Sutton Wilderness Area

 

Mere blocks from my house, so close that it could be called my backyard if it wasn’t across a very busy street, is a wilderness park called the Sutton Wilderness Area. The park has several small, unnamed lakes several miles of winding trails that all seem to intersect each other at some point or another.

The park was named after an OU professor who used to use the park as an outdoor classroom. Before that it apparently belonged to the Griffin Memorial Hospital here in Norman (from what I can gather), for use by its patients. Did I mention that Griffin Memorial is a psychiatric hospital? Because it’s a psychiatric hospital.

Anyway, I’ve been hiking through that park for several months now, several times a week. It’s just big enough that you can get away from the traffic noise if you get far enough back there. If you’re an adventurous sort, you can find some really strange things in the wilderness area, like this huge Legionnaires Star just lying on the lakeshore.

 

And this, which is downright cool.

 

Then there are these.

I don’t know what the significance of these circles is supposed to be, but one day I found that last one looking like this…

And I haven’t been back to it since.

Aside from the strange and the (possibly) sinister and/or awkwardly adolescent, one of the joys of hiking this place so often has been to watch it change with the seasons.

The first time I went out there was snow on the ground and ice on the lake. Not so much that it was difficult to hike, but enough. But then spring came.

 

Oh, Rick. What the Hell, Man?

Rick…Rick…

Where do I begin, Rick? Who wrote your Michigan primary speech? Seriously, who? You fire him right now. And I’m not even talking about your stats on the economy. My 8th grade algebra teacher would be the first to tell you that I don’t know from numbers, but I do know enough about statistics to realize that they will, no matter what they are, categorically confirm the validity of whatever opinion you hold, even if those statistics seem to say that the economy is both improving and is worse than ever. Us non-math kids call that doublethink…because we read Nineteen Eighty-Four instead of figuring out how fast the train was going when it left Cleveland going east.

But leaving that aside, let’s talk about some of the more glowing assertions in your speech, sir.  Since it’s tax season, let’s itemize, shall we?

“That ultimately is about what this race is about. It goes down to the very nature of who we are as Americans. Are we a country that believes in big government? Do we believe in the smart and elite in this country to manage us?”

I can’t speak for my fellow Americans, but I would like to believe that my lawmakers are smart. Lawmaking is hard…like that level of Super Mario Bros. that makes you so mad that your mom ends up grounding you. Are you implying that we should not be led by smart people, Rick? Because you’re running to be our leader right now. Are you trying to tell us something?

“I wave this Constitution at every speech, and I talk about it being the operator’s manual of America. It’s how America works. It’s the “how” of America. But there’s another document equally important, which is the “why” of America, and that’s the Declaration of Independence. And in that declaration is these words, “We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…”

Lemme just stop you right there. The Declaration of Independence is not a governing document. It is a list of grievances that justify a revolution. To borrow your term, it’s less the “why” of America and more the 18th century equivalent of an angry blog rant. Brilliant in its eloquence, but a list of gripes nonetheless. I’mma let you finish, though:

“That — that phrase was the most transformation phrase ever written in a government document. That phrase said that we are going to be a country with limited government and believing in free people to be able to form families, and communities, and churches, and educational institutions, and hospitals, and be able to build a great and just society, a free society from the bottom up.”

I”m not sure where you are reading the “limited government” part in there. However, I vaguely recall from my study of American history that, at the time it was written, “all men are created equal,” literally meant Men. And only white ones. From Britain…and not the Irish-y parts of it either. Nor should we forget that those Anglo-Saxon white men were still free to own other human beings as property, and that those human beings would not be freed for eighty-nine years and wouldn’t be guaranteed the right to vote for another hundred years after that.

But, you know, freedom!

“The men and women who signed that Declaration of Independence wrote this final phrase: We pledge to each other — we pledge to each other our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honor.”

…Rick? No women signed the Declaration of Independence. If that John Trumbull painting is accurate, there weren’t even any women in the room.

“When they signed that document, they had very little hope, real hope, of actually succeeding in a revolution against the British. The British were the most powerful army in the world and the navy in the world. They were ruled by highly educated, noble people.”

…Or a porphyric madman…

And once again, are we suggesting here that the primary factor in Britain losing its American colonies was that its leaders were educated?

“Our leaders were different.”

They weren’t educated?

“George Washington, the signature leader of America, was different. He understood that the greatness of this new country was to have leaders who understood that, in spite of their breeding and education, they didn’t have all the answers, that they could trust the people, that ragtag group of people who stepped forward to volunteer to create freedom in this land.”

So they set up an electoral system whereby individual citizens did not actually vote for their leaders, but for a group of electors who would insure that illiterate pig farmers and cooper’s apprentices didn’t elect a horse to the presidency.

C’mon, Rick. First it was gays, then women, now the educated? What’s next on your murderer’s row of timeworn conservative straw men? Hippies? Single moms? Miniskirts?

This anti-education thing is beyond old; it’s insulting. Education does not always signal “elite.” The working class “Regular American” voters you’re trying to court can be educated, too. Just because you didn’t learn anything at your three schools doesn’t mean the rest of us didn’t either.

Like a Boss Winter Camp, Day Four

[reblogged from rob-lay.tumblr.com]

7:49 am. So begins the last day of Boss School. Looks like we’ll start off by comparing and contrasting the traditional bureaucratic style of Ramses II with the ad hoc applications of cruelty employed by Genghis Khan. After that we’ll receive our ceremonial whips and chastisement rods and conclude with a sing-a-long.

8:04 am. Ooh! Mini quiches!

9:07 am. Sabotage! The mini-quiches are laced with sneezing powder! Obviously the Henchmen’s Local 701 is responsible for this. To arms, new managers! Remember to employ your steps to positive villainy!

12:40 pm. Excelsior! The Henchmen’s Union has been thwarted, disbanded, and its leaders exiled to some desolate, wind-and-wave-battered rock in the middle Atlantic. We didn’t even have to requisition reinforcements from the Office of Holy Effing Moses (now part of the Department of Contingencies and Unforeseeable Events, as of last fiscal year).
And now, luncheon!

2:21 pm. Boredom sets in. Outside those windows is an atypically beautiful February day. Not seeing why we couldn’t have done this lecture about Leadership Skills When Traveling To, Through, and Back From Hell couldn’t be done outside.

3:28 pm. If I see one more Power Point slide of a leadership theory diagram, I will leap upon this table and declare the Revolution. It will not be televised.

5:39 pm. I live. And thank Lumberg that’s over with.
I feel as if I am a new being, reborn as The Man, empowered by the spirits of all the middle-and-upper managers who have gone before me to say, with the swaggering gusto of a man who who has stock options, “Enough with the chatter, get back to work! I want those reports on my desk by Friday!”
Empowered to manage work flow, to synergize, to meta-think, to use words like “deliverables,” “operationalize,” and “mission-critical.”
Empowered to pontificate upon business acumen while walking on hot coals, to hang motivational posters and display executive toys on my desk. Empowered to wear cuff links.
Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

So concludes my 32 hours of employer-mandated managerial training. It wasn’t all bad. Learned some new things, met some new people.
But hopefully I won’t have to have any more training for another long time.

Dr. Pepper TEN: The Preferred Soft Drink of Sexists

I’ve heard people talking about this ad for a while, but I had not actually seen it for myself until last night (probably because I don’t watch a lot of tv).

Disclaimer: I don’t drink a lot of Dr. Pepper. It is my firm belief that Dr. Pepper only exists so that I have something to drink at Pepsi-only establishments. I’m from the South. We drink Coke. End of story.

When this ad was described to me, I was sure it had to be a hoax. Surely no company would ever air an advertisement so juvenile, so misogynist. Corporations are supposed to be sensitive to things like demographics and markets and such, right?

Well I guess not. The average woman would, I believe, be really offended by this. “Keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks?” Really? Have you ever been on a date that ended well? Do women routinely roll their eyes when you say things? This just in: women are people, not things created to satisfy your baser urges and be otherwise annoying.

This is is one of those rare things that offends on both levels, because I find it offensive to men, as well.

In case the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group didn’t do a lot of market research before approving this, I’ll lay it out for them. Not all men are mindless action-movie zombies. Something packed with laser beams, explosions, and car chases does not automatically draw my attention. Many of us graduated past the hair-pulling, girls-are-gross phase at some point around 12 years of age. You can’t wrap a product up in gunmetal and rivets and expect me to buy it just because I stand up to pee. If you’re marketing your soda at 12 year-olds, bravo. This is exactly the ad to bring in that untapped demographic. If you actually want to attract customers that, ya know, have jobs and therefore money to spend on Dr. Pepper, I believe you’ve miscued.

As a comparison to the laser-gun toting, swaggering pig in the Dr. Pepper TEN commercial, I’d like to suggest some other, superior exemplars of “manliness.”

These examples are not meant to be paragons of virtue. They have their flaws, because men have their flaws. They can be quarrelsome, swaggering, and brash. But real men do not demean women. They don’t refer to “lady drinks,” “our movie,” or “manly calories.” Calories are calories okay, Meathead? Men not abusive (lookin’ at you here, Chris Brown). They don’t run around in the woods playing at some machismo game of no-girls-allowed laser tag.

Real men get involved. They try to leave things better than they found them, to leave something of value behind them. They stand for a cause. They are chivalrous without being belittling. Strong without being abusive. Men believe in a code of honor, even when they fail to uphold it. Manners, education, character, generosity, responsibility, maturity–these are manly virtues.

Another thing that real men do not do (and here I’ll be expanding my scope a bit) is tell women what they should and should not do. Woman are just as capable as men for military service, or any other job, frankly. Women are not the weaker sex. They are just as strong as men, some of them even stronger. Women are fully capable of thinking on their own and forming their own opinions, just like any man. Which means that women are fully capable of making their own decisions when it comes to birth control and sexual health.

Today Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) convened a special hearing on women’s access to birth control, except he didn’t include any actual women on his list on witnesses. His reasoning for this was that the hearing was only addressing the religious freedom perspective of the birth control argument. That’s is a nice way of saying that not only does he not think that women are capable of making decisions about their own bodies, but that God doesn’t either. That’s fairly presumptuous of Mr. Issa, to speak on behalf of a being who created both Man and Woman, but I digress. Real men don’t gather behind closed doors and tell women what to do. Real men don’t try to deny basic rights and freedoms to women. Real men don’t try to push their religious dogma onto women.

And as far as this man is concerned, real men don’t drink Dr. Pepper.

Like a Boss Winter Camp, Day Three

[reblogged from rob-lay.tumblr.com]

7:54 am. Day 3 begins. The end is in sight of I can survive the next 8 hours with a portion of my sanity intact. This morning’s topic, Ganondorf, Bowser, and Darth Vader: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Managers.
Also, it’s heartwarming to see that HR has the same AV set up issues that everyone else does.

9:10 am. The guy delivering the “Don’t Get the University Sued!” presentation remembers when John D. Rockefeller used to strap starving children to his feet to go nude ice skating with his secretaries. After this presentation, I am now terrified of everyone. The only way to avoid being accused of some impropriety may be to hide under a table in a dark room and never talk to ANYONE.
Please don’t sue me. Please?
Next: video time.

9:57 am. Sexual harassment film was circa 1991, at the latest. Lesson learned: do not engage in quid pro quo or retaliation at any Georgia-Pacific plant, or John Larroquette’s doppelgänger will fire you on the spot.

10:47 am. Seventeenth cup of coffee: engage.

12:18 pm. Cyborgs are *not* a protected class under ADA. Alcoholics are, though.

1:04 pm. The guys from Big Bang Theory are here to talk about IT solutions.

1:58 pm. Hrreaaaggglblrragrrraaaarrrrrrrr……

8:20 pm. Day 3 complete. Summary: hrrrraaagrrrblllaaa.
I have one more day of this.

Also, if I ever pass you on the street and we make eye contact, please don’t sue me for sexual harassment. It’s not intentional, I swear.

Like a Boss Winter Camp, Day Two

[Reblogged from rob-lay.tumblr.com]

7:55 am. Back at Boss School today. Looks like today’s agenda will cover fair labor standards (and how to bypass them), minion benefits packages vs. henchman benefits packages, and procedures governing the use of the merry-go-round in the staff commissary.

12:13 pm. I don’t even know what was covered this morning, but there was nothing in there about the merry-go-round. However, apparently the Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply to workers classified as “expendable minions.” That’s good news. I didn’t even want to think about the liabilities that might arise out of Friday’s raid on the chemistry lab. Scientists fight dirty.

1:01 pm. Looks like I’m getting out of here early. Front page story in the campus paper is about a pest and mold infestation at the student union food court.
I, of course, did not read the paper before eating at the student union food court. Thanks for the salmonella, Sbarro!

1:10 pm. Holy shit it’s Bill Nye.

2:19 pm. We have overthrown society and established a new order. I wish I was joking.

5:18 pm. Day 2 complete. Re: the creating a new utopian order exercise, on my own I created something out of Plato’s Republic. In the group I was moderated into creating Canada.

The Politics of Scaring the Crap Out of People

Meet Pete Hoekstra (R-MI): Congressman, Michigander, and candidate for the U.S. Senate. He’s also a fear monger, possibly a racist. Exhibit A: a campaign micro-site.

I’ll give Congressman Hoekstra the benefit of the doubt: he’s probably not a racist. Let’s assume that he does not realize that it is offensive to portray Asians speaking broken English in a rice paddy like an extra in Full Metal Jacket, or that a font and color scheme cribbed from a Chinese takeout restaurant is probably not the best choice. But what he is doing–and is, I suspect, well aware of–is fear mongering. He knows that his voters are concerned about sovereign debt. He knows they have unreasonable fears about the Chinese. And nothing gins up political support like a healthy serving of fear.

Yes, there is some actual information in there about his opponent, Senator Debbie Stabenow. But those factoids are so cluttered with racist garbage that it’s difficult to take them seriously. He fails to separate himself from Senator Stabenow by articulating why he’s better for the job. What are we left with? “If you vote for Debbie Stabenow, the Chinese win. And will possibly kill your household pets.”

So much fear! What would Yoda say? Oh yeah…

The Congressman is not the first or the only person to promote this kind of campaign. There’s also this, and this, and of course this. It’s a special form of xenophobia called Yellow Peril. When you combine ads like that with the undercurrent of Manichean, with-us-or-agin’-us patriotism that’s all the rage in the U.S. these days it looks as if the GOP is using the playbook from 1955. It’s not good politics, it’s not constructive, and as Senator Daniel Iouye (D-HI) remarked, such thoughts “are not welcome in the United States Senate.”

The Congressman has a valid point somewhere beneath that odious xenophobia. Sovereign debt is a very big deal, no matter whether the primary shareholder of that debt is China or Canada. But rather than engage the people of Michigan in an adult conversation about his strengths as a candidate against Senator Stabenow, he’s chosen to wrap his campaign in cartoonish racial fears.