Which form of governance is the least broken?

A friend wrote an interesting question on Facebook this morning: “Should the world be governed by one, by some, by many, or by all?”

The answers to questions like this were so OBVIOUS when I was younger, I miss that clarity.  Now, it feels like there are so many points and counterpoints to each that I have more questions than answers.  I took a stab at it and this isn’t my usual wacky hijinx or whatnot so skip it if that’s why you’re here.

All

This seems like the ideal but there are some practical problems.  While our technology makes 100% democracy possible, it only takes a few minutes of browsing Facebook or Reddit to see how finely tuned manipulation of the masses is becoming.

There’s obviously a science to getting people to do what you want and right now, there’s just money to be made in driving clicks to BuzzFeed and other clickbait aggregators.  Imagine if it was direct power?  Also think of the different witch hunts in the media where tens of thousands of people fill hundreds of message boards with vitriol against people who are accused of crimes and essentially convict them on the spot?  If 100% democracy exists, what victims could there be to the tyranny of the masses?

Many

Right now, I feel I like this one the best.  Local representation with accountability to the voters seems to be a pretty good compromise, but that’s 37 year-old me talking so I wonder what I’ll think in a few years.  City Councillors, Mayors and Governors seem to wobble back-and-forth at a pretty “ok” steady-state of “not being dicks”, but they’re not perfect.  Still, the amount of damage they can do is equally limited so I feel pretty good about that setup but of course there’s room for improvement.

Some

This is what we have when we invest power in the Federal government versus local.  It’s a mixed bag; civil rights often benefit when a top-down prohibition on asshattery and dickery is enforce, but there’s a real danger to having a large power structure that’s responsive to people “over there” instead of in our home towns.  From a practical perspective, large-scale infrastructure and international relations benefit from centralized power, but again, the risks are worthy of vigilance.

One

My least favorite from an idealism perspective, it may also be damningly effective.  Humanity is a mixed bag, and anyone can be a despot or a saint so it’s a crapshoot where everything’s riding on one roll of the metaphorical dice but if they’re not a dick, a single leader could get stuff done.  That said, ‘getting stuff done’ isn’t automatically good so I’d rather not this be the structure.  Lots of folks have tried and there’s something about the process of ACQUIRING this position that seems to bring out the worst in people.  No matter how good they might govern, I’m not sure I could imagine that the roll of the dice could possibly turn out in our favor as a people because of what they would have to do to BECOME that leader.

So…

What’s the One True Answer?  Preferably one that doesn’t put me in charge, I’ve got shit to do and ain’t nobody got time to rule the world.

Dad 1:, Children’s trust: 0

Dad 1:  Children's trust: 0

So, a few days ago I was eating an Otter Pop because, you know, Summer. Well, Summerish. Is it Summer yet? I haven’t taken measurements with my sextant yet so I’ve got to rely on what the MASS MEDIA tells me about the Equinox or Solstice and… no, stay off the conspiracy websites me, they’re not good for you. Anyway, I was eating an Otter Pop which as you may know is a plastic sleeve filled with sugar water that you freeze. They come in exciting flavors like ‘Blue’, ‘Green’, and, (as featured on the cover of this month’s Cordon Bleu Magazine) ‘Red’ and you eat them by cutting (or gnawing) off the end then squeezing the icy mess down your gullet.

I had just finished delicately consuming (read: ‘like a duck, no time for swallowing just spastically gulping’) one of these when inspiration struck. I had used scissors so the pouch had a clean cut at the end and now I had a cunning plan.

After thoroughly cleaning it, I got to work on refilling the sleeve. Using a mixture of three parts Sriracha to one part water, I filled it then fired up the stove. With a little experimentation, I figured out how to melt the end so that the new contents wouldn’t drip out and flash to steam while the plastic flowed. The last part was important because every time a droplet of Sriracha Juice flashed to steam, it basically maced me with the pepper vapors. That wasn’t great, but squinting through tear-gassed eyes, I persisted.

Finally, I had a satisfactory seal on the tube. Holding it up, I could see that it wasn’t perfect, but perfect is the enemy of the good enough and this was good enough. I kneaded it a few times to make sure the mix was uniform, shook it for good measure after making sure it wasn’t going to spray Sriracha all over the kitchen, then popped it into the freezer.

A couple days later, it happened. I had handed out a couple of Otter Pops on request and one of them was the ‘live round’. Our ten year-old Child A ended up with it and I tried not to be obvious as I watched him clip the end off and start eating.

After a couple seconds he stopped…. then turned and walked quickly to the garbage can. As he passed me, he muttered ‘I hate you, Dad’ and never before have those words brought such satisfaction. He started spitting into the trash then threw away the Sriracha Otter Pop. A few seconds later, he reached down, pulled it out again, and tried to casually offer his brother Child 1 a taste. “Hey, want to try?” he asked. Child 1, for once, hadn’t had his nose buried in his phone and had caught on that something was going on. He passed.

With little more than a few cents worth of Sriracha and maybe 10-15 minutes of effort I managed to teach my kids another lesson about how important it is not to trust anyone or thing. Hopefully this lesson will treat them well going forward just so long as I can keep them off those conspiracy theory websites.

But today, just today, Sriracha Otter Pop was actually an inside job.

Putting my socks on in the dark was a hell of a decision on “Exchange My Busted-Ass Shoes” Day

I don’t usually concern myself too greatly about perfectly matching them because MY EYES ARE UP HERE PAL but there’s something uncomfortable already about walking shoeless through Kohl’s; having tremendously unmatched socks while I do it escalates that unease.

I'm gonna lose some toes if I'm not careful.

I’m gonna lose some toes if I’m not careful.

Then suddenly actual physical escalator. What.

I knew I was going to lose something on this thing, I just didn’t know if it would be a sock, toe, or entire foot. Through providence, the only thing I lost was dignity as I yelp-hopped away from the chompers at the bottom.

What did I learn? Ideally: don’t buy crummy shoes that wear through in a week, or maybe ‘get the replacements before you visit customer service so you can remain shod’, or maybe even just try to match socks.

Realistically, though, I learned NOTHING.

The ‘Tapout’ hat my 10 year old thought lost turned up

It was Sunday, but in one sense, the sun was nowhere to be found. Dark metaphorical clouds raced figuratively across the literally clear sky in a confusing bit of imagery and the gods of prose died a little inside.

In the heart of Oregon, my family prepared for a trip to the theater. I was miles away with a trailer load of branches and yard debris, racing the pitiless march of time with one goal: watch Godzilla with everyone else. Little did I know the tale in progress at home.

Child 1 leaned his ten-year old head into the Kitchen. “Mom! Can we get some snacks?” My wife, the patient woman who had settled for me years ago, smiled as she shook her head.

“Snack at the theater are terribly expensive and we’ve budgeted just enough for admission. Let’s each take a small ziplock and put some nuts and banachips in that we can bring instead.” She pulled down the bags from the cupboard and handed them out. Child 1 and Child A took their bags and began coordinating snackage.

She glanced up at the clock on the microwave and started. “Boys, let’s get going!” Looking back at them, she saw that both had modestly filled their little sandwich ziplocs and were ready to leave but… there was a small problem.

“Child A”, she looked at the bag he was holding, “you’ve got a t-shirt on and those pants don’t seem to have pockets. How do you plan on getting those into the theater?”

Our family has, over the years, executed several smuggling operations into theaters. The goal: sneak quiet food in under the noses of the Snacks Watch. Quiet food because we don’t want to disrupt the film for others, obviously, but over the years we have snuck progressively stranger items in just for the challenge. Today’s trip wouldn’t feature any Taco Bell, ribs, or homebuilt single kernel-at-a-time popcorn makers so this should have been a cakewalk.

How did this happen?

How did this happen?

Child A looked around, thinking. As the youngest, he had the least amount of experience running the gauntlet, but he knew the basics. Seizing on an idea, he grabbed… a hat. My wife’s face fell. That hat.

In biology, there are niches that nature fills with form-specific creatures evolved to excel at one specific role. There are bacteria that live in the soupy depths of animal intestinal systems processing waste. Wasps are predators in the insect kingdom, stinging and biting like assholes as they fly from one disaster to another. Flies swarm decomposing bodies, gorging themselves and being part of a system that keeps us from being knee-deep in corpses.

A baseball-ish cap in form, it occupied a different niche: On an adult, it says ‘My wearer gets to see his kids once a month’. I’m not sure what it says when a kid is wearing it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a sonnet.

“I can use this!” he chimed brightly. Setting the small ziploc on his head, he put on the hat and… it worked. The baggie wasn’t big enough to really distort the outline of his head and… it might just work. Shrugging, my wife ushered the kids out the door towards a date… with destiny. Well, maybe not a date, more like an appointment.

Meanwhile, I tightened the tie-down holding my trailer gate closed at the yardwaste dropoff and my friend and I tore out of there. “Hope you don’t miss your movie”, he offered. “Nah, I’ve got plenty of time” I lied. The film would start in 15 minutes and I still needed to drop him off. “Hey, do we have an active role in this story?” he might have asked, and with a shake of my head, I would have answered no. “But I feel like I’ve got to be in this story SOMEWHERE because I’m spending all this time typing it” I might have responded. “Hmmm.” he could have said.

At the theater, my family approached the ticket booth. The hat sat somewhat loosely on Child A’s head and she looked at it speculatively. Neither of us are exactly sure where it came from. One day, it had just… appeared as if delivered by some sort of pro-wrestling Mary Poppins. One evening Child A is a normal kid, a symbol of our hopes and dreams for a future full of possibilities and the next morning he’s got a Tapout hat.

Child 1 breezed through the ticketing process, his snacks tucked away in his pocket. This wasn’t his first dance, he knew the score. Child A approached the ticket-taker carefully, keeping his body as vertical as possible. Undoubtedly, the neon green hat felt like it was slipping a little back and forth. As he handed his ticket over, the taker glanced up at the bright beacon of classlessness. He may have snorted slightly in judgment before unironically scratching one of his 00 gauge hollow ear piercings. His attention drawn to the huge TAPOUT logo on the hat, he didn’t notice the shifting lump beneath and waved the family through.

Minutes later, I raced into the mall parking lot. The film was to start at 3:00 but it was already 2:55. I knew I had some time because the trailers and advertisements would buy them for me, but I also knew a film like Godzilla would probably have GOOD trailers so I found a double parking spot (so the yardwaste trailer wouldn’t stick out) then jogged into the theater. As I shamelessly inserted myself back into the story, a line stretched from the ticket booth. I sauntered past to use the ticket pick-up ATM things that the rest of my generation doesn’t seem to understand can also be used to just buy tickets too and came face to face with… a blank wall. There were outlines where they had been, but Regal, I later learned, had decommissioned them and this theater was now 100% manual. Fuck.

I got into line and waited. 3:00 passed, then 3:05. Finally, I reached the front. I paid in a flash of wasted writing that you the reader apparently have to wade through because it doesn’t really contribute to the narrative then ran to my film.

We watched Godzilla. As Godzilla films go, it was pretty good. This is, of course, compared to such masterpieces as ‘Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla’, ‘Godzilla vs. Metaphor’, and ‘Godzilla vs. Ferris Bueller’. As a film on its own merits, it wasn’t that great but that was fine. As an extended version of the film trailer, it was a fine film and I hardly felt ripped off at all.

Afterwards, we split up and headed out to our cars. Wife and Child A went to run an errand while I took Child 1 with me back home. Parking the trailer, I hardly broke anything at all and eventually wife and Child A got home too.

“MOM!” he suddenly blurted, “MY HAT!” With the keen sense of perception gifted to only the keenest observers, I noted that he was not in fact wearing a hat. I proudly announced this deduction and was met with stares that suggested I was an idiot.

“Oh %CHILD_A_NAME%, you must have left it at the theater.” Her Oscar-worth look of sympathy in place, she comforted Child A but both of us felt a surge of excitement. This was it. This was happening. Thinking ourselves good people, we had decided not to actually destroy the hat, but we both knew this was our big chance to let the world ‘just take care of it’.

“My haaaaat!” he cried again, a look of anguish on his face reminiscent of a teenage mother-to-be being told she’ll have to ‘cut back’ on alcohol during the pregnancy. My wife looked at me. “Ideas?” her eyes seemed to ask. “I don’t know, this seems like an opportunity to get rid of the hat” my eyes responded. “Sure, but we should probably at least go through the motions” her eyes suggested. “Fine, I guess. Hey, this eye-talking this is pretty handy” I noted with my eyes. “(EYES)” she said back, and I figured maybe whatever she meant had lost something in the translation. “Ok, I’ll try calling the theater” I eyed at her. “(EYES)” she said again, and looked at me kinda strangely. Enough eyeplay, I thought to myself. Let’s go through the motions.

I called the theater. After a few minutes on hold, the 15 year old manning the phones managed to connect me with what may have been a 17 year-old manager. “Hi there, do you folks have a lost & found?” I asked, making optimistic ‘crossed finger’ gangsigns at Child A.

“We do”, the manager responded. “What did you lose?”

“A green ‘Tapout’ hat”. The silence that stretched felt awkward. “It belongs to my ten year old son” I added in a rush, worried inexplicably that her opinion of the kind of person who actually calls to get something like this back mattered. She looked, then reported back. “There’s nothing like that here, sorry.” The apology at the end was very pro-forma, and I understood. It was hard to feel sorrow about a missing Tapout hat. I thanked her and hung up.

“Sorry dude”, I began, trying to sound ‘hip’ and ‘with it’, “they didn’t have it. We’ll call back tomorrow in case it shows up.”

Crestfallen, he nodded and left. The evening passed without drama and gradually, my wife and I began to think that the dark times of Our Kid Having A Tapout Hat were finally over. We celebrated by watching television because we’re American and that’s what we do instead of talking.

The next day, the kids left for school and all was well. No wailing, no gnashing of teeth, just a hatless kid on his scooter leaving that part of his childhood behind and us relieved at the prospect.

That afternoon, we got home and Child A went to get the mailkey from the car so he could check for something he’d bought off Amazon. He came running back into the house with… the hat.

“Mom! Dad! Look what I found in the car!” He practically jumped for joy, then followed that up by literally jumping for joy. Mailkey forgotten, he ran out to go play with his friends, green Tapout hat back on his head.

My wife and I looked at each other. “Well, shit.”

More dumb things people keep re-sharing on Facebook

"I want to sound deep, better re-share this."

Have you tried new Diet Thought? Sounds like something insightful but without the mental calories.

The statement in this picture tries to sound deep, but it really isn’t.  Diabetes is a _real_ thing that kills tens of thousands every year and affects millions more in variously increasingly horrifying ways.  The obesity epidemic similarly has changed the face of our nation and brings early death in its wake too.  Real ways that are quantifiable and actually happen.

The mysterious ‘chemicals’ that an image like this alludes to with hand-waves and significant glances seem to defy specific criticism because the FDA comes down on bad-additives like a ton of bricks if there’s science to back it up.  Find a widespread ‘chemical’ like what the caption describes that’s worse than diabetes and/or obesity in the quantities it’s in common foods with unambiguous scientific condemnation.  Please.

Until then, I’ll continue to count calories which are ACTUALLY important instead of working myself up into a lather about a Fear Uncertainty Doubt campaign waged by the people behind the line of reasoning this oft-shared image.

Unable to write good titles, webdude finds secret that

Clickbait.  Goddamn clickbait.  That’s what I used here.  It’s showing up everywhere and it sucks.  I even put a picture of a woman shocked by ‘some secret’ she saw as part of trying to draw you here and obviously it worked.

“She sure looks shocked, I’d better go check out the big secret!”

You'll never guess the amazing technique he uses to draw people to his shitty website!

You’ll never guess the amazing technique he uses to draw people to his shitty website!

Leading headlines like this are ridiculous, Buzzfeed and the rest of all y’all are parasites, and the rest of us should be ashamed for falling for it.  Facebook loves it; I think they even censor previews on things that are critical of clickbait.  I had to kajigger this post a bunch of ways before finally tricking it into generating a preview and I kinda think this can’t be shared with the above format intact by just starting with this URL.  You know why?  Because Facebook looooooves clickbait because clicks=$$$ for them in dozens of inscrutable ways beyond my ability to fathom.  As far as I can tell, there’s a function somewhere in Facebook’s link preview code that says basically:

if($post_text contains "clickbait")
{
    //fuck this guy
    return DONT_BOTHER_TO_PREVIEW;
}

(I made this pseudolanguage up so don’t criticize my formatting, as far as you know it’s totally amazeballs syntax in my imaginary coding environment)

“Just this once, I’m sure it’ll be worth it..” we tell ourselves, and each time we’re spectacularly wrong.  It’s not worth it when we need to be tricked into it, so we’re losing dignity by falling for it.

Guys, guys….  we need to go back to, GUYS.  Pay attention.  We need to go back to the basics.  Guys, listen.  We need to go back to the proven techniques that made this web what it is today: spamming.  Well, either that or creating good content, but who has time for that?

I mean, look at the kind of junk I make here:

http://alphahole.net/

Just dreadful.

Life's too short to be nice