Goodbye, Old Friend


Yesterday was one of those days where it really sucks being an adult.

A hard decision had to be made, and my wife and I had to talk about some delicate subjects, but in the end, there was only one humane choice to be made. Elspeth, our 15-year-old cat, had developed a growth in her colon that was growing quickly and was keeping her from passing wastes. It caused her a lot of pain and was keeping her body from functioning correctly. Surgery was ill-advised due to the location of the growth and her advanced age. Letting it be would cause her to have to be brought in weekly to have the wastes extracted, a process that was stressful to her body as well, and the pain caused by the tumor would not be lessened.

We opted to end her suffering.

We spent a last half-hour with her, caressing her, telling her goodbye, and then we let the veterinarian do his work.

We got Elspeth back in 2001. My wife and I had been married barely a year and were living in a small apartment. The pet deposit for the complex was $600. We got a $600 tax refund from President Bush. It seemed to be fate. We paid the pet deposit and went to the animal shelter in Coppell and brought home a tiny tortoise-shell ball of fur. We named her Elspeth after a character in Mercedes Lackey’s “Arrows of the Queen” series.

Elspeth of the books was a bratty princess who grew up into a wise queen. Our Elspeth pretty much stayed in a perpetual bratty princess phase. She was cranky, prissy, and aloof most of the time. And she could carry a grudge–she never did forgive us for getting a second cat. But she was also affectionate and spunky at times. And she often comforted me when I went through a bout of illness.

Elspeth loved blankets, kibble, and men with beards. She disliked ceiling fans, children under 18 years of age, and any food but kibble. She tolerated Vladimir, our other cat, but was not afraid to make her displeasure known.

She was the “Fat Brat Cat,” “Fartsblossom,” and “Fattykins.” She was “Old Bitty,” “Fatticus Bratticus,” and “Baby Kitty.”

She was my friend and I’m going to miss her.


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Depression Is a Thief

untitled-3Depression is a thief. It robs you of the ability to sleep. The ability to tell time. The ability to work, spend time with friends and family, and to see yourself for how you really are. At least, this has been my experience.

About three years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I have been on medication to help treat it, but it doesn’t always help. I still have bad days–sometimes bad weeks. Awhile back I had been having a really hard time with it. I missed work. I isolated myself from the world. Finally, my wife and my psychiatrist suggested I get more help. So I checked myself into a partial hospitalization program.

The program was very helpful. It was comprised of visits with a psychiatrist, an education course, and daily group therapy. I was also required to set myself up with an outside therapist for further treatment once the program was finished. I had had a therapist before, but we had thought I had gotten all I needed out of it before, that I had “graduated” therapy and would only need a psychiatrist. I kind of blew that.

I’m now several months out of the program and things are going better. I’m still in individual therapy, but it’s a good thing. It helps.

I have finally shared some of the details of my illness with my family and my close friends. It was hard, but a necessary part of my therapy. Believe it or not, in my private life, I’m not much of a sharer. But I share this not as a confession, but as a invitation.

If you are feeling alone and depressed, seek help. Don’t shut out your family and friends–anyone who you know cares about you when depression isn’t lying to you. Get professional help if you need it. But don’t let it eat away at you. Don’t let it steal your life away. You’re far too important to let that happen. Keep the faith. Keep fighting. Be, as the Bloggess says, “furiously happy.”

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The Myth of Bias

Newspaper Reporter's PressPass in Hat, White Background.

Last night, NBC presented a forum with Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump moderated by Matt Lauer that was starkly indicative of the problem inherent in American journalism today–the myth of bias.

In the course of the interview, when presented with provable falsehoods by candidate Trump, Lauer failed to follow up in any way or challenge him on the statements. Trump stated that he was against the war in Iraq and against the actions taken in Libya that resulted in the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. In both cases, the statements were demonstrably wrong–Trump had previously voiced his support of the Iraq War in an interview with Howard Stern and has also been cited as voicing his support for the intervention in Libya.

Social media (especially Twitter) was especially brutal toward Lauer’s lack of fact-checking and even his colleagues at NBC had some comments about Trumps false statements. But how does this happen? How have we gotten to this point?

My observation is that the media is increasingly on guard against perceptions of bias–left-wing bias, right-wing bias, corporate bias, what have you.  And we are getting to the point where we are sacrificing journalistic integrity in favor of a false objectivity. Both sides (usually left and right) must be treated equally. Both sides must have their say. Each side is equally valid. Whatever happens, you should never be accused of being biased.

So what happens? Our media gives voice to even the most extreme of views and gives them the same credence as any other–despite their demonstrable falseness. The fringe becomes mainstream because it is given unfettered–and unchallenged–voice. Journalists interview guests and fail to question their facts because to do so would be to take a side, to form an opinion, and that’s a forbidden bias.

The fact is, journalism SHOULD have a bias. That bias is the truth. Both sides of the controversy are not always equal. Each side is not equally valid–sometimes one side is wrong. Sometimes your interviewee is lying and your job is not to give them an open forum to spread those lies, but to call them out on it.

I’m not arguing for partisan journalism–far from it. When you’ve already decided your slant before you gather your facts, you’re not biased toward truth, you’re biased toward your ideology. That’s the trouble with outlets like Fox News. They purport to be balanced simply because their bias is different than other outlets. But they’ve already decided that their demographic is X and they are going to cater to those viewers. Their bias is not truth, but ratings–similarly to other network news these days.

I’m also not saying not to report on the fringe issues–we need to know about them as much as any other. But they must also be approached with the bias of truth. They need to be examined carefully and, when found wanting, have light shed upon them. This is the sacred duty of journalism–to objectively look at the issues of the day, examine them, come to a conclusion, and report on them.

Objectivity means that there are no preconceived notions going in–not that there are no conclusions coming out. Objectivity does not mean giving voice to lies. The bias of truth requires journalists to challenge those in power to ensure that they are also biased toward truth, because it is the only way our democracy can survive.

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Oh Say Can You See?


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up before their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

People across the nation are up in arms about San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest of the oppression of people of color in this country by refusing to stand for the national anthem. You’ve probably already heard much about it. If not, here’s a pretty good summation of the controversy.

This is clearly an emotional issue. Some of those who feel that the athlete is disrespecting the country of his birth are going so far as to burn his jersey in effigy. Others, including a lot of military veterans, are just as passionate about Kaepernick’s Constitutional right to make such a protest. Passions run high on both sides of the controversy.

The fact is, regardless of your feelings on the matter, Kaepernick has the right to protest in whatever way he sees fit. He has done no harm to anyone, threatened no one, committed no crime. He has the right to make his protest. Does this free him from the repercussions of the act? Of course not. But some, in their anger, have called on him to be censured in some manner due to his lack of respect, his dearth of patriotism, and have called him a traitor in response to his actions–these are extreme and wrong-headed reactions. If he doesn’t have the right to make his peaceful protest, his strong statement, then the America that the rest of us are standing for doesn’t exist. If he is coerced or made to stand, then all that patriotism on display is for something false and fleeting.

I have also seen people throw the man’s affluence and relative fame in his face as a reason for him not to protest. As if his success makes the problems for which he sits go away. In fact, it is his very prominence that makes his protest so effective. If he were an anonymous citizen, no one would notice or give his statement much credence. His position does not make his protest weaker, but stronger, because of the size of his audience. Further, despite his relative success, he sees the problems that we have in this country regarding race and wants to leverage that success to draw attention to it. That’s a good thing, a laudable thing, not something done out of ingratitude. To do otherwise would be to take the money and turn a blind eye to the truth, and he is refusing to do that.

The saddest part of this affair is that the very real problems for which Kaepernick is sitting, the source of the conversation that he is trying to start, are being overlooked in favor of the side issue of his patriotism. And I suspect that this is because we are much more comfortable talking about patriotism than we are talking about race in this country. It is far easier to have a debate about whether or not Kaepernick is right to sit or stand out of love of country than it is to discuss the continuing specter of white supremacy in modern America.

I have never been comfortable with the blind patriotism that proclaims that America has a manifest destiny to surpass all other nations, that we are “number one” simply because we are who we are. I think we have the potential to be greatest country on the face of the earth–but only if we look at ourselves and strive to do better, everyday, in every way. The fact is, we have problems–deep-rooted and divisive problems–that are tearing our country apart. We live in a time when our supposed leaders use those problems to divide us in order to achieve their own selfish goals. Now is the time for soul-searching. Now is not the time to turn a blind eye to the problems of race in this country, but to face them head on and look for solutions–or at least resolutions–that we can live with.

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Geek FM: Tom Lehrer

Growing up, parody and satire songs were amongst my favorites. We had 8-tracks and LPs of “Goofy Gold” and “Funky Favorites”, both chock full of classic novelty tunes that we practically wore out as kids. “Weird” Al Yankovic was one of my favorite artists. I got turned on to Dr. Demento collections in college, of which Tom Lehrer was a staple.

Lehrer’s stuff is cerebral, yet funny and decidedly sharp. It has a wicked edge that appeals to me greatly.




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