What do you want out of life???
I don’t know if I’ll try to answer that question. But I do know this: Watch both Zeitgeist movies, a few choice TED videos, and finish it off with the Story of Stuff and you might just say, “Brother, it sure as hell ain’t this!” And then depression sets in…
In my study of gerbils I have pondered mysteries both great and deep.
For Abyss newbies:
“Gerbil” is the term I have coined for younglings that fail to empty nest on schedule. And then, later, when they belatedly emerge from the nest sans high school diploma and any discernable life plan, they do things like go on food stamps, obtain medical marijuana cards (sore back), drink lots of alcohol, sleep until 5pm, stay up until 5am, take pictures of themselves smoking and post them on Facebook, and avoid jobs, school and self-improvement at all costs.
That’s the modern genus of gerbil that I am familiar with.
A Rush song famously said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Indeed. The modern gerbil lifestyle is a choice!
I took a gerbil aside one day and offered words that I thought, in my hubris, might somehow be wise.
Trust me on this. It ain’t easy coming back from a gerbil bite.
You’re sitting in your car at a red light. In the lane next to you is a driver in another car.
Question: Does it matter how he got there?
If you’re the typical and average obliviot, the answer is no. You’re too busy yapping on your cell phone, texting, fiddling with the radio, playing with your cigarette lighter, or daydreaming. To you, the guy is just another driver. When the light turns green, it takes a couple of seconds to pierce your consciousness, then you slowly accelerate on your way. Meanwhile, the guy next to you punched it like a drag racer when the light turned green, easily got in front of you, and now you’re eating his dust and slowing to a stop as he makes the next turn.
Whoa. What just happened?
Scenario: You’re on a one-way street with two lanes and sitting at a red light. There are two possibilities for how that car got next to you. Either he was always in that lane or he was originally in your lane, saw you at the red light, saw the open lane, and made the switcharoo.
What’s the difference?
To the obliviot driver, the answer is none.
But what about the driver with 360 degrees of zen awareness? To him, there’s a big difference. You see, he knows that if the other driver was originally in his lane, then the odds are high that he’ll want to be back. In other words, that other guy wants the same lane but is changing just because the other lane is open. And, the chances are high that he’ll want to be back. In fact, he may even want to make that turn one block hence, forcing you to eat his ass.
I know. That’s not very nice of him but most drivers can’t resist being in that #1 spot.
Television commercials propagate this. They always show their wares flying around like little lightning bolts, always in motion, and usually never another car in sight. They somehow seem to know that showing their product on the 405 with 10-miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic in every direction and a top speed of 1 mph isn’t quite as exciting.
So yeah, to a zen driver like me, it makes a difference how that driver got there. Because I don’t want to have to ride my brakes just because another asshole wanted to save one-half of a second on his drive.
While I’m sitting at that red light I know exactly what that other guy may be up to, since I watched him originally approach in my lane then switch to the other lane. I watched him in my mirrors. I know where he was and I can guess what he might be up to.
Here’s the fun part. I used to drive a typical four-cylinder piece of shit and I’d punch it and try to block that asshole, but he’d easily out-power me and take “my” space. I always imagined he was cackling with glee, too.
Now, though, I am the captain of an American-made vessel with a whopping eight-cylinders. When I lay that pedal on the floor, it’s a very rare vehicle indeed that can still get ahead of me. I don’t drive the fastest thing on the road but 99% of the time, it is enough. And those are the moments that make life worth living.
Since I’m passive-aggressive, I keep it subtle. I’m on to his game but he isn’t necessarily aware of mine. So I ease on that sucker just enough to block him out. The fun part is keeping it even with his rear bumper. He can taste it but just can’t get the room to make his move.
Sometimes they’ll catch on and put the pedal to the metal and get a short lead. I respond in kind, more than keeping my distance and edging them out. That’s when they “know.” They realize that they aren’t just dealing with an average sucker obliviot. Then, that fantastical moment when the resign themselves to their fate, ease off the gas, and start to drift back. A car-length away, they finally make their move and get behind me. Then they make their little turn.
Splash another bogey! Deep six, yo, motherfucka.
Tom’s Law #42
The odds of a driver (who is making a turn within the next block) changing to the empty lane are exponentially proportional to the number of cars in his lane.
If the driver wants to turn right within a block and the right lane is empty there’s almost a 100% chance the driver won’t change lanes. (It’s never 100% because at least .44% of drivers are legally insane.)
With just one car in the way, that percentage drops to 90%. In other words, 10% of drivers will try make that aggressive maneuver and cut the other driver off to make their turn.
With just two cars ahead, that percentage jumps to 30%. By the time there are seven cars or more in the same lane, there is statistically not a driver in the world, even the most timid, that can resist that open lane. It’s just human nature. It’s almost like they say, “I know I’m going to miss my lane, but that lane is open. How often am I going to get a chance like this?”
Practice your zen, my friends. Stay thirsty.
Vows, marriage and slavery
When I saw the headline that Mitt Romney had refused to sign a “marriage vow” it immediately got my attention. Did this mean he was going to actually support gay marriage, or if not (and more likely) at least not stand opposed?
A group called “The Family Leader” produced and circulated a document called “The Marriage Vow” that they hoped presidential candidates would sign. In addition to many other things, it asks candidates to support a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman throughout the United States.
Mitt Romney declined to sign the vow. So far, so has Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, and Jon Huntsman.
So who did sign? Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.
Perhaps if the document was limited solely to dealing with marriage issues more would have signed it.
Weirdly, it introduces the issue of race and slavery into the mix. As you might expect, that has created a shitstorm of controversy. What could slavery possibly have to do with a discussion about the definition of “marriage” here in the year 2011?
The original version of the document is quick to point out (in the very first bullet point) that “a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent-household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
One thing seems certain, at least to me. Some people sure seem to sit around and think a lot about race. An awful lot.
So, what’s their point? That has been the subject of much speculation since this document was released. (Note: The group has since published the “final” version of The Marriage Vow and the bullet point pertaining to slavery has mysteriously disappeared.)
Their factoid about slavery and 1860 may be true, but even if it is, what relevance does that have to a discussion about the definition of marriage in the here and now? It’s not like going back in time to 1860 is possible, right?
Also, it is intellectually dishonest to cherry-pick a single fact to prove that something was better than it is now. Only a complete viewpoint can do that. We have to ask ourselves: Were children born as slaves in 1860 better off than children born to unwed parents since 2008? If anyone answers “yes” to that question, I think it is fair to ask, just what in the name of hell are they advocating.
The fight against gay marriage can sure take some weird twists and turns.
Crazy Google ride
Sunday was a crazy day for this humble blog. It was briefly noticed by the outside world.
I woke up and turned on my computer. The top story was one about a horrific accident at an off-road race where a truck went off-course and killed eight people. It was one of those stories where one piece of coverage just isn’t enough. I read several different news sources.
As I did this, I noticed that none of the stories had a word to say about the driver of the truck involved. The driver wasn’t identified, but even beyond that, the journalists didn’t mention a driver at all.
Finally I found a story that said the driver’s name wasn’t being released yet.
This puzzled me. Not that fact that the name wasn’t being released; that seemed routine. No, what puzzled me was the fact that so many journalists seemed to forget that one of the most basic components of any news story is supposed to be “who.” If they didn’t know the name yet they should have included a line saying something along the lines of: “The name of the driver has not been released.”
Good journalism will cover the 5W1H: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How.
I figured that the omission of “who” by some journalists was probably a combination of a hectic breaking new story and the desire to get the story out in a timely fashion, i.e., to get the “scoop.”
I remembered seeing a picture of the truck in coverage by the Los Angeles Times. I went back and found that photo. The truck was upside down. I loaded the image in Photoshop and rotated it 180 degrees. I was now able to clearly read the words “Misery Motorsports” on the side of the truck.
From there it was an easy trail. First I Googled the MySpace page of Misery Motorsports and got the name Brett Sloppy, age 28. I then determined that the California 200 race was governed by an organization known as MDR Racing. I went to the official MDR web site which was functioning intermittently, no doubt because it was being overloaded by curious visitors like me. On that web site I found a PDF file of race participants and saw that Brett Sloppy was listed. I was now reasonably sure I had the name of the driver.
Now, I’m not claiming this was any Sherlock Holmes caliber of investigation. But it did get me the probable name of the driver. It was still early Sunday morning and I wanted to publish what I had learned. So I monkey-pounded my keyboard and attempted to put my typical Abyss-spin on it. I was careful, however, that when I published the name I noted how I had come by the information and that it was not information that was confirmed.
When I checked on the blog a little while later I realized that my blog traffic was at an unprecedented level. I did some checking and found that I was #2 in Google for the phrase “misery motorsports” (without the quotation marks). For a breaking news story this was huge search engine position. I’m still amazed at how quickly my WordPress postings can get into the Google index. Phrases like “mdr crash” and “brett sloppy” were #2 and #3 for my incoming traffic but very small compared to “misery motorsports.”
Today my search position for these phrases has slipped considerably as big-time web sites like The Huffington Post have now covered them.
Sunday is now officially in the books. Due to this traffic spike my blog set a new single day record. The traffic was 13 times my normal average and I’m still seeing the effects. So far today my blog is already 3 times higher than normal traffic levels.
I have to say I don’t normally go after breaking news stories with traffic in mind, and I was very surprised by this result. It was decidedly not a goal of mine when I decided to add my two cents about the tragic accident. I’m still not sure if the extra traffic is a good thing or not. I suspect that very few, if any, of the people who read yesterday’s post will be intrigued enough to stick around and become regular readers.
Still, I found the experience interesting and thought I’d share a little about how it all went down.
A crash and a mob
I turned on my computer this morning and the top news item on my home page was about a horrible crash that killed 8 people and hurt 12 more.
A witness said the crash scattered “bodies everywhere.” After the vehicle went airborne it landed on spectators. Bystanders rushed in to help those pinned by the vehicle.
The race is called the California 200 and takes place near Bessemer Mine Road at Soggy Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley, CA. The course length is 50 miles.
The driver, who as far as I can tell hasn’t been identified yet, lost control of his vehicle and reportedly went airborne before going off the course and rolling over spectators who were located approx. 10 feet from the course. There was reportedly no safety barrier.
According to the Associated Press, “[a witness] said that the driver, who wasn’t named, was forced to run from the scene when the crowd grew unruly and some began throwing rocks at him. It was not clear why he lost control of the truck.”
I haven’t been able to find the name of the driver in news reports. However, a photograph in the LA Times clearly shows the wording “Misery Motorsports” on the upside-down vehicle. I did some checking and found a MySpace page for Misery Motorsports that contains the name “Brett Sloppy,” who is listed as a 28-year-old male. A Bretty Sloppy was a registered race participant in the “1500 Class” per the MDR Racing web site.
Note: I’m not claiming to know the name of the driver. This is just some information that I found.
The main reason I take an interest in this horrible story is the human behavior that took place after the crash. As far as I can tell there is no indication this was anything other than a very unfortunate accident. Yet some in the crowd apparently were angry and something like a mob mentality set in. I wasn’t there, but it seems as if while some persons were in need of urgent medical attention, others were directing their energies against the driver by throwing rocks.
I also don’t understand our obsessive adoration for vehicle races powered by the internal combustion engine. In our society there is little worshiped more than the all-powerful internal combustion engine. Perhaps it even outranks television and cell phones. As far as “sports” go I’ve never understood the attraction of watching internal combustion engines go round and round in circles, but hey, that’s just me.
Since I’ve never attended an internal combustion engine “sporting” festival, I don’t understand things like: Why do spectators have to be so close to observe the event? It seems to me that it would be wise to calculate the “danger area” where accidents could conceivably happen and keep observers out of that area. I can’t see a valid reason to have spectators in that danger area. Perhaps it is the thrill of danger? If so, the seeking of danger does not magically eliminate the actual risk.
Thinking about it, I can recall incidents where vehicles (like cars and boats) have flown off race courses and injured people before.
It all seems pretty crazy to me.
UPDATE: This text was recently posted on Brett Sloppy’s Facebook page. “Soo incredibly lost and devistated my thoughts and prayers go out to all the familys and friends involved.. Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even thru these tragic times I love you all.”
If health care was a boat named Titanic …
I had a thought today. “What if health care in the United States was a little boat known as the Titanic?”
The first thing I realized is that rich old white men would probably be the owners of all the lifeboats so they’d be tasked with determining the order of loading those lifeboats. I’m sure they’d be completely fair and unbiased about it.
Rich old white men safely loaded onto lifeboats. Check!
After that, though, what then? I’d assume pregnant women and young children would still get some consideration regardless of their scrilla status.
After that, the remaining folks would be prioritized by wealth and in an indirect way, pretty much by race as well. That’s an excellent way to do it, right?