#VOTE DAMMIT! No excuses. Here’s how to find your polling place.

If you are a registered voter in the United States, you have no excuse NOT to vote.

The midterm elections are much more important than the presidential elections. The midterms determine local politics, the stuff that affects you on a day-to-day basis. If you’re unhappy with what is or isn’t being done, don’t blame Obama. Blame your local elected officials. The president isn’t king. There’s only so much he can do on his own.

Are you out of work? Are you underpaid? Are you barely able to make ends meet? Republicans are giving away the store to corporate interests, leaving us to foot the bill.

Remember this scene from Rosanne?

That scene could have been written yesterday, but it was two decades ago! Republicans are still shoveling the same crap. Tax breaks to lure companies who provide low wage jobs to families who then still have to rely on food stamps.

What the hell??

We can’t keep letting the GOP sell America to the lowest bidder! We can’t let congress give religious extremists the right to bastardize the constitution to suit their needs!

Please. Vote. Vote as if your life depended on it. If not for yourself, do it for the future of your children, your family, your country.

Thanks to the folks at Word Press, here is a voter information tool to help you find your poling place on Tuesday, November 4th.

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Seducing The Muse. …more like a desperate plea.

Did you miss me? Well I missed you too!

Sorry for my absence. I promise I have a good excuse though. Well, it’s mostly a good excuse. I’ve been fighting the forces of evil with a couple of groovy friends, a stoner, and a talking dog. What? What do you mean you don’t believe me? Yeah, well it sounded good in my head.

The truth is rather boring. I’ve been having technical difficulties.

The good news is that, after scrimping and saving, and doing more research than an undergrad studying for his finals, I bought a new laptop. Yay!

The bad news is that, a few hours after finishing the final draft of “What’s Going On“, my wandering rant about race in America, my two month old laptop got the dreaded ‘blue screen’.– NOOO! Not my baby! — Needless to say I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the remedy was relatively painless. Customer service could not have handled the situation better. The woman on the phone was able to remotely diagnose the trouble. I sent the laptop to the Texas care center on the Friday before Labor Day and received it back ten days later.

Yeah. I was surprised too.

The whole reason for the laptop was to encourage me to write more. I’m one of those people that have ideas flying through my head all day long but the moment I sit down in front of the computer… nothing. Then there’s the issue of my grammar, which needs improvement. I live in constant fear of the run-on sentence so I tend to drop commas every few words in the hope that a few land in their proper place.– Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. — The point is that I wanted to start putting thoughts to paper (screen?) and thought a laptop might make it a little easier.

In high school I loved creative writing. Of course, in high school, I had English teachers who gave us direction and deadlines and… Dickens! — Sorry. Then in tech school I got to let my imagination run free. Tech school was essentially an introduction to communications. We covered the basics of radio and television. The idea was to give you enough knowledge that upon graduation you could easily find an interning position or continue your education. My dream was editing for television so that’s where I focused my energy. My specialty was short subjects. I wrote a lot of commercials. My magnum opus was a hidden camera short where I pranked our instructor. The poor guy was the target of much of our humor. He was a good sport though. He never asked us to compromise our creativity, no matter how ill conceived our ideas. Our world would be a much better place if we had more teachers like Ed Gannon.

There’s truth to the old adage, “If you don’t use it you’ll lose it”.

It’s been a long while since I’ve had to engage my imagination on a regular basis. I’ve been so preoccupied with writing big and brilliant that I forgot a few basic rules. Write, write what you know, write some more and, for God’s sake, Keep It Simple Stupid! — KISS for short.

So, for me, the trick is to try to get in the habit of writing again. That’s what this meandering mess is: an exercise to get the juices flowing, an attempt to seduce my elusive muse, to just write whatever pops into my head at this particular moment. — Even if it means boring you all to death. 😉

Got A New Laptop?

So, I got a new Windows 8 laptop and was trolling through YouTube for tips and tricks when I found this video.

The guy from Tek Syndicate  is friggin hysterical!! — and I mean that in a friendly way.– He holds your attention as he demonstrates how to clean all the bloatware from your computer.. Even if you’re not a techie you’ll find this humorous as well as educational.

 New Laptop: What to Do When You Get a New Notebook/Laptop/PC

BTW- He’s right about Norton anti-virus. Garbage.

  • Here’s something that EVERY computer user should be doing, create and use a separate local user account! Create a local user account that has limited permissions. Use that user account for your everyday activity. You can always log onto your administrator account to install software, tweak you’re settings, etc., otherwise leave it alone.  That way, nothing will be installed on your computer  should you ‘accidentally’ click a link with malicious software, spyware, etc. If you’re using a secondary user account with limited permissions, your computer will ask for an administrator password before installing anything.
  • To find out how to set up separate local user accounts, click here.

FYI- This post is for education and entertainment purposes only. If you are unfamiliar with the inner workings of your computer, you should leave it to a knowledgeable professional. Neither I nor Tek Syndicate can be held accountable for your computer.  In other words, you’re on your own.

 

World AIDS Day

“There will never be a cure! Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another.” – Sam W.

In order to help keep AIDS awareness in the minds of people around me, I thought I’d share some of my personal experiences, and how HIV/AIDS has affected people in my life. The following is pulled together from casual conversations with my friend Sam, whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I’ve entered direct quotes as I remember them. Everything you read here is fact.

Sam, quoted above, has been living with AIDS for a little over twenty years. He tested positive in 1991. His survival, he says, is a double edged sword. He feels fortunate to be alive but, like many LGBT folks our age, most of his close friends are gone. “There’s no one left!” he says. “In the early 90s my friends were dropping like flies, one after the other. I thought I was next. My doctor told my parents to make my final arrangements. I was prepared to die.” Sam told me that when he didn’t die, he went into a depression. Psychologists call it Survivor’s Guilt.

Though ten years younger than Sam, I can easily empathize. At the height of the pandemic, AIDS took most of my friends. But the friends that I lost were relatively new friendships. Sam had known most of his friends for ten, fifteen years. You’re not supposed to lose so many friends at such a young age.

Sam says his biggest lament is the cost of survival. He was fortunate enough to have had a decent enough employer who provided him with healthcare, and who was understanding enough to alter his work schedule as needed. He worked for as long as he could, but by the mid-nineties his health had so declined that he had no choice but to go on Social Security Disability and wait for death. Then Protease Inhibitors came along.

The new drugs that saved his life cost a small fortune. Sam takes three Anti-HIV pills which cost about $900 per bottle, and a handful of medications to handle side effects that cost between $20 and $150 per bottle. And that doesn’t include regular blood tests, doctor visits, and medical procedures.

“Remember the assisted suicide controversy in the 90s?” he asks. “All those conservatives wanted to hang Dr. Kevorkian! Now they want to cut my benefits! (Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare) Where’s their compassion for the sick and dying, now?? If you don’t want to help me live, then allow me to die!”

Sam assures he doesn’t really want to die. He’s understandably frustrated by a system that has failed him. It would be difficult for him to go back to work. He couldn’t even afford a part time job. If he went back to work, he’d lose his healthcare. If he lost his healthcare, he’d get sick again and most likely die.

In a perfect world, Sam could rejoin the workforce, keep his healthcare, and maybe pay an affordable percentage of his salary back into Medicare. The trouble is the cost of prescriptions. As long as he has to take those expensive medications, he can never leave Social Security.

I reminded him of the recent advancements in developing a vaccine. “There will never be a cure!” he says ” Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another! It’s a scam, and the American people are too blind to see it!”

Though careful what I say to him, I can’t help but think perhaps he’s right. There’s no money in cures. The money is in treatment. If you cured cancer tomorrow, all those Cancer Treatment Centers would go bankrupt within months. Susan G Komen would cease to exist. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I have little faith in a system that values money over people.

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The best I can offer is try to educate people around me and hope that they pay attention.

AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) has been around for three decades. Some of the biggest myths about AIDS that still persist today include, “It’s a gay disease” “It can’t happen to me” and “There’s a cure”. AIDS is not a “Gay” disease. It CAN happen to you. There is NO cure.

Treatment has it’s own issues. Side effects of Anti HIV medication include, fatigue, neuropathy, fungal infections, liver damage, heart disease, kidney disease, body fat re-distribution (buffalo hump), chronic headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, blindness, high cholesterol, diarrhea, constipation, dementia, calcium deficiency, loss of bone density, death and more.

  • Sounds fun, right? Especially when you consider prevention is as simple as proper condom use.
  • And ladies, because men are so reluctant to wrap it up, there’s a condom designed just for you. – Introducing… The Female Condom!

Knowing all of this, would you rather protect yourself and your loved ones, or spend the rest of your life at a doctor’s office?

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the NIH AIDS info page.  http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/

Teachers and Education: A love story

“ALGEBRA”

I wasn’t an honor student, but I wasn’t a screw-up either. Like most kids, I had my favorite teachers. I had teachers I didn’t like.

…and then there was Ms. White.

Ms. White was my ninth grade Algebra teacher. I struggled in her class because she wasn’t very good at explaining how X = Y. I learn best with demonstration, but she couldn’t walk me through it.

Ms. White was good at one thing, though. She knew how to make us laugh.

On one November afternoon, I was so confused by her diagram that I asked her to explain the process in a way that I would understand. She turned around slowly and looked at me. A smile spread across her wide face, and with great triumph, she said…

“Frank. If we opened up your head, and poured the knowledge in, it would leak out your feet!”

This, of course, got a roar of laughter from the class; but did little to help me understand the algebraic formula she had drawn on the board.

Ms. White reused her clever little line on several other students that year. However, I hold the honor of being the first. My fellow classmates didn’t let me forget it, either. As a result, I was reluctant to raise my hand in her class for the rest of the year. Predictably, I did not do very well.

I wasn’t the only student who had to make up the credit. We were twenty in all, almost a full classroom, for that summer’s algebra course. (That was just the morning class. There was an afternoon class as well.)

Teachers like Ms. White make every teacher look bad. I still wonder how this woman was able to continue teaching, in spite of complaints by me, and several other students and parents.

When so many students struggle in one teacher’s class, that teacher is not doing his/her job!

Please don’t get me wrong. The majority of my teachers were good. Some of them were excellent. Good teachers deserve to be paid handsomely for their time and effort.

– Just sayin’

BTW – Ms. White was still teaching seven years later, when my younger sister entered ninth grade. Happily, she was assigned a different teacher.

This post was first published July 2011 on ADignorantium.tumblr

Some Serious Questions For Conservatives

Why do conservatives use the word “Entitlement” as if it was a bad word.

They’re called “Entitlements” because the people who receive them worked hard for and earned them as part of an agreed upon contract with the United States government. Money is taken from our paycheck each week as insurance until such time as we either retire, become disabled and cannot work, or the worst case scenario, a disaster happens and we need help.

Entitlements are not handouts. Entitlements are not charity. Entitlements did not tank our economy. Corporate greed did. So why do you want to punish the least of us just so the wealthiest can have tax breaks?

Conservatives claim to be for limited government and keeping government out of our private lives.

How does amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage limit government or keep the government out of our private lives? How does one person’s marriage affect yours? Is the foundation or your marriage so fragile that it would crumble under the weight of another couple’s happiness?

Conservatives claim to be for fiscal responsibility, yet they are largely against paying for birth control. Does it not occur to them that tax payers will undoubtedly foot the bill, through welfare, for eighteen plus years of childcare for many of the children that result from unplanned pregnancies? Compared to that, contraception is cheap.

There’s nothing wrong with conservative ideas. Personal responsibility is important. Responsibility to our community is even more important.

Ensuring that companies provide a living wage so that families don’t have to rely on food stamps is the responsible thing to do. A family that can’t afford food isn’t self sufficient. Isn’t that what conservatism is all about; being self sufficient? A family that’s not self sufficient cannot contribute to the economy.

If families aren’t contributing to the economy, the economy doesn’t grow.

One more thing.

As our country experiences extreme weather powerful enough to bring about the destruction of whole communities, more and more people are going to find themselves in need of some kind of assistance, be it food stamps or welfare. These people are not deadbeats. They aren’t looking for handouts either. Yet many conservatives want to reduce these life saving safety nets because of the cost. Are these the “family values” that conservatives claim they hold in such high regard?

The United States of America is a vast and wealthy country populated with people of many different faiths and from every walk of life. In order for us to have a strong country we must look out for one another. United we stand. Divided we fall.

Lists. …this is a good one.

The 2013 TIME 100 was released a week ago. I’m always suspicious of lists. Often, they are nothing more than self promotion and mutual masturba back scratching. But I think Time Magazine got it right on at least three of it’s picks.

Rebecca Smeyne / Corbis

Rebecca Smeyne / Corbis

John Legend writes of Frank Ocean as a respected colleague and close friend. “Frank is brilliant,” he writes. “The day I started writing with him, it was clear that he has a very interesting mind and a distinctive way of expressing himself. He was fearless and innately creative. You talk to some people in this business and you get the sense that they’re very focused on radio: what will be a hit or won’t be a hit. You never get that from Frank. The focus is on creating something that’s beautiful, that’s great art.

“Frank broke a lot of rules with his album Channel Orange. He wasn’t focused on “What’s gonna be my single?” And obviously, one of the cardinal rules was that he wasn’t supposed to come out. But he did…”
Illustration by David Despau for TIME

Illustration by David Despau for TIME

Maya Angelou wrote one of the most beautiful pieces on a First Lady I have ever read. Of Michelle Obama, she writes, “Modesty is a learned affectation. It’s just like decals. As soon as the world shakes the modest person against the wall, that modesty will drop off them. But humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me; I have already been paid for. All I have to do is prepare myself to pay for someone else who is yet to come. And that’s exactly what Mrs. Obama’s doing with the fight against obesity. She considers all children her responsibility: black or white, pretty or plain, all the children.The philosophers tell us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mrs. Obama is as if it doesn’t touch her. She hasn’t tried to become anybody else’s idea of the First Lady. She has remained herself, with her grace, her gentleness and her sense of humor. That she would dare to wear clothes off the rack. Or go out and garden. Or have a grandmother in the White House. She knows how to be a public creature without being separate from her family.” Beautiful words for a beautiful First Lady.

But my favorite by far is what Chelsea Clinton wrote of 15 year old accidental activist, Malala Yousafzai  
Mark Seliger for TIME

Mark Seliger for TIME

“People whose courage has been met by violence populate history. Few, though, are as young as Malala was when, at 15, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in northwestern Pakistan and shot her and two other girls, attempting to both kill Malala and, as the Taliban later said, teach a “lesson” to anyone who had the courage to stand up for education, freedom and self-determination, particularly for girls and women. Or as young as 11, when Malala began blogging for the BBC’s Urdu site, writing about her ambition to become a doctor, her fears of the Taliban and her determination to not allow the Taliban — or her fear — to prevent her from getting the education she needed to realize her dreams.Malala is now where she wants to be: back in school. The Taliban almost made Malala a martyr; they succeeded in making her a symbol. The memoir she is writing to raise awareness about the 61 million children around the world who are not in school indicates she accepts that unasked-for responsibility as a synonym for courage and a champion for girls everywhere. However Malala concludes her book, her story so far is only just beginning.”