KNOWING WHEN TWO THINGS AREN’T THE SAME

If a guy grabs your ass and you remove his hand, tell him he’s a jerk — and that’s the end of the story — is that the same as a 32-year-old attorney-general groping and threatening a 14-year-old child?

I have been raped. I have been groped. I have been propositioned. I have been abused. Despite this, I can differentiate between these events. All things are not the same thing and they shouldn’t be to anyone else, either.


When everything is the same, nothing means anything.


As an adult, getting groped — sometimes by guys too drunk to remember what they were doing — and telling them to cut it out  — was not a life-and-death issue for the young adult me. Getting raped was a lot more serious, but I got through it. Abuse as a child was entirely different and it took me the better part of a lifetime to get over it, if indeed I really have.

You can’t make everything the same without ultimately making it all meaningless. If we are going to punish equally for every inappropriate,  thoughtless move, or bad joke by any guy to any woman, it all becomes a meaningless jumble. Men won’t know what’s okay and what’s not — assuming they know it now, which many obviously don’t — and in this case, not unreasonably. Punishment is supposed to fit the crime. And that means, there ought to be a crime involved. A stupid joke in bad taste is not the same as a threat — and most assuredly is not the same as rape or attempted rape.

Let’s make some meaningful definitions. Let’s agree that something any normal adult woman can handle on her own, probably isn’t criminal. Stupid for sure. Embarrassing, no doubt. Annoying? Absolutely. But when no one is threatened, no one’s job is in peril, there’s no harm implied or done — you can embarrass the guy, publish the story on your Facebook page. Confront him and give him a piece of your mind — but I don’t think you need a jury and a prison.

All activities by men that aggravate, annoy, or disrespect women are not the same. Bad taste and bad jokes may be disrespectful, but disrespect isn’t criminal. Poorly worded comments are also not criminal. We have all said things that came out wrong and which embarrassed us — even when we weren’t trying to say anything much at all. If you use that as a gauge, the whole thing becomes ridiculous and in the end, no one will take any of this seriously.

I know the difference between criminal and not criminal. So do you. Use your brains. You have to leave room for people to be people. To make mistakes, to say the wrong thing, to make a bad joke, to have an embarrassing scene. That’s just life.

There has got to be room for people to be just plain silly or stupid without it being a felony — thus leaving room for actual crimes to be taken seriously.

THE REALITY SWITCH – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn asked me to dig this one up from the archives. It took me a while to find it. It was written eight months ago. If I didn’t tell you this you would swear it was brand new. Unless you don’t swear. But really, who doesn’t swear? At least once in a while. There was my Aunt Helen, no wait. She could cuss like sailor …

Sorry, I got distracted.

I think if we suggested this now, everybody would go along with it. Including the idiot-in-chief. It’s the “get out of the White House without going to jail card”  he’s been looking for. The “get out of this insane reality card” we’ve all been waiting for.


I figured it out!

The solution!

To reality!

This reality!

This reality TV reality!


The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s just not working folks.

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Do you know what does work? Fictional TV reality! Think about it. There’s a show on TV today called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government is blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all gone. The one cabinet member that has to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the entire government from the ground up. And while he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal,  the ones responsible  for blowing everybody up, that’s also trying to take over the country. In spite of all that, their government and their President are doing a hell of a lot better job than ours!

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So here’s what we do.  Let’s just switch realities! It’s a win-win for everybody. How do we do this? Simple.

First: The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV 24 hours a day. On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger. And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, cut taxes for billionaires, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! And here’s the best part. Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News. As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Second: OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Real honest to God fictional ones.

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And the cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” It’s on Netflix, the whole series, all seven seasons.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was he President, but he was also God!

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And the list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it. Every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? Well I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.


(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from the medical show of your choice. Any one of them will do just fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

How do we do this? Simple. We have an election. Not the usual kind. Between voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, our elections are not working out well.  I mean, seriously — that’s how we got into this mess to begin with.

So what do we do? We have an election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time. (Text and messaging fees may apply.)

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College. We can set up March Madness style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. More office pools!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.


It’s Democracy at work!

And it could work!


As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people a while back:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


THE CASE WITH THE MISSING EGG – RICH PASCHALL

The story of Harold (Soup and Sandwich) continues with a new week.

Sunday started like any other Sunday.  Harold arose punctually with the sound of the alarm clock.  There was never any pressing the snooze button for Harold.  Time was too valuable to be wasted pressing a snooze button.  The world never snoozes, so why should Harold?  He quickly went through his morning routine, then went on to the kitchen for coffee.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD
Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

As expected, Harold found the coffee already brewing.  He set it up the night before so that there would be no fumbling through the coffee-making process in the morning.  When Harold was ready, so was the coffee.  You would not expect anything less from the time managing genius that he was.  He had a light breakfast, did some light reading and followed that by cleaning the dishes and neatly putting them away.

Now Harold, master of organization, commander of the schedule, and ruler of all the cleaning supplies, was ready to begin.  He would start cleaning in the living room at the front of the house and follow through all the rooms, closets included, until he got to the back of the house.  This would generally take all day with a little time off for a second cup of coffee and then again later for a light lunch.

So Harold dusted and vacuumed and swept.  Every item was cleaned.  As there were very few item on tables or cabinets, the job could be done quickly.  Each drawer had to be opened and inspected.  Everything had to be in place.  A quick visual inventory was taken by Harold’s computer like mind, and nothing was out-of-place when he was finished.  Actually, nothing was out-of-place when Harold started, but he just had to check to make sure.

Tang Servant

When he got to the bedroom closet he spied a box on the top shelf above the space where his clothes were neatly hung.  Harold removed a two-step ladder from behind the bedroom door and put it in from of the closet door.  He used it to reach the case on the shelf and then carefully lifted it as if it held a king’s treasure.  He brought it carefully down the steps and carried it to the living room.  There he set it on the coffee table, which never saw any coffee, and he sat down on the sofa.

Years earlier Harold had the case made to his exact specifications.  While its outward appearance was of an ordinary cardboard box, it was reinforced on the inside to hold the heavy and precious items Harold had so carefully collected in his lifetime.  The sections were of various sizes because the contents were all different in shape.

While no one who saw Harold’s neat, clean and modest apartment would ever suspect, Harold was a collector of rare Japanese and Chinese porcelain.  They were the only collectables in his possession and they were as much an investment as they were a collection.  The pieces were carefully procured over many years.  He had to be careful in his choices, as there were many fakes on the market.

The items also had to be something that Harold enjoyed.  If they were not aesthetically pleasing to his eye, he did not purchase them.  He could not imagine spending a lot of money on something, if they were not good to look at.  Of course, he was the only one who ever saw them.

Once Harold went to China for vacation, partly because he thought he had a lead on a piece of Imperial porcelain of the Yuan dynasty.  It turned out not to be so, but he settled on a piece from a later period.  It was his only trip outside the country.  Everything else was purchased from collectors and auctions.  Now he had a box full, a little bigger than the standard shirt box.

As always, Harold carefully removed the cover.  On this day, as in every Sunday, he would pick up one piece and examine and admire it closely, but wait!  There was a piece missing.  A porcelain egg was not in its place.  Harold’s mind was racing.

Where could it be?  Did someone break in and steal it?  No, that makes no sense.  Why steal the egg and leave the rest?  Did he lose it?  Impossible!  He never took them out of the house.  It must simply be misplaced.  How could the well-organized Harold have misplaced anything?

Harold was frantic.  He wanted to get up and start searching the house but his body went numb.  He started to shiver.  Never was an item of Harold’s life out-of-place and now a precious piece was missing.  His stomach was all twisted in knots.  He struggled just to get to his feet.

Sui Dynasty musicians
Sui Dynasty musicians

When he got his wits about himself, he started a careful and well-organized search of the house.  Since it seem unlikely to be in any of the places he just cleaned, he searched everywhere else, some places multiple times.  When the egg was not found, Harold sunk to his knees and prayed to St. Anthony, patron of lost items.  The egg remained lost.

Harold returned to the sofa, sat down and stared at the case with the empty space.  Through the careful collection of these porcelain items over the years, Harold felt that his very life had gained in value.  Now the missing porcelain egg, soft and beautiful in his mind, caused a tear to come to Harold’s eye.  He could not shake the feeling that he himself, through stupidity or carelessness or whatever, was now worth a little less.

To be continued…

Related:
First Harold story: Soup and Sandwich

ON BECOMING OBSOLETE

It’s an odd feeling to be declared obsolete. I had been getting increasingly less relevant for a while, but after the dot coms went down, the high-tech world turned on its ear. Venture capital disappeared and so did the start-ups that had been my bread and butter.

Tech writers were replaced by automated systems that generate “documentation” from embedded engineering notes. For years, no one cared if the material these systems generated was useful or readable. As long as “something” was included with the product, it was “good enough.”

Intelligent, human-based technical support had already been exported. Now, the same thinking was applied to documentation.

Need help? Call tech support on the other side of the world. Let your customers wait on hold, get disconnected. Finally, let them talk to someone who knows nothing and will provide incorrect information. Never provide a call back number, so if the solution doesn’t work — and mostly, it won’t — make them go through the whole thing again.

What could go wrong with this?

Who needs a manual?

i_467_old-computer-advertisement-006A lot has gone wrong with this approach. Pretty much everything, really. Belatedly, a wide range of companies seem to have discovered that having horrible customer service and no documentation is affecting business! Imagine that. Industry-wide rethinking came too late for my career, but it’s nice to see respect for customers seeping back into service. Better late than never. It turns out that customers who buy expensive gear do want documentation. The more expensive the equipment, the better service they apparently expect. Who’d have guessed? I’m sure industry execs were shocked to discover people want manuals. Good ones. Written in a language they understand.

The whole “call tech support” thing got old really fast.

I never intended to be a technical writer. I was going to be a “real” writer. You know. An author. Novels. Literature. I eventually wrote a lot of books, all of them explaining how to do something obscurely technical and computer-related. For a gal who barely scraped through basic algebra and never took a physics or chemistry course, I picked up a lot along the way. I rode the high-tech wave until that fateful day when I was informed “no one reads manuals.”

The world keeps turning. I’m seeing “help wanted” ads for tech writers again. It was a long drought.  At last, written (not generated) documentation is making a comeback. I’ve lived long enough to see the full cycle, to watch an industry — and my profession — come 360 degrees back to where it all began.