Thursday, March 29, 2018

Licked by a Horse, among other Things

Well, this is awkward.
Sure, it's an awkward of my own choosing, but that doesn't make it any less awkward.
We're going to talk about being licked.
And I'm going to assume that everyone, at some point or other, has been licked by a dog. Yes, I'm sure there are people out there who have never been licked by a dog or who think it's gross or whatever, but it's a fairly normal thing, so we're going to go with that.

I, of course, have been licked by a dog. In fact, I am licked by a dog pretty much on a daily basis. This dog, in fact:
Isn't she the cutest.
Yes, that's a statement, not a question.

Along with the dog, however, I've been licked by quite a few other kinds of things.

There are, of course, humans. Anyone who spends any amount of time working with young children is, at some point or another, going to be licked. Usually because said kid finds it utterly hilarious. Especially if he catches you off guard and you suddenly have a smear of slime down your arm. Yeah, hilarious. Right?

But for most animals it's to show a kind of affection, not to be obnoxious. It's a "here, I care about you; I'm going to clean you," or whatever, kind of thing. Of course, some dogs love everyone. heh Or just aren't very discriminating.

So... other animals I've been licked by:

My cat. Being licked by a cat is not the most pleasant thing, but he means well. As well as a cat can, anyway. I've been injured more than once by the cat's tongue, though, so I've had to dissuade him from licking me when it looks like he's settling down to give me a grooming.

My rabbit. She's no longer with us, but she used to lick my hands and fingers when I would hold her. It's somewhat similar to being licked by a cat by softer and more tentatively. I did some research on the rabbit licking thing at one point because I'd never heard of that before, and it seems to be rather rare with them. They have to really like you.

A gerbil. When I was in high school, I had a pair of gerbils and the female would sometimes lick my fingers. It was a little weird, kinda of like being nosed by a fish. Sometimes, she would hold onto my fingertip while she was licking me.

A cow. When I as a kid, my grandfather had cows down on the farm, and one of the cows, a cow named Pig, would occasionally lick me. I don't know if she ever licked anyone else, but I'm sure it was all about getting food. At any rate, I don't recommend the experience. If you want to know what's like, go find a cat and get it to lick your arm, then imagine that on the magnitude of a cow's tongue, let's 100x more intense. Plus the slime and what it did to the hair on my arm. Let's just say that there's a reason a cowlick is called a cowlick.

And, now, a horse. Or a pony, as was the case. The pony's name was Lucy; I wish I had taken a picture of her, but it didn't occur to me until after the fact. We were at one of the local parks a couple of weekends ago, and they offer pony rides there. My niece and nephew wanted to ride the ponies, so I was hanging out near the fence where the waiting ponies were and one of the ponies, Lucy, started nudging at me, for scratches I guess. That's how I responded, at any rate, first up around her ears then her nose. It's not like a horse is able to scratch its own nose, right?

A surprising thing happened, then; Lucy licked my hand. Except it was more like a tongue press. She pressed her tongue against my hand. I want to say it was like being touched by a cloud, but I don't think that analogy really works. Let's just say it was soft, surprisingly so. Gentle, maybe. So I held my hand out to her like I would for a dog to smell, and she began licking my hand repeatedly. You know, pressing her tongue against my fingers over and over again.

My younger son was with me, so he held his hand over to her (he had been scratching her ears), but she turned her head away from his hand. She was definitely choosing to lick my hand, so it wasn't that I had tasty food on it or something (we had just finished eating), because my son had had the same lunch I had so would have had the same food on his hand.

After a few minutes, I had to go take care of something, but I went back over to see Lucy again a little while later, and she got all excited when she saw me walking up and greeted me by licking my hand again; she still wouldn't lick my son's hand. When they came to take her away a little while later, she got upset and didn't want to go.

I don't know how common it is for horses to lick people (and I'm not going to do any research about it, because I'm not curious enough to spend the time on it), but it's not a thing I'd ever heard of before. I seem to have a thing with animals, which, actually, is true enough.

Or, maybe, I just taste good.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Concerning TRU

I've made no secret of the fact that I used to work at Toys R Us, so it's with the kind of fascination of watching a train wreck that I have been paying attention to them "suddenly" going out of business. Sure, I get that it's surprising to some, but this is by no means sudden, whatever they would have you believe. And maybe I wouldn't have said anything about this at all, but...

There's always a "but."

But TRU (Toys R Us, but I'm going to refer to them as TRU) has, evidently, blamed their woes on millennials, the seeming punching bag these days of corporate America and of Boomers in general. ["Boomers" means "Baby Boomers." More on them in some future post.] "If only millennials were having more babies, we would be making enough money to stay open. It's all your fault for not giving us your money." As if just the fact of millennials having babies would drive them into the open arms (or doors, as the case may be) of a local TRU or Babies R Us store.

The truth of the matter is that TRU has been on the verge of going out of business for at least the last 20 years, it being 20 years ago that I last worked for them, and they were teetering on the brink even then. The further truth of the matter is that TRU is a shitty company and has been for at least the last 30 years, 30 years ago being when I first worked for them when I still lived in Louisiana. They're a shitty company, and they actually deserve to go out of business.

Why would I say they deserve it? Well, because they've had 30 fucking years to do something to improve their business model and, yet, they have refused to do so. They've just gone ahead with the what seems to be the driving philosophy of the Boomer generation: Did you fail the first time? Well try again using the same method but do it faster and harder. In fact, keeping doing that same thing over and over again; eventually, you have to succeed.


Evidently not.

So, yes, Toys R Us definitively deserves to go out of business.

Oh, hey, breaking news right in the middle of me working on this piece: It seems that the founder of TRU has died. At the age of 94. One of the things TRU is saying about him is how much he loved the customer. Well, I didn't know the guy, so that may well be true, but I do know that TRU definitely did not love their customers. Their customers were only second their employees as enemies.

When I first worked for TRU back around 1990, it was official company policy to not help customers. The extent that we were allowed to help someone was to walk them to the aisle where something should be located. If something was not on the shelf, we were instructed to tell customers that it was out of stock. Even if we knew it was not out of stock and was, indeed, sitting in the store room. Retrieving something from the storeroom was a big NO. You see, it just wasn't cost effective for employees to spend time helping customers.

Note: I was once reprimanded (at the store I worked at in Louisiana) for getting something down off the overstock shelf for a customer. Now, this was a thing we were supposed to do because, if we didn't, customers would do things like try to climb the shelving units to get stuff down. But, you know, we employees had access to ladders, and the customer could see the item he wanted. As it turns out, a manager was watching me and timing me. Because I had to go get a ladder from the stockroom (and put it back when I was through), it took me more than five minutes to help the customer, so I got in trouble.

By the time I worked for them in the late 90s after I moved out to California, they had somewhat revised their customer assistance policy. We were at least supposed to look like we were trying to help them out. If someone asked for something not on the shelf, we were to go and "check" the stockroom for it. If it was something we knew we had back there, we could even go fetch it... as long as it didn't take up too much time. Otherwise, we were to go to the stockroom, wait a moment, then go back out and tell the customer that, no, we didn't have the item.

Note: This could really backfire on people. I always did the job of actually checking for an item if a customer asked but, then, I knew how to use the tools provided for us to do so and was good at it. It was always bad when a customer asked one employee about something and was told we were out of stock but, then, asked a different employee (say, me) for the item who then went and got it for them. Yeah, that happened more than once.

As bad as they were to customers, it was nothing compared to the way they treated employees. Employees were the true enemy, all of them thieves waiting to happen. Not to mention the fact that they wanted to be paid! All that and they didn't even offer an employee discount program (though they did finally institute that some years after I quit working for them; it was an effort to cut down on all of the employee turnover, but I'm pretty sure it didn't really work).

I'm not really going to get into how bad TRU was to employees back when I worked there. This post is already long, and getting into that can of worms might turn into a novel, and not a novel I would want to write. Or enjoy writing.

Back to the point, though: Even back in the 90s, TRU was struggling to avoid bankruptcy. They routinely identified parts of their business model which was siphoning off their profits, but, really, they could never convince themselves to look beyond theft prevention, both by customers and by employees, and it was this antagonistic stance they took with everyone which ultimately prevented them from climbing out of the hole they kept digging for themselves. As a company, they were very much like the current Republican run government and their fakepresident. I'm so looking forward to the day when they, too, go out of business.

Friday, March 23, 2018

My Left Knee

I think my left knee is eating my pants.
No, really, the last several pairs of jeans I've had have all worn out over my left knee before the more obvious places of, say, like, my right pocket where my keys stay. That used to always be where my jeans would wear out first. But, now, it's the left knee.

Why would it be the left knee? Is my left knee sharper than my right knee? It doesn't look like it is. Does the cat have something to do with all of this?
It wouldn't surprise me.
Maybe he's mad because I didn't take him to the opera, and he's taking it out on my pants?

Whatever it is, it's a mystery to me.
All I know is that it's time for a new pair of pants.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

This Land Is Their Land (a book review post)

I'm going to say right up front: This is probably not a book you should read.
Wait, let me revise that: This is not a book you should read if you haven't read any other books by Barbara Ehrenreich.
Also: This is not a "book." It's a collection of essays.
Funny story: I didn't know that when I started reading it. Having read many other Ehrenreich books, I was more than a little thrown by how disjointed this seemed... until I realized that it was a collection of essays, then it made sense.

The other drawback is that the book is 10 years old, and there are moments when that is readily apparent. Beyond the fact that she's talking about the Bush presidency, that is. There are some things that have dropped out of the national consciousness since the book was published, which can leave you wondering why that was even something being talked about at the time. Like the attack on Cabbage Patch dolls back in the 80s by Right-wing nutjobs. Not that that is in the book, but it's one of those things that, when you look back at it, it leaves you scratching your head "why?!?!"

That said, this book still has a point to make, and it's a point that needs to be made again and again until people realize they need to do something about it rather than wait for someone else to fix it for them. Especially since the someone they are hoping will fix the problem are the very ones who are the problem: the 1%.

Unfortunately, the book will also highlight for you many of the ways we are regressing back to all of the places we were 10 years ago. Like, say, health care. Which got better for a brief period with Obamacare but, which, now, is being killed slowly by Trump (#fakepresident) and his goons. Or, say, banks...

Look, "we" put Dodd-Frank in place to prevent banks from doing things like they did that caused the economic collapse a decade ago. You do remember that, right? It was so bad that people were just walking away from their homes. You haven't forgotten, have you? The answer, or part of it, was Dodd-Frank. Of course, the 1% want to be able to bleed everyone else for as much as they can get, and they don't much like regulations which protect the consumer so, again, Trump (#fakepresident) and his Republican death machine have undone much of what was put in place to protect everyone else.

Actually, when you look at what happened there with the banks, it's like they were merely put in a time out. They had a club they were beating on people with and had it taken away from them and told to go sit in the corner. All the Republicans went to go play in the corner with the banks until they could maneuver the club around to someone who would give it back to the banks. It's all really rather sickening and the sheep who make up the people who vote for Republicans and who can't see beyond the dog-whistle words of "abortion" and "guns" will contentedly continue to gnaw off their own legs rather then open their eyes and look at what's being done to them by people like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnel, and the ever-blazing Trumpster fire who thinks he's a president.

Yeah, okay, none of that last paragraph was in the book, because it was written more than a decade ago, but there are sections of the book that really resonate with what's happening right now, especially since Dodd-Frank is being dismantled right now, so you can see the return to the things she's talking about in the book.

Anyway... If you've read other Ehrenreich books and enjoyed them, you'll probably find this a good read. Besides, it's quick, especially if you read it as bites of essays here and there. If you haven't read Ehrenreich, go get a copy of Nickel and Dimed or Bright-sided and start with that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rebels: "Shroud of Darkness" (Ep. 2.18)

-- "Don't worry; I wouldn't do anything you would do."

A note before I start watching this episode:
I always pull the image for whatever episode I'm about to watch before I watch the episode. It's a bit of a teaser for the episode in question, but, usually, the images are fairly innocuous. You know, Ezra or Kanan standing with a lightsaber or something. Oh, but not this episode! This episode gave me the above image, which is hella cool! AND this episode has Vader and Ahsoka! So, yeah, I'm stoked for this one, so I'm going to go watch it now.
And, no, I don't know who those guys are in the image above, but I certainly want to find out!

After watching:
The guys in the picture? Jedi Temple Guards. So cool...
Evidently, the Grand Inquisitor was a fallen Jedi. And, possibly, a Temple Guard. That's probably a bit of a spoiler but not so much of one that I feel bad about saying it.

This is a big episode. Ahsoka, Vader, Yoda (yes, Yoda!), and, even, Anakin. Yes, Anakin is Vader so, of course, Anakin, but it also has Anakin before he was Vader. Let me explain:
Ezra walks in on Ahsoka watching old training holograms that Anakin had made. We find out that Ezra uses them for his training, and Ahsoka tells Ezra about Anakin as she knew him, not as the most fierce warrior of the Clone Wars. It's a very touching moment.

I really loved this episode.


I am reminded again how different this series is from Clone Wars. The very best episodes or story arcs in Clone Wars were the ones that dealt with questions, usually moral questions, but Rebels really doesn't have that. There is little to no moral ambiguity in this series. It's all about putting together a resistance movement against the Empire. It's, generally speaking, an action/adventure show. Also, there are no story arcs. Each episode is self contained. And, while I am enjoying Rebels, I miss the deeper questions that Clone Wars asked and seldom answered. The only real question we have in Rebels is whether Ezra will turn to the Dark Side or not, a question, actually, that this episode touches on.

Anyway, it leaves me feeling like my reviews for this series are nothing more than plot synopses, and I hate doing plot synopses. Anyone can do a plot synopsis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rebels: "The Honorable Ones" (Ep. 2.17)

-- "Keep it running in case things..."
"In case things go as they usually do?"

We return to Geonosis... to find it... dead. Lifeless. No bugs. No nothing.

Unfortunately, we don't get to find out why in this episode, but my guess is that Palpatine had them wiped out so that the information about the Death Star wouldn't leak out. They did design the thing, after all.

This episode is more of an Enemy Mine kind of thing with Zeb and Agent Kallus, Zeb's nemesis. Yeah, so what if I haven't been mentioning Kallus; you should be watching, then you'd know who he is. It's also not on me if you haven't seen Enemy Mine or know the reference. Where have you been?


Zeb and Kallus get stranded together on one of Genosis' moons and have to depend on each other if either of them are going to survive. Now, you know the reference. It's a good episode. They have to fight ice chickens. Maybe the two even learn some things about each other.

Mostly, though, I'm just hoping that this serves as the introduction to an arc where we get to find out what happened to the Genosians.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rebels: "Homecoming" (Ep. 2.16)

-- They're always on schedule.

Ah, we get some background on Hera, finally!
And some action to go along with it.

Evidently, Hera's father was a famous general on Ryloth during the Clone Wars. Actually, having seen the episodes he was in in The Clone Wars, I'm familiar with him as a character. And he went to be a famous general. Kanan is kind of in awe.

To make things interesting, Hera and her father don't get along. He's not for the Rebellion, only Ryloth, which puts them in conflict when Hera comes for help for a Rebel cause. Hera wants to steal an Imperial ship; Cham wants to blow it up. A symbolic gesture.

All that and we get to see Ezra do his first Jedi Mind Trick.

"Hang on!"
"I hate it when she says that."

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ultra-Violet (pictures I like)

Actually, I don't know if these are violets. I should take pictures of labels when things have them, and I kind of think that things in nature should all be labeled.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rebels: "The Call" (Ep. 2.15)

-- "It's not the strangest thing we've ever done."
"Yeah, that doesn't make me feel better."

So now we know that Jedi can survive and operate in the vacuum of space... unless Kanan and Ezra wear special "pressure clothes" just in case they need to space walk, but I'm going to go with the being functional in a vacuum. We kind of already knew that from an episode of Clone Wars, but, Plo Koon (at least, I think it was him, and I'm not looking back to verify) seemed to imply that was a very limited ability. All of that, or there was some kind of atmosphere around the asteroid they were on providing enough pressure to allow them to function without a suit? But not breathe. The breathing was definitely an issue.

Anyway... Space whales! This isn't the first time we've encountered giant creatures living out in the vacuum of space in Star Wars. Or even the second. The first, of course, being in The Empire Strikes Back and the giant space slug that wanted to eat the Falcon. Not to mention the mynocks.

This episode, the Ghost runs out of fuel. I have to wonder if this is where idiot Rian Johnson got the idea for an entire fleet of ships to all run out of fuel at the same time. Probably not. Anyway, as I said before, I don't have a problem with the fuel idea; it's that ALL OF THE SHIPS ran out of gas AT THE SAME TIME! This was much better. Just one ship running on fumes, not the whole fleet.

And what do rebels do when they're running low on fuel? Steal it from the Empire, of course.

"Sounds like a dangerous plan."
"Don't worry, buddy, you're staying here."
"Sounds like a good plan."

"There's no explosion. Why's there no explosion?"

"Next time we just plan on the plan changing."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Shadow's End (a book review post)

This is the third Tepper book I've read, and I'm beginning to sense a pattern. A pattern not in the stories themselves but in the themes. Of course, this is only the third book of hers I've read, so I could be completely wrong and what I'm picking up on could be isolated to only these three books (well, probably not just these three, because there are still two more books in the series with Grass, and I suspect the themes from the first book will carry into the other two); however, until proven otherwise, I'm going to go with these as common themes throughout her books:

  • Questioning women's traditional place in society and, through that, man's function in the world.
  • Telepathy. (Which seems weird to me but each of the three books I've read have had some sort of telepathy/empathy as a major thread in the story.)
  • Metamorphosis. (Which wasn't present explicitly in The Gate to Women's Country, but a case could be made for a metamorphosis metaphor in that book.)
Actually, let's throw in a fourth: apocalypse. Each book has dealt in some way with some sort of apocalyptic happening.

Shadow's End has an interesting perspective. It's a third person story told via first person much like, say, the Sherlock Holmes stories are told by Watson. This used to be a pretty common way to tell a story (see also The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Moby Dick among others), but we moved away from that as a society throughout the 20th century until, now, it's hardly ever used at all. It's a style that I like and find much more appealing than the glut of straightforward 1st person stories coming out over the last couple of decades.

The person telling the story tends to be someone who is mostly an observer, rarely taking direct action in the plot, as is the case in this book with Saluez. This allows a much more nuanced telling of the story, as you get, also, the perspective of the person narrating. I think it provides a much more flexible method of telling a story.

One of the ideas explored in this book is that of invisible people. I don't mean invisible people; I mean people who go about unseen. Saluez is one of these people, which makes her role of observer/narrator work quite well. There is a parallel here to, say, the maids at hotels being invisible people. I'm sure it's not an accident.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book; well, I enjoyed most of this book. The exploration of the Dinadhi people was really quite fascinating, and the book pulled me along as the story progressed. However, I was not fond of the ending, about the last 10% of the book. I don't really know much about Tepper other than that she started writing after she had retired from whatever it was she had done all of her life and that I've read three of her books. So, not knowing anything about the way she wrote, this books feels as if she wrote herself into a place that she didn't know how to get out of.

I don't know; maybe, she's like me and pretty much knows the ending before she starts writing the story, which would mean the ending was what she had in mind from the beginning, but it didn't feel that way. And it's not that the end is bad or anything; it was just... unsatisfying.

It's not enough to dissuade me from recommending the book, though; it's just not the Tepper book I would say you should start with if you're going to check out her books. Go get yourself a copy of The Gate to Women's Country and give it a read.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rebels: "Legends of the Lasat" (Ep. 2.14)

-- I want them alive.

Hondo's back!

Maybe that's all that needs to be said about this episode. That's all I need to know to want to watch an episode, after all.

Plus, this episode has the best music of any Rebels or Clone Wars episode so far.

Hondo rescues or finds or something -- it's really unclear, considering it's Hondo -- a couple of Lasat and, well, being Hondo, he decides to play the two sides against each other so that he can get paid twice. You know, being Hondo.

And that's all I'm going to say. It's fun. You should watch it.

"Well, this must look incriminating."

"Wait, I'm the child? I wanted to be the warrior!"

"A maze?! You never said anything about a maze. You prophecy types always pull something like this."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Black Panther, the New Star Wars? (a movie review post)

I'm not going to try to make a "best movie ever" case for Black Panther. It's quite an excellent movie, but there are movies I think are better, even other Marvel movies, for whatever reason, though Black Panther rather solidly lands in my top five from Marvel. It's hard to argue "best," at any rate; it's too subjective. It's too favorite.

That said, I think Panther may be the most significant movie since Star Wars, and I think, from a cultural standpoint, that Star Wars (I am talking A New Hope here) has been the most significant movie ever made. Initially, the perspective on Star Wars was merely that it had changed the way movies were made, and it certainly did that; however, Star Wars has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist in a way that no other movie ever has, including supporting the Boomer viewpoint of technology being dangerous and suspicious and untrustworthy. Trust the Force, not your targeting computer.

But that's a post for another time.

The thing about Star Wars is that it was different. Not just the technology behind it, but the appeal of the story. And let's not forget the irony of a movie using cutting edge technology to tell a story about the evils of technology and how we all need to get back to our mystic roots. Feel the Force. The story also appealed to a more basic... instinct, the heroic lure of the young male. It was all about how you could make it on your own if you just... trusted. Trusted yourself. Trusted fate. The Force. God. Whatever it is that is bigger than yourself that wanted your success despite your own efforts to derail it. It was different, and it helped to bring about a new cultural viewpoint that elevated the self above all else. Or, at least, it reinforced that Boomer self focus and made it seem not just okay but preferable.

In that same way, Black Panther is different, but Panther is different in the opposite direction. Where Star Wars says it's all about the hero's journey, Black Panther says it's about community. You can't do it on your own. Where Star Wars says it's about magic, faith, the Force; Panther says it's about technology: (See the scene where Ross wakes up from the medical bed.) I suppose it's still about defeating the evil Empire, though, whatever form that takes.

Look, I get it. I get that a lot of you out there don't understand what the big deal is. When Star Wars came out, my grandmother (who took me to see it) didn't understand what the big deal was either. As a movie, all on its own, isolated, Black Panther doesn't cover any new ground. The special effects aren't anything special, which is not to say that they're not spectacular; they just don't do anything new, but, then, I have a hard time seeing how we're actually going to see anything new in special effects any time soon.

The real effect of the movie is the nearly all black cast, and that is an amazing thing. Sure, yes, I get that there have been other movies with all black casts and you can't figure out the big deal. What makes this one different? Unfortunately, if that's a thing you can't see, I don't know how to explain it to you. You just have to realize that it is different and accustom yourself to the idea that things may change. Things may change in the way movies are made, and things may change culturally. Not right away, sure -- it did take 20 years for the full effect of Star Wars to start being felt -- but eventually.

It will be a good thing if, in 20 years, we can look back and say that, yes, Black Panther has had a lasting cultural influence. It opened doors for people of color that has long been closed. It opened doors for women that had long been closed. It helped push open the door to equality for all people that had long been held closed by white men.

Which brings us to the story of the movie, the Make Wakanda Great Again conflict. The conflict of the movie is reflective our current societal conflict and whether or not you should support your country even when it's doing the wrong thing, as if it's some all or nothing choice (as the Republicans seem to believe). This is all summed up in one very powerful exchange which goes something like this:
"If you love your country, you will serve it."
"I love my country so I will save it!"

Speaking of power, I believe the most powerful moment of the movie is possibly overlooked due to how understated it is. So as not to present it in a spoilery way -- but, if you've seen the movie, you should understand the part I mean -- I'll say it this way:
An old white man looks at T'Challa and says, basically, "What do you, a black man, have to offer that can possibly be of interest to us white people?" Yes, I know that's not what he said, but that was the context. It's what white men have been saying to black men for hundreds of years. To all people of color. As Black Panther shows, people of color have more to offer than we can imagine. We just have to give them room to do it.