eat Oreos and Kraft’s crappy cheese again

The Altria Group, maker of Marlboro and other Philip Morris not-so-fine tobacco products, is reportedly spinning off Kraft Foods, and Nabisco along with it.

After my dad died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease almost two years ago, brought on first by Camel shorties, then Winstons (both Robert J. Reynolds products), then Merit, Marlboro Lights and other “light” products from Philip Morris, I took a personal vow to abstain from all products by Altria, or

With this news, if this goes through, I can be free of the vow. Reynolds makes nothing but tobacco products, so there’s nothing from them that I’ve been giving up.

The second millennium

Hit post 1,000 last night. Obviously, I feel I have a lot to say. On national politics, too bad bigger voices weren’t saying more of it 3-4 years ago.

Personal perceptions of poverty

I grew up poor for the first 6 and a half years of my life. I just didn’t know that.

Many of you who personally know me know that I grew up in New Mexico. Well, I was born in Kansas, and lived there for that early period of life I just mentioned.

Our family was eligible for food stamps. But, my father, being a conservative minister in a relatively small, but not too small, of a town (about 20,000) wasn’t going to damage the personal and family image by actually applying for food stamps. (At the same time, he didn’t stop having kids until five had come along.)

Now, I didn’t even know this until my sister told me, years later.

When we moved to New Mexico, things were a little better, but not a lot. For all I know, until my mom started working out of the house, besides her original one day a week as church secretary, we may still have been eligible.

I got reacquainted with poverty my last two years of high school. My dad decided, at the age of 49, to go back to school to get a PhD. My sister, a year younger, moved with me. My oldest and second-oldest brothers were in college, pretty OK financially with the higher amount of federal grants that were available back then (college costs today are both ridiculous and underfinanced) and scholarships they had. My third brother was working on his own after high school.

Notice I haven’t mentioned my mom. Because she and dad were divorced, she wasn’t there, nor was her income.

The divorce agreement only required child support if my sister or I were with mom, not if both of us were with dad.

And, private divinity schools don’t have federal grant money for PhD students.

So, dad is working part time on weekdays, scrambling to preach at congregations without full-tine pastors, and otherwise figure out how to rub two nickels from this, church denomination loans, and a few grants, all together.

Then, my sister moves back to mom after a year, so dad now owes child support — which he paid intermittently. And my oldest brother drops out of college and moves in.

I don’t know how being in college affects food stamp eligibility, but we had to be eligible somehow. If not, we were still below the official poverty line.

My clothes? The divinity school had a thrift shop. Meanwhile, I’m going to the St. Louis equivalent of Dallas’ Highland Park High School, wearing thrift store clothes AND dealing with a dad who thinks this place has a semi-semi-formal dress code and in any case doesn’t want a family image soiled.

So, I’m wearing clothes other kids laugh at, at times.

No, I hardly ever even thought about putting the old change of clothes in a backpack, and changing in a school restroom or something. The few times I did think about it, I was afraid of getting “busted” at it by dad, then facing his wrath of Khan.

Forwarding wayyyy ahead…

I had been out of work a few months before catching on at Lancaster Today. Bounced my first month’s rent check, in fact.

So, that’s why I felt “under duress” when I got offered the Navasota job, even though I do have a few nickels to rub together. I’ve seen poverty, and it’s everything it’s cracked up not to be.

Combine that with coming to “unbelieve” in any sort of afterlife, and you have the prescription for becoming just a little bit more liberal on socioeconomic issues than my parents, too.

More personal posting coming up

I’ll be doing more in the way of personal posts here in coming days, and coming weeks, for that matter, arising out of some intense, “digging” journaling I’m doing, with more small-town free time on my hands.

Some of you may be stunned, surprised or shocked by some of what you read, as with my “How Inhuman?” post just below.

Without meaning this in an “in your face” way… I don’t apologize.

As I said in that poem, “I now have a voice.” And it will speak.

January 30, 2007

Take THAT, Steve Jobs

It’s called the Googlephone

So, whether the iPhone is the real deal, or more marketing fluff, in either case, it now has a challenger. And, unlike the often-flabby Microslob, nobody underestimates Google and gets away with it.

January 29, 2007

HOW INHUMAN IS IT?

How inhuman is it,
To not want to be touched,
No, to want to not be touched?
How inhuman is it,
For a little boy to want to not be touched — often?
How inhuman is it,
To make a little boy feel that way?

How inhuman is it?

I have a voice today,
And unstifled, undrowned feelings.
I can tell you.
I can tell you.
Even without words.

Texas did NOT invent the hamburger; sorry, or not, Frank Tolbert

Instead, kudos to an old-time “favorite” place of mine and Kevin’s

Actually, I’m NOT apologizing to Tolbert, who appears to have made up a myth out of whole cloth. (Hey, it’s Frank Tolbert; are you really surprised?

Well, then, who did?

Take a bow, Walter Anderson.

Who?

You know him as ... the founder of White Castle.

Justice IS served.

January 28, 2007

So, why is the Macquarie Group buying area papers?

It’s the Trans Texas Corridor

Macquarie Media Group Ltd., the purchaser of the Waxahachie Daily Light and other Texas newspapers of American Consolidated Media, is a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank, which is a Cintra-Macquarie partner. As reported here, Macquarie Bank is the parent of Macquarie Infrastructure, one of the largest toll road operators in the world. Macquarie Infrastructure last year partnered with Cintra (Cintra-Macquarie). The two are partnered on a toll road of nearly $4 billion in Indiana. Cintra, of course, is partners here in Texas with Zachry Construction to build the Trans Texas Corridor toll road.