10 Terrible Words that Shouldn’t Exist in Any Language

Digital text-illustration: 10 Terrible WordsOne person who hates is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. One who cares and shares? Perhaps the only antidote.

As I recently said to my friend Maryam: poverty—both of concrete, material resources like food and shelter, and of intellectual and ephemeral resources (education, spiritual enrichment, the arts, community engagement, etc)—seems to me to be perpetrated and perpetuated more by selfishness than by an actual shortage of any of those resources. The rich and powerful always want more riches and power, and what they do have makes them able to afford and acquire more and to keep their feet firmly on the backs of the have-nots. Plenty is never enough. The resulting imbalance is as old as history, and rotten as ever. Only those who will speak up and resist entrenched inequities and injustices will have any hope of making change.Photo montage: Wolverine & Badger

The badger and the wolverine have a reputation for being among the most tenaciously savage brutes of all the mammals. Yeah, Honey Badger even has his own meme to show for it. But let’s be honest: no beast of earth, air, or sea has a capacity for vile, rapacious cruelty rivaling that of the human animal. Even creatures of the natural enmity of predator and prey compete, fight, kill, and are sated. They have little apparent ideation of hatred and war to match people’s. A wolverine or badger will fight to defend, or to kill for food, but unlike the human, doesn’t seem inclined to attack indiscriminately outside of its primal needs for safety, shelter, and food; when the skirmish is done as efficiently as possible and the need assuaged, the sharpest of tooth and reddest of claw among them doesn’t do an end-zone dance to celebrate its pleasure in winning but will usually depart the scene or go to rest for the next time of need. The remaining food and shelter and other resources stay in place for whatever creature comes next, hunter or hunted, cousin or not.

Can we humans not learn from such a thing? I’m pretty sure that if we destroy each other and ourselves in our constant self-righteous, self-congratulatory belief that we deserve everything we can get our hands on, Honey Badger won’t be the only creature that doesn’t care.

Dirty Jobs, but Never Done Dirt Cheap

The world is truly full of overlooked and underpaid laborers.
Photo: Housekeeping Cart

This is a story as old as human community, and yet it’s notable how little it’s changed. The ugliest, dirtiest, the most physically demanding and unpleasant tasks, the ones that no one in his or her right mind would usually choose to do, let alone without any recognition or reasonable pay, these jobs don’t cease to exist because nobody likes them. They simply get done by people who have no other choice. And do we thank them for it? Do we give them public honor and paychecks commensurate with the knowledge and patience and back-breaking effort and yes, specialized skills that are required of them?

You know the answer. In this country, we spend more time and energy on vilifying the working poor as nuisances and a weight around the necks of their higher-taxpaying richer neighbors, at best. At worst, we accuse them of criminality, many of coming into the country illegally—which they may well have done—to snatch bread from the very lips of our own better educated and better protected children through their stealing jobs from the local citizenry. Which, of course, they rarely do, considering that neither we nor said children are willing and able to do without the jobs that the working poor do for us, let alone perform those tasks ourselves. Never mind that those we abhor for daring to come across the nation’s borders unseen are doing precisely what the vast majority of our own ancestors did, and out of the same desperation for survival, but now with the additional barrier of laws designed more out of fear and hatred than out of specific plans to better the safety and welfare of any of the parties involved.

If immigrants could remotely afford the risky business of taking a national day of “working poor flu,” the way that unionized workers go on strike or recognized organizations march in protest, just imagine what that day would look like across the United States. I don’t begin to think that there’s an easy solution to the problems of regulating this country, protecting individuals and the nation from the very real danger of criminal activity and the bane of individualism gone rogue. The latter being, in my opinion, a far larger risk to the rest of us from among native-born citizens who take their American privileges as the right to do as they please, even by force and against US governmental “interference” with their personal sovereignty. But I can’t believe that the draconian and targeted proposals many suggest these days are the right solution, either.

Let our internal renegades, our legal complainants against immigrants, and all foes of the “lazy” or “problematic” working poor themselves take up the labor and care required to ensure that every one of their fellow Americans has enough food to eat, education to navigate life and progress beyond restrictive ignorance, health care to prevent the spread of diseases and unnecessary pain or early death, and a safe, clean place to sleep without fear of exposure to the elements, destruction of their environment, or unfriendly intruders. Then I might start thinking we can narrow the gates to allow in only primly approved new neighbors able to contribute equally to the cause. Or would anybody out there like to see what happens on that imagined Flu Day, when all of the orderlies, cooks, construction workers, landscape maintenance crews, sanitation workers, child- and elder-caregivers, and all of their fellow underpaid workers lay down their tools and lie down on the job for even 24 hours?

I surely don’t know the solution to any, let alone all, of the problems that roll up into this one massive puzzle we have sitting on our doorstep. But I know that I will try to do better at giving proper respect and thanks, and a hand up when possible, to anyone who does what I can’t or won’t do myself. My life depends upon it.

If You don’t Like the Weather, Wait a Minute

photoHave you ever seen a pigeon flying backward? I did today. This phenomenal occurrence was not because I spotted a mutant genius helicopter pigeon; that really might be a matter for tales of magic and fantasy, given the modern pigeon’s brain.

It was that windy. The pigeon was making a valiant effort to take off from the edge of a roof and, blown instead straight backward, finally saw the same edge directly under him and came right back in for a landing. What’re you gonna do?

The wind is giving us a good whack here in north Texas today. Two days ago, it was over 80°F/27°C, brilliantly sunny, and calm as a sleeping cat. Tonight, we’re told, we can expect freezing temperatures and should cover all of our tender plants in the garden. A couple of days before our balmy pseudo-summer day, we had a storm pass through. Parts of our town had a little thunder and lightning and a fair amount of rain with a little bit of hail mixed in it, but nothing extravagant by local standards. Our house was in that lucky sector, and so was our car while we drove home in The Weather. Just across town, others were not so fortunate: some had hail the size of golf balls or larger, and tornado-like gusts, and among the downed trees and limbs there were homes where the roofs were destroyed or caved in, cars were damaged or totaled by metal-dimpling all over and glass smashed through, and interiors soaked with the rain and debris thrown in through the broken windows.

We’re torn, in more ways than strictly the physical, around here.

We crave every drop of H2O that we can squeeze out of the sky; even after a relatively mild number of months, our lake levels continue to be well below their norms, some still fully in drought status. It’s not considered a plus if you can drive directly to where your boat is moored, in case anyone wondered. All the same, if the moisture is dumped all at once as though shot through giant firehoses, it doesn’t always stay where it’s needed but instead causes flash floods, undermines foundations, uproots vegetation and breaks down buildings and roads left and right.

Doesn’t matter what you call it—climate change, global warming, a thirty-year cycle, or evil pixies run amok—the weather all around this wonderful, messy planet is more extreme than it had been for much of recent history. The extremes are more extreme, the heat and cold, the wind and dead stillness, the flooding and droughts. Only the inconsistency of the weather seems to be more, well, consistent.

All somewhat amusing, if the worst one experiences is the occasional sighting of a pigeon flying backward. But of course, that’s the least of it. Ask our neighbors who sustained major damage to house, car and property all at once last week. Ask the people—the peoples—displaced by tornado and typhoon, those who have lost home and family to the floods and famines that massacre everyone in their paths throughout whole regions.

I don’t much care about whether we’re partly to blame for the seeming extra intensity of nature’s capriciousness and fury at this point. It’s not all that different, in my mind, from all of the displacements, distortions and destruction in history that we can absolutely attribute to human invasion, conquest, greed, prejudice, ignorance and evil. As horrible as that stuff all, genuinely, is, it is: it exists, already. What matters is what we do now in order not to perpetuate the ills, and better yet, to mitigate them as best we can. We can’t undo history, and we can’t control nature. But we can and should change our attitudes, practices and beliefs (and the governing processes needed to support those societal improvements appropriately) in whatever ways will support a far better world, one where wars, rape, murder, slavery, thievery, violence and all sorts of other horrible human actions are not only universally condemned but undesirable to enact.

And, since we expect that we, and those generations who succeed us, will continue to need to live on this specific planet and its resources, hadn’t we better think up some less selfish and more practical ways of easing the effects of nature just as much as our effects on it? We won’t likely figure out how to stop the wind from blowing with great intensity, floods from filling valleys, hail from pelting like rocks out of the sky, or lightning from searing and exploding whatever it can lay its fiery fingertip on, but if we put our minds to it, maybe we can think up some reasonable ways to protect more people, and care for those who are affected, better.

I didn’t really start out with the intent of rambling on about this stuff, but it’s on my mind. Probably not so different from the pigeon’s reaction when he discovered his original flight plan wasn’t viable. Can I fly backward? I don’t know. But I’ll bet it’s worth trying, if I find myself needing to make an emergency landing. No matter how the wind is blowing.photo

Death is Never Out of Season

photoDid I worry you for a second? Never fear, friends; I’m not going to be a big old humbug, let alone a grand tragedian, here. It’s just that, living where I live, I’m always in the shadow of some circling or perching vulture sussing out his or her next all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m pretty sure that I too would look fairly delish if I just had the kindness to croak somewhere out in the open within a vulture’s purview, yet they don’t turn up their beaks in disdain at smaller game. So I can get a regular reminder of my mortality just by looking over in the tall grass next to the road, where there is often a vulture or two munching on someone else’s gnarly remains, any time I need said reminder.

I am, as you’ve seen if you’ve spent any time around this blog, of the school that still has an appreciation for a good memento mori as a reminder of the fine and great and joyful things that being Not Dead can have to offer. It’s just about time for the biggest holidays of the year in many cultures, and as workers in the life-supporting jobs that include medicine and law enforcement and social services will tell you, depression, health crises (both physical and mental), family violence, crime and all sorts of other terrible social ills tend to peak. Unreasonable schedules and outsized expectations of delirious happiness around holidays and other celebrations are practically doomed to failure, and even those who are fairly realistic about their expectations may have actually built in a sort of assumption of disaster that only adds to their stress.

Letting go of a lot of this overwhelming and impractical perfectionism and most of the silly entitled assumptions that the world owes me satisfaction and pleasure has greatly simplified my life. It has certainly lightened the load of worry and wishing. And every time I walk under the perch of a local vulture and look up at it as a fellow living creature, I am thrilled to pieces that I have the greatest way of all to celebrate whatever holidays and special occasions I want to enjoy: alive. Not particularly wanting, not overburdened with Stuff and needs and promises I can’t keep, and simply, happily Alive. Just having one of those massive birds circle over my head without interest in me as an entree reminds me that death is close at hand, since the avian beast is clearly keeping a keen eye on something nearby that is already deliciously deceased, yet also says that I am not quite yet on that side of the equation and can go on to enjoy my holidays. Kind of makes every day seem more worth the celebrating.

Foodie Tuesday: Wine, Dark & Light

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Close observation magnifies everything, both the good and the bad.

One day in the wine aisle of the local store I had occasion to observe a striking study in contrasts.

As I drifted along in search of a couple of bottles for an upcoming dinner party, I couldn’t avoid overhearing two twenty-something guys as one told the other quite volubly that he was hoping he could fine a lawyer good enough to negotiate him out of Resisting Arrest charges if he pleaded guilty to the Driving Under the Influence charge. There were a whole slew of reasons I was horrified to hear this conversation. First of all, it was yet another example of the loss of social inhibition that saddens and frustrates me these days; how is it acceptable to discuss personal, legal, private matters in normal tones and in great detail in a public place like a grocery store?

I was privy, however unwillingly, to details like the confessor’s noting his level of drunkenness as having been so profound that three hours later when he was having blood tests in the hospital he was still unable to speak clearly, and his friend’s commiseration for apparently having had a similar experience. What I did not overhear, not once, was any indication of regret, remorse or contrition. This was all discussed pretty much in the same manner as they might have recounted a tedious everyday hassle at the office. No sense anywhere in this that the guys themselves could’ve been killed or maimed, or property been damaged or destroyed, let alone that they had opted to put everyone in their proximity at the same risks by choosing to get behind the wheel.

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Of course, when seen so clearly, some things, and people, turn out to be just a bunch of drips.

Talk about, no pun intended, a sobering time.

But I drink alcohol, too. It’s just that I find the idea of drinking past where it’s for taste into where the drink starts making my decisions for me repugnant. I drink specifically to taste.

So it was a startling, and rather refreshing, change of pace when the offending fools finally vacated the aisle and I was approached by a very gracious young woman who asked me politely for advice to a neophyte on choosing red wines. Her adorable toddler daughter sat cheerily and peaceably in the shopping cart throughout what turned into a fairly lengthy conversation, because of course I was suddenly acutely aware of all sorts of questions I’d not considered in a long time. It seems that this lady had a companion who was encouraging her to broaden her horizons and join him in his enjoyment of red wines, and she was accustomed only to cocktail liquor. That’s admittedly a pretty big leap for a palate, whether you’re used to straight vodka or mixed drinks with it as an ingredient.

What could I say that would be of any use to her at all?

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Wine choosing is so hard to learn. Is it *true* that eggs and wine are *always* terrible companions?

Start, yes, with the idea that wines have enormous range in terms of flavors, intensities and affinities–there can be something for nearly every taste and occasion. This, coupled with the personality of wine being perhaps even more of an acquired taste than fruity, herbal or spicy cocktails even when those are made high-octane with something like vodka, is hugely intimidating. Wine snobs do nothing to dispel the fears, with their wacky vernacular of nose and legs, drinkable cement and tar and leather, and huffiness toward anyone drinking anything not Serious or trendy enough.

Finally I did think to tell her that the only really useful and non-terrifying way I’ve learned about red wines other than over a long, long time is to turn to that friendlier set of ‘experts’, those who have an interest in selling you wines. I rarely think of salespeople as my first choice for information resources, but in the (pun intended, this time) case of wine merchants, their vested interest in selling their wares and further, in making them appealing and accessible to a wide audience, makes them a bit more willing and artful educators on the subject than experts who have only themselves to please.

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I mean, sheesh, there are so many red wines; what on earth is my ideal one to drink with a grass-fed skirt steak?

That’s what moved me to tell the nice lady not to risk her hard-earned cash on bottle by bottle experimentation but to seek out the local venues that offer wine tastings. A series of sips, and any amount of snob-sanctioned spitting that it takes to keep sanely sober and free of swallowing swill, is a far quicker way to get a hint of what one actually likes than any other.

Get thee to a wine tasting! My palate is far from sophisticated, but I’ve learned enough over time about what I do and don’t enjoy in wines that I can choose–red or white or any other color, still or bubbly, dry or sweet, or distinct in any other way–with some confidence that I’ll enjoy what I taste. One good glass at a time. Meanwhile, don’t forget to read, too. Not only can articles and even wine labels themselves tell you a lot of useful stuff you might find helpful in your search for deliciousness, as any of you reading this blog would undoubtedly know, being veteran web researchers, there are now a huge number of online resources devoted to oenophilic wisdom.

Most importantly, trust yourself and do what suits you. You might find, after all of the effort and education, that wine is simply Not Your Thing. Why on earth waste time and money (and, potentially, healthy sobriety) on something that doesn’t suit you! You may very well find, if you do like wines that the wines you enjoy most aren’t those that the critics and suave sophisticates admire and tout. If so, feel free to come slumming with me. I’m sure I have a bottle or two in my tiny collection that would make any expert swoon with horror, yet I am more than content to keep sipping at what I like because I like it. And I have been through a few wine tastings, done a bit of reading, and spent plenty of adult years getting the experience that has taught me what I do like, and that it’s perfectly okay to like what wines I like and drink them, no matter what anyone else thinks. Including having a cocktail or beer instead, if that’s my mood.

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Two drink-related things I *am* pretty sure about involve salt: 1, avoid that hideous abomination purporting to be ‘cooking wine’ that is really just cheap vino with salt added to it (as wiser folk have admonished, if it ain’t worth drinking, it ain’t worth cooking with it); 2, salt can, conversely, be quite friendly with tequila or beer if applied properly. See also: Margaritas, Coronitas…

I Won a Zillion Dollars! SERIOUSLY???

photoScams are as old as human interaction. I can only assume that among the first hunter-gatherer people wandering this great globe there were some who quickly discovered that if they used certain diversionary or distracting tactics or played the Needy card even when they’d just been gnawing on a good fat hunk of food, some softhearted other would hand over his or her hard-earned goodies. The more purportedly sentient and sophisticated we get, the more elaborate the flimflam. Bamboozling and outright fraud and thievery are well honed skills among those so inclined. And we who live in Bloglandia know better than most what rich tillage is available for such nefarious labors if the tricksters and crooks are even the least bit techno-savvy.

As a blogger I am the not so proud owner of a spam filter that scoops up as many as several dozen phishing and monetary theft attempts in any single day. One of the aspects that makes me especially irritated is the irksome knowledge that unlike promotional and advertising spam–tiresome enough–scam emails offer no possible way for me to Unsubscribe from their persistent and pernicious pestering. If I should be so foolish as to respond with an angry Unsubscribe letter of my own, and yes, of course I’ve done it just to let off steam, odds are astronomically against there being a human at the other end of the equation rather than the helpfully designed automation that considers any reply a positive one and an invitation for further encouragement to Send Money to the phisherman or woman on the other end of the hook, line and sinker.

Bad enough that I should have to waste my time cleaning out multitudes of junk emails. I know, too, that sending along any evidence of this sort of thing to any kind of authorities is futile, and of course the perpetrators of the intended crime also know it full well. As soon as there’s the slightest hint of danger, such lurkers dart off to new pseudonyms and reroute their emails, disappearing without a trace until the next move is necessitated, leaving a wake of idle dalliances and false promises broader than any black widow‘s.

photoThat comparison, though, is apt enough, since the intent is to play upon vulnerable people’s sympathy, greed and loneliness just far enough to get them to surrender the largest amount of cash and personal information the con artist can manage to accrue before leaving like a sneeze: at high velocity and with the victim left covered only in his own shame and sorrow. That these scams work best against the elderly, the young, the inexperienced and the poor is certainly one of the greatest of sins committed by Scam Scum. The amount of creativity involved in developing their villainous schemes, while it could of course be put to higher and kinder uses, seems to me to be lessening with the ease of perpetration offered by anonymous technology.

What quickly became known years ago as the Nigerian scam, for example, has veered only so far as to another part of an equally fictional version of Africa, as my current roster of letters almost always references Benin rather than Nigeria–but the rest of the content remains constant. Plug in new names and change two or three of the variables, and surely someone, even one who knows by now to be wary of references to Nigeria, will respond, and all’s well in the world of easy money. Those who use the cloak of putative widow- or widower-hood, political or religious persecution, or just plain blind trust to approach strangers and ask for help in securing and using massive funds do the very same. I can cite in particular one ‘Mary Mohomed’ who has continued to send me variations on her theme of pretend benevolence repeatedly, even under the same name, claiming an intimacy with me that even in my dotage of 50+ is hilariously impossible to believe of a total stranger. ‘She’ and her obvious relatives ‘Mrs. Rose Daniel’, ‘Mr. David May’, and ‘Mrs. Grace Ike’, along with numerous others–remarkably friendly Doctors, Ambassadors and (lest I be suspicious) officers of various trustworthy government agencies here and abroad, all love me and care for my welfare so deeply that they are willing to seek me out without introduction and invite my participation in ever so many worthy causes, all to be remunerated beyond-generously. And all for a teeny, tiny, infinitesimal, nominal, negligible fee on my part to get the party started.

Now, I will admit to a certain level of entertainment inherent in reading these letters, if and when I occasionally stoop to do so. Besides the intriguing effort to vary the plot line (a transparent practice that results in the virtual equivalent of visible panty lines or the Mad Libs sort of method certain serial novelists are said to use to rework one story into multiple books) email scam letters are loaded with typos, bad grammar and incorrect usage that, while it perhaps does reflect badly on the current state of language in the US and other English speaking locales, often provides hilarious unintentional asides. Today’s prizewinner in this phishing derby is the following letter, which clearly presumes that I would believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has an interest in seeing that I, an unknown but obviously well loved citizen of the Bureau’s own country, receive a sum of money won at random (yes, without my even trying) outside of its own jurisdiction from a lottery in a country not named and the coffers of a generically named pretend gaming Company, and discovered by, I am supposed to suppose, the purposeful working of the Bureau’s own fantastic newfangled machine whose purpose is apparently to monitor activities that are, again, outside of its purview. If that isn’t catchy and convoluted enough for a really cheesy Movie of the Week, I don’t know what is. But I’m glad I’ll have my $2.4million USD handy now to fund the making of said movie. Thanks, FBI! So glad it’ll only cost me $96 of my own money up front to get all of this in perfect order.

Anti-Terrorist And Monetary Crimes Division
FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation
J.Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
http://www.fbi.gov

ATTENTION: BENEFICIARY

This e-mail has been issued to you in order to Officially inform you that we have completed an investigation on an
International Payment in which was issued to you by an International Lottery Company. With the help of our newly
developed technology (International Monitoring Network System) we discovered that your e-mail address was automatically
selected by an Online Balloting System, this has legally won you the sum of $2.4million USD from a Lottery Company
outside the United States of America. During our investigation we discovered that your e-mail won the money from an
Online Balloting System and we have authorized this winning to be paid to you via INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT.

Normally, it will take up to 5 business days for an INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT by your local bank. We have
successfully notified this company on your behalf that funds are to be drawn from a registered bank within the world
winded, so as to enable you cash the check instantly without any delay, henceforth the stated amount of $2.4million USD
has been deposited with IMF.

We have completed this investigation and you are hereby approved to receive the winning prize as we have verified the
entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free, due to the fact that the funds have been deposited with IMF  you will
be required to settle the following bills directly to the Lottery Agent in-charge of this transaction whom is located in
Cotonou, Benin Republic. According to our discoveries, you were required to pay for the following,

(1) Deposit Fee’s ( IMF INTERNATIONAL CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE )
(3) Shipping Fee’s ( This is the charge for shipping the Cashier’s Check to your home address)

The total amount for everything is $96.00 We have tried our possible best to indicate that this $96.00 should be
deducted from your winning prize but we found out that the funds have already been deposited IMF and cannot be accessed
by anyone apart from you the winner, therefore you will be required to pay the required fee’s to the Agent in-charge of
this transaction

In order to proceed with this transaction, you will be required to contact the agent in-charge ( Mr. Nicholas Smith )
via e-mail. Kindly look below to find appropriate contact information:

CONTACT AGENT NAME: Mr. Nicholas Smith
E-MAIL : revnicholassmith1@yahoo.com.tr
PHONE NUMBER: +22996334110

You will be required to e-mail him with the following information:

FULL NAME:
ADDRESS:
CITY:
STATE:
ZIP CODE:
DIRECT CONTACT NUMBER:
OCCUPATION:

You will also be required to request Western Union or Money Gram details on how to send the required $96.00  in order to
immediately ship your prize of $2.4million USD via INTERNATIONAL CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT from IMF, also include the
following transaction code in order for him to immediately identify this transaction : EA2948-910.

This letter will serve as proof that the Federal Bureau Of Investigation is authorizing you to pay the required $96.00
ONLY to Mr. Nicholas Smith  via information in which he shall send to you,

Mr. Robert Mueller
Federal Bureau of Investigation F B I
Yours in Service,Photograph of Director
Robert S. Mueller, IIIRobert S. Mueller,
III Director Office of Public Affairs

And if you believe all that, I give you free of charge this magnificent bank vault in which you too can store all of your wealth. Enjoy!photo