28 July 2008

Perfectly Justifiable

outrage. Love it.

It's Not Guns That Kill Lawnmowers...

Friday 25 July 2008, 18.17 ET
MILWAUKEE - A Milwaukee man was accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. Keith Walendowski, 56, was charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor disorderly conduct while armed.
According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski said he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning. He told police quote, "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."
A woman who lives at Walendowski's house reported the incident. She said he was intoxicated [me: really?].
Walendowski could face up to an $11,000 fine and six years and three months in prison if convicted.
A call to Walendowski's home went unanswered Friday morning.
[me] Really, can you blame him?

25 July 2008

Helluva Spin

I had to contact borders.com's customer service because of a question I have regarding reserving books at a store. Their new web design is terrible, especially in lieu of how great it used to be. If your local store didn't have a copy of a book you checked a box, filled in some basic info (no credit card info or anything like that) and usually within a week the book would be at your local store.
No more.
Either your local store has the book or you have to order it through borders.com.
So the functionality is worse along with the wretched, clunky design.

But when you call the toll-free number to speak with a human being, the pick-up message is, "due to the success of our new web-design, hold times are longer."

Yep, because everyone is just so darn happy with our website, you have to wait on hold longer to discuss it. Because it so successful.

The customer service rep I spoke with told me that, no, they aren't dealing with more complaints, just more people checking and tracking their orders.

I've been buying stuff online for a few years now and the only time I'm calling--hell taking the effort to find the customer service phone number--is when something is wrong.

Nice spin.

22 July 2008

Rebirth Day

Six years and one day ago I met up with some friends in Philadelphia. We chatted amiably; I met my friend Terry's daughter who just turned one; we walked through Fairmount Park and had an otherwise lovely day. I felt great.

I thought to myself on my way home how good the day was and how well I felt, all things considered.

I went back to the two-room apartment I was living in that was appointed with a TV, a side table and a beaten-up chair (a bed with an end-table and an alarm clock in the other room rounded out the decor--the entirety of the decor).

I sat down in the chair, adjusted the hole in the slipcover, called my wife at her parents house where she was living with our dog, told her how well the day went, made some false promises and got off the phone.

Then I drank about 60 ounces of Steel Reserve malt liquor and passed out. I was never able to finish the second forty.

A few hours passed and my wife was standing next to me. Looking sad and sickened and familiar to me. I had, in the past two years or so, gotten used to seeing her this way.

I apologized, again. Like I had apologized after I had to explain the real reason why I had "resigned" my previous job; like I had apologized after we had to sell our house and move in with her parents; like I apologized after her parents asked me to leave; like I had apologized so many, many times before for lying and breaking promises.

"I'm done," I said. "I don't want to do this anymore."

I don't know what she said back. It would be some variation of "why should I believe you" or "you've said this before" to "I hope so."

She shouldn't have believed me (I don't think she did); I had said all of this before and I knew she hoped so. And in some way, so did I. But I had hoped before. I didn't want to drink that day. There were many times when I had no conscious desire to drink and yet I found myself strolling into some dive bar that sells take-out malt liquor at odd hours, driving into Trenton to buy MD 20/20 because they're open on Sundays or leaving my job at 8:52am due to some contrived illness so I could be at the state store at 9:00am when it opened.

I didn't want to drink as much as I did. But I drank anyway.

A lot.

We talked a bit more, I didn't move from my seat. I just watched as she dumped the remainder down the drain, again. She seemed more sad than angry. But nothing, to me, seemed out of the ordinary.

She left.

Either she called me or I called her later on. This was our routine. Just about every night we would talk on the phone until 10 or 11pm. Usually I would try to blow her off so I could finish drinking what I had or run to the bar and buy something else to drink. I hadn't, after she left earlier, gone out and bought anything more. That was different. And so I was sober when we spoke that night. She could tell. She still sounded beaten.
I apologized. Again.
I didn't go out and buy anything else. I stayed up a little while longer and then went to bed and fell asleep.

The next day was Monday, 22 July 2002 and was unremarkable in almost every way. I took the train into the city and went to work at my part-time job with my mother at a title insurance agency (I barely held onto a full-time job at a diagnostic laboratory from Tuesday to Saturday and had to be in work at 6:00am, hence leaving early to get to the liquor store before all of the other miscreants--only legitimate bar owners and alcoholics are in a Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits Shoppe at 9:00am).
The only thing I remember for certain from that day was that my mom took me to lunch with a colleague of hers to a Chinese restaurant on Walnut Street. It had been about 22 hours since I had anything to drink and I hadn't eaten anything since then, either. I don't know if I was suffering from delirium tremens or some other fringe benefit of alcohol abuse, but it was everything I could do to get the fork from the plate to my mouth.
I also had an incredible urge to vomit. How I didn't I don't know. I had to eat some of the food, so as not to appear rude, but it was tough going.
The workday ended and I walked back to the train station to make my way home. I called my wife while waiting for the train. I told her I'd call her when I got home.
I don't remember much at all from the rest of that night. Other than the horrific experience at the restaurant, the day was wholly unremarkable. I did speak with my wife again later that night and she could tell I hadn't been drinking. I think she was happy.
I didn't drink on Monday, 22 July 2002.

This is not necessarily remarkable, either. I had gone nineteen days without drinking in April of that year--but it was only nineteen days and not the thirty I claimed when I accepted the thirty-day coin from the AA clubhouse I attended in body but not spirit. And though an alcoholic, I didn't drink every day. Just most of them. To excess. To the extent that I didn't ordinarily "go to bed" at night, I passed out in my ratty chair in front of the television. I would come to in the middle of the night, drink some of whatever was left in whatever bottle was next to me--the bottle in the same place, every time--and then go to bed.

The sort-of remarkable thing was that I didn't drink on Tuesday, 23 July 2002, either. I don't know if I wanted to or not. I don't remember. I probably did. But I didn't. Nor did I the next day.

The really remarkable thing is that I haven't since.

And so today, after a terrible night's sleep (my otherwise wonderful, fitful-sleeping, four-month old couldn't get settled last night) I was in the kitchen and my older daughter came in and, prompted by mommy, said "Happy Six Years Daddy!"

She has no idea what that means, but we do. My wife, against my best efforts, stayed with me. How much longer I had, either with her or on this earth, I don't know. But I'm glad I didn't find out.

In the copy of Alcoholics Anonymous that a wonderful man gave me in my first, failed attempt to get sober I keep a piece of paper that has written on it, "Be Strong! You can do this! Love you, Heather...and Love yourself." This and the undeserved thirty-day coin that I still have are among my most prized possessions. They show more than anything what is possible for me. The coin represents all of the most terrible things I can do. A man that misrepresents himself, to his family, his friends, his co-workers and to a group of people whose sole collective purpose is to help others get and remain sober is no man--I have a very difficult time tolerating lying and this comes from all of the lying I've done myself, to myself. The coin stands for all of the lying, stealing, duplicity; all of the horrible things I am capable of when I drink. The note stands for all of the opposite. That this woman was kind enough to stay with me. To care when just about everyone else who knew anything about me had stopped still amazes me. Not everyone stopped caring and few stopped entirely. But with my sickness I created a particularly dreadful form of hell for this woman. And she stayed. The note shows that there is hope and love. No one, not even me, the guy in the coin, is irredeemable.

Certainly I can still be a jerk and life is not without it problems. But today we face them together, with our small family and meager circumstances. And I know we can handle anything. So long as I don't drink.

Which I don't.

And haven't.

Since 22 July 2002.

One day at a time.

Thank you Heather.

And God Bless Peter Gabriel.

18 July 2008

Dr. Horrible

One of the funniest things I've seen since Chad Vader.

My wife and I just caught an episode of How I Met Your Mother for the first time and I just saw Harold and Kumar go to White Castle recently on Comedy Central.

Neil Patrick Harris is a genius.

17 July 2008

Atta Guy, II

This undated image provided by the Michigan attorney-general's office shows Daniel Allen Everett. The 33-year-old Clarkston, Mich. man faces two 20-year felonies after authorities say he arranged a meeting for sex with an online contact he believed was a 14-year-old girl and showed up wearing a T-shirt that read: 'World's Greatest Dad.' Everett was arraigned Tuesday, July 15, 2008 in Novi, Mich. district court on charges of child sexual abuse and using the Internet to attempt child sexual abuse.(AP Photo/State of Michigan, Department of Attorney General)
N.B.--Not just a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt, a "WWE World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt, for that extra touch of class.

16 July 2008

Habeas, he said

Well, I've learned as much as I care to about habeas corpus, and my reading of it tends to side with the dissent in Boumediene.
The writ is labeled as a privilege in the Constitution and the legislature has the authority to suspend it. Whether only in the cases of Rebellion or Invasion seems a bit restrictive if generally "the public Safety may require it." In other words, I don't think Congress only has the power to restrict habeas during a Civil War or foreign invasion. I think Lincoln over-stepped his bounds during the Civil War, but he did have the aggravating factor that congress was not in session when he ordered the writ suspended. Congressional authorization was sought and received when congress reconvened.
Bush, as is typical, was completely off the reservation in thinking that he could detain anyone, anywhere, indefinitely due to his "unitary" authority, without any legislative aid. I don't think the Authorization for Use of Military Force implicitly grants the president this authority, either. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, however, did.
I appreciate the holding opinion in Boumediene, especially as it relates to the open-endedness of the conflict and the fact that we do not have a formal declaration of war with an established state to whom the prisoners would be returned upon formal cessation of hostilities. But I do not think that this trumps Congressional authority in this instance. If these are prisoners taken on the battlefield, then the executive, with congressional authorization, has the ability to hold prisoners without challenge.
The question, to me, is not whether constitutional rights extend to foreigners. We established a limited government. The question is whether the constitution grants the government the authority to detain non-citizens indefinitely without recourse. Also, what of those not detained on the actual field of battle. Better yet, what is the actual field of battle. My heart says that the government was not given that authority (security, security, they cried!, notwithstanding).
My head says that based on our history and the relevant texts (and yes, past and current congressional quiescence in times of conflict), the legislature and executive were correct and the supremes over-stepped their boundaries on this one.
That being said, the administration and congress are now in a position to have to create a system where they must justify the detention of those held (one of the major discrepancies between this case and Eisentrager is that the enemy aliens in that case admitted they were such; the current case involves people challenging their classification to begin with). If the government can prove its case for holding them, then they're fine. This only increases openness and accountability from our government. Which is as it should be.
And for those that think that any restriction on Bush's "unitary" authority as commander-in-chief will directly lead to another attack, please let it be known that if the executive authority was enforcing the laws that were then on the books, 9/11 could have been prevented.
Neither the world nor the constitution changed on 9/11, a bunch of assholes took advantage of non-enforcement and got lucky. To take credit for there not being another attack since then ignores the fact that the first attack did happen on their watch.
Neither our constitution nor our sovereignty has ever been at stake. And for the administration constantly to float the canard otherwise is insulting.
The sacrifice of liberty for security is a losing proposition all around.


Try reading this without scratching your head.

15 July 2008

I Heart Chase

Not too classy, but cursing the reprobates in New York on national television makes you Okey-Dokey in my book.

02 July 2008

Good Book, so far

I just picked up from the library Foreskin's Lament: a memoir by Shalom Auslander. The author is a contributor to PRI's This American Life. First two paragraphs:

When I was a child, my parents and teachers told me about a man who was
very strong. They told me he could destroy the whole world. They
told me he could life mountains. They told me he could part the sea.
It was important to keep the man happy. When we obeyed what the man had
commanded, the man liked us. He liked us so much that he killed anyone who
didn't like us. But when we didn't obey what he had commanded, he didn't
like us. He hated us. Some days he hated us so much he killed us;
other days, he let other people kill us. We call these days
"holidays." On Purim, we remembered how the Persians tried to kill
us. On Passover, we remembered how the Egyptians tried to kill us.
On Chanukah, we remembered how the Greeks tried to kill us.
--Blessed is He, we prayed.

I'm looking forward to it.

I also picked up Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I saw it highly regarded by a fellow alumnus from the World's Greatest School whose opinion on literature (inter alia) I respect. It's a biggie, so I may have to re-let it and tackle it over vacation.
A full update on reading material is coming.