Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Veronica! 3





Near one o'clock I made my way to the Defiance Space in back of the Produce Hotel. Paul was already there trying to get the door open and had to go to the office to get a key. Beth soon arrived.
"Erin's still sick?" she asked.
"Yeah," I told her. "She was here earlier, but she went back home to rest."
"I hope she feels better."
"So do I."
Paul came back with the keys and opened up the Space. Only three of us showed up, myself, Paul, and a guy from one of the other hotels.
"Happy birthday, Rick," Paul said.
"Thank you."
"Today's your birthday?" Beth asked.
"Why yes, it is."
"Well in that case we'll have to do some traditional birthday yoga positions."
"Birthday yoga positions?"
"Yup!"
After getting our breathing normalized Beth had us jump into a series of uttanasanas, a couple of navasanas, 37 eka paada salamba sarvangasanas, the plow position, a smattering of virabhadrasanas, 4 matsyasanas which as you know can be very "challenging," 86 bhujangasanas, 22 ardha jathara parivarttanasanas, 32 ardha bhekasana parsua sarvangasanas, 9 sraddha vrischikasanas, 2 bakasanas just to cool down, and 14 cat flows. Then we meditated upon our chakras for thirty minutes.
"Wow, that was a pretty grueling yoga workout Beth," I told her. "I think I got all of my toxins removed. Thank you."
"Your welcome."
I returned to my box and took a shower. As I was getting dressed Jose appeared magically at my door.
"Are you going to Support Group?" he asked me.
"Of course. I need all the support I can get."
We went downstairs and waited for Paul to return from the Defiance Space. When he arrived he asked us what we wanted to do, considering Jose and I were the only ones there.
"Let's go get yogurt," Jose said. "We haven't done that for a while."
"Yogurt? We could do that. Sound good to you Rick?"
"Do we have enough petty cash?"
"I think so," Paul said.
He took out $15 from petty cash and we took Paul's car to Yogurtland at Second and Central, directly north from my box.
At Yogurtland you get to take a cup and fill it with any kind of yogurt and toppings that you like, then take it to the cash register where they charge by the weight of your cup with yogurt in it. It's all very scientific. I served myself three layers of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate yogurt, with mini-M & Ms and malted milk balls on top. All three of our cups cost just over $10. We sat outside to eat, and answered questions from Erin's Book of Questions. Three female police officers were sitting nearby eating their own yogurt.
"This is your birthday yogurt," Jose said.
"That's right," said Paul.
Paul asked if we could choose a power or ability to wake up one day and have, what would it be?
"A photographic memory," I told them.
"Why?" Paul asked.
"Because then I could learn other languages fast, and remember everything easily."
"You know, I think I agree with you," Paul said.
We dropped Jose off near the hotel, then Paul and I drove to the Abby for the Writing Class.
Rachel wanted us to write poems again using the little pieces of paper, so we spent twenty minutes turning over the hundreds of pieces and Rachel didn't even show up.
Demitri did though. I asked her to Email some of the pictures she took at the Domino Tournament. She said she would. Several residents showed for the class today, and 4 interns.
They had had a book fair, or something at the Abby earlier in the day, with lots of cake, pastry, and bagels left over. I filled up a bag of birthday bagels to take home with me.
Once again I wrote haikus, like:

Cool wind force
Spell geometry
Monkey fries

Finish well
Rudiment Mountain
Sonic pie

and

The girl
Stood with direct will
Dream cuddle

Demitri wrote:
Order cold water
Smoke from the fire during sleep
yell so you can hear

Demitri is obviously very disturbed.

Paul wrote:

Miss Los Angeles
Rains her delighted ego
On a river bed
Of swarthy pizza boys
With common country eyes
Until the icy, muddy water
Leaves their hot boxes cold

And here's some from my lovely case manager, Erin, from a week ago:

Applesauce Seagull
Uranus monster
Never took a city at breakfast before
and
They told the girl
"Produce a Prince!"
But instead she made herself king

Very good one and all!
Afterwords, Paul drove me back to my box, giving Demitri a ride to Union Station as well. I made my self some birthday burritos for dinner, then got ready to go to the SOS Tuesday night meeting at the Center for Inquiry West in Hollywood. A secular 12 Step meeting, sort of.
As soon as I entered a large cry issued from those within, "Happy Birthday Rick!" At which point a large orange and white birthday cake was brought out, and everybody sang the "Happy Birthday Song," to me. I was very flustered at all of this attention. I was prompted to make a wish and blow out the appropriate number of candles. I can't tell you what my wish was because if I did it won't come true, but if you see me driving around in a Jaguar tomorrow you'll know it worked out. We began eating the cake, then the clowns arrived. Eight of them. The began their clownish activities, blowing up balloons, pantomime, acrobatics. Speaking of balloons, a switch was flipped and two hundred of them plus streamers fell from the ceiling (odd that I hadn't noticed them) and landed about us. Everyone cried out in delight! The circus animals came next. One of the elephants made a mess at the podium, but were otherwise well behaved. I began singing, "Livin' la Vida Loca," with a lamp shade on my head. Men swallowed swords and breathed fire. The bears and tigers scared me a bit. The trapeze took up the entire stage. A man was shot out of a cannon. The fireworks began. I took a ride on one of the many horses. It was definitely getting crowded and a little smoky in there. The police heard what was going on and joined us. The cake was consumed. Punch was procured. The clowns tried to lift me up in a chair 54 times but could only make it to 34 before collapsing. I got distracted by an angry mongoose, allowing the clowns to kidnap me and I haven't been heard from since.
Freaking clowns! They're always doing stuff like that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Veronica! 2




My lovely case manager, Erin, and I got into her car and drove off towards downtown. She owns a little range rover type vehicle, and the rear compartment was filled with various form of crap, including one large dresser that she had bought at some sale, and which had been in the back of her car ever since, a couple of months now.
We were going to IHop (International House of Pancakes) mainly, I think, because I had expressed an interest in taking her there a few months ago. At the time Erin was being attacked by pimples, and was deeply involved in a rigorous campaign to "eat healthy," and we foregoed our trip to IHop in favor of a local deli near our hotel which offered no food whatsoever that could be considered healthier than what could be found at the International House of Pancakes, but I believe that the choice of restaurants assuaged Erin's fears of not eating in a healthy manner enough in a psychological sense that it was okay for her to eat there. Besides, she was hungry. I paid that time.
I told her that it would be my treat at IHop, as she had paid the last two times we had bypassed our Tuesday excursion to the Hippy Kitchen, in favor of McDonalds. She would have none of that though.
Through the miracle of her IPhone GPS system we soon found our way to the IHop located at 8th Street and Flower. Neither of us had been in this particular branch of the pancake chain, although both of us were veterans of the IHop.
It was not too busy and we were escorted to a nearby booth and given menus.
"Ahh! They list the calories next to the food," Erin exclaimed.
"Not on this one," I showed her the smaller menu of specials.
We basically decided on the same breakfast, two eggs (over easy), two strips of bacon, and two sausage links. All we differed on was the side dishes. Erin opted for crepes smothered with strawberries, and I chose the pumpkin pancakes. They were good.
Our conversation was casual and easy. I really enjoyed our time together, but was concerned about Erin's persistent cough.
"I think you should go home after this and rest up. It probably would not be a good idea for you to go to yoga today and strain yourself," I told her.
"I think you may be right," she said. "Though I don't like to miss work so much."
I finished every particle of my breakfast. Erin, being Erin finished with some bacon and sausage left over. She eats like a beautiful little bird, although I was surprised that she ate what she did considering the state of her health.
She looked down a short hallway where the ladies restroom was located.
"I wonder how you get in the bathroom. Do you need a code or something?"
The door to the restroom was locked with a numerical key pad.
"I don't know, but I'll find out."
The next time our waitress came by I asked her about the restroom.
"The code is four seven eight," she said.
"Thank you," I told her.
"Here, take this," Erin said, handing the waitress her credit card.
"Hey, wait a min..."
"I want to pay for this," Erin told her, "It's his birthday."
"Oh, happy birthday," the lovely waitress said, as she walked off with Erin's card.
"Young lady..."
"I didn't really need to use the restroom," she told me. "I was just going to get up and go to the cash register and pay, but you can see the cash register from here too."
How devious of her. I like that. Reminds me of myself.
"Okay, but on your next birthday we're coming back to this very spot, and I'm paying!"
"Alright."
The waitress came back with the credit card receipt for Erin to sign, and she placed a small dish of vanilla ice cream covered with whip cream in front of me. "Happy birthday," she said.
"Wow, thank you."
"Wow, Rick. I think I will use the restroom while you eat that."
I finished my birthday ice cream, Erin returned, and we made our way back to her office where Erin presented me with the traditional birthday pie (pictured above). Unfortunately I was taking a little nap at the time.
Erin did go home after that. She told me the next day that she slept throughout the rest of the day.
I will always remember my birthday breakfast with Erin, for the rest of my life, and it is so special to me that she came to work that day so we could have it.
Thank you so much Erin. You really made my day great.
I returned to my box, feeling great, and got a little work done, looking forward to seeing my esteemed yoga teacher, Beth, at our one o'clock class.
To be continued.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Veronica! 1


Veronica Hart


Kelly Osbourne



Johm Cleese



John Gotti


Nanette Fabray


Capt. James Cook

Happy Birthday!
Congratulations are in order for the lovely actress, Veronica Hart, who starred in such cinematic classics as "Deranged," Roommates," and "Foxtrot," and who celebrated her birthday yesterday.
Yesterday was also the birthday of Ozzy's lovely daughter, Kelly Osbourne, who is now the same age as my lovely case manager, Erin, who I'm sorry to say, went home early yesterday as she seems to be suffering from a bad head cold and chest congestion. Get well soon Erin!
Yesterday we also celebrated the birthdays of Monty Python founder and star, John Cleese, crime boss, John Gotti, the lovely actress and singer, Nanette Ruby Bernadette Fabray, and the British explorer, James Cook, who performed the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand, which at the time badly needed to be circumnavigated.
Yesterday was many other peoples birthdays as well, including some not mentioned on the Internet.
Oh yes, it was mine as well.
Well one must have a day of birth, and October 27th is as good a day as any, actually better than some. Who would want their birthday to be on, let's say, September 11th, for instance, a day that will be remembered as a national day of tragedy, or December 7th, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor? Oh, wait a minute, December 7th is my lovely sister's birthday.
Never mind.
I began my birthday celebration early, the day before on the 26th, by receiving an Email from my lovely case manager. That is not unusual in and of itself. I've received many Emails from her throughout the years, and I send her Emails as well. As a matter of fact, if the truth be known, most of the Emails I receive from Erin are in direct response to the Emails I've previously sent to her, like if I Email a question to her and she replies with an Email answer.
I'd say on average I get one reply (if I'm lucky) for every four Emails I send to her. I'm not complaining, mind you. I do realize how extremely busy Erin is, so much so that she hardly has the time to text and answer personal calls on her Iphone.
Erin, if you ever read this, please realize that we only tease you because we love you... and please don't hurt me... anymore.
The Email that Erin sent to me is historic in nature due to it not originating from her office computer. No, Erin had called in sick Monday, having been sick with the same nagging illness mentioned above for the entire weekend.
I know that all of you dear readers wish Erin a speedy and robust recovery. I certainly do.
She must have Emailed me from her home in Santa Monica on Monday afternoon, although the message was transmitted through a third party, so I could not be sure. However, I had inside information that she had quarantined herself to her bed, reading from the Twilight series of novels, watching old movies (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra), drinking tea and eating oatmeal for four days. What discipline!
Erin had sent me a birthday present, some Fandango movie passes through the magic of the Internet. Isn't it wonderful!?
Now I can go to the movies anytime I want and my Fandango movie tickets will be waiting for me. No more long lines! Now all I need is for my sister to send me some Redenbacher popcorn passes to go with them, and I'm all set.
Sorry about that Pearl Harbor crack, Cheryl.
And thank you Erin!
Unwittingly, Erin had solved a small but difficult problem for me. Earlier that day at the Depression Group at the Veteran's Administration's downtown clinic, I had brought up the subject of my young case manager and my birthday.
My lovely psychologist, Dr. Kimberly, had returned from medical leave apparently no worse for wear, and we had been discussing different scenarios on how we were likely to respond in each instance. Like getting stuck in traffic and things of that nature. I came up with my own example.
"I have an example," I offered the group. "Tomorrow is my birthday, and I know my case manager wanted to take me out to breakfast. Now she has a big... a recurring case of Mondayitis and wasn't at work today. So what happens if she doesn't come in tomorrow, or does come in and forgets all about it? Should I remind her? I mean I don't want to just go up to her and tell her it's my birthday just to go to breakfast. On the other hand, I don't want to say nothing about it, and then later on when she remembers... I don't want her to feel bad about missing it... you know what I mean?"
"Yes," Dr. Kimberly replied, "we know exactly what you mean, but we have no answers for you."
"What, but..."
"No answers I told you. You'll have to figure this out by yourself, Joyce."
Fortunately, even while on her sickbed, my friend Erin mustered enough energy to think of me and send my Fandango passes... and confirm our breakfast the next day. I Emailed her back letting her know I would see her in her office the next morning at nine thirty.
Due to the magic Internet, by the time I saw my lovely case manager the next morning, all of my friends and family, many who I've never even met, sent their happy birthday wishes to me via Facebook. That was very gratifying, considering last year I got diddly squat, and no one wished me a happy birthday.
Erin even came to work yesterday morning, which greatly facilitated our going to breakfast. She gave me a "Happy Birthday" conical, cardboard hat to put on. She put another one on as well. They were both leftover hats I had bought for her birthday celebration last May.
Erin looked great, but sounded sick still. Her voice was` a bit hoarse, and she was prone to coughing. I felt her forehead though, and detected no sign of fever. I let her know we didn't have to go if she wasn't up for it.
"Oh no," she told me. "We're going!"
My case manager has spunk.
"My mom was mad at me for coming to work today. She wanted me to stay home, but I told her I had to see Rick on his birthday."
"She really thinks that you're that sick. And she got her medical degree from where..."
"My mom's a nurse."
"Oh. Well. You should listen to your mother. Please tell her I said that."
We discussed the merits of the classic, "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" ("I watched it for ten whole minutes, getting madder all of the time at the bad acting, until I realized it was a spoof!"), before we took off for my birthday breakfast, Erin, the soldier that she is, coughing away.

To be continued.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Warning 1



"A derivative is a financial instrument that is derived from some other asset, index, event, value or condition (known as the underlying asset). Rather than trade or exchange the underlying asset itself, derivative traders enter into an agreement to exchange cash or assets over time based on the underlying asset. A simple example is a futures contract: an agreement to exchange the underlying asset at a future date. Derivatives are often leveraged, such that a small movement in the underlying value can cause a large difference in the value of the derivative. Derivatives can be used by investors to speculate and to make a profit if the value of the underlying [asset] moves the way they expect (e.g. moves in a given direction, stays in or out of a specified range, reaches a certain level). Alternatively, traders can use derivatives to hedge or mitigate risk in the underlying [asset], by entering into a derivative contract whose value moves in the opposite direction to their underlying [asset] position and cancels part or all of it."


In other words the Derivatives Market is a huge, unholy, unregulated mess.

Listen: "The use of derivatives can result in large losses because of the use of leverage, or borrowing. Derivatives allow investors to earn large returns from small movements in the underlying asset's [say, the housing market] price. However, investors could lose large amounts if the price of the underlying [asset] moves against them significantly. There have been several instances of massive losses in derivative markets, such as: The need to recapitalize insurer American International Group (AIG) with $85 billion of debt provided by the US federal government. An AIG subsidiary had lost more than $18 billion over the preceding three quarters on Credit Default Swaps (CDS) it had written."


"Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight."
 
Brooksley Born, like me, majored in English. Unlike me, she graduated from Stanford University in 1961 (I was only six years old at the time. How could I be expected to graduate from Stanford?), and wanted to enter the field of medicine and become a doctor. Her guidance counselor thought that any woman who stated her desire to become a doctor rather than the more suitable profession of a nurse, was just in it for the bucks, and not sincere about treating patients.
Instead she entered Stanford Law School, one of only seven women in her class. She was the first woman to be named president of the Stanford Law Review, and graduated first in her class. Take that, guidance counselor!
After law school she was selected as a law clerk for Judge Henry Edgerton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Following that she became an associate in the Washington D.C. based international law firm of Arnold and Porter, where she worked on international trade law. She became familiar with complex litigation and arbitration cases involving financial market transactions. She made partner at Arnold & Porter and eventually rose to be the head of the firm's derivatives practice.
In 1993, after President Clinton took office, she was considered for the office of Attorney General, but Clinton found her too "boring," and the more electrifying Janet Reno was selected.
Instead she was appointed chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a bipartisan regulatory agency of the federal government, specifically designed to prohibit fraudulent conduct in the trading of futures contracts.
The stated mission of the CFTC is to protect market users and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to the sale of commodity and financial futures and options, and to foster open, competitive, and financially sound futures and option markets.
From this office, the head of a little known, little listened to, backwater agency designed to pay lip service to the role of federal regulation in the financial markets of powerful Wall Street entrenched interests, Brooksley Born would come into direct conflict with the most powerful men involved with the economic policies of the United States government. Men with names like Levitt, Rubin, Summers, and Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
To be continued.

main image copyright © michael o'neill/corbis outline

Monday, October 26, 2009

Salvation Diary 12


"Salvation" Artist: Amanda Milke
http://paintsplatters.wordpress.com/


February 16 Saturday Day 157
 
I got tired of moping and sighing, so I got up and started moving around.
My mother had called me on the evening of the fourteenth to wish me a happy Valentine's Day. That was nice of her. I had considered calling my niece in Bullhead City and wishing her and my sister a happy Valentine's Day, while asking Keri if she would be my valentine. I chickened out though. I felt a little silly asking my niece if she would be my valentine. What if she said no? I'd be shattered.
Probably start drinking.
Anyway, today turned out to be pretty normal. Good. The more normalcy I tuck away the better off I am, I guess.
I wrote for awhile, in the lobby of course, and then took a walk before I started work. Beautiful day outside. Since tomorrow is my day off, there is a 95% probability it will be overcast, or Pasadena will suffer a locust swarm. Or something.
Work was rather peaceful. I started about an hour early, basically because I had nothing better to do. I was sorry I did so later when I began to get tired.
Eddie Gillespie started early also. He kept telling people that he had to work two extra hours, but it was only one and a quarter. The reason Eddie started so early was because he was filling in for Kevin Rockoff, who was attending a big Hawaiian luau with Ed Reitz and his lovely wife (everybody's wife is lovely. I don't know why), at the Salvation Army's Western Territorial Headquarters, in Palos Verde (a very ritzy piece of real estate. Don't tell me the Salvation Army doesn't make money), along with some of the other residents. Ed had asked me if I wanted to go, but I begged off, citing my work schedule as an excuse, and that it wouldn't really be fair to Mr. Vasquez who would have to work in my place if I were to attend. I reminded Ed that Robert needed some time off before his two long work days. Ed bought it. Not that I would have minded going (I would have hated it).
All I had to do this evening was to make sure that our undefeated basketball team got a ride to the Corps, that bingo started promptly at six, that Domingo, the Pasadena 1 trailer man, locked up the trailer correctly, that the damn bar was was put up in the thrift store parking lot, that the ladies from the thrift store got a ride to the bank, that the Saturday night VCR movie began promptly at seven, that the now defeated basketball team got a ride back after the game, make sure no fires broke out, make sure everything was locked up and secured properly at the appropriate time, sell a few canteen cards, dole out some change for the telephone, and make sure everyone was in by midnight.
This was accomplished with minimal effort, believe me. I needed to save my energy for the real work at hand; finishing a library book that Vernon Smith had lent to me: "Drug Testing in the Workplace, A Guide for Employers and Employees." Now I know a lot more about how to perpetuate a false negative in a urine sample than I used to. I also copied a table citing detection duration times in urine, and one concerning cross-reactivity, over the counter prescription medicines that can call false positives. Stuff like that.
After I finished that book, I started a novel entitled "The Restaurant at the End of the
Universe." I won't go into what its about. It's too silly.
I had trouble getting to sleep, and did not drift off until after four. When I did get to sleep, I dreamt of various aspects of Christy Canyon.
 
February 17 Sunday Day 158
 
What a relaxing day.
After the monstrous inconvenience of having to get up (after only three hours of sleep) for chapel, and then actually having to go to chapel (Major and Mrs. Johnson are back from vacation), and having to wade through the Salvation Army's brand of Christian dogma (I get so tired of being told that a person who suffered with a martyr complex, and carried it out to its logical conclusion, can save me), Tom Rotsch invited me out to breakfast.
Not that he offered to pay for it, or anything. We went Dutch.
Tom is a very enterprising young fellow ( a honky, just like me), very into religion as his primary means of staying sober. An ex-painter (house, rather than picture), he now enjoys building furniture and things of that nature, over in the warehouse. He is separated (two years now from a wife and two children, but sees them occasionally), and is trying, very earnestly, to get his life together.
We had breakfast at Tiffanys. Really! Just across the street from Rose's City Diner lies a little restaurant by the name of Tiffanys. It's not a particularly good restaurant, but it's cheap. Two eggs, hashbrowns, and toast, for 99 cents.
We talked about some of our past alcohol and drug related exploits, and discussed our dreams and plans for the future.
We walked by the park on our way back. It's still there... ever present. An awful reminder of my recent past. I showed Tom the trucks I used to sleep in. He told me that he used to live under a freeway bridge. To each his own.
As we neared the residence we parted ways. I returned to the house, he continued south on Fair Oaks, toward Huntington Memorial Hospital, to visit the ex-resident manager, who was there because he was dying of cancer.
I went to my room to get my notebook, then down to the lobby to do some writing.
At two thirty I returned to my room and watched "Three Days of the Condor," with Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway on television. The film lasted until five, but at 4:03 I made a mad dash to the dinning room and gulped down some Chile Mac and Italian Sausage, then went back upstairs to finish watching the movie.
A very good episode tonight of "Star Trek, the Next Generation," concerning a missing day on the Enterprise.
I lost horribly at bingo once again. Then watched the Sunday night VCR movie, "El Diablo," with Louis Gosset Jr. I had seen part of it before while in jail. I had missed the middle of it because I went to eat jail food (Chile Mac) at lunchtime.
After the movie I watched a not quite up to par episode of "Married with Children," then read for a while before going to sleep, and continuing to explore the mysteries of Christy.
 
February 18 Monday Day 159
 
I had some SOS for breakfast today. Yummy.
Afterwards I went back upstairs, while remarking to myself (looking around at everyone preparing for a long, arduous work day), what a beautiful morning it was. My favorite kind in fact. One in which I was free to crawl right back into bed if I so desired.
Which I did desire.
And which I promptly actualized.
I turned on my television before going to sleep. I tried to catch a glimpse of Debra Norville's legs, but she wasn't showing any this morning, so I rolled around and snoozed.
At around one I decided it was probably time for me to be getting up out of bed. I went downstairs to write, which took until three thirty. I read until dinner time.
I had thought that I had the whole evening to myself to do whatever I wanted, but Kevin Rockoff let me know that I was scheduled to see a Kathy Somebody, presumably a vocational counselor.
Oh boy!
She was to be here directly after dinner, so I waited in the lobby for her, thumbing through the last pages of, "Another Chance."
She soon arrived. A very small, petite blonde, in jeans and a sweater. More youngish than middle ageish, and very pretty. I fell in love with her almost instantly.
We talked about job applications, and how to correctly fill them out. She asked me what I wanted to do. I told her that I needed to continue school. She said that was nice. She asked me what I wanted to do about a job. I told her that I wasn't really sure, that I may wind up working here after Mr. Vasquez retires. She said that was nice, what would be my second choice incase Mr. Vasquez did not retire? I told her that I didn't really know, that I might go back to work for AT&T, or that I may stay here as a beneficiary and go to school to learn all about drug and alcohol rehabilitation. She said, that was nice.
Somehow I get the feeling that nobody takes me very seriously.
If I wish not to be taken seriously all I have to do is talk to my mother.
She was a nice lady though, and trying to be helpful. She told me that if I ever needed her services to come and see her.
I felt oddly compelled to attend Ed's group counseling session at 6:30. I'm glad I did, for two reasons. First: even though I am a graduate of the program, the reason that I came to the Salvation Army, and by extension, group counseling sessions has not gone away. I'm still very much an alcoholic. Groups, although the ones provided here seem to be very superficial, can only help me. Groups are what you make of them. If I can believe something can help me I would be silly not to take advantage of it. Second: if I continue to go to Ed's group, even though it's not required of me, Jill won't think it strange that I continue to go to her group.
Why do I want to continue to go to Jill's group? The first reason I listed above basically.
The fact that Jill is the only female that I get a chance to talk to has nothing to do with it. Not one bit. Neither does the fact that I happen to be madly in love with her. Madly. That doesn't enter into it at all. My small endeavors toward self-help are very much on the up and up. Therapeutic necessities.
In group tonight we discussed change. Ed asked us what changes we found it difficult to make in recovery? The guys responded with surprising variety. It almost turned into what could be called a bitch session. When asked if I would like to participate in the discussion, I said, yeah sure. I said that it was real hard to change. But that is what recovery is all about. It was hard to change from living in the Park, to living at the Salvation Army, because I was beginning to get used to living at my bottom, and was afraid of the changes I would have to make. I put it off, resisting that attempt to change for weeks, even though I was sure that it would be a worthwhile experience and help me tremendously.
Similarly I told the group it was hard for me to even make the small changes in my routine that I needed to make just to attend this group.
Change is hard for us alcoholics and drug addict people (change is hard for everybody). Rigidity is a classic symptom of our disease. But change is what we must do. It's essential in recovery. From drinking and drugging, to learning how to live in sobriety, to learning to live with all of our crazy feelings. We don't need to learn to love change, we merely have to do it.
And maybe in time learn to accept it.
 
February 19 Tuesday Day 160
 
Up early for work. I did manage to fit some time in for writing before starting. I didn't know if I would have much time for it later.
The Major and Mrs. Johnson, Clarence and Pattie Orion, and Ed Reitz all came over for an early Advisory Board Meeting. About fifteen others also showed for the informal breakfast.
Since they were all over here, I went across the street with the morning's paperwork. I took my time about coming back, but when I did return Ed was waiting for me. He wanted to inform me that Jack Crossley had caught one of his roommates going through his night stand drawer. It turns out that it was the same guy we suspected of breaking into Jack's locker last week, and then breaking into his own to divert attention from himself.
But he kept doing it. Alcoholics and drug addicts can be clever people, but this guy wasn't one of them.
We gave him the boot. Robert told him to pack up and get out.
I wish him well. I also wish he learns how to keep his God damn hands out of other people's stuff! He'll live a lot longer.
I made a brief dorm inspection, and issued three pink warning slips for particularly unruly beds. I saw Maggie Harbottle (I don't make these last names up, folks) and Major Foote saw at 10:00. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her. Then she gave me a whole heck of a lot of reasons why I couldn't do what I wanted to do. Basically what she told me was that there was currently little demand for drug and alcohol counselors, and the Department of Rehabilitation could not justify putting me through school without the prospect of a firm job offer in the near future. She told me that if I were truly interested in counseling maybe another "type" might be better... as far as the Department was concerned.
I told her that I was fairly certain about what I wanted to do, and that I would most likely pursue my plans with or without the Department's help. She said she might be able to help anyway. She scheduled me for a physical, and directed me to get into contact with some acting drug and alcohol counselors, possibly connected with the V.A. (Veteran's Administration), so I could check out the job market for that kind of work. I told her that I would do this.
Next, I talked with my counselor, Richard, and told him what Maggie had told me. He offered to help me get into contact with some people he knew in the V.A. We also talked about death a little bit. Death and drugs.
By the time I finished running eight urine sample my shift had ended. After dinner, I read and wrote until Jill arrived. Adorably late, as always.
We did the same old goal routine in group tonight. I had to be reminded what my previous goals had been. I had said I would go to the dentist, which I had. I had said I would write everyday, which I do. I had said I would read two books, one by Fromm, and one by Frankl. I hadn't gotten to the Frankl book yet, and would have cited it as a new goal, but she never asked me for any new goals.
She asked everybody else. Maybe she doesn't want me in her group anymore. I have to think about this.
She did say that she wants me to continue to help Kevin Rockoff with his Forth Step. Tracy Alexander too. I told her that I would try and help them (and at the same time help myself with this difficult Step) if they wanted me to.
I think she's using me.
After group I went up to my lonely room and turned on the old T.V., and looked for any news of the war. It's still going on, you know. I haven't written very much about it because it's been pretty boring so far. We just keep pounding the shit out of occupied Kuwait and Iraq from the air. I'm genuinely surprised there's anything left to bomb.
Also, I'm not exactly sure whether the Iraqi military has inflicted any casualties to our side as of yet. Our own Air Force seems to be doing a good enough job of that.
I turned off the T.V., and read some of the Beanfield War, the Bible, and about Jesus in an historical sense, and then went to bed rather early in preparation for my big long day tomorrow.
I slept violently.
 
February 20 Wednesday Day 161
 
I got right up when Pandolfi woke me at 5:00. I even made it to the desk by 5:30. I must be sick, or going insane.
Mr. Vasquez got up early, came down to the desk and wrote up two guys, then left, not to be heard from for the rest of the day.
I managed to write a little in between dorm inspections, urine tests, and passionate requests for insulin. Oh yes, I also did my laundry. Finally.
The last three pews seem to hold some fascination for the men who sit there during chapel service. They are clearly marked as being reserved, and not for beneficiaries. The Major does not want anyone to sit there. He wants that area empty incase some V.I.P. personage shows up and needs a place to sit. But the men really like to sit there. I don't know why.
So I wrote up twelve pinks slips, one for each of the gentlemen I found sitting there this evening.
I've chased guys from there in the past. I've made numerous announcements over the P.A. I even tell individuals point blank not to sit there. They do anyway. Tonight I told Marvin Gardenshire that he would owe me a Saturday if he proceeded to sit in one of the last three pews. He told me that he already worked on Saturdays. Then I asked him what time did he get off of work on Saturdays. He said six. I asked him if instead would he enjoy working until midnight. He replied no, that he would not like that. I thought I had got my point across and walked away. When I looked back though, a short while later, he was still there! Smack dab right in the middle of the last damn pew!
So I felt entirely justified in writing those pinks slips. If I see the same guys sitting there nest week, I'll do them some physical injury.
George Plick's Transition Group was very interesting, although I must admitt I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about. Very interesting though.
I kept pretty busy for the rest of the evening, with writing pink slips and all.
Ron Collins found for me what looks like a very good book concerning Zen Buddhism, "The Three Pillars of Zen, Teaching, Practice, Enlightenment," complied and edited by Philip Kapleaw. I read the forward by Houston Smith before my shift ended.
I went to bed shortly after 12:30, and dreamed pacifist dreams.
 
February 21 Thursday Day 162
 
Today did not start out as smoothly as I would have liked. Then it got progressively worse.
Days are like that sometimes.
Victor ambushed me in the hallway as I was leaving the Sample Room. "Wasn't I sitting right in front of you in chapel yesterday?"
"Yes, you were."
"Then why didn't you just ask me to get up and move to a different seat instead of writing me up?"
"You, of all people," I explained, "should know the rules around here."
"Still, you could have just asked me to move."
"Victor, there were eleven other guys sitting in those seats. I'm not going up to everyone during the damn service, and asking them to move!"
He kept on though. "Man, I've been sitting there ever since I've got back."
"Victor, you've only been back for two weeks at most. Last week I know I announced over the P.A. system for everyone to STAY OFF THE LAST THREE ROWS OF RESERVED PEWS!"
"Man, you could have just told me."
At this point I began to get a little angry. "Victor, I don't know what your problem is. Those pink slips don't even mean anything. They're not going across the street or anything. It's just a warning... between you and me."
"You still should have just asked me."
"Yes, I could have asked you, but I choose not to. I could have wrote you a tiny, harmless, pink, warning slip, which I did choose to do. If you don't like the way I do things around here, Victor, that's just too fucking bad!" I walked off.
I shouldn't have let him get me upset. I should have merely referred him to Robert, or Ed Reitz.
When I came down to the lobby after having smoked a cigarette and calming down a tad, I saw Victor outside, angrily denouncing me to Ed Reitz, who had just drove up.
Later, as I handed him the morning paperwork, I mentioned it to Ed. "I hear Victor's a little upset with me."
He just shrugged.
We then started talking about my future and what I wanted to do with it. I got the feeling that he wasn't taking me very seriously as I spilled my guts concerning my future hopes and dreams.
Not being taken seriously, by people other than my dear sweet mother, is beginning to depress me. I wonder why I am working my ass off around here while no one takes me seriously and do not seem to appreciate my efforts.
While I was sitting in the laundry, waiting to hapless individuals trying to sneak up the back stairway during lunch time (against house rules), Curtis Carter asked me, "Why do you think Vasquez goes away on his day off now? Because he trusts you to take care of things when he's gone. He never did that when Victor was in charge."
Curtis made me feel a lot better by saying that. I also felt better after reading Frankl's A Hidden Cry for Meaning. I think Frankl cites some very valid points in this book. I'm not going to tell you what they are, but they're very valid.
On the brighter side, the hot water went off in the building, and could, and would not be fixed until tomorrow morning. Instead of listening to cries of the angry hoard, Don Erwin (the person responsible for building maintenance), wisely I think, took off and spent the night in Orange County.
I went to sleep tonight, grateful that I had once again made it through another day.
 
February 22 Friday Day 163
 
I woke up and it was lunch time, thus I got dressed and went downstairs to eat. Cheeseburgers.
Nobody volunteered to go buy me a pack of cigarettes, so I went and did it myself. Beautiful day outside. When I returned I wrote and read for awhile.
President Bush gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum today. Either begin pulling out of Kuwait by noon tomorrow, or face a ground war invasion. No one feels it very likely Iraq will stage a retreat.
Work went very smoothly this evening, which means I got a lot of reading done. Frankl.
When he got bored, Eddie Gillespie came into my office from time to time, and told me some of his old combat stories. Quite frankly I was amazed at some of the things he has done and experienced in his life. A true American war hero, no doubt about it. Pretty soon, he tells me, with the same nonchalant attitude he uses describing getting hit by exploding shrapnel, he'll be going out again to live in the weeds (his description).
That's his choice I guess.
What a world!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soupy












A few minutes ago I saw Alice Cooper take a pie in the face.
Not here in my box, I've never met the rock singer personally. But on that wonderful Internet invention, Youtube.
It was back in 1979 that Alice (Vincent Damon Furnier) got whacked with his pie (and not really a pie, but rather a pie pan filled with yummy whipped cream), on some version of the Soupy Sales Show.
I say some version as I'm not exactly sure what Soupy was doing in 1979, well past his hay day from the 1960's. Supposedly during this period he was appearing as a panelist on game shows and not hosting an incarnation of one of his own, but there is the evidence, right on Youtube. Soupy, his pals White Fang (The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA), Black Tooth (The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA... Soupy was into dogs, and how both dogs could be the "biggest" is a matter of conjecture), and Alice Cooper of all people, in Soupy's familiar house, auditioning for his opening act a bug Soupy had found in his garden which, as chance would have it, knew how to play the piano and sing. Just as Soupy was signing the contract (he was the bug's agent) White Fang squashed it with a hammer, whereupon Alice grabbed back the contract, tore it to pieces, and got a pie right in the smacker.
Of course, usually it was Soupy himself who was the ultimate target for these whip cream pies. He has said that throughout his career he and his guests had been hit in the face with a pie more than 20,000 times. Soupy developed pie throwing into an art form. There was the old straight to the face, on top of the head, a pie to both ears from behind, moving into a stationary pie, rearing back to throw a pie at someone in front of you while actually hitting a person standing behind you, on and on.
About the only other venue you'd find so much pie throwing activity is the classic bakery scene in Blake Edwards film, "The Great Race," where Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, and Marvin Kaplan participated in the longest pie fight in cinematic history (I actually saw them filming the Russian seaport scene for this film while taking the tour at Universal Studios when I was a young lad. The set was of an icy seaport and the actors dressed appropriately, while filming outside in 100 degree heat).
I to have received a pie in the face. Lemon Merengue. I was performing in a skit while in the Cub Scouts. I played a gangsters moll, that's right, a woman in an alluring black dress. The skit was a combinatorial parody of the silent movie era, with other scouts playing Laurel and Hardy, the Keystone Kops, Charlie Chaplin, etc., and I was the only girl. I looked good, if I do say so myself. Anyway, during a pivotal moment one of the kops is throwing a pie at Chaplin who uses the old Duck Maneuver, wherein he ducked and I got it straight in the face. My mother said she laughed so hard that her mascara ran down her face.
There is only so much one can do when struck with a pie in the face. I've made a point of studying the reactions of those struck on Soupy's show, as well as Soupy himself. At first you are almost paralyzed with shock, standing rigid while you process the fact that you just got hit in the face with a pie. Psychologists call this the "Pie Shock Syndrome" (DSM-IV 309.24). The ferocity of the attack is dumb-founding. One moment you're gazing innocently off into the distance, or perhaps in conversation with someone trusted nearby, then Smack!... your entire face and hair is covered in sticky, sweet goo, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, and you know it. A look a sigh of resignation can ofttimes be discerned. You blink stupidly, opening your mouth to make sure you can breath. You might use your fingers to clear pie debris away from your obstructed eyes if needed. Then inevitably your tongue will snake its way out to have a taste. And from there you move on.
Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman in Franklinton, South Carolina, on January 8th, 1926. His was the one Jewish family in town. His parents had made a habit of nick naming his older brothers "Hambone" and "Chicken Bone," and when it became Milton's turn he was deemed, "Soup Bone." He began using the name Soupy Sales while working as a disk jockey.
Like me Soupy enlisted in the United States navy. Unlike me he served on an armed transport ship during a time of war, the later part of World War II to be exact. He formulated some of his future staple characters while serving on that ship, and used to entertain his fellow sailors over the P.A. system.
Soupy is best known for his television shows, and their different incarnations, starting in the 1953 and lasting until 1966. That's the period I became entranced with him and the show. "Lunch with Soupy Sales," or "The New Soupy Sales Show," always using variations of the same set, and the same characters. Ostensibly a children's show, it was just as much fum for adults as well, and he had a large fan base of other entertainers like Frank Sinatra (pictured above with a little pie), Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Curtis, Judy Garland, and Jerry Lewis. The show was little more than a rapid-fire stream of comedy sketches, gags, and puns, sort of the Tonight Show for kids.
I always loved his show because of Soupy himself. He was genuine, the real thing. He spoke to the audience with respect, and a great deal of humor. He was leagues above the other shows for children at the time, like Capt. Kangaroo, and Romper Room, which treated their audience... well like kids. Soupy never did that. I never felt like just a kid when watching Soupy.
Soupy had been at times accused of telling dirty jokes on the show, which was not true. He was also accused of one New Years Day evening, asking the children in his audience to creep into their parents bedroom while they were sleeping, take out all of the green pieces of paper with pictures of men with beards from their wallets or purses, put them in an envelope and send them to him. Then he would call them back from Puerto Rico.
It was just a joke, but it did happen. $80,000 came to the studios, and Soupy was suspended from his program for two weeks. His many fans picketed the studio demanding his return ("Many not from my own family," he quipped).
Then there was the instance when his crew as a gag put a stripper on the set, and had Soupy unwittingly open his back door while on the air live to discover this naked dancing lady. Soupy flipped out a little bit, but seemed to handle it well.
Mr. Sales died last Thursday, October 22, at the age of 83, for undisclosed reasons, in a hospice in the Bronx, New York.
The world is a sadder place because of his leaving.
According to writer/columnist Mark Evanier, comedian Tim Powers reported that a fan left a cream pie on Sale's Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
May he rest in piece.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Great Domino Blast Of 2009


Jose looking on


T-shirts!





Yesterday the 8th Annual Skid Row Housing Trust "Slamming the Bones," tournament was held. I've quoted from the flier announcing the event. What it means is that a domino tournament was held with residents from all of the hotels participating.
I usually take no notice of this event which has been occurring just a little longer than I've lived here, mainly because I don't know how to play dominoes, have no interest in learning how to play dominoes, have never been incarcerated long enough to learn how to play, and quite frankly find these types of armature festivals a bit garish and condescending, as well as discriminatory. Why discriminatory? It's because the tournament is only available for those who know how to play dominoes, that's why.
Yes, an opportunity to learn how to play was provided. Last Wednesday at noon a lady was to arrive at our hotel to teach those who wanted to learn how to play dominoes the game, and my lovely case manager, Erin, forced me to go. So how can you say the tournament is discriminatory in nature Rick, if those who were interested in participating and didn't know how to play were given the chance to learn? It is because in the fifteen minutes (the lady was a little late in getting there, and I had a meeting at the Produce Hotel at one) Erin, Paul, and I (apparently everyone else in the hotel knew how to play) were instructed I realized that dominoes is not a game one can play well, and expect to win, especially in a tournament setting, without having a great deal of experience in playing. That is why again.


Besides, dominoes originated in China and is thus an obvious commie plot to overthrow the nation.
So the question remains why doesn't Skid Row Housing Trust choose a game that everyone can play, considering cash prizes were being awarded, in the amount of $100, $75, and $50, for the the best three players, and "A Certificate of Appreciation," to everyone else. And a T-shirt! Why not Bingo, or Tiddlywinks, Mahjong, or Blindfolded Pole Vaulting? Good question!
Well we have had bingo tournaments. I've even participated in a couple of them. But the disparity in the prizes awarded is nothing short of monumental. You win at bingo and you get a overnight guest pass, a bottle of shampoo, and a box of kleenex. Basically the prizes that were left over from the Fourth of July party. You don't even get a freaking certificate of appreciation, let alone a freaking T-shirt.
Anyway, enough of my bitching. I am genuinely happy for those who were able to participate (who got T-shirts and certificates), and I congratulate the ultimate winners, who as it turns out, were from our sister hotel, the Olympia.
Yesterday at about ten in the morning I was busy working like a little devil in my box, when Jose appeared magically at my door. I usually leave my door open from eight in the morning until about nine at night, so it wasn't hard to see him.
"See what I got," he said. He was referring to the drab green T-shirt he was wearing, which had the words, "8th Annual Skid Row Housing Trust "Slamming the Bones," Tournament," stenciled on it.
"Wow, that's great, Jose. Who gave you that?"
"Erin gave it to me."
"She did, huh."
"Are you going to come down?" he asked me.
"Ah, I don't think so, Jose."
"You're not going to watch me play?" The usually reticent Jose knows how to play dominoes, and was talked into playing in the tournament by Paul.
"I thought they were going to start at the Olympia," I told him.
"I don't think so. Erin said we were starting here at eleven thirty."
"Well, I'll come down then and see what's happening, Jose."
"Okay."
At the appointed time I came down to the lobby. All of the six players were there. Jose, my neighbor from across the hall, Daryl (who always calls me Jim for some reason, mainly because I've never bothered to correct him), Fred, Nikita, Walter, and one black lady I didn't know the name of. Rodney was down there, but he had the good sense not to play. Erin soon appeared and handed a T-shirt (freaking T-shirts, man) to Nikita.
"Hi Rick," she said.
"Hi Erin."
It being a SRHT affair, everyone was waiting for Tianna and Paul to return with the actual dominoes. So the eleven thirty tournament began at around noon.
Jose was paired against Nikita, an elderly black gentleman who has literally never ventured out of Los Angeles for his entire life. Daryl and Walter paired off, leaving Fred with the unnamed lady.
Chips, cookies, and soda were provided, which ensured Robert made an appearance. Erin and I basically just observed the players. Dutifully I watched Jose and Nikita battle it out, not knowing what the hell they were doing. Nikita won the first round of the best out of three match. Daryl and Walter got into a huge argument over some issue, and Erin, not being proficient in the game enough to referee, had to call someone on her Iphone to get clarification.
Jose won the next two rounds and the match. Daryl beat Walter, and Fred won out as well.
Next, Fred, Daryl, and Jose played. Daryl won the first game, elevating him to be one of the two champions from our hotel. Jose and Fred played, and Jose lost due to a tactical error that gave Fred 50 points, from which Jose never recovered.


The tournament for the time being halted, Erin sat down to practice playing with Daryl for awhile.
"Don't let that sweet, innocent face fool you," I warned Daryl. "Not only is Erin a mathematical genius, she'll go for your jugular the first chance she gets. She's been deemed 'The Maiden of Death' in some quarters, you know."
My friendly obligations to Jose now complete, I returned to my box and to work, while Daryl and Fred waited for the winners from the Rushmore Hotel to show up, and their match.
For some reason I returned to the lobby in the midst of the match. Daryl and Fred won the first game, and they were playing the second when I arrived. Erin sat in watching closely between Fred and one of the two players from the Rushmore.
The play was loud and raucous. A little too much so for my taste, but I wasn't playing.
The guys from the Rushmore won the next two games straight, eliminating our hotel from the finals which were to be held at the Defiance Space.
The guy from the Rushmore who Erin was sitting next to told her appreciatively, "You were my lucky charm."
"Don't say that," she told him.
"Thanks a lot, Erin," I told her. "You were that guys lucky charm and now were out of the tournament."
"I was not a lucky charm! I wanted to punch him!" A lot of espirit de corps our Erin has.
Everybody took off then for the Defiance Space for the finals except me, who had work to complete in my box. Someone has to be responsible.
I finished my work, then moseyed over to witness the festivities. Everyone was there. I've never seen the place so filled with people. Several tables were filled with players slamming the bones. Erin was serving pizza when she wasn't busy getting calls on her Iphone. All the case managers from the different hotels were around watching the players, including my friend Demitri. Jose was there playing an unofficial game with Daryl, Fred, and Hardy. Over a hundred people in all.
I refused to have any pizza as a protest to the discriminatory nature of the proceedings. No one cared, so I returned home to my box.
Jose has promised to teach me how to play dominoes.
I want a freaking T-shirt, and a freaking certificate!

Happy Birthday Kelly!


Kelly Dayana Monroy Rosales


Happy Birthday wish goes out to Kelly Dayana Monroy Rosales, the little girl I used to sponsor in Guatemala, who turned a whopping eleven years old today. Happy Birthday Kelly! I invite you, dear readers, to sponsor a child yourself at the link below:
http://www.children.org/AChildJustForYouSW2-ChildrenInternational.asp?WT.mc_id=S_Google&RS_ID=2&WT.srch=1
Or through any of the other fine organizations that help children around the world.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Psycho 2


Jamie Leigh Jones


Jamie Leigh Jones was born in 1984, the same year as my lovely case manager, Erin. She began working for KBR in 2004, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the massive oil field services company once run by Dick Cheney, as an administrative assistant, and started her contract of employment with Overseas Administrative Services, Ltd. in Houston, Texas on July 21, 2005, and arrived in Iraq on July 24th of that year.
Four days later, on July 28th, Jamie states she was invited by her fellow KBR employees for a drink and was subsequently drugged and severely and brutally gang raped while unconscious, sustaining gross physical injuries in the process. She was able to identify one of her attackers due to his confession to her, but unable to identify the others because she was unconscious. Physical evidence of the multiple rape was confirmed by an Army physician in the form of a rape kit, which was given to KBR security forces and disappeared, only to reappear two years later missing crucial evidence.
Upon reporting the attack to her employers, she was confined in a shipping container under armed guard. She says she was denied food, water, and medical treatment. After approximately one day she was able to convince one of her guards to let her use a cell phone, whereupon she called her father, who called Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), who contacted the State Department, who contacted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, who dispatched agents to secure Jamie's release from KBR (a miracle of cooperation in and of itself).
Ms Jones was denied due process of the law due to a stipulation in her employment contact that forced her to enter into private arbitration rather than filing civil and criminal charges against KBR, Halliburton and her one known assailant. However, on September 15, 2009 the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Jamie Leigh Jone's federal lawsuit against KBR and several affiliates can be tried in open court.
On October 6th an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill presented by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery, discrimination cases to court." Speaking on the Senate floor, Franken said:
"The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of the law... And today, defense contractors are using the fine print in their contracts to deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court... The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court and Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen."
Backed by the Defense Department, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) maintained that Franken's amendment overreached into the private sector and suggested that it violated the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that it was just a political attack against Halliburton.
Senator Sessions in his argument failed to take into count that Frankin's amendment was not aimed at any one particular corporation, or organization (unlike Congress's move to de-fund ACORN), just those who used similar practices against their own employees, and it is precisely Congress's role to allocate funds.
The amendment passed 68-30.
30 Republican, male senators sided with corporations rather than side American citizens who travel overseas in the service of their country, and would condone the practice of assault, discrimination, and rape perpetrated by employees of said corporations, voting to keep such heinous crimes hidden from public scrutiny and the force of law.
Those senators are: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Lindsey Graham (R- SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA),
Robert Wicker (R-MS).
Please notice that this list contains within it the last Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.
I'm not saying that these men are psychopaths. I'm not a doctor. I am saying they have repeatedly displayed many of the symptoms associated with that disease, displaying a shocking lack of empathy towards those they were elected to serve and protect, as did the President of the previous administration who sent the men and women of our armed services into an unnecessary and needless war in Iraq.
The Republican Senate got five more of its members to vote 64-35 against cloture on a hate crime amendment in the same defense bill, stating that the laws already on the books took care of these types of crimes, dismissing the fact that hate crimes against a certain type of group, be it women, Jews, blacks, whites, Muslims, or gays, represent a terrorist act against a whole subset of our society, not just an individual.
This is the same party that is currently attempting to quash the current effort for health care reform, wherein 45,000 Americans die each year due to lack of health insurance.
Listen: psychopathological disorders are not amenable to professional treatment.
I end with this passage from, Killing Hope, by William Blum:
"[American leaders] are perhaps not so much immoral as they are amoral. It's not that they take pleasure in causing so much death and suffering. It's that they just don't care ... the same that could be said about a sociopath. As long as the death and suffering advance the agenda of the empire, as long as the right people and the right corporations gain wealth and power and privilege and prestige, as long as the death and suffering aren't happening to them or people close to them ... then they just don't care about it happening to other people, including the American soldiers whom they throw into wars and who come home-the ones who make it back alive-with Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome eating away at their bodies. American leaders would not be in the positions they hold if they were bothered by such things."

Addendum: 7-1-14: The Scary Word in this Article is "Millions"

Happy Birthday Odalys!


Odalys Garcia, October 23, 1975

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Psycho



When you think of a psychopath does the image of Norman Bates, his decayed mother, and a creepy roadside motel come to mind. Or maybe you prefer the Vince Vaughn version.
The aspects of the disease, defined as a psychological construct that describes chronic disregard for ethical principles and antisocial behavior, is more prevalent in society as a whole than you might think. Estimates of the percentage of the general population that may be afflicted by this disorder range from 1 to 18, which translates to anywhere between 3 million to 54 million people in this county alone... 67 million to 1.2 billion on the planet.
Notice that the above description says nothing about violence. Robert Hercz points out in, Psychopaths Among US:


we now understand that the great majority of psychopaths are not violent criminals and never will be. Hundreds of thousands of psychopaths live and work and prey among us. Your boss, your boyfriend, your mother could be what Hare calls a "subclinical" psychopath, someone who leaves a path of destruction and pain without a single pang of conscience.


The "Hare" Hercz refers to is Dr. Robert D. Hare, a psychologist renowned in the field of criminal psychology, psychopathology, and psychophysiology. Dr. Hare has spent over 35 years researching psychopathy and is the developer of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), which is the current means of identifying, or classifying those who suffer from psychopathology.
In the December 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind, the authors Scott O Lillenfeld and Hal Arkowitz, in their article, "What Psychopath Means," point out:


Most psychopaths are male, although the reasons for this sex difference are unknown. Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition. In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.


The symptoms for these disease include the following:

Grandiose sense of self-worth

Superficial charm

Criminal versatility

Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others

Impulse control problems

Irresponsibility

Inability to tolerate boredom

Pathological narcissism

Pathological lying

Shallow affect

Deceitfulness/manipulativeness

Aggressive or violent tendencies, repeated physical fights or assaults on others

Lack of empathy

Lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizes having hurt or mistreated others

A sense of extreme entitlement

Lack of or diminished levels of anxiety/nervousness and other emotions

Promiscuous sexual behavior, sexually deviant lifestyle

Lack of personal insight

Failure to follow any life plan

Abuse of drugs including alcohol

Disregard for conventional moral right and wrong
 
Being the honest individual that I am I have to admit that I have at times displayed as many as many as ten of the symptoms of the 21 described above, and currently exhibit 3 (Impulse control, Inability to tolerate boredom, and disregard for conventional moral right and wrong, the optimum word being "conventional"), I can still maintain that I've never come close to being a psychopath. I suspect that most of the world's population displays many of the above characteristics without being psychopaths. What's the difference between me and others who show some of the qualities above, and a true psychopath? I believe it's lack of empathy, the ability to feel what others feel, or may feel.
 
Lillenfeld and Arkowitz continue:


Some investigators have even speculated that “successful psychopaths”—those who attain prominent positions in society—may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.


I have stated elsewhere that I believe the modern conservative movement, the ideals they represent are adopted by those whose ability to connect with a truly unbiased information source are extremely limited, or our psychotic in nature (delusional beliefs not associated with the real world, which by the way can be severely exasperated by direct and repeated propaganda input), or psychopathic at it's worst. These can plainly be seen by the current Republican membership in Congress, the media that actively supports the extreme right, and the legions of low information followers that the Republicans seemingly can so easily manipulate, most often against their own best interests.
But how can I prove this supposition? I can't, and never will be able to clinically prove that the majority of Republicans in Congress are psychopaths. To do that they would have to be submitted to the regime of tests Dr. Hare invented.
But they sure act like it. How else can you explain the vote on Senator Al Franken's amendment, termed the "anti-rape amendment," with 30 Republican Senators, 75% of the Republicans in the Senate, voting against it.
To be continued.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Ordeal



The ordeal is over. The floors in my box were stripped and waxed Monday morning after I had laboriously taken most of my stuff out of it, including the 1,000,024 books I own, plus a whole bunch of stuff, it turns out, I didn't have to.
I had to disassemble my computer and all of its periphery attachments, always worrying about being able to hook them back together again. I basically had to unplug everything in my box, move it out or place them on one of the five platforms I left in the box (my refrigerator, desk, bed, shelves holding all of my canned goods, and a large, vertical cabinet I use to store all of my fancy clothes) because they were to large and inconvenient to move out into the hall. I figured if they (the maintenance people who would be doing the stripping and waxing) so badly wanted to strip and wax under those items, they could move them themselves. In anticipation of that event, I moved a lot of stuff, mostly books, off of my desk and cabinet, out into the hallway.
They didn't want to move any of that stuff out though, and just stripped and waxed around those items of furniture (much to my relief actually. Moving those shelves of cans, and the cabinet was quite the bitch when they painted), and I had moved out a good deal of things I hadn't needed to. My bed was loaded down with all of the stuff that I deemed too valuable to leave out in the hall, like my computer, slinky, easy to steal DVDs, and devil worshiping paraphernalia.
All in all the process took about two hours of prep, one hour to strip and wax, and two hours to move everything back in.
Now all of my floors look so nice and shiny, which prompted this entry on my Facebook page:

Richard Joyce got his floors stripped and waxed yesterday, and they look so nice and shiny I'm going to sleep on them... naked.

Which prompted these responses:

My Sister Cheryl: Hey Big Brother....ummmm.....this is a family orientated site..now...go put some soap on that tongue of yours. then send us adults a pic of that one....love you,,your little sister.

Me: No free pictures!

My cousin Shannon: Yeah Cheryl!! Get a membership like the rest of us, would ya?! : p

Cheryl: Umm no...not paying to see my brother in his birthday suit which by the way is next Tuesday....Gotcha Rick!!

Me: But I'm so cute.

My niece Keri: i agree with mom i don't need to see my uncle wearing the b-day suit i good to go on that one still love ya

Shannon: lol, I have a better idea! The 4 of us should strip down to our birthday suits, take pics, and then post them as our profile pic!! Okay, whose first? : p

Cheryl: What sites have the two of you been visiting? Nakedfamily.com?? You two need help! I'm going to tell Bobbie on the both of you.

Me: Shannon first.

Cheryl: I have pics of of ALL of you in your birthday suits...DONT tempt me!!

Shannon: Okay Cheryl, who's the sick one now, lol?! Birthday suit collector!!

Shannon: Rick first.

Keri: mom u show my b-day suit i will find some pics of u that u don't like so much i still have the key to the house lol

Me: I think you're all crazy.

Of course this entire conversation took place over a period of 24 hours, give or take. Such is the nature of social networks.
While I was waiting for Antonio (my floor stripper and waxer) to show up I left all of my possessions unguarded in the hallway, and made my way to the Garden Club for our weekly meeting.
I was a little early so stopped by their office before heading to the garden. My lovely case manager, Erin, was in there, along with her protege, Paul.
"Hi Rick," she called out.
"Hi Erin. Did you get my message?"
"Yes, I did," she replied.
I had sent her a message the day before explaining why I would not be able to attend the service at her church, because I wasn't feeling very well, and because I was stressed out do to the upcoming ordeal.
I was in the midst of experiencing that ordeal while sitting in her office. Erin didn't care though.
Erin is a master multi-tasker... or at least she is when I'm in the office talking to her. I'll be on the business end of her desk, she'll be in her seat typing away, looking at her computer screen, occasionally glancing in my direction, and making perfunctory statements, like, "Uh huh."
"Yes." "Really? I didn't know that."
How endearing.
As I demonstrated this to her this morning in her office, she instantly recognized it was true, and exclaimed, "But I know you, Rick. I don't have to pay attention."
"Oh, your here for the Garden Club," she wisely observed yesterday morning.
"I'm am."
We all eventually made our way out to the garden. It wasn't hard. It's just down the hallway from her office.
The morning was cool and overcast. No field trip today, just raking up leaves. Jose showed up for his first Garden Club session, and asked me how long it lasted. I told him three hours.
"Three hours! I'm going back to bed," and he so marched back inside not to be seen again until later that afternoon.
We spent 38 minutes with the garden.
Paul shoveled horse shit into the area where we had planted the perennials the week before.
Erin lamented the state of our pumpkin crop, that seemed to be shriveling away to nothing.
"What's those white things?" I asked her.
"What white things? Oh, this? Oh! I don't know. Is it a pumpkin!?"
"Is it a mushroom?" I asked. It kind of looked like a large mushroom cap. There were smaller mushrooms in the bricked off area.
"No, I think it's a pumpkin! There's three of them!"
"What are you going to do with them?"
"I think we should leave them in there, don't you? Maybe they'll turn orange soon."
"Well, congratulations, Erin. You planted pumpkins, and by God, you've got them," I told her, then walked off to help Hardy pick up leaves and place them in a plastic bag.
It wasn't long b before I heard Erin call out, "Rick!"
She confronted me with a small, baby white, perfectly formed pumpkin.
"Look at this stem, Rick! It's been clipped off. You bought these pumpkins Rick!"
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did. I know you."
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did."
"No I didn't. You planted pumpkins and you got pumpkins."
"You bought these... I know it."
On and on.
I think Paul or Hardy probably put those pumpkins out there knowing that she usually gravitated to that particular area of the garden.
Devious bastards.
Now one of those baby white pumpkins sits on her desk... considering her every action silently and without forethought.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day



"Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be one of the largest-ever social change events on the web." http://www.blogactionday.org/


The subject for Blog Action Day this year is global warming and climate change. Accordingly, I'm posting an earlier article concerning this subject:

Global Warming


Our inner solar system contains four rocky, terrestrial planets. Mercury, Venus, the Earth, and Mars. Mercury is so close to the Sun that its atmosphere dissipated shortly after its formation, due to it's low gravity, the high temperature, and the solar wind. An unstable, very tenuous atmosphere of molecular oxygen, hydrogen, and other trace elements exist there today.
The same thing happened on the Earth early in it's history, but our planet is much further away from the Sun, and has a higher gravitational pull, and a steady state was achieved with regard to our atmosphere. Our first atmosphere consisted mostly of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia, similar to the present day atmosphere of Jupiter. 3.8 billion years ago traces of water could be detected. 3.4 billion years ago our atmosphere contained mostly nitrogen, and free oxygen did not rise until approximately 2.3 billion years ago, which evolved as direct result of a phenomena called life. Currently our atmosphere consists of roughly (by volume) 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases totaling a mass of about five quadrillion metric tons.
I know what your thinking. That's a lot of air!
Although it is certainly more than I'll breath in my lifetime, if you were to compare the Earth to an apple, then our planet's atmosphere is about as thick as the peal surrounding it.
The planet Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, and Mars is farther away. Both of these planets earlier in their history are believed to be much more clement than they are now. Streams of free flowing water at one time flowed over the surface of Mars, indicating a warmer planet, with a much greater atmospheric pressure. Oceans may have existed at some past time on Venus.
But something happened in the distant past. Something natural indeed, but also devastating, at least as the formation and maintenance of life is concerned.
Today Mars is a frigid desert, with no oxygen, no liquid water, no protection from the Sun's ultra violet light, an atmosphere one tenth of one percent of Earth's. Venus literally is hell, holding a crushing atmosphere 92 times more dense than our own, consisting of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, with a surface temperature exceeding 800 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than what is needed to melt lead.
Planet wide climate change is possible. We know that to be true.
Greenhouses are used by horticulturists to cultivate various flowers, trees, cacti, and shrubs in a somewhat warm environment. They work due to solar radiation entering through the glass or plastic roof and walls, which heats the air and soil, and the infra red radiation, or heat is retained by the glass or plastic roof and walls. It gets hot in there.
The gas carbon dioxide, as well as other gases in our atmosphere act as the glass or plastic roof and walls in a greenhouse. And when an excess of these "greenhouse gases" is allowed in our atmosphere it isn't hard to figure out what happens next... except if your a republican.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century the amount of carbon dioxide has increased from 280 PPM (parts per million) to the present value of 387 PPM. On average the amount of carbon dioxide put into our atmosphere corresponds to one ton per person living on this planet each year. That's a lot of CO2. The planet has been getting warmer since 1910. The decade between 1998 to 2007 is the warmest on record. Glaciers are melting in Greenland. There really is a Northwest Passage now. The Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, which is about the size of Connecticut, is breaking up, which is the largest slab of ice to do so there.
When global ice melts, sea levels rise.
This poses a problem for us humans. A big problem. Although we will never experience as great of a runaway greenhouse effect as that on Venus, the problem of global warming is one of the greatest our species has ever faced. Coastal areas could become inundated. Crops will fail in areas where they once thrived, and will thrive in places they once languished. A warmer planet will increase the fuel for its weather mechanism. The ocean will become more acidic, conversely the oceans will hold less oxygen which does not hold well for the life that exists there. Pestilence will increase. On and on.
Most of the current credible scientific opinion overwhelmingly agrees that global warming has been taking place over the last two hundred years. A recent survey by the University of Illinois at Chicago polled 3,146 earth scientists and 90% agreed that warming is taking place, and 82% agreed that human activity is a major contributor to this warming effect.
Really, this is not rocket science. It's not even high school algebra. The more greenhouse gases you dump into the atmosphere, the hotter it gets!
To better understand the impact global warming is having right now, on human lives and our economy please read the following article from Common Dreams at:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/05/29
The only ones who do not agree that global warming is a threat are scientists (if you can call them that) who work for major carbon dioxide emitters, their bosses, and the Republican Party.
I've heard some of the wackiest denials of global warming spewing out of republican mouths. Global warming is occurring, but naturally. Global warming isn't occurring (Sean Hannity), our climate is actually getting cooler. Carbon dioxide cannot be a pollutant because it occurs in nature. We need more carbon dioxide, not less. Global warming is cyclical in nature, and therefore harmless. Wild fluctuation in atmospheric temperature have occurred throughout history. One moron claimed Greenland was called Greenland because it was once green (throughout recorded history Greenland has always been covered by glaciers, except possibly now). On and on. This is just a small sample, an inkling of the Republican mind set.
What difference could it possibly make if global warming were a naturally occurring phenomena, and not caused by humans (which is not the case)? Their argument is moot (not only that, it is irrelevant as well) as the results are exactly the same. All of the above consequences still apply! We are currently living in between ice ages. Would we ignore the practical aspects of a new ice age and freeze? I don't think so. Our species would fight it with every technology available to it (unless, of course, the Republican Party is still around at that time). The same should apply to global warming and its effects.
Except for the masking effects of the phenomena known as "Global Dimming," also caused by human activity, Hannity's position is too stupid to comment on.
Hydrogen cyanide appears in nature too, try sniffing it.
Most scientists believe we've got enough carbon dioxide in our atmosphere as it is, and a lot of it should go back into the ground where it came from.
Global warming due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide due to human activity is not cyclical in nature, and is therefore harmful.
Temperatures have fluctuated throughout history, and throughout most of history mankind was unable to do anything about it... now we can.
Argument after argument from the right wing can be knocked down like bowling pins. Why are the republicans so adamant concerning this subject (and every other bone-headed issue they champion)?
Money.
It will cost money, a lot of it, to tackle the problem, and cripple our economy. Or that's what they believe, or say they believe.
Even if that were true, which it is to a point, but changing to a green based technology and economy will offset the cost, and by the way, help solve the problem.
But that would mean change, and the republicans are the party of the status quo. They are terrified of change. They are willing to sacrifice the health and wellbeing of not only your children and grand children for the almighty buck, but are willing to do the same for their own as well. This is nothing short of sociopathic behavior, and the most irresponsible position imaginable.
To my republican friends, even if you are right, which you're not, but if you were, how could you possibly justify to your children, and to their children, the pollution in our skies (smog), the pharmaceutical chemicals in our waters, the poisons in our wells and drinking water?
What do you have to say to them?
But to you the problem simply does not exist.
How convenient.
And you keep getting paid.