Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Erosion of the American Dream

Last night, while in the car, I tuned into the Neal Boortz show in the hope that he would provide me with some blogging fodder. I was not disappointed -- he was in rare form and I soon found myself pulling over to the side of the road to make notes for responding to his comments via this blog.

I entered the program already in progress, so any errors I might make in regards to his comments stem from this.

He was on a tear about labor unions in general, and about how some American workers get paid "too much money". Naturally, he did not include the CEOs of major corporations in this estimation, as he was quick to point out to one caller, as not "just anyone" could perform those jobs.

Concentrating on the auto industry as an example, and highlighting GM in particular, he voiced the opinion that auto workers make "too much money" and get "too many benefits" in relation to the actual tasks they perform on the job.

Citing the law of supply and demand, he asserted that wages should be set according to the "brain power" and skills needed to perform a particular job.

Using the example of the worker who installs sound systems in SUVs, he said that nearly anyone straight out of high school could quickly learn to do this job, so the supply was greater than the demand, thus pay should be low for such jobs. Granted, there is a larger pool of workers with the aptitude to do this job than jobs further up the education scale, but he's missing a few points here.

A listener called in and pointed out that such a job is very labor intensive -- the worker has sixty seconds to complete that task before the next unit reaches him, and it takes fully 55 seconds of that time to perform the task. The CEO, on the other hand, spends a much lower percentage of his time during the work day actually engaged in work, and he's not doing it under a stopwatch. So, a job's worth isn't solely about "brain power".

An observer in a factory can see a routine, repetitive task being performed and think there's nothing to it. And there isn't -- when you do it once and at your own speed. But to do this same repetitive task quickly as you can, over and over, day after day, year after year, and it quickly becomes a rather onerous task, that many people soon burn out on and quit. Combine this with the ubiquitous orthopedic problems that often occur after years of doing such deadening work, and the supply pool of workers who can not only do the job, but stay with it year after year suddenly drops dramatically. As is true anywhere else, you get what you pay for and if the wages are low, the turnover will be correspondingly high. And companies lose money with "revolving door" jobs.

Boortz sneered at union members who lamented their jobs being taken overseas, saying that the jobs were not "theirs" to lose, but belonged to the company to hire, to fire, to downsize, and to import at will. He told a caller that if Americans were willing to work harder for less money, then maybe the jobs wouldn't end up being imported to Mexico. On a strictly technical level, he is correct that jobs belong to the company, but he doesn't get that the increasing trend of treating workers like disposable, interchangeable machine parts and away from an ethic of treating employees with loyalty as the most important asset that a company has is not good for the American economy or society as a whole.

He also pointed out, as if it were a bad thing, that GM's greatest expense is health insurance for its workers. Not surprisingly, he's also against a national health insurance system, that would relieve this burden from the backs of employers, large and small. Currently, one in seven Americans is uninsured, about 47 million Americans, a figure that Boortz believes is overstated (naturally!). And there is a growing trend among employers who do provide health insurance, to change to plans that have higher premiums and offer less coverage. So, in addition to the uninsured, millions more Americans are quickly becoming underinsured. All the while, health care providers are hiking fees for their services.

To sum up, Boortz apparently believes that only highly educated and skilled workers deserve a living wage and decent health insurance. If you perform a boring, mundane job that doesn't require higher education, then you don't deserve a living wage or access to adequate health care, because if you're being paid peanuts with no or inadequate health insurance, you certainly won't be able to afford to get it privately.

Is this the kind of America we want? Do we want a feudal, Darwinian "survival of the fittest" society, with a large underclass of American workers having to work 2 or 3 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, who have little or no access to preventive health care that would prolong their lives? Does he think that it is a good thing that the American Dream is quickly becoming attainable for fewer and fewer Americans?

A healthy society needs people doing jobs at all levels -- our economy and standard of living would quickly grind to a halt if there was no one to flip the burgers, drive the taxis, build the cars, fight the fires, patrol our streets, teach the children, truck in the goods, and so on. All these jobs are certainly more necessary than being a radio talk show host, to use him as an example. And everyone deserves a living wage and the benefits that allow one to live a healthy, productive life, regardless of what kind of work they do. It's good for Americans and it's good for America.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Symbolic Dream

Last night I had an interesting dream, the details of which remained with me after I got up to start the day. Usually, I see no clear meaning in my dreams, but this one was different. After going over the dream in my head, the meaning seemed rather obvious to me.

I dreamed that I'd moved into a huge, brick mansion in a semi-rural area. I was out in the driveway on the left side of the house, when I noticed neighbors coming from all over to see who had moved in, to welcome them to the neighborhood. I was getting ready to leave for work and was wearing my dorky pizza uniform.

I waved to the people to let them know where I was, but no one paid me the slightest bit of attention. They continued to wander across my expansive front yard, with some heading to the back.

I called out, but no one gave any indications that they'd heard me. I looked back at my car and it had turned into my old patrol car from the police force. The trunk lid was up and I tried to shut it, but it wouldn't shut. I pulled the lid up and there were two pizza topper signs there that was preventing the trunk from closing.

At this point, I woke up.

To me, the big house represents me; who I really am and what I'm capable of. The people ignoring me represents that either people can't or won't see the real me, thus give me no respect. The cop car represents the respect I used to have or that I want, and the pizza signs keeping the trunk from closing represent my dislike for my job and how it's holding me back.

Do you think my interpretations of this dream are accurate?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lack of Inspiration

I'm fatigued, distracted, and I don't have anything in particular to write about. This isn't a good combination for blog writing, needless to say.

I'm tired because I've not been getting enough sleep and have been burning the candle and both ends.

I'm distracted partially because of the fatigue. I've also set up two new blogs in the last month; one at Blogspot and, of course, the one here. I'm still in the process of transferring and categorizing entries, one by one, to Blogspot from Blog City. On EFX, I've recently gotten my blog how I want it to look, and now that I've got all my entries restored, I'm going back through old entries, re-categorizing them and setting them to allow comments and trackbacks. This is tedious work that I can only stand to do for short periods each day.

I've also joined Good Reads and I'm busily entering and rating books. I've got them categorized until basic classifications and will subdivide them into more specific categories at some time. This project will be an ongoing thing for me for some time to come.

If I had something to write about that I could just write straight off the top of my head, I could knock out an entry, no matter how tired I was. However, for topics I'd have to research first to get my facts straight and to gather as much information as possible before writing, I'm too tired to do justice to this type of entry right now. I'm too weary to summon up enough concentration to cobble together information effectively so that I could write about it coherently.

So, I'm going to knock off for now and try to get some sleep.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Movie Cliches

Following is a list of tired plot devices we've all seen over and over again in movies:

When a girl is in a house all by herself in a horror movie, there is always a thunderstorm outside.

In all high schools, the popular girls have big boobs, while the geeky girls are flat-chested.

Anybody eating Chinese food always eats it out of the box with chopsticks.

A good guy will never, ever, shoot a bad guy in the kneecap, even if it would be incredibly helpful to him.

A woman´s shoes always make high heel clacking sounds, regardless which shoe type she wears. She can even wear sneakers...

Whenever at a bar or dance with loud music cranked up on high, the couple the audience sees talking have perfectly audible voices and can talk as though there is no music.

The villain will always have dozens of henchmen working for him or a small army that follows him.

If you see something, then turn away, it wont be there the next time you look.

It is impossible for two colleagues of the opposite sex to have a completely professional relationship.

Women of action can run, do karate, kickbox, climb ladders and perform highly acrobatic movements while wearing six inch heels and either a miniskirt or a tight leather cat suit.

The janitor of a school is either a frightening old guy who hates children or he is a unbelievable friendly person who is always there for the underdogs.

In every comedy the main character´s boss is a complete and utter idiot.

Whenever the hero crawls through the ventilation system, the vents are never hot or cold.

Whenever the main character is about to confess something important to another character (usually a love interest) they both have something to say. The character lets the other person go first, and whatever they say makes the hero not want to say what he was about to say. When asked what they were going to say, they say something unimportant like "Nice dress".

Clapping finales in the movies often follow the same rules. First, there will be complete silence after the hero accomplishes a task or gives an inspiring speech. Second, one solitary person will begin to clap slowly and rhythmically. Third, the solitary clapper is slowly joined by another...and then another...and then another clapper until ultimately everyone is clapping for the hero.

Phone lines are always cut off or busy when a person is trying to call for help when running from a murderer.

Guns never have to be reloaded. Characters will shoot forever.

In scary movies, characters ALWAYS have to trip while running away from the murderer despite how flat the ground may be.

Whenever two men are struggling, and a woman is present, the bad guy will drop a gun during the fight. The woman will then pick up the gun, but not walk over and threaten the villain.

If a character is awakened by a radio alarm, it is perfectly timed to when the DJ is saying something like "Rise and shine! It's gonna be a beautiful day here in LA..."

Whether or not they eventually win, the protagonist and often the antagonist will make it into the finals of any given competition.

Everyone's phone number begins with 555.

When two people are having a phone conversation, it is never terminated with a "goodbye"; they always just hang up after getting to the point.

When the hero is taking on a barrage of the villain's henchmen, they will attack him one at a time.

What are some movie cliches you've seen consistently?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good Reads

First of all, I'd like to thank Audsmom for turning me on to a great new website, Good Reads.

Good Reads is an interactive site where you can list what you've read, are currently reading, and what you've put on your "to read" list. Members can rate books using the five-star system, and can also write detailed reviews, if they so choose.

Members can browse through what other members have read, along with their reviews, plus add other members as friends. There's also a listing of authors who are members of Good Reads, plus several reading groups for members to join.

Ever since getting Melissa's email inviting me to the site, I've been busily adding books, plus transferring the reviews of books I've written on my blogs. This will be an ongoing process, as I go through my vast collection of books.

This is a site that is guaranteed to keep any bibliophile busy for hours and it's a great way to meet other book lovers.

Thanks again, Melissa!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Censorship is Not a Liberal Value

As is my daily habit, one of my first stops this morning after logging onto my computer was Alternet. One article, Liberal Denial: The Link Between Porno and War by Riane Eisler, a well-known feminist author, immediately caught my eye -- that is, I immediately rolled my eyes at this ridiculous assertion.

After reading the article and some of the overly emotional comments that followed, I wrote a response that turned into a novel, which is posted below. Read the article first, then read my response, before making your comment:

Freedom of speech and expression is one of the cornerstones of our society, and this includes the right to view porn (or "porno", to use the dated, 70s era abbreviation that Eisler uses here).

I find it quite disturbing when anti-sex "feminists" work together with the usual suspects from the religious right to abridge the right of American adults to view porn. The right to free speech and free expression isn't limited to only what is "tasteful" or politically correct. Indeed, there's no objective way to even determine what is tasteful and what is not.

I also find worst case scenarios unconvincing. To point to an extreme of any particular phenomenon and to assert that this is a typical mainstream example of said phenomenon is illogical.

Similarly, I don't buy the "women are more virtuous than men" notion at all; the idea that they are or should be the guardians of a society's moral ideals. Women are no better and no worse than men in this aspect.

There are women who enjoy porn as much as some men do. While most porn caters to the male perspective, there is a small, but growing market for porn from the female perspective. And let us not forget that a large segment of porn caters to a gay audience and doesn't involve women at all.

Nor do I agree with the idea that the only proper way to have sex is to "make luuuuuuuuuuuuuuv". While that is all well and good when that type of mood strikes, people are aroused by and have sex for a variety of different, yet equally legitimate, reasons. Sometimes it's about love and emotion -- but other times it's just about getting laid and sating our carnal desires. It's all good -- one way isn't "better" or more legitimate than another if those involved are all on the same page.

And I find the "women-and-children" mentality tiresome, to say the least. That is, the idea that women are as innocent and free of responsibility for their own choices and behavior as children are, and must be protected in the same manner. Let's face it -- many women freely choose to be porn models, for whatever reasons. Unlike children, adults are free to make their own choices in life and to take responsibility for the consequences of those choices.

As long as there are no children involved and all the actors in porn are there of their own free will, I have no problem with it and think the government should not ban or restrict it.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

...and grinds to a halt when you're not.

When I have a day off from work, the time seems to fly by, especially when I'm having a good time. I can be surfing the net, checking blogs and message boards, or writing a blog entry or comment of my own, with an hour passing in the blink of an eye.

Similarly, after a couple of enjoyable hours spent with a lover, the time when I must get up, get dressed, and leave arrives all too soon in most cases.

My weekends always pass in a blur. It seems as if five minutes after I've driven home after my last day of work, glad to have the weekend ahead of me, that I'm driving back to work, dreading the long, slow week ahead.

Which brings me to the second part of this equation -- time seems to grind to a halt at work. One day at work seems to last longer than my entire weekend. Twenty minutes is a ponderous, plodding block of time that seems to have no end. I can look at the clock, then do what seems to be twenty minutes' worth of work, then I'll look up again and five minutes have passed. And I swear that there have been a few times that I've looked up the second time and it's EARLIER than when I looked the first time!

The plodding/flying perception of time extends to breaks during the workday. I can go to lunch and it seems that no sooner than I've sat down to eat, than I have to get up again to drag myself back to work.

The perception of time passing in general is also related to our age. I remember as a kid that the first grade seemed to stretch on into infinity; that I was in first grade for ten years. By the time I was a senior in high school, that same school year passed in what seemed to be a matter of a few weeks. And the older I get, the faster time in general has stepped up. At 25, ten years seemed to be a considerable amount of time, but in my forties, ten years are gone before I realize it. I expect that this trend will only continue as I get even older.

But I'm guessing that the work/leisure time perception differential is the same for everyone, regardless of their age.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Home Library

As anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time knows, I'm a hard-core bibliophile. I've been able to read since age four and I grew up in a home filled with books, receiving books as gifts from my parents at every gift-giving occasion. As an adult, I'm continually in the process of adding new books to my collection, so that after 40+ years of acquiring books, I've currently got quite a sizable collection.

Right now, I've got more books than I have places to put them. I have seven bookcase filled to overflowing and more books are stacked in various places around my tiny home, including the back of the toilet tank. I'm in serious need of more shelving units, but lack of funds and an increasing lack of places to put new shelves hinders my plans at the present time.

If I had money and a big house, my home library would look something like the two following pictures:

Practically, however, I know I'll never live in a home or have the money to build such a space for myself. I'd be happy enough to organize my books with similar floor to ceiling shelving as in the following pictures:


Saturday, September 22, 2007


Names. They're one of the first things our parents give us, and while we inherit our surnames and sometimes change them over the course of a lifetime, our first names are chosen just for us and stay with us until we die. Thought some people change their first names for various reasons, for the vast majority of us, what we are given at birth is buried with us at death.

Our parents choose our names from a variety of sources for many different reasons. Some parents like the tried-and-true classic names that everyone knows, that have been around forever, that are not considered "funny" names. Many times, such names are inspired by family members or friends and a parent bestows such a name to honor that person. Other parents like to jazz up a classic name with an alternate spelling. Many parents go for something trendy, either choosing from the pool of the names-du-jour of the year, as a relative did recently by naming her daughter Olivia, or choosing to give a kid a constructed neologism of a name so that they will be "unique". Naturally, such a child will usually end up going through their lives correcting the spelling and pronunciation of their names, but most kids with extremely unusual names tend to like their names just as much as more conventionally named offspring.

While most people either love their names or learn to like or at least tolerate their names, some people choose to change their first names entirely or decide to go by their more euphonious middle names. And, in some parts of the country, it's common for children to be called by their middle names from the beginning.

In my own family, my sister was named after one of our grandmothers who had, unfortunately, what most people consider an "old lady" name. My sister always despised this name and using her middle name wasn't really an option, as a favorite aunt went by that name. So, as an adult, she chose a name she felt was more fitting for her personality and went to court to have it changed legally. Most people in the family use her old first name, anyway, but I make every effort to use the new name. After all, she's had it for 20 years now, and secondly, I think it's plain rude to continue calling someone by a name they hated enough to legally change. Indeed, when she got married and changed her LAST name, no one in the family had any trouble adjusting to that. I don't see why learning a new first name should be any more difficult.

My father, and all his siblings, had always been known by their middle names, even as children. He was born and raised in the Deep South, where this practice was common at the time he was born and raised, though somewhat less common now. This was convenient for when my brother was born and was given a "junior" name, but could be known by his first name as my Dad was already using his middle name.

For most names, a standard nickname exists, that most people use informally with their family, friends, and coworkers. This is typically a shortened version of the first name, with or without a -y, -ie, or -i, with the dimunitive suffix found more often among children, though many times, particularly in some parts of the country, persists into adulthood.

For me, as with my siblings, my parents went the classic name/honor the relatives route. My first name, William, is after my mother's father, a name which I share with my uncle. Both of them were/are known as Bill or Billy, so my parents started using Will with me right away, especially as my Uncle Bill lived with us when I was first born.

People tried to call me Willy when I was little -- and sometimes when I was older -- but I never tolerated that. I figured if you're going to call me Willy, you might as well call me Penis. In the 90s, I also had to endure "Slick Willy" jokes ad nauseum, as you might expect. Of course, some women have called me "William the Conqueror", and I tolerate that much better, typically with a shit-eating grin on my face.

My nickname-of-choice, combined with my surname, the commonest surname in the English-speaking world, is that of a well-known celebrity. People laugh, telling me I have the same as he does, but I correct them and say that he has the same name as me -- I'm ten years older than him and I had the name first, thank you very much!

Feel free to tell me the story of your name in the c
omment box.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cheap Shot From Michelle Malkin

When accepting an Emmy for Best Dramatic Actress for "Brothers and Sisters" at the awards ceremony recently, Sally Field concluded her acceptance speech with the words: "If mothers ruled the world there would be no goddamned wars."

The response from the conservative right wing was swift and predictable.

One of the more shrill responses came from Michelle Malkin, a wannabe Ann Coulter in training. Malkin did not choose to respond with a reasoned rebuttal, which would have been rather easy, as Field's opinion, while well-meaning, was quite naive, to say the least.

Rather, she resorted to the favorite tactic of those who prefer to respond with emotion, rather than logic -- the ad hominem attack. She chose to attack Fields personally as a mother, in a drive-by "mommier-than-thou" attack:

Sally Field is the mom who looks the other way when the brat on the elementary-school slide pushes your son to the ground or throws dirt in your daughter's face.

She's the mom who holds her tongue at the mall when thugs spew profanities and make crude gestures in front of her brood.

She's the mom who tells her child never to point out when a teacher gets her facts wrong.

She's the mom who buys her teenager beer, condoms, and a hotel room on prom night, because she'd rather give in than assert her parental authority and do battle.

I think the above is a low blow, totally uncalled for. And it makes no sense, especially considering that Malkin's basic point is correct; that not all women are alike and that they hold a variety of opinions about the role of war and conflict in society. Calm reason would have done the job more effectively than the emotional cheap shot she chose to employ.

By not sticking to arguing the issue and choosing to attack Field personally instead, Malkin says a lot more negative about herself than she does about Field.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stupid, Arrogant, or Both?

As I heard the news about OJ Simpson's latest arrest for armed robbery and other related charges in Las Vegas several days ago, I had to wonder just what kind of a moron this guy is.

Is he just plain stupid, arrogant, or both?

Simpson escaped a conviction for two murders that he most likely committed or arranged to have committed. Considering the pariah status that he's known since that trial, you'd think he'd keep a low profile, mind his own business, and spend most of his time playing golf.

Nooooo, not OJ. That would have made too much sense for him.

Instead, he hatches a harebrained scheme to steal some sports memorabilia that he insists was rightfully his property. If the idiot had half an ounce of brains and he wanted the damned trinkets that badly, you would think he'd simply have sent a representative to buy the stuff for him anonymously. No one would have been the wiser and he'd have the junk back again.

Did he really think that he'd get away with such a moronic caper? Didn't he realize that the cops and public opinion would be on him like stink on shit as soon as he was caught?

Simpson was released on $125,000 bail yesterday. I'm sure he's thinking he's put one over on the man again and that the upcoming trial will turn out the same as the last one did.

I hope he's wrong and that we'll be able to see that shit-eating grin wiped off his face for good.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog Housekeeping

As some of you know, I originally came here when EFX2 started showing signs of major instability back in August. I already had a mirror blog at Blog City, but there were a few minor stability glitches there as well, so I decided I needed a third blog to archive my posts. Blogger has a reputation for stability, so I started this blog.

Unfortunately, I could not import all my entries in one fell swoop, so I've been having to bring them over and paste them in one by one, backdating them as I go. Blogger's text editor is somewhat awkward and aggravating, randomly choosing to save my posts in a microscopic default font size, regardless of the size I chose, with it sometimes taking multiple edits before it would display in the chosen font size, so it's been very slow going.

EFX crashed for good in the first week of September, so I put all my efforts then into finding old blogging friends there and encouraging them to set up new homes on Blogger. Many did so and for about a week, it looked as if this would be our new permanent home.

Then, a few days ago, Keith found a new home for EFX, using WordPress MU. People quickly flocked back, but many were not happy with the lack of features and options for customization.

Another solution was found and went online this morning. It will have most of the same features we knew and enjoyed at the original EFX before it crashed and burned. So, I've spent most of the morning setting up shop over there, mainly getting the place to look like home again.

We still await the restoration of our original posts there, but I'm guessing that will return shortly.

Meanwhile, I will continue my slow transfer of posts from Blog City here to Blogger and hope to get it complete in a week or two.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Human Nature Doesn't Need Religious Salvation

We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.
~ Gene Roddenberry

The quote above expresses succinctly one of the problems I've always had with the traditional formula for Christianity. That is, I don't understand why it's necessary for humans to be "saved" or "redeemed" from their supposedly sinful natures, nor do I see why Jesus had to die on the cross.

If humanity is imperfect, I can see two reasons why this is so, neither of which would require us having to apologize and "repent" from being what we are. That is, supposing that God is real and we are God's creations.

One, as Roddenberry said, is that God made a mistake, in which case, it's not our fault we are the way we are, and there's no need to repent for not having been created perfect. But I find this highly unlikely, if God is the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God that Christianity has always claimed God to be.

I think the second reason is more plausible. That is, I think that if God is real, that we were designed to be imperfect from the get-go intentionally. Perfect people would be boring and static, unable to change and grow, or to make more of themselves. That would be pretty boring and life would be essentially pointless that way. As the imperfect beings that we are, we are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to eventually get with each newborn baby. Our lives are not mapped out for us ahead of time to follow a perfect, predictable path.

So, again, there's no need to to be "saved" from our essential natures, but rather to try to live life the best way we can with what we've been given and to make the most of what we have.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Older Men Help Increase Human Lifespan

It seems as if my penchant for sexual encounters with younger women may be a genetically sound one.

New studies have shown that when older men reproduce with younger women, it helps extend our species’ lifespan. When older men sire children, their genes apparently increase the lifespan of both sexes over evolutionary time.

Because the vast majority of women are unable to reproduce after 50, and many men can still impregnate women into their 70s and beyond, it would follow that it’s likely advantageous for males to live longer lives if they partner with women who can reproduce. Natural selection should favor longevity-boosting genes, which would get passed down from fathers to both sons and daughters. Over time, older men/younger woman partnerships producing children would raise the lifespan ceiling for both men and women in the next generations and beyond.

“By increasing the survival of men you have a spillover effect on women because men pass their genes to children of both sexes,” said study team member Cedric Puleston, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account couples who are no longer interested in reproducing where, of course, the age discrepancy would be irrelevant. Nor does it account for non-monogamy, where a mixed strategy would still reap the benefits mentioned above. That is, a man could remain in a love relationship with a woman his own age or older, while still being able to sire children with younger women. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an either/or thing.

But I hope my young primary lover doesn’t read this article. It would simply give her more ammunition to try to use on me to have a baby.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Miserable Night

On Friday night, the remnants of Hurricane Humberto roared through my area. Along with extended periods of torrential downpours, a tornado warning was issued for my county about 45 minutes before dusk. Later that evening, two tornado warnings were issued for a neighboring county.

I had to work that night and, let me tell you, there is nothing that’s more the pits than delivering pizzas in heavy rain. There’s one truth about pizza delivery everywhere: the worse the weather, the more people come out of the woodwork to order delivery. Like a snow forecast seemingly has a cosmic connection to a perceived need for milk and bread, rain makes people think that they need pizza delivered. And the harder it is raining, the more people come to this realization. Throw in a tornado warning and you can guarantee that the phones will be jumping off the hook at pizza joints all over town.

You can understand people not wanting to go out in that kind of weather, but does food magically vanish from pantries and refrigerators when rain begins to fall?

And Friday lived up to all the stereotypes about pizza delivery and rain and then some. When I arrived at work that evening, the place was in pandemonium — phones ringing incessantly, inside workers running around like chickens with their heads cut off, drivers bumping into each other in their haste to get the orders out the door, tempers flaring, orders being screwed up, and a full dispatch board that ran to several pages. The store had gone way beyond “hectic” to “frantic”.

You’d think I’d get a lot of good tips on such a night. But that would be a wrong guess. More than half of my customers stiffed me. Some complained about how long it took the orders to get to them — never mind that I had to wade through a monsoon during a tornado warning to get their f’in pizzas to them. One guy told me he really appreciated me coming out in the rain — and then stiffed me. I guess he didn’t appreciate it all that much.

After nearly four hours of this insanity, the rain stopped as the front swept on past. By this time, I was soaking wet and my hair stood out at weird, frizzy angles.

And it was like flipping a switch. As soon as the rain ceased, so did the orders. Once the weather cleared, business died away to nothing.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Day Off From Work to Have Sex?

Last Wednesday, Russian officials urged employers to give employees the day off in order to have sex.

Sounds good, doesn't it? This policy really gives the term "Hump Day" a whole new meaning.

But, like most things in this life, there's a catch. The Russian government is not trying to promote sex for its own sake, unfortunately. Rather, the third annual "Take the Day Off to Have Sex" promotion was designed to give a boost to Russia's birthrate, which has been drastically declining in recent years. Russia's
population is shrinking by about 700,000 people a year as births fail to outpace a high death rate boosted by AIDS, alcoholism and suicide.

For those women who give birth nine months to the day after Wednesday's national fuckathon, prizes will be awarded. The prizes range from smaller household items, such as TVs, up to winning a new home or a new car. June 12, not incidentally, is a national holiday in Russia, "Russia Day".

While the idea of getting a day off from work for the express purpose of having sex would normally get a big thumbs up from me, this news has left me feeling rather uneasy. History has shown us that whenever a country aggressively promotes having large families, a war generally follows within a generation. I just can't help but think that all the babies born now are intended to be the cannon fodder for the next big war.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Pessimist or Realist?

The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.
~George F. Will, The Leveling Wind

My usual outlook on life in general tends towards cynical pessimism. Though it's the politically correct thing to be an optimist, I just can quite bring myself to jump on the pollyanna bandwagon.

I've always believed in the old Boy Scout maxim, Be Prepared. That is, I don't want life and circumstances to catch me with my pants down -- unless I'm having sex, of course.

I've always seen my outlook as being more of a realist, than a pessimist, per se. To anticipate and prepare for what could go wrong is just the prudent thing to do, in my book. If I fly low to the ground, it doesn't hurt so much when I fall, and it's quicker and easier to recover and start over. If I don't have inflated expectations, they I'm not so disappointed when things don't work out -- and pleasantly surprised when they do.

I'm not sure if a person's outlook on the world is genetic or whether it is learning from experience. Perhaps it's a bit of both, but I'd say that experience probably plays the stronger role. In my own life, I tend to be optimistic about things I generally have success with, and pessimistic about things that end in disappointment more often than not.

I am optimistic about my relationships with women and I approach new women with confidence because a large percentage of my encounters with women over the years have been successful. Even when I bomb out with a particular woman, it doesn't get me down, because previous successful experiences tell me I'll likely do better the next time.

I am pessimistic about my chances of landing a good job and keeping it. This is because I've got a long list of shitty jobs that ended in disaster going back many years, And I've had to compete in a depressed job market more often than I've experienced a job market favoring job seekers.

In both instances, experience had shaped my outlook. In the instance of pessimism, one can endure a bad patch for awhile and still remain optimistic, but after a certain amount of time, optimism becomes denial.

I'll close with a bit of humor that perfectly expresses the idea that shit will happen despite the best of attitudes:

You put a drop of wine into a vat of sewage and you get sewage
You put a drop of sewage into a vat of wine and you get sewage.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Prostitution: Should It Be Legal?

"Fucking's legal. Selling's legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal?"
--George Carlin

Yesterday, I read an interesting article on Alternet, Craigslist Is the Newest Target in the War on Prostitution. The article was about law enforcement cracking down on prostitutes who use Craigslist to advertise their services. After reading it, I ended up writing a novel of a comment, which I am posting here. Also included are replies to my comment and my rebuttals.

My original comment:

Prostitution has been around for thousands of years. And it will be around for as long as humans occupy the planet. Sex is a basic human drive, and those who aren't getting sex, who are away from their regular sex partners, who aren't getting the type of sex, the frequency of sex, and the variety of sex they want, will go about meeting this need in any way they can. If a person can't get it for free or can't/won't take the time to engage in the mating ritual to acquire a willing free partner, they will seek out a prostitute.

Prostitution meets a need and provides a service. And as long as this is true, it will exist.

It's time society accepted that reality and made provision for legal prostitution. The benefits of legalizing prostitution are many. The government would tax it, thus providing a new source of revenue. The government would also regulate it; mandating that all sex workers get regular screening for STDs, along with other regulations designed to protect the health and safety of prostitutes and clients. With prostitution aboveboard and out in the open, it would be easier to protect sex workers from abuse, clients from scamming, and to ensure that those engaging in sex work are doing it entirely of their own free will.

Some commenters above have made the point that prostitution exploits women. Well, no, it does not inherently exploit women. It presently being illegal and clandestine in most parts of the world is what allows exploitation and abuses to occur. And we have to remember that not all prostitutes are women.

Laws against prostitution are essentially Nanny laws, based upon the notion that sex should only occur in the confines of a legal marriage or committed relationship. That is a view that should remain a personal opinion and not be mandated as law. Consenting adults should be free to get sex however they wish and are able to obtain it.

A reply from someone who disagreed:

Prostitution has not been around for as long as humans have been on the planet. Two to five thousand years to be more precise. So it has been around as long as there has been Patriarchy. Humans have been living in communities with culture, art, spirituality etc. for over 50, 000 years.

Sex between equals who respect each other is Sex.

Prostitution is about dominance, violence, and exploitation. You are in the dark about the realities of prostitution but apparently are content.

My rebuttal:

Your comment: "Sex between equals who respect each other is Sex" is a personal opinion that is a good one to live by, but it shouldn't be mandated as to limit the liberty of others. Sex occurs in a wide variety of venues for a variety of reasons, yet it is all still sex. What you are describing is "Making Love", not sex, per se. You are stating what you believe sex should be, not all what it is. And who says that a prostitute must necessarily be disrespected for providing a service?

Prostitution is selling a commodity like any other commodity. It is not inherently dominating, violent, or exploitative, any more than going to a restaurant and buying your supper is compared to having a home-cooked meal. Nor is exchanging sex for money an inherently unequal transaction. Is the car salesman exploited because he sells you a car, rather than giving it to you because he loves you? I think not.

Her second reply:

Sex between a dominant and subordinate is violence in every way.
Do you know that prostituted women call it paid rape?
Do you know that, when someone bothers to ask, they say they despise their so called "clients" and usually fantasize about killing them?

A man paying to ejaculate is not sex and it is not equality. It's a function. Like having a bowel movement.
The demand belong in jail. [sic]

My second rebuttal:

You are arguing from emotion and not logic.

Not all prostitutes are streetwalkers controlled by drug addicted pimps. Some are high priced call girls living in luxurious surroundings who only work for a few years, then retire then live off their earnings.

Money changing hands for sex doesn't inherently have to involve dominance and submission.

You have not interviewed every prostitute on the planet, so you could not possibly know what every single one of them feels about it. And I'm quite certain that all prostitutes do not have identical feelings and opinions.

You are arguing from a worst case scenario. You take the worst examples and present that as representative of all prostitutes.

You do not recognize that it is precisely the illegality and clandestine nature that allows the worst of abuses to occur because unwilling prostitutes are afraid to go to the police for help because they are afraid of being arrested themselves.

History teaches us that when a wanted service is prohibited, organized crime steps in to fill the need, bringing along the abuses and exploitation that goes along with that. Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s allowed the Mafia to solidify their position in this country and should be a lesson for us all. Unfortunately, many of us cannot remember history, nor learn the lessons it teaches.

You fail to recognize that there are laws already in place to help those who are exploited that do not necessitate prostitution being illegal across the board: laws pertaining to rape, kidnapping, assault, and the like. The emphasis should be on enforcing these kinds of laws to protect the unwilling sex worker, and not on those who engage in it, eyes wide open.

Women are not children, thus they are capable of making choices for themselves and taking responsibility for those choices. To say that women must be "protected" from engaging in prostitution, even if they choose willingly to do so, is to reduce them to the status of children, and is inherently sexist. Indeed, I've not seen comments on this article lamenting the "plight" of male prostitutes, as it's assumed than men can look out for themselves.

And those who visit adult prostitutes and have a non-violent encounter do not belong in jail because it is a consensual exchange. It is not your place, nor that of the government to define what sex is and is not between consenting adults.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

EFX2 vs Blogger

Since EFX crashed several days ago, quite a few bloggers have made their way to Blogger and other places to start new blogs. Most have done so with great reluctance and hesitation, approaching their new blogs as a temporary thing until EFX is revived.

Some have lamented the fact that Blogger isn't as easy to use as EFX was, and of how they miss their favorite features from their old blogs: comment tracking alerts, recent visitors track, extra pages, the community feel, and so on.

I acknowledge Blogger's shortcomings and I also miss these features from EFX. But Blogger has one very important feature that EFX did not have -- it is a stable site that is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. As far as I'm concerned that's the most important feature a blog hosting site can have. If the site isn't up and you can't access your blog or those of others, then all the fancy user-friendly features don't amount to a hill of beans.

And if Keith manages to cobble EFX back together again, I don't hold out much hope for it being any more stable in the future. Pointing this out is in no way meant as a dig to Keith. But let's face facts. Keith is just one guy who has other responsibilities in his life and can only work on EFX on a part time basis, as his schedule permits. There's only so much one person can do under the circumstances and it would be unfair to expect more out of him.

Blogger, on the other hand, has been around for eight years, and it has several people employed full time devoted to maintaining this site. We can trust Blogger to be reliable, if not the simplest site in the world to use. Upgrades have been made over the years, and this is something that will no doubt continue. And, best of all, it's free.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have invested a lot of myself into my writing in the three years I've been blogging, and I'd hate to lose all my work. Unlike many fellow EFXers, I had another shadow blog at Blog City, so I didn't lose anything.

Despite the unexpected loss of our EFX home, those of us who have created new blogs managed to find each other fairly quickly and, as it stands now, we've all linked together in the effort to maintain the community feeling. Likewise, despite the fact that Blogger is more difficult to use, most of us have also constructed attractive looking sites in fairly short order. I set up this site about two weeks ahead of the EFX crash, with Chica-X helping me to construct an attractive template. I know that she's subsequently been of help to others in setting up their sites.

We can recreate the community feel here if we are so motivated. If the previous week has been any indication, I'd say it's already well under way. We'll get used to how Blogger works, even though it can be a challenge now and will take some patience and time.

I don't know when or if EFX will return. If it does, I'll return there along with others to post there again. But I'm not going to focus on EFX, nor pin my hopes on it. I've got a damned fine looking blog right here, that I intend to use fully, and will continue to maintain, even if EFX returns. I would hope that others here will make the best of their new blogs also, regardless of what they intend to do in the event of an EFX revival.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thinking Style Linked to Political Orientation

Most people interested in politics, both liberals and conservatives, have no doubt scratched their heads and wondered how the other side could possibly hold the opinions they do. Sometimes, it even seems as if people on the other side have their brains wired backwards.

It seems as if we might be right in thinking this. A study released last Sunday indicates that the brain neurons of liberals and conservatives fire differently when confronted with tough choices.

Previous studies have linked certain personality traits with particular political philosophies, but it seems as if the difference is also hard-wired into the brain.

The different cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives can be boiled down to this: Conservatives tend to be dualistic, black and white thinkers, tending toward absolute judgements, where liberals are more eclectic, shades of grey thinkers, tending toward situational and relative judgements. To elaborate, conservatives tend to crave order and structure in their lives, and are more consistent in the way they make decisions. Liberals, on the other hand, show a higher tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, and adapt more easily to unexpected circumstances. Conservatives are about foundations; liberals are about innovation.

The study, published in the British journal Nature Neuroscience, also points out that cognitive style, which influences political opinion, is also highly inheritable.

Inspired by previous studies, New York University political scientist David Amodio and colleagues decided to find out if the brains of liberals and conservatives reacted differently to the same stimuli, conducting tests designed to measure unrehearsed response to cues urging one to break well-established routines.

The results were predictable: liberals showed "significantly greater conflict-related neural activity" when the hypothetical situation called for an unscheduled break in routine.

Conservatives were less flexible, refusing to change old habits "despite signals that this ... should be changed."

"The neural mechanisms for conflict monitoring are formed early in childhood," and are probably rooted in part in our genetic heritage, Amodio said.

"But even if genes may provide a blueprint for more liberal or conservative orientations, they are shaped substantially by one's environment over the course of development," he added.

I would say that both cognitive styles are important and both have something to contribute to society. I'm guessing that an all-conservative or all-liberal society would be too much of a good thing or too much of a bad thing, depending upon your perspective.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Sex: Public or Private?

In the last few weeks, as I've read the extensive coverage about the Larry Craig brouhaha, I've noticed a few recurring themes in the articles and reulting comments. The first is, of course, is the pointing out of the incongruence (hypocrisy!) of doing one thing and saying another; that is, soliciting for a homosexual encounter, while at the same time voting for anti-gay measures in the Senate.

A second theme, which will be the focus of this post, is people expressing disgust at the idea of seeking sex in a public restroom. Some have said that they're not judging him for being gay or bisexual, but wonder why he can't go to a gay bar or something to find a partner. Some elaborate by noting the public nature of the bathroom setting, along with a presumed lack of hygiene.

While I agree that it was poor judgement for someone as prominent as Craig to seek a partner in such a setting, I have to admit that I understand his predilection for public restroom pickups. Though I've never picked a woman up in a bathroom, for obvious reasons, I have found partners and had sex in a wide variety of settings, both public and private. I've written about a couple of the public encounters on my Adventures blog.

The lure of public sex is in its clandestine nature, the danger of discovery, the anonymity, and even the potential seedy grittiness of an encounter, of all of which can be highly arousing and which fuels the passion. At the core, it's a stripping away of the veneer of civilization and surrendering to one's basic animal nature, which can and usually does, add to the intensity of the encounter.

The rush one gets from a public sexual encounter is not dissimilar to other types of thrill-seeking behavior such as auto racing, extreme sports, and the like. It's got everything to do with carnal gratification and nothing whatsoever to do with "making love".

Obviously, I don't have a problem with engaging in public or semi-public sex with a willing adult partner, as I believe that there are all sorts of reasons and places to have sex. Indeed, if not for his hypocrisy, I would have quite a bit of sympathy for Craig's predicament.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

None Too Soon

It would seem as if I opened this blog none too soon, as the EFX site may unfortunately be down for good.

I've been slowly and laboriously transferring old entries over here, one by one, and I'll be able to continue doing so, as my Blog City mirror blog is still up and running, with all my previous posts available.

I'm hoping to see more EFX refugees start new blogs here at Blogger, so that we can keep the interactivity going that we had over there. Even if EFX is able to be saved in some fashion, it's probably a smart thing to keep a "lifeboat" community over here, so that we will always have a place to blog. Blogger is a highly stable site; one that we can count on.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Inappropriate Government Meddling

A senator in the South American country of Colombia has proposed a law that would punish adulterers with fines and community service.

Sen. Edgar Espindola claimed that his motivation was to protect children, appealing to the vague notion of "family values".

"I believe a lot of my companions are going to support this initiative," Espindola. "This project should motivate Colombians to reflect on the importance of the marriage, the home and the importance of family."

Affected spouses could complain to family court judges and present whatever evidence they had, such as photographs, to set the enforcement of this law in motion. However, those adulterers whose spouses did not complain would escape punishment.

I think Espindola's proposed law is a waste of the government's time and resources, not to mention it being an inappropriate matter for government involvement.

People should take responsibility for and handle their own private relationships and not expect the government to get involved in a parental-type role in such matters. Such a law, if enacted, would be one of the worst examples of "Nanny State" legislation ever to come down the pike.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Day on the Cheap

The other day, I went into my closet to go through my fall clothes in preparation for the coming season change. As I surveyed my wardrobe, I realized it was getting rather shabby and that I needed some new clothes, particularly shirts.

I wasn't in the mood to lay out a bunch of money right then on clothes, so I headed over to the new Goodwill store, which opened in a brand-new standalone building a few months ago. I browsed through the racks and ended up with several acceptable looking shirts, with the entire lot costing less than one shirt in a fine department store.

I need a new pair of sneakers as well, but I'll not be buying those at the Goodwill, nor will I buy cheap Payless sneakers. I've got to have Nikes, but I will at least wait until I see them on sale somewhere.

After leaving the Goodwill, I headed over to the used bookstore to stock up on books. I chose several mysteries and didn't pay a dime for them, as I had credit left over from the last time I'd been there and traded in a bunch of books I'd read and hadn't wanted to keep.

When I was done at the bookstore, I decided to go to Aldi, the no-frills discount grocer, as it is right down the street from the bookstore. I don't go there often, as it's somewhat out of my way, but I always try to combine going there with a run to that particular bookstore. I filled the cart up mainly with staples and lunch fixings for the following week.

As I headed home with my haul from the three stores, I felt satisfied knowing I'd spent a lot less money that I could have.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Remembering My School Years

Back in the day when I was in school, this was the week we always started a new school year. Up north, starting back to school in August was completely unheard of. Of course, most schools were not air-conditioned then, unless one had the good fortune to go to school in a brand-new building, so starting that early wouldn't have made sense.

During my elementary years, I'd go to school on the first day in brand new clothes and shoes. Back then, you weren't allowed to wear jeans or t-shirts to school, nor were sneakers permitted. Both boys and girls had to wear "hard shoes", saving your sneakers for gym. And in the 1960s, they didn't have the wide variety of athletic shoes we have today -- kids generally wore black high-top canvas Converse sneakers with the big white rubber toe or low Keds which came in black, red, white, blue, and denim. Girls had to wear dresses and boys had to wear collared shirts and pants in something other than denim. By the time I started the 7th grade in the fall of 1970, they'd relaxed these rules and I was able to wear t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers from then on -- which I did. By the mid-70s, you began to see more variety in sneakers, closer to what we have today. I can remember my first pair of Adidas suede basketball sneakers that I paid $35 dollars for around 1974 or so -- and thought it was a lot of money.

You didn't have to buy your own school supplies then, either, unless you wanted to. The schools provided everything that a kid might need and didn't have. No kid carried a backpack to school at that time. In elementary school, you kept your books inside your desk, and you were in the same classroom all day long. They didn't give out much homework before the fourth grade, so you didn't have to lug every book and notebook you had home with you every night. Starting in the 7th grade, we got lockers so we continued not to have to lug everything we had around all the time. If you'd brought a backpack to school at any time during my 12 years of public school, people would have looked at you funny and asked if you were going camping or hiking after school. It also would have been seen as a seriously nerdy thing to do as well.

Most kids brought their lunch to school in a square metal lunch box with a thermos with a glass lining. The lunch boxes came with all sorts of themes, usually relating to a TV show. I had a Hogan's Heroes lunch box in the third grade, for example. The thermoses in these lunch boxes were rather fragile -- several times, I'd open mine to find a broken pile of glass on the bottom. I eventually ended up giving up thermoses altogether and just buying my milk at school. And I mean milk. You didn't get any other choice in elementary school then. Even in high school, you got milk or orange juice. If you wanted a soda, you had to bring your own from home. In high school, I usually bought my entire lunch -- for 40 cents a day by my senior year.

Back then, from the first year onwards, kids either rode the school bus or they were "walkers". You didn't see parents ferrying their kids to school each and every day like you do now, even though many more kids had stay at home mothers then. You were a walker if you lived within a certain radius of the school, and even the youngest kids did this on their own -- there weren't very many hovering or "helicopter" parents in those days.

I could go on, but this has almost turned into a novel already, so I'll leave it at this. Feel free to share memories of your own school years in the comment box.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cucumber or Banana?

A men's health group and a pharmaceutical firm has proposed a scale to self-rate penis hardness in order to assess men for erectile dysfunction.

The four categories on the scale include:

1. Cucumber

2. Unpeeled banana

3. Peeled banana

4. Tofu

“Men should aim for this,” U.K. sex therapist Victoria Lehmann told a news conference while brandishing a cucumber.

I can safely say that my erections occur quite comfortably in the cucumber, aka "Incredible Hulk", category.

Male readers and women with male partners, feel free to categorize yourself or your partner in the comment box below.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I Work to Live, I Don't Live to Work

This morning, I read an interesting articles on Alternet which I ended up leaving a novel-sized reply to. What follows is my comment to the article. Go to Alternet and read The Vanishing American Vacation first, then come back here to read and respond to my reply.

I Work to Live, I Don't Live to Work

I am most definitely NOT a workaholic. My job isn't who I am; it's just a means to an end. And I believe my time is as important as, or even more important, than my money.

I don't want to work one hour longer than is necessarily in order to adequately support myself. To this end, I'm willing to accept a lower standard of living in order keep as much of my time for my own purposes instead of that of an employer. I want my time now to enjoy, instead of waiting until retirement when my energy level and health may not be at the level it is now. Indeed, there is no guarantee I'll even live that long.

To workaholics I'd ask, what good is all that extra money if you're too tired to enjoy it and always at work, anyway?

Like the majority of Americans, I don't work in an intrinsically rewarding or creative job. My job means nothing more to me than a source of money to support myself with. I do a good job when I'm there, but I'm simply not going to invest any more of myself than is necessarily earning a living.

Indeed, more employers these days are offering fewer or no benefits: less paid sick leave, less paid vacation time, etc. Many employers think they "own" an employee 24/7; expecting an employee to always be on call, changing their work schedules any time without notice, and that they can dictate a employee's behavior off the clock in their private lives -- random drug tests typically indicate off-time drug/alcohol use, not whether an employee is intoxicated/high on the clock, employers have fired people for adultery, to cite a few examples. They don't invest in us, so why should we invest any more than necessary in them?

More jobs are also going from 8 hour days to 10 and 12 hour schedules. Our ancestors who worked hard to get the 40 hour week are no doubt whirling in their graves to see a creeping return to the sunup to sundown schedule of the 19th century. As for me, I wouldn't accept a job with these hours -- it's bad for one's health to live this far out of the work/leisure/rest balance. I've had to accept making less money that I might otherwise, but the gain in time is worth it.

My current job offers no paid vacation whatsoever. But when I had jobs that did, I made sure to take every day allotted to me. But even now, I still take an unpaid day off here and there, tacked onto a weekend. Of course, I'm stuck taking the hit of a day's pay lost, but the time gained outweighs the money lost.

After all, no one ever said on their death beds that they wished they'd spent more time at the office.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

September Again

Despite the fact that the temperatures don't give much indication of it yet, fall is on the way. Though it's still hot, it's less intense, with daytime temps in the 80s, rather in the triple digits.

In the last couple of weeks, I've even seen some trees beginning to tentatively show fall colors, a yellow leaf here and there among a sea of green. In the weeks to come, the yellows, reds, and oranges will slowly overcome the green.

As is true every year during the change of seasons, the afternoon thunderstorm level has increased, which will eventually break the back of summer and will allow much-welcomed cooler fall temperatures to reappear.

The early morning sound of school buses passing my house and the return of football season as well as the appearance of winter clothing in the stores all make me happy, as they are signs that the barely-endured summer will soon be over. My energy level will soon pick up and my reversed-hibernation pattern will cease.

Even as a kid who liked summer because of the free time away from school and the opportunity to swim, I was glad to see the return of fall. Instead of spring, I always saw fall as a time of new beginnings: a new school year and the start of the holiday season (Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas)